Thursday, May 28, 2009

Illusions Mini Excerpt

It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. It hurt to think about breathing or moving.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good To Know You

Visit Give a Girl a Pen to see my Good To Know You post. Please join in the discussion.

Monday, May 25, 2009

You Have Hobbies?

I enjoy expressing my creativity through writing. I love putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, not quite knowing what will come out. The story I thought I'd write may suddenly twist on me, challenging me to rethink my characters.

But writing is not the only thing I enjoy doing. I have hobbies *shocked gasp*. And when I feel I have no more creativity within me, I'll turn to digital scrapbooking. After a couple days of scrapbooking, I find myself rejuvenated to continue with my WIP.

I think it's important to take time for your hobbies. You might end up incorporating them into your novel (so don't feel guilty). And you might end up trying new hobbies because of your characters.

But even if you don't ever use them in your book- it's still important to flex those creative skills in a different way, and let your WIP simmer.

What hobbies do you enjoy? How has it affected your writing?

Friday, May 22, 2009

First Ever Contest Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered into my First Ever Contest. I had a blast reading your posts and I got some new blog readers. Welcome to the cult, newbies! :)

The winner of my First Ever Contest is:

Karen Amanda Hooper

Congratulations! Please email me at to give me your address so I can mail our your gift card.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Ever Contest Reminder

A quick reminder that the First Ever Contest deadline is tonight. The drawing is for a $10 Target gift card.

Illusions Mini Excerpt

Silence hit. The silence of quickened heartbeats and ragged breaths.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Days in May

Wow. I just read about another fabulous writer landing an agent. Tess Hilmo has signed with The Chudney Agency. Tess is super special to me since she was the first not-already-a-friend follower of this blog.

Huge congrats, Tess! I am super excited for you.

So who's next? May seems to be the month for great things to happen.

Good To Know You

Visit Give a Girl a Pen to see my Good To Know You post. Please join in the discussion.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Congrats to Jody!

Did everyone see Jody Hedlund's post? I love hearing about writers getting an agent. Talk about giving back some energy. Congratulations, Jody!

Energy Vampires

I'm not talking about your DVR spiking up your electricity bill in the middle of the night.

I'm talking about those people that make you feel like you've gone through a meat grinder after a five-minute conversation. They bare their teeth and suck the energy right out of you with their negativity, or their narcissism, or their obliviousness. Or all three.

So what do you do? How do you cope? I mean, other than carrying around massive amounts of chocolate (because chocolate really does make everything better...until you step on the scale).

No, really- I want to know. How do you handle your energy vampires?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Speaking of Contests

Did you see the love scene contest at Give a Girl a Pen? It ends Saturday 5/23/09. I'm really jazzed about this one because I enjoy that moment when a character realizes they are in love...whether they want to be or not.

Good luck!

First Ever Contest

That's right- first ever contest. There will never be another first ever contest...ever again.

No, the next contest will be the second ever contest. And so on and so forth until I no longer have contests because I ran out of fingers and toes...and blog followers with patience for my ramblings.

I realized that Friday will be my blog's one month mark. So I decided to celebrate my achievement of blogging what I consider regularly for one month. As of the time I'm writing this post, I have exactly 25 followers. I don't consider that a bad following. Not enough to start my own cult yet...but I'm working on it. :)

So, says you, how do I enter this first ever contest?

Well, says I, you just need to mention my blog on your own blog (preferably saying good things...but it's not a requirement). Then note in this post's comment box that you did so by Thursday 5/21/09 at 5:00 Pacific Time. No, I am not going to check your blogs (though I already do on a regular basis (i.e. daily, or semi-daily) (you didn't expect to see so many parantheses in one sentence did you?)) but I know we are all honest writers here. I will then do a random drawing for one lucky winner.

So, says you, what is the prize?

Well, says I, I originally thought of sending you some Nora Roberts books. But not everyone loves her the way I currently do, and it would cost a ton to ship. So, to your utter relief, the prize is a $10.00 Target gift card. If you win and do not have a Target nearby, I will change it to a store or website of your choice (within reason- I'm not driving 30 miles to get you a card so you don't have to drive 30 miles to use it- yeah, I'm not nice). Oh, and limited to the US because I don't know how to ship international...yeah, I'm that bad- I don't even know where the post office is around here.

So for those of you skipping to the end of this post, here's the nitty-gritty:

First ever contest- ends Thursday 5/21/09
Post on your blog (or twitter) linking back here
Comment on this post letting me know you did it
Drawing Prize: $10 Target Gift Card

Friday, May 15, 2009

You Let the Breeezy Take the Whip to Cali?

Yep. I said, "You let the Breezy take the whip to Cali?"

Do you have no clue as to what I'm saying? Neither did I until I started a training class on Monday. In case my previous post didn't give it away- I work for a bank. We aren't allowed to use bank jargon with customers. It's like speaking a foreign language.

And the same thing applies to our readers.

References: If you are writing a young adult novel (which I am) don't you dare mention Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, or Elizabeth Taylor. Yes- they may be readily identifiable to you, but not so much to your teenage reader. Try Megan Fox, Vanessa Hudgens, or Rihanna instead.

