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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Discover Your Voice

Writer's spend a lot of time discovering their voice. They experiment with word choice, cadence, and pacing. Voice is what makes writing unique.

Not just writers need a unique voice. Everyone does. Every day. What does your voice sound like? Do you use strong words? Do you whisper in response? Let's say a friend cancels plans with you. What's the first thing you say? Or a friend walked right past you, ignoring you, as if you weren't there. How would you react? What words would you use? What if a friend pushed you because they were mad?

What if you don't know what to say? Do the right words present themselves to you at a later time? Do you play the scene round and round in your head wishing the ride would stop so you could get off? Probably, right? You need a journal.

Write it down: your thoughts, feelings, expressions, the good comebacks you didn't think of earlier. If you're sad, write it. Mad, write it. Happy, write it. Include the things you like about yourself too. Use your journal to discover your voice. Your writing voice and your real voice. Take it with you and write about what you see, hear, smell. Write about where you are and where you want to go. Ask questions. Dig deep. Your journal is a safe place to spend time with your private voice. No one is judging you, correcting your grammar. No worries.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thrillerfest Wrap Up

So, last week I attended the International Thriller Writers annual conference in New York City. It's where thriller writers of all walks of life come together to discuss writing, publishing, and network. You can meet anyone from R.L. Stine to Ken Follett to David Morrell to Diana Gabaldon. It's amazing really. All those people were there!

I also had the opportunity to make some friends with debut authors I'll keep you posted on and prepublished authors like myself. The weekend winds down with an awards banquet and after party. These thriller writers really know how to have a good time.

If you're a writer or even a fan of the genre it's worth the trip to NYC. I can't wait for next year.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Three For One

I wanted to write about staying positive, living a fulfilled life, stuff like that, but time is of the essence so I'm going to combine a few subjects into one post. Think of it like a two for one sale! And who doesn't love that? The guys might not care, but pretend.

First: check out Attacking The Page for a great blog post about how the Okinawans live. I promise you'll want to emulate these people.  (This is the article I spoke about last time. See, it didn't take me so long to get it to you.) We all should be living a life filled with value. Are you?

Second: I went to a garage sale last weekend. I can't tell you the last time I went to one, but the sellers had displayed crystal glasses on a table and the sun caught the etched stemware and lit it on fire. I just had to take a closer look. Someone had died and their belongings, what was left of them I guess, were being sold for a few dollars. It got me thinking. Is this what becomes of us? The treasures that we held dear, ornaments that adorned Christmas trees, wine glasses we toasted with all being discarded for three dollars each? Does our legacy lead us to rickety tables in driveways in hopes someone will come along and see the beauty we did in it? Or do the things we held dear end up on the curb because no one thought the candle stick holders were worth five dollars? Oh, I know. It's not the sum of our "things" that make us who we are. It's our spirit and the choices we make in our lives, but along the way we've accessorized our lives with "things." It's all someone else can touch when we are gone. I just hope if my good china becomes nothing more than a few scattered pieces that someone will stop at the garage sale, pick it up and know there is a story behind it. One that must be told. How do you feel about it?

Third: I'm off to the sixth annual Thrillerfest hosted by the International Thriller Writers. I hope to learn great things about the craft, meet fantastic people, (maybe one or two who can advance the publishing dream a little) and have some fun. I'll report on more when I return.

Okay, so it was three stories for the price of one. But who's counting? Talk to you later...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Expert Juggler

Recently, I had a few people tell me they checked out the blog for the first time. And I thought, "wow, I haven't been there in awhile. I'd better get cracking."

Like so many moms I am an expert juggler. If you'd asked me eleven years ago if I was even interested in the art of juggling I would have laughed at you. The problem is some balls stay in the air longer than others which means I don't get my hands on them, like this blog.

