things to keep you sane while querying

20 Apr

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I have a theory: you can query agents with your manuscript and not go crazy at the same time.

Crazy, right?

I’m currently in the querying trenches for the third time in my writing career, and, given that, I think this is a topic I am arguably qualified to weigh in on. I’ve maintained a relative level of sanity during my querying bouts (you know, more or less) and I’m still standing (don’t mind my hunch).

Here’s how I’m doing it:

  1. Let yourself go a little crazy – Yeah, forget about staying completely sane. The title was a lie to lure you in. But no worries! A little crazy isn’t bad, right? You’re only human, and this reaction is only natural. Fighting it means fighting yourself, and you’re not going to do that because–well, because it’s mean. You cannot expect yourself to stay calm, and rational, and with perfectly styled hair. Not at a time like this. The sooner your come to terms with losing your shit a bit, the sooner you’ll be able to survive this process.
  2. Be kind to yourself – This one first and foremost. You are doing a ridiculously difficult thing by putting your work out there. You will have to wait a lot, and the waiting will make you feel like your brain is being picked away at by a toothpick. You’ll also get rejections — lots of rejections. Those will make you go all greyscale, and people will wonder why you’re no longer in color, and you’ll wonder why your heart feels so swollen and sad. This is the time to be kind. Don’t beat yourself up because you spent all day obsessively refreshing your inbox. That’s normal. Don’t insult yourself because you found a typo in your query. Join the club instead. We have snacks. The best thing you can do while querying is to practice empathy towards yourself. Imagine a beloved friend being in your shoes. The kindness that you would dish out for them is the same kindness you should give to yourself.
  3. Get creative – This is the best time you could possible pick to throw yourself at another creative endeavor. Start writing a new book. Take a painting class. Plant a garden. Restore an old Model A. Do that granny graffiti thing where you cover your town with knitting. As much as you can, obsess about something new and shiny. Your brain wants to create. Give it an outlet, and let it go.
  4. Don’t rush your process – If you’ve set a goal to have a literary agent by some date or a published book before you turn whatever age, take it back this instant, so help me God. You can’t control any of that, and if you can’t control it then it has no business on your list of goals. You can control how many words you write a day, when you finish your book by, and how many agents you’re going to query in a week, but you can’t control the publishing industry. You will do yourself a disservice if you try. There’s not time limit here. Focus on controlling the things you can control, and let the rest come when it comes.
  5. Enjoy your freedom – You have no deadlines right now. Editors aren’t breathing down your neck for your work. There is no drama unfolding on your Goodreads’ page about what a piece of crap you are. The Twitter trolls aren’t after you, you’re not burnt out from book tours, and you have no stress about your series being canceled before you can wrap it up. At this moment, it’s just you and your work. And I bet one day you’ll miss this.

The truth is, your mind is going to run itself into the ground. Your going to feel all the feels, sometimes every single one in the course of a single day. Your going to question yourself at every turn, and you may even consider giving up.

Just like each and every one of your favorite authors before you.

This is it, friends. You’re doing it, and you’re doing great.

 

SIGNS OF ATTRACTION Cover Reveal

23 Mar

Author Laura Brown has a new novel coming out on June 14th called Signs of Attraction. The big cover reveal is happening RIGHT NOW TODAY, and, better still… I get to share it with you right here!

First let me tell you what the story is about:

Do you know what hearing loss sounds like? I do.

All my life I’ve tried to be like you. I’ve failed.

So I keep it hidden.

But on the day my world crashed down around me, Reed was there.

He showed me just how loud and vibrant silence can be, even when I struggled to understand.

He’s unlike anyone I’ve ever known. His soulful eyes and strong hands pulled me in before I knew what was happening.

And as I saw those hands sign, felt them sparking on me, I knew: imperfect could be perfect.

Reed makes me feel things I’ve never felt. It’s exciting…and terrifying.

Because he sees me like no one else has, and I’m afraid of what he’ll find if he looks too closely.

The only thing that scares me more than being with him? Letting him go.

I was intrigued with her premise from the beginning, but I was even more convinced that this was a book I wanted to get my hands on when I learned that Laura herself is hearing impaired. Reading is a way for me to peek into a life I wouldn’t otherwise experience. I like the assurance of knowing that this novel is going to be a good representation of what it’s like to be hearing impaired.

