Friday, April 29, 2011

Z is for...


From A highest point or state; culmination.

We have reached the culmination of the A to Z Challenge! It's been fun, but I would be lying if I didn't say I was relieved it was done. I do enjoy pushing myself to write to a prompt, though, and it worked toward that purpose this month.

For some letters, I had huge lists of things I would enjoy talking about, and I had to whittle it down to just one or two (or more, in the instance of "K" and any other I may have forgotten about). For others, I was bordering on pounding my head on the desk to figure out something, anything, that would fit the letter without being too cheesy and that I could actually write to on that particular night. I may have to use some of the other words I listed and didn't use for future posts.

No matter what, I feel it was worthwhile. I met so many great people, found so many valuable blogs, whether because they had to do with my craft or because they interested me for other reasons (or both). I had no idea what the blogging community was really like, and how welcoming everyone was, until I did this challenge, and I'm grateful for that.

I'm also looking forward to being able to keep up with those blogs I found, rather than everyone posting every single day. It was too much to keep up with, and I know I probably missed some wonderful posts. I do intend to go back and look further back through everyone's blogs, as well as to try and visit those blogs I never got a chance to on the list.

I'd like to thank our hosts for doing all the work this must have involved and to putting it out there. Thank you to all of you!

How do you feel now that it's done? What do you feel you gained by doing this, and was it worth it? Think you'll do it next year?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Y is for...


It has been one year since I attended my first writer's conference and got the fire in my belly to start writing for real.

It has been one year since I started my manuscript in earnest.

This year, I finished my first novel.

This year, I finished editing my first novel.

This year, I started this blog.

This year, I joined three writer's groups and I actively learned about my craft.

When I made this decision to really get into my writing, I hoped I'd be finished with a novel. I hoped I'd be able to pitch at this year's conference. But I didn't necessarily think those things would come to pass. Yet here I am, with a finished novel. I didn't sign up for a pitch appointment since I wasn't positive I'd be at a point where that would be worthwhile, though I did end up being finished. That's okay, though. I'm proud of how far I've come in one year. Plus, I can put myself on a wait list tomorrow in case someone cancels a pitch appointment. Apparently, there's a good chance that will happen, so we will see. Either way, I'm okay with it. Why? Because I feel I've had plenty of accomplishments to tide me over for next year.

When this conference is finished, I will sit down to figure out what my goals for the next year are. I'm thinking I will make a goal for words written, as well as for submissions made and queries sent.

Speaking of which, I entered a one-line pitch contest a few weeks ago. I came home from the conference today feeling good and checked the winners. I didn't even make it into the top 20. I was a bit down, but I spent some time with the kiddos, who were in a super good mood, and I sat down to print up my handouts for the classes this weekend. That was enough to lift my mood up a bit. After all, it was my first pitch of any kind for this book. I'm going to get plenty of other "no's," though I would hope the first person I pitched it to would love it as much as I do. That's not realistic, and I well know it. (It doesn't stop an optimist from hoping, though!).

Here's the thing, the agent the qualifying entries were presented to is at this conference. Funny, huh?

When it comes down to it, though, I tried. I entered the contest. I made my pitch. I did it. I can do it again. This week, I also sat down and wrote my first piece of flash fiction and submitted it to an anthology (I will be posting about that anthology so others can submit some time next week when the challenge is finished--I believe it closes some time in June, so there's time. If I don't post it next week, feel free to remind me and give me a virtual boot to the booty).

What have you accomplished this year? If you came up with an idea, wrote short fiction, a poem, an article, a flash fiction piece, made an outline, wrote any number of words this year, submitted anything, entered a contest, made the effort to work toward your future success or did anything to learn about your craft (like reading blogs and putting yourself in touch with other artists). If you did any of these things or anything else I've forgotten, take a moment to celebrate with me. Take a moment to be proud of what you have accomplished, rather than beating yourself up. Taking any step, even a tiny one, is progress.

This isn't just for writers, either. Consider anything you've accomplished in your life in the past year and celebrate it. Take this one day and find a reason to be content, and try to push your worries to the side for one day. You deserve it.

I can't wait to see where I am and what I've accomplished by this time next year, even if it is just a folder of rejections. Because each of those rejections is an effort I made toward achieving my dream.

Dream with me!

Happy Writing!

P.S. I do intend to pass along helpful information I've gleaned from the conference, but not until next week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

X is for...


I figured since I was posting early, I could help people out with a list of X-words:

X is also for...


I'm pretty sure I've never written a sex scene, so far. If I did, I blocked it for my mental health. I know that some day I will have to, as I have plenty of ideas that involve non-YA Fantasy (saying adult fantasy sounds wrong when the label is x-rated). For now, I have a hard time writing sweet, emotional scenes that involve a kiss or that kind of thing. I suddenly turn into a nervous 13-year old, who peeks around her to make sure no one is looking over her shoulder as she writes that kind of scene. It's incredibly silly, but it's also the way it is.

As I've gone around reading blogs, I've found that there are two basic groups: 1. People who enjoy writing love scenes and 2. People who feel uncomfortable doing so. I'm not sure if there's an in-between there; at least, I haven't found one yet.

Why is it so tricky for those of us in group two? What is it about a love scene that can turn us into giggly, quivering piles of jelly? I could write horrific gore if it called for it, so why do I feel so silly about a smooch or an intimate moment? I've had my share. I mean, I've been married for nearly fifteen years now. I certainly don't feel silly when it's real.

Is it worrying about my parents reading it? No. Maybe a hot and heavy sex scene, but it's not like I'll be sitting there narrating it to them.

Maybe it simply boils down to fearing that people will see I'm a sham when it comes to romance. I'm not a romantic person. I don't know if the other people I've found to be nervous about the same thing are romantic or not, so my hypothesis cannot be duly tested.

How do you feel about writing love scenes, whether they be sweet and romantic or hot and sex-laden? Do you have a theory as to why it's tricky for some to write them?

Happy Writing!

W is for...

Writer's Conference! WOOOOO-HOOOOOOO!

Timely letter, this one. Tomorrow is the first day of the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference. I'm positively giddy. Scary, isn't it? but I enjoy hanging out with other creative types and learning more about my chosen profession. Plus, I like the food.

Speaking of the above, W is also for...

Writer's Groups.

I've mentioned them on here before, but it never hurts to bring them up again. I highly recommend finding a local writer's group, or joining one online. For instance, the Pikes Peak Writer's group I belong to has members from around the world, and there is a Yahoo loop. They even put some of their monthly workshops on the website as of this year. They have a great, informative blog that anyone can look at, as well, so there are benefits to belonging to an online group if you don't have one local to yourself. Another benefit? It's free. They just made that change this year. I will say, though, that the activities and such that they promote are typically going to be in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. I have, however, seen promotions for conferences in New Mexico and other places, as well, and it says right on the front page that they welcome anyone, anywhere, to join. This includes international membership, not just those of us from the U.S. They have an annual contest that anyone can enter, so check it out.

The other group I belong to is the National League of American Pen Women. They have regional branches around the country. Click here to find a branch near you (female membership only). There are various contests through the branches of the NLAPW, and they are usually such that anyone can enter. Only Pen Women members can be published in their magazine (though there is a contingent hoping to change this detail). Pen Women is, despite the name, not just for writers. The membership also includes the arts and music.

I've also now joined She Writes, an online community for female writers. (Sorry fella's, but groups like Pikes Peak Writer's are open to everyone). This is a national group and there are forums online for various conversations. I discovered this group because of the A to Z Challenge, and have not had the full opportunity to explore and get to know the site yet.

I get so much from these groups, each offering something different. I can't say enough about how much benefit it is to have a group of like-minded individuals to speak with, even if it is just online. I imagine most on here have already discovered that from the blogging community. Anything that puts you in touch with others can help you to learn, give you comradeship, and help you network. Plus, it gives this stay-at-home mom reasons to get out of the house sometimes, which I also feel is important. Vital to my survival, even.

Do you belong to any writer's groups, national or otherwise? Any you recommend to others? Any of you coming to the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference? If not, is there a conference you try to never miss?

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for...


Okay, okay, but that is how I felt when I sat down last night to consider what I might write about. V has been one of those toughies. I had a list of words, but didn't feel any of them.

Anyway, without further ado...

V is for...

Voracious Reader.

To be a writer, it is commonly believed that you must also be a reader. Otherwise, how do you know what people want to read? We learn, in all facets of life, by observing others and then practicing. This is one reason why the ubiquitous "they" recommend reading in your own genre while writing. You can observe what it is you particularly like or don't like in your chosen genre. (An aside: I am about ready to add "genre" to the list of profane words, along with query, platform and synopsis. It will then be referred to as the "G" word).

I've spent a lot of time in the last year reading YA Fantasy. I discovered new genres I hadn't yet known about, such as Dystopian Fantasy, thanks to these books. I had skipped YA fiction when I was younger, jumping to adult horror, fantasy and a sprinkling of romance and sci-fi. Looking at all the selection now, I figure I missed out on quite a lot of good books, so I'm enjoying going back and reading them now.

