Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Blog Break Break

This is what my week started out looking like. For those of you in Canada, you may be laughing that something this benign would completely shut down a city, but for those of us in the south, 20 inches of snow is a lot of snow.

Just ask the 15 inch tall dog.

Had I any sort of foresight, I would have at least gone out a couple times during the storm to clear away a path in front of the house for the poor puppy to pee. You should have seen the look on his face when we opened the door in the morning and shoved him out to empty his bladder and he disappeared. When his head popped above the snow, he gave us those "you've got to be kidding me" eyes.

There were not enough plow trucks in all of Virginia to get rid of that snow fast enough to get everything moving again. And to make it worse, because they couldn't plow it fast enough, the snow near the bottom melted a tad, then refroze when the sun went down, leaving large, tectonic-like plates of two-inch ice.  Like so:

(and why is that photo not centered?? I have no idea. Blogger says it's centered, but clearly they are deluded. I'm convinced there are blogger gremlins... but I digress...)

That's a heck of an ice chunk my husband's holding, eh? We chipped off dozens of these from our driveway in order for our 14 guests for Christmas to not have to slip and slide their way up the 300 foot driveway.  We're so hospitable that way.

Here is Scout looking at us like, "You'll clear the driveway so someone can drive a car up it but not so your dearest pup can pee??"

Yeah. It took a while, but he learned to love it. Just in time for the 10 degree below freezing weather to settle in. So now I stand around seeing how big a cloud I can blow with my breath while he sniffs every flake and climbs every drift.

But life isn't all snow and dog during this blog break. There was Christmas. And lots of family. And some ice skating. And some breathless waiting as people read my book for the first time. I tell you, it's scary sending it out into the world. You have to know, as an author, not everyone will love your book. It's just the subjectiveness of the business. I know this. But when family and close friends with high hopes and expectations buy it, I can't help but really hope at least they like it. 

And so far, unless everyone is lying, the feedback has been amazing. And to top it off with a huge cherry, I've had a few fantastic 5-star reviews on Amazon - and not one of them is related to me!  :)

So while I've not been blogging, I have been cooking turkeys and ham, doing dishes endlessly, chipping ice plates and shoveling snow, housebreaking a puppy and keeping him from chewing everything in the house and digesting his weight worth of kleenexes, mailing out autographed books, calling tow-trucks to pull the truck from the mud, cleaning bathrooms and floors that are constantly being tracked through with snow, entertaining children, running the dryer 24 hours a day to keep everyone stocked in gloves, hats, scarves, snowpants and coats.

And today – reading. In front of a fire. In a quiet house. With the puppy asleep at my feet.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

This is a repost from last Christmas. I unexpectedly unplugged this week, but I still plan to unplug over the next week. If I find time I hope to go back and read the last weeks worth of your blogs that I've missed. Because I really have missed you. For now - I'm so thankful for all of you - for this blogging community and for your friendships and for the successes many of you have had this year despite it being a really tough year in the publishing industry. And for those of you still plugging away on the journey - may 2010 be your year!

We have a nativity set my children love to arrange, the wise men coming with their gifts, camel following. The shepherds in the fields watching over their sheep and the angel who arrives to tell them a Savior is born. A stable: an ugly, dirty, hay-strewn stable with a cow and a trough, and a mom and dad with a newborn baby.

They love Christmas because of that little baby. Because God is huge and unseeable and hard to comprehend, but Jesus - he's a baby. They understand a baby.

Yet when we lay him in the feeding trough, I think that the baby is harder to understand than God. He was before the world, he helped make the world with his own hands, and then came as a baby to live in it. He was all God, yet all man. He who flung the stars in space, who separated the light from the dark and the water from the land, came as a baby completely dependent on two very human, fallible parents. Parents young enough to be my children.

How much did Mary really understand? As she lay exhausted and tired and scared and mostly alone in that stable, holding a baby no different looking than any other, how much did she know? Could she even begin to imagine what life held in store? Could she even begin to imagine that the baby boy she kissed was God?

This Christmas one particular song keeps playing in my head over and over. Words to ponder this day as you celebrate the day:

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know

That your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you've delivered

Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

Did you know

That your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know

That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy
You've kissed the face of God

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see

The deaf will hear

And the dead will live again

The lame will leap
The dumb will speak

The praises of the lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is lord of all creation?
Did you know
That your baby boy will one day rules the nations?

Did you know

That your baby boy is heavens perfect lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding

Is the great I am

To all of you from me: Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Launch Hangover, and my first unofficial review

I'm trying to find my balance between the book launch and the impending holidays, and I'm afraid I'm not doing it well. Still, everytime I turn around I see something else that reminds me of the amazingness of this time:

An incredible (and completely unexpected) bouquet of flowers that a crit partner sent me that totally floored me (and about sent me into tears when it arrived on my doorstep on Monday)

A silver bookmark another dear friend gave me this weekend (saying, "If anyone's had a year, it's been you.")


And my editor sent me a link to a blog post she wrote on our publisher blog. The jist of it is this:

Our recently released title Some Kind of Normal showcases that kind of writing--where you get so pulled into the story that you don't even notice the words.

This was one of the most difficult books I've ever edited--NOT because the manuscript was poorly written--but BECAUSE of the way the author, Heidi Willis, strings her words together. I'd get so immersed in the story that I'd forget about editing and just read to enjoy her character's voice...

This one is a "must read" for anyone who loves to get lost in a story.

 Too bad I can't put that on the cover!  :)

So the cards might be late this Christmas, the cookies might be last minute, the house might be less than stellar for the company, but there is only one debut book, and this is mine. And I'm determined to enjoy it.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I've officially now gone from contracted author to published author.... It's true! I have a box of printed books with covers and title pages and a whole story I actually wrote!  So I'm celebrating this huge JOY with a party here on the blog... and where better to have a virtual signing party than the Maine Beach Chalet??

Isn't it idyllic? And since it's virtual, you don't even have to go out in the cold to get there!  So come on in and grab something warm to drink.  I've got hot cocoa with lots of marshmallows if you'd like... I made it extra chocolatey!!


Or, if you prefer, you can grab a seasonal cup of blog nog. It's one of my favorites!


It looks a lot like the hot chocolate, don't you think?

While considering a theme for this party, I decided it would only be natural to make it a bit of a fiesta Tex Mex theme, which is a bit contrary to the cold outside...

  ...but is so fitting for the book, because Some Kind of Normal takes place in Texas, and I think the characters would like a party that caters a bit to them.  I even hung up a neon sign in the foyer in honor of them:

(Don't say anything to the main characters, but I think this might have come out of some bar.)

I also hung a pinata if we find we're in need of some entertainment:


So now that you're warm and toasty, lets break out the food, shall we?

Appetizers, anyone? Those things are cherry tomatoes, but I'm not sure what they're filled with. Since the main characters might show up, we'll pretend those olive filled drinks behind them are glasses of water, okay?  It does kind of look that way, right? But why would someone put olives in water? Hmmm...


Let's move on... the water with olives is started to weird me out. A nice guac dip, perhaps? I made it fresh myself with avacados that came from somewhere south of the equator. It's kinda chilly right now to get these in the markets here. I did fry up those chips myself those. They're still warm!


If you're in need a something more filling, you can fix your own appetizers.

 Watch out for the chicken on the left... it's quite spicy. And there might be some habanero peppers hidden under there somewhere if you're really daring! I'm pretty sure blog peppers don't give you heartburn, but proceed with caution!