Slang: One of the other supervisors says the best phrases. I've decided to follow him around and write down everything he says to use for one of my characters. He proudly declares himself a redneck and that is exactly what I want. So he says things like, "Happier than a frog in rain" or "Hammered dung". Something totally appropriate to that specific character. But I wouldn't have my MC say "swell" or "shucks" because it's not the language her age group speaks.

Oh, and "You let the Breezy take the whip to Cali?" means "You let your girlfriend take the car to California?" Yeah- I've got a lot of learning to do on what's hip.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Illusions Mini Excerpt

Kate closed the door and leaned against it. After a brief debate between an arctic shower and a warm bed, she headed for her room. Drooping eyes won out over sweaty stench.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Good To Know You

Visit Give a Girl a Pen to see my Good To Know You post. Please join in the discussion.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Setting Effective Goals

There are a lot of amazing writers generously offering to share their work experience and training- for free. I'm thinking of Archetype, H.L. Dyer, and Where Romance Meets Therapy to name a few.

I started thinking about how fabulous these bloggers are for doing this. Which got me wishing I had a job cool enough to share my training and experience with all of you. Working for a bank for 10 years just does not give you the cool factor that being a therapist does. I mean, want to know about simple interest loans, credit agencies, or fraud rings and I'm your gal...but who really needs or wants to hear about that? But then I decided that I have learned a few things worthy of sharing.

So I'm going to blog about what I learned from my years of management, customer service, fraud, and collection training.

Career Development
Career development is part of the reason we want an agent. They'll coach us to move from aspiring to published authors, from mid-list to NYT Bestsellers.

In my world- Career Development is the best part of my job. Hand and hand with career development is setting goals. A lot of time goal setting sounds like this:


Get published

Actions Needed:

Finish novel

Improve writing skills

Network with writers and agents

A solid start. But still not as powerful as you can be. What about this?


Get published

Action Needed:

Finish novel

1. Write 80,000 word novel

2. Create interesting characters

3. Edit novel

Improve writing skills

1. Decrease use of passive voice

2. Balance dialogue, description, and narration

Network with writers and agents

1. Create and maintain blog

2. Comment on agent blogs

Even better, right? But how are you going to know when you succeed in reaching these goals?

Get published

Action Needed:

Finish novel

1. Write 80,000 word novel

Plan: Write for 2 hours daily

Tracking: Novel completed

2. Create interesting characters

Plan: Create character sheets to keep character traits and flaws consistent

Tracking: Feedback from Beta Readers

3. Edit Novel

Plan: Send to beta readers for feedback

Tracking: Positive feedback with no recommendations for improvement.

Improve writing skills

1. Decrease use of passive voice

Plan: Search within Word shows few uses of was, is, am.

Tracking: Only conscious use of passive voice

2. Balance dialogue, description, and narration

Plan: Highlight dialogue, description, and narration with different colored

Tracking: No page is marked with all of one color.

Network with writers and agents

1. Create and maintain blog

Plan: Write 3 posts every Saturday and schedule them to publish the following week.

Tracking: Number of posts actually posted per week.

2. Comment on agent blogs

Plan: Read and Comment on (Specific Agent Name) that represents my genre 4 days per week.

Tracking: Number of comments actually posted per week.

Do you see how much more manageable each goal and sub-goal is when there's a plan and a method of tracking your progress? It's no longer a matter of getting published. It's about writing on your blog, removing passive voice, and creating character sheets- all much less daunting than just stating you need to finish a novel and find an agent.

By creating a method of tracking- you keep yourself accountable. Did you meet your goals? No? Why not and by how much?

Write down your specific goals and update them regularly (I recommend bi-weekly or monthly). Doing so will help keep you focused on developing yourself into a NYT Bestselling Author.

How do you write and keep your goals? What tricks have you found that helps you
stay focused?

Next Up: Professionalism

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Power of Motherhood

As you can see from my profile picture- I am a new(ish) mother. Just recently, my daughter has started to say "Mommy" with some regularity (though I still claim it as her first word). Yes, whenever the tears start falling and the world as a 15 month old knows has ended she cries Mommy. It's the most potent when she wants her bedtime bottle. She'll look up, reach out both hands and say it over and over while I rush to get the milk warmed.

It's sad, even pathetic, and yet I love hearing those words from her mouth.

Sure, she says Daddy when she's happy. Or silly. Or bored. But when she needs something - she says Mommy.

And I wouldn't change that for anything.

Becoming a mother has made me apppreciate my own so much more. I do my own version of the "look up, reach out, and cry Mommy" and she still makes me feel better. That's the power of motherhood. I don't think it ever goes away.

What do you find most rewarding about being a mother? Or what do you appreciate most about your own mother?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Illusions Mini Excerpt

Tina shook her head. “Give it a week- she’ll be back to princess status.”

"At least demi-god status, or I’ll be quite disappointed in her."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good To Know You

I've copied my Good To Know You post from Give a Girl a Pen. Please join in the discussion there. Thanks!

