Monday, December 21, 2009

Kissingfest Day (or whatever it's called)

So, I guess today is a some kind of blogosphere kissing holiday or something. I've been very much enjoying reading all of posts. Will I come out of my blog darkness for kissing? Uh-yeah I will. :)

Here's a scene from my novel Searcher It' actually just an almost kiss, but those are the best kind, am I right?:


Stifling laughter, we duck back along the outer rim of the camp. After sneaking the long way around, we draw closer to my tent. I feel a pang of regret. I don’t want this moment to end.

“That’s yours over there?” Owen asks.

“Yeah. Guess I’ll see you in the morning.”

“I’d better walk you all the way to your door,” he says, making a serious expression. “You never know what might happen to a kid like you.”

I elbow him in the side, but laugh. When we reach the door to my tent, I turn to face him.

“Thanks for protecting me.”

“My pleasure.”

It’s quiet for a moment—only the sound of crickets and Hector’s sleepy guitar. I cast my eyes around, wanting to prolong the conversation, but unsure of what say. Owen lingers, at a lack for words as well. A gust of wind sweeps past us, and I pull my jacket closer.

“You should go in,” he says. “It’s starting to get cold out here.” He reaches out and brushes his hands down the length of my arms. “Are you cold?”

I’m shivering, but not from the wind. I look up to him, trembling inwardly. He keeps his hands wrapped around my arms. This close, I can see every detail of his face, the line of his dark brow, the strong angles of his cheek bones. His large, amber eyes gaze down at me with an intense, but unreadable expression.

“Jetta . . .” He pulls me closer. It’s like a surge of hot sparks have burst in my chest and spread over my skin. Breath catches in my throat. Owen’s hands move up my arms again, and then he grips my shoulders. His face moves closer. I can feel his warm breath on my cheek. The world around us has frozen.

And suddenly he pulls back. He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment.

“I—I’m sorry.” He lets out a frustrated breath. “I had a few drinks tonight, I didn’t . . . I didn’t mean to . . .”

I shake my head. “But—”

“Goodnight Jetta.” He turns abruptly on his heel and is gone in a few strides.

I stay at the door to the tent for a moment, my insides reeling with a thousand emotions. I can still feel the warmth of Owen’s hands on my skin, a burning imprint.

Monday, December 7, 2009

This is just to say . . .

1. Sorry I haven't been around much lately.

2. I don't expect it will get much better any time soon.

I could offer the list of usual suspects: holidays, planning for/about to go on vacations, general craziness of life. However, it's a little more than that. In the past few weeks, I've been undergoing a great philosophical journey (shown in picture below.)
I've still many miles of pondering to go, so I'm not quite ready to share my thoughts, but I will when they are clear in my mind. In the meantime, I have been and will be taking a small break from the blogging world. I'll still be around, but not as much. Not for a few weeks, anyway.

Oh, and as a closing note, I just want to assure you that I am quite content. Don't read any despondency in this post. On the contrary. After what feels like two years of rushing, it's very refreshing to stop and just think.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Outside

We writers are a focused bunch. Focused and determined. I've had many a conversation with fellow writer friends about how consumed we can become in this whole writing thing. With blogging and working on stories and writer forums and brainstorming about new story ideas, one can easily spend as much or more time in this "world" than we do in the real one.

With the completion of Searcher, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to work on next. I think it's safe to say that I was constantly thinking about it, batting around new ideas, tinkering with old ones. However, I kept running into a brick wall. It seemed the harder I tried to dig for a plan, the more muddled I became.

Then came this last week. I left the writing world for several days to focus instead on turkey and pie and big family game nights. I didn't think much, if at all, about writing.

And you know what? Last night, out of the clear blue sky, with the whole writing world frankly miles away from my mind, an Idea struck me.

It's been a good lesson for me. See, ideas should come from life. They should be inspired by our experiences and relationships. But the problem is, sometimes we writers are so focused in our world of writerly techniques and queries and researching the market and book deals and social networking with other writers that without realizing it, we've closed ourselves off to that life wherein the true ideas come.

So to any writer out there struggling with where to go and what to do, I would say: go live your life, and sooner than you might think that inspiration will find you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's those Crazy Holidays

Like everyone else, I'm sure, this week is going to be a crazy busy one for me. It starts today with my Hubby and I's wedding anniversary! (7 years! Can you believe it?! And, so far, no itch in sight. ;) )

After today, it just keeps going. We've got a trip out of state. Thanksgiving. Family hoopla. Meeting awesome writer friends. Etc, etc, etc.

I suspect I won't be around this week as much as usual. But I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

And to close, in honor of my anniversary, a little Far Side for you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Photoshop Friday

I'm cheating this week and reusing an old Photoshop Friday. That said, I'm doing it for a good reason. Today I bring up my castle analogy to announce that, as of this week, I have officially approached The Wall. Don't understand what I mean? Well, just read on and you will :

THE CASTLE

Imagine a large castle with vast grounds, surrounded by a large stone wall. Here, let me give you a visual:
That shining castle of beauty and joy and laughter and magnificence is called is called PUBLICATION CASTLE. Ah yes, we all know it well. To enter those hallowed walls is to know success. But how does one get there?

As you can see from the picture, in order to even approach Publication Castle, one must first pass through THE WALL. (Imagine Gustov Holt's Mars playing right now. Open a tab and listen to it on YouTube if you aren't familiar with the tune. It really works so perfectly in this section.)

What is that wall, you ask? Oh, but don't we all know? When I mentioned that wall, didn't a part of you deep inside weep in horror? Yes. THE WALL. Otherwise known as Querying.

When I think of querying, I see people, thousands and thousands of people, throwing themselves against the outer wall, clamoring, stampeding over each other, desperate for that narrow chance to get inside.
Look at them. Can't you hear the sounds of their desperation? (P.S. If you think I sound condescending, just remember that this is where I am right now.)All they can do is gaze up at the top of the wall and hope that someone will throw down a rope. And who is that someone?*No offense intended to all you glorious agents out there. I really do love you. More than you know. (Call me.)

