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.


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!

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

It's Friday again. How did that happen so fast? One of my daughters caught the flu this week and for four days I've been a recluse tied to my own home. You'd think with that kind of couch-time, I'd have made huge progress on writing.... or on something. Anything, really.

But not so much, as it turns out.

And because I was pretty much a captive in my own basement, I don't even have anything interesting to report unless you'd like the milk and bread supply update (running very low) or a follow-up on the goldfish (still alive! two weeks!).

In fact, the highlight of the week was the fact that the weather suddenly turned from balmy fall to mid-winter overnight, and I got to use the bun-warmers in the car. Of course, the only time I was in the car was driving my other two kids to the bus-stop, which isn't far enough away to even get the bun warmers warm, but still... it's the idea of it.

But home-bound or not, it's still Friday, and it's time to reflect on what is good.

1. I updated my website to include a form for people to request to be notified when my book becomes available, and I've already gotten more than a handful of responses! And they weren't even family! In fact, some of them I don't even know!  So cool!

2. I'm thankful I'm not sick. In fact, so far I'm pretty healthy. Which is something considering how many flu germs must be floating in the air around me. (I admit I feel a bit like the goldfish in this manner... I'll hold out full-on cheering until another week has past and I'm still well)

3. Sweatshirts. I know it must seem like I'm reaching here, but it's sweatshirt weather, and the minute I slipped it on this week I thought, "Is there anything more comfortable than this??" The answer, of course, is no.

4. Ross the Intern on Jay Leno. If you live out of the country, my apologies on the cultural references, as well as my deepest regrets on your loss. Ross is hilarious...and never fails to make me laugh, and just feel happy.

5. Bloggers. Y'all are awesome. Yesterday Kristi asked if she could pass on my trailer on facebook or her blog, and then Kimberly went and posted it on hers!! Way to spread the word, guys!!   If any of the rest of you want to help and post the link to the trailer (or my website) on your facebook or Twitter or MySpace (or whatever social network you use), that would be fantastic!  This is the link to copy and paste:

6. On the note of awesome bloggers, several of you have given me awards lately and I've been terrible at paying it forward. Thank you, especially Shelli and Brit... I have a post to pass the awards on set for Monday.

7. My son chose to play percussion in band this year. I actually like listening to him practice. It brings back great memories of high school football games.

8. I've been wrestling for a long time now with how to get several blurbs for my books before the book comes out without having the book to send to the authors in question. (NorLights doesn't do ARCs... they do galleys but the process is pretty fast - too fast to forward it to authors and wait around for them to read it and decide if they want to praise it or not).  I don't want to send a .doc of the book - that seems terribly unprofessional!  In talking it over with someone yesterday (thanks mom!!) I realized the perfect solution!  Yay! Now I can get at that!

9. Jen is having a baby. It's so exciting! Even for me just to experience second-hand. I can't wait to pick out clothes for the baby, and see pics and get to hear every detail! If you get a chance and you haven't already, go say congrats to her. And read her baby posts on Thursdays. They're awesome!

So help me out. Tell me one great thing from this week. And then go have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Querying Vs. Marketing: Tomaytoes, Tomahtoes

Twelve months ago, almost to the day, I started querying agents with my novel. Today, I spent the majority of the day working on marketing. The similarities are eerie. So here is my take on the two, side by side.

The Query Process: starting out SUPER excited!! I'm gonna get me a fantabulous agent!
The Marketing Process: starting out SUPER excited!! I'm gonna sell me a million books!

The Query Process: realizing  quickly, holy smokes, I don't know a thing about this!
The Marketing Process: realizing quickly, holy smokes, I don't know a thing about this!