If you want something a bit healthier (and in honor of the diabetic aspects of the book), here's some veggies and dip. These are fresh from the beach chalet garden... I harvested them right before the snow storm hit.

Or maybe you'd like something heartier? Some tacos?

Or a taco salad? If you're counting carbs, don't forget to calculate the black beans in there.

 I really love mexican food, but that blog nog just isn't cutting the heat of the jalapenos. Perhaps a nice sangria?

Or maybe Bab's favorite... sweetened iced tea:


I know, I know... you really came just for the food, but this IS about a book... so I've got my pen out and I'm so ready to get this book signing going!!

I thought I'd set things up in the library. Does that sound good?

I know it's just been released and it's a small, unheard of book, but I really can't believe the crowds that are already cramming in to get one of my scrawled signatures!! Seriously, have you seen any thing like this short of a Stephanie Meyers/J.K. Rowling signing??

(I'm most baffled by the amount of teenage boys.  Really, I'm pretty sure the character of Ashley is hot, but she's got a boyfriend already, guys, and she spends most of the book in a hospital bed. And her mom... well, let's just say her mom isn't the kind a teenage boy wants to hang around with for the fun of it...)

So let's get on with it... Here's the book:

If you're just here to celebrate with me and eat the food, this is the time you slink out into the living room and sink into one of my big comfy leather sofas beside the roaring fire and chat in the comment section with all the other friends who have gathered. Go ahead! I'm so glad you came by!!  Thank you so much for making this such a special day for me! I've been dreaming of this, and working towards it, for such a long time.

If you want to buy a book, there are a few ways you can go about it.

1. You can go to and buy it directly from the publisher.

2. You can go to Amazon and buy it there.


You can buy it here and I will sign it for you and get it in the mail this week! If you look over on the sidebar over there, you'll see the book and underneath it a paypal button. The book is 15.95 and if you don't have a paypal account, you can set one up really easily with a credit card. This link is only going to be over there for a short time (a week or so), and then, after that you'll have to buy it through a traditional book seller.

If you do buy from here, can you leave me a note in the comment section with your email, or send me an email to let me know? I just like having my bases covered to make sure I can contact you if there's a question about something!

(For those of you living out of the US, I'm only set up to sell internationally to Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom. I apologize if you live somewhere else, but you can still get it from Amazon!)

It will look something like this:

Only I'll try to be neater. And if you want me to write something specific, let me know that, too.

So I guess that's it. I'll be hanging around eating some of this cake while waiting for the writer's cramp to settle in.

And staring out the window at this:

And wishing you all the best for a happy holiday season, and a new year where all your dreams come true!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mysteries Revealed (or: Why I'm Not On Amazon Yet)

Remember: Monday is the BLOG PARTY!!! 

Some of you have asked why my novel isn't available on Amazon yet, and wondered if it would be in bookstores near you. These are great questions; questions which I had no answer to. And so I went to the one who had the answers: my publisher.

This blog post is partly to answer those of you who were asking, and partly just to inform anyone interested in the process. Seriously, isn't it a bit of a mystery? We writers know we should write, query, obtain agent, get book contract, go through edits, then WA-LA! The book is on the bookshelves of every major (and minor) bookstore on earth, right? Right???

Well, no.

And if you skip the obtaining an agent part and go with a small publisher, the answer is even less no. 

The reason for this is timing.

With a larger publisher things move slowly. There are lots of hands in the process, and once the writer is done with their part, there are still lots of hands working towards the looming release date. There are marketers and printers and TIME. Time to put out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies). Time to include the book in the publisher catalog. Time for the bookstores to see the catalogs and order the books and have them waiting in the back for the date to stock them on the shelves. Time for notices to be sent to online retailers. Time for the book to be put into e-book format. It's built into the process, so that when an author signs and gets a release date, that date may be a year in the future: plenty of time to get all the details worked out.

With a smaller press, things move much more quickly, because in general there isn't a huge staff of people working their end. There aren't huge marketing blitzes to be done. They don't wait to put out ARCs and then wait for the readers of those to read and write praises for the cover. They make the book available to the public as fast as the printer can print it. And so, though I only finished edits a month ago, the book is now being printed and my publisher can make it available to you.

The timing issue is when it comes down to getting the book through someone else. Despite what some people might think, my book's entire first run isn't sitting in stacks of boxes in my publisher's garage waiting for them to ship it out to every bookstore in the world. It's sitting in a warehouse of a major book distributor, whose sole purpose is to supply people with books.

My publisher uses Ingram Book Company, the largest book distributer in the world. They will stock my book, enter it into their database, and then make it available for 90% of bookstores worldwide. So while my publisher might have some boxes of books to send out to individuals, it's actually Ingram that's responsible for getting it everywhere else. And that takes time. It takes time to put the information in it's database. It takes time for bookstores to find the book and order it - because a bookstore doesn't get every book that's published.... they only get what they ask for.

Once it's in the database, though, it should show up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and it should be available, if not in your local bookstore, at least in the computer so that your local bookstore can order it. I've been told that should be about three weeks from the time it's printed.

Which won't stop me from checking Amazon everyday. :) 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


It's official! Some Kind of Normal has been printed and bound and packed into boxes for shipping!!  Supposedly it should ship on Monday, which will make Monday my release day!! (I know, it's a little less climactic than a big publisher who sets the date in stone months - or even years - ahead of time, but this way we actually DO get the book hot off the press... no sitting around waiting for the date to come when the bookstores can open the boxes and set them up!)(and, in fact, I'm pretty sure the bookstores won't have it yet...)

So Monday I'm throwing a party on the blog!!  Come by! It'll be like a Christmas party, with blog nog, and brightly colored decorations, and food and drink and lively music - and lots and lots of fellow writers. It's going to be awesome! Well, I hope it is, anyway. It will be if YOU show up!

And best of all, you can order a signed copy right here on the blog!   I know some people have already ordered it, and for that a HUGE thanks!!!  You can still come by and drink some blog nog and brag that you'll get your copy first. But if you don't have one, or you want to order another to give away to a friend, this is the happening place.

Or even if you have no money or don't think you'll like the book, come by anyway to say hi and eat some tasty virtual appetizers. :)

I can't guarantee you'll get it by Christmas, though, the post office being... you know... the post office.

So anyway, to sum up:

Blog party Monday.

Books available.

Fun times in the comment section.

Stop by!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Authory Stuff

Some big - but short - news today.

First off, my book is now available for pre-ordering. Which means, if you want to saunter on over to, you can see the book blurb, the cover, etc., and then actually buy it so that you will be one of the first to get it when it rolls hot off the press.

The pre-ordering means the book is done, is at the printer, the printer has looked at it and said, Yeah, looks like all the ducks are in a row and we can make it into a real looking book. And then they put it in the queue with the rest of the books. And when it reaches the front of the line, they print it and ship it out. This is the way a small press works. It's a little less all TA-DA!! than a larger publishing house, but it's faster. :)

I'm also considering having a release day blog party in which I will sell  signed copies if you want one of those. And of course offer virtual food and drink and entertainment. What do you think?

The last bit of news is that I have had my first blog author interview! So exciting! It's like actually being a real author! Fellow writer Kristi Faith and I have been emailing back and forth for a few weeks, and it has been so fun getting to know her and chatting endlessly about this whole process.  She's put together an amazing post so if you have time, head over to Kristi Faith's blog and say hi and read my dorky answers and find out a little about my journey as an author with a small press.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Give Away Over at Kim's Place!!

