Friday, December 30, 2011

It's About Time

To say it's been awhile since I last posted is an understatement and a half, but my goal was to begin writing about my recent experience with breast cancer, and honestly, I don't think I was really ready.

Truth be told, given a hundred years to process that time in my life, I don't think I would still be ready, but I'm forging ahead anyway with the hopes that someday, someone reads this and it gives them a little hope to hold on to.

Where to begin was a little tricky.  Sure, I could start with the day I first discovered a lump in my breast or I could talk about the day I was diagnosed, but to really understand the devastation of the experience I needed to begin much earlier.

I had just finished my first undergraduate year at Eastern Kentucky University and was excited to begin my second summer as a camp cook at Aldersgate United Methodist Church Camp.  The previous summer had been one I would never forget, and I expected nothing less of the upcoming one.  Boy, was that calling the spring grass green.  I met my future husband that summer, and eighteen years and three children later, he's still my unforgettable hero.

At the time though, we were young, felt immortal, and rushed headlong into a romance.  As we grew closer, he told me his mother had battled cancer five years earlier, but that she was doing fine now.  Unfortunately, that changed very quickly in the fall.  I met her once.  Actually sat down and had a conversation with her.  I remember she had short, dark hair, a kind face, and a powerful love for her family.

One month later, she passed.  The cancer returned with a vengeance and took her very quickly.  It was a sad time for all.  I was there to support my then boyfriend as he went through the visitation and funeral.  My heart broke for his father, sister and him as they grieved, and though I knew there was nothing I could say or do to make things better, I attempted to be there for my boyfriend.

Looking back, two things about that time stand out to me now.  One rainy evening about a month after her death, I was driving to a creative writing class and had a fender bender.  After the police and insurance reporting was over, I skipped my class and went to my boyfriend's house to wait for him to arrive.  While there, I called my mother and gave her a tearful explanation of what had happened, after which I sat with my now father-in-law and apologized for crying.  He gave me a slight smile and said, "That's okay.  I've cried a little myself today."  Perspective in a second.

Unfortunately, the other thing that I remember about this time is that my future husband and I broke up.  We decided not to see each other any more.  He was sad, very sad, and though I'd tried to be supportive, he needed time alone.  I, of course, understood, though my heart was devastated.

Believe it or not, a month later, we were together again, and I had no lingering doubts about the relationship.  We were meant to be together.  I still feel I could search the world over and never find anyone as perfect for me than him.  He has proven time and time again that love is a very real and powerful force, and I thank God He brought us together.

So, this is where I knew I had to start.  That time was a roller-coaster of emotion, but without this backstory, meaning about my personal struggle with breast cancer years later would be lost.

Until next time,


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Posting on Location

I'm posting at ACA this Monday about when life hands you lemons--write about it.  Come check it out.

Happy Writing!
Into the Fire releasing October 5, 2011 from The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Things You Might Want to Know and Some Things You Probably Don't

I had the big C.  Whew!  Not a good time in my life.

Specifically, I had breast cancer, and my treatment consisted of a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and five years of Tamoxifen.

Now, I'm not going to lie.  I was strong.  I faced it all with my eyes on a future without cancer.  Not because I'm naturally a strong person (most definitely not true), not because I suddenly found strength, not even because I was completely confident I would make it through it all, but I was strong because I'm a wife to an amazing husband and mother to three children--the oldest of which is just now a teenager (although she acted like she achieved that age a whole lot earlier) and the youngest just finished kindergarten.

Plain and simple--there was no other option.

Now I'm a year cancer-free (I love saying that), and I thought it was time to begin living my faith that God would provide a cancer-free future for a long time to come.  So, I consulted a highly recommended plastic surgeon about breast reconstruction surgery.  After speaking with her extensively, I elected to undergo a Tram-Flap Reconstruction.

As usual, it hasn't been easy.  There have been complications, so over the next few blog posts, I'm going to use this space to explain my decisions, the process, the complications, and maybe answer some questions for anyone out there trying to make decisions of their own or those that are just curious.

This is what is swirling around in my mind right now, so I'm going to use this space to get those thoughts, fears, and musings out.  Maybe then I'll free up some space in the old noggin for some lighter topics.

Until then...

Happy Writing!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Still kicking after all these complications, except I'm dealing with medical issues again. Three weeks ago, I elected to have a breast reconstruction surgery. It was supposed to be the happy ending to my breast cancer story. Everything seemed to be going well, until it swelled. That went down eventually, but then it began to get infected. So that's where I am now--another complication. And all along the way, little complications keep coming. But what can I do? People tell me I'm strong, that I'm a trouper who has gone through so much, but the truth is, there is no other option. I have to keep praying, hoping, and trying until things work out. And they will. That's where my strength truly comes in. I don't let myself think of any other option than things working out.

I can't help relating my medical struggle to the ultimate goal of being published in book-length fiction. You see, I take chances, write a piece in which I have confidence, then put it out in front of others to see the reactions. Along the way, there are complications--big and small--and my ability to push through the blocks, the lack of time, the unfortunate medical issues, the plot bunnies, or whatever happens to get in the way of the story is what will ultimately lead to success. Regardless of all these possible problems, I don't let any other option other than pushing through and getting published even become a possibility.

Complications are going to happen, but they're merely bumps in the road. Never full stops.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Bumpy Road to Love

I write romance, so even from the first word, I know my hero and heroine are going to fall in love, have a happy ending, and forsake all others forever more.  But to get there, I have to really make it worth it.  Torturing is the name of the game.

