Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mystery Agent Contest at Operation Awesome!

Coming up on Monday!!! Don't miss it. Our awesome mystery agent will be accepting 50 entries. You need to have a 25 word pitch ready :) While our MA does have a preference for adult fiction, YA is also accepted. All genres but especially mystery, thriller, paranormal, romance, and suspense. Only pitch FINISHED novels :) So don't forget to head to Operation Awesome bright and early Monday morning!! (May 2)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Funnies

Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast. 
~Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.
~Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Playing with Fear

I'm over on the OA today discussing fears. I was going through some old Blog Chain posts recently and came across one whose topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I'm currently in the process of rewriting the first novel I ever wrote. One thing I've needed to do is add a little more depth to my characters...make their hopes and fears more tangible, more a part of them and who they are, and above all, stay consistent to their inner selves.

It got me thinking about the subject of fear and how I bring that to my characters. Fears are funny, I think. When it comes right down to it, all fears are internal. You may have a very good reason to fear something, (like fearing fast moving vehicles after being in a car accident), but the fear you feel is still based in your head.

I had a nightmare once, when I was in my mid teens. I was in my room and a blinding white light was shining through my window - like someone had focused a spotlight on it. There was a man standing in my room, but he was made of shadow - black and sort of hazy. No features, just a black outline though it was solid. And red eyes.

I've slept with a nightlight ever since. To this day. Even though I KNOW it was just a dream and there is nothing to fear...especially twenty years later.

I also fear spiders, ghosts, enclosed spaces, heights and losing my loved ones. All of those fears are totally irrational, justified but unfixable, or unavoidable. I'm huge compared to a spider. I step on it and it dies. But I'll run if one is big enough. I generally stay out of my basement at night and never EVER watch or read ghost stories...esp at night (not even Ghostbusters - though one of my lovely crit partners writes very creepy stories so I've had to relax the ban a bit...I still only crit her stuff during the day though :D ). I avoid enclosed spaces and heights if at all possible and go to my happy place and breath deeply if I can't (no amount of exposing myself to such places has cured these fears). And I'm going to lose people I love. I already have. And I will again. Yet I fear it.

I put these same fears into my characters. Sure I give them a real monster to fight- that's always fun. :) But those internal those are intense battles. I like to watch my characters conquer their fears. Sometimes it takes more than one try, but there is nothing more rewarding than beating a fear...even if it's only temporary.

One of my fave quotes about fear is: Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. 
~Ambrose Redmoon 

I actually first heard that quote while watching The Princess Diaries :) But it's so true. I may fear a lot of things - but I can be courageous, no matter how bad my boots are shaking, when I need to be :)

And I try to bring this to my characters. My current MC is terrified of losing control of her life. She goes to great lengths to be able to be queen of her world. So, when I need to amp up some conflict or torture her a bit, I play on those fears. I take away her control of the situation and watch what happens. Whenever I am writing with her, I try to keep her innermost fears in mind, because those are the things that ultimately drive her to do what she does.

What are you afraid of? Do you bring your experience of fear to your characters? What are characters most afraid of?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Michelle Gets Into Picture Books :)

All right, so on Monday, I mentioned that I had some fun picture book news. Wellll, here it is :D

With a file full of picture book manuscripts and a very talented, and surprisingly willing, friend, Toni Wilson, who agreed to illustrate for me, I will soon release my first picture book. I am self-publishing it; first as an ebook with a print version to follow this summer. The first book will be ready in just a couple weeks (and I will be having a Picture Book Party to celebrate :D ).

And, making it's cover :)

(the size requirements for the e-version made it necessary to add the large blue border. The print version will be more squarely shaped, without the large blue border on top and bottom)

I am publishing my picture books under the name Michelle Raynor :) I decided to publish these books myself for several reasons.

1. I wanted to see if I could do it.

2. I wanted to control how things looked. Going through a traditional publisher, I would have had little to no say over the illustrations, which is a hard thing to consider when the illustrations are such a major part of the book.

3. Breaking into the PB business is even harder than getting a novel out there - and the same goes for PB illustrators. These books don't make agents much money, so very few represent them. And while there are several publishers who accept manuscripts (and art submissions) it's just a tough nut to crack.

