Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Shopping?

Searching for that perfect gift?  Well, I am a converted e-reader lover!  It is simply the best gift for any reader on your list.

I was skeptical of the new technology.  I felt like I was cheating on paper books much like writers of "old" who survived the transition from typewriter to computer.  There's nostalgia and comfort in the tried and true.  Take heart, the e-reader is worth the moment of anxiety.

I received mine for my birthday (not telling the number) and haven't looked back.  After quickly uploading a few books, I was hooked.  All the buzz in my head about the demise of paper books quieted.  Stories are stories, no matter the delivery.

I hope you find yourself cuddled under a blanket, loved ones close by your side and a good book in your lap.  (paper or electronic)  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flesh Out

Here's a term that makes me cringe when I hear it.  "Fleshing out" a character gets thrown around quite a bit these days.  I don't object to the idea of layering a character, as much as the terminology.  We are creating fictional characters - they have no flesh.  They can have characteristics heaped upon them aplenty but they are fleshless.

When I read, I take the bits and pieces given to me by the author and mold my own character.  It's more of a wisp of air than flesh.  It's an interpretation of features, actions and observations from other characters.  I have to admit that I often rewrite a character in my head.  The author may have described the MC as a tall blond bombshell with bravado to spare.  If I like the story but object to a character, I very easily substitute my own imagined description.  When I was a teenager and devoured romance novels, I usually changed the heroine to better fit my own characteristics.  (She never was blond or tall in my mind.)

A writer can describe a character with witty and precise words.  But, in the end, it's the imagination of the reader that defines the character.  Your perfectly "fleshed" out character may end up resembling someone from their childhood or bagger at the grocery store that put a can on top of their bread.

Terms that make you cringe, twitch or gag?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm Sorry Mr. Grogan

My apologies to Mr. Grogan for using his touching and beautiful novel to finally see my name in print.

The running column "Rejected" gave me the opportunity to play editor and dish out criticism liberally.  It was a hoot to play editor and hand out my misguided suggestions to an aspiring author.  Secretly, it made me feel better to remind myself that many wonderful books have been overlooked or jeered. 

My only qualification for this was having received rejection letters and an odd sense of humor.

Check it out in the January edition of Writer's Digest.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Strange Package Arrives

I've been waiting for the promised copies of my first published article to arrive.  Every large envelope that has arrived has made me hold my breath until I can scan the return address.

Another arrived this past week but sadly was addressed to someone I did not know.  A wrong address?  But wait, my heart fluttered seeing the return address.  It was from the magazine!  Right return - wrong addressee.  Did that mean that they had published my article with the wrong name?  Oh, cruel fate.  My first article and it would not bear my name! 

Hands shaking, I tore it open, flipping to find my article.  My words were there for the world to see.  Huge sigh of name printed correctly, in bold no less.

The rest of the afternoon was spent rereading my words aloud to the dogs.  They were the only ones around to appreciate my good fortune and share in a realized dream.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ready to Go...Almost

Back to reality.  Laundry, groceries, mail - the drudgery of ordinary life that I escaped for a week as I soaked up books and sunshine.

My brain continued to buzz with ideas for my current manuscript but I tried to quiet the humming.  Concentrating on others' writings is so important.  Seeing what works and what doesn't.  Finding phrases you love.  Looking at structure and grammar.  Noticing character details and viewpoints.  (Yes, I know these are all fragments.  My eighth grade grammar teacher would be ashamed.)

It spurs on creativity.  Now, if I could just reach the bottom of the laundry pile so I could let my fingers fly across the keyboard after drinking in all that creativity.  (Maybe a few pina coladas mingled with the creativity but I won't tell.)


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Goodbye Cruel World

I'll be blog-free for a short while.  It's off to a beach, dig my toes in the sand and read the books I've downloaded to my heart's content.  I've already peeked at a few and can't wait to begin my vacation.

My hubby, sunshine, margaritas and good books!  Life is good.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Painting Words

After reading the latest YA novel that was recommended to me, I feel awful.  And wonderful.  And determined. 

