Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas... Miracles CAN happen!

Christmas is such a magical time around my house. We make cookies, wrap presents, decorate gingerbread houses. We spend time watching movies and playing games around our lighted tree. And we watch a lot of Elf. As in Buddy the Elf. And while a lot of other people call Miracle on 34th Street a timeless classic, Elf will always serve as mine.

When I watch Elf, I’m filled with the magic of Christmas. I want to make gingerbread houses and go ice skating. And eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie Dough as fast as I can. And snuggle. With my family. The movie restores my belief that miracles can happen. And that they do. All. The. Time.

And they don’t have to be the break-through impossible barriers miracles like the Bad News Bears or Jaime Escalante’s uncanny batch of AP Calculus students.



Or the Philadelphia Eagles who scored four touchdowns in eight minutes (sorry my Giants friends – couldn’t resist).

But miracles can happen in the most unexpected places. Like in a tiny stable outside a very full inn in a who's heard of that place town like Bethlehem.



Sometimes they happen and we don’t even know it. Like in the love of two sixteen year olds when one's battling ALS. Or in the heart of high school football players, when they seemed doomed to lose, yet they never give up.

Sometimes miracles can happen in an unexpected letter. Or a soul-mending embrace. Or a smile when you've had the worst day ever.


The other day I wrote about what I’d give my favorite characters for Christmas. Well, today, I wanted to let you know the miracles I wish for you.

For my writer friends - I wish you endurance to finish that current project. Or experience the epiphany that leads to a new one. Or that you find an agent. Or a publisher. And more importantly, that you continue to write because you love to write, that writing still fuels a fire burning within you.

For my book blogger friends - I wish you a gihugic pile of really awesome books to read and review. Or even that amazeballs one that keeps your head spinning for days.

For my former students - For years you were all my success and happiness – and I wish the same to you – a million, katrillion times over.

For my colleagues – a chance to catch your breath, to ride the waves instead of treading a fathomless ocean. To be appreciated. And to feel confident you’re making a difference. Because you are.

For my friends who have lost a special someone - I wish you comfort. A warm embrace. A plethora of fond memories to fog any despair.

For my friends with children – time. A baby’s birth jets your fast-forward button into hyperdrive and before you know it – your kids are in kindergarten. Or driving. Or going to college. Relish the daily miracles a child brings into your life. Mine has been chock-full of them.

For my dearest friends – I wish you more of them. I don’t know what I’d do without the Ambers and Rickis in my life.

For my family – I wish you more of me. Not because I’m clone-worthy, but because I want to be with you whenever you need me. Or when I want to be with you.

And my wish for all of you...

Relish the miracles all around you. Your sick toddler's dream-induced smile or your teenager actually saying she loves you. Savor coming home to clean dishes. Or just being able to have dishes. Or food on them. Appreciate the aha moment after a mind-boggling math problem. Or discovering that one nuance in your novel that explains EVERYTHING.

Relish your passions… about anything. A chance for two seconds of fame. Or an hour of uninterrupted quiet.

Enjoy that home-cooked meal. A home to go home to.

Permission to leave work five minutes early when you have a katrillion places to go. A job you enjoy. Or just having a job.

Sooo if you’re feeling like George Bailey or Doris Walker. When it seems everything’s going wrong and the world’s conspiring against you. When you want to scream, “Can I please just throw a big pity party for myself because life freaking SUCKS?!” Or it seems there can't possibly be a Santa Claus. Know. Know that miracles do happen. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes to them.

Okay – I’m done now. Merry Christmas, my friends. I treasure each and every one of you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Would You Give YOUR Favorite Characters for Christmas?


Over at YA Highway there's this little thing called "Road Trip Wednesday." It's a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

Yes - I did say, "Road Trip Wednesday." And yes - today is Thursday. Alison was a little behind on her blogs this week. Imagine that.

However, I couldn't resist this week's topic:

What would you give your favorite characters for Christmas? And why?

Hehe. I get to play Santa to some of my faves. Fun!

To Iggy of Maximum Ride fame - I would give the gift of sight. I think you can figure out the why on that one.

For Eeyore - a tail that doesn't ever fall off. And a hearty dose of optimism.

To Detective Lindsay Boxer - some balls - so she can take a few more risks in love than she does on the streets of San Francisco.

For Will Schuster and the rest of the GLEE club - a chance at Nationals. And no more slushies.

To Lena (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) - a free spirit. And a ring from one hunk of a Greek.

To Jacob - a copy of SHE'S Just Not That Into You (okay we all know he is my antithesis of favorite, but I couldn't resist. PS - totally YA Highway inspired)

And to one of my absolute faves, Heath Luck - I wish a second chance. (Read the House of Night series - you'll know what I mean)

Finally, to Jamie Peters and Becky Snow - I wish you a chance to shine. Hmmmm. Maybe one day.

So, that's it. How 'bout you? What would you give your favorite characters for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keep me Hangin' on...

What compels you to stick with a book?

I’m a reader, so the book has to be pretty suck worthy to not get me to cross the finish line, but I’ll admit there are some books I just can’t finish.

Believe it or not (gasp), Harry Potter used to be one of them. My daughter and I, amidst the hype, made it to chapter three when she was in first grade. We tried again when she hit the third grade. Progress happened, but we still didn’t get past chapter ten. Finally I got tired of waiting for her and decided that I was going to read these books and I was going to like them – with or without her. Soooo the summer before she hit fifth grade I finished the Sorcerer’s Stone, devoured the next one, and the next one…. Series complete by mid-January. My daughter jumped on board shortly after me. Imagine that.

But what kept me hanging on, wanting to finish the first one? In fact, what keeps me turning the pages with any book?

1) Hype—I’ll admit it. I would’ve never finished Twilight had my students not been so heck bent on me reading the saga. I couldn’t get into that book until page one hundred, but I just had to see what the whole Edward craze was about—um, yeah… totally get it now.

Same reason I muddled through fifty plot threads with Dragon Tattoo, trying to keep track of everyone’s name and their connections to the story. Ditto for Harry Potter. With all three books – once I was sucked in… hoo boy.

2) TWISTS and TURNS - Can we say Ellen Hopkins? Or James Patterson? Yep - they RULE on the page-turner thing.

3) Intrigue/Compelling premise – I just finished the Uglies series - not the most compelling read and never fully invested in any of the characters, but the whole post-apocalyptic thing kept me going. Why do people have pretty-making surgery at age sixteen? What really happens to them? And what went wrong with the Rusties?

4) Characters – probably the most selling for me. If I can’t buy the characters. If they don’t do anything for me. If I can’t relate or fall in love with or get totally lost in them, forget it. It’s hard for me to finish the book.

5) VOICE –Okay forget everything I just said. Frankly, a book can have a crappy premise and the supporting cast can be total duds, but if the protag has this amazeball snarky voice that keeps me rolling and reading, dude, I’m HOOKED. Think Maximum Ride. Or House of Night’s Zoe Redbird. Or freaking Bianca Piper from The DUFF.

So, yeah... these are my endurance-fuelers. What are yours? What keeps you "hangin' on"?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life Lessons from Despicable Me



1) Everyone needs minions - not just to carry out your evil bidding (muwhahahaha) - but because a yellow pint of hilarity each day can chase all the blues away

2) Margo optimism is underrated

3) Holding your breath till you pass out CAN get you whatever you want

4) A vector has both direction and magnitude - okay, probably not a life lesson, but this math nerd liked it









5) Even the biggest baddies have a heart












6) Dance recitals and fluffy unicorns are waaaaayyyy more important than any work-related issue - like shrinking the moon


7) And dude, if Gru can publish a book...




well gosh darn it - so can I

Monday, December 13, 2010

Shock-a-zulu Happens

Whenever something bleep worthy happens, my friend Amber rips her best expletive. Like when some stupid head pulls out in front of her, she slams on the brakes and yells, “Shock-a-zulu!” Or when her keys lose themselves in her gigundo purse, she might let out a whiny “Oh, shock-a-zulu.”

