Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Five

Hey, y'all! How are you? I thought I'd do a quick Friday Five to share what's been going in in my life.

5. End-of Year School Craziness

With four boys in two different schools, we had holiday parties, teacher gifts (I baked M & M cookies for dozens of teachers... and made white chocolate trash for others), final projects, etc. The first few weeks of December were like a Disneyland ride on warp speed. Fun, but WILD.

4. Holidays

Um, yeah. I LOVE Christmas. I love the songs, the festive vibe, the family traditions we have... the whole thing. And I love decorating for the holidays. The house is decked out, with lights and garland inside and out. Step inside and we've got Nativity sets and Santas and all kinds of stuff EVERYWHERE. Some tacky, some not, and like the boys, I love every bit of it. :) But while I love decorating, and celebrating, it takes time, time sometimes I feel pressed to find, especially this year. And right this minute I don't even want to think about taking all the decorations down. The  holiday breakdown is a less fun time-suck on the other end, coming in a January when I seriously do not have one minute to spare. (More on that in a second).

3. Company

We had my hubby's brother, sister-in-law, and their kids, plus my mother-in law and my mom for Christmas. Then the day after Christmas, some of our best friends from Beijing came to visit for a day/night with their three girls...and two hours after they left my sister and her husband and their two boys rolled in. They'll be with us until the new year, which is AWESOME. My sister lives in Wisconsin, and I don't see her enough. We'll have had company for two weeks totally, which is awesome and crazy and crazy awesome. Normally I'd relax after but NOT THIS YEAR. (More on that in a second). And my kids aren't back in school until January 7th. *gulp*

2. All The Write Notes.

A cool music blog for writers is in the works. A group of us are pulling it together and I can't WAIT for you to check it out! Debuts in January... I'll keep you posted. :)

1. THIS:

Yup, NIL edits. :) Woohoo! Got 'em December 11th, chatted with my editor on the 13th, and my revisions are due mid-January. *panics* *wails* *breathes* :) The cool thing is that I finally see how it's coming together... it's really going to be a book. A published book, that people (and not just my friends and CP's LOL) can read. And *hopefully* will like.

But edits. Mid-holiday. Yeah, there's that. So I'm just doing the best I can. :) Aren't we all? :)

My next post will be a 2012 wrap-up, short & sweet. Then it's going to be a little NIL for the new year, with playlists, background, inspiration, and character shorts. I can't wait for you to meet Charley and Thad!

Anyway, I hope your holidays have been lovely, full of friends, family, love, and of course, cookies. (My favorite this year were ginger-chocolate chip bars. Delish!)

Let me know what's new with you, and if you have a favorite holiday cookie. :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Secret to Writing a Bestseller

I haven't a clue. :)

And I don't think there is one. There's no secret, no magic bullet. But I do think there's some basic ingredients to the bestseller recipe. Like . . .

Hard work.

Great writing.

Fresh storytelling.



Heaps of LUCK.

Mix all those up--and listen, I know the last three aren't really in your control--and you *might* have a bestseller. MIGHT. Because as y'all know, nothing is guaranteed, especially not in publishing.

But I believe there is something that will help improve your odds: write what you love.

Maybe it won't sell a bazillion copies, maybe it will. But if you're lucky, your book will touch a reader in a way no other book has. Because if you write what you love, your passion for your story and your characters gets infused in the pages themselves, and your readers will respond to it . . . they will feel it, and in the end, isn't that what you want? For your readers to feel? To be moved? To be transported to another place or time? To be scared? To want? To wonder? To fall in love? And if your novel touches enough people . . . voila! Now we're starting to talk bestseller. :)

So give yourself a gift this holiday season: permission to write what you love. Just write . . . without fear, without expectations. Without pressure. Write the story you're dying to write, because if you love it, chances are, another person will love it too. :) And maybe more than just one . . .

So what are you writing? And do you have any other ingredients to add to the bestseller mix?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Hi y'all!

Happy-almost-Thankgiving! :D

I know my blog's been a little quiet lately. ;( I'm still figuring this blog thing out, and in the precious minutes I've found to write, I've been revising one manuscript, beta-reading another (an amazing YA light sci-fi manuscript that y'all will LOVE when it comes out!) and reading. Like most writers, I love to read. Books are brain candy all the way. :D

And, as my CP's and family know, I read freakishly fast. It's weird, but I always have. The upside? Two hours and I've read a great book. Done. The downside? I don't get to stay with those characters as long as I'd like. So when characters linger . . . and I keep thinking about them, and the world(s) they inhabit, and the choices they made . . . I LOVE IT. (Think Harry Potter, Sirius Black, Edward Cullen, Mia and Adam, Peeta, Lessa of Pern, Sita, Jenna Fox  . . . I could go on but I'll stop. :D).

The last novel with characters that stayed with me? THROUGH TO YOU by Emily Hainsworth (*psst* The cover is on my sidebar to the right...go on, look. I'll wait. :D)

Okay! You're back! So, THROUGH TO YOU. Here's the description from Goodreads:

"Camden Pike has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. He’d give anything to have just one more glimpse of her. But when Cam visits the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees an apparition. Her name is Nina, and she’s a girl from a parallel world. When Cam follows here there and makes an unbelievable discovery, it’s as if all his wildest dreams have come true. But things are very different in this other world. Nina is hiding a secret, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with the truth, he’s forced to make a choice that will change his life forever."

Don't you want to read it?!

IMO, using the device of parallel worlds, Emily's development of Viv was brilliant. And Camden's evolution as a character is as impressive as Emily's treatment of Viv, for different reasons. I don't want to spoil this read for anyone (so I'll stay vague) but Camden can "see" both worlds, and this dual sight leads to insight: about the people in both worlds, including himself. 

It's been weeks since I read THROUGH TO YOU, and I still find myself thinking about Camden, and Viv. Even Nina. They have lingered, as have their choices....and I love that. :) Thanks Emily, for a GREAT read. :D

Ok, readers, what about you? What books--or characters--have lingered with you after you closed the book? Old favorites, or new discoveries? And on a side note, what's your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Mine is sweet potato casserole, with pecans on top.:D Double-yum.

Off to bake.:) Can't wait to hear about your faves!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BOO! Picture book style . . .

Oh hey! Sorry for falling off the blogger-verse. :) Fall is wild in my house, October especially. I'm still fighting to find that family-writer-blogger-life balance. This month we have fall festivals, Gator games, birthdays, company in town, and of course Halloween. AND MY EDITS ON NIL ARE DUE NOVEMBER 1. Oh--and did I mention we started remodeling our master bathroom yesterday? Yup, I'm a *little* scattered. :)

Let me know how you manage your crazy life-writer-blogger balance, okay?!:)

Anyway, I LOVE FALL. Totally love it. Pumpkins! Candy corn! Cool air, leaves turning, holidays coming...the whole thing. :) And of course I love books.:)

This fall I've read some good creepy books--like Gretchen McNeil's TEN. Super fun. I also just read Robison Wells VARIANT, and its sequel FEEDBACK. All three were one-sitting reads for me.

But today I'm talking picture books!

Here are my five fall faves:

#5. It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse!

The only board book in the bunch, this book is fun for little ones. Great counting, classic mouse. If your child likes the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, he or she will like this little book too.

#4. The Legend Of Spookley, the Square Pumpkin
I love this spunky square pumpkin! And the message is sweet.

#3. Too Many Pumpkins
Oh, all the things you can do with pumpkins! A family classic.

#2. Room on the Broom
I bought this book last year and love it. The illustrations are fantastic, and so are the rhymes. A GREAT fall picture book. My 5 yo loves this one; it's his favorite.

