Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In A Perfect World

Tere began this blog chain with a question about writing habits. Specifically she asked:

What conditions do you need to get your best writing done? Closed door, crowded coffee house? Computer or notebook? Can you just sit down to write, or do you need to wait for the time to be right?

In a perfect world I would have nothing but time to write. And surf the internet. But mostly write. Sometimes while eating ice cream. And ice cream would be good for you - like eating salad.

Yes, that's right. Endless time to write and ice cream is now a vegetable. That's my idea of a perfect world. In retrospect, I guess I could've mentioned something about world peace too. But it doesn't really matter, because sadly, this perfect world exists only in my fantasy.

In the real world I have a full time job and two small children. Free time is not abundant and ice cream goes straight to my thighs. And yet somehow I manage to carve out little bits of time to write.

Now once again, in perhaps not a perfect world, but in maybe a semi-perfect one - these little bits of time would be considered sacred by all around me. In this semi-perfect world there would be a very easy way to deal with anyone who disturbed me.

Effective, yes?

Also, in this semi-perfect world? I'd be getting these for Christmas.

And I don't mean some lame stuffed toy version. I want the real thing.

But once again, sadly, the world isn't perfect and it isn't semi-perfect either.

I know. It sucks.

But I don't want this post to focus on the negative. I don't want you to read this post and think, "My God she's right. The world isn't perfect or even semi-perfect. Why do I even get up in the morning?" Although it is a valid question. In a perfect world - everyone would get to sleep in if they wanted to and no one would ever again have to worry about getting up in the morning. That would now be an afternoon problem.

But I digress. My point is that even in this so-very-much-less-than-perfect world, there is always a way to find a time and find a place to write - at least there is for those who want to do it badly enough.

Me? I'm one of those that want it badly.

So when I don't have time to write because I have to sit in traffic on my way home from work or give the kids a bath or cook dinner - then I plot away inside my head. I plan how to finish the scene I'm in the middle of or how to start the next one. Or if, like now, I'm in the midst of edits - then I work through what I've changed, what else needs to be changed, and how exactly I plan to do it. Then, when I actually have time to sit at the computer, I don't need to spend a lot of time staring at the screen, I can just jump right in.

No, it's not a perfect or semi-perfect way to write, but so far it's working for me.

That's it from me, but the blog chain doesn't end with here- make sure to check out the other posts on this great topic. You can find Matt's right before mine and Cole will be up tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's The Climb


This is the month in creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?

Above is the latest blog chain question, brought to us by Michelle Hickman. It is a BIG question and it has led me to some deep thoughts, and these deep thoughts have in turn led me to Miley Cyrus. Yes, that's right, I said Miley Cyrus. I know, I know, it was an unexpected turn for me too.

The thing is when I started thinking of trying to name my one biggest accomplishment, I went through all the usual suspects.

Getting $5000 from my film school to make a short film that I'd written.

Meeting my wonderful husband and quietly stalking him until he succumbed to my many charms.

My two incredibly naughty, but also insanely wonderful children.

Finishing three novels.

Finding an agent.

Getting a two book deal with HarperTeen.

These are the big moments. The ones you can point out and easily identify. I love these moments. And I would like many more of these celebratory let's buy some champagne moments. But in between these highs were the lows.

Rejection. Uncertainty. More Rejection. And worst of all - morning sickness.

And that's when a certain song came into my head. It's a song that has made me flip to a radio station playing commercials when it came on just to avoid listening to it one more time. And yet I have to admit that the lyrics - as cheesy and unoriginal as a Velveeta between Wonderbread - really hit the spot for me at this exact moment trying to answer this exact question. And so I'm gonna let Miley finish out this blog post for me - cause she has already sung exactly what I want to say. 

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

And just in case the song is not stuck in your head - here's the video too! Feel free to grab a hair brush and sing along.

Want to hear about more amazing accomplishments? Make sure to check out Matt's post prior to mine and Cole's immediately after.

*BTW the  mountain in this pic is Mount Everest. You want to hear about some uphill battles? Read some books about trying to climb Everest. On the way up to the top climbers pass by the dead and frozen bodies of climbers that have been there for years or even decades because it is just too difficult to bring them back down. Now my own personal policy is that if I am going somewhere and there is more than one dead body along the way - I should probably turn back. But the people climbing Everest do the opposite - they just keep going up - despite the dead bodies, despite the cold, despite the thin air. It is kind of nuts. But also really interesting. If you want to read more I highly recommend checking out Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. High Crimes by Michael Kodas is also an excellent Everest based read.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Monster Mash

Today the blog chain is seasonably themed with this question from Matt:

What is your all-time favorite monster? 

This time of year is all about monsters and things that go bump in the night... and I'm not really into those things. I am a weenie and a scaredy-cat who has a hard time sitting through scary movies. While for most people Halloween is the time of year to celebrate chills and thrills, for me it is the time of year to celebrate the joy of fun-sized 3 Musketeers.

They are so much fun though that I often have trouble stopping with just one, which could result in me becoming a Homer Simpson type monster.

That though is definitely NOT my favorite monster. Honestly picking one favorite is kinda difficult. If I go the sexy monster route then we are definitely gonna take a trip into Buffy-land. But once there - do I choose Angel or Spike? 

Okay, let's skip that question - I can't choose. Instead, let's go with my other favorite kind of monsters - the Muppety kind.

