Thursday, October 16, 2014

Diversification Confusion

There a recent RWR article about the value of diversification in writing. There were a lot of good points made, that the market need is always changing and a steady brand might limit a good writer from bringing in a broader readership.

The problem I have run into with diversification is that my own writing identity is unclear. Voice is, I think, one of the most important aspects of a successful writer. Readers respond to good stories, yes, but they make a connection to the unique voice of the author.

When I was writing Tudor historical romances I knew my voice. There was a consistency from book to book that would help my readership great each book with a sense of familiarity. Yes, each book offered a unique story, but the readers knew what they were going to get.

When I branched into paranormal stories in contemporary settings I redefined my voice. Contemporary meant less formal speech patterns. It allowed the characters to be less confined by social mores. My voice changed and I liked it. Alongside all of that was the fascination with the mystical, with the supernatural -- this influenced my voice too. With this, my identity as a writer shifted.

Then I switched into contemporary. The internal stakes became primary (which is surprisingly difficult for me--I really want to throw in an external problem) and the ancillary characters play a bigger role toward building the small town setting (which is like a character in itself.) Again, shift of voice.

The problem I am left with is: WHO AM I (the answer is not Jean Val-Jean)?

Many writers, to solve the problem with name branding, write under many pseudonyms. I have always been willing to do this, but thought my agent/editor/professional something-or-other would make that decision. I realize now that I should have made that choice when I started to split into multiple writer personalities. I think it would help me compartmentalize my various voices. When people ask what I write, I come across as having no focus and this is not an accurate assessment. When writing these different areas I have focus, I just have a hard time explaining the nuances of each genre.

So, here's my solution:
Historical =  something classic and more formal than my actual name, but with a surname in the first quarter of the alphabet (for shelving purposes). Suggestions are welcome. :)
Paranormal: Elaina Fay (for my 2 daughter's middle names, Elaine and Fay. Yes, I took a page from Stephanie Laurens). And...
Contemporary: Erin Kane Spock, my actual name.

Thoughts?

At least this will help me designate an identity to my diversified voices.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Feminine Gross Stuff

It's there in the title. If you're squeamish, stop reading now.

My cake walk of a year teaching art part-time became more labor intensive when the 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher quit right before school started. Being nice, I agreed to cover the post temporarily. Obviously, ELA is something I'm passionate about -- I just didn't want to invest the time necessary to be the full time teacher. English= a lot of grading. Art= almost no grading. I chose to work part time to focus on my writing and my kids.

Week one and two pass with me still chipper about the students, the learning, etc... I'm looking forward to still being able to be there for them even when I'm teaching art, I love their enthusiasm, blah blah blah.

Week three and four pass and the light at the end of the tunnel flickers out. Week five and it's Back to School night and if they get a new teacher at this point the kids are going to have a big transitional time. On top of that individually, my students are awesome: collectively they are not the easiest group of kids I've ever taught.

That brings us to today which began with the air conditioning not working (again) and the understanding that I was going to be in my classroom from 7:30am to 8pm (Back to School night, remember?). I constantly rebooted my attitude, but then something else would hit the fan (and yes, I did have a fan courtesy of no a/c - an industrial one that sounded like a train was going down the hall and even made the floor vibrate, kindly lent by the construction guys at the school ). Without going into much detail, during the last period of the day I ended up crying like an idiot instead introducing them to the joys of NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Program.

Maybe it's harsh to say I was an idiot, but I definitely was not an adult, professional qualified to teach children. My students apologized for being less than angelic, but I realized my true reason for tears was my own sense of failure. I've been teaching for fourteen years and I can't keep it together when the room is eighty-three degrees and the kids are making monkey noises. I can't blame them or the situation, I can only blame myself. I needed to suck it up, grow up, and be professional.

My solution? Thirty minutes of sustained silent reading, and man did I mean SILENT.

So the day ends and I'm frazzled but listening to happy music in major keys as I choose a better attitude and ready myself to meet my student's parents.

