Friday, August 31, 2012

F³A: The Fruits of My Labor

Writing. Sometimes it seems so unrewarding. I mean, most people will never see their work published. Of course with the rise of self publishing I supposed that's changed, which has its advantages and drawbacks.

But I digress.

Even those that are published--how many unpublished manuscripts do they have collecting metaphorical dust on their computer. I have at least six.

And when you're published, self or traditionally no matter,  you cannot believe how much work you have to do to market it. I mean, it's not going to sell itself. I've spent so much money and time trying publicize me, Never Eighteen. I'm constantly exhausted.

Sometimes it seems like it's not even worth the trouble.

But it is, isn't it?

Writers don't write for notoriety or money (well most, I mean there are those big names that are now just churning out shit to make a buck. They probably aren't even writing their own books anymore. I'm not naming names).

We write for ourselves. Because it's cheaper than therapy. We write to feel a sense of accomplishment. We write because simply, we love it.  I'm not going to use the cliche that writing is like oxygen,  I'm more about the whole therapy thing. Seriously though, some of us writers can't imagine a life without it.

It's what we do, it's who we are, and every word we write becomes part of us, like a cell or a mole, or an eyelash. Little bits that alone seem like nothing, but when put together become a whole.

Writing completes me.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I finally finished my rewrite of An Unbalanced Line.  But I'm not done. I made some notes on the manuscript along the way, which I want to fix, then I print it out and read it aloud. Reading aloud helps me get the voice and dialogue right and it also is useful for finding little mistakes, typos, punctuation problems.

Then I do revisions.

The step after that, I get some beta readers. I usually pick four or five people. A couple readers, a couple writers, and I have one friend who is a writer and an excellent editor. 

After that, I do another set of revisions, then maybe another. I do as many as it takes to get it to a place that I feel is good enough to send to agents.

How do you get feedback on your work? Who do you count on to give an unbiased opinion? Do you read aloud?

I'm interested in other writer's process.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Antipation = Obsessing

Now that I've queried a couple of agents I've become a little (okay a lot) OCD with my inbox. I check it about a million times a day.

Of course so far I've been disappointed to not find that email from Mr. or Mrs. Awesome agent.

I don't mine when the inbox hold messages from friends or fans but what is irritating me are the stupid emails from the places I told could send me emails. Like Papa John's. Or Or Tacoma Soccer Center. If I could drop kick those emails into the trash I would, because every time my notifications tell me I have a new email, I scramble to see who it's from, hoping it's from one of the agents.

If I could keep myself to checking email only a couple times a day I would. But I can't. Don't even try to give me advice on how. Ain't gonna happen.

Okay, back to the crazymaking, email checking waiting.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Query Process.

I'm deathly scared. I've sent another query out today. I'm sick to my stomach. I know the feeling will pass shortly, but I always feel this way after I hit the submit button.

For those of you who've not yet made it to the query process, let me give you a rundown. A query is nothing more than a one page letter. It should state book title, genre, and word count.

Then you need to summarize your book in a way that gives them a feel for your writing and makes it pop off the page.

Any credentials, list them. Of course first time writer don't normally have any, so there's that.

Lastly, you need to personalize the letter. Tell the agent why you chose to write to them. This tells them that you know who they are, what they represent, who they've sold.

That's it. You're done. Most of them don't want to even see a page of your work. They judge you on that one page letter, so you better make it good.

This is why I'm sick to my stomach. I think finding an agent is the hardest part of the business. Writing, awesome, revision, not as fun, but a necessary evil. Getting published? I only have one experience with that and it was less than two weeks. But it took me a long time to find an agent. Over a year for the superhero book, which is now being transformed into something else. Probably about six months with Never Eighteen.

Be prepared. Thicken your skin. You will get rejected. Don't take it personally, agents get thousands of queries a year, have piles of manuscripts on their desks to read, plus have to represent the clients they already have.

If you're getting ready or are already in the process, good luck. If you could send some good vibes my way too, I'd sure appreciate it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Star System

I've decided to take up my friend Jillian's star system with regard to my writing. It's nothing innovative mind you. It's the same system that's been used for decades in the school system to commend children for doing their homework or for a job well done, perhaps with some kind of incentive.

So a couple weeks ago, Jillian showed me her star chart she keeps for writing. She gives different colored stars for how much she wrote for that day. No star means no writing. An asteric means the day job kept her from writing.

