April 30, 2010 | By: Tracy

Friday Catch-All

Last night, I received a rejection on another query. This one didn't bother me as much, since the only material sent was the query letter & she wasn't one of my "dream" agents. She's still an excellent agent, but I think it hurts a little more when it's one you reeeeaaaally wanted.

It didn't sting like some of the others before it did (maybe I'm growing more tolerant of rejection?), but it does cause the doubt weasels to pop-up. Was it my query letter? Did she open it at a bad time? Is my idea not anywhere near as close to interesting as I thought it was? What if no one else asks to see my partials?

Instead of letting it get inside my head though, I'm using it as proof that I need to get on the ball and send out more queries!! I've been far too casual about the whole process. I need to be more aggressive going forward.

Current Query Stats (including the stats from the OLD query letter):
Queries Sent: 9
Rejections: 6
Partials Requested: 1
Fulls Requested: 0
Rejection of Requested: 0

Blog Update -- Starting next week, I'm cutting back to posting 3 entries a week (Mon, Wed, Fri). I want to be able to spend the off days catching up on the other blogs I don't get around to as much, because I'm spending so much time on my own. I LOVE blogging, but I have to find a way to cut down on how time consuming it can be, so I can spend more time on the silly thing we call writing. I think this way will work -- however, I allow myself the opportunity to change my mind whenever I choose!

Happy Friday, All!  Hope everyone has a great weekend!

April 29, 2010 | By: Tracy

Hooked on Phonics, Does Not Work For Me

If there is an area of my writing I know is a potential pitfall -- aside from my comma usage paranoia and tendency to lean a little heavy on the ellipsis -- it's my spelling skills.

I know the whole "I before E, except after C" mantra, but it's surprising how many exceptions there are to that rule, and my ability to find them.

Microsoft Word's auto-correction is both a blessing and a curse, because it fixes most of those mistakes for me. Unfortunately, it takes me that much longer to burn the correct spelling into my brain. Not to mention, I feel lost when MS Word isn't a fallback option.

Perfect example of this is a comment I just left on Terry's awesome blog, A Writer of Wrongs. In my comment to him, I was using this whole analogy that revolved around being a fish (you have to read the comment to understand. It makes sense, I swear). Anyway, right at the end I wanted to use the word barracuda ... except I didn't know how to spell it correctly.

Blogger, unlike my beloved MS word, doesn't really give you much help other than the nasty red, dotted underline that says "Hey Idiot, this isn't a real word, ya know.After several failed attempts at guessing a correct spelling, I finally gave up and went with shark instead.  

Then I decided to look the spelling up in the dictionary. It took me forever, because my freaking "Hooked on Phonics" style brain was thinking the second letter was an "E"... and when that didn't pan out, I went to "U". Ten minutes later, when I went with my third choice for the letter "A", I found it.

Normally, I think of myself as a relatively intelligent person, but at times like this I find myself questioning that notion.

I'll tell you one thing ... I doubt I'll ever forget how to spell barracuda now! In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that darned word doesn't find a way to work itself into every future manuscript I write.
April 28, 2010 | By: Tracy

The Ultimate Villain

My struggling Baltimore Orioles won their 4th game of the season last night. You know what's even better than the victory? It's WHO they beat -- the New York Yankees.

When it comes to baseball fans, and their thoughts on the Bronx Bombers, there are two groups:  You either LOVE the Yankees, or you HATE the Yankees.   

In the world of baseball, the team is non-affectionately known as The Evil Empire. (In most sports, despite long-standing rivalries, there is always ONE team that most fans love to hate more than any other).  

The Yankees play the role of the ultimate villain. They spend the most money, buy the best players, have a long history of winning championships, and carry a swagger into each game as though they expect  to win. It's easy to cast them in the role as the big, bad bully on the MLB playground. 

Are the Yankees all bad? As much as it pains me to say this - No, they're not. But it adds an extra level of excitement when you beat a foe. 

As humans, we almost always need a Good Guy and a Bad Guy (though sometimes the "bad guy" is a situation rather than a person, ie. cancer, earthquake, etc).  to give us true motivation.

