Monday, August 22, 2011

In Which Love YA Has A Contest

Quick! Quick! Quick! Get over to Love YA to submit to the Vickie Motter judged contest. Closes when the entries hit 50! Go now!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In Which I Get Another Story Idea

his one has been haunting me for years*, but it's been getting literal** over the past few days. So, it's officially going on the to "to be written" list. It's a story about a cop with tinnitus. Yeah, it doesn't sound like much when I put it that way, but there's a story in there. Trust me, I'm a writer :)

*Technically, it was the first book I ever tried to write. I think I was in junior high. It never got past the opening paragraph, but man what a paragraph!
"How did you know where that guy was?" 
She shrugged, "I just heard him." She wondered how her partner had failed to hear the music in the warehouse.
Stellar writing there. Deathly prose, even.

**Yes, I have symptoms of tinnitus. However, I find that elements of stories tend to "manifest" for me, until I acknowledge them. Then they go away. When I was writing Scratched, every night for weeks I would hear a loud banging as I was going to sleep. No one was knocking on the door, and nothing was falling over. Finally, in desperation of getting some sleep, I promised to include Tommyknockers in the story. The banging stopped. It's like that thing where med students think they have whatever disease it is they're studying at the moment. Or like writer's hypochondria.

In Which My Son Offers Writing Advice

s my son and I were talking yesterday, he said something funny, and I said, "Oh, I'm totally going to use that line in Penny's Luck". He said, "How will you use it?" and then we proceeded to talk about the book for the next few minutes.

After I talked about some of the scenes, he interrupted me. "I'm sorry, but I'm just not feeling it. Where's the ticking clock? There's no sense of urgency here."

That's my boy! (And he's totally correct. I need a ticking clock in this story.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Which Mandy Hubbard Judges A Contest

 know you love contests as much as I do! Quick! Get over to We Do Write for a Twitter pitch contest judged by Mandy Hubbard!.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Which I Am At WriteOnCon

'm at WriteOnCon, hanging out in the forums. How about you? Let me know, and we can be friends :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In Which Scrivener Has A New Beta

he Scrivener Windows Beta version has a new release today. (The Linux one will be out in a few days.) If you haven't tried out Scrivener because you don't have a Mac, or if you have been using a previous beta version of the one for Windows, you can get this new release at

In Which Snape Advises "It Will Get Better"

love this video. It's very funny (especially the end). Several things you should know, before you click. First, it's not really Snape. Second, it contains spoilers, so be warned! (I feel like I should put in a third mention, because while it's done in the spirit of the "It Gets Better" videos, this one is about being a villain, not about sexuality.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In Which I Start My Outline

enny's Luck is now officially past the major research stage and is now in the outlining portion of the writing. I've got 22 plot points. I generally write about 1,000 words per plot point, so that means... not nearly enough words for this book.

Fortunately, I don't have all the plot points down yet (I still have to do all the villain plot points), and I haven't plotted any of the subplots yet. So, there's a good chance this will be a good length yet. Fortunately, it's Middle Grade, which is reflected in the word count.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Which I Fail The Bechdel Test

realized today that "Penny's Luck" fails the Bechdel Test. In case you haven't heard of the Bechdel Test, or don't remember the details, here it is.
The work (book, film, play) has:
1. Two or more female characters
2. That speak to each other
3. About something other than a man

In "Penny's Luck" I don't have any other female characters! Argh! And I can't think of a good way to fit one in. Even if I turn the butterfly smuggling neighbor into a woman, she and Penny will still be talking to each other about Penny's dad. Double Argh!

I don't know how I'm going to fix this. Well, obviously, I'm going to have to add another female character. Cal's coach? Cal's mom? A BFF?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Which I Blog About Research

oing research is one of my favorite parts of writing. It's when and where I get ideas for plot points, find ways to make the unbelievable a little more believable, and I like learning about new things.

Here are some of the things I've been researching for "Penny's Luck".

  • Names of magic tricks. (Many years ago I was a magician, but other than "French Drop" I couldn't remember the names of many of the magic tricks. It's part of the jargon that Penny will use, so I'm brushing up and learning new names.)
  • Butterfly smuggling.
  • Human Growth Hormone and how it's given. (Squik.)
  • Meningitis, and how it's spread.
  • ASL. (I'm not sure this counts, as I took lessons in sign years ago, and my son is taking ASL in high school as his foreign language, so it's stuff I may use, but didn't start learning about just for this book.)
  • Cochlear Implants and the controversy around them. (Again, was learning about this stuff for a while before this book, so I'm not sure it counts as research for the book.)
  • Deaf and Hearing Impaired subculture. (Same as the two above.)
  • Storefront floor plans.
  • Organized crime.
  • Pole vaulting.
  • Escape artists.
  • Las Vegas. (Jobs and housing and local schools, as well as the viewpoint of the city.)
  • Average growth rate of teenage boys.
  • PTSD in humans.
  • ATF agents.
  • ATF canines. (Did you know that ATF canines are failed Guide Dogs?)
  • PTSD in canines.
  • Paranoia.
  • VW Bug.
  • Italian names for "grandfather".
  • Agoraphobia.
  • Monty Python. (Oh, who am I kidding? That's for fun. The fact that I can work something into the book is just icing.)
  • Comic books.
Ok, that's all I remember for now, but I haven't finished outlining, so I'm sure some more things will be coming up.

In Which I Wonder What Is Too Much

'm toying with a new idea for a character in "Penny's Luck". Cal, her boyfriend (Penny would say, "he's not my boyfriend", but he will be, she just doesn't know it yet). Anyway, Cal is 16, can drive a car (so he's frequently Penny's ride to and from work), and used to be a pretty good gymnast. He shot up over a foot in the last year, so he can't do gymnastics any more, but the high school coach is pushing him to do pole vaulting or high diving (or both!)

Because his center of gravity has changed so quickly, and his arms and legs are longer than his brain is used to (yet), he's also a little clumsy. He bangs into things or knocks things over. A lot.

I like Cal, and he ends up getting kidnapped with Penny at one point. I want him to be more than just comic relief. I want people to see why Penny would end up with him. I also want him to have a skill that Penny doesn't have. (Her skills are sleight of hand and misdirection.) I think I want Cal to be deaf. He had meningitis a  few years ago, and became deaf as a result of it. His skill would be lip reading.

I don't want his deafness to be a big issue in the book. He's a just a teenage boy, who has a crush on a girl, and he happens to be deaf.

I'm playing with the idea for now, but my worries are:
  1. Deaf culture. I know enough about the deaf culture to know that deaf people aren't as simple as "create hearing character, remove hearing". I'm also big on people not writing about minority subcultures without an understanding of that subculture. (I know I hate it when my religion is misrepresented in fiction.) Can I learn enough about the deaf subculture to do a credible job of creating Cal? 
  2. Is it too much? Is making Cal be deaf a "kitchen sink" problem, where I'm just putting too many elements in the story? 
I think it makes the story stronger, but I may not have the chops to write it well. I guess I'll have to try and see if I can pull it off. If anyone has any thoughts or advice on the subject, I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Which I Play With Google Scribe

oday I have been notified that Google Scribe is now available for bloggers. Google Scribe is like Mad Libs, only not. You remember Mad Libs, right? As story was created, with certain nouns, verbs, or adjectives left blank, to be filled in by a group of children.

Google Scribe does the same thing, except it guesses what you are going to be saying, based on what you just said. Let me retype that same sentence using Google Scribe.

Get Started doing this since the, er in general with your application gets the best service, best of what you just said.

I see a whole new website for the people that do Damn You, Autocorrect! Something like Google Scribbles. I find the feature annoying, but it may fun for days when you just don't know what to write. And you could always check to see if your writing is cliche. If Google Scribe would type the same thing you just did, maybe you need to uses fresher words :)

In Which I Witness Men Loading The Dishwasher

he next time someone tells me that men are better at spatial things, I will challenge them to witness a dishwasher loading event. Loading a dishwasher is a spatial thing. By that reasoning, men should be able to do it, and do it well. I have not actually seen any evidence of this in my life.

(Randy [my husband] and Michael [my son] both know that I made this post. Randy said the post was fine, as long as I didn't mention his testicles, which I promised not to do.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Which I Discover Writing Is Work

've been sick since last Wednesday. I have to admit that whenever I call in sick, I think, "Well, at least I'll get some writing done." And I never do.

For a long time, I beat myself up over this. I told myself that I wasn't dedicated enough as a writer, etc. This month, I've been doing the August challenge of doing at least 15 minutes of writing a day. 15 minutes isn't very much, and I've been able to do more than that every day, except when I was sick.

