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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.

 

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the benifits of a continuous practice

21 Mar

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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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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

cssw :: logline

23 Jun

When villagers threaten to put them in the mission in town, Crow and her band of orphaned girls must work harder than ever to keep their home in the Spirit Woods. But the haunted forest lets a group of no-good boys invade, and a white bear is stalking the camp, causing the girls to wonder if the home they’re fighting so hard to save will keep them… or kill them.

 

That’s my new logline for CROW AND THE SECRETS OF THE SPIRIT WOODS.

Loglines suck to write. It’s a struggle to decide which points to show and which to leave out. For example, the girls are facing more problems in the woods than just boys and bears. For starters, a lack of supplies. But a bear that is white and also stalking seems a bit more exciting than a lack of salt and horse feed, so in I put it while the supply issue wasn’t mentioned.

I think fantasy is particularly difficult to have to sum up. You create an entire world over the space of hundreds of pages, and to try and squeeze it down into something that doesn’t sound utterly ridiculous is tricky. When people ask me what my novel is about, I become something akin to a train wreck.

Need an example?

“Well, there are these girls, and they live in this forest that is haunted, only it’s not really haunted so much as it is just… alive. And, well, they start having all these problems, and there’s this bear that keeps leaving them piles of teeth- like… animal teeth, you know?- and… and…”

It’s never pretty. I need to work on my talking skills, you guys.

Anyway, I don’t know how I feel about my new logline. I’m going to let it sit and take another look at it in a week or so.

Here is the blog post I used to help me form it.

Next up will be an elevator pitch 🙂

Okay, now I have to know something: when people ask you what your story is about, do you nail it or flub it?

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a nook for a writer

20 Jun

I’ve had so many ideas for blog post circling around in my head -researching for novels, interests and how to priorities them, new book finds- but right now is not the blogging season for me. Adelveiss turned three-months-old yesterday. Enough said, I think.

When the time comes, I’ll have lots of content worked up. Until them, check out what I’m working on now.

I give you, my writing nook:

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It is, in fact, a closet under the stairs which makes me feel an awful lot like Harry Potter (!). Trim still needs to go up in all those places where the walls meets, and my husband hasn’t put in all the shelves that will go up the stairs, but it’s coming together so well. Add a lamp and a rug, and it will be dreamy.

Many fine books will be written from this closet. I can feel it.

I’ll post progress photos as I take them!

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productivity & perspective

7 Mar

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If someone had stopped by my house two days ago at around three o’clock in the afternoon, it would have been easy for them to make a few unsavory judgments about me.

I was still in my pajamas, the sink behind me was full of dirty dishes, and I had a towel slung over my arm because I was just heading into the bathroom to take my shower.

Again, this was at three in the afternoon.

Here are some of the things that could have gone through their mind:

“She’s lazy.”

“Lucky stay-at-home moms.”

“Gee, I wonder when she finally rolled out of bed…”

“I wish I didn’t have a job and responsibilities to show up for every day.”

“Doesn’t she want to do anything with her life?”

They would have had quite a bit of evidence at their disposal for making those kinds of judgments too, but they’d still be lacking one important thing: Perspective.

Two days ago, come three in the afternoon, I was overjoyed with all I had accomplished. I’d been on  a consistent diet of 5:30 wake-ups for awhile, but that particular morning saw me up at 5:00. I had a hefty list of edits to make on my middle grade novel and a plan to get the story polished for literary agents. Long before the sun came up in the sky, I was at my kitchen table giving all I had in the form of a Word document. I worked until the kids woke up at 8:00 and paused long enough to get them ready for the day and fed. When they went off to play, I hit my edits even harder until it was time for the kids and I to get busy with their homeschool work. I cleared my computer and my mountains of notes off of the table, and we pulled out their papers and books. Letters, math, reading, and endless questions – we made a time of it, and soon we were clearing the table off again. I whipped together some grub for lunch, we ate, I cleared the table again, and, when the kids were settled in front of a movie, I got back to my novel. I worked until three o’clock, seven hours at my keyboard spent fixing, figuring, writing, and rewriting.

The kid’s movie was over and they were hungry for snack. Half in a daze, I got them food and told them how proud I was that they had been so good for me and let me get so much accomplished. Then I told them that I required a shower if I was going to be able to get my mind straight and have fun with them for the rest of the day. I took a shower, beaming and blushing with how close I was to my goal of querying agents, and got dressed.

Then it hit me: it was 3:30 before I’d gotten dressed.

Wouldn’t it be so easy for someone to assume I’d done little to nothing with my day had they only seen pieces of evidence with none of the perspective?

I’m a writer and a mom. Work for people like me looks a bit… odd. Productivity is difficult, when even possible, to measure.

As a writer, I can announce that I wrote 5,000 words in a single day, but only my fellow writers are going to see that number for what it’s worth. And there are many more days when I go backwards in word count, editing the heck out of my manuscript, yet those days are often just as productive and necessary.

As a mom, there are days when just keeping the kids fed and attended to is all I can manage. You moms with your teething babies know what I’m talking about. And if I take a much needed day to clean, organize, and revamp the basement, it might look amazing down there come 5:30, but the rest of the house is going to be in shambles and dinner is going to be a frozen pizza. And the neighbor will likely stop by and think I did nothing but scroll Facebook.

A farmer can bale X acres of hay, a teacher can go through so many lessons with so many kids, an IT guy can get his eight hours, and a mason can lay block for a whole basement.

But not all forms of work lend themselves to being measured this easily. And not all forms of work require pants.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, pajamas can be perfectly acceptable work attire.

Oh, and judging productivity accurately requires perspective. 

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