And then I use the restroom.

Well, no wonder I felt crappy -- I was bleeding to death! All over the place. Serious murder scene in the staff bathroom. If CSI had come across the evidence, they would have assumed the victim couldn't survive. If I'd had a longer shirt on I would have stayed. As it was I told the male teachers I work with that I had a 'feminine emergency' and they didn't ask me more and just took up the slack (I have a great team). I made my long commute home praying that the layers of paper towels between my underwear and pants would save my upholstery. I sit at home now in my Tinkerbell pajama shorts, my underwear in the trash and my brand new, Not Your Daughter's Jeans pinstripe slacks in the wash despite my intention to only dry-clean.

The good news is that I can now blame my period. Thank you, uterus, for this out. I am not a failure, I am just hormonal and, very possibly, low on iron.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much except that this post began as an excuse for my blogging silence of late. I can make a connection though, if you like... ummmm... well, writing... maybe you can make the connection for me. I'm going to go eat some chocolate.
Why, you ask, did I feel it necessary to write this? To find a moment of zen, perhaps. I spent the drive home composing it in my head and found myself funny, if TMI. Also, I haven't blogged in a long time and have felt the lack of it. So here it is. Take me as I am, lack of filter and all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Showing Your Sketch

This past week my school provided training about project based learning (PBL) from the Buck Institute of Education (BIE). I'm happy to say that the training was not a waste of time. I came away with some great plans for the year but, even more importantly, I gained tools to help the students recognize that the crazy stuff I do in class is part of a learning process. I always considered my teaching style to be one where I tricked students into learning. Unfortunately I'm so good at it that the students think we're not doing anything until they get that "OH!" moment at the end. Lesson learned: I'm good at projects, I'm bad at linking objectives to the content in a way the kids understand.

During these workshops we participated in an exercise called "Show Your Sketch." You get a ridiculously low amount of time to draw a sketch of a person across the room... then you show it to them. The perfectionists didn't just cringe, they cursed. How can you be expected to share work that is sooooo rough? Doing so makes you very vulnerable to criticism. It's not fair for my artistic skill to be judged after so little time. The purpose of this exercise was not to show how bad we were at art, but to open ourselves up to critique early in the creative process, to be vulnerable, and to be all in it together. My colleagues and I all had that, "a-ha!" moment and were able to apply this early/often critique need to the project designs during the remainder of the workshop.

Writers are not foreign to the concept of perfectionism, insecurity, and critiques. We are constantly revising and praying for a better quality product. Critiques are gifts, even when they make us doubt ourselves. Without them we exist in a bubble. Thank God for being able to show your sketch early and often BEFORE putting it out there to be judged by the writing industry.

As much as I like to think that I'm secure in my skills and strong enough to take criticism and turn it into a better book, I'm freaking out a little right now. For whatever reason, I'm comfortable sending my manuscripts to complete strangers, but when I got a  request from a writer friend, I got all nervous. It might be easier if I was showing a sketch, or the first chapters of a book in progress: sending a completed, revised, revised again and then one more time, manuscript to a friend (who asked for it, which is a blessing in itself), someone I've known for years, makes me doubt the quality of my product. The vulnerability involved here is tremendous and it shouldn't be. I can't place why -- I only know that I'm trying to write right now, and keep wondering if she's reading, what she thinks, etc... and can't get it out of my head.

On that note, I'll put my contemporary aside and get back to planning my projects for this year. I may be teaching middle school art (which was the plan) or 7th and 8th grade English (which meets a need), so I'm prepping for both.

How do you feel about showing your sketch? Any advice for taking criticism?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stupid Alphas

At the Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio this summer I attended a workshop titled Deconstructing the Alpha. To be honest, I only attended because Eloisa James was one of the moderators and I have a fangirl crush that leads me to believe everything she touches will be golden (justifiably so).

