Dear Author

Dear (insert name of your favorite author here),

I absolutely love your books.  I love how you make me feel as though I'm right there standing with the MC, love how I'm sucked in from the very first sentence.  I love the characters you create, the way you intertwine them into the story perfectly giving details along the way, but not too much.  I love feeling as though the exact same things could happen to me, or someone I know, that nothing is beyond believable even though your what you write is fiction.  To sum it up, I love you your work.

The reason I'm writing you today is because I know you've written a few books now (not because I'm a stalker but because I've read them like a hundred a few times), and I wanted to ask how long it took for you to get to where you are.  How long were you writing before you were able to get an agent?  Did you have a hard time with rejections?  I only ask because I'm getting ready to start querying and, in all honesty, it would be really nice to know that you didn't just wake up one day as brilliant as you are now ever and get an agent on the first try.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  I look forward to hearing from you and if I do, the letter will immediately go into a frame next to my stack of your books and wish you continued success. 


Your biggest fan   A new writer    A fellow novelist


So. I would love to send this to one of my favorite authors.  But I may look a little crazy.  On the flip side though, couldn't this be a dream of mine, to have other writers *eventually* feel this way about me too?  (Okay, not the stalker part.  But I think you figured that out on your own.)   
Isn't that what we are trying to do when we write from our hearts?  Pull in our readers, make them feel as though they're there, entertain them without sounding like we're trying too hard,  and have them love us? (As writers.)  Mmm-hm.  That's what I thought.

Prompts to Ignite Your Writing Match

Sometimes, when trying to write, I feel like this.

fgdfgfdgdfgfdgdfg.jpg image by munchi5gal

The caption should read, "This is your brain on duh." (You'll understand why I brought this up a little later.)

I'm a sucker for a good deal. Months ago, before Thanksgiving, I came across a book at my local Marshall's. For those of you who know Marshalls, I'm sure you're aware that store is all about deals. (Think Ross, TJ Maxx, ect. if you've never heard of it.) The book had been marked down to four dollars (the original price on the cover said $19.99) so I skimmed through the pages, trying to decide if I should buy it. Was it something I needed? Like really needed? No. I was working on ILYU, and the temptation to start writing a different story before I was done with that one would be too much temptation. I ended up putting it back on the shelf.

Over the next few months as I walked through the store looking at new items, that book always seemed to find me, and it was never in the same place twice. I found in the kids' book section once, another time someone had thrown it in with DVDs, and about two weeks ago it had been stuffed between a bunch of stationery.

It became a thing, one of those conversations I had with myself every time I saw it. There it is again - it's still here! But do I need it???

Each time I decided that I didn't. Until... about a week ago. I passed the clearance shelf, and again, the orange and yellow cover caught my eye. Then, a yellow sticker drew me even closer. It was a dollar!  Can you believe it? This twenty dollar book was now one dollar. Well that was that - no question - I had to buy it.

DSC_0679.jpg picture by munchi5gal

A book of two-hundred and twenty pages of writing prompts, complete with pictures, illustrations, great ideas. And at the end, there's even suggested reading to help get past writer's block... Did I mention that I bought it for a dollar?

Here are five prompts I picked out at random -

1) "Darn it, Amy, quit eating my pudding cups!"

2) While digging in a cereal box for the toy surprise, a child makes a grisly discovery.

3) A young woman loses her ability to speak, save for one word.

4) "This is University Hospital calling."

5) A man opens his mailbox to find an envelope containing a set of instructions.

This book is chalk-full of ideas. Prompts!  Not to mention, quotes spread throughout the pages by other writers!

Like I said, I'm a sucker for a deal. And boy, was this the *best* deal ever.  I've already been inspired to write things I never thought I'd write.  This may become a weekly thing - me sharing a few with you guys on Wednesdays.  

S0 where do you get prompts for your writing?

A few writing prompt websites/blogs I thought I'd share:

Lisa Romeo Writes (Sign up for her writing prompts in the left column - though I think it's just for the month of February!) (This blog has since moved, but there still are old prompts you can use.)

Take Me Back Tuesday - Installment #5

Something was in a bush in the backyard.  My doberman pinscher had his head buried deep into the branches, pawing, attempting to get a piece of what he'd found. 

