28 May 2012

I Am Insane

Update: I've completed the May Mid-Grade Madness challenge!! Actually, since I write my first drafts by hand and I haven't finished typing up my pages yet, I'm not 100% sure that I made the goal of 20,000 words in the 72 hours. But I finished my story, and with a little over 18 pages left to type up, I have a word count so far of 15,042. Averaging 250 words per page, I'd come out just under my goal, but so far, I'm averaging about 300 words per page, so maybe... :)

Just in case there was any doubt, I thought I'd put your minds at ease. Yes, I am completely insane.

Not only am I preparing for a move across the country in just a few short weeks (including tons of paperwork/interviews/massive amounts of red tape so that I can get medical clearance before my husband gets his official orders so we can start scheduling things like movers and housing at the next base), but I'm busy with all of the kids' end-of-the-school-year activities. I also agreed to make two of my recycled plastic knitted bags for my primary care doctor's nurses and I've promised several friends and family members that we'll get together for fun stuff before we move away. So I'm a pretty busy lady these days. No time for any extra time commitments. I have enough to do, thank you very much.

But, yeah. I'm insane.

Starting tonight, and for the next 72 hours, I will be participating in the May Mid-Grade Madness challenge from my local SCBWI chapter - to write a 20,000-word middle grade novel in only 72 hours. I've also promised that I will also participate in each of the eight challenges leading up to our next regional conference. And I'm still working on making the rounds in the Query Roundtable event, to comment on all of the entries. (I'll try to finish commenting on those entries this afternoon, before I start my 72-hour challenge.)

Do I have time for all of this? Probably not. Am I planning to scale back and let some of these extra challenges/writing activities go? Nope!

I'm a writer. It's in my blood. And by definition, that means I'm a little bit crazy. And I have to write. Even when it's a crazy time commitment and I have other things that I "should" be doing instead. My story pencils are calling my name, and I am compelled to answer them.

However, I will be letting all of the "non-essentials" go by the wayside this week. I won't be checking my email, twitter or facebook accounts. I won't be sitting in front of the television. I'm not cooking or cleaning. Laundry and dishes can wait. (My daughter made me promise I will stop to eat. - She even offered to pack a lunch each morning to put next to my writing chair so I won't have to stop mid-day for food. Only for a short dinner with the family each evening.)

Rest assured, on Thursday evening, when my 72 hours for the Mid-Grade Madness challenge have expired, I will take a break and check in online before I start playing catch-up on the conference challenges. I'll see you all on the other side! :)

21 May 2012

Query Roundtable

This week, I'm excited to participate in the Query Roundtable event through Rachel Horwitz's blog. I've updated and revised my query (and my manuscript too, by the way) after the valuable feedback I received from those participating in The Writer's Voice competition, and I can't wait to hear your feedback on my new, improved query. Thanks so much for looking!

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 53,007

Alaina Andersen used to dream of growing up to be a princess, not the girl with the biggest boobs at Southbrook High. But other than her good grades, she’s afraid her DD-cup bra is the only thing anyone notices about her. Alaina has never been kissed, she’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s never even been out on a real date. Most boys are only interested in one thing, but Alaina is holding out for true romance.
She’s pretty sure that Shane Crawford is the perfect boy she’s been waiting for. Not only is he gorgeous, he’s sweet and sensitive, and he doesn’t gawk at her chest when he talks to her. Alaina believes that if she could win Shane’s heart, she could finally be recognized as more than just the sum of her parts. With the perfect boyfriend at her side, she might even discover where she belongs. But when Shane kisses her, then asks her to pretend nothing happened, she begins to think that nice guys only exist in the fairy tales she used to believe in. Picking up the pieces of her shattered fantasy, Alaina discovers that Prince Charming and perfect, magical kisses, aren’t the key to finding her own “Happily Ever After.”

16 May 2012

Book Review: FIRST DESCENT by Pam Withers

Rex Scruggs feels more at home out on the river with his kayak than anywhere else.  He’s grown up in the shadow of his famous grandfather, Malcolm Scruggs, who was well-known for being the first to conquer several South American rivers.  Rex dreams of making a name for himself and carrying on his grandfather’s legacy by being the first to paddle down El Furioso, the one river Malcolm never completed.  The river proves itself to be a formidable opponent, but the class V rapids aren’t the greatest danger Rex will face.  As he grows close to Myriam Calambás, the native girl who agreed to be his guide on the river and who dreams of becoming a reporter so that she can tell the world about her families’ struggles, Rex gets caught up in the political struggle that she and the other indĂ­genas face every day.  Struggling to maintain their independence and neutrality in the middle of a struggle between the paramilitaries and the guerillas who want to claim the land for their own use, Myriam’s people face daily threats to their lives, and Rex is soon caught in the middle of a war he didn’t ask to fight. 