Probably the first thing I had to learn was that in order to make it worth it, I had to make my heroes and heroines likable.  That way, no one could doubt they deserved a happily ever after.  I struggled with creating an Alpha male without making him unlikable.  My first attempt didn't work.  I kept getting feedback that he wasn't likable at all.  Not good.  I figured out that even if my hero had a hard edge, he had to have a deep, dark reason that matters to the reader.  In other words, he had to have some internal conflict from the get-go.  With my stories since then, up-front characterization has been key to creating people I like and people readers like as well.

Once this important component is put in place, it's time to provide external conflict.  Time to make their lives miserable.  In order to do that well, I have to establish what the character really, really wants, and what would be the worst thing that could happen instead.  It can't be so horrible that it can't be overcome (no maiming, if possible), but it needs to be something that creates a bumpy road for the character.

In the end, the characters need to overcome all external and internal conflict and come together.  Their goals are either met or changed until they can be met to make everyone happy in the end--to make all the torture worth it.

My own path to love wasn't/isn't smooth, and although fiction can surely take leaps that reality doesn't, real life can give you ideas for possible conflicts in your stories.  I love to listen to other peoples' stories about falling in love, but I'll admit that I often use tidbits here and there (so be forewarned, friends, aquaintances, and strangers).

At any rate, as a romance writer, I have to make the happily ever after worth it, and that means creating a bumpy road to love.

Happy Writing!

Monday, June 27, 2011

How Do You Know?

How do you know when you're good enough?  When your voice is distinctive?  When you have an original plot or a new twist on an old one?  When people other than your mom, sister, spouse, or best friend like what you write?  Honestly, I don't have a clear-cut answer.

Some days I read what I write and think it's good stuff.  Other days, I'm sure I'm deluding myself.  Clearly, I'm not the go-to-girl to judge good enough.

Is a contract a validation?  For most, yes.  But there's always a bigger, better publisher to net.  Maybe it's the number of contracts that counts.  If that's true, the more prolific, the more successful, right?

Then there's the indie authors.  I know indie authors who are some of the most successful writers I've seen.  How do they know they're good enough?  Number of downloads?  Money earned?  Number of POD books sold?

The reality is there's no such thing as good enough.  Craft and skill only get you so far.  In my very humble opinion, you're good enough when you're brave enough to put yourself out there, whether it's to a crit partner or an actual submission.  Every step brings you closer to your goal, and if you get a publisher's nod or not, you're working toward your dream, and that's good enough for me.

Happy Writing!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Well, I went back into the contest arena, but this time, I went as a judge--again.  I feel a little more confident than the first time I judged, but it's still difficult to try to give constructive criticism without stepping on someone's dreams.  If I could, I would tell the writers who were brave enough to enter to never give up, no matter where they are in the writing journey.  Even if they don't final this time around, they're one step closer just by getting some feedback from people who aren't friends or family.  But, instead, I give them as many positive comments as I can, mixed with some constructive criticisms that I hope are helpful and not hurtful.

Anyway, I'll do my best to encourage these brave writers to continue to create.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Not the Best of Times Lately

I am so locking all my windows and doors and staying home for at least a day to try my best to hunker down until my luck changes.  Things have not been great this week.

I learned last month that due to my history with cancer, I would need to have a colonoscopy to investigate some concerns.  I wasn't looking forward to it, to say the least, but when the time came I ate my clear, liquid diet and drank the horrible colon scrubber they gave me and followed it all to a T.

The morning came and all was going well as my husband drove me to the office where the procedure would take place.  Out of nowhere, a barely-more-than-a-kid plowed into the back of our car when traffic stopped.  We careened into the car in front of us, but thankfully no one needed medical attention.  I was sore for a few days, but overall I'm thankful it wasn't worse.  Needless to say, I was late for the colonoscopy.  We still went through with the procedure because I was not going through that prep again, and the doctor found that everything inside was as it should be.  Yay, for another clean bill of health.

I was happy that my hubs got a chance to hang with the guys on a four day golf trip two states away starting the next day, but I had no idea just how jinxed I was going to be this week.

I thought my bad luck was over and ventured forth to play a little tennis with my  It was their first time, but I played a little in college, so I was the on-site expert, much to their misfortune.

The kids did wonderfully for their first time playing.  They had a good time and might have learned a little too.  Toward the end, the teen kiddo and I were volleying just a few more when I chased a wild one until I lost my balance, regained it, then lost it again.  Heads don't mix well with concrete.  Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, my head was hurting and my legs were numb.  Scary, scary, freakin' scary.  Fortunately, my teen jumped into quick action and grabbed her phone out of the nearby car.  She desperately wanted to call 911, but I desperately didn't want to pay for an ambulance, so I opted for my sister instead.

She was there within twenty minutes, and we rushed off to the hospital.  By this time, I was feeling dizzy and nauseous, but my legs were no longer numb, so I could slack off of the panic button a little.  One examination and CT scan later, the doctor decided it was a concussion, but there was no internal bleeding in my brain, so I could go home.

Now, my hubby is on his way home.  It was the final day of his trip, so he didn't have to cut it short for me.  And I'm feeling happy things are not as bad as they could have been.

One bit of amazing news that helped brighten the whole situation:  I finally took my comprehensive exam for school counseling.  It was tough, but in about two to four weeks, I'll know my score.  Cross your fingers and your toes, my long, long journey to becoming a school counselor is finally over.

Hope your luck has been better than mine lately.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's About Time

It's about time to break forth with the rhythm and the rhyme...

