Friday, May 29, 2009

Revised 1st Chapter of Mending Fences


Okay this is only the first revision, I'm going to do another run through. Please tell me what you think.
Chapter One
Preparation

There’s so much I want to do this weekend. I sure hope Kaylee can help me out. I can’t tell her what I’m doing though. She would try to stop me, I’m sure of it. Man, I hope she doesn’t have to work. Crap, I should have checked. Without her Mustang, I may not be able to do this, and I want to, I need to. Otherwise, things may just continue as they always have, stagnant, painful, still. A flash, a flicker of life, that’s all I’m hoping for. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
I sit at my desk, pull a piece of paper out of the drawer, and begin to write. I write down the names of all the people I would like to see over the weekend, Jake’s mom, Juliana, Allie. I keep writing until the list is complete. Next, I jot down a few things I’ve never done that I’d like to try. It’s only a couple, and to some, I’m sure it would seem silly, but they’re important to me. If all goes as planned, we’ll be going to two places, one place I’ve never been, but always wanted to go, and one that holds a lot of memories for me. I want Kaylee to be there for both of them.
There are a couple of stupid things I’d like to do too, so, I write them down as well. Folding the list, I rise from my desk, and shove it into the pocket of my jacket, which hangs on my closet door. I look in the mirror; I’ve changed so much in the last year, physically, emotionally, mentally. I may be smaller in the flesh, but believe I have grown in the heart and in the mind.
I’ve come to a realization these last few months, the realization that life doesn’t wait. If we stand still it will pass us by, and by the time we understand that, it may be too late. The people I see this weekend, I hope they’ll open their own hearts and minds to what I’m trying to do, breathe it in, take hold of it and not let go. I hope they at least listen, if they don’t, that would kill me.
I grab a shoebox that’s been sitting in my closet. It held the new pair of green Converse high tops my mother bought me before the school year started. Those shoes are cool; I’m surprised my mom has such good taste, especially when she hasn’t worn anything other than Birkenstocks on her feet for at least five years. I wear the Converse every day. I want to get my use out of them before things run their course. I take off the lid off the shoebox and place it on my bed. I pack the box with books, CD’s, pictures, my poetry notebook, items that mean a lot to me. I won’t have everything I need to put in it until Sunday night, though. On Monday, I will take it to Kaylee’s for safekeeping.
It’s late, and I have a full day, maybe a full weekend ahead of me. I put the lid back on the shoebox, and place the box on the top shelf of my closet. Out of sight. There’s no need for my mom to find it. I know she wouldn’t understand.
I slide into my flannels, shut off the light, and climb into bed. Although my body is tired, my mind continues to work, to churn, anxious, nervous, plotting out dialogue, planning the weekend. Sleep comes with difficulty, but in the end, it comes nonetheless.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Winner!!

Congratulations to James King for winning the ABNA contest for this year. His book, Bill Warrington's Last Chance will be published by Penguin.

Here is my review of his excerpt.


video

To read it yourself, visit www.amazon.com/abna

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seclusion

I have to go into seclusion for the weekend to get this manuscript at its best.

New voice, hacking, cutting, omitting, adding. Hopefully by Monday, it will be a whole new novel.

I hope everyone has a safe and sane (okay maybe not that last part) Memorial Day weekend.

And don't forget to think about all those who lost their lives defending our freedom.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Life of a Soccer Mom

Soccer season is already upon us and it's time once again for me to take on the role of "Soccer Mom". Some of you are thinking this is not a great undertaking, aren't you? Well, that could not be further from the truth. Tonight, life as I know it is going to change for the next nine months.

This started last Saturday, when my girls decided to try out for select teams. One U12, one U14. Unfortunately, my younger daughter rolled her ankle an hour and a half into the tryout, and had to leave early. The older one excelled, putting everything she's got into her passing, running, proving her enduring, speed, and skill.