4. I recently purchased a Nook. My kids LOVE to look at picture books on them. But finding a cute, decent quality epicture book for under $7 is dang near impossible. The books I've found around the $4 range are those early readers I can buy at the grocery store for $1. And yes, I read the article on Amanda Hocking right around this time. Now, I have no illusions about making it rich, but...with all my manuscripts and a good friend who can draw...I figured it wouldn't hurt to start putting my books out there, for a price that even a picky mother like me could afford :)

And so, I did some research, found a company I can publish through who will distribute my books to all the major ebook retailers, found a company for the print versions who will also distribute (at minimal cost), and away we went :D Toni and I will be working on several more books together, and I am also working with another very talented friend, putting words to her beautiful pictures.

This whole process has been absolutely amazing and more fun than I could have imagined. Creating a picture book is such a unique and all-around fun process, made even more so because it's one I can share with my children. They are my guinea pigs, my soundboards, my inspiration, and in many cases my co-authors :) No matter how this journey ends, it has been a wonderful experience and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Stay tuned for more info on the upcoming Picture Book Party! We'll have some fun things and of course lots of prizes going on :D

*Update in response to Stephanie's question :D* The book will be available on all ereaders, as well as in html form and as a pdf. If you have any sort of ereader (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad, iPhone, etc), a computer or any other means of digitally viewing something, you should be able to download the book. And a print version (which will include color pages for your kiddies) will be available this summer :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Just Never Learn :)

So I learned a little something this weekend. Well, I shouldn't say I learned it, as this is something I already knew. In fact, it's something I've written about on here, frequently. But, apparently, sometimes I need a little reminder. There are a few versions of this little lesson:

You never know what will happen if you don't try.
The only true failure is not trying at all.
Just go for it.

I've written about, and followed, various forms of this many times. Most notably when I had a little idea for a non-fiction book and sent it out with zero expectations of anything ever happening with it. And here I am now, with a copy of it sitting right next to me :) I should have learned this lesson once and for all back then. But nope :D

On Wednesday last week, my neighbor told me he'd seen an ad on Craigslist for something I've wanted my whole life. And the lady who had the item just wanted to trade for it. Anything useful. Now, this item is very expensive. Something I probably would never be able to afford. Even in the old and kind of beat up state that hers was in, the deal was just too good to be true.

So I dismissed it, thinking someone else was going to get there first or offer something better. It took me four days before I finally said "oh what do I have to lose" and emailed her with the best offer I could come up with.

I had zero expectations. It had been too long. I knew it was gone or that someone else had snatched it up already. Good thing I decided to put that lesson I'd thought I'd learned into practice :D Let me introduce you to my new "baby" :

To get it I traded.... a $200 TV - BEST. DEAL. EVER. :)

Now, of course, a piano isn't writing related. But the lesson involved is.

I've seen so many people dragging their feet over edits, or querying, because they fear that someone else out there has already beat them to the punch. Someone else might have offered the agent something better. Someone else may have already snapped up that last spot in an agent contest. What if the editor has already gotten a better offer?'ll never know till you try. And in not trying, you might just lose out on the deal of a lifetime. :)

Has anyone else ever had this happen? Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something because you "knew" someone else was going to get what you wanted...only to give in and win in the end?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Monday!

One of the hazards of taking a week off is completely forgetting about blog posting once you get back :D

Well, I had an amazing week and am feeling rested and ready to dive into all my projects. I have some lofty goals :D so we'll see how much I can get accomplished :D

Annnnd, I will have some exciting picture book related funness to share shortly, so stay tuned!

How did everyone fare in my absence? Are books getting written? Queries getting sent? Rejections getting burned? ;-) I hope everyone is well and being productive! :D

I am on cleaning duty today (my house is a mess!) but will be back on the writing brigade bright and early tomorrow morning :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Unplugging for a Week :)

Due to the big 10 anniversary thingy :D I'm going to be MIA for a few days. Since I have a few things I need to finish up before I go, I'm going to take an unplugged week this week.

