Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcome 2013

So here is my annual letter to myself, outlining goals and ambitions for the year.  Let's see if I can do better than I did in 2012...

Dear Me,

This is the fourth year I’ve done this now, and it has been an interesting process every year.  So we shall continue with it….

First up, a look back on 2012 and what achievements I made…  Well, very few.  I wrote a lot of words, some good, some dreadful.  I queried The Boyfriend Plague extensively and got a wide range of feedback.  I wrote The Sidewalk’s Regrets, ¾ of Between Paradise and Nowhere, and as I write this, about half of my amputee virgin novel I’m calling Ozzy for now.

So my first goal for 2013 is to finish Ozzy.  Since my deadline is January 31st, I’d better move it.  But I’m fairly confident I can get there.

My second goal is to whip my query for Sidewalks into shape and start querying it.  It’s a tough one to write a query for because the basic story isn’t that unique, but the choices Sacha makes give it something I haven’t seen in a YA book before.  How to get this across in a query, without giving away too much of the plot, is a challenge.

I’m still trying to decide whether or not to enter ABNA this year.  I don’t have time to throw together a good pitch for Sidewalks so I have two choices as to what to enter.  I could enter Taillights again, but since that already got ditched in round 2 last year, I’m a little wary of doing it.  I could enter The Boyfriend Plague, but after all the querying and the very mixed responses I got from the requests, I’ve almost lost confidence in that book.  So I’m going to have my entries ready to go, and decide at the time.  I’m actually going to be away at the beach when the entries open, and unless I take my computer with me, the chances of there still being slots open by the time I get home are fairly slim.  So, maybe this year will be ABNA free….  We shall see.

I have a wonderful and expanding group of writer friends across the world, and I aim to keep supporting, helping and critiquing for all of them in 2013.  Seriously, the writing community is incredible.  I feel so privileged to be a part of it, and to have met such fantastic writers.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them and the support they give me.  So my goal is to be as supportive and helpful to them as they are to me.

I will finish Paradise, even if it kills me.  I’m stubborn like that.  Even with the end in sight, I know there is a ton of revision needed on this one.  Whole chunks need to be sliced out and rewritten.  But since this book isn’t a priority, I will work on it when and if I find time.  Ozzy is more important to me and will take precedence.  And I have an idea for another story I’m playing with too.  I’m not sure exactly what form it will take, but I have a basic idea to expand on.  But ‘m not going to commit to it yet.  I know how often new ideas come up and sledgehammer me.  And when that happens, I’ve learned I need to go with it.

As usual I will pledge to lose weight, and as usual, I won’t.  But I will continue going to the gym and will continue to up my weights in all the weights classes I do.   I think being fit is probably more important than being thin.  I like eating and wine too much to be thin. 

So there we have it.  We’ll check back midyear and see how we’re going.  And again at the end of the year.

Love, Me!

Do you have any goals for the new year?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 reading

About this time last year, a lot of people were blogging about their resolution to read more books in 2012.  Some of them even gave a number of books they planned to read and were going to track them on Goodreads.  I don't use Goodreads, but I thought the numbers people cited were quite low and decided to keep tabs on how many books I read in 2012.

With one day left to go, I'm sitting on 128 books read.  And I doubt that will change because I've only just started both the Kindle book and the paper book I'm currently reading.  So 128.  And that's real, published books.  I'm not including the manuscripts I read in there.  Or the books I read to my kids.  It's just the books I read myself for fun.