Being a two day tryout, we thought maybe daughter #2 (Rachel) still had a chance, so we taped her ankle and sent her back out. Unfortunately, it was obvious to us, as well as the coaches I'm sure, that she was favoring the unhurt leg, so most of her shooting and passing was done with her left foot (which she is pretty good at), and her speed wasn't up to par. Daughter #1 excelled once again with her speed and accuracy.

And then we wait. The U12 team was posted that night, and as we thought, Rachel was not on the list, though one of her friends, and former team mate was.

We had to wait until Monday night to hear back from the U14 team. I got the call on my cell phone, that Mary was in.

Next, dealing with disappointment and jealousy. I think she's okay, she still has a team that her dad coaches, which is another story all itself.

So, we've never played select, but costs and commitment are much more than rec. Uniforms, warm ups, ball bags, tournaments, travel. Two nights a week for practices, come September, Saturdays are gone for games, in which we travel up to about 40 miles for, with a few weekends in between for tourneys in WA and OR. And that's just for the one team.

Once Rachel's team starts, it's four nights a week and all day Saturdays. We'll have to split time with Rusty coaching Rachel, which scares the hell out of me, because I hate driving long distances, thank God for Garmin.

But that's not all. I am the team manager for Rusty's team, Thunder. It starts with e-mails, then on to paperwork, forms, money, planning fund raisers, talking to the park district, updating the website, making snack schedule, keeping stats, planning the party, ordering trophies, and socks, planning camps, sending reminder e-mails about games and snack and party. Plus, I've tie dyes socks and uniforms for the last three years (yes I'm crazy) It's a full time job.

And don't even get me started about my car. Aside from having to fill it with gas every other day, it's also stuffed to the gills with balls, cones, pennies, first aid kits, water, cleats, etc. etc.

Just talking about it is making me tired. It's just the beginning right now. If you don't see me until next January, you know where I'll be. On the pitch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Bucket List

Yes, it's cliche by now, but those living social things on Facebook made me think about things I want to do/accomplish in my lifetime.



Number one is, of course, to get published. I think my current book, Mending Fences, has a shot. However, it needs a rewrite, which I will probably start on soon. sigh.



Number two, I have always wanted to dye my hair black, and think I will after next pay day. Trying to convince my husband it's just for fun and not to hide the gray has been a difficult task, but seriously, it's true. I've been wanting to do this since my late teens. I'm going to do it.



I would love to go back to Rome. I love Rome, everything about it. The history, the people, the food. I love that I can go to Rome and eat anything I want and not gain any weight because I walk everywhere. I love the fact that there is still a cheese shop that is seperate from the produce shop, seperate from the butcher.



I've always wanted to see Australia.



Meeting the friends I've made in ABNA. I mean for realsies, in the flesh. It's so hard to have these friends, some of the best friends I've ever had, and not be able to have coffee or lunch with them.

To excercise daily and get into the best shape of my life.

Most importantly, to leave my mark, be it as a writer, mother, friend. I want to be remembered, at least for awhile, as someone who made a difference, no matter how small that difference may be.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An excerpt from my novel Mending Fences.

