Monday, July 10, 2017

New Home

This blog has moved to a new home!

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On the Road Again

Okay, not so much on the road as on the plane, train, and autobús, but the saying is a good one!

I love to travel. This time, I have embarked on a somewhat-impromptu trip to gorgeous España. Hey, when the airfare deal is hot, you got to strike! (See also, my upcoming trip to Peru.) I love Spain, and my boyfriend has never been, so I am very excited to be here with him. I studied Spanish in college, including a month-long study abroad program in Spain, and although my skills have gotten verrrrry rusty, I still love the langage and the chance to speak it.

Aside from the opportunity to "grathias" my way across the Spanish countryside, travel opens my mind to the world beyond myself and energizes me to re-approach my own life with renewed perspective. I love seeing the people walking past, each an entire universe unto themself, complete with their own set of thoughts and problems just as deep and intricate as my own. As I am facing some Big Life Decisions right now, it is a much-needed dose of context!

I also find that travel helps fill my creative wells. Yesterday, we traipsed through 14th century ruins of a palace and its accompanying castle fortress, and the place practically sprang to life. I could almost hear characters calling to each other across the tiled courtyards, the creaking of armor as they patrolled the narrow ramparts, the aching sense of enclosure and safety both beneath the thick walls. And that was just one place we visited! While I may not have much time or energy to actually do a  lot of writing when I travel (I prefer to read during my down time--this blog post is brought to you only by my boyfriend's need for a pit stop), it recharges the parts of my brain that can help come forth with details, stories, and lush bits of magic that make a manuscript sing.

The random WiFi hotspot aside, I am disconnected from the world in a way that I badly need from time to time for the benefit of my sanity and my writing.

I hope you are on a good road yourself!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year, 2017 Edition

Poke poke.

Is this thing still alive?


Yes, I have been sadly remiss in my blogging duties. Truth is, I’ve been remiss in a lot of duties! I jot down endless things that I want to do, that I mean to do, and somehow they never come to fruition. In my defense, I’ve spent the past couple months starting a new position at work, moving across the country, dealing with a fire in our moving truck, finding an apartment, holidays, traveling, etc. etc. It’s been a bit absurd, like I am somehow living a completely different life than I was just 3 months ago.

So I won’t break out the hair shirt, but I will say that, as things have begun to settle down a bit, I am resolved to get back into my better creative habits. My writing goal for this year is to write at least 1,000 words every week. It’s not much (not even an entire book in a year), but it’s a good place to start. And those are new words I am aiming for, so any editing and querying and such are on top of that. It’s not a bad goal. I also hope to complete one short story a month. I struggle on and off with shorts, but the few I have managed to write I like, and I think it will add to my repertoire of writerly skills.

I am damned sure going to finish this manuscript that has been languishing in the 50k doldrums for a long time.

I am also going to read a lot. I read 60 books last year (more detail on that in a future post), and I want to hit 65 this year. Hopefully from a wide variety of authors and genres, but I don’t want to hold myself to anything specific there. More non-fiction for sure, as I find it gets my creative gears spinning.

So—here’s to 2017, another year which will undoubtedly be messy and full of starts and stops and disappointments and hopes and progress and backsliding and all the joy and anguish we call life (and writing). Cheers!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Having a Life Goal

I used to say that I was so jealous of people who had a goal for their life. The ones who knew that they wanted to be a doctor or a teacher or whatever. Me? I would shake my 20-something head and say with a laugh that I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. But that isn't the truth, is it? Because I've always known. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be an author. Alongside fleeting notions of being a ballerina or, at one point, my life's ambition to be a lifeguard, it was constant. I would draw pictures of the books I would write someday. I came up with lists of titles and wrote fake obituaries about myself and my body of work (okay, to be slightly less morbid, that was a class assignment in middle school!). I daydreamed of pen names and genres.

Which is to say, I have always known exactly what I wanted to be when I grow up. But it isn't a "real" dream, it isn't a practical one like being a doctor or a teacher. It's more like wanting to become a movie star. Honey, it probably ain't gonna happen, and you better get real good at waiting tables in the mean time.

I suppose in one way I am lucky that it is the writing bug that bit me. Writing is probably one of the artistic pursuits that is most amenable to having a day job. I don't have to be flexible to attend auditions on short notice. I don't need to time the light just right or try to get all the paint out from underneath my fingernails. I don't need to spend a lot of money on fancy gadgets. I just have to write. And so I can pretend to be a good, honest, upstanding citizen from 9 to 5 while I spin tales of folly and fantasy on nights, weekends, and lunch breaks. I don't even have to live in poverty!

