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Another contest
This one is really cool! There are lots of awesome prizes for writer-people, like query critiques and webinars. And for non-writers there are things like t-shirts, books, and CDs. Best part? The profits go to a charity in Ghana. Check it out here:


Stuff I'm Working On This Summer
Sometimes I’m blessed with (or cursed with, depending on perspective) too many good ideas.
This is one of those times.

In May-June, I had a short dry spell after finishing the sequel to the novel I’m currently querying. I spent long hours staring at a blank page in Microsoft Word, listlessly picking up and putting down books at the library, and lying on my couch moaning about my lack of inspiration.

Some of this was summer’s fault. In fact, I’m mostly blaming the 100+ degree weather for my lapse of creativity. Regardless, I didn’t write and I didn’t read much either. But on July 2, halfway to Michigan and surrounded by miles of cornfields, I had the spark of an idea. And that was all it took.

Ideas started pouring into my head. I couldn’t choose between them, and so I started 3 new books and revisited 3 old ones.

* I don’t really advise this approach. It’s headachy and very very very slow going as far as visible results are concerned. *

However, it might be working for me, because for the first time in MONTHS I’m writing again.
I started work on a bleak sort of sci fi WiP (I am refusing to call it a dystopia, although I might stoop to that in the query. It isn’t focused on a dysfunctional society, but rather characters living in one. The setting is not the thing that fuels the plot. Am I splitting hairs? The characters also do not set out to change their dysfunctional society. They just exist in it.) It has no real title yet. I’m calling it Prison Story.*

Along with this, I am working on a paranormal (very outside of my usual genres, so it’s … interesting going) and another sci fi sort of story that takes place in the present day.

Lots of sci fi, when I think about it.

But mostly I’ve found myself drawn back to my old fantasy series from last year. I’m working on the 4th book in that series, which is set in a completely different setting than the previous 3. The characters and mood and plot are very different, very subtle (well, hopefully) and full of intrigue. I’m really enjoying writing this particular story. I’m shooting for something midway between POISON STUDY and KING OF ATTOLIA. If you haven’t read either of those books, drop your laptop and do so immediately. They are fantastic.

Question: should I post small excerpts of some of my writing on this blog? I’ve heard people say you shouldn’t do that, but I am not entirely sure what the reasoning is behind that admonition. You could always have your work plagiarized, but I’m talking about very small excerpts here. Paragraphs, not chapters.

*Even though only the first part of the story takes place in a prison... Mostly the story takes place in cities and on very fast trains and in dumpsters.

Why Twitter Helps Me as a Writer
Twitter can be controversial.

When I first heard about Twitter a few years ago, I thought, "What's the point? You just tell people online what you're doing all day long? Who cares if I'm eating a sandwich right now?" At the time, the whole thing seemed pointless--a stripped-down networking site that reduced the user's presence to the equivalent of abbreviated Facebook statuses. And a lot of other people feel the same way, if blog comments and overheard conversations and things said on Facebook are any indication.

Fortunately, however, I bowed to pressure from my brother and got an account. I let it sit for a while, doing little with it other than following a few screenwriters and authors. I didn't really know how to navigate it, I didn't really know how to utilize it.

* Ignorance, my friends, is no excuse in the age of Google. *

After a while I started tweeting about writing, and I got a few followers. I started to see that I could use Twitter to connect with others who shared my passion. Then I found this blog, which opened my eyes to how to use Twitter:http://tribalwriter.com/WordPress/ She actually had a fantastic article about Twitter, which I would have posted here (but couldn't find it!) ... This was my turning point. I began to use Twitter in earnest as a tool to improve my writing.

Sometimes I hear people say things like "Twitter is just a huge waste of time" in relation to writers, or just people in general, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from giving them my rant about how a tool's usefulness is determined by the user, and how people shouldn't make blanket statements before they understand something. Now, in all fairness, Twitter CAN be a waste of time (albeit an enjoyable one), and I'm not going to pretend I don't use it to procrastinate too. But it can also be supremely useful, and I hate to see something that is so useful be slapped down without any defending on my part.

