September 22, 2017
This has been an unusual end of summer into fall month. The world seems full of turmoil, with hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, and missile launchings. I pray for those suffering, who are victims of these disasterous events. I can't imagine what they are feeling. I do know that I have no reason to complain for minor health problems or lack of money. There are always someone going through much worse turmoil. I thank God every day for all He's done for me and my family. My biggest thank you is for the success of my niece's surgery in June. With a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, everyone feared the worst, but the cancer was removed, and my niece is healing and doing well. She's even back to work!
I'm grateful for so many things. The top of my list are my nieces and nephews. My nephew Nick married the love of his life and best friend, Hannah, in August. My niece Abbigail is engaged to a wonderful guy, Michael, who loves her and did not hesitate to take on the role of father for her six-year-old daughter, Olivia. They recently bought a home in Petersburg, and my niece is working as a pharmaceutical assistant nearby. My nephew Ryan became a father again, with Paisley Lee. Now he has three girls and one boy. And his brother, Dylan, is nearing 20 years in the IL National Guard. He has a beautiful family, lovely wife, Stacey, and adorable children, DJ and Anna. Tasha's son, Austin, graduated high school and is now in college, and her daughter, Mikayla, is becoming more beautiful every day.
My love of writing has not waned. This summer I attended a conference in Chicago, and am going to another in November. Earlier this month my writers group met for pie, critiques and a program on illustrations. The end of this month I will be visiting the Penned Con in St. Louis, and in October I am a guest author for the Illinois Library Association Media Conference, where I'll have a chance to interact with young readers and sign my bookmarks. And today my interview with Fiona Mcvie is on her website. Here is the link:
Fiona asked some tough questions. An easy one was my age, and I got it wrong. LOL. I wrote a young 61. It wasn't until later I realized I'm 62! I guess if I had to be wrong on any question, that would be the one. Who wouldn't want to be a year younger?
I've had some manuscript rejections from some agents, but I'm not giving up. The fact that they are asking for more chapters or pages tells me that I am on the right track. i have to keep revising and submitting until I find THE ONE.
Doing interviews, like the one I did with Fiona, are good for me. After each one, I am more determined to succeed as a writer. I also enjoy doing editing for other writers. I believe it encourages me to become a better writer. Hopefully, I've helped two other writers on their path to publication this summer.
I told my brother Dan that I may never become a sucessful, famous author, but maybe I will end up helping someone else to achieve that goal. Don't get me wrong. I still want to be a sucessful, famous author!
On that note, I will sign off.
Have a great Fall, and keep on writing!
August 9, 2017
Between writing, revising, social media, a vacation and a conference, I've neglected my blog.
One of the highlights of this summer was attending the Writing Workshop of Chicago. I rode the Amtrak to Chicago and stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel, where the conference was being held. The date luckily coincided with a SCBWI cocktail party, which I attended. There I met some fabulous writers and illustrators, and we talked "shop" while sipping wine and eating meatballs, pizza, fruit and dessert.
The conference featured guest speakers Brian Klem, Chuck Sambuchino, Gemma Cooper and too many more to mention. There were also a roomful of agents, at least 15, for one-on-one pitch sessions lasting 10 minutes. I paid for one pitch session with an agent, and she asked for more pages. She actually rememberd me from my queries to her in the past.
Gemma Cooper's British accent surprised me, as well as the fact that no MG MC is age 14. She said the age group for MG is 8-12 years, and the MC target age is 10-13. I found out there were many no-nos in my writing. I tend to use fancy dialogue tags when "he said, and "he asked" are fine. I start too many sentences with ing words or As. And I tell instead of show.
It's important to have an exciting incident in the first 5 pages, and I have been improving on that in my YA novels. When I returned home from this conference, I tackled revisions again on my YA series, and now leave either a question or a note or hint of uncertainty at the end of each chapter.
Brian Klem taught me to not get overly descriptive. and to open with conflict. I need to keep my dialogue shorter, and avoid info dumps, giving too much information that's slowing down the story, and may be unnecessary. To pick up the pace, something unexpected should happen to the MC every 12 pages. It can be something challenging or something stopping the charcter from proceeding.
He said in editing, do it ruthlessly, and "kill your darlings."In my latest revisions, I have wiped out paragraphs and pages of my "darlings," and have to admit that the pace of the story improved.
The best advice from Chuck Sambuchino was to always write the best you can. Strive for excellence.
This conference was exactly what I needed. I needed to be reminded of techniques, and methods to improve my writing. I needed to be reminded of why I am an author. It's definitely not for the money - at least not yet. It's because I love it, and can't imagine myself doing anything else.
Back to revisions. Keep on writing!
