Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Keeping up Heart

When you enter any kind of contest or query any agents, you are putting yourself and your work out there to be reviewed and judged. So first, congratulate yourself on making the first step. You've done something other people are terrified to do. You also, presumably, have completed a novel. Congratulate yourself for that, too. 

The Pitch War contest just happened, hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake. I, like many other people, did not get chosen by a mentor. Entering this contest was fun. It helped me think about how to pitch my story. It made me do some serious editing on the first chapter. It's also making me think about the intro. There's an "almost prologue" feel to the first five or so paragraphs and I'm debating removing it. Waffling really. 

Anyway, this contest is not the end for my YA Contemporary novel. THE END DIARY will be published, but probably by myself after more extensive editing and beta reading.

If, however, I wasn't planning on self-publishing, I would query it. Querying is so subjective. You have to find an agent at the right time, in the right mood, and get someone who sees the potential. That's a lot to ask. You also need to get someone who hasn't read (or doesn't represent) a similar book. With so many books that have the same feel (look at the dystopian genre), this can be extremely hard to do.

So anyone who got in, congrats. Anyone who didn't, polish your ms some more and send it out. Find a critique partner who works well with you. Hire a proofreader, concept developer, or line editor and self publish. Your writing journey does not end with one (or 25 rejections). Keep trying. 

So long as your work is improving, you are on the right track.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Building a Backlog

Greetings! I'm back from a "writing my pants off" hiatus, and while I still don't have any books published this year, I have quite a large backlog of work now.

This past week, I've been in New Hampshire visiting my family and doing some soul-searching. Often on the road to publishing, challenges can often feel insurmountable. This happens with any creative art, and it's good to get away and recharge. I needed space and time to remember why I love writing.

I've also been thinking a lot about the Ira Glass quote:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

I've been working on my own backlog--a way to close the gap between myself and where I think I should be. My first published book was a short story, but it wasn't the first longer piece I had written. I also still haven't published the first two manuscripts that I wrote (don't plan on it, either).

But, that doesn't answer the question: why haven't I published this year? None of my books are ready. The gap between what they are and what I want them to be is still wide open. But now that I have fantastic feedback on Conscious from my fabulous alpha reader, I have a direction to take once I get back home. (A complete revamp will enhance the story.)

Having a backlog is strengthening my writing, since I've been writing so much in such a short period. For the record, here's the list of current unpublished manuscripts I have and their status:

  • In a Blue Moon - Querying (edited five times with numerous beta readers and a proofreader)
    • Greener on the Other Side (the in between novella) - Drafted
  • Conscious - Rewriting/Editing (alpha reader feedback acquired!)
  • The End Diary - Drafted
  • No Sugar Coating - Rewrite needed
  • Good Criminal Heart - Rewrite needed
  • Rioss - Rewrite needed
  • RUHE - Shelved indefinitely
  • Where We Collide - Shelved indefinitely
  • The Unanswerable - Shelved, may revisit
Why is this list important? RUHE and Where We Collide were my first two books. They were a developmental mess, and I still have no idea how to fix them (they were that bad). Good Criminal Heart is in it's fourth rewrite because it was the first novel I started writing (at seventeen), but not the first one I finished writing. The first pass had a terrible plot, but great characters. I streamlined it, made it more realistic, and rounded out the side characters. The writing, however, is still sub-par and needs a revamp. No Sugar Coating needs a developmental overhaul, but the writing is fluid. Rioss has great characters and descriptions, but lacks cohesion.

These backlogged stories, despite needing a lot of editing, have helped. They've made me see the pitfalls of my writing. Because of these past books, I know The End Diary is developmentally fine, but lacks proper description, and I knew that Conscious needed a second set of eyes to tell me why the pacing was off.

Recognizing your own weaknesses helps you in the long run, though it can make you second guess yourself. Saying "you aren't doing something good enough" creates negative feelings about your work, but it shouldn't. Artists need room to grow.

Whenever I start second guessing, I take time away. Often, I come to an optimistic conclusion. I'm working towards a long-term goal, and I'm improving. As long as I'm doing a little bit every day, I can feel good about my work. I give myself permission to grow.

