Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quote of the Week

"I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us."

-Dorothy Dix

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Warm, but I Don't Have Anything Else to Read

There's a meeting I had to go to (yes, I had to go ;P) in Puerto Rico this week. Spent S's birthday traveling - SLC to ATL to SJU. So now here I am in warm Puerto Rico! I have to say, leaving the blizzard this morning, I wasn't too sad. I do miss the girls though, and am sad that I wasn't home for the bday, but he got to go fishing all day without having to worry about me waiting for him to come home, so that probably made the day better for him anyway. Lol.

Anyway, finally landed here just after 8 P.M. and when I climbed into the taxi, it said the temperature was 81 degrees F. Yes, that's right. In SLC when I was leaving it was 26 degrees F. I know, I know, deal with it, but I can't help trying to spread my joy that here, it's warm!! I'm enjoying it enough for everyone back home. I promise.

The other thing about this trip was it really put into perspective just how fast I read. We specifically made a bookstore stop over the weekend so I didn't have to make a stop at the crappy airport bookstore. I picked up a couple and figured they'd last me at least the flight here and maybe the SJU to ATL leg on the way back and I'd just do some writing or something ATL to SLC, but nope. I'm completely finished with one and about halfway with the other. I just read way too fast. So now it looks like I may have to make a stop at the bookstore. Not looking forward to that. The selection will not be up to par and I'll end up getting something that I really shouldn't because it's an emergency purchase, not a thoughtful one. *sigh* What's girl to do??

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recent Read: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Book: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Current Book Count: 1

So this was the book that actually incited my endeavor to begin this 100 books read by the end of the year thing. I actually picked this up a week ago this past Saturday (that's why I said I wanted to start with the last weekend, not the one that just passed), but I finished it by late Tuesday night. It was after some extensive wandering in the bookstore trying to decide what it was I really wanted to read that I chose this. I'd read some great reviews on this and honestly, with a name like that, I was intrigued.

For anyone not aware, this is a post-apocalyptic zombie book. Think M. Night Shyamalan's The Village meets Resident Evil 3. That comparison is only for visualization purposes because I am not of the mind that a movie is ever better than a book. While there are many book-to-film adaptations there are out there and some are done better than others, none can truly compare to the book. But I digress.

TFoHaT did keep me up once I got into it. It just took a bit longer for me to get to the point of not being able to put it down. Maybe because I don't generally read Fantasy / Horror / SciFi whether it be adult or YA. This book just had me intrigued by the title alone and I got sucked in. Carrie Ryan did a great job building a world of humans coexisting with legions of the undead without making it really feel like I was reading a zombie book.

Mary lives in a village completely enclosed by a fence that separates it from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The fence is maintained to keep out the Unconsecrated - the walking dead. When she was little, Mary's mother told her a story about the ocean, a vast body of water beyond where the forest ended. But the story was several generations old now and no one living had ever seen it. Mary is the only one who believes it exists. Its this hope she clings to when her village is attacked by the Unconsecrated and she has to do all she can to survive.

To me, the story was basically about a girl feeling trapped: in her her role as a dutiful daughter, in her village enclosed by a fence, in her life. She knows there's more out there and this is her journey to find the life beyond the walls. Trying to find a way out, to find something - hope.

This story resonated with me because I think everyone feels the emotions and maybe we don't necessarily feel like we have zombies coming after us, a lot of times, it does feel like life doles out some tough blows and we lose heart. This just makes me think that no matter what, you can't lose hope. The ocean's out there. You just have to believe in yourself to get there.

Friday, March 27, 2009

100 Books

I've been thinking about this lately and have decided to give myself a non-writing goal for the year. I say non-writing, but it isn't really. What's the goal, you ask? Well, I've decided that between now and the end of the year, I am going to read 100 books. Now is a subjective term, as I've been thinking about this for a while so I'm actually going to start counting as of this past weekend.

The way I figure it, reading is like background research right? You can only get better at something if you study the craft. In a writer's case, you read. Now, there are lots of lists of books you should read out there, but I don't want to tie myself to those. I am just going to commit to 100 books (and no, the picture books I read to the kids do not count, neither do books that I re-read). Maybe next year I'll reevaluate and try to go through one of those lists. In the meantime, I'm just going to read what looks interesting to me.

