Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where I've Been

I know, it's been months since I posted anything on this blog. Those who follow regularly or who friend me on Facebook will have some idea of what happened. For everyone else, here's the newspaper version.

Frank Joseph Di Salvo II

Carmelo and Andrea Di Salvo of Heppner announce the birth of a son, Frank Joseph. Frank was born at Good Shepherd Hospital in Hermiston at 3:06 p.m. on Sunday, August 21, 2011. He weighed eight pounds and was 21 and a quarter inches long.

Frank joins older sister, Moira, age three. Grandparents are Frank and Pam Di Salvo of Cheektowaga, NY; Lucille Di Salvo of Buffalo, NY; and Dexter and Corinne Miles of Heppner.

New baby and big sister probably won't allow for a regular blog schedule for some time to come, but I'll get back to posting as I'm able!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Wednesday Update on...Saturday -- 5/7/11

Oops, looks like some more days got away from me somewhere.

Well, it was another week of no fiction writing...only news, news, news.

I got smart after having to stay at the paper till 6:30 last Tuesday. This week I planned ahead, checked emails from home, and did an interview on Saturday. I also drafted the article on Saturday. Sure, doing it off the clock basically meant I didn't get paid for it. I gave myself a byline for the article and photo, though, and got out by five both Monday and Tuesday. I call that progress! I also think the article was a higher quality than it would have been if I'd been writing it during the deadline crunch. As it stands, it's a piece on which I'm happy to have my byline for the world to see. (And, since layout is also my job, it got placed above the fold on page one...heh heh heh...)

The down side of the week is that WRITERS' Journal posted the results for their Science-Fiction/Fantasy contest. I didn't make the cut, not even as an honorable mention. Time to take another look at Baggage Claim and then pick the next market to assail.

Writer's group on Tuesday was good! Only three of us showed--Pat, Leland and myself--but that made for a more intimate, productive session. We finally seem to be hitting our stride as a group. Now I need to make sure I start writing something to have critiqued every week; that's surely the difficult part right now.

My cold and cough continue to linger, as does Baby M's. Her ear is still inflamed, even after two rounds of antibiotics. I have an upper respiratory infection that's making life miserable and for which I can do nothing except use a Neti Pot. Other than that, life is not so bad.

There's my news. Happy, um, Saturday!

Currently reading Shadowmarch, Volume 1 of the four-book Shadowmarch trilogy (yeah, you read that right; that's a Tad Williams trilogy for you). I've read both this and Volume 2, Shadowplay, before. This second read-through is a refresher before tackling the final two books, which were finally released. Seven- to eight-hundred-page books, but I'm willing to immerse myself in them again. 'Nuf said.

(By the way, this set is classified not just as fantasy, but as cyber-punk. I suppose that's related in some way to steam punk. Can anyone tell me what in earth those two genres are? Time for more research reading!)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

There Are No Rules

Feel like you need HELP as an aspiring writer? Check out Jane Friedman's post on why people offer help to writers, what help writers really need, and where to get legitimate help.

There Are No Rules

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday Update

Here I am, having missed my Monday update on yet another week. It looks like working on Mondays and Tuesdays will have to call for a change in my blogging schedule...again. For now, that means updates on Wednesdays and something on Fridays. I'm far behind on my blog reading, so Friday's will probably feature more reflections and rambling and fewer blog roundups.

Yesterday saw the end of my second work "week" on my own at the paper. I still like the job, but it often feels like trying to drink from a fire hose. I arrive on Mondays around nine, usually to more than 100 emails. My first task is to filter through and find the actual news amid all the spam and junk. Then I spend the rest of the day editing that news.

Tuesday mornings hold my trip to the courthouse for their news, along with any leftover editing and interviews. Then I have the afternoon to lay out the editorial portion of the eight-page paper (that means I lay out everything but the ads and classifieds). I'd love to get a jump on layout, but it hasn't happened in the last two weeks.

That's why I haven't yet left the paper before six on a Tuesday. I walked out the door yesterday at 6:30, half an hour late for my rescheduled writers' group. Good thing I only have to walk a block.

I'm not complaining. (Fooled you, eh?) The work is exhilarating if stressful. I'm sure, though, that it will calm down once I get a better grasp on the routine. I may never leave at five, but I hope to make 6:30 a thing of the past very soon!

In other news, the past week contained a wicked cold from Wednesday on, followed by frantic Easter preparations on Saturday and, of course, church and our big family gathering on Sunday. Then back to work on Monday. I gave an excerpt from my NIP to the writers' group last week, and received good, positive feedback last night. I'm grateful for their support of someone who usually come late and leaves early! Now that Easter is out of the way and I'm over all but the last remnants of this cold, I'm trying to get a grasp on what I have to do for the rest of this week.

And the fire hose keeps pumping.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Connections -- Part 4

Finally, what you've all been waiting for: part 4 of my series on connections.

Connections in Writing

And what exactly do connections have to do with writing?

As writers, our strongest, most creative writing comes from the connections we bring to life through our words. Our characters can’t live in a bubble any more than we can. The more connections we give them, the richer and more meaningful our writing will be.

Yes, sometimes writers delve into lives that seem to have no connections. It’s never quite true, though. Look at some exceptions that prove the rule.

The boy who lived in a plastic bubble had no physical connections, but he had relationships, connections of the heart.

In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Ender had the lonely life of a leader, with no true connections. None except his sister, Valentine, who remained his anchoring connection to all that was good in the world.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes seemed to have no connections, living a life stripped of everything except revenge. Yet he did have connections…connections of pain and vengeance to the people of his past, connections of loyalty to those who served him, and a blossoming connection of love to Haydee.

Our characters and events can’t exist in a void. They must be connected. They must be connected to their worlds, to themselves and to each other. They must connect in some way to our hearts. When we succeed in that, we form one more connection..a connection with our reader.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Update -- 4/18/11

It's amazing how much two days can screw up an established schedule.

I had my first week of work at the newspaper two weeks ago. My trainer, Autumn, was great. She was patient and thorough. I still left week one with feelings of panic, as if I'd definitely bitten off more than I can chew.

I think I already posted my to-do list for the rest of that week. Wednesday--dentist. Thursday--ultrasound and five-hours of errand running. Friday I took a break to spend some time with my daughter, who hadn't been feeling well. That left me Saturday to be productive and "Git 'er done."

Saturday at 3:30 AM, Baby M woke with an ear infection.

It caught us off guard, without even the basics like children's Tylenol. Living in a small town, we had to wait until the grocery store opened at 7 in order to get Tylenol and OTC drops. Too bad they didn't work. Of course it happened on a Saturday; that meant a trip to the ER later that morning. That got it straightened out and Baby M on the road to recovery. It also left my husband and I feeling like we'd been used to wipe the floors.

Sunday was calm, a church and TV day, with Baby M recovering but still acting the part of a clinging vine.

Last Monday and Tuesday saw my second week of training at the paper. I left those days feeling nervous about taking over the job on my own. Absolute panic abated, though, and I feel confident I can do this with minimal screw-ups.

Wednesday saw the three of us (hubby, daughter and myself) on an all-day shopping trip. Looking back, it was a mistake to drag Baby M along. Guilt made us do it. The day seemed much longer than 8 hours.

Thursday was clear during the day. WOW! However, the evening was consumed by a 4-hour council meeting in the evening. Friday and Saturday were gelato-churning days. Sunday, Baby M was a monster in church. 'Nuff said.

Today will be my first day solo at the paper. By tomorrow, I'll have a better idea if I can edit and lay out an 8-page weekly on my own.

Sorry for the long, boring update. That's my last two weeks...full of activity and emergency, but with little progress in writing or publishing. That's what happens when you live life. Life gets messy. It gets sidetracked and makes you take crazy detours. When you see the sun shining on your two-year-old's hair, though, it somehow all becomes worth it.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Connections -- Part 3

Sorry I've missed almost two weeks on this blog. Part of that involves general busy-ness and part is due to a very sick toddler. I'll try to get out an update this coming Monday but, for now, here's the next installment of my "Connections" series.