Picture of the ladybug for no good reason, other than I thought it looked cool when I took it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

YA Gets Real: Four Years Later

This is a bit of a continuation from one of the earlier YA Gets Real posts called "Chosen One." Read it here!


A knock sounded on our cabin's front door, so loud and harsh that it shook the nails in our walls. I snatched a frame, steadying it with my fingers. Our wedding photo, a bit of a rarity these days. There was one photographer who knew the art of developing film, and he hadn't told anyone else the secret.

"I'm coming," I yelled at whoever was on the other side of the door. Once the banging stopped, I nudged the corner, straightening the photograph.

Crossing the room, I opened the door wide, no longer worried about who might be on the other side. The villages were like that—peaceful, serene, neighborly.

But my heart stopped beating at the sight of Beltrov standing on the other side. Beltrov, who I had left behind to fight a battle I didn't want to be a part of. Beltrov, who still held that stupid "you're the chosen one" sword in his hand.

"Jude," he said, smiling. His voice was more pleased than I could ever make mine at the sight of him.

My eyes narrowed. "What are you doing here?" The question slid from my teeth like a snake's hiss.

"Well, we won the war, despite your lack of help." He stepped closer, crossing the threshold of my cabin uninvited.

"So I've heard." I frowned, crossing my arms.

"And I figured you and I could pick up where we had left off." Another step, and now we were a foot apart.

I stayed still. "You figured that after four years, and after I left the war behind, you could come in here, announce the fact that you won, and then court me?"

His eyes darkened and his expression soured, as something in his brain slowly kicked into place. Beltrov may not pick up on body language very well, but he read my sarcasm loud and clear.

"You wouldn't choose to be with me? I finished the war so we could have a future inside the city." He waved at the cabin's wooden interior, lines creasing his face as if it were the most disgusting thing on the planet. No, he wouldn't like the villages. Beltrov thrived in the violence of the city, which was why he stayed to fight.

"I didn't stay because I hated the city and the society, Beltrov. The fight wasn't worth it to me." I shook my head. "Besides, it's been four years. I've moved on, and so should you."

His eyes widened, bewilderment invading his features. "You've moved on."

I held out my hand. "Married and everything."

Beltrov leaned to the side, looking beyond me into the cabin. My husband wasn't home, and thank goodness for that. He was nice and naive. A gentle man who wouldn't know what to do with Beltrov's quick temper.

As it stood, the vein in Beltrov's forehead throbbed as he ground his teeth together. "You are giving it all up... for this?"

"It's been four years. What did you expect me to do?" I leaned against the wall. "Not even one letter, Beltrov. I wrote you dozens of times."

"I was a bit busy." He frowned, stepping back and opening the space between us.

"Well, things have changed. I've changed, and I like where things are now." I shook my head, not knowing what else to say. At least I was being honest.

The puzzlement stayed on his face, muddling his features. He ran a hand through his disheveled hair. "Well," he started, pausing to collect his thoughts. "It seems we are finished then."

"Yeah. It seems so." I nodded, not having the heart to remind him we were finished four years ago.

He nodded once, pressed his lips into a thin line, and turned on his heels. He marched away from the cabin, heading back towards the city—the city I only saw illuminated at night during the explosions of war. With the war over, I'd probably never see the city again, or any of the people living within.


These posts are silly, parody posts of some scenes that can be found in YA tropes. These fun shorts should make you smile on your Monday morning. I love YA books, as a reader and a writer. Still, there are some tropes that deserve to become real. While these stories are still fiction, they provide an alternative, possibly more realistic, version of scenes from stories we love.

Monday, April 27, 2015

YA Gets Real: Werewolves

My friends and I had gathered around the campfire. Orange and red hues danced across our faces. Malcolm had told the most gruesome tale he could think of, which made Barry wretch in the bushes a few minutes earlier. I shrugged, telling him he had nothing on me.

“Fine,” Malcolm said, leaning back against in his folding chair. “You tell a better one, Dylan. Make someone other than Barry heave, and we’ll call it a win.”

A few snickers rose from the guys around us. The only adult here was Malcolm’s dad, and he had gone to bed hours ago. He was a pretty cool guy, didn’t really do much other than provide the necessary supervision to make our parents relax about camping in the woods.