Then I saw the cover.

You guys, IT’S SO GOOD.

Are you ready?

Here we go!

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hold on just a couple more

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ooo this is fun

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okay okay

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*SignsOfAttraction HiRes

Who designed this thing?! Someone please give the artist(s) an exuberant high five from me!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher

It’s available for pre-order (which is the single most amazing thing you can do for an author) using the links above, and you can find it on Goodreads as well.

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About the Author

Laura Brown lives in Massachusetts with her quirky abnormal family. Her husband’s put up with her since high school, her young son keeps her on her toes, and her three cats think they deserve more scratches. Hearing loss is a big part of who she is, from her own Hard of Hearing ears, to the characters she creates.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

I hope you guys will join me in the wait for this one:)

–dustin

the benifits of a continuous practice

21 Mar IMG_5816

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Recently, I stated using Instagram to document my #continuouspractice. The basic idea is to pick something you want to practice and stick with it for 100 days, documenting as you go along. I picked writing, which I first felt was a little silly since I’m already writing nearly everyday as it is. Still. I think, more than anything, I wanted to give it a go so I could see all my minutes, hours, and days building in this new format. It’s been a way for me to look back and see that, wow, this is all adding up. I’m devoted af, and it’s creating whole, complete, magnificent works.

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And so, every day, I snap a picture of my writing time. Later I post the pic to Instagram and to a private writing group I’m a part of on Facebook where we keep a daily #continuouspractice thread.

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The practice has helped me to focus in on my work more so than I was without it. I’ve seen how my days add up, and so I try to use them to the fullest. I finished editing my WIP quicker than I expected. Now I’m using my practice to work up the next big idea as well as set time aside for this little ol’ blog of mine.

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Feel free to follow me on Instagram for more, and don’t hesitate to jump into the wonderful world of #continuouspractice, whatever your practice may be.

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Happy writing!

FEED ME TO THE WOLVES – celebration + teaser

13 Jul

I finished the first draft of my new YA fantasy, folks. And then I took a break. And now I’m editing.

In celebration I’m going to put the first chapter up here on the blog, but first I want to share the first bit of inspiration that brought the book about and guided it all the way through to completion:

therewasalittlegirlThis didn’t bring me the world or the storyline, but it did deliver me the main character. Heck, it practically birthed her, stuck a bow on her head, and said, “Here you go. Just wait until your hear her voice!” And Sky’s voice is what’s driven this story from day one.

Okay, let me try to sum this up briefly:

The Conchans are a traditional people group (think Romani meets Vikings) trying to live in a modern world (think 1920s America or Europe). I know that sounds nuts, but stay with me. The men have been leaving in longboats for the last century to fight the shrev wolves, monsters who have plagued the continents. In their wars against the shrev they’ve taken the clans from slaves to honored warriors, and their war is almost at an end.

Sky is a Conchan girl with a secret: among a people group with a fierce hatred for shrev wolves and regular wolves alike, she’s become something of a wolf sympathizer… and she can communicate with canines. Sky’s never fit in to begin with, but things get a whole lot worse when all of the men come back from across the sea and her wolves won’t stay safely North like she’s told them. Something is pushing them down. And Sky thinks the men may be wrong about the shrev being wiped out.

Still sound nuts? I know, it’s a doosey. In my defense, Maggie Stiefvater wrote a book about man-eating horses that come up out of the ocean and the people who try to capture them and race them without getting their throats ripped open. And it was awesome!

Here is the Pinterest board for anyone who wants to take a gander.

And here is [a very unedited] start to FEED ME TO THE WOLVES:

Chapter One

I was seven when we were married. I was seven and he was ten.

During the ceremony, he took my hand when the elder instructed him too, and I found that his was slick with sweat. When I glanced up at his face, I saw him swallow, and it was then that I realized we were doing something awfully serious. Still, I went along with it, bewildered and naive.

My own mother had never been married so it was no wonder I didn’t understand all the fuss.

Then they sent him away. Off on the longboats with all of the other men and the boys pretending to be men. And that was the end of it.

I thought.

Turns out being married has little to do with the ceremony and everything to do with the years that follow, till the day they fill your nostrils with dirt.