#1. The Hallo-wiener

Oh my land, I ADORE THIS BOOK. It's as fun for me to read as my boys. The wordplay is awesome, and so's the story. And that's why it's my #1 fall fave. :)

Happy fall! Did I leave any awesome picture books out? Let me know!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Writing, Tunes, and Kick-Butt Storytelling

For me, good writing is like good music.

Good writing has a rhythm that's effortless--at least for the reader. :D Prose so smooth the words disappear, leaving the reader with images and feelings perfectly crafted by the writer. Voice plays a huge role in establishing this flow. Think Maggie Stiefvater--her prose is incredibly lyrical, and her voice leaps off from the page from word one. Same for Laini Taylor.

Music is the same. Bands like Snow Patrol, Coldplay, U2, The Beatles (I could on on FOREVER but I'll stop :D) are brilliant with musical composition. Snow Patrol is my all time favorite band for a million reasons, but Gary Lightbody's voice (very emotive) and the rhythm of SP's music combine to never let me go. (hehe) I'm a huge alt music junkie, and SP tops my list, but also love some good indie-folk-singer/songwriter stuff too. Sometimes I want to crank Silversun Pickups or Kasabian or Florence +The Machine, sometimes I want to listen to Jack Johnson or David Gray or Tristan Prettyman. But regardless, the music I love makes me feel. And that's why I listen. :)

Back to writing! Rhythm aside, don't underestimate the power of storytelling: books with characters and plots that grab you and won't let you go. A great storyteller can suck you in with a perfectly crafted visual that makes you pause and think "whoa." And after that whoa moment, you keep reading. Because YOU HAVE TO. Stephen King is a master storyteller. Ditto for J.K. Rowling.

It's the same with music. Sometimes I hear a lyric and think "whoa." So much packed into one line or one-chorus...well-done. 

Need examples? I've got 'em. :D

"On his face is a map of the world"
-30 Seconds to Mars "From Yesterday" (LOVE 30 Seconds to Mars)

"Blame the box with the view of the world
And the walls that fill the frame"
-Jack Johnson "Fall Line " (JJ is AMAZING in concert)

"You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter"
-Taylor Swift "Mine" (T. Swift is a BRILLIANT songwriter IMO)

So much packed into so few words, right?!

I think the best writing combines effortless rhythm with brilliant storytelling. 

Taste in music varies; it's as subjective as taste in books. But I think you can appreciate good music when you hear it (even if it's not your genre of choice), and likewise, I think you know good writing when you see it. :D

What do you think? What makes good writing? And what musical lyrics blow you away?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Query Critique #3

It's Time by Imagine Dragons is cranking on my iPod . . . and so right. Because it's time for the final query crit of the week! *waves to Patti*

Here we go.

I read queries like a book flap, looking for simplicity and punch. Do I want to keep reading? Am I confused? And most of all, do I want to read this book?! :)

We all know each query should start with a "hook," then flesh it out--detailing the conflict--and end with a bang. You want the agent to think "I want to read more" when s/he finishes the query.

So without further ado, here's the query (and thank you Patti! :D) My comments are in blue. 

Dear Wonder Agent,

World War II, the Holocaust, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East; all orchestrated by the Cathari, an ancient sect waging a crusade against God. This opening sentence feels choppy. I had to read 3x. :( Seventeen-year-old Geoff Bezier and his family are the only ones who can stop them. Why?

Forced into hiding, not only by the Cathari, but also by others who have an unhealthy interest in their ability to reincarnate, aha! reincarnation! I'd work this point into the hook of your first paragraph :) Geoff must now endure life as a high school senior in rural Minnesota. Dealing with classmates and teachers is tricky, especially when you can never tell the truth. Why can't he tell the truth? About anything? Or just about his immortality? I'd clarify In order to survive the boredom and the hormonal warfare hormonal warfare--love it that surrounds him, he joins the track team, hoping to find solace the way he always has, by running. Never did he imagine he’d find something else – love. Oooo...good stuff.

Track team captain Polly Harring isn’t like any other girl he’s met. She’s observant, thoughtful and able to keep up with him on the track field. The more he gets to know her, the more he wants to open up to her, to show her who he really is. Don't need both of these phrases "the more he wants to open up to her" and "to show her who he really is." Redundant IMHO. I'd cut one--it'll give the idea greater impact.

Although secrecy and distrust are the rules to survival, Geoff is willing to break them if it means being with Polly. Because when he’s with her, the world becomes new and innocent and for the first time in his many lives, he begins to realize that there is more to life than this cycle of death. But first, not only must he convince his family these feelings he has for Polly are real, but he must convince Polly of it as well. What about the Cathari? Don't they play a role in the stakes and Geoff's choice? 

Told from Geoff and Polly’s alternating points of view, as well as interludes from Geoff’s former lives, CATHARI, a YA fantasy of 84,000 words, is a stand-alone book with series potential. A mashup of contemporary and historical fiction, it will appeal to fans of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and GRAVE MERCY. Very well-written paragraph giving the agent all the relevant info. Nice job.

Originally from Minnesota, I currently live in Germany and am an active member of SCBWI. Per your submission requirements, I have pasted below. Thank you for your consideration.

Okay, Patti, you've got some great stuff here. Your word count is squarely within genre norms, and I like how you give the agent a sense of the fan base using comparable titles. I'm also intrigued by the idea of reincarnation playing a role in an ancient battle that is still waging, and I like how you use concrete examples (i.e., the Middle East) to make your point. :) 

My main concerns are two-fold. 

First, you identify the Cathari as the force behind all kinds of terrible wars as they crusade against God, then you explain that the Cathari are the reason Geoff is in hiding. Then you never mention the Cathari again. When you describe the stakes Geoff faces in telling Polly, the Cathari seem strangely absent. Aren't the Cathari the main plot, and Polly/love interest a sub-plot?

Second, you set up (1) the Cathari as a sect waging an ongoing crusade against God and (2) Geoff and his family as the only ones who can stop the Cathari. Then you state the Cathari (among others) are the reason Geoff is in hiding. If Geoff and his family are the only ones who can fight the Cathari, why are they hiding (rather than fighting)? And who else is searching for Geoff & company/who else is Geoff hiding from? Bad guys? Allies? And while you mention that Geoff has the ability to reincarnate, I'd clarify the connection between Geoff and his family and God, since you open with the idea that (1) the Cathari are waging against God and (2) only Geoff and his family can stop the Cathari. Maybe when you answer WHY Geoff and his family are the only ones who can stop the Cathari, you'll explain that connection in the process . . . ?

Patti, I really think you've got something cool here. I'd tighten your links between the Cathari and Geoff, making the connections clear. Also, I'd re-examine the full extent of the stakes Geoff faces. Does he have to pick between his duty to fight the Cathari or his love for Polly? I think, as written, the stakes aren't quite high enough, and I think it's because the Cathari aren't in play. :)

I hope this helps! I think you're really close. :)

Good luck, and happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Query Critique #2

Happy Monday y'all! To kick off the week, another query is up for fresh eyes.

I read queries like a book flap, looking for simplicity and punch. Do I want to keep reading? Am I confused? And most of all, do I want to read this book?! :)

We all know each query should start with a "hook," then flesh it out--detailing the conflict--and end with a bang. You want the agent to think "I want to read more" when s/he finishes the query.

So without further ado, here's the query (and thank you Chris! :D) My comments are in blue. 

