Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back, Moving Forward


What a ride 2010 has been! Some of the wonderful things that happened to me this year are:


* I met all of you, so many amazing, new blogging friends. Many of you chose to follow my little Winded Words, bringing my list from twenty-something to almost 350. Thank you! But most of all, thank you for your friendships! I’m a better person for having met so many of you.

* I finished another novel. (Go, Jedda, go!)

* I had many requests for Courtesy and Patience. Though none of them panned out, I’ve learned invaluable things about the business.

* Because of blogging, I have FOUR new incredible critique partners. (You are stellar, ladies!!)

* My mother beat cancer for a second time! It took 10 months of chemo, two clinical trials, monthly trips to Albuquerque, and hundreds of prayers, but she’s healing well. Here’s to years of remission!

* I have the most beautiful and bright family who continue to amaze me as they grow into people that leave me in awe every day. (I might be biased, though….)


I have so many things to be thankful for this year, but those are the few I want to sing about. And as 2011 approaches, I’m curious to see what will happen. For me, there’s something about the double years……..


1977 The year I was born
1988 The year I wrote my first novel (A trite story about a tom-girl named Gem Shoe.)
1999 I married my husband
2011 ?????

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Project Give a Book, Give the World Redux (and Winner Announced!)

Sorry I’m just now posting the winner of the Project Give a Book, Give the World, but life got crazy there for awhile. In fact, it still is. (I can’t wait until I have time to return to the blogging world!)

And the winner is… Susan Kaye Quinn! Congratulations, Sue! Send me your snail mail address and expect a package next week. (Also, please note that Amy Allgeyer Cook offered a signed book plate for The Iron Bodkin. Awesome, eh? If you want it, please let us know.)

Really, though, you are all winners. Thank you so much for participating and thank you even more for giving children books this holiday season. We had a total of 127 books given away. That means I have 127 school humanitarian aid kits to make in 2011. (I know, I had better get busy!)

My heart is full of gratitude to everyone that helped make that number possible. Most especially I’m grateful to my wonderful friend, Sharon Mayhew, who amid the holiday rush managed to get a box of school supplies together (and money for more!) to send to me. She is a treasure! (Susan Fields too, who is sending a package of supplies as well. I have the best critique partners EVER!)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! God bless you all this coming New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Virtual Christmas Gift

MERRY CHRISTMAS! My gift to you.....
1. Virtual Cookies



2. A folk tale to go with them.

The Amaretti: An Adaptation to an Italian Legend
by Jackee Alston (c) 2010


The winter’s night air pricked at Lina’s nose like the powdered cinnamon from the spice vendor’s cask. She burrowed her face farther into her scarf. Snow fell in light flakes, muting the murmurs of passersby. Such were the nights in Saronno, cold enough for discomfort but no more. She would not be forced indoors. Besides, Giuseppe was waiting. Her steps quickened and she weaved between the crowds jostling each other.


“Osolina,” called Giuseppe, waving his arms, “here!”


He was perched at the base of a statue, balancing himself with one hand on the muzzle of Caesar Augustus’s horse.


Lina giggled and ran to him.


“There you are,” he said. “I was afraid I wouldn’t see you through this mob.”


“So you found a horse to see better.”


Giuseppe swung his free arm and bowed dramatically. “A horse and a knight at your service, milady.”


She giggled again. “Come down from there, my gallant knight.”


In three great leaps he bounded to her side. He was fit and agile for a baker, but what Lina loved most about him was his smile. It was impish and crooked, with one corner curling slightly higher than the other when he was up to something. He gave her that smile now.


“Have you heard the news?”


“There are too many people,” she answered, shaking her head, “I could not see well enough to read the notice.”


“Leave it to me, then.”


With that he seized her hand and dove into the throng. Lina in his wake, he plowed through the townspeople. At last they reached the wall where a small sign had been posted. Giuseppe planted her in front of it; apologizing insincerely to the people he had crowded out.


“Now tell me what it says.”


Lina read, squinting in concentration. Giuseppe was a marvelous baker, but had never been taught to read. Her skills were proficient and she vowed once she and Giuseppe were wed in the spring she would teach him as well.


“It says,” she told him, “that they will be at this square to preach. Midday on the morrow.”


The crowd behind her murmured mixtures of approvals and dismay.


“They will be hanged,” one said.


“The soldiers will imprison them for sure,” said another.


Giuseppe nodded. “And yet that will not stop them.”


He leaned forward and took Lina’s hand again.


“Come, we haven’t much to time to prepare, then.”


She waited to ask him what he was up to until they were away from the townspeople.


“All right,” she said when they were in a narrow alley, “tell me what this is about.”


He stopped, taking both hands in his. “Lina, the disciples of the Son of God are coming.”


“Yes, I know. I read the notice,” she laughed at his seriousness. He was rarely serious.


“So,” he said, walking again. “We must have a gift to give them.”


It was her turn to stop. Her stomach fell as a leaden hammer on an anvil.


“But, my love, we have nothing to give.”


It was true. They’d been carefully saving to be married, but even this was a great sacrifice. Already they were reduced to eating the stale or blackened loaves they could not sell and hadn’t been able to afford even a single tomato for weeks. Things were especially worse now that the townspeople had learned they were Christian. Long time customers had ceased coming. One man shouted all sorts of obscenities at Giuseppe. Lina hadn’t stayed to hear the insults but she caught the meaning: he thought them delusional. A little old lady whom Lina had always liked spat in Giuseppe’s face. Lina bit her lip at the memory.