Wanna see what I read?  I'll show you the list.  How'd you do for reading in 2012?  Achieve your goal?
Magic Hour Kristin Hannah
Caleb's Crossing Geraldine Brooks
Sweet Little Lies Lauren Conrad
Sign Language Amy Ackley
Night Road Kristin Hannah
Paper Towns John Green
The Moment Douglas Kennedy
Changing Tides Michael Thomas Ford
Bunheads Sophie Flack
Summer Island Kristin Hannah
Where She Went Gayle Foreman
The Singular Adventures of Super Mom and Party Girl Marc Schuster
Shine Lauren Myracle
What Happened to Goodbye? Sarah Dessen
The Liar Society Lisa & Laura Roecker
True Colors Kristin Hannah
Jumpstart the World Catehrine Ryan Hyde
Looking For It Michael Thomas Ford
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Michelle Hodkin
A Million Suns Beth Revis
Fixing Delilah Sarah Ockler
Comfort and Joy Kristin Hannah
When She Woke Hilary Jordan
The Next Door Boys Jolene B Perry
We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver
Amplified Tara Kelly
Between Here and Forever Elizabeth Scott
The Survival Kit Donna Frietas
Pull B A Binns
Winter Garden Kristin Hannah
Try Not to Breathe Jennifer Hubbard
The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship Lisa Verge Higgins
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
Between Jessica Warman
The Tenth Circle Jodi Picoult
Don't Breathe A Word Holly Cupala
Pregnant Pause Han Nolan
Center Line Joyce Sweeney
I Wish Mandy Hubbard
Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein
What a Boy Wants Nyrae Dawn
Nineteen Minutes Jodi Picoult
Supernaturally Kiersten White
My Heart for Yours Jolene Perry & Stephanie Campbell
Catching Fire Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay Suzanne Collins
Broadway Baby Alan Shapiro
Knee Deep Jolene Perry
The Wind Blows Backward Mary Hahn
Pandemonium Lauren Oliver
Five Flavors of Dumb Anthony Johns
Altercation Tamara Hart Heiner
So Shelley Ty Roth
Change of Heart Jodi Picoult
Sizzle Julie Garwood
My Sister's Keeper Jodi Picoult
Like Mandarin Kirsten Hubbard
What A Boy Needs Nyrae Dawn
The Replacement Brenna Yovanoff
Handle With Care Jodi Picoult
Lost Memory of Skin Russell Banks
Grounding Quinn Stephanie Campbell
How To Save A Life Sara Zarr
Keeping Faith Jodi Picoult
Virtuosity Jessica Martinez
The Grief of Others ????
The Fame Game Lauren Conrad
Spill Over Jolene Perry
Blind Sight Meg Howerty
Delicate Stephanie Campbell
Vanishing Acts Jodi Picoult
Almost Perfect Brian Katcher
A Great and Terrible Beauty Libba Bray
Trigger Susan Vaught
Rebel Angels Libba Bray
Harvesting the Heart Jodi Picoult
Burnout Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Trafficked Kim Purcell
The Duff Kody Keplinger
Meg's Melody Kaylee Baldwin
The Sweet Far Thing Libba Bray
Riding Out The Storm Sis Deans
The Pact Jodi Picoult
Lucky Break Kelley Vittollo
Anna and the French Kiss Sephanie Perkins
Looking for Alaska John Green
Salem Falls Jodi Picoult
Ten Weeks Jolene Perry
Half Brother Kenneth Oppel
Home Front Kristin Hannah
And I Don't Want to Live This Life Deborah Spungen
Lola and the Boy Next Door Stephanie Perkins
Dirty Little Secrets C J Omololu
150 Pounds Kate Rockland
An Abundance of Katherines John Green
The Other Side of the Bridge Mary Lawson
Secret Year Jennifer B Hubbard
Perfect Escape Jennifer Brown
Property Of Alice Hoffman
Insight Jolene Perry
Wrecker Summer Wood
The Probability of Miracles Wendy Wunder
Gone Gone Gone Hannah Moskowitz
Perfect Match Jodi Picoult
Devine Intervention Martha Brockenbrough
Rock On Denise Vega
The Miseducation of Cameron Post Emily M Danforth
Diary of a Mad Fat Girl Stephanie McAffee
The Absolutely True Diary of A Part time Indian Sherman Alexi
My Beating Teenage Heart C K Kelly Martin
Life After Death Damien Echols
Sing  You Home Jodi Picoult
Endlessly Kiersten White
Mr Death's Blue Eyed Girls Mary Hahn Downing
Charade Nyrae Dawn
The Secret History Donna Tartt
The Beginning of After Jennifer Castle
Falling Jolene Perry
The Boy Vanishes Jennifer Haigh
I'm Not Her Janet Gurtler
Mercy Jodi Picoult
Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad Naomi Rabinowitz
Bound Together Eliza Jane
Relatively Famous Jessica Park
Rival Sara Bennet Weeler
The Smallest Color Bill Roorbach
Boy Toy Barry Lyga
Flat Out Love Jessica Park
At Risk Alice Hoffman

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dear Me....

