Saturday, February 27, 2010

Heads Up! One hour query contest.

I'm taking a break from blogging this weekend to get caught up at home, but I had to let you know about a ONE HOUR WINDOW where you could query the fabulous Joanna Stampfel-Volpe. Click here to see what she's looking for. And click here for the contest rules.
Notice that the window to send in entries is only NOON EST to ONE EST TODAY! Grab your polished queries and hurry! Joanna and I exchanged many emails about Courtesy and Patience and though she wasn't in love with it in the end, I appreciated her kindness and encouragement. She's a dream agent and go-getter!
So now you go... get her as an agent!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Parallel Universes, Past Lives, and Prior Posts

Today I was asked to talk to my daughter's first grade class about bears--black bears in particular. This led me to sift through my pictures of old field research projects and get all depressed and nostalgic about my "past life" as a carefree field biologist. It was a fun and rewarding life, but one that is by no means conducive to having three kids.

(Exhibit A. My oldest was two when I was still out hiking and sampling transects. One day she'd decided she'd had enough wandering around in the brush and was watching a movie in the truck. Along comes a car down our remote dirt road and my (vivid) imagination took hold and I became convinced it was some drunk coming to steal my baby from the pickup cab. I sprinted through the field, hurdling sagebrush so that I could get there before they did. Was I paranoid? Yeah, a bit. But you see what I mean. It was hard being out there. Either I was gone without the family a lot or they whined a lot about being drug around if they came with me.)

Sometimes I feel my heartstrings pulled in many directions. I want to be this, I want to do that... I have just too many interests and I want to make a difference, to add something to the world. If only I could live and experience parallel lives like in some science fiction book. Or clone myself but have the same brain so as to have all the memories from each experience. That would be so cool! Then I could be a good mom, a good writer, a good biologist, and anything and everything else I want to be. (Housekeeper? Ha! Yeah, right. It'll take an army of clones for that.)

But I'm just me.

And slowly I'm becoming okay with that. I can live each hour as it's given to me. In this moment I can kiss the top of my infant's head and cup her sweet smell to my face, knowing that the moment is fleeting, in need of savoring. Then the next moment I might get my turn to create a pygmy rabbit preserve, where habitat can be established in perpetuity. And then there's the moment I might get to write that killer novel that leaves a reader remembering why they love to read.

Each will come in their own time. I just need to be patient. And enjoy the time at hand. Hour by hour. Moment by moment. That's all that any of us can do.

I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. Mothers. Writers. Teachers. Biologists. Naturalists. Engineers. (I included the last for you, Steve.) There are many unsung heroes who chip away at the ugliness every day to add a brushstroke of beauty to this ole world. Some fight the demons of guilt like I do, thinking they aren't producing enough. But we shouldn't. We really shouldn't. Charles Darwin said, "A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life". Those that feel the guilt value life. So savor that life. Roll that morsel around in your mouth awhile! Because that joy is put there for the taking and is a crucial point of our existence.

Um... This post was supposed to be about bears! Oops. Oh, well. I kind of got carried away with my self-indulgence. Sorry. But by all means disregard these musings and read an older, livelier post about bears! (Of course, that one has a philosophical edge too... dang it.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hoo-has and Mantras

I love this picture. It always makes me laugh. Here is beautiful Sophia Loren looking jealously (at least I think that's what the photographer wants you to think) at Jayne Mansfield's hoo-has. Yes, Sophia, she might look more buxom in her dress than you do, but personally I think you are prettier. Because beauty (or good art or quality entertainment!) is a matter of opinion. Lucky for us, especially as writers and readers, that personal tastes breed diversity.

My laptop wallpaper has a heading across the top that reads, "I am only limited by my own insecurities." It has sort of become my mantra since whenever I fail to try something new, it's because I'm insecure with my own abilities. I think I cannot accomplish such a task. I cannot write that one hard story, I can't learn that one difficult skill or technique. When really, if I would put forth my best effort and take the time to develop the proper tools, I can do whatever I set my mind to. Like the old adage, if there's a will, there's a way.