“We’ll make do,” Giuseppe said, softly.


She hugged him. He was ever hopeful, she ever rational.


When they reached the bakery, he unlocked the door and together they climbed the stairs to his tiny apartment above it. Lighting a lamp, Lina raised it to search the kitchen cupboards. A handful of empty spice jars and an old loaf of bread was all there was to see. Giuseppe’s shining face fell.


“Don’t despair yet. What do you have downstairs in the bakery?” she asked.


He shrugged. “Flour, eggs. A handful of nuts.”


Patting his shoulder, she led the way down to the bakery’s kitchen.


Lina set a hand on the sack of flour. It felt cold and supple with the fine powder within.


“Is this all that’s left? For the morning bread?”


He nodded.


“Well,” she said, dusting off her hands, “as you said, we’ll have to make do.”


Grinning, some of the light returned to his face. His passion for the project was hard not to catch. Lina smiled back.


“You’ll just have to invent something new. Something with few ingredients.”


“And very little flour,” he agreed.


“Right. We can’t use much of what is meant for the morning sale.”


Rubbing his hands together, he said, “We’ll whip the eggs, that way the confection will be airy and need less flour.”


While Giuseppe collected the eggs, Lina opened the barrel of sugar. She frowned.


“We only have a handful of sugar, my love,” she told him.


He paused from beating the eggs. Then he said, “Try the wooden box over there.”


Lina opened the box he indicated. There was sugar true enough, but it was turbinado, the coarse, poor kind that did not cook well in confections.


“It is only turbinado,” she said.


“Go ahead and add the good sugar to the eggs here,” Giuseppe said, unhappy, “and I suppose we’ll sprinkle the turbinado on top.”


Lina sighed. “I hope that will be enough.”


“I hope so too.”


“And what of flavoring?”


Giuseppe tapped his lips in thought. Lina waited patiently for his answer, but she could not see a solution for this one. The spice jars were empty.


“What if we crush the almonds and then mix them into the batter?”


“That would be better than nothing,” she said, losing hope their experiment would turn out well.


Through the remainder of the night they worked. And as the smell of baking sugar and almonds filled the room, a glimmer of hope began to fill them. Perhaps this gift would be one worthy of God’s messengers after all.


Lina removed the crisp, brown confection from the oven. Giuseppe plucked one from the tray and blew on it. When it was cool, he put it to Lina’s lips.


“Tell me what you think.”


She took the smallest bite and chewed. Her eyes flew wide.


“It’s perfection,” she declared.


He turned the cookie around and tasted it himself. Smiling, he nodded. Then he laughed. Lina laughed too, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing it. They stayed that way but for a moment.


Dusting off her apron, she said, “Come, we still have bread to make.”


The dark sky lightened into grey as they hurriedly prepared bread for the morning sale. But not before Giuseppe first tucked the cookies away into the now empty sugar box. Gently he shut the lid and they set to their daily task.


The rest of the day felt like a burden while they waited for midday to come. Just before the sun reached the middle of the sky, Lina pulled their precious gift from the shelf. Though the cookies still smelled delicious, they looked dull sitting in the box by themselves. She felt they needed something more, something to offset the dull brown of the box and the cookies themselves. She spied the brightly colored paper Giuseppe used to wrap the loaves in. Ripping off a little piece, she placed a cookie in the middle and twisted the ends closed.


“What are you doing?” asked Giuseppe, coming into the kitchen from the front of the bakery.


“They looked so lonely there in the box. I decided the least I could do is give them wrappings.”


“There is my angel, even worried about the comfort of a cookie,” he teased. Slipping his hands over hers he added, “If they are lonely then they need each other.”


Nimbly he packaged each cookie with another until they were twisted up in a pair. In no time there were a dozen pairs of cookies, all snuggled up back in the box.


“Better?” he asked.


She smiled. “Much.”


“It is still such a small gift for His disciples,” he said, frowning.


“You may be right,” she said, touching his arm. “Their service is the greater gift. More still, what of Jesus’ own gift?”


Giuseppe linked his hands around her shoulders. “His was the first and greatest gift, to be sure.”


“Indeed.”


Lina tucked the box under her arm and Giuseppe locked the bakery door. The few straggling customers were not worth waiting for. There was food for the spirit to be had this day.


When they reached the square, Lina’s heart sank. The crowd was larger than it had been the night before. The square and the alleys were filled with both believers and nonbelievers. There would be no way to reach the disciples at the heart of the square to bestow their gift. Hearing their message would be beyond them as well. Giuseppe tried pushing, but the crowd was too thick even for his determined shoving.


While he tried, Lina sat down on the stone steps, exhausted. She clutched the wooden box with the gift to her heart. They had worked so very hard, dissuaded by nothing. Now only to be defeated by their late arrival.


A hand, warm and strong, dropped on Lina’s shoulder. Surprised, she looked up. Bright eyes contrasted the weather-hardened face of a man she’d never seen before. A youth whom Lina also did not know stood behind him.


“Good day to you,” the first man said. “Are you here to hear the word of God?”


“Yes,” she said, “only we arrived too late. The crowd is more than we expected.”


“We?” he asked.


She pointed to Giuseppe, vainly trying to get through the throng. “My betrothed and I. We made a gift for the disciples. But we’ll never get close enough to give it to them.”


