Back in the Saddle

Present Word Count of WIP: 13,901

After two days and more than 3,500 words written, I can officially announce that I’m back to my writing. What a relief! I was beginning to suspect that the holidays had completely upended my routine.

It’s always difficult for me to write when my daughter comes home for a visit because she’s about ready to graduate from college and her visits home come so seldom these days. As much as I see myself as a writer, I’m a wife and mother first, so I’m still having to fight off the guilt for carving out periods of the day to shut myself off from those responsibilities. It’s easier with my son (who’s about to graduate from high school) because he still lives here and, like me, he tends to shut himself into his cave every day, not craving company. But Allison is very social. Obviously, I wasn’t very successful from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

It’s a good thing we have New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, that’s probably the only thing I like about New Year’s Eve as a holiday. This time, I’ve set myself 5 “SMART” goals, 4 of which involve writing. That’s “SMART,” as in Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Specific (something I picked up from a recent QueryTracker Newsletter).

I’ll post the writing goals here so that you can all hold me accountable:

1) Write every day for at least two hours.

2) Finish first draft of SOG by February 20, 2012 (so it’s somewhat ready to pitch at the ANWA Conference). Finish final draft by April 30, 2012 (for pitching at the LDStorymakers Conference).

3) Find 20 agents who rep my kind of YA Fantasy and organize them from most to least appealing. Query top 7 by May 15, 2012.

4) Blog twice a week (usually Mondays and Fridays), once on each blog.

So, yes, I decided not to wait until Friday this week because I couldn’t stand seeing my website go unchanged another day. Tomorrow, I’ll probably post on my other blog here. As for the daily writing goal, I’ve completed ten chapters now of my WIP. I’ll try and keep a running count of words written each week here, to keep myself on task.

So, what are your goals for the new year? I have a feeling that, despite the dire predictions of the Mayans, 2012 is going to be a terrific year!

Originally posted 2012-01-05 12:17:17.

Today’s the day to buy “Variant” by Rob Wells

Luisa Perkins is running a terrific one-day contest in support of an LDS author who has done wonderful things for the LDS writing community (think the Whitneys). Click here to enter the contest, but even if you decide not to, click there anyway for a fast link to buy the highly acclaimed new YA dystopian novel by Rob Wells. Then think about buying a few more copies as Christmas gifts for your favorite young (or old) readers.

Originally posted 2011-11-10 10:08:10.

Deseret News Piece on Whitneys

Deseret News has posted a short piece on the need for nominations for next year’s Whitney Awards. Please check it out here, make a comment, and then plug it on FB, Twitter, and your own blog(s). If it gets enough traffic, they’ll consider putting the piece in their print newspaper, which would be seen by so many more readers.

And that’s exactly what is needed–more eyes on the Whitneys. The award program can only be as good as its nominees and finalists and, for that, it needs regular readers who are aware of all the best LDS literature out there. I’m not just talking about stories about LDS life (though that counts). I’m talking about any published novel by an LDS author, whether it was published in the LDS market, the national market, or self-published. The more nominees the Whitneys get, and the more wide-ranging they are from all different parts of the country and even the world (yes, as long as the book was published in English during 2011 and is written by a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–no matter their country of origin–and you thought it was really good, it can be nominated), the better the competition will become and the more deserving the winners will be each year.

Writing as a former finalist (and that novel was self-published), I can’t think of any other program that will help the quality of LDS Fiction to increase faster.

Originally posted 2011-10-17 09:17:07.

My Tribute to Steve Jobs

“iRemember”

Given up at birth
By an educated Syrian father
And an equally learned mother
Into the arms of loving,
Less lettered parents,
He whiled his way through school,
Perhaps surprising no one
When he left its rule to

Follow his own.

Racing time,
He molded masterful manipulatives,
Each designed elegantly to bring the world
To our fingertips

In easy, intuitive ways.

iMac,

A solid friend,
Dependable, accessible, with a
Mouse that makes the Lion roar.

iTunes,

Bringing music to the masses,
A revolution in song sharing
Between artist and listener.

iPod,

Our first fisted friend,
There on errands, walks and runs,
Fusing melody with life.

iPhone,

The iMac in our hands,
And an “app”licable library
For the future.

iPad,

The iMac and iPod combined,
Simplified and squeezed
To a minimum, yet somehow more.

i’s galore,

iBook, iPhoto, iMovie, iLife, iWork,

But this “i” always,

iRemember.

(Written in memory of Steve Jobs by Tanya Parker Mills, October 14, 2011)

Originally posted 2011-10-14 10:10:16.

I didn’t win, but…

While I may not have won the “Can You Hook ‘Em” contest last month, I did get mentioned by one of the two judges as having hooked her, so I’m encouraged. I’ve written four chapters now and am steadily moving on. I’m also gearing up for a trip to England next summer (no, not for the Olympics) so that I can do a bit of research and treat my daughter to a well-deserved break!

By way of other news, my manuscript of “Laps” is currently under review by a publisher. I’ll keep you posted!

Originally posted 2011-10-14 10:01:16.

Revised Beginning of my Middle Grade Fantasy for Blogfest Contest

Okay, having read and absorbed the comments, plus the comments last night of my own critique group, I’ve rewritten my opening, which is a prologue, and am re-classifying it as YA Fantasy. I’ll leave the original below for comparison’s sake.

(New Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: YA Fantasy

Eight miles from Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs.

No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide. The adults in the group hung on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, and despite his high-pitched voice, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . “

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if the boulders were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground, and they treated it as such, much to the exasperation of Ralph and the security guard.

All save one boy who appeared to be sniffing the stones.

 

(Original Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Eight miles north of Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs. No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide, and hanging on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them, despite his high-pitched voice. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . ”

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if they were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground. But then Ralph said something that stopped them in their tracks.

