Friday, December 31, 2010

Why Do We Celebrate a New Year?

If you really think about it, New Year's day is the most useless holiday. You get a new calendar, you have to remember to sign your checks with 2011 instead of 2010, some people get drunk, and almost all of us make goals that we won't keep. Most people under the age of 14 and over the age of 30 don't even stay up for the countdown to a New Year.

All of that said, I love the idea of the holiday. It is a great time to step back and re-evaluate your life and the changes that have taken place. It is hard to really sum up 365 individual days without bunching them together. Summing up a month also seems a bit pointless, it just happened. But summing up a year is expansive enough to sound important but small enough that you can still (mostly) recall what happened.

There is also that new hope for a better you. I've had many days that changed my life forever, none of the were January the 1st. Maybe that's why I'm a bit humbuggy about the holiday. The really big days when you finally step up to take responsibility for your future are never the convenient ones. It is always random one that usually is later forgotten. Here's three just from this last year that will probably go unmarked as my future moves on but that made this year something to remember.

On June 3rd I decide to get serious about losing a bit of weight. I'm not sure why everything worked out this time. Since then I've lost (and kept off) 30 pounds.

On October 23 I decided that I needed to write more. So far, I've re-edited my first two books and written the first draft on a third. I don't plan on stopping there!

On January 28 my husband and left our home in Idaho and moved to Maine. We miss the west but it has been great to experience something new.

I guess that the real use of New Year's is for one day to dream of what the future can hold. And if you are lucky it is a great excuse for a kiss!

What did 2010 bring to you guys this year? Any hopes for 2011?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Read Along Time!

I love taking a fresh look at old classics, the kind that every English teacher has assigned at least once. As a historian I try to think about the atmosphere that it was made in, was there war, a cultural revolution, or did it take place in a nice quiet little countryside where politics didn't matter as much. The point is, no book was written inside of a bubble. Readers don't exist in that bubble either. Books that were once considered fantastic, can now seem a bit stiff as the times and readers change.

This year I'd like to try something new. I've planned to read some of the old classic books written by women, one each month. I will include my own thoughts and ideas about the book, both how it was viewed then and now. What I'd really like to add to it, is other peoples opinions.

Before the first of every month I will announce that month's book. Even if you haven't read the book before I'd like to know what your thoughts about it are right now. Anyone with a little extra time this month, or later if you'd like, is asked to join in my monthly read and help me in reviewing the book at the end of the month.

I am grateful to anyone who decides to take up this challenge one of the months, or all twelve! Right now my list includes Jane Austen, all three of the Bronte sisters and Louisa May Alcott. Write to me and let me know if there are other books written by females from that time period that you think I should be including.

Don't worry, I'm not completely sexist, next year I would like to do the same for male authors. It's just that I am being polite, which means that ladies come first!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hello Again

Yes I've been a bit lax in my blogging but with the holidays around the corner...oh you've heard that excuse before. Let's just say that I've been very busy editing my latest manuscript.

I promised (a long time ago) to explain how both me and my husband won the November challenge. The short honest truth is that we hadn't been writing for quite some time. We both wanted to but hadn't. As you can see from the above excuse, we are both great at putting things off. Joining NaNoWriMo was a bit of a push to write. What really worked was us competing against each other. I never would have made the 50,000 because of what a busy month it was but every time that I wanted to slack off my husband was showing me that he had written some. Then I wanted to top him, and he wanted to top me. Sometimes competition can be a really great thing.

Now we both have a book that is nearly done but both need extensive editing. So the great slog of editing begins.

Luckily I've got some exciting new things in the works that make all of this editing worth it, or so I hope. To hear more about that though, you'll have to wait until next year!

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Maybe my resolution should be less excuses!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Watching, Reading, and Listening.

It is time to get into the Christmas spirit! There are certain movies, books and songs that make this season suddenly feel like Christmas for me and my husband. Even though we moved to an area that hasn't gotten much snow there are other ways to start the season!

This is one place where I usually enjoy movies more than books, mostly because it is easier to share them with friends and family. From Kris' family we have the tradition of watching a Muppet's Christmas Carol. My family has always loved Christmas Vacation and has watched it enough times that several parts of the movie get quoted, even when it isn't Christmas. Others that I love to watch each year include Little Women, Love Actually, and The Grinch(the cartoon).

One of the strangest additions that I've made to this list is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Many, especially those who haven't seen it, will argue that it is a Halloween movie. Not really. When you see the main character, Jack, first glimpse Christmas Land it will remind you of everything you love about the holiday. You get to see his first taste of snow, the adorable little elves who live there, and of course the kindness of the (more than plump) Santa Claus who is a wonderful lesson in patience!

Still there is a place in my heart for all of the wonderful Christmas books. Romance novels really cling onto this holiday and many romance authors have at least one Christmas themed book. It is fun to read about the love that can spring up around the mistletoe! I don't really have any favorites to recommend, although this year Lisa Kleypas put out a wonderful modern one title Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. Each year I like to pick up a couple of ones that I haven't read so that I can dive into something.