Again there are several choices:

In the end though, I have to give the title of favorite monster to Cookie. Cause I know he could take down a bag of fun size candy bars too.

Want to see more monsters? Well this chain is just getting started. To keep following along head on over to Cole's blog next. 

And in the meantime - who is your favorite monster?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Little Help From My Friends

 Is it blog chain time again? Why yes it is. And Sarah started us off with this question:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?

To answer the questions briefly and in order, my answers are as follows:

Do you work with critique partners? Hell yes!
How did you find your crit pals? Here and there.
What influence have they had on your work? TONS!!!! Seriously, OMG so much influence.

So what I like about this question is that it doesn't ask about beta readers, but specifically refers to crit partners or pals, which to me implies an ongoing relationship and exchange of work and ideas and support between two (or more) people.

There is just something about exchanging your work with another person. In a lot of ways it is an act of faith. You put the time into not only reading but really thinking and commenting on someone else's work, and hope that on their end they are doing the same thing.

Sometimes it can blow up in your face. I had one truly awful crit exchange experience that to this day makes me shake my head in disgust when I think about it. But I didn't let that one experience stop me from reaching out to other people, and putting my work in their hands and in return putting my time into reading the work they put into mine.

When I was in the beginning stages of writing Another Little Piece, I had that "ooh this is really something" feeling. Of course, who doesn't have that feeling at the start of a new WIP? I was also experimenting a bit and playing with form - switching pronouns, moving around in the timeline, and even adding bits of poetry. It felt like it was working, but I couldn't shake the worry that it might also be a hot mess.

I needed feedback, and I found it at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. I exchanged work with several different people, and found one person whose advice I became addicted to - the amazing Alyson Greene. As I wrote, I sent chunks of my MS to her, and receiving her feedback while I was in the midst of writing was not only motivational, but also incorporating her criticisms as I wrote helped me subtly change course as I went forward, which saved me from having to double-back and fix tons of things later.

But here's the really great thing about the crit partner relationship - you get something out of giving too. Reading someone else's work - you learn from their strengths and you share in their weaknesses. And when your partner tells you that their notes helped make their story stronger - that is just an awesome amazing feeling.

Now let's keep that amazing feeling going. Leave a comment about how much your crit parners mean to you, and then keep following along on the blog chain by checking out Abby's post before mine and Matt's directly after.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow Burn

It's time for another round of the blog chain and Shaun started us off with this question:

What are three books you would tell people that they need to keep reading even if they aren't immediately sucked in by the first page?

Oooh, such a great question. I have read so many blog posts about nailing the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page, the first fifty pages, etc, etc, etc. But we often forget to talk about the books that don't immediately grab hold of you,the ones that don't keep you up reading all night, and the books that play a little hard to get, and it is past time that the slow burn books get their time in the spotlight. So without further chit-chat, here are my top 3.

1. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

If you haven't read this book. OMG read it now. And the other two books in the series, you should probably get those too, cause you will want to read them as well. I love all three of these books, and one of the things I like best is the pacing. This first book especially takes its time establishing the characters and world... before letting us watch it slowly fall apart after a meteor crashes into the moon and pushes it off its axis. Unlike disaster movies where most of the fun is in watching large scale destruction, (The White House smashed to bits, an eight lane thruway crumbling to dust. You know you've seen these movies. Own your shame.) here disaster comes slowly as each new consequence slowly stacks up one upon the other in a way that leads to absolutely devastating consequences. While I was impatient with the pacing at the beginning of the book, by the end I was totally hooked and could not put it down.

2. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

I came across this book several years ago while browsing the stacks at my local library. I can't remember what made me pick it up. Maybe the chicken on the cover? It's not the type of book I usually reach for, and it was definitely a slower read for me, as opposed to most books which I will tear through in a day or two. What kept me reading? First there was the mystery of what happened to the narrators mother and sister. Then there was the absolutely gorgeous writing, the kind that makes you want to read it out loud like it's poetry. Mostly though it was the narrator herself, and the way she slowly unraveled her story. After finishing it, I wanted to read it again. Not immediately, but I knew that it was the type of book that I could come back to in a few years and love it as much as I had the first time. Since those few years have gone by, I will definitely be ordering a copy of this book on Amazon very soon.

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Okay, so confession. I haven't actually read this book. It - along with the second and third book in the series - have been sitting in my to-read pile since Christmas when my mother-in-law sent them to me after having read them herself. She told me they were good. I've read reviews saying they were good. I'd even read the first page of first one, but it didn't really grab me and I had other books in my pile... so I put it back down with the intention of picking it up again soon. Months passed and I was still telling myself any day now, when my older sister also told me they were good. She had just read all three of them and couldn't put them down, she said. Except. Except for one small thing. The first one started a little slow. So slow that she said it took about 100 pages before it really got going for her. One Hundred Pages. That is a lot of pages of to get through before a book really hooks you, and I am embarrassed to say that I have not yet gotten to those 100 pages, or any of the ones that come after. But really, I will. Any day now.

So that's my list. And you can find even more slow burn book recommendations from the other chain members. If you want to go in reverse check out Matt's post from yesterday and you to move forward you can find Katrina's list posted tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dark and Stormy Nights

The blog chain started with Christine this time who gave us a creative writing challenge:

Since we are all writer's, I thought it was about time for us to stretch our creative muscles and do a little writing. So, take the following topic and go crazy! Show us what you've got. Your story can be as long or as short as you choice.

The topic: A dark and stormy night.

