Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We Have a Winner!

Quoting the words of the wonderful Tracey and Josh Adams of Adams Literary...


It began with the fireflies, as magic often does. Jenny was in the field behind her grandparents’ house with her younger brother, chasing fireflies. She spied a good one, low-flying and lackadaisical, and followed it past the shed and into the darkening woods.

Yay, congratulations, Katharine! And thank you to everyone who entered, this was, as always, so much fun and inspiring.

Katherine has not only won a query critique from Tracey Adams, but two books on writing that I absolutely adore. 

First is Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir, tenth anniversary addition no less. 


And one of my absolute favorites, WONDERBOOK by James Vandermeer. 

Thank you again to everyone who entered! I hope to see you next year for the 3rd Annual Paragraph Contest!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Top Ten

“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”

—Enid Bagnold

First, I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for entering, I know it isn't easy to share a work of love for the world to see. It can be much like bearing your soul, but I must say that each person who entered did a fantastic job of bearing such a thing, and I am VERY impressed. You're all definitely honing in on your craft, and I absolutely enjoyed each word. 

First paragraphs aren't easy. They must convey so much, in so little time, so you can hook your reader, lure them in. I've always been fascinated with first paragraphs because they are a fork in the road, in some small way, for your reader, they want to know where they're headed, what adventure they're going on. So without further ado, I present to you the adventures that captured my heart, as well as a couple of great links on the art of crafting a first paragraph... 

The Top Ten! 

And from here, I'll pass these off to the judges--the wonderful Josh and Tracey Adams of Adams Literary

Good luck everyone!

Maxwell ignored the NO TRESPASSING signs on the edge of the property, though it would be harder to ignore the high-voltage fence enclosing it. He scrambled forward and dropped to his knees about a foot shy of the perimeter. Moisture soaked his cargo pants with the scent of wet grass and dirt. The chilled night bit at his exposed skin as he shrugged off his leather jacket. He eyed the area in front of him, searching for the faint shimmer of the otherwise invisible barrier, listening for the telltale hum of power.

I’d still be standing on the other side of the fence if Jake hadn’t raced out of his doghouse, begging me to open the gate. Well, that and the fact that I was out of clean underwear. After retrieving our key hidden under the rock, my trembling hand froze in front of the keyhole. Jake barked with anticipation, prancing back and forth behind me. I pushed the key into the hole and twisted it, shivering when I heard the familiar click of the deadbolt retracting. I put my hand on the doorknob but couldn’t bring myself to open the door.

Three: Taffy Lovell

I hide the scissors and the red shoebox on the top shelf in my closet. The obituaries can wait. Outside my dirty bedroom window, the Kansas sun is barely coming up. I wonder at the promises the sky holds for me today. Ages ago—in quiet cemeteries, one grave for every town I’ve ever lived, like a trail of stepping stones leading me back to the first death: Mom.

It began with the fireflies, as magic often does. Jenny was in the field behind her grandparents’ house with her younger brother, chasing fireflies. She spied a good one, low-flying and lackadaisical, and followed it past the shed and into the darkening woods.

You must never tell anyone what you’re about to read (or smell), but most importantly, what you may find. That’s right "may." More about that later, Kid. If you should make it at least halfway through this tale, and if you even dare to finish it, than you must open yourself to the impossible and maybe even to the extraordinary. To everything that you thought would never happen—that maybe, all of those everythings out there could happen. However—and listen up, Kid--once you acknowledge these possibilities, you are forever sworn to secrecy. In short, you’ve made a pact with us—a promise with The Mostly Mutts Club. An agreement that only exists between dogs (and, at times, a few cats and maybe an occasional field mouse and that one mangy, snaggle-toothed possum), but only with a few select and privileged children. For now, anyway...

You’d think here in the hospital I wouldn’t stand out. Everyone has something going on, even if it’s a good thing like a new baby. But nope, no way. Here I am in a wheelchair, being wheeled to Dad’s car even though there is no reason I can’t walk except for stupid hospital rules, and my freakdom still stands out. So what if I’ve got glasses being held on by a thick elastic band? So what if the glasses have hearing aids on the stems? So what if I just have holes where my ears are supposed to be? It’s not like my skin is green slimy scales, or I’ve got three heads. Even though the 900 year old man pushing my wheelchair could win a contest for world’s oldest human, and on top of that he is wearing bright plaid pants, it’s me that gets noticed.

