Friday, November 16, 2012

The Next Big Thing

If you haven't heard, Pitch Wars is coming!  Brenda Drake comes up with the best contests - and she partners with the coolest peeps to bring them to us.

On Twitter: #PitchWars
On Blogosphere:  Brenda's Pitch Wars Post

I'm waffling back and forth between two books.  Not sure which I will submit so I'm going to do one for both.  We'll start with...

What is the working title of your book?

SILO


Where did the idea for your book come from?

I was desperate for a blog post late, late one night.  Half delirious before bed, I decided to do a post about filling up your silo (as in grain silo) full of memories so that you had things to draw on later when you were writing.  I wrote out the post and needed a picture of a silo.  When I googled "silo", images came up for underground silos.  They were just picking up steam as realty.  I was staggered by the features - but mostly by the prices.  One floor was going for upwards of $1mil.  I thought to myself if only super rich people can afford this, we'll end up with silos full of old people who can't procreate or rich guys who have stepped on everyone to get to the top (translate: jerks).  We're doomed!  I broached the idea to my dad (I might have been fishing for him to buy us a floor, but I'll never tell) and he said that he 'had a mind to buy the whole damn thing' (yes, he actually talks like that).  Which led me to think - what if an older gentleman knew eventually a global disaster was going to strike that would be hard to recover from so he purchased a silo (or two or three or twenty) and then interviewed children to pick the BEST and the brightest with an emphasis on empathy in addition to intelligence?  And off I went with that.


What genre does your idea fall under?

YA Post Apocalyptic (or Speculative Fiction - different people consider it differet things)


What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
AnnaSophia Robb with RED hair would be my choice for Lizzie.  Lizzie is full of fire and determination.  She may only be seventeen, but she's badass.  Or is she?  We may all think we are until we really have to face terror - it's in those moments that we find out if we're really as strong as we think.








Tyler Blackburn as Brand.  Brand lives with his mom and sisters in the Appalachians when he is taken.  He's the oldest of the bunch, used to caretaking for an entire community.  He's the hot guy with the heart and he just can't say no to Lizzie.  Ever.  Even if it means he might lose her.
 
 
 
 
 
 
As Warren, the kidnapper and keeper of children, I present Timothy Olyphant.  He's the bad guy - or is he?  A retired navy seal, he's in charge of making sure things run smoothly in the silo.  Lizzie makes his life as difficult as she can.
 
 
 



What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Kidnapped during a global disaster, Lizzie Warren fights to find a way out of the underground silo she's being held captive in before the man who took her discovers she doesn't have the talent they thought she did.


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'd like it to be represented by an agency!  Currently querying with several fulls out.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One month.  It was my NaNo project last year.  And then my computer crashed (audible gasps here) - I lost everything but the first 30,000 words.  Imagine the stomach churning horror when I put in my flashdrive to find I hadn't saved the entire book when I finished it.  After crying for two straight hours (or maybe more, I lost track of time), I sniffled my through another 50,000 words in about three weeks.


What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is hard because I read a lot of Dystopian, which my book doesn't quite fall under.  It's a fast paced ride like HUNGER GAMES.  But it's more Post Apocalyptic like LIFE AS WE KNEW IT (if you haven't read the series - GET IT NOW!!!!  Full of awesome.)


What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Kissing!  There's a tortured romance.  It's sub because I like to weave my romance in.  Lizzie is torn between her first love left buried in the school yard and a cute, sweet boy in the silo.



Now you know a bit about my YA Post Apocalyptic that I might enter Pitch Wars with...tomorrow (or later today if I have the time), I'll give you a taste of my YA Contemp Fantasy (hint: there's a dying forest and Elves and a journal full of riddles that only my MC can see!).

Are you entering Pitch Wars?  What's your genre?  Eyes on any special mentor? 

They ALL seem to rock - it's going to be difficult to choose!  Good luck to everyone!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

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!

I want to say that Wednesday went three for three on my wishes last week.  She was VERY generous!  Let's hope she is in a wish granting mood this week as well...

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1)  Trip to Portland - Ever plan a trip?  I tend to lose my patience about halfway through.  That can lead to some bad results (think staying at a hotel in a part of town you can get killed in because you didn't do any research on the area and just booked the hotel).  I need to keep my patience as I'm planning this trip.  We're trying to figure out where we're going to settle into the next phase our life.  Portland is on the list so I'm planning our week long trip there.  Hiking, exploring the city, visiting friends - all on the list.  But I haven't put the pieces of the puzzle together just yet.  Got my kick-ass deal on airfare, now I'm looking for the hotel deal.  I need to not run out of steam halfway through this.  I want this trip to be full and fun so we can get a good idea of whether or not the city is for us.  My wish is for the ability to focus and 'get 'er done' (shout out to my sis-in-law with that phrase, which I heard many times come out of my brother's mouth on our backpacking trip).

2)  Magic Extra Room - I love our office/den.  It's perfect for my husband to work in, for me to hang on the couch and write on, and for exercise sessions.  But my sister-in-law and her partner are coming to stay with us the middle of October.  It is not perfect for guests.  I have yet to find the perfect blend of extra bedroom/office.  It would be so cool if I could just push a button to change the layout.  Need to workout?  Push a button and it's a fully functional gym complete with ALL exercise equipment!  Need to grade papers on the computer?  Push a button and the gym turns back into the office.  Have guests coming into town?  Push that button and it's a gorgeous, relaxing guest room with no pet hair on the linens.  It would save time and space and really make the most of that extra space!

