Monday, February 17, 2014

Little Footprints Making a Big Impression at My House

I've taken the last few months off from my blog and my writing projects for one small (but very important) reason. We welcomed a new little baby girl into our family earlier this month - a whole week late, I might add. Baby Tara has turned everything upside-down instantly, and we couldn't be happier! She is a calm, happy, sweet little girl.

This is when Allie first met Tara 
 (before the melt-down when Allie learned she would not be allowed to carry Tara around like a dolly)
Tara - 1 day old
Sisters - destined to be great friends!
 Baby and I are both doing well, though I may seem a little zombie-ish for the next few months. Just ignore anything I say or do that seems like my brain isn't banging on all cylinders. Sleep deprivation and I don't get along very well. Fortunately, I've got my wonderful husband here to help me (he works from home). And, my brother, Ean, is staying with us for a few months and helping out a lot. I feel pretty blessed right now.

So now, when I can keep my eyes opened and I'm not taking care of the baby or my exuberant little two year old, I'm getting an itch to get back to reading books and writing my own. It's been a long time coming, but I'm working on final edits to IN AN INSTANT. Then, I'm super excited to get back to work on TEMPO. Click on the titles to find out more about both of these projects, and look for more details to come.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to Find a Literary Agent

A friend of mine who has written a children's picture book recently asked me what I know about finding a literary agent. That's an easy and a hard question all rolled into one. Simply finding agents that represent the kind of book you've written is pretty easy. You can read all about them, get their contact information, and sometimes even read their blogs. Here's where I find agents to contact:

That's the easy part. The hard part is getting one of those agents to actually read your work once you do contact them and then (the real goal) getting one of them to represent your work and help you get it published. Each agent has their own submission guidelines and preferences, and it's important to pay attention to these. They pretty much all have one thing in common, though. They will all want to read a query letter before they will even consider reading your whole book. 

If you don't know what a query letter is, there are lots of great sources out there that will give you the details of what is is, and what it is not. Basically, it's a very special, VERY SHORT sales pitch and hook for your book. You've got to pique their interest so they want to read more. To learn about query letters and get critiques on a query letter from a very helpful community, I use this website:

Many agents will also want to see a synopsis. The above website can help you with that as well.
I'll just take a quick minute to point out that, in the search for an agent, you should be a little wary of anything that seems too good to be true. Also, no real, reputable agent will charge you ANYTHING. They make a percentage (usually 10-15%) of the money that they get for you from a publisher. If they are asking you for money, run away.

Best of luck!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When Life Happens

I wish I had time to write everyday (or even every week, for that matter). Sometimes, I'm in a groove and I get lots of writing done day after day. Then ruts (like the one I'm just getting out of) happen. Or rather, life happens. I haven't written anything - blog or book - in over a month. It's not that I don't have anything to write or desire to write. It's that I have a full life to live on top of my love of writing.

So, since I last blogged, I've been camping with a toddler (call me crazy), said good-bye to a nephew for 2 years as he heads off to Japan on a mission, found out I'm having another girl (Yes, I'm pregnant! Due in January). Oh, yeah, and I'm pregnant so I'm tired. I'm beta reading a book for another author. And then, there's simply trying to keep up with all the odds and ends of running a house and being a responsible parent and adult. Just thinking about it is making me tired.

Fortunately, I'm pretty well caught up on life for now and can put things back in some degree of balance, making a little time for writing. First off, I'm back on my blog, yea! And, I'm getting back to work on IN AN INSTANT. I have a draft of the synopsis written, and will be getting that critiqued soon. I'm also finishing up some last minute touch-ups to the manuscript based on feedback I've received from beta readers. My query letter has been done for months, so I just need to brush it off and make sure I'm still happy with it.

First goal: Start querying literary agents by the end of October, at the latest.

Second goal:  Blog more often. It's no fun having a blog if I never post to it.

Here's to life staying balanced and keeping a little time for writing in the mix!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Stick With Your Point-of-View Character

As a writer, I am very observant of the writing technique and style of the books I read. I try mainly to learn from this, deciding what I think is good technique that I would like to emulate and bad technique I would like to avoid. Still, I try not to be openly critical of other authors. Even in writing this post, I will refrain from mentioning the book or author I'm speaking of, only the bad technique that I wish to discuss.