There may be other instances -  I'm drawing a blank right now - where I've been sympathetic to the villain's plight. Although the only "Bad Guy" I can recall actively rooting for is the Wylie Coyote. No lie, I wanted him to catch that damned Road Runner with his condescending "MEEP, MEEP!" like you wouldn't believe!!

More than anything, I get sucked into books and movies where the villain is someone I loathe. When I can put myself in the place of the hero/heroine, and imagine myself willing to do whatever it takes to beat the "Bad Guy", I'm likely to enjoy the experience much more.

I have a couple of my own favorites; villains I love to hate, but I want to hear from you guys. Let's put together a big list - for tomorrow's post - of ideas for great villains to check out (or revisit) in our spare time. An Ultimate Villians list. So give me your thoughts...

Who are your favorite Bad Guys? What character has made your skin crawl, or left you wanting to physically hit something? They can be from books, movies, television shows or songs, whatever.  Just let me know who you love to hate and where they're from!
April 27, 2010 | By: Tracy

Will Write For Food

So, this morning I had an interview for a real job.

Now, before anyone starts jumping on my case, let me clarify. I DO believe writing is a real job . . .  but only when it starts paying some of the bills.

Until it helps cover part of the rent - or at least lets me afford a quick vacation to some place tropical - I consider it a passion.

Today, I had an interview for a position I'm really hoping to land, and believe it or not, I think my recent manuscript drama may have helped further my cause.

One of the big responsibilities of the new position is to have a good eye for proof reading. In fact, before my interview I had to go to a temporary agency to have my skills efficiency tests done. This time Excel & Word brought a friend along with them. Proof Reading.

I had to go through a "letter" fraught with errors, fix it up and make it purty. 68 errors to be found, I was told - though I forgot to count *slaps forehead*.

So all those months of reading over my manuscript with tireless detail paid off. (Would consider it an even better pay off if I get agent representation, but I'm working on that)

The only DRAWBACK, was fighting the urge to re-word things to make the letter sound better. The directions implicitly stated not to do that, and it was sooooo hard to resist. I'd spent months learning how to make things sound more fluid, it was torture to leave bad writing in the letter.

I guess when you train a monkey, you have to take the good with the bad. ;o)

April 26, 2010 | By: Tracy

Contest Update

Jim McCarthy over a DGLM (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) posted his top nine choices for his first line contest.

Sadly, mine didn't make the cut.

However, there were more than 250 participants so it's hard to be down on myself for not pulling it out. Now, if there had only been 10 and I didn't make the top 9 -- that would have been a different story.

Anyway, if you entered, this is your reminder to go check it out. If your sentence is one of the contestants be sure to let me know so I can vote for you & pimp you out to my followers.

If none of us made the finalist list, then let's at least help a fellow writer out & vote for our favorite to get that writer a chance to have their manuscript reviewed sans query.

I Want To Visit FORKS, WA

Love Twilight. Hate Twilight. Totally indifferent to Twilight.

It doesn't matter. We've all accepted what a huge phenomenon it has turned into.

Self-confessed Twi-hard, here. I'm not one of the uber obsessive fans, but I won't pretend I didn't wear a Team Jacob t-shirt to the "New Moon" premiere, either. Let me just tell you, I've never received so many compliments on my wardrobe from 14 year olds, in my life!

For those people who HATE the series and ask me to name one good thing that came from it, I have an answer : The survival of a little town named Forks.

Forks, Washington is a real place. Stephenie Meyer (A native Arizonian) was looking for the cloudiest, rainiest place in the continental United States. Google gave her Forks, and thus the setting was made. And Forks needed Twilight, far more than Twilight needed Forks.

As a small logging town that was losing its industry and a community that was struggling to make ends meet, it has greeted the Twilight phenomenon with open arms. Don't believe me? Check out the official population sign proudly displayed in their Chamber of Commerce.

In fact, outside the Chamber of Commerce they have Bella's truck, from the movie version, for visitors to stop and take their picture with.

They have a couple specialty stores just for Twilight merchandise, and tours that travel around the town and showcase places mentioned in the story. The town has completely embraced being the location of the place where Edward & Bella met.

