About Me

I'm an author and arts administrator living in New England with my family and pugs. I'm also a caffeine addict and voracious reader. My latest middle grade fantasy novel, SHADOW WEAVER, is available now from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

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Next Event

Dec
12
Wed
2018
7:00 pm The Heroes Return Launch Party @ Barnes & Noble
The Heroes Return Launch Party @ Barnes & Noble
Dec 12 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
I’ll be joining Monica Tesler for the launch of her latest book in the Bounders series, THE HEROES RETURN!

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Writing

A Year for Renewal

2017 was a difficult year in a lot of ways, and I’m hopeful that 2018 will be much better. We have our newly expanded family to love, learn, and grow with, and I have lots of books to write (my “must-do” goals list is a wee bit longer than usual)! And if we’re lucky and all get out to vote in November, maybe we can correct the course the country is currently taking.

I’m keeping this post short and sweet this year (leaving me more time to write, of course), so without further ado, here are my writing goals for 2018:

MUST DO:

WANT TO DO:

MIGHT DO:

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2018? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS!

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When Real Life Attacks

If you follow my blog (and if you’re reading this, you probably do :P), you may have noticed a distinct lack of posts since May.

I had a terrible case of realifitis.

I blogged recently about the need for real life and writing life balance over at the From the Write Angle blog and it was largely inspired by my own woes.

Don’t get me wrong–I love what I do for my day job. It’s awesome, it’s fun, and my coworkers rock.

But sometimes the perfect storm happens. Sometimes everything that could possibly go wrong does.

That pretty much describes the last 6 weeks for me in a very tiny nutshell. So when the day to finally complete one major project (which required a large amount printing) arrived and the main printer ran out of ink and the backup printer started smoking, that was me sitting at my desk laughing like a crazy person about to crack.

And that was only the halfway point.

But in spite of the lack of sleep and extra work on the weekends, I still managed to find those few stolen moments to write. Not as much as I’d have liked, of course, but something is far better than nothing. Progress is progress and the 16K dent I made in the new WIP (TWIN DAGGERS) on my daily train ride was totally worth sacrificing my usual nap. I’ve finally got a handle again on real life (for now!) and I’m so excited to have time to really dig into it!

My point is that real life happens, and often it happens at the worst possible times. If you have to sacrifice your usual writing time, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, jot bits down when you have a free moment. On the train, in traffic (but, uh, only if you have a voice recorder!), at lunch–whenever. It may not seem like a lot of time on its own, but it definitely adds up. Every word counts and so does every bit of perseverance.

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The Haunting Refrain of “What If?”

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter over the last few weeks from other writers about giving up. Querying is hard. All that rejection takes a serious mental toll. Sometimes you get to a point where you have to ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”

Some people may answer with a Hell No, and give up or self-publish* instead.

Others may say Hell Yes, and continue slogging through Queryland trying out every rollercoaster ride and doing their damnedest not to puke their brains out on the ones that go upside down.

I think they’re asking the wrong question.

“Is it worth it?” is nearly impossible to answer, especially when it comes to writing and publishing. None of us can see the future, we don’t know for a fact that we’ll ever get published, assuming that’s the end goal that would give the whole process value. We have only a very small amount of control over that by writing the best damn books we can.

A better question is: “In 20 years, will I regret giving up?”

Each of us can only answer that for ourselves and no one else–not agents, editors, crit partners, reviewers, or the general reading public–can really affect that. It’s strictly to do with what matters to YOU on a personal level.

Let me tell you a little story.

When my grandmother was young, she was engaged to marry a man of a different religion. He had apparently agreed to convert to hers when they got married, so her parents gave their blessing to the engagement. However, when they had him over for dinner one Friday evening and the young man refused to eat the meat her parents served, they forced her to break off the engagement because they didn’t believe he was serious about converting (Yes I know this may sound barbaric to some of you, but keep in mind this was the 1920s!). 10 years later she married my mother’s father, who left her for his secretary not long after that.

Fast forward 75 years: my grandmother lived a long, full life. Grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and she had just turned 100 years old. Suddenly, her health started to decline, but she was ready to go. She even told my mom every night that she did NOT want to see her again in the morning (luckily, my mom had a sense of humor about this). As the weeks passed, she got worse and she started to talk to people, most of whom I’m pretty sure passed away a long time ago. And you know whose name she mentioned the most in her ramblings? The name of that guy her parents wouldn’t let her marry. 75 years, and she still hadn’t let go. She was still wondering “What if?”