My friend and I walked outside, curious.  We expected to find a bone, a piece of the lounge chair he loved to rip apart. 

"Jordan!  Get away from there!" 

I peered through the leaves.  It definitely wasn't a bone.  

"It's black."

"Black?  Like a trash bag?"

"I dunno.   But it is definitely, most definitely something black."

"Touch it."

"Ew no!  I'm not going to touch it!"

She ran into the house, returning seconds later with a grocery store bag.  I put my hand inside, making the most of my plastic "glove".  

I took a deep breath.  

"Okay.  Here we go." I said, reaching into the bush, my head turned away, grimacing as my fingers came in contact with something hard.

"What is it?"

"I don't know... "

"Pick it up."

And stupid me, I did it.  I picked it up.

 I could feel things moving, popping, like cracking knuckles as I pulled it from the bush.  It dangled limp, inches from my face.

"Oh my - " my friend said.   

The blob of black swung around, the body weight causing it to rotate slowly as it hung from my (not covered even close to enough) hand.  

We screamed - loud, disgusted, horrified screams - when the cat's head completed its rotation.  Screamed at the sight of its eyeball, hard as a rock, protruding from the socket.  Screamed at the cat's tongue, still pink, stuck and pointed, laughing at us in the most deadly way.  Screamed as I dropped it and the cat went falling to the ground.  Then we screamed again as Jordan ran over and tried to lick it.


Metaphorically Speaking


a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance

I've been reading On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, something I probably should have done months ago, but hey, better late than never.  A specific passage caught my eye this morning and it completely explained why I love reading books by Jonathan Tropper.  (Warning - his books are definitely rated "R" - don't want anyone rushing out to read his work, only to be offended by my recommendation.)

The eloquent Mr. Gardner says,

The writer sensitive to language finds his own metaphors, not simply because he has been taught to avoid cliches but because he enjoys finding an exact and vivid metaphor, one never before thought of, so far as he knows.

I found that as my own story came together and the voice shined through the words, I came to appreciate the occasional metaphors - how Hallie would compare things when explaining how she felt.  Here's a passage from ILYU -

I pulled one of his t-shirts over my head and made my way to the kitchen, the sunlight pouncing on me like a cat through each window, hunting me down to chide at my alcoholic indiscretion the night before.

How many of you enjoy using metaphors?  Do you find them hard to write, or do they come easily?  I thought I'd give people the opportunity to share lines from their WiPs, so if you'd like to, feel free to do so in the comments section.

Also, speaking of works in progress, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins over at Shooting Stars have a contest going on until the 28th of this month.  The winner receives two first-five page critiques from none other than Suzette and Bethany themselves!  So if you'd like two more pair of eyes to check out your work and give you feedback, head on over there and enter the contest!

Happy Monday!

Letting Go of Your Writing

Sometimes you just have to let go.  It's hard to do that, especially with what you've worked on the most, devoted so much time to, held on with all your might, tried to save.  I'd read fellow authors say that very thing and thought they were crazy.  Don't let go, make it work!  You're a writer, don't give up!  

Now, I know exactly what they meant.  A part in ILYU was holding up the flow.  No matter how hard I tried, how much I cut or re-wrote, nothing could save it.  I felt as though it was vital to the overall story, that taking it out wouldn't set up the feeling later on.  But...

I had to cut it.  And the relief I felt when going from four pages to one was great.  Never thought I'd say that about something that sucked up so much of my time.  

I've printed out and let go of my final draft.  It's time to start querying, to put ILYU into the agents' hands.  I know, without a doubt, I'm nearing the end.  I can see the finish line.  I want to sprint forward and break it, but can't.  

And so, I have to let go again, to loosen my grip, leave it in the agents' hands, not mine.  These lessons keep falling right into my lap.

Take Me Back Tuesday - Installment #4

I found a piece of paper on the kitchen table, a small, torn piece, part of an envelope or letter.  A burner was going, the one on the front right-hand side. We didn't have a gas stove at home.  Electric was all I knew, what my mother and I had in our small, homey apartment, what my grandparents had a few towns over. That's what I thought everyone used - the black, circular coils that glowed when hot, sucking down bits of food into its center at every meal.  Until I stayed at Lola's. 