 Here's what I've come up with:

Every window and door was shut and sealed tight, leaving the house hot and airless. The old metal fan caked with dust and creaking with every turn chased the same humid air from one side of the room to the other. We'd gathered round the kitchen table, the way we always did when a storm came, no matter that it was the middle of the night. Mom sat quiet and mostly still except for the occasional tap of her fingernails against the scarred tabletop.

Tonight's storm moved slowly, for nearly an hour it seemed to rumble at a great distance, creeping towards us on padded feet. Then all at once it was here. Thunder shook the walls, and lightening painted our windows bright white. And mom, on her feet, lunged towards the back door that rattled with the storm demanding to be let in.

John had already grabbed hold of one arm, and dad was on the other. Each outweighed her by at least fifty pounds, but she flung them off as if they were no more than a few drops of rain. I dived for her feet, getting kicked in the face for my trouble, as I latched onto her ankle. Undeterred she kept on towards the door, dragging me, a human ball and chain daughter along with her.

"Mom," I screamed as she flicked open the locks that she normally fumbled with. The wind stole the words from my mouth, not that it mattered she was fully in the storm's thrall and well beyond listening.

Normally this was where we I fell back, resigned to letting her throw herself into the storm's arms and be lit up and then struck down once again by lightning's hot kiss. Tonight though, I clung tighter. She dragged me across the wet grass and reached her hands up towards the sky.

I hoped that I would ground her, and that this time the storm would simply pass us by. But just like my seventh birthday when I'd hoped for a brand new bike and got my brother's hand-me-down instead - I was destined for disappointment.

Aaaannnddd that's it:) For more dark and stormy nights follow along with the entire blog chain. Matt's post came before mine and tomorrow the thunder rolls Katrina's way.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Brave New (Publishing) World

After a little summer break the blog chain is back (and better than ever with several new members - check the links in my sidebar to see the new line-up) and Sandra decided to start things up with a question that looks at the business side of writing.

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

So here's the thing, if you've read my last few posts here (Quick recap for those not interested in scrolling: found an agent, book sold to HarperTeen) then you might have guessed that for me personally, well I'm currently feeling pretty good about the publishing industry and my place in it.

However, that doesn't mean I'm just gonna sit back and say, "I cannot let my artistic brain be bothered with all this business side of things" because that would be kind of stupid, and generally I try to avoid being kind of stupid.

With the rise of e-books, the growing numbers of people choosing self-publishing, and Borders going under - the publishing industry is definitely in flux right now. Nothing is certain, and that's kind of scary. But let's face it, in life nothing is ever certain.

Five years ago had I had just moved to Knoxville with my husband, and I was having a really hard time finding a job. Being a book-lover I decided to apply at my local Borders store. They called me in to interview for a position in their cafe. Three managers interviewed me for this position that paid minimum wage plus tips, and during the interview one of the questions they asked was, "Where did you see yourself in five years?"

I don't have the best poker face, so they probably caught a hint of my inner-thoughts of, "Seriously? You're kidding, right?" Eventually I think I bs'd something or other about wanting a job where I could continuously grow and learn.

I didn't get the job, and now that there no longer is a Borders I can say that it was probably for the best. But I still have to wonder what my interviewers would've said if they'd been given the five year question. Did they see themselves at Borders? Did they have the slightest inkling that it would end up sinking faster than the Titanic?

I'm guessing they didn't. How could they have, and how can anyone else really know where the next five or ten or fifteen years will take us?

This doesn't mean we can't have goals, or make plans, because we can and we should. My goal was to find an agent and get published. And now that I've reached those goals, I'm setting new ones for myself. Maybe the changes in publishing will make some of those goals easier to reach, maybe it will make them harder - only time will tell. But in the meantime, I'm gonna continue working towards them no matter what next week's headlines may read.

All right that's enough from me. To continue following along with the blog chain check out Matt's blog before mine and directly Katrina after.

I'm also posting today over at Pots 'n Pens so make sure to head over there for a little chicken soup for the writer's soul.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wonderful and Exciting News Part II

One week after my amazing agent had sent my book out on submission, I got a voicemail message from her saying to call her back and that it was only "good news".

I am not a jump up and down person. I am not a scream and shout person. I am a sit still and quietly hyperventilate type person.

Except I couldn't do any of those things, because it was 4:30 on a Wednesday, and that meant it was time to begin the GAUNLET.

What is the GAUNLET you ask?

It is my Monday through Friday afternoon routine wherein I make the trek from my workplace to my children's daycare and then back home again.

I know that doesn't sound impressive or GAUNTLET-ey at all. Tons of people do that every day you are thinking. But let me paint a better picture for you.

My work is in downtown Buffalo. My children's daycare is in the suburbs. I have to go from the 33 to the 290 to the 90. That's three thruway changes. And the last one has a toll. I am on the 90 for all of maybe five miles and there is a toll!

Then I pick up my children. My twenty month old daughter is a goldfish cracker addict. Seriously, she has a problem. She needs them at all times. We are thinking about doing an intervention. It's that bad. But I have just come straight from work and I don't have any goldfish crackers. She whines. My four-year-old son sensing that she is getting more attention begins to whine too. I crank NPR and drive.