“You see, Stonehenge in Saxon means the hanging stones.” The beefy guide in his mid-fifties pointed to one of the inner archways.

Originally posted 2011-09-21 11:32:33.

Great Blog Contest

I came across a terrific blog contest, hosted by Brenda Drake on her blog, for writers of YA and middle grade fiction. Check it out here. Perhaps you’re wondering why I’d be interested in such a contest, particularly since, up to now, I’ve only written adult fiction. Some of you may be aware, but I’ll explain more fully in tomorrow’s posting. I also promise to clear up the mystery behind my lack of content here over the past two months.

Originally posted 2011-09-07 13:44:33.

The Balancing Act

When I set out to write I didn’t give much thought to publishing, let alone marketing. Now agents everywhere say your online marketing is an essential aspect of your professionalism as a writer. Many won’t even consider your work unless you have a significant online presence.

I can understand their point of view. After all, if the publishing house is no longer going to spend the time and money to really promote their beginning and midlist authors, who will? Certainly not your busy agent, beyond a tweet or a FB mention here and there. However, all this concern for marketing has gotten in the way of my writing. It has blocked my writing in ways I never envisioned.

It was so refreshing, then, to read Dean Wesley Smith’s take on keeping your writing first and foremost in answer to a comment on this excellent post:

There are a lot of promotions that are just a total waste of time. The best way to sell a book is write another one and then another one and make each one better. It won’t sell a lot of copies instantly as is the produce model of thinking, but over the long haul, you’ll make a ton more money and be a better writer.

I suggest most promotion be simply your web site (I am failing on this at the moment because of links, but fixing that), your publisher’s web site (we’re about to get WMG Publishing web site actually up and running), an occasional facebook post and an occasional twitter post. I don’t do either, really.

There are other things that do work a little. For trade paper books, WMG does catalogs to send to bookstores and we are making nice money that way. And sending out proofs, both electronic and paper, for major reviews of new books tends to work if your publishing house looks professional and your book looks professional.

But the rest is pretty time-wasting for most writers. They would be much better served in a five year plan to just write more work and get more readers. Let word of mouth spread the news about your great books. But again, that takes time and you can’t expect it to happen in a few months or even the first year.

I’m going to realign my social media efforts and put them back on the back burner where they belong. I can dip into Twitter 2-3 times a week, and maybe stir my FB status once or twice a week. I’m fortunate that Google+ hasn’t yet swallowed me up (and when it beckons, I’ll have to relegate it to the back burner, as well). What I can’t afford to do is get so sucked into internet surfing that I forget the main course–my writing.

Originally posted 2011-07-15 15:19:14.

“Anne of Green Gables” and Point of View

Yesterday, I finished reading Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It was a delightful read (and, yes, it was my first introduction to Anne…I can’t believe I missed out on her perspective all these years), which hit close to home in ways that, at times, made me squirm. Anne reminded me of a combination of my daughter and my red-headed niece, Margot. The dramatic flair, the embellished storytelling. That was fine because she’s a thoroughly likable character, even when she does show her temper because she shows it with such style! It’s as if Life is a performance art and she’s determined to master it.

The part that discomfited me was to see how much in common I had with Marilla, the plain spinster who takes this extraordinary orphan under her wing and, together with her brother, Matthew, determines to raise her well. While I have a good deal more imagination than Marilla, my inclination toward motherhood, I’m afraid, has never been as natural as I would have liked. It was touching and quite a relief, then, to see her soften toward the end. There’s hope for me yet!

As a writer, I couldn’t help noticing the shifts in point of view within scenes or chapters. They weren’t too disconcerting because the story carried me along, but at times I’d be in Anne’s head and then suddenly pulled out into the narrator’s (or 3rd Person POV)…or I’d be in Matthew’s and then Marilla’s, etc. I suppose they weren’t so strict about that kind of thing back in 1908 when the story was written. Even so, the characterization is marvelous and I’m anxious now to read the next in the series, Anne of Avonlea.

This whole experience with shifting POV has got me to thinking again about trying several points of view in my Beirut manuscript. Something along the lines of what Barbara Kingsolver did in The Poisonwood Bible. I’ll admit I’m having a tough time staying in a teenager’s head even though my memories of Lebanon are those of a teenager. Try as I might, I don’t think YA fiction is my genre.

Originally posted 2011-06-27 16:18:46.

Setting the Scene

I’ve begun drafting my Beirut story and it’s certainly pulling up a lot of memories. Here are some visual clues to the neighborhood in Ras, Beirut where I’m setting my novel. (I think I’m going to have to create a link in my menu for Beirut Photos.)

While the family in my story is fictional, the street they live on–Rue Manara–certainly isn’t. Those of you who know French may have deciphered the first word (rue means “street” in French…Lebanon was a French protectorate from 1920 until sometime in the 1950’s). The second word, manara is Arabic for “lighthouse.”

About a hundred years ago, this is what the same area looked like from a different angle (thanks to a website titled Al-Mashriq run by a fellow ACS graduate) You’ll notice the Pink House existed that long ago, as well:

If you go to Beirut today, you won’t find the black and white striped lighthouse in operation any longer. Indeed, it was supposed to be torn down to make room for the city’s reconstruction program, so it may not even be there. It’s sad, really, for the same family had operated that lighthouse since it was first built back in 1850.

As for the pink house, I’ve been trying to pin down its origin. Even while we were living there in an apartment overlooking it, we heard all kinds of rumors (some not so savory) about what went on within its walls. I can’t believe it’s still standing. It certainly needs a paint job. Before the civil war, its walls were a much deeper and freshly painted pink.

This is what it looks like more recently:

Originally posted 2011-06-02 17:32:48.