Not long before my grandmother passed away, Jay and I broke up. I went on a crazy dating spree and he actually went out and turned himself and his life into a better one. After the first few months of awkwardness, we slowly became friends again and I began to realize that gee, we break up and then he goes and turns into the amazing person I always knew he could be, but hadn’t been while we were dating for the first three years. And that I still had feelings for him. I stopped dating other guys all together because I was comparing them to his new and improved self. I could not stop thinking about my grandmother carrying a torch for that same guy even on her deathbed.

So I asked him to meet me for coffee one night because I’d be damned if I was about to let that happen to me.

For those who don’t know me offline, you should know that I am a complete, total, and unabashed chicken. I ALWAYS err on the side of caution. Risks really aren’t my thing. I don’t even like rollercoasters very much. So going back to the guy who dumped me 9 months earlier and saying, hey, I think we’ve both changed and we should give this another try to find out whether it can really work, was light years outside my comfort zone.

But I knew in my gut that I would really regret it if I didn’t try.

And you know what? He turned me down.

I admit, I moped. But only until a week later when he called me up and said, “So, remember what you said about trying again? I’ve changed my mind.”

In a week, we’d moved in together. A few months later, we were engaged.

It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. Because really, there was only the slightest chance he’d go for it. It’s like stepping off cliff with your eyes closed – you don’t know what’s beyond it.

This is also what querying is like (see? you were worried this wasn’t going to cycle back around to writing, weren’t you?). Huge risk of rejection. But the rewards can be great if you can just get that Yes.

I’m still querying–and will continue to write, rewrite, and query–until I get my one Yes. Because I don’t want to find myself on my deathbed whispering stories no one else will ever hear. I don’t want to wonder, what if I’d just kept trying? What if I just sent a few more queries? I know myself well enough to know I won’t be able to stop wondering.

But along with that, you have to know when to pick and choose your battles. I stopped querying my 2nd book early and I don’t regret it. As much as I loved it, I can see that there’s a lot wrong with it and I’m not sure whether I’ll go back and fix it. My 1st book, on the other hand, I kept at it until I ran out of agents and I still plan to eventually go back and do a full rewrite of it. And with CYBORG, well, I really love this one. A lot. MONSTROUS, too. Major book love. I know they’re the strongest manuscripts I’ve written to date and I really believe in them, but that doesn’t make rejection sting any less.

But the conviction that it’s worth it–to me–is what keeps me going. Even if neither one gets an offer of representation, knowing I tried my hardest will keep those What Ifs at bay. And the best part? There’s no question in my mind that these are not the only books I’ll ever write. There’s always another idea in the pipeline. If the current one doesn’t work out, then as long as I keep trying and failing with all my might maybe the next one will be a success.

So, YOU tell me  – have you considered giving up on querying? Or on writing all together? What made you decide to continue (or not?) Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

*Just to clarify, I’m NOT suggesting all self-published writers come to it by this route. There’s many roads to the same destination, and this is just one.

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2011 – The Year of Revision

After spending the last two years  writing, I am officially declaring 2011 The Year of Revision. I will, of course, finish writing my two WIPs (CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE CYBORG and THE DEVIL IN THE DRAWING ROOM), but I do not intend to start any other new projects until I’ve thoroughly revised all of my current ones.

  1. THE GHOST WRITER. I thought I was really close with this one. I know for a fact it’s better than my first novel and I sure thought my query letter was, too. I had 3 agents (reputable ones!) request to see it just from reading a snippet on my website or blog contest! I only sent out about 10 queries to agents in the fall (not a lot, I grant you), but they were all rejected. My first novel garnered at least a 20% request rate, so this gave me pause – enough that I stopped querying until I can figure out whether the issue is my book, my query letter, or a combination of the two (I fear it’s the latter). Also, I received a lovely, helpful rejection letter from one of the agents at the top of my list which included an offer to revise & resubmit either this work or GLOW – needless to say, this is a top priority in the new year!
  2. GLOW. I love this novel. LOVE. Even though I put it aside months ago, pieces of the world and what could happen to the characters will flit across my brain every once in a while and send me scrambling for a piece of paper. However, I know there’s a lot that’s wrong with it and I may save it for last so I have a better idea of how to make it right.
  3. THE CRYSTAL BOOK. Bet you haven’t heard about this one in a while (or ever, if you’re new). I wrote this MG fantasy for NaNoWriMo 2009 – and haven’t touched it since. I printed it out a year ago (yes, that long!) with the intention of giving it a thorough line edit. Never happened. Well, now it will!
  4. CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE CYBORG. By the time I’m finished with the above projects, this one will have been set aside long enough to be ready for revisions. However, I may bump this one up on the priority scale, depending on how excited I am about it after it’s complete.