I won't bore you with my long list of tasks that require my attention. I'm sure you have a large list of your own, but a day doesn't go by that I don't wonder how I'm going to handle it all. Just writing my new YA novel, looking for representation for the thriller novel, and blogging takes up more time than I can give it. I want my writing career to take off to parts unknown so I want to devote all my time to that, but I can't neglect the three thousand other things I have to do. (It's not quite that many, but close.) So, I toss the writing ball into the air and grab on to one of the others, hopefully it's the right one, but hey, I'm also pretty good at improvising!

How do you juggle all the things needing your attention? Career? Home? Family? Fitness? Friends? Causes? I'm sure all the readers would like some tips. I know I would! Until then, I'll be tossing the writing ball for the day and on to the next one! Talk to you later...

By the way, my next post will include a link to a great site Attacking The Page with an article by my good friend KM Fawcett. Stay tuned. (I promise not to wait so long!) Of course, check out the site for all the fabulous posts about martial arts and action packed fiction.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Reader

What makes someone a voracious reader? What makes a child one? Personally, many of my childhood memories include carrying around a book I was reading. I loved the book fair at school the way others loved ice cream on a hot day. I was always a reader. Still am.

So what makes a kid pick up a book, get sucked into the vortex of the world, and not want to come up for air until he's gobbled up every word like a human reading vacuum? Is it character? Plot? Humor? Are they relating to real life situations much like their own? Or do they want to find a place to escape to so they can turn off the activities, the homework, the bullying, the noise of their parents?

When did you become a reader? How about the child in your life? Or maybe you don't read much more than the fliers in the Sunday paper and this blog, of course. Tell us what makes you dive into a book and ask the kids around you. I want to know what makes them read too.

Talk to you later...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finding an Agent

I'm on a quest to find an agent for my thriller novel, Don't Play With Fire. For those of you who have done this you know what a daunting task it is. I've made my list of at least a hundred agents and from there I begin reading over their websites, provided they have one, to make sure their agency is a good fit for me.

One of the items I check out is the list of clients. If I don't happen to already know of a specific thriller writer represented by this group I want to make sure my style writing would be what they're looking for. Simple enough, right? Not always.

Many agents represent numerous clients. That's a good sign, however, the very last thing I want to do is click on each and every client's name to read about them. First off, why doesn't every agency list their clients in order by genre?  They make such a stink about authors doing their research before they query. "Don't waste anyone's time, blah, blah, blah." But they're wasting my time by not categorizing their clients.

Faced with an enormous list of names in alphabetical order, I hover my mouse over each one and click. Hoping to find out what kind of books this person is blessed enough to have other people purchase from them. Do I find this information in a neat, concise paragraph? What do you think?

Nope. Well, I'm exagerating. Sometimes I get lucky. Most times instead of telling me what types of books they write the authors go on and on about how they became a writer, or that they wanted to be a writer most of their lives, what kinds of books they read as a child, how many pets they own, the number of children running around under foot, and where they live. Guess what? I don't care! Just tell me what kind of book you write so I can decide whether or not your agency is a fit for me.

Simple, Neat, Concise. In other words, get to the point! And why doesn't the agency say, "Gee, Miss/Mr. Author, that's all very nice and sweet that fluffy sits in your lap while you pound away at your outdated manual type writer, but you're running off at the mouth." Save that stuff for your jacket cover.

Authors do run off at the mouth. I'm doing it now! But I can, because this is my blog. I'll tell you what, when I finally get a chance to write a cute paragraph for my agent's website I will not tell you how many pets I own (none), that I wanted to be a writer since I was seven, or that I had the chance to sit at Ernest Hemingway's typewriter. I'll just say: Supernatural Thriller Novels. Fantasy/Thriller YA/Middle grade novels. Awesome agent! What else is there?

Talk to you later...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Missed Opportunities

Recently, my family and I were vacationing in the Florida Keys. We had a great time. Sunny and eighty every day. A blessed experience. But I noticed something and it bothered me. A lot.

