Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

ABNA's Next Round

Just an announcement: My husband's novel made it to the second round in the ABNA contest!

What that means is that his pitch was in the top 20% of all pitches submitted.

What that really means is that his pitch was much better than last year, since he didn't make it past round one last year (and it was the same book).

The next round is the hard part; they actually base the judging off the first 15 or so pages of the book.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who I Was

I've started substitute teaching on Mark's off days. It works out well for us both; he gets to stay at home with the kids for a few days, and I get to leave the house and make money and talk to teenagers about Perilous!

Yesterday I taught a keyboarding class. The first student in carried a thick, 6 or 700 page New York Times bestelling novel in her hands. She sat down at the computer a few minutes before class started and immediately opened her book. Her frizzy brown hair fell in uncombed waves around her round face. Plastic glasses framed her eyes, which didn't look up from her book until class started. The moment she finished her assignment, she was back in her book. Her long jean skirt and green t-shirt were an incongruous pair that fit poorly on her short, overweight body.

I was drawn to her. I stopped and asked her about her book. to which I received a 1-word response. She didn't like to be interrupted, apparently. The other kids talked and laughed among themselves, and she ignored them as much as they ignored her.

I couldn't believe how like me she was. My college roommates will remember the picture I have from 6th grade, with the t-shirt tucked into my too-tight jeans, the long ratted hair and the thick plastic glasses. I had no idea that I was such an awkward pre-teen, yet I was.

I wanted to take this girl aside and tell her this. Tell her how similar we are. But she didn't need that information; not yet. She had no idea how on the outside she was. Probably next year or the year after, she will realize it, just like I did. And then she'll need the encouragement, the support, someone to tell her that she doesn't have to be like everyone else. That if she's just herself, she'll find her niche. She doesn't need anyone to tell her what she should wear, look like, or be.

I'm out of that stage now. But I remember it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Autographed Copy of Ghost Waves

W. Everett Prusso made this announcement on his blog weeks ago, but I only now have the money to do it! Let me share the good news: You can buy an autographed copy of this debut author's book here.

Ghost Waves is on my list of debut authors to read for this year, so getting my hands on his book is a must for me. I couldn't get my local indie to order it, or the library, so what the heck! I'll just order it directly from the author! It's very easy to do, as he has it all set up on his blog to order. (I need to get someone to help me do that in a few months!) Exciting! I'll do a review of this book after I get it. Debut authors need all the support they can get! (Hint, hint!)

On another happy note, I had a doctor appointment today. And I'm still pregnant. Yay! I'm almost sixteen weeks. One more month and we'll know for sure that we're having a girl. (Or we'll find out that we're having a boy.)

And speaking of debut authors, I still need suggestions for my debut authors list! I'm about twenty away from my thirty! Suggestions, anyone?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Countdown: 8: Final Submissions

After I killed off my character in April, 2009, I ran Perilous past my various critique groups. All in all, it got better feedback than it ever had. The beginning gripped my beta readers and made them want read more, as well as letting them know what kind of a ride they were in for. (They also caught all the times I referred to them as 'the four girls' instead of 'the three girls.')

This time, I was certain my novel was a winner. I resubmitted to the company I'd sent it to in October, as well as carefully selecting four other publishing companies to submit to.

Right away, I heard back from the company I'd previously submitted to. They wanted to know if this novel was the same one they had in their review committee. Oops! I told them it was, though I had made substantial changes. I also admitted to them that I thought it had been rejected, since it had been more than six months since I had submitted, with no response.

The editor responded saying that though it was taking longer than usual, they had not yet rejected my novel. It was in committee. She told me they would continue to review my previous submission, since they had already invested so much time in it. She also said if it were to be rejected, I could resubmit with my new version.

Boy, I felt like an idiot!

And that was that. The submissions were away. I sat back and waited, absolutely confident that this time, someone--maybe everyone!--would want my book.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Proofreading Errors

I'm reposting this from Writer in the Pines blog because it is so funny. Hope you all get as good a laugh out of it as I did.

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter
This one I caught in the SGV Tribune the other day and called the Editorial Room and asked who wrote this. It took two or three readings before the editor realized that what he was reading was impossible!!! They put in a correction the next day.Too funny.

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
Really? Ya think?

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Now that's taking things a bit far!

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
What a guy!

Miners Refuse to Work after Death
No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
See if that works any better than a fair trial!

War Dims Hope for Peace
I can see where it might have that effect!

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
Ya think?!

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Who would have thought!

Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
They may be on to something!

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?

Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge
He probably IS the battery charge!

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Weren't they fat enough?!

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
That's what he gets for eating those beans!

