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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sex, drugs and rock and roll.

One of my favorite things to do is create a rock star who isn't really a rock star. (Given that the Victorian era hadn't exactly discovered electric guitars yet.) Steampunk begs you to create a leading male who's practically Criss Angel. It makes sense. They wear lots of jewelry, leather or velvet, and usually have longer hair and/or piercings. Plus, it's ideal if the hair is a "different" color. This makes it fantastical since Victorian people probably wouldn't be caught dead with chunky red or purple streaks through their mop. All the vintage-cut threads keep it relevant.

My main male is a lot like this. He's heavily tattooed, has dark tussled hair, but wears frocks, top hats and trousuhs. And you can never have too many black boots.

Facebook turned me on to this website:

They've got some Steampunk stuff in there with the madness and it got me thinking about Steampunk's close correlation with rock and roll. You know, the mentality. DUDE, check this guy out to my left, man.

You know what else is super sexy and tends to be used in this genre? EYELINER ON MEN. I swear, I don't know why more males don't utilize eyeliner in general. I know it's a ton of work and there are all sorts of social stigmas associate
d with man makeup, but you really can't beat it.

This supports my sexuality theory, which is in favor of men being more colorful and showy. Peacocks, man. Peacocks. With the animal kingdom, the males are the exhibitionists while the females are normally cloaked in subdued colors. Human beings, of course, tend to be opposite when it comes to that which is socially acceptable. Men wear blacks, grays and don't do up their faces or have exorbitant hairstyles. Women have to be every color of the rainbow, with lipstick shadow and blush, hair highlighted,
lowlighted and bumped. I'm in favor of the rock star man, with roached hair, crazy fashion and eyeliner for days. Of course, as a teenager and a young college student I was deeply into the Japanese visual kei movement, so as you can imagine, I'm a tad on the biased side. Still, in terms of visual stimulation and outlandish fashion, you can't beat the Japanese. In some ways, Anime nurtures Steampunk, as does the video game industry.

I feel as though I've digressed quite a bit from the original point. What was the original point? Steampunk men are sexy? I think what I was TRYING to get across was that it's iconic to the genre to paint up the men and make them rock stars. I'm excited to introduce my main character, especially his bad-ass tattoo and of course... his top hat.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Three Musketeers

Greetings. Soon, I'm hoping to have a blog about Mackinac Island over there in Lake Huron in Michigan. Cars aren't allowed on the island! It's all horse-drawn carriages. So freaking cool. My aunt and Grandma went there a little bit ago, and I'm hoping to have some inside information that has a Steampunk flavor. So I guess this is a spoiler alert?

So, I may be a bit behind, but has anyone looked at the new Three Musketeers movie? It's outrageously Steampunk. I'm not sure how they did it, but they managed to put warship hot air balloon zeppelin things in it. Watch the trailer:

Like all Steampunk endeavors, it could either be stupid as hell or awesome. I mean, being a child raised in the eighties/nineties, I have a definite soft spot for Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt, Chris O'Donnell and Kiefer Sutherland. (1993 Charlie Sheen. His flavor of insanity is a little too bitter for me nowadays.)

But I'm willing to give this one a whirl just because it's relevant and might be helpful. Looks like it has some super cool gadgets!

Happy Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My mentor and amazing writer (see interview below) Bonnie Hearn Hill taught me this particular phrase. It means "It's only a day job." I have it on a post-it just behind the ninja. Sometimes, when I get really stressed out about things here, I have to glance at that and remind myself that this isn't my real gig. Being a locksmith is awesome. Don't get me wrong. It's the perfect day job for somebody who is trying to break through into the Steampunk world. But working for the state of California, being at work by 7:00 AM, dealing with the whining masses who demand that which they don't understand...I'm thinking that's all temporary. I mean, I think most of us hope that the grueling 8-5 junk goes away after a bit. I plan on making it go away faster.
Sometimes, you really do get caught up in the boring traffic. I know I do. You lose sight of your true destination and end up sightseeing, getting lost or running errands when you're supposed to be somewhere else. That's how I feel about fiction writing. It's the ultimate destination. It's the goal. It's me walking off into the sunset while the end credits roll and an epic 80's hairband rock ballad plays.
I apologize for not posting lately. I got distracted. Actually, if you want the real truth of it, I've been revising and re-writing things that actually ARE productive, so if my fingers were moving across the keys and Steampunk science fiction wasn't coming out, I felt as though I was running in place. But I think I'm back. Ready to stay focused and not lose track of the real reason I'm alive.
I.O.A.D.J. It's only the thing that provides me food, shelter and a place to sleep so that I can write without allowing rain to smear the ink or pass out from anemia. A means to an end. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guest blog, Bonnie Hearn Hill

Please extend a very warm welcome to my friend and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill. Bonnie worked as a newspaper editor for twenty-two years, and has written several thrillers for MIRA, as well as the young adult "Star Crossed" series. Her newest book, GHOST ISLAND, is available now.

SL: You followed six international thrillers by three young adult astrology novels, and now, a paranormal young adult. Why GHOST ISLAND and why now?

BHH: I wanted to write a love story. More than that, I wanted to explore what we’re willing to do and willing to believe for love. Although it is a young adult book, I have heard from many adult readers who say they relate to it. The story question is: Will Livia and Aaron get together, even though she can only see him in her dreams, and even though he may well be a ghost?

SL: The book is set during a storm on Catalina Island, which is kind of spooky anyway. Must have been fun researching.

BHH: I spent time there many years ago, and the moment I sailed into Avalon Harbor, I knew I would write about it one day. Many believe the island is haunted, but I learned that only after I had written the book.

SL: You have been teaching writing since 1990. How many authors have you helped break into print?

BHH: Hundreds, and I’m talking books and articles, not letters to the editor. That means only that I’ve been doing this a long time. In my first eight-week class back in 1990, one of the students sold a magazine article, and I knew that I was meant to teach as well as write. I started with The Tuesdays, most of whom are published now. My private group, the Fridays, include humorous astrology writer Hazel Dixon-Cooper, psychologist Dennis C. Lewis, and Christopher Allan Poe, whose thriller, THE PORTAL, will publish next month. I now lead a small group known as The Mondays, and they/you are a talented bunch.

SL: We are certainly grateful to have you. What attracts you to teaching?

BHH: You, Stacy, and other talented writers such as the ones in your family. They give me hope, and working with them makes me a better writer. Twenty-two years passed between the writing of my first novel and the signing of my two back-to-back, three-book contracts. I had the passion and the dedication, but I lacked a mentor. If I have a strength as a teacher, it’s the ability to see what the writer intends, not what I would do if this were my story.

I don’t leave editorial fingerprints. If a writer is willing, I can show her or him what’s left out. I call it the missing 5 percent, and I don’t mean that literally, only that it’s probably something small. Maybe it’s point-of-view control. Maybe it’s scene structure. Maybe it’s the ability to create honest characters. It may be one thing, but until you know what it is, you will not be able to write believable fiction.

SL: *Blushes* Thank you Bonnie, you are a wonderful editor who has taught me a thing or two. What is the most important thing you can give a writer?