3)  Paws and Learn blog - If you have a moment, we're hosting a contest.  Prize is a $25 giftcard to PetCo or PetSmart.  I posted a picture of a friend's dog and all anyone has to do is guess the dog breed(s).  They're getting ready to have her DNA tested.  We thought it would be fun to have people guess the breed.  What makes a contest fun?  A lot of entries!!!  But we've only got ten so far.  The page has been viewed over 200 times.  I'm not sure why more people aren't entering?  Anyway, if you have a second, we'd love to know your thoughts!  Just click here to see Magpie!

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

I Could Have Died

Maxwell Lake
Okay, the title is a bit dramatic and not exactly true.  But I'm channeling my inner headline grabbing newspaper. 

The truth:  I spent the week trekking around the mountains in Northeastern Oregon with my brothers, my neice and nephew.  We get together up there every summer, but this year we decided we would test our skills against the high lakes (rather than just hang out in the campground the whole time).



Easy to smile when you don't carry a pack
Mine was a big fail. I practically starved with my meager supplies of vegan/vegetarian food.  I would totally fail in a post apocalyptic society - in the world that I built for my last book, SILO.  Unless they valued my gardening skills and my mad abilities to throw together delicious meals.  Keep that in mind if the shizz goes down, please.  And make a place for me in your compound. 

See the picture of the smiling kids?  And those logs behind them on the waterfall?  We had to walk over those.  The first hike was the brutal one.  The 8 switchbacks were nothing compared to the last mile straight up.  We were crawling in some areas because there was no way to make it standind up with a 25 pound pack on your back.
The kids soaking their feet
 While the kids soaked their feet, we set up camp. 

Don't tell my younger brother, but I think my nephew may be taking after me.  He pulled out the worms and said into the box, "Sorry, guys, but we have to use you now." 

Then his little apology turned into anger when he watched his dad cut one in half.  He kept watching the wriggling side of the worm that was left and yelling, "DAD! You shouldn't have done that to him!  That was mean!"
My neice caught the first fish.  And the second.  She's quite the fisherwoman.  I had to take a stroll around the lake until they were done.  I hate everything about fishing because I look at it from the fish POV.  You're just enjoying life eating mosquitoes in a lake and suddenly spot a juicy worm.  Next, you're swallowing a hook and being pulled across the lake with the hook in your stomach.  Then, you can't breathe as you're pulled out of the water...well, you get the picture.  
I could hear them whacking the poor things on the head on the rocks across the lake. *shudder*
So they enjoyed their fish that night and I enjoyed my quinoa salad that I had prepacked.  They spent the week catching fish and small game while I did my best to avoid the killing, cleaning and cooking of the sentient creatures.  I would fail big time in a post apocalyptic society if I were required to catch and kill food.  I couldn't survive in the world that I built for my book SILO.  I guess that's why I write about it!

Despite the food issue, it was a gorgeous trip.  We had a blast, for the most part.  It feels good to push your body.  And I always love to hang out with my brothers in any setting!

What about you - could you survive in the worlds you have built in books?  Have you ever been backpacking? 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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!

I want to say that Wednesday went three for three on my wishes last week.  She was VERY generous!  Let's hope she is in a wish granting mood this week as well...

My Wednesday Wishes for the week:

1)  Lily - She's got ANOTHER skin infection.  When we adopted her, we knew we were getting allergies, but this dog has been over and beyond. I swear we could have a vacation home in Hawaii - not a down payment on one, but have actually paid in cash for the house if we didn't have her.  She's worth it, but it's been an expensive lesson.  Next dog will be a few years older so we know we are avoiding all these health issues!  My wish is that the vet will come up with an antibiotic that will work better this time so that she gets more than four days relief inbetween infections! 

2) The Hubster's Bday - I can't keep secrets from him. This has been incredibly hard, but I've somehow managed to keep everyone silent.  Saturday night I have a surprise party planned.  I reserved a few lanes at the bowling alley so it will be hours of pizza, beer and bowling.  Oh, and ice cream cake.  He works so hard so that I can do what I love - Paws and Learn and my writing.  He deserves the best birthday ever.  I just want it to be a great night for him.  For everyone!  And if it doesn't, I have the ice cream cake to make it all better.

3)  Christmas in July - Our entries go up today!  Mine will be here on Michelle's blog.  I'm wishing hard for requests!  I can hardly wait to find that agent - the one who loves my book and my characters as much as I do, who believes in it and wants to rep it!  So I'm rubbing Wednesday's little buddha belly and wishing harder than I did when I blew out the candles on my childhood birthday cakes!

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

Monday, July 16, 2012

Focus

This is my Lily. 

This is how she looks at every corner on our walks.

This is how she looks if we're hiking and a horse is heading our way.

FOCUS.

It's her strong point.  No matter what is going on around us, she will never take her eyes off me until I say, "Okay!"

We went for a hike this morning that turned out to be a disaster.  One of my favorite trails is what we have dubbed The Horse Trail.  Because we frequently run into riders.  It's never a big deal.  We get her off to the side of the trail as a courtesy to the horses and riders. She got to meet her first horse as a puppy and she's obsessed with them now.  She would greet every single one if she could.  But it's a danger for her and for the horses who don't appreciate dogs so mommy says 'no.'

Back to the disaster.  Usually we run into them every few hills.  Usually it's two to four riders in a group.  Sometimes it's a lone rider.  But this morning it seems everyone and their brother, mother, sister, cousin, roommate, boyfriend, etc. thought "I want to go to Griffith Park for a horse ride!"  We made it halfway through the hike when the first caravan came by.  25 riders.  She never took her eyes off me or moved.

FOCUS.

I decided that my lungs couldn't handle walking behind all the horses because my asthma was acting up.  So we turned around and headed back.  Only to encounter then next caravan.  I counted 33 this time.  All apologizing for the dust.  All commenting on my beautiful dog.

She has the patience of a saint.  By the third caravan, I was cursing the horses, the riders, the dusty trail, my decision to take her there...but she never lost that focus.