I have struggled with the alpha male ever since I cracked open my first romance novel. He frequently frustrates me. Usually arrogant and domineering, it doesn't make his personality any more palatable to see that he's right in most instances. As a reader I think one of the factors that makes a book re-read-worthy is that you fall in love with the guy a little. I have a hard time falling for the alpha .

That said, alpha sex is hot (disclaimer: the modern alpha male is no longer the date rapist from the '70s -- I can't even read those plots without gagging. It's one of the only things that will make put down a book unfinished). In the workshop, the authors and editors hosting discussed why the modern woman responds to the alpha. In a world where women are expected to be super mom and super executive and super hot, it's a great fantasy to have that cave man who will carry throw you over his shoulder and be counted on to provide for his woman's every need. Sophisticate that a few notches and you have Gabriel Cross. The uber powerful, ruthless, unattainable, implacable, hard bodied demigod who has a soft spot for that one woman. The alpha is a fantasy in regard to appeal and resources, but also in that the woman tames him (breaks him like a wild mustang, painfully, without a horse whisperer) and, ultimately, she has the power because she has his heart (or other parts as the case may be).

I write about this today because I'm trying to write an alpha. I think my fatal flaw is in including his point of view. Already, I've made him too vulnerable. I went for someone who strategizes and assumes the role needed to win in a Machiavellian vein rather than a straight up confident/arrogant master of the universe. Strategists weigh probability, consider outcomes -- and this is taking me out of alpha territory. Would an alpha care about the outcome? Not really, because he KNOWS he's right. My pseudo alpha might be too human.

This my fifth book and my first attempt at alpha. I chose this course on the advice of a friend. I'm trying to hybrid the sexy hard edges of Sylvia Day with the quirky fun of Kristan Higgins and I think I have to step back and regroup. It may be like trying to cross a tea cup poodle with a Saint Bernard--what could possibly go wrong?

That I'm writing this book at all is a departure for me. Call me a whore in that I'm writing what I think will sell (versus my other books which I wrote because I wanted to tell the story). I'm not prostituting my talent completely though, because I really am invested in this story (now). It's actually the best pre-plotted story I've created so far (pantser!), but I'm worried it's not staying the course (which makes it more organic, a good thing) and who knows how it will end?

Sigh.

Point of this blog post: Do you like alphas? How do you define an alpha? Do you think seeing the alpha's gooey center is a turn off or downplays his power?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stalking Agents

This will be my third year at the Romance Writer's of America conference and every year I use their spreadsheet of agents hearing pitches to create a stalking list. It's not creepy at all. Well, maybe a little -- I prefer to think of it as being prepared.

I make a list in order based on how well I think we'll fit. I include their picture, a list of clients that I have read and those that seem to be similar in theme/voice, and a quote from their site about what they're looking for. The list has been helpful (even though I remain sans agent)

I write this today, not to creep you out, but to share an epiphany. Year to year I use the RWA area of interest grid to update my prey potential agents and it changes very little. This year I noticed that only half the agents want paranormal romance. Given that I am pitching one paranormal and halfway through a second, I have to curse under my breath. Three years ago they all wanted paranormal. This year they all want contemporary. Did that last year? I don't know, I didn't look for that information because I only had historical and paranormal. This year I'm adding contemporary to the mix and it seems like a smart move.

My point? I was using the grid to see if I'd want them, if I had a chance. It never occurred to me to use the grid to guide what I should write. In a way, the grid acts as a not-so-secret view into the mind of the agent based on what they think they can sell. It is a prediction, if not of future trends, of what IS selling. Of course I wanted to be aware of the market and I did that by looking at the best seller lists, etc... I realize now that RWA gave me a tool, a comprehensive list of things agents actively want. I'm just lucky that this year I have something to offer within that area. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Making the Dress



A few years ago I wrote a post about how Irish dance is like writing. Basically the analogy was based entirely on how you don't quite realize what you've gotten yourself into until you're neck deep. Irish dancing, I thought, was just a nice little dance class where the girls didn't have hooch-y costumes. It's not. It's a huge competition based tier system with increasing difficulty and expense, but once you've invested yourself there's no getting out.