Seven: Emmy Paxman

The last time I asked about joining one of Judd Grawl’s rift expeditions, Mum banned me from mentioning it until I turned thirty. So the fact that, a month later, I was getting my way without asking seemed... what shall we call it? Suspect.

Eight: Sean Lamb

Peter Harper never got picked for anything. Mr. Hayes, his gym teacher, had to force teams to take Peter in the dreadful dodgeball draft every Friday. Miss Taylor, his math teacher, ignored Peter, even when he raised his hand and made primate sounds to get her attention. Neil, his foster dad, didn’t take Peter to “Take Your Son to Work Day” because he said Peter wasn’t technically his son, and his boss wouldn’t allow it. So, when Peter’s sister, Sally, decided to wander into traffic in pursuit of her precious baseball, Peter picked himself to save her and become a famous hero.

Silence fell in a slow crash as I pulled away from the keys, the final chords of my newest song slipping away. Morning sunlight bathed the piano and made its edges soft. I slid a hand across the lip of the key bed, loving how the worn wood didn’t shine with the threat of reflection. The threat of monsters.

The only thing reeking worse than my mojo-bag was the team on the field, and that was sayin’ something considering our rusted scrap-heap of a ‘football stadium’ sat in the middle of a salt marsh. Some called it ‘character,’ but Mama always said about Caledonia: she hadn’t seen so many half-collapsed and boarded up buildings since she’d fled Tehran in ‘79.

Monday, June 30, 2014

2nd Annual First Paragraph Contest!

Today marks the day of the 2ND ANNUAL FIRST PARAGRAPH CONTEST!

Last year we had some amazing entries and everyone that entered made it SO HARD to pick just two. So this year is going to be even harder because we will have just ONE winner. Like one person will get the gold! 

Like this guy:

Or like this girl:

Contest opens today (June 30th, 2014 at 11am (PDT), but please read the rules carefully before posting your entry. 

1) Please post your first PARAGRAPH (that you have made all the shiny and will only POST ONCE) of any work-in-progress in the comments under this post. The deadline will be Monday (July 7, 2014 at 5pm (PDT). 

2) I will then read through all the entries and pick TEN winners and post their entries. At this point, I'd love to see all your comments on who you would like to vote for, even though we have judges. 

3) The awesome Josh and Tracey Adams of Adams Literary will then pick only ONE from the ten (which I will announce as soon as they choose). 

4) Don’t forget to leave your name and email if you decide to post anonymously. 

5) Remember! This is for fun and we encourage nothing but hugs, kisses, and fluffy kittens, as always.

Like this guy:

6) Spreading the word about the contest is strongly encouraged because all the writers participating deserve the chance to show off their gorgeous first paragraphs.  

The Gold: A.K.A the Prize

The winner will receive a query edit by none other than the fabulous Tracey Adams! And some wonderful books on writing that will come to a mail box near you, from me!

Our First Paragraph Judges

Josh Adams

Josh Adams, together with his wife Tracey, runs Adams Literary. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Business School—where he studied finance and accounting, and was awarded the Abe Shuchman Memorial Award in Marketing—Josh spent more than a decade in publishing and media before bringing his editorial and business backgrounds together as a literary agent.

A media management specialist, he led teams of creative and business professionals in developing the editorial strategy and positioning of several national publications, and directed the marketing and brand strategy of many well-known international companies as a consultant.

In his free time, Josh enjoys practicing Taekwondo with Tracey and their daughters, and is working toward his third-degree black belt.

Tracey Adams

Tracey Adams co-founded Adams Literary in 2004, after nearly a decade with literary agencies Writers House and McIntosh & Otis, where she was the head of the children's department. Prior to becoming an agent, she worked in the marketing and editorial departments of Greenwillow Books and Margaret K. McElderry Books.

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Tracey speaks frequently about her profession and the children's book industry at conferences across the country. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Association of Author Representatives (AAR), and a founding member of the Women's National Book Association (WNBA) chapter in Charlotte, NC.

In her spare time, Tracey enjoys Taekwondo, kickboxing, and test-marketing children's books with her two daughters.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Writing Escape, and Me Being Honest

Here’s the thing, I've found myself in a muddled writing hole as of late. Feelings of inadequacies fester, and lead to my breaking point of saying to myself that I’ll never write again. But all writers at one point or another feel that way you say, it’s just part of the process. Sure, I’ll agree with you, but we all have our reasons, our stories, and what leads us down Breaking Point Road, whether published or not. So today I’ll share mine.

