Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Quickie:: Distraction

And now, ladies and gentleman, it is time once again for the third installment of:

The Quickie
(Monday morning style)

This is where I  post a QUICK WRITING TIP. A writing skill everyone should know. Whether it be technical or creative, useful or not, I'm gonna give it to you! You're gonna be singing the LL Cool J song, "Doin' It."

Okay, maybe not. Here's the Quickie for today:

FIND POSITIVE DISTRACTIONS!!!

Whether you are:
  • needing a break from a WIP
  • waiting on feedback from CP's
  • querying 
  • sending in a R&R
  • submitting to independent presses
  • on submission to editors
  • in the process of contract negotiations
  • waiting for your cover to be finalized
  • desperate for your publication date to come
  • hanging on for first reviews to come
  • etc.
Almost every stage of this writing game takes an inhuman amount of PATIENCE! At some point we will all have to master this incredibly important virtue/skill (Daniel-son-style--to be read with a Karate Kid accent).

My favorite way to find my Zen-filled patience zone is simple: Distraction (and lots of it). Here are some of my favorite distractions:
  • Exercise--it releases endorphins in my brain and helps me feel better about myself. It helps remind me that even though I am not always in control of what happens to my manuscript, I am in control of my own body. I can focus on becoming physically stronger, healthier, and more active with my family. I go on several bike rides a week with my kids.
  • Baths--I fill my big ol' tub up with lavender-scented Epsom salts and read for hours. I am transported to a place where the only concerns I have are for the characters in the stories.
  • Netflix--there are so many good series on Netflix. I have to be careful with this one because it can be incredibly addicting, but I've really gotten into VAMPIRE DIARIES, DOWNTON ABBEY, and WALKING DEAD. And honestly, because these stories are so well told, I totally consider it research. :)
  • Writing--after all, isn't this the basis of why we are even on this publication journey? Because we love to write. We enjoy flexing our creative muscles. We live for those moments of inspiration when a character comes alive for us.
  • Family time--whether it be date night with Mr. Humphries, taking one of my girls shopping, or sitting down at the dinner table to catch up, all of this is supremely helpful in taking my mind off of the waiting game. 
What are some of your favorite distractions?  And do you love LL Cool J as much as I do?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writing Full-Time


A few months ago I made the choice to take a step back from the whole lawyer-gig. After spending five years behind a desk drafting legal documents and inside the Family Courthouse arguing cases, I decided to refocus my efforts. 

Many factors influenced this decision, among them:
  • My darling 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with a severe speech delay. I didn't really need the official diagnosis to know she needed all the help and energy I could afford her, but it was a wake up call.
  • My fifteen other children (just kidding...I only have four children, it just feels like fifteen) were becoming increasingly more active in their lives too and needed more of my attention.
  • And I'm not gonna lie...I WANTED MORE WRITING TIME! I signed with one of the most amazing agents in the industry (Sarah Davies) and I felt that she deserved my best efforts.
So I did it! I took a "leave of absence" from my firm, and now I consider myself a "professional writer." I still take a few legal cases now and then, help file a few divorces in my spare time (sad but true), but I have taken a real step forward into this writing-gig. I may not truly be writing "full-time" since I have all those kids to carpool and feed, but it's definitely "full-time-ish," since nearly every possible waking moment is devoted to writing, blogging, reading, etc.

Some days I ask myself, "Self, are you crazy?"

And I answer, "Obviously, since I'm talking to myself."

Then I shut up and get to writing again. After all, I have to get to work! :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Evolving Dreams


When I was a little girl I wanted to be on the Disney Channel so bad that I named my cat, "Disney" and practiced memorizing lines from TV shows all day.

(Remember KIDS INCORPORATED? Yes, that little blonde girl is Fergie. I wanted to be her!)

When I was a teenager I wanted to play college tennis so bad that I hung a poster of Andre Agassi on my wall (the one with the mullet and hot pink biker shorts) and practiced playing tennis 4-5 hours a day.
 (Andre is from my hometown, Las Vegas. We even had the same coach. I was totally in love with Mr. Agassi--I'd sit and watch him practice with his shirt off on Saturday mornings. I don't think my parents knew I was doing that ;)

When I was a young adult I wanted to be a stage actress so bad that I moved to London for two summers to watch over fifty plays and then act my way through an undergraduate degree in Theater Arts.

