Sunday, June 29, 2014

Decisions, decisions

I have been struggling with writing ADD lately, and goodness, I am no use when my focus is so split. I've been working on Book one edits, and all the things that go along with seeking publication (query, log line, synopsis, blurb), Book Three draft, My new project, a picture book story I'm entering into a contest, and a collaborative piece that some writers I met on Critique Circle are putting together. And instead of focusing on one thing a day or week, I have been absolutely all over the place.

Finally last week (when my focus was split in every other area of life too) I got organized and prioritized what needed to get done. And I came to a conclusion.

I think it's time to query Book One.

Wow. That feels big and scary to say. Back in the winter I had the goal of starting queries in May (*for those who don't know, a query is a letter you pitch to an agent about your story that is intended to draw them in and request your manuscript, with the hopes that they read your book, fall in love, and convince a publisher to publish it. Sounds easy. From what I've read and heard, it's a horrible experience.)

May came and I knew I wasn't ready (and by me, I mean, my story). But I've been working on edits, I have my second round of first readers going over it right now, and all the assorted things I need to have ready are at least started.

When I realize May wasn't the right time, I bumped it back to August, and I think (by the time we get back from vacation and I tidy things up), August will be it. I had given thought to pushing it back more, but here's what I realized.

This book may never be ready.

It may not be marketable.

I have drafts of the 2nd and third books done, and I will certainly finish them regardless, but if an agent or editor is going to suggest changing the course of my books, then I can let it stop for now.

I don't have to have it perfect, because the truth is, nothing I write will ever be perfect. But I need to pitch Book One, if for no other reason than to go through the process and learn. I'm hoping that I'll get feedback. Maybe my query will need adjusting. Maybe my entire book will need adjusting. Hopefully someone will give me an idea of what I can do to make it better.

In the meantime, I can work on something else. And that's the whole point; write. Write more. Write better. I already have a brand new fantasy draft in progress, and still drafts of Book 2 and 3 that need a lot of revision.

I think I've missed writing. Because mostly lately I've been working on outlines and synopses and queries, and while those are necessary, they're not as fun as writing a story. And man oh man, have I missed creating a story. I think if Book One was out there and I had 6-8 weeks to wait for replies (as that is the normal time), then it would free me up to work on something new. To write something new.

So, August. I have my list of agents (in order of how much I love them and think they would be a good fit for me). The query needs slight tweaking, the synopsis is decent. I need to polish the manuscript, and I do want to rewrite the first chapter to make it better---as best that it can be.

And then there it will go. I will send it off to agent land, pray many prayers, try to grow thick skin, and write a brand new story.

Which is why I want to get an agent. Because man, the idea of writing stories as a job??  Well, that would be so amazing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On my bookshelf

On my bookshelf lately:

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarity

Buy this! Read it!
Here's the blurb:

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. 
So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, , she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. It stuck with me for so long. The story itself is riveting but cheery, despite the down-in-the-dumps events. Alice is endearing and lovable. She recognizes who she has evidently become and decides she doesn't want to be that person anymore. (love that gumption!)

I love this book because not only was the story really well done, it was a message that clung to me. How do we get to where we are, and become the person we are? There's a Pinterest quote I saw once that said something to the effect of "If who you were as a child could see adult-you, would they be happy with who you are?" (I butchered that, but you get the idea) This book speaks to that idea. What if who you find yourself to be is ugly and not at all who you thought you'd become? Can you change it, or is it too late? 

A fantastic read. GO GET IT and be transformed!

Ok, moving along to Defy, by Sara Larson

via Barnes and Noble

First of all, is that not a gorgeous cover?
Here's the blurb for this:

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Ok, so I was a little hesitant about this one. The girl warrior profile is a bit overdone in YA in my opinion. But this was good. Best love triangle I think I've read in YA. It felt very authentic (and heavens, there is a sequel so all sorts of mess will happen with that I am sure.)

The girl warrior thing is interesting to me. You have some girls who are more warrior than girl (Katniss, Tris). Some girls who are more girl than warrior (I think Alexa qualifies for this; she never felt not-girlish to me). And some that are half and half (Celeana from Throne of Glass best shows this--and heavens, if you haven't read that book, run and redeem yourself and shred your heart by doing so.)

Anywho, this was good. I didn't fall head over heels in love with it. (I don't think I would buy it, which is the "This book is too fantastic for words" standard for me). But it was good. I liked the jungle setting, because that was different, and I like that at first Alexa has to hide the fact that she's a girl.

Then finally, I read The Tragedy Paper, by Elizabeth LaBan.

Nice cover

One of the blurbs online said that this was perfect for fans of Looking for Alaska and 13 Reasons Why, and that's so true. This book is a great blend of those two. 

It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their secrets.

This was interesting. Very "Dead Poet's Society." I think it would be a great book to discuss in a high school class. It brings up a lot of themes that I think could lead to some amazing discussion about life and choices and what happens when we become too fixated on things.