As 2012 is drawing to a close, it's time to go back to the list of goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year to see if I achieved any or all the things I planned to do....  So here's the original letter I wrote myself with comments written today.

29th December 2011

Dear Me,

It doesn’t feel like so long since I last sat down to write one of these, but it has in fact been almost a year.  And what a year!  Before I move on to list my goals for 2012, I should take a moment to reflect on 2011’s successes and failures.

It has been a good year for me as a writer.  I got my 2010 NaNo novel, Chasing the Taillights, revised and polished in time for the 2011 Text Prize deadline and entered it.  I didn’t win, or even final, but having that deadline really kicked my butt to get finished.  Since then I’ve queried it and entered contests with it, and have gotten some wonderful feedback even if I haven’t snagged a publishing deal or an agent.  The general gist has been that the writing is good, the characters are relatable and the story is emotionally engaging, but it’s too quiet for the current YA market. 

I’m just finishing my 3rd or 5th draft of my new novel, The Boyfriend Plague, and feel that it probably has more commercial appeal, even if I don’t love it quite as much as Taillights.

My resolutions begin with that book.  I’m closing in on the end of this draft, and hope to have it all done by the time I go to the beach on January 14th.  I will wait for feedback from my critique partners and polish, rewrite and edit as needed.  Then it will be time to start querying, hopefully by March.

I did finish the draft and I did query widely.  I got a lot of requests for fulls and partials, but remain agentless.  Unlike querying Taillights, there was no single reason why this one didn't snag the attention.  Every rejection I got gave different reasons and they were often in opposition to each other.  Which is a little puzzling....  I suspect the book has a number of flaws and different people are picking up on different ones.  Anyway, I'm considering this book trunked for now.  I just don't love it enough to keep pushing.

If Taillights hasn’t found a home by January 23rd, I will enter it in ABNA.  I have entered the past two years, making it to the semi-finals (with Assignment 9) in 2010, but only through the first round in 2011.  Taillights is a much better book, so I have to hope I’ll make it further in 2012.

I did enter ABNA, and only made it through the first round again.  C'est la vie....  Since I don't have time to polish a pitch for a new book this year, I may re-enter Taillights because I still believe very strongly in that book and think I gave up on it far too easily.  I only sent about 20 queries for it before stopping and moving on to my next book, and I don't think that's really enough.  I've sent over 60 for The Boyfriend Plague.

I have ideas for two new books that I hope to write in 2012, both of which I’m excited about.  Trying to decide which to go with may be a challenge, but I’m pretty certain that by this time next year, both will have been written, if not revised and polished to a high shine.

To be honest, I have no idea what the two ideas I had for books when I wrote this were.  I have written and polished one book in 2012 (The Sidewalk's Regrets).  My NaNo project remains 3/4 finished and I'm about half-way through another book which I will finish the first draft of soon.  I hope to be ready to query Sidewalks early in the new year.  I just need to make the query better first.

I intend to remain active and involved with my critique groups.   Some of us have come so far in 2011, I’m certain 2012 will be the year many of us break into the big time.  As they say, a successful writer is one who didn’t give up.  And I’m not giving up.  I’ve racked up hundreds of rejections now, if you count the ones for short fiction as well as for novels, but I’m not lying down to die yet.  Every project teaches me more about the craft and my own process and I’m eager to continue learning.

I have tried hard to stay active with my groups.  I've been a horrible reviewer the past couple of months because the writing has to come first, and with deadlines looming, I've had to write instead of review.  I will get back into my reviewing rhythm once I've finished this draft of Ozzy.  I've done some beta reading for other writers in 2012, and really enjoyed some of it.  While I like the chapter by chapter reviews we do with my crit groups, being able to read the entire book in one or two sittings is great for seeing the shape of a novel.