But it still takes its toll. I try to set goals for myself that are within my own control. Write X amount of hours or words. Read this book or try this writing exercise. Send X number of queries. Let the externalities come when (and if) they will. But there is no denying that my real goal--the deep, burning hope for my life--is to be a full-time, published author. It is for people to read my books far and wide. It gives me motivation and fire, it forces me to be better, to strive, but it also sets me up for endless disappointment. I can't just go to medical school and come out the other end with my certificate. There is so much luck and timing and talent and skill that all have to come together. Some of it is in my control, some of it is not. I may never achieve my life's goal. I might die a disappointment to myself.

I guess that is the risk of having a life goal!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

My First Writing Conference In Review

Well, Las Vegas is in my rearview mirror and along with it the 2016 Las Vegas Writer's Conference.

I had a great time, and I am very glad that I went through with it. I am particularly glad that I got to meet, pitch, and learn from real-life literary agents. I am at that point in my writing career where I am sort of hyper-focused on landing an agent. Yes, I know there are next levels after that, but for now I can't worry about those. And when almost all of my interaction with agents is through sending queries and receiving form rejections or silence in reply, it feels like trying to read tea leaves. Getting to hear things straight from the horse's mouth was invaluable.

As far as the craft workshops, they were good. I think they would have been super helpful for me like 4-5 years ago. As it was, they were mostly just refreshers of stuff that I've seen elsewhere. And so I am still in the position of trying to figure out the how of craft rather than the what. But that's a lifelong journey, no?

I got up at 6 AM on Thursday for the 5-hour drive to Vegas. After checking in, I hit up Edit Yourself into Print (give by an agent, one of my favorites of the conference), How to Write a Blurb that Sells, and Before You Jump into Self-Publishing (a sobering look at the harsh reality of self-pub). Then there was a happy hour and ice breaker event. Which was good, but also really long. By the time 7 PM rolled around, I was desperate for some alone time! Had to hit up the gym for my training plan, and by the time I got out of the shower at 9:30 PM or so, I was done for the day. Gotta love the light and music show outside my window at 10 PM as I was trying to sleep!

Friday was an all-day affair at the conference. Breakfast with some words from an indie author on the faculty, then 14 Things to Revise in Your Manuscript, my first pitch session, and The Art of Pacing and Tension. Lunch had a first page panel (5 of the faculty read first pages in front of everyone and pointed out where they would stop reading and why). Then Getting Sassy with Subtext, Story Engineering, and Write Dialogue Like a Playwright. Dinner had another first page panel. These panels were some of the best info I got the entire weekend. I only wish my pages would have been drawn!

Friday night after dinner I escaped for some alone time on the Strip. Walked around for a couple hours, watched the fountains at the Bellagio, and ate a second dinner of burger, fries, and boozed-up milkshake. Totally worth it!

Saturday was the last day of the conference. Breakfast had another indie author from the faculty speaking, then World Building in Fiction, How to Hook an Agent, and my second agent pitch. I skipped out to go for a training run and check out of my hotel room, so I caught only the very end of the lunch panel, which was a couple agents talking about how to spot scams. Then the afternoon was The Agent/Client Relationship and Whose Story is This? That finished out the workshops, and then there was a dinner with a keynote address from Larry Brooks. After that, I had to head out, as I had another 5-hour drive!

As you can see, it was a super packed weekend. There were so many great faculty members, awesome fellow writers, and lots of good choices for the workshops. It was rather a whirlwind of a weekend, but in a good way!

Now to swallow my doubt and send out the requested materials...eek!

Reports from the conference and thoughts in the aftermath.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Taking the Writing Conference Plunge

One week from today, I will be in sunny Las Vegas at my very first writing conference! (Which would be the Las Vegas Writing Conference, of course.) I can hardly believe it. I have been toying with the idea of attending a conference for a while. I take my writing very seriously, in both the craft and business aspects, and I am always looking for ways to boost me to the next level. Networking, connecting with other writers, and meeting industry professionals sounds fantastic. (People who understand what I am talking about without a twenty-minute explanation of the querying process…!) Not to mention informational panels and inspirational stories. And, of course, the chance to pitch to a real live agent! I have to admit this last piece was the thing that finally lured me into registering. I have not had much luck with the cold querying process. As I embark on a new querying journey with novel 8 (I just sent my first five queries this week!), I want to give it the best chance possible in this rough publishing environment. And maybe having that face time could make the difference—it can’t hurt, right?