Just kidding.  It is about time for a break though.  I have had a very busy year, and I have a feeling there will be more, not less, to come, so this summer, I need to make sure I take a break from the day job as much as possible.  The school year winds down this week (with a few extra days next week for professional development), and I am ready.  I have so much writing to do, and I have every intention of getting it done.  I have a novella that is plotted and well on its way, but I need to devote time and energy to it.  I also have another one that will write itself if I can ever get back to it.  It is an awesome story with great characters I'm so in love with.  Plus, I have a flash fiction story spinning around in my brain.

So, how can I do all of this in about eight weeks?  Writing time, every day.  I will be rising and shining each morning to get in a good three hours of writing time each day.  Coffee will get me through the tough times, and when I have accomplished all I want to this summer, I'll pat myself and know it was all worth it.  Just have to actually get to summer days.
Needless to say, I need room to move.  (I am so channeling the 80's/90's right now).  So, here's to the end of another school year and (cross fingers) the beginning of a fruitful summer.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Saturday was an interesting day.  It was one of the best feelings to be surrounded by writing people.  They so know where I'm coming from without question, and I love that.  Being able to talk story people and the romance genre makes my day.  Some wonderful new writers joined us--Tina Michelle, who is a fount of paranormal knowledge.  Check her out at  And we also met Kallypso Masters, who has the friendliest smile.

The meeting went off without a hitch thanks to our fearless leader-- JM Madden, who you can find at

Then the good vibe continued when Donna McDonald shared her experience with something I've been highly interested in lately--self-publishing.  She has ventured forth into the world of self-publishing and is doing very well.  She has three self-published titles released right now--  Her website is

I've downloaded the first of her "Never too late" series, titled Dating a Cougar, and although I've yet to begin reading it, I can tell you that many are enthusiastic about it.

She explained to us the success she's had, and without giving details--yes, it's worth looking into.  But I'm not rushing into anything just yet.  First of all, I don't have anything I would consider ready to publish currently.  Second of all, I'm into promoting my soon-to-be-released story from TWRP.  Third, there are some upfront costs (editing, cover, etc.) that I'm not quite ready for.  Four, as I've said before on this blog, I'm a muller, and I've got some mulling over to do.

Like I said, I've been researching this old publishing phenomenon made new.  You see, I know that self-pubbing has been stigmatized for years, but that was when you needed trad. pub houses for editing, artwork, and distribution, and when you sunk money into it that you never got back.  Now, neither trad. houses nor excessive upfront money is necessary.  And everyone knows that with the popularity of e-readers, publishing is changing--like Middle Ages to Renaissance, possibly (too big?  Naaah).

Of course, there are other names to research if you are interested in self-pubbing.  One of the biggest self-pubbers right now used to be totally against self-publishing before he realized how much money he was losing by not going there.  Of course, I'm talking about J. A. Konrath.  If you are interested in reading about his experience, he has been really candid about his process--

What are your current thoughts about the changes in publishing?  Is self-publishing the way to go?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I just finished Bossypants, by Tina Fey, and it is a real treat.  Huzzah!  Tina Fey, huzzah!

Seriously, this is a great, laugh-out-loud read that I hope to pass on to many of my friends and family. 

Around Easter, hubby and I were in the Target on the other side of town, and though we decided it wasn't as good a Target as the one on our side of town, we were still buying too much, as is the current duty of all Americans.  As we perused the DVD's which just so happened to be next to my favorite section--the books, I pointed out the hilarious cover of Tina Fey's book.  On the cover, she is looking demure and beautiful from the neck up, and from the neck down, she is a man.  Not just any man, she is a large, hairy-armed, watch-wearing, sausage-fingered man.  And it is hi-larious (emphasis on the Hi).  Next thing I know, it's Mother's Day, and I own the book.

She covers topics such as growing up with her Greek mother and German father, her start in Chicago with Second City, her move to Saturday Night Live and then to 30 Rock, and of course, her personal life journey through marriage and having a baby (possibly babies).  Needless to say, I loved every minute of it, and often laughed out loud (literally) around strangers until they felt compelled to ask, "Is that a good book?"  Duh!  Just kidding, strangers.  I didn't think it was a stupid question at all.  There are no such thing as stupid questions (my training as an educator forced me to say this last part).

Weird thing was though, I decided I was Tina Fey.  Not in a psycho, identity crisis kind of way.  More like an I can totally relate to her life kind of way.  She's so down-to-earth, and despite the being a celebrity and all, accessible in a regular way.  My point is:  You should read this book.  Borrow it, check it out of the library, download it at Barnes and Noble (I guess you can for free with the Nook, three chapters at a time), or break down and buy it.  It will totally be worth it.

Happy Writing (and Reading)!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Feeling of Fear

I have a fear of success.  I wasn't aware of this fear until I had to send copyedits back to my editor.  Maybe it was when she mentioned that this was my last chance to make my story look like I want it to when published.

DANG!  That's pressure.  I mean, this is it.  I'm sending my baby out into the world, and I'm nervous about the reception.  Hubby said, "All you can do is your best, and you know some people still aren't going to like it."  How, of him.  It's something I would say to him, and you know what?  It might be true, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  (Note to self:  revisit my motivational speeches.  I think some just serve to piss people off rather than pep them up).

Anyway, although I sent the copyedits back, my fear still lingers.  What if I really do suck, and they just needed a warm body and that's why they said yes?  What if it was a fluke, and I can never do it again?  What if I spend waaaay too much time worrying about things I have no control over?  Okay, that last one's true, and I know it.  What I don't know is if this fear will ever go away, no matter how many copyedits I get lucky enough to make it to.

At any rate, all I know is, even with that crazy fear twisting around inside me, I did still send those copyedits back.  I guess the one good thing to come out of this is even though I'm afraid, I can and do face my fears--good outcome or bad (fingers crossed it's good, only good ;0))

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


So many times I am reminded just how blessed I truly am.  Today was one of those days.