It wasn't because I wasn't dedicated, it was because I was sick. Writing is actual work. Just because I'm sitting down (or laying down, since I do most of my writing laying on my side in bed) doesn't mean that it's not work. It's fun. I love doing it. It feels good. But even when it's at its best, it's still work.

So, I can stop beating myself up for not writing when I'm sick.

In Which We Play Movie Games

t our house, we play a movie game called "Mom, guess what?!" Whenever we see a person has a tiny role in a movie or TV show (Dead Prostitute Number 1), we imagine the conversation the actor has with his/her mother.

"Mom! Guess what? After four years of studying and waiting on tables, I finally got a role on your favorite TV show!"
"Oh, congratulations honey! I'm so proud! Are you a new regular?"
"Well, are you a guest star?"
"Not exactly."
"Well, what are you playing?"
"Dead Prostitute Number 1!"
(pause) "Oh honey, I'm so happy for you!"

Today we were watching "Curiosity", and did a new one.
"I got a role on Curiosity!"
"Oh wonderful! Are you playing Dead Prostitute Number 1?"
"No, I'm playing Pope squished by ceiling!"
(pause) "Oh honey, I'm so happy for you!"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Which "Jaws" Teaches Me About Writing

he movie "Jaws" is one of my favorite movies. Not one that I like to watch over and over, but one that I watch intensely, about once every two years. It is my technical learning movie, and I learn something new about storytelling, every time I watch it.

Of course there are the classic things that Hitchcock taught us, which is the unseen monster is scarier than the seen monster. There are the things that English class taught us about symbolism, like Quint is really Captain Ahab. There is the classic "Don't put a gun on the mantel in scene one, unless you are going to use it in scene three". Only in this case, the gun is an exploding canister of air.

One of my favorite things in this movie is how a character will never do something, until he does (or doesn't). Brody will never go in the water, until he has to. Brody's character grows and lives. Quint will never put on a life jacket. He doesn't and he dies. (Though to be honest, putting on the life jacket wouldn't have saved him.)

In my new WiP, I'm trying to figure out what Penny will never do. Penny will never give up. Of course, that means that eventually, she will have to give up. And doing so will make her a better person. The bad guy will also never give up. That will lead to his undoing.

I'm still in the drafting/noodling stage, so this may change, but right now, it feels right.

I also love the placement of back story in this movie. When Quint finally reveals why he hates sharks so much, it's close enough to the encounter with the shark to make it memorable. If he'd revealed his story earlier, his refusal to put on a life jacket wouldn't be as meaningful. What if they'd shown Quint's story in a "prologue" at the beginning of the movie and then put "40 years later" at the start of the movie. How would that have changed the movie? I think it would have given Quint's story less impact. I hope I learn to time the placement of back story based on this movie.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

In Which There Is A Micro Synopsis Contest

ontest time over at YAtopia! This is a micro synopsis contest (three sentence synopsis) and the prize is a full MS request from John Cusick of Scott Treimel. The contest ends August 11, so move quickly!

This was my three sentence synopsis for "Scratched".

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Age Group: YA (13-18)
Word Count: 83k

In the suburbs of Southern California, 17 year old Troll Maid is looking for a job beyond the traditional three B's (bridges, bodyguard or bouncer), yet one that is still open to trolls. The job she finds is protecting human children from Oubliette, a monster that can cause forgetfulness or death with a simple, poisonous scratch. When a human boy in her care is kidnapped, Troll Maid teams up with Oubliette to find him, and Troll Maid discovers that if you scratch a monster you may find a hero underneath.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Which I Have A Possible Story Idea

omeday, I'd like to write a story of the Four Jacks. Jack o' the Green, Jack Frost, Jack o'Lantern and John Barleycorn. Other than they are seasonal fellows, and linked by name, I have no clue (yet) what the story will be about. Heroes, probably. Sacrifice, for sure. Death and what happens both before and after. What if the story opens with Jack's death, flashes back to his life, then in midstory has his death again and moves forward to what happens after death?

Could I work the tarot in there? Sort of like they did in Promethia?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Which I Muse About Bios

uthor bios have been described as "Insert quirky personal trait, mention where you live, include marital status, progeny (if any), and list pets." When trying to create a bio for my website, I wanted to include something that could be used as an author bio on a book, but (and this is the important part) I didn't want it to be the standard author bio formula.

What I came up with was: Suzi McGowen has been telling and writing stories for more years than she can count. (Math was never her strong point.) She lives in Southern California with her husband, her genius son (math is his strong point), and their not-yet-too-many cats.


Ok, so theoretically, I'm a creative person. So why not be creative in a bio?

Suzi McGowen took up writing after an on the job injury ended her career in international espionage. Her house is perfectly chosen to be defensible in case of zombie attack, and a pride of miniaturized lions guard the house when she is gone on one of her frequent trips to an undisclosed European country whose name rhymes with "love". She is also a professional liar.

Maybe not.

Friday, July 29, 2011

In Which I Am Sad

Googled my own name, and Google thinks I've misspelled it. "Did you mean...?" is a terrible thing to read when you're doing a vanity search. Or should I call it a "make sure you never have vanity" search?

In Which I Ramble About Google+

retty sure I started this post with a P, just because the raven holding the P is my favorite. I don't know why, don't ask me. Ok, If I had to guess, I would say it's because I like the curve of the P in this font.

Now I've forgotten what I was going to post about. Distracted by the shiny "P". Oh, yeah, it's in the title of this post. (Thank goodness for keywords. I use them all the time with my ADHD son.)

Google+ is probably going to be my main social site. Once I used Twitter I liked that, but Tweetdeck hasn't been working for me for days now, and Twitter is too hard for me to deal with if I can't use Tweetdeck. Is it perfect? No. Is it bug free? Again, no. It's in beta, and it shows. They're making mistakes, fixing them, making more mistakes, trying new things, and listening to what people are asking for. Which is exactly why I like it.

One thing I'd really love is if I could post to Blogger and Google+ at the same time. There are some kludgy work arounds (I just deleted one), but nothing that works the way I want it to yet. I imagine it will be coming Real Soon Now, because integration is one thing that Google is really good at. (That sounds scary, doesn't it? Well, I for one, welcome our alien overlords!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Which There Is A Contest

veryone loves a good contest. There is another pitch contest with Victoria Marini as the judge. This time, the contest is being held by Chanelle over at Beyond Words. It's limited to the first 150, and it closes tomorrow night, so brush up your two sentence pitch and get over there fast!

Update: The contest ends today, July 29!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In Which I Discuss Ravens

few fun facts about ravens. Ravens are tool users, and will use sticks, string, and cars to help them get food. They've been seen pulling up fishing line to get the fish on the end of the line, and then dropping the hook back in the water. They will drop "hard" food in front of cars. When the car runs over the nut (or clam, or whatever) and cracks it open, they will fly down and eat it.

In various myths they are frequently portrayed as smart and clever. In myths where they are not gods themselves, they are companions to gods. Odin had two raven companions, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) to advise him. Ravens have been viewed as both a bringer of fire and a harbinger of war and death. In scientific (and not so scientific) tests, they have proven themselves to be extremely smart, with an intelligence equal to chimpanzees.

A group of ravens can be called:
A murder of ravens (most commonly used with crows)
An unkindness of ravens
A flock of ravens (though that's boring)
A parliament of rooks (also used with owls)

But my favorite is...A storytelling of ravens. Which pretty much explains why they are the totem animal of my blog :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Which I Change My Blog

did it! Yes, I changed my blog and my theme! Not just the theme that you see, but the theme of my posts, and what I post, and how I post, etc. In blogging (and many other parts of my life) I feel like a raven, pecking at the shiny things I come across.

Before, I felt like anything I posted had to be related to either writing, or my family. I can't write about writing, day in and day out, for weeks/months/years. And my family? They are entertaining as heck, but I can't count on them to be entertaining on demand in time for a blog post.

But now, I can post about any shiny thing I find and still feel like I'm being true to the theme of my blog! Yay! (Will I end up posting more often? I doubt it.)

I do have one question for anyone that reads my blog on Google Reader. Did the first letter of this post show up as a picture? Or did it just start with the word "did"?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Conversations With Family

onight we went out to dinner. While we were standing in line, my son portioned out which family members would be the expert on  any given subject.

"Randy is the expert on religion, philosophy, and guitars," he said, "I am the expert on math and physics, and you..." he looked at me for a moment, and I thought he was going to say, "writing" or "being a mom" or something. "You," he said, "Get everything else."