But, say one of those guards does throw you a rope and pull you out of the teeming masses outside the wall, the battle still isn't over. Publication Castle is still a shining, glorious structure in the distance. And you are still on the outside looking in. But, you are closer than ever. A glance around the COURTYARD OF THE AGENTED reveals nervous smiles, impatient fidgeting, and semi-smug mingling. Everyone is happy to be inside, but no one wants to stay there forever. All eyes are on the Castle.



And then one day, it happens. A servant from in the inner court strolls out and magnanimously points to you. You've been chosen. You will enter PUBLICATION CASTLE. Oh the joy! The rapture! You have no idea what sumptuous delights await you within those glittering walls, but you are more than ready to find out. After everything you've been through to get here, anything sounds good. And hey, who knows, you may just end up at the cool kid's table.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Modus Operandi

So as you know, I've been in hard editing mode for the past seven, almost eight months. Editing mode requires a unique way of thinking and acting. It requires scrutiny, cynicism, "murdering your darlings!"

Well I've decided to start working on a new novel. You may remember, the "shiny" one I thought of lo these many months ago.

I'm finding that in order to succeed, I'll have to shift my entire method of approach. The method that I have been so careful to hone in recent months is no longer going to help me. It's time to put it away. For now. It's time to switch into first draft mode.

Happy, laughing, frolicking first draft mode.

Seriously though, I'm worried that if I don't switch gears I won't make it past the first paragraph. In fact, I've already tried to start and literally could not write a single word. Scares me, folks.

So how do you get back in the groove? How do you let yourself write freely again?

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Courage

Writing is a tough business. It takes determination, skill, endurance, and, as I've learned these past few months, courage.

There are several types of courage that we need as writers. The courage to write what's in our hearts. The courage to submit our work. The courage to face criticism. Today, I want to focus on a kind of courage that I think is under-appreciated by us writers. It's the courage to get things right.

I think too often we approach edits and revisions with grim stoicism. This is something that has to be done. You are a lazy/amateurish if you don't get it done. You make this thing perfect, and don't you dare flinch about it.

As I've learned in these past months, however, that actually takes a lot of courage to say that. To say, I'm going to give this story one hundred percent. And it's not just about facing the amount of work. I'm talking about the courage to say, I'm going to give this my all no matter what.

Let's face it, when you look at the odds, rejection is inevitable. Even if you make that novel as perfect as you possibly can, it still may never see publication. And when you think of it that way, it's so easy to say, why would I put all this work into something that might fail?

That's the courage I'm talking about. The courage to be willing to put your blood, sweat, and tears into something knowing that you may not succeed in the way you hope. To push yourself to the very limit with no guarantee of reward.

It's that kind of courage that I have had to build in myself again and again over the past fourteen months. And I've seen it so many times in my writer friends. It's something we should celebrate! In my mind, writers are some of the bravest people around. And I'm truly proud to know you all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photoshop Friday

Heard of the book, The Little Engine that Could? How about the spin off, The Little Book that Could? I've got a new one for you. This one is all about my novel/perma-WiP, Searcher. I call it:

The Little Book that Couldn't Shut Up

Nearly 15 months ago, when I first started working on this story, I was quite charmed with its determination to be the best it could be. All day, all night, I could hear its cheery chug:


Edits began in early spring, and I was pleased to hear the continual motto:



I started to get burned out in the end of summer. I even contemplated shelving the book forever. But always ringing in my ear was the call:


I recently decided that I was honestly done. That I'd reached my limit of what I was willing to do for this particular novel. I was desperate to move on. I've begged, pleaded, cried, but again and again it's been pounded into my brain, keeping me up at night, chained to the laptop all day. The cruel words:



*Author's Note: You may have noticed that this particular Photoshop Friday was annoyingly repetitive and lacking variety. Welcome to my life. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

But . . . he's so HOT!

I've been reading a certain YA novel (which shall remain unnamed,) and there's much I enjoy about it, but one thing is driving me crazy. Early on in the story, the main character falls madly in love with the requisite Bad Boy, and the only reason I can see is that he is so dangerously hot. It's really bugging me. I keep asking, "Wait, why do you like him?"

This is a somewhat disturbing trend you see in YA these days: main girl goes ga-ga for the kind of jerky, but oh so gorgeous hottie. I suppose they think it's "realistic" but I think it's actually selling teenagers short. Are there shallow girls out there who only like the hot guy? Of course. But is that how all teenage girls are? No way! In fact, I would venture that the kind of girls who are avid readers are the intelligent, well-rounded types that look for more in a guy than a six pack and big biceps.

Ladies, what attracted you to guys when you were a teenager?

I know for me, it was NOT only looks. Did a gorgeous pair of brown eyes make me melt and think I might be in love? Sure. I can admit that. But was that the sole reason why I liked a guy? Uh-NO!

I was attracted to talent. Intelligence. Humor. A guy who was genuine and not stuck up. Where are these qualities in our YA male love interests??? They are there, but falling sadly by the wayside. I want to see these kind of guys overpower the Gorgeous Bad Boy. I want to see our female protagonists develop feelings for the guy who will treat them with respect and like them for their personalities as well. Isn't that SO much more helpful to learning how to develop real, mature love?

I say, down with the hot Bad Boy! Who's with me?!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Photoshop Friday

I love reality shows. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Especially the reality competition shows. I guess I relate to people fiercely striving to live their dreams. Anyway, today I was envisioning the next big hit. I call it:

America's Next Bestseller

It starts with eager writers all over the country gathering to New York City to try their luck.


The first round will test the young writer's abilities to think on their feet. They will each have to write a piece of flash fiction on a secret topic, which will be revealed, Iron Chef style by The Chairman. (Dramatic music and flashing lights included.)


After the first cuts, and many tears, the remaining contestants are given a larger assignment of editing their novels. This will test their endurance and stamina. They have 24 hours to make things perfect.


But don't worry, they'll have someone there to give them pointers and encouragement.


After the editing round, the selected finalists will face the big moment. The Readings. In front of a live audience, and the American public on TV, the writers will read excerpts from their manuscripts. These will be judged by a panel of editors and agents.


