Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Funnies

Quote of the Day:
"I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead of spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote down, I spend the time looking for the paper I wrote it down on."~ Beryl Pfizer

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”~ Winston Churchill

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Master or Servant?

Quotes for the Day:
You put a character out there and you’re in their power. You’re in trouble if they’re in yours. ~Ann Beattie

That trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills. My characters are galley slaves. ~Vladimir Nabokov

I love the above quote by Vladimir Nabokov. I’m a control freak. I like things organized and ordered and scheduled. Although things rarely work out this way when it comes to anything having to do with my fiction work. I don’t write the book in order, I don’t outline, I don’t plan (except for knowing the basic storyline), I set word count or page goals that I rarely stick to….so why should I expect my characters to toe the line any better than anything else in my fiction world?

Yet, while reading through my favorite book of author quotes, most of the authors listed agreed with Ann Beattie. They felt their characters should be allowed to roam free, that they just sit back and watch as the characters dictate the story. Only a couple of them were on Nabokov’s side, such as John Cheever who said, “The idea of authors running around helplessly behind their cretinous inventions is contemptible.” (I love that quote) :D

I think for me, it is a little bit of both. My characters have a certain voice, an attitude and personality that is uniquely theirs. When a certain situation arises, there are certain ways that character is going to react, and often it is not the way I planned on it happening. I’ll write a scene with a particular situation in mind, envision my characters acting a certain way, and then start writing only to see the scene playing out completely differently in my head.

Now, sometimes what is coming out works – but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I will reread the scene and think, “Wait a second…Kesi is cute and spunky, but she’s a little unsure of herself. She wouldn’t react that way.” And I have to go back in and change things.

Other times, the way she reacts is EXACTLY how she should, but for some reason or other I need her to react differently. Maybe I want her to step out of her shell and do something unexpected. So again, I go back and change whatever it is that needs changing.

So for me, I think I allow my characters a certain amount of freedom, though I by no means run helplessly behind them. :) They get to take the lead….as long as they are doing it correctly. If they don’t, I go all galley master on them and make them do my bidding. (Mwahahahhahahaaaaa) ;-)

How about you guys? Are your characters in charge? Or are they your galley slaves?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Busy non-fiction week :) I have my proposal finished, minus a few possible quotes. And I finished my query yesterday as well. Soooo, I could technically start querying. I think I'll wait until Monday though :)

On the fiction front, still slow but sure progress. Here are the updated stats:

Total notebook pages: 152 front and back

Pens drained: Still only 5! But I swear it's on its last few drops!!

Approximate word count: 45,600/60,000 = 76% (I decided I didn't need to stress over trying to hit 70,000 as YA books can be anywhere from 50,000 and up, so set a new goal of 60,000 - the stress is much less now) :D

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How To Write a Non Fiction Query

Well, as this is something I have been working on lately, I thought I'd share what I've been learning. I have been querying fiction for so long, I consider myself a pro at it, but non-fiction...yeah, that's throwing me for a loop! Even though the elements are similar, it's just a whole different angle of pitching your book. So, here goes.

What to include in your non-fiction query:

1. Your lead/hook

Just like in a fiction query, your opening paragraph should hook the editor or agent into wanting to find out more. But you also need to clearly state what the book is about. With fiction, sometimes you might leave out some details in order to entice your audience into wanting to read more. But with non-fiction, they need to know what your book is about in order for them to want more, so get right to the point. Start with your strongest material. You could start off saying something like, "In a recent NYT article, it was reported that over 60% of Americans are dying to buy my book." :D You could also use a strong anecdote or comparison.

2. Supporting Material

This is where you back up your thesis (the idea for the book). You could add some preliminary details that you've researched. This is also where you would state why your book should exist. What is the need for it? Maybe mention the strong market for it. Will your book help millions of students pass their math classes? Say so. Will it teach all those frustrated mothers how to deal with fussy children? Point that out. Are the skateboarding teenagers of the world crying out for a book on cool stickers to decorate their boards with? Well this is the book they've been waiting for!!