No, he's not Irish or Texan, he just flatters like he is :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Which I Share My Mistake

YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday is What's the biggest writing / querying / publishing mistake you've made?

The one that embarrasses me the most is one that I made years ago. I sent a letter to an agent. This was an agent with a Reputation! For Snark! Because I wanted this email to be perfect, I did a spell check before hitting send. Did I mention it was a new and unfamiliar email program?

I thought I did it correctly, and hit send. When my BCC copy showed up (yes, I am like that), it showed every single spelling error and possible correction or variation for the email at the bottom of the email. Like three pages worth.

My only hope was that the agent tossed it without reading it, or that it got caught in a spam filter, but no, the agent replied. She was nice and polite, and never mentioned the three pages of spelling variations at the end of the email.

I think one thing we'll all learn on this road trip is that agents, editors and publishers are more understanding and forgiving than we think they are.

In Which There Is A Contest

love contests, and I know you love them too! Win, lose or draw, they are educational and fun. And I love, love, love, reading the hints of stories that other people have inside them.

Today YAtopia is having a contest, judged by the fabulous Vickie Motter. It's limited to 50 entries, so hop over quickly! Or, if it's too late, just read everyone else's three line pitch.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In Which I Am Not Sure What Happened

'm not exactly sure what happened yesterday. I mean, know what happened, I'm just not sure how it happened. What happened is that we adopted another cat.  But how it happened?

We always joke about crazy cat lady status. Not just for me, but for all of us, because my husband and son love cats as much as I do. (Maybe more.) But we were clear. We'd hit the limit of cats in our house (three). No more cats. I was personally clear, no more cats. No more male cats. No more long hair cats. From now on, only short hair female cats. (Hopefully, apple headed Siamese cats.)

We went to PetSmart to pick up food and cat sand. PetSmart doesn't sell cats, but they do have cats from rescue and animal shelters. We look, but never too long. We went in and looked, and I just fell in love. He is a Maine Coon. (Male, long hair, and Maine Coons are known for not getting along well with other cats.) Not the cat I would have chosen, for sure. But we could see he got along well with the other cats at the adoption center. He was mellow, and something about the way he looked at me...

But we were clear, no more cats. My husband came up, saw that I had fallen in love, and said, "Well, if you want another cat, I can't say no."

So we sat with him a while, and he was friendly and gentle, and got along with the other cats. We brought him home, and he hid for about six hours and now he's trying to make friends with the other cats.

Long Hair.
Maine Coon.

Just goes to show you, never say never :) As in "I'll never be a published author". Male. Long Hair. Maine Coon.

What the new cat would look like if he were feeling more confident and not hiding behind the CDs.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Which I Am Writing Again!

'm writing again! Yay! (I can't tell you how good this feels.) No, I wasn't having writer's block (does anyone every admit to having that?), I was suffering from depression and finding it hard to do anything. This is doubly bad, because writing is a huge help for me in dealing with depression. For many reasons, I'm glad to be writing again!

Sadly, I'm not working on my middle-grade-boy POV-urban fantasy, "The Monster of Dewsberry Drink". Instead, I got distracted by a shiny new story, "Penny's Luck". And get this, it's a YA mystery/suspense with No Paranormal/Fantasy In It At All! But she is studying to become a (stage) magician, so there is magic in this story. Lots of it. Will I make reader's eyes glaze over with terms like "French Drop" and "Click Pass"? I don't care! Will readers hate me because I don't reveal enough about how magic tricks are done? I don't care! Will readers (and/or magicians) hate me because I reveal too much about how magic tricks are done? I don't care! (All that will be worked out in the second draft, right?)

Right now, I'm writing the story I want to tell. And in the tradition of writing the query/hook before the story, here's my intro to "Penny's Luck".

Penny was wearing her lucky jeans when she got kidnapped. Lucky for her, that is. Not so much for the kidnappers. After years of studying to be a stage magician, escape and misdirection are skills that come as naturally as breathing.

Penny's problem is more immediate. She was kidnapped by the mafia. It's unlikely they'll just give up after their first botched attempt. She has to find out why they are trying to kidnap her, a 15 year old girl with no money and fewer connections, and stop them from coming  back again and again.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Which Natalie Whipple Has An Announcement

can't post on anyone's blogs, so here's the comment I want to make on Natalie Whipple's blog announcement :)

"I'm so thrilled for you! I know this has been a long time coming and I know you totally deserve to have that contract in your hands! Thank you for never giving up!"

Monday, July 4, 2011

In Which I Discuss The "Crazy Cat Lady" Formula

In my bio, I currently describe myself as "one cat short of 'crazy cat lady'". Exactly how many cats does it take to make a crazy cat lady? I'm glad you asked!

It's actually a very complicated math formula. It's based on income*, available space for litter boxes**, the number of people (hands for petting) available in the house, and how many cat you currently have. (Notice I don't say "own", since cats own you, not the other way around.)

In my case, I have not reached crazy cat lady status, because I have one less cat than crazy cat lady status requires. The really nice thing about this formula is that I will *always* have one less cat than crazy cat lady status, no matter how many cats I have.

*Income: if you have more cats than you can afford to care for, use the variable X. If you make more than 100,000 a year, use the variable Y. If you make more than 100,000 a year, and you have more cats than you can afford, use the variable "Certified Crazy Cat Lady".

**Crazy Cat Ladies tend to have their cats be indoor cats. Indoor cats live 12+ years, while indoor/outdoor cats tend to live less than four.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In Which There Is A Birthday And An Awesome Contest!

Yes! Shelley Watters is having a birthday! But she's giving us the presents! It is another awesome contest, this time judged by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency!

Go! Enter! Wish Shelley, "Happy Birthday"!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Which I Destroy My Blog

Sigh. Trying to change my template was a terrible, terrible exercise in failure. Unless my goal was to make all my blog posts appear twice on my blog, in which case, Epic Win!

Sigh. I've emailed Blogger. Someday they may even get back to me. In the meantime, I'm just hoping no one scrolls down that far.

You totally scrolled, didn't you? Well, guess what? I also somehow managed to duplicate my header. Now, you're going to look up, aren't you?


Update: Well, I managed to get rid of the duplicate header. The extra posts are still there, but hopefully, not as easy to see. I'll try and deal with this later.

In Which I Change My Blogger Template

Well, not yet, obviously. But any minute/day now. If you see weirdness going on here, that's what's happening :)

Update: Well, maybe not. I'm having trouble finding something that's perfect, and I'm not up for making my own right now.

What Agents Need to Know, in Order to Get the Writer of Their Dreams

(My is tongue is firmly in my cheek. I thought it would be fun to turn the advice that writers get on its head.)

There is a lot of information out on the web telling agents how to get a good writer. Some of it is good, and some...not so good. But as often as the topic comes up, it never gets old. Every agent wants to know how to get the writer of their dreams.

First, I know you've heard it a million times, but it's all about voice. When you're posting on your blog or on Twitter, writers are reading what you are saying. And like it or not, they are judging your voice. Be yourself, always. You want the writer to love the real you, right? After all, you will hopefully have a long relationship together, and it's important that you can work well together. So, by all means, be yourself. At the same time, don't let bad days cloud your tweets or posts. Think before you hit 'send' or 'publish'. Voice is something you can't fake, but you can make sure that you're putting your best foot forward in public areas.

Second, when you're looking at a potential relationship with a writer, don't be afraid to ask for references. Beta readers and critique partners can give you a day to day feel for how the writer responds to criticism and revision requests. I know everyone always says that the writers are the one with the power. After all they are the ones that create what you sell. But the agent/writer relationship is just that. A relationship between (at least) two people. Each bring their own strengths and resources to the table. Don't sell yourself short, or think, "I'm not worthy" when dealing with writers. They can smell fear.

Lastly, keep at it. You may not find the writer of your dreams in that first email, or even in the 500th email. The difference between success and failure is that a successful agent keeps looking. There is a perfect match for you out there. Keep faith and keep reading queries. Someday, you'll find the writer of your dreams.

In Which I Have a Busy Weekend

I had a very rollercoaster weekend. On Friday, while writing in a coffee shop with my friend The Word Counter, I decided to make a change to the ending of my troll book. I think it makes the end stronger and I like the balance it now has with the beginning.

Over the weekend, my husband and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary and we had our first guitar lessons. (This was cute, and bounces back and forth between fun and painful, depending on how long ago I practiced.)

I won a contest! So did my friend Jami Gold, and Alison Miller.