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent: (always personalize, so good start :D)

We live in a society that is infatuated with and glorifies sex. It is plastered on magazines, dominates the book shelves (50 Shades), and writhes all over the television screen. We’ve turned something God gave us as a precious gift into something that that omit extra "that" is freely given away with no strings attached. While this phenomenon isn’t new, its acceptability is growing exponentially, and it is distorting relationships and wreaking havoc on the self worth of the under thirty generations. This intro paragraph presents a well-written stance on shifting societal mores, but tells me nothing about the book. No character is mentioned, no inciting incident. No hook. 

Sex was something the main character need a character name and age to orient reader in Life in the Happy House was desperately looking forward to in my my? late teens, but something he was withholding until the right person came along to marry. Then he met Amy, a girl who challenged everything he knew to be real, including his faith in God. He lived in a home with six gung-ho weirdo Christian boys who were dumpster diving, head-banging, homeless befriending, and counter-culture-ly weaving God into the lives of people all over Eugene, Oregon (a notoriously Godless city). They were also annoying the heck out of the straight laced, pastor’s kid, is the MC a pastor's kid? Still don't have a name for there MC...and wondering if this is fiction or an autobiography who just wanted to go to school, be involved in a normal church, and live a happy, carefree life.

Because of these factors, my character is constantly being pushed too typo and fro by forces he can’t control. A girl who pushes him to his logical and emotional limits, a home that frustrates him with eccentricities, and a morality code that doesn’t seem as important as it did when he was younger and more idealistic. As life greys, the character strays, and “it” finally happens. it? it what?

The spiral of life, a near fatal accident, innocence lost, and disillusionment with reality leave the character lost and hopeless. Very general. Need specific conflict and stakes. Yet God finds him in his brokenness and speaks to him. And despite the sin, the failed relationships, the destroyed ministry, the guilt and shame, none of it matters to a God who forgives and loves. And for the first time in his life, the character realizes his worth to the world, to himself, to his friends, to his future spouse, and to his God.

Life in the Happy House is this is where you put your word count and genre about redemption and maturing in our relationship with God. How young idealism can be destroyed by one mistake, and how to overcome our realized deficiencies. It also is an amazingly human and Christian portrayal of intimacy, and what we expect vs. what God has given. The story is not afraid to step outside what is considered “safe” in Christian crowds, by daring to challenge what we know about God, and how we look at “sinners.” Anyone who is a virgin or didn’t necessarily want or enjoy their first sexual experience will find/see themselves, and see how one person, overcame his lost innocence in a gut wrenching, but often hilarious way with help from God.

Here add a line: "Thank you for your time and consideration." or whatever feels right to you. :) 

Thanks again,

Chris Plumb


Your writing is lovely. Truly lovely. But a query is what gets the agent's attention, and as yours is written, I'm concerned you may have a form rejection on your hands (which has nothing to do with your novel; it's about how you're presenting it in the query.)

First, this query is long. Over 500 words. Generally queries run around 300 words, with the guts being about 250 (according to Janet Reid of QueryShark fame. :D)

Second, you need the name and age of the MC. A name personalizes the character and helps the agent get invested. You want to make the agent (and reader) care about what happens to (for the purpose of this crit, let's call your MC "Joe") Joe. Plus, the agent needs to know where this book would be shelved, and Joe's age will help them figure out where it fits. Likewise, you need genre and word-count. Is is inspirational fiction? YA? (Doesn't feel like YA to me FWIW). 

Third, after reading this query, I wasn't sure if Joe's story is fiction or auto-biographical. Fiction can be based on a true story, but it must read like fiction with an appropriate pace. If it's fiction, you need to clearly state the hook (the inciting incident), set up the conflict Joe faces, and give the reader stakes. What happens if Joe makes choice A? What will he lose/gain? Same for option B. Writing in present tense helps the sense of urgency. :) Also, if it is a memoir rather than fiction, the query can still be punchy. (See Jeanette Walls memoir, THE GLASS CASTLE. Amazing.) You have words to pare, so use that to your advantage. :)

Chris, I hope this helps. I really feel you have a story here; use the query to pull it out for the reader/agent. :) You can do this! Feel free to email me with any follow up questions. :) 

Readers, any other thoughts to help Chris?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Query Critique #1

Okay, y'all, here we go.

I read queries like a book flap, looking for simplicity and punch. Do I want to keep reading? Am I confused? And most of all, do I want to read this book?! :)

We all know each query should start with a "hook," then flesh it out and end with a bang. You want the agent to think "I want to read more" when s/he finishes the query.

So without further ado, here's the first query (and thank you Emma! :D) My comments are in blue. 

Dear Agent:

Marie is an orphan how old is Marie?, raised within the Southern California social services program, plagued by a history of abuse and mental illness. Nice set-up, but clarify: is Marie plagued by the history of abuse or the social services program? Unclear. Now that I've read further, don't think you need the phrase "raised within the SoCal social services program."Things have gotten better since she moved in with her new foster mother in the small oceanfront community of Revera: a supportive older “sister”, social acceptance within her posh high school, a stable and loving boyfriend, and a medication cocktail that seems to keep seems to? does it keep them away or not? her demons at bay. But lately she’s been having vivid dreams of fire and death, and she can’t seem to seem to? watch this phrase--it dilutes your verb :) It's stronger if you delete the "seem to" stop crying blood. Last line is a GREAT hook. I'm intrigued: an orphan, vivid dreams, bloody tears, diagnosed with a mental illness but perhaps misdiagnosed? :) I'm in. :) Maybe condense the second sentence to get to this line sooner.

In “Adore”, Marie tells you her story as it unfolds. The bleak past, the bright future as she prepares to graduate and go on to art school...and how it all goes wrong when I'd delete everything before this point. You've taken the reader out of the story. she begins shedding bloody tears we already know this and has a chance encounter with a hot-blooded stranger who gives her some unwelcome news: she’s an angel. Marie thinks it’s just another delusion until the wings literally delete literally rip through her skin, and suddenly the dreams begin to make sense. Whisked away in the night to the home of a secretive, brooding and handsome billionaire, Marie learns she is one of the Celestials, an ancient supernatural race charged with overseeing all aspects of the universe. Cool. Marie struggles to make sense of the memories and feelings from another life that begin to awaken and cope with the growing fear that a bloody destiny awaits her. I want more here. What choice does she face? What consequences? Give me stakes. :)

I am querying you because I’ve followed you on Twitter and your blog, and feel “Adore” fits well with the type of material you’re interested in. In addition I think our personalities would be a great match and a good foundation on which to build a strong partnership. I'd cut this last sentence.

“Adore” is my first novel where is your word count & genre? based on an unfinished short story about a disturbed woman who sees angels which I wrote over fifteen years ago. It is the first in an open-ended series, in which I plan to delve deeper into the world of the Celestials and elaborate on other characters introduced in Adore. My genre of choice is speculative fiction with an emphasis on Y/A and children’s themes. All the agents need to know here is title,  word count, and genre of the work you're querying, which here is ADORE. It's totally fine to say "it stands alone but has series potential," but no need to delve into the guts of the potential series on a query, or talk about what the novel is based on. :). I tweet as @EAyC and my blog is Take info from this sentence and put after your name at bottom of email. I am not yet published but am active on LitReactor, where my piece “Waiting” won their July flash fiction contest and my horror short story “Crystal” placed sixth out of over 150 entries in August. Awesome bio for a query! Woohoo! :) I have a BA in Japanese language and a background in small animal medicine and furniture buying. Last sentence not necessary, unless you tie it into your novel and it's important.