You know what I love about debut authors?  They're excited! And they give really cool things away... like their books (among other very cool stuff)!  And I feel so lucky to "know" so many really great authors with amazing books here in the blogosphere.

One of those amazing authors is Kimberly Derting, who is only 100 days away from her book, The Body Finder,  landing on a bookstore shelf near you. How cool is that??  But you know what?  She's celebrating by giving away one of the ARCs, along with some other really cool stuff! 

Head over to her blog post and enter!  Quick! Because it looks like the comment section is filling up!

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

What's a good thing?  This.

The Christmas decorations are finally up. The pooch is happily curled on the floor sleeping.  Little by little, things are getting done. I'm learning to stop looking at all the things I need to do and only look at one at a time and get that done. I'm less panicky that way.

Kristi over at R.A.W. has done an interview with me (my first author interview!!), so head over there on Monday to read it. Or heck, head over there now just to read her blog!  :)

Well, it's Friday and it's supposed to snow tomorrow for the first time this season. My plans for this weekend are a roaring fire in the pellet stove, twinkling Christmas lights, writing cards, and a Christmas concert.

Oh, and this little guy warming my lap.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How Did Your NaN - Oh! Look! Something Shiny!

As you can tell by the title, I feel a bit distracted lately. By everything. When did America become such a over-stimulated, multi-tasking, short attention spanned place to live?  Not that I blame America. The blame is all on me. I can barely focus on anything these days long enough to finish it.  As a result, my Christmas decorations are only a third up, my gym hasn't seen me in three weeks, my newest novel is hanging out waiting for me to get back to it... along with the other two novels I started this year and then stopped.

Jessica Faust over at BookEnds had a great post today about the writing process... about all the different ways authors attack writing and the self-doubt we seem to fall into every time. And then Mark Terry commented about the Eureka moment he gets to in writing... that moment in which the story gets a little tough to write and suddenly you have this really great idea for another book, which he mentions that Erica Orloff calls her Bright Shiny Moment. as in, this plot is getting a little hard to figure out - hey! look! another bright shiny idea!

I shamefully admit this is where I am. I have three novels started... all exceptional ideas in theory. And another popped into my head yesterday, complete with title, rough outline and characters, and suddenly I was like HOLD ON! I can't keep up!! And it reminded me of all the people who have said to me, since finding out I am being published, Oh! I have some great ideas for books! To which I want to say, Yeah, me too.

The ideas aren't the hard thing. The hard thing is writing them down, each and every word, start to finish. All stinking 90,000 words of them. Because really, sometimes only the first 10,000 are the fun and easy part. And then it all starts to look like crap, and I wonder why in the world anyone would want to read them, and I imagine all the awful reviews they would get on amazon and blogs (How in the world did this piece of garbage get published when I know so many people who write better that can't even find an agent??).

And now, even worse, I have a puppy in the house that, if you don't watch him every single second something might get chewed or peed on - or toppled, like the Christmas tree which I swear is cowering in the corner shaking at the double threat of being mistaken for an inside toilet and being wrestled to the ground by tiny teeth.

And Christmas cards... don't even get me started on this one. I bought the cards. Do I get partial credit for that?

And shopping - I'm doing good that we haven't run out of puppy food or milk at this point. Please don't tell me how many days I have left to figure out what to buy for people for Christmas.

Yesterday there were four loads of laundry cleaned and waiting to be folded. Have you folded clothes with a puppy around? Every article of clothing becomes an opportunity for tug of war.

I haven't even filled in our activities on the calendar this month because it is just too overwhelming. If I close my eyes, will it all just magically happen?

So my latest WIP is waiting... sitting patiently (unlike the puppy). And I'm just trying to figure out how to fit in a shower...

does walking the dog in the rain count?

(and when I started this post, I meant to ask: How did your NaNo writing go? Did you finish? Did you survive? Did you push through even when it felt like crap? And are you so proud of yourself for doing it - even if you didn't grab the final prize?)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Meet the Newest Addition to My Family!

Three years ago my beautiful black lab died of cancer at the age of twelve. I wrote a post about it a year ago at this time, hoping that our house would soon be big enough again for another.  It took a year to finally get my husband on board and find the perfect dog, but last week we did.

Meet Scout.

He's a nine-week-old black lab puppy that we adopted this weekend. He's so smart, so beautiful, and so tiny! And such a joy!   His favorite thing to do is crawl into whatever available lap he can find and curl up.  I don't remember when I've smiled this much.

So now instead of being buried in the computer, I'm taking long walks, wrangling Christmas lights from tiny jaws, throwing tennis balls, and rubbing tummies. So if I get a little more absent than normal here, you'll know where I am. Sitting on the floor with a soft warm puppy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Thanksgiving already - How did that happen?

Before I hit the whole Thanksgiving thing, let me just offer a word of advice to you writers out there:

Don't let your galley proof edits/ hardcore deadlines/ novel release happen around the holidays. Just... don't. You'll thank me later.

So on to Thanksgiving randomness:

  • I bought a 23 pound turkey. I'm not sure it's going to be big enough. I'm also not sure if it will fit in my oven.

  • I miss reading. I mean, reading something than my own work, which frankly I'm getting tired of at this point (only, darn it, it still makes me cry in parts, which I think makes me the biggest sap ever). I am really hoping to get a little time to read something this weekend. It's not looking likely, but still, I'm hoping. I'm even thinking of reading something totally FUN and superfluous... like a book I've already read and really loved. Kind of like comfort food for the soul. That's what the holidays are for, right?
  • Do you know how I know I'm getting old? (And don't say because I tear the tissue in my foot playing Wii Tennis, because that was SO my 30s, which is NOT OLD, and which I'm told was totally a freak thing, and not that uncommon. I'm not the only one, right??). Anyhoo - I know I'm getting old because I used to be able to stay up until one or two every night working and then still get up and get the kids off to school and go back to work. Now, I stay up until one in the morning and the next day I have to go to bed by 10:30. Five hours of sleep is no longer doing it for me. Just wait - by next Thanksgiving I'll be going to bed at seven-thirty and gumming my turkey.
  • That last point really had no Thanksgiving point, but I managed to work it in anyway. Cool, eh? 
  • I'm so thankful for my family right now. I've discovered the past two weeks that I cannot be a full-time writer and a full-time mom at the same time. Not that I'm not trying. But something's got to give. And my kids and husband have been so good about sacrificing a few mommy things. And they've been really understanding of my stress levels. And my tears. And my rants. And my burnt cinnamon rolls. Not that I've cooked cinnamon rolls lately, but if I did, I'm sure I'd burn them.
  • I went in to the elementary school yesterday to help in my youngest daughter's Thanksgiving feast. Oh my goodness! Is there anything cuter than a gaggle of first graders dressed like pilgrims and indians?? I think there were more pilgrims and indians in that room than there were at the first Thanksgiving. I'm serious. We probably had more food too.
  • I love living in a country that takes time to be thankful every year. We spend an awful lot of time grumbling and complaining and fighting each other and ranting over politics and pointing fingers. I'm thankful we haven't lost the ability to stop that for a little bit and remember how very, very blessed we are. 
    • I have very big Thanksgiving news I'll post on the blog on Monday, if I can wait that long. It's not at all writing related, but personally very big. I'm so excited I could do handsprings. You know, if I knew how to do handsprings and I didn't think it would break my back and put me into traction. But yeah, if not for those things, I'd be doing handsprings!
    I'm off for the rest of the week. Have a great week and weekend, no matter where you live. Remember, being Thankful isn't just a US thing.  :)

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    The Cover Is In!