And I've learned the hard way the worst damage you can do is compare yourself to others. Be your own level of best. Because, Sophia, you needn't have worried, honey. Even at seventy-five you're a bombshell.

A friend sent this to me last week. It goes along with what I'm getting at and I hope it brightens your day like it did mine!

'May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.
May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one
of us.' ~ Author Unknown

Friday, February 19, 2010

Search and Find Friday #1

I just had to scream that. Sorry. I'm fine now.
But hey! Just so we're clear, I'm trying a new feature to this here blog.
Blogging is a community affair and I thought it might be a fun to play a game. You ready? Here it is:

I choose a blog post (posted between Wednesday and Friday) from one of my followers, I'll give you a hint about the post, and you then search and find the author of the post. The first one to post the blogger's name wins some little prize I'll think of.
So a scavenger hunt? Yeah. So kind of like a scavenger hunt. But a win/win one, since the winner gets a prize and my friends get more traffic to their blogs. Fun, fun, I say.

Here's the procedure: I will post the clue/hint every other Friday by 5 pm MST and then you recognize the blog-post-author (or blogger) and put you answer in the comments. The first to do so wins. The only exclusion? If it's your blog post I'm refering to, you can't enter. But you can play another day.

So here's today's clue because this post really made me laugh:
Mama writers are loaded with story junk in their brains and often have no time for other hobbies. (Much less listening to their kids when they talk.)

So there... have at it! Identify who blogged about it and provide the link.
This week's prize: a $5 gift certificate to Amazon.

Good luck! May the fastest typing hand win!

ETA: This contest was supposed to be scheduled to post on Friday and I accidently had it for Monday instead. Oops! Sorry!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Living BIG

You know how there is always that one thing you want, that one effervescent item you reach for but is always just beyond you? Try as you might you know it will take you a lifetime to achieve it yet still you try? You have to try. There is something in your makeup that makes you go for the taking. Even though it feels like you are chasing nothing more than a rainbow? Not for the pot of gold, mind you, (okay, sometimes for the gold) but to see what is on the other side.

I am a dreamer. I dream big. I try to LIVE big. And often I set my expectations too high for myself and for others. It’s a flaw but it’s also a motivator. I see things as they are and how they could be. And even though I know I couldn’t be happier standing over there as I am standing here, I still have to move forward. And keep moving forward, the glory in the journey as well as in the accomplishment.

That’s how I think many people are, especially those who feel that overwhelming desire to create something (ahem… writers). So this post is to the dreamers—to those who want to live big, to enjoy the journey, and if they fail, they want to fail spectacularly. Because hey, then you’ll know at least you tried your very best.

(And if you do succeed? Succeed with grace and humility. Because as we all know, nobody chases rainbows alone. They have connections: the book-lovers, the story-dreamers, and us all.)

“Mistakes are the price we pay for a full life.” - Sophia Loren

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Great Baskets of 2010 Claimed!

We have our basket winners! By selection, the Fates have spoken and...

Shelley, our resident Storyqueen and author of several childrens' books has won basket #1


Mari, MY very own resident go-to gal and the person best suited to raise every child in the world has won #2!

Congratulations, ladies. I'll be adding books to your baskets that I think most fit your interests. Shelley please email me your snail mail address at jackee(dot)alston(at)gmail(dot)com. I'll be dropping yours off, Mari, since you're only half an hour away. LOL!

Here's to giving love and loving to give!

(And if you missed this giveaway, there are more going on by my blog friends. Check out Elana's blog, Shannon's blog, Anissa's blog, and Shelli's blog! Did I miss any others? Tell me below, please.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

You Lost Me At "Uh, No."

If you are a follower, don't forget to post a comment here or here to be entered into the basket drawing. If you're not a follower, please be one. Because then I'll know who you are and can stalk your blog as well!

Thanks for all your well wishes, advice, and sympathy in the last post. My chin is fully up now and I'm looking at a bright future beyond.

I know that rejections happen to everyone and everyone admits that in the end they are for the best. I think it's for the best already. At least I've met quite a few really cool agents this way anyway. And most have asked to see future work.