BHH: Time. The ones who are going to do it—and I have to tell you, the percentage is small—will do it anyway. I can help them save the years I wasted.

That leads me to an important question, what’s the biggest mistake writers make?

Dishonesty, at a soul level. If you can’t be honest with you about you, there is no way that you can create honest characters. Plot problems are almost always character problems, and dishonesty is at the root of most of them. I have never met a dishonest person, regardless of how talented, who could write compelling fiction.

SL: What’s the second-biggest mistake?

BHH: They give up too soon. Most of that is ego and a need for instant gratification, and believe me, I understand that. I must have had a hundred rejections before I found my agent. Maybe more. You can’t let rejection stop you. You have to be open to input. You have to believe in yourself. And you have to know that if you are serious about what you are doing, your time will come—and it will be the right time.

Very wise and timely words. What is the state of the industry right now, and how is that affecting writers? Are e-books really the next step?

The Big Machine of mainstream publishing is broken. It has been for some time, but with the success of e-books, it’s clear that the filter is no longer the Big Machine, but the reader. Some successful authors have turned down large advances in order to go with independent publishers. Why should they give up most of their profits because of the publisher’s investment in distribution? E-books are distributed 24-7, at no charge. Be assured that what I just said is not an excuse to cop out and self-publish just because you can’t find a publisher. You still need editors, and if you are lucky, you need an agent who understands the importance of editing and promotion. You’ve been in my home, Stacy, and you know that it is wall-to-wall books. I’m not throwing them out because I own a Kindle. I’m not throwing out the Kindle because I own and love books. Poetry books, art books, photography books, special books. They will always be part of our lives. I have been a published writer since I was 19 years old, and I have never experienced anything as positive and profitable for writers as what I am witnessing right now.

SL: Okay, Bonn, we’re friends. Tell me something that most people don’t know about you. Tell me something I don’t know about you.

BHH: I wear a lot of purple.

SL: Sigh. Try again.

BHH: I was one of the first six readers—and the first woman—on KVPR’s Valley Writers Read first broadcast in the 1980s. I am a community correspondent for KMPH Great Day with Kim and Kopi. I write an occasional short story. And I wear a lot of purple.

SL: You can pull it off. What’s next?

BHH: More books. I’m editing a thriller right now. I’m intrigued about the possibility of another novel about Livia and Aaron.

SL: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. What should I be doing right now to further my own writing career?

BHH: Four things, Stacy, and they can change your writing and your life. 1. Get up an hour early every morning, and give that best part of the day to your work. In other words, write every day, at least six days a week. 2. Read every day, even if for only thirty minutes. 3. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something you wouldn’t usually do, even if it’s driving across town to a different grocery store. 4. Put a sticky note in a visible place in your office. IOADJ. It’s only a day job. Do it, Stacy, and report back to me in a month. Deal?

Deal. Thanks again for chatting with us, you are a fabulous mentor.

Bonnie will be signing copies of GHOST ISLAND this Saturday, October 1, at the Barnes & Noble in Fresno, from 2-4 p.m.

You can check out the trailer for the book here:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pressing Send

Meredith recently posted about diving into the querying pool, and I especially liked how she described it as positive forward motion. She said that querying means you’re a finisher, and I agree.

Over the last few months, I made some revisions after getting feedback from agent submissions. It ended up being a summer break from querying, but I must admit, it felt good. Like Meredith said, querying is a little soul crushing. But after my vacation, I’m ready to jump in (I think.)

How do you know when your manuscript is ready to send out? It’s not an easy decision to make. My advice, for what it’s worth:

1. Revise, revise, revise. Your first version isn’t ready, no matter how much you want it to be. Get as many beta readers as possible, and take their advice seriously. Even after several reads by different people, I was making adjustments. And it is better for it.

2. Do your homework. Know what genre your book is, and which agents are accepting queries in that genre. I believe in querying widely, but it makes no sense to me to send a historical romance to an agent accepting only YA. Learn how to write a query letter, for that matter. (Hint, it shouldn’t be three pages long.)

3. Join a critique group, and go to conferences. Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. Things are changing all the time, and none of us can afford to be out of touch.

4. Finally, have a good system of keeping track of where your at. Query Tracker is great for tracking the queries you sent out, but a good ole’ pen and paper will work too. Just don’t make the mistake of sending it to an agent twice, or *gasp* spelling their name wrong or calling her “Mr.” Although, I’m sure it has happened to all of us *blush.*

A wise person once said, the only way there is through it. Even though some days are hard, I know it will all be worth it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Passion, Naps, and Jane Austen

Wow, I haven't been around very much on this blog. Sorry! Life has been getting in the way, alas. On a good note, I had been really having a hard time getting into my new WIP. I'd been switching between three projects I'd been working on, a little bit here, a little bit there. Every page felt forced while I was writing. Can anyone relate? Ugh. Such an awful feeling.

One day, I was racking my brain about what was important to me, and what would be important in a book I write.

--Issue-driven fiction for one. Especially topics concerning teens in foster care, kids suffering abuse, kids who are marginalized.
--Romance, number two (good kissing scenes!).
--Passion, three. And watching characters overcome large personal obstacles. I thought long and hard about the books most beloved to me, the stories that I held most dear, some being: each and every Jane Austen masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, Les Miserables, The Lord of the Rings triology.

And then, I promptly took a nap. When I woke up, I came up with the best idea I've had yet and can't stop writing about it. (so exciting) I'm not going to say anything just yet, but here are some hints: it's YA, it's a love story about a boy and girl who have been friends since childhood, and to describe it, at this point, I'd say it's a mash up of Peter Pan meets Romeo and Juliet meets Wuthering Heights meets The Outsiders.

Confused yet? Hopefully more later.

In the meantime, enjoy this old promo for The Complete Jane Austen put on by PBS a few years back. If these guys don't get your heart pumping, then I don't know what else will!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Friday Reads~Ghost Island by Bonnie Hearn Hill

My good friend and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill recently came out with a new YA paranormal, Ghost Island. Here is a quick description about this book:

Is Aaron a dream or something much more deadly?

Livia Hinson has just begun a Seminar at Sea when a storm hits their yacht. Now, she is stranded with the other students on an island off the coast of California. Far away from her foster home and her heartbreak, Livia finds Aaron, the perfect love. But the only way they can be together is in her dreams.

The other students are having tempting dreams of their own, and Livia begins to realize that the storm has blown in more than rain. Is Aaron flesh or spirit? Can he come to her world, or will he pull her into his? Together, they explore the blurred territory between love and illusion on a dangerous journey that will force Livia to make the most important decision of her life.

I read this book very quickly, it was very fast paced and creepy. It had a very eerie quality about it, and reminded me of those horror movies that were so popular in the 80's and 90's. In fact, the whole time I read the book, I kept thinking that it would make a good movie.

The love interest Aaron is very romantic and left me wanting to know more about him. Ms. Hill leaves the ending somewhat open, so I'm thinking... sequel?