I realized that writing is like painting.  Stay with me on this one.  First, you sketch and then add colors layer by layer to make it something beautiful.  With writing, an author throws if down and stands back to see the missing colors.  Will the reader feel and breathe the world created?

The author whose book I'm reading is a master at bringing to life the details that make a reader feel like they know the place!  The imagery is spot on.  A bridge that appears skeletal at night, the black outline in the distance.

While I was captured by the words, I also felt a moment of panic.  My latest manuscript wasn't doing that!  Deep breath, count to ten, close my eyes.  I realized that I was still sketching...the colors will come.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Outline S.O.S.

I've never written an outline when I'm working on a manuscript.  It's proving to be difficult.  I change it after I've written a few chapters.  I guess I'm an "organic" writer.  Things flow better when they rattle around in my brain for awhile.  Suggestions?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

But I Don't Want To!

I hate it when you develop characters and REALLY like them.  But in the end, you have to kill them.  Isn't it awful?

I'm outlining my current novel and I have to make the decision.  It's what is best for the book but...I don't want to see this character disappear forever.  I find him/her to be interesting and could do more.

Rather than stress, I will wait until that part of the book is written.  Once the words flow, I'll have a better grasp and know if it must be done.  Who knows?  Maybe there will be a last minute divine inspiration that will save my poor character!  Or maybe, the bell tolls for ... (scary music playing in the background in honor of Halloween)  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blogroll Please

It's been a week.  The sort of week that involves broken dryers (yes, again), children running into trees (yes, he's fine) and cats getting fish hooks through their lips (no, don't ask).  In the craziness, I have been a bad blogger.

Usually, a blog post pops into my head.  This week, I ticked off the endless stream of things that I needed to do: query, revise a manuscript, work on my new manuscript, read my writing journals, read the latest YA bestseller sitting on my nightstand, finish critiques for my critique group, work on a summary for two novels, review submission protocol from our SCBWI conference, check the bestseller list, blah, blah, blah and blog.  Poor blogging fell to the bottom.

As I finally got around to looking at my blogroll, I realized that it provides so much information.  Contests, Advice, Publishing leads, etc.  More than anything, I almost always find a "chin-up" article that keeps me driving forward when I want to put everything in park.

Maybe I should move blogging further up the to-do chain.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

As Their Eyes Glazed

Do you remember your first love?  Perhaps in high school.  Your eyes would light up when someone mentioned his name?  You would talk endlessly (to the point that had your best friends begging for mercy) about how absolutely wonderful he was? 

Talking about writing is my crush...lights up my eyes, has me talking fast and makes me ignore the bored look on the faces of those that I'm talking to.  And like the past, my friends politely nod and entertain me without grasping the delight of sitting behind a computer screen for hours.

I even enjoy this blogging gig!  It's a public diary of sorts. 

Now, about that Twitter thing.  Haven't ventured there.  Is it an abbreviated public diary? Hmmm. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

She Rolled Her Eyes...

I'm trying to figure out why I keep describing body language in my writing.  One editor (nameless) told me it was distracting.  Of course, this makes me hyper-aware of my eye-rolling, stomach twisting and finger tapping.  I agree that too much can be a nuisance but I can't seem to avoid it!

I think that body language can say so much.  The words may come out one way but body language differs; it shows true feelings.  (Just ask my husband.)  "Where do you want to go eat?"  The list begins.  My response is "Whatever."  Wrinkling up my nose says more than that single word.

So, I guess it's the balance.  As in all good, chocolate, and so on.

She smiles and clicks 'send'.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I don't know if it's the repetition or the fact that I will only see this date once in my life, but it definitely made me pause this morning.  The wheels started turning.  Will today be full of luck?  I'm not a big believer in fate but sometimes it's too hard to ignore.  What if it is a magical day?  What if this will be a day of opportunity?

It only meant one thing.  Submit a query.  I didn't want to thumb my nose at fate on this day. 

Now, I wait and see if fate smiles or laughs at me.  I'm hoping that this day turns out to be a perfect ten in all ways.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jumping-Up-And-Down Moment

Well, after persistence....  I can say I'm on the road to being published.  Before you get excited, this is about an article.  It's not quite the champagne popping moment of my friend who was extended representation by an agent, but it's wonderful for one simple fact.  I can say I'm published.  For a new writer, those words are sweeter than "Please, have another cupcake, you look so skinny!" 

