Monday, May 28, 2012

A Skinny Slice of Humble Pie

Over a month ago, I sent the first 250 words of my novel to Janice Hardy's writing blog to go on her weekly feature "Real Life Diagnostics". This is where readers can send in a portion of their work-in-progress and ask how to improve the piece. I was emailed that it was in the queue and would be critiqued in a few weeks.

I felt pretty confident about this portion. I liked it, it sounded good, read good and was all bright and shiny. This was the third or fourth time I had sent in a piece and I knew my writing had improved. I was ready to recieve the accolades. Ha!

My bright, shiny beginning was posted for critique the day after I sent off my whole, entire manuscript to be critiqued. Oh, the irony!

Because, of course, my writing was not without flaws. Now, I did take some of comments offered with a grain of salt. But much of what was said gave me cause to think and reassess. And what Janice wrote up was good, solid advice.  Which meant that my writing was not as good and solid as I presumed. Ah, me!

So, I'm gonna let it all marinate for a little while (and see if there are anymore comments) and then do a rewrite later this week. See if I can get this baby a little more lean and precise. I don't want to hear the word "cliche" attached to my writing anymore.  Blegh!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Coming to the End big news of the week is:

I finished my novel!

Throw sparkly confetti and blow the noise-makers!

Actually, there are a few addendums I must mention to make this clear.

This is the end of the first book of my now trilogy entitled "The Chestnut Maid".
It was originally one huge monstrous thing, but I finally took the advice of several people (finally) and took a step back from my "baby" and assessed the situation. And they were right. It was one story, but it could be done in three books. 
(I think I dragged my feet so long because I didn't want to jump on the YA trilogy train just because it was popular.)

So, now "The Chestnut Maid" will be three books (as long as an agent and publishing house agree with me) and the first book is DONE!

I am sending it out this afternoon to be edited.

I know there are still things that must be addressed (still is a bit too long) and I need objective eyes to tell me if I've got the story arc right (now that I've chopped it in thirds) for THIS book and then of course typos and grammar and all the lovelies that I thought I did okay on, but know will be sprinkled through out the entire 325pages.

Hey, I just found three typos since I got it back from the printers. Eep!

But still, it is DONE!


I have proclaimed  victory over the writer's nemesis, Procrastination, and I have fulfilled my destiny!

Okay, not quite, but I'm pretty happy with being able to say, I wrote a book. 
Not writing.
I dropped the i-n-g.
I wrote a book.

Okay, I'm gonna go join the real world now. But I just had to celebrate and pass on my news and share my happiness with you. 

*dances around the room again*

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Generosity of Writers

I already wrote last week about writers who are donating their skills to raise money to build wells in Africa through Crits for Water. Here.

But today, I read about a wonderful and different generosity from James A. Owen, author and illustrator of Here There Be Dragons (and other wonderful books!).

He is also a gifted storyteller and popular school/library presenter. In his feedback from school and library staff, wanting a hard copy of all the inspirational stuff he said, he boiled down his presentation into a book, called Drawing Out the Dragons. In it, he tells his story and encourages others to live their dreams despite obstacles. But because there is so much red-tape when it comes to library funding and book buying, it still wasn't getting into as many hands as he had hoped. Even when librarians bought it with their own money, it couldn't be shelved because of regulations. So, he offered that any librarian could email him personally and he would send to them a downloadable copy and the rights to make a limited copies of his book. Can you believe that? There is is more at his website here. He even opened it up for five days back in February so that anyone could get a copy. Wow!

Just another example of his generosity. When a good friend and supporter of his author journey was diagnosed with cancer and was uninsured, he set up a fundraiser. Faith, "The Book Babe" was supported by dozens of authors and people in the publishing business giving away manuscripts and books and book related prizes to raise money so she could "afford" to have cancer. She is now in remission and continues to support authors in many ways. (I won a critique from her six months ago and had such good feedback including a wonderful phone call.)

What an amazing person! What a great group of people!

I am grateful to hear of such wonderful generosity in this world. There is so much out there that is brutal and tragic, but I believe that there is more good out there than there is evil. And if we can do our part and give a little to our family, our friends, our community and beyond, our eyes will be open to the loveliness that surrounds us and we will truly make this world a better place to live.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Love Her Mother

Just had to share this for Mother's Day!