There we stand, looking toward the sky, up to the grand tower above us. “You sure you want to do this?” Kaylee asks concerned.
“Uh, yeah, I think, I mean, yes, definitely,” I say looking up at the most frightening thing at the Puyallup Fair, The Extreme Scream, the ultimate experience in speed and height, the latter of which I’m terrified.
The line is long. It always is. This ride alone costs ten dollars, a small price to pay to face your greatest fear, get past it, move forward. Twenty stories high, thrusting at three g’s on the way up, negative one on the way down, this ride has haunted me for years. Friends have stood in this very line every year, teasing me, begging me to ride with them, me, always too scared to join them, not this year, not anymore.
Kaylee grabs my shaking hand and lays her head on my arm in comfort. My heart races, a result of both the anticipation of the ride, and Kaylee’s warmth beside me. She smells like cherry, not the real fruit cherry smell, but that processed cherry scent you find in shampoo, and lip balm, and Lifesavers. I’d like to kiss her lips right now and see if they taste like cherry too, but I’m so nervous already, the thought makes me want to throw up.
The line moves painstakingly slow, mocking me, challenging me, tempting me to give up, to leave. I refuse. I watch as the riders before me shoot up into the air, hair flying, screaming, and know I will be screaming like a girl as well when it’s my turn.
We finally arrive at the front of the line. I set my camera to video and ask a nice looking motherly type if she will film our ascent for me. She agrees. Kaylee and I then remove our shoes and put them in the proper receptacle, find two empty seats next to each other, and strap ourselves in. Kaylee grabs my hand again, encouraging me that I won’t die, right here, on the Extreme Scream. The ride attendants come by and check everyone’s harnesses, belts, and buckles to make sure they are secure. Like that’s going to help if my seat flies up and off the tracks, shoots into the air, out over the ride, and then plummets down onto the pavement beneath, killing me instantly. I try to push the thought out of my mind.
The countdown begins, Kaylee lets go of my hand and grabs on to her harness, I follow suit. I close my eyes, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in. We shoot up the tower at what feels like breakneck speed. I feel like a rag doll, dangling, with no control of my limbs. I’m screaming, flailing, I pray to God I don’t pee my pants. The ride stops as suddenly as it started, at the top of the tower. I open my eyes, take in the view of the fairgrounds below me, trying desperately not to have a panic attack. We’re jolted back down, my stomach drops, mouth goes dry. Up and down again, up and down, slowing with each phase, until we finally hit the ground. I’m finally able to breathe out again.
When my feet hit the ground I nearly collapse, Kaylee, and one of the attendants grab me, hold me up.
“You okay, man?” the attendant asks. He looks just like a fair attendant should, big, bald, missing some teeth. I’m sure if he were to bend over, he would expose some butt crack as well. He reeks of cigarettes and whiskey. A disconcerting thought for someone who has just put their life in his hands. The stench makes me nauseous. I run to a nearby garbage can and vomit, a horrible waste of cookies.
Kaylee looks at me and can’t help but laugh at my expense. I wipe my mouth and laugh with her.
“Is it everything you thought it would be?” she asks.
“And more,” I answer. “Let’s get lunch,” I offer.
“Lunch?” she chuckles, “You sure?”
“Yeah, I’m starved; I just lost my breakfast and cookies all in one shot.” She laughs again. I love making her laugh. Her dimples emerge, cheeks redden, eyes twinkle. Just a second of her laughter can get me through my darkest day. I grab my camera and we head toward the food court.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A bit of writing

Chapter One of an untitled dystopian novel set in the near future. Completely unedited as of yet, so keep that in mind. Just throwing it out there. You can tell me what you think if you want. I would call it rated PG-13 at the least. :)