Sell your idea and back up your claims. Just make sure you do it in a page or less :D

3. Author Bio

As in fiction, this is where you toot your own horn as loud as you can. But make sure the material is relevant. The editors and agents don't need to know how many kids you have or what kind of dog you have, unless your book is about training kids or dogs :D Do you have any publishing credits? Put them in! Degrees, special training courses relevant to your book, any other experiences that prove why you are the best person to be writing this book? Put it in! You want to show them why you are qualified to write the book you are proposing, why you are the best one for the job. So any relevant credentials you have, be they educational, professional, or real world experiences, should be included.

4. Closing

Use strong closing statements to finish off your query. Don't be shy about stating clearly what you are looking for. "I am seeking representation for this book. I look forward to your response." Don't use phrases like "I hope you like this," "I hope I'll hear from you soon." Keep it strong and confident. And be sure to thank them for their time. Being polite never hurt :)

And it is always a good idea to have a writer friend or three look over your query before you send it to help catch those embarrassing typos we all make. :) I'm off to query!! I hope everyone had great holiday weekend :D

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. ~Cynthia Ozick

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! ~Maya Angelou

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

To all our heroes, men, women, and animal friends, a heart-felt THANK YOU. Thank you for your courage, your bravery, your selflessness, and your sacrifice that the family and the country I love might remain safe and free.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Funnies

Quote of the Day:
I'm like a big old hen. I can't cluck too long about the egg I've just laid because I've got five more inside me pushing to get out. ~Louis L'Amour

A university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay containing these four elements: religion, royalty, sex and mystery.

The prize-winning essay read, "My God," said the Queen, "I'm pregnant. I wonder whose it is?"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Where Does The Time Go?

Quote of the Day:
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. I'm one of those people that has a hard time concentrating if the house is too messy or if there are too many things I know I need to be doing. 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. I know I have the hours in the day to do everything I want (most of the time). And two days a week, both of my children are in preschool for about 3 hours. 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. I will admit, that despite my best intentions, I often find myself during those 3 child free hours twice a week, simply staring off into space, 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 two projects that I really REALLY want to get done in the next month or so and be querying this summer, 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...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 two hours to write or watch tv or just stare off into space until my children come home on Mondays and Wednesdays.

And Tuesdays and Thursdays, my daughter is usually pretty good about playing quietly by herself, watching a princess movie, or reading alongside me. With my notebook writing process, I can write outside or on the couch while the kids play, so, if I get things done in the morning, I should, theoretically, have a nice chunk of time to doodle a few lines here or there. And I can work on my non fiction when everyone has gone to bed for the night.

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.

Ooo, I just remembered that this is the last week of preschool.

That's okay...this will still work...I'll just have to get up a bit earlier and go to bed a bit later if I want some alone time :D

Hey, don't laugh...It could work ;-)

Don't forget to head to the QueryTracker Blog today!! My game, Anagram Anarchy, begins this morning and I will be taking entries until Wednesday May 27th. Remember! Entering this game also enters you in the grand prize drawing for the FREE CUSTOM DESIGNED WEBSITE! (I just love putting that in caps) :D Click the Carnival Tent below to take you to the online entry form, or click HERE for details on the contest.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WIP Wednesday and a Reading List Update

Quote of the Day:
You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something to say.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

This week seemed like a slow week, but I did actually get some work done. I've been working on my non fiction book - I am aiming to have my proposal done by June 1st so I can begin querying. I was able to finish my two sample chapters this week, complete with critiques and edits. I am so proud :D

In fiction news, work was still slow, but I did get a little bit accomplished. Here are the updated stats....

Notebook pages filled: 146 (front and back - total of course, not just this week) :D

Pens drained dry: still 5, but #6 is getting low

Approximate total word count: 43,800/70,000 = 63% complete


Yes, that's right, I finally read another book! Wahoo! Yesterday, I received my long awaited copy of Charlaine Harris's new Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead and Gone. I started reading after dinner and finished it around 1 this morning. LOVED IT! *sigh* now I have to wait for the next one :D I'm not sure what number this is on my list (I think it's 18) but I'll post this and go check and list it once I find out. (Just checked....Dead and Gone makes #19) :D

How is everyone else doing with their projects and reading?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How To Win a Free Website

In honor of QueryTracker's second birthday, I thought I'd give another shout out to the Carnival we have going on. Today starts off our first carnival game, hosted by the lovely Mary Lindsey. She wants to see the best Purple Prose sentence you can write! Head over to the QueryTracker Blog for specifics. I will be hosting an anagram game on Thursday, so be sure to head over and play with me! I want my contest to have the most entries!! ;-)

We will have two games a week for the next two weeks. Every game you enter puts your name in the drawing for our grand prize...a CUSTOM DESIGNED WEBSITE, courtesy of Purple Squirrel Web Designs. I cannot stress enough how awesome this prize is. If you were to order a design on your own, it would probably cost you about $600. The games are fun and come with prizes of their own, including a one year premium membership for QueryTracker, a query critique, and a copy of Steve Weber's Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors.