Connections in Our Lives

Whether we choose to acknowledge our connections, we all have them. We have family, friends, coworkers, activities, or events that have touched us. Our lives are suspended in a series of relationships and interactions. Some are good and some are bad, but they all work together to form the reality we inhabit. It may sound egocentric to say it, but we all sit at the center of our own web of connections, the associations that tie us to the world.

We often don’t realize they’re there until we start looking for those lines of gentle tension that tie us to others. They are felt but not often seen. They are silk-thin but strong as steel. With enough work, we can sometimes sever connections. Like any good spider web, once broken they cannot be repaired; they can only be re-spun over time.

Most of all, we cannot live without connections. Some people might think they do. A sense of isolation may make those glistening threads invisible to us. If anything, though, they are negative connections that still bind us, sometimes adversely. They may be connections of pain, abuse or abandonment. Those are connections that are better off being severed and, if possible, re-spun in a different way.

No matter how painful our connections, though, we never exist in a void. A life truly without connections would be humanity misfired, a terrible aberration of what we are meant to be. Because we are meant to be connected.

Next week: Connections in Writing.

Currently Reading:

So far so good on this Biblical-archaeology novel. I'll let you know for sure when I'm finished!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Recently Read

I've decided to keep my followers up-to-date with my reading as well as my writing. First up: The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan.

I'll be honest; I found this book incredibly depressing. (Depressing? I went through reams of tissues every time one of Winnie's children died.) That's probably because I'm from the strictly escapist school of novel readers. Regardless, it was well-written. The voice fits the characters, telling the story with authenticity and occasional humor. The writing style is unique and intriguing, and the story is interesting (albeit depressing). I'd recommend The Kitchen God's Wife on the basis of the craftsmanship alone. If you like a dose of realism with your reading, though, you'll probably enjoy the story as well.

Monday Update -- 4/4/11

Yes, I'm a day early this week. In view of this Monday's crazy schedule, though, I thought I should get this out while I can.

An hour or two after posting last week's Monday update, I got a call from the newspaper where I'd dropped off my resume. After a short interview that afternoon, I left having been hired as the Heppner Gazette-Times' new part-time news editor. Tomorrow is my first day. How it goes will have to wait for next Monday's update.

According to the paper's owner, David Sykes, the position has less to do with writing than line editing and layout. That's fine, though. It gets me back in the workplace. I get to earn money and keep design skills I may otherwise have lost over time. Most importantly, the knowledge that I have to be away from home two days a week has already made me value my time at home more...both for freelance work and for spending time with my daughter.

Part of the proof of this is that I got off my duff and got my Woman's World short story in the mail. High time I got something else out there! Now I have to wait "one to six months" to see if I made the cut. It might be a bit much to expect my first time querying them, but it would sure be nice!

I didn't write much this week. I did manage a very short post for Lessons from the Shadowland in time for my April 1 deadline. I also did some editing and pulled an excerpt from my NIP to share with the writer's groups on Tuesday. That's if I get there. I went last week, but with Baby M in tow. She calmed down toward the end, but I don't think I'll try it again. No babysitter, no writer's group.

I also spent some time uncovering the desk in my office/toddler's room. While not directly related to writing, a cleaner writing space will surely be more conducive to productivity. The room needs more work, but I'm feeling proud of myself for finding the desktop.

Otherwise, I have a busy week ahead: Two days of work, one Bible study, writer's group, a dentist appointment, an ultrasound and, somewhere in there, a couple of visits with an old friend who's in town for the week. Writing? Hmmm...

I think that's it for this first Monday in April. Happy Monday and happy writing!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 4/2/11

Again, Friday has come too quickly. That's my reflection for the week. So, let's dive in.

I love this post by Mary over at It's funny, hard-hitting and inspirational... everything I needed for a swift kick in the pants Monday morning. Check it out and see if it affects you the same way.

Creative Confidence

Mary Glickman writes a guest post for the Guide to Literary Agents "How I Got My Agent" feature. Her tale of enduring 40 years of rejection before landing her first deal on her 7th novel... well it's inspiring, and makes my whining seem pretty insignificant.

How I Got My Agent -- Mary Glickman

Rachelle Gardner had a couple of wonderful posts on what a fiction editor looks for. They are not the posts I chose for this roundup. Instead, I honed in on a topic with which I can relate, the "quick no." If you've ever been discouraged about how quickly agents and editors say no--but how slowly they say yes--you may want to check it out.

Why "No" Comes Quickly...But "Yes" Seems to Take Forever

My husband and I self-published a book, but the sales have been... Well, let's not talk numbers. That's why Joel Friedlander's post on getting book reviews for self-published books caught my eye. Maybe it will catch yours, too.

How to Get Reviews for Self-Published Books

Write with TLC has some beautiful insights into the power of words, as well as what happens when words and actions don't match. Of course, she also does an excellent job of applying that lesson to the writing life!

Beautiful Words Seduce, But Actions Commit

Finally, Michael Hyatt gives some tips for dealing with something every writer has experienced. Yes, he has 24 methods for getting out of a "funk."

24 Hacks for Getting Out of Your Funk

Happy Friday and happy writing!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Connections -- Part 2

Last Wednesday I looked at human connections. This week I delve into connections in logic and events.

I think it perhaps is the writer in me, or maybe that pesky remnant of my left brain, that looks for logical connections between events and people. Sometimes, also, illogical connections. What do I mean?

What is the connection between weather and mood, mood and action, action and reaction?

When I see a behavior, an event, or even a natural phenomenon, I start looking at the cause and effect relationships. I don’t mean in an algebraic sense. I’m terrible at math, especially algebra proofs. I do love, though, sorting out the factors that lead people and animals to behave as they do.

If my friend lashes out at a friendly barista when she makes a simple mistake, is it in character or out? If out of character, why did it happen? Is my friend having a bad day and, if he is, then why? Is it a personal problem, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or a problem with medication dosage?

When earthquakes and tsunamis start ripping through the earth at a startling rate, I wonder about that rate. Is there a cause and effect relationship within the earth's plates that causes a ripple effect (um, yes, pretty sure there is)? Does the earth go through this cycle every several hundred years, or is this a sign of the coming end? Or have things been this bad all along, and we just didn't have the technology to spread the word?

And what about the connection between such disasters and the humans who endure them.? The people of Japan show amazing fortitude in the face of calamity. In other places, such events would lead to looting and rioting. What is the connection between events and reactions? What deep recesses of the soul lead some to amazing heights of courage and others to the darkest depths of human behavior?

Maybe I’m wrong about this being something writers examine in particular. Perhaps this is another trait all humanity shares. I’m not sure it is, though, because I often find myself getting sideways stares when I start asking why people behave in certain ways under not-so-certain circumstances. These, though, are the questions that drive my thoughts…who, what, where, when, how and why.

Next Wednesday, the role of connections in our lives.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Update -- 3/28/11

After suffering a major relapse last Wednesday, I again find myself pulling my hair out over how little I accomplished and how far behind I am. I was so ill last week, I simply forgot about the writer's group on Tuesday. They probably don't expect to see me again.

Here's what else I haven't done; I haven't:

  • Trimmed my short romance to Woman's World requirements,
  • Written the Shadowland post for my last deadline (with another deadline coming at me on Wednesday),
  • Marketed any of the tips or fillers I have lying around,
  • Written outlines or drafts for miscellaneous ideas,
  • Done anything with my children's books,
  • Worked on my NIP,
  • Journaled, or
  • Much else.

I did take a bit of a plunge last Friday. Thursday, I opened our local paper (a weekly that comes out on Wednesdays). I scanned all 6 pages and, for the first time in months, looked at the help wanted ads. That same paper, the Gazette-Times, is currently looking for a part-time news editor.

I wasn't on the hunt for a job. I wasn't consciously seeking an opportunity. But...part time? Two days a week? News editor? I dropped off my resume on Friday.