As Irish dancing is not just about dance lessons, writing a book is not just getting the story out, it's immersion in a writing community, hours of inspiration and perspiration, lack of sleep, excitement and dismay, great and crappy writing, and all of it hinging on non-objective opinions that could make or break you, but once you've written that first book there's no getting out.

Lily's dancing is now at the point where a solo dress is required (not technically, but it's allowed and not having one might put her at a disadvantage). Without going into every step of the process (which began months before I ever put scissors to fabric), I designed, redesigned, researched, watched tutorials, analyzed the current trends, made a bodice, started over with a whole difference fabric, made a dress, cut off the sleeves and made new ones, beaded and
embellished, removed beads and added better ones and, when it was finished and Lily was dancing happily in it, I still saw room for improvement. I'm adding more embellishment before the next feis, just a bead here and there that, from the audience perspective (you can't see these things when you're too close) were clearly missing.

I have written books and thrown out chapters. I
recently threw out most of my first book in a rewrite attempt that basically turned into a completely different book. I've taken critique that I didn't understand until I gave myself space from the project. I've put a lot of work into things that will never see the light of day and I've gotten better with each step. Lily's dress is fine, but I know that it's not going to be the best I'll ever do, and that makes it hard to put it out there and be open to criticism.

Lily did not place high enough in any of her dances to be promoted to the next level and that's fine with me. This dress is a fine novice level dress, but not prizewinner.


As I get ready for another conference, I have to take a look at my writing from a distance and see how it stacks up against what's out there. Does it stand out? Does it stand out for the right reasons? Does it stand out so much that it doesn't belong? This is all something that is hard to determine from a close perspective. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Genius Lost

I have a fair to middling commute daily during which time I listen to talk radio, sing along with my iPod playlists, or drive in silence.

Driving in silence, more and more, is becoming the norm. During this time I brainstorm plot lines, get to know characters, and come up with amazing blog posts. The problem I have is transferring all this genius down later. The result? My blog posts are few and far between.

Blogging used to be a precursor to writing. I would check the blogs on my feed, compose a post or two, then get down to the dirty work. Time seems scarcer of late, so if I want to write forward in my manuscript, I can't dillydally. My blog has suffered.

But, oh, those unwritten posts would have rocked your world. :)

In tribute to those never-written posts, I leave you with this. Enjoy.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Selling Your Package

By "your package" I mean YOU. (What did you think I meant? You have a dirty mind.)

I started off in my troll cave. I researched the agents and their submission processes and I spammed out queries. During the querying process you hone your letter, trying to showcase your voice and cover the key points of your story with  brevity and hook the attention of the inundated agent assistant. At this point, the package is your query, not your manuscript. You might have the best book in the world, but if your query doesn't get their attention, no one will ever see it.

Your book = the face.
Your tube top = the butt in the mirror.
I finally left my cave and started attending conferences. I live in Southern California and the dress code here can be described as, "what's a dress code?" Most of the industry professionals are from the East Coast where, if you believe What Not to Wear, they dress up to go to grocery shopping. Shopping aside, the agents and editors at the conferences are dressed professionally. Ergo, if you want to show respect and present yourself as a professional, you should dress professionally. You're pitching your manuscript(s), but the first thing they see is you. You are the package.

Note: I am not a fashion guru by any means. I would describe my look as "scumbag" and am currently wearing yoga pants and a TMNT t-shirt my brother 'accidentally' left here two Christmases ago. I'm actually a little more done up than writing alone at home usually warrants -- My hair is clean and am still wearing a bra.

