Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Manuscript Bouncing Back

I got lazy and didn't contact anyone to see if they wanted to do an interview with me.

But that's okay. I finished up my next set up revisions for my editor, and as soon as I buy more paper and ink, I'll print it up and mail it off.

I'm excited. I think (hope) it's gone the direction she wanted it to. I cut an entire character's POV out. The scene in question, where I pondered if I should make it a camera lens POV, I cut as well. I did try it. But after I took out the person introspection, the thoughts, the feelings, the scene didn't feel alive anymore. It felt, well, like a screenplay. Empty.

So I cut it. There was some great action in that scene. Two boys sneaking into a police station, using their identical twin status to fool the clerk, stealing a car, almost getting caught at the toll booth...you get the picture. But it lost its soul when I took out the boy's POV. Someday, when they make a movie of my book (ha ha), we can put the scene back in.

But guess what that means? It means I get to work on the sequel again. Which, as Perilous changes, so does book #2.

Tonight at church we're having a chili cook off. My husband and I went to one of these when we were engaged. It was super fun. I love my husband. He's such a great guy. Even though he laughed at my dead princess tiara.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thinking Out Scenes

What goes into creating a scene for you? Do you outline it? Play it out in your head? Just sit down and type?

Whenever my mind wanders, I find myself imagining new scenes for my characters. I get so excited about the scene, I'll start it over and over again, relishing in that delicious feeling of something new, something emotional.

But here's the thing: I never let myself finish the scene in my head. In fact, I usually only play the first few sentences. Again and again and again.

For some reason, the first time I think/play it out is the best time. I've played out entire scenes before, loving every minute of it, and then sat down to write it. Only to have it not turn out as good. So now, I don't let myself finish playing out the scene. I know where it's going, but it's not until I sit down at the computer that I let the scene come to life. I let the characters finish it.

It's like the first time is the best time.

It reminds me of one time in college. For fun, my ward (church group) was making mini-videos and having a competition. Everyone who wanted to participate was put into a team. We only had two weeks, so it was pretty impromptu. One night we all gathered in an apartment and just videotaped our movie. No scripts, just prompts.

I was cast as the unhappy fiance. My fiance and I had a screaming break up fight, and then a lovely make up scene later. It was great. Off-screen, my team was holding back the laughter. We finished, ecstatic, and went to watch it--only to discover that Camera Dude had been filming the carpet the whole time.


We re-taped it. And my fiance and I tried, really tried, to capture the exact essence and wording of the first time. It fell flat. We couldn't repeat what we had done so perfectly without trying.

That's how writing is for me. At least, writing new scenes. (Editing is a different beast entirely.)

What about the rest of you? Can you relate? Or is it totally different?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Countdown: 12: Rereading and Rewriting

The year is 2007. I have just found my ancient manuscript for the book I wrote in junior high. The title is, "Walk Me Home."

The first thing I did was sit down and read the thing. I came away impressed. A fifteen-year-old wrote this? But in spite of being impressed, I knew it wasn't up to publication standards. The plot was good, but the presentation was totally lacking. I had incorporated all of the common conventions of the time: a flashback in the first chapter, long descriptive paragraphs of introduction for each character. And also, the characters were too young. At ages 12 and 13, I couldn't really explore the tragedy and situation of being kidnapped. I couldn't make something bad happen to children.

So I began to rewrite. I changed the title from "Walk Me Home" to "Walk Beside Me," to more accurately reflect the religious images in the novel. The characters got older, ages 14 and 15. Then I cleaned it up, taking out lengthy descriptions and random silliness that made me roll my eyes.

I left a lot of the original material in there, however. I felt I needed to pay homage to the adolescent work.

When I thought the novel was ready, I handed it to my most cynical reader: my husband. The result: Two thumbs down. He couldn't even finish it. He said it was simply unbelievable and at times laughable. Playing Nancy Drew? Going shopping when they should be hiding?

I was crushed and grateful that he didn't read on. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I realized he was right. In a major way. It wasn't enough to simply clean up. I needed to rewrite.

The Nancy Drew scene was cut. Instead I created a scene where the characters to the right thing and still end up in danger. Much higher stakes. The shopping thing? Groan. Only a kid would write such a silly scene. I cut it too. The feeling of suspense and terror needed to be in every scene in the novel. No trying on hats and going to art museums.

As I made these changes, I realized I needed more input. More help. So, in the summer of 2007, I began to search for a critique group.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mermaids and Catching Fire

My husband and I went out to eat on Saturday.

This was a very grand moment for us. We love going out to eat, and haven't gone to a restaurant in months. But we had a bit of extra money and wanted to treat ourselves. Plus we had a $25 gift certificate.

So we headed to restaurant in Fayetteville called Mermaids. Not a franchise, so if you don't live around northwest Arkansas, you're not gonna be able to go. Sorry!

But let me tell you about what we ate. First, we got the fried lobster fritters. Yum. Bite-sized, tender morsels of pink and white lobster in a crispy, golden shell. Ah, so good. Next we had the Soup of the day, which was a very rich shrimp bisque. Dinner was served with rolls and a salad. I got the tuna special, which was a fillet of tuna covered in a Marsala sauce glaze on a bed of fettuccine noodles and a side of shrimp. Um, yum!

That wasn't enough, of course. We had to get dessert after that. My husband got a brownie and pecan ice-cream concoction while I got a chocolate ganache with lots of raspberry sauce poured over it. (I even asked for extra raspberry and got it.)

I daresay we may have found my new favorite restaurant. I can't wait to go back.

I also finished reading Catching Fire over the weekend, so I must say a few words about it. It was great, really good, and I can't wait for the next one. But I was slightly disappointed in two things (NO SPOILERS. I'll be a bit vague on details, but I'm not going to give anything a way): 1) The setting. I wanted to see something different from her. It felt too much like a cop out. 2) The love triangle. This, of course, is subjective. I've picked out who I liked in the love triangle, and it bugged the dickens out of me anytime she showed any interest in the other character. To the point where sometimes I wanted to just put the book down. Yet I know there must've been other people rooting for the exact opposite. That's gonna happen. But still, disappointing.