I devoured books then and I still do now. A lot of parents say they don't have time to read, and that was true for a little while, but then I began to carry a book around with me everywhere I went, tucking them in diaper bags and car door pockets. Eventually, I made a point of going to bed at a reasonable enough time that I could read, though that still made for many late nights when I couldn't put a book down. Insomnia helps with that problem, too, though. I found that reading a book before bed could help me unspool my mind enough to be able to sleep without too many thoughts running through my head. Well, some nights.

I haven't exclusively read YA this year, of course. I'm still reading my usual series and trying to experience new authors and new series. As long as I'm reading, I'm happy. Plus, I'm learning. Two other "V" words one can pick up from reading are Voice and Vocabulary. I once knew someone who carried a spiral notebook around with her if she was reading anything, including textbooks. She would write any word she didn't know in the notebook and look it up later, writing the definition next to the word. She wasn't into writing or anything; she just liked learning new words. I'm not saying you should carry around a notebook and a dictionary, but mentally file a word you enjoy for later use. It doesn't have to just be single words, either. You can pick up descriptive phrases and various terms you may not have heard of before.

I sort of jumped all over with this, but the point of it is to read if you want to write. Read as much as you can. Read in your genre, but don't be afraid to explore others, as well. Read with a writer's eye, and pay attention to how they do things you particularly like. Is this writer very good at dialogue? Why? What are they doing differently? Perhaps this writer describes characters or settings so brilliantly that you can instantly picture them, smell the flowers, feel the breeze. Figure out how and learn from it.

But be sure to enjoy your reading along the way, as well.

What about you, what do you read? Is it always in the same genre, or do you branch out? Do you read in the same genre you write in?

Happy Writing!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

U is for...

Urban Fantasy.

I tried to look up the definition of Urban Fantasy, and I think I'm more confused on the definition than when I started. I believe I've sort of mixed in Contemporary Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction, in addition to the actual Urban Fantasy genre. The rules I found were a bit blurry, so to speak. They spoke of "sometimes they involve this..." and "this is a common theme," but no definite rules. Then again, how can you impose strict rules on creativity?

What can be defined as Urban Fantasy? Paranormal stories that take place in an urban setting. That makes sense according to the label. They're not called rural fantasy stories, after all. But I admit to just having thought that paranormal stories taking place in the modern day and age were Urban Fantasy, and that they didn't necessarily have to happen in a city, despite the moniker.

For instance, Patricia Brigg's stories of Mercedes Thompson, while associated with a city, appear to mostly happen at her home, which appears to be a nice plot of land where she has room to take her coyote form and run around. A large plot of land on the outskirts of a city seems a bit rural to me.

In Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, some scenes are set in the city and some are set in rather rural areas, once again involving a home out in the woods with plenty of acreage. After all, wolves need running room just as much as coyotes. In fact, maybe more. We've got some city coyotes in these parts. A group of them gave me a heart attack while I was out taking a late night walk last week. Yikes!

Another rule that floated by from Wikipedia was that characters often had tragic pasts. I never really thought of that as a rule, but I can see that in a lot of the series I read. In fact, I can take that one step further and say they frequently don't have both living parents, if they have any at all. I feel like there is often a mother, but not a father. That's just with the stories that come to mind, though. So do they have to be lacking a parental unit, preferably the male one?

Does Urban Fantasy have to have a kick *ss chick in it? That seems to be a common undertone, and I can't think of one I've read that doesn't involve at least one, but is that a rule? I didn't find it as a requirement anywhere. Can a man be the main character?

What about sex? Some of these Urban Fantasy series are practically porn! Is sex a requirement? Is that our modern view of vampires? I can't say that's entirely new, a vampire being sexual. Mina sure liked Vlad Draculea in "Dracula," and there have been many other eroticized examples in horror. But what draws the line between horror and Urban Fantasy? Did Anne Rice write Urban Fiction or did she write horror? Or was it Contemporary Fantasy? Stephen King is clearly a horror author, but what sets his book "Salem's Lot" apart from Urban Fantasy? Is it that, in horror, they only want a little vampire action if they've been compelled, but in Urban Fantasy they're just plain sexy, so of COURSE humans want them and are willing to give it up? Is there an example of a horror story where the victim is willing? I could swear there was at least some of that in Anne Rice's books, but it's been a long while since I read them.

Perhaps it's that, in horror, the supernaturals don't tend to have human emotions, but in Urban Fantasy they can pity humans and even fall in love with them. But wait, Draculea certainly had human emotions in "Dracula." Look how far he went to get the woman who reminded him of his first love, long dead! His motives were all too human. And he cried...

One thing I can say is that I can't recall ever having actually found fear in respect to an Urban Fantasy. Yes, they include the creatures of our nightmares, at least nightmares from our childhood where a vampire was always bad and a werewolf would always eat your face off. Even shape shifters were always bad ("Cat People"?). They just aren't really scary. We always know the main character will come out of it and kick some major booty on the way out.

In horror, the supernatural creatures have to be finished off at the end, or at least a good show made of it. They are to be destroyed, not followed, not worshiped, certainly not respected. Yet in Urban Fantasy and related genres they can be both the good guys and the bad guys.

The only thing I've always considered a bit of a rule in my mis-construed definition was that supernatural creatures interacted with regular humans in a somewhat "normal" way. As in, humans acknowledge they exist. They may not be happy about it, but they know it and they have to live side by side with them in many ways. In Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books, they can be anywhere: on the police force, in a church, even a school teacher can be a were-something or other! Kim Harrison has them more distant in her Hollows series, as I don't believe there are any humans in their neighborhood (The Hollows). I'm not really sure about the flip side of that, though. It seems supernaturals live out there in some places, but maybe the humans aren't aware of it.

So tell me, how do YOU define Urban Fantasy? What do you see as the rules? What sets it apart from horror?

Happy Writing!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for...


It took me over a month to pick a title for my YA Fantasy novel, and I'm still not entirely sure it's the right one. It did help when I decided I wanted to do one-word titles, paired with the series name. I was using dictionaries to look up words I'd come up with and emailing myself lists of titles so I could wait a few days and come back to the list to see if anything caught my fancy.

Of all the things I thought would be hard, the title sure wasn't one of them. If you think about it, though, the title is usually going to be one of the first things people see, and it has to be something that will catch the reader's attention. In other words, the title is vital to the success of your book.

Part of my title-choosing process also involved having Amazon up so that when I'd think of a title, I could search to be sure it didn't already exist. Nobody wants their book mixed up with someone else's! Especially as I'm concerned about how common my name is: Shannon Lawrence. Go to Ireland and tell me how many people you can find by that name! Probably a lot. I doubt it's terribly uncommon in the U.S. either. Though I must say that a search on Amazon didn't turn up even one, so that's a relief, anyway. When I plug in my name I get Shannon Cochrane, Martin Lawrence and Molly Shannon, so it runs the gamut. As long as no other Shannon Lawrence beats me to the punch, I'm good to go. But is it a name people will remember? That's the question. I just went totally off the subject, BUT, if you think about it, my name is my title, so I'm still okay.

T is also for...


Ah, I miss typewriters. I loved the sound it made when I'd hit keys. I used to insist on doing my writing on a typewriter, even well into the computer era, but I typed too fast, and my thoughts ran even faster, so I'd get locked up keys.

While I was in this phase, though, my wonderful husband went and found me this awesome old Underwood typewriter. I've since sold it off, because it wasn't at all usable, but having that typewriter sitting there when I wrote was encouragement in itself sometimes. The problem? It smelled. And not a good smell. I finally had to find someone else who would love it and not mind the smell.

In middle school, I was still using a typewriter for my English papers. Despite the fact that my dad was a computer geek by profession, we didn't have a computer in our house until long after everyone else. The reasons for this, I imagine, are that 1. We couldn't afford it and 2. To this day, my father rarely uses the computer at home. Perhaps that's his way of not bringing work home with him. At least he was always able to get me floppy disks for school!

T is also for...


I'm not on it yet, but I think I probably should be, right? I don't understand what an author puts on Twitter of any interest. And I don't really want a personal Twitter account. I prefer to not let people know what I'm doing every hour of the day. I'm weird like that. However, I realize that's not what most people are doing, or I hope that's the case. Do you put stuff on it like what you put as a Facebook status? I rarely do that anymore, either.

Now that I'm volunteering with the Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District to do their online stuff, I'll have the opportunity to check out Twitter without having a personal account to start with, because even they have a Twitter feed. No kidding!

I guess I never realized how antiquated and behind the times I was. It's not that I'm not technicaly savvy, because I'm a good trouble shooter and I pick things up quickly. I'm a private person, and I also try to spend less time on the computer. I found that I became attached to the computer once I quit to be a stay-at-home mom, and while it helped me through that initial adjustment period, I need to work on spending less time on the computer, not more! But for each of these things I add (Facebook, blog, an online forum I admin, etc.), it means more of a time commitment that involves me sitting on my butt at the computer.

