Monday, June 30, 2008

The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer

I received this book in the mail last week, much like I do those I'm set to review for Blog Stop Book Tours. It came direct from the book's publisher, letter-form press release and everything. The curious thing is, neither my contact at BSBT nor myself had any expectation of this book's arrival!

It sounds fabulous and I'll certainly read and review it, but I do wonder how I came to receive it. If anyone lurking out there in Bloggerland is responsible, do let me know. I'd appreciate any details.*

If you're interested in learning more about the book, check out They've got some details up today. Have a good day. :)

*Alas, I can offer no reward... save maybe a writing tip or a frozen waffle or two.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A G E N T S and a meme

Yesterday I sat down at my computer, nerves tickling my spine. And I began a thorough agent search. (See the Agent Query link over yonder, to the right.) I listed a starting line-up of promising candidates and, knowing it meant I HAD to write my query and synopsis, I did. It took somewhere between 6 to 8 hours to write them back-to-back. I'm really pleased with the way they turned out; my stressed toiling was worth it, I think. But knowing other eyes should see them, and feeling jittery but assured, crazy and confident, I've asked some writing buddies to take a gander. In the meantime, I need a break.

[ETA: And today I got the knocking down I needed. Don't ever get lost in confidence or tell yourself you don't need constructive criticism. That's what it takes to keep yourself humble, and ensure you never give up on continually honing your own craft. More later...]

Enter the meme Colby Marshall, who spits like a llama, tagged me with. (Hers is a blog worth checking out, btw.) I'm to list 7 songs I'm into, or that are somehow shaping my life right now, for whatever reasons.

1) As of this morning, Lifehouse's Everything. The song itself is good, but I like it most because I've been introduced to a skit, performed as the song plays, and it's the most touching thing I've seen in a long while. If you're interested, click here for the YouTube clip.
2) Leona Lewis's Bleeding Love, because it rocks. She has a stellar voice.
3) Jordin Sparks, One Step At A Time. The lyrics really mean a lot, because they speak to me of my writing career right about now.
4) Weird Al's White and Nerdy. My hubby acquired a DVD of hip-hop videos with a player he bought, and my daughters like to watch Al over and over and over again. Keep your eyes peeled for Donny Osmond. Hilarious! Plus, I AM white and nerdy. It's like a theme song of sorts.
5) Anything from Camp Rock. It's the latest movie premiered on Disney Channel, and my girls are ga-ga over it. And the Jonas Brothers.
6) Nelly Furtado, Say It Right. I love the beat and each time I see the video, which aired this morning, I crush on Timbaland. He's one successful fellow, with his hand in a lot of pots, ya know? And I love cranking the volume with this one, reliving my crusin' days. Quite the sight in my minivan, I can assure you...
7) Let Jesus Be My Lord. Here's why.

I've seen this meme floatin' around here in Bloggerland. Most have already been tagged, but I'll throw Melanie and Wendy into the mix, if they're interested.

Have fun - and wish me luck (say a prayer, too) about my agent search!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Marilyn Monroe: A Reader

The July/August issue of Poets & Writers used a fantastic picture of Marilyn Monroe for the cover. It's this one, in which she's perched on a piece of playground equipment, reading - truly reading - Ulysses by James Joyce.

I thought the details behind the photo were fascinating, and want to share them. This excerpt is from the magazine's Editor's Note, written by Mary Gannon, the P&W editor.

"...Monroe was a complicated figure: A woman who survived--and was probably ultimately destroyed by--the public persona she'd created (all body, no brains), privately she strove for more. And, by all accounts, she recognized the importance of reading good books.
The photograph was taken in 1955 by Eve Arnold. In Joyce and Popular Culture, R.B. Kirshner quotes a letter from Arnold about the day she took the shot: 'We worked on a beach on Long Island... I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up (I was trying to get an idea of how she spent her time). She said she kept Ulysses in her car and had been reading it for a long time. She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it--but she found it hard going. She couldn't read it consecutively. When we stopped at a local playground to photograph she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her'."

There's just something about that photo. It shows a bare roots, vulnerable side of Marilyn Monroe; in the look on her face you can see she's wrapped up in the story, really contemplating what it says. And that she's near the end speaks of triumph over this book she so struggled to read.

I love being privy to this moment.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A to Z

Whoa, what a week for memes! My friend Wendy, over at Writes in the City, tagged me for this one. It's light and fun. And it's pretty self-explanatory, so without further ado...