So Sweet! I cried when I watched it a few days ago and promised myself to repost it today. Then I got the awesome gift of an afternoon nap and totally forgot about it until late. But here's my little bit of happiness I am sharing.

I am so glad to have a husband who loves me and demonstrates that to our children. I hope our sons grow to become good husbands and fathers as well.

I love my mom! She is amazing! Happy Mother's day to you, Mom! And to my sisters and sisters-in-law and all you wonderful women out there.

The hand that rocks the cradle has power and influence beyond imagination!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Thousand Years

So, everyone has probably seen this, but I'm a little late to the game and I just discovered this Lyric video of A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.

These are beautiful words and I just couldn't help falling for the melody as well.

What makes it more meaningful is that it fits so very perfectly with the middle section of my YA Epic Love Story. Oh, my goodness! If I dared sending out spoilers, I would, just so I could emote fully on how beautifully this captures the love story that I am writing.


But instead, I will mention how this also is a beautiful reminder of my own love story...I love you, Mark! And how happy I am to be married to the man who loves me and promises to be with me for a thousand years and even more. 


Okay, and if you just want to hear the beautiful music without the words, you can check out The Piano Guys version here.... which is also absolutely gorgeous!

Happy sighing!

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Will Follow

Today is my one year anniversary of moving to Arkansas. It has been crazy, wonderful, difficult time. We miss our friends, our home, our church, our neighborhood in Virginia. There have been some really big changes in our lives. But there have been so many more Blessings. 
New friends, new home, family nearby, church nearby. Lots of wonderful blessings

Without meaning to pick it, this song came up on the CD player this morning, and it brought back so many memories. This was my theme song last year. I sang it at my going away party. 
I listened to it all winter before Mark got his job here in Arkansas. And I listened to it as he was here and I was in Virginia, getting ready for the move. It became my anthem, my shout of praise and trust, even when I wasn't sure how it was all going to work out.

I found this pretty acoustic version to share today, but the regular radio version by Chris Tomlin is out there and it is the one I know best. Sometimes I would turn up the volume and sing (almost shout) along with the words, convincing myself that I could trust God to lead me, that he had my best interests in mind. 

He did. 

Now I can say (or sing) with even more faith:

Where you go, I'll go.
Where you stay, I'll stay.
When you move, I'll move.
I will follow You.
I will follow You.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

From Shannon Hale: Are you hardcore?

Wow! Just read the BEST blog from Shannon Hale, my favorite (living) author and had to share. This woman has done amazing things with the English language and folk/fairy tales. And she's a mom of four (one set of twins) and...dang it I am sooo jealous. Anyway, I 'll shut up. Just go read here:

squeetus: Are you hardcore?:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Believe (In Love)

Oh, I just had the most FUN, FUN, FUN evening with a bunch of my girlfriends! We had a wonderfully informative and uplifting meeting at church (which really was very good). But then we went out for 
Which was fun and delicious as we got to try different flavors and toppings and just laugh and giggle.
Then, we went to the (Late) showing of Mirror, Mirror.
Oh, Wow!
It was so fun!
I laughed...a LOT!
And, as my friend Emily pointed out. It wasn't corny ha-ha jokes. It was witty! It was sweet. It was colorful and imaginative. There were sword fights, and gorgeous dresses, and amazing costumes, and more sword fights, and beautiful sets, and Julia Roberts being mean... I loved it! 

And the Dwarfs! 
Oh, my goodness...I absolutely loved those guys!

Okay, I'll just shut up so that I don't give away any spoilers or make you think it is so wonderful that you are disappointed. But I have to say, Hollywood got it right this time.


Maybe that was because there were so many French people working on this film.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Finding Love in a Hopeless Place

I was so excited to see the newest Lindsey video, filmed in Kenya, remaking "We Found Love". It is a beautiful film and cool version of such an already cool song. But this was more interesting to me, because several of the writers and agents I follow in the publishing world are a part of the 2012 Crits for Water program.