I will be smiling for days.  Writer's Digest is the "bestest", greatest publication ever!  Oops, did I give a clue?

Maybe those queries won't make me panic when I get to the personal information paragraph.  Keep at it, fellow writers!


Friday, October 1, 2010


Remember those things?  What I should be doing is refining queries, but that thing called life is in the way again.  (Also, it's much more fun to write.) 

Next week: submit something. 

Right now: It's 5:30.  Turn off computer and pour a glass of wine. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

What's in a Name?

I have to confess.  A cliffhanger gets me every time.  So if you stuck with's Sawyer.  That's it.  No more!

I love constructing names.  The names in my latest are coming readily. 

Why do we choose certain names?  Wouldn't you love to know why famous literary characters were christened?  Oliver Twist, Hermione Granger, Margaret Murry, Junie B. Jones, Ramona, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Katniss Everdeen and on and on.  Some resonate long after the book has been put away, archived, etc.  They dwell in our minds and we pull them out as needed.  Baby names, dog names, etc.  Our memories and emotions shade our choices.  I'll never use Melody or Tyler.  A strong image has forever tainted those poor innocent names.

Names you love?  Hate? 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Better Than Chocolate...

Feel free to substitute any noun in place of chocolate, as long as it's something you LOVE.

It's that time during the writing process that makes me feel like Charlie finding his golden ticket.  Tomorrow, I begin writing a new book. 

The idea has floated around in my brain being refined for months and now its time to take the first step.  Turn on laptop, ignore the phone, and begin.  Characters have been molded in my mind.  A lady with a rather outdated hairstyle, a particularly obnoxious voice, or other things of note will find their way into my book.

I love names.  There is a time when you know its the right fit.  A name that you've come across during your other life that screams at you to be in your book.  No Jenny, Emily or Taylor will fit.  It must be ____.  Did you think I would tell you?

Maybe tomorrow.... Or, maybe I will write on the importance of cliffhangers.  


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Joy or Misery?

Neither.  I've come to the realization that writing conferences aren't about emotion.  It's a time to improve your skills.  And if you're lucky, you can take the extremes out of your reaction to what is being said.  It's a time to sit back and become a sponge.

So, you ask, what was the outcome of my critique with Jennifer Rees?  (She's with Scholastic and was the editor for The Hunger Games latest literary crush)  It was honest.  There were good points. (The smiley faces made me grin.)  There was criticism. but it pointed me in direction I need to go in order to improve my manuscript.

The best comment: "I like the quirky feel of the story and writing."  Yes, I choose to interpret 'quirky' as a positive.  Every author wants to be unique, different, one-of-a-kind, etc.  It was enough for me to come home and hack the first three chapters to incorporate other points she made. 

Joy or misery?  Neither.  Maybe I should write trampoline or sink hole next time.  I'll bounce, I mean, sign off for now. :)  

Friday, September 10, 2010

Off to See the Wizard, I Mean Editor

I am sooooo excited.  (Obviously by my very childish use of the 'o' key.)  It's time for another annual SCBWI conference.  It provides motivation, knowledge and most importantly, hope.  Yep, that thing with feathers!

This will be my fourth one.  The first was marked by uncertainty, quietly sitting in the back of every breakout session and never walking near the critique rooms.  The second year I gave myself a pep talk and signed up for a critique.  She loved it!  Yes, I glowed the rest of the day.  After talks of representation, it was a "no" in the end.  Not letting myself wallow in misery, I dug out my conference notes and plodded onward.  The third conference was full of familiar faces, great workshops and a feeling that I was truly a part of all this 'writing stuff'.  The critique kept my feet firmly on the ground but the greatest thing to come out of this conference was the formation of a great critique group.  Thank you Kim!

So here I am at year four.  The swirl of emotions!  Anticipation of all the presenters that will encourage me to keep writing; knowledge that will be added to my growing awareness of the writing world; hope that maybe this will be the year that I bust out of my cozy shell. 

Next blog?  Will it be misery or joy?  Wait and see!