“May I see the gift?” asked the man, hand outstretched.


Lina hesitated, reluctant to share what they had sacrificed so much for to a stranger. At last, she slowly passed the box to him.


He opened it, raising one eyebrow. “You made these?”


“Yes.” She blushed. Now the gift truly seemed too trivial to show this great man. How worse would it be to give such a gift to Jesus’ disciples?


Tears sprang into the bright eyes of the man. He leaned back to show its contents to the youth behind him.


“Thank you,” he said. “We receive so few sweet things in our travels, save seeing souls come unto the Christ.”


“You are Paul?” she asked, amazed.


The man nodded. At that moment Giuseppe walked back. He looked utterly defeated until he heard Lina’s words. His jaw dropped. Paul smiled at him.


“And this is Timothy,” he said, motioning to the youth behind him.


Timothy nodded a greeting. “What do you call these confections?”


Giuseppe and Lina looked to one another. They had not discussed a name while creating their experiment.


“Well,” answered Lina, “we had not thought of one.”


“Amaretti,” said Giuseppe, immediately blushing. “Little almond cookies.”


Lina smiled at him. He had been thinking on it after all and she thought the name fit perfectly. She turned back to the disciples.


“They are flavored with almonds,” then feeling self-conscious, she added, “it’s all we had.”


Peeling away one of the colored wrappings, Paul nibbled a cookie and his face lit up. He passed the other morsel to Timothy.


“They are delicious.”


Giuseppe and Lina beamed at each other.


Then Paul took them both by the hand. “I have nothing to give you in return save my blessing. I pray to God that your marriage will be blessed with bounty and happiness. May your life as a pair be as your cookies, sweet and always bound in unity.”


Tears trickled down Lina’s cheeks. There was nothing she would want more than that.


“Thank you,” she managed to choke out.


Paul squeezed their hands once and climbed the stairs. Here they would teach and today Lina would learn at their feet. Giuseppe by her side.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tell the truth Tuesday


1. Not a single thing is left to do on my Christmas preparation list. We’re ready!
2. I don’t have to cook a Christmas eve dinner, breakfast, or day meal. Don’t hate. I just have awesome friends.
3. I am horrible at making great characters. There, I admit it. I really am—it’s something I really struggle with. So I’m reading Creating Characters by Dwight Swain and he had some advice about giving your characters an affectation of empathy, making you feel them and their motivations: “The writer who’s unable to simulate [perceived empathy] faces an almost impossible task for certainly his characters ever and always will lack the breath of life. And there’s the heart of the matter. Consciously or unconsciously, by nature or by learning, the writer must have or acquire the ability to put himself in another, perhaps unlikely, person’s place. Sometimes empathy will come in a flash, through intuition or osmosis.” He’s so right. I must learn to not judge my character’s actions with my own morals! I must develop my characters better by using these helps I used to take the time to do!
4. The last day to participate in Project Give a Book, Give the World is Thursday. Please participate HERE. I’m up to committing to 107 school humanitarian aid kits. That makes me so happy and sooooooo scared at the same time. It’s a lot to do! I’m glad I have friends who are always there to help out.
5. I’ve been horrible about blogging lately. But I’m slowly making my way around and I can’t wait to see what you all have been up to.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. I can’t tell you how excited I am for Christmas. Oh, wait. I guess I kind of did….

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Bookstore Reborn

Some of you will remember this post from January. I told you about our local bookstore’s roof collapsing due to a record-huge snowstorm. The entryway looked like this:


Well today, almost a year later, the store is reborn!


The shelves are full….

The crowds are back….


And that lovely store is now offering great deals on books while giving back to the community in its usual way. Click here for the article.

(Did I mention they have random drawings a day where two lucky customers go check out only to discover their books are complimentary?)

Welcome back, Bookmans. Flagstaff has missed you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

FRIDAY FIVE

1. My wonderful blogging friend, Sherrie Peterson, just signed with agent Michelle Humphrey @ ICM. Please take the time to go over and congratulate Sherrie. She’s an amazing person, blogger, and writer. Her blog was one of the first I ever found and I was instantly hooked by her genuine heart. Then we also entered Authoress’ Secret Agent Contest the same time. To me, her entry was the best out of all 250 by far. I love her voice!

2. I’m so grateful for all the kind participation in my 200th post celebration, Project Give a Book, Give the World. I’m up to committing to 80… (Read: OVERWHELMINGLY EIGHTY!!!) ...school kits to make. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click HERE. I’m so happy about the response from you all, though, and I’ve my own army of superwomen here in Flagstaff who has offered to help assemble them. It makes the task not feel as daunting. Now if we could only get some school supplies donated….

3. Christmas preparations at the Alston home are almost complete. I’m very happy about that, I tell you.

4. Revising the two books I’m working on is NOT almost complete. Truthfully, I’ve been going through a slump the last few weeks. My craft is not up to the caliber I want it to be. So this week I had a long talk with my husband and his words rang true: you can’t stop yourself from writing, so just get better. Page by page. That’s what I’m going to do: focus on the baby steps of revising (Read: REWRITING!!) the darn books.

5. My baby is sixteen months old today. Man, time flies....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

200th Post Celebration


Last month a friend and I went to a talk given by a woman who had survived the Sierra Leone civil war caused by the black market diamond trade. (Think the movie Blood Diamond and that is exactly how it was for her.)