And let's not forget the actual Quileutes (Native American tribe), who werewolf Jacob Black was a member of ... they're feeding into it too, as witness by this sign at the start of their reservation.

(Admittedly, the Pepsi logo detracts from the overall feeling a bit, but advertising...)

I've never been to Forks, WA. And until recently, I never even knew it existed. Now, I'm enough of a grown-up (and on most days I try to be a realist), I know the story is pure fiction. I don't really believe there are vampires running around in Forks, or werewolves out on the reservation.

But as a writer -- one who really enjoyed the books -- I'm so tempted by the idea of seeing a place where the story world has come to life in so many ways. In truth, I'm a little jealous. My characters and settings are always vivid inside my head ... but what I wouldn't give to be able to visit them in real life from time to time!
April 23, 2010 | By: Tracy

Happy Endings

Huge thank you to everyone who congratulated or wished me luck on my partial request.

You guys are awesome! I especially appreciate it from the people I don't hear from much, or those of you who are new to my blog.  You are now my new favorite people.

With it being Friday, I wanted to keep it light and talk about Happy Endings (and no, I'm not referring to questionable massage parlor practices).

I ran into an issue when I was first trying to genre-lize (that is the art of figuring out what genre your book falls into -- yeah, I made it up). Since my story rests under the paranormal romance umbrella, it has to follow basic understood romance guidelines. Meaning, it better end on a happy note ... or a really high one at least.

At first I was like, "well what if I don't want it to end happy? Life doesn't always end happy, why should my story?" (for the record, it ends on a high note)

Then I realized I was being a hypocrite. I was thinking like an entertainer and not one of the entertained.

I LOVE happy endings. It doesn't have to be saccharine sweet, but I want an ending where I feel like GOOD has ultimately won out over EVIL ... no matter how much GOOD may have heart-wrenchingly lost along the way.

I can handle a song being sad, because it's only 4 minutes of my life. I can allow myself to feel that intense emotion for 4 minutes, knowing I can move onto something happier when it's done. When it comes to books or movies -- or any other serious time commitment form of entertainment -- I need to be satisfied with the ending.

That doesn't mean I want Mary Sue type characters who always have people fixing things for them. I enjoy stories & movies where my hero suffers to the point where I'm thinking inside my head "Leave him alone! Hasn't he suffered enough? Damn you!"

I think endings are trickier for those of us who write books, more than any of the others. Because it's such a big time commitment for a person to read a book, we are under the pressure to write endings that will meet their expectations. I've forgiven great movies with bad endings, but there are a couple of great stories I know I'll never likely read again, because I was so disappointed in where the journey ended.

So what do you all think? Do you need a happy ending or do you prefer entertainment that rips your heart out and leaves it lying on the floor? Can you think of examples where a book or story DIDN'T end happily, but you loved it anyway?
April 22, 2010 | By: Tracy

Happy Dance!!

I was checking my email inbox for a totally unrelated reason and guess what??

Okay, I won't make you guess.

I got my first ever request for a partial on my manuscript!!!!!  (yes, all those exclamation points are, in fact, necessary)

I really, really wasn't expecting a response from this agent so soon. She states on her website that they try to answer queries within a couple weeks, and I only sent her my email yesterday. I was so shocked I had to read the email twice in order to make myself believe it. And when I DID understand that it was a request for more ... I may or may not have giggled like a little girl.

Now I'm all jittery inside. It's a good jittery, but jittery nonetheless.

I know I still need to send more queries, and prepare myself for the very real possibility that she'll pass on the partial. But after the query hell I put myself through for two months it feels so good to know I was able to snag someone's attention. :o)

I think I'll let myself soak in the adrenaline high for another hour, and then get back to the grindstone.

Thank you guys for letting me post a pointless - Happy Dance - post!!!!  (Okay, so those exclamation points weren't necessary, but I like the way they look)
April 21, 2010 | By: Tracy

Vampire Diaries

I decided the whole posting-at-night thing wasn't really working for me. Hey, I gave it two whole nights, at least.

On Topic: It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of LOST, but one of my other current television loves is Vampire Diaries (comes on Thursday nights @ 8 on the CW, for those who are interested).

