Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Lookback & 2016 Goals

I set writing goals every year. I'm not a huge stickler on them, but it's nice to make them and strive amiably to hit them. If I do (booyah!), if not, that's okay too. Here's what I set last year: 

1. Write two books. Nope. I wrote one book, two short stories, and a picture book. And did a whole lot of revising on another book.

2. Get an agent/publishing contract. Nope. Which let's admit was a dumb one to make! Though I did make it with the intent to focus on my work ethic more. And I think I did pretty decent with that. There were some months toward the end of the year I slacked off, but I'd changed jobs. And while I really like it, it's a totally new (and difficult) field for me, which meant my brains kind of were melting. And some days, still are!

3. Relax about getting an agent/publishing contract. Okay, total fail. Last year I had weeks of 'I'm chill', and then weeks of 'this is never going to happen' . But then, toward the end of the year when I was dealing w/the job change, I slowly realized that I'm not as rabid about the agent/publishing contract. I still absolutely want it, but it's okay if I go a few weeks without writing, or if I focus on reading, or party planning, or DIYing. I know in my heart that one day I will have a book w/my name on it, and I'm okay w/whenever that happens. Writing makes me happy and turning it into a stress game does me no favors. 

3. Stay positive and believe dreams do come true! So, so. =) On the positive anyway. I still absolutely 100% believe dreams come true. 

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Well, then. It's time for 2016. Last year's were a bit vague-ish, so I'm going for more concrete. And...shocker!...some of them won't be related to writing.

1. Write a book. Forget two. With always having something waiting in the wings to be revised, two is not happening. But still, writing one book in a year is pretty cool. Go you, Mizz Wallace. (I'm trying to jazz myself up here, ppl. Yanno like a boxer warming up, watching himself in the mirror.) ;) 

2. Spruce up our back porch. Our back yard is yucky. Weedy and buggy. We have a covered porch, but all that's on it is our riding lawn mower and a neglected grill. No more! I'm buying a glider, a chair, repurposing some pillows, buying a fire pit. Gonna make it purdy. I'll admit this one is going to be a struggle. I hate weeds, and I also hate trying to take care of them. It's going to be a woman vs yard battle this summer. 

3. Begin querying this spring. Marchish or Aprilish, I'm hoping to get back in the fray. I had a pretty decent request rate last time, so I'm hoping I will w/this ms as well. But it never goes down the same way twice, so I know I shouldn't get my hopes up. 

4. Revise my New Orleans paranormal. I finished it last summer, and it's just sat there since then. My faith in it wavers, b/c I'm not sure if it's unique enough to really stand out, but I don't want to give up on it either. But I also don't want to expend the sweat, blood and tears that is revising when I could be focusing on something else. 

5. Turn an old headboard into a fireplace mantel. This is one I'm not sure if it's feasible yet. I've seen it done in DIY posts, and our old headboard is languishing out in the shed. I've got to hack my way through the weeds at some point and get out there and measure it. It might be too long for the wall, or completely out of my skill set.  


So those are my intentions for 2016. I hope everyone has a safe & fun New Year Eve's, whether that's out w/family or friends, or staying in to eat chicken burritos at their in-laws! (me, yum!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DEAD AND BREAKFAST is on Kindle Scout!


Have you all heard of the Kindle Scout program? It's where people submit their book for consideration of a contract w/Amazon and...my cp Kimberly has been picked for consideration! (whoo!) If you go to her page you can even read an excerpt, which I think is really great. (Of course, I'm biased, but it really is great!)

If you read the synopsis and excerpt and like the sound of Dead and Breakfast then definitely consider nominating her. She's on the hot and trending list right now (awesome!) and I know she would love your support to help her stay there. Thanks all!


Monday, December 14, 2015

The 3rd Annual First Line Christmas Contest Winners!!!

First, thanks so much to everyone who participated! I always look forward to this contest, and as always, you all did not disappoint. =) Now...let's get to the winners! 

Mackenzi Lee picked...Carrie Beckort's entry!

It was my first time riding the Polar Express, so I didn't know that I'd be denied hot chocolate just for hitting my brother over the head with a nutcracker.

Mackenzi said: I laughed out loud when I read her line. And hers feels like the start of something. It's not trying to be a whole narrative in a sentence--it makes a great set up, and entices the reader into wanting more. And I have been enticed. 

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Victoria Scott picked...Patsy's entry!

After Mrs Lucas bought a red coat and rearranged the letters in her name, the behaviour of local children improved considerably.

Victoria said: After careful thought, I'm choosing Patsy's first line. It's creative, simple, and she managed to establish her voice in a single sentence. Impressive! 

Congrats, Carrie and Patsy! Please let me know if you'd like your copy of Let It Snow through B&N, Kindle, or some other ebook retailer.

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Victoria also made a first line for us: I do my best killin' after sucking on a candy cane.