But! I will be back on Monday with all our regularly scheduled goodies :)

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter weekend and has a week full of progress and success! :)

(ha! look at the expression on his face :D too hilarious :D)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Funnies

Ignorance gives one a large range of probabilities. 
~ George Eliot 

It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. 
I can sit and look at it for hours. 
~ Jerome K. Jerome 

Think! I’ve got enough to do, and little enough to get for it, without thinking. 
~ Charles Dickens "Bleak House"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Empress Procrastination Tries to Manage Her Time

Every human being has exactly the same amount of time, and yet consider the output of Robert Louis Stevenson, John Peabody Harrington, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, William Goldman, Neil Simon, Joyce Carol Oates, Agatha Christie, and John Gardner. How did they accomplish what they have? They weren't deflected from their priorities by activities of lesser importance. The work continues, even though everything else may have to give. They know that their greatest resource is themselves. Wasting time is wasting themselves. When people ask them, "Where do you find the time?" they wonder, "Where do you lose it?" ~ Kenneth Atchity

Time management is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. Frankly, I suck at it. I'm a very organized person in theory, but the execution of it lacks a bit at times. I really work best under a deadline. When I have a deadline, I have no excuse to put things off (I am the EMPRESS of Procrastination). When I have a deadline, I let nothing get in my way. I stay up late, wake up early, spend every waking minute working on my project to get it done. Without a deadline...I sort of end up like this:

So, I've set up a schedule for myself. We'll see how it goes. I tend to not stick to these things very long. But I have eternal hope :D I am a stay-at-home mom with two kids who are now both in school full time. I know I have the hours in the day to do everything I want (most of the time). So I should be accomplishing a lot, right? I mean, I should be churning out a new novel every other month and my house should always be spotless, shouldn't it? So why is everything, including my novels, laying around half done?

Honestly, I have no idea. It's like spending $100 out shopping and having nothing to show for it. I will admit, that despite my best intentions, I often find myself during my child free hours, simply staring off into space, or cruising the blogs and tweets, or cuddled up on the couch with some hot coco and one of the many shows I've recorded over the week but haven't gotten around to watching. Often, even writing just sounds like too much work and all I want to do is vegetate.

And I really need to stop beating myself up over that. Heck, everyone needs a break...especially stay at home moms :D But, I could be managing my time better. And since I have several projects that I really REALLY want to get done in the next month or so, I have put myself on a schedule that should, if I follow it, allow me to accomplish what I want to in my personal endeavors, and still enable me to take care of my home and family in the way that I want.

I write best when I am alone and it is quiet, usually in the mornings...but I have also discovered that if I get all the house chores done first thing in the morning, my day goes much smoother. I seem to have more time to do everything else, and I am much less stressed going about the rest of my day. So I have decided to sacrifice a bit of my "me" time every morning to get the things done around the house that need doing. If I can stay on top of things, the chores should only take an hour or so a day...which leaves me plenty of time to squeeze in a few miles at the track, run all my errands and still have time to write or watch tv or just stare off into space until my children come home.

So, that is my game plan :D I will manage my time wisely so that I can fit everything into my day that I need, and want, to do.

Does anyone else have a hard time managing their time? Do you find yourself playing online or doing something else when you should be applying those fingers to the keyboard?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Little Advice and 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids

In honor of the amazing Christine Fonseca's early release of her second book, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids, a few fellow authors and I have been offering up bits of advice.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Most of the misery in my life has come from comparing myself to someone else. It took a very long time to learn that I was a pretty cool person, all on my own. 

Everyone’s journey through life is different and no good ever comes from comparing yourself to someone else. Everyone has their own trials, their own talents, their own limitations, their own hopes and dreams. You are your own wonderful, unique YOU and no one else can do the things that you do or be the person you will be, quite like you will.

Christine has been featuring awesome advice from several different authors and also has some fun giveaways going on, so head to her blog to check it out!
What would your advice be? Grab the graphic and join in the fun! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blog Chain - Get Directions First

This round of the blog chain was started by the ever awesome Eric who wants to know:

When was the last time you just sat down and started writing, 
with nothing but a whisper of an idea to guide you? 
Did you find it easy to do or did you find yourself struggling for a more organized story?

My first thought was that I couldn't remember the last time I did this, at least in regards to novels. When it comes to my novel writing, I don't ever just sit down and write anymore. I used to. Wrote two books this way. I finished the first one 5 years ago...and I'm doing the last (hopefully) round of edits on it right now. The second book I did this way is still waiting for an extensive rewrite.

I have three or four other novels that have a few chapters each that I won't finish until I sit down and plot. With novels, I just can't write like that anymore. It makes the editing process too long and too extensive and honestly, I don't know that I could just sit down and write with nothing but an idea.


That only applies to novels. When it comes to poetry, I can't think it out. I just let it come. Picture books as well. I'll have an idea and I just sit and write.Yes, there is more editing, however these are short projects that don't take long.