A-Attached or Single? attached, in the married kind of way
B-Best Friend? one who knows what it means to be a true best friend: encouragement, selflessness, and flat-out fun
C-Cake or Pie? pie. chocolate pie. or no, wait. cake. chocolate cake. hmm. let's just go with chocolate
D-Day of Choice? Sunday
E-Essential Items? chapstick, a watch, Vitamin E cream, contoured pillows, books and iced mochas. in no particular order.
F-Favorite Color? pretty periwinkle
G-Gummy Bears or Worms? neither, but thanks so much for asking
H-Hometown? Kansas City, on the Missouri side. someday we'll have a decent sports team again.
I-Indulgence? shopping. bargain shopping, because I can get more stuff!
J-January or July? the months my daughters were born
K-Kids? two, the aforementioned daughters
L-Life isn’t complete without…God. without Him, there is nothing
M-Marriage Date? September 25, 1999
N-Number of Siblings? one brother, one sister - and ten siblings-in-law (hubby has a BIG family)
O-Oranges or Apples? apples. apples in my Gooey Apple Pie. ooh! can I change my pie answer?
P-Phobias or Fears? premature death of a loved one. and spiders.
Q-Quote? I like one from Catherine Drinker Bowen: "For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word."
R-Reason to Smile? family
S-Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman!
T-Tag 5 people. Melanie What Am I Doing In Mexico? (I know, I know, this means you've been tagged twice... but we like you!), Michele Writing the Cyber Highway, Janet The Walrus Said, Travis One Word, One Rung, One Day, Turkey Philosophizing Turkey, and anyone else who'd like to participate
U- (missing from the meme passed on to me, so I'm making one up) Umbrella or poncho? neither, let's just stay indoors
V-Vegetables? okra. fried okra. dipped in ranch. or grilled red peppers.
W-Worst Habit? criticism
X-Ray or Ultrasound? ultrasounds, what with two pregnancies, have proven more exciting for me in the past
Y-Your Favorite Food? that which is edible
Z-Zodiac Sign? Scorpio. watch out! I sting!

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Did It

I just finished editing my novel. I was giving myself until the end of the month, but I just did it. And I wrote THE END.


I am SO stoked. :D

Sunday, June 22, 2008

If Writing Didn't Pan Out...

I'd make a job of bouncing from yard sale to yard sale, scouring antique stores and flea markets. I'd watch for poor-looking and sickly items I could pick up dirt cheap and refinish to make amazing.

Last Friday my mom, my daughters and I stopped at a garage sale. (Garage-saling is one of THE best things about spring...) A large coffee table caught my eye, and I thought on its potential a bit. With its battering from over the years, it had seen better days. But the piece was sturdy, and my mind saw what it could be. It was marked $30; I paid $25.

Here, as it was before. The two square inlays had a wicker look. It was chipping and ucky, and not something I was too keen on. You'll see how I took care of that in a bit...

I sanded the table down (the easiest sanding I've ever done!). I sponge-brushed a base of cornflower blue (two layers), then covered with black, also with the sponge-brush, which covered unevenly. A metallic-silver finish (one I watered down) was wiped over the surface, completing my sought-after distressed look. Then I covered the inlays with fabric and filled with some antique items I had; most have some meaning or symbolism. (Sorry that picture's dark; by that point I'd moved indoors, and the flash doesn't work on the camera I was using.) The table came with the beveled glass insert, which finished it off. It came out so much better than I'd envisioned!

What about you? Do you have other passions or hobbies? What do you do besides write?

ETA: I just realized my last question assumes you're a writer. How unfair of me. If you're not a writer, tell me what you do - and then give us the lowdown as to your hobbies. :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Something She Memed

I was hoping to post with some pictures today, to show you what it is I'd do if it weren't for this writing thing. But - pfft! - the USB cable "can't find" the device that is my camera, and won't allow an upload of the photos I'd need to make the post worthy.

So I shall save that for another day.

In the meantime, I was excited to learn I've been tagged! Well, to be more precise, a light woo-hoo escaped me, because it means someone likes me and appreciates my thoughts. My glee was followed by an oh, um... right, because I remembered there's actual work involved in these meme things, and then a well, if I must... because I just can't say no. :)

Getting on with it, Michele over at Writing the Cyber Highway asked if I'd participate in the Why I love writing from home meme. (And thanks so much, Michele, for the kind comment about my blog within your own post!) So, shaking those niggling reasons I don't love writing from home (noise, interruptions, demands, interruptions, diversions, noise and interruptions...), I've compiled my list.

