Thursday, April 17, 2014

Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

So, I don't even know if I mentioned that I entered this contest again. This is the...wait, I need to count...1,2,3,4,5...6th time I've entered the ABNA contest. The first time I went to to the semi-finals. After the first year, they changed the way they did things drastically. The 2-4 time I got past the pitch phase. If you make it that far, you received reviews from the first round of reviewers, I think in the 2nd year it was Publisher's Weekly, but since, it's been Amazon Vine reviewers. The 5th year, I didn't make it anywhere.

I was trying to locate the reviews I received, but alas, could not, except for the scathing one I received in year 4. You see, although I was ousted in year 2, both my reviews were good. Year 3, the reviewers like my writing, but not the subject matter (school shooting, graphic violence, meh).

However, year 4...oy. I don't even remember my 2nd review (though I think it was pretty good) because this one blew my mind. If there was every a person that didn't "get" my writing, or the voice, it was this guy. And I only say guy because that's the vibe I got from the review. I will add that the reviewer though I was a teenager,
which I take as a compliment to the voice of my character being spot on, although he didn't get that.  But this is also a sad statement because if I had been a teenager, this person probably would have made me quit writing forever. The following is not constructive criticism. It is an attack and would do no writer any good. I will also add that by the time I entered this contest, I already had my book contract for Never Eighteen.

 Here are a few of my favorite lines from that review.

"Unfortunately you have failed to pay attention in the one class required to be able to write well - English."

Um, really? I think Houghton Mifflin Harcourt would disagree.

"It's a shame that you didn't write anything that hasn't been written hundreds of times already this year."

Yes, because in 2010 I'd seen tons of book out there about girls who wanted to play high school football to gain the attention of their estranged father. O.o

"If this was a school paper, I'd have to give it an 'F'."

Well thank god it wasn't!

"It is way too easy today for people to get published and sincerely hope you do not see that as an option. Frankly this is no where good enough to be called a "book" and you to be called an "author.""

First of all, really? It's too easy to get published today? What alternate reality are you living in? And um, you think I'm like 16 and you're going to say something like that to me. Yeah, way to dash the hopes and dreams of tomorrow's future. I'll think I'll go shave my head, put on some black clothing, read some Plath and cut into my thighs. Sheesh.

In a word, this guy(woman, whatever) was a douche. I've learned to handle bad
reviews and criticism, but I was like, bewildered. *Blink Blink* Did I really just read that?

So anyway, I digress. The point of writing this blog was to tell you that I have made it to the quarter finals of the ABNA contest for the first time since the first year I entered and with the same book I entered that received this scathing review.  Girl in Motion - football book. So, there you have it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm old(er)

Today I turn 45. Every year I make myself promises to myself about how I'm going to be when my next birthday rolls around. While most of those promises are abandoned throughout the year, and I may be thicker around the waist (and let's face wider in other places and sagging in places I wasn't before) and have more wrinkles and gray hairs, in other ways I've improved.
  • I'm stronger, physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • I'm more resilient - I bounce back much more easily than I used to.
  • I've learned that it's okay to say "no."
  • I do not let people take advantage of me. 
  • I take "me" time.
  • I ask for help.
  • When I'm in a rut, I switch gears
  • When I feel overwhelmed, I slow down instead of break down.
In the last five years I have become a different person, I think for the better.  For a time, I was a shell of a former me, and I finally broke out of that shell and became a new and improved me, more like my younger self, the self I lost along the way somewhere. 

If I were to give someone words of wisdom from an aging woman it would be this: 
  • Never compromise who you are for anyone. 
  • Never put aside your dreams for the dreams of others, though if you need to, work on them side by side, hand in hand. 
  • Never let yourself be manipulated into something you don't want to do, you could find yourself there for a very long time with no way out. 
  • Always surround yourself with people who will be a positive force in your life, who will support you when you need them - those people you know would move the earth for you. 
  • In turn, be that person for them.
  • Be good to your children and your parents, always (unless there is a VERY good reason not to, I think you know what I mean).
Happy Friday everyone. Hug your mother and have a drink for me today. Saluté!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Road rage and other horror stories

Yes, I was the victim of road rage yesterday. I was driving home from the *gasp* mall. God, I loathe the mall. Anyway, I was on the highway and it was pretty well packed as it was rush hour I have 5 million cars in front of me and a white van behind me following very close. The cars in front of me brake, so of course I break because, duh, I'm not an idiot, forcing the guy behind me to slam his brakes on because, as I said, he's following very close.

Apparently he did not like this. Oh no. He continues to follow behind me.  As soon as the HOV lane opens up to my left, that's High Occupancy Vehicle for those who are acronymically challenged, he speeds over, though I notice he does not have a passenger, tsk, tsk, and as soon as he passes me, gets back in front of me and slams on his brakes.

Wow, mature much.

I flip him off.

Wow, mature much.

He then moves into the right lane allowing me to pass then gets behind me. Then when I get into the right lane, because eventually I have to exit, he gets behind me. So now the King of Douchebagastan is following me.

You see, I'm not an idiot 1 of 5 things could happen here.

