Tuesday, January 29, 2013


On New Year's Eve, right before fireworks and falling into bed (because that's the kind of party girl I'm not) I wrote THE END on my current book, FIND ME.

The next day, my eldest gave me a card she drew. It said - Did you write a Book? YOU DID? Good Job! (many smiley faces and flowers)(Can't find the card now, but when I do, I'll post it here. You know it's totally adorable.)

If you get a card from your kid, that means you're all done, right? No....
After taking a couple of weeks to noodle around with an ending I was just not happy with, I'm now ready to put FIND ME out to Beta readers - ALMOST.

Here are the things I had to do to make it ready. It's my Get Ready For Prime Time Check List:

1) Spell Check
Yeah, duh. But you'd be surprised how in the heat of writing you can misspell exhilerate. excillerate. exhilarate. Spell check also catches repeated words. His his or or on on - when I'm cutting and pasting I'll inevitably leave behind some orphan prepositions. And the grammar check wants to ask you if you really need quite so many fragments.

2) TK
TK is copy edit short hand for To Come, as in, I can't stop to look this up right now so I'm going to slap on a TK and move on. Yesterday I filled in my TK's which means I did the following google searches (in case the FBI is wondering about my browser cache)

  • Quote from The Neverending Story
  • MTA Maps
  • Irish Football shirts
  • Latin phrases
  • Indigenous place names in Northern New Jersey
  • Scouting NY (an awesome website by a NYC film scout - he finds the most amazing places!)
  • Maps of Palisades Parkway
  • La Lupe (Cuban singer)
  • Blood Donation and replenishment
  • Brust Park
  • Tastee Kake
  • Trojan Horse
  • Spanish name origins
  • What's in a knish?
  • Colleges near Bronx
  • wax melting temperature
  • metal melting temperature
  • HS AP English syllabus

3)Crutch Words
Oh Lordy. When you are drafting, you've got your voice flowing, you're ducking and diving you're in the zone - it's awesome. Then you come up for air and realize you use some phrases and words too much. These words are repetitive and can echo in the reader's mind - in a bad way, pulling them up short. When I use lazy crutch words it's because I'm in the zone and I'm too rushed to be thoughtful, so I grab at a word I use a lot, one I like and am comfortable with. Comfy words are fine and make up a writer's voice, but DON'T GET LAZY! Some words are used really really a lot in real life (like 'really') so it's not quite so egregious to use those often. But for me, so far, some of my crutch words are pristine, probably, paste a smile, and whatever. There will be more that I don't catch. I'm trusting my beta readers to stop me from using lazy words.

4) Beats
As in dialogue beats. I am usually pretty good when writing dialogue, I tend to include beats - moments around the dialogue that ground the reader in the action and location of the characters speaking. This is so you don't finish reading a section of dialogue and have no mental image of where the characters are or what they are doing. People don't (unless they are stoned or robots) usually walk into a room, stand in front of each other and talk until they are done. They fidget, they pick things up (and put them down.) They interact with their space. I want to make sure I don't inadvertently turn my MC into a robot or a stoner.

And that's it. On friday FIND ME will go out to beta readers and I will forget it exists (HA!) for a month. Then in March I'll take it out of it's virtual marinating drawer, compare notes from beta readers and polish the EFF out of it. Then I'll send it to Barbara while swilling a new cocktail of my own creation called the Nervous Nellie (recipe to come.)

What do you do to get ready for Beta Readers?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Favorite Part of Writing

Isn’t writing.

Last night I had to give eldest another dose of Lice Killer shampoo. This was followed by combing her absurdly thick hair with a literal nit-picky comb. We were watching the first Lord of The Rings movie so it went relatively well. But by the time we were done and I was finished with my own work it was nearly midnight. I don’t usually read in bed anymore – I’m reading so much during the day for betas and crits and for my own writing – I usually play solitaire on my phone until I get sleepy*.

I think the reason that people believed in muses back in the day is because of the way that ideas can seem to drop directly into your conscious brain, as if someone placed it there, like a present or a flower or a prettily wrapped bar of chocolate. It wasn’t there and all of a sudden it is, like the best kind of surprise.

So last night, as I lined up the red queen under the red king, two things came into my head almost at the same time, colliding like smashed atoms. First was an image of a boy swallowing children. Creepy right? I know. But I also saw him coughing them back up, the way an owl might cough up a bundle of mouse fur and bones. The children he coughed back up were fine, bundled in little cocoons and asleep. He’d been only keeping them, not consuming them. I realized then that he was a monster, a bogey man that parents warned their kids about to keep them out of the woods. But I also knew that he wasn’t monstrous. And then a piece of a song floated into my mind and I knew his name. I didn’t invent or come up with his name. I just knew it (maybe this muse thing is for real…?) And his name was Friend Catcher.