Growing up I was constantly being tested. For what you ask? Well, as embarrassing as it is to say, my brain. The counselors over seeing my brain, and behavioral issues would often lift up little cards and ask me to figure them out, or ponder other activates or questions with me.

Teachers were beyond annoyed having me in their classes because I was the “disruptive one”, the nuisance. My grades were horrendous, and I always found myself on Friday Free Days in detention, away from games, other kids, and well, fun. But the reason I was such a nuisance was because I struggled, deeply. Nearly every assignment handed to me was a struggle. When it came to words, all I saw were scrambled bits of letters that might as well belong in a soup bowl. Math, well, let’s just say I’m still trying to figure that puzzle out, and art, it was my escape.

Laughter was my escape.

Escape. We all find ways, even when we’re young to run away from our problems, even if we do it unknowingly.

By the time I was in High school, I hadn't even read a book from cover to cover. I hated to read because I couldn't comprehend what all those words were doing all at once. I could barely understand what a metaphor was, and how some blasted idiot could turn it into a story.

Again, I struggled.

But yet, even from a young age, I’d made my brother books of cats and frogs, and in my despair, I tried to write, and it felt like putting paint onto paper. I created. Escaped. And it was glorious.

Story constantly knocked at my heart. It was as if an alien came down from space and planted this horrendous piece of technology inside of me that forced me to write. At first it wasn't horrendous; when I kept it all to myself, the worlds I lived in were wonderful, until I showed it to the real world.

When those first bits of criticism (people actually asking me not to read anymore) came in, I was crushed. Those moments of my childhood flooded my heart. I was stupid all over again, a real ninny, who might as well seclude herself to the only people who desired to be around her, her family. But I put on my thick skin, told those voices to go away, and read. I started to actually read books, and I enjoyed them because I began to understand how much work it took to create such beautiful worlds, and characters that were so lively that I felt I could simply ask them to be my friend, and they would.

And then I wrote, struggled, wrote, and struggled. And the same pattern continues.

Every word I put onto the page is an indefinite uphill climb for me. Things that are so easy for many, is a dirty trench for me. Words that take many writers only seconds, take me hours. When I’m around other writers, sometimes I want to hide because I’m not well read. But I always believe I will be by the time I’m fifty because I didn't have that head start.

Life can be incredibly cruel sometimes, and a lot of times the things that we’re so passionate about we lose because we don’t feel we can do it, or we feel we’re not good enough because someone’s already doing it better. But despite all of those things, I still put a book out there, I still write no matter how long it takes, or how bad it hurts.

I write past the stupid, I write past the unknowing, and I write because I believe there is a divine creator who asked me to write. And I feel the most at peace secluded up in the mountains under a tree with a pen and paper. It’s how I connect with the world, and have learned to understand it. So for now, I think I’ll dig out of my muddled hole and write, even if the tears come.

I will write. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Girl Gone Mental a.k.a My Writing Process

Since publishing His Dark Ways this last summer, I've received lots of questions regarding my writing process, especially after readers or friends who are asking find out that I homeschool three kiddos, create works of art, and books. Crazy right? Probably. But it all actually works itself out in this bubble I call Organized Chaos. 

I'd like to say that I'm one of those morning people who can rise before the sun and pump out my word count before the day has begun. BUT no, that would unfortunately make me insanely cranky. Yahoo even did a study that "morning people" are more successful in life, so I tried it. And failed miserably. But I'm okay with that because everyone works differently and I truly believe that if you work hard without giving up, success will come, in big ways or small. 

Stephen King once said that he never writes down his ideas because he'd write down all the shit, and the really good stuff he'll remember. For a long time I believed that and didn't write anything down, and then I had an epiphany. He was only talking about the overall idea of a book. And it works. I write one book a year (one is published, but the rest sit on a shelf), and I usually finish one in the early summer. So as my other work goes on submission, I start stewing, usually in my garden. I wait for an idea to overtake my soul (if it's anything's worth writing, it'll do just that). Once it becomes that really good stuff Mr. King talked about, I start jotting down ideas, and more importantly talking with each character. Ellen Hopkins taught me the importance of knowing your characters before any kind of plot takes shape, and once those people are there, it'll all fall into place. Characters are huge, and can either make a walk in the park boring as hell or an adventure. So talking to them is important, as crazy as it sounds, it's a very important part of my writing process. 