Except I can't get out of the daycare parking lot. It is on one of those streets where making a left means either waiting fifteen minutes for a solid break in traffic, or taking everyone's lives in my hands and shooting out into the slightest gap I can find. So I shoot out, and then take the side streets home, and there are approximately five bazillion traffic lights. Every single one of them turns red right as I reach them. And finally at the "almost home you guys and then you can eat all the goldfish you want and totally ruin your dinners" point, there is a traffic circle.

Traffic circles are wonderful in theory, they keep traffic flowing and you usually have a shorter wait then you would at a light. Except 80% of the population has no idea how to drive in a traffic circle. So they sit beside the yield sign, while I fight the urge to scream, "Yield! Yield! It says yield not Stop - YIELD!" When I do that I hear my son's little voice from the backseat say, "Mama, are you okay?" and then I feel like the worst person in the world. So I really try not to do that. Instead, I sit impatiently yet silently as the line of cars in front of me slowly gather their courage to enter the traffic circle, until finally it is my turn.

Then at last, I'm home. Now I can sit and hyperventilate, and I do for a minute, but I still have to call my wonderful agent back. So while my husband keeps the children entertained I sneak into our bedroom, close the door, and dial.

She talks and I hyperventilate. I can actually feel my eyes growing incredibly wide, as if my eyeballs were trying to jump out of my skull. I consider seeing about having one of those emergency defibrillators installed in our home.

And then the phone call is over. I talk to my husband. Call my mom. Text my best friend. Slowly my breathing slows.

And now the news is official. My name is part of Publishers Weekly deals section. My name. All three parts of it. Spelled correctly and everything. And the name of my book too. And I really wish I'd gone ahead and gotten that defibrillator installed.

Anyway, in case you are curious, here is the news that was the cause of all my erratic heartbeats and heavy breathing.

HarperTeen Takes Quinn's ‘Piece'
Alexandra Machinist at Janklow & Nesbit closed a two-book deal, at auction, for debut author Kate Karyus Quinn. Erica Sussman at HarperTeen took North American rights to the novel Another Little Piece, in which a girl comes to on an Oklahoma highway in another girl's body with the knowledge that she has murdered the girl whose form she now takes. The main character journeys back to the murdered girl's home in upstate New York as she tries to figure out, among other things, the identities of her other victims.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Twitter and Vimeo

Tweet, tweet, tweet.

Go ahead, guess what that is.

A bird?

You're close.

A bird-brain?

Oooh, so close you're burning up.

@katekaryusquinn on Twitter?

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Yes, after years of foolish resistance I have finally joined the Twitterverse, the Twitternation, or as I prefer to be called - the Twits.

It's an ongoing experiment, I am still not one hundred percent certain exactly what I am supposed to do with it, but so far I am having fun figuring it all out. If you want to follow, I have oh so conveniently added a little follow button to my side bar. Considerate of me, isn't it? And if I should be following you, leave your @name in the comments and I will gladly become a follower.

In other news, my husband and I have been working a little side project for several months now called Piscean Cinema. Our first finished film is from a wonderful wedding that we shot in May. What we made is a cross between a music video and a preview for a new movie. I am beyond thrilled with how it turned out, so if you have a few minutes - check it out!

Brenda and Steven - Wedding Trailer from Piscean Cinema on Vimeo.

For those that are interested in the technical details. My husband and I shot this on two Panasonic GH2's with a variety of four-thirds, micro four-thirds, and legacy Minolta lenses. My brilliant husband, Andy Quinn, edited it using Final Cut.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wonderful and Exciting News

Last Friday I accepted an offer of representation with Alexandra Machinist of Janklow and Nesbit Associates.

That is all.

Oh, what's that? You want details?

Okay, here's what I can tell you.

I got "the call" almost two weeks ago from a different wonderful agent. And while I wanted to yell into the phone, "Yes, yes, yes!" I knew that wasn't the right way to do things when I had a dozen other full/partials out there with other agents. Somehow I stumbled through the conversation, and ended it with only a promise to speak with the wonderful agent again.

Then there was a flurry of emailing. Some agents asked for more time to read, some said they were too busy and opted out, and some wanted to give me a call.

In the end I received four offers altogether and each was was wonderful... and also kinda awful. I really did not want to say no to anyone who told me that they loved my book. I wanted to say yes and thank you and I love you for loving my book.

Of course, I could only accept representation with one agent and in the end I knew that person had to be Alexandra.

And now I am looking forward to the next step in this writing journey - that of going out on submission. It is wonderful and scary and amazing, and I am so very grateful to be on this journey and to be able to share it with all of you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pots 'n Pens

I am involved in new blogging adventure with a bunch of other writers/food lovers called Pots 'n Pens. My introductory post is up today along with a great recipe for hot chocolate on a stick.

That sounds good, doesn't it?

Well, what are you waiting for? Come on over and check it out!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's In the Details

It is blog chain time once more, and this time Michelle has started things off.

There are so many things we have to include in our storyworlds...characters, world details, settings, etc. No matter what genre you write, your stories are full of tiny details that help create your storyworld. I know that for me, at least, finding or creating all these details can sometimes be a bit tough.

Where do you go for help? And what types of things are you more likely to research/search for as opposed to making up on your own? Do you have any favorite resource sites? Share links if you have them!!

I honestly don't have any favorite research sites... unless you count Google. When I am stuck for exactly how to describe something or don't have a clear enough vision of it in my head, then I use Google images. If I want to make sure that I am spelling the name of an actual person (like Arnold Schwarzenegger) correctly, then I Google. Sometimes if I am trying to figure out where something is or how long it would take my character to get somewhere then I'll use Google maps.