“Please don’t,” Barry pleaded. The poor guy had been downing water, trying to get the taste of rancid marshmallows out of his throat—or at least, that’s what he told us his sticky, white vomit had tasted like. Spoiled milk mixed with something sickeningly sweet.

“Cover your ears, Barry.” I leaned forward, letting the fire catch the whites of my eyes. “Months ago, there was a story in the paper. A man—”

Rustling sounded from the nearby bushes, and Barry’s face bleached.

“This isn’t funny,” he said, voice hitching.

Malcolm rolled his eyes. “Dude, chill. It’s just the wind. Let’s hear it.” He gestured for me to continue.

I held back my response, annoyed by Malcolm’s constant assumption that he was our leader. “A man walked into the woods, going for a hike. He stumbles across this lady who has fallen, her bone twisting out of her skin like—”

The rustling happened again, and Barry stood up, inching away from the bushes. He had been sitting right next to me, but the look of terror on his face told me he wasn’t going to come back to this side of the fire.

“You’re such a baby,” Malcolm chided.

“I don’t see you sitting next to the bushes.” Barry backed up some more, leaving me as the odd man out next to the woods.

“Her bones had pierced through her skin. He picks her up, assures her he’s going to help, and walks to the nearest cabin.” I leaned in, casting a long gaze at Barry for effect. “He gives her some alcohol, something to help her sleep it off. She wakes up drenched in blood, half of her leg—”

A wolf jumped out of the bushes, landing right next to me with a growl escaping its lips. I jumped backwards as Barry let out the shrillest scream I had ever heard. The wolf lunged at me, snapping its huge teeth. I threw my arm up in defense, and it clamped down. Its jaws moved back and forth, shaking his head to try to land the kill.

I kicked my leg out, catching the wolf in the side as the rest of the guys scrambled away. The wolf let out a cry, loosened his jaws just a bit. I wrenched away from him, only to have him snap at my arm farther up. Malcolm’s dad came out of his tent.

“Everyone get back,” he said. He took a stick from out of the fire and swung the flame towards the wolf. It snarled and snapped, but fell back into the bushes, running off.

My arm bled through my shirt and jacket. Red blood bubbling over itself as I blinked at it.

Malcolm’s dad ripped off my jacket and forced my sleeve up my arm. I hissed as he inspected the wound. “We’re wrapping this up and going to the hospital. Now. Malcolm, you and the rest of the boys stay in the SUV until I get back with the car.”

“I could drive—” Malcolm started.

“No arguing. I’ll be back after I get Dylan to the hospital.” His dad helped me to my feet. It was weird. I stared down at my arm, feeling light-headed and a little off, but I didn’t feel any pain. There should be pain when this much blood was trying to free itself from your body.

“It’s not that bad,” I said.

“Get in the car, Dylan,” the man growled, rushing to his tent and grabbing his keys. He ordered Malcolm into the SUV one more time before shoving me into the front seat of his car. We drove down the curving roads back to the nearest hospital, an hour away. Malcolm’s dad had given me a towel, which I kept wrapped closely around my arm. Even though my skin should have throbbed from the pain, it didn’t.

Malcolm’s dad stayed at the hospital long enough to explain the situation to the doctor, give them my parent’s contact info, and then he left to get my friends. All that time, the wound still didn’t hurt.

When the doctor came in and peeled off the bloodied towel, he turned my arm over and over, asking me how much pain I was in. None. No pain. He poked at some of the deeper bites and tears, but still, nothing. He reached over for the first batch of saline to clean the wound, and once the blood dripped off my arm into the hospital pan, all of the pain came flooding back in.

The doctor looked up at me. “Hurts, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I said through gritted teeth.

“That’s good. It means you’re not in shock anymore.” He checked my pulse and blood pressure again, nodding in confirmation. “Yup, no longer in shock. How does it feel?”

“Hurts,” I mouthed, not able to make my voice the least bit sarcastic as he pressed some gauze against the raw wound.