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Do they taste like chicken?

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
Chainsaw Massacre all over again!

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
Boy, are they tall!

And the winner is....
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Did I read that right?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pondering POV Again

When I first joined my critique group at writing.com, I discovered my biggest mistake as a novice writer: Point of View. I had written both of my novels in omniscient POV. One critiquer asked me what POV I was writing in. And me, being the stuck up English major that I was, replied, "Omniscient." (Duh.) "It's where the narrator knows everything and can reveal thoughts for everyone."

It turned out that the critiquer knew what omniscient POV was. She just wanted to make sure that was actually what I was writing in before she informed me that that POV style is archaic and unwanted these days.

I had a hard time believing her at first. I could think of many books off hand that were written in the omniscient POV. But I quickly noticed a pattern: all of these books were at least 40 years old. And none of them were YA.

My next challenge was deciding in whose POV should the novel be. That meant I had to pick a main character. Or, at first, several main characters.

Then I realized that most readers/publishers frown on having more than four POVs in one novel.

Or so I thought. After all of these theories and realizations were carefully ingrained in my head, I then started reading YA novels that had up to 8 different PoVs. One novel started out in the POV of a character that was killed two pages later, never to be heard from again in the rest of the series. Another novel stayed between three different POVs, except for four pages in the middle of the book, where it jumped to another character's POV. The character stayed, but we never, ever got his POV again.

Now wait a minute. I thought that wasn't okay. I thought readers/publishers saw that as 'author manipulation' or what not.

I took a chapter out of Perilous because it was a different POV than the rest of the novel. For only one chapter.

Why can some authors do it and no one notices? Or do we notice and say nothing? I didn't think these authors handled it any better or differently than any other author I know. It was just a POV, juxtaposed against the flow of the novel. Honestly, I thought the novel would have been better without all ten POVs. And it's not because I couldn't keep track.

What do you prefer?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Killing a Main Character

A few people expressed curiosity in the mental process that I went through to kill off one of my main characters.

For me, it was a culmination of two things:

#1: I had two characters that were very similar. Many of my reviewers commented that characters A and B had very distinct voices, but C and D sounded the same. They couldn't tell who was saying what without the names, and neither one of them stood out strongly. Several chapters in to the novel, one reviewer said, "We finally got to see a little bit of C's personality when she and B had a heart to heart talk. Up until now, she's been kind of a shadow character. This was nice to see."

Nobody likes hearing that they have a character with no voice, and I was particularly attached to this character. At one point, she was THE main character. But slowly character A became larger and larger, taking over the role of main character. As A's character developed, C became smaller and smaller. When enough people commented that C and D were too similar, I made the difficult decision to get rid of one.

#2: The book needed something to jump-start it. My readers started chapters 1 and 2 thinking they were reading a 'slice-of-life' novel, when in actuality it is a psychological thriller. Right away, I needed to let my readers know what was at stake. I decided to start the book with a murder scene.

But who to murder? Well, that was pretty easy, since I'd already decided that character C needed to go. I had two choices: simply have the girls be a trio, or have them start as a quartet and kill of C. I decided to kill her off.

I knew that I would instantly accomplish two things: alienate some readers who couldn't handle the murder of a teenager, and reel in everyone else when they realized this is a high-stakes novel. Even main characters can die.

It was hard to take away C's future. She had plans in the novel, and the moment I killed her, I took all of it away. There were lives she would no longer touch, people who would no longer love her. I mourned for one boy in particular, who was supposed to find his soul mate in C, and instead he ends up alone.

But it was also far too easy. Almost every part she played in the novel, I could assign to character D. That's how I knew I'd made the right decision. My critiquers are usually spot on.

Have you ever had to make a life or death decision with a character? How did you deal with it, especially if you decided to kill the character? And if you're not a writer, what color socks are you wearing?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Black Thumb

I can't seem to keep my plants alive.

Someone gave me beautiful, thriving pots of sage and rosemary over the summer. They flourished during the summer, sprouting gorgeous leaves and smelling wonderfully. I brought them in before the cold hit.

After that, nothing I did was right.

When the first branch of sage died, I went crazy looking things up on the internet. I found so much contradictory information! Water daily. Water weekly, not daily! Keep them in the sunlight. Keep them away from windows!

By Christmas, the sage was dead. The rosemary was on its way out.

I asked my husband for a grow lamp for Christmas. Surely, I thought, a grow lamp will solve the problem.

I got a grow lamp, and a new rosemary bush. It came with an instruction booklet. "Water daily," it said. "Don't get water on the leaves."

Carefully I watered that plant. I turned on my light every day.