Yep. Shock-a-zulu. It’s the cutesy word she coined so she doesn’t drop the S-bomb. "Fudgesicles!" “Son of a nutcracker!” We all have psuedo curse words. Or at least many of us did when we were little, right?

But seriously, people coin new words and expressions all the time. How else do we come up with new permanent Webster entries like phat or frenemy. How else would we know to get up at three a.m. and vulture the Target lot on Black Friday? Or what if you wanted to manify your den. Or sport a tramp stamp?

Maybe I just need to chillax with all this wordage.

But how can I? I’m an eighties girl. Things back then were gnarly and totally tubular. We had, like, this wicked way of talking about everything, dude.

Oh wait—that’s like every generation.

And hailing from the big hair era, I also grew up with all the cool sci-fi shows. One of my faves—Battle Star Galactica. Why?

a) I was a Star Wars geek and Star Trek did NOTHING for me

b) Dirk Benedict—need I say more

c) People said the coolest things, like Frak that. Or that's a bunch of felder carb!

Writers of science fiction and fantasy must be in neologism heaven (PS—neologism’s that fancy-schmancy word for “coining” new words). World building—even in reality-based fantasy—can involve evolving fantabulous names for people, creatures… even games (Quidditch anyone?)

I’ve been reading post-apocalyptic YA lately and I love, love, love how the authors breathe new life into mainstream vocabulary. The Uglies series—not missing on this at all. It’s totally bubbly that characters ping instead of text and call. Or get all kinds of cool surge to make their eyes totally pretty.

Coining new words in novels can be amazeballs fun. You could pen a whole book based on a neologism (use a Frindle much?) Or create an entire song that’s just supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

And as I write novels for young adults, I find new words on Urban Dictionary all the time. I frequent the site probably more than I should. At times it’s nauseating, but mostly it’s entertaining. And quite the resource. I mean, now I can give one of my characters a dungeon tan. Or jet one my protag’s besties into hiberdating when she meets the love of her life—again. Shoot. How else would I myself know that I currently suffer from tanorexia?(blaming it on my ubiquitous midlife crisis—hee)

As a young adult writer with a most quirky voice, I don’t purposely set out to coin new words, but I find it happens. Mostly they’re combos of already existing words like gihugic or fabulicious. Others I think I made up and then realize they’re already in the dictionary. Wordage is a word? Really? Or I steal from my students. Teens have a whole vocab of their own. Chill with your boo lately?

And sometimes I enjoy using the same words my kids do. My characters beast a test or are totally boss at Black Ops. Yeah. It’s cool.

In my latest WIP, one of my favorite characters is a three hundred pound chunk of muscle. His brain is stuck in his pants, his antics transport him back to the sixth grade on a daily basis, leaving me to dub him The Incredible Hormone. But as one-dimensional as I may have just painted him, he’s really most endearing. And he says the stupidest, corniest things—verbage so dumb, it’s snort-worthy. Kinda like Marty the Zebra.

And I find that when I'm quirky or corny, the new lingo just seems to pop onto the page. And it's fun! Writing in the voice of a snarky protag or crafting dialogue for my "Incredible Hormone" - it's a good time. And if I happen to invent a fun new word along the way - bonus.

Now I don’t write sci-fi or fantasy, but in my books, shock-a-zulu happens and it’s fun finding a way to describe it that’s not totally cliché.

And who knows? Perhaps someday Shock-a-zulu will garner Webster status. Or maybe one of my neologisms.

And that, my friends, would send my bliss-o-meter off the chizzang.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

So I had lunch in a colleague’s classroom the other day and she had posted her “Wish List” for Christmas on her board. A list jokingly (maybe) telling her students she would love, love, love red pens, batteries, Kleenex—you know—essentials for the job.

I read it and re-read it and my mind smiled. Not because she also “requested” a Mr. Potato Head and Bath and Body Works, but because my list for Santa pretty much reflects essentials for my new line of “work” too.

You see, all I want for Christmas this year…






Yep. Books. A whole bleep load of them.

Okay - I would really like for my kids to have a nice Christmas—you know—get everything on their list. Hee. Especially since my eleven-year-old asked for an agent for Mommy (I know - awwwww!)

But some books might be nice. Oh yeah—and a little time to READ THEM.

Here are some on my list to Santa:

1) Hunger Games (yes, I am the only person that hasn’t read the trilogy)

2) Fallout (ugh—STILL haven’t read Ellen Hopkins latest!)

3) Paradise Lost (Epic poem by the fab John Milton? Uh-huh… let’s just call it research)

4) The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Must. Finish. The series.)

5) The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Some of my kids rave about this one. I just want to know what IS the perk of being a wallflower?)

6) Looking for Alaska (recommended by one of my besties!)

7) Don’t Blink (I’m suffering JP withdrawals)

8) Kiss My Math (I may love to read and write, but I’m still a math nerd)

Gosh. That’s kind of a long list. I sure hope I’ve been a good girl this year.

Oh—and if you have any suggestions to add to the Alison’s Becoming a Permanent Hermit list, feel free to comment. Or send copies my way. Or donate money. That’d be cool.

I could probably check some of these out from the public library, but with my Christmas list I'm endeavoring to support the publishing industry. Considering Borders recently reported a loss of $74.4 million in their last quarter, I figure I'll contribute what I can. (See, Santa! I am a NICE person)

And reading helps me grow as a writer. Plus, I love losing myself in them.

So how 'bout it, folks. Any other recommendations for this book-loving recluse?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why Not?

It's Follow My Book Blog Friday - just FYI






















To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:

1. Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com and http://www.crazy-for-books.com/} and any one else you want to follow on the list

2. Follow our Featured Bloggers - http://anotherbookjunkie.blogspot.com/

3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.

4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post. This post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments

5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can

6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers

7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!

8. If you're new to the follow friday hop (don't worry - I am too), comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Drum Roll Please...

And the winners of my Tis the Season Contest Giveaway are...

Lisa Potts
Annie Rains
Christina Finley
Alicia Caldwell
LM Stull


Yay! Congrats! And thanks to all of you who entered!

Winners - please email me (alisonmiller20@gmail.com) your TOP THREE PRIZE CHOICES along with your address. Do this quickly. Prize choice is on a first come,first serve basis.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Tis the Season... For a Contest Giveaway!

Yesterday (with family help) I decorated the Christmas tree, an act of fabulosity that floods me with Christmas Spirit. And always puts me in a "giving" mood.

Lucky you.

Soooo I'm hosting a contest giveaway and here's what's up for grabs, peeps...





because JP is my writing he-ro. If you've never read his books, this paperback version is a good place to start.












Since I nick-named my third project "Taylor Swift" (the one currently on submission), you could win













Or perhaps you'd like one of the most amazing YA books on the shelves right now...


Need a review? Click here.










And since my new WIP has elements of The Blindside, I'm offering up the DVD...





And just for a little variety...



a paperback version of the best-selling book.

Soooo, want to win any of those?!

CONTEST RULES:

1) Comment below and tell me what's atop your Christmas list - you know - what's the number one thing you're asking of Santa.

2) Make sure you leave your full name (I have a lot of friends named Karen!)


See—easy peasy.

And for extra entries…


+1 if you become a new follower of my blog
+2 if you're already a loyal follower of my blog
+1 new followers on Twitter
+2 if you already follow me on Twitter
+1 linking to my contest on your blog, Twitter (provide a link please)
+3 for posting about my contest on your blog (a link for that too)
+2 if you add me to your blog roll


And bonus for my loyal Facebook friends

+2 for sharing my link on your wall

If you have any extra entries, tally them (I know I'm a math teacher - but your tally would be a gigundo time-saver) and post that in your comment. Winners will be selected at random and the contest will end Tuesday December 7 at 11:59 EST.