You may ask, "Erin, aren't you being shallow? Don't you think the agents/editors care more about my writing than what I look like?" To that I would answer this:

Of course they care about the writing, but they are considering whether or not you will make them money. They are wondering if they can work with you. All of this comes from that first impression. Are you worth more than that one book you're pitching? How will you handle public relations? Signings? Social media? Simple things like sitting up straight, smiling, and making eye contact is worth almost as much as your pitch. Hygiene, breath, clean/pressed clothes -- all of this goes to showing who you are. If you rock the scumbag look to an agent session it may seem like you don't have your stuff together or that you don't respect their position. You may have a great book, but if you're covered in cat hair, smell like old beer, and are wearing the same sweats you wore yesterday that is the first thing they see. The same thing goes if you decide to present yourself as sexy (something I see a lot with my high school students who equate "dressing nice" with what they would wear to a club). Think of the position you want as a writer, not a stripper. Put your boobs away and wear shoes you can walk in. While everyone says not to judge a book by the cover, we all do. First impressions matter.

No, I'm not an agent or editor, so I am not speaking from experience in their specific field but I have worked in sales. Think about what you're selling. Your book? That's part of it, but during a pitch you're selling the package of yourself as a writer. The agent/editor is a professional -- you should aspire to be, too.

I'm not telling you to buy a new wardrobe for a conference. Nor am I telling you to be someone you're not. I look on the well groomed version of me as just another facet of the whole. Be clean and comfortable (although, personally, I'm willing to deal with a little discomfort -- sometimes the discomfort is a reminder not to get too relaxed, to remember my purpose, and to sit up straight). At conferences I wear suits, slacks, and dresses that fall into the business professional category. I make sure everything is freshly pressed, not missing buttons, etc... I may be just shy of hobo when I'm grocery shopping, but at conferences I am pulled together, clean, and tailored. Ultimately the entire conference is like a job interview and you need to be on constantly.

Saying the word "package" so many times brought this video to mind. Though it has nothing to do with professional attire, I'm posting it for your viewing enjoyment.






Saturday, March 29, 2014

Out of My Comfort Zone

I'm writing a contemporary romance.My first love in writing is historical. I branched into paranormal, but I didn't leave historical far behind. In fact, even though my paranormals are set in modern times, history plays a huge roll.

Not so with contemporary. Previously known as Chick Lit, contemporary is traditionally set in a small, Americana, town full of quirky characters. The main characters are either coming home, reinventing themselves somewhere new, or long time residents stuck in a rut. This can be either the male or the female. Then the love interest arrives. Attraction and conflict ensue. Character arch involves personal growth, forgiveness, etc... then happily ever after. There isn't usually an external stake. The internal stakes are all about the main characters finding happiness.

The current hot trend in male love interest is the emotionally unavailable tycoon, and why not? The unlimited money really leaves a lot of options as much as having the hero in a historical be a Duke. So, yes, I'm going there. My only concern is that I don't generally write 100% alphas. Why? I don't respond positively to them (maybe this is why I'm not published?). I like balance in the relationship and all my books include the heroine discovering she is worthy of love and wielding her own power in a relationship of equals. And, as the unnecessary trolls in Frozen said, everyone is a bit of a fixer upper. I don't write perfect people.

My contemporary will not include perfect people either, but it will be in a small town brimming with quirkiness (I can do that). My hero is super rich and super hot, of course. My heroine is established in her own right. Both have given up on love. He misjudges her place in life as lack of sophistication. She misjudges his place based on being a cold bastard. Then they get over themselves, actually communicate, and, viola! HEA. I'm even including a puppy.

I can do this. I know what I'm going to write and I can write it. I have to keep saying it and then I'll believe it.  I know it doesn't sound like a challenge and it shouldn't be, but I'm working outside my purview. I'm putting my Irish paranormal on the back burner to write this one, not because the muses told me to, but because it would be good for my career. I always told myself that any agent would be lucky to have me because I am capable of writing anything. You tell me what you need and I'll write it. Well, now is the time to prove it. Use it or lose it. Put my money where my mouth is. Look a gift horse in the mouth. Eat yellow snow. Or something.

Wish me luck. I'm only 2k into it  (aiming at 80) and need to write like the wind.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I Really Hate Titles

Seriously, I do. I will come up with something clever, but not sexy. The titles I like don't give a clear idea of the story and aren't gripping. It's really a problem.

