Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sucked In By a Great book

Welcome back from the long holiday weekend.  How did you spend your time?  With your family perhaps?  Hanging out at the pool?  Working the BBQ?  Before I had my son, my husband and I spent the warm summer holidays with our friends out on the lake or river, swimming and waterskiing.  Up here in Seattle, however, the weather is not very conducive for those kinds of activities, at least not this early in the year.  Yeah, if we’re lucky—and we have been so far this spring—the weather might be warmer, but the rain is an ever-present threat, and the waterways are still cold from the mountain snow runoff.  It makes it hard to plan anything outdoors before the 4th of July.

I was pretty tense last weekend after working on edits for my book, and I was stressed over some personal drama that played itself out over the Internet.  I needed to relax.  I had to find something to do, something that would cost me nothing, yet take me away as if on a mini vacation.  So I jumped into a great book. 

I read  Down River by John Hart.  I love a good suspenseful thriller, especially when it involves an everyday guy rather than some PI or police detective who already knows all the tricks.  I prefer an ordinary Joe who finds himself ass-deep in trouble.  But Hart’s Down River is so much more than just a good story.  It’s poetic.

It’s been a while since I was sucked into a story the way I was with Down River.  I pondered over what it was exactly that pulled me in so forcibly and refused to let go.  I think it was a remarkable combination of things, but overall, it came down to the writing.  Hart has a way with words that’s nearly indescribable.  He hits on every beat, every sensation.  You’d think that’d be tedious, walking through every movement, thought, and reaction, but not the way Hart does it.

He writes with deep emotion crackling across every surface, warping every word and reaction.  His words made me feel the heat pulsating off the asphalt.  I could smell the smoke filling my lungs.  I could nearly taste his words, roll them around in my mouth and sample the flavor of his character’s world and emotions.  Down River was very much about the setting, but only because of the way the main character felt about it.  And that made al the difference in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is everything, captivating and suspenseful.  It’s about family and friendship, scorn and love, forgiveness and resentment, longing and loss, expectation and disappointment, all wrapped around a series of mysterious events.  I thought I knew who-dunnit at least three separate times, but I never saw it coming, the ending, the big reveal.  It was truly shocking, and I’m almost never surprised anymore. 

So now I’ve found a new author I love, whose words I will savor as slowly as possible, whose books are so awesome that, even though I have no room for them in my meager budget, I will give up something special and necessary in order to buy them, even after I’ve already borrowed them from the public library. 

When was the last time you were completely sucked into a book, so much so that you stayed up all night reading, unwilling to put the book down?  And what was it about that book that kept you so enthralled? 

Oh and by the way,
I will be revealing the cover for my book,
on Friday, June 1st.
So come on back over and let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Never Forget

Memorial Day by Michelle Keim

As we stand here looking
At the flags upon these graves
Know these flags represent
A few of the true American brave

They fought for their Country
As man has through all of time
Except that these soldiers lying here
Fought for your country and mine

As we all are gathered here
To pay them our respect
Let's pass this word to others
It's what they would expect

I'm sure that they would do it
If it were me or you
To show we did not die in vein
But for the red, white and blue.

Let's pass on to our children
And to those who never knew
What these soldiers died for
It's the least we can do

Let's not forget their families
Great pain they had to bear
Losing a son, father or husband
They need to know we still care

No matter which war was fought
On the day that they died
I stand here looking at these flags
Filled with American pride.

So as the bugler plays out Taps
With its sweet and eerie sound
Pray for these soldiers lying here
In this sacred, hallowed ground.

Take home with you a sense of pride
You were here Memorial Day.
Celebrating the way Americans should
On this solemnest of days.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rejection at Every Stage

Rejection sucks.  Everyone knows that.  But as writers, we’re used to it, right?  I know I’ve had my share—from my first ever critique partner who thought my first draft was so bad he couldn’t possibly continue, to dozens of agents, a large handful partials and fulls—I’ve had ‘em all. 

At first they hurt, like real bad.  Then my skin started to thicken, and I didn’t let them bother me so much.  But that’s not to say rejection didn’t affect me.  The reason I queried my publisher instead of tackling another round of literary agents is because I wasn’t quite up to hearing the same old thing from the same old people.  Not that I expected any different from Sapphire Star, mind you, but it would have been rejection at a whole new level, and maybe it would be an experience I could actually learn from.  Maybe I’d get real, constructive feedback. 

Well, you know the story already; it all worked out for me.  So at that point, I thought I’d be safe from rejection, at least for a little while anyway.  Yeah, right!  See, if you have a book coming to market, you want to give it a leg up.  You want to put on a nice shine that sparkles in the sun, that’ll attract attention like metal to a magnet.  I figured a good way to do that would be to have an author endorsement or blurb on my book’s cover.  But how do you get one?  That’s right, you got it—you query.