Finally, the use of present tense began to wear on me. I ignored it for the entire first book, but by this one, I found myself having to correct my reading because some things I automatically read in past tense. This book is really good. But I think I will avoid other books that right in present tense.

Just my thoughts and opinions. Read the book and make your own opinions.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review Groups and Kurt Chambers

I've often seen writers online asking how they can get a review/critique group together. All of the advice for finding a group IRL is great! Provided there is anyone around who likes to write. And is willing to set aside time to review your stuff with you.

I haven't found any success IRL. There are a few people from church who also write, but every time we try to get together, it falls through. I mean, a critique group has to be COMMITTED.

But I did find great success online. The first online writing group I joined was too generic. The members were poets, short story writers, song-writers, and a few novelists. Guess how many of the novels were getting reviewed? You got it. Zero. I was a member for several months and received a handful of reviews on my first three chapters. That was it. And I was one of those members reviewing every new thing that got posted, just to keep the enthusiasm up.

My commitment waned and I quit going there. I asked friends from playgroup, family members, anyone who would want to read my novel. I got two or three offers. Only one finished the novel. Ugh. This wasn't going well.

And then I discovered writing.com. I cannot say enough good things about this website. Within the writing websites are several different forums that focus on specific things. Many of them are private and you have to apply for membership. But the membership is free!

I could not have finished any of my books without this review group. I joined four: The Young Adult novel group, the Christian novel group, the Novel Review group, and the Novel Focus Forum. I met the most amazing people, learned the most obvious things, and finally had my novel read, from start to finish!

Which brings me to today's spotlight. I met Kurt Chambers in the Young Adult Novel Group, who boots up his computer in England so that we can meet online. Really cool! Meet Kurt. I hope you like him.

Me: Hey Kurt! So, since we all know you're a construction worker, I think we're dying to find out. How on earth did you get started writing?

Kurt: The simple answer to that is, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I knew nothing, and had absolutely no idea of just how much was involved. I worked with children as a volunteer and they were my inspiration. I wanted to write for children. I wrote the first three chapters of my first novel and gave it to the most cynical person I know--my wife. I knew I would get an honest reaction. She read them and turned to me and said, "If you kill off that character, I swear I won't read any more of this." What an awesome reaction! That was enough to convince me I could do it. The rest is history.

Me: How many books have you written?

Kurt: I've written three full novels in a middle grade fantasy series: Truth Teller, The Wrath of Siren and Favian's Law. At the moment I'm working on another two books. The World in Johnny's Back Garden, which is aimed at slightly younger children. The story is designed to give kids an alternative view of the living things around them. And Unknown Reality, a middle grade fantasy novel. I've very excited about this book. It's bordering on sci-fi, mixed with fantasy. It's a strange story, but even in it's infancy it's already receiving banging reviews.

Me: Wow, sounds awesome! That makes me so excited to see all of your series in print! Give me a quick synopsis of your Truth Teller series.

Kurt: How could a modern day girl like Charlotte ever envisage that magic really exists? Even with her own vivid imagination, the place for other realms belonged in a child's fairy tale. Or so she thought, until she stumbled across a hidden curio shop and an even stranger shopkeeper. He gives her a gift that resembles an antique snow dome, but this is not an ordinary globe. The world Charlotte has always known disappears as she's spirited away into a mystical land.

This is the beginning of a lifelong friendship that changes Charlotte's life forever. Discovered by a young elf alone in the forest, she embarks on a journey in search of a group of travelling Entertainers. She encounters heart-stopping dangers and real life monsters, but a far greater threat shadows her every move. Even the strength and skill of her new found companions cannot protect her against a ruthless druid assassin. But in this realm, Charlotte is not the vulnerable little girl she thought she was.

How's that?

Me: Great! And for those wondering, I have read Truth Teller, the first book in Kurt's series. I said it to him then, and I'll say it again: How is this not published??? Where are you in the publishing marathon?

Kurt: LOL...Interesting question. Unpublished! I would like to think that I'm on the edge of being published. I have my first book edited to a publishable standard. I've managed to scrape together a reasonable synopsis, and my query letter has sparked interest of some of the biggest names in the publishing industry. I'm doing everything I should be doing as far as I know. All I need now is my big break.

Me: Ah, Kurt. You deserve it! So...Brownie Girl Scouts??? Or Girl Guides, whatever you call them over there. How did you end up in charge of them?

Kurt: Working with the Brownies came about by pure chance. My wife used to volunteer helping to to run the Stevenage 17th Brownie pack at the local church. My eldest daughter was a Brownie back then. They asked me if I would come with them on a trip to London as there had to be so many adults per child. It was one of the most awesome days out I'd ever had...lol...I have the mental age of a ten-year-old myself, and I love kids. I started going down on Brownie night to help out and ended up getting enrolled as an official Girl Guider. I loved it so much, it was the best thing I ever did in my life without question. I loved those kids like they were my own.

Me: That's neat. Not everyone can say that they've been a Girl Guider. If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Kurt: This would have to be a toss-up between visiting the pyramids in Egypt, or the Incas mountain settlements in South America. Both would be an awesome experience and a massive inspiration for future stories.

Who would you take with you?

Kurt: M
y wife, of course. It would be suicide not too...lol...

Me: Good point! How many bedrooms does your house have?

Kurt: Funny stuff! Tamara, you're going to be gutted--

(Me: Gutted?)

Kurt: --because my daughter has not long moved out...lol...I have a three bedroom house. Houses in England are a lot smaller than in your part of the world. The whole floor area of my home is approx. 23 foot square. In a word, small.

Me: Um, yeah. Like the size of my closet.

Kurt: For the last year or so there has been eight of us living here. Me, my wife, my three kids and my eldest daughter's two children AND her boyfriend. In a word, insane! Now there is just the four of us...Phew! It's like living in another world.

Me: Phew! Glad it's just ya'll again. Now that you're done gutting me, how do you say 'tomato'?

Kurt: I say tomato...lol...I pronounce it as tom-ar-to as apposed to tom-ay-to.

Do you stand in a line or a queue?

I have to queue for things here in England.

Me: Do you prefer winter or summer?