While she spoke of running for her life, of her parents being shot before her eyes, and of her brother and sister having their legs amputated by a rebel’s machete, I cried with her. While she spoke of how the simple gift of a bar of soap, a book, and a notebook changed her life and the life of her step-sister, I nodded with her. I will never live through what she had to live through (God willing), but I can comprehend the power of sharing what we have. One person at a time. She spoke of how her sister received a humanitarian kit with a notebook, pencils, and paper and how that whole kit blessed the lives of her sister’s entire class. They broke the pencils in half so they could share them, they each got a piece of paper to write on and then would erase everything the next day to use it again. These children valued their education, they risked their lives to walk to school every day and they used up everything they had to make it last. Because it was all they had. The woman talked about receiving a book and how it changed her life as well. Books have a way of doing that, as well all know.

Ever since I heard this woman speak, my mind has been mulling on what one person can do. Specifically, what can I do? I am just one person. I work hard to help one person at a time; I chalk up volunteer hours every week. But it isn’t enough. My heart yearns to do more and I know many of you feel the same way.

So in celebration of my 200th post, I’m offering up to you, my blog friends, a proposal. I need help motivating myself to do more. I need someone to be accountable to. You are who I’m going to be accountable to. Please help me with my Project Give a Book, Give the World.

Here’s the plan:

For every book you give to a child (any child!), I will assemble and send a humanitarian school kit out.

The kits look like this, with hand sewn bags and purchased school supplies. Why have you give books out? Because I want kids to have books this Christmas, and I don’t care who the kid is. It will help us motivate each other and give to children in two different ways, with books and with school supplies.

This contest is based entirely on the honor system. Tell me you gave a child a book, and I’ll give you extra points to enter….

A giveaway for this book:
And this one:
And this one:
And this one:
An eclectic mix of books all by our wonderful blog friends. (Though I wish I could give all my friend’s books this time around. Next run of the project, I guess.)

Other ways to win points?

2 points for following here
2 points for spreading the word about Project Give a Book, Give the World (facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.)
5 points for each school kit you make yourself and donate here or at another non-profit philanthropy who distributes them (please send pictures to my email on the right—I’d love to post them on the blog)
5 points for each book given to a child, even your own (children 18 and under)
1 point for adding up your points in the comments below as you get them (frequent additions to your points and multiple comments are just fine)
___________

The amount of points to be earned is limitless!

Just please help me do more this holiday. And yes, I am begging. See? Rug burns on my knees.

Our hearts will be forever changed by the kindnesses we show.

This project will be open until December 23rd, 5 pm MST, and is of course open to international friends. As I get the donations, I’ll be assembling the kits and posting pictures and updates on the project’s progress. (If you join me in making kits, I would love to share your pictures as well!)

Now I’ll get off my knees and leave you with these:

"When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue-you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night-there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book."  ~ Christopher Morley

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” ~ Edward Everett

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chronicle Book's Happy Haulidays

Have you ever read a Chronicle Book? If you haven’t, then here’s your chance! Chronicle is putting on their annual Happy Haulidays giveaway and one lucky blogger will win $500 worth of books. Even better than that, blog commenters also have a chance to win a $500 pile as well. For a full list of participating blogs (or to participate yourself), go HERE.

Still here? Then let me share other reasons why I love Chronicle, because it’s a publishing house I have always admired. Not only are they constantly giving back to communities, but they pride themselves on publishing really distinctive books. When I see their little glasses on a book binding, I know the book is quality. In fact my favorite research book for Her Ticket to Ride was none other than….
The Beatles Anthology

Then I won Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl on Caroline Rose’s blog. Not only did Chronicle send me my winning copy, they sent me TWO! (You’ll be seeing more about this soon. And by that I mean getting the other copy.)
I love Chronicle! Needless to say I have a wish list of Chronicle Books besides these. A few are:
The Space Between Trees By Katie Williams
Tortilla Sun By Jennifer Cervantes
Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration
Vincent's Colors
How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend By Gary Ghislain

Ivy and Bean Boxed Set 2: Books 4, 5, and 6 Boxed set By Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackal

Simple Steps Toward a Healthier Earth By Molly Smith, Tad Carpenter

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder By Mark Cassino, Jon Nelson, Ph.D.

Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure By Sandra Markle, Zina Saunders

Charlotte in London By Joan MacPhail Knight, Melissa Sweet

Spot 7 Toys By KidsLabel

Escape Under the Forever Sky By Eve Yohalem

The Story of the Treasure Seekers By E. Nesbit, Paul O. Zelinsky, H.R. Millar

The Whitby Witches By Robin Jarvis

The Kid Who Named Pluto: And the Stories of Other Extraordinary Young People in Science By Marc McCutcheon, Jon Cannell

The Creative Collection of American Short Stories: Creative Editions By Yan Nascimbene


There you have it! Now… do you have your own Chronicle wish list? Get it posted by December 14th then let Chronicle know you have! Be sure to leave a comment here too, for another chance to win.

 And to my US friends, have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Next post: My 200th Post Celebration!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The 7 Rules Part III: Rejection

Everyone faces rejection. EVERYONE. The trick is learning how to deal with it. I’m going to put myself out there for censure and admit that I’ve been rejected on fulls nine times by agents this year. To some of you, that might not sound like a lot. To others, you’re likely appalled at the high number and will think there's something seriously wrong with me.