Next time I pitch, I think the header on my one sheet should say "Insert Title Here" instead of whatever I come up with. After all, editors often change the title anyway, right?

Currently my Irish paranormal is called Touching the Past. The forest is central to the story, so when my critique partner and I discuss is, she calls it Sexy Trees or Psychic Trees. My husband, who really is a proponent for the titillating angle (which is not the entirety of the story and, therefore, shouldn't be the only selling feature) wants me to call it She Gives Him Wood. I like the idea of the title One (inspired by the U2 song) or Eternal Memory or The Heart's Guardian... but no, not sexy.

Allow me to scream. Hey, Screaming Trees... no, that was a grunge band.

Okay, better now.

How do you come up with a title?

The image shown left (and more!) can be found here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Where's the Love?

Over a year ago I posted a blog (rant) about a run in with an acquaintance who had such a scathing attitude to the romance genre that it left me reeling. I understand not choosing to read it or just not getting into love stories, but the vitriol dripping from the comment was overwhelming. Any attempt at pleasantries between us was effectively crushed. Honestly, unnamed person, you could have just smiled and said no, then brought up the weather. Social niceties 101.

At the time I assumed this person must read obscure but profound literature. You know, the stuff college professors assign or the titles on your list that you never actually read but plan to some day because the names show up on crossword puzzles. Plus, it's fun to seem like you're smart, right? And, of course, the best way to do that is to make sure everyone else knows you think they're an idiot.

The fact that thinking about it still bothers me shows how sensitive I am. Oh well.

My point, you ask? Well, today I found out that this person reads sci-fi/fantasy and my jaw dropped. Wait, after that absolute slap in the face about the genre fiction I write and love, you read genre fiction too? You mean you deign to waste your brain space on formulaic, commercial tripe? You respond to the hero's journey? Say it isn't so.

Oh, it is.

Don't get me wrong, I love sci-fi/fantasy. My adolescent reading started with mystery and then morphed into sci-fi/fantasy with Xanth trilogy (or so it began) and I kept going from there. I only started on romance ten-ish years ago. I'm not insulting the genre, but I am saying that it is a genre of commercial fiction.

So what makes one genre more elevated than another? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say NOTHING. Within all genres there are good and bad authors and it's entirely subjective. That said, why the disdain? I teach high school and I can't remember even a student being that rude before. Seriously.


Image from HBO's mini-series Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin (and yes, I've read it but not seen the series). High fantasy with a lot of kinda rapey sex.





Sunday, March 2, 2014

McDonald's

Today, while my daughters practice their Irish step dancing in preparation for the St. Patrick's day performances, I find myself making use of the WiFi at McDonald's. It's not the first time I've done this. Starbucks is often too crowded or hipster for me, plus the coffee is cheaper here. This is, however, the first time I've done this at the McDonald's on Nordahl in San Marcos. This is only significant because this is the location of my first official job. And, no, I do not feel nostalgic. In fact, McDonald's occasionally features in my nightmares. If it wasn't for the coffee, good price on drinks, and cheap cones I would probably never patronize a McDonald's again. Seriously, I've seen the how they make nuggets (shudder).

It was a great first job for me. I got to learn to follow rules and focus on people other than myself. I was sixteen and cute, so I worked the counter. We got swamped one night after a movie got out. My shift ended at nine, but there I was at nine thirty frantically taking orders and making fries while my dad's impatience burned hot (I didn't drive -- he was picking me up from work). I told one of the manger-type-guys there that my shift ended, at that point, almost an hour ago and I had to leave. I clocked out and left. The next day a higher manager on the totem pole pulled me aside and gave me a talking to about responsibility and the McDonald's family. She told me that McDonald's counted on me and, since I had true McDonald's potential, I should take my responsibilities seriously. I told her I was sixteen and my shift had ended almost an hour previously and I wasn't sure whether it was illegal or not to work a minor over a certain number of hours. A month later I got a role in the school play and quit.