I've had a couple of character's that haven't left me alone for years, and I decided that I was going to put them on the page this summer. I had a vague idea of where they lived and what kind of adventure they would go on, so I turned to research and found that the 18th Century would work well for these people. Six months later, I finished researching. But in between this time, I was also experimenting on the page. Where does this book open? So important! What twists and turns will I surprise my reader with? And so much more... 

As a writer they say, you must write everyday because writing is a muscle you must exercise. I do find that somewhat true, but as busy as I am that doesn't always happen. Opening a computer can be full of distractions anyways, so I think, a lot. I find little moments in the day. When I'm washing dishes or doing laundry, I think through plot or character problems and pull out my notebook. A notebook in today's world can be a glorious thing. It's a blank page free of distractions because there aren't any of those pesky internet connections you can easily click on. Notebooks have become the brain of the nights I write. Three to four days out of the week, I grab a coffee, and the moment I open my notebook I'm focused. Those epiphany's I had during the day ground my four hour or so writing session on the computer.

So to sum up this post, my writing process is talking to myself A LOT, and being in solitude--which seems mental, right? But it's all a part of my process and how my days of thinking as life unfolds in busy ways gets words on my pages at night. 

What's your writing process? 

Also, a friend of mine just recommended a wonderful book written by Jeff VanderMeer. It's titled Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. And it's definitely a book you should look into when it comes to the writing process! Happy writing everyone!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Writer's Squeeze

As of late, I’ve officially finished my fourth manuscript, which means, I’ve written FOUR novels! It’s taken me ten years to get here, and I’ve loved, hated, but mostly loved every moment of it. Being a writer—a story teller, will never leave me. It’s a part of who I am, and I love that part of me. But being one isn’t always easy. It comes with late nights of staring at a ceiling talking to myself as my husband tries to ignore how insane I'm being because I’m working through plot and talking to characters. The next morning, I try to pretend that I’m not really alone when I’m sitting at my computer. And when I finally get up to grab a cup of coffee, I notice my dirty house and decrepit garden that would fit perfectly on Tales from the Crypt. But the worst part, is knowing the characters in my book better than I know my family at times.

I tell myself I’m going to meet a deadline, edit, revise (repeat ten times), and then send my book out on submission. THEN, yes now, I will get to know my family again, maybe finally force someone to talk to me and be my friend.

Then in between scrubbing those neglected toilets, doing art with my sweet children, and pulling alien-like skeletons out of my garden that the rejections come in. I sighall my blood, sweat, and tears feel wasted.

I sob to my husband (that poor man), watch an awesome season of Downtown Abbey, sob, write (only on social media), and then stick my manuscript in a drawer and wonder where I went wrong. I take some time off. Swear I’ll never write again because the pain reminds me of THAT ONE bad relationship I had that broke my heart and left a scar.

But those ideas keep knocking, and knocking, and knocking, and soon I’m writing again. Why? Because I’m a writer—a story teller, it’s a disease really. But I constantly doubt myself, constantly doubt anything I have to offer, and I think how ridiculous I am. Until some awesome barista makes me a heavenly cup of coffee and tells me how cool they think it is that I WRITE. It puts a twinkle in my eye, for a moment. Then, I get onto social media and see that a friend got a book deal. Or I walk into a book store and say to myself, “Why can’t this be me? I’ve worked hard too?” And I stew, and jealousy spills out—all over the place. It's messy. It spills out into my writing (I’m not good enough); it spills out into my mood because I feel lame. I go home and put on my raggedy comfort sweater, walk around with slouchy shoulders, and eat an entire box of Aunt Something Cookies. 

And this, my friends, is the writer’s squeeze.

It’s the crappy place no writer likes to be and it’s a place no writer should go.

"When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out - because that's what's inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside." ~Wayne Dyer

As writers we are going to be squeezed, whether it be in the beginning stages, or IF we become a New York Times Bestseller. We need to hold on, keep going, and BE PROUD, heck, throw parties for our friends that have made it because we know how big of a mountain it was for them to climb to get there. And who cares if it took them one year to get to the top and you a lifetime. Its okay, we need to stop comparing ourselves. If we are going to share a work of art with the world—a piece of us, shouldn’t it be at a time when your passion is equal to the love of our friends? And if we never get there, we should be okay with that too because isn’t it true as to what Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem taught us?…

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost 
Than never to have loved at all.

I write for passion, for the love of life. If you place this poem in your heart as you write, then nothing is lost but gained, and when the time comes when you’re squeezed, you will only drip with love. And that my friends, is when the best literature of our time to come will be created.