So the question is, is Twitter really worth it for getting your name out there? Is it really that big a plus for an author to have a Twitter feed? I just learned about hash tags the other day, and it sounds like there are some good writing discussions you can get in on if you have the hash tags for it. That may be another reason I allow myself to make a Twitter account, but the jury's still out just yet. I felt that way about Facebook, and originally MySpace. Given, I haven't signed in to my MySpace account in probably over a year. Whoops! My point being, though, that I didn't want to have accounts there, but finally gave in, so I imagine I will wander on over to Twitter one of these days. Sigh.

I have a lot of questions today for discussion: Do your titles come easily to you? How do you know when you've found the right one? Do you ever miss typewriters or are you delighted they're gone? Do you have a Twitter account? Have you figured out how to use it to your advantage yet? What the heck to authors tweet about on a daily basis??

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

S is for...

Sue Grafton.

Does this blogging challenge make anyone else think of her alphabet mysteries, starring Kinsey Millhone? I really enjoy her series and I'm hoping she makes it all the way to "Z." I don't actually know if she's written anything outside of Kinsey and the alphabet mysteries, but a quick search on Amazon would reveal the answer to that, eh? One cool thing about the books is she keeps them accurate to the time frame her books are set in, so though it was started a couple decades ago, I think, the books all closely follow the one before date-wise, and she keeps the information true to that time. For example, there aren't cell phones. (Rock on. I personally miss a time where people didn't converse on the phone in movie theaters or at the dinner table at a restaurant. Call me crazy...).

S is also for...


If you write, and you haven't heard of Scrivener, you should check it out:

Basically, Scrivener is a program that not only allows you to use it as a word processor, but also allows you to organize your various projects. The setup in a particular work is like a binder with section dividers. I'm able to be writing in one section and click on one of the other sections to make a change. I have character tabs, future plot tabs, deleted sections tabs, research and notes tabs, et cetera. When you switch between those tabs, it saves your spot in the other tab. You can toggle back and forth without losing text or data, just like flipping through a binder.

There's also a way to have major plot points, characters or whatever you want split up into index cards on a virtual bulletin board within the software. I find it very helpful for keeping track of continuity and details I may want to come back through and look for or refer to down the line.

I haven't used the program to its fullest, at this point, because I was hot to trot on getting my novel going and didn't want to spend the time to learn the program beyond the basics. However, it has worked just fine for me that way, without having spent that time, which means it is pretty user friendly.

One aspect that I have not used, but I'm aware of, is the ability to take a snapshot of your manuscript, screenplay or whatever you're writing. You can take this snapshot and it will save the manuscript as it is at that moment, even when you go on to edit it. Should you make a big change and decide you don't like it, you can restore from a snapshot.

You can also upload images, and I believe sound files and video files, but you'd have to check on those last two.

The program has a free trial of 30 days, I believe. I personally think it's an awesome program and worth the money. I do have to say, though, that it is only for Mac at this time, but they are working on getting a Windows version out. My laptop runs on Windows, but my computer downstairs is a Mac. I only use the Mac for writing. I do know someone who is beta testing the Windows Scrivener, so hopefully they'll have it out very soon. I can't wait to be able to open my writing on whichever machine I want to work on that day (they have stated they will be compatible)!

Though it's currently for Mac, you can export a version of your project in .doc format. I know there are other formats, as well, but I haven't used those, so they don't spring to mind. I export the document to .doc and then email it to myself as a backup, and so I can work with it on my laptop. Sounds complicated, but it really isn't. You can also import a version into the program from .doc, so you can technically go back and forth, but I just did all my work on that computer and dealt with it there, because it was easier to concentrate in my office than upstairs with all the distractions.

S is also for...

Super Awesome Award in Triplicate!

Thank you to Ani over at Anime's Musings for the Versatile Blogger Award! Ani does some great blogging about writing, so check her blog out. Thank you again, Ani!

I figure posting about Scrivener is my helpful link for this one. Ani also has some manner of application on her page that I need to hunt down that keeps track of progress on one's novel. I think it's related to NaNoWriMo. It looks like a cool way to keep track of your progress, at least as an estimate since you can't know your actual word count ahead of time (except during NaNoWriMo, of course).

Do you have any other programs or applications writers might find helpful? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

R is for...


One of the ways that I was finally able to buckle down and start writing was to develop a routine. Mine had to extend to a routine for my daughter in the morning so she was happy to come downstairs with me to get to work. I was surprised at how agreeable she was after we had play time together. We would have breakfast, she would watch Caillou (a cartoon), we would have play time together and when I'd announce it was time to go down to my office for work, she was ready to go. We'd go pick some toys for her to bring in with us and I would get her settled in my office at a special table and chair I put in there for her, along with a snack and her water bottle.

As far as me, I'd spend Caillou checking email and Facebook and such. Then I'd get a giant mug of water and a small snack for myself, and we'd head downstairs. Once I could settle in at my desk, I'd boot up the computer, put on the music I'd chosen for that specific story and rub some lovely aromatherapy lotion from Bath and Body Works into my hands. I think it's rosemary mint, and it makes me happy and wakes me up.

When you look at it, it's a simple little routine, but it worked for us. (I'm speaking in the past tense simply because I'm not actively writing currently, but working on the synopsis and polishing the first twenty pages of the manuscript for the contest.) I'm going to have to figure out a new routine in the summer once my son is out of school, but then we'll be off again.

Not everyone needs a routine, and no person's routine will work for someone else. But if you have a hard time finding the time to write or getting settled into it, consider what might help you. Some people take a walk before they sit down to write. Some people meditate or do yoga. You have to look at what helps you to feel creative or inspired, and what you have to do to allow yourself to shut off everything else so you can write.

Speaking of which, something else I had to do was take Mondays off as cleaning days. I do the big cleaning around the house so I'm not sitting at my desk obsessing about everything else I need to get to. I would also note down other things I needed to take care of, and either do that before my office time or figure out when I would be able to get to it and "schedule" it, so to speak.

Once I was able to get all of this figured out, I was less stressed in the evenings, as well. Instead of obsessing over the fact that I should be writing, I was able to sit upstairs with my husband and relax, because I knew I'd gotten some work done.

I know a lot of people are working "day" jobs, so this wouldn't work for them, but I wanted to throw it out there so you could see that it is often possible to figure out something that works in your life. It doesn't have to be intricate, and it can be a small space of time here, maybe another slice there.

Do you have a routine? Or have you tried and it didn't work for you?

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Q is for...


When you look at that word, does it make your heart pound faster? It does mine.

A query letter is something we're all going to have to write at some point in time if we want to get published. More importantly, we're going to have to write a query letter WELL if we're to be published.

I thought I'd pass along some tips from Kristin Nelson, at the Nelson Literary Agency in Denver, CO. These were tips she gave in a workshop at last year's Pikes Peak Writer's Conference.

First, a query letter should be a one-page letter that introduces yourself and your work. If it's longer than a page, trim it. Their slush piles are as tall as the kitchen counter, and they don't have time to read your memoir (unless, of course, you're submitting a memoir, but you get the point).

Don't do anything special to your letter, like do a cursive font, format it funky or make your words pink. Make it an easy-to-read font on white paper (or white background for email).

Query one agent at a time, and only one manuscript per query.

Kristin Nelson outlined four elements of a query letter: an introductory paragraph, a query pitch paragraph, a bio/background paragraph and a closing paragraph.

Start with the agent's name, not "To Whom It May Concern." Do your research. Look at their website and/or blog. Research them on Find out who it is you're writing the query to and what they like. Speak to this in the first paragraph by detailing why you thought they would appreciate your manuscript. If you've met them in person or read their blog regularly, now is the time to mention it.

Also in the first paragraph: word count, title, genre. (If your novel encompasses multiple genres, choose the main one. Don't spew out five billion word genre titles).

A great tip from Kristin on the query pitch paragraph was to study the backs of similar books for the blurbs. Your query pitch should read like the back of your book would. Practice this. Your pitch paragraph should be no more than nine or ten sentences, and should include the major catalyst in your book.

In your bio paragraph, either list prior publications or say this is your debut novel. This is also a good place to mention writer's groups you may belong to, mentors, or any professional organization related to your writing that you happen to participate in.

For your closing paragraph, be polite and keep it simple. Thank them for their time.

Your query needs to be formal. Even if you've met them, keep it professional.

If you're querying and not getting requests for the first page, your query needs work. Double check that you were properly polite and formal, and really polish your query pitch. One thing I've heard from other authors is that they've had a critique partner write their pitch or a synopsis, because they have a different eye toward your work. You know every minute detail of your manuscript, and it is easy to let that cloud what you're trying to say. There are details you think are important, but that the reader may not see as such. You can trade pitches/synopses with a fellow writer in a critique group, or even just ask one of your beta readers to summarize the story for you. It may be easier to edit what they summarize, rather than summarizing it yourself.

Kristin has a blog authors I know swear by. You can go to the Nelson Literary Agency website and click on "Kristin's Blog" to check it out. It doesn't hurt to peruse the rest of the site, either.

Do you have any query tips I missed or know of a good online reference?

Happy Writing!

Inspiration Award!