 (This is actress, Cate Blanchett, starring in the play PLENTY,which I saw in London.)

When I was a semi-adult I wanted to be an attorney so bad that I spent all my free time and money to go to law school and study my brains out for three years.
(Okay, so I've never worn a pink suit to Court, but I might be known to enjoy a few pink accessories from time to time.)

When I was full-fledged adult I wanted to be a wife and mother so bad that I married the man of my dreams, Mr. Humphries, and got to doing...yanno, the thing that gets you pregnant! ;).
(I even got my beach wedding!)

Now...I want to be a published author so bad that I read as many books as I can get my hands on and get up at 5:30 a.m. most days just to squeeze in two hours of writing before my brood of children wake up.
(Perhaps my least theatrical goal yet)

Okay, now that I write it all out like that, I see that this list might make me look like a bit of schizophrenic!  That I move from one must-have achievement to the next. That I don't stick to anything for very long.

BUT, I think that's the beauty of life! We are free to have our goals and dreams evolve. Everything that we do builds our character, our experiences, our talents.

Who's to say that my flare for the dramatic didn't help me be a better competitor in tennis? Who's to say that the endurance and focus that I learned in tennis didn't make me a better actress? Who's to say that the confidence I learned from stage acting didn't help me in the courtroom? Who's to say that the persuasive writing I learned in the legal field didn't help me in my creative writing?

And who's to say that the opportunities I will gain from becoming a published author won't bless my life in ways I can't presently see?

No one, that's who!

So, what are some of your evolving dreams?


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How To Find A Literary Agent


WARNING: This is not the post where I expound on how to land an agent (which I'm not  sure I could do anyway), but this is more of an anecdotal post as to how I originally found mine. And subsequently how I knew she was someone I wanted to query, someone I wanted to work with, and someone I trusted to help make my writing dreams come true.

There are lots of ways to find agents:
Okay, so I did all of the above when I began my agent search. But I have to say that when it came down to it, the most important resource for me was a paid subscription to  Publisher's Marketplace. They have a section where they rank agents based on sales according to genre. For me, an agent's sales record is fair representation of how good an agent is at their job. Of course there are several other important factors as to what makes a "good agent," such as what they represent, personality styles, reputation, and so on. 

This is a screen shot of what the agent rankings for Young Adult sales looked like when I began querying last year, which I would venture to guess hasn't changed too much:
(I am only including the Top 10 here, though they rank the top 100)

001. Sara Crowe (Harvey Klinger)
12 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  5 in the last 6 months  |  63 overall  |  7 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: March 1, 2012  |  view matching deals
002. Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)
10 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  43 overall  |  18 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: February 2, 2012  |  view matching deals
003. Sarah Davies (Greenhouse Literary Agency)
10 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  5 in the last 6 months  |  25 overall  |  11 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: March 19, 2012  |  view matching deals
004. Michael Bourret (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management)
9 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  5 in the last 6 months  |  41 overall
Most recent deal in this category: February 14, 2012  |  view matching deals
005. Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown)
9 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  20 overall  |  2 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: February 23, 2012  |  view matching deals
006. Jill Corcoran (The Herman Agency)
8 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  3 in the last 6 months  |  16 overall
Most recent deal in this category: November 16, 2011  |  view matching deals
007. Ammi-Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy Literary Agency)
8 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  13 overall
Most recent deal in this category: March 1, 2012  |  view matching deals
008. Suzie Townsend (Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation)
8 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  3 in the last 6 months  |  13 overall  |  1 six-figure+ deal
Most recent deal in this category: January 30, 2012  |  view matching deals
009. Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management)
7 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  3 in the last 6 months  |  26 overall  |  1 six-figure+ deal
Most recent deal in this category: February 15, 2012  |  view matching deals
010. Stephen Barbara (Foundry Literary + Media)
6 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  37 overall  |  11 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: March 16, 2012  |  view matching deals
 
As for me, I decided to shoot for the top. I used this list to narrow my search. I researched all of the agents in the top 50 (and then some) to find out if they represented my genre (YA contemporary thrillers). I read their blogs, their interviews, their tweets, etc, to get to know them. When it came time to query, I felt like I had an increased chance of finding a fit with one of these dream agents.