I can't tell you what to think of me, but I can share the seven rules of rejection I've gleaned from my experiences*.


1. Never send anything out until you receive that cue deep within your gut.
I’ve done it. Many of us have. But as your friend, I’m here to tell you DON’T be the one to do it. That’s right—I’m here to call a query intervention. Don’t submit until you are sure you are ready—not when a friend says it’s “good enough,” not when your mother tells you that it’s the editor’s job to fix it up for you. Listen to yourself and your book. You owe it to that book to make it the best it can be. And if you don’t know how to do that, then learn how. (These are all the tough words I tell myself when I’m in the ring—a.k.a. boxing it out with rejection.) Also, once you are ready to submit, research each house/editor/agent thoroughly to make sure your book could be a potential fit.


2. Recognize your writer’s weaknesses as well as your strengths.
Having said number one, I also want to point out you need to be positive. Pat yourself on the back for the things you know you’ve done well. Because you do have strong points whether it be great characterization, a beautiful platform, killer plot, or the perfect writing desk. There’s always something to be hopeful about!
3. You’re allowed one day to grieve the rejection then pick yourself up and work the next day.
Just like a bad break-up, rejection is a huge blow to your confidence. It’s okay that it hurts, but the next thing to do is pick yourself back up and get in the ring again. Before I married my husband, I allowed myself one day to mope over a boyfriend break-up. After that, I forced myself back to work and back to life. I do the same with rejection—I’m down for a day while I massage my hurt feelings with chocolate, long walks, and ice cream then it is back to the drawing board tomorrow.


4. Find the silver lining in the big R.
Not only can rejections have positive things written in them, but rejections can be positive in and of themselves. Much like a marriage, you want to be hitched to the very best person for you and you want to present your very best craft to that person as well. For example, my latest rejection was one of the harshest I’ve yet received. However, it was the most helpful. It opened my eyes to what was specifically wrong with the book and areas I needed to improve as a writer overall. Now I’m working on improving my craft so that I can be the kind of writer I have the potential to be. So, see? That rejection is helping me be a better writer which softened the blow of the rejection. (I didn’t even mope for a day!) To some of you, that won’t sound like a positive thing, but I really do want to be the best I can be and I appreciated her pointing out my weaknesses to help me get to that level. No one had ever been that brave before.


5. Reevaluate the things that matter most.
Writing is very important to us. BUT! It’s not the end all of end all. We have other aspects of our lives—family, friends, jobs, hobbies, etc. Keeping rejection in perspective to the grand scheme of our lives can keep us from feeling the dire, hopelessness some feel with rejection.


6. Remember entertainment is one of the most subjective fields out there.
Just as not all taste buds are the same, so are people’s tastes in books (or any entertainment for that matter). You may like eggplant while another likes parsnips. When you go to the movies with a friend, they may love the movie while you hate it. The same goes for your book. Keep that in mind when you see those three little words, “not for me”. Because truly, the book is probably not something they could fall in love with as you have. (And you really need someone who can eat that eggplant with you every day.)


7. After the sting, comes the growth.
I mentioned I go right back to work, but if the sting on that same book is still too strong, I work on something else. It’s okay to let a book sit for awhile. In fact, the best medicine for a rejection is having another book to work on. If I’m fired up about another story, the rejection doesn’t hurt nearly as bad. The feeling is better than dating a rebound boyfriend. You’ve got other options—they’re good—and you know it! …Besides, time will heal the pain from the other book and you’ll be able to look at it again. It won’t abandon you like last month’s love affair and instead waits patiently on the shelf for its turn with you.


So… what helps you deal with rejection? How do you know when you’re ready or will be ready to submit?


*Disclaimer: These are rules for my own life. Feel free to take any you find useful, but I encourage you to come up with your own rules and stick to them.

AS A SIDE NOTE, THIS IS MY 198TH POST! WHICH MEANS POST AFTER NEXT I'LL BE DOING A HUGE GIVEAWAY. STAY TUNED FOR DEETS...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The 7 Rules Part II: Writing Time


Last week I posted my seven rules of blogging. This week I want to share my seven rules of utilizing writing time. Though you writers reading this will not have the same rules I have, I challenge you to write your own out, to stand by them, and keep them close at hand. (If you haven’t already.) A major step in the world taking your writing seriously is for you to take it seriously first. What better way than to create your own guidelines?

1. Spend every day working on a project.
It may not be actual writing, but I work on a manuscript everyday except Sundays. Whether it’s research, outlining, revising, or drafting just get in there and do it. I admire those that can write every day but I can’t—generally that comes in chunks.


2. Schedule a time to write. And hold that time sacred.
People in my life know that I’ll rarely commit to something between 9-11 am. That’s nap time and it’s sacred for writing. Also, the wee hours in the morning (4:30!) are my special creative times and I really try to make that a moment for new words. Not always possible but…


3. Embrace that writing is important for your well-being.

I’ve learned that I need to write new words for my own mental health. If I give myself the space to write, I am a lot nicer person to be around the rest of the day. Many writers recognize this about themselves so they make sure they get writing time in.


4. Create a trigger exercise.
Many writers use a trigger to let their brain know it’s time to write for awhile. Some people have a cup of coffee, do yoga poses, read a few pages out of a favorite book, listen to an inspirational song, and the list goes on. I check my email and then jump into it. Only, this isn’t working so well for me because I get distracted by the internet too easily. So I’m trying to run through a Tai chi form before I sit to write. I’ll let you know how that goes, but my advice is to find something that you will associate with moving into that creative time—something you only relate with writing words.