I'll do my proper "Q" blog later on tonight, but wanted to thank Carole Anne Carr, children's author, for the Inspiration Award! I'm delighted!

Check out her site by clicking on her name above. See if you can guess the theme of her blog design.

Rather than assigning this award to ten writers, as is stipulated, I wanted to post a couple sites where you can find information on writing contests:

Writing Contests
Just a Contest

Warnings about contests and what to watch out for: SFWA

A big thank you, also, to Lesley Smith over at Seton Hill Writers for posting those links to me in a comment on my "C" post.

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 18, 2011

P is for...


I'm starting to see platform as a profane word. How do you build a platform when you're writing fiction vs. nonfiction? If you're someone like Patricia Cornwell or Kathy Reichs, you write fiction based on your career. But what about people who write fantasy? There are few jobs, if any, I can think of that would be related unless your fantasy character has a mundane job of some sort, which is entirely possible.

You can make a blog that has to do with your fiction topic in some way (or I suppose you could make a blog about writing, but who would do that? Though I didn't create this blog for that reason.). I think J.A. Kazimer has done a fun blog to create a platform for her book F**ked up Fairytale, which isn't out yet. She set up the New Never News blog with mixed up fairy tales.

Colorado mystery author, Beth Groundwater, has a new series out that involves river rangers. She's a hobby rafter and has a lot of experience with it, so she did a whirlwind blog tour where she posted on a different blog each day about her book or rafting or something else related. The blogs weren't necessarily writer's blogs, but it all had to do with her platform. She's excellent at self-marketing, by the way, and I find I'm watching her and mentally taking notes.

You have to be creative to figure out a platform that will get your name out there, but it pretty much has to be online, at this point. You need to have a presence. Knowing other authors can also help, because they can help get your name out there, and we're all readers. If you're anything like me, you're probably always eager to hear about a new author or book to read.

Why should we develop a platform, you may ask? Isn't that the publisher's job? Shouldn't they market for us? From what I've read and heard from various local authors, the publishing companies don't seem to be doing much of the marketing unless the authors have already proven themselves. There are just too many books being published, and their marketing departments/funds are limited. If you truly want to sell your books, you have to market them, as well as yourself. This was one of those details that surprised me. I had this quaint little idea that I would write the book, find a publisher, and that publisher would take everything from there. They'd market, they'd arrange signings, they'd do it all. Pretty funny, huh? Boy, was my first conference an eye opener in terms of the real world of publishing.

Have you figured out a platform yet? I'm still working on it.

Happy Writing!

O is for...

Oooooooooooooh my goodness, what do I want to write about today? "O" is one of those tricky letters.

O is also for...


I feel like you have to be a bit of an optimist to be a writer. You lay out so much of yourself in your writing and then you want other people to enjoy it, which is a bit like wanting people to like you and your word babies.

Every time you send out a query letter, contest entry or short story, there must be at least a part of you that feels optimistic about it, or you'd never send it, right? The optimist in you has visions of publication, rave reviews, maybe even riches, as well as a large readership.

The optimist in you may look with hope upon the more prolific writers who have found that automatic acceptance that comes with having about a bazillion books in print that always end up on the best sellers' list. Who doesn't want to be there? That is the very epitome of being liked and accepted, and therefore a successful published author.

Right now, the optimist in me is working overtime as I prepare my novel and myself for (hopefully) publication some time in the near future. I'm optimistic that I will do well in the Colorado Gold. I'm optimistic that I will find an agent and, shortly thereafter, a publisher. I'm one of those people who looks too far ahead, who gets ahead of herself and makes plans for the things she sees eventually happening. I can only hope that being optimistic pays off in the end, rather than turning me into a bitter pessimist.

Do I still have all sorts of doubts assaulting me from every direction? Of course. I just try to shove them away, pound them to a pulp in a true Pollyanna fashion, distance myself from them. I can acknowledge they're there, but I don't want to lend them power by paying attention to them.

Every little once in awhile, though, the pessimist in me rears her ugly head and does mighty battle with the optimist. Today was one of those days, as I sat polishing my first 20 pages and synopsis for the Colorado Gold. I had to tell myself that the worst that could happen would be not placing at all, which is entirely possible. If so, so what? What harm does it do me? Well, aside from the harm to my self esteem, it doesn't impact me at all, nor does it mean I don't stand a chance. Part of me is freaked out that I made my intention to enter public, which means I have to make the results public, which means other people will know if I've failed. But then I consider how supportive everyone is, and surely it will be only a passing pain before I pick myself up and move on.

Over at the Chiseled in Rock blog, they had an article about taking a certain amount of time to grieve when a rejection came in, then immediately sending a new query out. I intend to set myself a goal like that when I officially begin querying (in May, hopefully), thus insuring I always have a backup and can pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again. The pessimist has to be able to come out and get a little fresh air sometimes, but then she can go back to her cave and let me get on with my life.

Are you an optimist? Do you envision your success in whatever you do? What ways have you found of beating the pessimist within you down?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award, Take 2!

I received a Versatile Blogger award from Kiernan over at Fire in Mine Ears. She's writing some great, insightful posts on authors you should read for the A to Z Challenge, and I've added some books to my future reading list. Check her out by clicking on her blog name.

Thanks, Kiernan!

I'm tempted to write up another list of 15 other blogs I enjoy, but it takes an awful lot of time. Instead, I wanted to refer you to some helpful blogs for writers:

Chiseled in Rock
Navigating the Slush Pile
Adventures in Agentland
Spunk on a Stick

If you know of other helpful sites, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Happy Writing!

N is for...

Natalie Fischer, and the YAtopia Pitch Contest.

Natalie Fischer is an agent with Bradford Lit agency, and there's a 2-sentence pitch contest on the YAtopia blog that can get your work placed in front of her for review. Click on "YAtopia Pitch Contest" above to be linked directly to the YAtopia blog for details of the contest. Plus, it's a neat site all on its own for those who write for young adults.

Boy, I've been whining about writing a synopsis, but boiling your book down to two sentences is tricky stuff! Good luck to any and all who enter this contest. I'm entering it now, as we speak, because part of it is to post about the contest with a link to the site. Oh, ho, look at me multitasking! A to Z Challenge AND entering a pitch contest. It's probably for the best, as my "N's" were rather lame. This one is much better than I had planned.

N is also for...


Really, these blogs are all a form of networking for our books or whatever else we have going. The bloggers I've met through this challenge make up a wonderful and supportive community. I look forward to being able to keep up with everyone's blogs better once the challenge is complete, as I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, especially with everything else going on (contest, upcoming conference, life).

Other ways to network include writer's groups, online forums, social networking sites, and websites. I need to start harassing my husband to get my website started, but I have no idea what I'll put on there until I actually know I have a book coming out. Well, okay, I have ideas, but not as many as I'd like, and who knows if they will work. Still, when I'm looking at a business for anything these days, I go to the computer and look to see if they have a website. If they don't, and I have no good way to check them out, there is a lower chance that I will utilize them. That's just the way it is. I like being able to peruse the business and what it offers from the safety and privacy of my own home before going there in person.

What have you found to be a good form of networking? Do you have a website other than your blog? Feel free to post it in comments and share it with us.

Happy Writing!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Andrew at Strange Pegs awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award!

Thank you, Andrew! If you click on "Strange Pegs" above, you can visit Andrew's blog, where you also have access to his book "The House on the Corner." You'll be hearing more about Andrew in May when I interview him about his book.

This is the point where I tell you 7 things about myself:

1. I finally have a good draft of my synopsis for the Colorado Gold contest. Yay!
2. I love reading.
3. I love movies, though I find I'm not enjoying many newer ones as much as I used to. Don't know if that is a change in me or just the fact that movie mill pumps them out so quickly.
4. I have trouble figuring out random things about myself. Huh.
5. I have two wonderful children, ages 6 and 3.
6. I love the Colorado outdoors, especially Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods.
7. I'm addicted to chocolate, which I've recently learned is a migraine no-no. Sad sigh.

Now I'm supposed to hand the award off to 15 other bloggers. It's tough to choose just 15, as I've found so many fantastic blogs during this challenge, but I'll try.

In no particular order (click on their blog names to visit them):
1. Check M.J. out at My Pet Blog
2. Mood at Moody Writing
3. Laura at Everything You Didn't Want to Know About Writing
4. Carole at The Adventures of a Children's Author
5. Debbie at Bluestocking Mum
6. Lydia at This End Upside Down
7. Jolene at Been Writing?
8. Kimberly at Meetings With my Muse
9. Kathy at Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy
10. Alex at Magpie Writes
11. Ani at Anime's Musings
12. Jo at Shoveling in a Jo Storm
13. Jennie at Tuffet
14. Dafeenah at Dafeenah: Finding the Hidden Treasure Within
15. Julie at Empty Nest Insider

You'll notice most of these are about writing, but I threw in a couple that aren't. I think Jennie of Tuffet is going to be the next Martha Stewart, but better.

Thanks again for the honor, Andrew!

P.S. I will not be offended if anyone is not into blog awards and doesn't want to pass it on.

M is for...

Mountain of Authors.

