Friday, September 30, 2011

Thank You for Being a Friend (and the jeans fit)

Spent the day feeling like a crummy writer and hopeless and worthless and all those "-less" adjectives. Thought about hanging up my laptop. Thought about switching hobbies to ... something else. Maybe housework or weed pulling. (Okay. That's a lie.)


I was scrolling through my blog roll and came across Joyce DiPastena's September Blog hop and noticed she was giving away a copy of my book Delicious Conversation as a prize and she had scores of entries of ladies *wishing* to win that book. They said things in their entries like, "Who wouldn't want to read about romance and chocolate." Et cetera.

And someone called Judy was the winner. Congratulations, Judy! I hope you enjoy the story!

And suddenly the clouds parted and a ray of sunshine shone through.

There are the ups and downs of writing and getting published and being a creative person. (Not that I'd necessarily ever describe myself that way.) It's probably pretty universal to get bummed when in the querying process. Rejection--not that great for the old ego, right? Seriously, I feel really lucky and blessed to have friends who happen to support me just when I find myself getting down.

Now, to return the compliment, I'd be ungrateful if I didn't give a little plug for my friend Joyce's writing. She has a style all her own, in that she writes Medieval Romance. She's a scholar, and the research that goes into her books is exhaustive and you can just feel the love she has for the period and the characters pulsating off the pages she writes. She includes a bibliography at the end of each book of the sources she researched for the story, and the romance is sweet but still compelling. Love it.

Joyce, thank you. You brought me back from the bummers.

I think I'll go have a gummy Vitamin D berry to celebrate. (Since I'm STILL curbing the sugar, if you don't count the three pieces of cinnamon coffee cake I downed yesterday at the family get together. Family get togethers are my nemesis. But my skinny jeans fit. No, they don't get tapered at the ankle, I am talking the JEANS that fit when my weight is DOWN. So, yeah. Back to the gummies!) And if the writing success (or lack thereof) isn't something to smile about, the skinny jeans are.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shame on Me (and fantastic smoothies)

So, I tried to post my last blog to Facebook, but it flagged me. It wouldn't allow me to post because my blog had been determined to be




Therefore, I would like to apologize right now to any readers of this blog if they have been harmed or spammied in any way.
Speaking of Spam, that's good stuff. There's a Hawaiian restaurant in town, Kainoa's, that serves it with rice and barbecue sauce and macaroni salad. They also make the best smoothie EVER. There are 4 or 5 choices of smoothies on the menu, but the one called Kickin' Kaleo is beyond delicious. And possibly sugar free. Okay, not, but I'm telling myself it's fruit.

Meanwhile, I'm querying my fool head off. It's a weird mix of exhilaration and demoralization. Pressing forward.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

E-Publishing! (and a new Pretend Health Food)

It's an e-publishing-palooza here today.

First, I have one of my previously published novels nearly ready to throw onto Amazon for Kindle. Kind of exciting. If anyone out there has an urge to e-publish, but like me thinks oh-my-heck-I-can't-bear-to-go-through-the-ordeal-of-figuring-that-out, whine no more! There's an easy-to-follow method on at the top right of the page: "How to E-Publish."

Yee haw. Check it out.

Also, I have a friend, Anna del C. Dye, who has just made her latest book available as an e-book. Emerine's Nightmare is a children's story--for boys. Boys love fantasy. For years fairies have been girls' territory, but Anna has a fun twist on it, as she said, "to try to fill that void of books for boys in 4th through 7th grades." Emerine is being persecuted by dark fairies. They've killed his parents and now it's his turn.

I think it's great she's writing these books and making them available on e-book format. She's selling it for $3.99 on Amazon and Nook. It's also available as a standard e-book on her website.

As I've spent the week querying agents to go about publishing my stuff the traditional method, I can't help thinking what a great equalizer e-publishing is. It makes for quite the shortcut for us aspiring mainstream novelists. There is a siren song about it I can't help hearing to an extent.

In the meantime, I'm staying the traditional course. To soothe me in my bouts of psychotic email-checking, I've found a new so-called health food: Cherry Craisins.

Forget everything you know about cranberries. This little leathery sweet bite is what every WalMart Fruit Smile wishes it had been born as instead. The Cherry Craisin is a dried cranberry, sure, but it's soaked in cherry juice and turned into fabulous sweet and tangy deliciousness.
Craisins: Cherry Sweetened Dried Cranberries, 6 oz
As Shawn Spencer says on Psych, "Are you a fan of delicious flavor?"

Of course I am, Shawn. And this cherry juice infused craisin is delicious flavor at its pretend healthiest. I think I'll go buy my third bag this week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Genres and Queries and Yogurt, oh my!

I've got two projects ready to query for agents, and it has made me think about the importance of knowing what genre your book is.