5. If you’re struggling with making time for writing, design a time log.

You’ll be surprised how much either a) you are writing or b) you will feel accountable simply by writing it down. Here’s what the one I use looks like. (And yeah, I try to look for the good in my writing day too!)

6. Novels have been written in fifteen minute intervals.
Sometimes the only time available is a few minutes here and there. It may not be ideal, but it can be done and I’m always surprised how much I can write in those little minutes while dinner is cooking, kids are bathing, or I’m waiting for a meeting to start.


7. Recognize your time wasters and eliminate them.

Admit what takes time away from writing, evaluate if it’s worth it, and then make changes. For me, I blink and I’ve spent an hour of my writing time on the internet. So I have to force myself to unplug the modem sometimes. (Gasp!) It’s very hard to do! Keep a notebook next to your writing materials and jot down sites you want to visit or things you want to research. After your writing session, allow yourself to look up those sites.


If you have other rules or tips on how to utilize writing time, please share! I’ll end with one of my favorite writing time quotes: “Becoming a writer means being creative enough to find the time and the place in your life for writing.’ -- Heather Sellers

On Friday I’ll post Part III: The 7 Rules of Rejection.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Late for the Logline Fest!

I almost forgot I signed up for Steena’s Logline Blogfest! Sorry to all those who have followed the rules and participated. Here are my late entries (though you can see them on the sidebar as well):

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):

The year 1911 was a golden year for aeronautics. But living in Maine, twelve-year-old orphans Courtesy and Patience would never have known had not a hot air balloon fallen on their heads. Saving the English pilot, his son, and a curious cargo from two dandy-suited goons named Sneed and Bowser course the orphans on a caper even they could not have imagined.



Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):

Raised, groomed, and set apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a small girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen the grandfather she despised is dead and she’s left with a name and a life she never chose.

Check out the other great entries at CHOCOLATE REALITY. (And for those of you waiting for my next 7 rules, I’m sorry! I’ll post it next week. Promise.)

VERSION 2: Edited 6:00 pm PST

Thanks for all the great advice! I'm going to run a couple new versions by ya'll--do you like them better? (It's okay to say no.... Really.)

Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):
Raised, groomed, and set apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a young girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen, her despised Fuhrer is dead and she’s left with a family torn apart, a country in ruin, and a life she never chose.

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):
 The convoluted story of two passengers on an Orphan Train, a broken dirigible, an alchemist, a lumberjack with an affinity for jellyfish, and the spies in bowler hats who chase them.

VERSION 3: Edited 9:40 pm PST
(not much has changed, but I am listening to all the advice coming in! thank you so much!)

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):

The year 1911 was a golden year for aeronautics. But living in Maine, twelve-year-old orphans Courtesy and Patience would never have known had not a hot air balloon fallen on their heads.

Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):
Raised, groomed, and set apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a small girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen the grandfather she despised is dead and she’s left with a name and a life she never chose.

FINAL ANSWER (Ha, ha. Yeah, right!): Edited 11/4 1:00 pm PST

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):
The year 1911 was a golden year for aeronautics. But living in Maine, twelve-year-old orphans Courtesy and Patience would never have known had not a hot air balloon fallen on their heads.

Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):
Raised apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a young girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen the grandfather she despised is dead and she’s left with a name and a life she never chose.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The 7 Rules: Part I

On August 2008 I started this blog. I didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted it to become, nor did I know how to reach out to others. Since then I’ve come up with rules/mission statements that have helped me keep my blogging time focused and meaningful. Now, everyone’s rules will not be the same, but as you read through mine, I challenge you to think of your own and to stand by them. It will help you from either a) being sucked in too much or b) so overwhelmed you quit.


1. Never spend more time blogging than you do talking to your significant other.
My family comes first. End of story. Specifically, I’ve noticed the more I date my husband, the stronger our relationship becomes. (We’ve been married for 11 years and yeah, I’m just now figuring that out.) Steve and I occasionally need to lavish undivided attention on each other and I don’t want blogging to take that time away.
2. Make every post have a clear purpose.
It may be that a post will only resonate with one person (even if that person is me), but I need to focus the post on the one message for the one who needs it.
3. Keep posts short.
At first I had a real problem with long-winded posts. (Get it? Winded Words?! So pun-ny!) Now I’ve seen the light and when it comes to blogging, less is more. Keep it focused, to the point, and others will be more apt to read it.
4. Participate in the blogging community with the goal of giving back.
Nothing about blogging brings me more joy than helping others. I post my email right up front so that readers know they can contact me anytime they wish. Then there are always the giveaways—(keep your eyes open for my 200th post giveaway, coming very soon)!
5. Writing comes before blogging.
If I let this outlet take the place of the stories in my head then the blog has failed me. I’m a writer reaching out to others interested in writing and reading. If I’m not writing then I’m no longer a writer—I’m a fraud who posts about the writing I’m not really doing.
6. A casual voice brings a friendly atmosphere.
One of the reasons I love LiLa and Elana Johnson’s blogs is because their friendly voices come out in their posts and you feel like you’re just a bunch of girls hanging at a party. I try to find my own brand of casual and convey it here. (At least I hope!)
7. Be yourself and be true to yourself.
At first I tried to make this blog funny, but sometimes my humor can come across as pretentious so I have to be careful. I love to laugh, but I’m not always so good at transferring the funny to paper. Now I simply post what is on my mind, what I’m about, and what I have a passion for. I write my essence here. If nothing else, my readers know my voice is authentic. (Along with this, I have to remind myself not everyone is going to come back again and again just like not everyone is going to become my BFF. We seek out those we resonate with and in some blogs that commonality is not as strong as in others. Besides, real life gets busy.)