I haven't heard back one way or the other yet. It has only been three days. I imagine that, even in a town of 1,300, there's some stiff competition. I'm praying though, and have all fingers and toes crossed.

In some ways I feel like this may be a sign of insanity. After all, I purposely try to work from home in order to raise my daughter myself (versus having a daycare do it). I don't feel I need more on my plate right now; I'm busy enough.

In other ways, I feel I'm going to seed. This job, if gotten, could be what I need to give me back a bit of my edge. Besides, we need the money.

So, there's my situation for the week. How's everyone else doing this last Monday in March?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 3/25/11

I can't believe it's Friday. I imagine I'm not alone in that thought.

It seems strange to me to think in those terms since I don't have a Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 kind of job. Being a mom is more like a 24/7 job, while trying to squeeze everything else in around the edges. Still, years of dealing with a 9-5 environment has left me with the continuing urge to measure weeks in five-day units. So, another week has passed.

I suffered a relapse of the cold I thought I was beating. So, not much got done besides the basics. By the basics, I mean feeding and clothing my family (barely) and...well, that's pretty much it.

Enough about my life. That can all be said in my Monday update. Here's what I found in my Google Reader this week.

A question about the use of real place names turns into an answer about not giving into distractions on Rachelle Gardner's blog.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

On the same blog, guest blogger Mary Demuth weighs in on 7 Ways to Be a Professional. Since this is something I work hard at (yes, despite apparent flaws), I thought it worth including in this roundup.

7 Ways to Be a Professional

We've all heard the slogan, "Write what you know." What if you want to write about a place you've never been? Write It Sideways has a great post on the topic, complete with pros, cons and helpful advice.

7 Tips for Writing About Places You’ve Never Been

When I first started reading Mary's post at, I thought, "Yeah, I've heard this before." But her post on matching detail and syntax to content turned out to be insightful and worth the read, even if you simply consider it a reminder.

Mimetic Writing

T.L. Cooper has an interesting post on priorities and the workaholic in her over at Write with TLC.

The Workaholic in Me

This last one has nothing to do with writing. As a frustrated travel addict, though, I enjoy reading Ryan's posts on his thoughts. It doesn't hurt that he's an old college friend. Anyway, this post from The Savvy Traveler was well-written and worth the read. And maybe it does apply to writing, if you bend your mind enough.

What's the Nature of Your Travel Addiction?

That should be enough to keep us all busy. I continue to battle a cold, so I know I missed tons of great posts this week. My apologies to the authors of those posts; I'll catch you on the next go-around! Till then, happy Friday and happy writing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Connections -- Part 1

I look for connections everywhere.

I don’t know if it’s my rural upbringing, my writer’s mind or some human trait we all share, but I follow the thread of every person I meet or event I encounter to see how it connects with other people and events. I do this as a person, but also as a writer. That’s why I’ve decided to write a short series of posts on the subject. I’ll write about connections with people, connections with events, how connections shape our lives and how those connections shape our writing.

First up, connections in humanity.

Human Connections
I believe it is, in fact, a very human endeavor to examine the connections between ourselves and others. Whether we’re raised on a wheat farm in Oregon, an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx or a village in Botswana, all of us find something satisfying in establishing connections between ourselves and others.

Whenever you hear of a person-centered event in your community--a birth, death, wedding, accident or arrest--what is the first thing you do? If your family is like mine, you look for relationships. "Ah, yes, so and so who’s getting married is the son of this person who was related to that person who was a next door neighbor of the other person, who is--of course--a second cousin of such and such."

Like any good “Six Degrees” game, you eventually end up with a connection. Maybe it’s a familial connection. Maybe it’s not. In any case, you get close enough to establish that person’s place in your world. They are no longer simply a disembodied name. They are someone who, no matter how convoluted the path, is firmly fixed in your reality. You have a connection.

Next Wednesday: connections in logic and events.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday Update...on Tuesday?

I have a cold. That explains in part why I'm a day late with this weekly update.

This past weekend was Heppner's Wee Bit 'O Ireland celebration, one of the two biggest events in our small town's year. For me, that mainly meant making sure the local stores were stocked with plenty of gelato. That translated into hours spent churning those dozens of pints...only to turn around this week and realize I need to start all over again.

Throw in a funeral on Wednesday and a few church obligations, and my body was ripe for the cold virus my niece and nephew brought to us during the middle of the week. Saturday, the day of the big festivities, saw me with sinuses ready to burst a nose leaking like a faucet. My darling daughter was not much better off.

It took me three days to re-enter the land of the living. Three days is a pretty good record for me and colds, but seemed interminable when combined with an active 2-year-old and my pregnancy-enforced absence of meds. That's Nyquil, Dayquil, Robitussin. No meds.

So, not a lot of writing got done this past week. That doesn't mean nothing got done. Remember that short story I wrote a week or so ago? I wrote it with Woman's World in mind, and last week I emailed them for their fiction guidelines. I received a response yesterday. For those who are interested, I'll post their fiction guidelines below. From what I hear, it could take several attempts to break in; the number of submissions they receive is phenomenal. They pay pretty darn well, though, especially for this economy, so it's worth the effort.

As for tonight's writer's group...I've missed the past two weeks and I'm not sure how I'll feel about it tonight after a day playing catch-up. We'll see how it pans out.


Romance guidelines:

We buy contemporary romances of 800 words. Stories must revolve around a compelling, true-to-life relationship dilemma; may feature either a female or male protagonist; and may be written in either the first or third person. Characters may be married, single, divorced or widowed; should be down-to-earth (no yuppies or jet-setters); and their dilemma should be poignantly or humorously conveyed. Please think carefully about a story's setting, mood and plot, and tell the story with interesting action and dialogue. (Every sentence, paragraph, and scene of the story should deliver more information about your characters and their situation and/or briskly advance the storyline).

We are not interested in stories involving life-or-death matters, nor are we interested in fluffy, flyaway-style romance. When we say romance, what we really mean is relationship--whether it's just beginning or is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The emphasis in our stories is on real life-which is why we do not buy science fiction, fantasy or historical romance.

We pay $800 per romance and retain First North American Serial Rights for six months after publication.

Mini mystery guidelines:

We purchase short "solve-it-yourself" mysteries of 700 words--a count that includes the narrative and the solution. Stories should be cleverly plotted, entertaining cliffhangers that end with a challenge to the reader to figure out whodunnit or howdunnit. The solution to the mystery is provided in a separate box.

Robbery, burglary, fraud and murder are acceptable subjects, but spare the readers any gory details or excessive violence, please! We are also not interested in ghost stories, science fiction or fantasy.

We pay $500 per mystery and retain First North American Serial Rights for six months after publication.


Manuscripts should be double-spaced in legible size type.

Where to send manuscripts: Fiction Editor, Woman's World, 270 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632. Indicate Mini Mystery or Romance on the envelope.

How to send manuscripts: (1) You must include a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope to receive a reply. Manuscripts not accompanied by a SASE will be discarded. Note: A #10 SASE is necessary not just for a response, but for your contract if we purchase your story. (2) Please DO NOT fax or e-mail manuscripts--because such submissions do not include SASEs, we have no means of responding to your submission.

Get to know us: Please familiarize yourself thoroughly with our romances and mini mysteries before submitting your work.

Be patient: Because we receive a tremendous volume of manuscripts, our turnaround time may range from one to six months. If you still have not heard from us after that time, feel free to re- submit your manuscript. Please do not call or write us to inquire about a manuscript's status.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 3/18/11

Happy St. Patrick's Day/Erin go bragh! (one day late) and Viva San Giuseppe! (one day early). Yes, two saints' days right in a row...and both celebrated by my family in honor of my part-Irish heritage and my husbands mostly-Sicilian background. It's interested when beer, corned beef and cabbage meet wine, pasta and sardines. In this melting post that is the U.S. of A., though, sometimes traditions get meshed in the most interesting ways! (But no, we don't usually have all that on the same day. Gross.)