It’s a whole new round of letters to authors you love and admire but don’t typically know, at least not personally.  I found just coming up with more than a handful of worthy names a challenge in itself.  My publisher suggested I start with a list of at least twelve, which made me giggle, albeit a bit hysterically.  With the occasional exception, I tend to read the same authors over and over.  What can I say, I’m loyal.  But having a limited list meant my chances weren’t good, and I found that a bit depressing.  My publisher said not to worry.  They’d provide a praise page— reviewer blurbs—if I came up empty, which I was sure I would.

I wrote seven letters to my all-time favorite published authors.  I was just hoping to get an answer, a return email.  And I did.  I received two emails which were so incredibly kind that I didn’t care that they had rejected me.  The next morning, I woke up to a third, this one polite, though curt. 

Then came my first acceptance!  I was so happy, I cried, especially considering who I was asking.  I thought, that’s it, that’s all I need.  I’m totally happy.  But then I received another yes, from a NY Times bestselling author, no less.  And he was so humble, only too happy to accommodate me.  Wow!  That’s all I could say.  WOW!! 

(No, this isn't the actual blurb!)

So I’m set now.  How cool is that?  Pretty damn cool I think.  Yeah, I never did hear back from those remaining authors, one of whom is my all-time number one favorite, whose collection of fourteen bestsellers sit front and center on my library shelves.  But I’m okay with that.  Rejection helps keep me humble. 

And it’s a lesson, a good one: when you’re a writer, rejection never ends, no matter which phase you’re currently in.  I’m sure I’ll have my fair share of the ultimate rejection—the crappy review.  But I’m cool with that, too.  I know this business is subjective, and I can never make everyone happy.  Besides, it’ll just make me work all the harder next time. 

So what have you learned from rejection?  Does it still hurt, or does it slide off your back like eggs on Teflon?


Monday, May 14, 2012

First Loves Blogfest

in which we post about our first loves –
first movie, first song/band, first book, and first person.

Four loves, one blogfest!

This one is both easy and hard for me.  Hard because I’m in the latter half of my life and the view back through all those previous years is cluttered with a sundry of memories, all clouding the origins of my first loves.  But here goes, at least to the best of my dim recollection:

First Movie Love:

As a high school senior in California back in 1982, this film encapsulated my life.  It’s the story of a group of California teenagers who enjoy malls, sex, and rock n' roll!

First Song/Band Love:

What can I say?  It’s frickin’ Led Zepplin, for God’s sake!

First Book Love:

I loved this book so much, I couldn’t put it down.
I was reading it during a lecture in geometry class and started crying when Johnny died.

First Person Love:
My husband, Eric!

Wasn’t he hot?  Still is, too!

I was 17 when I met him.  He was 15, but looked a lot older.  It was lust at first sight!
It took us awhile, but we finally married 8 years later,
and we’ve lived happily ever since!

Laugh all you want, but big hair was the bomb back in 1990!

So what were your first loves?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Reflections Post

Well, I’ve had a week to rest up after the 2012 A to Z Challenge, and boy, did I ever need it.  I never expected the Challenge to be so…well…challenging.  It wasn’t having to write all those blog posts either.  For me, that was a snap compared with all the reading and commenting I did.  That’s where all my real energy went.  And I suppose that’s where most of my complaints lie, as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the Challenge, it’s just that I don’t think I reaped what I sowed.  I’m not sure how many new followers I gained, but in comparison to how many new connections I made, to how many new blogs I followed, it was a pittance.  I chock that up to the number of newbie bloggers I followed overall.  I want to believe these neophytes don’t understand the concept behind returning the favor. 

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and I certainly do not expect every blogger I follow to answer in kind, but when a blogger only has a handful of followers and someone shows up, reads their post, then comments on the content, I think they should at least stop by for a return visit.  But, it is what it is, and I can’t change how others respect the principles of etiquette.  No hard feelings.  I just sometimes wish it was as easy to find and unfollow blogs as it is to do the same on Twitter.  Maybe someone should come up with a Blogger edition of ManageFlitter.

I will say, though, that I did meet a lot of wonderful people, mostly other writers like me.  I found their blogs informative, funny, and educational.  Some just wanted to make a connection, like me, to someone who was interested in the same things they were.  I like those folks, and I loved the generous spirit of their blogs.  Ultimately, that’s why I chose to participate in the A to Z. 