I never did cover my trip to the Mountain of Authors, run by the Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District. There was a panel on Paranormal Fantasy, which included Mario Acevedo, Jeanne Stein and Parker Blue. They spoke about what paranormal fantasy was, how they changed the rules for their paranormal characters (for instance, Jeanne's vampires can go out in daylight) and about getting published. It was a great panel for someone who writes in that genre, though I don't write about vampires, and I think they all had vampires in their books. All three of the authors were interesting, and I got books from each of them, as they sounded good. So far, I've only read book 1 of Jeanne Stein's Anna Strong vampire series, "The Becoming," and I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more.

There was also a publishing panel about small press publishing. The representatives were Doris Baker, Teresa Funke and Nancy Mills. It was interesting learning about small presses and independent publishing. It was stressed that there are things you should spend money on with independent publishing: editing and a graphic artist for the cover. Covers are important, as people really do judge books by their covers. Editing is vital.

Jerry B. Jenkins was the keynote speaker, and he did a great job keeping us entertained for an hour. He was funny and very humble. Plus, he had a story about meeting Stephen King and eating McDonald's with him. Win-win.

M is also for...

Migraine, which has brought this briefer blog entry to you. Yikes!

M is for...

Movies and books about writers.

Romancing the Stone is one of my all-time favorite films. In the beginning, Joan Wilder, romance author, is so caught up in her writing that she has sticky notes all over the house of things she needs to do, but hasn't done. Now that's the type of dedication I need to find (though I couldn't really do that, as I have small children). The film is a great romantic adventure, and Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas are so much fun in it.

I've been meaning to watch "Secret Window" again, as I don't remember much of it. Speaking of Stephen King, though (it's one of his), he frequently puts writers in his books. Some that come to mind are "The Shining," "Misery" and "Stand by Me," all of which were also made into movies. I prefer the Kubrick version of "The Shining," but I seem to recall King didn't like it, which is why he re-did it on television with the guy from "Wings." Don't tell him I liked the Kubrick version best, okay? I should also mention that "Stand by Me" has been a favorite movie of mine for a long time, as well. Check out how many of the kids and teens in that film went on to make names for themselves.

I could write about a billion books or movies starring some manner of writer/author, but I want to hear about your favorites. Books or movies, doesn't matter, but it has to be about a writer.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for...


Listen to published authors when they have something to tell you, because they know what they're talking about. They can provide you with valuable information. Don't scoff, even if something they say sounds weird; there's a reason they're saying it. Example: An author I met at the conference last year told me I should make the effort to attend a romance conference (I don't remember which one). She writes urban fantasy. I scoffed. Why? Because I don't read romance and I certainly don't intend to write romance. She pointed out that there are often elements of romance in all different kinds of books. Guess what? She was right. I wasn't far enough in my novel yet to truly get it. I had no idea how hard writing the relationship portions was going to be. Now I know, and I kept wishing I knew something about it, because I felt a tad uncomfortable writing anything that was in any way romantic or having to do with interpersonal relationships between male and female. More accurately, I felt squicky about it. Given, I am not in a position to be running around to a bunch of conferences--it took quite a few hours on ChaCha to make the money to go to the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference this year--but it was still very valid advice, and if I have the opportunity at this conference or another gathering to learn about writing romance/interpersonal relationships, I'm there. I won't scoff again.

Listen to unpublished authors when they're speaking from experience. They're learning, just like you and me, and we learn from getting out there, making mistakes, having experiences. Share those experiences and build on them.

Listen to agents when they talk. Don't get offended when they criticize. Take in the information and use it to make your work better. If you get a response to your query with feedback, that is a positive step (unless said feedback is something like, "Please do us all a favor and never write another word," in which case that could be a problem). There are good rejections and bad rejections (or so I've been told), and good rejections hopefully come with feedback and/or after having been asked to submit more of your novel. I'm not saying to not fight for your novel; I'm just saying to take in constructive criticism from those in the know and mull it over a bit.

Listen to yourself. When you have ideas, when you want to write or when you need a break. If something doesn't feel right in what you're writing/reading, chances are you need to change something. If you've read your own novel 20,000 times and can't bring yourself to care, listen and take a break. Give it a week or so and come back to it.

Listen to the voices in your head (unless they're telling you to do naughty things, in which case you should probably ignore them). Those voices are your muse.

Listen to those who critique your work for you. This does not mean you have to make every single change they suggest, but it does mean giving their words a fair shake and a neutral ear, as hard as it may be to have your baby criticized. It's especially important to listen when several different readers have the same feedback. Chances are, those who purchase your book later will see the same problems.

Of course, listening is easy. Accepting it is a whole new animal, and one I'll be working on right along with everyone else.

Did I miss anything? Who else should we be learning from? How are you at listening?

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

K is for...


Really, what I want to talk about are e-books, but Kindle is sort of the original hand-held format for e-books, and it starts with "K." There you have it.

One cannot look at publishing right now without considering e-publishing. Some companies are jogging to catch up, still primarily doing actual paper books. Some companies are moving more toward e-publishing than paper books. Others are right smack in the middle, which is where I hope to find a publisher, though I keep getting mixed reviews on which format actually benefits the author the most.

I'm still stuck on where I stand on e-format as a reader. I love the feel, the smell, the entire tactile experience of reading a book on paper. I love my book shelves full of books. In fact, I have only experienced two novels in e-format. One of those was by Stephen King and was probably about a decade ago, maybe a bit shy of that. I can't remember for certain, but I believe it was either "From a Buick 8" or "Riding the Bullet." I'm fairly certain it was the Buick one.

When you consider that he put that book out in an e-format well before publishers were doing anything like that, it's pretty amazing. Is the man savvy or what?

Know what else starts with "K"? King.

Stephen King.

I was such a big Stephen King fan in middle school and high school that friends jokingly called me Shannon King (my true maiden name actually began with a "K," as well, but wasn't King). If there was a lull in the class, you'd inevitably find me consuming a Stephen King novel. Some of those were behemoths, yet I lugged them around from class to class, taking up most of my arm space.

The thing about Stephen King is he establishes a certain cadence in his books. He does this thing where he repeats a bit of an extra theme throughout the story. I don't know why I enjoy that, but I do. It brings me in, makes me feel like I'm a part of the in-joke. It ties together different parts of the book. He is also good at painting a picture of the every-man. Of this typical guy, stumbling through life in Maine (usually, though Colorado gets to claim a few), who happens to run into some really freaky monsters.

I was also a fan of Dean R. Koontz. There's yet another "K" for you. They run rampant in writing circles, I guess, those "K's." Koontz was a little more flowery. His characters a little less "aw shucks" in some ways. I loved the poems he had at the beginning of chapters in some books from "The Book of Counted Sorrows," I think it was. His books mostly took place in California, where there was plentiful sunshine, and where I discovered the word bougainvillea, which I tried to find the correct pronunciation of for years. And he always had a golden retriever in there somewhere. Okay, so I can't say definitively that there is one in every book, but it had to be close, people.

I keep talking about King and Koontz in past tense, but that is when I was their biggest fan (yikes, anyone get that reference? Cockadoodie, dirty birdy). Not to say I don't pick up their books now, but it's not the same mad rush, as I've moved a little ways away from horror. I love to re-read their older books, and they take up quite a bit of shelf space.

K is also for...

Kelley Armstrong.

I'm afraid she's my new favorite author. Yet again, an example of my having hopped from horror to fantasy. Fantasy has elements of horror, at least the urban fantasy books I've been reading, yet it doesn't set out to scare you in a "boo!" fashion. Instead, it makes you look at your neighbors and wonder if they're actually werewolves that put on a good face. Maybe they're faeries. Who the heck knows? Urban fantasy has taught us that the supernatural can be all around us, yet life just keeps marching on as it always has. No biggie.

And Kelley Armstrong is the Queen of Urban Fantasy. Though I was sad to learn she is about to wrap up her Women of the Otherworld series. Sob. As long as she keeps writing, I'm game, though I will miss the characters she's left behind. Elaina, her werewolf heroine, is one of my favorite characters, and one of the kick-ass chicks that stands out.

Oooo, another "K." Kick-ass chicks.

Who doesn't like kick-ass chick characters? My youth was spent (misspent?) reading stories with male protagonists. The types of books I liked were written by male authors, and male authors tend to write with male protagonists. Maybe that's why I turned to urban fantasy so readily, though. Maybe I was just ready to read about a female protagonist who wasn't in a wishy-washy romance (well, they typically do that, too, but they have other things on their mind most of the time). I can spool off a ton of YA and MG novels with female protagonists, but when it comes to the adult novels I enjoyed, they were usually heavily populated by males. Even mysteries seemed to lean toward males unless they were cozies, and I wanted some real blood shed, not a cozy mystery (though I like at least one series of those, as well). Finally, along came the kick-ass chicks of urban fantasy. I believe it was Laurell K. Hamilton who originally introduced me to that particular genre. Before then I'd hit a bit of a slump and was reading anything that came my way to try to find what I was looking for. (I slipped another "K" in there, haha).