Reading has been hard to fit in this month. We've been traveling and busy with new dogs and I have writing projects coming out of my ears (most get better at not having writer ADD and FOCUS!!). Hopefully I can get around to reading more as the summer continues. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

And now for something completely different

So this week I have been on a writing frenzy, and have finished the (oh so very) rough draft of Book 3 (fist pump!) A friend of mine who is a published author once told me the best thing to do after you finish a rough draft is to let it sit and work on something else before coming back to it. I didn't heed this advice at first because I was so stinking excited about my very first rough draft and just wanted to be with it all the time (think high school crush obsessiveness). But now I have learned the wisdom of letting it simmer before coming back for rewrites.

So, now that Book 2 is in the hand of some first readers, and Book 3 is on paper, it's time to move on to something else.

I started writing a story this past winter that I LOVE, but that I abandoned because keeping up with it and the trilogy I was writing became too much. But ah, now that the trilogy is ripening, we are back to this little beauty.

It's a fantasy genre (what?!?) and I love it. (Still YA, but fantasy YA) I had stopped working on it also in part because I was half way through the manuscript and wasn't sure what I wanted to happen. I mean, I knew my character arcs (how my characters change and grow), but I didn't know the plot to get them there. I'm still working on that, but am oh so excited to get back to this little gem.

This new story involves ideas and themes and things such as this:



Ah, intriguing, yes?  I love this story, but man, it's been hard to put together. Writing fantasy is hard because you create a whole new world, which has to have rules and limits and sometimes coming up with those is hard. Especially since I decided to write a story about people who can travel between worlds. Hello, multiple world building!

This story includes worlds such as this:

Worlds trapped in winter. Craggy mountains, deep valleys.

Frosty mountains, tall trees
Worlds of woods;. Forest floors that muffle sounds and secrets and traitorous deeds.

Deep woods. What lurks behind those trees and shadows?
 Ah, and then this. A graveyard. But this is not a typical graveyard, and contains secrets and truths, and will lead more than one of my main character's to do things they never thought they would.


Ah, and the characters in this book---oh man, I love them. Five main characters (five!) plus a colorful supporting cast. Here's a small sampling:

This is E. She's the main lead character of the story. Guarded. Smart. Knows just about everything and can sense what she doesn't know. Gifted. 

Self loathing, but she doesn't know it.


Then there's A. "Feisty" describes her the way "warm" describes July in Louisiana. Committed to duty above all else. More gifted than anyone. Single minded. Purposeful.

Judgmental. Unwilling to compromise. Prideful.

Then there's T. Murderer. Criminal. Outcast.

Hot tempered, angry, vengeful.

He's my favorite :)

Kinda pictured him like this.
Oh yeah, and bad guys. Lots of bad guys.

Or, are they?  Sometimes who you think is an ally turns out to be an enemy. And enemies can end up being allies.

Or the love of your life.

Ya'll, this story is going to be soooooo good!  

Now I just have to write it...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

And, here it is

Ok. So, I have gotten some fantastic feedback from some published writers, one editor, and my super savvy husband, and this is where we've landed. Read it, and tell me whether or not you would be enticed to snatch this book off the shelves and be dying to read it ;)


Overcoming her past keeps ruining her future.

Abandoned at birth at a ramshackle inn, Auriella grew up abused and hated by those she was left with. The man who rescued her from a life of servitude, and is now her father, is Captain of the King’s Guard. All she wants is to forget her past, but it haunts her, whispering unworthiness over her every day.

Battling the fear that her horrible past makes her unloveable, Auriella is determined to find a way to prove her worth. Just as a spark of romance with one of her father’s men starts to convince her that love need not be earned, she witnesses the brutal beating of a servant girl and realizes she can no longer hide her brokenness.

Helping the girl could redeem Auriella’s past, but it means breaking the law, and that may be the one thing that rips her away from the father she’s grown to trust and the boy whose love she wants the most. She will need to choose whether to help the servant girl escape a hell that is all too familiar, or turn her back on someone who needs her.  One choice will place the love she’s always wanted at risk. The other may protect her heart, but at the expense of another’s life.

SHATTERED, a YA novel complete at 82,000 words is the first in a planned series. It tells the story of a girl desperate for healing from three points of view:  the girl who can’t see her own worth, the father who rescued her, and the boy who’d wage war to save her, if only she’d let him.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book review: Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

Some books put a smile on your face. Some put a smile deep down in your heart. This is one of them.

Buy this book!

Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (by Sheila Turnage) is the sequel to Three Times Lucky, which is hands down, one of the BEST middle grade books I will ever read. We're talking top 3 and it shall never be removed from that spot. Here's the blurb for Ghosts: (I realize I don't give my own summary of a book and here's why: I find it redundant. When I read a book review, all I want is the blurb, and for the reviewer to answer the question "Was this good? Why or why not?" I don't want to know what happens in the book (that's why I read it!). I just want to know if it's worth picking up and starting. That's why mine are short and sweet; it's just my preference)

Small towns have rules. One is, you got to stay who you are -- no matter how many murders you solve.