The Query Process: sorting through a gazillion websites and blogs on how to write the perfect query to entice agents into thinking I have a book they need to read
The Marketing Process: sorting through a gazillion websites and blogs on how to get word out that I  have a book they need to buy

The Query Process: accumulating a list of a hundred agents perfect for me
The Marketing Process: accumulating a list of a hundred reviewers perfect for the book

The Query Process: writing the perfect query letter; tearing it up and starting over with a more perfect query letter
The Marketing Process: writing a perfect plan, then adding to it obsessively with new plans

The Query Process: motrin
The Marketing  Process: motrin

The Query Process: worrying no agents will want me
The Marketing Process: worrying no reader will want the book

The Query Process: rejections from agents
The Marketing Process: rejections from reviewers

The Query Process: compulsively checking QueryTracker for agent updates
The Marketing Process: compulsively checking YouTube for new book trailers

The Query Process: blogging nonstop about it until blog readers' ears bleed
The Marketing Process: blogging nonstop about it until blog readers' ears bleed

The Query Process: dreaming about book covers and doodling author bio
The Marketing Process: sweating over book covers and crying over author bio

The Query Process: dreaming of interviews and media spots
The Marketing Process: struggling to find 2 people/newpapers/blogs/TV/radio shows to even ask

The Query Process: worrying everyone else has a better query
The Marketing Process: worrying everyone else has a better book

The Query Process: summing up the book in a 5 sentence pitch
The Marketing Process: summing up the book in a one sentence book trailer

The Query Process: having people constantly asking me, "So, when's you're book coming out?" and having to explain how long the process is
The Marketing Process: having people constantly asking me, "So when's you're book coming out?" and getting to say, "Soon. Do you want to be on the mailing list?"

The Query Process: sanity saved by people who have read the book and believe in it - and me.
The Marketing Process: saved by people who have read the book and believe in it - and me

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh Brave Souls!

Nathan Bransford is having his annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge this week. The first time I checked in with it, there were 413 entries. I stopped checking when it hit the 800s. That is a heck of a lot of author-want-to-bes!!

I didn't even feel the inkling to enter, but I remember last year thinking about it. It's possible I entered... isn't that sad that I don't remember? Obviously I didn't win.

(But I ended up with a publisher, so I sort of won, right?)

I looked through the first few pages of entries today and noticed a few things.

One, I think the quality of writing is going up. I didn't see a whole lot of paragraphs that screamed, "This person has no business trying to string words together!!"  Truly, I have seen those before. It's like those chicks with no rhythm getting out on the dance floor for Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader tryouts. Some people are polished, some are raw talent, and some... well, you can tell right off the bat that training is just not going to ever be enough.

I didn't see much of that this year, but neither did I see anything that stuck out boldly as fantastic either. Crime novelists try to get as much blood and gross-out in the opening paragraph as they can, romance writers start of with an explicit encounter, YA folks start with kids on the run from something, or away from someone. It's almost as though everyone is trying so hard to grab the attention that they all look enough alike NOT to grab my attention.

I could not be an agent. I could not be Nathan or run this kind of contest. My eyes glaze over quickly as I look through the list. I think I'm reading, then realize I've gone past 40 entries and have no idea what I've read. I don't think that's really a reflection necessarily on the quality of the writing, but on the quantity. There is just so much to read.

And maybe part of it is that I never have that one fantastic first sentence, or first paragraph. I read lots of books where the first sentence or paragraph are not the things that hook me.  Sure, if it's written badly I might put the book down, but if nothing screams awful, I'll probably get past the first few pages to see if there's anything there.

So tell me, how important do you think that first paragraph is? What makes a great opening? And did you enter the contest? If so, leave your number entry in the comment section so I can sneak over and peak at it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Not Just Sci-Fi Anymore

This is amazing!!  There was a story on ABC news tonight about a boy named Brad Guilkey who was born without any cheekbones who, though the miracle of science and his own stem cells, was able to grow new ones.

Did you read that?? He had no bones...then, at age 15, doctors engineered his own stem cells to grow bones in his face!!

This is like Harry Potter, only so much better! Because it's real! Because it's yet one more way that adult stem cells are changing the entire future of so many people!!

Some of you are nodding your heads and saying, "Yeah, yeah, we know, Heidi. You've told us this before," and others of you are scratching your heads and checking the blog address and wondering how a fiction writer got to blogging about stem cells.

But this is why: my book, the one coming out soon, is about this very thing. About the nearly science fiction idea of taking our own stem cells to cure the incurable.