    There is that feeling when you write that last word on the page, and you know the novel is finished. You look at the document sitting in your computer... you stroke the words on the lined paper in a notebook... you see those last words and think:  I wrote a real book!

    Then there is a long process - usually very long - before you get to the next time you feel that way. There are queries and contracts and revisions and edits. That real book starts feeling like a work in progress again. But one day you open up your email and you realize....I wrote a real book!!

    And that's the day you get the cover of your book.

    So last week I got mine. I guess this makes it official.  :)

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Good Thing Friday: Everything's Amazing

    It's been a difficult week for me. It shouldn't have been, and yet it was. And I found myself doing the thing that most annoys me...I whined. Not necessarily in that high, sing-songy whiny way that kids do, but whining nonetheless. Complaining. Ranting, even. I promise, it wasn't pretty. Good thing I'm home alone most of the day.

    I'm not one for popping youtubes up on the blog very often, but every now and then I find one that just fits. This one was making the rounds on facebook a while ago, and I'm sure most of you have probably seen it. Still, it's a good one to be reminded of again. When I tempted to yell at appliances and stomp my foot at electronics and snap at my kids for I remind myself, Everything's amazing. Why am I not happy?

    So for my good thing this week, I'm putting up this oh-so-funny reminder that life is really pretty good. Even the things I think that aren't.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    When Nothing Is Good

    Several months ago, when the airline went down on the Hudson River and everyone survived, the common reaction was "What a miracle!" So much, in fact, the media named the incident "Miracle on the Hudson."

    At that time a friend of mine who lives in New York - somewhat of a faith skeptic anyway - wrote me to say, "What kind of miracle is it that the plane went down and no one got hurt? Wouldn't the bigger miracle have been if the geese had flown the other way and nothing had happened?"

    This made me laugh, because every day in America thousands of flights take off and land with no incident. According to one website, there are 1300 that take off every day from New York alone. That is a lot of miracles that no one notices! Until something went wrong, no one cared about how often it went right.

    This morning my husband sent me this article, and if you hang with me here, you'll see how this all ties into my life and writing.

    When Nothing Happens

      By Brian Friel

    Ten years ago this month, federal technology managers were logging extra hours and getting their final plans in place for overcoming the looming Y2K computer challenge. If you recall the hullabaloo, computer experts worried that six-digit date codes -- 11-01-99, for example -- would cause computer systems to go haywire when the date turned to 01-01-00. In November 1999, agency information technology chiefs developed patches to deal with the problem, including rejiggering the code to eight digits, with four digits for the year.

    At the end of the following month, IT managers spent their New Year's Eve in the office, just to make sure nothing bad happened. From the Defense Department to the General Services Administration, from Social Security offices to the White House, the managers saw midnight, Jan. 1, 2000, come and go without a hitch. They had spent the previous four years and more than $8 billion to make sure nothing happened. And nothing happened.

    Much of what government does can be measured by a similar standard. Nothing happened? Mission accomplished. Preventing terrorist attacks or foreign invasion, preserving protected park land and avoiding airline accidents are among the government goals that share the absence of a result as the hoped-for result.

    Of course, none of those goals is easily accomplished. Each takes a great deal of labor, technical expertise, planning and execution. They're the kinds of goals that keep federal managers up at night, because even with strong leadership, failure always is a possibility. Enemies with evil intentions lurk around many corners, and accidents ignore zero-tolerance policies. Even one failure can be catastrophic.... After nothing happened, government IT bosses patted themselves on the back, but no one else did. 

    So why did my wonderful husband send this to me? Because I've been buried this week in my galley proof, proofreading. Line by tedious line. Nearly 90,000 words worth. Checking for errant commas, dropped letters, spacing issues, typos, accidental shifts in tense. Hour after hour, days on end.

    And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. Except eye strain and four baskets of clean, unfolded laundry.

    Will anyone read my book and say, "Wow! What an excellent job of proofreading the author and editor did! There's not a single typo!" 


    But if I miss that mispelled word, if I miss the dropped letter that changes the to he, they will notice then. And not in the way I want them to.

    Writing - and publishing - is not just about the big things you do that everyone sees. Sometimes it's about the big things you do that nobody notices.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    I need some Lysol over here!

    This is me. I'm officially seeking out a hazmat suit now, because there is a plague on our house.

    In the ten weeks the kids have been back to school, seven of them have seen at least one home sick. We've gone through three flus and three colds, and this morning when I went to wake up my littlest, she was asleep amid a pile of kleenexes.  When I woke her up and asked how she felt, she answered, "A little cruddy."

    Sigh. So she's home today.

    And it's not just my house. In my writing group of seven women, two have the flu, one has strep throat and ear infections, one had a horse fall on her, one sprained her ankle playing tennis, and one had an as yet undiagnosed illness that is leaving her spinning with dizziness and in pain.

    We don't even all live in the same country!!

    Sometimes I wonder if God lets us get sick to slow us down. This weekend my obligations towards publishing multiplied in both size and stress. I got my galley proofs (Woo Hoo!!!!  It looks exactly like a real book!!!), am deciding on cover designs (hopefully done after about a hundred trials and tweakings), rewrote the blurb for the back of the book (which took way, way longer than it should have, because hey - this is the one on the back of the book!). Literally on Friday night I disappeared into my laptop and didn't emerge until this morning, when my husband went back to work and I had to get the kids up and off to school.

    The plan was, of course, to disappear back into the manuscript and work on proofing the proof.

    But then I woke up my daughter and...snot city.

    So now I'm tempering my obsessive reading with some Cyberchase, cuddles, and picture books. Which, as it turns out, you can still do with a hazmat suit on.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    We've Come To The End

    Revision are done. I can't believe it! These are the words of my editor as she sent the last of the notes: "We made it! Wonderful story, beautifully told." (Isn't she the best??)

    It isn't the first set of revisions, of course. There were the critiques from my writing group after the very roughest drafts, and then again after I thought it was "all done." Between requests there were tweakings, and right before NorLightsPress asked for the entire manuscript, I went into panic mode and did more revisions.

    So this hasn't been the first edits, but they are the last, and more significantly, they are the professionally driven ones.

    As I come to the end, this is what I've learned: Even the little things can be hard to change.

    I don't know if it's my rebellious nature or my resistance to change, but even many of the seemingly "happy-to-glad" changes I initially resisted in my head. These small changes: the movement of an adverb from the beginning of the sentence to the middle; the change of one word to another; the rephrasing of a paragraph that seemed awkward.

    There were times when I said, "Of course! That makes so much more sense!" But there were times when I thought, "But I like it that way."

    Until I actually made the change. And the lightbulb went off. It is much better this way!

    This is something else I've learned: Even making small changes can make a big difference.

    The paragraphs I wrestled with rewriting; the  dialogs I had to tag; the sentence structure I had to change. Even when I didn't want to do it. Even when in my head I thought, "There's nothing wrong with this..."

    When it was all said and done and I sat back and looked at it and realized, Wow! This flows more smoothly, makes more sense, sounds more powerful.

    Which is why my editor is brilliant. And why we writers need brilliant editors.