More than once I saw a parent sitting with its child and the parent's head was buried in their phone! We had stopped at a local ice cream shop (I had the gelato, yum!) and a father and son were sitting at a table. The young boy, no more than twelve, was eating his ice cream and the father tapped, tapped tapped on his dumb phone! I wanted to go up to the dad, tap on his shoulder and say, "hey, buddy, this might be a good time to talk with your son!" I never understood those commercials telling parents the right times to talk to their kids about drugs. I watch them and think, "what moron doesn't know the best time to talk to their kids?" Imagine me smacking my head in the ice cream store and going, "Now I get it!"

I also watched a mother so engrossed in her game of solitaire she didn't bother to look up and witness her children roasting marshmallows at a bonfire. Sad. Really sad.

It goes on all the time. People who aren't present for the ones they're with because the phone is beeping with what might be someone way more important. What message are we sending?

Not every behavior is okay and I don't think texting and checking emails when you're in the company of others is good behavior. The children are watching and they will do exactly what they see mom and dad do. It doesn't matter how many times you tell them to get off the video games if you're doing it from your Blackberry!

Put your devices down, people! Enjoy the moment that you're in because it won't last and you'll be wondering what happened to that sweet little boy or girl who ate ice cream and toasted marshmallows. They will become sullen, insecure adults the rest of us have to put up with. So do us all a favor and don't miss the opportunity to be present with your children.

Talk to you later...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Good Critique Partners

I've spoken before about critique partners, but it's time to do it again. Having good critique partners is very important. It can mean the difference between setting your manuscript on fire or believing in your work enough to find representation. I know, sounds a bit extreme, but go ask someone who has had a bad critique partner. Ask me. I've been down the road to critique partner hell. A dark and scary place. My vertabrae tingle just thinking about it.

How do you find a good CP? The best place to start is by joining a writer's group. There are many national and international ones with local chapters in your area. Go to a meeting and start asking around. Once you put your feelers out get your antenna up.

About three years ago I knew it was time again to look for new CPs. Let's just say the group prior wasn't exactly a good fit. (I'm being nice.) By the advice of a good friend I joined a local chapter of RWA (I was writing women's fiction at the time) and let it be known I was on the hunt for similar experienced writers.
I started getting some emails and calls from other writers also looking for a CP. My stomach performed that little excited flip it does when you think things are going your way. Things weren't going my way. I hung up with one writer thinking she was so bossy and pushy I'd rather read my novels to Jack the Ripper than work with her.

How do you know when you've found the right one? I am a believer your CPs should be roughly at the same place you are in the "know your craft" journey. If they are too far behind you or too far ahead of you the scales won't be balanced. You might be able to help each other out, but overall frustration will fly around like kite caught in a tornado.

This is going to sound very crunchy granola, but you'll feel it when you've found the right CP.

You will have respect for what they've written and they will have the same for you. You will like this person enough to become invested in their success because if you're not invested in their success you might as well take your pencils and go home.

I had received an email from a woman about becoming her CP. Right away I enjoyed the tone of correspondence. She was at the same spot in her journey as I was. I agreed to meet her and another woman. I'll be honest, before I arrived I thought, "Dear Lord, I hope these two aren't nuts." They might've been thinking the same thing about me, but I'll tell you what. I knew in an instant these ladies were put in my path for a reason. By the time our first meeting ended I wanted to hug them I was so overjoyed. I didn't. That would've scared them off.
It's three years later and we're still together. I'm thankful for their support, input, sense of humor, kindness. I could go on and on. They believe in my work, even when it needs improvement, and therefore I believe in myself. I'm one hundred percent invested in their success and they are in mine. They are my beacon of light guiding me home. (Okay, I've gone to the far side of sappy. Sorry.) I stand and applaud Marykate and Shari.

Wherever you are in your writing journey I hope you find the right CPs. If you have more questions post them here and I'll be happy to help you out. In the meantime, Moonlight and Violet by M. Kate Quinn (http://www.mkatequinn.com/) will be released April 22 by The Wild Rose Press. It's a funny, heartfelt story about true love. It would make a great Mother's Day gift. Grab your copy today.