In association with this, I'm going to start a new post string titled "Recent Reads." Of course, you can always see what I've read, am reading or are trying to read on my GoodReads page, but if not, I will also start posting my thoughts on my "Recent Reads" here.

Happy reading and have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where Are We Going Again?

As a tie-in to yesterday's Wednesday Wondering, lets talk about figuring out where a plotline may be going.

So when I was younger I wrote a lot, but when I reached college, I was working full-time, had an over full-load of classes and little to no sleep. Unfortunately, the writing fell by the wayside. Now that I've picked it up again, I rediscovered my love for it about a year and a half ago, I find I have a hard time ever completely walking away.

My husband tells me I need to take a break once in a while, but I can't. I feel like I have nearly 10 years of stories in me and they all need to be told. Every single one of these characters have sort of become integrated into my day-to-day life. This is where my more recent issue has arisen.

I'm the sort to have multiple projects going on at all times. It's the Gemini in me, I can't help it. So besides my 3 completed ms, I have several WIPs right now at varying stages of completion. Some have a hundred pages, some have just a couple of sentences. Now for many of you out there, you understand what I mean when I say "inspiration can strike anywhere" and as cliche as that line may be, it's the truth.

As I said previously, general plotlines come to me out of order and then I have to figure out where they go amongst my many WIPs. After I have a completed or mostly completed ms is when I usually go back to do an outline. Then I tweak as necessary.

So if you're amongst the legions of writers (or is it just me?) who write completely out of order and with several WIPs going (does anyone else sense my A.D.D.?) how do you determine which WIP a new inspiration goes into? Or is it one of those things that you "just know" and can't explain?

Let me know your thoughts! Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Wondering: Chronological or Out of Order?

Firstly, I've decided to start a new "thing" on the blog: Wednesday Wonderings. It could be related to writing, reading, life, thoughts on the universe or maybe even the bizarre way that chocolate and cayenne pepper really compliments each other. It'll be a surprise every week! But it'll always start in my mind with the "I wonder . . . " And I'd love it if I can get some thoughts from others out there. So here goes . . .

Wednesday's Wondering - Chronological or Out of Order?

Recently I've read some Tweets and blog comments on the number of words a person has written in a day. It appears some people have a certain number of word goal each day and there's a happy celebration *dancing* when they reach their goal. This got me thinking.

Mind you, I have not committed myself to a certain number of words each day. For me, it stifles my creativity a bit and makes it feel more like a classroom assignment to meet a quota. Just a personal feeling there. Anyway, sidetracked, here was the thought that came to me: are these people working on their projects in chronological order?

For me, stories flow in a more memory-esque way. Things come to me out of order and I have to figure out where they go. So what about you? Do you write chronologically or do you have to take some time to move things around because the story came to you in out of order sections?

Monday, March 23, 2009

More . . . Revisions and Readings

Over the weekend I received my first round of feedback on my current project. Verdict: Good, but need more. Here's a paraphrased version of the conversation.

Me: More what?
Reader1: I don't know.
Me: More plot, more character... (a level of asking the right questions is always necessary with this person)
Reader1: Yeah. More.

I'm thinking I need a little more direction here. Mind you, I appreciate all the feedback I receive from this specific reader, but she and I both know she's not the most verbiose when it comes to criticism. I have to drag it out of her sometimes.

I've also definitely been taking every opportunity I can to get snippets of my manuscript out there for 3rd party critique. I've been working on incorporating all the feedback I've received on both the manuscript sections and my draft queries into the final products. I'm currently still in revision stages (yet again). I am working with a self-imposed deadline, so hopefully I can meet it.

On a separate note, S asked for a trip to the bookstore yesterday. And he knows what those trips can lead to, but he needed to pick up a photography book. So you know what that meant for me. . . Yay! New reading material. I was debating between The Hunger Games and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I have heard great things about both books and even though I'm not exactly into fantasy or horror, I have been thoroughly intrigued by both based on these reviews. Inevitably, TFOHAT won out. I mean, with a title like that, you can't help but pique people's interest, right?

P.S. Also stumbled across some clearance notebooks. I don't write whole manuscripts by hand, but I do like to have a notebook with me at all times to jot down ideas, thoughts, observations or just draw out images in my head that could turn into something. You know, notebooks that I just have around to, well, write in. It's a bonus when they're cute too!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

To Query or Not To Query (aka: 1st person POV vs 3rd person POV)

For the last several days, er, weeks is more like it, I have been working on my query letter. I've come to the decision that anyone can write a book. Whether it is a good book is another story, but lo, anyone can write a book. The kicker is, how good of a query letter writer are you?