I hadn't written for about three weeks until she showed me that chart, so I decided I needed to do something to motivate me. That on top of my BF's Be, Do, Have inspiration got me writing again. I started Monday.

As you can see from the picture, I missed a day this week. So now every time I open my calendar, which is often, that glaring white space is staring at me. I don't like that. I get a bigger star for a bigger writing day. Small for 0-10 pages. Middle for over 10 pages. Large for a finished project.

I'm trying to think of an incentive for when I finish a project. Definitely not food. I'd like to not spend money, but I am thinking a massage or pedicure. Maybe just a nothing day where I don't clean, cook, I just do whatever I want.

Do you have an incentive program to keep you on task with your writing? If so, what is it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing Wednesday

Yep, thought I'd get back to the Writing Wednesday and share a little of my crap, I mean my brilliance with you. Today, since I've been diligently working on my rewrite of An Unbalanced Line formerly known as Cheesy, I thought I'd share a bit with you.

I started up my mom’s car—an angel blue convertible BMW.  I backed out of the driveway and sat there in front of my house. My house that I’d never step foot in again, Suki standing out front weeping and waving. I waved back then headed down the street, through the neighborhood. I pass the cemetery and the Northpark Mall, toward I-55. After that it’s nothing but trees and pavement, trees and pavement, until I reach I-220. I’d swear there was about a church a mile as I continued south. I guess it wasn’t called the Bible Belt for nothing. We weren’t particularly religious people, but we did have a faith to us that may not be explainable in words and others may not understand. My mom was a deeply faithful person, but when it came to the aspects of religion that came from man himself, like the churches and the unwritten rules and such, well, I guess she was a bit of a rebel, which is why we didn’t belong to any denomination to speak of.
 I-220 meets I-20 at the Metrocenter. I enter the highway that would take me all the way to Southpaw and my new life. I pass more trees, shopping centers, a few hotels.  Before I hit the bridge that will take me over the Mississippi and into a different state altogether, I leave the highway for a short break, to grab a snack, to stretch my legs. I stop at the Kangaroo Express, buy a bottle of water and bag of Nacho Cheese Flavor Doritos, about the only kind of chips I can stand. I hop back into the Beemer and decide to take a short stroll through Riverside Park.
I park the car, grab my chips and head toward the river. Forgetting my jacket in the car, goose bumps break out as the cool spring breeze brushes across the surface of my skin. I wrap my arms around myself to keep warm. I follow the trail to the water. I tear open my bag and crunch into a chip as the water rushes past. The river’s not so different from time. When you look at it from a distance it almost seems to stand still, but the closer you are, the faster and more violent it rolls by, an unstoppable force. You couldn’t slow it if you tried.
Time seemed to stand still when mom first got sick, but then when the cancer raged full force, and she suddenly got worse, it was like fast forward. Suddenly she was dead. It still didn’t feel real—yet there I was driving my mom’s car across three states, chomping on Doritos, standing in front of the Mississippi River. In Mississippi. My home. Correction: former home. I breathed in the river and cotton, magnolias and the blues, and all things Mississippi, not knowing if I’d ever be back again.
When the Doritos were nothing but crumbs at the bottom of the bag and my fingertips were stained nacho-cheese-orange, I made my way back to the car, which at that moment I decided needed a name, climbed in, got back on I-20, and crossed the Mississippi River Bridge.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Find a Mantra Make it Work

So yesterday I posted about the advice my BF gave me yesterday because I've been stressing a lot lately and sleeping bad. You know, Be, Do, Have. I really took it to heart.

Money is one worry, so I made out a budget and I showed it to my kids, and I'm really going to do my best to stick to it until I get some bills paid off.

He also gave me some advice on how to get caught up and stay in the black, which I'm definitely going to follow. (if I haven't mentioned it before, my BF is a pretty smart guy)

Another thing weighing on me was having enough time in the day to get things done, so I made out a schedule. I also showed that to my kids so they'd know exactly what I wanted to be doing when. I decided that writing time needed to be done anywhere but in the house. I just worry about too many other things when I'm home like dishes in the sink, weeds in the herb bed, or laundry in the basement.

One of the things I'm vowing to do is write every day. I'm putting aside and hour and a half. Now, that's my schedule, but I know sometimes things don't work out the way you want them too, so I'm going to carry a notebook in my car so if something comes up, I can still write I will say that last night I went to Forza and did 27 pages on my rewrite. And it felt good. And now I'm 107 pages into a 180 page book. I'm that much closer which is a big motivator to keep going.