Sadly, my uncle died yesterday. He was 93, and he died at home, in his sleep, after a long illness. His family was present. We knew he was dying, so it wasn't a shock, but we are all sad.

Yesterday, my son was not diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In Which Cupcakes Are The Bomb!

Thanks to Gary Corby for pointing out this article. MI6 hacked an al-Qaeda website and replaced instructions for making bombs with recipes for cupcakes.

That makes me go "hee!" in the best ways :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In Which I Enter The First Page Contest

Title: Any Fae May Apply
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 90,000

I took stock of my injuries. I hadn't even been on the job a month and I had 14 bruises, a concussion, multiple cuts and abrasions, a broken arm, and now, a gunshot wound. Being a Tooth Fairy shouldn't be this hard.

It wasn't like I always wanted to be a Tooth Fairy. When you're a troll, jobs tend to fall into the three Bs. Bridges, bouncer, and bodyguard. Taking tolls at bridges is boring, and no one wants a girl as a bodyguard, which leaves bouncer, when I can get it. So I think Fate had a hand in my becoming a tooth fairy, though I didn't know it at the time…

…At the time, I thought it was a typical evening. The sun had set and it was safe for me to leave the library. I headed out for my nightly cuppa tea, when a shooting star raced across the sky.  I crossed my fingers to make a wish. It was a kid thing and I was too old for that now. How many times had I wished for friends? But I'd already crossed my fingers, it was too late now. I wished for something interesting to happen.

I walked in and out of the pools of light from the streetlights, the soft jingle of the silver charms on my pockets accenting each step. Sometimes car headlights would pick me out of the darkness, but I wasn't concerned. My glamour was up and I could pass for human.

Details for the contest here. Go! Enter!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In Which I Show the Link Between Tooth Fairies and the Black Death

I know you've been torturing yourselves with wondering, since my last "secrets of the tooth fairies" post. How in the world are tooth fairies and the Black Death linked?

It's a long story. First, humans and the fae had been at war for a very long time. Humans were winning. They're better at killing, and they breed like rats*. The fae could see three options. Disappear into The Gloaming, make humans more like fae, or get better at killing humans. There was much debate (and it still hasn't been resolved) but finally a new fae was introduced. Oubliette, who had the power to kill humans with just a scratch. Oubliette (the tales aren't clear if Oubliette was one fae, a family of fae, or a new race) was incredibly good at her job. Humans were dropping like flies. They called it "The Black Death" and in later years humans wrongly assumed that it was a form of the bubonic plague.

The fae might have won the war, except for one thing. Oubliette did not discriminate between children and adults. Because fae take so long to have children, they are considered precious, and Oubliette's actions were horrific to the other fae. She argued that she didn't know they were children. That humans couldn't even tell the difference between children and adults, so how could she? The markers of adulthood (marriage, living on your own, etc) could happen to a human at any age. More debate and it was determined that once a child lost its "baby teeth" and adult teeth were growing in, it was no longer a child.

Oubliette took this to mean when a child lost its first baby tooth, and her kill rate didn't noticeably drop. Fae and humans finally signed a pact. If a human gave an offering of blood and bone to the fae, and received fae silver in exchange, they were promising not to harm the fae. They would be safe from Oubliette. Humans forget their pacts almost as soon as the ink dries, but they remember the important part, and give a child's first tooth to the fae. In exchange, fairy silver is left behind (which changes into what ever money the family expects to see.)

So, children are safe from Oubliette until they lose their first tooth. They are safe from Oubliette once they've given their first tooth to the tooth fairy and gotten money (or something) in exchange. But for that one night, the children are terribly vulnerable.

*This is why "rats" is a fae term for humans. Any fairy tale you've read, like The Pied Piper of Hamlin, that has rats in it, is really a fae story about humans killing fae.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Which My Friend Has Big News

I'm putting off my post about what the Black Death had to do with the creation of tooth fairies in favor of this public announcement.

My friend over at The Word Counter has big news! Awesome news! Better than awesome news! Totally deserved and yet still awesome with awesome topping news! Go congratulate her :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Which There is Another Awesome Contest

Shelley Watters is having another awesome agent pitch contest on her blog. Check it out, spread the word and enter!

This will be the first 250 words of your novel, and will be judged by Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates.

In Which My Husband Compares Me to Orson Wells

Last night I was stressing about Troll Wife (probably changing to Troll Maid). I've blended fact and fiction, and was worried that readers might think that some of the fiction was actually fact. Which I kind of want, but I also don't want people walking around blatently misinformed, either.

My husband said, "Well, you need to decide if you want to be Orson Wells or not."

I laughed and said, "I love you."

He smiled and said, "I love that you know what I'm talking about, without explanation."

For the record, yes, I want to be Orson Wells. Only, you know, without the panic and traffic jams.

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Which I Share When Tooth Fairies Were Created

JEFritz wanted to know when the tooth fairies were created. Tooth fairies first appeared in America in the 1920's. However, they didn't appear in print until the 1940's. Before that time a child's first tooth was either burned, buried, taken by mice or rats, thrown over the roof, tossed in a river, etc. Even in cultures where the tooth fairy doesn't exist*, these other methods are still used.

Basically, in almost all cultures all over the world, (but most heavily in countries that were affected by the Black Plague), a child's first tooth is ritually disposed of, and not just thrown out.

Why the connection to the Black Plague? I'll save that part for the next post :)

*Aunt Nancy, the head of the tooth fairies, wants to expand tooth fairies to those other cultures. Movies about tooth fairies may be a way for her to start expanding the territories of tooth fairies.

Friday, May 13, 2011

In Which I Share Secret Information About Tooth Fairies

After literally years of research, I can now say that I am an expert on Tooth Fairies. I've decided not to let all that research go to waste, so I'm going to start sharing Secrets of the Tooth Fairies.

The first secret is "tooth falling season". There are a couple of times a year when baby teeth, like tree leaves, fall. If you've lost a tooth during tooth falling season, and it's not your first tooth, the tooth fairy may take several nights to get to your tooth. Nothing personal, it's just that the priority is to protect those children that have lost their first tooth.

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about tooth fairies. If you don't ask, I'll share anyway :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Which I Have Thinks About Troll Wife

I have been giving some serious thought about my Troll Wife story. First, there are just too many people that only know the modern term of "wife". "Fish wife" and "ale wife" have disappeared from our language, and aren't likely to return, even if a troll runs around threatening everyone. :) I can't explain the term to every reader, and I'm afraid most readers (read agents) won't last long enough to get to her explanation of the term.

So, my first think is to call her something else. Troll Maid perhaps?

My second think is about the title. I'm toying with a subtitle. Something like, "My life beyond bridges, bouncers and bodyguards".

Lastly, I'm thinking about reworking her character. Don't get me wrong, I love Troll Wife and I love her story. I'm not going to change her age (19 in human years, 50 in troll years), but maybe I need to tweak her voice. Still snarky, defensive, but maybe remove some of the cynicism. I've met plenty of cynical 19 year old. Heck I am one (at least I'm 19 in my mind). But maybe she needs a more hopeful train of thought?

I'm not sure about this and I'm not going to start rewriting till I am sure. Why? Because in my experience, endless rewriting is easier to face than sending the story out in the world. I want to make sure that I'm rewriting for the right reasons. Fear and avoidance are not the right reasons :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

In Which There is a Contest

Shelley Watters over at Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book? Is having another contest. Comment on this post, and she'll do a 10 page critique of someone picked at random.

In Which Everything Old is New Again

My son has ADHD. He is distracted by anything shiny, or soft, or cats. He is delighted by many seemingly insignificant things. Over the weekend my family went to Jack in the Box. Michael was enchanted with the fact that they had new straws at Jack in the Box. Oh, and a crow that was outside on the grass.

Randy said, "I wish I had ADHD, so the world was constantly full of wonder."

We also had a talk about how many of the best and most interesting characters have ADHD. Steve Irwin. (Would he have gotten his own show, if he didn't have ADHD?). Ty Pennington. Doctor Who. Many of the most interesting characters in various books. Plucky sidekicks in many situations.

I think we love grownups with ADHD because they are so out there. When they're excited, they share that enthusiasim with everyone. They don't hold back, or think "I'm an adult, I should be calmer about this". They jump in without looking, think outside the box, and remind us of how wonderful things can be. On the down side, they share their enthusiasim with everyone, they don't hold back, they don't think "I'm an adult", and they jump in without looking. This can cause delightfully sticky situations for your characters.

Do you have a character that could benefit from a little (or a lot) of ADHD?