  1. He could actually continue to follow me, so of course I'm not going home, I'm going to the police station which is approximately .5 miles from my house.
  2. He could rear end me, which would be really stupid as I'm the daughter of one of the best personal injury attorneys in the state and I also work for him. He would unwittingly be totally screwed.
  3. He could shoot me dead. Then I would be totally screwed, but he probably would too because the intersection I'm stopping at is a busy one and he'd get caught.
  4.  He could do serious harm to me, but let me live. See # 3.
  5. He could take his empty threats and kiss my ass because he's nothing more than a bully being a douchebag.
He chose 5. When I got to my exit, I got into the exit lane and he followed behind me. As soon as the exit lane separated from the rest of the highway, he jerked his van back onto the highway. Ooooh, scary man in a work van.

I am sorry that guy was having such a bad day that he felt the need to tailgate me in the first place, then be a complete ass when I had to put my brakes on. I mean, his day must have been from hell. Either that, or he's just a douche. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope it's the former.

I recently read a quote I like.

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be nice.

I'm going to try to remember than when I meet up with people like my road rage guy.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My writing process blog tour!

I’ve been invited to participate in a blog tour about the writing process, started by Maya Rock.  Maya used to be a literary agent at Writer's House. I know this because I queried her a couple times because she seemed totally cool and like someone I'd like to work with, but we all now how the query process is and, well, that didn't pan out. Now she's an editor and writer and the one who started this blog hop. Go check out her website. Her first YA novel comes out next year. Yay Maya!!

So this blog hop is an ongoing opportunity to get to know something about how writers see their processes (um, processes? are there such things as processes?) It's kind of like playing tag. Today I'm it. I was chosen by Facebook friend and fellow YA author, Stephanie Feuer (see how her name is a link? click on that and go check her out). You will see who I've tagged and will be posting a week from today at the end of this post.

Let's get started shall we. I'm supposed to answer four questions. Let's see...where did those damn questions get too...(pushes side sticky notes, grabs legal pads with scribbles on them) oh yes. Here we go...

1. What am I working on?

 Oh I just this very second tweeted about this. Would you like to read my tweet?
When you tell your kids the plot of the MS you're writing & they say, "What's wrong with you?" & "You're sick"
 Yes. Contemporary YA. For some reason I'm drawn to it. The plot is this: A teenage boy, who is quite the douchebag (womanizer, homophobe, racist, treats his mother, his girlfriend, pretty much everyone like shit), finds tornado debris in his front yard. His mom makes him help clean it up much to his dismay. Among the debris is a notebook, a journal if you will. He begins to read it and finds the words of a troubled teenage girl. A girl whose mom is an alcoholic, whose stepfather is abusive, who is bullied at school, basically whose life is a miserable mess.

Because he's such a douche, he thinks it's funny at first. But the more he reads into this girl's life, the more he starts to feel for her. He also starts to see parallels into his own life and his own faults are coming to the surface. When it comes down to the end of the journal, and the girl wanting nothing more than to die, he sets out to find her and stop her before that happens, to show her that at least there is one person out there that cares about her. But will he be too late? It's currently titled, A Tattered Life, but I'm not sold on the title.  

You can read an excerpt here.

I'm also working on revising a novel I want to put out this fall titled Girl in Motion. So there's that to contend with. Also still trying to market Dissected. Not too good at the multi-tasking stuffs. Oy. Working on it though.

That seemed like a really long drawn out answer.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Tough one.  I think I take risks other authors aren't willing to take. I write about hard things other authors won't write about and some people, yeah, they won't publish it. I write about the ugly truths, the not-so-happily-ever-afters.  The fact is that the good people don't always survive, and the boy doesn't always get the girl in the end, and some people don't always want to read about how perfect life is because it's not.

Sometimes life is hard and dark and painful. Sometimes we need THOSE characters to relate to. Sometimes we need to read about people who hurt like us and feel like us and not just the people who lead exciting existences and get what they want and you know in the end everything is going to be all right.

And I may not always end on the happily-ever-after, but I do end on the everthing-will-be-okay. I always end on a ray of hope. I don't write beautiful stories, but I think I write stories that need to be told. I don't know who said it, but there's a quote that really resonates with me, and I write it in my book, Dissected when I sign it.

"But without the dark, we'd never see the stars."
3. Why do I write what I do?

I think I sort of answered this above. The hard stories, the dark stories, for some reason I am just drawn to them. I think they're important and need to be written and that I'm one of the writers that needs to write them. 

I suppose it's because of my experiences too. I've seen a lot and suffered through some and that makes it easier to write this contemporary fiction that is so emotionally raw like an exposed nerve. It also makes it easier to put myself in my characters shoes and bring out their most inner feelings, fears and dreams.

I do want to write other things. I have different stories in different genres started, but I keep getting drawn back here to this place. Too many stories, too little time...

4. How does your writing process work?

And here is the hardest question to answer. I'm not sure what I do is a "process" per se. 

As far as the when and where...time seems to be fleeting these days. I write whenever I can. I have a day job, so I try to write in the afternoon. If I get up early enough, I write before work. I sit at my kitchen table in front of my sliding glass door, it's the place in my house where the most sunlight comes in. 

