Wednesday, April 29, 2009

HUMPDAY HEROES (correction, Heroines)

Sorry I missed last week. I was on a plane flying to Colorado. Too busy to blog. (sigh) My heroes for the week are a result of the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference.
In no particular order...

~Kate Harrison (Dial Books) Super cute and sweet editor that helped me make my first page better.

~Natanya Wheeler (Lowenstein-Yost Agency) Quiet gal but don't be fooled. I had a pitch appointment with her and she was uber nice and professional. She made my first pitch experience a pleasant one. (plus she wears cute boots! :))

~Kevan Lyon (Marsal Lyon Literary Agency) I sat with her at lunch and she taught me about the Kindle. Very friendly and easy to talk to. She gives off that sweet but professional vibe.

~Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown) Poor thing was sick as a dog but she still endured questions at our dinner table. Not only did she give me the scoop on one of my favorite authors but we are plotting a way to make Cheetos cure cancer.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grateful for Brutal Honesty

Airfare to CO: $200

Cost of Conference: $300

Knowing first page is crap BEFORE sending to agents: PRICELESS.

It was the worst and best moment of my writing journey. Listening to an author, editor, and agent sit in front of a room full of writers while my first page was read aloud--anonymously,thank goodness. First off, let me give a big "thank you" to Ron Cree, the author who read all of the entries. I worried he would mispronounce Kindrily or Maryah but he nailed them perfectly. So for a few fleeting moments, I was happy and it was going well. Then...the panel all agreed my first page was bad. They had more to say about it but that’s the gist of it. The bittersweet part is that I had NEVER been happy with my first page, or first scene for that matter. But people said it was good. I love those people. They are my family, friends, even an avid reader I barely knew all said they loved it. So it was gut check time when three industry professionals agreed “they didn’t get it.” It was too descriptive, too many similes, too wordy. Saddest part, I knew all that but I didn’t follow my instincts. The priceless part is that my critique was my wake up call. I could fix it. I knew how to fix it. I knew I SHOULD have fixed it when I had the initial “doesn’t feel right” mantra whispering in the back of my head. And now…it is fixed. It's fifty times better than what it was and it sets the tone of the story more accurately and artistically. Funny how when you take out all the similes and lengthy descriptions it becomes MORE artistic. To that panel of three honest souls who did there job and basically said “this sucks” (and to Ron Cree for the meticulous reading). Thank you. Sincerely, thank you. To the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, thanks for hosting the event that led me to the conference room where three writing-world-pros told me the truth. A truth that saved me from sending out disastrous first pages to a bunch of agents. If the first page sucks, I wouldn't get very far. My first page sucked, but now it doesn’t. That one critique alone was worth any amount of money in the world. Lesson to all you aspiring writers...go to a conference and leave your ego at home.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ranting from the Rockies

I'm finally here. It seems like I've been waiting for this conference for eons. It's only been a couple months, but remember that feeling you had as a kid when you were counting the days until xmas morning? Yeah, it's kind of like that.

Yesterday I attended the extra add on session and learned about plotting, arcs, and other useful information. Luckily--even though I had no idea I was doing it--my novel has the elements it needs (Though that's just my opinion and it's all subjective.)

Today is kick off day. I've already seen an editor hanging out in the lobby. Nathan Bransford was standing ten feet away from me a few moments ago. I sighed as I thought, "poor Nathan, it's his last moments of peace before he is bombarded with introductions and pitches for the next few days." I'd buy him a bourbon in preperation, but it's not even 9am yet and it's probably better if he's clear headed for the critique sessions.

They had to actually tell attendees NOT to corner agents so they can't escape from you. NOT to slip your manuscript under a bathroom stall because an agent is in there and you think they need something to read. Oi vey! The sad part is, because they had to mention it, that means people have actually comitted these crimes.