I was reading along the other day in a book (which turned out to be a great book overall) that is written in first person present sense. Twice in the book, the narrator referred to characters by name that were introduced to her pages after she's already been using their name. Since this is written in first person PRESENT TENSE, how in the world could the narrator have known the character names to use them if they had not yet been introduced to her?

To me, this is sloppy writing. Of course the author knows the characters' names, but when writing, you have to stay in the moment with the narrator and your point-of-view (POV) character and only share details that they know at that moment in time. Of course, you can share more if the narrator is third-person omniscient. But whenever you have a book told in first person, you've really got to limit what you say to what they know (especially if you are writing in present tense where no future knowledge or experiences could be coloring the re-telling of the story).

This stuck out to me pretty strongly as I read the book, and really irritated me. Fortunately, it only happened twice and then the rest of the book was gripping enough that I got over it enough to love the story. Still, I wish that little bit had been a bit more polished. (And for anyone wondering, this is a professionally published New York Times Bestseller, so don't blame lack of editing or indie authors for this mistake).

That's it, I've said what I need to say about this. Now I'll get back to writing and hope that nothing I do will irritate anyone else so much that it will be the focus of a blog rant. You can't please everyone though, right?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Words of Wisdom Regarding Writing

These are some of my favorite quotes on the topic of writing. I can identify with most of these, or find them ironic, humorous, or pithy. Maybe I should warn you, I REALLY like quotes on writing. Here goes...Enjoy!

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.” ― Isaac Asimov

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway

“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.” ― Sylvia Plath

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ― Stephen King

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ― Robert Frost

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ― Madeleine L'Engle

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ― Mark Twain

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ― Saul Bellow

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it.” ― Lloyd Alexander

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ― E.L. Doctorow

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ― Philip Pullman

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ― W. Somerset Maugham

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ― Stephen King

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” ― Neil Gaiman

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of. ” ― Joss Whedon

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.” ― Neil Gaiman

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” ― Meg Cabot

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” ― William H. Gass

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” ― Anaïs Nin

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

“You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ― James A. Michener

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” ― Albert Camus

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do You Book Group?

Book clubs and groups are a great way to learn about new books and share your love of reading with others. I have a local book group I attend occasionally, and I am also a part of several groups on Goodreads. I'll admit that I'm not the most regular attendant at these groups, but I still enjoy being a part of them, and often I read the books even if I can't make it to the meetings.

Book groups offer several great advantages. If you find a group you fit well with, you have a network of other enthusiastic readers who understand your love of books and can help you find new books to read. Hopefully, you'll enjoy most of these books, but it will also challenge you to step out of your book-box and try some things you may not have otherwise. You'll likely be surprised from time to time.

Interestingly enough, a book group can open up new opportunities for you. I've come across several authors who are willing to do free skype chats with book groups (something they won't do for you personally, but will do for a whole group). You can even ask for review copies of books and may get them sometimes for free (assuming you are actually willing to write the reviews). I recently sent out free advance ebooks of a novel I'm currently writing (In An Instant) to a book group who offered to read it and give me their feedback. I greatly appreciate this as an author.

You'll also have a group to discuss the book with who can help you see it from new and interesting perspectives. This is fun and will help you understand things you may have missed initially. You'll bring those expanded perspectives to every book and interaction you face in the future.

And, book groups are a great way to get out and do something a little different from time to time. If reading is something you enjoy, or would like to get into a little more, I highly recommend finding a book group that shares your tastes and interests.

Are you a member of a book group? 

What are you're thoughts on book groups?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Friends Life Forever in Our Hearts - Poem

This is a poem that I wrote when I was 14 years old an had recently moved away from many dear friends. I wanted to share it now, because I think it's something that is always true no matter how old you are, where you live, or how many friends you've said goodbye to over the course of your life.

Friends Live Forever in Our Hearts

Poem and Illustration
by Melanie James

Sometimes life presents a rocky road,
A path not easy to take.
And I am forced upon this road
With no other choice to make.

When life seems hard to face
And I feel there’s nothing more,
I think of a warm embrace
From a friend which I adore.

This friend and I parted long ago,
But in heart they are still near
Which gives me strength to go,
And I know I never need fear.

Whenever I feel like giving in,
I remember the good things
And always find a reason to grin
And feel better about what life brings.

Friendship is reaching for a hand
And touching a heart.
Friends hold your heart and hand
Whether together or apart.