PS - the contest is international (so my writing friends in Australia, Chile, Canada... can participate!)

On December 8, I'll announce the winners and they can email me their top choices from the faboo prize list.

Fun!

I probably won't blog much until the contest is over (okay - not at all). I'm concentrating all efforts on my latest WIP... oh, and I need to prepare lessons, grade papers, finish Griswolding the house... But I will check back in from time to time. SO if you begin to suffer Alison withdrawls, feel free to get a pick-me-up from this or this. Or maybe this. They're some of my faves.

And definitely click the comment button. NOW. One of five fabulous prizes could be yours.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

My children are making their Thankful Turkeys today. We trace our feet for the body, our hands for the feathers. We glue it all together, attach some googlies for the eyes, make a funny face—totally fun and adorable.

And on each feather, we write what we are thankful for. And it will look something like this…




Or this...




Soooo I thought I'd make one too. And share what I've been thankful for - you know - through my funky adventures in writing...

1) GOD – for the gifts He’s given me. Seriously could do no-thing without the Big Guy.

2) My husband – who reads EVERYTHING I write – even the crap. He must really love me.

3) My kids – who deal with mommy disappearing for a few hours (to write). And they’re just so stinkin’ cute! I'm so blessed.

4) My “day job” – so that I can somewhat afford to go to writers conferences. And the "job" perpetually feeds me goodies for my novels.

5) My friends and family – I have never experienced such tremendo support - especially from the most unexpected places.

6) My beta readers – seriously don’t know what I’d do without the Rickis, Annies, and Pollys of the world. And the Tevins. And Ambers. And… okay there’s a LOT of you.

7) My students – the good, the bad, the indifferent. The athletes, the brains, the princesses, the criminals, the basket cases – YOU are my muse – it is my personal goal to write stories based on every single one of you - all 1800 hundred of you. Oy.

8) Vacation time – so I can write (duh).

9) The ability to only need five hours of sleep a night (thank you, coffee).

10) My faithful blog readers – I heart you – and a contest for you is imminent – tune in Sunday.

There's a lot more, but, well, I only have ten feathers (ahem... fingers).

Hee. I feel like I just wrote an Acknowledgments section. One I’m going to revisit every time I’m in one of my “the world’s conspiring against me” moods.

So, fab blog readers, what are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blog Award

Last week two (yes two!) of my new writer friends bestowed an award on me - one for my "Got Balls?" blog and the other because I was mucho fun at SCWW!

Thanks Margo and Melissa! I love my new friends!





Hee. I'm a Versatile Blogger.

Soooo now I have to tell you five things I love and pay the award forward to five other bloggers...

1) I love, love, love my family!
2) I love reading, writing, and 'rithmetic (NERD!)
3) I love York Peppermint Patties and Miller Lite - but not together
4) I love vacations - because then I have more time for family and writing
5) I love doing the stats at Friday night football games

And now I'm paying it forward to...

1) Ricki Schultz - because she's simply the best - read her blog - she's amazeballs.

2) Emma Michaels - very informative post on querying publishers

3) Adrienne Trent - for some awesome book reviews and well, I just love the name of her blog.

4)Candace Ganger - because she's got the sweetest frickin' contest to help change the frickin' world.

5) Sara McClung - crazeballs giveaway on her blog right now!

Congrats, peeps!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dating - Again

I was hanging with one of my besties the other night, listening to her recant—for the fiftieth time—the story of her first date with this guy she’s been seeing for a little over a month. Not a single detail was missed. The dreamy sparkle was still in her eyes. Yeah... she's pretty much smitten.

And while I practically have that story memorized and you’d think I hate hearing it by now… I don’t. In fact, I love seeing my friend bubble with anticipation of the next date or text. I help her overanalyze every conversation. I’m happy for her dating highs and cry with her during the loser lows.

Yes - I live vicariously through the dating lives of my twenty-something friends.

You'd think I want to experience it myself.

Yeaaaaahhhh... no.

I was mucho happy when I met my husband and knew I would never have to play the whole dating game ever again.

Or so I thought.

When I started the whole query process over a year ago, I at once felt like I was back in the dating world. The butterflies nested in my stomach every time I sent off another query. I checked my email, like, a hundred times a day for responses. When I first exposed my heart and asked someone to represent my novel, the rejection stung. That first full request - I read and re-read the email so many times I could repeat it verbatim. And when the rejection came from that request, it was like losing my first love. I sucked down a bottle of wine and cried for two days.

After thirty rejections and a new batch of thick skin, I fixed my novel and queried again, doing a little more research into the agents I targeted. And boy, was that ever like The Dating Game

Contestant Agent 1 is a new agent at Super Wonderful Agency, represents YA fiction, and loves working with debut authors. Originally from Chapel Hill….

Wait. I’m a debut author. I write YA. I have UNC in my book. Maybe, maybe…

Rejection

Contestant Agent 2 represents YA and middle-grade fiction and leans towards strong female protagonists with a quirky voice.

Oooh! I have that. Pick me! Pick me!

Rejection

Contestant Agent 3 is one of my dream agents. And she remembers me from a conference! She wants to see my first fifty pages. She…

Rejection

Ugh. Freaking hate this.

Just like dating, querying has been exhilarating and heart-wrenching. At times I want to give up and think there’s no agent out there who’ll want me. Other times I wonder how they can possibly not love me. So I keep putting myself out there, cracking open my ribs and exposing my vulnerable little heart.

Dating. What fun.

But I also know that true love comes when you least expect it. I was not expecting to meet the man of my dreams at a Kinston Indians baseball game, but sixteen years and two fabulous children later, I’m still with the love of my life (where’s that collective “awwww”?)

And when I went to a writer’s conference a month ago, I expected for agents I pitched to request pages (fairly standard), but I wasn’t expecting someone to request the whole thing after reading two pages and I certainly didn’t anticipate anyone telling me “I totally want this book.”

PS – still tingly from that squee story.

And whether or not that potential agent relationship works out or not, I’ve also learned this through my years of failed relationships and broken hearts:

Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there… somewhere.

I attended a query workshop with the fabulous Roseanne Wells of Marianne Strong Literary Agency. She discussed the process of querying, what to include, what not to say—very informative. She advised checking out agency websites to see what particular agents are looking for and what they represent and how different agents want different things. Again-informative.

But what was most informative (and memorable)—the audacious writer lady from row four who had the nerve to ask

“Why can’t you guys just agree on what you (insert choice expletive) want so we can know what we have to do to get our #*@# books on the shelves?”

Aside from wanting to crawl under the table(PS—agent lady handled the situation and the response fabulously), I just really wanted to scream

“NOOOOOOO!”

I mean really. What if the only thing that would seal the deal in a relationship was a sense of humor? Or what if every guy’s number one-priority was ginormo ta-tas (okay—it might be)?

Well, then the not so witty, A-cup Alisons of the world would be screwed.

What if the answer to that perfect woman is a girl who can cook. Yep—screwed again.

Or what if every girl's dream man looked, acted, and spoke like Han Solo?

Can you imagine if the only thing that turned agents on was poetry? Or horror novels? What if every book-reader only preferred gushy romances?

My point (yes—I do have one): I don’t want all agents to want the same thing. I don’t want all readers to want the same thing.

The writing biz is mucho subjective (thank God). What one person balks at, another might love, love, love. And with every failed relationship I grow thicker skin and learn all about the kind of agent I want and the kind I don't.

Yeah, I want an agent. But I want the one that’s going to love my books as much as I do. The one that’s going to support and nurture me in my growth as a published author. The one that will be with me in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer... till death do us part. Hee.