May I send you the first three chapters of “Adore” so you can decide for yourself? Thank you so much for your time and consideration. Love the politeness. Very professional.:)

Emma Clark


You've got some great stuff here. :)

I like the idea of an angel living among humans as an orphan, and am wondering why. Why was she hidden among non-Celestials? Why didn't she know she was an angel? Is that important? But the biggest question is that an orphan taken to a "handsome billionaire's" house and told she's special might be relieved at the change of circumstance--so what problem/dilemma does she face? What choice must she make? A fear of a "bloody destiny" is too vague.  Does she have to make a choice between her Celestial family and her human one? The query MUST give the stakes; it's the ending punch. 

You definitely have something here. Generally, queries should be around 250-300 words (with the guts being around 250, according to Janet Reid of QueryShark fame :D) and you've done a nice job of keeping it within those limits. But use each word to your advantage; show what sets your book apart from other paranormal/angel novels.:)

Good luck Emma! :) I hope this helps. Remember, trust your writer's compass. You know your story better than anyone, and the query is your chance to make your novel shine. Yay!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Got Queries?

Happy Writer Wednesday y'all!

Queries. Gah!

There are lots of stellar posts out there on query basics, like this one from agent-turned-author Nathan Bransford. (Nathan's blog is a HUGE source of guidance on all things publishing. Highly recommended for writers.)

Kristin Nelson of The Nelson Agency also has great tips on her blog. Plus she made this fantastic video: 2 Quick and Dirty Tips on Writing Query Letters:

And the number one query resource IMHO? Queryshark by the sharky Janet Reid. HER BLOG IS AWESOME. She dissects query letters like nobody else, and her comments are query gold.

I'm no query expect, but here's my take: follow the rules (one page only, personalize for each agent, follow the agent's query guidelines, be professional and polite) but don't obsess. Because in the end, it's the hook and sharp writing that works. :) In case you're curious, my query for NIL (at least the heart of it) is on the Books page of my blog.

How's your query coming along? Been re-worked a dozen *cough* hundred *cough* times? Yup, been there. :)

If you need a fresh set of eyes, leave a comment below. I'll critique queries from the first three commenters who post. It will be public, like the awesome Mindy McGinnis's Saturday Slashes.

Here's the plan: if you're one of the first three to comment AND you want a query crit, shoot me your query by email to I'll email you back to let you know which day it's going up on the blog. My plan is to post the three crits over the next three days. :)  If you don't want a crit, no worries, and I'll drop to the next person on the comment list. :)

Query on! You CAN do it. :)

**As of Thursday, Sept. 13 at 2:30 pm, the query crit contest is closed. :) The three queries will be up on the blog over the next few days. Thanks for the comments y'all! Happy writing...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Remember

*opens with moment of silence for those lost in September 11 attacks years ago*

It's hard to believe that the horrific attacks of 9/11 occurred 11 years ago. I'm not a New Yorker, but I am an American, and that day is seared into memory like no other.  So many lives lost, so many tears shed. The footage was so raw, it hurt to watch. And yet we did. We watched, trying to understand a tragedy so senseless that it defied comprehension. It still does.

This morning I read a post from the perspective of a New Yorker who witnessed the attack first hand. It  made the morning feel--haunting. Maybe because the weather outside reminds me of the weather that 9/11 morning--clear blue skies, sun shining, birds chirping in a quiet neighborhood. And like eleven years ago, my kids are off to school, leaving me alone in a quiet house. Back then, I only had one son, and was pregnant with my second. I was busy "nesting' while my oldest was at a mother's morning out, and when I turned on the Today show, I was shocked. And for me, the beauty of that day outside stood in such stark contrast to the horror unfolding across the country that it heightened the sense of surreal.

So as I look outside right now on a bluebird Florida sky, I'm feeling blessed and melancholy and quietly reflective. And it doesn't feel quite right to have a query crit today.

But tomorrow, send 'em in. (Details in tomorrow's post.) I'll be waiting. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Love, Kindness, and the Importance of Saying Thanks

Hello Monday.:)

Today I hugged my boys extra tightly, and I made sure I told my husband I loved him before he rolled out to work. I wrote three over-due thank you notes (we Southerners aren't afraid to write thank-you's for just about anything!:D) and sent a thank you email to someone who did something that touched my heart.

And maybe, just maybe, I touched theirs.

The thing is, it's easy to be rushed. To go through your day on a tear, racing from one activity to another without enjoying the ride. But as the old saying goes, life isn't a destination, it's a way of traveling. And the journey is a lot nicer when you take the time to thank those who make the trip more fun.:)  Because in the end, it's all about the people.

As a writer, so many people reach out to you--family, friends, crit partners, Tweet-hearts, blog commenters, agents, editors, readers, etc. Being a writer is solitary enough; don't forget to thank those who step out (and step up) to help you. And when you have a chance to share the writer love and give back, do it. Then someone will be thanking you.:)

So writers, anyone need a fresh set of eyes on your query? Query crit contest opens tomorrow.:)  First three entries will get my feedback.

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


My debut novel NIL sold! *pinches self*

It's still a bit surreal.: )

I've known for a while, and I'm SO glad to finally be able to share this news. (Secrets are HARD. :D) But I love this book, and its characters. And I can't wait for y'all to meet them!:)

Here's the official announcement on Publisher's Marketplace:

"Lynne Matson's NIL, when teens end up on the Island of Nil, through a "wormhole" in space, they have 365 days to catch a gate back home or die; a newcomer falls in love with a boy who only has 86 days left...will Nil let them survive?, to Kate Farrell at Holt Children's, for publication in Winter 2014, by Jennifer Unter at The Unter Agency (world English)."

-Sept. 5, 2012

I'm so grateful to my agent, Jennifer, for making this happen. She is truly made of awesome. :)  I can't wait to work with Kate, and to be honest, Henry Holt publishes some of my very favorite authors (like Mary Pearson and Leigh Bardugo) so I'm just a *little* star-struck.

HUGE hugs to my family, friends, and awesome crit partners (who are also friends!:D). I couldn't have done it without y'all. Cupcakes for life are on me. :)

Happy Wednesday y'all!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I'm Not an Avatar! :)

I finally got a real picture up on my blog. Yay!

I really don't know why it took me so long. (But if I had to guess, it's because sometimes my "me" stuff takes a back seat to family stuff and all the various things that MUST get done every day. stuff...etc...)

One of my husband's friends took the pictures, and I loved her. She's a busy working mom (with a 5 year old boy like me!) and a talented photographer. And the freakiest fact? Her name is Gretchen Whipple. I'd never met anyone with the last name of Whipple, and in the last year I've met two! Gretchen, who snapped these awesome pics, and Natalie, who is a ninja crit partner.  :)

Sometimes the world feels very small. :)

So what's new with you? How was the long weekend? *hopes it was great* :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Perfect Enemy

My husband likes to say “perfect is the enemy of good.” 

In the writing world, perfect is the enemy of publication.

(Before you choke on your chai latte, I’m not advocating shipping out your fresh NaNoWriMo manuscript on December first. Not even close! Bear with me here . . . :D)

You spend months (or years or weeks) writing your novel. You spend days grinding out words, getting your story on paper. You spend afternoons frantically scribbling your latest epiphany on random receipts from your purse while waiting in the carpool line, and nights typing the scene that blasted fully formed into your brain as you cobbled together dinner. You give up tv, sleep, and the hope that the laundry pile will ever shrink to acceptable levels, and anything else that has room to give so you can write--because you have to.