Be. Do. Have.

I've figured out what I'm going to BE. That is a person with a budget and a schedule to get things done. And I will Do those things. Then I will HAVE the financial freedom and time to be and do whatever I want.


Okay, now I'm accountable to you. Here it goes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Insomnia and other side affects of writing

Every so often I go through bouts of sleeplessness. Last night was one of those nights. I'd only slept for four hours when it was time to get up. I couldn't function, so I called in sick and went back to bed.

Why couldn't I sleep?

You know when you wake up and then your mind goes and you just can't get it to shut off? That was me last night.

I was thinking about my agent search, worrying about how long it was going to take. Wondering what happens if I don't get one.

I thought about finishing this rewrite that I've been working on for months now with no motivation.

Medical issues

You know, all the life worries that pop into your head at 2 am.

I talked to my BF today. He gave me some very good advice. First, I need to make a list of the things that are in my control and work on them, the rewrite, the budget, querying agents.

Don't worry about the things that are beyond my control. There's nothing I can do about them.

He said I'm thinking backwards. He says I think "have, do be". If I have this, then I can do this, than I can be this. He says I should be thinking in reverse.

Be. Do. Have.

It makes a lot of sense.

Now, to make that list.

Friday, August 17, 2012

F³A: Peace and Quiet

For those of you who don't know, F³A stand for Friday Free For All. Fridays I talk about whatever I want. Today I'm going to talk about peace and quiet.

The last few months have been so busy. With author events, and doctor and dentist appointments, soccer practices, music lessons and gigs. The last free weekend I had was Memorial Day weekend.  So I'm getting the hell out of T-Town.

When I need some peace, I like to go to the ocean. My parents have a place there, so I can really go whenever I want, but since I've been so busy, I've not gone for a long time. I don't even really go to the beach any more. I know it's there when I need to see it. I like to hang out with friends, go to the casino (it's the only time I go to the casino and I only drop up to $40), but mostly I like to write.

I've been so stuck on this rewrite, I'm hoping being away from everything and getting outdoors with inspire me to get focuses and get this thing done. I have to finish so I can work on the other projects I'm really excited about. I have ideas for one dystopian series, a fantasy series, and other contemporary realistic YA's. I also have another finish manuscript that needs some revision.

What do you do, or where do you go when you just need some peace and quiet to get projects done?

Okay, Friday Scribbles:

Next Pandora Song: Tongue Tied by Group Love

Netflix of the Week: I've barely watched any television lately, but last night I had some laundry to catch up on, so I watched Friday Night Lights, the show.  I started watching it awhile ago and really liked it, but just haven't had the time to watch. So I'm on season one.

Book of the Week: Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont. Combination of contemporary and classic literature, so far I really like it.

Quote of the Week: "Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it." ~Amir from the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A big advance doesn't necessarily mean a big backing

I just read in an email from a fellow writer that an author received a six figure advance but still received no marketing help from the publisher.

When you get published, this is a good thing to keep in mind. If a publisher won't help an author pay back a large advance, what are they going to do with a little quiet book?


Probably nothing.

Maybe a little but more than likely nothing.

  • I admit to having spent some *cough* of my own money marketing Never Eighteen. I put money into bookmarks, buttons, and bracelets. I do my own designing, so I don't have to pay for a graphic designer which saves money. I do know a great graphic designer who has done author swag and self published book covers though if you need one.
  •  I try to always have extra books with me. I buy them at my local indie because they count toward my sales, and they give me a discount. 
  •  I've traveled to New York, as well as used gas locally to get to events. 
  •  I hired a local publicist, which for me was worth the money. Not everyone goes this route though.

I have done some things that don't cost as much.