I'd been at the babysitter's house for months, during the summer and when the bus dropped me off there after school, yet I'd never seen the flame peeking around the pot like that before, coming up from the bottom, surrounding it like  wiggling blue fingers.  

I looked around. Lola was gone, in the bathroom putting her hair into a bun, messing with the old radio (she didn't have a TV), or downstairs in the den.  I knew it was hot, it was fire, knew I shouldn't be playing with it.  But I did it anyway.  

The paper curled, its corner turning black as the orange flame crawled toward my fingers.  I stared at it, not knowing what to do.  I hadn't thought that part through, thought past the initial fascination, where to put the paper once it was enveloped with finger-seeking fire, and turned to the screen door behind me, the door leading to Lola's back porch where I'd spent many days dancing, singing into Lola's broom with Janet Jackson.  

I was almost out of time.  The heat was beginning to sting, I couldn't open the door before orange scorched the ends of my fingernails.

The ash fell, down to the linoleum, still burning.  It melted into the white floor, turning it light, then dark yellow, then gray.  I stomped my foot.  I could smell the burnt linoleum, the smoke from what used to be Lola's paper, and stared at the floor, clean and new, one warped dark blob in front of the stove.   

I rushed to the doorway leading into the living room, grabbed the floor mat, and threw it over the melted spot.  Its rainbow-colored weave stood out on the flawless linoleum, shouting silently that it didn't belong there on the kitchen floor. 

Lola walked in, her hair in a bun, long skirt gracing across the tops of her ankles. 

I stared at her, my eyes never leaving her unmade-up face, and pushed the mat into position with my shoe.  

"Would you like soup for lunch?  What's that smell? Do you smell something burning?"

I said I would, that I wasn't sure.  And then, with my foot planted on the mat, raised up slightly by a flaw that wasn't there two minutes before, I told her that I didn't.

Finish Each Day and be Done

I've learned this myself the past two weeks.  It's funny.  (Not laugh out loud "ha ha" but more like strange... I didn't want to say strange though... which I have now done, so go ahead and insert your choice of word there, I guess.)  You just don't realize the time and work people put into writing until you're the one doing it.  My fellow writers out there know what I mean, and my fellow readers (who aren't writers) think they know what I mean, but, and I say this in a very polite way, they totally don't.  First time writers don't know either.  We're probably in the same boat as the "readers", getting all excited with the idea of writing, skipping past the in-between stuff and straight to movie deals and recognition, and of course, tons of money.  Talk about delusional.  That's not remotely how it works,  due mainly to the fact that at the beginning, it takes people pointing out that you're not awesome far from ready to submit your better than anything anyone has ever written ghastly work to agents.

So then the process evolves, turning into one more process, another few weeks of editing, to where you know the story is better than it was before, and you think you're ready to submit... and guess what?  You're still not.  It's emotionally and physically and definitely mentally draining.  Meanwhile, like most people, you're trying to continue doing the things you have to do, are obligated to do, holing yourself up often, away from everyone you know in order to do this crazy thing you hate yourself half the time for ever having wanted to do in the first place.

Eventually you get to the point where you can call it "done".  Finished.  Perfect Acceptable.  I think I'm close to that now.  Think.  And hope.  Hope with my entire being that I'm close to calling it a day.  To the point where I can actually submit this thing that's taken over my life, made me ride the biggest roller coaster of my life, want to pull out my hair, shout from the rooftops how proud of myself I am for sticking with it.  And then... it's time to query.  But I won't go into that right now.  That's a whole other blog post.

The point of this post?  Taking two weeks off from everything but just writing and doing what I'm obligated to do around here was the best thing I've ever done.  In fact, I'm sure I'll need to do it again soon.  I learned that the expectations are too high many times.  We set a very high standard for ourselves, and it's not that we shouldn't live up to them, because we should, but we all need a lot more time to get there than we allow.  Doing our best each day and then calling it that, a day, is the only way to survive this process.  