So yeah, Google. I really really really like Google. But so this post doesn't seem like a paid advertisement for Google, I usually try to write without clicking over to Google and the greater World Wide Web it is a part of, because then there is a whole world of distractions. And since I write stories that take place in contemporary settings, luckily I don't need a lot research, but can instead pull from my own life and observations and then from there let my characters dictate all the little details that go into a story.

For an example of how I usually write details into a story here is a tiny excerpt from my YA novel that I am currently querying.

I slipped out of bed and down the stairs. For pajamas I’d taken to sleeping in the hospital gown that I had kept on beneath the clothes the mom and the dad had brought for me, wearing it the whole drive home, feeling then, as I do now, that it was the only thing that truly belongs to me. Reaching into the closet by the front door, I pulled out the first thing my fingers grabbed hold of – a gigantic puffy parka that covered me down to mid-thigh. Even though it wasn’t that cold out, I pulled the fur-lined hood up over my head, figuring it would counter-balance my bare feet.

For the puffy parka, I was actually remembering similar ones that my younger sisters wore a few years ago when the fur-lined hoods were a very big thing. And from two stays in the hospital after having both of my children via c-section, I am very familiar with hospital gowns. Both of those clothing items came together, and I liked the juxtaposition between the two - the flimsy gown and gigantic coat.

So, that's how I research - what about you?

And to continue following this chain, make sure to check out Sandra's post before mine and Cole's immediately after.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Curses Wrap Up

In my last post I put a curse on my fellow blog chain members... and then waited to see how they would deal with it. They all grappled with the problem in different ways. I highly recomment that you read each of their individual responses by clicking the links below.

Michelle McLean
Margie Gelbwasser
Abby Annis
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
Christine Fonseca

And now that they've all answered, I think it is time to lift the curse.


And my own curse, of having trouble finding an idea for my next novel, has been slowly lifting as well. No, I haven't put any words on paper yet, but the ideas are swirling around in my head, and I am starting to get that excited itch that makes me want to put some words on paper. And that, my friends, is progress.

So that finishes out this round of the blog chain, and until the next one I'd love to know - what do you do when you are stuck for that next great idea?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Put A Spell On You

It's my turn to get the blog chain ball rolling this time, and I have to admit I was having a hard time coming up with something.

Lots of stuff and lots of life adjustments have been happening lately. I made a big move, started a full time job after several years of being home all day with the kids (switching places with my husband who is now looking for a job), after staying with my parents for a few weeks we found a house to rent and have spent the last few weeks unpacking and settling in, and trying to get our very confused children back into some sort of normal routine again. And on top of all that, I am also working on revisions of my latest book so that I can start sending queries out ASAP.

And and and, somewhere beyond all that I know that I should be starting on the next next book, which I have some scattered ideas for, but nothing solid. The thing is - my brain is sputtering. Instead of plotting the lives of my new characters, it's going, "Ooooh, why did I move to a different state? Why do I have to visit the DMV? And get a new license with a probably terrible picture? And register my car? Ooooh, why?"

The whole being unable to focus on writing feels like a curse. Or an evil spell. And that's when I had my idea. No, not for the new novel, but for this blog chain.

Curses, you've been cursed! You can write no longer. The story well has run dry, and you can't even remember how to type. Now what do you do? Where do you channel your creative energies? And to what lengths would you go to break the curse?

Now, I'm gonna cheat a little bit on this chain, and not answer the questions myself until the end of the chain. So head on over to Michelle's blog to see how she handles the curse.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Accentuate the Positive

It's been a horrible wet and gloomy spring for me, and for many other people in the South and Midwest it has been even worse with all the terrible tornadoes that keep coming. Sometimes it's easy to forgot that there is any good left, which is why I think Michelle's question for this round of the blog chain is so great.

The question: Be positive! Name some of the positive aspects of your writing --- be it a compliment from a mentor, friend or crit partner to anything special you learned concerning your writing skills.

When it is easy to focus on what isn't working and what isn't going your way, I think it's great to sometimes focus on the positives in all aspects of life, and in our writing journeys especially.

Hand in hand with accentuating the positive is also remembering that we need to toot our own horns sometimes. Maybe we haven't gotten an agent yet or made the bestseller list, or whatever the next goal down the line is, but as long as we stick with it we will continue to move forward, even if it is sometimes measured in inches instead of the giant leaps we want to be making.

So, without further ado, here are two big POSITIVES in my current writing life.

1. I had another story published in Woman's World this past month. It is my third story that I've submitted and they've accepted. There is nothing like the validation of seeing your words in print AND getting paid for them too. As a bonus, Kate Willoughby, who runs a blog about writing for Woman's World gave my story a great review.

2. I just finished my third novel and am getting ready to query once more. It's easy to see this as a negative. Two novels that I was unable to find an agent with. But I won't look at it that way (not today at least). The first novel got a few nibbles, but nothing serious. The second novel I got a lot closer with a rewrite/resubmit request and even a telephone call with the agent. It didn't end with an offer of representation, but I knew I was that much closer. Now as I prepare to start the query process all over again, I feel more hope than trepidation.

And as a little bonus I have a third positive that really doesn't have much to do with writing, but more with my personal life. After wanting to return to hometown of Buffalo, NY for many years, my husband and I finally found a way to make it a reality. At the beginning of May we packed up our house in Knoxville and headed North. We are still getting settled and a lot of our lives are still up in the air, but it feels good to be here, near my family again and at the place that through years of moving around California and Tennessee - I never could stop thinking of it as "home".