When Miss Lana makes an Accidental Bid at the Tupelo auction and winds up the mortified owner of an old inn, she doesn't realize there's a ghost in the fine print. Naturally, Desperado Detective Agency (aka Mo and Dale) opens a paranormal division to solve the mystery of the ghost's identity. They've got to figure out who the ghost is so they can interview it for their history assignment (extra credit). But Mo and Dale start to realize that the Inn isn't the only haunted place in Tupelo Landing. People can also be haunted by their own past. As Mo and Dale handily track down the truth about the ghost (with some help from the new kid in town), they discover the truth about a great many other people, too.

A laugh out loud, ghostly, Southern mystery that can be enjoyed by readers visiting Tupelo Landing for the first time, as well as those who are old friends of Mo and Dale

I adore Mo and Dale. Mo's voice is one of the best narrative voice's in fiction. Scout Finch hangs out in my top seat in that category, and I'm not gonna lie, she hasn't had anyone close to a contender. But Mo LoBeau?  She's getting pretty friendly with Scout up on the rung. Mo is delightfully self aware and searching. Someone you would want to have journey with you through life because she has a way of finding truth and hope in any situation. And Dale??  Glory. I love him to pieces. He is honest and real and always trying, and bless his heart, you can't help but love him.

This story is sweet and hilarious and all things southern. I reread lines over and over and wanted to memorize them because they were so perfectly right. Fantastic story. Amazing, loveable characters. If you like middle grade fiction, small town stories, or unexpected heroes, you need to read this.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Query help


Ok, after some feedback, here's round 2. Thoughts?

Overcoming her past keeps ruining her future.

Sixteen year old Auriella is no longer a servant, abused and hated. Abandoned at birth at a ramshackle inn, Auriella grew up under a fog of unworthiness. The man who rescued her she now calls father; he’s the Captain of the King’s Guard and can keep her safe from anything. Her childhood was a living nightmare, but now she’s pushed the past behind a door and told it to stay there.

Caught between who she was and who she wants to be, she is determined to find a way to show her true worth. Just as a spark of romance starts to convince her that love doesn’t have to be earned, Auriella witnesses a servant girl being abused and realizes she can’t hide her own brokenness anymore. Helping the girl could redeem Auriella’s past, but it may be the one thing that severs her father’s love. She has to choose what is more important: to help someone escape the hell she lived in, or let herself be loved by the two men who would give anything for her.

SHATTERED, a YA novel complete at 82,000 words, tells the story of a girl desperate for healing from three points of view:  the girl who can’t see her own worth, the father who rescued her, and the boy who’d wage war to save her, if only she’d let him.

Do I need that first line? I thought it was a nice hook, but maybe completely unnecessary?

Some feedback I got said I need to determine setting/time period, so I threw in the "captain of the King's Guard" bit to accomplish that.

Better?  I love the last paragraph (it's actually my favorite) but I don't want to be super vague in the stuff before it. Thoughts??

So, a query. Basically in this letter a writer is trying (in about 250 words) to hook the reader; to tell enough of the story that people are intrigued and want to read your book.

Writing them is incredibly demoralizing.

Here is mine so far (draft 27!). Please take a look at tell me where you were intrigued, where you weren't, where you were confused. Basically, what hit you and gave you an emotional response.  There's a lot of tips on queries and taking them all in and applying them to such a small little piece of writing means this is a knotted mess that's not ironed out the way I want it yet. You can help by reading and responding!

Sixteen year old Auriella is no longer a servant, abused and hated.  Her childhood was a living nightmare, but her adopted father rescued her. She’s pushed the past behind a door, and told it to stay there. When she sneaks out and watches servants get traded like cattle, that door gets flung wide open.

Caught between her past and who she wants to be, Auriella becomes hell bent on proving her worth. Her endeavors put her at odds with her father, the one person she can’t stand hurting, and helping others doesn’t erase the pain of the past. Auriella can’t figure out how to be enough, but when romance begins to spark between her and one of her father’s men, she begins to think that maybe she doesn’t have to earn love.

When Auriella witnesses a servant girl being abused she can’t hide her brokenness anymore. Helping the girl may redeem Auriella’s past, but it means breaking the law and it may be the one thing that severs her father’s love. She has to choose what is more important; help someone escape the hell she lived in, or let herself be loved by the two men who would give anything for her.

SHATTERED, a YA novel complete at 82,000 words, is the first of a planned series.  It tells the story of a girl desperate for healing from three points of view:  the girl who can’t see her own worth, the father who rescued her, and the boy who’d wage war to save her, if only she’d let him.