I can't be that girl. I don't have it in me. If I happen to end up in a conversation with one of the agents then yay. Thank you kismet. But until a happenstance occurs where a NATURAL interaction takes place, I will be the "girl in the hat" quietly respecting the agents, editors, and publishers. Watching from afar, taking it all in, and learning as much as I can.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Professional People Watcher

I grew up in Baltimore, MD. Three hours to the east is a fun beach town called Ocean City. During my teen years my friends and I would spend summers sitting on the boardwalk people watching. At night we'd sit on a bench and watch hundreds of people walk, stumble, skate, bike, or dance past us. It was more entertaining than any popular TV show. Couples fighting. drunkards swaying and making arses of themselves, fashion faux pas everywhere you looked. There was even Boardwalk Elvis (An old man that strolled the boards every night dressed to the nines--wonder if he's still alive? Hope so, he was one of my favorites.)

It wasn't just the beach, I people watch everywhere. No one is immune. I've become a pro over the years.

My friends and I used to play this game while we people watched. We'd spot a person or people out of hearing range and we'd create conversations for them. Monologues for one person with lots of secretive shady and strange thoughts. Or dialogues for two people with plenty of drama and conflict. The best scenes were when we spotted "animated talkers." You know who they are. The people that wave their hands through the air, stomp their feet, do that exaggerated neck roll thing. Oh the stories we created! (Okay, so most of the time I was doing the creating and my friends listened and laughed.) Looking back, I thought it was just a good way to pass time. Little did I know I was accumulating details, body language, and inspiration for characters in my novels. If only I had known I was going to be a writer, I would have taken some serious notes (and photos!)

Tomorrow I'm leaving for Colorado Springs, CO. I lived there for two years and I miss the mountains so I'm excited to go back. Excited to see one of my best friends, Krista, and excited to attend my first writer's conference. But here's where the geek in me makes herself known. Tomorrow I get my travelin' people watchin' fix. THE AIRPORT (cue the religious "clouds parting, glorious light shining down on a holy place" music). Airports are the holy grail of great people watching. Loved ones reuniting in squeals, long hugs, and tears; stressed out business folk screaming into their cell phones or at helpless gate agents; toddlers running away from their parents while Mom or Dad juggles their carry on, diaper bag, and starbucks coffee. Oh the possibilities are endless.

That's the amazing thing about life. There are stories happening around us all the time. Every single person is living out THEIR story. If you take a few moments to observe what's going on around you, you'd be amazed at the sites you see and the things you learn. People watching; fun for everyone, good for the soul, and inspiration for a writer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hack n Slash Saturday

Originally The Kindrily was over 140k words--well over--when I finished the first draft. That's ridiculously long in the world of publishing. Absurdly long in the world of Young Adult novels.

So the hack and slash process started in March and it's gradually been lowered to about 117k. There are days when I have to take a break from my manuscript so when I do come back to it for the next edit, my eyes are fresh. I know the book by heart so my mind doesn't pick up all the errors like it should.

For writers who say "my word count is high but there's nothing I can cut," trust me; yes there is. Look for your crutch words or phrases. Mine were "I noticed, I realized, I couldn't believe, I heard." After I took out a bunch of those my story got tighter and voila, word count drops. Then go back and look for unnecessary adverbs, "very, actually, completely, really, etc." I promise you, they are there, and many are begging to be deleted. Your characters (and readers) will thank you for it.

I'm no pro, so take my advice with a grain of sea salt (it is the best kind). I'm just sharing what has worked for me. Today the majority of my Saturday will be spent doing another round of hack and slash on my manny. The great part is that it's not losing anything. It's only getting better; cleaner, tighter, faster, stronger. Did anyone else just hear the Daft Punk song Better, Harder, Faster, Stronger when they read that? Makes me wanna dance. Wait, no, dance class is tomorrow. Today I'm getting out my axe, samurai sword, and machete in hopes of reaching 115k. Actually 110k would be better but I'm in a realistic kind of mindeset today. Oh and don't worry, the above mentioned weapons are artistic tools because I use them with tender loving care.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

HUMPDAY HEROES (correction, Heroines)

Happy Hump Day everyone! It's all downhill (in a good way) from here.
I have two Hump Day Heroes that I'd like to mention today as I drink my tiramisu flavored coffee.