Crits (Critiques) for Water is a charity that goes crazy for three months of the year (April May June). Right now, authors, editors, agents and others in the book publishing world offer auctions of their skills in the forms of critiques to the generous writer hopefuls. These can be anything from 250 words (a couple of paragraphs) to query letters to synopses to 3 chapters or even the first 50 pages. Some folks, like Jodi Meadows (author of Incarnate) is offering up four different critiques throughout the three months. Some of my other favorite authors, Janice Hardy and Shannon Messenger are joining in during the YA/MG (young adult/middle grade level books) month of JUNE.

Some of these are offered up auction style (may the highest bid win) over the course of 72 hours and some are raffle style ( I am crossing my fingers that Josh Getzler-agent extraordinaire- picks my name out of the tomorrow) for as little as $10 a shot. And all the donations/pledges go to help build wells in Africa, South America and South East Asia.

I just think that this is really nifty. I know my church has well building programs, and they are awesome (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints- Humanitarian Services). But I love seeing a for-profit group of people (even if writing doesn't make THAT much money) working as a group to help people far less fortunate than ourselves. In 2009, Crits for Water raised $2500. In 2011 it raised $6808. The goal for this year is $10,000.

If any of you have a dusty little pile of papers on a shelf or maybe saved in the computer or stashed in a notebook, now might be the time to donate a few bucks and get a few pages critiqued by somebody in the business. The gal who runs the charity (Kat Brauer) is a YA author and if you don't want to plunk down the cash for a famous writer/agent to look over your stuff, she will critique whatever you send in at a rate of $1 per 250 words. Thats a pretty good deal, now isn't it? And you'll have done something to make the world a little better place and not quite so hopeless.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Make Every Cut Count...With Swords and Words

Oh, so disappointed. I tried to join the In-house "Drop the needle" critique at "Miss Snark's First Victim" this afternoon. It was only open for 25 spots. It was all over in a couple of minutes. Literally.

It was still open when I logged on at 4:02pm. But by the time I pushed enter (had to go back and manually add italics ...blech!) it was 4:05pm and the computer sadly informed me that the contest was full and that it could not accept my entry.

So, since I would have put this out there for hundreds of people to see (and critique) on a much more highly trafficked blog, why not post it here, I reasoned. So here is the result of over an hour of meticulously, sweat-soaked cutting and pasting (much more cutting) for an action scene as was requested. Exactly 300 words (50 word lead-in description and 250 word scene).
Any comments would be welcome. Even critical ones. 

Attacked by brigands, Cornelius and his cousin, Henri, try to defend themselves. Though skilled swordsmen, the cousins become separated and outnumbered. Henri is cornered against a cliff, his shoulder injured. Cornelius just killed two men and injured one. He’s hurt his wrist in his latest defensive move, and is tiring.

His arm trembled, the sword growing heavy.

Not now, scorch it! He needed more time, more strength!

Cornelius forced his arm high and met the stroke, but his cursed wrist couldn’t throw off the strike. His sword slipped down the other blade. Closer, closer to the hand guard. He shoved, his whole body behind it. The blades caught. His opponent snarled and bore down even harder. His wrist screamed.

Then, the man jerked and his eyes widened. His weight shifted, pressing heavily near. Cornelius pushed him away with a grunt and sidestepped. The wretch dropped to the ground, a knife buried hilt deep in his back.


Cornelius took three steps towards the cliff. Another swordsman scrambled up from the high grass, panting.

Will they never just die?

It was the man with the sliced forearm. He held his sword in his left hand, his eyes hard and desperate.

Lombardi must have offered five hundred marks for my head.

He shifted his sword to his left hand as well. If that fool wanted to tangle with him, he would happily oblige. Hope tickled Cornelius’s veins, followed by the hot rush of a berserker’s battle rage.

Lombardi can choke on his gold, for I’ll not go down easy.

His sword whipped through the air. Lunging. Twisting.

Offer a thousand guineas.

Block and parry. He thrust aside the pitiful left-hand defense.

Offer ten thousand ducats.

He slashed his opponent’s body until it was on the ground, motionless.

None will return to collect.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beautiful Heartbreak

Had a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad evening. More than one Bad Mommy moments. Had to give myself two time outs.


I want to totally blame boys. But I'm stressed about several things and still feel yucky sick. (Will I ever feel like I DON'T have a grapefruit stuck in my thoat? Only been four days, but normal seems forever ago.)