I do enjoy reliving the dating game through the hearts of my friends, but I will be totally okie-dokie when my agent-courting days come to an end.

You know - when I say “Do you want to represent me?”

And Mr. or Mrs. Right responds, “I do.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Got Balls?

Thanks to my friend Tabitha, I have new adds to my daily speech like amazeballs and crazeballs. And while the new wordage is definitely faboo, those “balls” are not the balls I’m blogging about today.

Nope. Today my writing journey takes me to a man’s world. Today I’m talking about cajones, testes, nads, huevos,…

And how I need to strap some on to write my latest novel.

The starring role in my most recent WIP belongs to an eighteen-year-old high school football player who is pretty much your typical, eighteen-year-old football player with some, er… special talents. He’s into sports, beer, and his friends. And he’s definitely into the opposite sex.

And writing from his POV has been quite the exhilarating challenge. After all, I’m a woman and I definitely don’t want my manly man to come off sounding all girl-i-fied.

So just how do I get inside a guy’s head (no pun intended)?

Well, for starters, I watch a lot of Friday Night Lights and Remember the Titans. I put on The Program for entertaining insight. I read books with male protags and analyze characters similar to the ones I’ve created.

I’ve got guys who read my stuff. My fabulous husband (who PS – coaches boys soccer), my editor (also of the male persuasion), and a couple other token males inform me whether or not I nailed it in terms of dialogue.

I run up and down the sidelines at football games (and they thought I was just taking stats). And I let Facebook statuses be my muse. Or my former students’ walls. You can call it creepin’. I call it research, baby.

But what really helps validate whether or not I’m spot on with my voice: one of my math classes.

Yep. My testosterone-injected math class.

While they’re pouncing into my room and boasting about the latest score (football, right?) or when they’re conjuring up every conversation except the “math” one they should be having over the homework they should be doing, I slip into observation mode. They might think I’m merely helping someone with that one problem (whatever) or catching up on grades, but dude—I’m all ears.

And while sometimes it's a little TMI, often their convos prove rather insightful. And validating.

I’ve had a few writing moments in the past three months in which I’ve crafted scenes between my MC and his three burly football buddies and I second guess the realism of that scene. And then I laugh a week later as my football players pretty much re-enact the same scenario.

And anytime I feel my “dude,” “bro,” or “man” count gets too high, I just listen to the daily speech of my “boys” and realize I could probably triple that count.

Yeah—it’s not easy talking with balls, but it can be very fun. And the things I learn from my observations and from my own writing…

Hoo boy.

Definitely makes me appreciate my feminine side.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Contest Much?

November must be the month for contests because in the past week I've stumbled over a lot of them. And some really cool ones hosted by some fabulous agents and writers!

Check them out!

Joanna Stampfel Volpe offers a chance to win a copy of The DUFF (you know that awesome book I just reviewed... PS - best book out there, IMHO). She also offers advice on writing effective teen dialogue in her article on the Guide to Literary Agents blog. Click here to read more about it.

Author Michelle Hodkin hosts a chance to win Delirium by Lauren Oliver on her blog The Michelle Show.

One of my Twitter friends, Catherine Johnson, sponsors a contest giveaway in celebration of her blogiversary. Titles include The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl, Bear Feels Scared, and others.

My writer friend from the Write-Brained Network is giving away a copy of Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen. Check out the details on Brittany Roshelle's blog The Write Stuff

And finally, for my writer peeps, five up and coming YA authors are Paying it Forward with Partials. Elana Johnson, Sarah Wylie, Lisa and Laura Roecker, P.J. Hoover, and Shannon Messenger are offering the chance to win a 25-page critique. PS - does not have to be YA! Awesome opportunity!

Hmmmm... lots of contests... I'm inspired. I think I feel a contest giveaway coming on... stay tuned!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The DUFF


I purposely waited three days to review The DUFF by Kody Keplinger.

Why? Because I was afraid my post would read like this:

Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh oh my…


Yes—it was that freaking good. Like The Hangover good.





People that know me know I love, love, love to read and there are a lot of awesome books out there. But my friends also know I’m not a “leftover” girl—meaning I do NOT read books twice. Not Twilight. Not even Harry Potter. Books just aren’t as “fresh” to me the second time I read them. There are only a few good ones out there that I’ll give a second read and usually not for months after I’ve read it the first time—you know—when it might feel fresh again.

Um… I read The DUFF two times already this weekend… and am seriously about to pick it up for round three.

Why?

First, let’s start with the title, shall we? The DUFF. In case you didn’t know what a DUFF is (I, the clueless wonder, did not), DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend.

Designated Ugly Fat Friend

Yep—pretty much had me at hello.

Second, there’s the premise. Allow me to share the inside cover…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.


I started to read it and couldn’t put it down. I was immediately vested in Bianca, in her snarkiness and her humor. And then I meet Wesley Freaking Rush and decided life could do without me for a few hours. And while I knew what would happen to the two of them, I had to find out HOW.

And the HOW… Oh my freaking gosh.

Oh, just take my word for it… you need to read this book.

Third—the whole DUFF thing got under my skin from the moment Wesley explains the degrading nickname at The Nest, the local teen dance club.

“ No offense," Wesley clarified. "It’s not like you’re an ogre or anything, but in comparison… Think about it. Why do they bring you here if you don’t dance?... Look, you have hot friends… really hot friends.” He paused, watching the action on the dance floor for a moment before facing me again. “The point is, scientists have proven that every group of friends has a weak link, a Duff.”

And it made me think? Was I ever the DUFF? I mean, I wasn’t overweight or unattractive in high school but did you need to be fat and ugly to be the DUFF? And did I have my own DUFFs? People I subconsciously included in my circle of friends that would make me look good?

Every teen, heck everybody, is insecure about something. Usually—a lot of things. I don’t think we go out of our way to surround ourselves with people who make us feel better about our own insecurities, but it happens.

Throughout the gripping tale, the concept plagues Bianca too. She wonders if she really is the DUFF. Or are her friends DUFFs? She looks at her classmates with new perspective and eventually comes to a most settling conclusion: that we're all DUFFs. And that's okay. Because every DUFF has a friend.

Finally, this book is REAL. It’s about REAL teens with REAL teen issues. It explores body image, sex, and family dysfunction. And it addresses what can happen when you try to run from your problems instead of facing them head-on.

Kody Keplinger is an exceptional writer. She moved me in every way I was supposed to. I cried. I laughed. I exploded into a ball of fire whenever Bianca did. Heck, I wanted to throw my Diet Coke at Wesley through the pages of the book. And Bianca and her friends emote, walk, and talk in true seventeen-year-old fashion.

Kody Keplinger GETS teens. And she should — she is one. Kody Keplinger wrote this phenom novel when she was a senior in high school - not even two years ago.

And just in case that didn't immediately cause you to apparate to the nearest Barnes and Nobles, here's another add to the Kody fabulosity - she was born legally blind.

Yep - she's amazeballs amazing. Just like her book.

PS - just like The Hangover, the book does contain its share of sex and language, but trust me - it's soooo worth it. This book is probably one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Move over James Patterson. Take a hike, Nicholas Sparks. I got a new fav author now.

And I can't wait for Kody's next one.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Murky Middle

So I’ve hit the 30K marker with my new WIP—which for different people, means different things. If you’re writing Middle Grade, 30,000 words might mean you’re almost done with your book. If you’re writing adult, sci-fi, or fantasy—you may be a quarter, a third… heck, you could just be at the beginning. But for me, "30,000 words in" typically means I’m approaching the murky middle.

Yep—murky. I mean, I’ve got the beginning, I know where it’s going, but all the little twists and turns to get to that phenom ending—not always so clear.