#1 Melissa Marr- author of Wicked Lovely. My Amazon order arrived yesterday and I curled up with Wicked Lovely around 10 pm thinking I'd read a chapter or two before bed. At 5am I had finished the book and wished Borders was open so I could run out and buy Ink Exchange. Melissa is a great story teller and I'm a big fan of escaping to magical but almost believable worlds. And finally, I have another fiction crush--Seth--on someone other than Nathan Luna and Edward Cullen. Thanks to Melissa for a wickedly creative and lovely page turner.

#2 Susan Boyle- singer on Britain's Got Talent. Not only is she sassy but she sang one of my favorite songs from Les Mis (my favorite musical) and she sang it BRILLIANTLY. The look on Simon's face alone should earn her many impressive awards. Anyone that gives me goosebumps and makes my eyes tear up when they sing surely qualifies as a Humpday Heroine. :) Check her out by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oh Nathan...

My lovable (kick ass) character in The Kindrily is named Nathan. I could go on about his greatness for days. However, this post is about Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown Literary Agency. He was quite the lesson-teaching superhero yesterday. He started a contest for writers and bloggers to act as "Agent for a Day." The goal was to help writers understand a fraction of an agent's job; the tedious, never-ending duty of reading and replying to query letters. Ugh.

I read each one, though I didn't actually participate in the contest because I do have a day job and I knew it was a time comittment I couldn't make. Let's just say it was eye opening. I completely understand why agents use form rejections and why it's so hard to catch an agent's interest. It made me extremely happy that I was revising my own query letter (with the help of my new angel friend Jenn--thank you times infinity). It also gave me a whole new respect--and sympathy--for agents. Don't get me wrong, some queries were interesting, well written, etc. However others...not so much. But apparently it's all subjective because people were asking for manuscripts all day. Even if EVERY query was amazing, it is tough to read through 50 letters in one day. Many days agents might read more than that! Double ugh.

Nathan Bransford is a great help to the writing world via his blog and great advice, but I'm sure many agents are raising a glass to him and toasting his genius (and brave) agent for a day idea. Maybe it will calm down the agent bashing and rejection whining for awhile. I get the privelege of attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference next week where hopefully, I'll rub elbows with the infamous Nathan and possibly buy him a bourbon. He deserves a stiff drink, along with every other agent who dares to tackle the world of query letters each day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Query Monday

Short and sweet... It's Monday and my current obsession is making my query letter better. So no time for blogging.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


One of my new fellow Florida writer friends sent me an email yesterday that made me laugh out loud. Not the "lol" kind where you type it but don't really mean it. I actually laughed heartily. I mentioned that I was heading to Orlando to visit my parents for the holiday weekend and that I was excited for the drive because it always inspired another great scene to my book series. The first line of her reply email is what made me LOL.
"Driving down I-4 allows you to tap into your inner creativity? That's impressive! :)"

If you've never driven I-4 from Tampa to the west side of Orlando, you won't think it's a funny statement. But trust me and Megan, it's funny. There ain't much to be impressed about on I-4. (Yes I said ain't. I know it's not proper grammar but given the backwoods feel of most of I-4 it is the appropriate word usage.) The giant fake dinosaur at Dinosaur World might inspire a Jurassic Park-esque novel writer, the big plane at the Fantasy of Flight attraction might impress aviation enthusiasts, and most recently the display of Airstream RVs burried in the ground beside Bates RV--based on the famous Cadillac Ranch--might catch the interest of RV travelers, but that's it. That's a detailed summary of the sites to be seen. I don't even get to pass the flashy Disney and Universal Studios billboards because I turn off before I even get close to those exits.

So it is rather strange that every time, without fail, the repetetive drive on I-4 evokes a fantastic scene or conversation for my book. I'm not sure how or why it happens but it always does. Maybe it's because of the music I listen to during my road trip. Lately my IPOD repeatedly plays Blue October and Moby--worlds apart as far as style goes but both are brillaint.