As always, I’ll resolve to lose weight this year, and as always, I won’t.  But I will continue my four-day-a-week gym schedule, mixing up the classes I take so I get a varied program of cardio and weights.

As I expected, I didn't lose weight.  But I have been pretty good about going to the gym four times a week and mixing up the classes.  So while I don't have the much desired flat belly, I'm certainly fit and toned.  So, I guess I have to be happy with that.

And there you have it.  Some goals and ambitions for 2012.  How about we re-visit mid-year and see how we’re getting along?  And then again around this time?

Happy New Year!

Love, me.

How did you get on with your goals in 2012?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Irking things

I was going to write happy, sunshiny, Happy Holidays type post today, but something is irking me... So the Happy Holidays stuff is just going to have to wait while I get this off my chest.

Recently, I've been reading a lot of self published books.  In fact, since I got my Kindle earlier this year, I think 90% of the books I've read on it are self-published.  I love that authors have this option now, and that some seem to be doing so well at it.

But, in so many cases, the books are not ready to be published.  I've read three in a row now that had so many spelling, grammar and syntax mistakes in them that I felt like getting out my red pen and marking down corrections.  In one of them, the exact same scene was repeated twice, about 6 chapters apart.

This is just sloppy.  If you're going to put your work out there and charge people to read it, you have to have had your book properly edited.  Or at the very least, copy edited.  Or read through it before you hit 'post' or whatever you do you load an e-book onto Amazon.  It makes me angry when I  read a book that's riddled with very basic errors.  And it pulls me out of the story every time I find one.

You don't want that to happen.

Now this isn't every self-published book by a long run. I've read some wonderful ones, some better than the traditionally published books I've read.  But it does seem to be a lot of them.

Self-publishing shouldn't be a last ditch option for that book you've queried 300 times and got nothing but rejections for.  It shouldn't be something you dash off quickly and throw up to earn a little extra cash.  If you're going to self-publish, think hard about why you're doing it.  And take the time to make sure the product you're selling is worth spending money on.

The more sloppily edited, badly written books that end up on the market, the less likely people will be to take a risk on another self-pubbed author.  And there are so many wonderful ones out there, it would be a shame if they lost readers because other writers let the team down.

Have you come across very badly edited self-pubbed books?  How did it make you feel?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

All Kinds of Happy!

No, I haven't signed with an agent or received an offer of publication....  Sorry to get your hopes up, if that's what you were expecting.  No, this happiness comes to me from outside the publishing world.

If you're a longtime follower, you might remember this post from earlier this year.  And this one.  After battling my consciousness for a very long time, I went ahead and booked tickets to see Einstuerzende Neubauten play in Melbourne.  And then I found a cheap airfare, so I'm all booked and ready to go to Australia in February (except I need to renew my passport.  Must remember to renew my passport...).  EN even announced a solo show on the Tuesday after the Festival show, so I got a ticket to that too.

But then, just to make my life even better, Crime and The City Solution just announced a date in Melbourne too.  And it's while I'm there!  So I get to see two of my all time favorite bands on one trip!  Bands I've loved since the 1980s (yeah, I'm old) and NEVER SEEN LIVE.  You have no idea how happy this makes me.  I mean, what a trip.  EN on Sunday, Crime on Monday and EN again on Tuesday.  Now all I need is for Nick Cave to show up for a show on Wednesday and I'll probably die of happiness.

Has anything this perfect ever fallen into place for you?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Progress update

I know I've been largely absent from the blog, and I apologize.  But I've been amazingly busy!

I'm in Cupid's Quiver, writing a new book that needs to be drafted by January 31st.  Which is double the NaNo time period, but there's Christmas in there, and my kids go on vacation next week until February 7th.  So I've been pumping out the words to try and give myself a good head start on this project.