You can get an extra entry in the grand prize drawing if you help us advertise. For the next few days (until Saturday May 23rd) if you post an entry like the one I did on Sunday, advertising the QueryTracker Carnival, and EMAIL ME your link and real name, I will put your name in the drawing for the FREE WEBSITE. Again, email me at with your link and real name by May 23rd, and get your name entered in the grand prize drawing. Feel free to use the Carnival graphic I have posted here.

I hope you all come over to the QueryTracker Blog and join in our games. They will be a lot of fun and definitely worth it for a shot at the prizes and the grand prize website! Click on the Carnival Tents to take you to the QueryTracker Carnival page or click on the QT Blog links for more details on the games and prizes. Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Worth the Effort

Quote of the Day:
What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. ~Samuel Johnson
You know, sometimes the effort involved in writing and querying makes me wonder if it is all worth it. Why do I let my house fall down around my ears, let my kids live off cereal for weeks at a time, and spend every spare second I have tormenting myself over a piece of drivel that will probably never see the inside of a bookstore? The simple answer...because I must :D

Yes, it is a pain sometimes. And yes, I should probably be on medication for the emotional roller coaster brought on by querying. But it is more rewarding then I can even begin to describe to take an idea and craft it into a 250+ page piece of art. I love getting the story down, sharing it with my friends, polishing and shaping it until it shines, and getting it ready for its trip to the agent's office.

And yes, though the waiting and rejections have caused more than one chocolate induced coma, I even enjoy the querying process. It is a rush to edit that query within an inch of its life and KNOW that it is going to hook every agent that reads it. Requests generate a high unlike no other and if I am ever lucky enough to get that Call...someone is going to have to revive me.

So, is it worth all the effort? Is it worth the late nights, the early mornings, the messy house, the husband's eye rolls, the stress and the binge eating and the ups and downs that only the publishing industry can cause? For me....YES. It is worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that go into everything I write.

How about you?

Happy Monday!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

QueryTracker Carnival and a FREE WEBSITE

Elana said this so well, I decided to modify her post a tiny bit and use it here ;-) We've got an exciting week coming up!!!!

QueryTracker Turns Two!

That's right. It's like a proud parent moment. Except we are not the parents, and well, isn't a kid. But it's the same excitement!

Because we're having a party!

Click on the picture above or below for more details. In addition to our scheduled festivities, we have blog chain contest going on. The grand prize is a FREE CUSTOM DESIGNED WEBSITE...let me say that again...A FREE CUSTOM DESIGNED WEBSITE designed by the awesome Carolyn Kaufman and QT's daddy, Patrick McDonald. That's right. FREE. (They're the Purple Squirrel Web Designers. Check 'em out.)

You want that, don't you? Um, yeah.

You get one entry into the grand prize drawing for every contest you enter. (Details on the carnival page, click below.) You can also get another entry by helping us advertise!

Simply make a post like this one on your blog. Make sure to use the wicked fun graphic and direct them to the carnival page for more deets. Then come back here and leave a comment with your link and real name. Or email your link with your real name to michellemclean (at) querytracker (dot) net.

I'll make sure you get in the drawing.

Be sure to tell your readers to EMAIL ME (or comment here) their link and real name so I can put their name in the drawing. You can link to this post so everyone knows how to make sure they're entered for the FREE CUSTOM DESIGNED WEBSITE!

And hurry! You must have your blog post up by next Saturday, May 23 to get the extra entry.

Spread the word! Win a website!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Blog Chain: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em, Why Do You Read "Em?

Quote of the Day:
Nothing is as important as a likeable narrator. Nothing holds a story together better. ~Ethan Canin

This round it’s my turn to pick the topic. Elana will be the first up, so be sure to head to her blog next.