Kurt: Definitely summer.

Me: Why?

Kurt: Have you ever been to England? Cooooold.

Me: You should try migration. Works for the birds. What is your favorite food?

Kurt: That's difficult, there's so much nice stuff out there. I think I would have to say beans on toast.

Me: I'm so not laughing at you. Yes I am. Beans on toast???

Kurt: I'm a bit of a legend for my baked beans. Seriously, it dates back from when I was at school and everyone used to come round my house for lunch to sample my beans. I guess that makes me the original Mr. Bean...lol...

What's your favorite animal?

My favourite animal. Am I allowed two?

Me: Sure, why not?

Kurt: Ludo, my recently departed cat. He was eighteen-years-old when he died this year, and was a significant member of my family.

Me: Oooh! So sorry!

Kurt: I also have to include, Percy, my insane talking cockatiel. He was proper mental. He used to just fly around my house doing whatever he liked. He liked fighting...lol...We had him for years before one of the next door neighbours kids scared him out the house. Very sad story.

Me: Okay, so you like birds and cats, one bird and one cat in particular. Awesome interview, Kurt! You're one of the best! Be sure and let me know when you get that contract!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Are You Afraid Of?

Steph's group blog topic today is what we fear. This is, after all, October. The spooky month of the year.

Well, I have a fear. And it's a very silly fear, really, because chances are it won't happen. I have lots of fears, things I dread, things I pray never happen to me, but ever since that bridge collapsed over the Arkansas River in 2002, I've been scared of being a bridge when it collapses.

There was a story, though I haven't researched it to see if it was true, of a family--mom, dad, baby in car seat--that died in this accident. The car was found later with the entire family in it. It was Memorial Day weekend, after all, and people were traveling to see family.

This scenario terrifies me. When my oldest was a baby, I actually practiced swiveling around from my seat to see how quickly I could get him out of his seat and into my arms. Weird, huh? Now that I have two children, I get horrible chills wondering how I would get both of them to safety. I couldn't leave one behind and save the other.

Anyway. Enough seriously creepy and depressing stuff. Want to freak me out? The next time we drive over a bridge, tell me it's collapsing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Camera Lens POV

You know the POV I'm talking about? The kind that doesn't really get into the emotions of anyone, just 'shows' the scene. It's a distant POV.

I'm trying to find information about it, and not coming up with much. Wikipedia says:

The 'third-person objective' mode tells a story without describing any character's thoughts, opinions, or feelings; instead it gives an objective, unbiased point of view. This point of view can be described as a "fly on the wall" or "camera lens" approach that can only record the observable actions, but does not interpret these actions or relay what thoughts are going through the minds of the characters.

When is this POV appropriate? I've used it before. I used it in a prologue once, and then the rest of the story flipped to third-person POV.

Would it be appropriate to throw into a novel for one chapter? For example, let's say that you have an MC, and the book is entirely in her POV. She has a group of friends she runs around with. In the middle of the book, the MC and her friends get separated, leaving the MC by herself why the friends rescue her. (Yeah, this is a pretty specific example.) Would it be okay to have one chapter in this camera lens POV, showing what the friends are doing to rescue the MC?

Thoughts? Experiences?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Police Visits and Baby Kisses

I know I'm very late in blogging today. I have an excuse. I was sleeping.

Here's why. At 4am this morning, we got a knock on the door. If you read the title to this post, you know who it was: the police. Turns out that someone tried to break into the house next door. The police saw that the screen was off on our back window and worried that we might have an unexpected guest. We let them in, they poked around in closets, and when they felt we were safe, they left.

Neither Mark nor I had the guts to tell the kind policeman that Mark had taken the screen off the day before when he forgot his key and needed into the house.

Kind of freaky, though. I'm keeping all the windows locked and booby trapped now.

I didn't get any writing done today.

On another note, baby Asher has started giving very excited kisses. He hasn't quite gotten the 'closed mouth pucker' down yet, so he opens his mouth in this puckered 'oh' and gives kisses. So cute though. He's so happy about giving them. What can be sweeter than a slobbery baby kiss?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gauging Popularity

Today I'm in a contest to see how many people will read my one-sentence blog and leave a comment.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spotlight: Robin Parrish

I am so excited to introduce you all to Robin Parrish, the author of Offworld. You can catch that review here. I was so impressed with his book. I would definitely include Robin on any 'must-read' list you have.

Me: So, Robin! As everyone knows, I just finished reading Offworld, which is how I discovered you. But I know it's not your only book. How many books have you written?

Robin: Offworld is my fourth. I'm currently contracted for 2 more adult novels from Bethany House, with hopefully lots more to come.

Me: Did you publish the first book you wrote?

Robin: Yes, the first book I wrote was Relentless.

Me: I have to get that one too. I loved your writing style. How long did it take you to find an agent?

Robin: My route to getting published was not the usual one. I signed my first publishing contract with Bethany House without an agent. That was for my first three books. Only while I was working on the third book did I start looking for an agent to help me with my next contract. I found my agent based on the recommendation of a friend, so it really didn't take long at all once I started the process.

Me: I love that there are so many different ways to get into the publishing world. I bet once you had two published books under your belt, getting an agent was a lot easier than otherwise. Why did you choose to write speculative Christian fiction?

Robin: I'm not sure I have an answer to this question. I'm an oddity in the "Christian publishing" world, because I refuse to write solely for Christians. I want to be accessible to everyone. So I'd probably be writing the same stories I'm writing now no matter who was publishing me. I'm a Christian, and my beliefs will always inform what I write, but I'm not going to shove a "feel-good Christian message" into a story just for the sake of giving Christian bookstore patrons their expected ya-yas. It's paint-by-numbers writing. There's no satisfaction in that for me as an artist, and I can't imagine how anyone could be satisfied with that as a reader.

Me: Perhaps that's why I loved your book so much. There's the theme of God, but it's not preachy at all. I hope I can accomplish the same thing with my books.

Robin: I'm fascinated by stories that ask big questions. "What's the nature of our existence?" "Why are we here?" "Is there meaning and purpose for all of this?" I know what my answers to those questions are, but rather than spell it out for the reader, I'd rather open minds and get the reader to truly, genuinely put some thought into what those questions mean. Especially if it's the first time they've ever considered them. I want to make those questions vivid and real and worth mulling over.