  • Postcards. They really didn't cost that much. I sent them out to all the schools and libraries in my area to tell them about my book and to let them know I was available for school/library visits. I believe I sent out close to 200, all hand written for that personal touch. From  these I got an offer from the Tacoma public library to host my release party and a handful of school visits, which to me was worth the $30 or whatever amount it was.
  •  My publicist opened the doors to some opportunities, schools, libraries, book stores. However, this is something I can do on my own. I think I just wasn't at that comfort level yet when my book first came out. Now? I have no problem with it. I have the contacts I made through my publicists and have made new ones through other events I've done. I've done 27 author events this year (one was a Skype visit, that was fun) and have a bunch more coming this fall. I will say, eventually I will be asking to get paid for some of these visits, but for now, I'm doing them for free. I will say my publicist also got me a couple radio shows and interviews.
  • Book bloggers. Say yes to every interview, guest blog, blog tour. Some of these bloggers have thousands of followers. Is it a lot of work? Yes. But it's free publicity. You may have to try to get them an ARC from your publisher or you may have to donate swag for a giveaway, but it's a free way to get your book out across the globe (there are many bloggers out of country).
  • Apply to speak at conferences, book festivals, and the like. It will get your name out there, and hey, you may even get paid for it.
  • Newspaper events. Anyone can post an event in their newspaper's website. You just go to their events page, and they should have a link that says "post an event". So anytime you're at a library or book store, post it in that area's local paper.
  • And don't forget social marketing. Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, Vlogging, Tumblr, whatever. Don't just tell people "Buy my book" though. Give them some advice, information, a little insight to your personal life.
  • Think outside the box. What's your book about? Where is it set? Find places that have something to do with your book and ask if they'll carry it, or if you can do an event there.

Okay, I think that's all I've got. Just keep in mind, once you get published, your book doesn't sell itself. Book marketing takes perseverance and dedication. If you want people to read you, you have to be ready to work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In the journey to publication, patience is a virtue

At the author gig I had this week, we were asked the question, what surprised you most about becoming a published author. While there are many astonishing things, one of the bigger ones was definitely how long it takes from book deal to shelf.

You know how long it takes to hear back from an agent, and then land one if you're able? Nothing really changes once the book deal comes.

It seemed like forever to get my contract once I was offered a deal, which was at the beginning of April, 2010. And my agent sent it back to HMH once because there was something in it she didn't like. I can't remember how long it took, but I would guess 8 to 10 weeks.

Then comes the advance check. That seemed like forever. I'd say another two months. So now we're at about four to six months.

Next comes line edits, copy edits, and first pass pages. These are all editing phases. You wait about three to six months for each phase, then only have about two weeks to get them done.

The one thing that seemed really early to me was the ARCs (advance review copy). I received those about March of 2011, and it was going out to the media and reviewers, which seemed really early to me. But what do I know, I'm only the author.

Then comes the longest wait. The book. As you know, my novel came out January of this year.  That's nearly two years from deal to shelf.

You've been warned. You want to be in this frustrating, yet rewarding business? Learn patience. Keep on writing to bide your time, otherwise you'll go crazy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Inspiring the young

Last night I had an author gig with J Anderson Coats ( The Wicked and the Just), Helen Landalf (Flyaway), and Carole Estby Dagg (The Year We Were Famous) at the Everett Public Library.  While attendance wasn't epic, the audience was engaged, especially a fourteen year old girl who was in attendance.

After our moderator was finished asking questions, this young girl (her name was either Maggie or Katie, I can't remember which) asked question after question about our writing styles, writers who inspire, etc etc. She honestly asked the most questions of anyone.

And even though her mom made a comment to us about, "oh yeah, we've met some successful writers..."


...this young girl was excited and endearing. And this is one of the reasons I love to do these types of visits. Inspire people to read, inspire people to write, inspire them to never give up on their dreams.

Even if I'm not yet "successful" lol.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Don't you hate it when...'re in the middle of writing a novel you think is different and new and the best thing since white chocolate, and no one will have ever thought up the idea, and then you come across a book (or a movie, or TV show) with the same general premise?

I do. I hate that.

After I wrote the superhero book, out came The Incredibles, Sky High,  and Heroes.

Last year a book came out with the same subject matter  as a book I wrote a few years back.

Then last week I found out there was a middle grade book with the same fantasy theme as one I just started writing!!!

The thing is, even though it's kind of annoying, it doesn't matter. Give two people or five or ten for that matter the same character, same setting, same plot line even and you're still going to get ten different manuscripts. No one will write the same story.

So next time you have that great next big idea, then find out someone's already writing it, don't get discouraged, don't stop, keep going. That other person and you can never write the exact same book. And hey, yours may be better. :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

F³A: I've not written in weeks...

I always tell myself, whatever you do, never stop writing. Even if you get stuck, even if it feels like work instead of your passion, yadda yadda yadda. But lately, with this rewrite, I've felt so unmotivated. Plus, I've been so busy with other life stuff, kids, house, day job, exercise, general laziness, I just haven't been able to get myself to open that manuscript.