Chapter One
“Come here girls, I’ll show you how to butcher a chicken,” the man said. A year ago, my children would have run away screaming at the thought. Now, it seems like a perfectly normal skill to learn.
“First thing is to cut the head off,” he says, using an ax and a tree stump to help in his task.
“Ew,” Lily, the younger of my two says at the sight of blood spurting from the neck and the chicken’s head falling to the ground. The man laughs at her revulsion.
He takes the chicken and hangs it by the feet on a fence post. “Next you want to cut the skin away. He proceeds to show the girls this new talent while they pretend to be eager to learn, in actuality hoping they will never have to perform this repulsive task.
I have known the man for approximately three months now, though I have yet to learn his name. He came to our rescue when The Scavengers came for my daughters. I couldn’t tell you what city we were in, but I know we had been there awhile, enjoying the new home we had come across with a well-stocked cupboard and swimming pool. It was always nice to find a house with a water source, be it a pool, a pond, or even a creek, water across the lands shut off for close to six months now.
Usually you hear them coming. They travel in packs of threes, honking horns, peeling out, screaming, raising a ruckus. They must have learned that stealth rather than intimidation makes for easier prey. We were sleeping, together, as we always do. I awoke to a filthy, hand smelling of a combination of nicotine, gasoline, and Vaseline covering my mouth. The girls screamed. The other two grabbed them and started hauling them off. I don’t know what they do to their prisoners, enslave them, rape them, eat them, but I was not going to let them take my girls without a fight.
I clamped down hard with my teeth; my assailant let out a howl and released his grip. I punched him in the balls, as he doubled over I used the palm of my hand to shove his nose into his brain as my husband had taught me ages ago. He collapsed, I don’t know if out of pain or death, but I was not going to stick around to find out. I grabbed my gun from the nightstand drawer, and ran outside.
The other two were almost to their vehicle with my girls, who continued to scream and struggle for liberation. I aimed my gun, but did not have a clear shot. One of them pulled out his own gun. I don’t know what kind, because I really know very little about firearms, having to teach myself to shoot. I just knew his was bigger than mine, and pointed at my head. I closed my eyes, awaiting the blast, praying to a God that I didn’t really believe in anymore, to let them kill my kids quickly. I refused to think of the alternative.
I heard the discharge and waited. I felt nothing. Perhaps there is a God after all. Another discharge. I opened my eyes. My children were running toward me, the two remaining Scavengers on the ground, tops of their heads missing, brains scattered everywhere. I scanned the area trying to locate our savior. He was climbing into a vehicle, a Hummer to be exact, about a block away. He pulled up right behind the Scavenger’s Jeep and began searching its contents, pulling out the things he found useful, loading them into the back of his car.
Wanting to express my thanks, I moved toward him, slowly. Although he saved us, I was still leery of his intentions. These days you can’t be too careful. I took a good look at him. He wore a plain green t-shirt, khaki cargo shorts, wool socks and hiking boots. He had a crazed countenance about him, hair a wild tangled mess, unshaven, dirty. He didn’t stop what he was doing. I practically had to run to keep up as I spoke. “I just wanted to thank you for that. I don’t know what would have happened to us had you not come along.”
He stopped, looked me in the eye. His eyes contradict his appearance. They’re soft, soulful, knowing, yet there are layers of pain and rage that lurk just beyond their deep blue beauty. They give away his age. At first glance I would have thought him ten to fifteen years older than myself, now I would say around the same age, if not a little younger.
He spoke, his voice firm yet understanding. “They would have raped and killed you, and because of the age and sex of your children, they would have used them as breeders.” I shuddered; he continued unpacking the Scavenger’s car, packing his own. I watched.
“Why wouldn’t they have taken me?”
He looked me up and down, and said, “You’re pushing too old to be a breeder, they only take men and boys to work, and you’re much too skinny and muscley to eat.”
“Why would they not want me for their queen,” I said smirking.
“Their queen!” he exclaimed, and then upon realizing I was joking gave a hearty laugh, causing his face to crack, making it seem like he hadn’t laughed in ages. There isn’t much to laugh at anymore.
He finished loading his car, hopped into the driver’s seat, started it up, and rolled the window down. “Bye,” he said, “Thanks for the laugh.”
“Wait, you’re just going to leave? You’re the first person aside from the Scavengers that we’ve seen in months. Let us come with you.”
“No,” he said simply.
I grabbed onto the side of his car and began to cry. “Please,” I said. I did my best, but my girls needed more protection than I could offer. And although I loved them dearly, I craved some adult companionship, someone to talk to about books, music, old movies, or how things were before the world ended. I wanted to hear his story, where he came from, where he’s going, who he’s run into, who he’s lost along the way.
“I’d take you, but the children are too much of a liability. The Scavengers would keep coming.”
“They’re strong; they’ve been through a lot. They know how to shoot a gun. Their dad taught them to fish, if you don’t mind baiting the hooks, they’re still a little squeamish of worms. My older daughter, Sarah, she tells great stories, very entertaining. And Lily, the younger one, she loves to sing, and has the voice of an angel. I’ll cook and clean for you. I’m strong too. I can gather and split wood, and garden, I’m a great gardener.”
He eyed me long and hard, up and down. I’m sure he was pondering what else I would be good for. It gets lonely out here. I can’t say the idea didn’t cross my mind either.
“Fine,” he said, shutting off the Hummer. “Let’s go get you packed.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dedication To My Mother