I think all of my stories ask those kinds of questions in epic, exciting ways. I like to take those questions and personal moral dilemmas and stick them under a ginormous magnifying glass to see what happens.

me: Well done, Robin. I'm sure you will attract a lot of readers who appreciate being given something to think about without having anything shoved in there faces. That's hard to accomplish. Do you do an outline or fly by the seat of your pants?

Robin: I am an outlining fiend. An outline is crucial. It's one thing to write a great big story. It's another to write a great big story that makes sense. And it's another thing altogether to have a big story that makes sense and flows well, reads well, is entertaining, and resonates. It's a complicated undertaking, and I'd be lost without a roadmap.

Me: Wow. That's inspiring. I know you just had a little girl, because I stalk you on Twitter. Congrats!!! Who else dwells under your roof with you?

Robin: My wife Karen and I are blessed to also have a 2-year-old boy named Evan.

Me: Which Battlestar Galactica do you like more, the old one or the new one?

Robin: Are you kidding? There's no comparison! The new one was a perfect case study in "how to transcend genre." The new BSG was raw and emotional and powerful and poetic and dirty and one of the best television shows to ever grace the small screen -- of any genre. It was one of those rare confluences when writing, casting, acting, direction, production, music, editing, etc. were all pitch-perfect. I already miss it something terrible.

Me: Alas, I never saw the new one. I grew up watching the old one and loved it. My favorite show. I was very very excited for the remake--until I found out that Starbuck was now a girl. Um...couldn't get over the gender-change. If it weren't for that, I'm sure I would've loved it. I love the show's premise. Which would you rather watch, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

Robin: Lord of the Rings. No contest. There's so much moral depth in Lord of the Rings that watching it is a spiritual experience.

Me: Totally have to agree with you there! My husband and I have debated several times whether we should include it in our Sabbath-appropriate movie list. Ha ha. If you had your choice, would you eat Chinese food or pizza?

Robin: Pizza. No other reason than personal taste. I'm not big on Chinese and I like pizza.

Me: How involved is your family in your writing? Do they read your drafts?

Robin: No, the first and only person to read my drafts is my editor. I don't let anyone else read my early drafts, most especially my family, because I know how unreadable my early drafts are compared to what they will eventually be, and I want everyone to read the very best versions of my stories! But my wife is always the first to read the finished product.

Me: Yes, that's me too! I let my husband read a draft once--or start one. It was so not ready to be read that he couldn't get into it. I haven't asked since then. I'll let him read the finished product when it comes out. What are you working on right now?

Robin: Right now I'm hard at work on the first draft of Nightmare, my next novel. I'm not ready to reveal the plot yet, but I can tell you that it's a standalone thriller that touches on a subject matter that's very hot in pop culture right now. It asks another of those big questions of existence that I mentioned earlier. And it might just tingle your spine a little. It'll be out next July.

Me: Oh my word, that makes me so excited! Definitely adding it to my list. Oo oo, let me guess. Are there vampires?? Robin, I've appreciated talking to you! I think you are very talented and on your way up. Thank you for coming to my humble blog!

Oh, and to my commenters: You can comment on the blog today, of course, but I wanted to let you know, Monday is the big day to comment. I'm in a contest to win a book, and the book goes to the blog with the most comments on Monday! So help me show everyone that I'm the most popular! Ha ha. Okay, it's not that funny. You can stop laughing now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mama's Christmas List

This should be way fun. Today's group blog from Stephanie is to make a list of what you'd want for Christmas, money no object.

I haven't even really thought about this, since I haven't asked for Christmas presents in years! But I'm going to go looking right now. Because there are definitely things I want.

One thing I'd like is a new purse. I just spent 30 minutes trying to find a picture online of what I want, and didn't find it. So, here's the thing: I'm very picky about purses. I like them small, girly, colorful, with straps. I saw one on a girl when I went up to Missouri for Mark's graduation, and I loved it. It was leather, small like a backpack but not a backpack, with colorful leather flowers attached to it, and lots of small pockets. So very cute. Unfortunately, she couldn't remember where she got it. Don't buy me a purse. Unless you take me with you. This bag would be the closest. But it's missing the flowers.

I would like a new dress. This one needs to come before Christmas, actually, because our anniversary's on the 17 of December, and I'm tired of wearing the same dress. Something like this:
I love long dresses. Paired with a short black cardigan, this would be perfect.

And finally...I have a long list of cookbooks and scrapbooking supplies I'd like. If anyone wants specifics, just ask. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trashy Renters

Today I'm going rant against all trashy renters.

I'm not ranting against all renters. That would be silly, since Mark and I have been renting for over a year now. And we're good renters! Always pay on time, the house is clean, nice neighbors...ideal. :)

No...I'm ranting against the people who throw pity parties when it's time to pay rent, and then trash the place before they move out. Oh, I've got stories. Let me share a few. I'm ranting, after all.

See, a couple of years ago, Mark and I decided to get involved in real estate. Good business. We had extra money to throw around, so we didn't mind the repairs and covering for renters. Of course, things went sour and we suffer the repercussions today. But the stories! Oh, boy! Let's see.

Sob story #1: This was actually probably our best renter. A single man moved into one of our houses. Turned out he was a junkie (like, trash junkie) and after two years had collected three boxes worth of peanut butter jars. That's just an example. We got to keep his deposit because he never once cleaned the place, and we spent two days cleaning so someone else could move in. But he paid, and was only late on occasion. Not so bad.

Sob story #2: We'll call these people Joe and Jane. They moved in, everything looked good until about six months into it. Joe couldn't come up with money for rent. We let him use his deposit. (Dumb, and not the last time we made that mistake.) Next month, still no money. We asked Joe to move out. He threw fits and wouldn't let us in when we brought people by to see the house. We did eventually get him out and were only a few hundred dollars less for our troubles. Whew. Not so bad.