    And the wisdom to listen to them.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009


    I know I've read a million times that once you get a publisher to pick up your book the juggling really starts. You not only have to be able to write a book, you have to write a book at the same time as you are editing the last book, and working on marketing for that book or a previous book, even if that's just getting your name out there.

    I had no idea how hard that really is. I'm a bit obsessive and I don't like switching gears. I've found that, despite all my determination, if I begin the day thinking I'm going to do "just one or two things" to help market myself, I never get around to writing, because there is always one or two more things, which lead to more things, and it never ends.

    Quickly I realized I was doing all editing and marketing work, and very little writing. And I convinced myself that was what I needed to do to get this baby out into the world.

    Unfortunately, I really missed writing. That was the whole reason I'm where I am. It's not the promise of being on the bestseller list or anything. Heck, for that I could dream to be president, or CEO of a major company, or an Oscar winning actress. I'm here because writing is like breathing... I need it to live.

    So I divided up my time into marketing/editing days, and writing days. When I have writing days, I try not to do any marketing things (like writing emails and surfing the web for reviewers and figuring out twitterdom). But how do I take chunks of time to just write and not feel guilty about it?

    Shelli, over at Market My Words, had an awesome interview Tuesday with author Alyson Noel. And Alsyon, after several paragraphs about how she markets herself, said just about the wisest thing I've read about writing and marketing:

    The truth is, and this may not be wildly popular but I believe it to be true—the absolute best thing you can do to market yourself as an author is to write your next book! At the end of the day, that’s all your readers really want from you anyway. And with books getting such a short shelf life these days, the best way to ensure yours books maintain their space is to keep ‘em coming, to build up a nice backlist for your readers to explore and for bookstores to reorder with each new release.

    So now my writing days are just a secondary marketing day!  Yay! Somehow just thinking of it in that equation lessens that frantic feeling that I need to be doing something, and feeling like writing isn't getting my novel sold any faster or wider. 

    Less guilt is good. Writing time is even better.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    The Author Photo - Let's Hope It Doesn't Lead to Book Burning (by me!)

    Everything is just about done now before Some Kind of Normal goes into pre-print mode. I'm wrapping up the last details, the worst of which is the author photo. It was harder to take photos and find one I liked than writing the book. I love photography as long as I'm the one behind the camera.

    Before I even started sorting through them, my husband said, "Let's just acknowlege right now you're going to hate them all. The object here is finding the one you hate the least."  Such a wise man!

    So here's the one I hated the least. I'm sending it in before I decide to burn it and just submit a picture my 6 year old has drawn of me ( a suggestion by a friend that makes a lot of sense, since my daughter draws me with perfect hair and a really skinny body).

    There were actually not-so-serious ones. I definitely prefer me smiling, but it didn't seem to fit the book. Characters all stressed out and panicky and dying and me all, "Hey! Look! I got a book published! Aren't I happy?!"  So I went with the contemplative one (I prefer contemplative over constipated, but feel free to make that judgment yourself).

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Friday Bonus: Win a Kindle!

    You know how sometimes you have a social circle that overlaps with someone else's, so that at parties and events you keep running into the same people who aren't necessarily people you know, but you feel like you know them because they are great friends with the same people you are great friends with?

    That's like the blogosphere.

    And two people I keep ending up in the same place with are Lisa and Laura, authors and bloggers extraordinaire. Nearly every blog I visit, they've been there first, and always left witty, funny remarks that make me feel like I wandered into a party late and inferiorly dressed.

    In any case, they have a great blog, and you should go read it.

    Especially today, because today the universe has dropped a KINDLE into their laps, and they are passing it on to one lucky winner!

    Go! Now! Enter! Even though I'm pretty sure the universe wants it to be passed on to me.  :)

    The thing I love most...

    It's Friday and I find myself asking, where the heck did the week go? I guess I had kids home several days because of teacher conferences, another got the flu, there was a final goldfish burial, election day, a random trip to the gym (which is getting infrequent enough to be rendered almost useless)... and there went the week.

    Because of NaNo it's been awfully quiet around the blogosphere. I love the fact that in the quiet, I know there are hundreds of you out there pounding on the keyboard, creating people who were not just a month ago, creating worlds and creatures and accidents and secrets and lives. I am motivated by those of you who are steaming ahead, the word count racking up; and I'm consoled by those of you who are struggling along, hoping just to make it through the month alive.

    I didn't attempt NaNo this year, but I did make the pledge to myself to get at least 1000 words a day, weekends included, no matter what. I'm pleased as punch (what the sam hill does that mean, anyway?) to say I've done that.

    The thing I love the most about writing is how it unfolds itself as I write. When I start, I have an idea of where I'm going, who the characters are, what journey they will take. But as I write, it morphs. The characters become less names on a page than voices in my head - real people, and the journeys deepen and change and grow. There are moments in writing when I have to stop as the ideas tumble into me, and I think, Wow! This is so much more awesome than I thought it would be!

    Which isn't to say that I don't doubt my own ability to tell that awesome story. I think the doubts grow the deeper into it I get, because the deeper I get, the less the story is mine. It becomes the characters, and even though I know it's from my own head and my own imagination, it doesn't feel that way. The more it becomes the story of the characters, the more responsibility I feel to tell it well. So it isn't the story that I fear won't be good... it's my ability to write it.

    So this Friday, if you are a writer, tell me: what do you love the most about writing? And what is your greatest fear about it?

    Friday Bonus: Favorite Blog Post Title of the Week? NaNoWriMOhNo!

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Harsh...But Funny

    I know many of you are hunkered down working on NaNoWriMo (and at least one of you, I won't name names, is already 27% done.... I've got no words for that...).

    So instead of a lengthy post, here's something lighter that came through my email this week.

    Enjoy... then get back to work!

    A College English professor's comments on a student's paper:

    "I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you
    because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your
    name at the top."

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

     I originally wrote this post last November, right before the over-hyped presidential elections. At that time, the whole world was watching the US and picking sides.  This year, it's less contentious in most places, and yet, we in Virginia find ourselves in the spotlight again, deluged by ads and what is turning out to be another much hyped election.

    For the first time in a long time, we are making national news. This state, traditionally a Republican presidential voting state, went Democrat and helped vote Obama into office. Now, less than ten months later, our governor seat is up for grabs, and it looks like Virginians are going back to a Republican.

    It's garnered national attention for two reasons. One is that it was a huge coup that the state went to Obama, and the fact that now it may turn back around is taken as a referendum on how Virginians see Obama's presidency going. (Let's ignore the fact that gubinatorily speaking, VA has gone back and forth between Democrat and Republican many, many times.)

    The second reason national news outlets are looking at us is that the White House - once the Democrat nominee began losing in the polls by double digits - suddenly backed away from him and began blaming him for a bad campaign and for not using Obama's name enough. It's now become a national debate on whether or not Obama is to blame for Republicans winning in VA, and why the White House deems it necessary to blame someone in the race. It seems to be in hyper-defensive mode.

    And yet, in the midst of this, Afghanistanians are now resigned to a rigged election and a leader they have no trust in and didn't truly elect.

    In contrast, I get a say in who goes into office. I may not like the million phone calls a day I get by pollsters and politicians. I may get upset by the forests of trees that must have been leveled to produce the slick marketing pamphlets I get in the mail. I may have to watch only shows I've TiVod so I can skip the multitudes of mud-slinging ads.

    But today I get to go to the polls and put in my vote. I get to slather on that hand sanitizer they are so freely offering to prevent the spread of swine flu and hit that touch screen button with all the love of freedom that is in me.