Okay, enough of the rambling part. On to the week's interesting blogs. Here they are:

Do you favor long blocks of text or lots of white space? Check out the nuances of empty space at Write It Sideways.

How and When to Use White Space In Writing

I've been trying to unplug more lately, but sometimes a piece of technology makes me say, "Wow, that's cool." That's what happened when I found out about the new iPhone app, Broadcastr. Jane Friedman shares a bit about it over at There Are No Rules. True, I have no access to the app, since I don't have one of them new-fangled phones. Still, it's cool. What do you amazing new tool for writers or, as my mom says, "Too much technology"?

Share Your Stories Using Broadcastr

Rachelle Gardner has not one, but several posts bursting the myths writers believe about agents and publishing. Short and to the point, they're worth checking out if you're new to the publishing arena. Here's the link to the most recent:

Myth Busting -- Our 3rd and Final Day

Mary over at has an interesting post on using the first-person POV with a narrative that's more third-person appropriate. Don't know what that means? Neither did I. Her post makes a lot of sense, though, and makes me want to take another look at the narrative in my first-person POV WIP.

Third Person-Style Narration in First Person

Are you thinking about self-publishing--or already have--and wondering how that would affect your chances of getting published in the world of agents and the big 6 houses? Jessica at BookEnds, LLC addresses a reader question on that topic in one of her most recent posts.

From Self-Pubbed to Contract

I've been struggling whether to gear a certain story idea toward adult or YA. That's why I found this post at Adventures in Agentland so helpful. It's actually about voice, not POV. Check out the full post at:

YA vs. Adult: what's so different, anyway?

As a spot of inspiration, here's Michael Hyatt's perspective on how to face adversity...not to ask "Why did this happen?" but "How can this make us better?" See some other questions Michael Hyatt offers to reframe a negative situation.

Seven Better Questions You Can Ask in the Midst of Adversity

Finally, I'll share a post from Laura Campbell at Writing Unleashed. Why? Because I identify. Laura details her recent experience with ending up in the writing ditch and then getting back on the road. Anyone here who can't relate? I didn't think so.

Getting Back to My Writing

There are plenty more great posts out there, but I'm going into Google Reader overload. So, until next week, happy Friday and happy writing!

$.99 Kindle Book!

Just a quick note to let everyone know we lowered the price of Creative Marriage Proposals to only 99 cents on Kindle. It's an experiment based on news of some books that are selling well at that price. We also finally realized that no sales at 99 cents doesn't cost us any more than no sales at $6.95.

So, if you've thought about checking it out but were deterred by the price, now is the perfect time!

Click here to go to Creative Marriage Proposals on Kindle.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Update 3/14/11

On this first Monday after the time change, I'm feeling a sense of overwhelm. It could be leftover exhaustion from the time change. (Though, with a toddler who doesn't care about clocks, that part is probably all in my head.) It might have been the 3-1/2 hour council meeting last Thursday, the minutes I have to review and the letters I have to write. It may be the gelato that needs churning or the quilting I need to do this week.

Yes, that's probably it. That's probably also why, as I try to gather my thoughts and launch into this week, my brain offers me less introspection and more of a to-do list. I'm sure I'll get things sorted eventually; I just hope it doesn't take me till Friday to do it.

That said, here's a writing update: zip. Yes, as you may have gathered from that partial to-do list, I didn't get a whole lot of writing done this past week. I did take the time to research some publications. The next step is to actually write and send to said publications. Plus, two weeks have flown by, and I find myself faced with another Shadowland deadline tomorrow. Since I haven't even gotten as far as writing a title for it, this should be interesting.

All that says one thing to me. I need to get off the Internet and back to work!

Happy Monday and happy writing.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Your Focus Needs More Focus"

Our satellite provider recently gave us a weekend preview of some movie channels. That gave me the chance to watch (most of) yet another movie I'd missed in the theater...The Jackie Chan version of "The Karate Kid."

Okay, I liked it. Yes, it was a remake, but still... I'm a huge Jackie Chan fan, and this role shows a different facet of his character. It also seems Jaden Smith may have inherited his parents' mad acting skills. If nothing else, it was worth watching for the breathtaking views of China.

Those who have seen it will probably remember the scene on the pier, right after they climbed the mountain to drink from the spring. Dre was anxious to try what he'd seen an advanced Kung Fu master do on the trip up. When Mr. Han tells him he needs to work on his focus, Dre replies, "I'm focused." Milliseconds later, Mr. Han has a startled Dre hanging inches from the cold water. Then comes the line I loved.

"Your focus needs more focus."

I can't say for sure what the writers, directors and Chan himself might have meant by that line, but I know what lesson I got from it. Dre was focused. He was focused on the end result, on his vision of himself as an invincible Kung Fu warrior. That's good as far as it goes, but it's not enough.

Dre lacked a focus on the here and now. His aspirations were good, but he needed to focus on the present, on each move and principle that would take him where he wanted to go. Without those, he could focus on his dream forever without moving any closer to it.

I think the same problem of focus can hinder writers. It may not be that I'm not focused. I may be very focused on the fame or wealth I believe writing can earn me. The thoughts of movie rights and book signings might claim all my waking thoughts. Yet, to even have a shot of getting there, I can't focus solely on the prize. I have to focus on the writing.

Dre had to focus on movement, on anticipating his opponent and shutting out distractions. As writers, we need to focus on the art, on developing plots and themes and characters, on crafting descriptive prose or breath-stealing poetry. Then we advance to focusing on the technical skills of getting published: how to connect with editors and agents, how to write query letters and cover letters, and the legal aspects of rights and contracts.

When we have a grasp on that, we can think about fame. Maybe. Having made our writing and marketing skills second nature, we can consider some of the perks of success. Then, and only then, may we be ready to charm the snake.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday Update 3/7/11

I have bandwidth issues.

We have satellite Internet, and that means that we have a limited amount of bandwidth we can use each month. When we get near our limit, they shut us off. No overage charges. No rollover. Just Internet silence until our bandwidth allotment builds back up. The other day, my father informed me that we were entering the danger zone. So, if I go silent for a few days, it means we've used up our Internet for the month and I haven't made it to the library.

The joys of rural life are many. Internet service isn't one of them.

Otherwise, I have good and indifferent news this week.

I attended my first meeting of the Heppner writers' group last Tuesday. It also turned out to be their first meeting. It lasted two hours but turned into more of a chitchat session than a serious discussion. There was no critique, though the possibility is open for critiques in the future, when members feel more comfortable. I'll be skipping the meeting this week, not because I've given up this quickly but because I have a hectic schedule over the next four days. I do hope, though, that the group turns into something more productive in the near future.

On the up side, I didn't know all that when I prepared for the meeting last Tuesday. Anxious to have something of my own to critique, I finished the short story I'd started the previous Saturday and gave it a quick brush-up. It's still in rough form, but the first part is done. Now it's all refinement. Then then the hard Since I wrote the story with a specific publication in mind, I'm hoping that might turn out to be the easy part this time!

That's it for this week. Happy Monday and happy writing!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 3/4/11

I'm behind on my blog reading. Yes, again. Speed reading through 100 miscellaneous posts isn't the best atmosphere for producing a meaningful blog roundup. I've done my best, though, and I hope you enjoy the results.

First up is Nathan Bransford's take on the author Facebook account. I included his post because I've been thinking about whether I should split my writing life from my personal life on Facebook. My main motivation, honestly, is that I don't want to reach a point where I have total strangers viewing my daughter's pictures. When I think of maintaining three, or even four, accounts, though, I start feeling lazy. Then I convince myself that I'm already overworked, and I put it off some more. What do you think?

Facebook for Authors - How to Get Started

Over the past couple of months, I've become a certified manuscript hoarder. That's why Rachelle Gardner's post, "Cant Hit Send?" hit home with me. Can you identify?

Can't Hit Send?

Here's one I missed from several days ago: T.L. Cooper talks about slow walking to an epiphany versus the blunt approach. Most of us have been there, wanting to jump to the point but knowing the point is best made by letting the other person see it for himself. See how it applies to life as well as writing.