Sob story #3: We'll call these people Goodfor and Nothin. Lived in our duplex, kids on top, parents on bottom. Money dried up two months into the contract. Caught them smoking in the house. Kids flew the coop. Kind-hearted husband loaned Goodfor and Nothing money so they could eat while Nothin looked for a job. They left when we threatened with eviction.

Sob story #4: We'll call these people Takin and You. Should be a warning when people can't come up with the deposit money. We let it slide. Four months later, still no deposit. Takin and You separated, and You asked to be on a month-to-month contract. We agreed. As we were approaching the delivery of our second child, we decided we needed a place to live. You agreed to move out with 30 day notice. Then Takin came back. Mark and I packed up our place and pulled up to the house to move in--and they refused to leave. Or pay rent. Two months later and a lovely court hearing, the sheriff escorted them off our property. And we moved in.

Sob story #5 (no, I'm not done yet!): We'll call this woman Bomb. Bomb and her husband moved in. Three months into the contract, husband lost job. We let them use their deposit (this was the last time we made that mistake). Two months later, husband left Bomb. Bomb has no money. Promises money for month #1. We give her three weeks. No money, so we serve eviction. Bomb writes really nice letter, saying she's going to the housing authority and her church leaders and will have all the money for month #1, month #2, and month #3 (which hadn't started yet). We retract eviction and wait. Bomb stalls. Month #2 passes and we serve eviction. She promises to leave. Doesn't leave. Month #3 starts and finally the woman is gone. House is trashed. $1000 later, it's cleaned up enough to get a new family into.

Sob story #6: Family moves in, promises to get utilities changed into their name and not ours. Like dummies, we don't check until six months later. Still paying utilities. Everything gets fixed, but they owe us money. No extra money coming in. Last month, we tell them how much they owe us on top of the rent. NO MONEY comes. We send someone over to collect, and they're gone. And the place is trashed. We file an insurance claim because there's a broken window and holes in the walls. Insurance says won't cover it: it's normal wear and tear of the property.

And that's the end of it! If you ever wondered why we have money problems...now you know! The moral of the story is, if you ever decide to have rental units: 1) Get a management company 2) Require a huge deposit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where Do You Go When You Work Out?

No, I don't mean what gym do you go to. I mean, where does your mind go?

I know there are some people who love the pain and physical stress of working out. I'm not talking to you. The rest of us (including me) have to focus on something to get through that work out. Not only that, but I have to get myself hyped up for it all day long. ("Yes! Feel those love handles! They're gonna burn, baby burn! Tonight's the night!")

I make it a habit to get to the gym. I usually go five days a week. (Tonight, however, I'm skipping my spinning class because the missionaries are coming over for dinner. They want to try my famous beans and rice. It's a good cause, but my love handles are angry at me for getting them hyped up for no reason.) But no matter how many times I go, I still dread it. I still have to talk myself into it. I feel so great afterward, yet it is hard to get myself there.

So I prepare a mental place to go every time I work out. It's my own personal retreat, and I look forward to being there. My exercise is the time when I can go there and nobody can bother me. For me, it's my book. I go to a scene in my book, something I've just written or something that's coming up, and I explore it. I watch it over and over again. It distracts me and makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. And it holds my attention.

What about you? Where do you go (mentally) when you work out? (And remember, those of you who like grunting and focusing on the seconds ticking by while you enjoy the burning in your muscles, I'm not talking to you.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Little Gems

I have to say that I love the new picture I put up in my bio. That's my husband, everyone. Lovely picture, isn't it? I don't normally share pictures, but I love how our family photo shoot turned out, so here's a few pictures.

Me and Mark. Being goofy.

Me and my baby!

My little men!

Yes--the baby really is a stinker like that. Throwing fits when we're taking pictures.

Didn't those turn out wonderfully? Big thanks to Nicole! If you live in Arkansas, check out her website. She's fantastic.

On another note. I read another really great book last week. This book is called Offworld, by Robin Parrish. It's speculative fiction, kind of a sci-fi feel to it. I read the first chapter on a blog, and I was hooked after that. I had to have the book.

I was not disappointed! The premise of the book is four astronauts return to Earth after 18 months in space, only to discover that the planet is empty. Of all living creatures. No humans or animals roam the earth anymore, and the four of them set out to find out what happened.

But of course, their search can't be that simple. Turns out there's something left behind, and that something's determined not to let them find out what happened. It literally feels like the end of the world.

Except the menace after them is not natural.

I am very impressed with Robin Parrish. I've added his other published books to my 'to read' list. He implements an underlying theme of hope and belief in God in this thriller. Very well done. And his terminology--wow, he could've been an astronaut. Check out my blog on Friday, because if all goes well, I'll be interviewing Robin.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The good stuff and Christina Berry

First of all, it's cold!!! What on earth happened? Last year in Arkansas we were running the AC in October. This year...we already have the heater on. Grrr.

We had family pictures today (thank you, Nicole!), and it was too cold for the littlest one. We couldn't really get him to smile. My oldest could care less. He ran around with our photographer's daughter and pretty much ignored me.

Oh! On another note...guess who won the unemployment appeal? My husband! Yay! That will be some much needed funds. It also makes him feel...validated, somehow. A judge recognized that he was wronged and he's going to get compensated for it now. It just feels good to know we're not crazy.

Onto the good stuff! You've had to wait an extra 24 hours for this, but I have the interview with Christina Berry ready for posting! Let me introduce her really quickly. This author is amazing. You can catch the review of her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, here. Besides writing, Christina is a mom. Not just any mom, but a foster mom. Those of you who know me know that Mark and I have done a lot of work with kids in the system. Therefore, anyone involved in fostering is someone I feel like I can relate to.

You're gonna love this woman!

Me: We know you're a published author, which is so cool. You go into great detail on your blog about how this was accomplished. Can you give us the short version? How long did it take you to write your book?

Christina: About 5 months to write it, though it went from first words to on the shelf in less than 2 years.

Me: How did you get an agent? (This process is so different for everyone and it's so fascinating.)

Christina: I met my agent at a writer's conference 3 years ago and really hit it off. Love her as a person!

Me: How did you choose a publishing company?