So, as you can see, I have my work cut out for me.

Also Read More is one of my goals for the new year. I got a Sony Reader for Christmas and I already have a wishlist of 200 books. I need to get crackin’! In particular, I intend to read more YA novels. I mean, I’ve read quite a few, but I know one of the main critiques of my work has always been that something is off about the voice. Immersing my brain in published YA will hopefully help me understand where I’m going wrong.

YAY for learning by osmosis!

What are your goals for the 2011? Leave a note in the comments to share!

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Writers Behaving Badly

Please excuse me while I put on my cranky pants for a few minutes. . .

Writing is a solitary sort of craft. But every once in a while each of has to take our brand new shiny draft out into the world for feedback from other writers and readers.

This is the single most difficult thing a writer can do.

Waiting to find out if your critique buddies love it, hate it, or just meh it is nerve wracking to say the least. Actually getting the feedback and facing it, is even harder. Sometimes you’ll get feedback you don’t agree with. You’ll want to put your hands over your ears and shout “No, my baby does not have a saggy middle!” but more often than not, they are right. A little space, a good cry, and hot fudge sundae later and you’ll see the truth of it and know what you need to fix because even though it was a critical look at your work, it was constructive. And that’s what any writer needs to improve their craft.

However, once in a while you might run into the nightmare beta reader. This is especially true when you’re starting out and just learning the ropes and making new friends on writing forums. I’m sorry to say it, but there are writers out there who think their work is perfect and that gives them free reign to tell anyone else whose work they read how much they suck. Sometimes even so far as to say that they should just give up because they don’t have what it takes to make it.

Hearing stuff like this makes my blood boil.

No writer should ever say to another that they “simply don’t have it” – it’s just plain rude, not to mention the heaping helping of self-congratulation in there, too.

Why not, you ask? What if they really DON’T have this elusive “it”?

Well, let me break it down for you:

This is the equivalent of going up to a new mom and saying:

Whoa! That is the fugliest baby I’ve ever seen. Wow. You really shouldn’t breed any more, you’re just polluting the gene pool. In fact, why don’t you go throw your baby off a cliff so it doesn’t spread any further?

Oh yeah, it’s THAT rude.

Everyone has their own unique learning curve and like with any art form it’s not about who gets there first it’s simply about finishing and doing it the very best you can. No one gets it perfect the first time and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Writing takes practice and some people catch on faster than others, just like any other skill. The fast ones aren’t necessarily better, they’re just faster.

I’ve beta read a couple of truly awful novels (I’m not kidding, one had 2,000 adverbs in a 200 page novel and that was just the ones that end in -ly!), but I never thought it was a waste of time or not worth offering a critique that was actually constructive. I did not hesitate to point out the weak points and make suggestions, because under each was a grain of a really cool idea and that could be worth salvaging to the author. Judging that worth was never, ever my call to make. My job as beta reader was to do what I could to help, that’s it.

Sometimes you do have to know when to put a novel aside–and it’s painful to make that decision!–but there is nothing so badly written that it cannot eventually be fixed. Once you have a few other manuscripts under your belt, you can come back to it with a more mature perspective. But only YOU can make that decision. If you’ve run out ideas to make it better or if you come to the realization that you just aren’t at a point where you CAN fix it yet, then putting the manuscript aside is a good thing.

But even when you put one project aside, the only way to get better is to keep writing that next book. Giving up is never the answer.

Writing and publishing are hard enough as it is, there is no need for this sort of behavior. Writing is not a competition. If you took a room full of writers and gave them one starting off point for a book (for example: Clowns in Space) every single book would be completely different. One of the great things about the online writing community is the vast amount of nice, supportive people you meet. These guys are weeds – so if you meet one or have the bad luck to be critiqued by one, just pull it out, throw it over your shoulder, and forget it about. Only focus on the ones who’ll help you grow, not the ones who want to stop you before you’ve even started.

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