Friday Focus - let the beautiful stuff out

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ~ Ray Bradbury

I love that. Let the beautiful stuff out - isn't that a great way to look at it?

Happy Friday! =)

Thirty-two years young

So I'm thirty-two today. I'm not saying this so all of you will wish me a wonderful, lucky, writerly year (though, now that I think about it, feel free to send some of those wishes my way!), I'm bringing it up because it hit me last night that my thirtieth year was some sort of turning point.

By the end of that year I had cut my hair (which had been long for years), changed the color, and begun the tedious, fun, exasperating, exciting, educational journey of writing. If I'd known how different that year was going to be, I probably wouldn't have been so upset about the big 3-0. But I was. I didn't want to be older. I felt as though I was stuck in a rut of I don't-even-know-what -- with nothing to show for myself, personally. Sure, I had a wonderful family, a wonderful husband, and three beautiful girls. But something was missing. Come to find out, it was getting a story that I had on my heart down on paper.

Did that story turn me into this famous, awesome novelist with an agent and a book deal? No. Did I hold on to that first story for dear life and do what I could to try and make it get somewhere? Yes. But it didn't go anywhere. I moved on. I started another one, and even another. And now here I am, a year and a half into this journey, and though at times I feel frustrated and useless and as though I should be put into a straight jacket and thrown into a looney bin, I am loving it. I'm loving the process of all things writerly, loving the people I've met all over the internet who write, strive to keep their lives even by working their butts off and work/home and writing every chance they get, and are there to support their fellow writers and keep them informed and inspired along the journey.

Who knows where my thirty-second year will take me. I am hoping for great things. I am hoping for a synopsis that rocks at least one agent's socks, for a query that shows my vision for a wonderful book. I am expecting another year of laughs and tears and screaming between me, Lovemuffin and the girls. And I can't wait to continue this entire journey with all of you - my writerly friends - my friends who get me, who get IT - the constant, nagging feeling that we can do something, that we can put thousands upon thousands of words together straight from our hearts and create another world for readers everywhere.

So here's to another year, my friends. Here's to camaraderie and inspiration and accomplishments beyond our wildest dreams. Cheers!

(Also, my first *ever* guest blog is up at The Sharp Angle, titled Neglected Character Types in Women's Fiction. Lydia Sharp is a writer and great blogger of all things literary and I would love if you'd check stop by there and check it out! Feel free to follow her blog too, she's a great gal!)

Friday Focus: The Novelist's Ambition

The novelist's ambition is not to do something better than his predecessors but to see what they did not see, say what they did not say.

~ Milan Kundera

Yes! Exactly!

Happy Friday!

I'm an acorn in a world of peanuts

I'm having an epiphany here, guys. (Yes, I know. I have them a lot.)

I've been smacked. Smacked in the comprehensive part of my brain that has been reading, reading, reading, studying book flaps and websites and "this query worked and this is why" posts, trying to understand how to get it right. Trying to get FLORA to sound like it should. Trying to make FLORA sound good. (Because I really do believe that it is.)

I'm walking through Target, and there it is. BOOM. Right to the side of my head.

POW! Hello, Jessica! Glad to see you're back! Where have you been?

I've got it all wrong, people. I'm not supposed to be explaining FLORA. I'm not supposed to follow these other query samples to tell about mine. I'm supposed to be saying:

Mine is different. Here's how.

It isn't like everyone else's. You're not about to read the same words fifty other people have already used. This here is an acorn - a pretty, different, unique and original acorn, in a world full of peanuts.

Mine is different. Here's how.

You didn't know I'm a poet?

Ode to Querying
Snippy Snuffalupakins

Queries are fun.
Synopsises are neat.
(I'm lying.
Both make me want to chew my own feet.)

He who types the last line laughs (or goes crazy)

Yeah. I know. Two posts in a row pointing out my lack of sanity. But to be fair, yesterday's post was more along the lines of "this could/can/does happen", not "this just happened to me". (Course it had, but not right then. When I posted it. Did I clear that up well enough? Right.) So I say, I'm allowed to blog about sanity again. In a way I feel like a professional. An insane one. (You know, because we writers *are* professionals.)


The last line. The ending. The grand finale. Something *so* looked forward to for like, forever, and yet, when you find yourself there, looking over the cliff, about to wave sayonara to your *squee* - say it with me folks - finished novel, that longed for salute doesn't always go the way you'd planned it to.

Or does it? Is it just me? I don't know. Technically, I am done. I am done, finished, through. But this last sentence, it's driving me crazy! I know I should leave it alone, but I can't. Why is that? Why can't we let go, after so much time? I don't get it.

Oh wait. I just thought of another sentence...

*types it out*

*deletes it*

Noooooo wait.....

(I do believe I need help.)

Zero to panic in five minutes

So. You've gotten that pinky down, and are back in front of the computer screen again, with renewed hope, refreshed eyes and a rejuvenated mind. And then...