I stayed up another hour writing in my notebook about Thomas and his companions and the Village of Meek where they live, in perpetual winter, at the edge of an enormous wood. Holy EFF. I have a new book to write.

I can’t write it now. I have too much revision work to do on FIND ME and too much to think about with BOOKEND being on submission. But the spark, the start of  THE FRIEND CATCHER is intoxicating. I went to bed last night feeling like I’d just met a cute boy or gotten a promotion or won a prize. I had the almost tangible, flickering ember of something new in my hands. That’s my favorite part of writing.

Anyway, here’s the song that partially inspired Thomas’ fledgling story – no visuals just awesome music. The Friend Catcher by The Birthday Party

*Don’t judge. I find playing solitaire a great way to free up the subconscious mind. Worked, didn’t it? Can’t do that with Angry Birds.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Writing Resolutions

I asked my writing group to give me their writing resolutions for 2013 (and of course, us being us, we needed two weeks to get our crap together.) I am a goal oriented person, I live by lists. But I also am innately slack, so I don't get my panties in a twist if I don't do everything on my list or if I don't reach all of my goals. The important part is to have the effers, not necessarily to reach them. That way, you have a north star to follow when you get heavy hearted, lost or just very very tired.

So. Have goals. Follow them (ish). And be okay when you don't reach them all. That's my advice. I know. Riveting...

Greg's 2013 Writing Goals

1. Finish Herman book one (Book involving gods, monsters and really good beer.)
2. Edit Herman
3. Re-educate myself on grammar and writing mechanics.

I find Greg's goals admirable, though I think he's gilding the lilly with that last one since he's a he trying to make the rest of us (the grammatically challenged) feel bad?

Laura's 2013 Writing Goals

"I'm choosing goals that build upon each other. Publishing is no longer going to be an immediate goal. Fear not, it is still on my goal list, just far into the future. I need to find my groove with the writing." 

1. Finish Chapter 8 of Second Chances
2. Complete draft 1 of Second Chances
3. Revise Second Chances

Laura's smart to not list publishing as an immediate goal - so much about that is not in the writer's hands. But getting the book finished, and making it damn good? That's all you.

Alex's 2013 Writing Goals

My writing goals are pretty simple.

1. Polish FIND ME and deliver to Barbara by March.
2. Try outlining for a change (I'm a dyed in the wool pantser, but I'm open to new things) - especially when starting my new project - JOKE
3. Read. A Heck Ton. And Widely. Maybe even some David Foster Wallce*
4. Keep going. The only way I can fail is to stop trying.

What are your 2013 Writerly Goals?

*but only if Jenny Herrera can make a really good case for it....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Running and Writing

In October I got someone else's mail on accident. It was a brochure from the ING NYC Marathon with detailed info on where to go and what to do when I arrived on race day. Pick up your bib here. Leave your bag there. Eat carbs the night before. It was clearly intended for someone who was running the marathon. In that moment, I wanted it to be for me. I want to run a marathon one day. But I'm kind of scared, too. I just started running a year ago and I wasn't in the best shape when I started so it's taken me a while to get to running 1-2 miles every day. Also, before I started running if someone had asked me if I could run a marathon, I'd have replied, "Yeah, sure, you know with the right shoes and training and motivation." Now I know it's much simpler and harder than that. To get to the marathon you have to have your head in the right space.

When I run, the first mile is hardest, I'm saying to myself "I'm tired. I'm going to stop. I'll run for one more song then turn around." I'm looking for the moment I can stop. Then when I get to a mile, it suddenly becomes much easier. I feel like I could go on and on, as if I'd run out of road before I ran out of will. Mile 3 is like smiling when you're not feeling happy. Ha ha. I'm still running, but I'd like to stop now. Ha ha. Can I stop now? I don't know what mile 4 is like because I haven't run that far yet.

That's what writing can feel like. I can feel swift and fleet as a fox for a large chunk of it, while other times I feel like I just want to stop and the only thing keeping me at my computer is will power and the promise that if I just get to the next chapter, I can stop. And there are times when the writing is clunky and not working but I'm doing it -just like the way you bike ride when you're first learning, all wobbles and near falls, but you move forward.