Monday, April 25, 2011

In Which My Son Thinks I am an Idiot

My son is super literal. To the point that over the years, therapists have wondered (and then discarded) the idea that he might be on the autism spectrum. Anyway, sometimes he's serious about his super literal answers (and gets upset when misunderstandings or frustration ensues). Other times he's deliberately being funny. Here's an example from yesterday:

Me: "Who made the hard boiled eggs? You or grandma?"
Michael: "Does it matter?"
Me: "No, I just wanted to know who made the eggs."
Him: "The chicken made the eggs."

If we had such things as a Fair Witness*  in this world,  Michael wouldn't need much training at all.

*Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land". The main character is a Martian named (interestingly enough) Michael.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Which I Lure People

A few months ago, I finally lured my husband into getting a Kindle. He'd always despised them as "soulless" but he was going to Texas for a few days and needed to take several new books with him. The Kindle is nothing if not a perfect travel solution for carrying many books. He was hooked and now reads both real books and Kindles books, but finds the Kindle (with its adjustable font) to be easier on his eyes. Win!

This weekend, I tried to talk him into getting a Droid. He got this close to getting one, but decided against it. Lose. (But only of round one. I will get him into a smart phone one of these days, then it will be a Win!)

As someone who started out blogging over at LiveJournal and then (after many years) switched to Blogger, I've been an advocate for Blogger for some time (except for their lack of threaded comments). My friend BuildingALife (over at LJ) has finally come to the darkside Blogger and start a new blog for the new phase in her life. Please welcome ICountWords to the blogger verse! (Not really a Win, since I wasn't trying to get her to switch, but we'll pretend it's a Win, because it's more fun that way :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

In Which I am Back From The Dead

No, I'm not a zombie, though the side effects from the meds I got probably made me resemble one. But, as with most things, those side effects have diminished and I'm actually able to stay awake for 12 hours at a time :)

Randy is also doing better. The antibiotics took a while to knock his tooth infection back, but they're finally getting results.

I have not been writing. I'm sort of letting the Monster of Dewsberry Drink story brew. It needs some more plot points, more depth, before I start writing. (I learned during Troll Wife that adding those extra layers in after writing the basic story make editing a bit a terrible experience.)

I thought long and hard before posting this next part, but decided to do it anyway.

My ex husband is having his funeral on May 2nd. That may have something to do with my lack of writing, too. Michael picked out his funeral clothes while we were at Target on Sat. Black pants, a black shirt with a woven black stripe, a grey vest and a purple tie. I think his dad would have approved :) I have yet to get my funeral clothes.

On the off chance that you know Michael or me personally, or knew Bernie, please consider yourself invited to the funeral. Email me for time and location.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Which My Husband is Drugged

Randy came home today with an impressive number of painkillers and antibiotics and an appointment for a dental operation on Saturday.

After taking the painkillers, he was lying on the couch watching Glee, and said, "Today, when I was in the...waiting place for the...mouth doctor...I forgot what happened."

He's still in pain, he just doesn't remember it for very long.

On Tuesday, my doctor gave me meds that will make me sleepy and stupid for a few days. She was right, they did and they do.

We are a fun couple right now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Which You Vote

Right now there is a Movie March Madness Vote on. (Thanks to Really? I'm Blogging? for the heads up.) The field has been narrowed down to the final two.

Go vote for the best Science Fiction movie of all time. Empire Strikes Back or Serenity.

In Which I Talk About Stubbornness

My family is very stubborn. At my son's schools, over the years, they mention that he's stubborn (and they say that like it's a bad thing!). I get it from my mom's side of the family. When my mom and my son get stuck on either sides of a stubborn issue, it's like watching an evenly matched sumo wrestling team. There is no movement at all.

(I'm not as stubborn as they are. What? Why are you looking at me like that? It's true! Just ask my husband! Oh wait, better not ask him. Find someone that doesn't know me very well.)

Eventually, my mom will win the stubborn contest. Usually. But that's because she's older and has more experience. My son will start winning more when he gets older. But no one in my family will ever beat my great-grandmother. On my mom's side, natch.

My great-grandma was 90 years old (in great health, just old) and living with her son. He had to go to San Diego for some cancer treatments and grandma didn't want to go.

"Well, then you'll have to stay with Brother while we're gone."
"No, I'll just stay here."
"Mom, you're 90 years old! You can't stay here by yourself while we're gone for days. How about you come to San Diego with us?"
"No. I'm not going to San Diego and I'm not staying with Brother."
"Well, we're not leaving you here alone. You'll have to come to San Diego with us."
"I am NOT going to San Diego."
"Oh yes you are."
"I would rather die than go to San Diego"
(Personal interjection here. I like San Diego. I can't imagine why she didn't want to go.)

Three days later she was dead. "Natural causes" the doctor said, but everyone knew it was pure stubbornness.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Which I Talk About Dark Nights of the Soul

One of the writing rules (and remember, they're not rules, they're price tags) is that at some point in your book (usually midway or 2/3 of the way) your character will have a "Dark Night of the Soul". All is lost. Everything is hopeless. Why go on?

As writers, I think we can write this and write this well because so many of us have that feeling about our writing. Who knows what causes it. Maybe a single crow* flew by and you didn't greet it? Maybe you got a harsh reception to your work? Maybe it was just a bad day.

Whatever the cause, you decide to give up writing. You might even give it up for a whole day (week/month/year). But you'll be back, because published or not, you're a writer. You write. It's what you do. And you know what makes the Dark Night of the Soul go away? Same thing as for your character. You take action and move forward anyway. No matter how hopeless it seems, or how outnumbered you are, you keep on moving forward.

And you know what? It gets better. I promise.

*Crow rhymes are fun.

In Which I Share a Link To Survival Tips

A few weeks ago, in an effort to be more authentic, I spent a lot of time writing a post about depression and how writing has helped me survive. Just as I went to publish it, the internet ate it. When that happens, I take it as a sign that I need to use the 24 hour rule* before posting. If I still feel the need after 24 hours, then I go for it.

Now I know why I didn't need to post it. Because Fran Dorf said it better than I ever will. Writing for Survival.

*24 hours is subjective and can actually end up being 24 days.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

In Which I Find Wisdom

While hopping back and forth between blogs and Twitter, I found a tweet to this great blog post. (From @Lydia_Sharp) Please check out the post "The Type of Author I Want To Be". Great stuff!

In Which I Am Thankful

I just wanted to thank everyone that helped me polish my twitter pitch, especially Bethany (who pointed out I didn't need to waste characters on the word "female"), Girl Friday (who did the heavy lifting of removing extra words and capturing the alienation that my troll feels), and A.B. Fenner (who brought the whole thing home and in under 140 characters).

Thank you all for helping me out. And thank you to everyone that shared their pitches on line. Being able to look at other pitches and see what caught me and what didn't was educational in learning how to shape my pitch.

Even better, reading how other people felt about a given pitch, and seeing how much of it was all just a matter of taste was ego balming :)

And I'm so happy (and proud) that we really helped each other, even though helping others meant they had a better chance of winning the contest. Writers are awesome!

In Which I Revise my Twitter Pitch

Thanks to so many comments I got on the first version of the pitch I'm entering in  Shelley Watters Twitter Pitch Contest.

The original pitch is a couple of posts below. Here's the revision:

Version 2.0

Title: "Any Fae May Apply"
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 95,000

A snarky teen troll finds part of her job as Tooth Fairy is to stop a monster from killing kids. Even if other fae won't work with her kind.

Thanks for any comments or suggestions!

Friday, April 1, 2011

In Which I Don't Discuss Autism

I've been thinking about what to do for Autism Awareness Day (April 2). My son doesn't have autism, but he's not "neurotypical", so it's a sensitive subject. I've decided to just link to Corinne Duyvis's post and let her speak.

In Which I Share My Twitter Pitch

I've been working on creating a Twitter Pitch for a while now. It just seemed natural to enter Shelley Watters Twitter Pitch Contest.

I think query letters and things like Twitter pitches (or elevator pitches) are probably easier if you have short story skills. Sadly, I do not have short story skills, so here's what I have:

A snarky female troll discovers that part of her job description as "tooth fairy" is to stop a monster before it kills children in her care. Will the other tooth fairies lower themselves to working with a troll, even to save children?

Oops, too long. How about:

A snarky female troll discovers that part of her job description as "tooth fairy" is to stop a monster before it kills children in her care.


