Monday, May 30, 2011

The Final Countdown

In about twenty hours, I will be sending out queries. I can't believe that I started this process a year with just the story for DARK FOREST. Like that little fledgling (click to see that cutie better), I had the germ of an idea. Now, it's full grown. It hopped around the yard for awhile, gathering strength while it was fed. Shed a few feathers along the way. Managed to hop from the ground to top of the fence. Then fly from the fence into a tree. Now, all the excess feathers have been shed. It's full grown and ready to take flight.

How corny was that analogy? I needed an excuse to show you pictures of the cool wildlife in my yard and it fit with the writing process so there you have it.

I'm laughing as I prepare myself - Excel spreadsheet to meet my super anal needs down to every last detail about each agent and their agency. Query letter that has been written, rewritten, rewritten some more, ditched, written, rewritten, shared with published friends who have rewritten...but maybe it could be just a bit better. I've gone over my first thirty pages again and again. Trimmed the fat (or shed the feathers, in keeping with the above analogy). My Crit Group has helped tremendously. I am strong. The story is strong. It's ready to go.

Or is it?

I have a close friend who was getting ready to query last month. She kept hedging. I told her, "Just do it already!" Her story was more than ready. She needed to get it out there! I couldn't understand why she kept going back and forth and back again.

Now I do.

I probably could have queried a week ago. I'm nitpicking, which means that I'm stalling. This is scary stuff people. I've been hoping around on the ground being fed by people who know more than I do. I gathered the courage to get up on that fence and see what was out there. With more coaxing, I was able to make high up in that tree. The view is GLORIOUS! But it's a big, scary world out there for my little tiny book.

Jumping. Flapping my wings as hard as I can. And seeing where I can land. Wish me luck!

What about you - where is everyone in the writing process? Have you had help from others? Anyone ready to push you off because you are stalling?

Friday, May 27, 2011

FUN Friday


I'm so happy the weekend is here!

My week has been short on let's get to it!

What's cuter than a little kid? Add an otter!

My fave commercial of the week:

It was sad saying goodbye to Oprah this week, but Jimmy Kimmel always makes everything easier (see his LOST alternate endings video) with some humor:

No plans this weekend as Lily is very sick again. We have to stay around the house this weekend and monitor her. We will manage to have fun here, though. Lots of Netflix (Stargate Atlantis, anyone?), maybe some movies OnDemand and lots of games (hello Scattergories win!).

What about you - any big plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) Joplin - Do I need to say more? Those poor people. My hearts go out to them. My prayers are with them. Some people have lost everything they own, many others their lives. The utter devastation...and it's not over. Rain, flooding, and the possibility of another tornado. My first wish, and my greatest wish, is for them - for protection, for strength, for healing.

2) The ability to beat my husband at Scattergories - Silly? You bet. It drives me nuts that he ALWAYS wins. I kind his behind at Clue and Scrabble...just about anything, but Scattergories? The minute that timer starts ticking, my brain just freezes. My degree is writing. He has a PharmD. I'm the writer. He's the scientific minded one. What. The. Heck. I try to practice on my own and it doesn't help. It eats at me. Why can't I think of words? (Can you tell that I hate to lose?)

3) Spring year round - the weather has been perfect here. Cool mornings filled with warm coffee and sweatshirts. Warm afternoons. Perfectly warm afternoons. In the seventies. We're talking gorgeous, nap in the sun, drinking iced green tea that segue into cool evenings. I've had the windows thrown open since I got home from teaching this afternoon. The cats are having fun on the window sills.

I want this weather to last forever...or at least through the next four months. I don't think that's too much to ask!