Withers tells spine-tingling, adrenaline-pumping, action-packed story of finding your place in the world, even against impossible odds.  I wasn't sure about this book when I picked it up. Action/adventure books aren't usually my thing. But I was pleasantly surprised. Rex and Myriam are such strong characters that I felt like I was living the story with them, and I couldn't put it down!

05 May 2012

Taming the Green-Eyed Monster

So, as you know, I've entered The Writer's Voice competition, and I'm so thrilled for the chance to compete against some amazingly talented writers in this contest. I've had a bit of positive initial feedback on my entry, but as the hours pass and I see more and more of the available 40 slots filling up with requests on the other entries, I have to admit I've felt more than one twinge of jealousy.

I realized that this was a perfect time to remind myself of the message from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's address in the most recent General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church).

Elder Holland said: "envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune‍ befalls us,‍ but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune‍ that befalls everyone‍ we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him “all that he hath,”2‍ as the scripture says. So lesson number one from the Lord’s vineyard: coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not‍ elevate your‍ standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live."

Of course, he's 100% right. Whether or not I get selected to work with one of these amazingly talented coaches, I've learned so much simply from the process of getting my submission ready for the contest. There's no need to down a quart of pickle juice simply because I wasn't the first one picked for a team (of course, that doesn't mean I wouldn't still be thrilled to get a comment saying I've been picked)!! :)

I'm so grateful for the love and support I've felt from my fellow contestants, and that's what really matters, in the end, isn't it? Thank you all for this amazing opportunity! You're the best!

(If you would like to hear the full talk by Elder Holland, I'm including the video here:)

03 May 2012

Writer's Voice

The Writers Voice competition, run by the AMAZING Brenda Drake, Monica B.W., Krista Van Dolzer & Cupid, is inspired by the TV show "The Voice." I'm contestant #88. If I'm lucky, one of these brilliant ladies will choose me for her team, and with her help, I'll be able to polish my submission until it gleams and have a chance to be seen by 8 awesome agents! Wish me luck!!

Entry #88
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 52,071

Seventeen-year-old Alaina Andersen is waiting for her white knight to ride up and sweep her off her feet with the perfect, magical kiss. She desperately wants to be the princess, even though she feels like a frog, compared to the perfect, popular girls who used to be her friends. When Shane Crawford, the most gorgeous boy in school, shows interest in her, Alaina thinks she’s finally found her fairy tale, but the kiss is a disaster and happily ever after is nowhere in sight.

In true fairy godmother style, Alaina’s friend, Kendra, offers to help her become the perfect “princess.” But Alaina’s best guy friend doesn’t want her to change, and her sister doesn’t trust Kendra.  When Shane comes back, begging for another chance to win her heart, and the “mean girls” turn out to be true friends, Alaina wonders if Kendra might be more wicked witch than fairy godmother after all.

KISSING FROGS is Young Adult contemporary novel, complete at 52,000 words.

First 250:
I’m not exactly the fairy-tale princess type. Flowers don’t bloom at my feet, and birds don’t follow me around, singing happy little songs. I’m seventeen years old, and I’ve never even been out on a real date. So when my best guy friend, Jarod, pretends to be in love with me, it’s kind of fun to play along.

“Hi gorgeous, how was your day?” Jarod, met me at my classroom door and took my books.

“Typical Tuesday. Pretty boring. You?”

I sat on the wobbly old desk Mr. Finn kept outside his classroom, careful to avoid the pile of graded homework assignments stacked in the corner.

Jarod twirled the combination and yanked my locker open. “Well, I’m talking to you. I’d say it’s been a great day.” He wiggled his eyebrows and winked.

He dropped his backpack on the bottom shelf and handed my flute to me. Turning back to my locker, he tore down the list Kendra had taped to the inside of the door.

“How many times do I have to get rid of this?” he demanded.

I shrugged. “Kendra says…”

“Kendra’s evil.” He tore the paper in half. “Why do you believe her lies? You do not have a big nose!”

I pulled the ponytail holder out of my hair and bent my head, letting my curls fall down to hide my nose. “Kendra’s trying to help me become a better person,” I mumbled. “I can’t improve myself if I don’t know where I need work.”