Thanks to everyone that commented! I've made a few changes to the pitch:

Version 2.0

Title: "Any Fae May Apply"
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 95,000

A snarky teen troll finds part of her job as Tooth Fairy is to stop a monster from killing kids. Even if other fae won't work with her kind.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Which I Wish I Lived in a World Where This Didn't Happen

For those of you that haven't heard yet, Seanan McGuire and four or five other authors have pulled their stories from the Wicked Pretty Things anthology. Please read her post and related links for the whole story.

Here's my take (short version):
Jessica Verday wrote a G rated horror story with elements of romance which was accepted into the anthology. After being accepted, the editor said "Oh, it's a boy/boy love story. Can you change one of the boys into a girl? Our publisher won't like boy/boy stories."

Author said, "No, I won't change. Please don't publish my story."

Publisher said, "No, we have no problem with LGBT stories! It's the editor that does! And we aren't associated with her, but we stand behind her, and we love LGBT stories. Please publish your story with us."

Author said, "No, why would I want the editor to get money from my story when she's homophobic?"

Editor said, "I'm not homophobic! Look here's a video of me wrestling a gay man!"

(Actually, she didn't say she wasn't homophobic. She just offered up a video of her wrestling a gay man, as though that showed she wasn't homophobic. Seriously. To which I say, "WTF?")

Other authors pulled their stories in support, and now there is a boycott from some authors of this editor.

In Which There is a Twitter Pitch Contest

Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book? (Shelley Watters) is having a twitter length pitch contest to celebrate reaching 100 followers on her blog and 500 on Twitter. First prize? A full length manuscript request by Suzie Townsend. It looks fun! (Mostly because I've been working on Twitter pitches lately :)

In Which There is a Query Letter Contest

In case you haven't heard, YA Fantasy Guide is having a query letter critique contest! Check it out. The prize is a query letter critique by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency. Good luck!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Which I Have the Best Husband Ever

This morning, Randy went downstairs to make himself breakfast. A few minutes later he came back into the bedroom with a tray in his hand. "I brought you breakfast in bed," he said. (Eggs, toast, sausage and juice.)

Best husband ever!

In other news, I have done more work on my synopsis!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Which I Find Two Synopsis Links

I have been avoiding querying some agents because they require a synopsis. Well, that's not exactly true. I've been putting off querying some agents because they require a synopsis.

There are lots of resources out there for a writer struggling with that foul beast. The Universe must have known I needed it, because two showed up in blog reading today.

First was at Magical Words. May I just say if you're not reading Magical Words, you should be? It's got great advice, my favorite of which was "They're not rules, they're price tags", which is about writing "rules" and the price you pay if you violate them. (They don't say don't do, just be aware of what you are doing.) Anyway, the post (written back in November, no clue how I found it today) was called "Publishing-The Synopsis".

The other post was on QueryTracker. It is appropriately titled "Writing a Novel Synopsis that Rocks!"

So, there are links to just two of many ways to write a synopsis. (We hates the synopsis, Precious. Yes, we does.)

In Which I Find an Oldie but a Goodie

I found this article years ago. It's the Snowflake Outline method, and it helps you build up your story in a really interesting way. If you haven't come across it before, and you're looking at new ways to outline a novel, you might want to check it out.

Update: Oops, I just re-read the article. I didn't realize that he has now created Snowflake software and is selling it on that site. I think the article is still a good one. I am not endorsing the software because I've never used (didn't even know it existed until just now), and I won't be likely to, because it's too expensive for me. So, just an FYI.

Updated Update: After posting this, I started reading blogs on my list (over there>) and discovered that Really? I'm Blogging? also posted a link to this site. I swear I didn't read her blog before posting that link! Now watch, I'll go on Twitter and someone will have just tweeted it, too. If you're not already reading Really? I'm Blogging? please check it out!

In other news, I was in a minor car accident yesterday. I'm fine, and my car is driveable. The guy who hit me has insurance, and told me his brakes failed. (I was stopped at a red light, and he...didn't.) I think the bumper will need replacing, though. I take into the car repair place on Friday.

This is the fourth time I've been rear-ended. I'm getting tired of this, though I guess it's better than getting t-boned. (And it's much better than hitting someone else's rear end.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In Which I Find a Post About Blogging That Might Change My Life

Yesterday, on Twitter (I know, I've been doing Twitter less than a week, and I've already blogged about it twice!) @elizabethscraig over at Mystery Writing is Murder tweeted a link to TribalWriter's post about blogging. It's called "where to find your interestingness as a writer + blogger + ruler of your domain" and it really spoke to me.

Theoretically, it's about how to become a better blogger, but for me, it hit right to the core of problem I've been dealing with for years. She talks about how edges are more interesting, but as children we're taught to seek the middle. "So you smooth out your own edges, or maybe cut them off." 

Right or wrong, I cut off a lot of my own edges over the years. (I would maintain that since I survived, what I did wasn't wrong, but it felt and feels wrong.) I've bemoaned the fact that I am not a starfish, and I can't regrow those parts. But I envy people that do have those parts. Envy in the way that means "I want that, too".

And, because I am not a starfish, I am always trying to find ways to regrow those parts. To be the edgier version of me that I lost over the years, in school yards, living rooms and bed rooms.

So, I will need to re-read that post several times, until I can integrate it in my brain. And I need to remind myself to live closer to my edges. Every day.

But for everything, there is a cost. When I become edgier, I will lose the approval of (some, most, all?) people that follow this blog. I may never get published. I may be the only person that ever reads (and likes) the stories I want to share.

Am I willing to sacrifice that, in order to heal? Is there a possibility that I can become that person and still have everything I want.

Oh my gods, I'm Troll Wife.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Which I Have a Field Day With Tropes

Roughly 2,500 words into "The Monster of Dewsberry Drink" and I'm finding some weird similarities with "Troll Wife".

Troll Wife is a story where a young female troll discovers that part of her job description as “tooth fairy” is stopping a deadly monster before it kills more children.

The Monster of Dewsberry Drink is about a boy that discovers a monster in the local lake, and is determined to save him before the lake is destroyed by a local developer.

At first glance, they don't seem to have that much in common. Female non-human lead vs male human lead, for example.

But on closer examination:
They're both Urban Fantasies.
They're both set in Southern California.
They both have weird issues with names. (Troll Wife hasn't earned a name yet. In MoDD, "Sape" goes by that nickname and would die of shame if anyone learned his real name. Plus, he names the monster, Monster.)
They're both about Outsiders trying to find a way to fit in.
A hand print appears in both stories, as a significant "you're not alone" moment.

People reading these are going to start thinking I have issues. (Ok, Bill and Kim already know I have issues.)

In Which I Display Writerly Angst

I'm 76 words into "Monster" this morning, and I suddenly realize I am the worst writer in existence.

Ok, probably not the worst writer in existence, but ranking in with that group. Show don't tell, show don't tell! I thought this would be easier in third person, but I am wrong.
I know, just write the crappy first draft and fix it in editing right? But wouldn't it make sense to do it right the first time, instead of having to do it two (three, seven, ten) times?

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Which I Get Better At Pitching (Too Late For Me)

Remember that pitch contest that YAtopia is having?  Well you still have a chance to enter. But before you do, check out this post by Donna Newton. I wish I'd seen it before I created my pitch, but you still have a chance! Quick! Go read, and then enter!

(Thanks to Jami Gold's tweet, or I would never have seen Donna's post.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Which I Write Backwords

I started The Monster of Dewsberry Drink last weekend. Given my work and family life, I'm really more a weekend novelist, so I expect to get some more words down this weekend.

This is the first book that I ever started by writing a query letter first. In it's own way, it's a hook and outline to help me remember what I'm writing about and not get distracted by every shiny idea that passes my way. So, here is the query letter for The Monster of Dewsberry Drink. (No, I will not be using this as my query letter when I send it to agents :)

"Sape" is starting 7th grade with a normal set of problems. His best friend is drifting from him, getting heavily involved in sports. His parents are almost ready to flip the house they've been working on for the past year, which means moving again. His brother's girlfriend thinks she's a Witch (eye roll), and his brother is… his brother. Oh, and it looks like he's going to lose this year's Science Fair to Katherine. Again.

All of that pales when he finds a real live, actual-for-true monster living in the local reservoir. Sure, it won't solve all his problems, but he's bound to win the Science Fair at least. Unfortunately for Sape, a local developer doesn't want anyone to know about the monster. When a mysterious man tries to drown Sape in the reservoir and the monster saves his life, things go back to super complicated.

Now he's got to enlist the help of his (former?) best friend, his arch-nemesis, and even (gulp) his big brother to save the Monster of Dewsberry Drink.