I had a great check-up with my oncologist today.  Everything looked great.  However, while waiting for my appointment (bloodwork an hour before, then wait), an older gentlemen struck up a conversation.  He was there for a follow-up from his first chemo treatment.

At first he was shocked that I had gone through cancer treatment.  Then he was excited to see me this far removed from my treatment and looking well.  He told the CPN later that it had given him hope.

The whole conversation was very uplifting.  He'd lost so much already--his voice had changed, his speech was slightly slurred, but we laughed and talked like friends rather than patients waiting for our turn.  As the conversation continued, he mentioned he didn't have any family.  Ironically, the event that started our interaction was a large family going back with a patient.  Nothing like a little perspective to remind you how blessed you really are.  I don't know how I would have coped without my very supportive family while I was going through everything last year and the year before.

We finished our talk on a positive note.  He asked how I'd kept busy during the time when I was sick.  I explained that I wrote a novel.  One that will never see the light of day, but it was something that kept me busy, focused, and made my time feel worthwhile.  I told him that even if what I was writing wasn't the best stuff, I kept on writing, and I'm proud of that time and what came out of it.

Unfortunately, I got called back to see the doctor, and when I came out, he was gone, and I don't even know his name.  But it got me thinking.  I now have a school counseling degree, but with 12 more credit hours, I will be able to take a licensure test to become a certified mental health counselor.  If I make it that far, it wouldn't be a bad thing to be there for those who don't have anyone else.  Most cancer centers have social workers now, but I don't know if they have any links to mental health counselors.  That would be something to work toward.  It would be a way for me to give back for all my many blessings.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

This crazy roller coaster I've been riding lately is crazy climbing again.  I finally completed my very long, very time-consuming school counseling internship, and I got my very first copy edits yesterday.  Good news all around.

Listening and making people feel better is one of my strengths, so a few (100) years ago, I began working toward a Master's degree in school counseling.  Today, I completed that very long process.  My stress isn't over yet though.  I have to pass a comprehensive exam and graduate officially, but it's going to happen, and I never thought I'd make it to this point, so I'm *happy dancing* all over the place.

Furthermore, I opened my e-mail yesterday, and my editor had sent copy edits my way.  Well, let me tell you, I had heard the copy edit version looks more like the published product, and it was so true.  For the first time ever, I saw the title page of my story--the copyright page of my story.  I was giddy with excitement, and I can't wait for the next and the next and the next step in this amazing process.

Now, time to write and write and write on my current WIP.  I should have more time to devote to it--in an ideal world, and all that.

What's your good news?

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Any Man of Mine--Rachel Gibson

I finished Rachel Gibson's latest--Any Man of Mine, and it's one of her best.  I love her hockey heroes, and she delivers again with Sam LeClaire.

Here's the blurb:

What happens in Vegas...doesn't always stay there.

Autumn Haven's Las Vegas "to-do" list said to catch a show and play the slots--not wake up married to a sexy jerk like Sam LeClaire.  The first moment she saw him eyeing her like a luscious piece of the dessert buffet, her usually responsible self told her to run.  And she did--right into the wildest fantasy weekend of her life.  But Monday morning jolted her back to reality, and before she could say "pass the coffee," Sam was gone.

Now a successful wedding planner, Autumn hasn't clapped eyes on the heartbreaking hockey superstar for over two years...until she organizes his teammate's "Special Day," where Sam makes a BIG play to pick up where he left off!  But she has vowed any man of hers plays for keeps.  Is Sam the man for her or does she banish him to the sin bin forever?

Aside from a few missed typos, I loooovvveed this book.  Ms. Gibson has an amazing pacing ability.  Her characters go about their creatively normal lives, but before I realize it, I'm halfway through the book and wanting to meet the characters.  If you want a good contemporary read with a hawt Alpha male, you can't go wrong with a Rachel Gibson book, especially this one.

Any good reads lately?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Wild Rose Press is Five-Years-Old

The Wild Rose Press is blowing out five candles today. Congratulations to all the people who've made this e-publisher a success, and I'm kinda proud to be a small part of it.

Join the celebration by going to one of the following links:
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

M-O-T-I-V-A-T-E, Find Out What it Means to Me

Lately, the motivation to write has been lacking, which is frustrating, to say the least.  I have a plot in mind.  I have characters who are coming alive in my mind.  But lately, we're all in a waiting pattern, and life is a busy airport.  Between my day job as a teacher with all its necessary planning, grading, meeting, and lessons, my counseling internship with its daily meetings and paperwork, my home responsibilties (clean clothes and dishes are so overrated), my motherly duties (food prep, homework guru, storyteller, calendar checker, and so many other crazy tasks I never saw on the job description), and my husband would like to sit down with his wife at least once a day.  So what goes by the wayside?  Yep, you guessed it, the writing time.

Scott Eagan tried to enforce the idea that the writers who make it are the ones that make writing a priority.  They're the ones that make it clear to their friends and family how important writing is to them.  He even suggested setting aside at least three hours each day for writing.  Three hours?  I don't have three hours to rub together (or something like that).  I'm time poor currently.

So how do we stay motivated?  How do we keep moving forward on the WIP without feeling like we're stealing time from so many other important things?  What are your best time management tips?  What works for you?  I'm interested to know.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Speakin' the Lingo

A funny thing happens when you're a middle school teacher.  No matter how old you get, you always seem to know the current slang.  You can't help it because it's everywhere, everyday.