What about you - what are your wishes for our magical cat?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Edge of the Cliff

I'm THIS close to the query. THIS. CLOSE. It's exciting. It's scary as hell. But mostly exciting. I am finding that I'm terribly insecure all of the sudden. Not like me at all. I'm driving my writing friends and my Crit Group nuts. Emails every few minutes. One last look at my Prologue. One last go at my query. And a million questions for my friends who are already published. Should I mention this? Should I send this? And does 10 pages mean cutting off right at 10 pages in the middle of a chapter? Did you query this agent? They didn't ask for a query, just the first ten pages in an email - does that mean I still send the query?

Oh my goodness, as my five year old nephew is SO fond of saying these days. "Oh my goodness, Aunt Jen!" I know I need to jump. But I can't see the bottom! I'm a planner. I plot my books. I organize my writing. This whole jumping without seeing where I'm going is crazy stuff!

I keep coming back to this, though. I am not alone. Nope. I'm surrounded by friends and fellow writers. Everyone has been so supportive, so tolerant of the emails and the seemingly endless questions.

I've been nudged, but I didn't move. Then more persistently nudged and I've still got my feet firmly on the ground. My toes are curled just over the edge. I'm getting closer. Psyching myself up. I think I'd better jump before someone just pushes me...

What about you - have you queried yet? Was it nervewracking? Did you have a good support system? Any words of encouragement, advice or warning?

Friday, May 20, 2011

FUN Friday


Let's have some fun!

Frank Caliendo is a very talented comedian. Here is one of my favorite clips of him (warning, it's a bit long):

Everyone has seen Will Farrell in The Landlord by now. But have you seen the outtakes? Oh the joys of working with small kids who have a mind of their own! She's so cute.

How many of you are afraid of Zombies? (Okay, I know you're thinking - this is FUN Friday and there is NOTHING fun about Zombies!) Well, never fear because the CDC has a page to help you prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse:


I was teaching 2nd Grade Kindness yesterday. We play a fun game where the kids pull items out of a bag and we have to decide if they are Kind or Unkind. If the item is kind, we have to decide who it would be kind to give it to (Bugs the Bunny, Harry the Hamster, Pip the Cat or Nemo the Chihuahua). If it's unkind, we toss it in the trash.

A girl pulled out milk. She held it up so everyone could see as she announced, "Milk."

Me: Is it kind or unkind?

Class: KIND!

Me: I know a lot of tv shows and movies show people giving milk to cats but it's not good for them. It's unkind. When they're kittens, where does their milk come from?

Class: MOM!

Me: And where does our milk come from?

Girl in the back row: CARTONS!

I do heart my job! Never a dull moment working with these kids. The funny stories get me through the sad ones.

I'm ready to start the weekend! We've got a long bike ride planned, a fun hike on the agenda...and I'm digging into the garage to finish the last of the organizing! Which may not sound like fun to you, but it is so much fun for me (minus the black widows, gotta keep our eyes open for those). And, of course, my Crit Girls always brighten up my Saturday night.

What about you - any big plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) Laundry Elf. I don't mind cleaning. When Lily got sick this weekend, I cleaned and organized our den. Completely. It's spotless now. Cleaning is my way of distracting myself. I love it. Love. It. But laundry? I could do without. I frequently throw things in the washer, ignore the buzzer and come across them two days later. Oops. Or I throw them in the dryer, run out to the store and miss the I have wrinkled clothes. A Laundry Elf. We have an extra room. He can sleep there. Or on one of Lily's beds with her. She'll share.

2) More Game of Thrones! I can't get enough. It's one of my favorite book series and I'm loving the show. The casting was perfection. I just wish they were airing two episodes a week and that they had shot about 20 of them for the book. It's moving swiftly and I want it to slow down. That book was so meaty, it's hard to break it down into 8 episodes. I want more Daenyrus and Drogo. And not just because Jason Momoa is hot. I loved their storyline, loved watching Dany grow from a meek little girl to a strong young woman. Is it Sunday yet???