A week or so ago, a discussion was started in a Young Adult writer group I belong to. The responses got me curious as to how my blog chain buddies would feel. So blog chainers, here is what I’d like to know:

In your reading and writing, which do you prefer – a main character that is intriguing, or one that is likeable? Who are the characters that you love the most? And who are the ones that you love to hate?

To give you some examples, do you prefer your main characters to be the Scarlett O’Hara’s of the world - spoiled, manipulative and conniving? Or do you like the Harry Potter’s – good-natured and kind, despite being picked on?

Now, I’m not talking secondary characters here. Every book is going to have its villain. I mean the main “hero” of the book. This one had me thinking a little bit, because I have always heard that your main character has to be likeable. Who wants to read a story all about a character that no one likes?

Well, after thinking about it for a bit, I decided…a lot of people :) One member of the YA group brought up Scarlett O’Hara. Now, she definitely isn’t what I would call a likeable character. But she was definitely intriguing. ‘Watching’ her get herself into all sorts of interesting situations is just fun. While in my writing I tend to go for the likeable main character, it is sort of fun to follow a completely unlikeable character…just to see what they’ll do next. Sure, I love Cinderella. But I would love to read about the ugly stepsister. It would be very interesting to get into her brain for once and see what’s going on in there.

And of course, I think even the less likeable characters often have some sort of redeeming quality. Even Scarlett pulled her designer boots up by their laces and dug her fingers raw in the onion fields when she had to. She eventually got her crap together without losing any of her spunk. So there is, as in most things, some overlap.

It’s a fine balance between intriguing and just plain detestable, so I imagine unlikeable characters are probably more difficult to write. But I might have to try my hand at it some time. It would be incredible to create a character that from the outside is just horrible…but is someone that people can’t get enough of.

Head on over to Elana’s blog to see her thoughts on likeable vs. intriguing characters!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Funnies

Quote of the Day:
If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing. ~Kingsley Amis

yep, I was wonderfully confident about getting published until I understood how the publishing world really worked ;-)

A screenwriter comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?” the man asks.
“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she weeps. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is--” “Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” the man says. “My agent called?”

And a simply hilarious video from author Linnea Sinclair (from Kristin Nelson's Pubrants blog) - on the joys of editing. Click Here.

Happy Weekend!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lend Me An Ear

Quote of the Day:
An essential element for good writing is a good ear: One must listen to the sound of one’s prose.
~Barbara Tuchman

Several months ago, I had a discussion with a fellow writer who had purchased some software that would read her manuscript aloud. She said that hearing it aloud helped her to catch mistakes. Not only was it easier to hear the some of the typos, grammar and technical mistakes, but it really helped when it came to things like dialogue.

I often read things aloud to myself when I come upon a troublesome sentence, so I was curious as to how many other writers I knew either read their books aloud or had some sort of software that would do this for them. And I was surprised to learn that quite a few of them did.

This has been on my mind again recently, as I am (hopefully) a couple weeks from finishing my current WIP. I have been contemplating purchasing one of these software packages that will read my manuscript to me, so I’m curious again.

How many of you either read your manuscripts aloud as part of your editing process, or have them read to you by your computer or another person? Does it help?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You Are At The Right Blog!

No one panic! ;-) I just changed my blog to match my website, because, well, I like things to match :D I'm working on changing some of the white fonts so they can be read :) Bear with me while I get everything fixed!

WIP Wednesday

Quote for the Day:
The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can't help it. ~Leo Rosten

Well, it was another slow going week. One of those where, as I was looking around my messy house, I wondered why I bothered putting myself through the torture that writing can sometimes become. And then I realized that I did it because I loved doing it and tried to get my butt in gear :) Writing is such a love/hate thing with me sometimes :D But, I did get a little bit done. Here are my current stats:

Notebook pages filled: 138 front and back

Pens drained dry: 5

Approximate word count: 41,400/70,000 = 59% done

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to Tell the Difference Between Fantasy and Paranormal

I've updated these a little bit.