I’ve come to loath the goddy tradition.

I make my way down the muddied path to my mother-in-law’s wagon. It’s raining out today, which is no different from all of the other days we’ve had lately, and I try to keep my boots from the deep stuff. Still, they are caked by the time I reach her yellow door.

Freak hides himself away under the stairs as I walk up them. I hear him give a humph as he lays down on what I hope is dry ground and I frown. My own wagon is a mess from all of his fur and dirt, and I don’t need him bringing in anymore. I also can’t bear to leave him outside and he knows it.

Before I can knock, the door swings open. I hurry in and close it behind me. Rahv is already back among her jars and bags and brushes, rummaging around with her back towards me. I look around while I wait, my floppy hat dripping water onto her floor.

I’ve always loved Rahv’s wagon. While I’ve never much liked having to show up and do her bidding each day while the other girls my age get to do their own bidding, I admit, it could be worse. Rahv is what I like to think of as a light soul. She doesn’t fuss or dwell or worry, and I think her wagon is proof of that. It’s a bit messy in here. Her tea cup is still dirty on the table, books lay haphazardly under and around it, and the floor hasn’t been swept yet today. There is a decent sack full of dirty laundry back in the far corner that I can see, but she won’t be pulling it over for me to wash. There are things she cares more about than clothes.

That’s when my eyes dart up to her oak-hewn beams. She’s painted each one with a stunning sprawl of yellows, every shade of yellow you could imagine, in intricate layers and detail.

My eyes go to where they always go: the far corner where I can just make out the pack of canines, wolves maybe, from where I stand. They run so close to each other that it is hard to tell where one wolf ends and the other begins. They are like a blur, a wisp, a breath of wind moving across my mother-in-law’s ceiling.

And I can’t help but wonder by what stroke of madness she painted them there.

When she clears her throat, I flinch. The golden masterpiece above us is difficult to catch the details of, given it’s all painted in the same hue, and I don’t want her knowing that I’ve discovered her wolves. I’m too afraid that they’re a secret and that she’ll paint over them if she knows I know, but she is looking down at the bags in her hands.

“A few colors today,” she says as she hands me three small bags. There is powder in each of them. It’s my job to make them into paint for her, and it beats scrubbing her underwear.

I take them and fish out the jar from the shoulder purse I have tucked under my shawl, kept safe from the rain. It’s the paint I made for her last night, a blue that reminds me of the delicate bell-like flowers I sometimes come across in the old-growth forests, and she takes it without meeting my eyes.

I watch her as she studies the paint, bringing it over to her small window to get a better look. I think she likes it. Her brows haven’t knit together and her lips stay straight, not bunching off to one side. If I had to guess, I’d say her thoughts are already on her next painting.

She waves her hand towards the door and I turn to go.

This is the life early marriage has brought me: a mother-in-law to tell me what to do, a wagon of my own, and the laughter of the other girls. It’s not so bad, so long as the boy they married me off to never comes back. I smirk at the idea and reach for the handle.

That’s when we hear the yelling. My smile falls and my mind fills with things that could be wrong. Someone’s died, or maybe a band of rouge riders are making an attack. I fling the door open, but can’t see who’s hollering through the rain and resting wagons. Freak is out from under the stairs, looking in the same direction that I am, and I can feel every bit of his tension.

Something is wrong, very wrong, and I wish I could hear the woman’s words. I lean out the door, aware that Rahv has come to stand behind me, and listen hard. I only hear what she’s saying as she comes around the wagon up ahead, a bent up figure with her skirt pulled high.

“Boats!” she’s yelling. “Boats have come, and the men are livid. Get up. Get up and get going you pack of rovers!”

My shoulders slump forward. Boats? Oh, let the men figure out life in the village for themselves. Livid. I roll my eyes and wish I had a wooden spoon to cram down the back of my throat in a gesture of how much I care. It’s the same every time. Some lousy boats make their way back, and we women have to drop everything.

The woman bringing the news is Beckra, and I think she will turn around when she sees that Rahv and I have heard her message, but she only smiles and hobbles nearer. As she draws to the side of the wagon, I move down the stairs to make way for Rahv in the door way.

“Boats, Rahv, and news with them,” says Beckra. I move to walk by her, but the woman grabs my arm. “Not so fast, Mute. You’ll want to hear this.”