It's kind of like the new mom syndrome, where tons of people are telling you "Take a nap! Sleep when the baby sleeps! Take advantage of quiet time, don't do your dishes and the laundry - just rest!", but you don't do it.  You don't leave the laundry, the dishes, for the next day.  You try to get it all done.  And for what?  It's still going to be there when you wake up the next morning, and the next one, and so on.  But for some strange reason you're convinced that no one knows what they're talking about, that you're stronger and can make it through unlike everyone else without taking time to rest. Then after a month or two the advice kicks in, and you realize how foolish you were not to have listened.  Writing is the same way.  Writers know what they're talking about, people.  It's not a marathon.  It's a journey.  There's no finish line you have to cross in a designated time frame, three months, six months, a year.  

I thought I'd be done in a few months.  That was back in May.  I'm at nine months. I still find it hard to say.  It used to make me feel depressed.  Feel like I sucked because I still hadn't finished.  But I did.  I finished three times, and now I'm near completion of number four.  Four drafts, hours that would make up weeks, at least, of this last round of editing.  And that's a good thing.  Polishing is good.

 So I'll continue working, doing what I know, what I feel needs to be done.  At the end of the day, no matter how much time I've put in, effort is the only thing that matters - more than word counts, page numbers, or anything else. Expectations have to go out the window.  They just do. Goals, on the other hand, goals are good too.  And my goal?  To do the possible, what I'm capable of - to finish each day and be done with it, until I wake up again the next morning.  That will get me there, in the end.  And I'll know I did everything I could.


Take Me Back Tuesday - Installment #3

Happy birthday!

Today my oldest daughter turns twelve. Twelve.  One year before the teen years, the crying about hair, boys, and clothes, whining that she can't see this, read that, listen to what "everyone else gets to listen to, Mom".  (Oh wait. She does pretty much all of that now, just not the boy part.)  So I figured it would be appropriate to blog about her birthday today, considering it's Take Me Back Tuesday and all.

Twelve years ago my life changed forever.  I was nineteen, married, and done with being pregnant.  My labor sucked (back labor - if you've had it you know what I'm talking about), and after not sleeping for three nights straight I was brain dead and barely able to fight the pain.  But I made it, we made it, and this kid was born - born to two parents who had no clue just how much their lives were going to change in the next few years.

I have friends, know people, who want babies, think about babies, hold them and say "I miss this stage."  I don't get it.  I don't feel that way at all.  Could it be due to the fact that my girls were all born in less than three years, that they're quick to fight and tattle and break things, and that I will never, no matter how much time goes by, forget how I lost my sanity for a few years there when they were little? Sure. But another reason I don't feel the twinge, that "my biological clock is ticking, I'm 31 and need to have another kid!" feeling, is that I truly enjoy the age they're in.  

I love talking and laughing at the dinner table, our inside jokes about things that know one else knows about.  I appreciate our conversations, real conversations, not explaining why the sky is blue twenty thousand times.  I love to watch them stick up for each other when times are tough, and shoot each other down (in a loving, funny way) when they're at home.  And ratting each other out?  It's the best.  Hilarious.  Just last night they made the rounds, explaining what each other had done, tattling on so and so for saying this or that.  The necessary reprimands were made, and yet, the five of us were laughing like crazy.

The phrase "Kids say the darndest things" means more to me now than ever.  They crack me up with their quick wit and superfluous explanations.  I can't imagine going back to the point where a baby cries, eats all day and doesn't laugh at my jokes or roll its eyes and say "You're such a dork, Mom.".  That's one of the things I love most right now - their reactions to me, my reactions to them, with my oldest especially.  

I love knowing that even though I'm screaming they're grounded or saying "Stop talking to me like that, I'm your Mother!" there's no question in their minds that it's because I love them.  When they clean up a room to be sweet that's exactly what they're doing - being sweet.  When they offer to make dessert, they're doing it because they know I'm tired, and they care enough to do something for me.  And when we laugh in the car at someone strange walking down the street or singing loud like someone on American Idol, we're being ourselves, our family. You can't do any of those things with a baby.  Don't get me wrong - babies are cute, adorable, and cuddly. They have the softest little buns, the squishiest thighs, the sweetest smell ever.  It's not that I don't love them.  But I wouldn't give this age up for anything.  

