Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What You Need to Be a Writer

In James Scott Bell’s book The Art of War for Writers, he discusses nine characteristics that he believes all writers must have. I think it’s good to be reminded.

1. Desire. The only thing that’s going to get you through the years of work, hurts, and disappointments is the burning need to write. Otherwise, find something else to do.

2. Discipline. The butt in the chair approach to writing. For years I had a Jack London quote that greeted me every morning. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” No matter what you write from YA to poetry to litfic, the only way you’re going to get through the rough patches is to grind it out. So, plant your butt in the chair. Ignore Facebook, Twitter, et al. Write.

3. Commitment to Craft. That means a first draft is a first draft. It’s not a book. You edit and edit and edit until all traces of you the writer are gone. As Allen Ginsberg said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”

4. Patience. Some writers strike gold early in their careers. Most don’t. Lately, I’ve been reading about writers who finally struck gold in their 60s and 70s. If needs be, can you wait that long? Is it worth it to you?

5. Honesty. You aren’t Fitzgerald or Hemingway. Deal with it.

6. Willingness to Learn. Not only do we need to be willing to admit our shortcomings, we have to want to learn. As Hemingway once said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

7. Business-like Attitude. Yeah, writing is a very personal, emotional art—sometimes you’re putting your soul on the page. But there’s needs to be a part of you that realizes publishing is a business. You have to balance those aspects.

8. Rhino Skin. You have to learn that everyone gets rejected. Remember what one publisher said about The Diary of Anne Frank. “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” To see other rejections of famous books, see here.

9. Long-term View. “I decided that I would continue to write as long as I lived, even if I never sold one thing, because that was what I wanted out of life.” George Bernau.

So now, start writing! You can do it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shadows of the Hidden

My friend Anne Riley will be coming out with the novel Shadows of the Hidden published by Compass Press in December. And she's sharing her cover art and the novel's blurb. I'm very excited that she wanted to share it on my blog. I can't wait for the book. 


A teenage girl discovers the true reason behind her parents' disappearances and finds herself and the center of a centuries-old quest for immortality. 


Natalie Watson doesn't believe her parents are dead, even though they disappeared five years ago. Discovering the truth about their fate is one of the only things that gets her out of bed in the morning. But after moving from her home in Georgia to her aunt's boarding school in Maine, solving the mystery of her parents' whereabouts is just one of several challenges she must face. When she's not fending off attacks from the popular kids, she puzzles over the rumors about a strange boy in her math class--one with fiery red hair who rarely speaks.

Despite suspicions that he murdered his sister a year earlier, Natalie finds it impossible to stay away from Liam Abernathy--especially when he confesses to knowing something about her parents. Soon she's following him into the forest, where things happen she doesn't understand...things that shouldn't be possible. 

Natalie soon realizes her connection to Liam is deeper than she ever imagined, and not everyone she counts as a friend can be trusted. When she finds herself at the center of a centuries-old quest for immortality, she must work with Liam to stay alive--even if it means facing a truth about herself and her family that will not only shake her perception of herself, but of the entire world around her.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Update on the Screwing Up Time Sequel

Last week I posted about waiting. Yesterday one of my waits ended. I heard back from the last beta reader. And I had good news. My beta readers loved the sequel to Screwing Up Time. They said it was even better than the first book.

Even better news. They didn’t find any significant problems with the novel. The changes they suggested were minor things. For example, explaining time travel a bit more—especially for readers who hadn’t read book one or for readers who’d forgotten the intricacies of time travel for Mark and Miranda.

So what happens next? A lot. I have to make the changes. I need to start writing a blurb, i.e. the book description. I have to contact my graphic designer about a cover design. Then, I’ll need to read the book aloud. After that, I’ll read the entire novel one more time, beginning with the last chapter, to proofread it.

Finally, I’ll prep it for uploading to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. When will the sequel be available? I’m not sure. I hope to release it at the end of September. (Though depending on how quickly everything goes, it could be sooner. Or later.)

Keep checking this blog, and I’ll keep you updated here. Plus, I’ll release the title soon (it’ll give you a big clue about where the sequel is headed). When the cover art is ready, you’ll get a sneak peak here. And when the blurb is done, this is the place where you’ll read it first.

The sequel to Screwing Up Time is definitely in the homestretch. I’m getting really excited. I hope you are too.

**Check back tomorrow. My friend Anne Riley, a talented YA writer, will be giving us a sneak peek of the blurb and cover art for her latest YA novel, Shadows of the Hidden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


The one thing you need most as a writer is patience. Yes, you need to be patient with a story—you can’t force it. I suppose you can, but then you need to be ready to delete a lot. And you need not to rush to finish. What seems done to you at one point, may seem horribly unfinished a month later. But there’s another kind of patience that writers need. In between patience.

“In between patience” is when you’re waiting to hear from a beta reader/agent/editor. It’s when you’ve send out your novel to someone for some kind of judgment or decision. And it takes sooo long. And nervous energy that builds makes the wait interminable.

Normally, beta readers don’t take too long. Most will read and respond to your book within a month. If they aren’t backed up, maybe a week or two. But agents. That’s another story. I recently heard from an agent who had my novel for nine months. Nine months is a long time, especially since a query can sit around for six months before the agent requests a full. (Of course, some genres are faster. Young adult, new adult and middle grade fiction tend to be faster because they’re hot genres.)