I didn't start off my writing career with any idea that I'd end up writing a medical book and become fascinated - passionate really - about stem cells. I started with the idea of a family and a dying daughter. It was research - asking the questions that needed to be asked and answered by the main characters, and then looking for those answers - that led me to adult stem cell research.

I don't plan on having any more stem cell plot lines in future books, but I do intend on keeping up with the medical advances, and not just because it could someday cure me of my own diabetes, but because it's a modern day miracle. A boy's heart was basically regrown after being shot with a nail gun. Pancreatic beta cells are being regrown. I'm not exaggerating in the least when I say the blind are seeing, the lame are walking, and the sick are being cured.

Because of this passion, my crit partner Erin suggested I add a page to my website with links to new developments in diabetes and stem cell research. And so the website is updated.

If you are a writer, has writing ever taken you in to a place you didn't expect to be? Has it ever opened a door to something in real life you never thought you'd be a part of?

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

Yesterday was not a good day. Today has not started any better. Worse, actually, because I woke up with my blood sugar in the 50s (no reason I can think of - it was fine when I went to bed) and so I woke up sick to my stomach and light headed and dizzy and shakey, and despite the fact that I should be better by now, I still just feel eh. And I have 20 hours worth of work to cram into 4.

So who out there feels like hearing me complain?

See? I don't notice any hands being raised out there in the blogosphere. Which is what I was thinking to myself driving to run an errand I didn't want to run this morning. I'm getting sick of hearing myself complain in my own head!

And somewhere, out of nowhere, I began thinking of the Bible verse, "Sing a new song to the Lord."

I haven't read that verse recently. I don't know a song with those words to get it stuck in my head. And I didn't feel like singing. I wasn't even singing to begin with, so how could I sing a new song?

And then it occurred to me all my whining and complaining - even if only to myself - is like a song. A cruddy, whiny, out of tune horrid song. And what I need to sing is a new one.

So good thing it's Friday here, and time for a little gratitude attitude adjustment. Because just because my stomach and head feel awful, doesn't mean my spirit needs to feel bad, too.

So today it's Friday, and here are a few of the good things from this week:

1. I'm thankful my marketing plan is done (for now), and that it's something I'm reasonably proud of, and something that, once I did it and saw it all written down on paper, I realized is actually achievable. All the pressure I've felt for months about figuring out how to get the word out on my book seems suddenly manageable.

2. I'm thankful I have a publisher that calls personally to ask if I need any help with the marketing plan, and ask if I have any questions.

3. I'm thankful our goldfish are still alive. Last week my daughter was gifted 2 goldfish, which she adores with a passion that should be reserved for something great - like a labrador. But she checks on these fish constantly. She'd sleep with them if she could. But we have what we call fondly "3rd world water," It's from a well. It's slightly yellow due to iron. And it kills fish. Fast. I live in constant fear that when she is at school and I am responsible for the fish, they are going to die on my watch, and I'm going to find them floating belly up and have to perform CPR on them. But so far... they're alive. So daughter is happy. And I am happy. Alive goldfish are a very good thing!

4. I am so thankful for my husband's creativity. This weekend is my son's birthday bash, and last night we found out that our plans for the party had imploded (we were going glow-in-the-dark-haunted-mini-golfing, and the mini-golf placed inexplicably closed this week!). Terrific dad that he is, my husband came up with an awesome plan for a night mission through our wooded acres which my son is actually more excited about than golf. And there will be a bonfire, and "I survived the night mission" t-shirts, and he's going to run it all. So dads that save the day (or the night) are great things!

5. I'm thankful for people who are nice. Let's face it, there are the other kind out there. But sometimes I think it just makes me appreciate all those really, really nice people.

6. Spiral notebooks and ballpoint pens. I'm rediscovering the miracle that is writing on paper.

7. Sleep. Okay - I haven't seen a lot of that, lately, but it just makes me appreciate it even more. Sleep, and warm beds, and comfortable pillows, and curling up under piles of blankets when it's cool outside.

8. Being cool outside. I love the fall.

9. People who understand that not everyone thinks alike, and are okay with that. There are lots of opinions in the world, and I appreciate those people who don't have to have you agree with everything they believe to still appreciate you. Along with that, people who can see things from different points of view, even if they don't agree. And along with that, people who are kind to others, and about others, no matter what the conversation is about.