To follow along with this blog chain please read Sandra's post from yesterday, and then tomorrow head over to Cole's where she will finish things up.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

It's blog chain time once more, and Cole started things off by, by, by...

Woooh, okay, this is still difficult for me. Let me just get it out, before I break down completely. She BROKE UP WITH THE INTERNET!

Okay, sorry to yell, it's just kind of a big deal.

Don't get me wrong, Cole had some really good reasons for doing it... and that's what kinda makes things awkward for me.

You see, like the rest of the blog chain (you can follow along starting with Cole's post, or go backwards with Sandra's post directly before mine) I want to support her decision in the traditional way: with Ben & Jerry's and/or tequila, and a constant litany of, "I knew it from the beginning, you were too good for him. It's his loss. His loss."

Except there's one big problem - I am bound by the International Break-Up Treaty, which clearly states:

Mutual friends will be allocated in the following ways:

Friends introduced to the break-upper by the break-upee, will be returned to the break-upee, and will side with the break-upee in all post-break-up arguments. And vice versa yadda yadda yadda, etc, etc, etc.

If you can't decode all the legalize, here it is in a nutshell. I was friends with the Internet first, and if it wasn't for the Internet introducing us, I never would've known Cole at all. That means that as much as I don't want to, and as cool as Cole is (seriously, read her blog and you'll totally think to yourself, 'I totally want to hang out with her in real life.') I have to take the side of the Internet.

You see, The Internet and I go way back. When we first met back in high school, he was so sweet and considerate, always letting me know, "You've Got Mail." Later on in grad school, when for the first time I had a computer that was all mine, we were rebels together, illegally downloading music. And I never could've made it through all my boring desk jobs, without having the Internet there to keep me entertained.

The Internet has also been there for me during this crazy publishing journey - connecting me to other writers and as I talked about in a previous entry, teaching me everything there is to know about the business of getting published.

That's not all the Internet has taught me though. It also helped me learn how to cook and has given me tons of cool recipes to test out, it's given me tons of great book recommendations, and just the other day the Internet showed me how to take the really cool bokeh heart picture at the top of this post.

Sure, sometimes his information is inaccurate and we all know he's worth than useless during a power outage. And okay, yes, sometimes the Internet has done me wrong too. From that terrible blind date it set me up with when I first moved to California, to theKnot planning boards that made me a little wedding crazy, and most recently the Followers box on this very blog that made me momentarily insane as I tried to chase after online popularity.

At the end of the day though, the Internet is that friend I'm really glad to have... even if sometimes I also can't stand him. We'll have fights, but eventually we'll always make up.

So Cole, I understand if you need some time after your break-up with the Internet, but I hope eventually the two of you can eventually be friends. And if not, well maybe we can still communicate a bit behind his back, you know, snail mail me!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Lurve Scene

Kat is determined to get us all into trouble with the latest question for the blog chain.

How do you feel about love scenes? As a reader, are you put off by the gratuitous? As a writer, do you shy away from spelling out the down-and-dirty? Or do you write until your computer lights a cigarette?

That's right, we've talked about romance and we've talked about love, but now it's time to go there. Kids, it's time to talk about s-e-x.

I love that Kat asked about our feelings about love scenes from both the prospective of a reader and as a writer, because for me they are very different. It is kind of the same way I feel about fried foods. Now like most people with working taste buds and no history of heart disease, I love french fries, fried mozzarella, and believe in miracles every time I eat a fresh from the conveyor belt Krispy Kreme doughnut.

However, as much as I enjoy the distinctive taste of foods cooked in hot fat, I refuse to fry at home. Not in a fryer machine and not in a deep pot with a thermometer attached. It's too messy and too dangerous. Not to mention the health risks. Wait... are we still talking about frying food or did we switch back to sex?

As I've mentioned before here I am a fan of the romance genre. I first discovered romance novels towards the end of my middle school years, and if it wasn't for the sex scenes in them who knows when or where or how I would have eventually filled in the gaps in my sexual education. You see I grew up in a house that not only lacked HBO but any kind of cable television at all. And I went to a Catholic school up until eighth grade where when we did have our boys and girls separated sex ed classes their information was so out of date that the film reels (yes!) showed us girls how to attach our sanitary napkins with belts that kind of acted like garters.

Sex scenes aren't merely for educational purposes though. In the best written romances they should work in much the same way as a musical number in a Broadway musical does. It should advance the plot, reveal character, and entertain.

So when I wrote my first novel and it was a romance novel and it came time for the sex scene of course I wanted it to be good - I wanted it to be great. And it was. Probably. In the alternate universe where I actually wrote it. Yeah, there was sex in my book, but it was closed door - as in I wrote the before and I wrote the after, but the in-between was left to the reader's imagination.

And I think that is just the type of writer I am, because when I tried to write the in-between or when I even thought about writing it, I started shaking. Not with fear, but with a terrible awful case of the church giggles (these, of course, are the giggles you get at a time place when you are absolutely NOT supposed to be giggling, and this then causes you to giggle all the more).

I have a terrible time taking myself seriously sometimes, especially when something is very serious, but at the same time - if you look at it from a slightly different angle - very very silly. And sex scenes can become incredibly silly, incredibly quickly. Even at the very basic level of dealing with anatomy - you either get flowery and euphemistic and that is unintentionally hilarious. Or else you are very technical and sound like a stuffy textbook, which is once again hilarious.