Man, if I could have just a quarter of that. 

The good news - Michelle Krys picked my SILO for the Christmas in July contest!  I'm one of the lucky 15 on her team that will go up on her site on Wednesday.  Ten agents will be looking at our entries and requesting (or not requesting).  So exciting!

But it's put my WIP on hold.  I can't concentrate on it.  I sit down with everything plotted out, but I find myself staring at the screen for an hour before I get distracted with laundry or cat boxes or cleaning out drawers.

I wish I could be like Lily - tune out all those horses and just focus in on my MC.

What about you - do you have trouble focusing sometimes?  Does anything help you regain your focus?  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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)  Just some glue - I popped a crown off yesterday.  An old crown.  No pain. Whole crown came off.  But it's one from the dentist who turned out not to be a dentist so it doesn't look like a very good crown.  This may not bode well for my dental visit tomorrow.  I'm asking for some positive vibes that all this tooth needs is a little glue.  I've had THREE crowns already this year so the insurance and the pocket book are maxed out in the tooth department.  Please just be able to put it back on with some glue.  Ooooor make me a temporary that will last until January 1st.

2)  Cinder - It's really difficult watching your pets age.  My mom got Cinder when she was 12 weeks old (side note: I did the 'no-no' and gave her two kittens as a birthday present - sometimes it works out, rescue groups!)  She's 15 years old now.  She's been struggling healthwise for a few years, but always seems to get right back on track.  This week has been a rough one for her, complete with a vet visit today.  My mom leaves on Thursday to go to Flagstaff for a reunion and will be gone for a week.  She is torn and sick with worry over her girl.  I'm rubbing the cat tree and making a wish that the week passes quickly and that Mom arrives home to find Cinder back to her ol' self.

3)  Xmas in July - To see about the contest click here or here (and follow them while you're there because they're great gals!).  They're choosing the 30 this week and I'm wishing for one of those spots!  Ten fabulous agents will be perusing those 30 entries - and it would be great to be one of them!!!

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Getting the Mojo Back

I've been struggling with my latest WIP. Nothing but love for the idea, but every time I sit down to write, it's been a chore.  Part of it is that I'm trying to write at home.  I can't seem to focus with a dirty kitchen or dust on the table or laundry that needs to be done or a closet that needs to be reorganized.  But I live in L.A. so we don't have quaint coffee shops.  We have annoying people who feel the need to convince everyone how important they are so they answer their cell phones in quiet coffee shops and have very loud, name dropping conversations.  So writing out is out.

I needed help focusing.  I needed to sit at the computer and tune everything else out.  One thing that I had gotten away from was burning a candle.  I don't know why this helps me focus on my writing, but it does.  Different scents for different stories.  This one is vanilla bean.  Although, I admit that I had a 4,000 word count evening with eucalyptus when I had a migraine two mornings ago.  So, vanilla and eucalyptus (just not together because that would smell gross).

Fab Crit Partner Colene sent me a link that helped get my mojo back last week.  It also helped me get to sleep at a decent hour.  But first the mojo.  It seemed so simple - know what you're writing before you write it.  How many of us are pantsers?  I started this as my NaNo project...and then got pneumonia so there went that.  When I NaNo, I have a loose idea of where I'm going. I have bullet points in my head to hit.  This wasn't any different.  For some reason, though, it wasn't working here.

I took the advice - as I crawled into bed, I started sketching the next few chapters.  When I say sketch, I mean bare bones with maybe a few lines of dialogue.  In ten minutes, I had filled two pages, front and back.  There were no characters in my head, nothing fighting for paper.  The chatter disappeared and I slept.  It was awesome!

Even better was my performance at my computer the next morning.  The words have been cranking out.  My count is rising.  I have my mojo back!!  A few minutes at bedtime sets me up for the morning (and helps me sleep the minute my head hits the pillow).  I still think I'm pantsing it, but with a topo map and a compass.

What about you - how do you keep your word count up?  Ever lost your mojo?  What brought it back?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Polished Up Bright and Shiny

You can read my polished entry for The Writer's Voice here.

And my AWESOME teammates entries are all here.

You can comment on any of them (mine included) until Sunday.

The esteemed panel of agents will be making their rounds on Monday to pick their favorites.


GO TEAM KRISTA!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"The Writer's Voice" Submission


This is my entry for The Writer's Voice.

SILO
YA Dystopian
84,000 words

Query:

After a global disaster strikes, seventeen-year-old Lizzie Wallace is kidnapped from the rubble of her high school in Los Angeles and flown across the devastated country. Her new home is an underground silo hidden deep in the Adirondack Mountains. Like a modern day Noah's Ark, the children are there in pairs - male and female, ranging in age from ten to eighteen. They are the future, each one chosen for their special skill to rebuild society. There's only one problem - Lizzie doesn't have the skill they think she does.

Her repeated failure at the one thing that she's expected to contribute to the group cements her belief that she doesn't belong there. Even her growing attraction to eighteen-year-old Brand doesn't stop her from plotting to escape the silo and return to the family she knows is frantic about her.  But when the man who brought her there is killed, Lizzie learns a secret that changes everything she believes about the silo and her place in it.


First 250 words:

The first explosion rocks the room, sending my books flying off the desk.  The second makes the ground tremor and the lights flicker.  Ms. Clark grabs her large desk at the front of the classroom.  I brace for a third and don't have to wait long.  This one flings the glass specimen jars from the walls, smashing them onto the concrete floor.  The smell of formaldehyde and death fill the science class.

"Everyone remain calm," Ms. Clark says.

"Should we get under our desks?" I ask.

Ms. Clark doesn’t respond, seeming frozen in place.  I don’t wait for an answer, crawling under my desk.