Epiphanies & Storytelling: The Slow Walk Or The Blunt Approach

Okay, most of us know better than to tell an agent or editor that our mother or best friend or child loved our story. But what about an actual focus group? Mary Tackles that question with brutal but helpful honesty on

Focus Groups and Teens Opinions

And this post by Fun Mama...well, it's just interesting. Or not. You decide.

Edible Wild Plants -- A Few Resources

Happy Friday and good writing!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My Name is Andrea, and I’m a Write-a-holic

Caveat: True addictions are a serious issue, and I have no desire to make light of addicts or the struggles they and their families face. This topic is purely for the sake of analogy.

The other day, I overheard my father confide to someone that he thinks my mother has a reading addiction. After all, seven books in one month is beyond the realm of reasonable consumption.

Fortunately, I’m pretty certain reading is a non-lethal addiction. If it weren’t, I’d have ODed a long time ago. His comment did get me pondering another topic I’d already been noodling.

Is writing a drug?

No, it’s not. Not according to the obvious definition, anyway. But is it addictive?

Yes, I think so.

I’m no doctor or counselor, but I know some of the basics of addiction. Based on my limited knowledge, let’s look at some of them.

Addictions don’t usually happen overnight.
A strong addiction requires repeated exposure to the substance or behavior in order to take hold. This may take a few days to several months, depending on the individual, but most don’t develop addictions after trying something only once. They simply like it enough to try it again…and again…until they’re hooked.

You don’t become a serious writer overnight. You have to try it, like it, and try it some more until it gets under your skin.

When you’re addicted to something, you can’t get enough.
An addiction demands increasing doses for a diminishing return. The less you do, the weaker the hold the activity has over you. The more you do, the more you want.

I can’t speak for other writers, but this is how it is for me: the longer I let my writing sit unvisited, the less desire I have to pick it up again. The more I write, the more I want to write. The more I write, the more it consumes my thoughts, firing my brain with ideas until I have to sit down and put them to words.

Decreased use can lead to a life without the addictive behavior, but you always have to be careful.
You can cut an addiction from your life through rehabilitation or new learned behaviors. At the same time, you need to be careful about exposing yourself to the behavior in the future, or you’ll probably fall into the same patterns again.

As I said, the less I write, the less I want to write. It doesn’t take all that long before I’m almost comfortable not writing at all. Almost. As with all true addictions, it only takes a taste to stir the old passions and fire up those receptors. A true writing addict never “used to be a writer.” At best, you may be a “writer in recovery.”

Sure, my analogy has its limitations. True addictions are destructive to addicts’ lives on mental, physical, emotional and relational levels. With the exceptions of writers like Poe and Hemingway, most writers I know about are pretty balanced…except for that niggling little desire to pick up a pen or pluck at a keyboard. Few writers let their craft destroy their families, their social lives or their non-writing careers.

Here’s my point, though. Unlike most behaviors, writing is something to which it actually helps to be a little addicted. The road to publication is tough, it’s lonely and it’s often unrewarding. If you don’t have an inner drive, a desire for the art for its own sake, it can be easy to give up. I for one, could stand a little more addiction to my writing (and a little less addiction to sugar and chocolate, but that’s a separate topic). Anyone else feel like forming an addiction?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Update 2/28/11

I have a confession. I've done more quilting that writing in the past week. In some ways I have a good excuse...the quilt is a gift with a deadline, and I want to get it done in plenty of time so I don't have to stress at the last minute.

That does nothing for my WIP, though.

At the same time, I did take a wonderful little side trip into fiction-writing land on Saturday. I found myself exhausted but sleepless during my daughter's naptime. That itself was frustrating, but I actually had a story idea gel while I was staring at the ceiling. So, I got up and managed nearly 500 words before it was back to 2-year-old land. Now, if I can only get the end to gel as well as the beginning. It's high time I got another story polished and into the marketing mill.

Since this is the last day of the month, I find myself again faced with my first-of-the-month deadline for my Lessons from the Shadowland blog. I have the title written. Does that count?

Finally, my husband brought home some good news over the weekend. Last year, I'd searched for signs of a writers' group in the area. Finding none, I'd assumed there were none within the 50 mile radius that I considered reasonable. I was wrong. There is, in fact, a group that meets on Tuesday evenings at the local diner. Now all I need is a babysitter--and I'm volunteering my father for this role--and I'm set. Peer critiques, here I come!

That's it for this week. Happy Monday!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 2/25/11

I'm way behind on my blog reading, so the following are a mere sampling of the many great posts that have come out over the past week. Even today, it's difficult to tear myself from the snowy vista outside and focus on...anything. (Yes, I did get outside to play in the snow with my two-year-old. Chilly heaven!) Hopefully, I'm not posting what you've already read. Enjoy!

~ ~ ~ ~

This post by Rachelle Gardner may not offer much comfort for people who--like myself--are beset by self-doubt and lack of assurance. It's good to be reminded occasionally, though, that it may not be about you. Publishing is competitive. Even a good book can be beaten out by a better one.

The Talent Here Is Ridiculous

Here's a break from the usual writing and publishing advice: the physical effects of writing, brought to us from Write It Sideways.

Protect Yourself from Writing's Physical Hazards

Rafael Yglesias' guest post on There Are No Rules blows away what writers have been told about cliches...and a few other truisms.

Cliche's for Aspiring Writers

Nathan Bransford weighs in on what the future could look like for bookstores, now that a big contender like Borders faces bankruptcy.

Do Record Stores Point the Way of the Future for Bookstores?

I don't necessarily agree with Natalie Fischer's hatred of prologues but, hey, she is an agent. Maybe we should listen to her.

Why I Hate Prologues

Whether you're a tech geek or are simply looking for a better way to get organized (and who isn't?), you might like Michael Hyatt's take on the Evernote software.

A Better Filing System for Public Speakers (and Writers)

Happy Friday and happy writing!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Enter Author Stage Right

A couple of weeks ago, I watched (most of) Iron Man for the first time. Yes, I’m behind in the Hollywood scene. Having a toddler and living with your parents will do that. Anyway, one of the highlights for me was Stan Lee’s traditional appearance. I know, it’s geekiness unleashed. I can’t help it, though. Stan Lee…M. Night Shyamalan…Alfred Hitchcock…Stephen King…I get a kick out of directors and writers who slide themselves into the story in sneaky little ways.

That’s not to say I’d be a fan if they inserted themselves in the story too much. I’d be much less thrilled if Stan Lee entered the story as Iron Man’s full-time mentor instead of a passing comment on the stairs.

Movies, of course, are an entirely different case from books. If an author inserts him or herself into a book overtly, it’s rarely charming. (I’ve never actually read a book where I found it anything but annoying, but I’m leaving open the benefit of the doubt.) On the other hand, I’ve never read a book where an author placed himself in a cameo similar to the names I mentioned above. It might be interesting to see how that worked. Hmmm…

It’s a different story when the author successfully inserts her own thoughts into the characters’ thoughts and opinions. I happen to think Shirley Rousseau Murphy does it well. You know they’re her thoughts, but they fit so well with the characters, you only notice the insertion if you think about it. Again, though, it only really works if the reader happens to agree with the characters. Too much opinion, I think, will turn the reader off if world views don’t happen to align. I know it’s happened when I read other books in the past.

Then I think of writers like Orson Scott Card, who disassociates himself to a sometimes astonishing degree. I just finished his novel, Enchantment. In it, the protagonist is a Ukrainian Jew who spent the first decade of his life in the USSR. As I read the book, I found myself wondering at times, “What happened to the author to make him dislike Christians so much?” Then I pulled myself back to reality and remembered that the author is a Mormon who was born in Washington State and now lives in North Carolina. He doesn’t dislike Christians; he successfully associated with a character who distrusted them, often with good historical reason. It was brilliant, and I admire him for introducing me to another worldview that made me examine my own.