3) A Healthy Lily. She gave us quite a scare this weekend. We ended up at the Emergency Vet on Sunday. The funny thing is - she's got blood coming out (I won't get too graphic) yet she's acting like it's a party in the waiting room. She greeted every single person there (we gave her permission). Once we were in a room, people kept popping their heads in, "I was told 'you HAVE to go see the beautiful, sweet pit in Room 2'". We met every vet tech as they came in to see her. It was all about Lily, which is the way she likes it. As much as she loved it and thought it was a fun outing (despite a thermometer up her butt, needles poking her, people prodding her), it was NOT fun for Erik and I. She's our baby. This outbreak of IBD was very, very bad. It takes a lot for an 80 pound dog to become dehydrated and she was. So we're back to chicken and rice and metronidazole for the week. Chicken is the only thing she can have when her IBD flares up...but she is allergic to chicken so she itches like CRAZY. So we have to up the steroids. Which is bad for her liver, among other things. She's the posterchild for bad breeding. She is the reason that only the best of the breed should be allowed to procreate. She's sweet and beautiful and I love her, but her mom was NOT a good candidate for breeding. I don't know how she does it, honestly. She has more bad days than good, yet she never loses her sunny disposition. She is ALWAYS, ALWAYS happy. "I LOVE IT!" is her motto about everything (even motorcycles because that loud revving means she gets a treat!). If I had her health problems, I'd never leave the house and would be grumpy all the time! A dog this wonderful deserves to be healthy. I wish that I could give that to her.

What about you - what are your wishes for our little grey cat?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Laughter Is the Best Medicine Blogfest

Welcome to any newcomers! And for my regular blog checkin' in peeps, today is the Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest hosted by Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster and Leigh T. Moore of That's Write! Be sure to click on the LITBM link to check out the other entries.

My day job is a Humane Education teacher. I have a non-profit (co-founded with one of my friends) called Paws and Learn. We go into the schools throughout Los Angeles and give FREE presentations educating kids on a variety of topics (Dog Safety, Kindness to Animals, City Wildlife, Pet Needs, Truth About Pit Bulls, etc.). I love my job because it varies day to day. And kids are completely unpredictable. They keep you on your toes. I love to have quick comebacks and always try to stay one step ahead of them.

I was teaching 3rd Graders City Wildlife a few months ago. We learn about all the cool animals and insects that live in their backyards/neighborhoods. We learn what their special jobs are (usually involves what they eat) and why they are so important to have around. I have really cool props that the kids love (owl pellet, rattlesnake tail, beautiful posters).

I held up our Owl Board. We discussed that owls have great night vision, they can carry two to three times their body weight...

Me: Who knows what owls eat?
Girl: Mice.
Me: Right. What else?
Boy: Rats.
Me: Rats, mice...what else do they eat?
Another boy: Leprechauns.
Me: Nope. They're not fast enough to catch Leprechauns.
Same boy: But you said they fly up to 40 miles per hour.
Me: They do! But Leprechauns move faster. (pause) And they can disappear. (pause) Because they have magic.
Same boy: And a pot of gold!
Me: That too.
Same boy: So the owl can grab that!
Girl: No. They can't carry a pot of gold.
Same boy: YES. They CAN. She said they carry two to three times their body weight.
Boy's Friend: Duh. Weren't you listening?

It's nice when your friends get your back. Especially when you're trying to debate whether or not an owl can in fact carry off a Leprechaun's Pot O'Gold.

How can I not love what I do?

Friday, May 13, 2011

FUN Friday


What is CUTER than a little lamb? I don't think anything is now...

This is by far my fave commercial at the moment:

"So you want a slide in your office?"
"Or monkey bars."

I live in Los Angeles where people suddenly get Lakers fever...It's annoying. Beyond annoying. So I like when they lose. I know, it's mean. But it exposes all those bandwagon fans. I found this humorous. Warning: there is strong language at the end. Okay, one word. Repeated.

I love good comedy writing and Funny or Die has some of the best. I died when he said, "Nothing was working. The towels weren't working. They weren't absorbing my sweat. The Gatorade..."

