Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday miscellany and to rant or not to . . . no just don't do it!

Hi all!  Sorry I missed my Wednesday post.  For the first time in over 20 years I was down with an ear infection and so was little blond person.  I still haven't regained full hearing in my left ear.  Instead I have that rushing sound that you get when you hold a seashell up to your ear, but at least the pain is gone.  It shames me to say that all in all my two-year-old is dealing better than I did with the various pains and annoyances that come along with this particular affliction.

Before I get down to business I'd like to say thank you to all of you who helped me through my writerly funk.  After reading most of the comments on my last post I slowly backed away from the delete key, took my daughter, myself and my Ipod for a long, contemplative walk and actually cleared the blockage.  No more bragging about word count.  I learned my lesson about doing that last Friday, but I'm happy to say I have added a bit to my WIP since then.  So thank you everyone!

Now onto business. I'm thinking this is going to become my standard Friday post, just links to interesting blog posts that I've come across over the week.  This week I also have a link to a contest for you all  (Palindrome, sorry I didn't get around to posting it on Wednesday like I said I would).

I know we all struggle with how much time we spend on our blogs versus how much time we spend on our non bloggerland life.  I thought it was interesting that agents, or at least those at Dystel and Goderich, struggle with the same thing according to this post on their blog.  If you don't follow these guys, you really should.  All of their agents do posts and they provide excellent insight into an agent's world.

Nathan Bransford did a series of posts on his blog entitled 'Be An Agent For A Day'.  He requested that his followers provide him with queries and an excerpt of 30 pages from their novels.  From those submitted he selected five queries along with their attendant excerpts, posted them on his blog and asked his followers to vote as to which query interested them enough to want to read pages.  Then he posted the excerpts and let his followers vote on what excerpt would have led them to request a full.  Though the results are in and it's too late to vote, you could still head on over there, take a walk in an agent's all powerful (or so it seems at times) shoes and see how you measure up.

Now for the contest; Palindrome over at Musings of a Palindrome is giving away some great books as a prize.  The details can be found here and today is the last day to enter, so get over there and follow her!

I've been debating about including this in my blog post for pretty much the whole last week.  I don't want to bring more attention to this particular blogger than she has already garnered for herself, but I just think the whole thing is so astoundingly awful in a 'wow, that was a humongously horrible car crash and I just can't stop staring' kind of way.

Quick bit of history.  There's a blog out there called Tales From a Rejection Queen.  I know some of you that follow me also follow her so this is probably old news to you. However, for those of you who aren't in the know, for roughly the last year and a half, the Rejection Queen, as she styles herself, has been posting her rejections complete with name and address of the agent who sent it along with her own mostly snarky comments on the rejection.  In the past quite a few commenters have cautioned her against doing this, telling her the publishing industry is a small world and she's shooting herself in her literary foot by doing this. 

Well, folks, last Friday, this blogger, in my opinion shot herself in the literary head.  She posted the rantiest of all anti agent rants, personally attacking Janet Reid and Nathan Bransford; two of, in my opinion, the most helpful and out there agents in the business.  The post went viral. She has since deleted the post, but if you care to take a closer look at this train wreck you can head over to this thread on the Absolute Write forums.  They have a link to the cached copy of the original post as well as several pages of comments on this situation. 

As I said before, I follow this blog and in the past found it sort of darkly humorous as well as sort of a way to vicariously vent my own frustrations with the querying process.  However, this was beyond the pale for me.  I couldn't believe how poisonous the post was and as I said, I don't want to call more attention to her than she's already received, but I think this can serve as an caution to the rest of us to keep our rants between ourselves and our journals or at the most our good friends or significant others.  I know the querying process can be frustrating and hurtful and at times give rise to the sort of impotent rage that I'm sure she felt when she logged on and let loose, but there are better ways to handle it than going viral.  In case you ever feel the need to splatter vitriol all over your blog, back away from the keyboard and chant the words 'Rejection Queen' to yourself until reason has reasserted itself.

Sorry I've been MIA on your blogs.  I hope to get some time tonight to catch up on all the posts I missed this week while groaning around my house with a hot compress plastered to the side of my head (not an effective treatment as it turns out).  Right now I'm going shopping for material to make a quilt for the soon to arrive newest member of the Paxton family!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Monday, April 26, 2010


On the good news front, I'm at 50 followers!  Thanks to all of my bloggerland friends who signed up to follow my blog.  Halfway to a hundred and hopefully a really great contest for all of you!