And when you’ve worked and struggled and dug your characters out of the deepest, darkest holes borne of your sleep-deprived writerly state, you type THE END. You feel absolutely giddy (which may or may not be related to the fact that you haven’t slept in weeks.) But you’re DONE! See, you tell your spouse, your best friends, your mother or anyone else who will listen, or maybe you just tell yourself: there it is! In Times New Roman font!


And yet, it’s just the beginning. 

If you’re lucky, your first draft is good. As in, a good start. It’s readable, full of promise, peppered with potholes and speed bumps and missing bridges and all the other things that clutter the writing road on the way to a polished draft. 

So you step back, and let your manuscript marinate for a few weeks. AND DON'T PEEK. (And for goodness sake, DON'T QUERY. Fight the urge any way possible. I recommend chocolate. :D) Two weeks pass, maybe three. Then you open up your Word document, and there on the very first page sits the title and your name. And you think, Oohhhh… so pretty.

And you start reading. You waffle between Oh my gracious, this is amazing! I wrote this? to the much more frequent Holy crap, this IS crap.  I wrote this? Some people (like me) edit as they go, others read through all the way then dig in.* Either way, you edit. You revise. And you send your edited first draft to your beta readers, your all-important crit partners.

And then you wait--again. You pass the time drafting your query, stalking following agents on Twitter or Querytracker or their blog, and compiling your all-important query list.

You get your feedback, and naturally, it’s all over the place. But some is consistent, and that reveals where work is needed. Sometimes it's an inconsistency you missed, maybe it’s a spot you already suspected had a problem. Maybe no one will notice, maybe it’s not that BIG a problem. But it is, and you fix it. You listen to the remaining (and conflicting) critiques with an open mind and then you revise. You dig back in, fix any lingering potholes or build a bridge you didn’t even realize was necessary--all while keeping your vision of the story intact (after all, it’s your novel :D).

Maybe you need another round of crits, maybe not. You’ll know whether fresh eyes are needed; trust your writer’s compass--both in handling the crits and knowing when your novel is done.

Here’s where perfection can become your enemy.

Let’s recap: at this point you’ve (1) finished your manuscript, (2) let it marinate, (3) revised and polished it, (4) sent it to crit partners and listened to their feedback, (5) revised and polished again based on your critiques, and (6) possibly repeated numbers 4 and 5.

Meanwhile, you also have a carefully-researched list of agents who might be interested in your YA vampire-werewolf-love-triangle-set-in-a-dystopian-future-where-the-vamps-and-wolves-must-fight-zombies-in-an-arena-and-only-one-suitor-can-survive. (Ahem. Or whatever.) And you have a concise, hook-y, query letter ready to roll--personalized, natch.

Anyway, if you’re not careful, as you hit Step 6 and polish your novel until it sparkles like Edward in sunlight, you might slip from revision, which is meaty, into tinkering, which reeks of stale Diet Coke. Flat, with a bad aftertaste. You might tinker so much that you either (1) suck the life and voice right out of your novel, or (2) never submit your manuscript, because it’s not “perfect,” or both.

How do you know if you’re tinkering? You change paragraphs back to their original form, and back again. You obsess over word choice beyond what is healthy, or helpful. You hear that little voice in the back of your brain, but it’s not perfect, and you can’t bring yourself to hit Send. The black hole of tinkering can kill your novel, and even worse, it halts your growth as a writer. Because at this point, you're actually at Step 7. 

You're ready to hit Send or move on.

I know it's tough, because you frequently hear: "Don't query until it's ready." And I agree with that statement 100%. Premature querying is a sure-fire way to shoot yourself in the foot. But then again, so is not querying at all. There comes a point when your manuscript IS ready, when you have done everything humanly possibly to make it the very best it can be. Hello Step 7! :D This is when you, the writer, should make a call. Send those queries, go the indie or self-publishing route, or move on to the next book, because maybe *cringe* just maybe, it’s your next book that will be “the one.” But you won’t get there if you’re still tinkering with this one.

So stop.

Stop tinkering, stop obsessing.

Stop trying to make your manuscript perfect.

Because it will never be perfect. Nothing is perfect. (Even J.K. Rowling’s amazing Harry Potter books contain a typo or two.) But your manuscript can--and should be--great, rising to the level of awesome. And awesome is what (I believe) agents hope lands in their inbox. :)

Have you ever battled with the quest for perfection? And how do you keep it from sabotaging your novel?

*YOU ARE UNIQUE, and so is your writing style. :) Do what works for you. Same for your journey toward publication: it's YOURS.  Own it. :)  Any thoughts/advice/tips on writing and publishing you find on my blog are my own, and what worked for me. The internet is flooded with writing and publishing thoughts/tips/advice. Use what helps you, and ditch the rest. :) Including this thought. hehe

Clarification: Just to be clear, I'm not advocating shipping out manuscripts full of typos. Far from it. If you've done everything to make your MS the best it can be, you've already run Spellcheck countless times. :) I'm just cheering for you to take the query plunge WHEN YOUR MS IS READY. Don't keep obsessing over word choice forever, letting fear that your MS isn't "perfect" hold you back. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

And the winner is . . .

Thanks to everyone who entered the End-of-Summer Book Giveaway! :)

As y'all know, the contest closed last night at midnight. (I loved waking up to find a flurry of new comments. :) Yay!) This morning I plugged the number of entrants into

And the winner is . . .

Lucky No. 8! Kassandra Fuentes!

Kassandra--shoot me an email with your address, and I'll ship you the two books and the DESTINED prize pack. :) I hope you love them as much as I did!

Happy Wednesday, y'all!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Five


It's Friday sweet friends!  How was your week? Mine was the official end-of-summer-as-I-know-it. Yup--you guessed it, my boys went back-to-school.

To wrap up the week, here's a quick Friday Five!

1. Word of the week: bittersweet.

Like Big Head Todd sang back in the day (*dates self*), it was more sweet than bitter, but as much as I reveled in the quiet house, I missed my boys. The house felt so . . . empty. After a summer full of Nerf wars, and all kinds of boy noise, the stillness was almost eerie. :) (Note: I said almost. hehe)

(For those wondering who the heck Big Head Todd is, check out the Big Head Todd and the Monsters video here.) :)

2. Giveaway of the week: books!

On my blog! :) Two books up for grabs: DESTINED by Jessie Harrell and ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. Check out Tuesday's blog post for the deets. :)

3. Creeptastic Picture of the Week:

It's an oak tree, a few miles from our house. I swear it's a wood nymph trapped for eternity. See how she's raising her arms to the sky? *shudders* And like Tweetheart Jess Keating noted on Twitter, it's like she (or he!) is chained to the ground. Cool and creepy. (Repeats to self..."it's just a's just a tree...") THERE'S A STORY HERE, I feel it. :)

4. Link of the week: Editor Cheryl Klein's awesome post on A Few Things Writers Can Learn From Harry Potter. It's been around a while, but was a recent find for me. LOVE IT. :)

5. Recent YA release added to my towering TBR pile: THE KILL ORDER by James Dashner (a prequel to THE MAZE RUNNER)
So that's it!

How was your week? Did you see anything creepy, or creepy-cool? And have you ever heard of Big Head Todd?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

End-of-Summer Book Giveaway!

As summer winds down *sniff* I thought I'd celebrate by spreading the YA book love. :) I've got two awesome summer reads up for grabs!

First up?

DESTINED by Jessie Harrell

Isn't the cover gorgeous?!

Here's the description (from Goodreads):

When Psyche receives a prophecy gone horribly wrong, she learns that even the most beautiful girl in Greece can have a hideous future. Her fate? Fall in love with the one creature even the gods fear.