So here's my rant about how it has helped me:

1. Twitter is an excellent way to find others like you. Writing is lonely work, and Twitter has allowed me to connect with other writers, especially other aspiring writers who share my dreams and hopes and fears. I don't know a single other person in my normal circle of friends and acquaintances from my home town who is writing seriously with the intent to be published (there are one or two fanfic writers, but if I tried to talk about publishing houses to them they'd run screaming). Heck, nobody I know personally even knows what a query is, or why a synopsis makes me want to tear my hair out, or how funny Janet Reid is and why she makes me laugh till I cry, or what sorts of trends are big in YA right now (Well, nobody except for those unlucky individuals who I've chosen to confide in on a daily basis, IE, my bestie Nikki and my husband, poor souls).

THIS is why Twitter is so awesome. I have 200+ individuals who are following me who KNOW MY PAIN. Solidarity is a fantastic support when it comes to writing. Having emotional support and the ability to connect and commiserate and celebrate with others has transformed me as a writer. I am no longer alone in my journey through the valley of the shadow of queries, and that by itself is a reason to be on Twitter.

2. Twitter is a huge grapevine where information passes word-of-mouth rapid-fire. Information flows thick and fast as users in the writing community share links to blogs, videos, events, and contests, and they tweet good news like an author's NYT bestseller list debut, or upcoming books, or author signings. My understanding of writing, writers, the publishing business, libraries, conferences, awards, and much more has quadrupled since I started Tweeting. If somebody has something interesting or helpful, somebody else out there will retweet it, and then somebody else, and it gets passed on down the line until I see it. TWITTER GAVE ME THE TOOLS TO BECOME A BETTER, SMARTER, MORE INFORMED WRITER.

3. Twitter helped me find people who could help me. This last point is connected to the first two. With all those writer people connected to me, and with the ability to share information and blog posts and tweets and links, I've forged friendships. From these friendships come all kinds of benefits (not that kind! ;-)), like offers to trade and critique manuscripts, offers of help on synopses and queries, and just general support and encouragement. I would have never met these people without Twitter.

In summary, Twitter can be extremely helpful to the aspiring writer. Yes, it is possible to fritter away all your writing time tweeting, but if you can practice some will-power (an important skill to learn anyway, if you want to write) you can keep that from taking over your life. Twitter is a tool, and a darn good one in my opinion, that has proved invaluable to my personal growth as a writer over the last two years.

Awesome Contest!
Check out this awesome contest that allows a few lucky winners to score some hotly-anticipated ARCs . . . and one of them is signed by the author!!


I'm Baaaaack
Hello, all!

* Blows dust off of LJ account *

I know I've been gone for a long time. A really looooong time. I don't have a really good reason for this hiatus other than this: there's something about the sticky heat of summer in the South that saps my creative energy and turns me into a lethargic couch potato whenever I'm not working or eating or sleeping. That and the 500 vacations/weddings/reunions the husband and I were expected to show up for this summer. Oh and I finally finished my degree, and the effort of doing so wrung me out like a wet washcloth. For a few weeks there, I could hardly open up MS Word without throwing up a little bit in my mouth.

Hmmm, those reasons actually look better written down then they sounded in my head. I almost don't feel guilty any more.

This is not to say I've been sitting on my hands for the last couple of months--I've finished writing a WIP and started work on 3 more, which are at 15k, 6k, and 2k, approximately. I also did some editing for some other projects and beta read for a few people. Basically, I trimmed any excess writing from my agenda so that I could continue to at least write SOMETHING. And the LJ was the one to get the axe.

However, it is very nearly August. August is the month of apples and back-to-school sales and new TV shows and busier schedules and my birthday. For some reason August kicks me into gear. So I'm restarting the blog, and I'm refocusing on my stories, and I'm pumped about meeting the rest of my goals for the year.

Maybe this time I'll be able to stay on track.

Cool New Contest
CA Marshall is holding an awesome contest that anybody can enter... Contest includes a substantial edit. Head over to her blog to check it out!