When it comes down to it, though, we all insert ourselves into our writing to some degree. It’s nearly impossible not to. We are our writing. Our writing reflects, if not our entire personality, then some facet or some angle of ourselves that can’t help reflecting onto the pages of a story. We may not be our characters. We may not even like our characters. They may not hold our opinions or share our Myers-Briggs personality type. Still, something of the writer remains.

So, maybe I don’t have to make a cameo in my own work. None of us do. My work is me. Your work is you. That’s more than enough.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Update 2/21/11

I wouldn't say I had a meltdown last week. I did check out of life, as much as life would let me. Not that life ever lets anyone check out completely, but I sure tried. So, having missed my Wednesday and Friday posts, here I am back at my Monday update.

Having said that, it won't come as a shock that I didn't do much in the past week. That doesn't mean nothing happened.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I didn't make the cut in a contest I entered. Of course I was disappointed. What caught my attention, though, was the fact that the editors of the On the Premises contests offer a critique to non-finalists for only $10. My family's budget is tight, but I know a good deal when I see one. Since this wasn't the first go-around for this particular story, I clenched my teeth, sent in the money and waited.

The critique came over the weekend.

First, they were nice. Any fears I had of having my ego shredded and left for the literary vultures dissipated as I read not just the bad news about my entry, but also the good. The issues, they said, were minor. The story simply had enough minor issues to keep it from making the finals.

Second, they were helpful. The critique was concrete, balanced and actionable. I was left feeling that the story needed work, but that it was work I could do to create a better, more publishable piece. They also--intentionally or unintentionally--made my ponder myself and my attitude as a writer.

What am I talking about? For instance, they said parts of the story were overwritten, as if I felt the reader wouldn't get it unless I spelled it out. Is it because I look down on my readers or assume they won't get it? I hope not, but it's worth considering. It may be that I'm writing to the lowest common denominator and ignoring the readers who would, indeed, "get it." If that's it, maybe I should stop. Perhaps I shouldn't write to anyone else's level, but only to my own.

Another thing I noticed about myself was the desire to justify when the critique suggested I needed more background concerning why the character felt as he did. Oh, they got how he felt, they just didn't understand why. I immediately started pointing out (to myself) the experiences I'd had or people I'd known that prompted my character's behavior. Of course it was clear why he acted as he did! Then I remembered a question a professor once asked me: Was I going to follow around every piece of writing I ever published so I could stand over my readers' shoulders and explain the nuances to them? Um, no. Guess I'll just have to give my readers enough info to begin with. That means I can't be lazy with my writing. It means I'll have to live outside my head and view my stories through others' eyes. Bummer.

So, critiques--good ones--can tell us things about ourselves as well as our stories. I haven't acted on this particular critique yet. Some of their suggestions require additions or changes to the plot, which needs time and thought on my part to do well. I can immediately implement the things I've learned about myself, though. Hopefully, my writing will be the stronger for it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Update

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I have no rejections in my mailbox to ruin my spirit of love today. Of course, no acceptances or publication news, either. No news is good news right now, though, so I’m happy.

I may not have news, but I am in a bit of a quandary. Here’s my question:

Do I join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) or not join?

The $89 dollar fee for the first year is pretty steep when held up next to my family’s budget. That’s not entirely the issue, though. Nor is it an issue of ROI (return on investment). I know the SCBWI offers valuable resources for anyone serious about entering the world of children’s publishing. And that’s the question.

Am I serious enough to warrant the $89 membership fee?

Am I serious about going full-bore into picture book writing in the next year? Am I serious about joining specialized critique groups? Am I serious about querying agents and/or publishers? Or, will I find my self-resolve tapering off midway and sputtering to an inglorious halt, $89 the poorer?

Will I have the physical stamina throughout my pregnancy, followed by carrying for both a newborn and a three-year-old? Is it even realistic to expect myself to? Should I put it off for a couple of years and work on getting piles of manuscripts polished before entering the melee? Or could that be cowardice talking?

So, you see, it boils down to a different question. Not, “Is the SCBWI worth the money,” but “Am I worth the money?”

It’s not a question I’m up to answering today, but it’s a question worth asking.

Any thoughts?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup

I really appreciate this post by Suzannah at Write It Sideways. Most of what she said matches my situation exactly, right down to putting God first and family second (despite Michael Hyatt's post below). I often look at other freelance writers, at the huge amounts of time they seem to spend writing, and feel like a slacker for only stealing moments here and there when church and family allow. This year, though, I realized that, if God and family come before my writing, I have to act like it! Her post is an important reminder to me to keep my priorities straight and not be ashamed for putting my faith and family before any extra income I might earn from writing.

Write it Sideways -- Getting Your Life & Writing Priorities in Order

I can identify with the village idiot metaphor In Davey Jank's guest post on the Rants and Ramblings blog. In fact, what I felt interning with a translation team in Namibia often seems nothing compared to how I feel trying to learn my way around the publishing field. It seems like it should be easier because I at least know the language...right? Personally, I can't wait to find a copy of the Janks' book.

Rants and Ramblings -- The Migration of the Village Idiots

Nathan Bransford's posts have been getting shorter, but he pulled through today with a great post on the striving nature of the writing life.

Writing, Striving and THE GREAT GATSBY

Jessica from Bookends, LLC tells authors about where subjectivity starts and ends when an agent reads your work.

It's All a Point

Over at, Mary's talking about the role tense plays in successful writing. Does it matter? And why does it make us so...tense?

So Tense About Tense!

I posted this one on Facebook, but it's worth sharing here. It's Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt's take on why leaders, especially, (but maybe everyone?) should place themselves second on their priority list. (That's right after God and in lieu of last place, in case you were wondering.)

Where Do You Put Yourself in Your List of Priorities?

T.L.Cooper delves into her inner psyche with her post on using memories--even bad ones--to write strong fiction.

Avoidance, Memories and Fiction

Finally, a post from a writer who isn't new to the blog scene but is new to my RSS feed. Laura Campbell lays open the process of becoming a writer in her honest and compelling look at her own journey as a fiction writer.

Writing Unleashed -- A Punch in the Face: Rewrites Are a Bitch

With so many good blogs by writers, agents and publishers, I know I missed some gems. I hope you enjoy these offerings from my own Google reader, though. Until next week, happy reading and joyful writing!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Of Viruses and Viciousness

I meant to post something yesterday, but my weekly schedule got thrown out of kilter. Here’s how…

The day before yesterday, my husband’s computer got infected with malware. I had productive plans for Tuesday afternoon. Instead, I launched into hours of cursing and hair pulling as I tried to exorcise Security from my hubby’s laptop. More than once I wished I had a time machine to go back and keep him from clicking on that fatal link.

By 7:30 PM, none of his programs were responding and I had nothing to lose. I restored the HP to an earlier version of itself…the Windows version of the time machine I’d wanted. So, one time machine and two eradication softwares later, Carmelo had his laptop back, complete with the PowerPoint presentation he needed today. He looked at me with relief, and then asked the crucial question.

“Why do people create viruses, anyway? Just for the heck of it?”

I nodded, but the truth is, I don’t know. I’ve always supposed the creators of viruses are like vandals, delighting in their power of destruction. (That also seems to be the conclusion Dick Francis came to in his novel, Driving Force.) I don’t understand vandals of any kind, though. I’ve never felt the desire to wantonly destroy another’s property, livelihood or life’s work. I have to imagine that, in the case of malware creators, there’s an element of delight in their own cleverness. Not many have their skill with coding. So, they do it because they can.