Talk to you later...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Authors' Day

I attended the Township Of Ocean Intermediate School's Authors' Day. The Language Arts teachers chose roughly 60 sixth grade students who show an interest and ability in writing to participate in a fun filled day. The students are broken into small groups and for 40 minutes they visit with an author and learn something new about writing. Then they rotate to the next author and learn some more. Topics discussed ranged from writing about feelings, to point of view, working with settings, illustrating children's books, and writing in the active voice. Once again I am humbled by the students' enthusiasim and curiousity in what I have to say. I mean, who am I, right? I'm nobody famous. Yet they suck up everything I share with them like the little sponges they are. I relish the opportunity to inspire these young writers to continue on their path. To promote a child's learning is to be a part of something bigger than I am. A blessing, indeed. Talk to you later...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Favorite Books

I read a lot. On average I'd say I read a book a week. For some that's nothing, for others that's too much. Doesn't matter which category you fall into as long as you're reading. Right? Right!

I updated my profile on the blog adding titles to "Favorite Books." I had to stop. I would have been there forever. I started thinking...scary, I know...What are my readers reading?

So, I ask you, dear reader. What are your favorite books? Tell me which authors get you to turn pages. Whose name do you look for on the new release list? I'm always on the look out for another great read. We could even have an online discussion about your favorite books.

To help you get started here a few of my favorite authors. (Authors I love and I've read more than one book of.)

Stephen King
Brad Meltzer
Jeffrey Deaver
Tess Gerritson
Lisa Scottoline
Suzanne Collins
Ted Dekker
M. Kate Quinn
Jonathon Maberry
Tami Hoag
Mary Higgins Clark
Daphne DeMaurier

I could keep going. Now it's up to you, dear reader. Who are your favorites?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference

This past weekend I attended the 2nd annual LSFW Create Something Magical Conference. What a fantastic experience! They held workshops by best selling authors like Mary Burton, Jonathon Maberry and Virginia Kantra. Plus tons of other workshops about the craft and business of writing. Want to learn about dialogue, point of view, and editing than this is your place. Not to mention the workshops about going pro, and everything you wanted to know about blogging.

If you can muster the courage, which I think everyone should, the conference gives you the opportunity to pitch your manuscript to some of the best editors and agents in the business.

It's a great opportunity to network, see old friends and make a few new ones. Which I was able to do! I can't thank the people at Liberty enough for all their hard work in creating a "magical" conference. See you next year!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Moments like this...

One of the things I love about being a writer is speaking to elementary and middle school students about writing. The Deal School invited me to participate in their Read Across America assembly.

I spent time with 4th through 6th grade students discussing the writing process and why editing is so important. We had a great time. The students wrote their own story, together on the board, and then we performed a group edit. They jumped out of their chairs, shouted out ideas, and reworked the story until we ran out of time and they were forced to leave.

My next group was filled with 7th and 8th grade boys. We discussed writing in the active voice. A much more subdued group and at first I wasn't sure if they were engaged or sleeping behind open eyes! They came to life when they wrote their own stories and read them to the group. Thank God, for that. I was worried it was me!

But the real treat came in the quiet of the night, from an email by the PTO president. Her son, a seventh grader, told her our discussion of active voice was the best assembly ever and when my book came out he definitely wanted to read it. Such humbling words! Thank you, for inviting me to your school and thank you for being excited about writing and reading.

It's moments like that one that reinforce the path I'm taking. I wouldn't change a thing. Well, except...maybe I'd like to have an agent. And a book deal. If the Universe doesn't think that's asking too much.

What moments happen in your life that inspire you to keep going?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Name That Tune

Every morning I wake up with music playing in my head. It never fails. It could be any song, from any time period in any genre. I always know the song, but I don't always like it and I've always wondered why a song I don't like is playing in my head. When I've told other people this or asked if they wake up to their own personal juke box pounding out tunes in their cranium they look at me like, "yeah right, crazy lady. Is it warm on your planet?"