Monday, September 6, 2010

No Worries

Last blog...complain about no followers.  This blog...rationalize about lack of following.

Here's my "chin-up" speech to myself. 

How on Earth can anyone follow a blog and still have time to write, let alone see to the mundane tasks of life?  I have a very kind fellow blogger who has advised me about the etiquette of blogging.  It seems that you must follow others, comment on their blogs and invite them to join yours.

This is all very productive in rubbing cyber-elbows, but I have to pause and ask myself if being obscure is such a bad thing?  I don't worry about offending.  There are few to take offense.  I don't have to worry about following their blog.  I email them and follow their blogs as time allows.  (Without hurt feelings, thank goodness.)  Likewise. if someone clicks on my website, they were searching ME!

There is something very satisfying in being under the radar.  Here's the catch...while I prop myself up on this newfound acceptance, I realize that today's world demands that we stay connected. 

While I await the Facebook Friends, Tweets and  online love, I am content in the knowledge that I have this honeymoon time to work out my blog. 

Crickets chirping...quite relaxing, at least for now. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hello? Anyone there?

Hello?  (Crickets chirping in the background.)

Okay, my witty writing is ready to shine like a beacon in the night.  Too much?  Well maybe, I'll settle for having more followers than I can count on one hand.

I remember watching the movie Julie and Julia.  The main character, Julie, starts blogging about her adventures in cooking her way through Julia Childs famous cookbook.  The scene that tugged at my heartstrings had Julie sitting in front of her computer screen waiting anxiously for someone to read her blog.

Likewise, I'm there.  With any new endeavour, patience is a hard pill to swallow.  Just add a little wine in honor of Julia.

Interested in the original blog I reference?


Nobody here but us servantless American cooks...


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ten Minutes

When is there time to sit down and write?  Honestly!  I block out time for my writing every week but it isn't enough.  I'm forced to ask myself if the ten minutes I have before cooking dinner is worth it.  But then there's the twenty minutes I find while waiting for the dryer to go off.  Fifteen minutes magically appear when the kids are outside.  Oh, and my husband called and said that he was running late.  That means an extra thirty minutes before I have to cook dinner.  (And, if I can rationalize that a breakfast dinner is just as healthy as a normal dinner...I gain another ten minutes!) 

When those precious minutes present themselves, don't dismiss them as unworthy.  They roll together and add up to time that is productive and valuable.  Even if it is means spending ten minutes reworking a character name.  Twila Martini is a much better name than Peggy Burns...

I finished my blog early!  Another five minutes gained. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are You Happy Now?

Imagine a teenager stuffing his hands in jean pockets, head-down and mumbling a begrudging thank you.  That's how I feel.  My critique group has been prodding me to submit a query - short of literally using an electric cattle prod.  They have been encouraging and patient.

Well, I did it.  I sent it off after obsessively rechecking my spelling, reviewing grammar and rereading guidelines fifteen times.  Thanks to my fellow blogger C. for her article, "A Day in The Life of a Querier."  (  She enlighted me with humor and helped me realize that a query will never be PERFECT.  You hit the send button and know you have committed a faux pas at some point in the query.  It takes nerves of steel and a realization that a publisher will not be knocking on my front door.  (Although, it is a pretty door...I have a direct view from my computer.  There have been occasional day-dreams of an agent showing up with a toothpaste-ad smile and a list of publishing houses awaiting my manuscript.  Sigh.)

Back to reality!

Putting aside my anxiety, I  realize that I possess something I didn't twenty minutes ago.  Hope.  

Monday, August 16, 2010

One of Those Days

There's a lingering smell in the air.  It's the pungent electrical fire odor from a motor that has seen its final days.  Unfortunately for me, my dryer (an essential component of my daily routine) has decided that life wasn't worth living anymore.  I would like to believe that the sprinkler head in the front yard is weeping over my dryer's death and not just leaking water for no apparent reason. 

Now, I wait for number three.  It always happens.  Either the dog will get sick, the kids will break something or I will discover that the ink stain on my new pants is permanent.

Such a whiner!