There's a tendency among writers to want to write what we want to write, regardless of the readership. And that's great. It's totally fine.

However, if a writer does have the goal of getting published it's important to have the end-product in mind. For publishers, writing is a commodity, and it needs to be marketable. The very first thing a publisher needs to know to evaluate whether the book will work for them is the GENRE.

What is a genre? It's a type. It basically dictates who the audience of the book will be. Here are some examples of fiction genres, with my general assessment of the audience they target:

Picture Books (books with pictures, aimed at kids)
Chapter Books (longer books for young readers)
Middle Grade Fiction (that means for grade schoolers, the protagonist should be age 11)
Young Adult, a.k.a. YA (teen readers, the protagonists should be age 15-16, very little wiggle room there)
Literary Fiction (novels where the internal conflict of the main characters takes center stage)
Commercial Fiction (novels where external conflict for the main characters is most prevalent)
Mystery (self-explanatory)
Thrillers (like Baldacci)
Suspense (like Hitchcock)
Paranormal (ghosts, etc.)
Dystopian (where the world as we know it is broken, like Fahrenheit 451)
Fantasy (where the world-building is a main part of the story, often a quest or epic battle)
Science Fiction (where futuristic technology plays a major role)
Magical Realism (regular world with a dash of magic)
SteamPunk (not quite sure, but often set in the past with current technology involved; is it like Cowboys and Aliens?)
Historical (set in the past, usually educating the reader about the time period)
Romance (where the end isn't a surprise, but the joy is in the journey of girl getting boy)

There are others, and there are sub-genres of these classes as well; for instance, within Mystery, there is a sub-genre called "Cozy Mystery" where the blood isn't too gory, and you can imagine reading this curled up next to a fire with a cup of tea on a rainy day. There are also "Hard Boiled Detective" mysteries, like the Sam Spade stories of Dashiell Hammett. Or you've got "Procedurals" where the emphasis is on the medical evidence. Doesn't Patricia Cornwall write those? They're a little gritty for me and my cotton candy reading taste.

There are also gradations of Romance. Everything from "Sweet," to "Christian," to "Hot," to "NASCAR." The genres of Romance seem almost limitless. And it's a big market.

Okay, now. This morning I sent my first query to an agent. In my letter I noted the genre of my book. In order to even know which agent to query, I needed to know what genre she agented, and what her interests are. It really narrows things down. It's an important step in getting published.

Yeah, I can see how it feels constricting to some of us who would like to think of ourselves as "genre-bending" writers, but the problem with that is that when a reader picks up a book, he or she has a certain expectation and desire to be entertained in a certain way. For instance, some nights I stand in front of the Red Box thinking, "Do I want a comedy or an action movie?" There's an expectation, and it's part of the contract between the reader and the writer, as William Noble said. The deal is, the reader says, "Tell me a story," and the writer does.

Now, onto more important topics. Sometimes I stand in front of the Red Box and realize it's across the street from McDonalds and all I can think is how much I am craving a Fruit and Yogurt Parfait. I love that crunchy granola they put in the packet to keep it crispy and slide the spoon through the little plastic wrapper to keep them together and ready for me to combine and eat. Sometimes the chunks of strawberries are still frozen. I know, I know, some people are haters about The Golden Arches, but don't dis the Yogurt. That stuff is gooood.

Check out the Deliciousness

Monday, September 12, 2011

When is too much too much? (And a new project!)

When is enough enough?

Well, I think I might have hit that limit the other day when a 12 year old kid came up to me in WalMart, took one look at my shopping cart and said, "Whoa. Talk about unhealthy."

Chuh! If he only knew!

To give him credit, he did catch me on a particularly sugar-ified day. Here's a snapshot of some of the items in my cart:

3 boxes of sugar cereal
1 box ice cream sandwiches
1 quart vanilla ice cream
3 boxes of brownies
Reese's Pieces
Gummy Fruit Slices
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 big bag red licorice Nibs
1 package Oreos
1 package oatmeal cookies
1 big bag Smarties
1 box sugar cones
1 box regular ice cream cones
1 box waffle cones
1 box graham crackers
1 box M&Ms
1 package cream filled wafer cookies (the strawberry, chocolate, vanilla kind)
1 bag green apples (not candy)
1 bag green grapes (not candy)
I love the name of the source of this pic: Snack Overload. What else!?

Possibly some other things. I forgot the jelly beans, and WalMart didn't have any spearmint leaf gummy candies. I had to get them at Walgreen's later. And where are the licorice ropes these days?

Was that kid out of line? I keep going over it in my head. How should I have responded? I'm not sure.

Anyway, I wrote a children's book. Well, I rewrote one. I'd written it a few years ago and sent it to a publisher. I got a really nice rejection letter, saying they weren't publishing children's books. One rejection must have been all I could take at the time because I put it away until now.