But something is nagging at me: I can't help but think that this manuscript is severely flawed. No agent has said so (in fact they've said the opposite) but have passed on the grounds that it wasn't true love. Then again, would they really tell me what was wrong? They might not for fear that I, being a perfect stranger, would put some voodoo curse on them for their honesty. Or send a scathing email. Or both. Which I won't. Because I'm not that desperate. Yet.

Has anyone experience with this? Manuscripts that were getting attention but no contracts, I mean, not voodoo curses?

I've revised it a bunch. I've had editors look at it. My half a dozen betas loved it. So now what? I thought for sure it was The One (aka my perfect debut). But now I second guess myself. I know no one has an answer as to what I should do, but I am wondering if others have been in my shoes. Have you felt this way? I would love to hear what you have to say.

It's not as if it's my only project and it's not as if I'm unwilling to drastically change it either. I'd love to cultivate this book more and I have so many ideas that I'll never be able to write them all. In fact, my next book is so fun to write that the other day I forgot to pick up my daughter from the bus stop. Poor thing. But post-WW II Germany and a character who sometimes reminds me of Katniss from Hunger Games? It's making me spacey, I admit it.

And then there's that fairy tale...

And then there's that nonfiction in the same vein as Charles and Emma...

And then there's the one about bird scavengers...

Then there's that fantasy I want to rework...

Ahh! The voices! Make them go away!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This is the part where I wish for my own hoverboard.

For you kids of the late eighties, do you remember when Zemekis came out and said that hoverboards were real? And that parents were keeping Mattel from making them because they were dangerous?

Well, I wanted one. I wanted one bad. Forget Segways and all that, I've never thought twice about those. But I wanted a hoverboard, you betcha.

I wanted to sail along and look superbad in my peg-legged jeans, my feathered hair flying. I wanted to be the envy of Sunnyside Elementary. I wanted to get where I was going in a hurry and bring my friends along for the ride as well. And then of course reality set in and of course I knew they weren't real. Even if Robert Zemekis said they were.

This was the reality of hoverboards behind the scenes:

It's been the same with agents. I was naive enough in my first book to think it was my God-given DUTY to bust publishing wide open. It didn't matter that I only knew how to edit technical stuff and had only ever written one book. I had PLANS! I had many books in mind!
Then my second book struck my brain and the words flowed. My critique partners helped my deflated confidence after my first-book-syndrome/blunder (Thank you, Tina and Rebekah!) and I submitted the shiny new novel to agents. Now it's been a year and every close call has fizzled out. How many fulls have been passed on? Eight.
Now I know it's for the best and I want someone who is goo-goo-eyed over it so that they can stay with the book and see it through, but it still doesn't mean that my last rejection (YESTERDAY!) didn't hurt. I really liked that agent and that book.

Dang. Dang. Dang. Dang it.

Now what to do?

The only thing there is to do: Keeping moving forward. There are still stories to tell.

And maybe, just maybe I'll get my ride on that hoverboard someday. Eventually.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Great Basket Party of '10 and Judgemental? Or observant?

First off, welcome to my new friends. And hello to my old friends. MUWAH! I've been lurking on all ya'll's blogs and am excited to get to know you, new friends. While you are here at my pad, make sure you...............

Enter The Fantabulous Great Basket Giveaway of '10. Here are what they look like so far:

I haven't included the books though, because those will be inserted to fit the tastes of the wieners... er... I mean WINNERS. All you must do to play is................

1. Be a follower. Like a little duck in a pond. Only you don't have to swim. Instead push the nice, little button over there ----------------------------->

2. Tell me in the comments HERE, as in this post, or HERE, as in last week's post, what month of the year is a significant one to you and why.

Good luck to the wiener wannabes!

Now on to the content of this post......... I need to admit my greatest weakness: I judge people. I think I have people figured out far before I get to know them and it irks me that I'm such a jackhole like that. The other day I saw an acquaintance of mine at the library (because where else would I be) and she was telling me (please don't be reading this, acquaintance) how she couldn't get her act together that day and get her kids to story time like I had. I immediately thought, "It's ten o'clock in the morning! You can't get out the door by ten?"