My mother is one of the most beautiful people in the world. Everyone says that, right? Yeah, but I'm serious. She's beat adversity and come a long way to become the person she is.


She was born in Oklahoma, the daughter of an unwed teenager, and though her mother told her who her father was, she was never sure, nor did she ever have a relationship with the man.


She grew up in an abusive household, mostly raising her three younger brothers. Four kids, three different fathers.


She married young, more than likely to escape, and ended up having to escape that as well, which I thank her for. For if she hadn't, she would not have met my dad. I do thank her though for the daughter she brought from that marriage, who I have never thought of as a half sister.


After divorcing, she still watched out for her brothers, raised her daughter, and worked hard to survive.


She met my father waiting tables at the New Yorker.


There are so many things about my mother that I love. I always loved her warm hugs. She was and still is a great consoler whenever I am physically or emotionally hurt. She has such a generous heart, she gives until there is nothing left, to whoever needs it. She is a great philanthropist, having always donated her time and money to charity.


So Happy Mother's Day Mom I hope that I have turned out to be half the mom you have proven to be.


To all the moms out there, have a joyous weekend, you deserve it. Motherhood, although one of the most rewarding, is of course, one of the most difficult jobs out there.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Defined by Writing

I'm getting a lot of fuel from some other blogs out there. Agent Nathan Bransford wrote a blog about how writers should not let themselves be defined by their writing.

Read it here

My friend Mary Walters comments

on her blog the Militant Writer

I want to share how important writing is to me.

I have been writing my whole life, poems, songs, short stories, mostly just for me. Even did a couple articles for the college paper and yearbook at my sister's urging. Never wrote a novel until I was thirty-three, in 2002.

From 1999 to 2002 I ran an in-home daycare. It was a lucrative business. I never had to advertise, all my business came from word of mouth. Living in a nice area, I had great families, and was able to charge fees that allowed me to earn a decent wage, and hire employees to improve my business.

Late in 2001 my mother-in-law was diagnosed with late stage cancer. My husband and I, not wanting her to go into a nursing home, closed the daycare and cared for her in our home with the help of hospice. This was March 2002. It was a full time job as not only did she need nurting and medication, but she also did not have the use of her tongue after her last stroke, so I was also in charge of tube feedings, along with Rusty's sister. I also stayed and talked with her (I talked, she wrote) and sang to her (her favorite was Eight Days a Week). She died 2 1/2 weeks later.

After arrangements had been made and the funeral was held, everyone went back to work and school and I was left alone and grieving, with nothing but time on my hands. That's when I began writing, to bide my time, to help me forget. What started out as a couple pages turned into a few, then many. Driven by mother-in-law and inspired by my children my first novel Dena Powers: Superhero? was born.

Does my writing define me? Not back then. I think the words mold and develop would be more appropriate, for I was just beginning to become the person I am now.

Today I am a writer. Am I now defined by my writing? I would say yes. For me, writing has always been very personal. I put every ounce of energy and emotion into it, so much that it drains me. Much of what I write is based on personal experiences, funny, desperate, tragic, joyous. This makes it very intimate, I could almost equate it to a love affair.

I think this is why so many of us take rejection so hard. We feel we've created something beautiful out of love and passion, and to have someone tell us "it's not good enough" is heartbreaking to say the least.