I don't mean to trash working at McDonald's. For me it was a great start out job. Some people turn it into a career and that's great. I knew when I took the job that it was only serving to add something to my resume. I knew I was going to go to college. I knew my McDonald's potential would translate into a lot of fields that required a smile while you did something unpleasant. Since then I've worked in retail, insurance sales and service, and education. Eventually I look forward to adding 'published author' to that list.

So here I am, more than twenty years later, blogging whilst I sit in a McDonald's that in no way resembled my job sit of yore. My daughters are working on their hop two threes while I work on my fifth novel. The pretty girl behind the counter politely took my order and smiled while she pretended to be interested in the fact that I used to stand in the same place. I wonder where time will take her, what will her McDonald's potential translate into?

Just for fun, in honor of fast food employees, view this drive through prank video:


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Judging

If you'd ask me last month how to get inspired about getting housework done, I'd have told you writing. Not in-the-zone writing, but the kind where you force yourself to sit and stare and reread and type filler to get from point A to point B. You know, the writing that you'll end up deleting next time.

I was wrong. Writing is a great way to get excited about housework, but if you really want to get inspired to scrub things that no one sees anyway, judge a contest. That will get your cleaning motors running. I'm a machine, I tell you!

The good news is that I am plugging through the contest. It's a little awkward because these authors are all just like me - they have a finished book (or four) and are trying to get their work out there. Some submissions have great bones but poor finishing. Some are excellently written but I can't seem to get into the characters. Some draw me in right away... Really, it's just like reading anything -- absolutely subjective to my interests and whims (not counting the poor editing that pulls me right out of a story that might be great).  Being a judge doesn't make me more objective, it just makes me not give up.

Judging has also made me wonder about previous (and current) contests in which I've participated. Are they all judged by schlubbs like me? I mean, what makes my wisdom all that and a can of Coke? Nothing. I'm just another writer plugging away toward my word count and crossing various appendages with the hope that someday, SOMEDAY, it will all pan out. Sigh.

On that note, I can only hope that the people who judge my submissions to various contests give me the attention and honesty I'm giving the submissions in my packet. I may not be the reader that will give them the push they need to get into the world of publication, but I will be thoughtful and apply opinions based on my experiences in this crazy world of writing.

And I will do some more dishes. Who knew the grout around my sink was actually cream colored? I always thought it was brown.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kryptonite

I can spew one hundred thousand words, but summing it all up in two hundred and fifty is horrible. Seriously, fork in the forehead horrible.

Queries are my kryptonite. Not only are they not good, but I suffer a complete psychological shut down when I even start to think about them. When I force myself to write one, I can't even remember what my story is about. I start babbling and think of alternative things I could have written that would be great in m query. It's bad.

Writing a synopsis is not as bad, but it's not fun either. I took a great class this past summer at RWA13 in Georgia which really broke it down. In fact, when I had to write a synopsis for Golden Heart, it flowed from my finger tips. Of course, some really horrible grammar mistakes also flowed (and remained unnoticed by both myself and my husband). Still, it's the best synopsis I've written (now that, too late, I've fixed it).

I see these online classes about how to write a query. I read Query Shark and nod in agreement at the sage comments therein... but when I try to apply it, I freeze.

Do you have any tricks to writing a query?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Something New

Today will be my first time attending a creative writing group meeting. I was honored to be invited and really look forward to broadening my experiences here. I have my three copies of ten pages from my current work in progress. I have my layered dip and chips. I'm ready to go.

But I'm seriously nervous. Silly? Maybe. I mean, this is m fifth novel. I'm in RWA and involved in the online writing community. I should know what I'm doing by now, right?

Who knows.

The thing is that this book is different from the others. My others, particularly the historical, were so formal. Yes, I occasionally broke grammar rules for impact, but not a lot. This book, well, all I can say is thank you to Darynda Jones for giving me permission to be snarky.