“Lizzie,” Christopher calls to me, but in the chaos I can’t find him.  Bodies swarm everywhere in panic.  Doesn’t anyone remember the drills we’ve been practicing for a decade now?

The ground shakes again and the lights go out.  Screams and sobs reverberate over the din of the creaking building, its beams groan in protest at the ceaseless movement beneath it.

I feel a hand on my arm, strong and warm.  I don’t even have to look to know whose it is.  I have every callous on Christopher's hand memorized.  And the wart he keeps cutting off that stubbornly grows back on the inside of his thumb.  I grab his hand, lacing my fingers through his, and squeeze tight.
        
          Ms. Clark shouts something but I can't make out the words over the crashing, popping and screaming.  I chew on my bottom lip, as my mind races.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our REMARKABLE Winner

Happy Book Birthday to Lizzie K. Foley's

REMARKABLE!










And now to announce our Remarkable winner:



Congratulations!!!




Don't forget to include your address!


As soon as I get the copies of Remarkable (I pre-ordered on Amazon), I will get one out to you with your $25 to Barnes & Noble!!



Thank you everyone for participating!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Most Remarkable Interview


Today, as promised, I bring you my interview with Lizzie K. Foley (and another chance to win following the interview).

How long have you been writing?

Oh, somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 years.  But don't tell anyone because that makes me feel really, really old.  The most I’ll ever confess to is two months. 

Anway, I always loved the idea of storytelling as a career, but I’d never really actually committed words to paper until I started college.  I was lucky enough to get to go to the screenwriting program at the University of Southern California, which was a lot of fun as a program. 

But once I graduated, I got a job in story development, which is basically a job where you read lots of scripts and then write reports on what’s wrong with them. This is a hard, hard job to have if you want to be a writer yourself.  The job requires that you become super critical of every script put in front of you – which I was.  But it is really hard to go work on your own stuff at the end of the day and turn off the super critical voice inside your head.  I couldn’t write a sentence without telling myself that the sentence was dumb and sloppy, and that the story I was working on was trite.  Finally, I left the job, left Hollywood, went to work for a labor union, and started grad school in sociology and then in education. 

Now I loved being in graduate school.  Truly.  I learned some amazing things and it really transformed how I see the world.  But as I wrote all of my grad school papers, I got the urge to start writing fiction again. And I remembered why I loved it so much.  

How did the idea for Remarkable come about?

Once I went to listen to a lecture on writing children’s fiction, and during this lecture, I was told that main characters in children’s books need to be super heroic and special and could never ever be ordinary.

Now, this made me kind of mad, because I am a deeply ordinary person and was an extremely ordinary child with two extremely gorgeous, talented, and wonderfully kind older sisters (who, through no fault of their own, may have given me a bit of an inferiority complex).  But it didn’t seem fair to me that ordinary people should be excluded from main characterdom in stories.  And so I spent some time thinking about what a story starring a deeply ordinary character would be like.  And then one day, a few lines of REMARKABLE popped into my head, and I suddenly had a clear image of who I wanted the main character to be.  It was a girl – a deeply ordinary girl – who was living in a town where everyone else was super special.  And the town would be named Remarkable.  And the girl would not discover some secret talent by the end of the story.  Instead, she’d learn she liked being ordinary.  And because I am sometimes slow on the uptake, it took me a while to realize that the character I was writing about was me as a child.

No one else was fooled though.  Every time I told someone I was writing a book about a girl who was deeply ordinary and had no discernable talents, that person would inevitably say, “Oh, this is a story about you, isn’t it?” (and yes, it always stung just a little bit).

How long did it take you to write it? 

On an off, I'd say six years.  But there was a lot of “off” to this on and off period.  I was working on more “serious” fiction too – for some reason, I decided my natural writing genre should be literary mysteries.  Um…it turns out this is not true. But I spent A LOT of time writing many many subpar drafts of subpar manuscripts before I figured that out. 

Do you have a set writing schedule?

Don’t I wish!  I have a kid and four dogs and I live in way to much chaos to set a schedule.  I write when my kid is in school – and sometimes in the evening with the TV on.

Where do you write - at home, at coffee shops?

I write at home.  I have a lovely office in a semi-converted attic space.  This way my dogs can help me with the story by barking at everything and occasionally crashing into my desk when they stage impromptu wrestling matches. 

Also, I tend to play the same song over and over again and sing along (badly) when I write, and I’ve found that people at coffee shops really seem to find this annoying (the dogs, on the other hand, don’t seem to mind at all). And in case you are interested, this month’s song is “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine.  And I completely mangle the chorus (whoa-oooh-ah) every single time.

Pajamas or sweat pants?

Pajamas pants.  I have red monkey pajama pants as everyday wear, and grey pirate pajama pants for more formal occasions.

Who would rather have go shopping with - Lady Gaga or Gwenyth Paltrow?

Lady Gaga for sure.  Seriously, I would love to have her advise me on my style.  And I would love to talk to her about what it is like to live like performance art.  With Gwenyth, I’m pretty sure she would just let me know that pirate pajama pants are not actually stylish and put me in a pair of lovely yoga pants.  Then I would start fretting about how I really need to take up yoga but never do. 

What is the last book that you read?

Oh, such a good question.  It’s LEGEND by Marie Lu.  It’s really good. Well-written, thoughtful, and completely entertaining. And I’m also gonna toss out a huge, huge endorsement for THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST by Sarvenaz Tash, which is the middle grade book I read most recently.  I loved it.  My son (a very avid middle-grade reader) loved it too.  He’s read it about four times.  It’s just one of those very perfect middle grade adventure reads.  Oh wait!  The middle grade book I read most recently was THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY by Nikki Loftin.  It’s a crazy, modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel with a really sweet discussion about losing a parent and gaining a stepparent in it.  It’s excellent.  And I’m getting ready to read THE CABINET OF EARTHS by Anne Nesbet, which is supposed to be wonderful, but my kid just swiped it from me and won’t give it back. 