Hmmmm... how to handle the low-lying fog that clouds my brain 24/7 and seems to offer no light at the end of a dark tunnel

Usually I have three options:

1) Quit
2) Take a break—let my subconscious slice through the murky mist (of course, not so good for NaNoWriMo)
3) Plow through the murk

Okay –Option 1 is so not happening. I mean, if I quit, I’d never get to that awesome ending in my head, right?

I know some people who leave a big X in the middle of their story, write the ending, and then go back to the middle. Huh. Might work for them, but for me it feels like skipping to the ending of a really good book just because I want to know what happens—totally kills the motivation to read. Likewise, skipping to the end derails the motivation for my writing journey.

So Option 2: um… I do this from time to time. And it does tend to work, but I HATE not writing every day.

I find Option 3 typically works best for me. I trudge through the muck, jump in and slosh through at a snail’s pace. Because sometimes, I find a rare diamond in the muck—a character who just walks onto the page and explains EVERYTHING or a twist I totally did not see coming.

Yeah, the fog can be frustrating, but it can also be incredibly enlightening.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stop the World - I Need to Edit!!!

Writing a book—easy-peasy; editing, not so much.

When I finished my recent WIP in May, I spent the summer immersed in revisions, probably gave my book a good meticulous twenty read-throughs. But as much as I love, love, love my latest novel, I knew we needed a teensy bit of distance from each other. Soooo in August I sent my manuscript out to my fabulous betas and planned to come back to my book with fresh perspective in November.

Then, as you know, I attended a writers conference (PS—fabulous). I went to learn, get pages of my latest novel critiqued, meet new people, network with literary agents, editors, authors,... An-y-way, after sharing the first two pages and the query letter for my novel, an agent requested my whole manuscript.

Yeah... still trying to get my heart rate back to normal.

Hoo boy.

Considering I was not prepared to send it right then as I was going to take November for a last run-through on revisions, well... that process had to go on "fast forward" mucho pronto. I returned from Myrtle Beach, all set to edit. I opened up documents from my critique partners with the most helpful suggestions, brewed the coffee, sat down at my computer…

And then life freaking happened.

I returned to work Monday morning to pajama days, powder puff football and spirit links. Uh-huh. Homecoming week. Oh—and let’s add to that an imminent grad school project, two sick children, soccer games, my football game, dance and soccer practice, end-of-the-season soccer parties. Three sets of tests.

And progress reports were to go home with my students Friday.

Wait—I almost forgot about Halloween and carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating and—crap… my son STILL needs a costume.

Yeah—those tests my students took last Wednesday. Heh heh. Still on my desk… ungraded.

Nanowrimo… um… that MIGHT happen in December. (just kidding—maybe)

Needless to say—I had to prioritize. I mean, the manuscript request was a gihugic deal and I was NOT messing this one up. Well, not on purpose. So the editing came first (well, after the sick kids….uh, kinda). I’ve gone through two rounds of edits and I think maybe, maybe… I might just be done. Maybe.

And I’m happy to say, I got everything else done in a fairly timely manner. And that’s why I look like these people.



Eh. Sleep is soooo overrated.

I mean, I can sleep next week. Or next month.

Because I seriously would not have traded this opportunity for all the books in the world or all the chocolate in Hershey or well, you get it... it was a pretty huge deal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Art of the Query and Other Bits of the Biz

First Impressions



First impressions are so important.

A GOOD first impression might be...

Bringing your new math teacher a box of chocolate on the first day of school (ahem… hint hint)

An example of a BAD first impression:

Throwing up in the front seat of new guy’s truck on the first date

People tend to be more forgiving if you slack after making a good first impression. But it’s really hard to recover from a bad one.

As I rolled in for the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference in Myrtle Beach this past weekend, I had “first impressions” on the brain. In writing my latest novel, I knew that I needed to start off with a bang. Hook my reader immediately. Make that good first impression.

And I wasn’t sure if my first pages were compelling enough, soooo I chose “Let’s Roll up Our Sleeves: An Intensive Look at Two of Your Pages” as my first workshop of the day. Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Literary discussed the essentials that should fill your first two pages.

She said the main purpose of the first two pages is to hook the reader. And if you can hook the reader in the first line? Bo-nus.

What exactly does your hook need?

1) needs to establish character and voice
2) needs to establish conflict and move the story forward
3) needs to establish the tone of your novel
4) needs to give some indication of the setting

She went on to talk about the goals of the first two pages (going beyond the hook!) and said the first two pages should

a) create interest in the character and the plot
b) create a sense of intrigue (oooooh!)
c) create investment

And then she gave some amazeballs examples of some truly compelling openings. Like this one from You by Charles Benoit…

You’re surprised at all the blood.
He looks over at you, eyes wide, mouth dropping open, his face almost as white as his shirt.
He’s surprised too.
There’s not a lot of broken glass, though, just some tiny slivers around his feet and one big piece busted into sharp peaks like a spiking line graph, the blood washing down it like rain on a windshield.
He doesn’t say anything clever or funny, doesn’t quote Shakespeare, he just screams. But no one can hear him, and it would be too late if they could.
You’re thinking, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go, this shouldn’t be happening. And now things are only going to get worse.
You’re just a kid.
It can’t be your fault.
But then there’s all that blood.
So, maybe it is your fault, but that doesn’t make things any better.
And it doesn’t matter one way or the other.
Think.
When did it go wrong?
The break-in?
No, before that.


Hoo boy. Must. Buy. Now.

And if you’re a writer, struggling with your first pages, Suzie Townsend suggested other books as great examples of novels that make great first impressions.

Like….

The Electric Church by Jeff Somers
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

She offered quite a few others, but if you’re a voracious reader who would lock yourself away for two years to even just make a dent in your extensive reading list (like me), then you may not want me to keep going.

The workshop definitely carved a fabulous impression in me… I learned A LOT and it gave me a sort of checklist of things I need to accomplish in my first two pages.

And maybe I can make that awesome first impression… draw in my reader… so maybe they’ll be on the edge of their seat, yearning to know what happens. Never wanting to put my book down.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wow

So I just got back from Myrtle Beach and the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop Conference and I can sum up that baby in one word:

A-mazing!

I attended a plethora of fabulous workshops, met a lot of really cool people, and ate way too much fabulous food (PS – hitting the elliptical to-night). I received highly insightful feedback on my query and my book and hob-nobbed with agents, editors, authors… and the most fantabulous writers.

And—bonus—somebody wants to see my book. Yeah—like the whole thing.




Um… just a little stoked here.

I won’t regale all the nitty-gritties about the conference now, but throughout the week (while polishing my manuscript) I’ll share some of the tips I learned and talk a teensy more about my experiences.

But since I haven’t seen my kids or my husband for a few days, I’m going to say adios for now. Toodles. TTYL.

Okay—you get it—I’m out.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NaNoWriMo

Guess what I'm doing in November?






I just registered today and I am sooooo excited!!!

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50,000 words—a 175-page novel in 30 days. Um... that's an average of 1667 words per day. WOW!

It is unedited writing (save the editing for December!) and is supposed to be a novel from scratch, but whatever. I’m going to use NanoWrimo to FINISH the novel I started in September. Or at least I’m going to try.

Will def be a gihugic challenge, but I’ll be writing. Which I absolutely, positively love to do. And last year I used a similar program to finish my most recent novel.

So who’s with me? If you need more info or if you want to register, click here.

Come on. Check it out! Who knows… you could just be the next fresh-off-the-presses debut novelist!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Funked Up



Funk.


What exactly is funk?


Some web definitions: a dejected mood, a severe state of depression



Well... that pretty much describes my October.



Huh?



I mean, I'm a humongo fan of fall, football, and Halloween, so October should be, like, the best month of the year, right?

Wrong.