She says it like it’s my name; most of them do.

“Your husband,” she tells Rahv, “he’s dead.”

My eyes flash to my mother-in-law’s. I’m not sure what I expected to see, but the folding of her arms and nothing more than her lips drawing to a frown isn’t it.

“Oh,” she says. She lets out a sharp sigh. “Okay. We’ll thanks for letting me know, Beckra.”

I try not to gape at her. I admit, I’ve never liked that man. Not since he picked me out from all the other girls and sized me up to be his first-born’s wife. It’s no secret why he picked me: I don’t talk.

He thought that made for a good wife.

He had watched me ever since then, too, every time he came back on one of the boats. It’s also no secret that, each time, his favor of me dropped considerably. I bite my lip when I think of the incident with my hair. I’m a bit relived to hear of his death, and rightfully so, but Rahv is his wife. What will her five daughters think?

“That’s not all,” Beckra says. A smile floods her face. “You’re boy is home.”

My first thought is that Rahv has no boys, only girls. When it hits me that she does have a boy, that he’s been off on the long boats for the past ten years, and that he is also my husband, it’s as if the whole world closes in.

My knees are weak. My mind gives out on me.

It is Rahv’s sobs that pull me back. She is hanging on the old woman now, as if her knees are weaker even than mine, and she is smiling into Beckra’s face. They cry and bounce and laugh as the nausea in me grows. I’m close but it feels like I’m watching them from a mile out.

Now Beckra looks at me.

“Ha ha! And look at her!” she gawks, pointing at me. “White as a damn Pink!”

Rahv looks back at me and her smile drops. She straightens up and stares me in the face like she never has before.

“You should have taught her more, Rahv. She’s going to have to do his washing, not you.”

The old woman laughs, oblivious to the tension rising between Rahv and me.

“Now let’s go you two,” she cackles. “It’s a five day trip back to the village and I wasn’t kidding when I said the men were livid.”

She grabs my wrist and pulls me down the path. “Get your girls, Rahv,” she yells back.

*

My life is over now. I might as well find a lake to drown myself in. Or lay in front of my wagon’s wheel and hope to the gods the whole thing’s heavy enough to crush me good and hard. Because I am not cut out to be anyone’s wife, and I’m pretty sure I’ve proved that over the past ten years since they married me off.

I burst into my own wagon and don’t even pull the door behind me. Freak darts by and I hear him shaking out his sopping pelt all over my walls and mattress, but I’m too caught up in my own thoughts to care. I throw my dripping hat onto the table and when my curls fall into my eyes, I brush them away hastily.

I can’t be a wife; I won’t. And no one can make me.

Can they?

The thought causes me to halt my mindless pacing, and when the curls fall back in front of my eyes, I snap. I retrieve my scissors from where they lay out on the table and give my hair a good hacking. I start in the front and move my way back until all the hairs are two inches long or less and bits of dark curls litter the ground around me.

It feels good to be reckless while, at the same time, exercising control. And if anything is a reminder of the control I maintain for myself then it’s my hair, short and wild for the past two years to remind everyone here that I am my own person.

I can’t be a wife.

I look around my disastrous wagon and get the heavy sense that it mirrors my insides. I could try to clean it up, but what would be the point? There is no making sense of me.

Just then, I get a feeling from Freak. He is worried about me and sends me an image: my hand coming down to rest on his head.

He means well. He wants reassurance that things are okay.

But it only reminds me of just how messed up I really am.

Chapter Two

Men who leave their families for years on end ought to come home with spoils of some kind. I’m not picky. Gold and rubies would be nice, but, hell, I’d take exotic pickles and cotton linens.

But that’s not how it works when you’re Conchan. Our men come back with nothing but a string of demondog ears hung around their necks.

It’s gross and I remain thoroughly unimpressed.

Now it’s been five days of travel through mud and high waters to get a neck full of ears I’m disgusted by and a husband I do not want. I’m exhausted from the thoughts I’ve battled while holding too tightly to dripping reins, and if I don’t find a cliff to steer my donkey off of soon it will be too bad…

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currently

19 Jun

I haven’t done one of these ‘currently’ post for awhile. Actually, I haven’t done any post for awhile. Truth be told, I’ve been busy moving and writing and then moving again. I’m done moving now. So let’s get back to blogging with one of these.