I would say that I was lucky to receive many full requests from over a dozen top ranked agents, but that's not entirely true. I did my research. I worked hard. I spent weeks, months, and in some cases, years getting to know these agents better. I wanted to write something they would like, something they could sell.

In the end, I landed my dream agent: Sarah Davies. She is consistently ranked in the top 5 in Young Adult sales and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with her.
 
  How do you like to research agents? Or how did you find yours?

Monday, March 11, 2013

First Score!


Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I intended for all my post titles to be dirty...

Honestly, not always. I admit that sometimes it can be 100% intentional shock value publicity tool. Sometimes it's a subconscious move because I'm in a "mood." And sometimes it's just you. The reader. Ya'll can be dirty too!

Today, the post title is NOT meant to be dirty at all. It's not about sex, or drugs, or robbing banks...

It's about the feeling I had yesterday when my seven year old daughter scored her first goal ever during her season opening soccer game! After the ball went in the goal she turned around to find her whole family jumping up and down like maniacs. Okay, maybe it was just me, the crazy soccer mom! (Have I become the crazy soccer mom?!)

Anyway, I wanted to run out on the field and tackle her with hugs...like this:

I didn't. Of course. Well, I did. After the game, I squeezed her so tight she begged for mercy!

The moment reminded me a lot of the time I received a phone call from my dream agent offering representation. The rush of excitement and validation was overwhelming. The possibilities of what it meant for my dreams of being a published author were exhilarating. But, alas..

WRITING IS NOT A TEAM SPORT! 

I didn't have any teammates to jump on me and adorn me with excited jubilation. I had my husband, who tried to act excited, but really didn't know 100% what it meant since no actual money or book deals were involved. I called my CP's, but they live hundreds of miles away, so virtual hugging was all that went down there. I told my kids, who appeared mostly worried about the "crazy look" mommy had in her eyes, and just wanted their dinner already. Dinner schminner, kids!

The moral of this story:
  • Scoring goals for the first time is awesome.
  • Scoring an agent is awesome too.
These are huge moments! Like completely ginormous. But once the they are over, there comes a time when it's best to log it in as one of the "best few seconds of your life," and then...

GET BACK TO WORK AT SCORING AGAIN!!! 

Write some more books and kick some more butts :) Am I right? What is your most recent ginormous moment?

Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm Posting A Hot Body and Won't Even Be Getting Sued



I ain't gonna lie. Ever since the whole clamp down on posting other people's pics on our blogs, I've been totally depressed. Seriously! I used to love providing my readers with the sheer enjoyment of a touch of eye candy, six pack action, dangerous hip bones, chiseled jaws...Ahem. But alas, those days are over. I'm not interested in being sued!

But today, I can freely post an aforementioned photo of a half naked man, with the duly mentioned chiseled jaw and statuesque abs. I can do this because it's for a good cause! My friend Carrie Butler's new book STRENGTH released yesterday, and let's face it: that is one hot cover!

Synopsis:
When college student Rena Collins finds herself nose-to-chest with the campus outcast, her rumor-laced notions are shattered. Handsome, considerate, and seemingly sane, Wallace Blake doesn’t look like he spends his nights alone, screaming and banging on the walls of his dorm room. Hell, he doesn’t look like he spends his nights alone, period.

Too curious for her own good, Rena vows to uncover the truth behind Wallace’s madman reputation—and how two seconds of contact had left her with bruises. Of course, there are a few setbacks along the way: guilt, admiration, feelings of the warm and fuzzy variety…

Not to mention the unwanted attention of Wallace's powerful, supernaturally-gifted family.

They’re a bloodline divided by opposing ideals, two soon-to-be warring factions that live in secret among us. When Rena ends up caught in their crossfire, Wallace has no choice but to save her by using his powers. Now they’re really in trouble. With war on the horizon and Rena’s life in the balance, he needs to put some distance between them. But Rena won’t let go. If fighting is what it takes to prove her own strength and keep Wallace in her life, then that’s what she’ll do—even if it means risking a whole lot more than her heart.


