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!