I should really wrap this up, though I'm sure I could expand on each of the above topics enough to create a whole post about each one. I've been doing a bit better at shortening these posts for the challenge, but sort of messed up this time. I hope you'll forgive me, Dear [Constant] Readers, for being a bit wordy this time around.

As for you, have you found that you've stuck to pretty much the same genre throughout your life, or have your tastes changed over time? How? Why? Who are your favorite authors and who WERE your favorite authors?

Happy Writing!

J is for...

Just do it!

It's easy to find excuses as to why you don't have the time or the ability to write. I know, because I do it all the time. Sometimes, it seems it's far easier to make an excuse to not write than to actually write. Some of the excuses are valid, of course, but there are also usually ways to work around them. For instance, my excuse used to be work. I was working from 8am to 11pm at one job I had, five days per week, and then taking extra shifts on the weekend. When I was actually home, I was exhausted, eating or sleeping. Period. I think I snuck in some taped episodes of "X-Files" every little once in awhile on weekends. I started a novel during that time that just sort of fizzled out after one lovely evening of just writing. My husband left to go out while I was writing, and I was still sitting there knocking it out when he got home. Other than that, though, no time.

When could I have written? Well, I think this was a fairly valid reason not to write, but I could have found time on the weekends. I could have written during my lunch break.

Another of my big excuses was (and often still is) my children. They are 6 and 3. I worked through my pregnancy and attended college classes at night, so I was rarely home, and I was, again, exhausted when I was there. When my son came along, all my time and energy was invested in him. Plus, I was still doing college online. Every little once in awhile, my brain would spit out some ideas or I'd get a little inspiration, but I'd have to set aside any piddly writing I'd done in order to write a college paper or study for a test.

As he got older, and I had a second child (I graduated with my Associate's when I was 7 months pregnant with her), it became more work. When he was a baby, though, I kept saying I'd write when he got older, when it was easier, when he could play by himself.

I made those same excuses when she was a baby.

Then I said when he was in school and she was old enough to play by herself I'd write.

Then I said when she was in school I'd write.

Guess what? She's not in school, nor was she at all this year, yet I wrote a novel. A whole novel! It took me finally putting my foot down and saying, "Enough!" I had to decide that I would find a way to write. I had to decide that it was important, and it deserved planning. I had to make it a priority.

So my response to those who have excuses (not valid reasons, but excuses) is to just do it. Find a way. Make it a priority. You can't be an author if you never give yourself the time to write.

I figured I'd end this post with a quote that amused me, but that I also thought could be made to apply to many things, including writing. From "Princeps' Fury" by Jim Butcher:

"[...]in the course of my life, I have more than once been too ignorant to know that something was impossible before I did it anyway. I see no reason to jeopardize that success."

What are some of the excuses you've had not to write, and how did you get past them (or have you)?

Happy Writing!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I is for...


Oh, those wonderful ideas that swarm through one's brain. But what to do with them? How do you corral them?

My trusty little composition book has been wonderful for the book I've been working on. I took it with me everywhere and jotted down anything that came to mind, whether it was a question, a character trait, a change or whatever other kind of idea popped into my head.

Now that the novel is written, I still use it to jot notes about editing and the future books in the trilogy.

Other than the composition book, which I just discovered this year, I've tried many variations on storing notes. I have a small accordion file full of color-coded index cards. They were color-coded depending on type of note: green-character, blue-disembodied scene, white-overall story idea, so on and so forth.

That one was a fail.

I also have random slips of paper in a file folder, all with notes, portions of stories, intros to stories that never got written, et cetera. My computer has a folder of story notes and ideas, as well.

What I'd like to do is get all of those together. Plus, I want to be able to write down notes on different projects at the same time. So I need to either put it into a binder with sections or one of those segmented notebooks. That takes time, though, so for now all of my notes will just have to be scattered. It's like a messy room, in that I know where to find what I need when I need it. No one else could, but I'm the one that matters in this instance.

I is also for...


I see interviews on different blogs with authors, and I also followed a local author, Beth Groundwater, who went on a blog tour to promote her book. Each day, she was interviewed on another blog, some about writing, some about white water rafting, and so on. I was in awe of all the work she put into it, as she would do the interview, it would be posted, and she would respond to comments in the blog for that day (and I think she even followed up after that). Wow!

Blogs seem to be a good way to promote your work, as you reach a different audience with each one. If there is anyone out there who has a book or writing project coming out and would like to be interviewed on this blog, I'd be glad to talk to you. As this blog is about writing and getting published, the interview would lean toward tips and tricks in that arena, but would also be about yourself and your project. Contact me through my profile if you're interested.

Who knows? Maybe someday you will interview me for your blog to help me promote my own novel!

Following up on the ideas premise, how do you corral your own ideas for stories? Do you have the perfect way of organizing everything or are you still a work in progress?

Happy Writing!

Friday, April 8, 2011

H is for...

Happy Endings.

When I was in school, I loved a trick ending, one that implied there was more to come. I have no idea where this came from, why I was so set on it, but my horror stories always had a twist at the end. Horror was pretty much all I wrote back then; it wasn't until the last few years that I really got into fantasy.

I got married straight out of high school (going on 15 years now, so I've just dated myself). This meant, for us at least, that we couldn't afford college. In the interim, though, I found something called Longridge Writer's Group, where they placed the aspiring author with a published author and provided coursework to teach you how to write to get published.

The point in all that is that the author I was working with did not find my twist endings as clever as I did. She told me people don't like trick endings. People want positive endings. I scoffed, because I loved a good twist at that time. However, these days I get angry when there's a trick ending unless it's truly clever. I hate when they kill off the protagonist. Have you seen a Nicholas Cage movie in the last decade where he didn't die? It makes me angry every...damn...time. I feel like it's a waste of time. Those movies where some natural disaster comes along or someone gets left behind and they don't survive at the end kill me. Why did I sit there watching them struggle for their lives this whole time just for them to die unsaved at the end? Argh!

Having said all that, I still get that little itch sometimes, but I try to beat it down. Viciously. I don't think I ever flat-out killed a protagonist, though. Maybe just implied a not-so-pleasant ending? The only one I can think of involved my female protagonist being stuck in a sort of limbo, which isn't actually dead, if you want to get nit-picky.

Now that I've been on the other side of the coin several times over, though, I understand what she was trying to say. So why didn't someone tell all those film makers and writers who keep doing it? My husband and I term those books/movies "Perfect Storm" movies. If you've seen it, I imagine you know why. If one of us sees a movie first, we'll warn the other person if it's a "Perfect Storm" movie and not worth seeing.

What do you think of twists at the endings of stories? Do you write them?

Happy Writing!

G is for...


The Colorado Gold Writing Contest, to be exact. It's sponsored by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and details can be found here:

I am currently working on formatting my manuscript and writing the synopsis. I've got until June 1, 2011, but they only take 200 entries, so I'm not sure I've actually got that long.

I went back and forth on whether I should enter the contest, because I'm concerned about waiting until at least August to query on my book. I haven't figured out yet whether I'll be able to query agents for my book in the meantime, though I found nothing in the rules saying this wasn't allowed. I imagine I would just need to put in the query that the book had been entered in a contest. Stop me if I'm wrong here. Surely, no agent is going to be against possibly having a book that won a contest, right?

The wonderful thing about the Colorado Gold contest is that those stories that reach the final phase will be sent to an agent or editor to be reviewed. If you win (or place as a finalist), you will not only have that for bragging rights (and to mention on queries), but you may find an agent or editor who's interested in your book. This is what makes me think it might be a bad plan to query other agents during that time. What if someone expressed interest before the end of the contest? What if the agent or editor in the contest liked it? Will an agent wait until the end of the contest to see if I accept their offer? Murg!

Other than that, the synopsis is evil. I understand what it's for, and I respect it for what it is, but trying to write it is tricky. For anyone else dealing with trying to write a synopsis, this seems to be a good rundown on how to do one: I've been working on reading and breaking it down today and will be doing so tomorrow, as well. They stress how important the synopsis is on the RMFW site for the contest, so it is not something I want to mess around with.

Moving on from my over-thinking (as I am apt to do at times), if you have a completed novel manuscript, check out this contest for sure. You only enter the first 20 pages, plus the synopsis up to 8 pages. And you can pay extra to get back a critique, which I imagine could be quite helpful.

G is also for...


Don't get excited. I have nothing to give away. But I'm wondering how those blogs that do all those giveaways get their goodies. Are they so popular that those who have items to giveaway contact them or do they contact people with goods to give? How does that work? I can see an author giving away their book, of course, but beyond that...? This is all just curiosity on my part.

What do you think about the contest? Would you go for the contest, query at the same time, wait to query or just query and forget the contest? Is there anything more evil than a synopsis? Has anyone out there ever entered the Colorado Gold?

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

F is for...


It seems this is being considered more vital to writers in promoting their books and themselves. Authors use it for various purposes, including reaching new people and speaking to those who already know of them. Authors can easily reach their fans who have "friended" or "liked" them on Facebook, depending on what kind of page or account they create. They can announce book tours and signings, book details, releases and various details. They can also have giveaways and contests via Facebook. Thanks to the photo option, they can post pictures of book signings, even allowing fans to tag themselves in them. They can upload book cover photos and author photos. It's a great tool for self-promotion and marketing, in an era where publishers are doing less in the way of promoting their individual authors, thus making it so authors must do their own promotion.

