I’m a Bylines Calendar Girl

2012 is almost upon us! Have you bought your weekly writer’s calendar? If not, feel free to pick up this one:

Not just because I’m a calendar girl, although of course that would be a good reason. (I’m pretty sure I’m August, but I haven’t gotten mine in the mail yet. I’m thinking August will be a month to remember.) It’s a great calendar, chock full of inspirational stuff and handy references… check it out!

I should add, if you’re family, you’re required to get one because it has my kids’ pictures in it. Seriously.

If you’re a writer, go ahead and submit a short essay for next year’s calendar. Who knows, you might be Ms. /Mr. August 2013. (But you’ll never be as amazingly cute as those kids from August 2012, don’t even try.)

Happy New Year, Friends. I’ll see you next week with word on my broken resolutions!

Christmas Comes Early: My ARCs Arrived!

When you start to explore the crazy world of book publishing, it’s like walking into a room where everyone is speaking Pig Latin: you don’t understand every word, especially not at first. There’s all sorts of terminology to onfuse-cay ou-yay.

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have known what an ARC was, unless you meant the kind Noah started building when God whispered “rain.”

But I just got the ARCs of my book, and so that you’ll understand and celebrate with me, rather than feel confused, I’ll tell you what they are. ARC stands for Advance Reader Copy. These are copies of a book put out months before the publication date of the novel, and sent to reviewers, booksellers, librarians… and authors.

Look! I got a box of these beauties, and they’re mine ALL MINE!

And NO, the final cover art will not be pink. Or anything like this at all.

Er… No, not really.

ARCS are a marketing tool, NOT copies of the book, exactly. They still have that last batch of typos and errors that didn’t get picked up in early rounds of edits (and, yes, it kills me to know that on page 183 or whatever, people will  see that horrible logic flaw. I took it out after these were printed!)

My NAME is on the SPINE! With candy. How apropos.

Since ARCs are not copies of the final book, they are not for sale! You cannot buy them, and if you see them for sale online, someone is doing a Very Bad Thing called piracy. Don’t support them, please. Writers need to eat, and that only happens when actual money changes hands.

Speaking of money, ARCs are very expensive to produce! They can cost upwards of $16 apiece to print, since they’re run in small batches. (And that’s in softcover! My book will come out in hardcover and cost the reader about the same. Weird.) So if you get one, be happy! Read it, review it if you like, and maybe pass it on (if you really liked it, to a librarian who might buy a copy for her collection. Just don’t ever sell it. See piracy, above.)

So, my ARCs are now out in the world, going to all the fancy schmancy people who might possibly write lovely (or not-so-lovely) things about my book. It’s more than slightly scary. But it’s wonderful, too.

It has a back cover, too! With words on it! That I wrote!

It’s a total Pinocchio moment for me — I’m a Real Author now! And I won’t lie, that thought makes me feel all Christmas-y inside.

Merry Christmas, Friends! And I hope Santa brings you exactly what your heart desires.

PS – Very soon I will be able to share the Real Cover Art. It will SO be worth the wait. 🙂

 

 

Fighting for Silent Night: Keyboard Struggles

I can’t play the piano. Well, not really. I took a few months of lessons when I was a seven, a semester of class piano during my “voice major” phase of college, and four months of lessons when I was pregnant with my first kid. So I can sit down and plunk out a melody line, sure. And I played enough other instruments in my life to be able to read music well enough. But no one would make the mistake, after hearing me massacre a minuet, of thinking that I could really play piano.

Some of my very favorite memories of childhood, though, were of my mom playing piano music with us kids, all of us singing along. We had dozens of songs memorized, harmonies and descants included. Whenever a day had really gotten to one of us, the sound of those songs trickling in from the living room would pull us out of our funk and onto the piano bench, right next to Mom, and the day improved in an instant.

I wanted to give that to my kids. I wanted to play those songs, and more. But I was a Very Difficult Child, and broke my mom like a dry twig when she tried to force me to keep up the practicing as a child. And the time, patience, and will to learn to play as an adult eluded me.

So I settled for the Most Important Songs: Christmas Carols. Even if I couldn’t sit down and play some gorgeous classical piece, by gum I was going to nail Joy to the World and Jingle Bells. You know what? I did it. I mostly have those, even if they are pretty easy versions. Even though I have to struggle and sweat through every new song I want to add to my repertoire (Silver and Gold? O Come, O Come Emanuel? You are mine!), I am adamant I will succeed.

I think all of our Big Dreams are like that. There are things we want, and things we’re willing to work for, and things we’re willing to accept. Too often, we’re willing to accept less than we are capable of, and far less than we’d dreamed.  I accepted far less in my dream of playing the piano with my kids — but I’ve made my peace with what I can do and have done.