So that’s it. The seven rules I repeat when blogging, the rules that keep me here for the long haul.


Q4U: Do YOU have any blogging rules of your own you’d like to share?


Next post: My 7 rules of writing time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween!

So much for the blogging hiatus! I could not stay away. Missed you all too much.

So a couple of things:
1. If you're here of the first time, welcome! Have a seat, kick up your feet. Would you rather Pellegrino or Aqua Pana?
2. If you haven't already, you need to go over to Theresa's Blog. Not only are there cool bloggers to meet but signed books to win.
3. Susan Fields is giving away her favorite writing books. Go over and learn about these books from one very awesome person.

Have a wonderful day, my friends!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Another Non-blog

I'm still not back until November 1st, but I AM over at Michele Emrath's Southern City Mysteries today. Come on over and see my very first vlog (i.e. video log).


And please go easy on me because it is, after all, my very first attempt at a video. :)



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Retreating

Thanks for all the input on my last post. The discussion was phenomenal! Now I’m retreating the rest of the month (first for a girl’s-only weekend with friends then with my manuscripts). So I won’t be blogging. However, if you leave a message after the beep… er… post… I will still be visiting your blogs.


And just because I hope every writer saw this, check out part of J. K. Rowling’s interview with Oprah. Please leave me a note about what you think of it!



(My opinion--because I always have one--I thought Rowling was open and down to earth while Oprah came across as cocky.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mormons in Fantasy

Stephenie Meyer, Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, Shannon Hale, Tracy Hickman, Janette Rallison, Brandon Mull, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Mette Harrison, Lindsey Leavitt, and more that I’ve forgotten. It seems as if there are many Mormon (short for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Not an acronym, but a long story) SF/F YA authors.

First off let me be clear, I am not trying to convert or push specific beliefs on anyone. However, some of you know I’m Mormon. All of you know I write. A few of you know I like to write and read MG and YA fantasy, or at least ones with fantastical elements. And it’s curious to me that people of my faith choose to write in fantasy, specifically young adult fantasy.

My Tai chi teacher (not Mormon) teases me that it’s because we’re more open to believing in the extraordinary. He’s teasing that he thinks we’re easily deluded. While I laugh good-naturedly at the joke, I think he might have something there. We are encouraged to be a creative people and to develop our talents. We also DO believe in things fantastical. We believe the church was restored through God the Father and his son Jesus Christ to a boy prophet and that scripture of the ancient people on the North American continent was held in reserve to be translated by that boy. We believe in old and living prophets, miracles, priesthood ministry, and a pre-mortal life—all topics hard to fathom.

A year and a half ago, The Boston Globe wrote an article on what they called a “surge” of Mormons publishing in young adult literature. (You can read the article here.) The article mentions how many writers are drawn to writing books for younger audiences, especially fantasies. They speculate Mormons are attracted to younger books because they are generally cleaner. (If we’re talking MG I’d agree, but YA as a whole doesn’t really have any boundaries that coincide with mine.) Another reason they give is that we are a family and child-centered organization and want to create more books kids would read. (Maybe that has some weight… then again many religions feel the same.)

The truth is I’m not convinced there is a high trend of Mormons than there is of any other religion publishing right now. YA alone is seeing a surge of writers independent of an author’s profile. There are almost 14 million Mormons but I couldn’t tell you the percentage that write books no more than I know how many Lutherans or atheists do.

What I think prompts the appearance of a lot of Mormon authors in YA is the prominence of a few in the last decade (Ahem… Stephenie Meyer). And kind of like everyone making a big deal about JFK being Catholic when he was elected president, a religion different than what’s been seen in that profession in the past is one that will make the news. Then again, I could be wrong, I often am. :)

So…

I’d love to hear what you think, whether you agree with me or whether you have other thoughts concerning ANY spiritual persuasion creating a preference in writing genre. (NOTE: Please be respectful of every visitor’s feelings, though! We are talking religion here, something not discussed without deep emotions.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Even natural disasters can't stop it

Today I helped out with a local relief effort to assist people in our community hit by a series of tornadoes. Poor Flagstaff. First huge snow storms,






then a forest fire,





next floods





and now tornadoes.



All in one year. What’s next, you say? Well there’s always the possibility of the two inactive volcanoes we live beneath blowing.

It’s been a crazy year. (No, I’m not ready to move. I’ll stick it out.)

But as I walked transects looking for people’s belongings the twister left strewn through the forest, I noticed how many children’s books were part of the occasional debris. It was sad to see them lost and ruined but it gave me strength to know books are still in homes. Children’s books are still part of a family’s life. The uncertainty of the economy or the digital age has not changed that. Apart from drywall and shingles, books were the pieces of debris I saw the most.

Books!

Fear not, writers, there will always be books and kids to read them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Courage to Listen

When I finished editing my first book (now shelved) I hadn’t much of a clue how to go about getting it published. I finally decided to hire another writer in that genre to take a look at it and see what she thought. Just for fun, I pulled those notes out today and here’s what jumped out at me, “Maybe the story of the orphans is really a separate novel hiding in this one.”