I mean, Moby alone is such a musical genius that I named my dog after him nine years ago. If you haven't ever listened to Moby's "Play" album, go enhance your wellbeing and expand your horizons. Seriously, that album alone has enough emotion in it to inspire a good three or four complete novels. Combine some of those tracks with a long meditative drive down any countryish highway, and I can almost guarantee that you too will have a moment of inner creativity. Even if you don't have the awe inspiring dinosaur, plane, or airstream RV's passing by your window.

And just so you know, I made the drive yesterday and YES another phenomenal scene made its way from my mind to my computer. Thanks I-4...well okay, and Moby.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

FULL MOON TONIGHT-watch out for werewolves

When my magic loving friend from CO called me months ago and told me I had to read Twilight, my first question was "what's it about?" She laughed and said "Vampires. I know it's crazy but just read it." I procrastinated for awhile (not a fan of vampire stories) but she was persistent and insisted that it was a great story.
So reluctantly, I read it. But only after my mother and I were looking at books in Target and we watched three different women grab the book off the shelf within three minutes (I swear I'm not exaggerating). There are many opinions out there about Twilight and Stephenie Meyer, some good some bad. Just like with everything in this world. Personally, I was addicted. As in, if there was a twelve step program to help me recover from Edward withdraw after book four, I would've happily enrolled myself.
The thing is, I'm not a vampire fan. I still haven't read any of the other gazillion vampire books out there. And although I am a dog lover, I'm not a fan of the werewolf thing either. So why did I become so addicted to the Twilight books? The same reason so many of us were addicted to JK Rowling's world of wizardry. Because she tells a great story. It is the vital key behind every good book.
I think The Kindrily's story is GREAT. It's emotional, fascinating, makes you contemplate life and wonder if maybe there is more going on around us than we're aware of. There are no vampires or werewolves, no wands and wizards, but there is magic and a riveting love story that makes you question many things about yourself and the world around you. However the best part (in my opinion) is my characters. If you're not wishing to BE them, you're wishing for one of them to be your best friend or your mom, brother, etc. (Or at least that's what I've been told.)
Everyday I pray that as a writer, I've done them justice. The Kindrily is a group of gifted and amazing people that deserve the utmost respect because they've earned it. (That will make sense once you've read the book.)
Will the masses of supernatural readers be drawn to my story even though there are no werewolves or vampires? Who knows. Only time will tell. I could have followed popular trends and thrown in a blood sucking or howl at the moon moment but that wouldn't be true to who I am or who my characters are. So with that in mind, vampires, werewolves, wizards, fairies, even leprechauns, watch out! There's a group of extraordinary and complex characters patiently waiting in the shadows, ready to give you magical creatures a run for your money. They're called The Kindrily. And while a full moon is beautiful to look at, it only shines once a month. Some stars shine forever, and my people are all about the stars.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's impossible...oh wait, no it's not. Dreaded WORDCOUNT

So halfway through the creation of book one of The Kindrily, one of my nearest and dearest friends contacted a ghost writer she knew to get some advice for me about getting my book published. At the time I wasn't researching agents, requirements, query process etc in fear that I would get discouraged and never finish my story. One of the biggest shockers the wise ghost writer hit me with was that my book should be around 100k words for a first time author. I quickly did a word count (keep in mind only HALF the book had been written) and I was at 70k words. I panicked--a little--but kept writing, keeping in mind that I needed to get to the point a little quicker than originally planned.
The end one was over 140k words AND I was leaving out a few scenes that I really wanted to include. So of course my reserach began and I discovered that 120k was a well accepted max. Still, how was I going to cut out 20 THOUSAND words? It seemed impossible.
The thing about impossibility, it's an overused concept. Anything is possible if you really put your mind to it. Over the past month or so I have slowly but surely cut my word count to 121k words. And included those original scenes that make the story more complete.
The few people that have read the book all ask how and what could I have possibly cut out? Trust me, you won't even notice the changes (the story is just that good). I'm hoping to reach just under 120k by this weekend. Why? Because I don't want to lose an agent's interest because of a high word count. They don't create these guidelines just to torture us. They do it because there are expectations and requirements by publishers. No agent will take on a wordy book by a newbie knowing they'll never be able to sell it. Oh, AND because I enjoy making the impossible a reality.