And that's kind of it for good news as far as my writing goes. I may have perhaps jinxed myself with all my 'hey, I'm almost at 65k words' bragging.  I opened my WIP on Friday night and read over what I wrote the night before.  My brain did that thing where it fragments all the writing and instead of it coming together in a coherent way, a sentence here, a phrase there, a word here popped out at me.  All of it sounded trite and uninspired and frankly like nothing that was good for anything except perhaps fire starting. 

I've been in this mental writing place before so I restrained myself from deleting it all and told myself things would be better the next day.  They weren't.  And they hadn't improved any as of last night.  So here's what I did.  I decided if I couldn't come up with anything new to add I'd go back to the first and edit, hoping that immersing myself in the story would create a cozy corner in my brain for the muse to come and dwell.  No muse visit, but the editing seems to be going okay.  However, several times last night I found my finger hovering perilously near the delete key with the intent to wipe out every single one of those 65kish words. 

I know I'm not the only one who's experienced a writerly funk.  Any ideas as to how to pull myself together and get myself out of it? 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Awards! And other Friday miscellany

My first blogger award post!  I actually have three awards and I'm so excited.

My first ever award was given to me by Jen at Unedited.  Jen just finished her first draft of her novel and is entering that nightmare world known as Revisionland.  If you don't follow her you should absolutely head over and check her out.

I would like to pass this award on to

The next award also came to me from Jen and this one made me blush.  I got the Awesomesauce Award!

I'm going to give this one to

And finally, I received the Sweet Blog award (apparently my dash of snark the other day wasn't enough to disqualify me for this. Whew!) from Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time.  Her blog has a lot of really great posts addressing many different aspects of the writing journey.  Check it out if you haven't already.  I also have to say thanks to Nicole for helping technologically challenged me figure out how to get these award images on to my blog so I could pass them along.

I would like to give this award to
1. Jen at Unedited

Thanks again to Jen and Nicole for giving me such great awards!  I've so enjoyed passing the love along.

Couple other end of the week odds and ends.  So the other day I posted about a book I really hated.  I figure it's only fair that I now post about one I'm currently reading and loving.  I've seen the book The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters mentioned on several agents' blogs. I read another of this author's books, Night Watch and thought it was superbly written.   I decided to check Stranger out (literally, went to the library to get it and everything).  This book is a gothic horror novel in the tradition of Turn of the Screw  (which I loved). The book starts out almost agonizingly slow and for awhile I was ready to give up on it.  However, when it got to the part where the actual haunting starts, folks, this lady knows how the send a chill up your spine that lasts for days.  When I was younger I was a huge fan of R.L. Stine, but couldn't stand to have his books in the room when I fell asleep at night because I was scared that the creepiness contained within their pages would ooze out and get me.  I thought I'd overcome that fear when I was able to keep a bookcase loaded with Stephen King books in my bedroom.  Guess what?  Last night found me creeping shame-facedly down the stairs to stow Stranger in the living room so I could fall asleep.  

If you aren't fans of Turn of The Screw you probably won't like this book because it does take a long time to ratchet up the tension.  However, if you're looking for a very old fashioned shiver up the spine book, this is definitely for you. 

As far as my own writing, my WIP is approaching 65,000 words and I'm almost (I think) three-quarters finished with the first draft!  Maybe I'll make that iron clad June deadline after all.

Also the agent that requested the full of SEEDS has now had it in her hot little hands for five weeks.  She said she would try to get back to me within six weeks.  I know that in agent speak usually six weeks translates into something closer to three months.  However, since passing the five week mark yesterday I've sort of reverted to the wild eyed lunatic self of my early querying days.  I can't bear to be away from my email for longer than the time it takes to use the bathroom or address little blond person's shrieks of dismay or need.  I'm considering seeking professional help. Anybody looking for a nanny position? I need someone else around to address those shrieks.  They're seriously cutting into my email fixating time ;^)

Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sigh in the night.

Yesterday I had a fantastic idea for a blog post.  I even had most of it composed in my head, but the opportunity never arose to get it down and schedule it on Blogger to post today. 

Just before I went to sleep last night I had a moment of panic that the post would slip out of my brain, never to be heard from again. 'That's silly,' I thought.  'I have a mind like a steel trap. A steel trap, I tell you!'  Well sometime in the wee hours between blowing my nose and soothing little blond person back to sleep after a hacking fit and poking my husband so he would stop his head cold induced snoring the idea pulled a coyote ugly.  When I woke all that was left were a few tattered remains in the teeth of the trap.