One branch of rosemary died. They were dying when I got the plant, I told myself. The next branch died. I must have only had part of the plant under the lamp.

Yesterday I was out all day. I forgot to turn on my lamp and forgot to water the plant.

Today I went in to water it and turn on the light. It's dead. All of it.

Shall we just call me the plant killer?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Mid-life Crisis of a Manuscript

There comes a time in every manuscript's life when it needs a real self-evaluation, especially if it's been through one or more rejections.

This is not an easy time in the manuscript's life. It's a time of anger, denial, self-doubt, self-abuse, restlessness, uncertainty, depression, and lack of desire to keep on living. It's kind of a mid-life crisis; the manuscript wonders, 'What's my purpose in life? Why am I working so hard and getting nowhere? Why are some manuscripts further ahead than me, and they haven't put forth nearly so much effort?'

What your manuscript needs to understand is, we've all been there. We know what it's going through, and it doesn't have to suffer through alone.

Here are some steps I've come up with to help your manuscript with the deep, internal probing.

First, focus on simplifying. Ask yourself these questions: Do I really need all of these plot lines? What about these characters? Can I cut the first two chapters and start at chapter 3?

Second, focus on improving. Now that you've simplified, take a look at what's left. Ask yourself: How can I make these characters more real? What plot lines are forcing these characters through the oil press and which ones aren't pushing them along? How can I make my plot lines more significant? What can I do to bring the setting to life?

Third, focus on magnifying. You've done some major reshaping to your life. Now expand. Ask yourself: How can I make these characters grow? What struggles can I give them? How can I connect these two plot lines? How do I make this story flow? What transitions can I add?

Once your manuscript has gone through these steps, it will feel much better about itself, more at ease, and ready to begin again. It's a fresh start. A new life.

Next time, we'll talk about what to do when your manuscript goes through these steps and realizes it needs to do some major purging.

What steps has your manuscript taken to get out of a mid-life crisis?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Author Publicity

It keeps getting pounded into my head that being an author today is different than it used to be. I must get out there. I must showcase myself. I must MAKE MYSELF KNOWN.

I am grateful to have a publishing company that helps me with this! Last week, WiDo Publishing interviewed me for their website. It kind of makes it feel more official! I really am getting a book published this year. They've been great at holding my hand, walking with me every step of the way.

Please stop by their website and check out my interview!

Also, we officially have a summary of my novel! Yes! I can finally talk about it! It's been SO HARD not to discuss plot lines and character names online. After all, that's part of publicity! How can I generate interest in my novel if I can't really tell you what it's about???

So, with no further ado, here is a brief pitch (this is also on the website, right before my interview):

Jaci Rivera has plans for her sophomore year: go to regionals with the track team, make the honor roll, and eat too much pizza with her best friends, Callie and Sara. Her biggest concern is Amanda, the pushy girl who moved in a few months ago.

What she doesn't plan for is catching a robber red-handed, or being kidnapped. The desperate thief drags her and her friends 2,000 miles across the Canadian border. They escape from his lair, only to find that he has spies and agents watching their path home, waiting to intercept them and take them back.

Then Jaci finds something out about her family. Something which irrevocably connects her to their kidnapper, and makes her question their chances of escape.

What do you think??? If you check out my interview, be sure to come back and let me know what you think of that, too!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Pathetic Girl

You know that girl in books and movies who drives you nuts because she's so spineless? She obsesses over the wrong guy, calls him constantly, doesn't MOVE ON when it's obvious she should. She's the worst protagonist because she makes you groan and roll your eyes. The pathetic girl needs to get a grip.

That girl was me.

I was the sad, pathetic girl who clung to the confident, cocky, arrogant, self-obsessed boy, inflating his ego by the second because nothing he did would get rid of me. Enter the following cases (names and details have been changed to protect the guilty).

The Case of the Pathetic Girl #1:
Home Dude and I started out as merely friends. He had a girlfriend and we spent a lot of time together, just chilling and laughing and having a good time. Somewhere in that spending time together, Home Dude and I realized we liked each other. Problem: girlfriend. Neither of us was a fan of cheaters, and he said he would break up with her because he wanted to be with me. We continued to spend time together, trying hard to just be friends, and I waited. And waited. And waited. Home Dude would complain about Girlfriend non-stop, infuriating me because he wouldn't break up with her.

What I should have done: WALKED AWAY. Realized he was too cowardly to break up with Girlfriend and had enough pride to remain single.

What I did: Called Home Dude daily and nagged him constantly to break up with her.

End result: Home Dude quit answering my phone calls.