    Today I get to vote.

    So here is the post I wrote last year. It is as fitting today as it was back then:

    Tomorrow is officially election day. I've waited to vote on the day as opposed to absentee ballot or early voting. Part of it is so that my kids, who always get off school on election day, can go with me.

    They've gone since infants: my son first went in a car carrier seat at less than a month old. They've never missed one. I think it's important for them to know what a privilege and responsibility it is to vote, and how magnificent and unique this country is. We've used purple markers to color in the box, pulled the curtain behind us and flipped the levers, and touched a computer screen. We wear our flag-bearing "I voted" stickers all day.

    Another reason I wait is for the experience of it. Mailing an envelope doesn't quite feel the same (although if I had to do that, I'd do it proudly!). And the early voting is in a different location. As a creature of routine, I like my home polling place. I run into neighbors. I know the polling volunteers.

    So tomorrow I brave the crowds. Tomorrow I vote.

    I'm proud of being an American. Proud of the history of this country, although it's far from perfect. And whichever way this election goes, I'll still be proud to have been a part of this process. Whichever way it goes, I'll be glad to live in this incredible place I call home.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    My Two Mistresses

    In the recent Entertainment Weekly, there is an article about Stephen King's new novel, Under the Dome. While I'm not a fanatic about Stephen King's novels, and I didn't read the extensive excerpt from the book that is included with the article, I did find the interview with him fascinating.

    This book, which runs more than 1,000 pages, was started 33 years ago. He wrote 75 pages before abandoning it. 3 years later he picked it back up and wrote another 450 pages before abandoning it again.

    Did you catch that? 450 pages!!  That's more than my entire last book by about 130 pages. It's probably more than your last book, if you're a writer. And that's what he wrote before he decided not to finish it!

    But he did eventually pick it back up and finish it. 33 years later.

    And for some reason, I really needed to hear that this is okay to do.

    You see, I have two books begun - and not just a first or second chapter done, but a fair ways into them begun - and I've set them aside, both for different reasons. The first I think is really a great book. I want to write it. I think it will be an awesome book once it's done. It's unique, it has great characters, and it has the potential to be really powerful. I liked writing it. But 50 pages in, it felt all wrong for right now. It didn't fit with the book that is being published, and if I'm going to build a readership, it's not the right one to follow Some Kind of Normal. I think it might seriously confuse people about me as an author.

    And so I put that one aside for the time being.

    The second one I love for really personal reasons. I have an outline for it: I know exactly where it's going.  I have a passion for it. I can sit and write and write and write on it. It fits with my "branding." But 50 pages in I realized it's not that interesting as it stands now. Deeply personal for me, but for the reader? Maybe not so much. At some point I stopped typing long enough to realize, I'm writing this book for me.

    That's an important lesson to learn, I think. To be able to tell the difference between the stories we need to tell for ourselves, and the stories readers will want to read.

    And so, reluctantly, I put that one down as well.

    I love love love my new book. But there is a part of me that feels like I'm cheating on these others. I'm keeping them on the side, as if I can't let them go, and yet not giving them the attention they deserve. And I'm ashamed to admit I have these stories I just didn't finish. Not because I couldn't finish them, or because I realized they were bad stories, but just because my gut told me the timing was wrong.

    And so today I fell in love just a little with Stephen King for admitting that he, too, keeps mistress books.

    I love having a little validation that it's okay to start something and then put it aside. And in the end, it doesn't matter that I'm embarrassed now to say I didn't finish something. What matters is being able to say I chose the right one for the right time, and I didn't stick to something just because I felt like I would be a failure if I didn't.

    So what about you? Do you have stories tucked away that you plan on revisiting someday?

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Boo!! (Bet you didn't expect that!)

    Yes, you knew it was coming. You've waited for it all year. You've planned and shopped and now you're all ready to celebrate.

    If you're thinking Halloween, you'd be wrong. That's tomorrow, silly!

    I'm talking today.

    I'm talking....


    Yes. You read that correctly. 

    It's true. Look it up. In the United States (sorry, the un-creative rest of you...), Oct 30 is National Haunted Refrigerator Day.

    So while we have our costumes pressed and ready to go, the pumpkins carved, the hoo-haw halloweenies cooked for snacks....

    today is reserved for celebrating the hulking, metal appliance in the kitchen.

    Which has probably stopped my heart more than once when it suddenly dumped a tray of ice while I'm writing in the silent house.

    So - Happy haunted refrigerator day.... and a good weekend as well!

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Book Trailers: What's It To You?

    Author Therese Fowler offered up a question on her facebook page last week: Do you think book trailers work to generate interest and sell books?

    The resounding answer? No.

    You'd think that just having created my own trailer, I'd be expecting something more positive, but I wasn't terribly surprised. How many people other than authors even know what a book trailer is, and how many people watch them? Although I think it doesn't hurt to try every avenue to create buzz and garner interest, I don't know how effective they are.

    For me, it was a way to introduce friends to my book in what I hoped was an engaging way. It was a website to send acquaintances to in order to rope them into getting on my newsletter.  But did I expect a huge viral phenomenon in which hundreds or thousands of people would suddenly flock to order the book? Definitely not. (Okay, maybe I hoped so just a little, but that's totally different than expecting!)

    What are your thoughts on them? Has one ever tempted you to read a book you'd not heard about before, or change your mind about one you have?  Do you know of anyone that isn't a writer that's even seen a book trailer? (and I don't mean a family member that's seen yours!!)

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    NaNoWriMo: Update on my Involvement ( or lack of ) and GREAT NEWS!

    First off, NaNoWriMo is hard to type on my computer because I have completely lost the letters V,B,N,M, and the comma, which puts N in the middle of a bunch of blank keys. Very annoying.

    Secondly, after a long, drawn out battle (read: some hemming and hawing over the last two weeks) over whether or not I'll participate in this year's write-fest, my mind was basically made up by my editor last night.

    Despite the fact that I thought the timing might really be perfect - I'll be done with my editing, the bulk of the marketing projects under my belt, and a new project begun and gnawing at me to get written - it turns out it won't be good timing.

    Why? you ask.

    Because mid-November I am going to get my GALLEY PROOFS!! Yes, folks, my pages and pages of word document are going to be "paginated" (isn't that a cool word? I think it means they turn it into something that looks just like the book will look), and sent to me to do the final proof!

    So the last two weeks of November, instead of poring over a blank page and spilling new ink, I'll be poring over the book I've already written, making sure we've caught all the mistakes, typos, spelling, punctuation mistakes, and otherwise polishing this baby to a presentable shine.

    And the GREAT NEWS?

    I have a release date! December 2009!

    That's right! Only two more months and you, too, can order this baby on line!

    Let the craziness begin!

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    The Tortoise and the Hare: What Velocity Is Your Writing?

    (This day has been a crazy day of editing and marketing, and so I'm double-posting this post, which is also up today on my writing group's blog. If you don't get over to the 4 Corners blog much, you should pop in for Erin Halm's post this weekend on E-Books: the Future or Undoing of Publishing? It's an outstanding article on e-books. Also, some insightful views in the comment section from people who have experienced this when it happened the first time in music. Seriously - go check it out and get in on the discussion!)  

    Lately I feel like I've been living and working in the middle of some childhood fable - one of those stories about one thing that really means something else and teaches some good life lesson - except I'm having trouble absorbing that lesson.