Year after year, Shocktober blows in like a hurricane, bringing with it a full month of school (yeah—thanks Tropical Storm Nicole), a butt-load of work, report cards to issue, a gazillion places to go for soccer, dance, and everything in between, and it’s the LONGEST freaking month so stretching my paycheck to month’s end ranks up there with some of the most formidable challenges from Survivor.

Well, far be it from this year to be any different—I spent the entire past week trying to keep my head above water from the ocean of paperwork waving over me and headed into my weekend with six research papers to edit, my own MATH papers to grade, grad school reading, a query letter to finish (shoot me now), reference letters to write. Oh wait—I forgot I’m a mom and just might want to spend a little time with my family. AND I missed my tap class TWO weeks in a row.

And because of all the stuff I have to do, I’m left with very little time to do the thing I love the most—write.

Needless to say, last week I fell into a deep, dark funk.

And after trudging through half my workload, still feeling down in the dumps, I figured I had three options on how to avoid getting totally funked up:

1) Sleep for the next three days
2) Down that bottle of wine enticing me from its spot on the kitchen counter
3) Or I could write

Fortunately for you, my dear blog readers, I did not choose option two; otherwise, I’m sure this blog post would’ve looked like this:

Ow we wanmt tjhe funkkkk
Goive upp the fumk
owwe ened thes funhk
gotttsa hahfe that ffunjk



Instead, I closed the door on reality and held hands with my netbook. And wrote. And wrote some more. Four thousand words later I emerged from my weekend feeling renewed, rejuvenated—totally de-funked yet amazingly funky.





According to the fabulous Will Schuster from Glee, “funk” is soul meets anger. It’s passion is in its emotion. And dude--that was so me this weekend. I channeled my anger, depression, passion—all my funk into something completely funky fresh. And I wrote some pretty awesome stuff.

Those depressing times can be when writers pen their most poignant words, when an artist creates a profound and inspiring masterpiece. It's when singers bang out those a-maz-ing ballads. And actors bring incredible, believable life to their roles.

While I don't look to stay in a funk forever, I do find that when I'm angry, when I'm sad... my soul pours into my characters and brings them to LIFE. I write furiously and with HEART. And I crank out some of the best stuff I've written in weeks.

Praise the Lord I’m not a soulless automaton.

So bring on da’ funk. I want the funk. Take me to funky town.




Cause when I’m in a funk, I go to my happy place for a while. And it’s a pretty funky place to be.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fantastic Lines



I anticipate the new season of So You Think You Can Dance like a trip to Disney. It’s magical. It’s exciting. And at times it’s hot, hot, hot. And while Disney may promise me long lines, SYTYCD often features “fantastic lines”.

Every week there’s a Nigel Lithgow or a Mia Michaels comment about someone having “great lines”, “fantastic lines”. I hear that and I know they are a beautiful technical dancer, but really. What exactly is a “great line”?

A good line is absolutely indispensable to the classical dancer. A dancer is said to have a good or bad sense of line according to the arrangement of head, body, legs and arms in a pose or movement.

A great line stretches through a dancer’s fingertips and toes.

And a fantastic line exemplifies an ethereal grace that makes me run to my computer and update my facebook status with “A-mazing”.

Soooo—as I watched Glee the other night (PS—awe-some) and Schuster challenged the group to perform a perfect duet for the chance to win a dinner for two at Breadsticks, Kurt decided he’d sing by himself. And snarky cheerleading witch Santana retorts with

“How can you do a duet by yourself? Isn’t that like vocal masturbation?”






Now that was a fantastic line.

And after I cleaned up the Diet Coke that had spewed out my nose, I thought about fantastic lines in novels. In television and movies. In songs. How a fantastic line can totally make a movie for me. How cleverly executed dialogue makes me not want to put a book down.

And then I thought about… what makes a line “fantastic”?

Well, there are the classics:

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Or those lines that break my heart as it’s breaking Heath’s of House of Night:

"Last time I saw you, I said that it hurt too much to love you. But I was wrong about that. The truth is it hurts too much not to love you.”

Or it could be a powerful opener:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1984—George Orwell)

Yep - lines we never forget. But what makes the line epic? What makes it unforgettable?

For some people, it’s the poignancy of the words or the timeless beauty in them. The line may be something many people connect to. Or maybe two ill-fated words that take your breath away.

For me—the most epic lines and the ones that tend to stick with me—are the funny ones. The LOL, pee-my-pants moments in a book or movie that leave me laughing for days. Like Ron Weasley’s attempts at talking to Harry on a telephone in the Goblet of Fire. Or Alan’s wolf pack speech in the Hangover.

Here are just a few more of my favorites:

• Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe? (Bender—The Breakfast Club)

• Without rules, we all might as well be up in a tree flinging our crap at each other. (Red Forman—That ‘70s Show)

• Gazzy:"What does that mean?" (points to sign saying Stay off third rail)
Fang:" It means the third rail has seven hundred volts of direct current running through it. Touch it and you're human popcorn” (Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment)

• “Because you are the superhero fledgling. I’m just your more attractive sidekick. Oh, and the herd of nerd are your dorky minions." (Aphrodite: House of Night)

• I just like to smile! Smiling's my favorite. (Buddy—Elf)

Rachel Hawkins, author of Hex Hall, recently discussed “Bringing the Funny” at the Writeoncon kidlit online conference this summer. She said, “I never set out to write funny.” She wanted to write a dark mystery, but then she wrote a character’s impression of her new creepy boarding school.

“Awesome. I always wondered what it would be like to live in someone’s mouth.”

And, well, she delivered "funny".

That’s how it is with me. On a daily basis, I can be snarkier than Alex Russo and as corny as Wayne and Garth (sch-wing!). But I ne-ver see myself as funny. I mean, I write stuff that has me stifling a giggle or two, but I don’t particularly think it’s that funny and I certainly don’t set out to write that way.

And yet, my betas comment with frequent “LOVE!” or “Bahahahaha”. One agent, upon rejecting my story, commented on my funny and feisty narrator and added, “The supporting cast is just as lively and funny as Jamie.”

So here’s a little of my funny… (from Mind Rants of a Teenage Superhero—Jamie, recuperating from a blow to the head, realizes she got hit by a spirit flag)

I spent half the night worried about getting body slammed to the ground by a two hundred pound linebacker. Instead, I get pummeled by Yolanda’s death stick. Nice.


So I’ll keep bringing the funny.

Cause for me, funny delivers a most fantastic line.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Rejection


I’m not going to lie… rejection—well, it SUCKS. And the thought of getting rejected—crazy scary.

So why do we put ourselves out there? Why do we continue to throw ourselves to the fire if we’re only going to get burned?

Because, for most people—it’s the ticket to success.

In my writing experience, I’ve encountered plenty of rejection—the rejection letter, the rejection e-mail. People tell me it’s just part of the process and while I really want to slap them in the face, I realize… they’re right. It’s a growth process. And the process is different for everyone. Some people snag an agent with their first venture, others hit the jackpot with their second, fifth… shoot. I know of someone who wrote over fifteen manuscripts before acquiring a book deal.

Tons of authors get rejected before getting accepted for publication. Stephen King got so many rejection letters that he used to nail them on a spike in his bedroom. One of his rejection letters for Carrie read “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

What-ev-er.

Here’s what someone said about Joseph Heller’s Catch—22: "I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say…Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level."

Or take someone’s dismissal of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies:
“an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”

John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by a dozen publishers and 16 agents before breaking into print and launching a best-selling career.

And... AND... JK Rowling was rejected by, like, everybody. Thank goodness for the Bloomsbury CEO’s eight-year old daughter who begged her father to print the book.