As she feels herself slipping closer into the arms of the prophecy, Psyche must choose between the terrifyingly tender touch she feels almost powerless to resist and the one constant she's come to expect out of life: you cannot escape what is destined.

Cool, right? :) Want more scoop on DESTINED? Go here.

I was fortunate enough to be one of Jessie's CP's. :) Her book's amazing, and since I love it so much, I wanted to share! Here's your chance to win a signed (Yes! Signed! :D) copy of DESTINED, along with a swag prize pack: a button and bookmark.

And because one cool summer read is not enough, I'm parting with another book I loved: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins.

Here's the summary (also from Goodreads):

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

I absolutely ADORE this book . . . from word one. This book achingly captures the feeling of falling in love. Plus, it really made me want to go to Paris. :)  Romance with a back-to-school setting--the perfect read to end the summer (or start the school year, depending on where you are)!

And now you can win a free copy! :) Woot!

One winner, two books.

To enter? Just tweet this contest and leave a comment below. That's it!

Once you tweet and comment, you're in.

The contest stays open for one week, closing next Tuesday at midnight.* The winner will be picked by The contest is only open to people in the US, Canada & Mexico--sorry for not going international, but for my first contest, I'm keeping my postage low. Also, since I'm new at this giveaway thingy, I'm just dipping my pinky toe in--starting out small. :) Thanks for understanding!

So that's it! One winner, two books. :)

Yay! I can't wait for you to read them!  Happy Tuesday!

*Note: This contest is now closed! Thanks to all who entered, and the winner will be announced shortly! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Sketches

This week was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, which is huge in our house. Absolutely HUGE.

My husband surfs, so do my boys, and we all paddleboard. Even my 5yo likes to sit on the paddleboard as we tool around. :) It's super cute. And since our house is old, there's no garage. Surfboards hang over the mantel, hug the corners of our den, and hide behind the couch, all keeping space with golf clubs, tennis racquets and a gazillion other types of sports paraphernalia. It's crazy and fun and and a lived-in house. (Did I mention our living room has a ping-pong table? Yup. It does.) :)

Whew! Sorry for the tangent! *lurches back on track* Anyway, since surfing's such a big part of our family life, we spend heaps of time at the beach. And we've got a freaky fascination with sharks. Each year when Shark Week comes on, we're glued to the tv. It's a sharky family tradition. :)

In honor of Shark Week (and great whites everywhere . . . hehe) my 12 year-old drew a picture of a great white. I loved it so much I thought I'd share...

Da-num . . . . Da-num . . .
Cool, right?

And then my 7 year-old drew this:

Mr. Whale and his friend, Mr. Octopus

I love it it too! The angle of my picture makes me feel a little dizzy (me=lousy photographer) but the drawing rocks.

I'm sad to see Shark Week end, because for me, it's another sign summer is over.  And I'm not ready! :)

What's on ya'lls agenda this week? School? Last vacation of the summer? And does Shark Week ever suck you in?

p.s. Coming up tomorrow: a contest! A book giveaway! Yay!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

After the Rain

Lately we've had afternoon thunderstorms EVERY DAY. Hello Florida in August. :) I've always loved the sound of rain. It makes me want to curl up with a book, in a comfy chair.

But with 4 boys, being cooped up inside has its challenges. (Thank goodness for Legos--and Lego Ninjago! LOL) Being stuck inside at the beach is especially cruel. You can see the waves and the sand just outside the window...but you're stuck inside. It's a total wave tease.:)

And then there's this:

See the empty beach?! That's because it was just storming like crazy...

I took this picture last weekend when we were staying at the beach. Isn't is AMAZING? I think the perfect swell sits at the end of this rainbow. :)

Sometimes rain leads to something breathtaking. Something inspiring. Since yesterday we experienced some *slight* plumbing problems at our house, I'm hoping there's a rainbow coming (metaphorically speaking) soon around here. Because usually something good follows a big rain--even if it's inside the house.:)

So what's new with you? Seen any rainbows lately? :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Five

It's Friday! *cue happy dance*

Tonight my sweet hubs and I are going to see the new Bourne movie. I'm stoked. I LOVED Matt Damon in the other Bourne movies, and can't wait to see Jeremy Renner in this one. Yay for date nights! :)

But I can't believe it's FRIDAY. Already. Wasn't it just Monday?! I don't know about for you, but for me, this week has been CRAZY. I'm talking all caps kinda-shouty CRAZY. :) I'm still not sure where the days went...

But here's a clue: it's a quick FRIDAY FIVE!

5. Word of the Week: multi-tasking. This week I've juggled dentist appointments, doctor appointments, back-to-school clothes shopping, middle school orientation, school supply hunting, swimming, golf practice, football practice, gymnastics practice . . . and more. And this was just for my boys! Not to mention the grocery shopping, house cleaning, and then some. (Oh, who am I kidding...the house is a wreck. But my fam is happy. :D) I've managed to squeeze in a *little*writing/revising time, but some weeks other life/family/home priorities take precedence, and that's okay. I'm still working on the writing/family/life balance...but aren't we all? :)

4. Book of the Week: THIRST by Christopher Pike. I've read it before, but when life turns crazy, I'm not afraid to re-read a book I loved. Especially when the voice is so different from mine--it cuts out any possibility of a voice leak, and lets me just enjoy a great read. And this read is KILLER! :) hehe

3. Cookie of the Week: chocolate chip. Wild weeks call for the basics. :) *nom nom* I did mix it up and throw in milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. Total yum.

2. Blog Shout-Out of the Week: Mother. Write. (Repeat.) Hosted by the lovely Krista Van Dolzer, this blog is great for aspiring writers. Lots of good info on agents, and next week, Krista is hosting An Agent's Inbox contest starting Monday! So get thee to Krista's blog if your MS is shiny! :) (Way to spread writer love, Krista! :D)

1. Song of the Week: It's Time by Imagine Dragons. Perfect for writing, perfect for everything. An all-around sweet tune. Here's a acoustic version that blew me away:

Has your week been as crazy as mine? And what's the weirdest/craziest/awesomest thing that happened this week?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer Reads

August is here. Just--wow.

How did it get here so fast?! After July 4th, summer seems to kick into another (faster!) gear. The thing is, I love summer and everything it represents . . .  beach time, lazy days, late nights and *hopefully* equally late mornings. :) And fun stuff like this:

Lemonade with a firework straw FTW! LOL

For me, summer = beach + books. :)

This summer I've read some GREAT books. THE FOX INHERITANCE by Mary Pearson, RUBY RED by Kerstin Gier, SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo, LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins, PARTIALS by Dan Wells, the PARANORMALCY trilogy by Kiersten White . . . just to name a few.

Today's Friday Read? FRACTURE by Megan Miranda. Yay! I've been looking forward to reading this book for a while and can't wait to dig in!

What are you reading? :) And what's been your favorite summer read? :)

(Note: Monday's Blog Post will be about What Boys Read. It appeared here *briefly* today before I accidentally deleted it as I closed tabs, and now I can't find it. Grr. After several deep breaths and fruitless Google cache searches, I'll either (a) find it or (b) recreate it on Sunday. Sigh. Some days the technology gods are unhappy with me. It happens. :) I think I'll have another lemonade. Want one? :) *shares*)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Are Your Eyes Open?

You know how it's awesome to go on vacation--where you have THE BEST TIME EVER, natch--but then it's over and you're so glad to be home? Yep, that's me. :)

It's Monday and it's raining in Jacksonville and my kids are playing putt-putt in the den (with real golf clubs and wickedly hard real golf balls) and it's all good. Because I'M SO GLAD TO BE HOME! :)

My relief MAY have something to do with this:

That was my view yesterday. FOR TEN HOURS.