“All right, Dylan, let me explain what will happen next. We’re going to give you a rabies postexposure prophylaxis, since we’re not sure if the wolf was rabid. Usually they don’t attack humans like that, especially by themselves, so we have to assume the worst. I’ll fax follow up paperwork to your primary physician, but you’ll have to see him for more doses.” His fingers worked around the wound as he spoke, cleaning every bit of reddened flesh. I winced with every touch.

Seven stitches, a few shots later, and I was waiting for my parents to come pick me up in the lobby. So much for getting turned into some awesome, supernatural creature. Instead, I got rabies immune globin.


These posts are silly, parody posts of some scenes that can be found in YA tropes. These fun shorts should make you smile on your Monday morning.

I love YA books, as a reader and a writer. Still, there are some tropes that deserve to become real. While these stories are still fiction, they provide an alternative, possibly more realistic, version of scenes from stories we love.

Also, I should mention, I love werewolves with all of my flipping heart.

Monday, April 20, 2015

YA Gets Real: Love Triangle

I watched from my spot on the couch as Gavin and Xander strummed on their bass and guitar. We’d been hanging out a lot since we met a few weeks back. I had met Gavin first, who introduced me to Xander, and both... well, they had asked me to choose between them. They were band mates and best friends, and both had crushes on me.

If I chose one over the other, it would ruin their friendship. To make matters worse, I felt the same about both of them. They were fun, silly, and made me happy. They also did everything together—Gavin and Xander were a pair. Even though they said they wanted me to choose, I became sick at the thought of it.

I crossed my arms as Gavin started laughing, still wrapped up in my own uncertainty.

“You really need to get that chord right.” Gavin shook his head.

“Oh, and strumming one note over and over again is so challenging.” Xander arched his eyebrow.

“Guys?” I interjected. Lately, these little fights had been getting worse. Each wanted to look like the better option; I was going to ruin them. “It’s been cool watching you play, but maybe I should get going.” If I left now, they’d make up, get over whatever spat this was, and go back to practicing.

“No, we’re fine, Beth.” Xander took off his guitar and leaned it against his amp. “I need a break anyway before Peter gets here.”

“The ever-elusive drummer?” I teased, standing up from the couch and stretching.

“Yeah,” Gavin said, clearly annoyed. “He’s too busy with…” He shrugged. “Actually, I don’t know what Peter does. We should get something to drink at least.” Gavin yawned and started towards the stairs just as a brown haired, tall, slender guy descended.

“Don’t know what I do?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow. Peter, I assumed. “Get you guys drinks, obviously.” He held three bottles of soda, and his eyes landed on me. “Though, I didn’t realize I’d need a forth one.”

“This is Beth,” Xander introduced me.

I smiled up at Peter. “It’s fine. I’m just about to—”

Peter shoved the bottles into Gavin’s hands so fast that Gavin almost dropped one. “I’ll get you a bottle. Any preference to flavor?”

Gavin and Xander exchanged a long glance with each other.

“Orange?” I shrugged, trying to play it cool.

“Cool.” Peter turned and headed back upstairs.

Gavin rolled his eyes. “Late, as always.” He handed Xander a cherry cola and put the lemon lime one on the coffee table. The basement room was cozy, perfect for their practice. The worn couch provided the perfect spot for me to do homework in the afternoon, and a nice break from being in my own house.

“Sometimes I don’t think he takes this as seriously as we do.” Xander let out a long breath as he twisted the top off his soda. “I mean, he’s late every single time. He doesn’t practice much outside of here. But I don’t know another drummer that could replace him.”

“Yeah,” Gavin agreed just as Peter came back downstairs.

Peter held the orange soda out, a wide grin on his face. Our fingers brushed as I took it from him. Green and blue seemed to swirl in his eyes as ours locked together. I swallowed, shocked at the shivers running through my spine. Now I knew why I couldn’t choose between Gavin and Xander; neither of them felt like this.

“Sorry it took so long,” he said in a low voice.

“No, I think you’re just in time,” I said back, smiling. With those words, I had made my decision.


These posts are silly, parody posts of some scenes that can be found in YA tropes. These fun shorts should make you smile on your Monday morning.

I love YA books, as a reader and a writer. Still, there are some tropes that deserve to become real. While these stories are still fiction, they provide an alternative, possibly more realistic, version of scenes from stories we love.