Today I heard a term I'd never heard before, but it rolled off the kids' tongues like a loose grape, and my vocabulary was expanded.  The term is Screamo and refers to a type of music.  Turns out though, I just hadn't been hanging with the "wrong" crowds because Screamo has been around since the 1990's.  It's described as using "typical rock instrumentation, but is notable for its brief compositions, chaotic execution, and screaming vocals. It has been described, by music journalist Jason Heller, as 'graft[ing] spastic intensity to wilfully experimental dissonance and dynamics,' indicating a kinship with noise rock."

So what does all this have to do with the price of gas?  Absolutely nothing (and don't get me started on the price of gas), but it does bring to mind an important aspect of writing--voice.  See, music is a great place to begin to understand how voice works in writing, and how writers develop their own distinctive voices.  I don't know if I'd start with Screamo necessarily, but whatever works, right?

For a class assignment a few years ago, I had my students listen to different artists singing the same song.  Believe it or not, there are quite a few renditions of Billie Jean (first introduced my the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson).  And by listening to the other versions, I was able for the first time to begin to grasp the idea of voice in writing.  You see, Michael Jackson has a very distinctive singing style that is different from a version of Billie Jean sung by Chris Cornell, former lead singer of Soundgarden, which is different from a version sung by Tony Bennett (Yes, that Tony Bennett).  Obviously, many things about the songs are the same, but you would never mistake who was singing a particular version because their voices and styles are so distinct.  You can find versions of all three on

So, the next time you're trying to stay true to your own voice, don't worry about whether or not you've got the correct lingo, just know that you have a distinctive way to say things, and that's okay.  Will everybody like your voice?  Afraid not, but if you create a distinctive enough style, those that do will hopefully crave it again and again.

Have you figured out your writing voice yet?  It's an ever evolving process for me, but I can see a huge difference between my early work and my short story, Into the Fire.  And, maybe an occasional middle school slang word or phrase might slip in, but only when the scene would be ruined without a loud, screaming, emotional (Screamo) kinda vibe.

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Thick Is Your Skin?

I finished my edits on Into the Fire and sent them off to my editor.  Wow, I always imagined using those words, but the reality is way better.

Of course, within a day of this mood-elevating event, I received another dreaded rejection for a paranormal story pitch for Harlequin, and drew a relatively realistic conclusion that I didn't place in another contest.  Even with all the good things that have been happening lately, these rejections still hit me hard.  I literally wanted to cry because it brought up all my fears of not being able to make my writing more than a hobby.  I want to make it a career, and I thought I was on a roll.

BUT, something is different.  When I received a rejection before, it took me weeks to recover, to want to write again, but this time I couldn't wait to get back in front of my latest WIP.  What was the difference?  Has my skin grown thicker?  Actually, the truth of what it means to be a career writer hit me.  One acceptance doesn't mean I'll never have to feel the sting of rejection again, but it does mean that a rejection doesn't have nearly the power over me that it used to.

I've written about rejection quite a bit on this blog, mostly because I am early in my career, and I know it will be a concern to me for a long while to come, so that's why I refuse to allow a rejection to keep me from writing.  The true key to a long-term writing presence is not acceptance after acceptance.  It is persistence in the face of rejection.

So is rejection getting you down?  Are you thinking of throwing up your hands and giving up?  What keeps you going?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Editing is Not a Quick Process

So, I'm editing my manuscript right now and figuring out how to use track changes all over again.  It has been a slow process because I'm re-reading, blushing at my obvious errors, and making more changes as I go.  As the process got more and more tedious, I was tempted to just throw my hands up, accept all the changes, and send it back to my editor.  The truth is though, the perfectionist in me wouldn't let me do something like that.  But today, I read a blog by one of the Wild Rose Press editors at and it became clear that there are authors who do exactly what I was tempted to do and send back the manuscript the next day.  Unfortunately, this sends the wrong message to the editor who worked so hard to go through the manuscript, trying to make it publishable.  The authors who did this though argued that they needed to get their books out as quickly as possible, and it takes months to actually publish, even online.  Yet, if your goal is to build an audience, wouldn't the best possible product, one that the author really cared enough to make as perfect as possible, be a manuscript that had been gone over several times.  As the editor from Wild Rose Press expressed--it's not a fast food kind of process.

What do you think though?  Is a quick publication worth a rush on the editing?  Is there a hard and fast rule when it comes to quality?  I'd be interested in what you think.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Mysterious XXXX

Ever been writing, words flowing on the page easily, when you come to a spot in the piece where the details get fuzzy, and you're not quite clear what you want to write, right there?  Maybe it's a name or a description, or just something that catches you off guard, and everything comes to a halt.  What do you do?  Do you stop and work it out or go to a source to research, breaking your momentum, but getting everything just right?

I'm going to let you in on my little secret.  Now, I didn't come up with this on my own.  I saw it in another author's writer tips, but it has served me well.

Here it is:  I don't stop for those time-stealers, and I don't waste time racking my brain for what to put there.  I use XXXX to mark the place, so I can come back to it later, and I keep moving forward.  But anyone who reads my draft and doesn't know what this is about might get the wrong idea, thinking that maybe the ring finger on my left hand sticks sometimes.  It doesn't, in case you were wondering.

When I read about this originally, I was skeptical.  I mean, shouldn't you try to get everything right the first time through, so that rewriting will be easier later?  Yes and no.  For me, if I tried to get it just right on the first draft, I would never write the words, "The End."  I have finished four drafts, and in my most recent ones, I used this technique.  Needless to say, they went much quicker, and I stuck with them more consistently.