Ghost Island is a great pick for fall, especially if you like to read scary books around Halloween. Enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family Ties

We’re back from a small break from blogging. Life has gotten crazy this summer, and I’m trying to check off all of the tasks I set aside for the last few months. Top of the list: get back to blogging!

This blog really is a family affair. Meredith and I are first cousins, and Kara is our aunt (even though she isn’t that much older than us!) That's a picture of us with our friend and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill, and Kara's daughter (and future bestseller) Kateri. Our cousin A.J. will also be posting here in the near future, and he just finished his first manuscript, a middle grade fantasy. We’re excited to get his (male) input and have him share his writing experiences.

So does writing run in families? The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, come to mind. They made up the famous nineteenth century writing family who gave us Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (one of my favorite books) among others. Charlotte was the first to have success, and the others followed. The Brontës are said to have been very close and developed elaborate stories in childhood.

I didn’t grow up writing with my family, I was pretty private and shy about my stories. But I was surprised and excited when I found out that so many of us were not only writing, but working on whole novels at the same time. And it got me to thinking, is creativity something that you are born with?

I think that no matter what, a writer has to have perseverance and stamina. There is a lot of rejection and it takes a lot of work to get to publication. With a writing family, there is a built in support system, and we have helped each other each step of the way. But I can’t help but wonder, is it in our blood—or something in the water?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011



A dastardly word. A word created to terrify writers everywhere, worldwide. It's a word that means, "Hey man. Take that gigantic 300 page novel you just wrote and wad it up into a tiny ball so that I don't have to waste my time by glancing at more than a page. Oh, and make it sound interesting. OH ANNND let it be a genuine sample of your writing ability even though you've never done anything like this, ever. And by the way? We really need you to crumple that ball even further because you need a few paragraphs for introducing the work and yourself."
We writers are artists. Introverted painters and actors. The silent velocity behind the entertainment industries. We can be frumpy, reclusive and nerdy! YES. However, being artists often makes us frivolous and silly. Creative and scattered. How can we be expected to be pithy?

Unfortunately, at the current moment, it can't be avoided if success is in order. Granted, there is an increase in self-publication because of the e-book world, but querying is still the way to go for the most part. So, we have no choice. This means we're signing up for surefire rejection and a lot of heartbreak. And tons of emailing and even regular mailing.

But it also means we're finishers. If you're in the query process, as painful as that may be, it means you've finished your work. That means you're a writer, in my opinion. Not just some goober who CLAIMS to be a writer but can't get past the fifty page mark because of a thousand excuses the rest of us could use if we so desired. (Time, kids, work, computer crashes, carpal tunnel, writer's block, motivation, etc, etc.) Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatevs. My aunt has five kids and she's got an agent. My other cousin is an attorney and she's querying.

So congratulations on finishing your novel, or whatever it is you're working on. I'm steering into the querying tornado myself. Commiting ego suicide as we speak. But it's all for the best. Either it'll be ready for the world and you'll be published, or it won't be and you'll revise. Nothing but positive, forward motion. I can't wait to get my first rejection, (the first of this particular work.
God knows I was rejected nearly fifty times for my past monstrosity.) and I can't wait to get the next after that. I mean, if the first cat who received it fell in love with it, that'd be great. But so would a magical publishing pixie who flies in like the tooth fairy and hides book contracts underneath pillows.

Godspeed, my writers. My lovelies. My contemporaries. My kindred spirits.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Give it the ol' college try.

I'm going to piggy-back off of Stacy's blog post about self-sabotage and the demon that is the white page. I too have been contemplating the reason so many people are unable to make it happen. When you describe yourself as a writer, I think people take it about as seriously as if you had said, "Well, I'd really like to run off and join a circus someday. Perhaps as a full-time elephant handler or bearded lady." They usually blink at you, tilt their heads to the side and say, "Oh, that's nice." (subtext: "You must have a rather tenuous grasp on reality, my dear.")

My sister hopes to be an actress and she gets a similiar reaction. It's almost as if you say, "I hope to jump really hard until I get to the moon."

The thing is, in my opinion, there are three things needed to "make it". You can be reasonably successful with one of the three, but if you have all three, you're a guarantee. You WILL be living in a nice house with an entourage and three Siamese cats and a purse dog named Lady Snickerdoodle who's described on her papers as a Maltese Yorkiedoodletzu.

1.) Talent. Yep, some published people don't have it. Lots of writers don't. I know what you're thinking. You've got have talent to make it, don't you? Hmm. Not really. Maybe some. I mean, you have to have the ability to string words together to make a complete sentence I guess. You also have to have concrete ideas. But let's face it, some writers who have stuff out there really kind of suck. I'm not going to name names, but I'm sure you've picked up a published book and gone, " twelve-year old Jersey Shore-watching cousin could do this." Whoever wrote the book simply didn't have the talent element to the three-part triangle that makes you something special.

2.) Timing. You might be a freaking genius with the best idea ever, but if the world isn't ready for it, then few people are going to bite. This is probably the most frustrating part because it requires patience and an actual business sense, which few of us writer folk really have. We like to throw it out there into the abyss and see what happens. J.K. Rowling made it because the world was waiting for Harry Potter. It had been a long time since a youthful fantasy book had really taken the world by storm. Also, the world might be tired of you. Stephenie Meyer wasn't aware that the world was hungry for more vampires, but she sure cashed in on that. However if you write about vampires now, cynics like me are going to start folding our arms and tapping our shoes. There will come a point when vampires will lose the spice. So you have to be on that perfect cusp where the world wants you badly and hasn't had a lot of things like you yet. If you write a fiction book about how a shellfish has an adventure between the threads of time, planet Earth may simply not be in the market for that kind of a thing yet. But wait. The shellfish will have their time someday.

[Accessibility goes with timing. If you write on a subject nobody cares about, then people aren't going to be interested. If you are so smart that nobody gets what the heck you're trying to say, then the waiting masses aren't going to beat down your door for an autograph and a mentorship. I don't care if you have a doctorate. Sorry.]

3.) Work Ethic. Some really talented people have an awesome idea that's going to seduce the masses. These same tormented artists also refuse to edit, revise, ask for feedback and go through the painful query process. This is a crying shame too because I'm positive that people have heaps of genius gathering dust on their desktops or taking up space on their hard drives and nobody will ever get to witness the magic because they just don't have it in them to undergo the grueling process getting published requires. Social networking, rejection, ripping your own baby apart to please enough people, selling it, marketing it, packaging it, bargaining for it, waiting in lonely corners at bookstores at the beginning when 2.5 people have heard and care about your work...the list goes on even after success. So people who are unwilling to consider this a job and therefore WORK to get there...will simply never get there. Nobody is handed success on a silver platter. Except Paris Hilton.

So there you go. That's my personal formula for ultimate success. You don't need all three to get published, but you need all three to be a successful writer with a legitimate career in the business. But again, this is in my opinion only. And as you know, opinions are like earholes...everybody has them but few use them correctly...or something like that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beating Down the Blank Page

“I can fix anything but a blank page.” –Bonnie Hearn Hill

There is much wisdom in this statement. How can you edit something that doesn’t even exist? You can’t become a bestseller without ever putting the words on the page. That statement might seem extreme, but it’s true. The hardest part of writing is getting something down.