*There's no time clock, as there was with each of the others jobs I've held.
*I'm my own boss, and I rock!
*Iced mochas are just a staircase away.
*My desk stool is a lovely faded-red color, and atop it (and under my buns) sits a pretty, girly cushion.
*I can look around me at any given moment, just for a breather, and enjoy the decor as I've created it to be. As long as I ignore the mess, that is.
*AW: No Holds Barred, just a click away
*I'm within walking distance of the lake, which is an amazing inspiration for me.
And last, but MOST important: Writing from home allows me stay at home with my daughters. It is indeed a blessing.

What about you? Why do you love to write from home? I'd love for you to, instead of posting here, post on your own blog and leave the link as a comment. :)

Until the next time...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feedback: An Important Factor

I thrive on feedback. I've always known that (and I think it's inherent for writers), but I realized today how true it is.

Early on in the writing of my novel, I fed chapters to my parents and two friends. The most objective, unbiased views they weren't, but the praise and comments they returned to me gave me the boost needed to keep at it.

Somewhere around the middle of the manuscript I slacked off, though, and wouldn't let anyone see my progress. The culmination of my work and ideas came to be too encompassing, too detailed and in need of, I knew, eventual editing. Realizing I wanted no one to see it until it was as close to "perfect" as possible, I opted to keep the rest of the book to myself.

And then this week, out of nowhere, the opportunity for a sort of beta reader (proofreader) presented itself. I'm not sure how detailed the feedback will be, but so far I've gotten great comments. The most exciting? The reader has asked questions of me, of the story; questions that prove she's getting from the plot exactly what I'd hoped the audience would take away - even early on. It fills me with glee! Satisfied and giddy glee! And desire to keep working with my edits, to push forward with my goal.

It's just reassuring, you know? Like, it's proof that I'm still doing the right thing. No matter how much I question my talent, question my potential, this little bit of feedback tells me I'm on the right track.

Feedback, I love you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Review: Madapple by Christina Meldrum

The protagonist in this young adult novel, Christina Meldrum’s Madapple, is fifteen-year-old Aslaug. Born under mysterious circumstances and raised in insolation - physical and of the mind - she is one to which the reader is instantly drawn. Her life, one that relies so heavily on flowers and herbs and things of nature, and of the unhealthy relationship she shares with her mother, is pulling.

Her story is told in not just one, but two ways. Chapters alternate, very smoothly, very comfortably, between Aslaug’s own first-person narrative and an objective, dialogue-only format; one the reader sees as if it was pulled from the pages of court transcripts.

The two views, separated by four years, are woven together masterfully: Aslaug’s own telling of mystifying events, of what she knows—believes—to have happened to herself, with that of the trial - the more straight-forward seemingly factual side of things - in which she finds herself accused of unspeakable things. Because the two parts are blended together so perfectly, the reader becomes both invested in Aslaug’s heartrending circumstances, and prejudicial to the courtroom’s basic, peripheral account.

Meldrum, in this debut novel, has approached her tale with satisfying quality, fullness and beauty. Every writer should strive to show a story so richly, so completely; to create a narrative as difficult to put down as this was.

This book leaves the reader with, among other things, a realization that there are two sides to every story. If you’d like to find out which side to believe, pick up a copy of Christina Meldrum’s Madapple.
To read more about this book, or see additional reviews, please visit Blog Stop Book Tours.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

And The Difference Of A Day

Last night, after my post about editing troubles, I really made good headway. Did you ever encounter that? Speaking to someone of your issue, or getting it all out on the table for feedback, only to come to terms with it yourself? It happens to me all the time...

Anyway, something in my mind opened up, allowing the solution to my written problem to flow out, and I worked well into the night. Around teeter-tottering thoughts - it's late, go to bed ... no, no. not until you've finished this chapter - I forged ahead, in the end pleased with my progress.

This morning my mind is still in that place; that creative, productive place. Scenes are playing out better than before, words are coming together in ways I'd never thought. And the self-discipline needed to keep at it feels strong.

I've got to keep working toward my goal, which has, thus far, just been that I wanted to complete my edits and be able to seek representation sometime over the summer. But I want to clarify it a bit. I'd like to shoot for completion of my revisions by the end of June. And if I stay focused, I can do it. Then I'll print the entire manuscript out and attack it with a pen. If all goes well, I'll pursue that which comes next.

I know I always ask, but wish me luck?

Friday, June 13, 2008

One Paragraph

My manuscript edits have slowed to a crawl. Less than a crawl, even, whatever that would be. An inch?

This place I'm at, it could be equated to one paragraph or so, is really dragging me down. Time and time again I pull it up, hopeful. And then I just stare. My brain shuts off and my characters suspend in limbo, waiting for me to make their next move. And it's because I don't know how to transition the scene. Any possibility I come up with seems forced and dry. I can't make the first snippet flow into the second snippet, where something meaningful happens.