When I go out to dinner at a restaurant I immediately turn my fork sideways and squint to see if it has straight tines. I mortified my husband when we started dating because I asked the waiter for a new fork. Twice. Now my husband readily trades me forks whenever I ask.

Why am I so obsessed fastidious about my fork?

Growing up, I spent eight years with metal in my mouth. Braces, permanent retainers, jaw enlarging devices. So I refused to eat with a fork that would scrape against these contraptions. The aversion kept with me, even after achieving (nearly) perfect teeth.

What would your character do in a restaurant? And what does that hint about her backstory?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Forget Writer's Block- I've Got Writer's Guilt

I hadn't planned to blog about this, but apparently I needed to get it off my chest. So, read on at your own peril.

My first day at work was today. The alarm went off at an eye-blearing 3:35 AM. I hit snooze a few times and managed to roll out of bed by 4:00. I tossed on the clothes I'd picked up and dashed on a bit of makeup in the relative dark. Luckily, I did not look like a clown when my eyes fully opened. I scrounged in the spare bathroom for some band-aids (in case I got blisters from my newly purchased work shoes) and popped in to glance at my little cutie sprawled in her crib.

I grabbed my fabulous new handbag (it sounds so much nicer than clearance-priced purse) and rushed out the door, only ten minutes later than I wanted to. I walked to my car (note to self- clean out garage) hoping not to get mugged during that 7 step walk. It's never happened, but leaving at 4:27 in the morning does not instill confidence.

A wonderfully rush-hour-free commute and a detour to avoid a house fire (a house fire at 4:45 in the morning is so freaky!!!) brought me to work on time.

Introductions, help-desk calls, and training followed by a quick call to my mom to see how the sweet pea is doing, then back to work. No lunch, because I'd have to take it at 9:00, and who eats lunch at nine? (Maybe I'll pack breakfast for lunch tomorrow)

Then a quick commute home to see my daughter who prefers climbing into grandma's lap. I don't blame her, grandma's only here for two more days and then I'll get replaced in the affection category by my nieces who love to play with her.

So now I'm trying to get in a moment's blog writing, blog reading, and oh yeah- novel writing without feeling too guilty about not seeing the little one for hours today.

I'm one day in and I'm already feeling the mother's guilt I knew I'd have, added with the writing guilt I have for taking fifteen minutes to write this and read a couple blogs. I promised myself I'd read and write after she goes to bed. But then I have to workout, shower, prep for the next 3:30 wake-up call and go to bed within an hour and a half.

I'd appreciate your advice - how do you do it? How do you manage a family, work, and writing without feeling guilty. How do you give each part your all without being torn to do more for another part?

I plan to write on the novel during lunch at work (once the train the newbie phase is over), and hopefully that will ease the guilt a bit. Hopefully.

picture by ecpica

Give A Girl A Pen Contest

Want to know if your chapter ending leaves a reader hanging by their fingernails? Is that last sentence enough to keep them turning the page? Or will they set it down, turn off the lights, and fall asleep?

Picture by Kathy Montgomery

Enter your chapter ending into the Cliffhanger Contest at Give a Girl a Pen. Submissions close on May 10th.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Heart Romance

I'm on a big Nora Roberts kick right now. A year ago, I would've scoffed at reading her books. She was a *gasp* romance writer. And I was a sci-fi/fantasy reader who threw in the occasional thriller.

Then my mother gave me a book she'd bought for a plane ride.That's right, a Nora Robert's book. Since I cannot exist without my nose in a book and I'd just finished reading Ender's Game for the third time last year, I decided to give it a skeptical try. Then fell in love with the plotting, the characters, the emotions. And well, I'm now reading my way through her entire work.

picture by NYC niconian007

Now I'm writing/editing a paranormal romance. Something that fits both of my reading passions- fantasy and romance. I'm certain my novel would be drastically different if I hadn't agreed to read that first Nora Roberts book.

What books or authors have affected your writing? How do you hope your writing will affect others once you're published?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing Groups

I spent time last night with one of my writing critique groups.

Walking in, I felt confident about my chapter (we worked on first chapters). I had edited it several times before and didn't think there was too much more that could be improved on. How very arrogant of me.

We each read our chapters out loud- something I highly recommend doing. That alone helped me catch a lot of crazy stuff that didn't jump off the screen when I'd been editing.

I wrote my character's name three times in three sentences? Did she somehow forget her own name?

I used our instead of their...I instead of she (I originally wrote my ms in first person). How did I miss that?

One of the reasons I love meeting with these women is how they shine a spotlight on my blindspots. Beautifully written (well, in my own opinion) paragraphs needed to be cut because they slowed down the story. Dialogue needed to be inserted instead of narration. A crucial scene of the chapter needed to be expanded with more interaction.

My one year old daughter decided to add her feedback to this page.

But the biggest reason I enjoy my writing critique group is I walk away (often- like last night- much later than planned) excited to get back to writing and editing. To creating and destroying my manuscript.

And that is really the best thing a writing group can do for you.

What has participating in critique groups done for you? Any best practices you'd be willing to share?