Yesterday we drove home from Richmond, during which the song "Call Me Maybe" came on the radio too many times to count. Gah! We caved to the DVD pressure early, but still. No matter what you do to pass the time (Travel Bingo! License plate tag! Books! Music! Movies! Referee fighting over movies!) the time must still, well, pass.

And making road trips more interesting *cough* painful *cough* for me is a teeny problem called motion sickness. I can't read or type in the car because I get incredibly carsick. So I basically looked outside, FOR TEN HOURS. But when you look, I mean, really LOOK, with no expectations at all, you see some cool stuff. Like these clouds:

Aren't they amazing? I'd like to paint them (leaving out the Days Inn sign of course! LOL) What you can't see is that off to the right, rain is falling like molten silver. It was absolutely gorgeous, and if I'd keep my eyes straight ahead--or worse, closed them altogether--I'd have totally missed it. And it was breathtaking.

Tackling revisions is a lot like staring at the same stretch of highway you've been staring at for hours. Same straight line, same group of cars around you, with minimal shifts. A Ford Fiesta exits, and is replaced by a Dodge Caravan. And the ride continues. But if you look away, keeping your eyes and mind open, you might find something unexpected. Something that makes your journey richer, adding depth even as you keep traveling toward your destination.

Is your WIP stuck in a rut? Are you so trapped in your draft that you can't look away from the same plot path or character arc you've been traveling along for weeks...or even months? Then put it down, but don't close your eyes. :) Keep them wide open--to all the possibilities. You just might find something unexpected. Maybe even incredible. :)

Because we're talking Eyes Open and I LOVE Snow Patrol, here's some inspiration from Gary himself:

Snow Patrol "Open Your Eyes"

This video is shot almost exclusively from INSIDE A MOVING CAR. Could it be more perfect?! (Answer: no.) ;)

Enjoy! And oh--the end is the best part. :)

Are your eyes open? Seen anything unexpectedly cool lately? And how are your revisions going?

Monday, July 23, 2012


Lately I've read several blog posts where I found myself thinking "Yes! Exactly!" Or "Wow... I always wondered that." Or "Oh-Holy-Cow I had no clue." Posts so amazing/useful/timely I wanted to make sure you didn't miss them. :)

So here's my Monday Linkapalooza:

First up: Ally Carter's A Letter to Baby Author Me (circa 2004).
Brilliant advice for baby authors. I LOVE THIS POST. A must-read IMO. Read it here if you missed it.

Next: Megan Shepherd's Attitude Makes the Writer.
Megan starts the post with this quote: "The more I think about it, the more I think writing success comes from the right attitude, not talent." Her post is raw and and introspective and eloquently written, and inspires you to "keep moving forward." Did you read it? No? Oh, you're in luck! It's right here!

And then: Justine Larbalestier's Becoming a Brand Versus Writing What You Want to Write.
"You do not have to stick to writing the same kinds of books to have a successful writing career." Don't you want to read more? Go here. 

Don't miss:  Natalie Whipple's The Truth About Teens Buying Books.
Natalie's got a 13yo sister and she's got the scoop. I loved this post, because it's handy and REAL. WHY do teens buy books? The number 2 reason? Word of mouth. The number one reason? Go here to find out. :)

Last but not least: Roni Loren's Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog.
Do you blog? Use pics? Then this post is A MUST READ. Run. Go here now.

And that's it y'all! Happy linkapalooza! :)

Do you have a must read post for me? Leave it in the comments below. :) *offers Oreos in return*


Friday, July 20, 2012

Got Stuf?

To off-set the awful image of Spam from my last post, today I give you this:


(See the light shining down on the Oreos from above? Yup, you guessed it. It's a cookie halo. hehe)

The thing is, I LOVE cookies. And Oreos are at the top of my store-bought cookie list. I've always been traditional Oreo kind-of girl, then I tried Golden Oreos, which OH MY LAND, are THE BOMB. And then I found these:
Usually I'm not a Double Stuf fan, and it's not just the fact that the word "Stuf" is missing an "f" for some inexplicable reason. No, my main issue with Double Stuf Oreos is firmly cookie-based. For me, the cookie-to-cream ration is off: too much cream, not enough cookie. But for some reason, on the Heads or Tails Oreos, the extra cream works. Maybe it's a palate cleanser in between the different sides, or maybe it just goes along with the indecisive vibe of these cookies...the whole I'm-not-sure-if-I-want-chocolate-or-vanilla-Oreos-today-so-maybe-I'll-just-eat-both. IN ONE COOKIE. :)

Either way, THEY'RE AWESOME. No doubt it's why they earned a cookie halo. :)

Oh, and did you notice the half-eaten Oreo to the side? Yup, that was me. :) *nom nom* Usually I eat one half at a time--a purist Oreo-eating-move if there ever was one!--but today I just took a big ole' bite. And it rocked.

So, what are y'alls thoughts on Double Stuf? (I REALLY wanted to add the missing "f" there...) And Oreos? And have you ever tasted the creamy goodness of the Heads or Tails Oreos? Oh, you haven't? Here...try one! *shares* Aren't they delish?! :)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spam Gold

A quick story related to Monday's LONG post, THE POWER OF THREE (Or How I Found My Agent). :)

Here's a teeny part I left out: The *near* Spam Disaster.


When Jennifer emailed me in January to ask to read the rest, I didn't reply--not right away. And why not? Because I didn't see her email . . . BECAUSE IT WENT TO SPAM. You read that right, SPAM. (I can't explain it. Spam filters are weird like that. Like this is beyond-explanation-weird:

Because it's SPAM. hehe)

At the time, I rarely checked spam. As in like, NEVER. :) (Seriously, maybe once a month, at best.)

So the next day I received a sweet follow-up email from Jennifer asking if I'd received her email and was NIL still available? No and yes! This time I got back to her right away, and the rest of history. Her enthusiasm was evident from the start, and her communication rocks--as this exchange proved. I'm so grateful she followed up with me, because if she hadn't, I might have missed out on the opportunity to work with her, and I can't imagine a more perfect agent for NIL (and me!).  Jennifer is truly made of awesome--she's smart, savvy, and her intuition on strengthening a MS is crazy-good. :) I know I'm not her only author, but she makes me feels like I am (something I'm careful not take advantage of. :D)

So happy Thursday y'all! Now go check your spam folder. You might find gold. :) (Or just more offers from The Gap, but hey, it's worth a peek.)

Have you ever found anything unexpected caught by your spambot? A rejection? A request? An offer from a Nigerian prince?! :) LOL I'd love to hear!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Power of Three (or How I Found My Agent)

I started writing seriously on January 15, 2009. Not for publication, but for me. At the time I had a 1 year old, 3 year old, 6 year old and 8 year old, so I stole time when I could. Mostly at night, sacrificing tv. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was sleep deprived, which no doubt fueled my insanity.:)

Six months later, I finished my YA magical realism novel. (Yay! It rocks! I rock!) After a celebratory round of cupcakes, I read it again. And died a little.

It was ROUGH. Terrible, actually. So terrible that even as a baby writer, I KNEW it was terrible. But I didn’t know how to fix it. And the endless tinkering began.

During this time, I was fortunate enough to meet Charles Martin, a high school friend of my husband and a NYT Bestseller author in his own right. He kindly read the first three (awful) chapters and told me to pick up the pace. He suggested I look at my novel from a different angle, maybe start in another place. In hindsight, Charles was SO RIGHT.