I do enjoy just sitting and letting the words flow though. This is probably why I love doing those writing prompt exercises, where you are given a few words and have to make a story out of it - or the poetry games where you are given several word tiles to form into a poem. It's challenging and fun and it allows those creative muscles to stretch without having to worry about the editing that will be involved if I don't think it out beforehand :)

How about you? Do you ever just take an idea and run with it? Or do you think and plot out everything first?

Check out Margie's blog next to see what she has to say :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Funnies


AMNESIA: Condition that enables a woman, who has gone through labor, to have sex again.
DUMBWAITER: One who asks if the kids would care to order dessert.
FAMILY PLANNING: The art of spacing your children the proper distance apart to keep you on the brink of financial disaster.
FULL NAME: What you call your child when you're angry with him.
GRANDPARENTS: The people who think your children are wonderful even though they're sure you're not raising them right.
INDEPENDENT: How we want our children to be as long as they do everything we say.
OW: The first word spoken by children with older siblings.
PRENATAL: When your life was still somewhat your own.
PUDDLE: A small body of water that draws other small bodies wearing dry shoes into it.
SHOW-OFF: A child who is more talented than yours.
STERILIZE: What you do to your first baby's pacifier by boiling it and to your last baby's pacifier by blowing on it.
TOP BUNK: Where you should never put a child wearing Superman jammies.
VERBAL: Able to whine in words.

(today's funnies found HERE)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You Tell Me - Why Do You Write?

Do you write because you want to make money? Do you do it for fun? Do you do it because you just can't NOT write? If you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you would never get published, would you write anyway?

For me, I do it because I just kind of have to. It's in my blood. It's always on my mind. It's just something I sort of need to do. If I knew I'd never get published, I'd write anyway. But...I don't think I'd edit nearly as much. :D I'd probably just write for the joy of doing it, to get the story down, go through it enough that friends and family could enjoy it....but I don't think I'd be sweating the small stuff nearly as much :)

How about you?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Poetry Game

There are a few things I like to do to keep my writing tools sharp. I try to write every day, of course, even if it's only a blog post or making notes on a story idea.

But one of the things I really enjoy doing is playing the Poetry Game. I used to play this on (I believe). Over there, you are given a set of word tiles and your task is to create a poem using 20 or less of the tiles. I found the game recently over at (Magnetic Poetry) - you are given a bunch of tiles though there isn't a limit (that I'm aware of) that you can use.

It's fun, it keeps my thinking skills honed, and I've come up with a few little poems I love so much I'm using them as chapter headings in one of my books.

So! Your challenge for today. Head over HERE, and create a poem of your own USING 20 TILES OR LESS. Leave them in the comments :)

Here is mine for the day:

Your kiss
My sacred poison
Our secret to devour
I die to remember you
I live with one embrace

What did you come up with? :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Insanity of Being a Writer...and Why I Love It

Quote for the day: "I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." Edgar Allen Poe

You know, this is something my writer friends and I discuss frequently...the insanity of our calling. We hear voices, we stay up for days at a time so we can furiously type away at our keyboards, the story battering its way out of our minds whether we want it to or not; we mutter to ourselves about our storylines, characters, plots, and chapters as we do the daily chores we must, and we are oblivious to the chaos that ensues when we are so wrapped up in our imaginary worlds that the real world ceases to exist.

Until I found my fabulous friends on Querytracker (and then RallyStorm) I was pretty sure I was the only one that couldn't sleep at night because my characters were too busy arguing in my head. It's good to know I'm not alone. I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs and never have...but as I began my first novel, I suddenly had a clear insight into why writers are stereotypically dependent on such things. Most writers I know are, at the very least, huge fans of Tylenol PM or some other sort of sleep aid - often it is the only way to quiet your mind long enough to get some sleep. :)

Writing is a crazy, frustrating, agonizing, nerve-wracking way to live (and don't even get me started on querying - that's a weeks worth of posts all by itself!)...but it also has brought me more joy and sense of accomplishment than anything else I have ever done (with the exception of my children). Most of us don't write merely because we want to...we do it because we HAVE to. There is nothing like writing the perfect scene; or spending a year editing a book to realize it is finally "good enough" (never perfect...nope, there is always something I find that could use some changing).

Bottom line, as crazy as I sometimes feel, I would never want to do anything else. My "long intervals of horrible sanity" are merely waiting periods until another idea strikes and I can dive head long into my "insanity." And ahhh, it's a grand experience!