I've been fascinated with vampires since the first time I saw "The Lost Boys", back in the day. I love all kinds of vampires. From the ones who are little more than slobbering grave monsters, to the more aristocratic Anne Rice types.

And yes -- I have a weakness for teenage vampire stories.  (It doesn't hurt that the men who play said teenage vampires are H-O-T!)

The way I see it, my teenage years were the most emotionally challenging of my life (at least up to this point. Check back with me after I have a couple kids). So naturally, I can feel for characters who are perpetually stuck in that phase of their existence. It's the be careful what you wish for answer to "if only I could be young again and still know what I know now" idea.

Anyway, my whole point in choosing this topic today was. Vampire Diaries is a television series that is based off an old book series. LJ Smith wrote her first story with these characters back in the early 90's. I've read a few of those books and they were okay. (It was a much earlier version of YA, and it was a little  blander than what I like in my teen stories) But Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek & Scream, Scream 2, etc) is the writer for the television show. He's a phenomenal writer, and has a way of continually building the tension & drama. I get addicted to his shows time and time again. 

The thing is, Kevin took a good deal of liberties with the story line and characters from the book series (though, IMO, he made definite improvements). Sometimes though, I wonder how LJ Smith ultimately feels about that. Obviously she consented to the television deal, and I'm sure she isn't complaining that her series is back on the NYT best seller list after more than a decade, but ... how does she feel about those liberties?

How do you think you would feel if this situation were to arise with your story/series? Be it a television show or movie adaptation, do you think it would be unsettling for you to have someone else writing your characters instead of you?
April 20, 2010 | By: Tracy

Sharing is Good

Last time out, of the 4 queries I sent, 3 went via snail mail. This time around, I've decided to go with emailing whenever possible. Today I learned the one drawback to that method.

The rejections come back to you a little quicker.

It was only one, and quite truthfully, I was shocked when I found it in my inbox this afternoon. Not shocked to be rejected (I' m not that vain), but that I'd get a response in less than a day. It was for a query submission only, so I didn't have to fret as much as if I'd sent a synopsis & sample chapter with it. Plus, I already knew this particular agent was super picky. At least it was a polite, nicely worded rejection letter.

I don't know if I'm dense, or I just bounce back quickly. It stung, like a bad sunburn, for about an hour ... and then I let it go. I've got more out already, and more going out before the end of the week. If I get up to a dozen or so with no nibbles, then I might begin to fret a little.

In the meantime -- I'm such a follower!  At least three of you have posted snippets or sample chapters of your story on your blogs, and I liked them so much I decided to follow suite. So if you'll direct yourself to my sidebar, I now have the first chapter of my paranormal romance "Gemini Cursed" posted for all the world (okay, only those of you who read my blog) to see.

Or if you're lazy and don't feel like looking to the right (like me) you can just click here to read it.
April 19, 2010 | By: Tracy

Change of Pace

So, in order to keep things fresh, I decided to try blogging at night instead of the morning -- at least for this week.

Unfortunately, I ran into another case of my Rain Man tendency, so I spent the last two hours playing around with the layout of my blog as opposed to writing an entry or responding to others. Not the most productive use of my time, I know. Did I NOT just make a post admonishing myself over my bouts of procrastination? I need an intervention.

I did restart the query process this week though. I've decided to do one a day. That way it doesn't feel so overwhelming, and hopefully if there are rejections to be had they won't all come rolling in on the same day.

Speaking of queries ...


Jim McCarthy of DGLM posted a contest on their blog. Between now and 4/22 (Thursday), Jim offers bloggers the chance to post the first line of their manuscript in the comments section. He'll choose a handful of his favorites to be offered up for a vote ... and the winner gets a full manuscript review from Mr. McCarthy -- wait for it -- without having to submit a query!!!

Seriously, if you haven't gone over there already ... DO IT!

Also, blogging buddy Mary McDonald is going to post her interview with published author John Hemry, on her blog tomorrow (Tuesday), so go take a look.

Now, I'm going to go watch the Orioles try to pull out their third win of the season -- I know, you don't have to say it -- and try not to do any further unnecessary fiddling with my blog.
April 16, 2010 | By: Tracy

Procrastinating ... or Gun Shy?