Such an attitude enrages me. Yet it’s also a reminder that we all need to guard how we use our gifts. Anyone with verbal skills, written or spoken, may sometimes be tempted to use those skills to cut down their enemies. I’m not talking about fighting for social justice or standing up for your beliefs. I’m talking about taking it a step further and using your words to cut people down, to humiliate them or ruin their reputations. Think it’s not possible? Arthur O’Shaughnessy knew it was. In his “Ode,” he wrote,

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

Here’s another way to look at it: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The ability to use words to influence is a wonderful gift, but also a great responsibility. It’s a gift that we, as writers, need to guard carefully. I, for one, welcome the reminder to guard against spreading any viruses with my words.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday Update

Not much news on the writing front this week. I received another rejection in my email inbox last week. On the upside, it was a contest, and the publishers said there were 169 entries. Those are long odds for making it into the list of finalists. Of course, there's always the niggling question of whether I didn't win because there were that many brilliant stories entered, or if it was simply because mine stank. I'm holding out for multiple flashes of brilliance in the upcoming results.

I keep telling myself that all these rejections will eventually lead to one big acceptance. When I worked (briefly) in sales, we expected to get 20 sales from ever 100 queries. Let's hope that sales law of averages holds true for freelancing. At this point, one in five sounds like a pretty good average to me.

On a brighter note, I read a wonderful post on Write It Sideways. Julie Duffy's post, "Short on Mental Space?", spoke to me as a mom struggling to be a writer...or is that a writer struggling to be a mom? Anyway, if you're struggling for mental space, check out Julie's guest post.

That's it for this Monday. Have a happy and fruitful week!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

MFA Confidential -- Snowpocalypse

I can't believe it's already Thursday! Time flies when you're busy and harassed by a two-year-old. I've found lots of good blogs going through my reader today, and may post more later. To start with, though, here's a real gem from Jessie Morrison in Chicago.

Writer's Digest blog - MFA Confidential

As a writer born and raised in rural Eastern Oregon, I identify with the photographer from Idaho. When you're surrounded by nature, you don't view it the same way as someone in the city does. You don't take it for granted; that's not what I mean. It's always there, a part of your internal makeup rather than something to be documented from an outside perspective.

Yet, perhaps Jessie Morrison's reminder for city folk does apply to us ruralites as well. We all need the occasional reminder of nature's power. We all need to take a perspective check once in a while. And, yes, a snowstorm is perfect writing weather.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup

This week has been unproductive for me. Not a total loss. I managed to fight off the pregnancy hormones and insomnia long enough to draft another picture book idea, send a query for a list article and draft a post outline for my Shadowland blog.

All in all, though, my creativity has felt something lacking. Oh, that’s right. Sleep.

That’s the long way of saying I have no earth-shattering news. I have, however, found several great blog posts that fellow writers might find interesting.

The first up is Christina Katz’s post, Write for the Joy of It. As I read Christina's thoughts, I realized I don't write for the joy of it. I used to, but somewhere along the way I switched to writing for publication. Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to see our work published. At the same time, the change in mindset has robbed me of much of the satisfaction I used to get from writing.

The moments in my life when I've felt most alive have been when writing fiction, yet I've sidelined much of my fiction for more immediately "practical" work. I'd already begun feeling that this was wrong. Christina's thought's helped me confirm that. Check it out at:

Write for the Joy of It, Not for Overnight Success

The second post comes from Jane Friedman's blog, There Are No Rules. Guest blogger Michelle Ward asked the question, Are You a Renaissance Soul? I find, to my delight, that I am. If you can't settle on one project for long, if you move from interest to're probably a Renaissance soul, too.

While I think most writers can identify with Ward's post, it applies to many creative types. The wonderful thing about Ward's advice is that she gives us permission to be ourselves and to use seeming weaknesses as strengths. You can read more here:

Are You a Renaissance Soul? Use It to Your Advantage

Finally, I read two different posts about what writers do--or should do--when agents request revisions. Both are on agents' blogs, but while one was from the agent viewpoint, another was written by a client. I didn't find either overtly biased. For me, they provided food for thought as I look ahead to when I will (hopefully) be in a position to deal with the issue.

Check out the thoughts of Rachelle Gardner's guest blogger, writer Keli Gwyn, in The Revision Decision. Follow it up with the agent's view from BookEnds, LLC as Jessica Faust explores More on Author-Agent Relationship.

Until next week, happy reading and joyful writing!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Japanese Woman Is Bestselling Poet, Age 99

Photograph: Ho/Reuters

My beloved professor, Marv Kananen, used to tell his writing class that you're not a rookie in writing until you're 40. Based on this story, his estimate might have been conservative. For those of us who get impatient wondering when we'll achieve some measure of success, here's a shot of inspiration:

Monday, January 24, 2011

“But It Was Research, Agent Smith!”

A few days ago, on her blog, MFA Confidential, Jessie Morrison brought up the topic of weird Google searches. It wasn’t a new idea to me. I’ve frequently suspected that if the government really is monitoring the Internet, I’d have a S.W.A.T team showing up at my door any day now. In the course of our research, writers need to find details for the strangest things. Some of mine include:

  • C-4
  • handguns
  • automatic weapons
  • Chicago street map
  • the Congo
  • Laos
  • common Swahili phrases
  • medical marijuana laws in Oregon
  • Swedish surnames

Definite cause for government paranoia there. Hopefully, showing a judge manuscripts and story outlines would get me off the hook in a trial.

You can visit MFA Confidential for Jessie’s list of her own weird searches, which include yurts, popular gymnasts of the 1988 Olympics and Judas steers. You can also see what other commenters might post. Meanwhile, feel free to share some of your own weird searches here!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Toddler’s--and Writer’s--Epic Journey

The other day, my two-year-old daughter took me on an epic journey. In her terms, she was going “Up high to see the man (fan).” In Mommy terms, it was a hike to a decrepit analog TV antenna, a half mile as the crow flies but considerably more when factoring in the 45-degree slope.

Baby M tackled the journey with single-minded determination. The shortest distance between house and “man” was a straight line, regardless of barbed-wire fences (two, each crossed twice), canyons (one, steep) and large rocks (numerous). As an out-of-shape thirty-something, my course would have been somewhat more meandering. I might even have worked up to the trip in stages, a few feet each day. Thanks to Baby M, though, we reached her objective in less than an hour.

I admired her devotion to her goal, just as I admire writers--and other professionals--who know and strive for their goals with the same intense concentration. What about those whose path is more meandering, though? What about the writers and artists who are working toward their goals but choose to take the scenic route to get there?

Which one is right? The strenuous but direct path? Or the more relaxed but longer path?

I know my answer. What’s yours?

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my answer is, “Yes.”)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

MFA Confidential -- Does Anyone Use a Notebook Anymore?

Those who follow my blog may remember that I wrote a post called "The Long and the Short of It" about longhand vs. shorthand a few months ago. Here's someone else's take on the topic, from MFA student Jessie Morrison:

There Are No Rules - An E-Publisher That Specializes in Original Short Works

If you write novelettes or essays, you might be interested in this new e-publishing trend...Italian e-publisher 40K, who specializes in shorter works. Check out Jane Friedman's post of Livia Blackburn's interview with the publisher.

There Are No Rules - An E-Publisher That Specializes in Original Short Works

Monday, January 17, 2011 · How Soon Do I Query Again?

Here's a post from Mary at on how frequently you should query. While it's specifically aimed at picture book queries--and that's why I devoured it and intend to read it again--it's valuable for novels and other query types as well. (For those who write YA and MG novels, you might consider following Mary's blog...that seems to be what she's looking for right now, and she offers lots of valuable insights from a children's/YA agent POV.) · How Soon Do I Query Again?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Any Comments from the Peanut Gallery?

I’ve been blogging for several years. It’s only as I’ve gotten increasingly serious about my freelance writing career, though, that I’ve started studiously following other writer’s blogs. In the process, I’ve discovered a few things about blog comments.

First, bloggers notice comments. I know I do. I suppose that most small-time bloggers like myself are thrilled if someone simply comments, regardless of what they say. Bigger, busier bloggers notice, too. They notice who comments, how often they comment, and the value of their comments. They see and they remember. When they remember, it can sometimes produce good returns for savvy commentators.

Second, there are savvy and not-so-savvy ways to comment. Nathan Bransford recently blogged on the art of commenting, including advice on placement, strategy and content. Yes, if you want to get noticed in a positive way, there’s a correct way to comment.