In Which There is a Pitch Contest

YAtopia is having a pitch contest! It's limited to 150 entries, so enter right away!

The instructions for pitching to Ammi-Joan Paquette are there. (She's currently closed to submissions, so think of this as a free chance to get her attention!)

Good luck!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Which I Delight About Seanan McGuire

If you take a look at my labels (to the right and a little down), you can see what I talk about most. Writing, check. Troll Wife, check. Links, check. But one of the biggest labels is Seanan McGuire. I'm thinking about becoming her Official Stalker tm, but then I'd have to get her permission, so I'll just remain a fan-girl.

She just made the New York Times bestseller's list. I think it's overdue :)

In Which I am World Building Workshopped

Today, over at TalkToYoUniverse for her Wednesday Worldbuilding Workshop she looks at me! Well, actually, she looks at Troll Wife, and the opening page or two of the Troll Wife story.

If you've been wondering if you should do this, you should! Go look at what she has to say, and realize it won't hurt :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In Which I Discuss How Weight Loss is Like Writing (and NSV)

So, a few weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers at work. I've been steadily losing weight, but it's not really visible yet. What's interesting to me is how Weight Watchers as a group talks about motivation. "A setback is a set up for a come back" and NSV (Non Scale Victories).

Non Scale Victories are things that are related to your weight loss (dropping a size in clothes. or being able to do something that you couldn't do before you started losing weight). I think, as writers, we should celebrate NSVs of our own. Non Sale Victories. Some groups have agent rejection contests. Whoever racks up the most rejections in a given time period wins. It's a way to take the sting out of the rejection. Word Wars are another NSV, where people sit down for a given time period and write as much as they can, and share those totals with friends that are doing the same thing.

Those are good, but not really my style. I think I'm just going to celebrate things like getting some words down, or creating a new plot point, or researching an agent. Things that I can do, things I can control, and things that remind me why I'm doing this.

Today, I started my new WiP, The Monster of Dewsberry Drink. I wrote two scenes (about 500 words) and I'm about to go back into it and write another scene. I should hit 1,000 words before I go to bed tonight. I created 15 plot points. (Those were the easy ones. The harder, better ones will come later.) Mostly, I'm just glad to be writing again. I love that feeling.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In Which I Talk About Magic

Today I want to talk about magic. In my bio, I state that I am a "believer that the world holds more magic than most people notice". This is true. Today at work I was talking about magic, and one guy kept saying, "That's so cool, that's so cool" and I kept saying, "it's just the way things are". People talk about magical things that happen to them, as though they were rare events and fail to notice the thousand pieces of magic that are occurring around them all the time. Even me.

For a while I was active in something called "glamour bombing". It's the idea that you can create random events that will be magical in someone else's life. It's not about baking cookies and secretly leaving them for your neighbor, it's about leaving a fortune cookie style note, tucked in the bathroom mirror at work for one of your co-workers to find. Something that reminds them that there is magic in their life, even when they don't notice it, or reminds them that they are special. There are websites and LiveJournal groups dedicated to glamour bombing, sharing ideas, sharing stories, and arguing about whether or not something is a glamour bomb.

Today on Tales of a Writing Geek, I found this YouTube video which I wanted to share. It's part 3. If it touches you, I urge you to watch parts 1 and 2.

In Which An Anthropologist Can Review Your Worldbuilding

Just a reminder, over at TalkToYoUniverse, Juliette Wade will review 500 words of your WiP and talk about the world building you have from an anthropoligist's point of view. It's something I want in all my WiPs, but have some struggles with. (Trying to pretend you don't know something is easy for big things, it's the little things that trip you up.)

Check out her Worldbulding Wednesday Workshop page for instructions and past examples.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In Which I Have Rants and an Internet Connection

Yay! My always wonky internet connection is temporarily up! (Never get DSL. I say this as someone who spent years on the front lines of tech support. Cable is the best choice for high speed from a reliability stand point, IMHO. Sadly, we live in a black hole and can't get cable here, so we have DSL.)

And now for my rant. There are a few things I hate with the intensity of a blinding sun.
1. Characters that describe themselves to themselves, especially while looking in a mirror. I hate it, and who does that in real life? No one!
2. A story where if the main characters talked to each for 30 seconds, most (if not all) of the plot problems would be resolved. Argh! This is not a plot point, this is lazy writing!
3. Careless attention to details.

Ok, maybe I don't hate that last one as much as the other two. I think I've ranted about the first one before, but I read a couple of books recently that violated at least two of my pet peeves. In keeping with my policy of not giving negative reviews, I won't mention the titles of the books or the names of the authors, but gack!

One I couldn't finish. I mean seriously, if you have X, and it's a Very Bad Thing, and you know that someone can help you, but you're "too proud" to ask for help, even though you know it means the destruction of everyone and everything you care about, how is that a workable plot point? If it lasts for more than 30 seconds, it just isn't believable to me.

This same book also had a problem with detail continuity. In one scene she put on an article of clothing, and later in that same scene, she had a problem caused by not wearing that article of clothing. Now, I can totally see how a writer, in the midst of rewrites and editing, can miss that. You are sure you've written it. You can see it in your head. You made changes and that one scene got missed. (Gods, I understand all too well how that can happen.) But where was the support team? Asleep, I think.

In better reviews, I read and enjoyed Paranormalcy very much. Just for the record, if kids are hiding Bad Things from adults because they're afraid of the adults' reactions, that makes sense and is a workable plot point for me.

I also reread The Enchantment Emporium and enjoyed just as much this time as I have the times before. I was also very happy to learn that there is a sequel coming out "soon".

Friday, March 4, 2011

In Which I Write a (Mock) Query Letter

Query letters. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're a good opportunity for angsty goodness. So, I decided to create one (just for fun! I swear!) that might appear on Slushpile Hell.

Dear Agent,

Here's my book. I'm aiming at the "avid reader" market. The people that will read everything, even the labels on ketchup bottles. (Not catsup bottles, that's just weird.) In short, my book will best be enjoyed by people that will read anything, even if it's a pile of drek. Not that my book is a pile of drek, though it may have some issues. 

Your Chirographic Scribe,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Which I Mention Books

I've been home sick for the past two days. (I know, I know!) Which means that I've had nothing to do except read and sleep. So I read "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker, "The Replacement" by Brenna Yovanoff" and "River Marked" by Patricia Briggs.

"The Gift of Fear" is actually titled "The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence". Oh. My. Gosh. It's about hearing and respecting your intuition in order to stay safe. It's about learning violence "PINs" (pre-incident indicators) that can tell you when something bad is about to happen. I strongly suggest that if you're ever going to write a book with a bad guy in it, you read this book. It can tell you what your bad guy should say that will make your readers uneasy and scooting back against the headboard while they're not sure why. (Unless they've read this book, too.)

He explains, for example, what an interview is, how a bad guy tests how committed you are when you say "no", why a stranger may force help on you, and why the use of "we" by a stranger is so scary. He deals with stalkers, domestic violence, assassins, "random" violence, and workplace violence. It is a painful read, but I think it's important.

"The Replacement" by Brenna Yovanoff was wonderful. (The cover on the hardcover edition is awesomeness on its own.) I know I'm late to this party. My friend Building A Life was on this book when it first came out and urged me to read it. It's an urban fantasy about changelings (fairy children left to replace human children stolen by the fae). The world building is awesome and the character growth feels true. And her fae have way worse metal reactions than mine do! :)

"River Marked" by Patricia Briggs. It's the latest Mercy Thompson novel, and it came out yesterday. I resisted buying it for a whole two hours. Aren't you proud of me? I love books with happy endings, and I love books that make me cry. That's "and" not "or". If you're going to make me cry (yay!) you better give me a happy ending! I won't say if Patricia Briggs does this or not, but I will say this is a classic Mercy Thompson novel.

I also love (love, love, love) the fact that Patricia Briggs goes into uncharted romance territory and actually shows what happens after the lovers get married. Many writers are afraid to go there (that's how TV is killing "Bones" for example), but Patricia Briggs deftly shows that after you ride off into the sunset, there is still sexual tension, still passion, and problems still exist and need to be figured out. (Marriage is not a magic recipe to remove all misunderstandings, as anyone that's been married knows.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Which I Talk About Death And Taxes

Just filed our taxes and ugh! Because Michael turned 17 in December, and because the government took out less money during the year (The Recovery Act, or something) we end up owing this year. Dang. We were counting on getting a credit, and planned to use that to replace our dead oven. (Dead oven, get it? That's where the death comes in.)