I'm sure things will change over the next year, and my oldest will call me a dork even more often than she already does.  Maybe I'll start embarrassing her (more than usual), start dressing out of fashion all of a sudden (in her eyes), and have to drop her off without getting out because she won't want me to walk her to the door anymore.  Maybe she'll stop talking to me about the stuff she's going through, even.  Only time will tell.    

Regardless of what the next year holds, I'm going to enjoy this age with my twelve year old daughter.  I won't enjoy the fights or the bossiness, the trying to distract me from chastising her by repeatedly cracking jokes  (which I do usually laugh at, I'll admit), and I especially won't appreciate the fits about bad hair days or not having enough of the right kind of clothes.  That's okay though.  It goes with the territory - love is love.  

Is it 12:55 yet?  Oh well.  I might as well say it now.  Happy birthday daughter.



–noun, plural -tus⋅es, -tus.
1.a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

I'm on hiatus.  I've pulled myself away from the internet, though I'm not sure for how long.  Initially I'd thought a week would be long enough get my thoughts together, fix my editorial issues, ect.  But here I am a week later, and I don't feel a whole lot better off than I was seven days ago.

Last week started off great.  On Monday I took all of the wonderful advice my blogging friends gave me to heart, and sat down with Hallie, my main character.  The two of us had a nice, long talk, and she told me how she felt, what she saw, the things that went through her mind.  I discovered a new way to open ILYU, and though it may not work in the long run, I'm quite satisfied for the time being.  

I was able to get quite a bit accomplished until Wednesday night, and really feel as though I've got Hallie's voice the way I want it.  (That and the new beginning are the two main accomplishments I am proud of.)  But then, after spending endless hours cutting, pasting, deleting, typing, re-typing, and doing exactly what that quote says, something along the lines of "This morning I took out a comma, and tonight I put it back" (I know the quote, I've tweeted it, but I don't have time to look it up right now), my mind went on hiatus too.  No matter how hard I tried on Thursday or Friday, my thinker was done, worn out, finished.  I was very disappointed in myself, to say the least. Even yesterday afternoon, after finishing a book that wasn't at all how I thought it would be, I figured, "Hey, perfect. Lesson learned - don't do that with your WiP." but when I sat down to work, the screen felt like one of those hypnotizing swirling things going round and round while someone said "You are getting sleepy..." and I couldn't focus.

So anyway, to get to the point...  Staying away from my favorite sites, twitter, blogger and facebook, mainly, taught me one thing.  Actually, I take that back, it taught me two things.  The first thing I learned (or was reminded of, actually - this wasn't really a surprise to me at all) was that my time management sucks.  I realize I'm not the first one to say this, but the whole writing/platform thing is very time consuming.  I keep having to remind myself that though a platform is necessary, it's no use if there's nothing to platform.  Which means that the WiP is numero uno, and the platform thing comes after that.  Wayyyyyy after that.  Like my dessert to reward myself for getting everything else done first.

The second thing I learned was that I miss being on those sites, talking with people, seeing what is going on with everyone.  You all mean more to me than you will ever know - this internetal (yes, just made that up) tie to other writers out there is the lifeline that keeps me going day after day.  (I would say I miss my Bejeweled, but that would be lying, because the one thing I did allow myself to do every night, after the kids had been fed and my eyes burned so bad that I wanted to gouge them out of the sockets, and brain was so mushy I could barely form whole sentences, much less get them to leave my mouth, was a few games of Bejeweled.  It didn't require words, or commas, or thoughts, really.  I used it as my wind-down, my way to relax after trying to think all day long.  Oh and not that I'm bragging or anything, but I do have a pretty decent score. Hee hee.)  I want to thank you all for your advice, not only as comments on my blog, but as posts on your own sites, blogs, twitter, ect.  Like many readers I don't always have the time to acknowledge your posts, but they mean more than you'll ever know. 

So I'm still on hiatus.  This week is going to be crazy anyway, between the kid's birthday tomorrow and Valentine's Day and everything else.  But next week I'm going to resurface, slowly, and with purpose, and hopefully come back with much work accomplished and lots of great quips and advice to tweet again.