I AM CURRENTLY…

WRITING :: I’m finishing up my YA fantasy, Feed Me To the Wolves. It’s about a young Conchan girl (think gypsy meets viking) with a very big secret. You’re going to have to trust me on this one, but when you live with a clan of people who dedicate their lives to killing the shrev (think monster wolves), being able to communicate with canines is not a good thing. I’m hoping to wrap it up this weekend. I’ll share a teaser when I do.

READING :: The Wrath and the Dawn. So far, it is amazing. I want more books like it. Now.

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LISTENING TO :: Famous guys read famous poems. This is what I do when washing dishes. Here is a goodie:

DRINKING :: Earl Grey each morning, french roast each afternoon. I’m in a rut. A beautiful, happy rut that I don’t care to come out of any time soon.

CONSIDERING :: Options in chicken feed and horse feed. Exciting? Oh yeah.

WANTING :: This fantastic little pillow from Shop Jeen:

11.24.14_0124_cry_here_grandeAnd, that’s all I have in my vat of ‘currently’ to pull from. The next time I post I will most likely be spewing joy and sonnets over completing the first draft of my novel. Sonnets? That may be pushing it. Haikus are more my style.

Until then!

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resolutions in writing

11 Dec

Resolving to write in the coming year is a given for me. I have to write, so I like to narrow in and break it into smaller goals:

  • I want to finish edits on my current work-in-process.
  • I want to finish the first draft of a book I have in mind, supposing things work out for that to happen (just trust me on that one).
  • I want to write some poetry.

Notice how I only said “I want to write some poetry”? Not a poem a day, or a week, or even a month? That was intentional. Some resolutions are better left vague.

I started a poetry blog so I had a place to collect and share them. Try as I may, the artist in me can’t help but want to share the things I write. Is this just the nature of art? The introvert in me is still trying to adjust.

My other two resolutions are being carried over from last year. They are THE BIGGIES:

  • Get an agent
  • Get a book deal

I’ll carry these two resolutions over for as many years as it takes!

But I’m hoping that this is my year😉

Are you resolving to write in 2015?

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Next up is Resolutions at Random

resolutions in reading

9 Dec

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It’s December so I’m thinking about resolutions.

If you’re a hater of all things resolution-y then, by all means, move along. The amount of people blogging about how lame New Year’s resolutions are is pretty astounding, so you have lots of material to work through, material that will resonate with your own bitter heart.

It was a terrible thing to say; I’m sorry. You’re just a realist, right?

Well, I’m not. Not even close.

On to the resolutions.

Last year I decided that I wanted to read 24 books in 2014. That was quite a bit for me. It’s baby numbers for others, but I have four kids, and I homeschool them, and I write novels, and I’m easily distracted. It was a lot to ask. But I read them all and I’ll finish a couple more before the month is over. I get to check that box and feel all warm and fuzzy from a resolution completed.

This year I want to forget about quantity and focus on quality. I read on a whim last year. If I saw a book that sounded even  a little interesting then I requested it from the library. Ghost hunter falls in love with a ghost? Request. Girl gets whisked away to finishing school only to find that it’s a secret school for secret agents? Request. A book pitched as “little house on the prairie meets X-men”? Request.

It’s a pretty fun method that gets you reading far and wide, but I want to hone in in 2015. I want to read books that trusted people have made special places in their hearts for. And I want to take my time.

This next year is going to be about quality books, and I’m already going about the business of finding them. I have two more recs from a person in the book industry whom I admire (Chime by Franny Billingsley and The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman), and I’ll start with those. I adore Maggie Steivater’s The Scorpio Races and plan to pull a few titles from her five star recs on Goodreads later today. My father and husband are both urging me to read Foundling by D.M. Cornish (which also means reading book 2 and 3 after it), and I’ve heard so much about Sabriel by Garth Nix that I feel a bit like a sham for writing fantasy without having read his work. So add that to the list.

I’m looking for books like Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily.

I’d also like to read at least one adult book since I am technically an adult (whatevs), and I’d like to up my poetry game.

Will you be reading this next year? What’s on your list?

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Stay tuned for Resolutions in Writing next…

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