So after pondering all of this, earlier this month I decided to find a conference. It didn’t take long to discover that the LVWC was only a few weeks away, right when I was planning to start querying, and within striking distance of my home base in San Diego. (It won’t be the first time I’ve made that drive!) I thought about it for a day and then made the plunge and registered. It’s a lot of money to spend, but is it a lot of money to spend on something so important to me? And the answer to that was, obviously, no. Everything I have heard from other writers is that conferences are totally worth it. And it fit into my budget without requiring me to eat ramen for a month or anything, so it wasn’t too much of a reach.

Now, all the sudden, what seemed like plenty of time has rapidly dwindled to ONE WEEK AWAY! Eek! I’ve been researching conference attire, etiquette, best practice, etc., and trying not to freak myself out too much. I stayed up way too late last weekend designing business cards. Imagine that—me, with author business cards! I don’t even have business cards for my day job. I feel like such a Real Writer™ right now. I’m also trying to navigate the ins and outs of pitch sheets, what to bring, and how to plan out my schedule for maximum benefit from the experience.

I am so excited to be taking this step in my writerly career. I’m nervous as hell about pitching to an agent (especially one who has already form rejected me on previous projects), and talking to strangers is way outside my comfort zone, but who cares? I’m going to be at a professional event for writers, learning about what I love, figuring out how to be better, and being inspired to continue on what can be an arduous journey. Plus maybe a chance to sneak out to the Strip…

The last time I was in Vegas--definitely not for business!

I’ll be sure to report back on my very first writing conference experience!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Five Favorite Writing Quotes

5. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” –Ernest Hemingway

This is a great quote for those days when writing feels hard and, because it feels hard, you start to question the entire edifice. Maybe you aren’t meant to be a writer, if writing is hard for you. Writing is easy for good writers, right? Well, some people think Mr. Hemingway was a pretty good writer…

I don’t think writing has to be a masochistic exercise of bleeding all over typewriter (or Scrivener, or whatever), but if it is, that is not unusual. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a normal feeling for writers of every skill level. So open up that vein, but don’t quit!

4. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” –Stephen King

I know, I know. The last thing you need is another thing to fail at, another area where you aren’t doing what you need to. But sorry, I am going with Mr. King on this one. Reading is so integral to writing. It’s important on the business side. You need to know where your book fits into the market in order to pitch it, to market it, to sell it. And so you need to know the market, which is just a fancy way of saying read! But it’s also important on the craft side. Reading is some of the best writing education you can give yourself, especially critical reading. Look at how other authors create tension or dialogue that sparks right off the page. Look at how other authors make you check to see if the book is ever going to end and skim yet another section. Learn what you love and what you don’t. And for me, reading is the ultimate form of inspiration. Reading a good book makes my inner writer yearn to be set free and create. It replenishes the wells of creativity that I drain during writing.

3. “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” –Ernest Hemingway

I am a perfectionist. That isn’t always a bad thing. Striving for perfection can be a way to rise to the next level, to overcome obstacles. But for my own mental health, I have to remember that perfection is an illusion. There is always something else to learn, always some way that I could be better. I am still an apprentice. But! So is everyone else. We are all apprentices. There is no need to castigate myself for failure to achieve mastery, because that is impossible. I will keep learning, I will keep striving, and I will take pleasure in the process, not despair.

2. “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” –Ray Bradbury

Oh, this one. Cuts me right to the core with its truthiness. Writing as an industry is so, so hard. I’ve written for my entire life, and so far I don’t have much to show for it besides a pile of unpublished manuscripts. Querying is the epitome of soul-sucking. You have to find that inner source of joy, the intoxication of writing. Otherwise there are too many opportunities to give up. Too many ways to realize that the odds are very much against you. But writing is always there. It is always available to you. You are a writer, and you write, and that in itself must be enough to carry you through all the times (the many, many times) when everything else is going against you and your writing.

1. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Dr. Seuss (or maybe Bernard Baruch?)

This isn’t necessarily a writing quote so much as it is a life quote. And it’s one that has resonated with me since the first time I heard it. I’ll be honest—I’m a bit of a strange duck. And I have social anxiety, so getting along with other people can feel like a monumental task. But when I’m getting down on myself for being awkward or weird or whatever, I just have to remember that those who truly care don’t care!

But beyond that, it is a writing quote too. It can be so easy to get caught up in the paralysis of what other people will think about your writing. Whether you are going to offend someone you care about it. If agents and editors will laugh at the premise before they even finish hearing your pitch. Whether it will be received well by readers. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider the impact of your work and take that into account, but at the end of the day, if it’s something you need to write, then write it. Don’t let the paralysis win.

And if you want to hear me talk about all of this as well, today's post is also a video! It's two-for-one writing quote happiness!