We're starting the weekend off with a night jog (sans poor Lily who hates to run). Tomorrow, the Hubster works so I have a day of rewriting. Goal is to finish all my edits/rewrites/tweaks by Monday. I want to be querying next week. We'll finish the weekend with a hike. Does anyone watch CSI Los Angeles? We'll be hiking in the park the girl was found at this week. But not for that reason. It's completely dog friendly so everyone hikes their dogs there - off leash (it's allowed).

What about you - any big weekend plans?

Hope you have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) RUNNING ADDICTION - Hey, if I have to be addicted something, running isn't bad. I went to the track with the hubster this week and tried to run again. I can do it. But I loathe it. I'd rather be at home writing. But it's a great workout. And I do love that runner's high. It's just so BORING. I'm in my head - oh, my knee hurts, I can't breathe, my nose is running, my pants are falling down...If I was addicted, I wouldn't be all up in my head. I would look forward to it, enjoy it. At the moment, it's twice every other week. Is it any wonder I'm not getting past the two mile mark? So a nice addiction to running, please. And you could really use that same addiction, Wednesday. You're about five pounds overweight yourself so join me.

2) Magic Cat Brush - Let's squash a myth, shall we? Long hair cats do not shed more than short hair cats. I used to love when people would come in to adopt a cat and tell me that they didn't want a long haired cat because they shed too much. Eowyn, my long haired Maine Coon, does not shed. Ever. My two short haired cats? Pip gets up and it looks like she's still laying there. I got a gallon sized ziploc bag full of hair off Wednesday today. It took me a half an hour. That bites into my writing time so Magic Cat Brush, please. All I have to do is say to it "Brush Pip!" and it will do it, depositing it in the trash bin. Then, "Brush Wednesday"...I might even say "Brush Eowyn" even though she doesn't shed just because it makes her coat shiny and she can't hide anywhere from that brush!

3) To Be Done - Really done. I have picked and picked and picked over Dark Forest. Now I understand why writer's ask "how do you know that you're done?" I want it perfect. But it will never be perfect. At what point do I listen to everyone else who tells me "it's done already! QUERY already!" Just one more pass. Probably. Then I can let it go. Probably. Most likely. No promises, though. It's almost there. Almost.

What about you - what are your wishes for our magical little blog?

Friday, May 6, 2011

FUN Friday

Let's have some FUN!
This is adorable. I had to share the cuteness!

Now, we're going to move into funny. I'm really enjoying The Sports Show (Norm MacDonald's new show). This skit was particularly fun. I love when sports stars are okay with making fun of themselves.

Norm/Blake: So what time is rehearsal?
DeAndre: You mean practice.

Who isn't a fan of talking dogs?

My nephew (pictured with my Lily) is 5 years old. When he watches a movie, he can get so into it that you can't distract his attention for anything. He was watching The Wizard of Oz and was in his "zone." His grandma got up to go to the bathroom. She had just reached the hallway when Dillon jumped up, raced after her, grabbed her around her knees and brought her to the floor! Then he jumped on her back (picture a 5 year old squatting surfer style) and refused to let her up. While my brother and sister-in-law raced to help, my husband stifled his laughter and I glanced up at the TV screen to see...


It's funny what possesses kids sometimes.

It's supposed to be cooler here so I'm looking forward to getting a hike and a bike ride in this weekend, interspersed with Paws and Learn business. Possibly a trip to the local nursery to start that Herb Garden!

What about you - any fun plans this weekend?

Have a GREAT weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday Wishes

This is Wednesday leaning out of her cat tree. She may look like just your average gray tabby cat, but she has many skills. Most of these skills, she uses for The Good. Okay, 'most' might be a slight exaggeration. Wednesday is a good little kitty, though, at heart. She loves her family, loves her sisters, loves annoying those sisters and she also loves to grant wishes. Every Wednesday morning, I will rub the side of the cat house and summon our magic cat!