Upon telling a friend recently that I had written a book and was currently in the querying process, she said, “I couldn’t possibly write a book. I don’t have the time!” Truth be told, I didn’t know whether it was a compliment or an insult. Why did I have time to do it, and yet she didn’t? Am I really as busy as I think?

Then I realized that self sabotage is a sneaky little devil. So sneaky, in fact, that you don’t even realize that he has snuck up and dropped a two ton sack of rocks on you, just like they do in the cartoons. Except that instead of a cloud of stars over your head, it is a cloud of doubt. And excuses. No time. It’s too hard. No one would ever publish it.

It was a good reminder to take some time every day to move forward on this journey. Because it’s way too easy to get caught up with life and make excuses instead of face down that little devil called self doubt. Suck it up, dig down deep, and get that story out you know you were born to write.

So, fellow writers, what is it that keeps you from writing? Is it fear of failure? My wish for you today and every day is that you beat down that blank page.

One page at a time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Book Review

This book was such a pleasant, amazing surprise. As an author who writes issue-driven fiction, I thought that Gail Giles executed RIGHT BEHIND YOU with perfection.

RIGHT BEHIND YOU is the story of Kip--a teen who, when he was nine, murdered a seven-year-old neighbor. I wondered, when I first picked up the book, how Gail Giles could make Kip a protagonist I could root for, but she does, beautifully. The book follows Kip on his road to wholeness--first as an inmate at a teen correctional facility, and then, as he tries to transition beack into society, and living with his dad and new stepmother. The book is written in first-person narration,and I thought that she captured the voice of a teen boy amazingly well.

I thought that all the references to therapy, his time in the mental institution, and his general awareness of his own inner growth, gave the book an air of authenticity (made me wonder if she is a therapist herself or how much research she did.)I loved that she showed the step-mom as such a positive, supportive person, and I loved the romance thrown in--Sam was the perfect counterpart to Kip/Wade's character.

Recommended for the older teen and adults, especially teachers, mental health professionals, and any parent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's face it. Time flies.

Heeeeeey. So I was walking through our art building, and a particular piece caught my eye. I found it sort of endearing. I believe it was made by an Art & Design student, or at least that's the impression I got.
It has almost nothing to do with anything, but it is SPesque so I'm going to run with it. I apologize for not having time to post more. I'm in the middle of LIFE!

Let's face it. Time flies.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beta Readers

I have to admit, this is kind of a sticky subject for me. When I first started to write, I couldn’t imagine showing my work to anybody else. What if they rejected it? I kept my writing a secret and didn’t share it with anyone.

Then I joined a critique group, and I realized that there is an amazing, supportive group of people out there who are willing to read your work and offer advice and encouragement. It was amazing to see my critique partners grow and improve with each passing week. Instead of being embarrassed, we saw the value of sharing our work in a supportive environment.

BHH says that people commit self-sabotage sometimes, and I think there is something to be said for that. Maybe I was sabotaging myself by holding onto my writing all of that time and refusing to let it go free, to either sink or swim. Maybe I was afraid of failure. Or that I might actually succeed. Whatever the case, I set myself back that much further. Thank God I found the courage to join that group.

But this was supposed to be about beta readers.

Now that I’m in the querying process, I have gotten braver about sharing my work. I’m still extremely careful about who I give it to, trying to select people who I know read a lot and like mysteries, although that isn’t a must. The most important thing to me is that I know they will actually read what I give them and offer constructive feedback. For the most part, the friends I have trusted with my work have been great, and I have no regrets.

So, I’m curious, do you guys use beta readers? If so, what has your experience been like?

Have a great writing week!

Friday, July 22, 2011

For Meredith

I didn't get a chance to blog today, and I am very sorry. My daughter is in a play, and the driving back and forth to practices and such is rocking my world (and my gas bill, but that is a different matter.)

However, I did come across this very adorable little pug that made me laugh a lot on the inside. I want to live in his world, truly, but as a wonderful second best, I get to hear my niece Meredith read during critique group her steampunk YA, so that for me is the very next best thing, don't you think?

So I am going to imagine that I am this little dog, floating away to magical places, and having lots of adventures. And while he is doing that, I will be writing my new WIP on this lovely Friday evening.

May you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Carousels can be beautiful, mystical and even a little creepy. The hand-carved wooden sculptures have detail you don't often see in anything nowadays. You can just envision an elderly man with an oversized lense, chiseling away at the curvatures against the neck of the beast. The university I locksmith at had a crisis in their library, where they keep their monthly displays. It just so happened to be featuring pieces from carousels. It struck me that they're very Steampunky, or have the potential to be at least. Pardon the poor photos. They were taken with my outdated Blackberry and in secret because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be taking pictures. I'm paranoid about that sort of thing. To the left, they just had a little bit of information about the influence of carousels and what cultures they came from. Some of the images are almost grotesque and macabre, which to me, makes it more interesting.

I would love to ride a tiger into the sunset, I don't know about you. I also like the sketch of the dragon. To the right, this is probably my favorite because it looks the most SP. I love the colors used as well as the textures. If I was a kid skipping toward a carousel, I'd like to think I'd choose this guy. I think I'll name him Archibald.

One of my favorite aspects to this inspiring display is definitely the variety of animals saddled. There was a rooster, a dragon, lion, and even a greyhound. In fantasy, animals usually play a key part because we love animals and wish we could interact more with them. Horses are wonderful but how magical would it be to ride a greyhound? I love it.
To the left, it showed how a carousel worked. I think if you jazzed it up with some steam and a few more gears, you may have something "futuristic" as viewed by the mild-mannered Victorian. Maybe throw in some bronze-plated horses like Archibald and wallah. You've got yourself a Steampunk scene either macabre or romantic or BOTH. I think a really nice, dark love scene on a carousel would be interesting, especially if there was a lot of angst involved or perhaps some underlying surface tension with a preceding chase so that the characters are in hiding. I absolutely love the use of the carousel in the movie Sting. That eerie song that's meant to be cheerful and playful adds something mysterious and borderline freaky to the goings on in the foreground.
I've been inspired to put one in by book. I think it will add a little flavor.

Merry writing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Do What Makes You Scared

Always do what you are afraid to do

Confession time: I've been suffering from a little bout of writer's block. It is really very, very annoying. And the funny thing is, I don't really believe in writer's block, I subscribe to the B.I.C. philosophy of writing, i.e. Butt in Chair concept of just get it done. Put the words on the page and no more sniveling about it, you big cry baby.

But anyway, here I am not writing very much. FINDING PONY is being submitted to editors right now, and in the meantime, my agent and I decided that the next project I should begin on is a companion title, tentatively titled AURORA BEGINS. Aurora is an important character in my first novel and her backstory is so interesting that I just knew it should be the next book. I actually even told my agent, "This will be easy--I already know her character. I can whip this book out really quickly."