(Personally, I hope I don't meet this person at any point during the holiday season!) ;)

And so as not to be left out of the fun, here's mine: The ornament glowed softly in the light and I touched it gently, sending it spinning-- just like Step-mother would do to me if she caught me. 

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Thanks once again to our marvelous judges, Mackenzi Lee and Victoria Scott. They both write fantastic books, which I hope you'll check out. 

And lastly, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. Merry Christmas!!!



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The 3rd Annual First Line Christmas Contest!!!


It's that time of year again! Twinkling lights, yummy treats, presents under the tree...& first lines! For those of you have been around awhile (& thank you for that!), you know how this goes, but in case we have any newcomers (welcome, welcome!), it goes like this: 

I supply a list of Christmas/holiday words. You then craft a first line to a story, using one (or more, if you feel like) of the words provided. Leave it in the comments & two winners will be announced on 12/14 by our guest judges. The prizes are an ebook copy of Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle. 


And speaking of guest judges, this year we have the lovely Mackenzi Lee & Victoria Scott!!



Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three.Her first novel, This Monstrous Thing, a YA steampunk reimagining of Frankenstein, is out now from HarperCollins. She currently calls Boston home.




Victoria Scott writes teen fiction, and is represented by Sara Crowe. She’s the author of the Fire & Flood series published by Scholastic, the Dante Walker trilogy published by Entangled Teen, and the upcoming teen stand-alone, Titans, being published by Scholastic, spring 2016. Her books have been bought and translated in eleven foreign markets, and her next release, Salt & Stone, recently received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. Victoria lives in Dallas with her husband and adores getting to know her readers. Visit her online at VictoriaScottYA.com.

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The List

eggnog
snowflake
ornament
evergreen
icy
nutcracker
Rudolph
red berries
Polar Express
gingerbread
gingerbread house
gingerbread man
Santa
wreath
three wise men
stocking
snowman
Douglas fir
candy cane
Advent calendar
tree skirt
cinnamon
menorah
cider
sleigh
pine cone
ice skates
Mrs. Claus
wrapping paper
reindeer
chimney
Scrooge
abominable snowman (or Yeti)
holly
hot chocolate
Yule log
caroling
latke
fruitcake
garland
Festival of Lights
ribbon
mistletoe
dreidel
snow
pie
nativity
snow angel
bells
candlelight
mistletoe
penguin
bow

I do believe this might be the biggest list of holiday words so far. You can make words plural or singular to suit your needs. All first sentences for whatever genre are welcome, though please keep it family-friendly. 
Also, the judges are taking time out of their own busy holiday season to help out, so a follow on social media or marking their book to read on Goodreads or even a newsletter subscription would be much appreciated, I'm sure!
 
And now...the 3rd Annual First Line Christmas Contest is open. Write away all!!!

*Contest is now closed, judges deliberating their winners*

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Author Stop: Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson

I'm thrilled today to be hosting Jessica and Stephanie, two ladies whom are a bright spot in the writing/blogging world, and whose MG novel is debuting this month!

1. You lovely ladies are the first writing duo to be featured on my blog! (um...congrats? *wink*) How does the writing process work between you both?

Jess: Stephanie and I have been friends for a long time, so it’s easy for us to talk about things without having any drama involved. We can just decide what we want to do, then put our heads together and figure it out. It’s fun to write with someone whose opinion you value. It gives you the freedom to let the creativity flow. I truly enjoy writing with Stephanie, and I feel lucky to have her as my co-author.

Stephanie: I agree with what Jess said and love working with her. I would add that we also spend a lot of time talking out what we want to write next. Sometimes we read aloud a chapter or two and then discuss what we think will happen next. Our phone conversations are mostly about writing! Then, whoever has a chance to start writing first goes into Google Docs and writes. The other person will read what was written, make edits, and start adding their thoughts. Because we use Google Docs we can write from wherever we are, and the changes are instant. We agreed when we started writing together that we wanted to write the best stories we could and that we wouldn’t let our feelings get in the way, and that has made a world of difference.


2. I love creepy houses in fiction. Do either of you live in a creepy house?

Jess: Not currently, but the Begonia House is based on an experience in my grandparents’ house in Ridgefield, CT- though the fictional house has grown in magic and size quite a bit due to our vivid imaginations.

Stephanie: I don’t live in a creepy house, but my current house is about 100 years old and we have found unique items in it dating back to the first family that lived here. For example, we uncovered a drawing on the wall behind wallpaper we were taking down that was done around 1930. Unfortunately the wallpaper remover got to the pencil drawing and it only lasted minutes, but it was fascinating to uncover and see it while it lasted. I also lived in a house from the 1700s for a few months, and it really got me thinking!


3. You're in the check-out line at the grocery store. What candy bar tempts you most?

Jess: Payday or Snickers.

Stephanie: This is tough, as I am a chocoholic. All of them? It depends on the day- but probably Twix, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Take 5.