When I first started researching genres, the difference between paranormal and fantasy confused me to no end. To me, they were pretty much the same thing. So, I looked around the Interwebs, compared as many different sources as I could, and interviewed all my writer buddies. Here is what I came up with:

Fantasy: Fantasy stories are set on other worlds or in other realities. You can have vampires or werewolves or fairies, but in general, fantasy creatures tend to be more…fantastic and mythological – dragons, gryphons, three-headed dog beasts. Magic is a huge element of fantasy stories. Here is a little test: if you can take away the “weird” in the story (i.e. the beasts, the magic) and the world you are left with is still not the normal, everyday world you know, it’s a fantasy story. Lord of the Rings is a fantasy.

Paranormal: Paranormal stories are set in the real world, the world as we know it…with a little extra thrown in. Vampires, shapeshifters, angels, demons, ghosts, psychics, mediums, telepaths…these all belong in the paranormal world. Use the same test as we used for the fantasy worlds…if you can take away the “weird” factors and you are left with our everyday world = paranormal. For example, if you take away the sparkling, gorgeous vampire, or vengeful ghost, and you are left with everyday Earth – your story is paranormal fiction. Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series and Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake vampire books are examples of paranormal fiction.

Then I came across Urban Fantasy…a delightful genre that is actually one of my favorite to read and, lately, write…but is probably the biggest pain for me to identify. Because Urban Fantasy is actually fairly similar to Paranormal. In fact, many writers I spoke to use them interchangeably. With UF, you have the fantasy aspects, but they are set in our world like a paranormal…which completely negates the test we used on straight Fantasy and Paranormal.

So, how do you tell if a story is Paranormal or Urban Fantasy? Well, I took a little poll of the writers I know and most of them seem to agree the difference is MAGIC. If the story contains magical elements, it’s an Urban Fantasy. If it doesn’t, it’s Paranormal.

Going by this, stories like Twilight and Vampire Academy would be Paranormal. There are vampires in both and in Twilight especially, some of the vampires have special talents (Edward reading minds, Alice seeing the future) but these talents aren’t really ‘magical.’ Now, the opposite could be argued if you view those elements as magical – in that case, this book could be and has been classified as UF…and this is exactly why this genre is a pain for me :D. But for me, those elements are not magical and I would therefore classify Twilight as a paranormal.

Stories like Harry PotterWicked Lovely, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse booksand P.C. Cast's House of Night series (Marked, Hunted, etc) would be Urban Fantasy. Because in these books, there are magical elements with the fairy glamour and witches and wizards wielding magic and in the House of Night series, the vampires do some mystical magical stuff with the five elements and their ‘talents.’ I place the Sookie Stackhouse books in this category (I used to call them paranormal) because in the later books, fairy magic becomes a huge part of the storylines.

Fairies, dragons, witches wielding magic, for me, mean urban fantasy. Take away the magic and fairies and witches are normal people (or don't exist at all). Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, physics...there is no magic to take away. Take away their otherworldly elements and they are creatures who are, or were, human - with a little extra thrown in that is not of magical origin. Now if you are a werewolf because a wicked sorcerer cursed you, I'd place that in the urban fantasy category. If you were born that way with no magical intervention, you are paranormal.

Time travel is a bit of a different kettle of fish. Most people I've spoken with view time travel as a science fiction element. So I suppose if I were forced to choose between paranormal or urban fantasy for a time travel story it would depend on how the time travel occurs. If the characters can travel through time because of a spell or fairy magic, I'd call it urban fantasy. If the characters can time travel because of some innate, inborn ability (for example, if Edward in Twilight can time travel instead of reading minds) I'd probably call it paranormal. If the characters figure out how to bend the laws of physics and travel around, I'd call it sci fi.

Keep in mind, these definitions and tests are what I do and how I differentiate. As with many things in this business, there are few hard and fast rules. I’m sure there are others who do it differently and would disagree with my classifications, but for me, this is what works :)

(Here's a good post from Operation Awesome contributor Angelica Jackson on her take)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Occupational Hazards

Quote of the Day: Shirley Hazzard, on the Occupational Hazards of being a writer:
It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.

The occupational hazards of writing are something my writer buddies and I discuss frequently. Every job, hobby, or past time comes with its own unique quirks. Writing, I think, comes with exceptional hazards. Here are a few of the ones I have experienced.

1. An irrational phobia of a blank page or computer screen. I must have wordage...I love the look of a blank page for about 30 seconds...then I must fill it up!