Aurora is seventeen years old, a tough Latina girl who grew up in East L.A. Her whole family is somewhat involved in the gang lifestyle and her boyfriend Manuel is the head of their gang. Okay, so...I'm white. And yes, I've been a social worker for some time, I've worked with kids in gangs and a little in L.A. even, and I've been doing research---lots of it--to make sure that my MC's voice will be authentic as it can be, to the best of my ability. I also know that there are so many writers out there who have written their MC's who are different races than they are, different genders, even different sexual orientations, and have done it well, very well.

But it's still scary. Really, really scary. Because, more than anything, I don't want to get it wrong. I want to do justice to my character, and to the people who will eventually read my book.

"Always do what you are afraid to do." This quote shows up on Twitter periodically, mostly I think because it resonates with us writers so much. I know that there can be greatness in doing something that terrifies you with the possibility of failure, but still, there's that niggling part of me, sitting on my shoulder this whole time whispering: it's crap, it's garbage. The cognitive side of me knows that every writer (at least I hope) goes through this--it is something we must all endure.

Here's a couple questions for anyone who may be reading: How much research do you do before you are comfortable writing your story? Are you ever, truly comfortable? Would you feel confident writing a MC with a different race than you? Gender? Sexual orientation?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who put the punk in Steampunk?

“So what is Steampunk?”
I’m asked that quite frequently nowadays. The standard answer is how the past (predominantly Victorian era) views the future. For instance, we can really only wrap our minds around adding futuristic spins to objects we currently have. Back to the Future made the Delorian a time machine and made it able to fly. In the same way, Victorians could only add garnish to concepts they already knew. Clocks, corset fashion, copper, brass, cogs, steam technology and so on.
So why is it punk?
SP is a fusion, as I’ve said in the past. It’s where science, history and art are allowed to converge in one tangle of awesomeness. But in addition to the classy side, there’s the sultry side. Steampunk is sexy. We take Victorian fashion, which is already sensual as it is, and we put our modern edge on it. There’s something hard and fast about SP, from the leather to the chains to the dark lenses worn by rouge-lipped women in lace.
So that’s it? It’s Victorian…only sluttier?
I’m not satisfied.
If you research the word “punk”, you might find a lot of information about nihilism, anti-establishment mentality and theatrical fashion. After all, punks have often “fought the man” by being theatrical and over the top in music, fashion and political view. Punks go against the grain. Likewise, SP utilizes the worldviews expressed by a time era that has already passed to address issues in the present. (Feminism, racism and so on.)
My main protagonist is rather a feminist, though she doesn’t express herself as such. She just acts based on her own personal goals, not really for any set principle. Likewise, the variety of races in my book encounter prejudice and this issue is addressed as well. SP seems to bring that out in it.
So not only does it combine science, history and art, but also philosophy. Punks are often defined as Nihilists (more specifically, existential nihilism, which is defined as the belief that life has no objective meaning.), and SP can dabble in the depth of these dark worldviews.
SP is not, in as of itself, nihilistic or postmodern, as it’s not inherent in the definition that it must be. That’s author’s choice. However, it does tackle these issues quite often because those who write SP are often interested in many different fields of study, which is what I’ve come to find by reading blogs, Tweets and Facebook posts.
In other words, the punk part doesn’t just mean it’s sexy, edgy and fashion-forward. It means that Steampunk can be deep and reflective of relevant mindsets, which is often true of entertainment that seems like fluff and actually isn’t. I mean, what's the whole point of entertainment? To stimulate the MIND, yes? Your body most assuredly plays a part, but the mind is what makes something last. Steampunk, for instance, is here to stay because it will make a lasting impression on individualism.


Monday, July 11, 2011

I hear voices...

“I had a feeling he didn’t love me anymore, she thought, but this is ridiculous.”

A quote from SKINNY DIP by Carl Hiaasen, which I read this weekend. What makes it especially funny is that the thought goes through the main character’s head after she is tossed overboard from a cruise ship by her no good husband. The book is campy to the extreme, but talk about voice. It was unlike anything else I’d ever read, and laugh out loud funny in several spots.

Voice is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. In the research I’ve been doing during the querying process, it seems to be one of the most important qualities that agents are looking for in a writer’s work. It’s also one of the hardest things to nail. Without a strong voice, the words float on the page like a dead fish.

My main character is on the snarky and funny side, but I honestly cannot remember how she came to be that way. I knew when I sat down to write my book that no shrinking violet would do for me. A feisty lead is way more interesting. But somehow her personality evolved as I kept writing. If I went back and looked at my character letters, I’m sure it would be clear how she evolved to be the character she is. And just how I got to that distinctive voice that is all her own.

So I’m curious, dear readers, how do you come up with the voice in your work—or do you know?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Love Me Violently

Writing YA means a couple of things. One? You gotta have romance. Why? Well to begin with, kids’ hormones are going haywire, and you have to appeal to their coming-of-age with the whole sexuality thing. Besides, all of us have that adolescent inside of us, wanting to meet an interesting new boy/girl who is edgy and misunderstood. Twilight capitalized on this for crying out loud.

I am not a good romance writer, mostly because I have my own androgyny issues to deal with. (See profile picture.) However, I am a romantic at heart and I do like boys a great deal more than girls (even as friends.) So my problem is keying into my fascination with relationships and combining it with my firm belief that friendships blossom into compelling romantic relationships if done the right way. Friends see each other as equals far more than lovers. And you don’t have that messy obsession factor or the problem of adoration, which pretty much irks me to death. At the same time, I personally need to be carful because the characters must be accessible to the teenage mind, therefore making them accessible to adult minds as well. (We’ve all been there.) I remember getting unbelievably excited reading that Harry and Ginny were going to be together. And I was in college then.

As I learned in my critique group with Bonnie Hearn Hill (she’s amazing), the best sexual tension emanates from conflict. The boy and the girl fight and battle. Not to the point where it’s unrealistic that they’d be together, but rather that fascinating dynamic that comes from two people who enjoy locking horns. I mean to capture that. I hope I do.

Happy Writing!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy Friday, everyone!

Insanity is delicious!