Whether it’s in writing or music, there comes a point when you must draw a line in the sand and say: this is what I want, and am willing to work for. Fight for. Even if it means sitting down to the keyboard and coming face-to-face with your current state of mediocrity, even if it’s embarrassing and your kids/critique partners don’t seem all that enthused.

Even if it means the dogs howl and the neighbors post anonymous complaints about the noise, even if the agents and editors send form rejections and nothing else, keep working toward your goal. At the end of your journey, you will have earned the right to be proud of yourself. So what if your work only ever appears in a local magazine, or a church newsletter? So what if all you can play is Silent Night?

Personally, I’ve always loved Silent Night. And the most meaningful thing I’ve had published was in a church magazine.

So, Writer Friends… what are you willing to work for? What are you willing to accept?

The Perfect Writing Day

On the best writing days, it rains.

It’s cold outside, just a little, so I’m not tempted to venture out. My favorite pajamas are clean, and I keep them on until at least noon.

I have my special tea – the cinnamon/orange/clove stuff, along with my insulated infuser tea pot, and one of my fancy schmancy, Jane Austen-y, bone china tea cups.

My dogs sit quietly at my feet. My big dog only smells faintly of skunk.

The phone doesn’t ring.The Internet is boring and holds no magic for me.

I know what I’m planning to write about. Not every word, but the next chapter or two.

When I get to a place in the manuscript that needs a little research, I can find the information I need in seconds. I get to research old fairy tales and witchcraft and call it working.

The writing goes fast. I produce thousands of words without it feeling forced or tiresome. I re-read what I’ve written, and it sounds… if not good, at least like something I can work with.

I think about my story all through lunch, which happens to be the very best of leftovers from a home-cooked meal.

I have enough chocolate (Lindt Intense Orange Dark bars, to be precise) to help me get over that afternoon slump.

The perfect writing day. That’s what it’s been like today, Writer Friends. Go ahead, be jealous.

But you don’t have to feel too jealous. I’ve never actually had two of these in a row.

Yet.

So, what’s the perfect writing day for you?

 

Will Write for Food (and Love)

News flash! You have two (count them: TWO!) opportunities to buy anthologies with my work in them this month.

If you’re a lover of personal essays, chock full of humor and (gasp!) recipes, check out the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love edition.

Why not buy a dozen?

 

Or, if you’re more of a black turtleneck and beret type (and don’t we all have those days? Come on, admit it.), you might be interested in Improbable Worlds: an anthology of Texas and Louisiana Poets.

This cover gives me great joy.

 

Actually, I had a fainting spell when I saw the names of the other poets in this anthology. I’m still a little overcome by the whole thing.

Now, I don’t have time to mess around. I have a whole lotta words to churn out to meet my next deadline. So, answer me this: if Santa were planning on bringing you a recently-published book (in addition to these lovely anthologies), what book would you ask for?

Did Santa ever bring you a book when you were small? Or was that considered socks-and-underwear-ish?

Write well, Friends!

Stray Poems and Homeless Stories

I have a problem, Writer Friends. I have a short story AND a poem ready for submission. Okay, it’s not exactly a problem. More a quandary.

I have no idea where to send them. You see, I really, really like this poem and story, but they both will have to fall into just the right lap to find their way out into the big wide world of publication. (Translation: they’re both weird.) And even though I’ve had similar work published before, these new pieces are just different enough to send me scurrying to all the corners of the Internet (not to mention the magazine racks, the bookstores, and my own bookshelves) to hunt down just the right venues.

I get emails from writers fairly frequently, asking me where good markets are for this, that, and the other. The truth is, I don’t know. No one seems to — and if they say they do, I’m not sure they aren’t trying to sell you (and me) snake oil. I think there is some not-so-small measure of serendipity that leads you to the right editor.

Of course, chance favors the prepared writer – so doing your homework, and surfing all those sites to find new markets is a step you can’t skip, no matter how you wish you could.

This shouldn’t even be an issue for me right now. I’m hip deep in second pass pages (the final round of editing for Sinister Sweetness), a draft of my agent-anticipated WIP, and prep for the holidays. But these short pieces are begging for attention, too. Heck, my pets are strays. I guess I’m a sucker for little brown dogs — and the “little brown dogs” that howl on my hard drive, too.

Any of you have short pieces you can’t find a home for? Where do you go to find them homes, other than duotrope?

Happy Thanksgiving, Writer Friends! May you all win your personal NaNos, or at least get the biggest piece of pie. 😉

Book Launch Envy

Austin has a lot: great music, wonderful food, a laid-back, wear-your-jeans-to-the opera vibe… and books.

Oh, do we love our books.

I’ve been hanging out at the local indie bookstore, Bookpeople, a WHOLE lot recently. Not only am I attending to support my Writer Friends’ book launches, I’m also being dragged there by my kids, who also love them some readin’.

Last week I noticed something… interesting. Book launches are getting more and more exciting.