I don't think it is possible to write a good, believable sex scene when you are giggling and snickering behind your hand like a sixth grade boy (no offense to sixth grade boys, but c'mon guys, you know how you are), and since I cannot at this time summon the necessary gravity, for now I'll leave the sex scenes to those who can.

So what about you? Are you a reader of sex scenes, a writer of them, both, or neither?

And if you love reading about love scenes, continue reading with Sandra and Cole.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

It's blog chain time once more and today's question is brought to us by Sarah.

what has been the most unexpected part of your writing journey up to this point? What has happened that you could never have predicted? Has it been a help or a hindrance?

There have actually been lots of unexpected parts to my writing journey, but maybe that's because I didn't have a whole lot of solid expectations starting out. Even though I've always known that I wanted to be a writer, I'm not a sit down and write down time specific goals type person. Instead, I use the "well let's try this" method of living my life.

That's how I ended up getting a BFA in theatre instead of the english degree I'd originally intended on receiving. And when I realized that might not have been quite what I wanted, it was off to film school in California - the other end of country from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I met my husband and we both earned MFAs in Film and Television Production, but finding a job in the LA industry was tougher than we'd expected so when he got a job offer in Tennessee - I didn't even hesitate. Sure, why not - let's go for it. Once settled down South with full health insurance benefits my husband and I saw an opportunity to join the great "let's have a kid" experiment. And because we never do anything halfway, we had two (not at the same time though. gah. I shudder at the thought.)

Okay, but this is supposed to be about my writing life. And that big paragraph above this one is just about my life life. Well that's because my writing life has always happened in between my life life. And I really only got serious about the writing part of my life in between having those kids. That's when I started my first novel, not even knowing it was going to be the first novel that I actually finished. So that was kind of unexpected. It was the fall of 2007 and my son was four months old. By December I finished it and by the Spring I was itching to send it out into the world.

This is where the really unexpected part comes in. I had no idea how much there was to learn. Or how much was involved in the "trying to get book published" process. Going into it, I figured it would be similar to putting a worm on a hook, casting it out to sea, and waiting for the fish to bite. Okay, so I know nothing about fishing, and I knew nothing about getting published. But I do now. Well, the publishing part - still not real clear on the ins and outs of fishing.

At first it was mind boggling how many resources were available out there FOR FREE to anyone who had the ability to Google and then read until their eyes bled. And I did read until my eyes bleed.

I hunted down every agent blog. Every editor blog. Every writing forum. Everything ever written on how best to write a query and how best to write a synopsis. And how not to write a query and synopsis.

I found a crit group, and realized got some good feedback.

I wrote a query and then I rewrote it five hundred thousand times. And then I rewrote it again.

I found out what books were trending hot. I found out not to follow trends.

I learned about blogging and leaving comments and started my own blog and hoped to one day get my own blog comments.

Sometimes I would remember to blink, and then I would read some more.

I entered agent contests and read about what to do when you get the call, and what to do if more than one agent is interested - even though by this point I was packing poor novel number one away and starting work on novel number two, because I had also read that this is what you are supposed to do.

I learned the difference between New York publishing, online publishing, and self publishing.

I read success stories and felt envious and wistful and more determined than ever.

I found Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Dear Author, Book Smugglers and lots of other great review sights that added to my pile of books to buy or get from the library and I read those too.

I cross referenced agents on QueryTracker and AgentQuery and felt like Santa Claus writing his list and checking it twice.

Yes, several times I purposely Googled something along the lines of, "authors who were rejected a million times and then went on to become kiss my a$$ rich and famous."

I learned about publishing contracts and edits and the whole process that goes into making the books that end up on the shelves.

I read agented authors saying that it didn't get easier after having an agent, and read published authors saying it didn't get better after being published, and thought "well that's just frigging great."

And then one day I got to the point where I'd click on a link to an article on how to write a better query, and realized... hey, wait, I already knew this. I've done this.

At that point I could've printed myself out a BS in Writing degree to hang on my wall. I didn't though.

One, because that would be lame and a little delusional, especially since I don't have the actual diplomas I have earned hanging on the wall.

And two, because I don't think my education is complete. I'm not anywhere near to how obsessive I once was in my online agent, blog, and forum following, but having that time when I was really plugged in was a huge help in getting closer to my writing goals. At the same time it was also a hindrance to my having any time to do some actual writing, which is why I've cut down significantly (child #2 in the "let's have a kid" experiment didn't help with the time constraints either). Overall though, time spent learning the business has probably been the most important unexpected detour I've taken on this writing journey.

That's it for this unexpected post. But there are more surprises to be had! Go find them with Sandra, Cole, and the rest of the blog chain.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Literary Love

After a bit of an unplanned hiatus, I am back on the blog chain just in time for Shaun's Valentine's themed question.

Who is your favorite literary couple and why?

I always have trouble with questions that ask me to pick a favorite. Favorite book, favorite movie, or favorite candy bar - how can I be expected to pick just one? And when it comes to ask a lifelong romance reader, such a myself, to pick just ONE favorite literary couple... well, it's almost enough to make my head explode... that is until the obvious answer came to me.