Christina: My agent presented two offers and I chose Moody over the other house because they publish more of my "style" of books than the other company. (Of course, I prayed about it too!)

Me: How are you marketing your book?

Christina: Marketing is anything and everything I can think of. Mostly I'm urging people to spread the word of mouth. A recommendation from a friend will sell more books than a radio spot.

Me: That is so true and so good to keep in mind. People generally cost less than a radio spot, too. How did The Familiar Stranger change along the way?

Christina: The story didn't change very much, though my test readers helped me deepen the suspense and add more layers of twists and turns.

Me: Did the title change?

Christina: I had always called in Undiscovered in my mind because I asked the question when I began writing, "What would be the worst thing to find out?"

Me: Yikes, and some of the things Denise finds out would truly be some of the worst things for a wife to discover! In spite of the subject matter, I think most of us hope our books will uplift and inspire readers, make them come away feeling like they witnessed something happy. What about you, as an author? Did your book do this for you?

Christina: I had so many feelings and thoughts to bring to this book because of my personal experiences with forgiveness. I wanted a reader to see both sides of the relationship, to see where things went wrong and were they could have gone better, and how the Lord can restore ANYTHING! So far, from readers' comment, it is doing that. Praise God!

Me: I love how you said that, to see where things went wrong. Often when things go wrong in a marriage, there's a starting point. It involves both parties. There's definitely an element of hope to this, and that inspires me. Tell me about your home life. Who keeps you company at home?

Christina: The permanent residents are my ten-year-old daughter and my eight-year-old son, and my parents who have a complete residence downstairs. As a foster mother, I never know what children might also be with us. Never a dull moment, that's for sure!

Me: I had no idea your parents live with you! Wow, what a full house! What are your immediate plans for the future? Traveling? Working? Writing?

Christina: Trying to sell our current home and move into a smaller, more affordable place. Catching up on interviews and emails.

Me: Ha ha.

Christina: Pursuing my next contract. And working enough substitute jobs to keep a roof over our head. I'm in a place of trying to survive and thrive, while trusting God to provide.

Me: Sounds like you're just like the rest of us! Tell us about future books. What's in the works?

Christina: I'm working on a kidnapping story right now. What does the girl's life look like twenty years later? How does that effect her life? I also have some humorous books in the works.

Me: My book's a kidnapping story too (I always find a way to plug my own writing when I do interviews. Just so you know). Where do your ideas come from?

Christina: I have far too many ideas swimming through my head then I can ever use. It's more a matter of which ideas I'm going to invest in. The news, though, is a great source for crazy things!

Me: It's so weird how the craziest things that happen are true stories. Great brain food. Is writing something you stumbled upon by accident, or have you always wanted to be a writer?

Christina: I always wanted to be a writer, but I was too scared to pursue it until after college when my mom urged me.

Me: Go Mom! If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Christina: On the sidewalks of Paris!

Me: Hmm...wasn't my first pick, but go figure. Who do you hope to impact as a writer?

Christina: I want to change lives. Fiction seems like such a little thing, in the grand scheme of the world, but I'd love to bring people closer to Jesus through my stories.

Me: I love that. It warms my heart that that's your goal. I hope you succeed. What's your favorite girl name?

Christina: You mean, besides Tamara?

Me: Ha ha, yes, because Tamara is everyone's favorite name.

Christina: I better go with my girl's name: Andrea Faith.

Me: When you're writing a book, do you find you get stuck on names that start with a certain letter? over and over again? Or is that just me?

Christina: Yes, isn't that funny that all the characters will suddenly have the same letter starting them! I have to go back and change it a few chapters in to make sure they are different enough.

Me: I've even reused the same name later in the manuscript. It's like the names just get stuck in me! All right, Christina, those are all the question that I have for you, because I know you have a life and I'll pretend like I do. Thanks for doing this with me! I've enjoyed getting to know you and will definitely follow your writing through the years!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Just a Quickie

I know all of you were waiting for my interview with Christina Berry today. Just to let you know, due to technical difficulties, the interview has been postponed till tomorrow. Please come check it out! She's an awesome lady. You'll like her!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ticks and Titles

I have an announcement to make. A very awesome one.

My book has a title.

The title is Perilous. What do you think? Does it make you want to go out and buy it? At least catch your interest?

Of course, it's not set in stone. It could still change. That's how these things are, you know.

So you may have guessed already, but I heard back from my editor! She approved the title. She also gave me many many things to work on, which really ignites my excitement and gets me ready to write. I'll quit working on my sequel now (though I did make my goal today, in case you're wondering) and get back to work on this one.

It's funny how you miss things. No matter how many times I revised (and had others revise), there are still little things I do that nobody else noticed. My ticks. Kristine pointed out that I overused the contract ('d). I laughed out loud--really--when I started searching for this contraction. It's everywhere!!! Not only that, but I went to close down my sequel, and noticed it all over that book, too!

She also pointed out an abundance of 'gonna' in dialogue. She said it's fine if one character speaks with quirky grammar often, but not all of them. I never would've noticed!

I haven't even taken a look at the rest of the comments. First the easy stuff. Then the big stuff! I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What I Learned from my Ex

My ex-boss, that is.

I'll try to keep this brief, because the story could go on and on. Last year, I got a job working at a gym. I didn't like my job so much, and as the months went on, I liked it even less. But I really liked my boss. I thought she liked me, too. We got along really well. She hired my husband on part-time, and she and I developed a good working relationship.

I thought she was a lot like me. She was sensitive, at times insecure, worried, possessive of her job, her husband, and cared about her kids. She took me to lunch sometimes, we talked on the phone a couple of times, we got our hair done, our nails done.

Then she did something that surprised me. She called my husband and offered him a full-time position. What worried me about this was he already had a full-time job, and people at the gym got hired and fired in the blink of an eye. But she promised this wouldn't happen. She offered him more money and a three-year guarantee of work.

I considered her a friend. I saw a lot of myself in her. Kind of thought we'd be there long-term, so we took the offer.

It lasted two months before she decided she didn't really get along with my husband and was paying him too much money. So she fired him.