April 19, 2017
It seems impossible a month has passed since I last posted! I hope everyone is enjoying the warm Spring weather, and occasional rain. I can vouch that it is officially Spring as I had to mow my grass last week. I have a Chihuahua, and my grass had grown so tall, whenever I let her out, she had a time finding her way back to the house. Just kidding, but the grass was tall!
Our writers group was looking forward to a program by author Alice McGinty, but unfortunately it had to be cancelled. We hope we'll be able to schedule another time with her in the near future.
On a positive note, I requested funds for another speaker. The SCBWI form needed to be returned by the 20th of this month, and I followed Alice's advice and spoke with the librarian at the library where our group meets. She suggested a YA writer who works at the library. If my request is approved, Jessica Rubinkowski will present a program at our June 5th meeting. She plans to talk about writing tips, voice, querying and the publication process.
As a new network rep for the Springfield Area SCBWI members, I'm learning as I go along. I was also sent a notice to nominate an organization or group for the SCBWI's Books for Readers Campaign. I wished I had time to consult the members of the group for ideas and input. I nominated the Mini O'Bierne Crisis Nursery. This organization helps infants to 6 years who are in an abusive situation. They also provide support and help to the families.
This is what I wrote on the nomination form: The Mini-O'Beirne Crisis Nursery's main mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect. They provide emergency and temporary care for at risk children, ages birth-6 years, 24/7/365. They also provide family support for older children with their follow up services. Volunteers in the crisis center see that the children participate in age-appropriate activities. Development and medical screenings are also given. At home services include parenting classes, counseling and referrals for other needed services such as medicine, food, clothing and shelter. All these services are free. Providing books for the children in the crisis center, and for the older siblings during the follow-up family support, would be a worth-while cause, and that is why I would like to nominate this amazing and positive life-changing organization.
I'm happy to say I have been submitting my YA query to several agents this week, hoping to connect with one who shares my vision for this novel and the others in this series. I am keeping my stories contemporary, adding to them when situations arise. I recently added to the London story the horrifying incident on Westminster Bridge, and a while back had to made revisions about the Chicago Cubs when they won the World Series. After reading an article about the differences between a mystery novel and a thriller, I realize my stories fit the latter category. They are contemporary suspense thrillers with romance, a mixture of Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars.
Author Kadee Carder featured my book, THE DRAGON'S RING, on her blog, and when she saw my book cover, she messaged me that her niece's high school in New Braunfels, TX has a unicorn for their mascot. I loved hearing this! I sent the school 50 of my unicorn bookmarks and a T-shirt with my book cover transferred on it. My book cover is a unicorn with the gold "dragon's ring" dangling on its horn.
My goal this year is to sign with an agent. I'm still hoping to hear from the one who has requested additional material. I let her know I didn't sign with the publisher because of concerns with the contract, and she invited me to send more pages. "Hope springs eternal."
It's time to get back to querying and writing; but I'm also going to take time out to enjoy this beautiful day. And I may even mow. Yep! The grass is high again!
March 20, 2017
Happy Spring to all! Today is beautiful. The sun is shining, the temp is in the low 70's and I've shed my jacket. My back door is open to let in the refreshing Spring air. My dogs are loving it, running in and out at will. It's too beautiful a day to spend indoors, and after I finish this blog, I'm heading outside.
In my last posting I wrote about the exciting news I received from a publishing company. The publishers offered me a contract for my YA series. My search for an agent to help in this deal failed, although I did receive some lovely notes from some, and congratulatory wishes.
I turned down the offer. After reading the clauses in the contract, it didn't feel right for me. I feared giving away too much of my rights as an author. An agent might have been able to negotiate changes to my benefit, but being unsure of what needed to be done, and also hesitant because this was a new publishing company just starting out, I decided it was not the right home for my novels. So I am back to submitting to agents and publishers.
I do wish this company loads of success, and may someday regret my decision, but I had to go with my gut feeling and intuition.
As the new Springfield Area SCBWI network representative, my first order of business was arranging a place for a guest speaker. Author Alice McGinty. to give her program on "psychological needs being met in children's books to make emotional power in writing." Pizza Ranch restaurant in Springfield, IL has agreed to let our writers group meet there for this program, even though our number is less than the usual number needed to have a private room. I promised twelve, but hope more will come. Spouses and guests are invited to this, and Juli is asking the downstate writers group to join us. I'd love to fill the room. Alice is kind enough to drive this distance to speak to us, I'd like to see a large crowd to benefit from her words.
March was the month to submit for SCBWI's Work-in-Progress grant, and I have already sent mine in. I've also encouraged others to submit, too, and am especially pleased that some writers in my group have already.
Writing has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, and this month has shown me plenty of both. I hope the next time I have good news, it will stick, and I'll be able to say, "THE LONDON INCIDENT is under contract." This book and its sequels have tremendous potential and I need the right agent and the right publisher to see it.
Keep writing, but don't forget to take time out for yourself to enjoy the small wonders and beauty around you.