I must say, though, that there were a lot of irritating things about trolling through the list of participants.  For one, that list?  Yeah, way too long!  Insanely unmanageable.  I think I would have liked to see some way to classify the blogs.  I mean, personally, I was searching for writing or writer blogs, folks like me.  I wasn’t too interested in the knitting or crocheting or quilting blogs or what have you.  Yet I often couldn’t tell just by looking at the blog title.  So I tuned in only to take a quick peek around and dash on back out if it just didn’t interest me.  It would be time-saving to have the blogs listed by content, nature, or subject.

Other than that, the things that were like a burr under my saddle were:
  • Google Friend Connect not allowing me to follow and constantly having to re-sign in
  • Music that starts blaring the moment I tune into a new blog and then not being able to turn it off.  (Hey, not everyone likes your taste in music, so why alienate people?)
  • Bloggers NOT turning off that blasted Word Verification feature…argh!!
  • Double Word Verification for each blog I want to follow after following more than a certain number during that day.
  • Bloggers who didn’t take the Challenge seriously and keep up, only posted a few times, or didn’t post at all even though they were listed.
  • Listing a blog that was private and would only allow invited guests to read.  Why enter the Challenge if your blog is private?
  • A blogger not attaching their blog to their profile so I could visit and possibly follow back.

Each and every one of these items made me sigh and roll my eyes.  I’m not sure what’s up with Google Friend Connect or if anyone else had the same problem I had, (and still have) with following blogs, but I found it very frustrating not to be able to connect with a good blogger.  But overall, I had a good time and I met some extraordinary people.

The big question, of course, is will I do it again?  At this point, I’m not sure.  Probably not if there isn’t some way to classify the blogs by subject.  But then again, I’m always up for a good party and the A to Z is the biggest of the year.  I do want to thank all those who dropped by and left comments, whether or not you followed.  I love comments more than anything. 

And to the one man who came back every single day without fail and left a kind comment—Alex Cavanaugh—my crush is stronger than ever!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Extreme Makeover - Blog Edition!

As an author racing towards launch day, I’m taking small steps to “establish my brand.”  That means creating a unique trade identity that effectively represents my product—my book(s). 

When I first developed my blog, it was all about my “hopeful journey towards publication.”  But now that publication looms a few short months away, I need to refocus and accurately characterize my professional label.  And so, since I write rather dark, twisted psychological thrillers dealing primarily with revenge and redemption, I felt a new look was in order. 

I first had to create a slogan that embodied my work, then devise a web page that graphically demonstrated it.  At this point, I don’t have the funds to pay someone to do that, so I did it myself, but with the help of a generous friend and supporter, writer Carrie Butler.

As one of my talented critique partners, Carrie completely understands the concept behind my soon-to-be published novel, The Mistaken.  And last night, as a way of congratulating me for my recent book deal, Carrie sent me a gift.  She designed the banner at the head of my blog.  I am blown away by her generosity, not to mention her extraordinary talent, both as a writer, and now as a designer. 

Thank you, Carrie, from the bottom, the top, and every side of my heart!

So, what do you guys think?  Isn’t it hot?  Haha, pun intended!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

IWSG: Weebles Wobble

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, time for

I was busy posting for the A to Z Challenge last month, so I forgot to write for the IWSG.  The last time I posted for the group in March, I was deliberating whether or not to concede to a major revision in order to get my book published.  Well, as most of you know, I did concede, and I got my book deal, but does that make me any less insecure?  Well, in some ways, yes, but in many others, no, not at all.

I suppose what made me most insecure was not landing an agent with my query, and I still haven’t achieved that, even if I did manage to land the bigger fish—the publisher.  I never really liked the idea of a gatekeeper anyway, but still, having the approval of one is a mighty form of validation, one which I desired.  So in that sense, I am still insecure. 

And I still worry obsessively, too, just about different things, things that are more or less out of my control.  But when you agree to publish, you have a very limited amount of control.  I’m an artist, so I have definitive ideas about my book’s cover, and while my publisher listened to my ideas, they are still the ones to decide what it’ll be.  I’m also worried about the edits, which are coming soon.  Though I’ve been assured there isn’t much to change, I know I’ll still have to kill a darling here or there—words, not characters.

Of course, my biggest insecurity is wondering how well my book will do once it’s released in October.  Its success will ride mostly on word-of-mouth.  Sure, there will be marketing and blog tours and reviews and all that, but you and I know that most books are made or broken by word-of-mouth.  And my audience is adult, a most discerning crowd. 

So while I’ve had my own brand of validation from my publisher, it’s all still a crap shoot.  Sure, I’ve had my share of accolades, which I am greatly appreciative of, but while many of those are from writers, they have since become my friends, so there’s some built-in bias there.  Come October, what are total strangers going to think?  Now there’s the true rub.  At this point, I feel kind of like one of those Weebles.  I wobble a lot, but I haven’t yet fallen down.  I just hope it stays that way.