And my all time favorite failure-turned-success story: (See if you know who THIS is)

In…

1831 This guy failed in business.
1832 Ran for state legislature and lost.
1832 Lost his job. He wanted to go to law school but couldn't get in.
1833 Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years repaying that debt.
1834 Ran for state legislature and won. (SEE—SUCCESS!)
1835 He was engaged to be married and the lady he dreamed of marrying died.
1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
1838 Ran for speaker of the state legislature and lost.
1840 Tried to become and elector, but was defeated.
1842 Admitted to practice law in U.S. District Court.
1843 Ran for Congress and lost.
1846 Ran for Congress again, and won. He went to Washington and did a good job.
1848 Ran for reelection and lost.
1849 Tried to become land officer in his home state and was rejected.
1854 Ran for Senate of the United States and lost.
1856 Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party's national convention and got less than 100 votes.
1860 Elected President of the United States.



Yep -Abraham Lincoln.








Hmmmm.

One of my facebook friends recently asked this question about rejection:

"Is it okay to be afraid of rejection even when you know it’s inevitable?"

My response: abso-freaking-lutely.

Rejection is a big scary monster. My heart jumps into my throat every time I send out a query. My fingers shake when I submit those requested pages. It’s the anticipation of hoping… just hoping that this is the person who may just want to represent me and realizing at the same time—that they might not. It’s exciting! And it’s frightening.

I’m getting ready to query again and the rejection is inevitable—not because my work is crap or because I don’t believe in myself. It’s just that my work will not resonate with everyone. SO why bother querying those people? Well, because frankly I don’t know who those people are.

I received the best advice from a very established literary agent: QUERY EVERYBODY.

Yeah—do your homework. Find out what kind of projects those agents typically take on, but you never know—there could be someone in the big agenting world who never takes on young adult paranormals—but can’t put down your novel from page one.

Soooo—I’m going to query. And I’m going to experience rejection. Probably a lot of it. Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries slipped through 17 publishers before being accepted and hitting the presses; Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: 38

And in the meantime - I'll keep writing. And learning. And growing.

Rejection happens. But I won’t get published if I don’t try. And I’ll try everyone. Because as Stephenie Meyer well knows: it only takes one YES to achieve success.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Contest Here, a Contest There...

For all my writer peeps out there....




Guide to Literary Agents hosts the sixth (free!) "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest. Here's a little blurb from the blog as to who can enter and what you need to do!

If you're writing a book-length novel that's paranormal romance or urban fantasy, this sixth contest is for you!

HOW TO SUBMIT

E-mail entries to sixthagentcontest@gmail.com. Please paste everything. No attachments.

WHAT TO SUBMIT

The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of urban fantasy or paranormal (adult fiction and/or YA fiction are both accepted; no "high fantasy" with dragons, elves or other planets please). You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, I ask that you do one of two things: 1) Mention and link to this contest twice through your social media—blogs, Twitter, Facebook; or 2) just mention this contest once and also add Guide to Literary Agents Blog (www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog) to your blogroll. Please provide link(s) so the judge and I can verify eligibility. Some previous entrants could not be considered because they skipped this step!


CONTEST DETAILS

1. This contest will be live for approximately fourteen days—from Sept. 22 through the end of Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010, EST. Winners notified by e-mail within three weeks of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter.
2. To enter, submit the first 150-200 words of your book. Shorter or longer entries will not be considered. Keep it within word count range please.
3. This contest is solely for completed book-length works of urban fantasy and paranormal romance (both YA and adult novels are accepted).
4. You can submit as many times as you wish. You can submit even if you submitted to other contests in the past, but please note that past winners cannot win again.
5. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those employees, officers and directors of GLA's publisher, F+W Media.
6. By e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as any terms possibly added by me in the "Comments" section of this blog post. (If you have questions or concerns, write me personally at literaryagent@fwmedia.com. The Gmail account above is for submissions, not questions.)


PRIZES!!!

Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.


Cool, right? If I had a full-length paranormal romance or urban fantasy completed work, I'd be submitting - oh wait - I do!

Annnndddd... to celebrate her blogiversary, my writing bestie Ricki Schultz is sponsoring a contest that's just in time for Halloween...



THE CONTEST

Write her a scary short story.

THE RULES

There aren’t many.

1.) Write a scary short story—whatever your interpretation of that is

2.) 1,000 words or less

3.) e-mail it to her (at ricki [at] rickischultz [dot] com) no later than Sunday, Oct. 24, 11:59 PM EST.


THE PRIZE(S)

She’ll pick two winners.

The first will receive a book + DVD combo of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . . . and Kenneth Branagh’s mutant of a movie adaptation of the same name. Second prize is a 10-page critique from her!


I tend to be rather verbose in my writing, too much to condense my thoughts to a short story, but I may just have to enter that one too. Twould be a spooky little challenge...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Name Game


What’s in a name?

You know - when it comes to people’s stories. How do we get household fixations like Edward Cullen or Stephanie Plum? Is there as much magic to picking a name like Ron Weasley as there is in his defective wand? Would Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants have been different had cantankerous Carmen been named Maria?

Seriously. Where do these fabulous masterminds of fantastical novels come up with names like Frodo Baggins or Maximum Ride?! Or even Arthur Fonzarelli? Or (swoon) Jay Gatsby?!

Some authors will actually discuss the answer to this question on their websites. Other website creators offer insight and dole out suggestions as to how you might emulate the greats.

How can you pull off the memorable appellation? Or that name that completely defines who your character is? I mean, not every character's name has to mean something, but I want to name my imaginary friends something other than Joe Schmoe or Suzy Q. (which - PS - aren't that bad!)

Perhaps pull a JK Rowling and arrive at a name through an anagram describing the character: I am Lord Voldemort equals Tom Marvolo Riddle (You know... “You know who’s” given name)



Or mutate or combine names of people you admire. George Lucas did this with "Anakin."





Write names backwards. See if they sound cool. You know – like my daughter’s: Eiznekcm.

Yeahhhh – no (Okay - maybe if I wrote sci-fi)

Soooo—there are lots of faboo ways for authors and screenplay writers to create names for characters we come to know and love. (Or hate)

As for me?

Do I...

1) search through baby name books and go to websites like www.thinkbabynames.com and discover some really cool names and their meanings

2) use the names of my children

3) fiddle with names already out there (Drew Brees, Serene Winter. I personally think Donovan somebody would make a really cool villain)


4) Or do I close my eyes, flip to a page in my grade book, circle my finger in the air, and choose that one

For some of my characters—yeah—I do a little of all of the above. I mean, I just have to use Aidan somewhere. And I’ve taught for nineteen years—my students have some pretty cool names. And a few have made it into my stories (hehe – President Starzynski) Others haven’t, but will (I'm bound and determined to put a Tova or a Rico in my stories!).

But for the most part, I can sum up my name-choosing experience in two powerful words:

Divine Intervention

Yes – I know you’re laughing, but really. I seriously believe God is behind the names of quite a few of my major characters.

Case in point…

For my first story, I desired my leading lady to have a name that just sounded like a Clark Kent or a Diana Prince. Maybe even a Peter Parker. That memorable alias to their respective Superman or Wonder Woman. Bu-ut I also needed the name to coalesce with a mathematician (uh, nerd much?). A Calculus founder at that. And considering my protag is a female—that research lent to many a fist-pounding-the-couch morning.


Eventually, I created Jameson Bernoulli Peters aka Jamie Peters. And she stuck.

But holy far-reaching implications, Batman.

Little did I know that her name would impact a story thread so powerfully. For me, it was like God steered me to the Bernoulli section and had me choose Jakob (James) and not Daniel (she could’ve been a Dani!) How his name and things he said and did would tie into a personality I’d already created for her. I didn’t know ANY of that when I chose her name. Maybe I just steered the story based on her name, but I choose to think God knew all that was to unfold.

I could babble some more about her neighbors Alexa Caldwell and Marcus Huff (double *swoon*) and the things that popped into my head AFTER I’d already named them, but I’ll just tell you I voiced many a PTL (Praise the Lord) after I finished that novel and still do as I continue to write its sequel.