2. Never being able to simply read a book without my internal editor occasionally popping up to scream, “There’s a mistake!! I saw a mistake!!” or “How can she get away with all those adverbs? My crit group would shred my manuscript if I had all this stuff in there!”

3. Never being able to take simple pleasure in going to a bookstore or library. Sure I can still browse the shelves and choose the perfect gem to borrow or add to my collection. And of course bookstores and libraries are still my favorite places in the world to be. But somewhere in the back of mind is the unavoidable daydream of seeing MY book on the shelves next to those I am looking at. And while I am browsing for something to read, my internal researcher is checking up on what’s out there, who is publishing what, what titles are filed under what genre, and a million other things other than simply finding a book to read.

4. Never being able to answer the question, “So what do you do?” without getting strange looks, eye rolls, and a few dozen ridiculous, weird, or obnoxious questions, story ideas, requests for you to write something for them, or the ever popular “oh yeah, I’d do that too if I had the time.”

5. Never being able to open your email inbox or physical mailbox without at least a slight flop of the stomach or skip of the heart…after all, a publishing contract complete with an advance check for $25,000 or an offer of representation could be sitting there just waiting for you. Right? :D

6. The danger of being considered mentally slow or just plain weird because you have the tendency to stare off into space at odd moments or walk around the house muttering to yourself about (or to) fictional people that no one else believes exist (but we know better, right?) ;-)

7. The danger of your significant other jump to the wrong conclusion when they come across all those sticky notes that you leave all over the house that say things like “be sure to hide the murder weapon where no one can find it” and “break up after huge fight over how to say pall bearer” (this one actually happened to me – my husband saw that note on the fridge and said, “We are breaking up over pall bearers?” Poor guy…I still crack up over that one. :D

So how about you? What occupational hazards have you come across since entering the wonderful and strange world of writing?

This is one of the hazards of trying to write at my house...his name is Cyrus...and he would prefer that I spend my time petting him, not writing. Or reading for that matter. He sees an open book of any type and this is what he does. :D

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Funnies

Quote of the Day: A writer's life is not designed to reassure your mother.
~Rita Mae Brown

Okay, I have files full of funny little writer stories and lolcats n dogs that just crack me up. Since I don't normally post on Fridays, I thought I could use this day to share some of my favorites. Enjoy :)

(a friend emailed this one to me, so I don't know the original author)

A writer died, and due to a mix up in the hereafter, she was allowed to choose her own fate: heaven or hell for all eternity. Being very shrewd for a dead person, she asked St. Peter for a tour of both.

The first stop was hell, where she saw rows and rows of writers sitting chained to desks, in a room as hot as a thousand suns. Fire licked the writers' fingers as they tried to work; demons whipped their backs with chains. Your typical hell scene.

"Wow, this is awful," said the writer., appalled "Let's see some heaven."

In a moment, they were whisked to heaven and the writer saw rows and rows of writers chained to desks, in a room as hot as a thousand suns. Fire licked the writers' fingers as they tried to work; demons whipped their backs with chains. It looked and smelled even worse than hell.

"What gives, Pete?" the writer asked. "This is worse than hell!"

"Yes," St. Peter replied, "but here your work gets published."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blog Chain - When You're Feeling Less Than Fresh

Quote for the day: There is probably some long-standing "rule" among writers, journalists, and other word-mongers that says: "When you start stealing from your own work you're in trouble." And it may be true. ~Hunter S. Thompson

Time again for the blog chain. Christine posted an excellent answer before me, so be sure to head to her blog if you missed it.

Carolyn hit us with a good one this week:

How do you keep from telling the same story over and over? What are your tips and tricks for finding fresh ideas and adding new twists to your work?

My first reaction....ummm, I don't know :D Second reaction.....*shudders in fear* maybe I don't! Third reaction....calmed down, thought about it, and came up with this.

I just do.

Ha! Well, I guess it's not that simple. To be honest, this isn't something I've run into much yet. I just started "seriously" writing a couple years ago. And though I have been writing my whole life, the only projects I put a lot of work into were my non fiction projects. My fiction was just for fun, for family, and for me.

But I did notice, just the other day, that I had my character in a situation and the words that came out of her mouth were what I would say...not what she would say. And incidentally, they were something my last MC might have said (as she is based in part on me). So I had to stop and think about how Kesi would react...not Min, not me, but Kesi. (Christine had a great discussion on voice of characters in the post before me).