    The story I'm living? The Tortoise and the Hare.

    You know the one - where the turtle and the rabbit race, except the turtle can't really race well because he's slow, but the rabbit gets so cocky he stops off to nap and eat and enjoy the view, and before you know it the slow but steady turtle passes him and wins the race.

    There are two problems to my story. One, I'm the turtle. And two, I don't think in life the turtle really always wins. It's a lovely story, don't get me wrong. But sometimes the fast aren't just fast. They're diligent, too, and disciplined. And I swear some of them never sleep.

    All around me are writers who write at what seems to me to be warped speed. Six thousand - seven thousand words at a time... a book every month or two. Some of these are authors at the very start of their careers, and some are long, well-established authors.

    I've felt the pressure especially lately because even though I have a great idea for a book, and even when I get a good chunk of time, even days of time, I'm slow at writing. The words don't come in a flurry - at least not for more than a few sentences at a time. I'm keeping at it, but I'll be lucky to be able to get one book a year out. Three or four? Are you kidding me?

    So I was disproportionately relieved last week when Entertainment Weekly put out this review of Michael Connelly's new novel, Nine Dragons. The review was less than flattering, but this sentence was what caught my eye: James Patterson long ago proved that you can write three thrillers in a year, but even Michael Connelly can't write three good ones.

    I love those words... even this great writer can't write three good ones...

    Then, just today, The New Republic online had a great article called Writing and Velocity.  In it author Damon Linker quoted a post by another writer (is this getting confusing or merely complicated?) who wrote that writing books should no longer take as long, since authors no longer need to go to the library and hunt through microfiche and encyclopedias, or tromp down to the police station, or take day trips in order to interview and research. With the internet, it's now all at our fingertips. With a few clicks of a button, all that great research can be ours for the taking, in very little time.

    The idea, I believe, is that the greater part of writing a novel is the research that goes behind it. As the writer said: Klein’s statement implies that the only thing that might keep a writer from producing a book in a couple of months is the time it takes to conduct research. As if writing were a process of compiling and arranging lists of facts and figures.

    Of course, not all novels require heavy research. But there's a host of other things that can slow a writer down. Imagination. Creativity. Uniqueness. Voice. Character. Plot.  Language.

     In rushing a manuscript to press, are we putting the writing secondary to the typing?

    Certainly a book can be written quickly and then scrubbed to a sparkling sheen in the editing process if the author and the publisher are able to put aside ego and flashing dollar signs. The problem, I think, comes when authors and publishers don't take the time to polish. Not just the happy-to-glad kind of editing but the digging into the real guts of the story kind of editing... the turning the typing into writing.

    I'm convinced a good book takes time - if not at the beginning (research) or in the middle (the writing) then at the end (the editing). In that case, it's not really a matter of whether the rabbit or the turtle crosses first. In a really good race, they'd each have their moments of being fast, but they'd cross the finish line together.

    So where do you spend most of your writing time: research, writing, or editing?

    And do you think it's possible to write a stellar book in three weeks? Any authors you know of that turn out three books a year that are quality books?

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

    Well, it's Friday again and I find myself in the same place as last week - having spent an entire week nursing another child with the flu. I'm typically selfish with my time, but I'd be lying to say it hasn't been a little nice getting to spend a lot of concentrated time with one kid at a time. I spent the majority of the day Thursday playing Old Maid, Crazy 8s, Concentration, and Go Fish, and reading a stack of amazing children's books, and the rest of the time just holding my daughter as we watched her favorite movies.

    Life gets busy. I get busy. And distracted. But when my kids are sick, the world stops a little bit. and I get to do nothing but love them. And that's not an entirely bad thing.

    My good things today are few but huge.

    1. I decided I couldn't split my day between marketing and writing. The writing always lost out. And the marketing was getting frustrating beyond belief. Not so much frustrating, even, as just heartbreaking. And totally time consuming.

    So my husband suggested I designate certain days as just marketing days, and others as just writing. And I did that. Wednesday was JUST WRITING. And I loved it so much, I made Thursday a writing day too. And after some days of heartache, I got back to what I really loved.

    I didn't write thousands upon thousands of words. But I wrote. And I'm loving what I write. And I love writing. I love my new book - or the idea of what I want that book to be. I love the potential it has. It seems like a long time since I've looked at something I'm writing as something with a future - something that holds great dreams and hopes.

    Writing? a good thing.
    Making some boundaries on my time? a good thing.
    Writing groups who listen when I come crying? definitely great things!
    My husband? an awesome thing!

    2. The goldfish... well, one has died. It lasted nearly 2 and a half weeks. That's two and a half weeks longer than I expected. But I worried for my daughter, who loved those cheap pets like they were her new babies.

    But as we as a family stood solemnly over the toilet, Gilligan motionless in the tiny net waiting for his burial, and as we tried to all say something nice about him ("you were really pretty, Gilligan, until you were floating sideways on the bottom not breathing...then you looked kinda gross..."), I looked at my daughter -who was tearless - and realized that in life and goldfish, - like queries and agents and publishers and cover blurbs - sometimes one is all you need.

    I'm always so encouraged by y'all's good things too, so if you think of one or two this week, leave it in the comment section. We can all be thankful together!

    Have a great Friday, and a great weekend! See ya back here on Monday!

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    My Love Affair With Present Tense

    I have a terrible admission to make.

    I sat to write today and realized I have lost the ability to write in the past tense.

    It's true. I don't know how it happened. For my entire life I'd only written in past tense, but when I wrote Some Kind of Normal, it came out in first person present. Scary stuff. Really, it was. I'd never done that before, and when it came out like that I kind of went, Woa! What's this??

    But then I grew into it. And now I'm addicted to it. When I went through my novel-of-the-day last winter trying to find the new book in me, every one ended up in first person present. And, now that I think about it, most of the blog writing is that way too. So the past tense sort of grew out of me.

    But I'm working on something now in which I've decided part of it needs to be first person present and part is in first person past. (I know, I know! Suicide! Don't even try to talk me out of it though...I'm still early into it and think it's going to be brilliant...)

    Today my writing kept slipping into present tense, and when I tried to go back and put it into past tense, I couldn't. Literally, I looked at the words on the page and thought, how the heck do I change this? I added a few "-ed"s to the ends of some verbs, changed a hang to hung... but not all of it was that simple. Some of it I really didn't know how to change. I'd look at a sentence and wonder, "Is that pure present tense, or is that how you'd write it in past tense, too?"

    So here is one of the paragraphs I wrote today that I struggled with:

    Kristin sprawled out across my bed upside down, her feet hanging off one side and her head off the other, not caring that her shirt was riding up and showing off the belly button ring her mom didn’t even know she had. I tried not to stare at it, but that was really hard. It’s a fake diamond and it caught the light and bounced it off the ceiling, and I tried to follow the sparkle instead of staring at her bare stomach. It’s flat. I wished mine were that flat. I put my hand on my flabby abdomen and pressed it in.

    The part that hung me up? "It's a fake diamond." That apostrophe s stands for "is": present tense. But can you say, "It was a fake diamond"? Same with "It's flat." And if you say "was," look at all the was's in that paragraph!

    I think I really hate the word was. I love the word is. It feels active. And you can contract it. Was feels... boring.

    Sadly, that isn't even the worst of my dilemmas. Some sentences I totally deleted - perfectly good sentences that I really liked - because I had no idea how to make them mean the same thing in past tense.