But last week I dusted it off, gave it a new sheen and am ready to think about shopping it around again. I read it to my daughter's school class today, and they seemed to like it.

Maybe that's because I bribed them with White Chocolate Popcorn first.

I can't really think of a tie between the giant shopping cart full of candy and the new children's book thing. Maybe enough overthinking is enough.

Oh, I guess I'll justify myself here. I bought my daughter a book for her birthday:
No Bake Gingerbread Houses for Kids

It's a perfect food/craft/kid-fun blend. I HAD to get her the ingredients to make the fun, right? I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Dangers of Leaving a Project (and BottleCap Candy)

So, I have this fun little writing project I started about three months ago. I love the concept. I love the main character. I think this is a great book. Er, going to be a great book.

One big problem: I had to take a break from it to finish my other novel.

Now, I am trying to go back to the fun new thing and I've lost the energy in it. I can't get the characters talking to me anymore, and I was a "pantser" not an outliner (someone who writes by the seat of her pants instead of with a definite plan) and I can't get back on track.

Bummer. Super bummer.

Maybe I'm just having an "off-writing" day because I spent three hours trying to do all the paper filing that I have let languish for almost TWO YEARS, piling up in boxes in my closet. Ew. That pile-up was also due to finishing my last manuscript.

I remember reading somewhere that while J.K. Rowling wrote her series, she didn't do housework once. She has a lot to show for that now. Like, a castle, right? Didn't she buy a castle? Good for her. Writers should get to buy castles, too. Not just movie stars and sporty guys. Writers need large libraries. Who deserves or could appreciate a large library room more?

Anyhow, it might look like I took a vow to never do housework around here, but I think it was mostly the giant filing box that got away from me. And maybe some soap scum buildup in the shower.

This rambling is why I need an outline. Some people can be pantsers. I think I'd better not risk it.

The other day I bought new running shoes since I'm turning into a runner, accidentally. And the very first morning I wore my new New Balances, boom. I'm going through a neighborhood under construction and I get a rusty nail up in my shoe. Good thing I got a pair with a lot of cushion in the heel, or I'd be heading into the doc to get a tetanus shot.

It made me think about Bottle Cap candy. Willy Wonka makes it. Why? I'm not really sure why candy that resembles metal litter would be appealing to children. Yes, it comes in cola and orange and cherry flavors--all our favorite sodas--(I'm strategically leaving out root beer). But, why?

I don't really get it.

But it doesn't stop me from eating them if they're sitting there. I'd probably even still eat it if it had been lodged in the tread of my shoe. Candy junkie of junky candy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gummies (and What to Ask an Agent)

Aren't gummies the best? It must have all started with Gummy Bears. I remember back in the day at West Side Junior High School when the little store across the street in Dayton had treats we could leave campus and go buy at lunch, if we pooled our money Jamie and I could sometimes afford a bag of the Haribo Gummy Bears from Germany. The only better thing that came out of Germany was Toblerone, and that might have been from Switzerland.

The fact that we were taking German at the time from the wonderful Mrs. Durrant made the Haribo Gummy Bears even more perfect. How could two girls from a tiny village in Idaho have been more cosmopolitan?

Thank you, Haribo.

When I did finally go to Germany about 7 years later, you'd better believe I found myself some Haribo Gummy Bears.

Now they sell them at WalMart, here in my new small town not in Idaho.

They still make me feel so cosmopolitan. So chic. So traveled.
Kids and Grown-Ups Love it So

As do the gummy Vitamin D (raspberry shape) "pills" I take. A spoonful of gummy helps the medicine go down. My doctor mentioned he takes 14000 milligrams at a time of Vitamin D. I don't know if it was an off-hand comment, but I suspect he likes gummies.

So do I.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about getting WAY outside my comfort zone and shopping my MS to an agent. Sometime soon. It will be like letting a cat out of the bag. Once it's out, you can't put it back in. I like the story, and I think everyone in the world will want to read it, and for sure it's going to become a summer Hollywood blockbuster, so I probably might as well get going on it; but it's not exciting to have to venture into the unknown. Well, I guess it's exciting, but not always in a good way.

In my online digging, I came across an excellent post VERY USEFUL FOR ANYONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT SEEKING REPRESENTATION. It's from literary agent Rachelle Gardner, and she posts about QUESTIONS TO ASK AN AGENT before you sign any contract.

I think I'm going to print this out and keep it by my phone for when (not if) I get "the call."

Sometime I'll blog about the time I got "the call" for my screenplay. Possibly not my most graceful 15 minutes. Dorkarella.

In the meantime, I'll be researching about whether it's possible to overdose on Vitamin D. And doing a little cuisine travel to Deutchland.