Beaches or Mountains?

Mountains.  I was born and raised in the mountains – and I get the worst sunburns at the beach, no matter how much sunscreen I put on. 

Favorite writing snack?

Coca-cola.  The kind with calories. 

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever got?

Oh…this is another good question.  I have two pieces: the first is focus on what’s working in a draft – not on what isn’t.  This is a way to keep yourself from getting discouraged and well as a way to really let yourself build on your own strengths.  And if you are in a writing group, or have critique partners, always try to solicit from them the parts they liked the most.  If they tell you they didn’t like any of it, then you really must ignore everything else they said, because they aren’t trying to help you improve what you’re writing, but rather, they are trying to rewrite you, which is doing neither one of you a favor.

The second piece of advice is for those who are submitting to agents, etc.  And this is it: Do not get discouraged.  Do not read too much into rejection.  And do not let rejection drive you away from the business end of getting published.  There are so many good writers in the world who send there manuscript off to 5 or so agents, then either don’t hear back or get rejections, and then walk away from the industry because the rejections hurt too much.  These are people who totally could have been published but didn’t keep submitting until they put their manuscript in front of the right person at the right time (and getting to that point often does require patience and persistence.)

Anyway to illustrate this point, go to a bookstore – preferably a big bookstore that’s busy – and look at the shelves in the section that you want to be published in.  Now all of these books have been published, and the vast, vast majority of them have agent representation.  Now ask yourself – given limited time and resources, how many of those books are you actually willing to grab off the shelves at look at?  It’s not all of them, right? And of the ones you pull off the shelves, how many of them are you going to look at and then put back?  And if you do find some books that you’re willing to take home and read, how many of those books are you going to rave about and try to convince other people to read?  It’s not many, I bet.  So see, you’ve just rejected a huge pile of publishable books yourself. 

And the books you left on the shelves, or put back, or didn’t rave about probably aren’t terrible books.  These particular books just didn’t jump out at you for reasons that have almost nothing to do with the writing itself, but has everything to do with the complexities that have created your personal tastes.  And the books that didn’t interest you are very likely going to be picked out by someone else, and someone else may flip through the pages, decided to read the whole thing, and then rave about it to a friend.  In fact, this is likely. 

Anyway, to get to the analogy part – if you really feel (or even suspect) that your book is publishable, then think about it in these terms.  Sending a query letter is the equivalent of having a book on the shelf at a large bookstore, and agents are the customers looking at a vast selection of query letters to see what appeals to them.  The few letters they “take off the shelf” are the ones where they are willing to read a partial.  The even fewer of those that they “purchase to read” are where they ask to see the complete manuscript.  And they are only going to offer representation to the manuscripts that they are willing to rave about to friends, because this is essentially what their job entails.

As a querying writer – your job is to keep your book on the “query shelf” for as long as it takes for the right agent to come along, snap it up, and start raving.  And if need be, go to the bookstore for an entire day and watch how often bestsellers, award-winners, classics, etc. are ignored by perfectly reasonable customers with perfectly reasonable tastes. 




And the remarkable picture I promised you....

















That's Lizzie K. Foley on the left, Keith Blocker in the center (with his hat off in respect for the dearly departed in the cemetery behind us) and me on the right with my ever present bottle of water.  We took a day away from USC to play at Disneyland!

For an extra entry in the contest, post something remarkable about yourself (or something you found remarkable about Lizzie) in the comments!


Winner will be chosen (and announced) on the release day - April 12th!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Remarkable Contest

I am having a REMARKABLE contest in honor of Lizzie K. Foley's Remarkable, which hits stores on April 12th.

Here's a sneak peek at her debut Middle Grade novel:

In the town of Remarkable, almost nothing is ordinary, except for one girl named Jane. Jane's parents are world famous, and her brother and sister are prodigies. Her grandmother is Remarkable's mayor. Every kid in town goes to Remarkable's School for the Remarkably Gifted -- except Jane. Since Jane is not gifted, she has to go to the regular public school, where she is the only student.


Her life is boring...

...until the nefariously wicked Grimlet twins get expelled from the gifted school and are assigned to Jane's fifth grade class...

...then a weather machine, a band of pirates, a music-loving lake monster, and a jelly controversy wreak havoc on Jane's beloved community...

...and Jane learns that the fate of Remarkable rests in her overwhelmingly average hands.



How FUN does this book sound?!?

YOU can win yourself a copy of Remarkable -- AND a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

Remarkable Rules:

1 entry for being a new follower


1 entry for commenting


2 entries for being an old follower

3 entries for adding the contest to your blog side bar

5 entries for Tweeting

AND

I'll be posting an interview with Lizzie (along with a Remarkable picture of us from college) next Monday, April 9th. 

Come back that Monday and post something Remarkable about yourself on that day for an extra 5 entries!!

How Phenomal is that?!?  (Admit it - you thought I was going to use the word 'Remarkable' again)

Winner will be announced on April 12th!


To follow Lizzie on Twitter, click here.  (She's hilarious so you really do want to follow her.)

To peruse Lizzie's Remarkable website, click here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sad Song Blogfest

I'm always late for Blogfests!  I sign up and sometimes it just slips my mind.

Better late than never and this was too much fun to pass up!

Spunk On A Stick is hosting the Sad Songs Blogfest.  Be sure to stop by and check out some of the other entries!


Goodbye My Friend by Linda Ronstadt
I lost my best friend my freshman year of college.  I sang this at her funeral and I'm really not sure how I held it together long enough to get through it. 