And in the end, after grueling week upon grueling week, a single writer is crowned the Next Bestseller!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nan-oh NO she didn't!

I've been reading all these posts on NaNoWriMo lately and feeling very jealous. I find myself waxing nostalgic on the joys of writing that first draft. There's really nothing like it. It's raw creativity mode. Anything goes. Just go with your ideas and let them soar.

It occurred to me that it's been seven (almost eight?) months since I've been actually producing new material. That's seven months of all editing, only editing, all the time. I must admit, I grow weary of it. I think one of the things that makes it so tough is the lack of positive feedback. That first time through is all about "Go! go! go! This rocks! Keep going!" From yourself. From your Alpha readers.

Editing is the opposite. And it's hard to stay in that "this sucks, gotta fix it, now wait . . . now fix again, because this still sucks, now wait . . . now fix again" mode for so long.

So what are some ways you beat the editing fatigue? Or are you all happily frolicking in NaNo land and don't know what I'm talking about? *sighs* That's what I thought.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Photoshop Friday*

*kind of.

Well gang, I had every intention of throwing you guys a Halloween Photoshop Friday to remember. But then I went over to Natalie's blog and well, her party is way cooler.

Granted, the fact that I won first place (WOOO!) makes me more inclined to send you over there, but it's a rockin' party either way! And if you are in the mood for my particular brand of humor, which a Photoshop Friday could have provided, just go there and read my flash fiction, Dust.

(Didn't I promise you a mummy love story? Well, you're getting it.)

In the meantime, I want to invite my fav Halloween character to express my appreciation at winning. Take it away, Teen Wolf.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stalking in the shadows . . .


It is I, Dracula. I am hanging out here on this blog, vaiting for vhat must be vunderful Photoshop Friday. But I am told that it vill come tommorrow, for a Halloveen special.

Alas! I must keep vaiting. . .

In the meantime, has anyvone ever told you that you have a lovely neck?


***Oh vait, I forgot vun thing. If you are desperately craving to see Renee's vurk, you can check out her qvery letter, vhich is now being drained of blood at Evil Editors. (He and I are pretty tight.)***

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Path to Wisdom

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." -Confucius

I've been thinking a lot lately about my personal growth in regards to writing. So this quote struck me because I could see myself and my writing journey in it. In fact, I think it applies to many writers.

At one point, we try to learn by imitation, because, as Confucius says, it is the easiest. I remember myself in junior high, writing novels that were absolute rip offs of the book I had just finished reading. You should see the 1984 clone I wrote in seventh grade. Shameless. But, did I learn? Sure. Does imitation alone get you there? No.

Learning by experience, the bitterest. Oh, how well I understand this statement. Last summer, I was burning with the desire to make it. To get there. I had a book that I thought was great and I was raring to go. I plunged into querying with wild hopes and enthusiasm. Oh sure, I edited the thing, a few times even. I felt like I was putting the best product out there. But alas, I wasn't ready, not truly ready. And as a result, I faced bitter disappointment.

This year has been one of reflection for me. And I don't so much mean sitting and meditating about myself as a writer, my writing, and so forth (although as I've said before, I do spend a great deal of time pondering.) To me, reflection as related to writing simply means taking ones time. Whereas with Midas I was so fired up just to try and do it, with Searcher, I've spent over a year now working to make it the best I can. This has involved reading books on writing. Making long notes in my Moleskine just to analyze my progress. And of course, editing and editing and editing until my eyes bleed.

And you know, as tired and worn out as I have felt about it sometimes, I'm sure that I've grown. Am I there? Have I learned all I need to learn? Of course not. But I feel that at the very least, I have become, as Confucius would say, wise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cliches

This video teaches us writers to be constantly aware of cliches. They can happen to the best of us. Please watch, if only to catch the su-WEET keyboard solo by J.J. Abrams. (Seriously.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Boring Blog Award goes to . . .

Me.

Sorry guys, I've been VERY preoccupied lately, aka: boring. That said, I am nearly finished with the Great Tense and POV Change of 2009. (Wooooo!) But now that I'm done, I'm going out of town. So the blog will yet again go dark.

Somehow though, I don't imagine you are crying many tears. :)

See you in a week!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Busy, busy, busy, busy

No Photoshop Friday today. Sorry if I disappoint. As the title to my blog states, I've been pretty, freaking busy lately. Edits and all. Oh yeah, and CHANGING THE ENTIRE TENSE AND POV OF MY BOOK.

*breathes heavily*

I'm just feeling a little tired. Look at the time I posted this! Yet another late night. In fact, I don't think I've gone to bed before one in the past seven days. Ah well. Must soldier forth.

To make up for my lack of amusement, I thought I'd borrow someone else's. Enjoy. (You can click on the picture to make it bigger.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Big Bottle of Crazy Sauce

So remember how I was celebrating my triumph of finishing my "last big edit?" Remember? Yeah *sigh* me too.

Well apparently I have a love of self-torment, because folks, I'm doing another one! And not just any run-of-the-mill hard edit, I'm changing my entire story in first person, present tense.

(Like I said, CRAZY SAUCE!)

The reasons why are many. I think it adds to the immediacy of the story, and it better delves into the head of my main character, Jetta. My story has a lot of action, so I felt like it needed a pulse. FPP does that quite well. Only problem being that it's a HUGE amount of work.

It's more than changing over the "she said's" to "I say's." Much more. I've found myself rewriting entire scenes. In fact, I don't think a single page has gone by so far where I haven't reworked at least one whole paragraph in addition to the tense and POV changes.

But you may ask, do you think it will be worth it?

My answer: oh yeah, baby.

(Does that sound cocky to say? Sorry, it's one in the morning, and I have a strange habit of being unreasonably confident in the middle of the night.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Photoshop Friday

Lately, we've all heard a lot of talk about the Swine Flu. Seems like people are in a total hysteria over it. But most people don't know that there is a related, but even more deadly viral strain out there.

The Writer's Flu H1W1; Do you know the symptoms?


One of the first symptoms that manifests is what we call the glaze. Hypnotic staring at computer screens, printed manuscripts, and notebooks. Sufferers of the Writer Flu have been known to be lost in these trances for up to several hours at a time. Productivity during these trances is unreliable.