As for not telling the same story over and over...well, so far it hasn't been an issue for me. I like to explore new settings and time periods. Setting one book in 1855 and another in 2009 gives you a ton of room for new ideas.

But even if the particular theme in a book is similar...angst over relationships, romance and the thrill of first love, bad guy trying to kill good guy...I try to explore it in a different way. I give the characters different motivations for what they are doing, give them different reactions to what is going on. In one book, a character might be staring down the barrel of a gun and be terrified and in the next book they might be laughing, knowing they can take the guy down before he fires off a shot. The bad guy holding the gun might be there out of hate and jealousy in one book and out of pain and despair in the other. Either have a similar situation with different characters or similar characters with different situations. When you are talking about human (or non human...gotta love fiction writing!!) emotions...the possibilities are endless!

And, I think this is where genre hopping helps me out. I know a lot of publishers frown on genre hopping - though perhaps not if you use a pen name for the different genres. But for me, switching genres keeps me fresh, keeps me interested. When I was working on TREASURED LIES and I'd start to get burned out, I'd take a break for a week or so and write a couple children's picture books. It was fun, it was something totally different that allowed me to explore a different part of my creativity.

I've found a few times with my new book, if I start to feel burned out, start running out of ideas, I take a break for a day or two and work on a non fiction project. Working on something so completely different allows me to continue working, but I can come back to my fiction project fresh, with new ideas and new perspectives.

My next book will be another change of pace for me. Still YA, still Urban Fantasy, but instead of focusing on the teen angsty dangerous stuff, it will be more of a comedy. Something totally different for me to explore in a genre I am familiar with.

The fabulous Elana is up next, so head to her blog for her thoughts on keeping fresh!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sometimes Fortune Cookies Freak Me Out

You know, sometimes fortune cookie fortunes are eerily accurate.

My son's - You are a lover of words. Someday you will write a book. (this would have been cool for me, but even cooler for my son....just like his mama) :D

And mine - You can't get "lucky" without hard work. (Now this just struck me as particularly accurate, because when it comes to the publishing world, I do think a lot of it is luck. Your ms hitting the right editor or agent, on the right day, at the right time. But of course, no amount of luck in the world is going to help you if you don't work hard at getting that ms polished and out the door in the first place.)

Wow, I am stalling way too much if I am contemplating fortune cookie fortunes THIS hard :D Off to write!!

Work in Progress Wednesday

Quote of the day: Write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well. ~Agatha Christie

This week went okay. Not well, but okay :) I had a couple rough days, but did as Ms. Christie advised...and just sat and wrote. Some days it was torture to get out the few lines that stained my page. Other days, forcing myself to just sit down opened the floodgates and I beamed with pride when I finally put down the pen.

I am now on my fifth pen, 25 pages into my second notebook, and have an idea for a new book that is clammering to get out (but must wait until this one is done!) :)

In non fiction news - I had an idea for another book, one that I already have most of the material for. Don't know why it didn't occur to me before. So, I am working on getting the proposal put together for that and getting the manuscript pieced together and finished. I can do the non fic stuff while my kids run around, so I save the fiction writing for when they are gone or asleep :D

How is everyone else doing?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How to Write Good - Advice from the Experts

Today has been one of those days, so I am going to post a few quotes out of the book of advice for writers I have sitting on my desk. Some of these crack me up but are actually good advice :D

Avoid run-on sentences that are hard to read.
No sentence fragments.
It behooves us to avoid archaisms.
Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
Don't use no double negatives.
If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, "Resist hyperbole."
Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Writing carefully, dangling participles should not be used.
Kill all exclamation points!!!
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Take a bull by the hand and don't mix metaphors.
Don't verb nouns.
Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

How to Write Good
~ from William Safire's Fumblerules

When you catch an adjective, kill it. ~ Mark Twain

Make the familiar exotic; the exotic familiar. ~ Bharati Mukherjee

Tell almost the whole story. ~ Anne Sexton

The trick is leaving out everything but the essential. ~ David Memet

And one of my favorites (this actually is exactly what I did in my first book when I had written myself into a corner - and it worked beautifully!)

When the plot flags, bring in a man with a gun. ~ Raymond Chandler

(or as my friend Kristal told me - if you get stuck, shoot someone) :D