I love the strength and hope that the women like Stephanie Nielson and Maraama give to the world. They are my heroes. Especially when my everyday normal is overwhelming and I want to hide under my blankets.

Here's to a New Day, with No Mistakes on it.
(Thank you, Anne of Green Gables)

Thank You

I love this lovely (but different) new song by Alex Boye. It demonstrates that even the best looking man looks like a nerd in the right glasses, bow-tie and suit.

No really...I wanted to use this cool new tune (called "Thank you" in English and "Oshe'" in ... another language) as a back drop for my thank you list.

I just attended my first SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator) conference. It was the perfect conference for a newbie like me. Phyllis, our regional chair here in Arkansas organized this two-day event and kept things going so smoothly. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the real-life timeline of author, Katy Duffield on Friday afternoon. I enjoyed meeting so many others who are in the same boat. Other writers (and a few illustrators) who are working on their craft and putting forth dedication and hard work to make their dream a reality. Hello and thank you to all my new friends: Cynthia, Damon, Janet, Dan, Linda, Grace, Robin, Shannon, Cynthia and more that I can remember by face but at the moment can't recall the name tags underneath. Appreciate you all. You helped me feel so comfortable in this new environment.
And thanks to Dan who talked me out of my dark cloud right after my Critique. I needed that.

But most of all, I want to thank the two special guest at the conference, Ariel Richardson, Editorial Assistant from Chronicle Books and Krista Vitola, Assistant Editor from Delecorte Press (Random House Books).
One gave me what I hoped for and one gave me what I needed.

I was assigned to Ariel for my ten-minute pitch. This is when I shared my story outline(s) and a little about myself as a writer. Ariel helped me feels so at ease and I felt we really connected on several levels. (We are both very passionate about books and getting books into the hands of reluctant readers.) But most of all, as I shared my vision of the two novels that I have been writing, Ariel "got it". She asked if I was a fan of Megan Whalen Turner (author of The Thief and others) because of the political intrigue that was woven into my tales. 
"Yes, Yes I am!" I eagerly agreed. Then I mentioned other favorite authors. Top of the list, Shannon Hale.
"I love Shannon Hale!" She replied.
As Anne of Green Gables would say, "We are kindred spirits!"
I was so pleased to hear Ariel say that she could sense (probably was overwhelmed by) my passion for my stories and for books in general. She agreed that I was a natural story teller. 
"You had several great hooks in there. I want to see more." 
This was a gravity-defying, happy-making, absolutely lovely moment for me. I felt as though the entire universe showered affirmation upon me.
Thank you, Ariel. Thank you so very, very much.

It was so good to have that moment first, so the next day, when my actual writing was critiqued, I could withstand the bitter blow. (I wax dramatic.) 
Krista had read through the synopsis and thirteen pages of my first story in advance and had a typed page of suggestions. One of the main problems she could see was the truckload of plots and subplots that wove in and out of the synopsis of my story. 
Yep. She's right. I finally came to the conclusion only a few weeks ago that this is more than one story. It will have to be told as a three-part story. 
( I did NOT make this decision because Trilogies are very popular at the moment in Young Adult Fiction. If anything, this is why I resisted for months longer than necessary.) 
Krista advised going back to the overarching story line and slimming it down, pulling out a few plot threads and making what's left more powerful.
And yanno...
She's right. 
I do need to do that.
It took a few days of working everything through my brain and trying to find a road map to all the revisions that should be done. But since it is going to be a trilogy, I want to be careful that I use a scalpel and not a chainsaw. I want to be sure that I don't come back to my manuscript with jaded eyes and tear into it without mercy.
But also, Krista told me that I had a wonderful sense of setting and she was drawn into my European world. She said that it was something that she looked for and that I had done a good job in that area.
Thank you, Krista for your honesty. 
We cannot move forward if we don't have a true reflection of ourselves. Both in strengths and weaknesses.

I am going to work on revising/editing and send some good stuff Ariel's way in a few weeks. 
(Thank you, again!)

And one more thank my wonderful friends in Little Rock who were willing to watch my boys Friday afternoon while I attended the conference. I am grateful for your help and friendship. 
Even though my husband was sick and was later able to take care of the homefront, I'm grateful to have lovely people who I trust who care for me and my family. 
You make life in Arkansas so much more wonderful than otherwise.