I hit the 15K mark last night which I feel good about.  My goal is to hit 20K by Sunday night, and hopefully 30K by the 23rd of December.  I'm thinking 30K will be around about the halfway mark for this book.  It feels like it's going to be shorter than most of my stories, mainly because I'm writing from a boy POV and he's not as verbose as my girls tend to be.

And can I tell you how much I'm enjoying writing this book?  It's so much fun.  I'm torturing this poor kid so much.  But I love him.  He's so different to any character I've ever written before.  I know I'll get stuck at some point, but right now the words are flowing through me and everything seems to be going in the direction I want it to.  Which is pretty good considering I hadn't planned on writing this book until February and was going to do a lot more research before I started.

How's your project coming along?  Planning to write through the holidays, or take a break?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It Only Takes One

In my job, I run a lot of functions.  Anything from graduations to fundraisers to award ceremonies to weddings.  And at almost every one, someone makes a comment or complaint about the drinks being served.  And I can't fathom this.

If you're attending an event like this, the drinks are usually supplied by either a sponsor or the organizers of the event.  And they're free.  As in, you don't have to pay for them.  Okay, in some cases maybe the ticket price you pay includes the cost of the drink, but you're not coming for the wine.

It seems to me, that when something is being provided free of charge, you should be grateful for it.  Accept whatever it is graciously.  And if it isn't what you like, well, there's a bar just a few steps away where you can purchase whatever you feel like drinking.  Don't like bubbly wine?  That's fine.  There's juice as well.  Want something alcoholic?  Well, go to the bar and get that red wine you want.

Do you ever complain about the free stuff at events?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An almost daily terror

I've been up in Auckland for the past couple of days for the NZ Film Awards (congratulations to Samoan language film, The Orator, for picking up the bulk of awards) and just flew back today.

When we left, it was the most beautiful day.  Sunshine.  Blue skies.  Clear all the way up the island.  One of the volcanoes in the center of the island erupted recently and it was cool to look down and see it still wreathed in smoke.

Today, flying back, was a different story.

It was drizzling in Auckland, with those thick, heavy clouds that tend to hang over the city for weeks on end.  We punched through them, and almost immediately, turbulence started bouncing us around.  It wasn't too bad, but bad enough that the flight attendants announced they wouldn't serve tea or coffee because of safety concerns.

I read my book for a while, and stared out at the clouds below us.  Then we started going down, heading into Wellington.  And things got really, really bumpy. I heard a woman ahead of me tell her companion she was scared.  The wind buffeted us and tossed the plane around like a kitten with a ball of yarn.

But we made it down.  And on the first approach, which on a windy day like today, is a little unusual.  I've seen flights take three shots before actually touching down on the runway.  Everyone clapped and cheered when we hit, and the flight attendants made jokes about not charging us extra for the roller-coaster ride.

Have you ever been on a super-bumpy flight?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Yep... I'm crazy

I haven't finished my NaNo novel, Between Paradise and Nowhere yet.  It's sitting at just over 54K and I figure I need to write between 15 and 20K more to reach the end.  But I'm not going to do that.

You see, yesterday I got picked by the awesome Cupid (of Cupid's Lit Connection) to be on her 'Write a Novel With Cupid' team.  The idea is that between December 1 and January 31, the team of writers all write a first draft.  Then we revise.

So instead of finishing my NaNo book, I'm diving right into my new shiny idea.  Which I'm super excited about.  I'm not 100% in love with my NaNo book - it's not my usual style or genre - but I am in love with Ozzy and his story.

It's a dark one (it wouldn't be mine if it wasn't) and the poor boy is going to get more beat up than any other character I've ever written.  I don't have a title for this one yet, so for the moment I'm calling it Virgin Amputee.  Or maybe just Ozzy...

So it looks like I'm going to be kind of busy for the next wee while.  I'm a little concerned about time because the kids are off school for 6 weeks from December 20th, and there's Christmas and a week at the beach house in there too.  I guess I'll have to take my laptop to the beach this year.

So the upshot here is, I may not get back to my regular blogging schedule again.  I'll try, but I can't promise.  There's this annoying thing called work too.  You know, that place you go every day so you have money to eat?  Yeah.  That.

How's your month looking?