My previous idea was about writing (at least I'm pretty sure it was).  Now I've decided to go in a little different direction, a little more personal.  Bear with me.

The last few months I've had an ongoing, well, I don't think it would be exaggerating to call it a personal crisis.  It's a struggle sometimes to get from one end of the day to another without closeting myself somewhere out of little blond person's sight and bawling. 

The other night I was laying on the couch (so as to escape husband's snoring) and my brain was pickling itself in a stew of the same old thoughts regarding this crisis.  I realized that what had begun as a new frontier in my neural pathways was quickly becoming a deep and perhaps inescapable rut.  So forcing my thoughts out of the mire, I began thinking of the things in my life that help instead of hurt: my husband, my daughter, my health, the expectation of our new baby, my parents, my writing, the fact that we have a roof over our heads, enough to pay our bills and a little left over to sock away in savings.   Then I had this thought, with six billion people in the world someone, somewhere in that exact instant lost one or more of those things that moments before, in the midst of my angst, I forgot I had.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out their spouse died or was divorcing them.

In this moment, someone, somewhere lost a beloved child or found out they could never have one.

In this moment, someone, somewhere was laid off or fired from a job.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that the bank was foreclosing on their home.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that their lifelong dream would never be realized.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that one or both of their parents died.

In this moment, someone, somewhere found out that they suffer from a debilitating disease or condition that will affect them in inescapable and perhaps painful ways everyday for the rest of their lives.

In this moment someone, somewhere found out they have a terminal illness and all the minutes they took for granted, perhaps even wished away, have now been reduced to a mere handful, slipping through their fingers as quickly and inescapably as grains of sand.

In this moment, someone, somewhere died. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even with the day to day struggles, there is so much to be grateful for and it's all so ephemeral.  Those things we forget to treasure because they're always there can slip from us like a sigh in the night.  And they do from someone, somewhere every moment of every day.  I hope that when, as it inevitably will, that happens to me I'll be able to say that I truly treasured and appreciated every moment that I had that particular blessing in my life, despite what ever else was happening at the time.

And now I'll climb off my soapbox.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A dash of snark

I figure we aspiring authors deal with a lot of negative stuff i.e. rejection letter after rejection letter or less than glowing feedback from a crit partner.  With that in mind I generally try to keep my blog pretty positive.  Also I've read a few blogs that are all out unbridled snarkiness; funny at first, then a little wearing, then downright old, so I try to avoid the negative stuff.

However, everyone in my household is down with some miserable crud: coughing, sneezing, sore throat, oh joy, so I'm feeling a bit snarky today and decided to share it with those of you in blogger land. 

This weekend, I read Circle of Souls. The author's name escapes me because it's a lot of letters long and I never could figure out exactly how to pronounce it.

Circle of Souls has glowing reviews on front and back covers as well as all over the internet. It's already been released in hard cover and I picked it up on its paperback rerelease, so I was thinking this must be a pretty damn good book. I couldn't wait to read it.  In fact, I sacrificed hard to come by writing time and harder to come by (little blond person is also sick) sleeping time to read it.  It's a thriller type book, though a little off the traditional thriller track.  I was captivated by the premise.  It was well written and during the first half those pages were turning as fast as I could read.  Then it was like the author or editor or someone fell asleep on the job.  The story unraveled, the quality of the writing went downhill and this book, to me committed the sinniest of all thriller sins.  It was predictable.

Some of the chapters were written from the killer's POV.  However, the killer turns up about a quarter into the book as a secondary character and from all the chapters written from his point of view I knew immediately it was him.  I didn't want it to be him.  I didn't want it to be that easy.  I wanted to be stunned, or at least a little surprised when the killer was brought to justice.  Nope, no such luck.  It was exactly who I thought it was.  Yawn.

After I finished the book, I had to resist the temptation to chuck it across the room.  Instead I held it in my hands and thought 'Why?  Why did you get published when thousands of others out there who are probably more deserving don't?  How does that happen?'

I know I'm not the only one out there who has had this experience.  If anyone else is feeling a little snarky today please share your 'I can't believe this got published, let alone got so much critical and popular acclaim' book.  And no fair using any of the Twilight series.  I think anyone over the age of 13 and not hopelessly smitten with Edward or Jacob will agree that those books would have benefited from going through the revision process another time or twenty.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The muse is pricking. Hooray!