10. All my stuff. Even when it doesn't feel like enough. Because it is. I sat at a light this morning moaning to myself about how cruddy I felt and all that I needed to do today (this was before the new song idea), and then I saw a homeless person on the corner with a sign asking for change. And I thought about the warm clothes I had on and the cup of coffee in my cupholder and the van that I was sitting in and the music on the radio and the completely superfluous bag of glow sticks on the seat next to me...suddenly I didn't feel so cruddy. Guilty, maybe, but not cruddy.

So what are you thankful for today?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Marketing 101 from an Amateur

I keep thinking it will all stop spinning soon. All of it. Life.

I think I have motion sickness.

Some weeks are like that, you know? It's the whole, when it rains, it pours thing. I thought when the blog was changed, when the trailer was done, when the website was up, things would get simpler. Who was I kidding? It's never like that!

I got big news from my publisher this week... news that involves quickly writing up a convincing and thorough marketing plan by tomorrow.

Can you say panic?

It's not because I have a small publisher that I have to do this, either. I mean, I don't know - those of you being published by big powerhouses, please chime in!! But today I felt really relieved when I read this excellent post over at BookEnds. Everything Jessica says a publisher should do, mine does.

But there are limits to what a publisher can do. A publisher doesn't know the ten little newspapers in my area that would love to print an article about a local author. They don't know the 20 blogs I follow that would gladly do interviews or reviews of my book. They don't know a list of exactly the right people - who I actually have real relationships with - that can blurb my book.

So in the end, they'll send out books and press kits and one-sheets and arrange signings, but I have to do the leg work. Honestly, I can't imagine how it could be any different.

But man, it's a lot of work.

So here is how I have it broken down:

  • Possible Interviews
  • Social Networking (blog, website, Twitter, Facebook)
  • Book Review Possibilities (including bloggers)
  • Organizations that might be interested in plugging it
  • Contacts who might blurb or help promote
  • Bookstores or other signing opportunities
  • Local Newspapers, radio, and TV

Hopefully this is enough to get started.  The greatest part of all of the research is that I've discovered a bunch of very, very cool review blogs, which I'll try to share later. Even if they don't review my book, I'll find some great reading material from them!

So, what did I miss? Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Websites, Trailers, and Blogs, Oh My!

Well, I think it's finally all coming together.

I have a website! It's

I've become a dot com! It's very strange to type that without adding the blogspot in there! My fingers are very conditioned!

As you can tell, the blog is still here, though, and it has a new look: a little streamlined to match the new website. I think I really like it, although there is one kink I haven't worked out, so we'll see if it all sticks!

It's amazing how difficult all this technical stuff is for me. Not necessarily the doing of it, but the choosing of it. I have as hard a time defining my blog/web look as I do defining my writing.

But now it's done, and I can finally breathe again. And get something else done!

Oh! And I have a trailer now!! It's on the website as well as right there, on the side of the blog!

Does it ever get old to hear me say, I can't believe this is really happening!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Letter From Oprah

I got it. Yesterday. In a chunk of mail I plunked on the counter. There it was peeking out - the big purple curly O, her name and address beneath it.

And for a second - okay, maybe even two seconds - my heart literally felt like it stopped. She wants my book, I thought.

Admit it - when you read the title and first line of this post you thought so, too. Even though all rationality would tell you otherwise. Even though my book isn't even out on store shelves yet. Even though I wrote her a beautiful, heart-wrenching letter why she should read and consider blurbing my book - and then never sent it.

It's the same irrationality that made my heart leap when the phone rang two seconds after sending a query... The agent wants my book!!

You know it can't be. And yet.... and yet....

The dream is still there. Even when you bury it under all that pessimism and cynicism and, face it, reality. Even so.... there is the dream. And this tiny piece of you that still believes it's possible.

The letter? An offer for a subscription to O magazine "at an unbelievably low price."

I'm keeping that form letter in a place I can see it when I write, to remind me... there is still a part of me that believes my wildest dreams can come true.