It can also be a time drain. Between keeping up with others' status updates and news items, as well as replying to those who have left them messages, it can draw them in for a longer period of time than intended. Any time spent on marketing can be considered time not writing, though marketing is important, as well.

In honor of "F" day, I have created a Facebook page for my blog. It can be found here:!/pages/The-Warrior-Muse-Blog/157021684357742. Please stop by and "like" it if you have a Facebook page! Eventually, I will take the time to figure out how to put the Facebook link on my sidebar.

F is also for...


Finding the perfect combination of time to write and time to spend with my family can be tricky at times, especially when I have some good writing mojo going. Sometimes I am more drawn to family time and have a hard time sitting down to write, using my mother's guilt as an excuse not to write. Other times, I am pounding away at the keyboard, but that same mother's guilt seeps in, because I should be building Lego castles with my son or playing My Little Pony with my daughter. I try to make a point of spending time with them around my writing schedule. I play first, write second, and then we take a break together for lunch. During my writing time, while my son is in school, my daughter likes to "work" in my office with me, which is incredibly helpful, much of the time. Yes, she's playing and talking, but I find that when things are going well, I can keep going. It's when I'm stuck that it's an issue, and that means I need to take a break anyway in order to let things percolate.

I don't write through dinner, even if I'm doing well. I like having dinner as a family, though the older they get, and the more activities they take part in, the harder that gets. Still, I work at it until it no longer makes sense, because they are important to me.

Writing can be quite a job of juggling. Sometimes we have the time to write, but not the inspiration/urge/will power/muse. Sometimes the story is pushing to get out, yet we don't have the time to sit down and work on it. We have to figure out the best ways to use our time, to accomplish everything we need, but our minds and our creativity don't work on our time line.

So, do you have a Facebook page? Is it business related, personal or both? If business related, how do you utilize it? Do you feel Facebook is useful, just a time suck, or a bit of both?

Happy Writing!

E is for...

Sing it with me...

Everything I do, I do it for...ME!

Well, not everything, but everything having to do with writing. Writing is the most selfish thing I've done for myself in a long time. As a mom and wife, most of what I do tends to revolve around everyone else. I think that's also why I'm so addicted to the night time; it's the only time I have entirely to myself, and it's hard to let that go. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having time with the kids, time with the family and time with just my husband. It's just that I also enjoy time to myself. I'm about one step up from a hermit sometimes in needing time to myself.

Writing, however, is something I enjoy, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone else. I'm very lucky to have a husband who is entirely supportive, and who watches the kids so I can go to all these writing things. He even misses work here and there for some of the meetings, as well as two days for the conference. He rocks!

E is also for...


I'm not a phone person, so I tend to prefer emails. However, some of those emails can be nerve wracking to send. For instance, submitting a story to a magazine/anthology/contest. Sending an email to make a connection with someone or some entity, like a writer's group, is also something that makes me uncomfortable, and that I've done recently. Once you send that email, there is no taking it back (well, most of the time). There's such an odd feeling of relief and trepidation in those moments after the message disappears from the outbox.

But the one that made me think of this topic is one I'm going to come clean about, because it is a bit embarrassing. There was an opportunity presented from one of the circles I've been in lately with other writers. It was to present an idea that could be pitched and possibly lead to something more, like publishing. I went back and forth on it for a couple days (there was a deadline of about a month, I think), then sat down and worked on a bit of a query letter, though it was an informal thing. I tried to make the query letter semi-formal, but also friendly, as it was meant to be informal, but I thought it would be good practice for a query letter, as well. I agonized over it, edited it, let it sit to be sure this was really what I wanted to do, edited it some more. I had to agree to talk on the phone if the person was interested, which, as I've already mentioned, is not my thing. I was nervous as can be about that aspect, as well as the risk of being rejected.

I'm not a fan of rejection. Who is?

I finally sent it.

Know what? I never heard back. No rejection. No sign it had been received. It was not an agent I was sending it to, so we're not talking about a situation where 600 queries are received. It was an offer open only to a specific group of people.

I have no idea if it was received, or if I even sent it successfully. It was not from my email, but via an online program.

It was rather anti-climactic after all the fear and pondering whether I was going to send it. All that back and forth and anxiety, for nothing. For disappointment, plain and simple. I wish I knew if the person thought the idea sucked, if my query sucked, or if it just wasn't received. However, I didn't want to harass the person by following up, thereby possibly burning a bridge or angering them and getting back a nasty rejection. I still have to co-exist with said person in said circle.

I don't wish I hadn't sent it, though. It was very far outside my comfort level, and I'm glad I took the step. I probably should have followed up, very briefly and politely, though it is too late now. For awhile, I just kept checking for messages and waiting, waiting, waiting. At that point, I just thought I was waiting for that response and giving them time. We learn not to harass actual agents with follow-ups, right? I felt like it was the same sort of thing, where my following up wouldn't be taken well. But now I wonder if I was just chicken and missed an opportunity.

What would you have done? Would you have followed up or let it go and waited? Would you have approached a situation like that with an official query letter or with a completely informal note?

And what selfish things do you do for yourself?

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for...


What I mean by dungeon, of course, is workspace. I've heard over the years that having a dedicated work space for writing can help keep you on track. "Treat it like a job," they say. Get up, grab your coffee and breakfast, get dressed and prepare for work, then shuffle to your dedicated work space and get to work. Take a lunch break. Work it like you would any other job. If this means turning off the phone unless you're on break, do it. If this means not taking a "brain break" (as I call it) to check email or surf the web for a few while letting thoughts ferment, go there.

I'm still working on specific space. I do, finally, have an office, which doubles as the guest bedroom and sewing room, as well as my craft space, though I mostly just store craft items/photos down there and do the work in front of the TV in the living room. I set up a computer, got a program I like to write in (I will address that program on the Day of "S"!), put up some photos of my kiddos and started. However, I have yet to figure out how to work 9 to 5 or any other variance of said shift. I am home with a 3-year old during the school day, with an extra 6-year old thrown in on non-school days.

In my office, I have my handy dandy Mac, my notebooks, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and the Bedford Grammar Handbook (I'm not sitting down there now, so I can't tell you precisely what it's called--I simply call it my Bedford reference). I've got pens and pencils of different colors, and I've got photos of my kiddos and a great charcoal drawing done by a friend. The room is a lovely cool blue, which puts me at ease.

The Good: I truly have found that I get more done sequestered down in my office than upstairs with all the distractions that make up the main part of my house. This is true even when I have a toddler playing ponies in my room while writing, which is phenomenal. I have what I need at hand, conveniently. I have French doors, which I always find somewhat inspirational to begin with, but those doors have curtains I can pull when I'm deep in the process. My hubby knows when those curtains are drawn, I need him taking care of business in the rest of the house, because I'm getting something done. It's warm down there in the winter, and cool in the summer. I get distracted far less in my office than in the rest of the house, despite the fact that I have full internet down there, just as on my laptop.

The Bad: Sometimes it is simply not feasible to get downstairs. My kids want to play outside and I *want* them to play outside as much as possible, but I can't visually supervise them from down there, so it really isn't an option. When I am trying to keep myself to writing down there, what does that mean for the laptop upstairs, which is much more convenient for most of the day, and doesn't require me to sequester myself? I haven't quite figured it out yet. Right now, I do my blogs on the laptop and monitor emails and such. I figure it's okay to work on short stories on the lappy, but keeping my novel downstairs keeps it all together. I am more comfortable doing the editing in my office, because then all the changes stay consistent in the same place. I'm terrified of screwing something up and losing my work when switching it between computers. When I have visitors, my notes, map and character "photos" are up for them to see, and I don't have full access to my work and notes, which drives me up a wall. I feel compelled to hide everything from their sight, because it is personal and private at this stage.

In other words, the jury is out, but I do like having a specific space for my writing. It helps me buckle down and feel like I'm in the right place to do what I need and want to do. It's just that I need to work on the little details and how picky I want to be. I also need to relax about it.

D is also for...

Denizens of the night.

As mentioned in another A to Z sponsored post (if you're new here and aren't sure what I'm talking about, or you want to find other bloggers playing along, click on the A to Z badge on the right), I'm a night owl. Not only do I physically have more energy in the evenings and at night, but my mind is eager to be working at that time, too. You'll notice that I post these blog posts at night, before the official entry date. If I have to try to get them posted during the day on the actual day, there's a chance it isn't going to happen until that night, so I'd rather be early than late.

Most of my ideas hit me at night, whether it's while I'm up and about or in bed. That's simply when I'm at my best, mentally. I suspect there's a reason vampires and other monsters have always been written as creatures of the night that maybe doesn't have to do with the night being the scariest time. After all, what's more frightening: the bogey man who attacks you at night, when everyone expects it to happen, or the bogey man who comes to you by day, when you feel at your safest, your most secure and comfortable, and gets away with its evils while people move around, awake, yet completely unaware of the horror going on in the house mere feet from their own?