I mean, seriously. At Cory Putman Oake’s launch for her new YA novel, The Veil, there were… cheerleaders.

Also brownies, but that may only be exciting to me.

My kid and his friend with their hero, Mr. Flanagan.

And then, at John Flanagan’s launch for Book One: The Outcasts of his new series, The Brotherband Chronicles, there was honest-to-goodness sword fighting. (By trained professionals. If they’d given swords to all the kids, there would have been a higher body count.)

Also, knights in real armor, and more Ranger’s Apprentice look-alikes than you can shake a bow staff at. I thought I’d wandered into the Renaissance Festival for a minute.

It was absolutely cool.

I can’t even express how much I approve of this new trend. But it has me a little worried. How will I make my own launch next year stand out?

Have a gingerbread school contest?

Get impoverished and/or child actors to act out the scariest scenes?

Hire a local coven to come with a cauldron full of fake body parts… or worse?

I could use some help here. 🙂 I don’t think I can work the sword fighting in at this stage – I’m proofing the final pass pages this month! (And can I just say that seeing my name on the copyright page is the HUGEST rush?)

 

 

 

Books for Bastrop

Good Monday morning, Writer Friends!

Most of you probably heard about the devastating wildfires earlier this year that virtually destroyed the town of Bastrop, Texas, not far from where I live. It was a horrible time for so many – and continues to be, with years of rebuilding ahead. The Bastrop Library didn’t burn down – thank goodness – but MANY books were checked out when the fires came, and the homes they were in were consumed by the fire.

So the library needs books (and/or money, of course). And, on their December 10th Open House, they plan to give the kids in the community two gift-wrapped children’s books…. since, in addition to the checked-out library books, the children’s own books were also burned up.

Wow. Think about that. We have a town full of kids who have NO BOOKS. And a library who wants to give those kids books. And us, reading about this, and wondering what we could do.

Do this:

Send your checks, made out to the Austin SCBWI  with Bastrop Library Fund written in the memo portion of the check, to ASCBWI, 709 Wood Mesa Ct., Round Rock, TX 78665. Book donations can be sent to that address, as well. (For more details, read this post at the Austin SCBWI posted by our excellent RA, Debbie Gonzales.)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we all have a lot to be thankful for, right? Why not say a big old THANK YOU to the libraries that helped you grow into your Awesome Writer Selves, and give to the Bastrop Library.  Or to your own local library!

Keep on writing!

 

 

The Power of Naps

I’m going to come clean about a part of my writing process that might look… suspicious, if you actually saw me doing it.

(And I’ll come clean about why I’m coming clean: I’m about to write a “Day in the Writing Life” post for the Apocalypsie blog, and this part of my “process” will be there. Better to make a clean breast of it, right? Haha I said breast. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

The part of my writing day I’m talking about is this one:

Except I'm not nearly as cute as these puppies.

I know, I know. It sounds like such a cop-out. “I’m not sleeping, I’m resting my eyes” — or in this case — “I’m not sleeping, I’m pre-writing/writing/revising.” But it’s true. A good nap – not a real, deep sleep one, but a cat nap when you’re thinking about your manuscript – can be just the thing.

Try it! Maybe you’ll have the sorts of epiphanies I’ve been having with startling frequency these days with your own manuscript. If you don’t, who cares? You still win. Because, seriously, you need the sleep.

We all do.

Now get some rest! Then go back to your crazy NaNoWriMo lives. 🙂

 

 

 

 

A Good Writing Day

Happy NaNoWriMo day, or whatever those lovely people call this day. Me? I’m not doing NaNo, as usual. But I have been writing up a storm, also as usual. I have a self-imposed deadline of December 16 for the first draft of my current WIP, which now has a title I (sort of) like: Chloe Green in the Grimoire Garden. What do you think?

Most days, I write about a thousand words. Not so much on weekends, more when inspiration shows up. Yeterday was a good writing day – 2.5 K.

But there are so many ways to measure a good writing day, aren’t there? I mean, come on, is word count as important as finally figuring out how to make  a tricky plot point work?

Yesterday, my son asked how the writing had gone. I didn’t bother to tell him how many words I’d written – he doesn’t care about numbers outside of video game scores. “Awesome Possum,” I answered him, in Texan Middle-Grade Boy Language. “I got to use the words ‘explosive diarrhea’ in this chapter.”

“Awesome,” he agreed. Then a pause. “Can you work ‘spontaneous human combustion’ in next week?”

Why, yes. I thought, sensing another good writing day on the horizon. I think I can.

How do you measure your good writing days? Word count? How you feel at the end of the day? By the number of empty candy wrappers around your chair?

Cool Stuff: For those of you who don’t aspire to use words like “explosive diarrhea” in your children’s fiction, check out Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog post on Picture Book Month – also November! And then go buy some picture books for all your nieces and nephews. Heaven knows they don’t need any more toys. 🙂