Well I must say, my first week of only blogging three days really worked out for me.  I got to visit and show love to all of you in blogger land (and have some love shown in return.  Thanks commenters, readers and all my new followers!) and still make slow, but steady progress on my WIP.

Right now my muse is plucking at my brain strings and little blond person is actually immersed in the Abby's Flying Fairy School segment of Sesame Street.  I can't let an opportunity like this pass me up, so here's my truncated Friday post.

I discovered Alexandra Sokoloff's blog this week.  For those of you who are fans of horror, if you haven't read her stuff you are SERIOUSLY missing out. The Price was my personal favorite, but all of her books did a great job of making me peer extra hard into dim corners and turn on every light in the house after the sun went down. She has a fantastic series of blog posts addressing everything about crafting a novel, from working up your premise to creating a great villain.  If you haven't before please for your own writely sake go check it out here

Also Matthew over at the The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment has a great guest post today showcasing an actual query that landed an author an actual agent.  He tries to do this every Friday and it is a great series.  For those of you approaching or at the querying stage, his blog is a must see.

Happy Friday everyone!  May you all have productive writing weekends.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Critique group!

I had a fantastic experience last night with my new critique group.  As I said before I was a little worried because all the members of the group are also members of a fairly conservative religion, with which my writing is a little at odds.

As most time spent worrying usually is, mine was a waste.  Last night I found myself in a group of very talented writers who are also astute readers and critiquers.  The whole experience, from reading their work, to getting their opinions on my own was fabulous.  The thing I liked the best about them was that, while they did point out several turns of phrase or descriptive passages they enjoyed, they didn't waste time complimenting me or each other and pussy footing around what was wrong with the writing they read. 

This may sound like I'm bragging, but I know I'm a good writer.  I don't need people to tell me that.  What I do need is people to tell me how I can be a better writer.  These ladies passed on that count with flying colors. In fact, they did such a great job of setting a fire under me, I came home and stayed up until one a.m. (one a.m. people!  I'm pregnant and have a toddler.  That is a huge freaking deal in my world.) rewriting my prologue. If you'd like to see the difference you can read my pre-critique prologue here and the post-critique prologue here.  And, as I said, reading their work was almost as enjoyable as getting their opinions on mine.

I'm wondering if others have had mostly positive or negative experiences with critique groups or partners and, if so, what made it that way for you?

Monday, April 12, 2010

New blogging schedule

This is my first day of only blogging three times a week.  I have a deadline to meet in order to finish my first draft before baby #2 arrives.  My midwife says June 27th, but we'll see.  I'm betting earlier.   Either way I've got to devote more time to my WIP and less to blogging, hence the short post. 

Good night to all of you in blogger land.  I'm off to hopefully add a substantial amount of words to my WIP.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How do you keep up?

Obviously no post, inspired or otherwise happened yesterday.  Instead what happened was a trip to the pet store where little blond person picked out a dark red beta fish and dubbed him Swimmy Ben.  She then proceeded to select hot pink aquarium rocks, plastic red, pink, purple and clear accent stones to go on top of the aquarium rocks, and a plastic purple plant (say that three times fast) with, you guessed it, hot pink stripes. 

After we got home, my husband assembled the bowl with accessories, put the fish in and Swimmy Ben - disappeared.  I didn't know there was such a thing as camoflauge for a red fish, but we discovered it.  However, Swimmy Ben, when we catch the occasional glimpse of him as he flits past a clear accent stone, seems quite happy with his psychedelic home and my daughter is over the moon and, most of the time, wet to the elbows despite all my admonitions to look, don't touch, because of her new pet.

Now onto the issue at hand.  I love this blogging thing.  I love putting things out there into blogosphere and receiving in return the thoughts of like minded folk.  Traveling from blog to blog each day makes me feel like an astronaut bouncing from one strange planet to the next, always eager to see what each new destination has in store.  I love the little thrill I get when someone new decides to 'follow' me.  I love the jolt of recognition when I read something on someone else's blog that explains in terms I would never have thought to use exactly how I feel or think or write. 

I also recognize the importance of blogging for an aspiring author.  We have to be out there.  We need to have a following.  We need to know what's going on in the writing community.  I get that.