Oh, how I laughed!


When I first contacted this author about critiquing my work, it was in hopes of having someone tell me if it was a novel I could get published or if I should move on from the years (!) I spent on it and try to get something else out there. The trouble is I already knew the answer to this question. Somewhere, deep inside of my being I knew that I could do better, that my writing had not become the caliber I would wish to sign my name to.


I just didn’t have the guts to call it a writing exercise and move on. Instead I kept revising, rewriting, reinventing. What I needed was to listen to myself. To hear myself say the vitality in the book was the obscure characters and their side stories. These were the gems in the mire of practice often necessary to gain knowledge of craft.


Now I’m learning (slowly) to trust myself when my inner voice tells me that a character doesn’t work or that a plot is too derivative. It’s taking time, but at least I’ve developed the courage to listen, to know I’m the one who knows what’s best for the book.


And do you know what? The author I hired was right. I had another story in there that wanted to burst forth. I knew it and she guessed it. No wonder the small secondary characters always threatened to take over. No wonder the main characters reacted rather than acted. They weren’t the story. The story was waiting for me to cowboy up and pluck it out.

That’s the book I’m writing today. That story was a seed inside the crap… er… fertilizer. I only needed the courage to dig it up and replant it.

Q4U: Is there anything you’ve needed the courage to do but couldn’t until someone helped you listen to yourself?

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Winner, A Bedtime Story, and Flash Back Friday

I. Thanks for all the kind comments about my review of Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce. Seriously, if you like fantasy or YA or both you need to go out and get this book. For a lucky one of you, that won't be necessary because

MARGO BERENDSON,

you have won a free copy. Come on down to the Price Is Right! *cheers!* Please email me your shipping address, friend, and I'll mail the book out to you ASAP.

II. As a (pitiful) consolation prize for the rest of you, here is a bedtime story... a FLASH BACK FRIDAY edition!
Once upon a time there was a blog that didn’t know how to reach out to followers. Faithfully the posts came, but clueless was the author. It’s a good thing the author believes in recycling. Here is her virtual attempt at reusing garbage:


ORIGINALLY POSTED ON SEPT., 19th, 2008
“Good Beginnings or Best Beginnings”

I'm doing a crazy amount of rewriting right now. Sometimes it feels like time well spent, others... not so much. I know editing has a big learning curve, but sometimes I wish I was preprogrammed to know what effective rewriting was. And I suppose like 99.9% of us, the only way to know is to keep at it. Over and over again.

Anyway, with all the rewriting--especially working on the first few chapters--I've been thinking; what makes a great beginning?

I was at my local Barnes and Noble buying a book for a friend when I began reading the design on the shopping bag. Now some of you will know that they are quotes from famous books, but for those of you that have never read them, this is what I saw:

"All children, except one, grow up."
"Call me Ishmael."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
"Happy families are all alike."
"My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly."
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

There are others printed on the bag and though not all these quotes are at the exact first of the book, they have something in common. They are the first statement that set up the reader expectation. Perhaps some people will not agree, but I think these sentences are the lights that direct the eye to the center stage. They let us know where the book is going and provide something to draw us into the main plot. And these sentences do it so well that it's hard to think of them being expressed any other way.

Now my problem: come up with my own stage spotlight in my rewrites. I have good ones now, but I'm looking for something unforgettable and inevitable, just as these are.

October 1st, 2010 Update: I’m still rewriting (a different book) and asking myself the same questions about beginnings. Perhaps that learning curve was even steeper than I anticipated back then... le sigh…. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Starcrossed: A Review and Book Drawing

Some of you will remember back in May I shouted out my mad-passion for Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark as Gold. Since then her lovely publisher has sent me a copy of Bunce's latest book, Starcrossed.

Would you believe that I loved this one even more? Believe it!

This book had everything I love in a novel:
~ A fun and likeable main character
~ Exciting and unique plot
~ Fully realized world
~ Perfect pacing that kept me wanting to read well into the night
~ A twist at the end

It had Clue-like plot elements with a who-done-it mystery set in a fantastical world. But beyond that, the story was oh so much more. It was fast-paced and complex, while Digger was one of those rare characters you are sure you know in reality because they become so real to you. The only sad thing about this book? I have to wait for the sequel. Wah!

The skinny from Goodreads.com: Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so. Accepted as a lady's maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold--as well as plenty of jewels for the taking. But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren't as apolitical as she thought... that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

Available October 1st, there are two ways you can get your hands on this book:
1. You can preorder it now. It comes out this week so you won’t have to wait long!*
2. Leave me a comment! I’ll draw one winner on Friday, the day of the release, and send you my copy of Starcrossed. (Yes, I’ll be sad to part with it, but since it was free, I wouldn’t feel right keeping it all to myself.) YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY, 8 pm EST TO ENTER.

If you want a comment topic, I love children’s book recommendations (including Middle Grade and Young Adult). Please leave me one or a few.

As with all the rare reviews I give here, this book is one I truly love and wish into the hearts of all its readers. Even getting a free copy would not change my honesty about a book.**

* When you read Starcrossed, please drop me an email and let me know what you think of it.
** While Scholastic sent me a free copy, this review is my opinion and has not been swayed by their generosity nor have they even required me to review it. All was by my own volition.