And the finish line? There isn't one, at least not yet.  Maybe publishing is the finish line. I guess with a published book you don't feel the urge to go back and fix things (or do you? any opinions?) but until someone commits your book to paper, there's always something to tinker with.

In both writing and running it's a long-game. It's all about stamina and never giving up.

What keeps you going when you hit the second mile wall?

Here's the playlist I'm currently running to. (Spotify decided not to include two songs on my playlist - I have no idea why - Smart by Girl in a Coma and 212 by Azalea Banks.) (Also, I include the Taylor Swift song mostly to annoy my daughter.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Screw The Lottery

A couple of days ago, Lauren DeStefano tweeted this:

I super-size heart Lauren and am waiting not so patiently for the third book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy, SEVER which comes out in ONE MONTH, people (!!!!) (have you pre-ordered your copy? I have.) (I digress.)

So when LD speaks, you know, I listen.

And I thought about it. What kind of job would make me say SCREW THE FILTHY LUCRE?

My mortgage says None. My kids, particularly when they want to eat, say None. My husband, who has been supporting us off his own back for three years while I try this writing thing - well, he wouldn't exactly slam the door on Publishers Clearing House if they came knocking.

But maybe the more accurate question is: What job makes you happy? Happy is such a weird word, such a tricky emotion to pin down. I've been happy while working. I've been satisfied with my job. But I can't remember a time at work when I felt happy without reservations. 

You know,  reservations, quantifiers. I'm happy but...I'd be happy if...When (fill in the blank) happens, I'll be happy. Those jobs were lovely. I had job satisfaction and an expense account and really the most awesome office Christmas parties. But would have traded them for the lottery? IN. A. HEARTBEAT.

Would I trade writing for the lottery? Errr.

I have the privilege of not wanting for food or clothes or shelter. I have a comfortable life if not an affluent one. I have the luxury of not needing to give up writing (at least not yet) in exchange for a full time non-writing job. I have options and those really are luxuries.

Don't puke on me for being so corny, but in some ways I feel like I've already won the lottery. This morning, I finished commenting on a friend's book I'm beta'ing, I turned in a script for an explainer video I wrote (and that was for kish-cash, I might add) and I spent work time reading an awesome book (David Levithan's EVERY DAY)

I got myself a cup of tea, looked out my kitchen window and thought - Damn. I am happy. This is a great life.

So I can only think of one job that would make me contemplate SCREW THE LOTTERY*.

This one.

*HOWEVER: If any state wants to throw money at me in a random way, I am not religiously opposed to it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

THE CHARGE - Cover Reveal!

You can get Sharon Bayliss' debut novel THE CHARGE into your hot little hands in March but you can set your peepers on the cover now!

It's kinda breathtaking, right? I love the sign for the Texas Empire and of course the electric storm

cloud in the distance is so evocative. You know right away that this is a very different kind of story (and also that the old saying is true - DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS.)

THE CHARGE is Sharon Bayliss' debut novel coming out on March 2, 2013 (Texas Independence day, of course) from Curiosity Quills Press.

I'm hoping I can get Sharon to drop by for an interview in March as part of her blog tour. It's going to be exciting stuff.

Here's a bit about THE CHARGE to whet your appetite:

What if Texas never joined the United States, and instead became it's own nation? 

In The Charge that's exactly what happened. In the 1830s, the Republic of Texas was taken over by a dictator with superhuman powers who named himself the first King of Texas. Eighty years later, the Texas Empire has fallen into ruin, but the story of the Texas royal dynasty is far from over.

College freshman Warren King wants nothing more than to enjoy a beer by the pool on his summer break...but that's not what fate has in store for him. When Texas soldiers kidnap his little brother, he embarks into a still-wild West to save him.  While fumbling through a search attempt in the lawless Texas Empire, he makes a discovery that changes his life forever. He and his brother are estranged members of the Texas royal family and the King wants them both dead.  Now Warren must save his brother and choose whether or not to be King, follow a King, or die before he can retire his fake ID.

The Charge was a quarterfinalist for the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and won a Publisher's Weekly review:

"A solid cast of well-developed characters, including a “super-tall” royal Texan family, stars in this thrill ride of a novel teetering between sci-fi adventure and alternate historical epic...Easily shifting between characters’ perspectives, and relentless in its action, well-placed humor, and suspense, this manuscript is a delight."

The Charge will be available in digital and print formats from Curiosity Quills Press on Texas Independence Day, 3/2/13. Go to for updates.

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