Awesome Contest #2!!
Man, this month has been the month of contests. Anyway, Dear Editor is having a pretty cool contest to celebrate the 1 month anniversary of the site, and you can check out the details here:


The prize is a substantive edit of a YA or MG manuscript!

Here are the rules that were posted on the site:

1. Your manuscript must be YOUNG ADULT OR MIDDLE GRADE FICTION.

2. Your manuscript must be COMPLETE.

3. Your manuscript SHALL NOT EXCEED 85,000 WORDS.

4. Manuscripts that do not meet these requirements will be disqualified.

5. Deadline: MIDNIGHT, APRIL 14, 2010, PST.

6. Winner will be randomly selected.

Go check it out and enter!!!

Oooo a contest!
Everybody, check out this awesome contest! The prizes are pretty sweet and include a partial query critique and lunch with 2 agents in NYC. How awesome is that?


Pregnancy as a Metaphor for Writing
Last night a misguided but sweet lady asked me, with a twinkle in her eye, if I had "told anyone else yet." I looked as confused as I felt, and she blushed and sort of wandered away.

I subsequently deduced that she thought I was pregnant.


I know some people believe they can see pregnancy in a woman's face because of that "glow" the woman gets. Or something. Maybe I was glowing? Lady, I am just a happy person. Or, as I remarked to my husband afterward, I suppose you could say I am pregnant with ideas. I have recently been struck with inspiration regarding my current WiP and a plot point I was grappling with for weeks. Perhaps this is the glow she saw. (Or perhaps the poor woman was misinformed by some rumor or other, who knows?)

Anyway, the whole incident got me ruminating on the idea of pregnancy/birth as a metaphor for the writing process, and I truly think it works well:

1. Conception ~ This is the spark of an idea for the writer. For me, it's usually just a phrase I overhear in a crowded room, or a piece of music, or an image or emotion that sticks with me. Something that makes me stop and smile. Something that makes me think. Most recently, the image of a 16-ish boy with with curly black hair and flour all over his face and apron holding a gun and saying calmly, "You didn't expect ME to be the assassin, did you?" popped into my head, and I've put it away to grow into a book. I am in love with this image. This is a book at conception.

2. Implantation ~ Not every flash of inspiration makes it to becoming a book. I have lots of flashes that don't. I write them down, or maybe I forget them, or maybe I absorb them into another WiP. But if the idea sticks with me and won't let go, I start mulling it over more purposefully, I start making outlines, I start discussing characters and plot points with my husband. This is the part where I commit to making a book out of the flash of inspiration. This is the part where the story latches on for good and starts to grow.

3. Pregnancy (I'm not going to get all "embryonic/fetal stage" technical here) ~ I don't start writing, not yet. I think one of the mistakes I used to make a lot regarding writing, something that led to a massive amount of writer's block and head banging on my desk, was STARTING THE BOOK TOO SOON. I don't mean starting the story 3 chapters before the action really starts. I mean not giving myself time to ruminate on the book enough. Not giving myself time to understand the story, not letting myself know and love the characters. At this point, the writer should plot and outline and then just daydream. Love the story. Talk about the story. Don't write the story yet. Just hold yourself back and let it grow in your head. For me, if I write too soon, I might extinguish that tiny flame that's flickering on the kindling (ahh, another metaphor is getting mixed into the pregnancy thing, and we probably don't wanna mix babies and fire. LOL.)

4. Birth ~ Okay. I think birth--LABOR--is the best metaphor for the actual writing process. Because it is WORK. It is HARD. It can be quick (some books are written in under a month. I kid you not) or it can be long and slow and tortuous. Every book is different. Every author is different. But of course you can learn and prepare yourself mentally and skill-wise to have a better birth/writing experience. (I wish I had something to offer authors that amounts to pain meds for this writing the book birth, but ... I'm drawing a blank. ?)

5. Right after, when the mother is holding the baby ~ Okay. The book is written. How do you feel? You know how they say after the baby is born the mom forgets everything and just gazes at that little baby? She's in love. She's so happy. This is how I feel when I've finished a new book. It's perfect. It might be ugly to everybody else, it might be full of typos and errors and too many adverbs and some sloppy pacing, but I LOVE it. It is mine.