Meanwhile, in October 2009, I started Novel No. 2, a YA post-apocalyptic, inspired by a phone call from my husband when he was on a Costa Rican surf trip. Then in February 2010, my husband and I took our first week away from the boys since having babies--to Hawaii, the big island. (GORGEOUS!!!) Inspiration hit, hard, and I wrote 10K of a fresh YA light sci-fi novel (Are you counting? Novel No. 3!) while we were there; 2K on the return flight alone. (I know what you're thinking: bad wife. :D In my defense, it was also a work trip for him so I had plenty of down time to write. Plus, my sweet husband gets my writing addiction. Another reason I love him.:D)

For the next few months, I flitted between books, writing two and tinkering with one. And I worked on my craft. I read blogs, Stephen King’s book On Writing, and just plain read. Books, lots of them. I discovered querying, entered writing contests on Janet Reid’s blog, and realized publication was out there, like a crazy carrot. And I wanted it. I hunkered down with novel number one, slashed and revised tinkered, and by summer 2010, it was ready. And it was AWESOME! My friends and family told me so! I joined QueryTracker (great resource), researched agents, drafted my query (personalized, of course) and sent it out.

And the rejections poured in. Mostly form, occasionally personalized. Sometimes they’d arrive in packs, which was especially crushing. That fall, Charles gave me some valuable advice. He told me to put my first book aside,  and write something else. It wasn't easy to hear, but again--he was SO RIGHT.

Around the same time, I met local YA writer, Jessie Harrell. She became my hometown CP. It was HUGE. Game-changing. She introduced me to the YA writing community on-line, and she let me critique her WIP, which was a gift. She have me incredible feedback, and soon I realized I’d never truly revised Novel No. 1, just tinkered, and they’re not the same. But it was too late. Novel number one was dead.

Everything --and everyone-- was telling me to move on. Charles, Jessie, and the pile of rejections. And so I did. I put my first book in a drawer, and let it go.*

Flash-forward to February 2011. I had first drafts of two very different books: a YA post-apocalyptic and a YA light SF, and I had to make a call. Which to polish? I chose NIL, my YA light SF. And I got to work.

I went to Backspace Writer’s Conference in May, where I found awesome crit partners Laura Stanford and Tonya Kuper. (That's another crazy story. :D) Also in May, I won a crit from the talented Natalie Whipple (love her!). After Backspace, I revised my opening pages based on agent feedback (revision no. 1). Then I sent my MS out for critique from this fab four. Each gave me constructive feedback, encouragement, and inspiration, which not only helped my MS, it helped me. Especially my confidence, which you need fully intact before you hit the query trenches. (SO GRATEFUL y’all!) And I became a better CP myself.

Based on the crits, I faced revision, again. This one was tougher. Bigger. But worth every difficult minute. After a *slight* initial freakout ("I can't do it!"), I dug deep, added more layers, and in the process, I fell in love with NIL all over again.

Now my MS was shinier than a Christmas tree. NIL was ready. I was ready. Game on. :)

September 2011: NIL queries went out. This time I got requests right away, and within a month I had a R &R from one agent, a big gun. I mulled it over, even as more requests rolled in and the holidays approached. (One of those requests, a partial, was from Jennifer. Woot! *dream agent alert*) One night as I pondered the revision request, a new sub-plot fell into my head, one that pulled pieces together I didn’t even know were missing. I wrote furiously for the next month, weaving in the new plot line, not sure whether I was addressing the agent’s R & R concerns but knowing this last revision was how the novel was meant to be. (This final revision was revision number 3). Meanwhile, I got more requests. Rejections too. I checked my inbox obsessively. The holidays were S-L-O-W.

But then January arrived. I got an email from Jennifer that she loved the first 50 pages, and could I please send the rest? Uh, YES! She was one of the very first agents I queried on NIL, having loved her interview on the Mother.Write.(Repeat.) blog. Fingers crossed, I sent Jennifer the revised version, which was also in the hands of seven other agents, including the one who requested the R & R. A few weeks later I got "the call" from Jennifer, almost three years to the day after I began writing again. Her enthusiasm for NIL blew me away. We clicked, and I felt she “got” NIL. I notified the other agents considering NIL, including the one who’d requested the revision. (That agent passed BTW; our visions for the book didn’t mesh, and that's okay). That week was a roller-coaster, full of emails and phone calls, but my feeling that Jennifer was the agent for NIL (and for me) never changed. I accepted her offer a week later.

I’m still pinching myself. :D 

Here are the dirty numbers:

Novel 1 (YA magical realism):
55 queries, 2 requests. A dismal 3.63 request rate (Ugh!)

Novel 2 (YA post-apoc):
Still in drawer

Novel 3 (NIL, YA light-SF):
35 queries, 14 requests. A much-improved 40% request rate, resulting in my signing with Jennifer. :D (BTW--I'd queried Jennifer on novel 1, and she'd passed.)

Why the improvement? My query was better. My writing was better. But most of all, my MS was better, and it was READY. I let it marinate, then I revised. I got feedback from other writers (CRUCIAL!) and revised again. And then I revised AGAIN, when my gut said it need it.

3 years. 3 books. 3 revisions. The power of three.

I’m still learning, improving my craft. That part of a writer’s road never ends.

But here’s three things I’ve learned:

1. Don’t stop. Don’t stop writing, don’t stop reading, don’t stop improving. Don't stop working. And like Journey sings (*cheese alert* :D): don't step believing--in your writing, in yourself. In your ability to make it.

2. Reach out. Get on-line, go to conferences if you can, make friends with other writers. And remember that old adage, to have a friend you must be a friend? Offer to read their work. Be positive as well as constructive.

3. Remember that your journey is your own. For me it was the power of three. 3 years, 3 books, 3 revisions. Every writer's road is different. But if you keep going, I believe you'll get there, wherever your "there" is. :D

Where are you on your writer's road? *offers travel snacks* And where are you headed? Wherever you are, I wish you safe travels. And I leave you with this song. It gave me heaps of inspiration, reminding me why I refused to stop. :D

"We know, we know, that we are more than this
More than we know, there's a reason we exist"

The Matches "Point Me Toward The Morning"

 Happy Monday!

*for now:)

Friday, July 13, 2012

First Friday

My first blog post! It feels epic--and yet it's not. :)

I've been writing seriously for years, but never blogged. Instead, over this time, I've followed many. Sometimes I've commented, more often I've lurked. But regardless of whether I commented or not, I've been incredibly grateful for all the encouragement, inspiration, and support I've received from the YA writing community as I pursued my writing dreams. I couldn't have made it this far without y'all. :) I've said many thank-you's on Twitter, but lately I've wished for more than 140 characters to share and give back, so . . .

Voila! This blog.

First up? On Monday, I'll be talking about how I found Jennifer, my amazing agent. I decided to make this topic my first Monday post because when I was in the agent hunt, I loved reading about how writers found theirs. Each story was different, but each gave me hope. Hope that if I didn't quit, that one day an agent would say YES. And for me, a huge part of that hope was the uniqueness of each writer's road. Each writer's gifts are unique, and so is their writing journey. On Monday I'll share part of mine. :)

Here's a preview:

This is me, holding my contract on the day I signed with my awesomesauce agent, Jennifer Unter. (LOVE HER!) Note the perma-grin above. Totally ridiculous. :)

Until then, I'll leave you with this:
"This is your life, this is your time"
-Snow Patrol, Called Out in The Dark

Thanks for stopping by! :) Have a great weekend!