March 6, 2017 Can it be March already? Time flies when working on revisions.
My days, weeks, months have been devoted to revising my beloved series with teen protagonist Dru Stone, and her geeky boyfriend, Darcy. This 2014 NaNoWriMo novel was originally written in third person POV. As the narrator, I told Dru's story. After critiques and subsequent submissions, it became apparant that I shouldn't be telling the story. It was Dru's story and she needed to be the one relating the events in her life.
My task was an enormous one. I had written four books in this series, the first three in November, 2014, and the last one the following NaNoWriMo year. Each novel contained over 50,000 words. It probably would have been easier to just start over, but I tackled each page and each chapter, giving Dru a new perspective and allowing the reader to be drawn into Dru's world, her mind. The end result, a story I love from start to finish.
Last week a publisher for a small press requested the FULL, after reading the first five pages I sent with my query letter. This is a quote from her letter:
"Thank you for taking the time to submit THE LONDON INCIDENT for our consideration. I shared your submission with my partner Stephen Hall, and we both were interested immediately.
The only disappointment I had with the 5 pages was that I wanted more right away! The writing was tight and exciting. I liked the concept quite a bit and am glad to hear you have plans for a series. Are those finished, or are they still works in progress? (It's fine either way. I'm just curious.)"
A few days later I received this news from the same publisher:
"Congratulations! I have read and reviewed THE LONDON INCIDENT and Stephen and I would love to offer you a contract for publication with our Middle Grade and Young Adult imprint!
The book was such a fun story! It moved along at a great pace and I literally could not put it down. I can't wait to read the sequels!
If you are interested in signing a contract for publication of your book, please let us know when you will be available to speak with me over the phone. This weekend will be busy for us, but I have some availability on Monday or Tuesday, if that would work for you. Just to let you know, we are in the Eastern Time Zone, so keep that in mind when finding a time. I'd like to discuss your manuscript and the next steps in our publication process.
We loved your book and we’re excited about the opportunity to work with you."
Our phone conference is set for Wedneday, March 8, at 2:30 P.M. EST, 1:30 P.M. my time. I do know this is a print and ebook publishing house and 20% royalties to the author. Not knowing much about contracts, despite the fact I did one with MeeGenius and then Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for picture book CALAMITY CAT, and with Astrae Press for THE DRAGON'S RING, I have been contacting agents. One has definitely promised to get back with me, and she would be a dream agent to work with. I am hoping she sees the potential I have to offer.
Besides the good news on my YA series, a publisher has also shown interest in my picture book, COLIN CAN'T CROW. After reading my query, she asked for the manuscript, and from the tone of her letter, I sensed she liked my story idea.
On a sad note, the leader of the Scribes,my writers group, Cynda Strong, is stepping down because of conflicting schedules. She asked me to take her place. I accepted only if two other ladies in my group were asked first, as they have been members of our group longer than I have. They declined, so the job is mine. Cynda is a touch act to follow, so I hope I do her proud. Tonight is our meeting, and the first time I'll be in charge. We meet the first Monday of every month at the Chatham, IL Library. As the new SCBWI Network rep, I will be working with the Illinois Chapter. One of the members of this chapter is Alice McGinty, and tonight our group will be discussing having Alice as a guest speaker at our April meeting.
Since I have a new position with my writers group, my job as treasurer is being passed on to Pam Miller. I know she's going to do an excellent job.
I am so proud of the ladies and gents in this small group. Many are already published. One has recently signed with an agent. Besides being excellent writers, a few are also fantastic illustrators. Some are gaining confidence and are now submitting to agents, publishers and entering writing contests. And all are supportive of each other, offering words of advice and encouragement, and sharing in the good news of each member. We're a small group, but mighty and productive.
Here are some wonderful websites that I have found useful for writing information. Sub It Club. https://subitclub.wordpress.com/
This site lists contests and twitter days when authors can pitch their story ideas. As a Facebook group member of Sub It Club, I've connected with other authors and their posts have led me to publishers and agents open for submissions.
Rate Your Story - http://rateyourstory.blogspot.com/
Thanks to this blog site, I've submitted many of my stories and have received helpful advice and information. I'll never foreget the day when one of my stories was rated a 1.
Writers Digest - http://www.writersdigest.com/
I always find informational articles from their newsletter, and many times a list of agents open for submissions.
Janice Hardy's FICTION UNIVERSITY - http://blog.janicehardy.com/
This blog has helped me in my revising process.
March is also REFOREMO - reading for research month. Carrie Charley Brown has done an excellent job of bringing writers, illustrators and publishers together with lists of picture books that make great mentor tests.
As in most cases, my blog today has gotten rather long, but I hope the information and news I have shared prove helpful.
Even though the air is brisk, Spring is not too far away. Take comfort in that.
And always, keep writing!