So what do you do to make the time pass, aside from hitting refresh on your email hundred times a day? What you don’t do is wait one month and then nudge the agent to “make a decision already.” It just makes you seem needy, and the truth is they have real clients who earn them money—those people are their first priority, which is what you’d want if you were their client. Instead, remember what it is you do. You’re a writer, so you write.

While you’re waiting to hear back from your beta readers, write a short story or make notes for a new novel. When you’re sending out queries or submissions, begin writing that new novel. Besides keeping you busy, the new book will keep the rejections from hurting quite so much because you won’t have all your eggs in one basket. And if after all your work and waiting, your book doesn’t find a home, you’ll be that much closer to pitching a new book. A better book. And then, you can start the process over again. I know, it seems impossible. But, you can do this. You’re a writer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

First or Third Person Point of View

Recently, I received the Enchanting Entertainer Award from Deirdra Eden of A Storybook World. Thanks so much, Deirdra!!

Lately, life has been utter chaos. We had a sewer pipe explode in the basement. And, yes, it was every bit as heinous as you can imagine. The plumbers fixed the pipe, but they don't clean up the mess.

And I'm in the midst of sewing Shakespeare costumes for Claudio (my son Matthew) and Benedick (my son Jacob) for Much Ado About Nothing. I'm also trying to finish editing a new novel and short story. So, you know, I'm kinda busy. But in the midst of all that, I started a new novel.

I couldn't help myself. The story had been teasing me for over a year. But I'd never been able to pin it down. I couldn't figure out which of the characters would tell the story, etc. Then one day, the final scene came to me and then everything fell into place. So I started writing.

But it didn't feel right. I've spent the last couple of days, mulling what's wrong. I think I've nailed it. Thus far, the story is in first person. But I think it should be written in third.

I'd planned on writing it in third. But then, I thought that the immediacy of first person would be better. And I suspected that maybe I wanted to write it in third person only because I wanted a bit of distance between the main character and myself. I thought I was choosing third only because I wanted to separate a tiny bit of myself from the main character's pain.

So I decided that writing in first person would be the "brave thing to do." I felt noble. And I wrote. Then, I read what I wrote. It wasn't right. Now I'm trying to decide if it's simply because it's a first draft, and, well, first drafts suck. Or, maybe it's because it needs to be written in close third. In my head, the story feels like third person. When I touch the story with my mind, it has the feel of third--it feels like a smooth like marble. When I feel it in first person, it feels rough. (Have I just lost everyone with my talk of "touching the story with my mind?" Please tell me that I'm not the only one who experiences stories this way.)

My goal this afternoon (while I'm sitting during Matt's piano lesson) is to rewrite the opening scene in third person. To see if the smoothness is there. To see if the story feels right. I'll let you know what happens.

And I'd love to hear how other writers chose whether to write in first person or third. And I'd really love to know if other writers "touch" their stories with their minds.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Indie-pendence Day

July 2 - July 5 is a celebration of indie writing. It's a chance to share with others the great books that have been written by indie writers. To discover more books, visit the INDIEpendece site at the Indelibles blog. Or click on links at the end of this blog post.

Today I'm celebrating, Forbidden Territory by Melissa Pearl and Brenda Howson.

Book Blurb:

Mica and Lexy have been best friends and next door neighbours since they were eight years old. They share everything and have no secrets from each other until... Tom arrives on Mica's doorstep - a gorgeous exchange student from England. And Lexy is smitten. 

Suddenly both girls are keeping secrets. Mica is hiding news about Tom's English girlfriend and Lexy hasn't got the heart to tell her best friend that her brother Eli, the guy Mica is mad on, thinks of her as only a friend.  

After a massive fight, the girls decide the best way to mend their friendship is to spend some quality time together. And what better way than to go camping away from their parents and why not invite along the guys they are crushing on. 

So the four teenagers embark on a geo-caching expedition into New Zealand's native bush expecting a long weekend filled with flirtatious fun; instead secrets are exposed as they stumble across a hidden marijuana crop and its gun-wielding watchmen. Forced apart they spend the next forty-eight hours racing blindly in opposite directions as they fight to find each other before the hunters do. 

Here's my review of Forbidden Territory.

I first discovered Melissa Pearl through her wonderful series, The Time Spirit Trilogy. So it was with eager anticipation that I read her newest novel, Forbidden Territory, co-written by Brenda Howson.

Forbidden Territory starts out as a geocaching trip, a GPS-based treasure hunt. But for the four teens that go, it quickly turns into something far more dangerous, and they’ll have to conquer their fears and weaknesses to survive.

The characters are complex with real strengths and flaws, and the authors do a super job of using the plot to develop the characters’ strengths and overcome their flaws. So when the plot forces life and death decisions on the characters, it actually grounds and develops their simmering attractions. Instead of what could have been forgettable summer flings, the teens grow into a love based on selflessness and sacrifice.

One more thing. I loved the New Zealand setting—the forests, the cultural milieu, and especially the Kiwi slang. It’s part of what makes the book so fun, experiencing another way of life without leaving your home.

If you’re looking for some teen action/adventure with a side of romance in an exotic locale, this is your book!