And the funny thing was, when I did my document search, using XXXX as the search item, by the time I got back to that particular spot, my brain had often worked out what had tripped me up before, and the creative juices flowed to create a solution to my previous problem.

So, how about you?  How do you handle the dreaded halt in the flow of your thoughts?  Do you do something similar, or do you have to get it right in the moment before you can move on?

Happy Writing!

Don't forget to check out my other blog at:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chasing Trends

I'm sure there have always been trends, but I think after the recent vampire craze, writers are convinced that if they can just write a book that follows the latest trend, they'll get published.  The latest trend:  YA (young adult). Some authors have been trying to write the next best YA, even though they've never actually read one.  I have met authors who are truly writing YA and have been long before the supposed trend started (Hi, Amy), but others see it as what agents and editors want, so they write a story with a main character who's in high school and dealing with a whole bunch of angsty things.  Surely that's all it takes to write a great YA?  But, two things are wrong with this theory:  first, YA is not just a regular story with younger characters, and second, by the time a writing trend becomes a trend, it's on its way out.

YA's are about the characters and stories, but they're also about the voice, the character mindset, and so many other things that are hard to nail down.  You can't dress up an adult romance in Abercrombie and call it a YA.

Also, by the time you grasp the trend, the publising world will be moving on to the next one.  Vampires-OUT, Werewolves-OUT, Shapeshifters-OUT, Zombies-still a little hot but soon to be OUT!  Does that mean if you write vampire, werewolves, or yellow, polka-dotted shapeshifting unicorns, that you'll never find a publisher?  Not necessarily.

If you want to get published, write the best book YOU can, no matter the trends.  Either you'll chance into the next trend, or someone will recognize the love and attention you put into the story you cared enough to write well.  The only trend you should follow is your own, oh, and the yellow, polka-dotted shapeshifting unicorns.

Happy Writing!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Failures Have Served Me Well

I LOVE Top Chef, probably to an obsessive degree.  My children know it as "Mommy's Show."  But, due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn't get to see the finale until yesterday (thank you, DVR).  I won't give anything away, but one thing Richard Blais, one of the final competitors, said toward the beginning of the show stuck with me.  He said, "My failures have served me well."

Let me give a quick history, so you can understand where I'm going with this.  You see, he competed on the show once before.  This season was an Allstars show, and the competitors were all the great contestants who didn't win the title of Top Chef during their seasons.  Hands down, Richard was the favorite to win during his season, but, in his words, "choked."

But, rather than go in with the attitude that he had to redeem himself (although there was a little bit of that), he really tried to focus on cooking his food, his way, and admitted losing the first time had given him an insight that his other competitors didn't have.  He'd had an "epic fail" the others hadn't, and his drive and focus were unwavering this time around.

So, have your failures served you well?  Mine have, and they still do.  I wrote a manuscript that nobody but my mom liked.  I've entered contests where I didn't even come close to finaling.  I've been rejected quite a few times, by agents and editors.  But from each of these experiences, I learned something and grew as a writer.  I know my failures aren't over.  There will be many more, but my attitude toward them has changed.

In this month's RWR, J. R. Ward discusses something similar.  She is open and honest about how devastating it was when her publisher dropped her years ago.  It felt like the end of the world, and she tells about crying in the parking lot of Whole Foods.  But she didn't stay down.  She started writing The Black Dagger Brotherhood series to do something new and different--to reinvent herself.  It was perfect timing and great writing.  Without a doubt, you probably know the rest of the story.  She is now Bestselling Author J. R. Ward.

So what does this mean for you and me?  How can we learn from our failures?  Start small.  Find someone you trust to read your work.  Let them give an honest criticism, and get ready for the feeling of failure.  But don't let it discourage.  Let it encourage.  Sure, there will be things to fix, but if you really are trying for a writing career, now you're one step closer because you've learned something about the craft of writing.  Rather than shut yourself off from failure, embrace it.  Find the kernal of goodness in what didn't work with your writing, and make it better.

Agents and editors want to see your best work, but in the end, it's all subjective, so the more eyes that see your writing before you send it out, the better you'll be able to weather a few problems along the way and make your story the best it can possibly be.

Happy Writing!

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exciting Stuff All Around

Funny how life is.  One day you're just going along normally, juggling all those balls in the air (wife, mother, day job, graduate school, writing), then the next, one of them gets a whole lot heavier, and you feel like the pace picks up, but there is no instruction manual provided for how to keep all the balls in the air at this point.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  I'm thoroughly, completely, insanely excited about this new twist of life.  I have no complaints about my life.  Matter of fact, I feel very blessed, but I'd appreciate those of you who are published authors giving a few tips for how you work your writing life into your already busy schedule.

Oh, and I would like to invite you all to follow my new blog
It's my author blog, and yes, I'm posting to both as of now.

I'll also get back to posting about finding the right agent, editor, publisher, etc. next week.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's That Book Got That Mine Don't?

What does the published book represented by your dream agent or published by your dream publishing house have that yours doesn't?  Besides good timing, you'd be surprised.  Literary agent Scott Eagan shared a story about a writer who wanted to write for the Silhouette line so badly, that she literally honed her writing to sound just like the books she was reading.  Now, before you go trying to figure out how to paraphrase a published book, that's not at all what he meant.  She studied certain aspects of the published books until she could write her stories with their format.  I'm not talking formula here either, though in a way, you can see patterns.