Me? Well, this is my 2nd go around on the writing a query for a novel thing. My first query I don't think I put enough effort behind, I was possibly just too excited for the whole thought. Countless rejections later (actually 13 to be exact), I have found that perhaps I jumped the gun a bit in the beginning.

So now, new novel, new query. I'm currently on version 13 of this query. And I'm still not sure I feel "good." (Definition of "good" in this case is "like this is absolutely, positively the best query letter I've written for this novel.") Here is my dilemma: 1st person vs 3rd person.

When I started drafting letters, I wrote a query letter in 3rd person, as is customary. Feedback I received: it's a little weak (with suggestions on how to improve). I wrote a query letter in 1st person, despite reading a lot of advice against that. Feedback I received: stronger, "it had a voice" (still with suggestions on how to improve). The comment about it having a voice really stuck with me, because I know that is what a lot of agents look for.

In a fit of uncertainty, I posted a hybrid of my 1st/3rd person query here. The comments, though there were only 2 to date, have given me fantastic insight into how the query reads on both the 1st person POV and the 3rd person POV sections. (I have to say, the reference to Sarah Dessen is going into my scrapbook of feedback because I am a huge fan!)

So as the saying goes, I'm heading back to the drawing board, er, notepad and pen, er, computer keyboard. It's a lot easier to delete, cut & paste and it doesn't make my hand hurt as much.

What about you? Thoughts on 1st person vs 3rd person POV, in queries and in general?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Enough is Enough. Or Is It?

Yesterday I started reading through my manuscript again. Inevitably, I found things to change, for the better, I think, but I was actually just trying to do a read through without editing. Ha. Like that's possible. I don't know about the rest of you out there, but almost every time I pick up one of my projects, I can't seem to just leave what is there alone. There's always "just one more thing" to make it all more perfect. So when is enough enough?

Ahhh, that is the wonders of the blog-o-sphere, right? Apparently Elana Roth didn't have a blog topic yesterday and threw it out to Twitter for suggestions. I guess I wasn't the only one who was constantly wondering "When To Stop Fiddling" because that was her entire blog yesterday! Woohoo!

In other news, I have this "thing" about having sets of books that don't all match. Like, owning half a series in hardcover and the rest in paperback? They don't look as nice on the shelf and it's probably just me being a dork. So I have been so waiting waiting waiting to get Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key in paperback, as I have all her others in paperback, but now with her new book coming out just the month after, well, that means I'm going to have to wait for yet another of hers for a whole nother year to get the "matching" one.

Jacket Picture

For anyone out there who is in need of that perfect picture to go with your bio on the jacket of your next great book, or if you just need some family pics or something, here's a link to an awesome photographer!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Too Many People

We had family come into town over the weekend. I met people who were in my family I have never even heard mention of before this past weekend. Had cousins coming out my ears! But *sigh* everyone's a-gone home now. Great visit, but nice for everything to be quiet again.

Received some third-party critique last week, just before the family arrived, and didn't have a chance to share. The resounding feedback: too many people. Kind of funny that was the feedback that came back seeing as it was a whole weekend of too many people. But I digress.

My first page alone had six characters. I hadn't thought much of this, as I live daily with a multitude of characters, in real life and in my head. But yeah, that's a lot of people inside of 300 words. (Flash to me, counting out each individual on my fingers realizing that is WAY too many people.) An easy fix, or so I thought. I have now gone through the entire manuscript now finding all sorts of characters that perhaps I don't need. My problem here is that I feel so attached to these "people" I feel guilty getting rid of them. I've lived so long with all these guys on the periphery of my imaginary world, it feels a little empty without them.

Then I realized I've lived an entire life not knowing a whole branch of my family tree. Isn't that the same thing? Sort of? Getting rid of a few characters from the book will not lessen the population of "my world." If you've never met them, that doesn't mean they don't exist, right? So I decided that's okay. You can just meet them later. You know, in a couple decades or something.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

In an age when everyone seems to be pinching pennies and a dollar doesn't buy what it used to anymore, reading about Audrey Niffenegger's nearly $5M, yes that's right, I said million, deal for her 2nd novel gives me hope.