As a writer, I realize that even in the challenges of life, there is a lesson to be learned.  I wouldn't be able to describe the awful burnt plastic smell of my late dryer without having experienced it firsthand.  We are often encouraged to throw curveballs at our characters to see how they will react.  It's the wealth of personal experiences that makes writing come to life.

I'm not sure that my next writing will have a dryer funeral but there might be a lingering burnt plastic smell. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Critique Groups

Everyone needs a good group of friends to support them in the highs and lows of life.  No news there.  I think it's the same with writing. 

Some friends will listen to you rattle off your latest idea with a smile.  More to support something you love than to truly appreciate the art of creating a story.  And, I'm blessed that they do smile instead of yawn. 

Then there is your critique group.  They GET it.  They are your editors, cheerleaders, critics, and motivators.  And what makes a successful group is the blending of personalities.

There is S - a polished professional, who has done everything in the correct order.  Her polished website is as bright as her smile.  There's J - an example of how to network and become involved in the writing community.  Her work with children keeps her in touch with her audience.  K - the most right-brained writer I know.  She challenges me to think.  There will be no sloppy writing because she will catch the smallest detail.  C - the girlfriend everyone wants to have.  Heading straight for success with an incredible humility.  J - creates the most beautiful scenes.  She cares about others writing as much as her own.

So are you jealous?  A critique group is, above all, honest and delivers suggestions with gentleness.  It is one of the best ways to improve your skills as a writer.  And in the process, make some wonderful friends.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DANGER - Blogging may be bad for you!

I have just realized the danger of blogging.  It compels you to write a quick witty entry and can easily become a distraction.  I laid awake thinking of some wonderful and not-so-wonderful entries.  (Why don't children drink out of garden hoses anymore?  In my mind, imagine the whiny voice from a SNL skit.  It was a better topic at 11:30 last night.  Honestly.)

But,  there is a redeeming quality!  I am forced to write in another manner other than my usual solitude of a lengthy manuscript that is unseen by another set of eyes for months. (Even years - see my homage to Emily in my first post.)

The first rule of writing: butt-in-chair.  There is nothing to edit, query, critique without this discipline.  We all know it but life gets in the way.  There is an orthodontist appointment, my mother needs to be picked up at the airport, or the cat gets its head stuck in the garbage disposal.  (The last one is a true story that I read.)

So, I will look at this blog as a nudge to quit living like Emily.  Its time to put something out there.  Now, about that querying thing....

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beautiful Words

Here it is!
I found it on a shelf with an ugly AS-IS stamped on the spine.  When
opened, it cracks and falls open to poems that have blue check marks added to my favorites.

I am NOT a Blogger!

Here it goes.  Media is rushing past me and its time for me to hop onboard.  I feel like I'm on the back of a Harley blasting down the road at 60 mph.  Hair flying wildly.  White knuckles.  Eyes closed.

My blogging is similiar to the start of my writing.  I ventured into creating my own stories with the realistic 'note-to-self' that I wasn't a REAL author.  I was just a mother hoping to jot down an amusing story for her children to read and pass down over the years to come.  But things changed when I realized that I loved it.  Those late nights when I was seeking quiet and solitude became the highlight of my day.  The only sore spot was that I couldn't let anyone know that I was writing.  What would they think?  So, I minimized the computer screen everytime someone (dog included) walked past me.  My poor husband was convinced that I had joined an online chat room and was relieved when I confessed that I had been writing children's novels.

If I look far enough back to the age of big hair and shoulder pads, I realize that I have always loved writing.  It was in a bargain bin at the local mall that I found a book by Emily Dickinson.  I loved the mental pictures she painted with her words.  I wanted to do that, but I was no writer.  Sigh.

Later, I was surprised to learn that Miss Dickinson had stashed her stories in an old trunk.  With age usually comes a little wisdom.  I didn't want my stories to end up hidden away.  I wanted someone to read them.  Blessed with a group of encouraging friends, I've been pushed out into the world.  Ready or not.

I even queried an agent with a quote.  "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul."  Rather dramatic but heart felt at the time.

With a stack of novels for children, I continue forward.  Unlike Emily, they won't be left in the memory of my computer but rather, a child's mind.

Welcome to the New Emily.