Am I completely off-base? Probably.

Still, there's also something sexy about the night, a different kind of energy than that frenetic hurry-up-and-get-where-you're-going energy of the day. Night time is languorous, dangerous, sly, and malleable according to your whims. Night time is my time.

This is not to say that I can only write at night. In fact, while working on my writing routine, the vast majority of my writing has been during the day. Maybe it's writing during the day that frees up my brain space to come up with ideas and work through issues in the story while not confined to a computer later on. Who knows?

What do you think? Is there a time of day you do your best writing, or is it any time? Do you have a dedicated work space, even if it is just a tiny desk in a corner of a room used for something else? And was "D" as surprisingly challenging for you as it was for me? There are letters I expected to be hard (X, for instance), but then there were others I'm still not confident about that took me a little by surprise.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for...

I have so many "C's," so we'll just have to see what happens.


Sure, let's start with this one. How about a couple tips for the upcoming Pikes Peak Writer's Conference? Some are mine from my sole experience last year, and some I gathered from others.

First, it was in reference to the conference that I discovered you should have business cards as a writer. They're on their way; I was notified they'd shipped. Woo-hoo! I was actually asked for my card today, and I felt like a putz for not having one yet. "Uh, uh, uh, no, but I've ordered some." Ah, well.

What to bring to the conference: your own pen or pencil, snacks, business cards (I will pound this in until you all have cards, as well--not really, but they keep coming up), whatever page requirements there are for a class/pitch/critique you are participating in, your synopsis or pitch, any advertising materials you may have (bookmarks, postcards). If there's anything you don't need in there, don't bring it! You will be lugging it around for hours upon hours. That's no good. I'm sure a lot of people don't bring snacks with them, but I like that one, and I'm sticking to it!

Last year, I showed up that first day with my handy dandy leather briefcase (a big, soft zippable one) with a writing pad, pen, pencil, lead, the first couple pages of my manuscript (which is completely different this year, as I was horribly stuck at that point), a water bottle and a book to read. They provide water (at the Pikes Peak one), because of the high altitude, so don't worry about bringing drinking water of your own. I did find quite a use for granola bars to snack on, though, and apple slices. The food there was fabulous, but it's a long day and a snack doesn't hurt in between those yummy meals.

I was feeling pretty smart and snazzy until, when I walked in with my own bag, they handed me a new bag, complete with a composition book, pen/pencil, chapstick and various other items I no longer remember. I had planned on taking my handy dandy bag again this year in case that was a fluke, but I've been assured that they give that out each year. Cool! I'll probably hide the bag in my car just in case, though, and I'll likely still bring my own pen and pencil for comfort's sake. I will likely not bring a book to read, though, as I think I'd get some writing done if I didn't have a book to read. It's so inspirational there that you just have the mad urge to write, but I was also exhausted partway through and just wanted to sit and half read, half nap with my eyes open.

Another tip is to wear comfortable shoes. The first day, I showed up all gussied up, high heels included. While lovely, I'm sure, it was completely unnecessary. My feet were in agony by the end of the day. I was exhausted, my back hurt. It was no good. The second day, I wore some comfy shoes and my day went so much better. My clothes were also comfortable, though not jeans (there were plenty of other people there in jeans, though, so go for it if you please). Oh yes, much better.

If there is an author or agent you specifically want to sit with, try to work your way in there ASAP and at least establish your seat with a bag or something. This next tidbit comes from a fellow writer: Get in early, get settled in your seat, save the one next to you and when the author/agent shows up, offer them the seat next to you.

That's all I can remember at the moment. I may address this again before the conference at the end of this month, especially if I've gathered some great new intelligence.

C is also for...


I'm still trying to get my head in the right place to write a synopsis of my novel for the Colorado Gold contest. I've gone back and forth on entering it, but what does it hurt? Well, my feelings if I suck, I suppose, but other than that, nothing. I should do it. Now to just suck it up and write that darned synopsis!

As far as I can tell, there's not a drawback to entering a contest, especially if you win it. It's a lovely tidbit to include on your bio in a query letter. "Won the Colorado Gold, because I rock." I've found a search online can bring news of contests to me, as well as the news loops and email loops of the writer's groups I belong to. I was inundated with contests last month! Did I enter any? ~Hangs head in shame and shakes it slightly left to right~ No. I went through the motions of printing them up and keeping them in a notebook, and I even started a short story for one (which is at 6 handwritten pages now), but I've been so intent on my novel that I just couldn't let it go enough to work on anything else. The only reason the one short story got worked on was because I was lugging the pad around with me everywhere to work on it when I couldn't do anything else (except read, which I also did sometimes).

How about one more short "C" and I'll just ditch the rest of them?

C is for...

Comments. I'm loving the comments on here! I'm also enjoying commenting on others' blogs. Keep them coming!

Do you know of a good resource online for finding contests? How about tips for attending conferences (I can only attest to my limited knowledge of the one I've attended)? What are the best conferences out there that you've attended or been a part of? Do you have any conference questions you'd like me to address?

Happy Writing!

Friday, April 1, 2011

B is for...

Well, Blogging for one.

I'm new at this blogging thing, though old hat at writing in one form or another. Previous to this, I've had two blogs. The first was called "NotATestTubeBaby." It was through a site that paid for parenting blogs, and mine was about my son, who was conceived through IVF (in-vitro fertilization). It was just goofy stories about him, basically, with some about my experiences with infertility. It seems my brain was plenty fertile, but maybe not the rest of me.

My second was simply a private blog to keep family and friends apprised of the goings on within our family. Basically, I posted news, pictures and stories about the kids. Nothing fascinating (except to me, of course). So, while these were actually blogs, they were just a mom chatting about her kids. What mom has trouble doing that?? They were also fairly short-lived.

I've been perusing other participating blogs in this A to Z Challenge (you can, too, by clicking on the A to Z icon on the right side of my blog). I have spent far too much time doing that today! But it is wonderful to see all the different blogs out there that I didn't know about before, as well as how they have spun this A to Z Challenge. Several have put me to shame based on the creativity of their themes, especially considering I didn't theme this (other than the already existing theme of this blog). Some have made me laugh. Some have made me nod in earnest. Some have simply made me think.

I've said it before, but surrounding yourself with like-minded people can really help the creative juices flow. That's why I love the writing groups, the meetings, the conferences. Being around other writers gets me jazzed. It makes me want to achieve what they've achieved, to prove myself, to release my Warrior Muse.

Why do we blog? I started this one to keep myself accountable. I figured if I put myself out there and started talking about what needed to be done and what I was doing, I'd feel like other people knowing meant I had to get it done. It does sort of work that way.

I also wanted to do this blog to help other people in the same place. I've found such great resources in the guise of other authors, writing groups and such. I want to pass along what I can and help where I can. The world of writing is boundless, and there's so much to learn, so many secrets and methods and things you simply shouldn't mess up. And if I help educate others, maybe they will do the same in return for me.

B is also for...


How much of that do we do, fellow writers? Sometimes my brain just keeps going and going, like the Energizer Bunny, and it simply won't shut off. I spend many sleepless nights alternating between getting completely engrossed in where my brain is taking me and trying to shut. it. up! Shhhhh! Let me sleep! Can't you do this in the morning? Oh wait, what am I asking for? Sometimes I wake up in the morning, maybe with a full bladder, ahem, and if one stray thought drifts through my brain, the cycle begins again and I am up. My husband knows not to talk to me in the morning unless he absolutely has to, because once I have engaged the ol' mental facilities, I absolutely cannot shut my mind off.

This is also partially a mommy-driven engine. And, I imagine, simply female, as well. We can't shut it off. Lists, to-do's, worries. We are preoccupied. Add a writer's brain to all this and one just doesn't stand a chance. Doomed, I say! Doomed!!

I swear my brain works best at night, though. Come about 7PM, I finally start waking up all the way. I'm not saying I can't function during the day--I do an excellent job of pretending to function and even making it so--but night time is the right time for my synapses to be firing. It's like a drive-by synapsing in my brain. Snap-snap, snap-snap, snap, snap, snap, pop! Shhhhhhhhhhh!

Insomniacs everywhere are nodding. I can hear their brains rattling. There's something about climbing into those warm, comfy covers in a darkened room that screams, "Wake up, brain! We have work to do! Now is the time! No cooking, no cleaning, no screwing around on the computer, no dressing kids, conversing with a three-year old who loves to talk, doing spelling words with a six-year old, packing backpacks, paying bills, building with Zoobs or Legos, doing laundry. It's time to PLAY!"


I try to keep some manner of paper and writing utensil close at hand throughout the house, and even became adept at keeping a composition book and pen on me at all times during my novel-writing. People just had to adjust to me gasping and scribbling something down randomly. They know I'm a writer. They also know I'm not quite sane.

With that, this post still ended up far too long, despite the fact that I vetoed several other "B's," so it's time to zip it.

Happy Writing!

P.S. When does your brain fire best? And why do you blog?