I also write in many notebooks whenever I'm out and about. I have notebooks scattered all over. At times I gather them all up in a central location and find where I've written everything. I counted the last time I did it, there are about 20 notebooks around my house, car and in various bags laying around.

As far as the how, I sit down, I write. That's what I do. While I'm writing, I research. Probably to a fault. I think I get a little overzealous when it comes to authenticity.

Anyway, so I write and I research and I get a 1st draft down and it's crap and way too short (when I write the first draft is always way too short and always way too crappy)

So I do a next draft and flesh it out. I add details about people, places, make the prose prettier. Sometimes I have to add characters, pets. I usually find after a first draft that everyone is an only child, has one dead parent, and no one has pets.

I do a next draft, get Beta readers to give me feedback, give it to a couple editors, do another  _________rewrites (changes with every novel). Then I worry about how horrible it is for the rest of its days, no matter its future, published or sucked into the abyss of a word file for the rest of its existence.

So, for next week, here are the next three contestants...
Hart Johnson, Angel Young, and S.D. Skye. They will be posting on April 14.

First up, Hart Johnson...

Hart Johnson writes books from her bathtub. A social scientist by day, Hart spends her evenings plotting grand conspiracies and murdering people on paper. She is author via pen name (Alyse Carlson) of the Garden Society Mysteries and is serially publishing an apocalyptic flu conspiracy tale called A Shot in the Light.

 For her post next week, visit her blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart 

You can buy her books here. (they didn't tell us to do that, but I'm awesome like that)

Next, Angel Young...

Angel Young is a bit eccentric by nature. She's a writer, photographer, artist, dreamer, and all around weirdo. She cut teeth on vampire movies and carried around a beloved Wolfman doll as a child (appropriately named 'Wolfy'), pretended she was the Caped Crusader, and waited for her letter to Hogwarts. Not much has changed. She's a 23 year old girl battling an autoimmune disease, Sjogrens, with a lot of dreams, adventures, and a firm belief in nurturing her inner child. While her creative outlets are always being added to, writing will always be her favorite passion. To sum it up: A Batman-addicted weirdo covered in tattoos, almost always in Converse, running around in her own La-La Land.

Visit Angel's blog, Misadventures of a Misfit on Monday. (see what I did there?)

S.D. Skye, author of the J.J. McCall series, is an award-winning author and former FBI counterintelligence analyst. She's a native Washingtonian (D.C.) and professed nerd-girl who loves all things Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Big Bang Theory. She's a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, the Maryland Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime and lives to write novels, especially those involving 3-letter agencies and Beltway intrigue. She's hard at work on the next installment of the series. 

You'll find Ms. Skye's blog, here

Until next time...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

The Summer of Letting GoThe Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Francesca “Beans” Schnell’s world has been falling apart ever since her little brother drowned. Her father seems to be hiding something, her mother can’t look her in the eye, her best friend is dating the boy of her dreams and worst of all, she hates herself as she feels she’s to blame for her brother’s death.

While trailing her father trying to get to the bottom of his odd behavior, Francesca happens to meet Frankie Sky, a boy who bears an eerie resemblance to her dead brother. But it’s more than that, there are also inexplicable coincidences that lead Beans to believe her brother’s soul might be living in Frankie Sky.

Gae Polisner’s prose is like poetry. It reads as if every word of every sentence is handpicked with precision creating a perfect flow like ocean waves. This book was so evocative, I smiled, I cheered, I cried. Francesca’s story is haunting, yet hopeful and every time a new twist of fate occurred, my heart stopped, waiting to see what it might mean. I loved learning about Saint Florian, Christmas Island crabs, and sand dollars. I loved seeing how throughout the book Francesca grew stronger and further away from that place in her past, and closer to letting go.

I fell in love with the characters in this book. So many readers will be able to relate to those characters with that air of sadness about them — when you feel so heavy inside, like you’re drowning, but have to continue to move and stay afloat on the outside — the Schnell’s, Mrs. Schyler, Mrs. Merrill. Lisette is a perfect best friend, and lovely, and I love that she doesn’t act like she’s beautiful even though she clearly is. I adore Bradley's, quirkiness and even Peter’s peculiarity.

Then there is Frankie Sky. Gae has written him so well…I picture him in my head perfectly. His voice is adorable and I’m sure will stick with me for a long time. I wonder if Gae spent a lot of time around 4 year olds while writing this because it seems so spot on. And I love his spirit, the spirit of a young boy, full of energy and adventure who believes himself invincible.

I read Gae’s first book, The Pull of Gravity, and her writing is even better than before (and it was beautiful before) — This storey even more beautiful and heartfelt. If this is what we should expect from Ms. Polisner in the future, I'm in.

This book will resonate with me for weeks, I can tell. It will make me take a closer look at the world, at chance occurrences, coincidences and karma. I try not to live in the past and to live life profoundly and passionately like Frankie Sky, but sometimes I still need reminders, as I’m sure we all do, and this book as given me one.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book. You won’t regret it.

View all my reviews