I try to retrace my steps, get into the groove of the goings on prior to this segment, so I can ease into it. But I end up rehashing what I've already edited, still coming up short at this cursed place. I can't jump ahead, because I want to leave nothing unrevised. I refuse to say, "I'll come back to it later."

What do I do? Any advice?

ETA: I did it! This post served as a springboard, and I successfully tackled the transition scene. But your thoughts are still welcome...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Writing: What It's All About

Last week I got some much needed time away from home and its demands. Absorbing my freedom, I headed to the library with my alphasmart Sally, and copped a squat at one of the quiet tables. I succeeded in losing myself to the work in front of me, and completed the two projects I'd been unable to tackle before then.

First was a book review, for Christina Meldrum's Madapple, which I'll be posting here on June 16th, in connection with Blog Stop Book Tours. I can't wait to share those thoughts with you!

I also tackled what will be the latest intallment for my column. I have to polish it a bit, but it's not due until the 20th. Woo hoo! I can't wait to see it in print - it's always such a rush.

Anyway, I can't tell you how my time away to write rejuvenated me. That session served to boost my creative side. My thoughts were flowing and I felt such a relief at being able to express them. There's nothing like it, that feeling of accomplishment when you've written something and written it well.

How does writing make you feel?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fond Of The Amish

The Amish community is one with which I'm very taken. The simplicity and devotion I read of - and see during trips to the populace a mere fifteen miles up the highway - seems romanticized. I love the antiquated world in which they've immersed themselves, for centuries, living as they do.

Series set around the Amish and their lives are among my favorite novels. Beverly Lewis, who writes so beautifully of the People, their families and customs, takes high rank among the authors for me. Others who write of this world are Wanda Brunstetter and a newer one, Cindy Woodsmall.

It's Woodsmall's first novel, When the Heart Cries, that I'm in the thick of now. And as I read into the night last evening, I couldn't help but appreciate my circumstance...

Severe rain and thunderstorms had swept into our area. We'd settled in our family room, lights off, drowsy and watching the lightning. Eventually, to the soft snores of my daughters (and the echoing whistle of my husband...), I lit a candle. Balancing it on my chest, I cracked the book open before me and lost myself in the world of Hannah Lapp, around whom the Sisters of the Quilt series is built.

For that little while, before my eyelids became too heavy, I imagined myself living Amish. The rain fell, soothing, on the roof above me as thunder rumbled outside. The flame of my candle danced and flickered, throwing light across the pages. And I buried myself beneath a quilt, just like the character in my book.

I may try to recreate the scenario again tonight...

If you're interested in learning of the Amish, visit the authors' links above. Each of the books found within their sites gives accurate, historically-based accounts of what life for the People is truly like. And if you read - or have read - any works from these writers, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Magazines For Writers

They intimidate me, I'll admit it. Especially the one I most recently got a subscription to, Poets & Writers. It's really thick. And full of deep, smart articles, written by deep, smart people. Thus far I've been too overwhelmed to read through an entire issue. Writer's Digest isn't quite as oppressive, but it's very similar in approach and delivery. Maybe, in part, my intimidation is due to fear that I can't compare, that my writing isn't on the same level as these professionals. Do I have what it takes to be a "professional"? Is my writing as profound as theirs?

And then over the weekend, when Hubby and I visited one of our favorite stores (a store of recovered freight and overstocks, at seriously discounted prices), I perused their magazine rack. A periodical caught my eye. storytellers' journal. It looked modest and digestible, something I could really absorb. And for .99, how could I pass it up?

As it turns out, storytellers' journal is an annual magazine put out by a specific publisher, WaterBrook Press (an imprint of Random House). In it they print articles from their most recent authors, review their current books and include chapter excerpts. It's very much my speed. And I was very pleased with what I saw.

With the exception of one or two, everything I read came from an author whose voice resonated. It seemed they were casual, conversational, as I am in my novel writing. Not intimidating in the least. The books are beautiful, the cover art very appealing to me.
And the publisher focuses on books with some level of spirituality. My novel, the one I'm editing and will seek representation for over the summer, does include spirituality. It's not an overly-religious book but it includes belief, and support of His existence.

So, I guess not only did I find a writers' magazine I like (too bad it only comes out once a year), I found a publisher to put high on my dream list. Of course an agent comes first, and I may have little control over the places to which my book is pitched, I'm not really certain how that works. I'll deal with the details later.

What about you? Do you have favorite literary magazines? Or any dream publishers?