Then there are the songs. My husband works in retail. I work at a hotel. We hear Christmas songs all of the time. Still there are certain ones that no matter how humbuggy you feel, they tend to lift you up. My favorite has always been Tom Petty's Christmas All Over Again. For one thing it doesn't get overplayed as much and it makes me want to run around the house, bake cookies and decorate. Since I hate to bake, this is quite a strange feeling!

What about you? Is there a movie, a book, or a song that let's you know (in a good way) that Christmas is nearly here?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Love Rejection Letters!

Sort of...

The first time that I entered into the process of querying a book I had no idea how difficult it would be. Over the course of a week I honed my life story, as well as that of my characters, into less than 350 words for the perfect query letter asking agents if they would like to read more. I was prepared to research various agents, I was open to the idea of revisions, but I was not prepared for the rejection letters.

It was only twelve hours before the first one filtered in. That I could handle. I was smart enough to know that my book wouldn't be for everyone, but surely it was for someone, right? Amidst the next few letters there were little beams of hope that kept me going.

Over five months of querying I sent out 55 letters. In return there were 31 rejection letters and 17 never responded. I did receive five requests to read additional material, but all of them eventually turned into a dreaded, though polite, rejection letter. The day that I received four of those letters at once, was my darkest day since I had started writing. I felt that no one wanted to read what I had spent months writing. Don't worry, I did get over it and realized that my masterpiece hadn't been as good as I had thought. When you fail, it is time to try again.

So what has changed in the past seven months of no querying? Why, on my second time around, do I now love those little letters that fall into my inbox only to tell me 'no thanks'? Don't get me wrong, I wish that I would get an offer of representation and I still might, the process is far from over for my second book. But I've now come to value the agents who understand how hard it was to write a book and how nerve wracking it is to send out a query and never hear back.

That is the new normal in this business. Agent's are too busy to respond to each query. Some of them get hundreds of these letters every month. Most of the letters, I understand, are unprofessional and even rude at times. It takes real dedication, to a writer that you are rejecting, to then send them a letter to let them know that they should keep trying.

This is why I've now come to love rejection letters, even the standard 'Dear Author' ones. Those agents who make the time to say something as brief as 'Not for me' are at least kind enough to not leave me in the dark.

This blog isn't a negative response to those who never get back to me, I understand how difficult their jobs already are without taking that extra time out of their lives. I've also heard that those who respond get more negative e-mails back than the 'no response means no' agents. No, this blog is about saying thank you to those who do send me a rejection letter so that I don't have to keep guessing or wonder if it never got to them in the first place.

I wish that I could post the very kind rejection letter that I received today that inspired me to write this. But when I teeter on the question of being professional, I prefer to be overly secretive instead of sharing too much.

What I can tell you is that it wasn't a form sent out to hundreds of others and I loved the little typo that stood out on the second line. It reminded me that there was a human on the other end. When he/she opened that letter from me they wanted to fall in love with my book. It isn't their fault that they didn't. Some days it helps when I am reminded that no one wants me to fail and one day I will get The Call. I just have to stay positive and keep trying.


Lindsay-I won
Kris-He won (but didn't make the official mark of 50,000)

Next time-Why the event helped both of us!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I wasn't going to blog about Thanksgiving. Everyone else enjoys talking about their own experiences and while pleasant, many start to sound the same. Then I realized how different ours was compared to the experience of others. Okay, now I'm suckered in to sharing.

Thanksgiving is about family for both me and my husband. More than that it is about community and friends. In the past we've enjoyed having the usual Thanksgiving afternoon with my family. Then the next day or very late that night we host our own Thanksgiving with my husband's mom and brother where we invite all of our wayward friends who didn't get one earlier.

Some of them don't have family in town and can't afford to visit. Others worked that day and couldn't find anything but leftovers at home. Whatever the reason for their lack of turkey we loved gathering people around our table.

When a family offers this to someone who mentions that they are without family for the holiday, it is usually responded to with a very polite no. People don't want to barge into another person's traditions. They won't get that joke that your father keeps making in reference to holidays past. They don't know to stay away from the oyster dressing that somehow still gets made every year.

That's why ours is only about them and we let them know that this isn't us adding another chair to the table, this is about filling the empty plate that we've already made for them. I love it when people are brave enough to come even though they don't know us very well and have no clue who else will join. They get plenty of pie and always have a great time.

This year was a very abnormal Thanksgiving for us. My husband and I recently moved out east, away from family and friends for a chance at some new opportunities. We didn't have enough funds or time off from work to return for the holidays. This year we were the strange ones out with nowhere to go and so Thanksgiving was spent with just the two of us.

Of course we got those very kind family invites. But we wanted to try it alone. Both of us are rather private people who usually avoid large groups. This year, we got to see the holiday from a different perspective. It was interesting to have a Thanksgiving without everyone else. Both good and bad surprises awaited us.

No huge prep work went into the meal, it was mostly boxed just-add-water or canned. For turkey we picked up a preroasted piece from the grocery store. Surprisingly the meal was very good. Not homemade stuffing with fresh mashed potatoes good, but considering what we had to work with, it was really nice. We didn't have to worry about when it would be done or if everyone had shown up yet. A half an hour after we decided to eat, it was ready to go and it took only a few minutes to decide what to watch afterward.