*Word document



*Recent File

*hover over odd-named file that has nothing to do with the actual title because it's never been changed*




*scroll to current editing page*






*type out better description*


*pat self on back*


*scroll down*




*scroll back up*



*type out previous words that were just deleted because who do I think I am that was too much I'm no Hemingway how pretentious of me*



*read some more*


*embellish beginning of chapter*

*edit word that makes no sense and laugh har har har*



*blink again*

*think, Oh my GOSH I am tired*

*think, Wait, am I tired, or am I bored?*

*feel heart racing*


*think, Am I? Bored? Really?*

*attempt to breathe*

*think, I am! I'm BORED! I've bored myself! I'm boring! IT'S boring! It's ALL boring! I suck! This is terrible! What was I thinking? I'm insane! I can't do this! I'm an idiot!*

*catch breath*

*sip coffee*

*read some more*


*spit out coffee*

*go do dishes/walk the dog/watch TV/wallow in huge pool of misery and promise to never look at the computer again because there's no way I can face those lame stupid ignorant words any longer what a waste of a bazillion hours of my life I could have spent catching up on Malcom in the Middle reruns I give up*

Now what?

Friday Focus: Put your reader in the middle

"The most improbable tales can be made believable, if your reader,through his sense, feels certain that he stands at the middle of events."
~Ray Bradbury

This is a good one for fantasy writers - I think we all need this kind of reminder every now and then! =)

Happy Friday!

Thursdays with Snip - contests & news

(Whew! I'm finally getting around to posting this - it has been a crazy week, so the list is rather short!)

Writerly News

Turning Rejections into Acceptances: Turn that query frown upside down!

YA Free Reads Alert: The YA Addict blog has posted that Egmont is allowing Michael Grant's Gone, Hunger and Lies to be read for free! (Through October 22nd.)

Your First Chapter: Author Stephenie Perkins' blog post about your first chapter is a good one. Check it out!

Star Crossed Series: Local YA author Bonnie Hearn Hill, author of the Star Crossed Series, has been interviewed at Sarah's blog, The Lovestruck Novice, and will be doing a book signing in Fresno October 23rd!


10 Smart Questions about the query process & 2011 Guide to Literary Agent Giveaway: The First Novels Club has none other than Chuck Sambuchino as their guest, and he asks (and answers) 10 Smart Questions about the Query Process and is offering a 2011 Guide to Literary Agents to one lucky winner! (Contest ends October 29th)

FREE MONEY: Tahereh is at it again - she's giving away free money to buy shiny new books! Yay!

Where the Truth Lies: Jessica at Confessions of a Bookaholic is giving away a free ARC of Where the Truth Lies. (Contest ends October 26th.)

Oh to wake up and have it done already

Some people sleepwalk.
Some even sleep-eat.
A lot of people sleep-talk.
I'd like to sleep-write. (Do they sell a pill for that?)

Milk Eggs Vodka (or, Inspirations for Your Characters)

A few months ago I was watching Jimmy Kimmel, and the guest, Bill Keaggy, was promoting his unusual book, Milk Eggs Vodka. (Warning - if you're going to check out the link, you've been forewarned that not everything on there is child appropriate.)

Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found [Book]

Milk Eggs Vodka is a compilation of grocery lists found by Mr. Bill Keaggy, himself, over a span of many years. Here's how the story goes: One day Mr. Keaggy found a grocery list, and after finding it a little interesting, he decided to keep it. Then he found another interesting one, and another, and so on. A few years later, the collection had grown to a whopping amount of almost five hundred lists. (I plan to get this book, eventually, because the lists he shared on the show really did make me giggle.)

Anyway. Characters with unusual quirks can make your story more interesting. Being the writerly person that I am, Mr. Keaggy gave me an idea about how to up the quirkiness with one of the characters in my women's fiction WiP. (No, she doesn't collect any kind of list.) And then I thought, I wonder what odd things have inspired other writers out there to do something different with their characters?

So today's question is:

What inspired you to write your characters the way you did?

I'd love to hear your stories!

A gross (but hopefully helpful) analogy by yours truly

My youngest daughter has a Kenyan sand boa.

DSC_0334.jpg picture by munchi5gal

** If you like snakes, then you'll probably agree with me when I say that she/he (?) is the cutest thing *ever*. (I'm already imagining the wonderful comments that previous sentence is going to bring my way. Ha.)

Now, I like snakes. What I do not like however, is feeding time. In fact, feeding time makes me downright sad. My daughter knows how it works: I will take her to get the pinky (aka baby mouse/rat/or in last week's case, hamster -- still pink, not yet covered in fur), I will buy the pinky, and I will take her and the pinky back home. But after that, I sure as heck am not going to go into her room and watch what happens next.