During what is known as the drafting stage of H1W1, many have complained of a highly complex form of schizophrenia, resulting in a constant presence of character voices in their head. The voices are said to not stop until they are "satisfied" with output of the sufferer.



In later stages of the Writer Flu, patients have been known to suffer severe manic/depressive episodes. There is a huge spike of these symptoms during the editing stage.



And on a final note, many have reported a symptom through every stage of the Writer's Flu involving torture by doubt demons, however the existence of said demons has never been medically confirmed. (All the same you might want to keep your eyes open.)


If you should feel any of these symptoms . . . join the club. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Fear

It's very amusing to look back on the days of querying my first book, Miss Midas. I was so full of hope, so confident. The thought of querying made me giddy with excitement. I absolutely couldn't wait, (which consequentially might be why I didn't do so hot, but that's fodder for another post.)

So here I am, a solid year later. (I sent my first query exactly a year ago yesterday.) And oh, how things have changed. This time around, I'm absolutely terrified.

It's funny because I know for a fact that Searcher is much better than Midas. And yet I'm still shaking in my boots at the idea of querying. Maybe it's that I've learned a ton about the publishing world in this past year. I've met a lot of different writers, all with different stories. I have a better picture of the harsh realities of it all.

I thought understanding something was supposed to make you less afraid. Looks like this would be an exception to that rule.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I love being spontaneous

We'll on the spur of the moment, my hubby and I decided to drive to Aspen. (Monday is his day off.) So I won't be around for the next little while. I'll let you know if I see any glamorous movie stars! :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Party!!

I am afraid to say there will be no Photoshop Friday today. Why, you may ask? Well, I've been busily working away on what I hope to be the final editing round of Searcher.

And guess what? Tonight (or last night, depending on when you read this) I FINISHED!!!

*glee* *happiness* *much grinning*

Now it's off to my final round of readers (who will probably give me a list of things to do, so perhaps this celebration is a bit premature . . .) Ah well. At any rate, I'm feeling happy tonight. It's been a long haul with this book. Six months to write the first draft, and six months of editing. Now I suppose it's time to think about putting her out there. GULP. *shudder*

Well, I'll think about that later. For right now, I'm just going to . . . go to bed. (Hey, that's a party as far as I'm concerned.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My First Fan

When I was in fourth grade, I wrote my very first novel. A new American Girl story. (For those of you unfamiliar with the franchise, they are a historical fiction series about young girls growing up in various times of American history. They also sell dolls with each character.)

**Sad story time: Oh how I longed for an American Girl Doll. We had the entire set of books, but the gorgeous dolls with all of their fun, historically accurate outfits and accessories?? No. And I never got one, despite a several year fascination with them. Are you feeling sorry for fourth grade Renee yet?? Yes? Good. Moving on then.**

Anyway, so my story was Meet Kalani. The story of a young Hawaiian girl growing up during the annexation of the island chain into a state. When I first found it, I was expecting it to be hilariously bad. But you know what? It was pretty darn good! Lots of scaffolding. A few minor plot holes and several unnecessary scenes, but on the whole, I was quite proud of my nine year old self.

Well that's not the best part. Last night, for the first time, I sat beside my five year old daughter and read her my story. And let me tell you, she was captivated.

She cracked up at all the lame jokes. Gasped in horror at the mention of the evil Hawaiian Monk Seal poacher. Cried when he killed Kalani's pet seal's mother. (Seriously, she started to cry. So I had to quickly ad-lib a part in the story where the mother was actually just hurt, but she gets better and swims away.) And at at the end, when the crowd at the hula and music festival is cheering on Kalani's wonderful ukulele playing, my daughter was literally jumping up and down on the couch, squealing with joy.

After I finished, and after she hugged me and told me that I wrote the best stories ever, she immediately ran to the kitchen table to start writing her own story.

I don't need to tell you how the whole experience made me feel. I think my husband put it best. "This is why you write," he said. "No matter what happens, you can know that you've given a wonderful gift to your children with these stories."

Perspective like that makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Photoshop Friday

I think we in the writing community are pretty supportive of our authors. We buy their books, write rave reviews on our blogs, and come up with complex, educated reasons why this author or that book is so great. But what if the rest of the world got as into these books and authors as we did?

What if Writers were the new Rock Stars?


For one thing, they definitely couldn't go out without being thronged by screaming hordes of fans. Look at poor John Green, signing autographs on his way to the grocery store.


Kids would decorate their rooms with all the latest paraphernalia of their favorite YA novels.


Instead of debating on message boards and Amazon, the masses would take their opinions to the streets.


Even celebrities would get in on the craze. Beyonce has paparazzi cameras flickering with her stylish support of the writing community.


And book readings/signings? They couldn't take place at a table in Barnes and Noble anymore.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The One that Hurts

As many of you know, I have wonderful beta readers. Fabulous beta readers. I love them all to death. And when I gave them Searcher, they offered amazing, insightful advice, as well as MUCH appreciated praise. Seriously, their enthusiasm has been the one thing that kept me going in my darkest moments, as lame as that might sound.

Today, however, I'm thinking of the one beta reader that didn't offer encouragement. We crossed paths on Absolute Write, because she said she was looking for a non sugar coated review. Sounded good to me, so we agreed to swap manuscripts. And let me tell you, her review of mine was FAR from sugar coated.

I remember reading her email and getting a knot in my stomach. Let's just say she didn't mince words. I feel like I went through the five stages of grief in dealing with her evaluation of my work. First Denial: This is bull, she didn't even read it. (She had gotten back to me in only one day.) Then Anger: Who does she think she is? (After all, I'd read her book, and it was far from perfect.) Barganing and then Depression. In fact, I think my depression over her bad review was one of the big factors in my dilemma of a few weeks ago, where I was ready to shelve Searcher forever.

Now, I think I've finally reached Acceptance. Truth is, in many ways, she was right. Some of the points that hurt the most, probably did because I knew deep down that it was true. It's funny because as irritated as I was (still am?) with this girl for being harsh, I find myself very grateful to her.