Breathe Me by Sia
Eva has been gone for two years now.  This song is still painful.  To show what a beautiful person she was, I'm including her video.  Eva had a double lung transplant because cystic fibrosis took her original pair.  I met her on Live Journal, where I have many CF friends.  Everyone who met her loved her - it was impossible not to.  Two years into her new lungs, she went into rejection.  This world lost her beautiful soul on March 27, 2010.  She is so, so very missed.  So, for Eva - love love love.



Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
This song always gets me (The Hubster too, believe it or not!)



From a Distance by Bette Midler
The Divine Miss M has a few to choose from, but this one gets me.


The Dance by Garth Brooks
I'm not a big fan of country (sorry!), but this song has always tugged at my heart.
(My apologies for the video but it was the only one that I could find with the original song instead of a cover)



And because I'm into even numbers...


My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
Oh how I loathed Titanic.  I didn't think much about this song until my dear, sweet grandma was in hospice after her three year battle with ovarian cancer.  There was a teenager who was losing his battle to cancer in the room next door.  This song played almost 24/7.  His friends and girlfriend wanted to be sure that he knew he would not be forgotten when he left this world.  It tore all of our hearts to pieces.  The lyrics were fitting for my grandparents who were in their 51st year of their marriage, having married at 19.  I still think of that teen and of my grandparents every time I hear this song.



There you have it - six sad songs.  And I actually cried my way through this.  Wow.  Well, I'm off to visit others and you should too!

Any of these songs make your list?

Don't forget to check back in here on Monday and enter my REMARKABLE contest! I'll be giving away a hardcover of Lizzie K. Foley's REMARKABLE plus a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Enough to make the start of any week nice and bright! Details on Monday.

FUN Friday

TGIF - Let's have some FUN!!!

Did everyone see Hunger Games? 

Imagine being greeted with this:








Remember when you were a kid and you could fall asleep anywhere?



Dogs are so cool.  Really just THE coolest.  When is the last time your husband/wife greeted you like this when you got home?



For all you writers out there.

Super excited for the weekend - especially because I have NO plans (beyond a good Spring Cleaning).  Sometimes no plans are the BEST plans.

What about you - any big weekend plans?



Don't forget to check back in here on Monday and enter my REMARKABLE contest!  I'll be giving away a hardcover of Lizzie K. Foley's REMARKABLE plus a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble.  Enough to make the start of any week nice and bright! Details on Monday.



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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)  Stamina - Such a little thing.  I'm still sick but my body is battling this well.  I'm knocking it out of the park.  Well, out of my lungs.  Tonight is Boot Camp.  The first class of the Spring.  Am I nuts for wanting to go?  Probably.  I have to go.  I promise to take it easy.  I won't push myself.  I just want the stamina to get through the hour.  I give my word that I will do a modified version.  Scouts honor!

2)  More Space in the Bathroom - Poor Hubster.  Of the six drawers we have, he's down to half of one.  I can't help it.  I'm a Sephora addict who hates counter clutter.  What I need are drawers like the Perkins's tent in Harry Potter - it looks like a normal bathroom drawer from the outside, but when you open it - tons o' room.  I could organize them by products and then give The Hubster back at least a full drawer or two!  I won't be greedy and ask for them in every room of the house. Just the bathroom would be a BIG help.

3)  A motorhome rental place that is open on weekends - It doesn't sound like much, but it's been next to impossible to find.  You see, two years in a row I've camped in style in my dad's motorcoach.  Now, it's a bit more than we need for just The Hubster, the Lilster and me.  But we do need something.  Renting it in SoCal and driving it to Northeast Oregon is just not happening.  Way too expensive for three weeks.  However, I am Lily is done tent camping up there.  She prefers the comfort of a cozy bed off the ground safe inside a motorhome.  What kind of mom wouldn't give her that luxury?  I mean, I'm already asking her to spend a week in the dirt with no running water but the river.  The least I can do is rent a motorhome for her.  If I can just find a place that is open on Saturdays in Oregon and doesn't want $2,000 for a week of renting.  Heck, at this point I'd even be willing to shell over the two grand.  Almost.  As long as I can pick up and drop off on a Saturday!  Who would have thought such a simple thing would be so hard?  Ah, but it is.  It is.  So Wednesday work your magic!!

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

Be sure to check in next Monday because I'm kicking off a really cool giveaway to celebrate the release of Lizzie K. Foley's Remarkable!  You could win yourself a free copy plus a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble to buy even more books!!!!  Good, good stuff all the way around!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Persistence of Ants

We've been battling the ants for almost a year now. We beat them back and they disappear for a short while, but they always seem to return. One on the kitchen counter. One in the bathroom. One in the den. One on the living room couch. Annoying little buggers. If they find so much as a crumb (and Lily can leave them in places you wouldn't think), all their friends come marching in behind them to retrieve it bit by bit.


With the pets, we won't use poison. My dad swears poison doesn't work anyway. We have tried every home remedy recommended but NOTHING works. In fact, we've found they're actually drawn to a few. For instance, our ants love garlic. And peppermint. Nothing seems to stop them. They find their way around everything else from cayenne pepper to cinnamon to turmeric.

At night, I try not to envision the giant ant mound underneath the house. I just know that it's there. I'm only half surprised that they haven't carried off one of the cats. Yet.

As I was battling them again this afternoon, it struck me.  When it comes to writing, we need to be like these stubborn little ants. In our writing. On our journey toward publishing. We should be like these stinkers.

One or two of us venturing bravely forward, finding the prize and bringing it back to others. We have to bring back little morsels of encouragement to keep the others going. We have to be persistent. Find our around the baby powder, slog through the vaseline and cross over the chalk lines. If we are anything like these ants, we will succeed!