Here's my dilemma.  I have very little free time and once baby number two comes, free time for me will be like unobtanium for those nasty, corporate stuffed shirts in Avatar.  I'm already following more blogs than I can reasonably keep up with, but I would like to join more, both to see what other aspiring writers have to say and also to bring more folks into my little corner of the sphere.  However, to be a writer, I have to write.  Even if I have 2,000 followers, but no manuscript because I've spent all my time attracting and upkeeping my blog relationship with those followers, I've got nothing. 

Because I enjoy it so damn much and because it's easier than working on my WIP and also because I need to build a following, I'm spending about 60% of the free time I have cruising the blogosphere.   Case in point, I logged on tonight, told myself I had twenty minutes to browse the posts on the blogs I was following and crank out a post for my own blog.  I logged on at 11:00.  It is now midnight and while I read every post on every blog I follow (though I didn't take the time to comment) and wrote this post for my blog I haven't even opened my WIP yet. Not good.

So I'm wondering, do the rest of you writers out there have this issue?  If so, how do you divvy up your time so that your actual writing doesn't suffer because of the time spent blogging/tweeting/facebooking, etc.?  And how do you find the time to upkeep your personal relationships with friends, family, etc. while still maintaining an online presence and working on your craft?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Because most of my mental energy has been zapped today by some rather messy and exhausting personal issues, I'm going to do another shameless ripoff.

I came across this great post about how to grab a reader/agent from the first page.  I thought it was so great that I decided to pass it along to all of you out there in blogosphere. 

Hope you're all having a great Tuesday.  Hopefully my post on Thursday will be a bit more inspired.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm finding out, just like my child, I have very little control over how my books are going to grow up.

I've written a total of four and three quarters novels at this point, not including my current WIP.  The first three and the three quarters ones have been permanently shelved for various reasons, but writing each of them was a different experience from the others.  However, those experiences weren't as disparate as what happened with my most recently completed novel and what's happening with my WIP.

My fourth novel, Seeds, the one I'm currently submitting to agents, was an absolute joy to write.  My mind dwelled on it almost constantly and my brain was forever coming up with new scenes to add and new ways to tweak old scenes.  I opened my computer every night with a sense of anticipation and couldn't wait to see what my fingers churned out next.  I loved to immerse myself in the world and in the characters and usually had to tear myself out, bleary eyed and dizzy with exhaustion, around two in the morning.  When I finished it I handed it off to my beta readers with a sense of excitement, hoping they'd enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And they did.

My current WIP is turning out to be a very different kind of writing journey.  For one thing the inspiration for the story slammed into me one day while I was cleaning my kitchen and not even remotely interested in coming up with a new idea for a book.  By the time I worked my way through my house in my weekly ritual of Saturday cleaning, I had the entire plot worked out in my brain start to finish.  I don't write like that.  I'm not an outline kind of girl.  I get an idea.  I start a story and I discover the twists and turns of the plot along the way.  This book, though, has a two page long outline, hurried and harried and sometimes a little incoherent, but an outline nontheless.

This book draws from a traumatic time in my life.  It isn't the first thing I've written that does that, but it's the worst. I know the world that my WIP is set in, know it intimately because it was my world for several years.  I don't like revisiting that world.  I don't like my protagonist because there is so much in her of the me that I was before I got my head screwed on right.  I have to go deep to remember what I felt like and experienced then so I can truthfully and evocatively bring that to my hypothetical reader. It's hard and it hurts.  I also have a sense that I'm holding myself back from the story because it's too difficult and frightening to go all the way in and I know that will show in the finished product, so I force myself to go as deep as possible.  I don't write every day because I can't stand to.  I have to write a chunk then give myself a few days to recover.  Usually within three or four days my brain will inform me, by coming up with a good piece of dialogue or an excellent metaphor or fleshing out part of the chapter that I'm currently working on that I'm ready to write.  Then I dive in and start the whole process all over again.

The strange thing is, on the surface, these two works of fiction are essentially the same; words strung together to form sentences, sentence to form paragraphs, paragraphs to fill up pages until the novel is complete.  But their insides, their guts, the things that my experiences inject into all those words are so very different.

For awhile I fought against that difference.  I tried to force myself into the same sort of writing schedule I had with Seeds.  I refused to give myself those days to recover between writing bouts and opened my WIP every night regardless of the reluctance or downright loathing I felt for the idea.  It's only been within the last week or so that I realized trying to do that is like trying to make little blond person a fan of football and having dirty hands and wearing jeans instead of tutus around the house. No matter how hard I try, it's not going to happen.  I just have to let it be what it's going to be.