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1) Closure for anyone who lost a friend or loved one on September 11th. I don't think I really need elaborate on this wish.

2) An Herb Garden. Not just any herb garden, though. THE Herb Garden of all Herb Gardens. At the moment, I've only got Basil. Yes, I'm lame. My biggest problem is never being able to make up my mind on HOW I want to do something so I end up with nothing because I procrastinate. I've cracked open a new Vegan cookbook and the recipes are expanding my herbal horizon. I need a garden to match it. I hate planning ahead what I'm making for the entire week during the hot days of spring and summer here. I don't want to buy everything at the Farmer's Market on a Saturday. I want to GROW! Perhaps, that will be the project for this weekend...making the decision and growing those herbs.

3) The Ability to Write a Query Letter and a Synopsis. To perfection. In less than a week. You know that I always aim high on my Wednesday wishes - from magic kitchens to neverending coffee I'm aiming for a writery type wish! I say less than a week because I don't want to be too greedy. I want it to be easy! No? Okay, easyish? Pshaw, you say? Fine. Easier. And still to perfection. In five days.

What about you - what are your wishes for our magical cat this Wednesday?

Monday, May 2, 2011

CREEP Review

As you all know, last Monday I received my ARC of CREEP.

I have been waiting to read this FOREVER! Okay, not really that long. It just feels like forever.

Here is the synopsis from her site:

Colleague. Lover. Killer.

If he can't have her...

Dr. Sheila Tao is a professor of psychology. An expert in human behaviour. And when she began an affair with sexy, charming graduate student Ethan Wolfe, she knew she was playing with fire. Consumed by lust when they were together, desolate and depressed when they weren't, she realizes the three-month fling with her teaching assistant has to end. After all, she's engaged to a kind and loving investment banker who adores her, and her life is about to change for the better. But when she attempts to cut the affair dead in its tracks, Ethan Wolfe won't let her walk away.

...nobody else can, either.

Ethan has plans for Sheila, plans that involve posting a sex tape that would surely get her fired and destroy her prestigious career. Plans to make her pay for rejecting him. And as she attempts to counter his every threatening move without her colleagues or her fiancĂ© discovering her most intimate secrets, a shattering crime rocks Puget Sound State University: a female student, a star athlete, is found stabbed to death. Someone is raising the stakes of violence, sex, and blackmail . . . and before she knows it, Sheila is caught in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with the lover she couldn't resist — who is now the monster who won't let her go.

I got this late Monday afternoon.

I finished it Wednesday morning.

I did not want to put it down, but I was finishing my rewrites so I had to. I obsessed over it when I was away from it. I was up until 2am two nights in a row reading it.

When I was young, I devoured Mysteries like most people do chocolate. I couldn't get enough starting with my grandma's Nancy Drew. As an adult, I started reading YA.

This made me remember why I loved Mystery so much. It kept me on the edge of my seat. It kept me guessing - it had a twist that I wasn't expecting and she doesn't even let you know which way that twist turns until the very. last. minute.

I wanted to cheat - to flip to the end to see if Sheila was okay, if her relationship was still intact. I didn't. But I wanted to so badly because I just could not read fast enough. I made up excuses to squeeze in a page or two during the day.

CREEP grabs you, pulls you in and takes you on a wild ride with twists, turns and dips. It does not let you go until the period at the end of the last sentence on the final page. It is THAT good.

And when it ended, I wanted MORE. The good news - there will be MORE! Jennifer Hillier announced that she has a deal for book number two! We only have to wait until July of 2012.

The hubster picked up CREEP this afternoon. He was so into it that he got snarky if I tried to talk to him. That's a ringing endorsement because the man is Picky. That's right - with a capital P! He just put down a novel by a bestselling author because he was less than impressed. He's over halfway done with CREEP now. So you're going to love it whether you're male or female! It's just good writing!

Pre-order your copy today here!

Check out Jennifer's blog here!