Give me one assignment and I WILL mess it up. Wednesdays are my Scriptor Familia designation and I forgot. Lounged around eating graham crackers and peanut butter watching Mystery Science Theater and neglected to make my weekly contribution.
I've heard people say that writers are insane. I've also heard it said that writers live entirely in their own heads, which is often why they're more comfortable with silence and seclusion than the average bear. I fit well into this category, especially the part about insanity and dwelling in my own cerebrum.
I think that's why it's unbelievable that we can all function in the day-to-day world at all. We have entire alternate realities spinning around in our heads. I talk out scenes with my characters in hushed murmurs when I'm doing activities and sometimes forget that other people exist (flesh and blood people) and find talking to yourself offsetting.
I was watching a Giants game where my future husband was pitching. He was up on the mound and his lips were moving. The commentators started making all kinds of excuses for him. "Oh, uh...he's talking to himself...probably saying this or that..." I was sitting there with the neck of a cold beer clasped in my indignant hand. "WHAT? He can talk to himself. I would be. The poor guy can't even talk to himself?!"
No, it's socially unacceptable for your lips to be moving and a blue tooth not hooked over your ear. For this reason, I once had a blue tooth and put it on just so I could get away with talking to myself at a normal tone of voice or in my vehicle. The only problem with that is when you start slipping into a manly British accent and gesticulating madly before lapsing into a feathery, feminine voice that answers the previous voice's questions...the blue tooth doesn't exactly take you as far as you need to go in terms of providing mental credibility.
Which is why it's sometimes advisable to not give a crap what people think. Once and a while, I forget that I'm living on planet Earth and all of these amusing creatures weren't actually created for my amusement alone.
Another example is Duwayne. He is a Chipotle employee who I find infinitely amusing. He's lackadaisical, has a long ponytail and jokes around with people who come through the line. Well, Duwayne stopped coming into Chipotle and we were depressed. This creature we had practically invented had disappeared. So I go in late one night and catch sight of a ponytail through the window. Lo and behold, Duwayne was there! I was so excited that I stood in line with my mouth in an opened grin and my hands out like, "It's you!" Duwayne was salting the rice and he slowly looked up and stared at me. It took me a good 30 seconds to realize that Duwayne and I are not old friends, he doesn't know we have an entire back story made up for him and this entire exchange probably appears bizarre and possibly creepy. Duwayne's name is not Duwayne, he has his own life that I didn't write and any other character qualities I've dreamed up exist in my brain only.
So yes, I agree that writers do have a certain level of insanity. We have to, in order to be creative. We have to view the world in narrative, with the colors just a little brighter and just a little more vivid than the standard 9-5er.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope all of you out there in writing land will take a break and enjoy some homemade ice cream, hanging with family and friends and of course, fireworks. It’s supposed to be 105 here in Central California today. What? It shouldn’t even get that hot on earth. I will definitely be trying to keep cool.

I was reading a writing sample recently, and it got me to thinking about a problem we have often seen in our critique group. We call it the “getting your motor running” syndrome. Often times, a writer will go on with pages and pages of back story before they finally get to the interesting part, the action, which is where the scene should start. No one is immune, even seasoned writers.

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to know the back story. It’s just so much more interesting and easy on the reader when it is woven in through dialogue and action. If you go on for three pages about how your character grew up in a barn on an island in Alaska, I may lose interest before we get to the part where he is being chased by speed boat through the Pacific Ocean (and I totally made that up, so any resemblance to your characters, living or dead, is purely coincidence.) Working in the details is no easy thing.

Sometimes I will start a chapter and write a few pages that end up on the editing room floor because they are back story. But when I get to writing the scene, I know what I need to work in, and what can be cut. Pacing is a tricky thing, but the pay off is good when done well. Think about some of your favorite writers. They keep you turning the pages, right?

By the way, the picture is a Dodge Charger, a nod to my dad, and a reminder to get your motor running.

Have a great Fourth!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dear You. It's Me again.

Yesterday, a magical thing happened. I saw a piece of binder paper shoved back in my overhead cubicle cabinet. It looked like a kid had ripped it out of a notebook and folded it up with the intention of giving it to a friend or keeping it in her hope chest for safe keeping.
I was bewildered. What in the world is this?
I took it out and unfolded it. There, in clumsy handwriting, was a letter to me from Ana Bardwell, my protagonist. She started off telling me about her mother and her poor relationship with her. I read, charmed the whole time. Ana can be charming in an irreverant, childish way even though she's eighteen years old and needs to start acting like an adult.

I believe we've discussed this before on this blog, but I can't stress enough the value of character letters. Every good piece of literature has characters you can't forget even if you try. When people talk about Pride and Prejudice, do they talk about the plot as much as they talk about that irresistible Mr. Darcy? In Harry Potter, are people entranced with the typical good vs. evil fight or Dumbledore and Fred and George Weasley? What attaches us to Catcher in the Rye? What's the plot of that book? Um...a guy walks around and does stuff for a day. We're enthralled with Holden Caulfield, aren't we?
Most of the time, when I'm in a jam, it's because I don't know or understand one of my characters. It's taken me years to understand Ana. She used to be a subservient, passive creature who never did anything proactive. The plot revolved around her while she sat there. Needless to say, the book was unpublishable.
If you're stuck, the best thing to do for many people is to write a letter to you from one of your characters. This technique has written entire scenes for me! At the end of the day, you'll be looking at a document that comes directly from the heart of your character and doesn't seem familiar to your personal style.
Our characters are more than just helpless vessels we use to drive the plot. They can rise up from the ink and become flesh and blood, just as an actor transforms into a make-believe identity spawned from the imagination of a screenwriter. Our characters aren't us. We aren't interesting enough for that. They are their own individual creatures sent to charm, seduce, intrigue, warm, inspire and even anger. Just like regular humans.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Time for Writing...

I must admit, a conversation with my blog partners inspired this post. Mare was saying that summertime is treating her well for writing, and I know Kara finds summer best to write. And it got me to thinking how many writers I have come across have mentioned that there is a particular time of year that they feel most inspired or productive. From my experience, it seems that many writers like wintertime best. Maybe because cold, rainy weather keeps us inside with no excuses but to sit at the computer.

I fall into the winter crowd myself. Don’t get me wrong, I can meet a deadline, but I think part of the problem with summer for me is that my house seems to be a gathering place for friends and family (it isn’t hard to do the math, we have lots of 100+ days, and I have a pool.) I’m also a night owl, and the heat zaps me in the summer and I find myself getting less done in the evening after a long summer day.

Which begs another topic. Do you write best in the morning, afternoon or evening? My writing group has a motto, “Write First.” In other words, get the words on the paper before you do anything else. It is a principle I’ve tried to abide by without much success, probably because of my night-owlness and because I’m always thinking of what else I need to get done. I have been trying to get back to it lately. Because those dishes in the sink or load of laundry can wait…but will that idea? Probably not worth the risk.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Steampunk Shoes!

I went to Nordstrom Rack the other night. I have to confess that I usually despise shopping. However, there was pizza involved. I ended up finding lots of cool shoes that sort of reminded me of Steampunk.

Some guy came up behind me while I was crouched with my camera poised and asked, “Are you taking pictures of shoes?!” I answered with, “Sure!” and kept snapping. I think it really threw him for a loop and astounded him, which in turn astounded me because I don’t know what’s so strange about it. I think my true agenda was stranger than what could have been assumed. I might have been asking somebody’s opinion or trying to decide what shoe looked good with an outfit I had at home.

Alas, he was male, meaning the concept of planning such things and dealing with complex color schemes, seasons and temperatures is completely beyond him. Even me, a female who abhors shopping and has simple wardrobes understands the need to coordinate. But that’s another post for another blog at another time.