The first time I wrote a silly deep pov thought, I edited it out right away. Slapping myself for cowardice, I added it once more and kept going. This character is the most real, the most flawed and the most open to love that I've written to day because I am not editing out her stream of consciousness. I love it.

BUT... will the new creative writing group get it? They haven't seen my evolution, so they don't know how hard it was to push myself in this direction. I guess we'll find out today. Besides, all critiques are gifts, right? I don't need them to take me seriously as a writer to know that I am one.

One thing all of my characters have in common is, by the end of their arch, they can find validation from within. I guess I need to work on that. :)

Cheers.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Resubmitting... Maybe? Advice Needed.

Every single project I have completed has ended up with me hacking the first two to three chapters off it. Why? Because I'm the queen of slow starts and back story. I can't seem to help myself. It's sad really.

When I chopped the first two chapters off of Karma, it wasn't enough. It still was too slow. I edited the bejeebers out of it, getting to the action ASAP. It wasn't until months later and a slew of non-responsive agents that I actually reread it with fresh eyes and realized I'd cut the soul out of the story.

One rejection said the story lacked balance. I didn't know what the agent meant until I read it again. Boom, there's action. It's hot, it's creepy... but it doesn't pull you into the story because there is no hint at who the characters are. It was painful to realize, but easier to fix than I'd hoped.

The question is should I resubmit? If the agents who gave me no responses read at all, it was only the first thirty pages. The rest of the book unfolded organically and, I'm happy to say, I'm still really proud of my work. They requested it int he first place, so they saw something in it. The lack of a "no thank you" isn't a de facto rejection, so it wouldn't necessarily be pushy or unprofessional of me to try again. Would it? I have no idea. I don't want to come across as too desperate -- but if the shoe fits...

Help me out, people. Your expert advice is appreciated.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dropping the Ball

Happy 2014 to everyone. I actually stayed up until midnight to ring in the New Year. I did not feel the least excited until my daughters, ages 9 and 7 1/2, tackled me with hugs, eyes sparkling, full of joy and hope for the new year. Seriously, nothing is as inspiring as a child who believes in magic and their own potential.

Miley Cyrus performed Wrecking Ball at Times Square. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I like the song. My kids, former fans of Hannah Montana, watched the performance with uncertainty, glancing at me for my reaction from time to time. My eldest pointed out that Miley wasn't as naked this time.  Poor, poor Miley. Talk about someone who has lost innocence and doesn't believe in magic. If she had faith in her own potential or trusted in her talent would she be exploiting herself like this? Very sad. I actually watched video a week or so ago just to see what the hype was about. I'm all for artistic expression and was ready to give the benefit of the doubt. I tried to see some of the directors vision, looking for the rubble and nudity as a metaphor for vulnerability, being stripped bare; but then the licking of the construction material grossed me out and the whole thing left me feeling like both Miley and the wrecking ball needed to be sanitized. I hope she comes out on the other side as a wiser adult, able to get past the embarrassment of her behavior without too much therapy.

Click here to view Wrecking Ball on YouTube.
Click here to view The Onion's slideshow. Much better.

I think I lost some of my faith in my talent and the value of perseverance over the last part of 2013. RWA 13 in Atlanta was not a screaming success for me. I can partly blame that on the fact I had just torn a tendon in my bicep (what I thought was a pinched nerve at the time) -- I wasn't nearly as social this year. My pitches went well, but yielded nothing. I came home, got some pain meds for my shoulder, and proceeded to do very little in the way of writing for the rest of the year. I dropped the ball.

This year is starting out with me blogging again (yay!) and writing forward. The good news is that pain med induced dreams can be very realistic and very weird. I have a couple new premises for future projects. I also spent a lot of time considering my current characters and really know them much better. I expect today's writing to be productive.

Wish me luck! Good luck to you and your endeavors. Hope to post again soon.

*Note: I was looking for some Wrecking Ball parodies to link here but they all grossed me out. Sorry.
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