Oh well. I'm just thankful that we have enough money to pay the tax bill.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Which Christina Perri Comes and Sings For Us

Have I mentioned how awesome it is to work for Hot Topic? Ok, yes I know I have. Today Christina Perri came and sang songs for us. One, of course, was "Jar of Hearts" and it was just as wonderful live as it is in the video. (Some singers do a lot of post production work on their songs, which make the live versions not as wonderful as the studio versions.)

She also sang a song that's on her new album (to be released soon). I think it was called "Crumbs". I loved that one, too.

Anyway, I'm going to try to link the Jar of Hearts video here to share with everyone.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In Which I Cheat

This is the first two opening lines of my Troll Wife WiP.

I hadn't even been on the job a month and I had 14 bruises, a concussion, multiple cuts and abrasions, a broken arm, and now, a gunshot wound.  Being a Tooth Fairy shouldn't be this hard.

I like it in this order, but I've had a suggestion or two that the order should be reversed.

Being a Tooth Fairy shouldn't be this hard.  I hadn't even been on the job a month and I had 14 bruises, a concussion, multiple cuts and abrasions, a broken bone, and now, a gunshot wound. 

Any thoughts? (Personally, I like "Being a Tooth Fairy..." coming second, because it's more of a surprise. But I'm open to suggestions.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In Which Sara Zarr Speaks From Her Heart

I assume everyone has heard about Sara Zarr's keynote speech at the SCBWI conference. If not, please go read this post about her speech and living a creative life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In Which There is a Contest

I'm sure you all know by now, but in case you don't, Nathan Bransford is having his 4th Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge.

Go ahead. Submit your first paragraph. What have you got to lose? Nothing, because it's free!

Friday, January 21, 2011

In Which My Fever Drops

Yay! My fever dropped  below 100 for the first time this week! Maybe the thermometer isn't broken after all :)

Maybe I'll get that highly controversial post done today :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Which I Learn New Things

One of the most wonderful and frustrating things about writing is that I'm always learning new things. This is wonderful because I love learning new things and because I always want to be a better writer. By "better" I mean have more tools in my writing tool box than I do right now.

But it's frustrating, because I never hit a plateau. When I learned something in school, I had some time to integrate what I'd just learned into my life before learning a new thing. I don't get that anymore. When I read other people's blogs on writing, I learn something new every time. Something I can apply to what I'm currently working on. Something that I need to go back through my current WiP and fix.

Then, while I'm learning this thing, I learn something new. Or discover I'm still struggling with one of my old problem areas. For me, this is show vs tell. Can't I just learn this one and move on already? No. It is a constant struggle, with everything I write, to show vs tell. I've gotten very good at telling in a showy way, but it's still telling. Now it's just harder for me to find.

But when I do learn it? Wow! I'll be a much better writer!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Which I am Sick. Again.

Lately my blog posts have been following a pattern. A pattern of illness. Now some people might think that I get sick a lot. And they'd  be right. This week is no exception. I am sick again. Unlike the killer colds of the last few weeks, this is the flu. I get a flu shot every year, but they're not 100%. (Or as my doctor said, "It's kind of like birth control".) So now I have a new baby. I mean the flu.

Seriously, who changed from calling it "influenza" (which totally sounds like something that kills between 30,000 to 60,000 people in the US every year) to "the flu". The flu sounds cute. Friendly. Like something your kid might bring home from school. (Ok, well that last one works.)

Anyway, after two days of fever over 100, I finally went to the doctor. She ordered me off work for the week. This is day four and I still have a fever of over 100. But at least I'm getting plenty of rest! And I must be getting better, because I'm well enough to post and say, "The flu sucks. And if your kid says, 'Mommy, look what I brought home!'"* check to see if it's the flu before before letting it in the house. I mean, sure, they look all cute and have those big eyes and your kid will be saying, "But it has no place to go!". Be strong. Don't let it in the house.

Possibly my fever has affected my writing.

*This implies that my son gave me the flu. This is not the case. As with my last illness, Randy came down with it first. I forgive him, because he's lovable and does nice things for me when I'm sick. He does nice things for me when I'm well, too, but I'm more grateful when I'm sick :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In Which My Husband Is Cute

My husband did something very cute tonight that made me laugh. I said, "I'm totally going to blog about how cute you are!"
He said, "No."
I said, "You're mean, not letting me blog about how cute you are."  (Notice how he went from "cute" to "mean" in less than 7 seconds?)
He said, "In what universe can I actually control what you write or don't write?".
I said, "If I blogged about something that you asked me not to blog about, that would damage our relationship."
He said, "Write whatever you want. But if you're going to write about me, can't you write about my penis?"
(I swear he said "penis".*)
I said, "Of course I can write about your penis. You have a great penis."
He said, "Not 'penis', 'P-ness'. With a hyphen."

We laughed. Because many years ago, when Randy** was married to someone else, they were going to a meeting. Randy was running late and told his wife to let everyone know that he was late because on the Myers-Briggs scale he's an INFP and P types (P stands for perception) are frequently late. So, blame it on his P-ness. His wife went to the meeting and told everyone Randy was late because of his penis. They looked at each other and shrugged.

*I never did actually find out what he said instead of 'penis'.

**When I asked Randy if I could call him Randy on the blog, or just say "my husband"  he said, "Yes." That's the kind of man he is :)

In Which I Try To Develop a Tag Line

One thing I love about Jami Gold's website (and I think I've mentioned this before) is her tag line. "Beach reads with bite" tells you everything about her writing in just those four words. I've had tag line envy ever since I first saw her site, but I've absolutely no luck in thinking of one of my own.

When I wake up at 2:30 in the morning, and lie there Not Going Back To Sleep Even Though I Am Tired, I think about things. One of the things that I think about is what my tag line would be if I had one. Of course, then I worry that I'll think of a great tag line, actually fall back to sleep and then not remember it in the morning, but some people just aren't happy unless they're worrying about something.

Tonight, while reading "How To Write Magical Words, A Writer's Companion" (full review later, short review after reading 20 pages is go and buy it now*) the germ of a tag line hit me. This is not my tag line. This is my rough draft of my tag line.

"Defender of trolls, rescuer of monsters, and cuddler of clockwork cats"

Needs work, but at least it's a start!

*Full disclosure. If you follow that link to Amazon and buy the book, I don't make any money off of it. It's just a link.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In Which I Turn Troll Wife Over to My Crit Group

Tomorrow I'm sending Troll Wife to my crit group. It's a rough draft, and it's rougher because I keep thinking of extra little things I want to add in, which causes continuity errors further along. So, when I hand it off to them, I hope they'll look for three things:

1. Oubliette was originally written as male. About halfway through the book, I changed Oubliette to female (decided the Dark Mother archetype was a better fit). Unfortunately, I am *still* finding "him" in the book. So, I hope they'll let me know if they find any "him" that should be "her".

2. Continuity errors in general. I've moved so many scenes around, that I have more continuity errors than I can find. My problem is that I know the story, so I have trouble picking them out.

3. Missing scenes. Again, since I know the story, there are times when I'm sure I've written a scene, only to discover that it's not there. Also, there are duplicate scenes, when I wrote a scene two ways, and couldn't decide which one I liked better, and now I can't find the duplicate scene to remove it, because so many things have been moved around.

Once we get those things fixed, I'll resubmit for my more standard problems. "Telling not showing" and using the same word umpteen times on a page.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato

I've always loved this quote. I try to live by it, though I'm not always successful.

I just read Bill Zeller's suicide letter. I never knew him. I wonder if the people that knew him saw him in the same light in which he saw himself. I understand his wish that he could have ended his pain in another way. Some way that wouldn't hurt the people around him so much. I wish he could have gotten help.

In the meantime, I will do my best to "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

In Which I am Feeling Better

I'm on the mend. My son, Michael, was sick too, but never got as sick as I was (thank goodness!). I'm no longer contagious and it's easier to breathe now. Which kind of sounds like I was at death's door, but it was just a really miserable cold. Actually, two. Once I started to get over the first one, I got a second one. I'm hoping I avoided bronchitis, because I'm sick (get it?) of getting bronchitis.

But today? I actually did some writing. And I have promised the whole book, Frankenstein stitches and all, to my crit group on Monday. I'm spending most of the weekend in bed, but plan to get up tomorrow morning to go see Nicholas Cage in "Season of the Witch". He's got financial troubles, so (lucky me) he's in a lot of movies these days. (I love Nicholas Cage in part because he's one of the few actors I can recognize.)