I stand by my belief that Steampunk is hitting the mainstream a little bit at a time. “Cowboys and Aliens” has the potential to be amazing or extremely suckish. As I’ve said before, I believe that fashion is beginning to take notice of it more and more. Nothing is sexier than a man in a frock coat with a top hat and subtly placed tattoo or earring. (Or old-timey gun. Or brass cane with a doodad. Or dark glasses.) Likewise, Steampunk can be complimentary to any female figure. Come on, it’s got corsets! What can be more thinning and yet voluptuous-ing than that? Not to mention the fact that it’s juuuuust sensual enough to hint but not slutty enough to leave nothing up to the imagination. In other words, it flatters everybody. Even the loyal moralist.

Anyway, enjoy the shoes. You may or may not agree with my belief that they have an edgy vintage twist. I was a fan. At any rate, I know that when (WHEN, not if) I get my book published, I can definitely wear the fashion without having to buy expensive “Steampunk” attire on random websites. I can be creative. And that ain’t not bad.  


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Special Saturday Post! You Have Issues...

I have issues, you have issues, everyone has issues. Especially our characters, hopefully.

I belong to a weekly critique group led by the amazingly talented Thriller and YA writer, Bonnie Hearn Hill. She says that everyone has a hole in their heart that really lends to who they are, and is what motivates their actions. She always wants to know what our characters “hole” is. This has been so helpful in my writing and in creating authentic back stories for my characters.

Why is it so important for your characters to have issues? Well, I think most importantly, because it makes them empathetic. It’s hard to like someone who’s perfect, or read about them, because for one their not interesting, and secondly, because we can’t relate. We read because we want to see ourselves on paper, and we want to see the characters making the same kinds of mistakes, and having the same kinds of problems we do.

It’s human.

It’s kind of like how some women tend to always go for the bad boy. Why do they do it? Because they see vulnerability within them. Take Captain Kirk in the most recent Star Trek movie. He was definitely a bad boy, but he was an empathetic character because we knew that the reason he was having such a hard time was because his dad died when he was young, his mom was always away on other planets, yada, yada, yada…and we liked him despite his actions because we believed he was really good on the inside. He has issues, and once we saw that, we started to root for him (well, and Chris Pine is sort of gorgeous….)

So anyway, if you have a character who is seemingly perfect, you better rethink that. Give them some character flaws, create some back story, and you’ll go from making your characters flat to round.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Is your Writing on the "Down Low?"

This is a question I have for other writers: who and how many people do you tell that you are a writer? When in your writing process or career do you actually start thinking of yourself as a writer, and not just a person messing around on the computer?

A couple of years ago, it all began late one night with a blank computer screen and an idea. At first I thought: I could write a page. And when one page turned into 50, and 50 turned into a book, at first I was very, very secretive about the fact that I was trying to write a book.

Little by little, my husband, kids, and very closest friends got in on my little secret. When I joined my critique group, it did get easier to identify as a writer, much in part because suddenly I was surrounded by other writers. But still, it was hard to "come out" to people.

"I am writing a book."

The reponses, well most of the time they were kind of patronizing, like, oh how cute--she is taking on a new hobby.

I think my parents thought I was having a mid-life crisis. Once I got an agent, I thought it would be easier to tell certain people, that I would have more of a sense of credibility, but then I realized that most non-writers have no idea how hard it is to just get an agent. The struggle is lost on them. I found that some just weren't going to believe it until a book was in their little hands.

My dad has asked liked a million times if I paid my agent to take my book, and, "don't you know there are a lot of scams out there?" Sigh. I guess he can be forgiven because he is a farmer, and the publishing world is about as foreign to him as growing crops are for me.

So my method is, tell only people who will give me the most positive response, and when that book hits the shelves, point them in the direction of the nearest bookstore and smile.
But what I'm really curious about, is--are there some people out there who, the day after they started writing, told people what they were a writer? That takes real bravery, I think.

Anyone out there wait until agented? Their book sold? Hit the shelves? Got a website?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making up your own sport.

Right now, I’ve written about 35,000 words that I believe have the potential of being published. I was at around 145 before, but I’ve scrapped a lot of that and decided to do another rewrite. I do rewrites like I change my underwear, honestly. (Frequently, in case you were wondering.)
One of my biggest challenges has been describing a sport I made up. Sometimes, I sit back and think about J.K. Rowling and her ingenious invention of Quidditch. Similar is Final Fantasy X and their Blitz Ball creation. You literally have to make a little rule book for yourself in order for it to be genuine. You can’t just toss your characters out there and hope for the best because even you won't know what in the blazes you're talking about.

My ardor for sports has helped me. I’ve always been fascinated with watching athletes so inventing my own sport has been a way for me to channel this bizarre energy I have for my favorites like Tim Lincecum, Tom Brady, Apolo Anton Ohno and Ray Allen. But it’s a challenge. It makes me appreciate the many creative terminologies Al Michaels finds of describing a catch. I mean seriously. How many freaking ways are there for me to narrate a series of actions to you when you can't see what I see?
I’ve had to weave in conflict between my descriptions of the sport, as I’m sure J.K. did with good ol’ Harry in his first match when they think Snape is bewitching the broom. (Snape is so the best character, by the way. The best right hand man ever, second maybe to Doc Holiday and that’s it.)

See, J.K. and the Japanese definitely based the passion for their respective athletic companies on the thing every country except America goes crazy for: soccer. (Football) The Quidditch Tournament in the fourth book is so the World Cup and we all know it. I'm sure J.K. herself is a fan and maybe even wears her colors and everything.

It's fantastic how much we use what we know in our stuff. I'm a black belt in kung fu, so you can bet that my "sport" is a fighting one.

I have the encouragement of my critique group, Bonnie Hearn Hill and my two fellow bloggers to thank for pushing me forward with this project and inspiring me to put a lot more energy in to my made-up sport. I can’t tell you what it is. You’ll have to wait for the book!
Happy writing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Get Inspired.

People have asked me what inspired me to write my first book, and honestly, it is a difficult question for me to answer. I think inspiration can come from anywhere, and often out of the blue. It might be a song, a movie or a trip to the beach. No matter where I go, I take along a notebook so that I can jot down notes if something hits me. I’ve even met a character out and about that I didn’t know was in the book! Very strange when that happens.

I mentioned in my first post that I changed the setting when I rewrote my book. I will be the first to admit that I was a little reluctant at first, having pictured my characters in one locale for so long. But the truth is, once I accepted it, that change of scenery made everything come alive.

I set the story at the beach, in a place my grandparents lived when I was growing up and had traveled to many times. So many ideas and characters came to me that I had no problem finishing the new version of the book. In fact, I spent a little time in the place where my fictional town is set just for research (not hard, believe me it is gorgeous there) and even more ideas came to me.

I think that no matter what, it’s about beating down the blank page. So when inspiration finds you, seize it and don’t let go until that idea is down on the page.

So, what inspires you?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Upon Which She Finds Herself Agented...Again

It is still strange, talking about one's personal journey to publishing. I think because I am technically an introvert (I'm a pretty good extrovert faker, though), I wonder who would possilby care about my silly little life. But then I remember, in my earlier writing career, how any news of how a writer got an agent, published a book--helped. Tremendously. (Still does, in fact.)

