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!