Don't get me wrong, there are many things about her review that I've ignored. Could she have said things in a more constructive, kind way? Definitely. Could she have integrated things she liked in with her numerous criticisms? Uh, hello, yes. However, I can't deny how helpful she has been to me. Some of the things she said acted as the catalyst in my mind, which lead to changes in my story that I am so excited about now. I know my story will be better because of her.

So Harsh Girl, wherever you are, I just wanted to say thanks.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meet the New Guy

Well, last week on the roller coaster ride of my writing, I've been swept away with edits on Searcher. But, the good news is I'm nearly finished with the 50 page section that I've been rewriting from scratch. (Woot!) So I'm getting closer. Though, I probably will hit the One Year Anniversary of working on this baby. Yowzers.

Anyway, among many changes, one change in particular has taken me by surprise. Basically, I've murdered one of my central characters and replaced him with a younger, sexier model. Cruel! Though I must admit, it's rather fun. See, at first I thought I was just going to spruce this guy up, shave his beard, make him ten years younger, pump up his biceps, etc. But as I started to do that, I realized that the whole character was wrong.

So I killed him. Send in the new guy!

Trust me gals, this one's much more . . . interesting. (read: hot) And he's definitely a different person from the man I replaced him with. His whole personality is different. Its kind of strange. Now instead of a few changes in that fifty page chunk, I'll have to go and rewrite every single scene with him. A lot of work, but I'm confident it will be much, much better.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever gotten to the editing phase and realized that an entire character needed to be replaced?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Down!

Yesterday I finished my first short story of my Four Short Challenge. Right on time, as usual. (Actually . . . I'm always running later, but you get the point.) This story is similar in some was to my novelette. It's first person present, troubled male POV. Still no working title though. And in other news, I've already got the idea for the next story. No troubled male this time, but very possibly a troubled woman.

Anyway, I've had yet more epiphanies with this exercise. (Told you I was good at pondering.) Among the many other benefits I've noticed, this one this came to me morning. The more I write, the less hope I attach to each story. Now that may not sound like a good thing, but trust me, it is. I didn't pay much attention to the fact that I was doing it, but before, every time I would write a story or work on a novel, I would subconsciously lay all of my hopes for publication on it.

This is it. This is better than Previous Story, and it's all I've got, so it has to be the one.

Know what I mean? But now as I am adding more to the pile, that pressure is fading. This could be it, or that one, or that one I'm about to write. Publication is no longer the focus. It's about writing a story I love. And as those stories pile up, I'll have plenty of options to choose from in my quest for publication. It's all very encouraging. Who'd have thought that pushing myself to complete four stories in a month would be so relaxing?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What does that say about me?

Well, so far things are going well with my Four Short Challenge. I'm about two thirds through with my first story. No working title yet (surprised?) However, I am working on a Short Story ticker for the sidebar of my blog.

So as my body of work grows, it's interesting to notice similar themes and characters popping up. They can be strongly present, or like familiar ghosts--fleeting glances of which can be seen haunting our stories. I suppose we writers can't help but to let a bit of ourselves bleed out onto the page.

I've compiled a list of a few of my own personal little ghosts. It's somewhat amusing, and to tell you the truth I'm not sure what it says about me. The stats:

-In every story I've written, save one, (that's three completed novels, two unfinished novels, one novelette, and a nearly finished short story) there is an impassioned revolutionary of some kind.

-When I write in a male's voice, he is always troubled. A dark character, battling his inner demons.

-When I write in a female's voice, she is usually quiet and pensive.

-I haven't written a single story without some speculative element. And if I were pressed, I'd have to officially classify myself as a Sci-fi writer.

-And finally, I have a real penchant for the semi-tragic ending.

Looking over this list makes me laugh. I swear guys, I'm a happy person! You might not be able to tell from my writing. So what about you? Who are your recurring characters? What thematic ghosts haunt your stories?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Down with Perfection!

*No Photoshop Friday today. My humor well is all dried up. But don't worry, I'll have something by next week.

Today I wanted to make an announcement on my blog, partly because I'm excited about it, partly because I will need you all to keep me accountable.

I hereby decree that in the next thirty days (September 10th-October 10th,) I will write one short story every week.


There. It's in print. No turning back now . . . You might be wondering, why? You also might be thinking, isn't she in the midst of editing a novel? To answer the second question, yes, and I have no intention of stopping that. No worries. It won't get as much attention, but cest la vie. I feel like this is really important.

Basically, I have been thinking a lot, A LOT in the past month or two about my various weighty issues related to writing--my writing, and writing in general. It's been something of a voyage of self discovery, as has been apparent on this blog. I've read books on writing, read great works of literature, read popular works of fiction, read my own works with a critical eye, and done a whole lot of pondering. (I'm actually very good at pondering. It's one of my greatest talents.)

I'll spare you the extended development of my thoughts, and say that in the end, I decided that I put too much emphasis on perfection. I wanted to have the perfect idea, the perfect execution of that idea, the perfect prose to carry out that execution, the perfect characters to speak that prose, and the list goes on and on, piling stone upon stone on my poor, poor chest until I felt like I was being pressed to death by my own ambitions.

So I am forcing myself to shun perfection. In having to write a short story every week, I already know that they won't be perfect, but who cares?! I will be working on my craft and producing, and I think that will make me a better writer more than endless hours of pondering.

I'm very excited about this, in fact I already started one yesterday. I had no more than the inkling of an idea and I forced myself to just start writing. It was exhilarating. So I want you guys to keep me accountable. No perfection allowed.

Down with perfection!

*Also, on a related topic, I wanted to mention that my friend Michelle and her crew over at The Literary Lab are having a short story contest. You can get details here. I know I'm entering!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ugly Mortal Hands

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about ideas and Ideas--yes there is a difference between the two. Allow me to explain. Though we writers are a varied breed, every one of us gets ideas. We all approach them differently. However, I've noticed two distinct attitudes emerge when it comes to the nature and origin.

1. ideas: a beginning, a groundwork, a start. These ideas come from our own feeble minds and therefore they are something to be worked, pulled, prodded, dyed, clipped, chopped, stretched, painted, mashed, scrubbed, kneaded, and otherwise put through the ringer.