That same day I quit. I've never quit without giving a two-week notice before. But I'm sure you can imagine my feelings. I also sent her a long email, telling her that I valued our friendship and appreciated all she'd done for me. But I didn't agree with her firing my husband.

I couldn't believe how quickly she turned on me.

She called all of my husband's clients and told them he'd done something so awful, he wasn't allowed to step foot back in the gym. She didn't answer my email and told the other employees that they weren't allowed to talk to me or Mark. She told them I'd gotten into the computer system and hacked it up. And then when we filed for unemployment, she told them that Mark quit and didn't get fired.

We appealed, of course. She requested an in-person hearing. We agreed.

This is on my mind because yesterday Mark went to the in-person court hearing. Guess who didn't show? Yep. Not only that, but he got the see the documents she'd submitted. Wow. Not nice.

The point to this is--if she, someone so like me, could end up being an aggressive, petty, self-interested person--could that happen to me?

I'd like to think it couldn't. But are we really so different? If I don't work hard to make sure I'm not that way, could I take advantage of people and treat people like that? Maybe there are two sides to every human being. The 'capability for great good'--and the 'capability for great evil.' Maybe it is just up to us to decide which side we are going to honor. Which side holds the most benefit and interest for us.

What I learned from my ex-boss is that I am not infallible. Even nice, sensitive, caring people can become selfish and dishonest.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 36/155
actual: 40/157
tomorrow's goal: page 50/157

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So You Want to Get Published

Are you sure?

Really sure?

All right, then. Let's look at your options. You can
A) Find an agent and shoot for the big dogs
B) Find a small press
C) Self-publish.

Let's evaluate your goals. Do you want to reach a lot of people, a certain group, a few in every city, or the whole world? Do you want to be involved in the decision-making, or just get told the decision? Or do you want to make the decisions?

Because, peoples, the amount of control you have over your finished product depends a lot on what avenue you take to get there.

Self-publishing will allow you the most control. You choose your book cover. Your plot is exactly what you make it. Your characters grow (or don't) depending on your discretion. You have no editor.

That's not necessarily good. But it can have its advantages.

But let's face it. Having an editor generally (99.9% of the time) improves your manuscript. Everyone needs one. If you self-publish, that usually means paying someone. If you choose options A or B...you get an editor for free! Doesn't get much better than that!

There is a price, though. You want to get published, and you're not Stephen King. (If you are, please say so in the comments so I'll feel really cool.) Your editor/agent/publisher doesn't like your title. There it goes. Your e/a/p doesn't like your MC's boyfriend. Bye-bye, bug, bye-bye! Your e/a/p wants to change the word 'Jesus' to 'God' in your MS. Or whatever. Just imagine.


Still interested? Still want to get published?

Good for you. Then do it. But do not think for one moment that just because they want your ms means it's going to stay in one piece.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 25/154
actual: 28/155
tomorrow's goal: page 36/155

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Trouble with Pacing

Pacing...With a capital "P," And that rhymes with "T" and that stands for trouble!

I've got my sequel written. Rough draft is in front of me. As I'm rereading, this nagging worry plagues me. The pacing feels too slow. We're dragging to get going. And I'm not sure how to fix it.

Pacing is such an important part of a book. And it's different now than it used to be. And it's different depending on what genre you're reading. If you're reading literary fiction, you expect the pacing to be consistently casual. If it's a thriller, the pacing should be pretty quick through most of the book.

I'm picky when it comes to pacing. Call me an ADHD reader, but things better be happening by the end of chapter 1. If your voice and style is very engaging, I might keep reading past that to see what happens in chapter 2. But after that...honey, you're pressing your luck.

But it can't be too fast, either. I don't want to open a book and find myself thrust into a desperate situation. Huh? How'd I get here? Who am I here with anyway? Do I even care about these people?

With that in mind, I'm reading my sequel with an itchy feeling in my fingers. There's not a lot happening yet. Lots of talking. What to do? There are action scenes coming. Coming. I've got to figure out how to ratchet up the suspense, the tension, so that the reader is on the edge of the seat even before the action scene gets here. I can't rush the action. But I've got to quicken the pace so that my reader anticipates it and pushes onward because he just must know what happens! (I use the pronoun 'he' even though I suspect my books will be read almost exclusively by women.)

I haven't achieved that yet.

I think I'll be relying a lot on my review groups to help me.

While I've got your attention, let me tell you about a book I read last week. This book is called The Familiar Stranger, by Christina Berry. It's her debut novel, and I was fascinated by the characters. Oh, and Ms. Berry got the pacing down just right. We weren't 'thrown into the action' right away, but we were definitely already moving on the upward track of a roller coaster. As opposed to still waiting in line to get on.

This book is told in first person, alternating the points of view of Denise, the wife, and Craig, her husband. Right from the beginning, we know Craig and Denise have a troubled marriage. Denise wants to go to church, Craig complains about being controlled and says he doesn't want to. Oops. Not a great start of a Sunday. They go their separate ways, and Denise gets a call at church. She's told that Craig was in a terrible accident, almost disfiguring.

When Denise gets to the hospital, she finds out that Craig has amnesia. Thus begins a story reminiscent of "Regarding Henry." As he learns to love her and she finds out about him, secrets of his past--big secrets--come up between them.

Then we reach the top of our roller coaster and begin to scream downhill at breakneck speed. The surprises and shocks come very fast. Nothing is what you're led to believe. Cool, huh?

I ordered this book from my local indie. Just went in and asked for it. So if you want it, go get it! It's pretty easy!

And now, I'm so very tired, I think I'll go back to bed.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 8/151
actual: 17/154
tomorrow's goal: page 25/154

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spotlight: Stephanie Faris

I am excited to introduce you all to Stephanie Faris, one of the most interesting bloggers in blogworld. I'm not quite sure how I met Steph. Just one of those things that happens: someone comments on my blog, I check out their blog, they have a commenter who looks interesting, I check out their blog...who knows?

You've seen me comment on her a few times. She's awesome. And her blog is fun, introspective, and engaging. It's a must on my daily reading list. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Me: So, Stephanie, now that I've given the introduction, let's find out who you are. What's your favorite food?

Stephanie: Mexican food.