Monday, April 6, 2009

AgentFail: In the Famous Words of Carrie Heffernan "Oi Vey!"

So for those of you who don't know, there is this crucial person in the life an unpublished author. Their official title is "agent." Literary agent, Uber agent, Super Agent, they come in many variations. Recently there was a blog post called "AgentFail" where Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency opened up the flood gates to writers giving their two cents about their opinions of agents. Oi Vey!
I couldn't handle reading more than a few comments, for the same reasons that I don't watch the news. Call it living in ignorant bliss but I don't need or want that kind of negativity in my life. Jessica handled it like a champ, and some comments were actually positive, but oh what a wicked web jaded writers weave when given the chance.
I'm no seasoned query submitter so maybe I'll feel differently later down the road but here's my take on agents...
Give the overly-worked heroes a break (and some well-deserved credit).

These agents get buried in hundreds of queries a week. I'm not exaggerating people, I've seen photos of slush piles (see above) and read some of the awful and unprofessional letters they are bombarded with. (Its amazing how much education you can obtain on the internet). It astounds me that they can sort through the rubble and occasionally find a truly great book. And I'm grateful for that skill because there are several books (that I know required agents) that changed my life after reading them.
I'm expecting to get many rejections from agents. Its all part of the process. A necessary process to find the agent who is going to fall in love with my story. Many might like the idea but are too busy with other clients, some might feel that there's no market for it right now, and yes sadly enough, a few may miss out on my idea because my letter gets lost in the shuffle. The scenarios are endless. However, that's why these people are agents, they know the business. I want my agent to like me, love my story, give my project the attention it deserves, want to build a long-term relationship with me (cuz I've got three more books in the works) and have a great knowledge and experience of the publishing world (in no particular order). To find all of those elements in one agent will require a lot of time and effort, and I'm ready to put in the effort and patience it takes to find him or her.
I don't need to watch the evening news to know the economy is hurting right now. That means the publishing world will be effected and less deals will be made. That decreases my odds of being signed, or receiving a major deal from a publisher. I probably couldn't have picked a worse time to write a first novel and try to get it published. But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying. When I do find my agent--who I already know is going to be fabulous--they will most likely need me to edit my work, make changes, realistically consider the market, and all the other stuff that goes along with producing a successful book. Will I tear them apart on a public thread if they hurt my feelings, disagree with me, or fail to get me on Oprah? Ummm NO. I will thank my lucky stars that I have an agent and probably name one of my super-hero characters after them. Why? Because they are not only my agent, but they are human, and all humans are simply doing the best they can. Do I want to be on the front table at Borders and have a cameo in the movie version of my book someday? Of course! What author doesn't? Will I be upset if it never happens? Maybe. But I'm sensible enough to realize that it won't be the fault of my agent. As magical and fantastic as my stories are, my rational mind is still well in tact. It's all about the STORY, well okay, and the author plays a part too. If those two elements fail to be a success, it is certainly not the fault of the diligent agent. Oi Vey!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

To the Priceless & Important People in my life...

I realize that millions, many many millions of people write a book in their lifetime. The saddening statistic of how many of those people actually get published is pretty minimal.

To the few people who have read my book (which also happen to be my editing helpers, constructive critique givers, and web designer) and stand proudly in my corner, cheering me on and assuring me this dream is possible, thank you (times infinity).

To the other few who haven't even read the book but STILL support my website, blog, endless rants, and lofty dreams, (especially that friend that tried to market me while on her know who you are) thank you to you as well (times infinity).