2. Ideas: a flicker of something amazing. We, the writer, should close our eyes and wait, listen, learn. We may need to do some gentle exploring, but not too much. If you prod too much, the Idea will be tainted by your own ugly, mortal hands.

Remember, I am talking about the initial stages. Once that novel is written, then we are working with a flesh and blood draft. That's a different animal. Most of us view the draft as something to be worked, pulled, prodded, etc, etc, etc. What I'm talking about right now is that initial spark. The idea. . . the Idea.

What do you think? And dig deep here, because I know half of your are about to say, "It's both." In my mind, it can't really be both. With ideas, we need to spend a great deal of time with it, before it's worth writing a word. Yes, an aspect of that idea may sparkle and excite, but the rest must be developed with care. Ideas, however, are something that we shouldn't mess with until after it is contained in the body of a story.

I should put you at ease right now, this is not one of those frantic plea-for-help post of a conflicted mind that I'm rather prone to writing. No dilemma going on over here. I'm just intrigued by the dichotomy. What's your opinion?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Photoshop Friday

For the past week, I have been deep in edits on Searcher. (Yes, I've finally solved my dilemma of a few weeks ago.

At any rate, I've been slaving over this book long enough to experience the many different emotions of a writer editing their book. Today, I'd like to highlight the stages I've gone through in the past five months that I've been editing this baby. Mostly the negative ones. (How's that for inspiring?)

Editing H-E-Double Hockey Sticks


It always starts like this:So confident. So pumped. You are going to make that novel SHINE!


It doesn't take long for it to start feeling like this:
You're working day after day, with no dent in sight. You're starting to wonder just how long this is going to take.


There are days when you feel like you're dealing with a spoiled child.Please be good. Pretty please? I'll give you whatever you want!


Then there are days when it feels more like this:And this:



But don't worry. No matter how bad it gets, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn't last forever. At some point, you will finish. (Right? Right?)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oh fine

So I thought I was morally opposed to the whole "Followers" thing on blogger. I considered it to be a popularity contest, like how many signatures you got in your yearbook, or how many friends you have on Facebook. It's like:

"Look at me, look at all my followers, see how popular I am, love me, LOVE ME!"

To tell you the truth, I think a lot of the reason why I didn't post my followers was because I don't have many, so I feel like a LEW-ser. Yes, it really is high school all over again. :)

In the end, I realized that maybe I don't have many followers because I don't post them. I have site meter and I get decent hits to my blog, so maybe there's just a disconnect. At any rate, I've given up on my grand ideals. There's the infamous gadget on the side. Follow me if you like. If not, I'll still like you.

I can think of no better way to close this post than to say:

"Stay cool and fun and have a great summer."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shout Out!

The good news just doesn't stop these days!!!

I am here to give a HUGE shout out to my bff Natalie! :) She just got herself a rock star agent today!!!! (Nathan Bransford, in case you want to know. AWESOME, right?!)

She has worked so hard for this and I couldn't be happier for her!! Party at Natalie's blog!!!

WOO HOO!!!

P.S. Do I have cool writer friends, or what?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It Happened!

I GOT A MACBOOK!!!

Okay, I was planning to be all clever and build suspense with my revelation of this fact, but I am just too excited.

I HAVE A LAPTOP!!!

My own, my love, my precious!!I kiss you, you beautiful, beautiful thing!

For those of you who have been around here, you'll know that my lack of laptop has been a favorite gripe of mine for at least a year. This is a post, well over a year ago, in which I was whining about it.

So yesterday, when my awesome, amazing hubby called from work and said, "Let's get a Macbook tonight on our date," I was blown away. I actually was thinking, I'll believe it when I see it. And now here it is, in my hot little hands.

I have already given him a name (yes, it's a him. Because I want to kiss it, a lot.) He shall be called The Beloved.

Here he is. Just look at him. Look at the starry eyed way I look at him. Ah, my friends, I am so happy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lessons taught, Lessons learned

Today the ice cream truck drove down our quiet street. When my daughter got the hard news that we would not be purchasing any ice cream, she dissolved into a first class display of tears and mournful cries. In the midst of her anguish, she spontaneously started to draw this picture.

Note the hand, outstretched with longing. The tears and dazed sorrow on the face. Note the ice cream truck, driving away with a happy, heartless smile. And the words, since you probably can't decipher her five-year-old handwriting: "I m sad for is cree [sic]."

As I hugged my daughter, and complimented the drawing, I explained to her that part of growing up is learning that we don't always get what we want, even when we "really, really, really" want it. If she wanted ice cream, she would have to do her chores, earn money, and wait for the next time the truck came down the street.

I couldn't help but smirk at my parental advice. Isn't that the message we still have to work on as adults? Who says we're so grown up? We still cry inwardly when we don't get what we want. In many ways, I related and I think we can all relate to the girl in the picture. But the only thing we can do is wait, and work hard, and hopefully we will earn that reward.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Remember my Rule?

My set in stone, unrelenting rule that I was NOT allowed on the internet during the hours my daughter is in school? Yeah . . .

Oh well, I have an excuse, sort of. Many of you know (thanks to my habit of spilling my personal dramas and turmoils all over my blog) that I have been in a bit of a dilemma with my writing. I am, literally, at a stand still--unable to make a move in either direction because I keep changing my dang mind. I have overthought this problem to an epic level, surpassing, I'm convinced, even the most hermetic of ancient philosophers.

Here's a map of my mental processes:

7:30 a.m. Renee awakes and lies in bed for a moment, staring at the soft movement of her ceiling fan. A calm feeling comes over her. Yes, she thinks. Yes, I am going to go for it with Drone. Today. I'll open a Word file and just start writing.

12:09 p.m.
As Renee spreads peanut butter on a second slice of bread, she is struck with the realization: how can she abandon Searcher after everything she's been through with it? After the late nights, and tears, and moments of euphoric happiness? No, no, this is all wrong. She has to keep going, finish those edits, submit it to agents!

1:00 p.m.Children are either at school or sleeping. Renee can be found puttering around on the internet, drowning out any unpleasant dilemmas with cold Dr. Pepper and ice in a bright orange cup. (You'll notice, of course, she's not doing any writing.)