So for me, as trite as it may sound, writing IS like oxygen. It's something I need to get through, to survive. It's like love and therapy all wrapped up together. So, yes, since my writing comes from that deep, personal part of my being, it is defined by who I am, and I am in turn defined by it as well.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Question of Community

A discussion about community came up in an online forum in which I participate. Is and online forum a community? What makes a community? I had given my two cents on that forum, but the sock puppets hit me, so I deleted and decided to broach the subject here.

The Webster definition is as follows:

1: a unified body of individuals: as a: state, commonwealth b: the people with common interests living in a particular area ; c: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location d: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society e: a group linked by a common policy f: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests g: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society

With regards to that online forum, or any for that matter, I don't think the word fits. The first word I question is "unified". With unification comes cohesion, a glue that bonds things together. And while the online forum I speak of is mostly a group of writers, I don't feel that commonality is enough to make us cohesive. And frankly, that word also for me, implies some kind of mutual fondness for each other, which, at least on the forum in which I speak, does not apply to some.

The next phrase I question is "common interests". While we all came together because of a writing contest, many of us do not share much of the same interests at all outside of that. Even within that "common interest" lies differences. Literary vs. genre fiction, writing style, first or third person, past or present tense.

The definition also talks about living together, in the same geographical area. As the people participating in this forum are from all over the world, that is also out the door.

So, what is a better word for this group of people from all over the world, with different personalities, beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, religions, and political views? Some of which are fun and kind, some of which are toxic.

Society doesn't fit, as again it speaks of common goals and good manners (which are seriously lacking sometimes).

A network doesn't really apply as it is socializing for professional or personal gain, and many of us are strictly there for the commeraderie and friendship.

You know what word I like?

Here is it from thesaurus.com

CLUSTER
Part of Speech:
noun
Definition:
group of something
Synonyms:
array, assemblage, band, batch, bevy, blob, body, bunch, bundle, chunk, clump, clutch, collection, covey, crew, gathering, hunk, knot, lot, pack, party, set

Isn't it beautiful? A group of something. We're something all right. Something funny, something caustic, something beautiful, something ugly, something talented, something awkward, something happy, something depressed, something discouraged, something that believes, something that hopes and dreams.

That is us. Cluster.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Writers vs. Agents: Weighing In

There has been a lot of talk lately about how agents are killing the publishing industry. The point being, that they reject us before even taking the time to read our work, therefore, keeping some great literature off the book shelves.

This is true, no doubt about it. But, there are two sides to this coin that need to be addressed. Ours, the writer's, certainly, but we need to take a step back and take a look at what these literary agents go through also.

My job as a writer:

1. Write the best book possible, than edit said book until it's the best I think it can be.
2. Write a query letter that will wow agents.
3. Write a synopsis for those agents that require them (personally my least favorite part of the process)
4. Tirelessly research agents to find the ones that will be interested in your novel. Luckily there are websites out there like agentquery.com to help with such tasks.
5. Begin sending out queries. And when we do this, we have to change our beautiful query letter a bit every time to personalize it for whichever agent you are querying. Where they can send us form rejections, we cannot send form queries. Bad form.
6. Track queries sent with excel, or another great source, querytracker.com (thanks Ian for that)
7. Wait
8. Wait
9. Wait

Okay, those last three may be an exaggeration, in some cases. Many of those agents that take e-mail queries will get back to you within a couple of days. Some of course do not. Frankly, I don't know why every agent hasn't moved into the technology age. It's much quicker (maybe this is the problem) and it is better for the environment. I always begin with e-mail queries, and if those don't pan out, move on to those agents that still only take snail mail.

Okay, now that we've sent our queries, we start receiving rejections or requests. If you receive requests, you now have to customize your ms for each agent, as some want ten pages, some fifty pages, some three chapters.

If you are only receiving rejections, it's time to go back and revise your query letter to make it stand out from the crowd.

All the while we are doing the querying, most of us are either still editing the ms in question, or have begun a new project. So there you have it, the life of a writer. Forgive me if I've forgotten anything.