Third, you can glean wisdom from comments. When I read a compelling post--say one that has 50 to 100 comments on it--I can’t help reading through the comments. Chances are, I’ll glean bits of wisdom that stretch far past whatever blurb the author originally wrote. It widens my horizons and, sometimes, also lets me know I’m not alone in my thoughts.

Hopefully I wasn’t the last one to board this particular train. I would like to think this topic is a fresh and interesting for you as it was to me. All I can say is…any comments?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Agent POV Roundup

All right, maybe two posts isn't a roundup. Still, these are a couple of interesting posts from the literary agent's POV.

First is author and former agent Nathan Bransford's take on what standardization of terms means to the future of literary agents. It may not be good news, if their expertise is no longer needed to negotiate contracts. On the other hand, is standardization of terms any better news for writers? Read his post and give me your thoughts:

Nathan Bransford -- The Greatest Challenge Agents Will Face

The second post is from current agent Natalie M. Fischer. In it, she shares some pet peeves that land queries in her circular file. Check it out:

Adventures in Agentland -- It's QUERY Season!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There Are No Rules - The Evolution of How I Use Twitter

As a writer who doesn't have Twitter as part of my platform, I found Jane Friedman's post on the subject interesting and thought provoking. How do you Tweet?

There Are No Rules - The Evolution of How I Use Twitter

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Writer’s Digest - Orson Scott Card Q&A

I was shocked and saddened to hear that Orson Scott Card recently had a stroke. I pray for a quick and full recovery for this outstanding science-fiction writer. Not only is Card a talented fiction writer, but he also offers the very best advice for writers in any genre. (That is, advice you can use!) If you're not already familiar with his work, check out this interview from Writer's Digest:

Writer’s Digest - Orson Scott Card Q&A

More Thoughts on Thoughtful Writing

While I haven’t received any negative reactions to my previous post on thoughtful writing, I did want to clarify a few things.

I got to thinking that some things I said may have come across as saying that some writers don’t deserved to be published, or even that “bad” writers get published. That’s not what I meant. No, as far as I’m concerned, the mere fact that a writer is published means he or she did something right. Certainly, anyone with a traditionally-published book under her belt is doing better than I.

Sure, there are different calibers of published writers, but it’s not so much a matter of good or bad as it is a matter of good, better and best. In my opinion, the best writers are the thoughtful ones, the writer’s who put time into thinking through their writing and then sitting down and crafting it to fit that thought. They are the writers who challenge and inspire us, who cause us to think new thoughts in new ways for the first time in our lives.

And that can be exhausting.

I don’t know about anyone else, but there are times I settle for less thoughtful writing that allows me to take a break from all the other work my brain has to do in a day. So, I might even go so far as to say that there is a place for less thoughtful writers. A couple of my favorite writers in the romance genre are in this category. Their books contain no great new thoughts, but I return to them again and again because they offer lighthearted entertainment in a writing style that I find appealing and easy to read. Also, while their work may not offer new insights into the human condition, they do offer characters and settings that begin to feel like a second home, a place where I am welcomed with a warm fire and a good tale no matter how long my absence or how short my stay. Yes, there’s a place for that in the world.

Nor am I claiming to be one of the “best” writers. I know I’m not the best. One of my great fears as a writer is that I’m not even good. That’s not reason to give up, though. That’s when the thoughtfulness kicks in, the drive to develop the craft and be better and better every day.

Maybe you and I will never be the “best” (or maybe we will!). If we thoughtfully strive for that goal, though, we may someday be the best possible version of ourselves. And I think that’s the best thing possible.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Thoughtful Writing

Over the past few days, I've been pondering what aspects go into truly brilliant, creative writing. Of course, there is no magic formula. Several aspects work together to make a great work of fiction. Good writers have some. Great writers have many or all. When I ponder what sets the foundation for an enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of fiction, though, I have one answer...thought.

It seems obvious, but I can't help thinking it's often overlooked. You can immediately tell the difference between a thoughtful author and one who didn't quite think things through. The latter makes you feel, vaguely, as if you might have read this book before. The former makes you say, “Wow! I wish I’d thought of that!”

I first stumbled onto the concept a couple of weeks ago when I read an old review of one of Orson Scott Card's books. The reviewer stated that Card was as always, "…above all, a thinker." What a supreme compliment. Better yet, a reading of one of Card’s works reveals the truth behind it. In my brutally honest moments, I know I’ve never thought deeply enough to come up with ideas like Ender’s Game or the Oversoul from Card’s Homecoming Saga.

That’s not to say you can’t overthink things. Every writer reaches a point at which he needs to gather those threads of thought and start putting them on paper. Otherwise, where is the use in all that thinking? It’s personally gratifying, perhaps, but not all that useful. On the other hand, it’s those stories that I’ve pondered deep and long before writing that shine more brilliantly than the rest.

Thinking. Pondering. Exploring the many aspects of the human condition and ruminating on news ways to present them. It’s a vital part of creativity.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Challenges for the Present and Future

Twenty-eleven scares me a little. All right...2011 scares me a lot.

In my last post, I shared my major goals for the coming year. They seem like quite a mouthful to me right now, especially considering I'm still trying to finish up obligations from 2010. Still, they should be doable, right?

As I face this year, though, I do so with extra challenges. Not only do I have to structure my days around a recalcitrant toddler, forging ahead as a writer mama, but now I must also face the additional work of being a pregnant writer mama.

You read that right. We have a bun in the oven! (Wow, I hate that cliche. Why did I use it?)

It's a joyous occasion, an event my husband and I have wanted for a while. It carries with it, though, a whole mess of new issues.

I know there are supposed to be hormones to make me forget what it was like to be pregnant and deliver a baby the first time...but I haven't. I remember every bit of physical and mental discomfort I can expect between now and August 15. So now I face my 2011 goals as I also hurdle:
  • Constant hunger
  • Occasional nausea
  • Incessant exhaustion
  • Numerous bathroom trips
  • Extra loads of laundry from missed bathroom trips, plus
  • Many more symptoms that I won't name right now (you're welcome)
I can do it. After all, I worked full time during Moira's entire pregnancy. Should be a snap. Or not.

One thing I know is that I will need help. I'll need support and I'll need grace and I'll need patience. I'll need those things from my family, my friends and from other writers.

Anyone else out there who has struggled not just with being a writing mother, but a pregnant writing mother? Feel free to share you challenges, your stories, your tips and advice. Please! I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: 2011 Edition

Every year I insist on making plans. Not resolutions, exactly, but yearly goals. They rarely come to pass--or at least not completely--but I make them anyway. Without them, I feel adrift in a sea of possibilities and eddying currents that pull me this way and that.

Imagine my chagrin when I pulled out last year's goals and found them largely unfulfilled. My novel draft is uncompleted. I wrote a short story, but not the one on my goal sheet. I didn't exercise three times a week (ha ha ha ha...!), I came within two pounds of my goal weight but failed to reach it, and my toddler remains un-potty trained.

That doesn't keep me from making more goals for this year. I've tried to slim them down and make them realistic. And, as a form of accountability, I'll post some of them here. Here they are:

2011 Yearly Goals

Fiction Writing:

1. Detailed outline of A Place in Time
2. Rough draft of Journey Home
3. Write Onancock short story
4. Continue marketing unpublished works; send each out at least once

Nonfiction Writing:

1. Finish Draft of Lessons from the Shadowland: Cat
2. Detailed Outline of Lessons from the Shadowland: Toddler


1. Find markets for Adam Miller piece; submit 4 queries/articles
2. Write and market at least 12 small pieces: tips, fillers, list articles, how-tos

Picture Books:

1. Submit at least 4 queries for Feet on the Farm
2. Polish Scarf book
3. Finish Gelato Shop draft


1. How to Research Historical Novels
2. Finish First Draft in 30 Days

Of course, I have other goals relating to family, gelato, health and spiritual growth...but those are none of you business, right? Right.

Okay, I've shared mine. What are some of your goals for 2011?