We are all working on our craft and learning at our own pace, so often we might not honestly be at the stage where we can objectively look at what's on the shelves now, and what about it appealed to our Top Ten agents/editors.  And, before I get too far, let me just say that Susan Meier does a great series of blogposts on this very subject, so I suggest you check them out at

She has terrific ideas for how to analyze the books you read.  But there are other aspects that she doesn't really get into when it comes to analyzing a book of a particular line.  The truth is, different lines publish different kinds of books.  Sure two different houses might both publish vampire stories, but as Scott Eagan said, "the vampire from one line wouldn't hang out with the vampire from the other line."  There are differences, and if you want to work with a particular agent or editor, you need to identify those differences.

So, what do we need to look at?  I am targeting a particular line myself and have known I would like to write for them for a while, but I haven't submitted to them yet because my story just didn't seem right for them, even to me, but I wasn't sure why until I started analyzing some of the published books from that line.  These are the things I looked hard and nit-picky at:

  • Hook--Not just what it is, but how is it different from others before it.
  • Beginnings--I have heard not to start with dialogue, and I've also heard a great way to start is with dialogue.  So, which is it?  It probably depends on which line you want to write for.  Once you've studied a few published books, you'll have an idea.
  • Dialogue vs. Narrative--I literally pulled out a highlighter and marked all the dialogue in the first chapter of each of my test books.  What did I notice?  Most of the first chapter was narrative in which the internal and external conflict of at least one of the main characters was revealed interspersed with meaningful dialogue.
  • Sexual tension--How much, how is it revealed, are the stages of intimacy obvious?  Everyone knows you can't submit erotica to Love Inspired, but even an inspy line will have some romantic tension.  If you are targeting that line, you need to know how published authors were able to work that out.
  • Character description--Some publishing lines are okay with a quick stats rundown of hair color, eye color, height, etc.  Others call for subtlety.  Read some published books and note in the margin when you get a visual of the character.  How was it revealed?
  • Backstory--Once again, people get anxious that they have too much backstory or not enough backstory.  How do you know?  There's no definitive answer.  This is one where, once again, you have to consult those that made it to the shelves.
  • Gender--For me, it's important to see what kind of heroes and heroines the line looks for and how he or she handles the dialogue, narrative, and description from each point of view.  Certain lines have only the Alphaist of Alphas, some allow Betas, and some have a hybrid that I have heard called a Balpha.  It's important to study and figure out whether the line you want to write for has the same kind of heroes and heroines that star in your book.
These are only a few items you want to look at to see whether what you write would ever fit at the publishing house with which you dream of working someday or is written in a way that would appeal to the agent you hope to snag.

Can you think of characteristics that stand out in the books from the authors or publishing houses you love?  This is the key to getting noticed and hopefully published.

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Which Agent or Editor is Right for You?

What do you get when you mix an elephant and a rhinocerous?  Helifino.

Often, after that first, second, or umpteenth rejection, that's what we say when it comes to what an agent or editor really wants.  I mean, we're sending good, quality work.  Why can't they see the genius?

Scott Eagan made this point so clear this past weekend when he told the Kentucky Romance writers about a time he sat on a panel with other agents and answered questions for a group of writers.  After the Q&A session was over, an author approached the agents and said that she finally understood why one of the agents kept rejecting her and would more than likely, never accept her writing.  The agent liked a different kind of voice than she wrote.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  They always strategically place that little tidbit at the end of the rejection letters that the publishing business is subjective and maybe my writing would fit with another agent and all that, but we all know that's just patronizing, pat-on-the-back speech, right?  WRONG!

If the top of your top ten wishlist of agents or editors likes a snarky, snappy kind of heroine, but you write the female version of Dudley Do-Right, then, more than likely, you're never going to get that yes.

So, how do you find out which agents or editors are right for you?  Believe it or not, it's easy and even fun.  All you need to do, is find out who their clients are and read the latest books published through that agent or with the help of that editor. 

But, how do you find out who their clients are?  All you need is the internet, which you obviously have if you are reading this.  Websites like or actually list agents, their clients, and even give easy access to what projects that agent is looking for.

Once you know who their clients are, you can then find the latest release where the publisher and sometimes even the editor (in the acknowledgments) are listed.

Now the fun part is reading the books, but rather than reading them for entertainment, you read them with purpose.  Your purpose is to figure out what the agent or editor liked about this manuscript, liked it enough to give it a chance to be published.  If you really want to understand what they want, read the first time authors.  They are the ones the agent or editor really took a chance on.

My next post we'll look at ways to analyze the books you read, and exactly what you should look for.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Lose an Agent/Editor in Five Easy Steps

Obviously, the title is not literal, but thanks to the KYRW workshop this past weekend, I got some excellent information about how to know whether or not you're ready to submit your work to an agent or editor.  So, today I will share five ways to really screw the pooch (no dogs were harmed in the writing of this blog) when it comes to agents and editors.

  1. Don't target specific agents/editors, just send a mass e-mail to all of them.
  2. Really show you hate to research by not having read any of the books that said agent or editor has been involved with publishing.
  3. Don't narrow your book down to one genre or possible publishing house.  After all, they all publish the same books and have the same readers.
  4. Don't waste time with critique partners or groups.  Get your work out there as soon as possible.  That's what agents and editors do--clean up the writer's mistakes.
  5. Do chase what's hot right now (which just happens to be long-winded diaries written by shape-shifting zombies that take place in exotic locales like Egypt).
So, there you have it.  All the reasons an agent or editor will run screaming in the exact OPPOSITE direction of you.  Truth is, I have been guilty of at least three of these (okay, I feel your snarky stare--all of them).  What about you?  What are things you wish you'd known when you first started out?  Or what are you still unsure about?

More on these this week.  I plan to blog about each way to lose an agent/editor, going into more detail for each.