My favorite literary couple is my first literary couple - Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. Their relationship starts when they are children, when Gilbert makes fun of Anne's red hair. Over the course of the book, they become fierce competitors at school - each trying to take the place at the head of the class. By the end though, things change, they are older and become friends... with a suggestion (and hope from me) of something more. There are eight books in total in the Green Gables series, and slowly Anne and Gilbert fall in love, marry, and have children together. Having so many books, means there is no happy ending, but just like in life they continue to find new challenges together.

These books are not romances, but the relationship between Anne and Gilbert is one of the most romantic I've ever read, and I simply love them.

So who are your favorite literary lovebirds?

And to read more of this chain (full of excellent book recommendations for those seeking a little romance in their reading) make sure to check out Sandra before me, and Cole immediately after.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Interview with Michelle Mclean

Today I have an interview with Michelle McLean (one of the awesome members of the blog chain) discussing her NEW BOOK (like hot of the presses, get it now NEW) Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers


1. The first essay type report I can remember doing was on koala bears. I am pretty sure I went to the library and used encyclopedias (like books printed on paper for the youngsters out there) for most of my information. There may also have been a poster board presentation to go along with it. Can you remember your first written essay? Where the ways of researching and presenting the information as outdated as my own?

I’m not sure I remember my first essay. I remember doing a mission report in 5th grade. I grew up in California, so elementary kids always had to do a report on one of the Spanish missions out there. We had to write an essay on it and build a model of whichever mission we’d chosen. I actually really enjoyed it. Since we lived close to the one I chose, we went to visit it, and my dad helped me build a really cool model. And yes, I used those ancient encyclopedias as well LOL I seriously remember thinking the internet was some weird fad that I’d never use, especially for something like RESEARCH. :D Ahhh how times have changed. In fact, a good chunk of my chapter on how to research focuses on how to research without leaving your house :D

2. Up until college I was an undercover nerd. Okay, I tried to be undercover, but I think my honor roll status might have blown my cover pretty early. Still, I tried to be stealthy about my book a day extracurricular reading activities - especially once I discovered romance novels. Were you out loud and proud about your love of books and learning at school - or did you try the stealth approach as well?

Nope, I was in total stealth mode. I would have loved to read during all my breaks but I was too embarrassed and afraid to get teased. I talked about reading and I often still found something to read, but it was usually my history textbook or whatever novel we’d been assigned for English :D Then I’d devour my ‘real’ books when I got home. They didn’t have all these cool YA books when I was growing up. I read Sweet Valley High…those were socially acceptable. But my mother didn’t approve of them so I could only read those in secret LOL Seems like I was always hiding a book from someone :D

3. Cliffnotes. Fess up. Did you ever use them? Were you ever tempted to?

Ha! The few times I was able to get my hands on them I did. Confession – I’m not a fan of most of the “classics.” Snooze……Moby Dick…made it through exactly 2 chapters. The first one and one somewhere in the middle. Luckily my teacher was a huge fan of the book and talked about it so much I was able to ace every test :) That’s not to say I didn’t read my fair share of classics, and I did enjoy some of them. And most of the time I just couldn’t get a hold of the cliffnotes so I HAD to read. But yeah, cliffnotes or anywhere else I could find a summary – total fan :D

4. Finish the essay a week before it's due, or pull an all-nighter trying to get it finished at the last minute?

A little of both. I always tried to do it early. I always had my research and notes done ahead of time. But there were many times when I left the actual writing of the paper until the night before. Especially in grad school when I was juggling school and two babies :) But, if you have good notes and an outline, your paper is pretty much done for you….something I go over in my book :D I couldn’t have pulled off the night before writing though if I hadn’t had my notes and outline already. I don’t know how people do that :)

5. Ever used an excuse for a paper that wasn't ready on time (whether real or not)? Was it the dog ate my homework, or the computer ate my homework, or something even more creative?

I think I always had my paper ready on time. Though, I did take one class in my undergrad days, where I actually had the paper done like a month ahead of time, and then totally spaced the day it was due. I told the professor that I had it done and that it had been done for weeks but I’d left it at home. He’d told the class before there would be absolutely no accepting late papers so I was just sick. But he gave me until 4 that afternoon to have it in his office. I’m pretty sure I’d asked him a couple weeks earlier if I could turn it in early and he said no, so he must have known I really had it done. Plus, he gave me enough time to go grab it, but certainly not enough to write a 15 page paper from scratch lol

Luckily I just lived down the street from the school. I jetted home, grabbed it, and had it in his file box in under an hour. But ugh….nothing worse than that sick feeling of forgetting your homework…at least for me :)


Do you have saved any favorite essays from high school or college - either on paper or hidden away on some poor forgotten floppy disk? What were they and why did you save them?

Yep. I have most of my college papers. Or quite a few anyway. All of my grad school stuff. My mom actually kept a big file of my earlier college stuff. I keep most of what I write, but especially in regards to my papers, I just couldn’t stand the thought of spending that much time on something and then throwing it out :D

In fact, almost every sample essay in my book, with the exception of a few I wrote just for the book, is a paper I wrote for one of my classes. For the most part, I’ve trimmed them down to essay length and changed the language a bit to be more appropriate for high school level, but if you want to see some of my early work, just check out the sample essays in my book :D


Hmmm... if I was grading this interview I would have to give Michelle an A++ - she totally nailed it - even the bonus question!

Now here are some helpful links: check them out to find out more about Michelle and her book!

Michelle's Website
Michelle's Blog
The Operation Awesome Blog
Facebook Page
Amazon link to Homework Helpers