I understand the whole circle of life thing (I *have* seen The Lion King a bazillion times, thank you very much). I get that it takes life to keep life going. Yes. I understand. But watching it actually take place? No thanks. You won't ever catch me in front of the TV with National Geographic shows playing because I simply cannot handle it. I can't see the entertainment in watching one animal eating another. (And don't even joke at the dinner table about the name of the cow I'm eating, or attempt to invite me fishing, because I'll refuse to hook that poor fish!)

Am I losing you? Are you wondering what in the world Snookie eating pinkies has to do with my (not mentioned at all yet) analogy? Well stick with me here. It's coming up next.

Even people who don't like snakes know what they have to do to survive - they have to eat - really big things. And unlike our meals, which can be broken into little bites and enjoyed at leisurely pace, snakes have to force one thing down, slowly. (Doesn't sound remotely leisurely to me.)

So here's my analogy:

We all come across issues during the writing process. The plot may have serious wrinkles, the chapters may be too short or too long, the dialogue may lack that realistic quality we're desperate for it to have. And of course, we end up getting frustrated. We want it all fixed NOW. It isn't fair when what we know in our heads so well won't go down on the paper/screen the way want. Or when those problems needing fixing just can't seem to be fixed.

When those feelings come over us - inadequacy or frustration, for example - then it's time to be like Snookie, my friends. The problem is our pinky. Figuring it out may not happen as fast as wolfing down a cheeseburger, but it will happen, eventually. (Sometimes Snookie doesn't like the way a pinky is going down and she spits it back out, then goes back for another try.)

We can take a breath and step away from our writing place. We can take a walk. We can invite someone out to ice cream or coffee. We can go get groceries, watch three movies in a row, get our oil changed. It's okay to chew on ideas for a while before coming up with a resolution.

So there you go - an analogy probably a little tough to swallow (I know, I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.), but an analogy just the same. Time isn't good time unless it's being spent the right way, and there's nothing worse than realizing many hours have gone by, and the only thing you've accomplished is upping the bite mark tally on your pencil.

I promise - the pinky will go down, in time. And when it does, you'll feel amazing.

How about you? What do you do when you feel stumped? Do you have a routine to help get those creative juices flowing again?

Friday Focus: You must want to enough

"You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like."
~Phyllis A. Whitney

I know I want to enough.

How about you?

Happy Friday!

Thursdays with Snip - contests & news

It's ten o'clock Wednesday night and I'm so behind with Thursdays with Snip it isn't remotely amusing. (I do have a very good reason, which includes not saving the blog post I started yesterday and therefore losing all of the links I was going to share, but whatevs. I won't bore you all with how that happened.) PLUS, I was a terrible blog friend, mentioned Forever's new cover and contest, then never brought it up again! (Bad me! Very bad me!)

So here are the links I could remember:


The Forests for the Trees: Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner is giving away five copies of this wonderful book. You can read more about the contest on her blog. (Contest ends Saturday.)

The Never-Ending Scene Blogfest (manuscript/synopsis critique): Brenda Drake is having a cliffhanger contest - post a cliffhanger on your blog, and enter to win a manuscript/synopsis critique (and more) by Cassandra Marshall. Details here. (Entries need to be posted by 8:00 a.m. ET October 25th.)

Shiver/Linger contest: So here's the link to Maggie's blog, where she tells you how to win AWESOME Shiver and Linger stuff. (Contest ends October 19th.)

All White for Twilight: Speaking of awesome, Operation Awesome is holding a All White for Twilight contest to win The Twilight Series books (not available in the US!). According to their blog:

The white titles will only be published between October and Christmas 2010, replacing the usual black jackets. The titles will have crimson-edged pages and crimson back covers, with text confined to the spines.

Check out the contest and more info HERE. (Contest ends October 31st.)

Kidlit: Adventures in Publishing's interviews and contest: Check out the interviews and enter to win newly released books here. (Contest ends Friday, October 8th.)

Writerly News

When it's Not Hot, Passion Can Carry It : Agent Kristin Nelson shared some great thoughts on having passion for a project.

The Answers: Cristi Goddard had an inspirating post about figuring out all of those writerly answers.

Essentials in Women's Fiction: Lydia Sharp posted about how to keep your ideas original when you're writing about baby-making decisions.

Defeating Your Inner Critic: Carolyn Kaufman is on Query Tracker teaching us ways to defeat our inner critic. Check out Part 1: Track the Problem and Part 2: Put the Critic on the Stand

The Query Tracker blog's Publishing Pulse: Lots of great stuff in last Friday's post .


Friday Focus: The professional writer

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~ Richard Bach

See! It isn't the perfect query, the well-worded synopsis, the requests for partials filling up our email inboxes, the contests we've won. It's not quitting when the going gets tough, when the words don't come, when everything looks jumbled and nothing makes sense and we think we're crazy for doing what we're doing.

So keep going, no matter what, my writerly friends! Be a professional! =)

Happy Friday!