Me: That's pretty much an all time favorite. I love the chips and salsa while I'm waiting for my food. Why do you like it?

Stephanie: I just love the whole experience of going to a Mexican restaurant, sharing chips and salsa with a friend or my boyfriend or even family...maybe even some Margaritas if it's a Friday night! I think it's all a psychological thing. It represents to me the beginning of the weekend.

Me: That does. It made me smile just imagining it. That happy, festive, care-free feel. Speaking of weekend festivities, what's your idea of an ideal date?

Stephanie: A nice restaurant, followed by a stroll along the river or (if we were on vacation) along the beach.

Me: That's a Mexican restaurant, I'm assuming. What do you do in a typical day?

Stephanie: Work, run errands, come home and cook dinner or go out to dinner with my boyfriend. Then we'll settle onto the sofa to watch an evening of TV until I get too sleepy to sit up anymore!

Me: Mark and I love doing that!! We kill ourselves staying up late watching movies. We love to do it. So fun. So, Steph, I saw on your blog that you entered the Dorchester's Next Best Cellar Contest. I'll have to check that out! What do you write?

Stephanie: I write young adult and romance. Still not published in book-length fiction but I have been published in confessions magazines (True Story, etc.)

Me: That is so awesome. I'm hopeful for you! You've said before that you're a dog-person. Small dogs or big dogs?

Stephanie: Small dogs...although my dog is medium-sized so I'm growing to prefer bigger dogs through having her.

Me: Small kids or big kids?

Stephanie: I think I prefer older kids...they're quieter!

Me: And you don't have to pay someone as much as your dinner date costs to watch them. Luckily, you probably don't have to find a sitter for your dog when you go out with your boyfriend. How did you meet him, anyway?

Stephanie: On an online dating site...Yahoo Personals.

Me: I know so many people who are finding someone that way. I love how the world is shrinking. I joined the gang of college students traveling to the central hub of dating: Provo, Utah. People are always surprised how someone from Montana could meet someone from Arkansas. (Unless, of course, they've been to the central hub.) Would you consider yourself a morning person or a night person?

Stephanie: I took a quiz once that said I'm an early afternoon person. I think that's right!

Me: Wow, I never heard of that. But I'd have to say, I think that's me, too! Let's get back to your writing, because I think it's so interesting. Your blog is always so creative and you reach out to so many people. What's something you hope to accomplish by writing?

Stephanie: Just being able to share my words with others. Although being able to make a living off of creating worlds through my writing talent -- that would be the ultimate dream.

Me: Amen! One last question, and we'll leave it at that. If you could describe yourself as a color, what would it be?

Stephanie: Pink.

Me: Self-explanatory. Thanks, Stephanie, for taking the time out to do this with me! For those interested in voting for Steph's book in the contest, the link's on her page. I'm on my way there next!

Next week we'll be spotlighting Christina Berry, author of The Familiar Stranger. Watch for it!

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 4/150
actual: 4/151
tomorrow's goal: page 8/151

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Favorite Book

Following Steph's blogging challenge, I jumped on the bandwagon and today I will talk about my favorite book growing up. Gladly.

This book needs more attention, anyway. It's called A Rustle in the Grass, and is about, of all things, ants.

Here's the story behind how this book and I met. I was nine years old, in the fourth grade. We had just moved and my mom wanted to go the local flea market and see if they had anything valuable. I had a quarter, and thought for sure I'd be able to buy a chair, a mirror, a shirt, or something.

The only things I found for a quarter were in a dusty barrel. Books. I sifted through them, but none looked interesting. Most were :::cough::: um, adult literature. At the last minute, I grabbed this book. (See picture.) Bought it, took it home, tried to start reading it. It was slightly too advanced for me. I put it down.

But I picked it up again a few months later, shortly after my tenth birthday. Still in the fourth grade. This time, I managed to read it. It took me a long time. A month, I think, and the book's not that long.

I loved it. Loved loved loved it. There's no way to explain to you the life lessons these ants teach. It's so obviously not scientific, since all the ants are male and we all know worker ants are female. And I doubt they go around telling stories and talking to each other. Duh. (That's a rant, because someone on Amazon gave it a low review because it wasn't very realistic. For real???)

I read it again in fifth grade. Again in sixth grade. Towards the end of the sixth grade school year, Ms. Jones (my teacher) must've been running out of things to read to us during reading time after lunch. She asked us if we had any books we'd like the class to read. Of course I brought this book, but either I was at the end of the queue, or she didn't think it looked good. It got bumped back and back while stupider stories got read (in my opinion, of course). Finally, after my begging, she started reading it to us on the last week of school. Needless to say, I don't think we finished a chapter.

But my teacher liked it enough to ask to borrow it over the summer. I said yes, and she was good enough to get it back to me. I passed it on to my little sister.

Two years later, my little sister was in Ms. Jones' sixth grade class. She walked into the room, and low and behold, on the classroom bookshelf was a classroom set of A Rustle in the Grass. Twenty-six lovely copies for the class to read. Boy, did I feel good when she told me that!

When my sister and I first saw the preview for A Bug's Life, however many years ago, our first thought was, "They're making a movie of it! How cool!" Of course, it wasn't our favorite book, which was way disappointing.

I read the book every year until I went to college. Then I read it once every three years. Too many other reading assignments. I can't seem to retain a copy, I keep giving them away. The last time I had a copy was four years ago, when I read the book to my husband. I believe he mailed it to his brother to read. Mark loved the book.

It's astoundingly good. Get it. You'll love it. I can't really say what it's about--you'll think it's not worth reading. I mean, who cares about ants, anyway? You can see my review on Amazon (funny story--a friend of mine, named Sasha Fletcher, asked me to help her set up an account on Amazon. I did something wrong. Not sure what, but all of my reviews were renamed as Sasha Fletcher after I did that. I tried and tried to fix it, and eventually gave up and created a new account.). Anyway, it says it's by Sasha Fletcher, but it's by me.

I don't know much about the author. As far as I know, he's only written two books, and the other wasn't that great (I didn't finish it). He's an actor, a movie director. But this book is good. My favorite to this day.

Sequel revisions:
tomorrow's goal: page 4/150
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