The Case of the Pathetic Girl #2:
Macho Man's family was planning a family vacation to the beach. I got together with Macho Man's mom and arranged to stay with the family at the beach as a surprise to Macho Man. The day before my friend drove me to the beach, I let it slip to Macho Man that I was coming. Warning sign: He wasn't excited. In fact, he seemed nervous. I let it go. Maybe he had indigestion. My friend drops me off and stays with some other friends close by. Macho Man acts a little distant and funny but won't give me any definite answers until day #2. On day #2, he admits there's another woman. WHAT?!?

What I should have done: Walked out of the beach house, called my friend, and gone to stay with her. Never talked to him again.

What I did: Spent the next three months calling, visiting, sending flowers, and making a fool out of myself trying to show him I was the better woman.

End result: Every time he had a fight with her, he called me up and acted like he wanted to get back together, stringing me along for as long as I was willing to put up with it.

Case of the Pathetic Girl #3:
YoYo Boy and I had reached a point in our relationship where marriage was on the table. He suddenly begins to have a cold feet reaction every time it got brought up, which is quite concerning. But nothing seems wrong with the relationship, so I think maybe we just needed to slow down. And then one time I call, and his mom tells me she's not SUPPOSED TO TELL ME, but he's out with his ex-girlfriend. I confront him, he gets mad that his mom told me, and tells me that he just can't choose between the two of us.

What I should have done: BROKEN UP with him! You don't offer a girl a wedding ring and then tell her you're not sure.

What I did: Moved in with his sister so he could see me on a daily basis while he decided which girl to marry.

End Result: He never did break up with me. I figured it out on my own when he quit calling me and then they got married.

Lesson I hope to teach my daughters: Don't ever be pathetic! And remember, there's always another woman, so play hard to get! Make him do the chasing!

(And that is how I got my husband.)

How did you learn not to be pathetic? The hard way (like me) or from watching other people?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My New Love

All hail the mighty Netflix.

I've been tired a lot lately. So I haven't done much. Except watch movies.

My husband and I try hard to be frugal. (Though you wouldn't know it today, if you saw how much I spent on my 4-year-old's b-day party and gifts.) So we rent movies from the store down the road, Take 2, which lets you rent 2 for the price of 1. We don't rent new releases, those are $4 each! We get the oldies. $2 each. So for $2 a week, we get 4 movies. That's only $8 a month.

Except I'll be honest. We watch lots of movies. If we could, we'd watch one every night (except maybe Sunday). But that means we'd spend almost $16 a month on movies.

Still not too bad. And then I discovered Netflix. Of course, I've heard of Netflix. My parents signed up ten years ago. But the last time I checked (like a year ago), their cheapest program of 1 movie out at a time was $15.

Not anymore. It's now $9 a month. PLUS you get to watch an unlimited amount of movies on your computer (or if you're lucky, your TV via your X-Box or something like that). PLUS you get the first month free.

We joined. Last night we watched our second movie on my computer. Actually we watched two, because the first one was really crummy and we didn't want to finish it. No problem! Ha! Didn't cost us anything! Just close the window and find another one!

I'm in love.

Please tell me we're not the only ones who watch tons of movies...and tell me which ones I should be putting in my queue!

Monday, February 1, 2010

One Word

Little questionnaire that got passed onto me by David West.
Rules: Answer the following questions with Single Word answers then pass this along to 5 other bloggers. Make sure you let them know about it though.

Your Cell Phone? Slide
Your Hair? brown
Your Mother? nice
Your Father? funny
Your Favorite Food? Pizza
Your Dream Last Night? school
Your Favorite Drink? apple
Your Dream/Goal? bestseller
What Room Are You In? living
Your Hobby? chef
Your Fear? death
Where Do You See Yourself In Six Years? housekeeper
Where Were You Last Night? home
Something That You Aren't? available
Muffins? apple
Wish List Item? griddle
Where Did You Grow Up? here
Last Thing You Did? interview
What Are You Wearing? sweater
Your TV? off
Your Pets? cat
Friends? 81
Your Life? sleeping
Your Mood? tired
Missing Someone? Jannie
Vehicle? Honda
Something You Aren't Wearing? Shoes
Your Favorite Store? clothing
Your Favorite Color? lavender
When Was The Last Time You Laughed? yesterday
Last Time You Cried? yesterday
Your Best Friend? Mark
One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? Here
Facebook? yes
Favorite Place To Eat? Fogota?

And I pass this on to...:

LMJ because she's always got something to say.

Dominique for giving me my next blog topic.

Vicky because she's trying to make a villain.

Kurt because he always makes me laugh.

SB for feeling sorry for me.
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