6:45 p.m.
Warm dishwater and the scent of Pink Grapefruit detergent awakes in Renee the understanding that her best work is still ahead of her. It is something she has to strive for. Something she has to go after. She is growing and she has to keep growing. She can't let sentimentality keep her down.

12:38 a.m.
Renee sits on the edge of her bed. The house is quiet and dark, peaceful. She glances at the thick, printed copy of Searcher on her nightstand. Her fingers set over the words, over the frantic red and blue markings made later. And it's all clear to her. She's going to stay with Searcher. Yes, she's growing, but she can put that into editing. She can make it as good as any new thing she would write. With this calm reassurance, Renee nestles down to sleep.

Repeat cycle tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Photoshop Friday

I usually try to keep my Photoshop Friday's writing related, but I figured I'd digress today given the special occasion. And what occasion is that, you might ask? Today, my lovely little daughter started Kindergarten!!! BIG day. That's why I've named this weeks post:

Hallelujah!


Here she is, my creative, clever, sparkling girl. (Yes, I am one of those types of parents. Unabashedly.) You should know that this picture was not posed. She has been doing this for the past week in anticipation of the big day. I honestly can't imagine a child more excited to go school. I know she will thrive. And yes, today as I dropped her off I got all stereotypically choked up.


And this is my son. There he is, getting ready for his mid afternoon nap.

Wait, wait, wait. Mid afternoon nap? As in his daily two hour nap that he takes right during the same time that my daughter is in her afternoon Kindergarten???Then that must mean. . .


HOLY CRAP! I'm going to have two hours completely to myself every day! Two hours of pure, uninterrupted writing time. EVERY DAY!!!

When faced with a gift like this, there's really only one thing to say. (Hit it guys!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In which Renee uses her blog as a Twitter substitute

"I am grateful for the wise words of people who truly understand me. You know who you are, and you rock."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Status Seekers and Storytellers

Tonight, during our weekly trip to Barnes and Noble, I purchased a very interesting read. The book, The Fire in Fiction by. Donald Maas begins with the suggestion that there are two kind of writers: status seekers and storytellers. Very simply put, status seekers want publication. Storytellers want to tell the best stories possible.

This really got me thinking. I wasn't sure if I agreed at first, because what writer doesn't want publication? And likewise, what writer doesn't want to tell an amazing story? However, the more I analyzed it, the more I could see the difference. The more the idea rang true.

In my mind, it comes down to this. It's not about desires or motivation, because as I said above, most writers basically want the same thing. To me, it comes down to our actions and how we approach the whole writing gig.

How do we write? How do we analyze our own work? How do we edit it? Are we trying to make our stories awesome enough to be published? Or are we trying to take this idea or these characters and give them the words and plot and feeling that they deserve?

This whole notion falls very much in line with the weighty issues I've been wrestling in my own mind lately. Very interesting food for thought.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

(curse you, small town internet problems!)

Anyway, I still wanted to send a HUGE shout out to my friend Kiersten. She just signed a THREE BOOK DEAL WITH HARPER TEEN!!!

WOO HOO!!!

Let me tell you guys, I've read this book and it's brilliant. I am not surprised in the slightest that it got snapped up by editors. In fact, I think those were my very words when I emailed Kiersten my crit. "SNAPPED UP."

Kierst, we MoMo's have been through a lot of ups and downs together and I am totally thrilled to be able to celebrate this triumph with you.

PARANORMALCY rocks!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Glimpse into my Tormented Mind

For the past few days, my mind has been churning over the subject of concept, or ideas. My friend Kiersten actually wrote a post on the matter today, and it got me thinking.

Her stance is: work is what it all boils down to. Good, old fashioned hard work. And who am I to disagree? Indeed, I think few of us writers who are savvy enough to be reading/writing blogs are so deluded as to think that an idea alone will bring success. Work is a given. Good, old fashioned hard work.

However, I'm pushing the issue a little harder. Let's really get down to nitty gritties. No easy, quick answers. Also, this post honestly isn't a masked plea for encouragement, so (as much as I appreciate you, truly) there's no need to interpret my remarks that way. What I really want is a fresh, hard thinking discussion.

By reading agent blogs, books on writing, and various other sources, I found that most editors/agents are looking for two simple things.

-Brilliant writing

-Great concept

Ideally, they want both, but if a submission shines in one or the other, it's probably enough.

Now, I'm going to make a perhaps harsh assessment. I'm going to say that nearly everyone reading this is relatively new to this field (and by new, I mean that we haven't been steadily working on our craft for ten years+.) Now because of this, I'm going to assume that none of us have reached a "brilliant" level of writing skill yet. I know I haven't.

So what's left? Concept.

"But hard work," you are saying. "With hard work you can get both!" Well, of course. Remember, I stated very clearly at the beginning of this post that work is vital. But, who says I'm not working hard? I'm here to tell you I am. I work late into the night most days. When I can't be at the computer I'm constantly thinking about, making notes about my stories in my Moleskine. I'm working. HARD.

Guess what? There are THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of aspiring writers out there who are working their butts off as well.

So what sets a story apart? Concept.

Somehow, I just can't find a reasonable way to dismiss this argument. To me, a great concept, the kind that make people say, "Oh!" is the thing that can push us over the edge. A great concept is what gives your story that X Factor.

That's really the key. That X Factor. A story can be good. Very good, even. And you can work until your fingers bleed to make it great. But like I said, there are THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of writers out there, all doing the same thing. Without a great concept, you might just be spinning your wheels.

So, my concluding question is this. Is there something sacred about a completed novel? Does writing the words "The End" commit you to seeing the editing/revision process all the way through? All the way to the acceptable 100 query rejections? Or should we look at each novel as a learning experience? Should we take what we need to take from it, and wait until we really have something great to put our all into?

I don't know the answer to these questions. I really don't. This is just what has been spinning around in my mind lately. I truly would love to hear what you think.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Photoshop Friday

Ideas, in their Many Forms

As writers, we are constantly on the lookout for new ideas. And, if the Muses are kind, they come to us eventually. I've been thinking lately about the different ways that these idea arrive. Here are a few I've met.