Because of this, I thought I'd share what happened to me, in hopes that others might find something of value to take away.
Back in late March, I signed with my first agent. I was elated! She was sweet, professional, enthusiastic, and most of all, she really got my book. We were a very good fit. And she helped me edit my book--thanks to her critique, in a month's time I added about 12,000 words and a whole lot of texture to the story. We were just about to get ready to go to submission when she told me that she needed to leave agenting to pursue her own writing career.

Oh, I was bummed. Devastated for a brief, brief moment, but then I realized, you know what? It was meant to be. She needs to follow her dream, and I need to keep following mine. So I picked myself back up, brushed off my query, gave it a mini-makeover (extra lip-gloss and hair product, so fab), and started querying again in May.

Things happened, guys. This time, I got a lot of interest right away. Nine requests for fulls. And for a grand total, five offers. Wow. Needless to say, I was stunned that the situation was so different! I had five lovely phone calls with five amazing agents, and instead of being elated, I was stressed (I know, I know--how ridiculous). But it was very hard to choose, partly because I hate to hurt people's feelings and partly because it was all so overwhelming! (But in a good way, my husband kept reminding me.)

In the end, I decided to sign with the lovely Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch. She loved my book, and I think when she referenced The Bachelorette, I knew she was a girl I could hang with. But most of all, she got my book, and the thought of FINDING PONY on a bookstore shelf is just...well...I'm pinching myself.

So here it is, my little story. It sounds cliche, but I guess the lesson here is when you have a dream, don't give up, and keep trying. You will get there.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Try until you can't.

My uncle was discussing the family business. He said, “We were just too dumb to give up.” I thought to myself, “Yes. That is writing.”
I don’t want to make anyone start to hyperventilate, but think about it for a minute. Think about all of the books in print. All of the writers who have Yale and Stanford educations who are trying to publish their “brilliant” piece. Then think about you. Little ol’ you with your dusty laptop and your tiny bedroom with nothing but a mason jar of ideas and chicken scratches you make at work on yellow post-its when you’re supposed to be data entering for the man.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get that black monster on my back. It’s called “Self-Doubt”. It’s a freaking jerk. It scratches at you and starts to make you view your work as nothing more than an intangible dream that you should have forfeited long ago.
But the difference between you and everyone else is that you won’t give up. You refuse. Damn it, you have a good idea. You know it’s good. People deserve to read what you’ve put down in your hard drive or your post-its. If it dies with your computer then the world will be out a really good idea. THAT is what separates a success from a failure. A true failure gives up. A success fails and fails and fails and is just too dumb to give up, as my uncle would say.
A writer will doubtless have countless “failures”. But they aren’t really failures. They’re only alternate options to the correct one. You won’t be allowed to choose the wrong one. Whether you credit fate, the universe or God, the right opportunity will find you as long as you keep looking.
That’s the key to success. It isn’t necessarily talent or the best idea ever. It’s believing in your idea and trying until it happens. As Regina Spektor says, “You try until you can’t.”
So why might you get published and not the smartest guy in the world? Your refusal to surrender (like the Americans in the Revolutionary War) and your ability to take criticism because you don’t think you’re the best thing since the invention of the wheel.
See? Now get writing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Building Character

Last week I talked about plot. I think getting to know your characters is equally, if not more, important than plotting. Many times when I have been stuck on a plot problem I figure out that what I really have is a character problem. Often there is some vital piece of information missing that I need to know about them before I can move the story forward.

Before I start to work on a new project, I write myself letters from my main characters. I learned this from my wise mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill. At first I felt a little silly doing this-I mean they aren’t real people, after all. But it is truly amazing what happens when you put pen to the paper and channel your characters. You find out all kinds of useful things about them-where they were born, what kind of childhood they had, why they committed that murder.

I may not always use the information they give me, but I’m convinced that knowing their back story helps when I’m working on my project. And more than once, when I’ve gotten into that tough spot, I’ll sit down and write myself a letter from that character. Lo and behold, I’ll find out some key piece of information I needed to know.

Go ahead, try it out.

No one has to know you’re talking to yourself- and really are you? As a writer, our characters come alive, and that’s where the magic happens.

Friday, June 10, 2011

It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday....

So, I just realized that I was supposed to blog today on here...oops! no, not oops, because here I am, blogging! But today will be a little on the lighter side, you could say. I thought I'd usually try and write about some of the books I've been reading lately, and I've certainly been busy with that.

Just finished (for the second time) PERFECT CHEMISTY by Simone Elkeles. Wow, what a great summer read. I can't wait to read CHAIN REACTION, her third in the series which comes out this summer. The PERFECT CHEMISTY series is a YA contemporary series that is sort of like West Side Story meets Grease. It's the love story of perfect high-school A-lister Brittany and the hot and fiery Alex Fuentes, the local gang-banging bad boy. They get paired up in their Chemistry class, and sparks fly. Be sure to check out the whole series.

But wait! you ask?

What is with the amazingly awesome cat-with-monacle that I see up on my screen? Is this EXQUISITE animal in any of Simone Elkeles dazzlingly awesome books? And the answer to that, my friends, is a sad no. But still, it was shown to me by my amazingly talented and hilarious steampunkian writer-niece, Meredith, and every time I see it, I have to laugh. And on Fridays, laughing is good, no? I must say that if cats with monacles are what the steampunk genre it all about, then sign me up, folks. Please, sign me up.

Have a good one, everybody.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wind me up.

I just got through watching Sherlock Holmes for the first time. Ridiculous, I know, considering the level of Steampunketry involved in the plot. My personal favorite? The SP taser.

I believe we have entered an era obsessed with fusion. It’s obvious in music, for instance. You have symphonic metal groups like Apocalyptica, who boast of classically trained cellists and yet rock my face off with metal. Speaking of, you may also remember “No Leaf Clover” performed by Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra back in 1999. In 2000, Yellowcard made the unusual choice of using a violin in their songs. Adolescents went crazy for it. “OMG…” (Did they still use that back then?) “They’re using a VIOLIN.” Most recently, we have Muse, whose album Resistance is filled with symphonic tirades.

Fashion, of course. I’m not saying people are walking around dressed in Victorian era clothing. All I’m saying is that we may well be on our way to widespread Victorian fusion in the cut of our fabrics. I would like to point out that magazines like Vogue are sometimes filled with fashion that leans on period pieces. I was also rifling through a magazine at a doctor’s office and stumbled upon a Taylor Swift advertisement that teetered on the cusp.

A lot of my initial (and unpublishable) inspiration stemmed from Japanese Visual Kei movement, which has taken some interesting twists on the SP look and has picked up in popularity over the years. When it’s done right, it can really seduce you without trying. We want to be sophisticated without being stuffy. We long to be sexy, dashing, dapper and leather clad all at the same time. It sits primly with a heavily plumed hat and a fitted dress with fishnets underneath. It’s a top hat and shades, a cane and a leather waistcoat, a frock and a smoking pistol. We’re talking about elegant edge. Sherlock Holmes bare-knuckle boxing, for instance.

You can’t get any more awesome than that.


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