Work has been so hard lately, and mostly I sit in front of computer all day, the last thing I want to do is get back on the computer. I was determined to write yesterday. I had a coffee date with a friend, and had brought my laptop with me to write after our date was over, yet by the time it was, I was fading, my brain was void of all activity and I went home and slept beneath the sun, which felt really good by the way.

I did give my friend 20 pages of the manuscript yesterday, hoping that when I get her feedback it might get me excited about the project again, but I don't know if that will work.

I honestly don't know what to do to get myself to open up that manuscript. Any suggestions?

Totally forgot it was Friday. Almost forgot the Scribbles.

Random iPod shuffle song:

Book of the Week: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. I've not read a mystery in a long time and I'd forgotten how much I love them. I love sitting on the edge of my seat, not being able to wait to turn the next page, not wanting to put the book down. Jennifer's book was not different. Awesome.

Netflix of the Week: I've not watched anything, not a movie, not a show, nope, not even the Olympics. Not a minute open for TV.

Quote of the Week: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Millions of things to do so little time

Pretty sure I forgot to post a monkey this week.
I've not blogged in a couple days because I've been so scattered going this way and that way, I've not been able to focus on one task at a time. Here's what I've needed/wanted to do the last few days.

  • Edit a 2k12 video
  • Study and play with Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Consolidate my bills
  • Write book reviews
  • Look for some contract work to make some extra money
  • Practice my new Photoshop and InDesign skills
  • Work on my rewrite
  • Work on gathering more agents to query
  • Clean my house
  • Mow my lawn
  • Weed my gardens
  • Spray my blackberry bushes
  • Pick up the box of books I ordered
  • Clean out my inbox
  • Probably some other crap I'm not remembering.

Instead of any of those things, this is what I worked on last night:

And just saw someone gave me a dislike!! >:(
Oh well. Chaos isn't for everyone.

Okay, I'm going to try to maybe do one of those things *points above*. Enjoy your Thursday night.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Always Learning

If there is one thing I always try to do, it's to keep educating myself on things that interest me. These things will normally help me in my day job and my writing life.

This week for instance, I'm taking a two day class. One day I'm doing Photoshop, one day InDesign. If you're at all familiar with those programs, you'll know  they're from Adobe and they can be quite complicated. The classes are actually  meant to be five days in all, but since I know a bit about both, I've compressed them into two. The place I take them gives you good support after the fact, DVD, web stuff, books, 6 months of access to the videos. So I figured it would be cool.

I'm really trying to learn design and web stuff for my work to make their print ads and website look awesome. It's a slow process, but I think I'm doing a good job.

I do the same with my job as an author. And truly, many of these courses I take for my day job I can apply to my writing job as well. I like to create some of my own designs. I've done (and am currently redoing) my Never Eighteen site for instance.

But it doesn't stop there.

The business of writing is a learning process.

Number one, we can always become better. It's one of the pieces of advice I always give. Always strive to be better. We will never be perfect so there is always room for improvement.

Learn to thicken your skin. You'll need it.

I'd tell you more, but I've already said it at Writer's Digest. Chuck Sambuchino was kind enought to host me on his Guide to Literary Agents. Find out about the Seven Things I've Learned So Far.

Even though I know I've learned a lot along the way, and I continue to educate myself, I still have a long way to go.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Query Process

It's been a long time since I've had to do this. I really didn't think I'd have to do it ever again. Yeah, right. A few weeks ago (3, maybe 4) I queried two agents I had met at the SCBWI Western Washington conference in April. (if write for children and you don't belong to SCBWI, you should join).

I've not heard from one. Which is understandable. She works for one of the biggees, and as we know agents are very busy.

The other, after I wrote him telling him what I had and what I wanted to work on, thought maybe we weren't a good fit after all, so he referred me to a colleague.

I wrote her about a week ago and she requested 20 pages. Well yesterday she wrote back and asked for the full manuscript. Some people think telling others something like this is bad juju, but I like to keep it out there because I know I'm not alone. I know there are others out there in the same boat and we need people to commiserate with.

So wish me luck, keep your fingers crossed, rub a clover, stick a rabbit foot in your pocket or whatever for me.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Contest winner and new video series

Two birds with one stone. Releasing my new video series AND announcing the winner to my Never Eighteen Half Birthday Contest! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Winner of the Never Eighteen Half Birthday Contest... be announced tomorrow!

I know. That just wasn't right.

It's going to be very dramatic though.

You'll see.

My Dad. He's awesome.

John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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