Exhibit B

My second story is a YA paranormal on one of the seven deadly sins, so I was going for a little Biblical thing with some of my supporting characters' names. I chose Moses for my protag’s best friend and when Josh popped into my head for her annoying lab partner, I went with the eat-at-my-gut instinct.

And then half-way through the writing of that story, I had a 2 AM epiphany.

Moses led God’s people to the Promised Land. Joshua saw them through.

That’s about all the spoiler you get, but zoinks! It explained soooo much of what I’d already written. Notice I said “already written”. Yep—convinced. God had a hand in that for sure.

And finally—the story I’m working on now…

My protag’s a quarterback and one of the plot lines involves his friendship with his left tackle and how they always have each other’s back (think a little Blindside with a side of The Last Song). Okay. It’s also got the whole Biblical element with another of the seven deadly sins. Uh-huh. It just seemed all too natural for me to choose Jonathan and David (not familiar—engage in a little bedside reading of I Samuel).

But then into the room walks Nate (helloooo—where did you come from?), a football bud from Wisconsin, and the dynamics of my story changed when God zapped the whole Nathan the prophet story into my head.

Freaky?

More like Thank you, Jesus.


So there you have it - I create characters with a little help from the Big Guy.


As for you, my fab readers, tell me YOUR favorite character name? Could be one you created. Could be from a fav book or movie.


Go ahead... click the comment button. I'm all ears.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Seriously My Next Book











Click THIS! Too funny.













So - maybe not my next book (uh, since it's already a book), but I'll find a way to work it in.

Thanks Janet Reid for the laugh. Still snorting when I watch this.


Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CONTEST WINNERS!!!... and a lovely little review...

Soooo… the moment you’ve all anxiously anticipated (yes—I am an alliteration freak)

The winner of a signed copy of Nicholas Spark’s Safe Haven

Candace Jones Arnold

Winners of unsigned paperbacks of Dear John and The Last Song

Dear John: JM Kelley

The Last Song: Catherine Johnson

Congratulations!!!

Please email me your addresses so I can ship off your faboo prizes! (alisonmiller20@gmail.com)

Thank you a katrillion times over for all your entries, your well-wishes, your follows, your email subscriptions… whew—I feel totally loved and supported. Seriously.

And this was FUN! I may have to do another one of these, like, soon. Maybe sometime in November! Cool, right?!

And because my faithful followers know I can’t possibly post something less than 600 words, the rest of you blog readers get… (drumroll)

A review! Aren’t you the lucky one?

Here are my thoughts on Safe Haven ...


I have a most voracious appetite for reading—one that can only be satisfied by retreating to a solo safe haven involving a comfy pillow, a lamp light, a totally phenom book… and NO interruptions. Doesn’t often happen for me so I’m forced to read books in pieces (PS—totally hate). Only a few books can make me totally divorce myself from reality (aka—ignore my kids, husband, and everything else for six hours)—New Moon, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Tempted, uh, anything James Patterson…

And this weekend Nicholas Sparks added another—Safe Haven.



The quick gist of Mr. Fabulous’ new novel: (courtesy of his book flap)

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo's empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.


Hoo boy.

The twelve-out-of-ten stars masterpiece had me at hello. As soon as I met Katie on page one, I needed to know more about her. I needed to know about her disturbing past, the one that brought her to the tiny town of Southport. I yearned to know what deep dark secrets she hid and why such a tender, beautiful woman was determined to keep everyone at a distance.

By the time I’d read a quarter of the book, I was already blinking back tears. My heart fluttered with Katie’s (yes-I’m a sucker for romance) and by the time I knew enough about her battered past, my hands numbed from gripping the book so hard, my page-turning fingers yearning to keep up with my eyes that tore through every chapter.

Safe Haven is the quintessential romance thriller, reminiscent of Sleeping With the Enemy and The Sixth Sense. Both movies totally freak me out, yet I've seen them ump-teen hundred times. I keep coming back for more, always on the edge of my seat, knowing what’s going to happen, yet the suspense of WHEN suspends my heart in my throat for the two hours I'm watching those movies.

Same with Safe Haven—some elements of the story were mildly predictable, yet I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to confirm my suspicions. And the ending—wowsers—Sparks threw in a jagged twist that had me fervently flipping through back through the book, mentally screaming How did I miss that?

And while the editing Nazi in me went crazy when five-year old Kristen served up some sweet tea (instead of Katie) and I felt, at times, the back story went on too long, I completely dismissed the “grrrrs” as soon as they stirred in the back of my throat. Why? Because a) I’m overcritical and b) the rest of the book rings of absolute perfection.

Nicholas Sparks does exactly what I can only hope to accomplish as a writer. He creates characters that are memorable, characters that you want to build life-long friendships with, children I want to raise myself, evil bad dudes I loathe more than I hate serial rapists. And he tells a gripping, compelling tale that has me wanting more, more, more.

Of course now I have to wait another year for him to deliver another book. And based on his track record - I know it will be another round of can't put it down fabulosity.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mr. Fabulous and Me - and a Contest for YOU!

Guess who I met last week?






Yep. Still swooning. Ahhhhhh.

Last week, Nicholas Sparks delivered his latest fabulosity to book stores—Safe Haven—a suspenseful story of love turned sinister and of a woman who must learn to trust again in order to love again.

Since I started with A Bend in the Road many moons ago, I've been a True Believer in Nicholas Sparks. I’ve yearned to meet the man for years, have always wanted to go to a book signing, but you know... that work thing always got in the way. But this year, despite an agonizing conscience, I trekked to his signing, doubting the entire drive if I should really be making the trip.

So glad I did.

At First Sight of Nicholas Sparks, my knees weakened and my heart rate soared off the chizz-ang. I wasn't sure I'd be able to walk to the back of that uber-long line. All I could think was...

I'm here. About to meet one of my writing heroes. One of my favoritest of favorite authors.

And he's going to sign my book!

But once I picked my jaw up off the carpet, I jumped in line and after four hours waiting with equally excited fans (def A Walk to Remember), I sat down next to him (squee!), he put his arm around me (double squee!) and we chatted briefly while taking pictures. And while I didn't tell him I was a writer (my mother who means well did - ugh), he gave me a heart-felt "Good luck with your writing!" and I checked that box in my bucket-list Notebook.

And left with a personalized, signed copy of his new novel.

Safe to say—it was a Sparkstastic day.


While I can’t put you on my magic carpet and whisk you off to see Nicholas Sparks on his book tour for your own personal meet-and-greet, I can offer you this…

A chance to win a SIGNED copy of Safe Haven

annnddd paperback (one of each - unsigned- but still fabulous) copies of Dear John and The Last Song


Wha-at? Seriously?! What do I have to do?

CONTEST RULES:

1) Comment below and tell me your fav Nicholas Sparks book ever—just one, people—make The Choice

2) Make sure you leave your full name (I have a lot of friends named Michelle!)

See—easy peasy.

And if you have any questions, email me at alisonmiller20@gmail.com


And for extra entries…

+1 if you become a new follower of my blog
+2 if you already are a loyal follower of my blog
+1 new followers on Twitter
+2 if you already follow me on Twitter
+1 linking to my contest on your blog, Twitter (provide a link please)
+3 for posting about my contest on your blog (a link for that too)
+2 if you add me to your blog roll

And bonus for my loyal Facebook friends

+2 for sharing my link on your wall

If you have any extra entries, tally them (I know I'm a math teacher - but your tally would be a gigundo time-saver) and post that in your comment. Winners will be selected at random and the contest will end Tuesday September 28 at 11:59 EST.

On September 29, I’ll post the winners as well as a review of his new book. The winners can email me their addresses so I can mail off prizes!


Soooo—what are you waiting for?! Click that comment button. NOW!

Who knows? You could end up being The Lucky One.