At the moment, soapy water is working (thanks Drew!). But we have to be as determined to get rid of the ants as they are to get into this house. The fact that we've been battling them for almost a year now shows how tenacious they are.

If we can just be that dogged in our determination, how far will that take us?

Friday, March 23, 2012

FUN Friday

TGIF - The weekend is here!

Let's have some FUN!

This kid is so amazing and adorable!
 

 And it's on to HUNGER GAMES!
 

 Speaking of adorable - did you see Jennifer Lawrence on David Letterman? It's impossible not to like her.










How excited am I?!?! I have tickets for the 5:45pm showing and my bestie, Mel, is going with me. Mel who doesn't even READ! She can read, she's just one of those people that doesn't like to. Can. You. Imagine. I can't. But that's okay because she's the most amazing person ever so it totally makes up for it. ;-) Love love love her. I mean, you know you have a real friend when they agree to go see a YA movie with you that they NOTHING about.

And while we're on the topic of besties - You all must hop over to Julie's blog. Just discovered her this week and we're already best friends. Because she's amazing too. Her Agent Story will have you in stitches. So don't read it if you're at work. It wouldn't do to lose your job for laughing hysterically at your desk. Be sure to follow her too.

I've got another virus that went straight to my lungs so I have the feeling that my weekend is going to be spent taking it easy (boo!). But sitting in dark theater watching a movie is taking it easy so I might see Hunger Games more than once. Sometimes I do that. After a decade without anything more than the sniffles, I seem to be making up for it these past six months. Cra-azy!

What about you - any big weekend plans?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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)  No Hiatus - When I worked in television, I loved my two months off.  It was so nice to be able to catch up with friends, travel to see family.  I cherished that time.  Now that I'm not in the industry anymore, I understand why my own family used to whine to me about no episodes until the Fall.  I'm starting to get it now.  Two of my fave shows - The Walking Dead and...ahem, I won't mention the other one but Monday night A was revealed (don't judge me!) - are done for the season.  No new episodes until Fall.  I'm trying to focus on what I have to look forward to (True Blood).  Can anyone suggest some shows on DVD?  I'll have to content myself with those and hope the months fly by!

2)  Laundry Elf - If I could just have him do the laundry, I promise that I wouldn't make him do anything else.  A lot of it is my own fault.  I have animals and my cats shed like crazy.  I have friends that tend to stop by without announcing that they are coming.  So my furniture stays covered - this way when the doorbell rings, I can shout "Just a minute!" while I race around and pull the covers off.  Fresh furniture shed-free!  But the covers have to be washed twice a week.  Okay, they don't have to be.  I want them to be.  I like fresh covers to sit on.  Luckily, Lily doesn't shed.  But Wednesday and Pip, both short hair cats, can get up and it looks like they are still there!  Since cats are my worst allergy, I have to stay on top of it.  Just washing covers is three loads of laundry.  Add that to my other laundry (bed stuff, guest bed stuff, clothes) and I do a lot of laundry.  I start out all gung-ho like I did this morning, but I guarantee I'll forget about the last two loads tonight (I rarely remember) so there will be wrinkled clothes in the dryer and soggy clothes in the washer.  Oh - and I hate folding.  It's sooooooo boring.  Could there be anything more boring on earth than folding laundry?  I don't think so.  So Laundry Elf to do that laundry AND fold it all in the same day!

3)  Sweet & Sara Marshmallows - I have been searching high and low for a vegan marshmallow that comes close to real ones for my baking and snaking needs.  So far, no luck.  BUT a few people have told me that they swear by Sweet & Sara Marshmallows.  My Whole Foods carries them and can't seem to keep them on the shelf so that's a great sign!  But, did I mention that they can't keep them on the shelf?  Yeah.  Bummer.  It seems the more you can't find something, the more you want it!  I'm craving them something bad (maybe it's a good thing they are out of stock!).  I'm rubbing Wednesday's cat tree before I head out this morning.  Wednesday should be a lucky day, right?

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

Monday, March 19, 2012

You Are What You Write?

I opened my pantry over the weekend and almost died. Cans and boxes spilled over onto me. There isn't any room in the cupboards for more food at the moment. If you peek under the bed and in the cupboards in the laundry room, you will find water. And more water. And even more water.

What happened to me? Sure, I am a SoCal native. I was raised to be prepared. I've been living with the threat/promise of The Big One hitting us since I surfed out of my mother's womb those many years ago.  But lately I've been...more prepared.

I'm not a prepper. Prepper's would laugh at my paltry supplies. If something happens, I can feed us for right around a month if we're eating three meals a day. Actually, Preppers wouldn't laugh, they would worry for me.  If you've watched the show on NatGeo, you would know that they can feed a ton of people for YEARS.  I have to fight it every time I'm in the grocery store and see that beans or quinoa are one sale. That $1 for a can that can feed us for two days when combined with quinoa or pasta really calls out to me.

In my own defense, we are vegetarians (I'm actually vegan). We don't like tofu so beans are a big staple of our diet. As is quinoa. And anyone who has had to rinse their quinoa knows what a pain in the tush it is. Pre-washed quinoa flies off the shelf at my local store (probably because only one company does it) so I tend to stock up when it's on sale and the shelf is full. I came home with ten boxes just last week. To add to the five that I still had. Each box gives me 12 meals when combined with beans and things from the garden.

But I digress... How did I get this way?

I wrote a Dystopian.

It wasn't just my own writing that did this. When you write, you read. There are so many Dystopians out there so I devoured every one that I could get my hands on. The book series that I really blame for this, though, is The Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Now, I know that an asteroid is not going to hit the moon and knock it closer to Earth (knock on wood), but the series rocked me. I read it in a weekend. Three books. One weekend. Forever changed. I blame the lack of sleep I received in reading that series as contributing.