    Sigh. I guess that's what editing is for.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Rotisserie, Anyone?

    Today I received an email from a writing partner on the cusp of querying. She asked the question so many authors find themselves asking: "Where does this book fit in?" She didn't mean in the larger scope of life, or on some metaphysical or metaphorical level. She meant, "what bookshelf would a bookstore put this on?"

    Sometimes authors and books fit neatly somewhere. Some books are very clearly romance, or historical fiction, or young adult.

    But some are not so clearly defined. There are historical aspects, but it's a mystery, too. It's romance, but set in an urban fantasy theme. Or, in the case of my friend, its protagonist is a teen, but the topic is very adult and the story takes place in the 1980s. It's easy to say it's a YA with crossover appeal, but when querying it becomes more important to figure out exactly where it fits best, so she can target agents better. And that distinction between YA and adult is more important to make in a query than, say, a book that could be literary or woman's fiction.

    I've read agents say they don't care. Just call it a novel and let the publisher figure out where they want it shelved. The problem I am having is that my publisher wants me to tell them where to shelve it. I've flip-flopped on this book. I pawned it as commercial fiction, then agents said it was women's fiction. Then agents told me it was more literary. Then I was told it was Christian fiction. No one knows what to do with this book, and I've let everyone pull me around, even into the Christian fiction category, which was never my intention.

    Don't get me wrong. I don't have any problems being a Christian. My identity as a person is a Christian. I am proud of my faith.  I don't even have problems with Christian fiction. It's just not where I feel like I should be. Or where this book should be.

    I've gone back and forth on this so much if there were a fire beneath me I'd be fully rotisserized by now. I've really tried to embrace that label. It just won't stick.

    It's hard to explain why. I've been trying to figure it out myself, and couldn't come up with much other than "It just doesn't feel like where I should be."

    Today I realized part of why. I didn't set out to write a book about faith. My book isn't about faith. My book is about people in crisis; people who happen to be church-going folks who wrestle with what to believe in that crisis. And I believe a lot of people - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheists - all wrestle with some of those same questions.

    And then I looked around at some of the top fiction sellers over the past years and I noticed something. There are a fair number in which other religions hold a place in the book. Where other religions even drive the story. Particularly Middle Eastern faiths and settings and characters are very popular right now.

    And I found myself asking, why aren't those on the faith-fiction shelf? Why is it okay for them to revolve around religion and still be categorized as literary fiction, and mine, in which faith is part of the fabric of the characters' lives but not part of the punchline of the book, cannot be?

    I've looked at my obligation to shelf my book myself as a frustration. Why won't my publisher just tell me the answer?? I know they think it should be here, so I guess I have to put it here.

    And then I realized today, in a flash of much-belated brilliance, that they have given me the gift no other publisher would give me. The gift of whatever shelf I want. All the readers who have come before and tried to label my book no longer matter. All that matters is where I think it should be.

    What a freeing gift that is!

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Kreativ Blog Awards

    Holy Guacamole, folks! Brit over at Dream the Dream nominated me all the way back in August for this award!! I think this should officially now be renamed the procrastinator's blogger award!

    In fact, I think I'll start one of those.... later.

    So here it is. If I were you I'd just skip down to the awesome awardees, because I've found some really cool new bloggers I'd love to introduce you to. But if you insist on order, here is the mandatory stuff first:

    Kreativ Blogger Award

    1. Thank the person that who nominated you for this award.
    2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
    3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
    4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
    5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
    6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominated.
    7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they were nominated.

    1. Thank you Brit!  You're the best! I am - every single day - thankful we met at that cruddy, awful, mind-bogglingly terrible writing group - and that we survived together! And not just because you are an awesome writer and great crit partner, but because you are just a fantastic person. And you have a really cool accent.  :)

    2. Logo copied. Check.

    3. Brit linked. Here it is again if you need it.

    4. Seven things about me that you might find interesting:

    • My feet get claustrophobic. It happens randomly and without warning. One minute I'm fine and the next I feel like I'll have to claw my feet off if I can't get the shoes off fast enough. My heartrate goes up, I hyperventilate. I feel like I'm going to explode. Once the shoes are off, I'm fine. Bet you're so glad I told you that.  :)
    • I tend to write without contractions. I have no idea why this is. Then I have to go back and contract it all to make sure I don't sound like some formal, stuffy buffoon. Except the word y'all. I'm pretty good at that one the first time around.
    • I can't twitter because I can't write under 140 characters. I'm way wordy. I'm sure you've noticed that, though, so maybe that wasn't very enlightening...
    • I have to chew on a pen while writing. I think this started in middle school, when I used to chew the pen caps down to the nubs. Now I still stick a pen in my mouth when I'm typing on the computer.
    • I didn't drink coffee at all until I was 38. Now it's the reason I get out of bed.
    • I nearly drowned in a whitewater rafting accident when I was 13.
    • I am an expert at catching lizards that get into our house. Really. They're like lightening fast and I'm the only one who can catch them. I'm very proud of this. And it may seem like a useless talent until you are trying to go to bed and you know there is a lizard running around your room somewhere.

    So there you have it. Were you interested?

    Moving on...

    5 and 6:  Seven bloggers...

    I'm picking these people because I haven't chosen them for any other awards, and because I think it's possible they might be new bloggers to some of you. Some of them, anyways. Of course, some of them might be you, so you'd know them. because they're you and all............. anyway...

    Louder than Noise: I love Jessie's blog title, but I love reading her blog more! I have no idea how she found me, but I'm glad she did. She's a writer, a mom, a fellow life-juggler, and always an encourager. If you haven't met her, you should!

    Kristi Faith: a new friend in the blogosphere as well, and a fellow writer. She writes practically and eloquently of life as mother, wife, and writer. And she has the nicest things to say when she leaves comments. I'm looking forward to following her progress in NaNo!

    MeganRebekah: I'm embarrassed to say I don't know if Megan is just Megan whose last name is Rebekah, or whose middle name is Rebekah, or who goes by the all smooshed into one first name of MeganRebekah. Should I keep addressing her as MeganRebekah or just Megan? These are the kinds of things you just can't know by only reading a blog. I'll have to ask. In any case, I love her blog. She's really fun. And creative. And is writing what looks like an amazing book.

    K. M. Weiland: her second book was just published, and I love that she is as excited about it as if it were her first! Her blog is chock full of really great writing hints, tips, advice, musings, and the journey. Her blogroll itself is something I could spent hours perusing!

    Caroline by line: I have no idea how I found Caroline, but it was off someone else's blog who quite possibly mentioned her in relation to this very award, and commented on the great blog title, to which I echo: how awesome is that blog title???  AND - it turns out she's a pretty fun blog writer to read, too! This week? She turned her closet into a writing office. It's so cool! Go check it out!

    My Friend Amy: Amy's blog was one of the ones I found when I was hunting down bloggers who do book reviews. My first impression was how much I loved the look of the blog. Then I read it, and now I keep going back because of the content. Lots of great book reviews. I have no idea how she gets so much reading done! She's a Christian, and though not all of the books she reviews are Christian, many are reviewed through the eyes of being a Christian. The downside is now I have to find time and money for all these new books on my to-read list!!

    Watch the Book: I have no idea who runs this blog, but it's an incredible collection of book trailers...a new one every day. Hoping to get mine in there one of these days, but for now, it feeds my obsession of finding new ones!

    Phew!  Okay - off to let them know.  If you have time, go visit too!