And like the aforementioned callous jackhole that I am, I judged her before I even thought, "Well, you're here more than I am even." Which is true. Or: "Are you having a hard time? Anything I can do?" Well I found out later that she's pregnant with her third and having the not-so-fun-kill-me-now morning sickness. I've been down that road before and haven't been able to get out the door earlier than 10 too. So I should have cut her some slack from the get-go. Shame on me.

But it got me thinking: I watch people a lot. I listen and observe and judge... er... NOTICE people's ticks, tone, and physical essence. My writing gleans from life observations and especially people observations. So what I want to know is, a) is it a normal tendency in writers to judge others, since we generally are an observant bunch and b)how do I learn to keep observing but lose the judgemental attitude I impose on others? Any thoughts? And as a side thought, do you judge your CHARACTERS before they show you who they really are? Do you know who they'll be before the book is even in draft form? I'm curious...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Sense of Community

*For those of you that haven't yet, please sign-up to win a basket full of reading treats HERE. It will well be worth your time, I promise!*
Now on to other news...
I mentioned last week about how our used bookstore had their roof collapse during THE BIG storm, but what I didn't tell you is how cool this store really is.
This company cares about literacy, they care about books. And most of all they care about our community and the environment. Everyday two lucky customers go up to the register to pay and find out their books are totally comped. I've been the lucky recipient once. And every time a child buys a book, they get 10% off. They also do all sorts of community events, bring in music and authors for fun in the cafe and more things than I probably know about.
Above is a picture of the entryway, the photographer is standing in the front doorway. There on the left is the rare books case. (It breaks my heart to see it covered in a blanket of wet snow!)
Yes, they have a mess to clean up.
But guess what?! They are paying their employees still! They're paying them to go and volunteer around the community while the owners work on getting the store repaired. (For the full article, read on HERE.)
That's what I call a wonderful company. And I miss them terribly. I love their sense of community, something we value here in our small town.
Lately I've learned to value the literary blogging community too. I've been a lurker--a spectator--far too long. Since 2005. Now that I've gotten to know many of you, I am so, so grateful. My husband laughs at me all the time and my "virtual" friends. (Especially ones I've known a couple of years and have never met in person.) But I don't care. You ARE my friends. And THANK YOU, for letting me call you my friends. Here's to many more years of friendships in this solitary life of writing!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Feel the LOVE

Hey! It's a new month! And not just any month, it's February!

Around here February is significant. A lot of love happens for many people this month. But for me, memories--bittersweet memories--make me always grateful when this time of year rolls around.

Here are a few things:
  • Valentine's Day. (Yeah, yeah... I'm a card and candy company patsy.)
  • My son's birthday; he'll be 3 on the 14th. (He was Flagstaff's 2007 Valentine baby and almost didn't make it, what with a breathing and intestinal infection... all scary stuff, making the memory bittersweet.)
  • My husband and I first started dating eleven years ago. Again, bittersweet. (Ha, ha. Just kidding, Steve.)
  • And my mother's birthday. This time last year she had her final chemo treatment and was declared cancer free. That was a beautiful birthday to celebrate, as will each one to come.

And now to continue on the MONTH OF LOVE...


I've made TWO baskets, one includes all kinds of writing goodies--notebooks, books on writing, pens, pretty little knick-knacks, and candy. The other is a reader's basket, with bookmarks, cards, sweets, booklight, and of course books! I'm sure I will end up slipping in a gift card or two as well. I have a serious illness called over-doing things.

I'm eager to give them away. So here are the two things you have to do: (1) post a comment telling me what month (besides December) is loaded with memories for you and (2) be a follower. I know, I know, making you follow is selfish of me, but I love outing lurkers so that I can make new friends. Truly, I want to know who you are. And then I want you to feel the blogger community love. By way of a chance to win a prize.

Oh, and post which basket you would prefer... Uhhhh... so I guess that makes three things to do. Sorry. Three things, then. There it is. Just do it by 8 am MST Valentine's Day. I'll post the winners by 5 pm MST that night.

So are you feelin' it? Does a basket call you out? Are you ready to share the love?!