Because after all is said and done, whether my story ever gets published or not, I WILL remember those who were there (and those who weren't). I've got a great memory but I've got a bigger heart, and someday in whatever way life affords, I will hopefully be able to show my gratitude instead of just expressing it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rainy Florida Friday Morning

Its raining--but not men, so no hallelujah--here in "sunny Florida". And it's not just raining, it's pouring (cats and dogs kind which is good because my grass is dead and I'm too busy writing book two of my novel series to care about the state of my lawn).
Actually, this is the kind of morning that I would usually stay curled up in bed listening to the downpour of rain on my roof while my bulldog and lab mix snore not-so-quietly beside me. That WAS my life. I haven't slept in since December 21, 2008. I can't sleep in. Trust me, I try, but my mind won't allow it. There's too many conversations to write, or a character that needs one more funny or quirky line or gesture to give you a sense of who they truly are. There's that scene that made me cry again while I was grocery shopping, but now I have to add "one more thing" so you REALLY get a sense of the emotional torture he's going through.
Today, as my dogs are curled up at my feet, the rain sounds like a vichy shower outside my window, and I'm sipping on my yummy cup of Hazelnut Biscotti flavored coffee. My mind is stuck in book two mode--and even an occasional book three moment here and there. I called my loving and oh-so-amazingly-supportive mother a few days ago admitting that I was officially worried about my brain. Another book is starting to lurk in the wings of my creative cranial stage. A whole new book, with a wildly different story and--if I don't say so myself--two kickass characters. It's a spinoff of one of the characters in The Kindrily series, but worlds do collide in small ways and when they do...magic happens.
Now, if I could just get their world to collide with the publishing world, we'd be in beatific business. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day...perfect day to start my blog.

I read somewhere (amongst the many writing articles, blogs, and advice) that trying to get your first fiction novel published is like trying to win the lottery. Call me a fool but I've always been a huge believer in the Lotto and I still buy a ticket each week, so maybe I'm just a delusional daydreamer. (I know my level-headed father thinks so, but I get it honestly from my starry-eyed mom.) Perhaps being a believer in the impossible is why I'm more than eager to tackle the colossal and frightening world of trying to be a professional writer. Or maybe the Kindrily's story is just so good that it breaks my heart to imagine a world without it floating around on store bookshelves. It's definitely the latter, because in all honesty, the "trying to find an agent" process leaves me picking nervously at my lip (bad habit) while drinking a glass of Riesling and obsessively creating more than twenty drafts of a query letter. Oh and the synopsis, don't even get me started...I'm still amazed that I've edited my book down to 123,000 words when a month ago it was over 140,000. Now they expect me to summarize it--enticingly--on two short pages. Baby steps people, baby steps.

I'm attending a writer's conference this month in my old stomping grounds--Colorado Springs--where I get to meet uber agents like Ginger Clark and Nathan Bransford. I'm also hoping to learn a whole lot of useful information and get some advice on my writing. Because let's face it, every writer can ALWAYS be better, and my amazing characters deserve the highest level of respect and the best author possible. Why they chose me to tell their story, I'm still not sure, but I'm grateful that they did because it's already been an amazing adventure--and there's so much more right around the corner!

On a serious note, for those of you who hear me talk about the "voices in my head" please know that I'm mean in it a loving and mentally sane way. Yes, I am completely consumed by their world and story but I do still realize that it is a fantasy. Though as a good friend said after reading the book, "it just feels so real, even with all the magic." One of the biggest compliments I have ever received, and one of the many that keep me pushing through this dizzying whirlwind world of writing. (Try saying that one 5 times fast!)

To those friends and family members who have requested a full manuscript, please know that I am graciously smiling and extremely flattered. However, printing 400 plus pages to hand out to friends and family can get very costly, so please hang in there until one of the few current copies makes it to you through rotation or better yet, the published version makes it to a bookshelf near you. Unless you know a publisher or agent, which in that case, tell me where to send it!

In the meantime I'm going to grab a glass of wine (or flavored coffee), use my OCD skills to edit book one (for the umpteenth time) and happily--though sometimes tearfully--write some more scenes from book two. Oh and buy a lotto ticket, can't forget the lotto ticket, you never know when lightning might strike.

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