Okay, this is my take on the agent's job:

1. Receive query letter
2. Send rejection

That's it. Okay I'm just kidding.

1. Receive queries, which I'm sure they receive thousands a week or at least a month. I don't know for sure, someone can chime in here and tell me.
2. Read through queries and seperate the good from the bad. When I say good from bad, I'm saying, those that aren't well written, or those that don't peak their interest, or those whose subject matter, genre, etc, don't interest them.
3. Send rejections to those you don't want. At this point, form rejection is fine, you probably haven't even looked at the work, which is sad, because someone may have a brilliant novel, but be crap when it comes to writing a query. I also understand that because they receive so many, they don't have time to look at every single ms they get queries on.
4. Go through queries again and filter out more.
5. Send more rejections
6. Request partials or fulls on those that peak your interest.
7. Put those requested in a slush pile, get to them while you can because you are still looking through queries, attending conferences, reading your current clients new work, contacting publishers trying to get current clients a book deal, and reading through contracts of said deals.
8. Read through slush pile that never ends.
9. Find ones you like
10. Request edits
11. Sign to contract
12. Get to work on getting your new client published, all while still doing all of the above.

Okay, I'm sure that's generalized, but I can see where agents are busy, and can't read every piece of literature that every writer wants to send them. Plus, not every writer that sends queries are good writers, even though they think they are (I'm really hoping I'm not one of them).

What bothers me is the ones that do not respond at all. I know they are busy, but you have an assistant or intern that more than likely can send out rejections, don't you? Or, and even though I hate these, have time to press a button to send out a form rejection.

Also, if you request a partial or a full and end up rejecting it, this is where I think you could give a little more thought to your rejection. I don't mind hearing you didn't like the voice, or weren't drawn in, though I would like a little more insight as to where I went wrong. But please, at least, include my name and the name of my novel in the rejection. At least then I know you took the time to insert a little personalization into it.

Personally, I think agents are needed, especially if you want to be published by one of the big houses. Without them, your work will never cross the desks of Scholastic, Harper Collins, Randoms House, Penguin, etc.

Even many small presses require work to be agented.

So, can we really cast blame to the agents, when the publishers won't even look at your work without one? Can we blame them because they have to be selective in what they choose to represent? No. I don't think we can. Of course this means that some really great literature won't get published. This much is true.

I do think we should be able to expect a little more understanding and respect for the work we've done to query them. I think we deserve at least the 3x5 card saying, "sorry for the impersonal nature of this note but..." I mean, when they query a publisher for a client, I'm sure they at least get a nice letter saying, "sorry, but..." Shouldn't we be able to expect that much in turn?

Monday, May 4, 2009

ABNA: Down to the Wire

So it seems that the "potential" finalists in the ABNA contest are going to be notified in a couple of days. I wonder what they mean by "potential". Does that mean that they are actually contacting more than three people, just in case someone is unable to attend the award ceremony or commit otherwise to being a finalist? Um, not to be too blunt or brash, but, what kind of idiot would get into this contest, just to drop out after becoming a finalist? (and if you have actually done this, I'm not trying to offend you, but, what were you thinking?)

Let me give you some insight about how these semi-finalists are feeling right now.

Everyday feels like forever. They consider sitting by the phone from May 6th to May 17th so they don't miss their call. Even when May 6th comes and goes, they wonder if the calls have been made, since Amazon states in the rules "on or about May 6th". They consider, although they did not receive their call, yet, they may still be in those finals. Only when they see the names of the top three on the ABNA home page will they believe they didn't make it in. Or maybe that's just me.

Yep. Been there, done that. I would say, don't get your hopes up, but from experience know that is virtually impossible. Just try not to be too disappointed if your name doesn't appear on that ABNA home page on the 17th. I have a couple I'm rooting for, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for them.

Once this announcement is made, I urge everyone to go review your favorite excerpt. http://www.amazon.com/abna .