Links:
BOOK PAGE | GOODREADS | PUBLISHER | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | BOOK TRAILER


Retailers:
AMAZON | KINDLE | BARNES AND NOBLE | NOOK | SONY READER STORE | KOBO | DIESEL | BAKER & TAYLOR

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

OMG, MG

It's happened. My older kids have gotten to the age where their taste in reading has matured past WHOOOO LOVES YOU? And I am SOOOO happy. I love the idea of reading middle grade (MG) chapter books to them. I bought the whole set of Lemony Snicket's SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, several volumes of Jeff Kinney's DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, and now Chad Morris' THE INVENTOR'S SECRET (which I personally read a few months ago when I was lucky enough to get an ARC from the author himself).

Yes, I know Chad Morris. Yes, I'm name dropping to appear cool. Yes, I'm ridiculous.

But the thing is, I not only know Chad, I really admire him. Yesterday was the day his book officially released, and he wasn't able to celebrate it like he might have dreamed. He was too busy taking care of his nine year old daughter, Maddie, who is in the hospital after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor. He talked about on his blog here. He and his wife, Shelly, are an inspiration to me. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this challenging time.

So a bunch of his writing friends have come together to help spread the word about his awesome new middle grade book:


Imagine a school in the year 2074 where students don’t read history, but watch it happen around them; where running in gym class isn’t around a track, but up a virtual mountain; and where learning about animals means becoming one through an avatar.

Welcome to Cragbridge Hall, the most advanced and prestigious school in the world. Twin siblings Abby and Derick Cragbridge are excited as new students to use their famed grandfather’s inventions that make Cragbridge Hall so incredible. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, the twins begin following a trail of clues left by their grandfather. They must find out where their family is, learn who they can trust, and discover what secrets are hidden within Cragbridge Hall.

Abby and Derick soon realize they are caught in a race with a fierce adversary to discover their grandfather’s greatest secret–a dangerous discovery that could alter both history and reality.

Buy it here:


About Chad:

Chad Morris grew up wanting to become a professional basketball player or a rock star. (Inspired by Animal from the Muppets, he’s been banging on drums since he was eight years old.) After high school, he wrote and performed sketch comedy while going to college, and eventually he became a teacher and a curriculum writer. He lives in Utah with his wife and five kids. Chad would love to teach at Cragbridge Hall.

Unlike Oscar Cragbridge, however, he hasn’t really invented anything, though his son once sketched out blueprints for a machine that would turn celery into cookies.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Inspiration and French Things I Love


Aside from the kissing!


Almost a decade ago I lived in France. But long before that I was obsessed with the place. I took two years of high school French, three years of college French, and at least four years of dreaming in French before I finally got the opportunity to go.

And when the moment came, I seized it. For almost eighteen months I lived in various cities from Bordeaux to Paris, eating everything from exploded goose liver (fois gras) to garlic butter snails (escargot). I had the time of my life meeting life-long friends, exploring castles, and studying the culture.

Lately, I've been reminiscing like crazy about my time there--and not just because of the amazing Les Miserables performance at the Oscars. In fact, I've started drafting a new WIP set on the west coast of France, which I'm très excited about. I've even found myself buying more Camembert cheese, more Nutella, more baguettes. On Saturday night, I was invited to a party guess what I decided to bring? Crepes! Yum.

I think I need a trip back! For some "research."

What's inspiring you these days?

Friday, March 1, 2013

How Do You Like It?


There are many choices when it comes to how we like to enjoy our stories:
  • actual books that we hold in our hands
  • e-books
  • audio books
  • movies
  • TV series
  • anecdotes through the village crazy person
  • etc.

I have been exploring all of my options lately.

For example, at the moment I am:
  • Reading a hard cover of PIVOT POINT by my friend Kasie West. 
  • Also reading a kindle version of THE REPLACEMENTS by my new friend Brenna Yovanoff.
  • As well as listening to PRODIGY by Marie Lu on audio book. 
  • Whilst watching episodes of VAMPIRE DIARIES on my DVR. 
  • Meanwhile going to the movies last night to see SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. 
I have to say, that my preferred method of storytelling right now is audio book. Not only because it's so easy to download onto my iPhone (via Audible.com), but because I can listen to a book anywhere (in my car, at a cafe, in a bubble bath). And usually, the voices on the audio book are so much better than in my head. Some audiobooks that I have thoroughly enjoyed are ERAGON by Christopher Paolini, BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey, and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green.

So how you do like your stories best?