6. I could take this metaphor on and on. I could talk about how you have to take care of that baby and nurture it and help it grow strong (revision), or I could go on about how lots of moms forget about how bad labor was and have another baby, even when they thought during that first birth they'd NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. Remember that when you're writing your book.

THANKFULLY an author can be at all these stages at the same time with books ;-) and we don't have to wait 9 months for a new book. Right now you could say I'm simultaneously in the conception, implantation, pregnancy, and birth stages. Oh and I have a newborn.

~ I am also dedicating this post to my 3 friends, C who just gave birth to an actual real live (non-book) baby yesterday, K who is pregnant with her first, and E, who is having another after she swore she wouldn't. ~

Being in Love with your Characters
I had a fun conversation with another writer friend, @thejaimie (follow her on twitter! she's awesome!) today about the characters in our books, and about being in love with them.

Do you, other aspiring/published writers, fall in love with your MCs?

* PAUSE for an adorable alert ~ my sleeping kitty is twitching her tail spastically AWW *

Okay, back to the topic at hand. I have read many articles that interview authors with the hungry, half-crazed with jealousy attention that most aspiring writers give to such things (kidding. sorta.) and I have been surprised to find a lot of quotes like this:

"I like my characters, sure, but ... I mean, I don't feel the same way about them as the readers do, obviously."

"I think my readers love these characters waaaaaay more than I do."


Which leads me to ponder how I feel about my own characters.

I love my characters. I LOVE them. Some of them bring a foolish grin to my face when I talk about them to other people. Some of them make me angry. Some of them make me nervous. But I always love them.

Is this unusual? Is it because I feel so strongly tied to them emotionally?

Quite frankly, it's a complicated and beautiful mess when it comes to my characters and how I see them. On the one hand, they aren't me. Certainly not. I don't want to write any Mary Sues, and anyway I would make a rather poor subject for a book, as I tend to hide in corners and avoid conflict a lot. A LOT.

However, at the same time as these characters aren't me, as soon as I wriggle down inside their proverbial skins and start writing through their eyes, I feel like I'm them. In a way. One part of my brain is thinking things like "I need to have him say X here, so his motivation in scene Y makes sense to the reader" and in another part of my brain I'm grieving the death of the characters friend or whatever has happened. It's a sort of convoluted mixture of empathy and knowing. Some people talk about their characters as if they are real people that they have conversations with. I feel as though my characters are people I know/sometimes climb inside their heads and feel what they feel.

Now, the question of being in love with your characters (especially the male MC, but you can have girl-crushes or whatever too ... I'm not ruling anything out here). In a way, yes I always am. If I'm NOT in love with him, there's something wrong. I ask myself, if I as the writer don't feel any sense of attraction to this guy, why should I expect the reader to? And I'm not saying that such a thing is impossible, some of the authors who I loosely quoted above had written very compelling romances. But I personally don't understand writing a compelling character without feeling at least a little bit compelled by them.

So, as far as being in love with the MC ... for the book I'm currently querying, my finished WiP The Dragonsayer, I was so in love with the female MC that I walked around for days with a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. She was like a best friend/daughter/sister/myself (even though she is so far from me in personality, it's laughable). It's hard to describe how I felt about her, except that I wanted to see her succeed so badly that I couldn't even sit still through my favorite TV show. And trust me, THAT is about the pinnacle of excitement for me, as the favorite TV show in question is very gripping.

With a book I wrote previously for a friend (yes, she knows she's lucky to get tailored-to-her-tastes novels), I loved the main love interest with an intensity that startled me. I was rereading a passage I'd written a few months before, and I was so happy about something he did that I almost started crying. I have no defense for this behavior.

Before I make myself sound completely neurotic, I'll wrap up this post. I'm curious to hear from other writers, though--do you care strongly/deeply/neurotically about your characters in your books? Do you identify with them, do you love them like siblings, do they feel like friends? Have you ever been in love with the leading man of your book?

PS ~ My husband isn't jealous per se, but he insists that he is the inspiration for every male MC I write. I think it consoles him.