Are you writer-tastically insane? Do you enjoy it? :D

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Pen Name Game

I posted on this a few weeks ago, I think. Back then, I was trying to decide if I needed to use pen names for my other genres or not. And I finally decided that yes, I do.


Well, for me it wasn't because I didn't want Audience A to know that I also write Genre B. In fact, on all my websites under my various names (and yes, I have a website for each one) I specifically mention the other genres and names I go by, with links to the other sites.

But because my audiences are so vastly different (non-fiction, YA novels, and picture books) I wanted to make it as easy as possible for each audience to find the book they are after. If I were to write all these genres under my own name, I could have a student looking for an essay guide but finding only picture books or a mom looking for a fun picture book but finding only YA novels.

With a pen name for each genre, this won't happen. My moms and kids can find all my picture books under the name Michelle Raynor; my YA audience can find all my novels under the name MacKenna Marquis; and my non-fiction peeps can find all my educational NF under my real name, Michelle McLean. (Click on the links if you want to check out my websites under each name) :)

How did I come up with these names? Well, my own name is just my name :D The name Raynor is a mixture of the letters in my children's names. And I wanted to use my maiden name (Michelle Marquis) for my third name, but another writer is already using that as her pen name. So...I borrowed my niece's name (MacKenna) and kept my maiden last name to create MacKenna Marquis :)

Do any of you write under a pen name? Would you? If you do, how did you come up with your name?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Funnies

The Mystery Agent Contest at Operation Awesome is TODAY!!!! This is NOT an April Fool's joke :D Hurry over with your one line pitch and enter!!

And now, your Friday Funnies :)


AUTHOR: A writer with connections in the publishing industry.
BOSS: A personal dictator appointed to those of us fortunate enough to live in free societies.
CHILDHOOD: The rapidly shrinking interval between infancy and first arrest on a drug or weapons charge. DENIAL: How an optimist keeps from becoming a pessimist.
EXPERIENCE: In the working world, something you can't get unless you've already got it, in which case you probably don't want any more of it.
FITNESS: Salvation through perspiration.
GOURMET: A food fetishist.
HOOKER: A working woman commonly despised by people who sell themselves for even less. IDEOLOGUE: Generally an obscure humorless zealot who finds fulfillment by spouting the ideas of famous humorless zealots.
JEANS: Lower half of the international uniform of youth, the upper half being the zits.
KLEPTOMANIAC: A thief with breeding.
LABORATORY ANIMALS: Furry foot soldiers drafted in the name of science. Some die nobly in the battle to eradicate cancer; others give their lives so that we might produce a peach-scented dandruff shampoo.
MARTIAL ARTS: A family of Asiatic self-defense disciplines consisting largely of sweeping ornamental gestures of the arms and legs; amusing to look at but disappointingly ineffective when one's opponent is armed with a semi-automatic.
NEIGHBORS: The strangers who live next door.
ORGASM: The punchline some women just don't get, generally because their mates have a tendency to rush through the joke.
PARASITE: A base creature that extracts a living from the lives of others, like a tapeworm or a biographer. QUAGMIRE: Any situation more easily entered into than exited from; e.g., a guerrilla war, a bad marriage or a conversation with an insurance salesman.
REDNECK: Popular term for a rustic male, but rarely employed when addressing one in person.
SMILE: To expose a portion of one's skeleton as a gesture of goodwill toward a fellow human.
WHITE SUPREMACISTS: The most convincing argument against the theory of white racial superiority. X-RAY: A diagnostic tool used to detect existing cancerous growths and create new ones for future examinations to reveal.
Y-CHROMOSOME: A line of genes designed for men only; the cause of virility, war, baldness, hockey, sex crimes, clever inventions and a disinclination to ask for directions when lost.
ZOO: A pleasant and instructive wildlife park, lately denounced for depriving animals of their right to starve or be eaten alive in their natural habitats.
ADULT: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.
COMMITTEE: A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.
INFLATION: Cutting money in half without damaging the paper.

MOSQUITO: An insect that makes you like flies better.
FLASHLIGHT: A case for holding dead batteries.
LOTTERY: A tax on people who are bad at math.
PURITANISM: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.
CONSCIOUSNESS: that annoying time between naps.
REDUNDANCY: Criminal Lawyer

(found HERE)