The end of the world is with me a lot these days.  I wasn't one who bought into the Mayan calendar or 2012 being the end of the world (knock on wood).  I still don't.  But reading and writing this genre, it has seeped out of the pages and into my home just a bit. 

What about you - does your writing creep out of the pages with tendrils, lodging itself anywhere around your household?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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)  Magic Desk - I had to run out to Staples this afternoon because we're out of pens.  Not just my favorites, but all of them.  See that little grey cat up there?  She's a pen hoarder.  When I vacuum under the furniture, I will frequently find a plethora of them.  She doesn't just bat them under furniture, though.  She'll hide them in her tree, in the closets, wherever her latest "spot" is.  Suffice it to say, I couldn't find a single one and I wasn't about to move the couch and clean the lint off one.  If I had a magic desk - each drawer assigned a different task - Wednesday and I would both be happy!  We would never run out of pens, post-its, highlighters, paper, printer cartridges, checks, paper clips, binder clips...the list would be endless!  So, Magic Desk please!

2)  Another day like yesterday - The weather was PERFECT.  It was 66 degrees out and sunny.  I whine a lot (A LOT) about springing forward because I really hate to lose that hour, but what a difference it makes when the weather cooperates and The Hubster gets off work early.  We did the BEST hike with Lily and her boyfriend Bubba.  Lily RAN.  RAN.  She does not run when it's hot out.  She won't be able to do this hike (or any hike) by May.  It was so perfect.  Lots of hills, great cardio workout, the good kind of sore at the end of the day.  I want at least one day a week like this for the next two months! 

3)  A Penguin - Okay, I know that I can't have one in real life, but I've been addicted to the Penguin cam at Sea World.  Yesterday, they were lined up for a fish.  Actually LINED up.  And one of the Emperor Penguins kept leaning to the side to peek around the others as if to say "What's the hold up here?"  So adorable.  I love watching them pop out of the water and turn around and dive right back in too. 



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

Friday, March 9, 2012

FUN Friday

The weekend is here!  I'm limping into it...so thankful to see Friday roll around this week.  What about you?

I'm throwing a wrench in my usual Fridays.  Instead of videos, we're going to do pictures today.  These have made me giggle over the past few months.

But I'm starting with my mom...because she's amazing.  The woman isn't just the best Mom ever, she's now the most amazing Grandma ever.  And at 62, she got her first TATTOO!  I don't even have ink.  My brothers don't have ink!  Our mom?  Has ink. 

I just think it's hilarious that she gets her first 'tat' and it's religious. 


My goal is to have a little something for everyone below. 






And I leave you with my personal favorite -



I'm super excited for John Carter tomorrow night with the Hubster! 

What about you - any big weekend plans?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

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)  Magic Crisper - It's not that I don't love going to the Farmer's Market on Saturdays.  It's just that I never seem to get everything that I'm going to need.  I've taken to finding new recipes mid-week. Very inconvenient when the closest market doesn't always have the freshest produce and is often out of organic produce.  If I had a magic crisper, I'd never have to worry about it again!  When I decide on Tuesday (okay, not quite mid-week) that I'd like to try Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango  I could simply stand in front of the fridge, picture mangos, scallions and cilantro in my head, and say the magic phrase (Klaato barada n...nectar...necktie...definitely an 'n' word...) - and there they would be!  Fresh off some organic small family farm in Oregon.

2)  Home - We've had a saga going on for a few months now.  We came back from Thanksgiving to a notice that the owner of the property we rent was in pre-foreclosure.  There are two houses and an apartment on this lot that he owns.  The Hubster spoke with him, spoke with the front neighbor, and spoke with his Dad who is well versed in all things.  Suffice it to say, we were told that this was a negotiating tactic.  The Hubster's Dad said, "But they won't deal with rental properties."  Turns out he was right.  This property goes up for auction March 9th.  The owner claims he Fed Exed a check to the bank for xx,xxx amount of dollars to bring his loan current.  I'm hoping that he's right because The Hubster has chosen to pay our full rent for the month and put his faith in this man.  If he was wrong to do so, we're...well, we're not in a good situation.  The bright side is that we have the money to move.  We even have the money to buy if we have to, though I'm fighting it tooth and nail because I do not want to set down roots in Los Angeles.  I.  Do.  Not.  (Now ask how many years I've been living here saying that very thing?  About a decade now.)  But renting with a "pit bull type dog", even one with all of Lily's qualifications (CGC, Certified Therapy Dog -- and a portfolio that includes letters from neighbors, friends, trainer, vets, pet sitters, and all sorts of amazing pictures of her in action with at risk teens as well as snuggled up with nieces, nephews, cats, dog friends, etc.) can be next to impossible on only a few weeks notice so we might not have a choice.  It would really, really, really be nice if we didn't have to move at all.  I like this little house.  It's perfect for a few more years until we're ready to buy a home where we want to live the rest of our lives (not here!).  And, honestly, moving cats is a pain in a#%.  You have no idea unless you've experienced the lovely.  So please Wednesday, for your own sake as well as ours - let the bank get that mortgage check.

3)  A Home for Laughy - This high energy girl just stole my heart with this picture.



She's reaching through the cage at anyone who will pass by - she's that desperate for human contact.  Still a pup at 12 months, she'll need an active home and I'm wishing so hard for her that she gets one.  She deserves it!  Watch her run zoomies here:



She deserves a home.  They all do, but this week my wish is for her.  She's got her first strike against her being black.  Second strike being a year old.  Third strike being labeled a pit.  Wednesday will work some magic, though, and help a family educate themselves on the breed as they look past the black coat (very superstitious people when it comes to black animals!) so she gets a loving, forever home!

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