Happy Writing!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coming to You Live

Currently I am sitting in KYRW Spring Into Writing conference with literary agent Scott Eagan.I am learning so much about what NOT to do when it comes to submitting to agents and editors.  First and foremost, I learned that I am soooo NOT ready!

But I am learning how to get ready, and that is exciting.  I have oodles to blog about this week, including some pictures of the places we went (not at all related to Dr. Suess).  Here's a little tidbit that I've heard but it finally clicked:  I need to know who I want as my publisher and where my work fits RIGHT NOW.  Why?  I'll go into more detail later, but agents need to know if your writing would even work there because it really doesn't every where.


I will also give more detail on how you go about doing that because, let's face it, we don't know what's going on in agent's and editor's heads, most of the time.  I mean, come on, my book is THE best thing EVER (thick sarcasm intended).

But I've taken good notes and even did a pitch, so I will spill my thoughts on all of it this week.  If you comment within the next two hours, I can ask him right now.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ten Minute Procrastiwriter

I am a notorious procrastinator.  Matter of fact, between the previous sentence and this one, I managed to waste about twenty minutes looking for the perfect picture, googling people's names, updating my facebook status.  Okay, so maybe it's not so much procrastination as ADD or maybe it's just ODD, but I have a tendency to lose track of time.  It just slips away like dropped change rolling around on the floor.  I don't know where it went, but I miss it when it's gone.

True to form, I procrastinated getting my current WIP where I wanted it to be by this time.  You see, there is a workshop this weekend (information can be found at, and I'd planned to have at least two manuscripts to pitch to literary agent, Scott Eagan, but now I only have the one ready for him to see.  *sigh* It's not like these opportunities come very often, but no sense dwelling on hard-headed procrastination epic fails, right?

But it has made me re-evaluate my situation.  I know I can't always give my time and attention to my writing like a full-time writer might, but I have to make myself stick to the goals I have for myself somehow.  Therefore, my new-fangled idea is this:  over the next month, every day, even if I can't write any more than the time allotted, I vow to write for at least ten minutes a day.  Even if I have so many other things to do, I will give ten minutes to my writing.  By doing this, I hope it will stretch a little past that (maybe even a lot past that, sometimes), and I'll get more accomplished.  However, even if I can't write for anymore than ten minutes, I will have written something for that day.

I will update you on my progress.  Before I go though, I'm curious how others make progress when so many other of life's issues take precedence.  How do you keep BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard)?

Happy writing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Musings

I can't imagine the devastation that Japan is experiencing currently.  My thoughts and prayers are with the people there.  Cancer taught much about appreciation for life as I know it, but it also gave me perspective.  I am blessed by modern medicine, by my friends and family, and by God.  Yet that doesn't mean bad things don't happen to good people.  Now, I am far from perfect, but I have always tried to do the right thing, and even through many good decisions that led to great opportunities in my life, I still developed a life-threatening disease.

It's hard to explain to some why I still expect good things to happen in my life.  Some would just take the pessimistic viewpoint and expect the worst at every turn, and I'm not going to lie, those thoughts have occurred to me, but I've never been one to stay down long.  And I certainly hope to be able to help any way I can to assist the people of Japan as they get back on their feet again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I had an outpatient surgery today, but good new--no malignancies.  Needless to say, I am resting and relaxing today, but the amazing, wonderful doctor said I'll be recovered in a week.

Thanks goes to God for the good news.  I praise him for his many blessings in my life.

Now, the good medicine is kicking in, so time for bed.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

R-E-J-E-C-T find out what it means to me.  Yep, I received a rejection on my short story submission, and it hit me where it hurts.  But the truth is that it means something more to me than just a simple no.  It means that I believed in myself enough to send it out in the first place.  It also means I can live through rejection.  And, of course, it means that they rejected my work, not me.

I also submitted two other places and hope to hear from them soon.  Even if it is a no from both of them, I feel like I'm taking one step closer to publication.  I refuse to give up until I get a yes, whether that's this year or a few years down the road.  That's what it means to be a writer.  That's what it means to pursue a writing career.  No publisher is going to come to my house, rifle through my computer files, and shout, "Eureka!" when they see my work.  I have to submit it and risk rejection.

You know what helps though?  A little chocolate and understanding friends.  One of my dear friends I met in Orlando told me I should hang on to that rejection.  Stephen King posted them above his desk, not as a reminder that he'd been rejected, but as a reminder that he had a goal and every rejection was one step closer to meeting it.

I'm not Stephen King, but rejection means that like a real author, I'm going to pull up my big girl panties, pull out the current WIP, and keep on keeping on.

Any suggestions for how to deal with rejection?  Maybe just a positive story about an author who had many rejections, but in the end, met their publication goals.

Happy Writing!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blogging Elsewhere

I'm blogging on the imperfect hero at ACA this week.  Follow this link and come on over where we write by the seat of our pants:

Happy writing!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Am Pleased To Announce

One of the wonderful ladies I was fortunate enough to meet in Orlando was Golden Heart nominee Jennifer Jakes (you can Google her and everything).  Now she is releasing that Golden Heart nominated book, Rafe's Redemption with The Wild Rose Press officially tomorrow (Friday, February 25).  So of course, I am happy to recommend buying her book. 

I will be purchasing an e-book and print version tomorrow at this link:

But it can also be purchased at this Amazon link:


We know how to do it right here in central Kentucky, and in the month of March, Kentucky Romance Writers will offer the following:

Third Annual Spring Into Writing Workshop

with Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency on Saturday, March 19, 2011

9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Come pitch to an agent who specializes in women's fiction and romance. For more information about registration, follow this link:

For more information about Scott Eagan and Greyhaus Literary Agency, follow this link:

Happy writing!