We missed being with everyone and I can't remember ever having a bad Thanksgiving with family but it was also nice spend the holiday with just the two of us. We only did what we wanted to do, which excluded a lot of the traditions that we are used to.

Of course we missed everyone and although I'm not a huge sports fan it was odd not to hear it in the background.

This isn't a habit that we want to make. I miss the family Thanksgivings. I miss hosting our little 'Island of Misfit Toys' Thanksgiving for our friends. Sometimes though, it takes the absence of something to remind you how important it has always been! Maybe now I'll even appreciate the green bean casserole, though it isn't likely.

No matter how you spent it, I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving! What about that odd one out though? Can anyone else share their own strange stories about a Thanksgiving that wasn't quite like the others?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Changing World of Publishing

This is a great article that shows how much publishing is changing. One thing that it doesn't mention is the new rise of e-publishing and how that might fit into the dynamic.

How do you expect to buy your next book? In e-book form, through a book store, or ordered online and sent to your home?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Inspiration from the smallest of places.

Today it comes from a pomegranate seed.

I have to admit that I'm biased towards pomegranates. They are my favorite fruit and no fall season is complete until I have spent at least five minutes picking up each piece at the grocery store trying to decide which is the perfect first pomegranate for the year. One year I ate three a week for over two months. My poor fingers were stained by the fruit until nearly Christmas when they had finally gone out of season.

As an avid admirer of odd historical and mythological information I've latched onto the many stories told about the fruit. After Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and brought into the underworld it was her consumption of six (or three, the number varies) individual pomegranate seeds that doomed her to spend half of every year below the earth as his wife.

The word pomegranate occurs at least fifteen times in the bible. It was believed by some that the juice left stains as a reminder of Christ's blood and sacrifice. Others believe that the original fruit in the garden of Eden was not an apple but a pomegranate instead. They are also prominent in the beliefs of other cultures including Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.

So why did they inspire me today? To eat an entire pomegranate without bursting any of the seeds before they reach your mouth takes care, practice, and an attention to detail. You can't go hacking into it with a knife or a spoon and expect perfection. So they inspired me to go back through what I had recently written and decide if I had done the same with my novel. I hadn't, tomorrow will have to be an editing day it seems. On a happier note, it was a wonderful pomegranate and large enough that I've saved the other half for tomorrow, to make up for the dreary bit of editing to do.



NaNoWriMo Goal for today's date-18,337

Still behind but much closer than last week!

Friday, November 5, 2010


The challenge, frustration and fun.

Since most of my present readers are not writers I thought it would be a great time to introduce NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and was first started in 1999. The idea is that writers and want-to-be-writers set aside time from midnight November 1st to 11:59 PM November 30th for a daunting challenge. One story, 50,000 words. It is much harder than you might think.

To make it easier they stress that this is not about making a perfect story or even an edited story. The website boasts 'No Plot? No Problem!' This is about diving in and just getting something new written.

The first year only 21 people picked up the challenge. Ten years later, it grew to over 170,000 and over 2.4 billion words were written by the participants. This only counts the ones that signed up on the official website, something that I did not do. Then again, last year I didn't finish either.

This year Kris and I have decided to join the official group for the first time. I will be starting on a brand new sequel to my first novel and Kris is writing a new detective story. Both projects have been on the back burner due to us working through edits on earlier stories. We'll get back to those later, but for now it is refreshing to have something fresh to start.

Watching from the outside last year, it was impressive how supportive the other writers are. Everyone 'wins' this contest by simply writing 50,000 words on one story. Any genre counts, even fan fiction. People band together in coffee shops, internet chat rooms, and anywhere that they can find a fellow writer to help each other cross to the finish line. During the month of November blogs that have stayed silent for months will start up again with new frustrations or inspirations that the challenge brings. Writing is a very solo experience for many of us but NaNoWriMo acts against that. For one short month we are all together.

Wish both of us luck and I'll keep you posted on our progress!



NaNoWriMo Goal for today's date-8,335 words

We're a bit behind already!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I am a genius.

Or at least I feel like one today.

Which is the best time to start a new blog in my opinion. As an amateur writer every day starts and ends with a different mood, and often includes many other moods in between.

Rejection letters bring about some of my darker moods. They take me back to when that first special someone said that they didn't want to go to the dance with me. We're all smart enough to know that rejection letters aren't meant to be personal. They are part of the business and it wouldn't even make sense if every agent told every author yes, especially when their project isn't ready for publication. We've all read back over our old work and wondered how we ever thought that it was perfect. And rejection makes us stronger, or so I say to myself each time that a new one filters into my inbox.

Still there is an undeniable amount of pain involved in the process of writing and seeking a successful career in such a tough field. Self doubt and constant revisions can make you feel like you're spinning in circles, or worse, wasting your time.

That's why on the days that something clicks in just the right way, your successes must be celebrated. The moment that you can say “I am a genius!” must be cherished, even if you later delete that same wonderful passage. After all tomorrow is another day, and it might not be as great.