The Go Nowhere
I begin with, arguably, the most common type of idea. Maybe it was a dream that was particularly memorable, (like my dream about the boy who had a telepathic connection with a shark. True story.) These ideas may excite us for a while, but eventually, we all know where they lead us.


The Scary One
And by scary, I don't mean the substance of the idea, I mean the way it comes. It's powerful, we can see that. It's also wild. We have to approach it oh so carefully. We can't meet it in the eye. We can't let it see our fear. If we run up to this idea too quickly, it will attack. So we wait. We let it earn our trust. And maybe, in time, it will take us to it's den.


The Sweep You Off your Feet Idea
What writer doesn't love these kind of ideas? Oh baby. These are the ones that appear in a beam of white light, stunning us with their glory. Note the strong arms, this idea has the stuff to make it. Note the confident grip. Don't be afraid, he says, I will carry us all the way to "The End." Note the white stallion. He will hoist us up into his arms and we will ride blissfully into Publication Castle.



The Tricky Little Bugger

Some ideas come, and we know they are good, but they just keep going berserk on us. They slip and slide, here and there. One minute they try to run away, but then they are climbing up our legs. It's annoyingly tricky to get these ones clean and ready for drafting.


The Slow and Steadys
When it all comes down to it, sometimes an idea just takes work. These kinds of ideas may not blow us away with their brilliance, but we can see the potential. We know that with time, and some steady work, they will be good, even great. These are the least glamorous, but perhaps the most trustworthy.


As I did with my Writer's Field Guide, I open the comments section to all you. What kinds of ideas did I miss? Share with us, and maybe I'll make an Ideas Part 2.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tomorrow, I swear.

Today has been a very busy day. I've been running all over town, getting things ready for one very special moment. And what moment was that? Well, I finally submitted my short story to the Writers of the Future Contest!

Let me tell you, it was a very satisfying moment to put my baby into that big manila envelope and get it all stamped. As I left the post office, I glanced back and saw it sitting in the pile with other to be mailed items. I was grinning from ear to ear. Not because I think I stand much of a chance at winning, but because I'm finally doing it again, you know? I'm back in the game.

It's been SO long since I've made any real attempts to do anything. I stopped querying in January. So, it's great to be back in play. As for the contest, I understand it will take three months to hear back, so here's to waiting! :)

Speaking of waiting, I will post my Photoshop Friday tomorrow.

And that's a Renee Collins guarantee. You can take it to the bank and cash it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Just like Old Times

I realize I never post on my blog after midnight anymore. Isn't that why I named it Midnight Meditations? What's up with that? Well, tonight I give you a post in true form. It's 1:08 here. Wee!

A few random thoughts:

1. So, you know how I had this short story that I was "ready" to send off? Well I was waiting on a crit from a published author I have become acquainted with. As of yesterday morning, I thought the story was golden. It has been through five readers and five different rounds of hard edits. I was ready to just send it out.

So glad I didn't. The last crit came tonight. It was encouraging, but she said (in a nutshell) "You can still trim this down quite a bit."

Well, at first I scoffed. Oh brother. I've already shaved over 4000 words off this baby. And that's a lot for a short story (novelette really, but details, details.) I felt like it was generic advice and I was ready to brush it aside.

Again, SO glad I didn't. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to go back into my story and prove that I was right, that the story was in ship shape.

Wrong. I took over 800 words out. I was shocked. And excited. I plan to go through it one more time and just keep slicing.

2. I promised you a little more about my shiny, twinkly new story idea. I want to, but it's too late tonight to go into details. I'll say this. It's Sci Fi. Not YA. Dystopian, kind of . . . Dark. Possibly tragic. And, I envisioned my MC, clear as crystal, from the beginning. She looks almost exactly like this:

(an actress named Sienna Guillory, if you wanted to know.)

More details to come soon!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Open for Business



My isolation is over. Internet is up and running at my house, and I am ready to jump right back into this crazy blogging world. I've missed you. :)

To sum up the past two weeks, I've compiled a handy list of my accomplishments. Enjoy.

1. Read The Hunger Games (AWESOME,) The Other Side of the Island (okay,) and gotten halfway through City of Bones (cool so far.) Oh, and I've just picked up Paper Towns for the old nightstand. (Yes Kiersten, I am finally reading some John Green.)

2. Completed all four levels of Galactic Conquest on the XBOX game Star Wars Battlefield. Oh, and I played as the Empire. Watch your back, Wookies.

3.Unpacked 83% of my boxes. The other 17% are piled in the garage, glaring at me.

4.Realized that I don't miss T.V much.

5. Finished edits on my short story. Writers of the Future, here I come!

6. Started a new novel. Folks, this one came crashing out of nowhere and grabbed me by the collar. I'm excited. Very excited. Expect a post on this soon.

So that, in a nutshell, has been the last two weeks for me. I'm glad to be finally settling into a normal rhythm. I think you can all plan on seeing me around more often. Oh, and Photoshop Friday starts again soon!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feet on the ground . . . almost.

Well folks, I've arrived in Colorado! Everything is great. I love our new house. I love our quaint, new neighborhood. I love our new state.

There are, however, at least a few problems with moving to said "quaint" town. Like how we have no internet yet. And won't until next Monday. Turns out this small town is well out of the way of the utility companies. So, we've been cruising with no phone, internet, or tv. I am currently writing this post from the one room town library computers.

You can imagine that I am going a little crazy. Just a tad. I have plenty to keep me busy, what with unpacking and getting my bearings on the new surroundings and all. However, I really can't feel like I've finally come home until I get my precious internet back.

So, my apologies for being absent from your blogs. I promise you, I can't wait to get back to them. And with any luck, by this coming Monday I will.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scheduled Maintenance


This is a test. This is only a test. Normal broadcasting will resume on July 29th.

Well folks, I am (you guessed it) moving again. I don't suppose I'll be around much for the next while. But don't worry, come the end of July, I'll be back. Come the end of July I'll actually have my life back. Words cannot express how I look forward to that.