4. What will you be doing on release day to celebrate?

Jess: When the book is released on 12/1, I’ll be enjoying every moment with my awesome co-author. We’ll be signing books at the Waterbury, CT Barnes and Noble at 2PM on Friday 12/5 to cap off launch week.

Stephanie: Our plans for our release week are still coming together, but we will definitely take time to celebrate. I know we will laugh, possibly cry (from joy), and there will be squeals of delight. If the weather cooperates we will celebrate in person, if it is snowing (we are in CT after all) then we will enjoy the moment over the phone!


5. What is a fav line(s) from TSFoFM (one from both of you, please!)?

Jess: The daylight began to fade, painting the sky with long pinkish purple streaks of color. Fairday’s bedroom was hazy with the last dusty beams shining through the window. As she closed the door and switched on the overhead lamp, shadows shifted over the walls. Lizzy flung her overnight bag in the corner, then sat down on the bed, listening with rapt attention to Fairday’s recount of the incident involving… ;)

Stephanie: Fairday left the room and was heading back down the hall when she heard the strangest sound. It was faint, and it was coming from behind the padlocked door. She walked over and put her ear up against it. Something that sounded like music was coming from behind the door, but really odd music. It was high-pitched and whiny. Was she imagining it? She listened for a minute, trying to think of what could possibly make sounds like that, and then she knew.

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Jessica Haight is a true New Englander, with a deep desire to be near the ocean and a love of the four seasons. She enjoys drawing while standing up and cultivating magic in her garden. She easily floats away in the pages of a good story and is still waiting for her owl from Hogwarts. Jessica lives in Connecticut with her charming fiancé, James; dog, Jack; cat, Bill; and a very entitled bunny named Alice.


Stephanie Robinson lives with her husband in a quiet town, though not as quaint as Ashpot. After teaching fifth grade for almost fifteen years, she is now enjoying her role as a school media specialist. One of the many benefits of her job is that she learns something new every day. When Stephanie isn't working, she spends her time creating stories, getting lost in books, and traveling to new places.

Find Jess & Steph here: Blog | Twitter


Fear Not the Unexpected

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom.

As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past.

Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads 

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“Remember, young lady, you have to think beyond what you know to be real. You have to see with your mind as well as your eyes.” The old man pulled his glasses down to the end of his nose and looked at her. “Be careful, Miss Morrow. Please be very careful.”

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

On Writing Memberships

I've been a member of SCBWI for two years, I do believe. My membership expires tomorrow, and sadly, I'm not renewing it. It just comes at a bad time of the year, w/Christmas just around the corner. Are many of you members of SCBWI, or any other writing organization? And do you feel like you gain much from being a member? Just curious...

I definitely plan on rejoining at some point. I do feel like being able to put in my query letters that I am a member shows that I look at writing as a professional career, even though I'm not a professional writer (yet...okay, disclaimer: the dream that I'll someday be able to totally support myself through writing has waned throughout the years, but some days it still flickers into flame every now & then). 

But right now in my life, membership doesn't make much sense. With working full-time and the whole baby-sitting scrabble, I can't go to many of the events. I have done two Indiana SCBWI conferences that I quite enjoyed, and were only about an hour and a half away. But next year's conference is gonna be a biggie w/several surrounding states involved. It'll be held in Chicago, and w/parenting responsibilities, I just can't go. 

And honestly, I have no desire to be in a big city all by myself. It's hard enough to push myself to be sociable w/strangers when it's in my own state and a hundred people or so. Totally not happening when it's thousands! And I imagine that many ppl go w/buddies, and can you imagine trying to 'break the ice' w/a group of unfamiliar eyes looking at you? Brrr! No, thanks! 

Wow, I am sounding like quite the unsocial butterfly in the post, lol! I am a sociable person, but do better when it's people I already know and in a smaller setting. Then I'll talk your ear off. But back on track: I've gone to two in-state conferences, a critique meeting, and a luncheon. I enjoyed them all, and do still interact online w/some of the people I've met there. So my two-year membership stint did pay off. 

I will say that I wish I could go to one last event, which is a holiday party in Indianapolis. I secretly long to dress up and go out w/the hubby to eat hors d'oeuvres and feel like those people that you see in the holiday commercials, laughing and sparkly w/big fat flakes of snow spiraling down. But...my husband is even less socially-inclined than I am, and would rather eat nails than go smooze w/people he doesn't know. 

So I guess I'll just wait for our anniversary next month when we'll probably go to our local Applebee's. I can laugh and sparkle there too, I guess. Or wear a comfy hoodie and boots. Whichever! 

Oh! And one final thing...I won PiBoIdMo! That's right. I now have 30 pic book ideas to pick and choose between, conglomerate ideas, or snigger over how awful of an idea that one is (or two- let's just hope it's not thirty...). I really enjoyed it and hope I've some future, completed PB manuscripts in there somewhere.