As a writer, honestly, it isn't about the money. I do it because I love it. Because it gives me an escape into a world that (for now) is all my own. No one else lives there and I can get absorbed into the lives of my characters as they show me their stories. My only job is to capture everything I can as I see their lives unfold before me.

As a "pre-published" writer (you know, like pre-med student?), it gives me hope that there's a chance, however slim, that one can still make a living as a writer. Recently I've read a few agent blogs providing some general advice for the "pre-published" population and there were some really valid points they made. The one that has stuck with me the most is basically summed up as "Don't quit your day job." When I first read this it made me a little sad, because really, I'd love to just be able to write all the time, but for now, that's a bit unrealistic. And then when I read that same piece of advice on another agent's blog, well, I started thinking about it and it really does make a lot of sense. Nothing's guaranteed, right?

No one can truly know what's going to happen beyond right now (except maybe psychics, but they creep me out a little), so I guess following the old adage would be ideal: hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Do everything you can to help yourself succeed, but at some point, you have to let go and let the chips land where they may. Hopefully they land in the good places, the ones you wanted them to land in and maybe a few places you never even realized were there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Learning Lessons

Firstly, it's snowing. The weekend was close to 70 the whole time, and now it's snowing. Big. Fat. Stick to your face. Stick to the road. Stick everywhere. Flakes. I'm really tired of this. Spring, spring, where are you?

Because I have so much free time (yeah, right), S and I decided last night that he needs to work on taking more "people" pictures. He's much better at the nature pics, but that's not as good at generating funds as "people" pictures can be. But I'm much better at envisioning pictures, so as my third job, I'm taking on the position of art director. Hopefully this pans out well. We have our first "job" in a couple weeks.

On another note, there have been so much fodder going around about #queryfail on Twitter! Both negative and positive and if you don't know what #queryfail day was, check out this link to Colleen Lindsay's blog. Apparently, she's getting hate mail for it, but as a writer, I think it was really valuable, if a little snarky. But everyone's entitled, I think. I mean, who doesn't get a little snarky at work? Sometime's you just sit there and ask yourself, "seriously? so-and-so did not just do/say that. oh, seriously he/she did. OMG, I can't believe it." Well, if you can't learn from your mistakes. . . right? For me it gave me further insight into the world of the slush pile agents have to wade through, making me think that much harder about my own query. Just like everyone else, I don't want to #queryfail.

While some out there may see it as negativity and to a point, it may be, but is the glass half full, or half empty? It's all in how you see it. My glass is half full and I'm taking notes on what not to do. (From what I hear, following submissions guidelines is the way to go! LOL)

Happy snowy Monday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Britney vs. Taylor

I have a confession. I LOVE Britney Spears (before and after the crazy period), but I really do. And the Backstreet Boys - the collective 5, I'm a little uncertain of the foursome still. And NSYNC. I'm a boy band, pop music junkie. That's not to say that I don't love a lot of other music too, but this morning they were talking about Britney's tour opening in New Orleans and even though everyone knows she lip syncs on stage, and honestly, who can blame the girl when she's dancing her little heart out?, she put on a phenomenal show and now I'm sad that I'm not going to her concert here. *sigh*

On a lighter note, the reason I can't go to see Britney is because my husband made me choose. Go see Britney (a less than PG rated show, I'm sure) or take our 3-yr old (P) to go see Taylor Swift, who all of us LOVE. Well, in an effort to be a good mom, I put my wants aside and am now waiting patiently (not really, I've been checking almost every day) for the Taylor Swift concert tickets to go on sale for her show here. Silver lining? The Taylor Swift tickets are about 1/3 the cost of the Britney show.

I love both, but I don't think P's old enough to truly appreciate Britney yet. I think her father hopes she never really does.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Great Deals

The weather over the weekend was much better than I expected. We even took the kids out, had family Costco day and got some errands done. It was good times. And can I just say, I LOVE that Costco carries the baby's formula in the gigantor containers? Much more cost effective. Plus, you can't beat the $1.50 hot dog and soda for lunch. Feed the whole family for under $5! Great deal in this economy.

Speaking of great deals in this economy: free critiques. I posted the link to my chapter ending and though I didn't get as many critiques as I would have liked, the ones I did get were great. Some really positive feedback (which always makes you feel better when you put yourself out there) and some great catches I didn't even notice in my self editing. I've been working through the edits based on the feedback and feel a lot better about my manuscript as a whole.

Thanks to everyone who provided me with feedback!