The winner receives a publishing contract from Penguin, a $25,000 advance, and all sorts of cool electronics. (jealous) If you're a writer, especially unpublished, you know how important this is.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Beer can chicken

I was asked that my next blog be about beer can chicken, because some people don't know what that is. It has also been referred to as beer butt chicken (although that does not sound too appetizing to me), or drunken chicken.

You need 2 cups wood chips, a whole chicken, a can of beer, and herbs, spices. You want to soak your wood chips in beer or water for about an hour before you cook.

Preheat your grill. You want to set it up for indirect grilling, as the chicken will not be placed directly over the flame. I think you can also do this in the oven, but you would have to look this up yourself. For recipes I use recipezaar.com. You also want to place the wood chips in your grill at some point, depending on how smokey you want your chicken. We put ours in about thirty minutes before the chicken is done.

What you do, is you take a whole chicken and a can of beer. Pour about 1/4 to 1/3 of the beer into a glass and drink it (you don't really have to drink it, but why waste it, right?)

Take the entire top off the can with a can opener. Stuff remainder of the beer with whatever herbs, spices, whatnot you want. I usually put chunks of garlic, onion, and sprigs of rosemary. Last night I also shoved some basil in there. Set aside.

Remove all the innards from the chicken, neck, heart, etc. Put whatever kind of rub you want on it. I usually mix olive oil, lemon, rosemary, garlic, and my special spices. Sometimes I add a little balsamic vinegar to the rub. Rub underneath and on top of the skin. You can shove some in the neck as well.

Now, you are going to slide the beer can inside the chicken's butt, for lack of better words (and why in some places like Missouri it's called beer butt chicken). Pull the legs forward, creating a tripod. The chicken should sit upright over the can. They also sell holders especially made for beer can chicken, which you will see in the above picture. You can find them in the grill section of your local Fred Meyer, Target, Walmart, etc. They make life just a little easier.

Carefully transfer chickens to grill in this same position, placing them in center over drip pan away from heat. If using charcoal, toss half the wood chips on each mound of coals.
If using gas, place chips in smoker box. Barbecue chickens until nicely browned and cooked through, About 1 1/2 hours, keeping temperature about 350 degrees F.

(If using charcoal, replenish coals as needed.) The internal temperature of the birds (taken in thickest part of thigh) should be 165°F.
Carefully transfer birds to platter in same position.

To carve lift bird off of can, and discard can.

Sooooo yummy. If you have any questions, let me know.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Petition to God

I'm going to petition God to add five extra hours to my days. I cannot possibly get everything done in the 16 or 17 waking hours. This is my day, not necessarily in this order, but close.



1. Wake up, usually five or six am.

2. Drink coffee while playing on the computer for one to two hours catching up on two e-mail accounts, checking profiles on Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Amazon, adding friends, adding music, update status, playing Mafia Wars (don't judge me, I'm a level 171 Master Underboss), checking blog for comments.

3. Get kids to school

4. Eat breakfast

5. Excercise

6. Shower, dress

7. Go to Starbucks

8. Query

9. Blog

10. Write

11. Film a review

12. Edit video, and create review

13. Post review

14. Eat lunch

15. Grocery shop

16. Check computer again for e-mails, Facebook

17. Plan and start dinner

18. Pick up kids from school, while waiting, read another entry to review

19. Continue to cook dinner while helping kids with homework (unless it's math, I don't do math)

20. Eat dinner

21. Hang out with husband on computer (computers play an important role in my life, obviously, maybe too big a role, is there a pill for that?)

22. Watch movie or tv with the family.

23. Collapse

So you see God, would it kill you to give me an extra five hours a day? With all I do, it would be nice to have time to take a bath, or a nap, or sit out in the sun and relax. It's not too much to ask, is it?

I recommend all of you to join me in this. Maybe if we get enough people to petition, God will come through. I mean, really, what would you do with five extra hours a day?

My Dad. He's awesome.

John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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