I found out I'm not crazy (be careful some of you!) There's actually a term for what I have and other people hear music in their heads when they wake up too. What a relief. I'm not the only one on this music filled planet.

An article in The Atlantic Magazine quotes Josh Foer, author of Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything stating "There's an actual scientific term for lyrics getting lodged in your brain. Earworms." Why call it earworms? Because the harder you try to make the lyrics stop the further they burrow. He also quotes a study that showed earworms appear to be more annoying to women than men. Why doesn't this surprise me some how? Women - bugs go figure.

Now that I know I have earworms maybe it will explain why I might not be able to remember what I had for breakfast, but I can name almost any tune in under five seconds. The only thing filling the useless fact file in my brain is song lyrics. Sad, but true.

Tell us. What songs do you hear when the radio isn't playing?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Scares You?

My novel, Don't Play With Fire, has a cast of unique characters. One of my favorites is Anna.(Don't tell the others. I don't want anyone getting jealous.) Anna immigrated to New Jersey in 1840 and she has a problem. She needs to steal seven human souls in order to open the gates of hell and she doesn't have enough. To get the ones she does have she placed a curse on the portraits she painted.

Curses are malevolent spells purposely done to inflict harm on another. Pretty scary stuff, right?
Who knows, maybe right now one of you is thinking about someone you'd like to place a curse on. Stop that! That's not nice.

I started thinking: what kind of stuff scares you? Here's a list of things that make my blood turn to ice water:

  • Curses
  • The dark. Anyone or anything can lurk in the dark shadows. Isn't that where serial killers hide? The boogeyman? Your crazy boss?
  • Getting lost in the dark. You could've stumbled onto the killers turf by accident!
  • Getting lost, alone, in the dark. This one should be at the top of the list.
  • Linda Blair in the Exorcist
  • Hannibal Lector
  • Unexplained happenings in your home. Think lights going on and off. Footsteps.
  • Unexplained voices in your home. Think "Get out," said in a low, hissing whisper and there is no one in the house except you!
  • The movie The Ring. "Seven days."
  • Most Stephen King books which I say with complete love and affection because he is the master story teller and I love the way he can make me scream at the character on the pages, "Don't do it!!!!!"

So, tell us. What scares you? Talk to you later...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Road to Publication

It's been awhile since I've posted and I apologize for that. I've had my head buried in my manuscript and I haven't devoted the time to much else. Now I'm back! Glad to have you with me. I hope you stick around and ask a few friends to join us.

The road to publication is filled with pot holes, obstructions, and detour signs. I love writing, but sometimes I wonder why I'm even on the path at all. It's not easy to get someone in the field to believe in your work. Every well known published author has a story about how many rejections they received before they got the big "yes!" It looks like my story won't be any different.

I had queried an agent back in July after attending Thrillerfest, but I never heard back and that means a "no." I was fine with that. The truth was the manuscript needed serious help and I began rewriting it. This past December one of those agents emailed me and asked to see 75 pages. That's a big request and I was thrilled. Maybe me time had come.

She requested I not send my material until after January 20th. Not sure why, but okay I'll play along. I waited and on January 23rd I hit the send button. About two weeks later I get her response. REJECTED!

Do you know what she said? Of course you don't. I'll tell you. My voice wasn't distinct enough or strong enough to impress an editor. OUCH! Clocked right between the eyes. I actually saw stars.

Why do agents who expect professionalism from authors but don't show the same respect in return? Is it necessary to be so mean? Even if I do suck, which I don't, you don't have to tell me quite like that. This isn't American Idol. Nobody's watching!

My favorite part? Where she says: "Sorry not to be so keen. Another agent may well disagree, do keep trying." You know what I can't wait for? The day I'm on a best sellers list, standing before a group of aspiring writers and I tell them the story of the hurtful rejection and how I made it anyway!

I also can't wait to be on that best sellers list and bump into agent "meany." I'll plaster a big smile on my face, introduce myself, (she'll never remember that rejection letter) and walk away knowing she wishes I was her client.

The real test? Believing in yourself! Talk to you later...