Thanks to all who played along & had fun with the questions yesterday! If I ever have a cocktail party I'm inviting all of you to help keep things interesting. For those who mentioned, I'm totally cool with anyone wanting to use the idea for your blogs. I like answering questions!

** Sidenote: Quil, if you're reading this, you really DO need to get one of these fandangled blog things. All the cool kids are doing it these days!**

Okay so back on track here, Tracy. See, I even wind up procrastinating in my post about procrastination.

I've always known that procrastination (or dawdling as my grandmother would have put it) is one of my biggest obstacles in life. I consider myself a Type A personality with slacker tendencies. If I can't do something perfectly, I'd almost rather not do it at all. When I'm excited about something I get all Rain Man. I can spend hours writing or watching baseball (or a Deadliest Catch marathon -- seriously, that show is addictive), and I'm golden. Ask me to spend ten minutes looking over benefits insurance and I start to hyperventilate.

Here's where I'm stuck: I know I need to start querying again -- let's face it, agents aren't going to come knocking on my front door asking if I have a story they could take a look at. I need to jump back in with both feet. Problem is, I'm still hesitating for some reason.

Now I'm thinking -- "Maybe I need to do one more quick revision of the first chapter", "Perhaps I should revamp the ending completely", "Maybe the phrasing in my synopsis is a little clunky and I should take another look at it."

These are all viable questions, except yesterday I wasn't worried about any of those things!! Today - my self imposed deadline to start querying again - the questions are flying at me from every angle.

Can I tell you a little secret?  I know it sounds crazy, because at this point it's totally putting the cart in front of the horse. But I just realized, I've spent so much time focused on learning how to snag an agent, that I don't know anywhere near as much about what comes after. So at this point, I'm almost as intimidated at the idea of being accepted, as I am about being rejected.

I think I need to see a shrink! ;o)

Anyway, Happy Friday All!!! (Except for those of you where it isn't Friday anymore...in which case I bid you a happy Saturday)
April 15, 2010 | By: Tracy

Eight Questions

I'm about to head out to do some writing at Barnes & Noble. I haven't been in a couple weeks & I'm going through withdrawals. Then I plan to spend the afternoon in blog land, which I've been neglecting this week.

In the meantime, I was thinking. How well do I actually know the people who follow my blog and/or I follow?  So anyway, if you could look at my questions below and give me your social security number and blood type that would be great! Obviously, I'm joking -- I can't even remember my own social security number half the darn time.

These are just some easy questions I think it would be fun to know about one another! If there's one you don't feel comfortable answering, it's okay to skip it. :o) And even if you're new, or lurking, I still want to hear from ya!

*raises hand*

I'll go first.

1) Name: Tracy

2) Family Situation: single, no kids. Hope to change that someday, but for now it stands.

3) Project Status: Gemini Cursed is my first ever finished story. After a brief false start, it is now polished & ready to re-begin the querying process.

4) How long did it take me to write? From first word, to finished revisions (and even now I'm still playing around with the ending a tad) -- it took me seven months total.

5) First thing I'll do upon landing an agent/ publishing deal? After I scream into my pillow for a good five-ten minutes, I'll start furiously working on my third ms. Wanting to stay ahead of the pace for when my agent (hopefully) asks to see more work.

6) Favorite non-writing activity? My love for baseball has obviously been covered, so I'm going to have to go with reading. I'm the kind of person that doesn't mind doing "short reads", as in if I've got five free minutes I'm fine with knocking out a page or two of whichever book I'm currently reading.

7) One totally random fact about myself?  I'm actually certified to be a canine obedience instructor -- yet the only dogs who have benefited from that are my own. I wanted to look into a future of training service dogs, but for some reason I haven't put in the time or energy to pursue it further.

8) Why do I think people will want to read my story if/when it's published? Hmmm, good question. On the days when my insecurity isn't telling me that my story sucks and no one will ever want to read it, I'd have to say ... it's a fairly unique twist on a love story. More than anything, I believe I was lucky enough to create characters that I think people will like and want to root for.

Okay, so now it's your alls (a phrase that will not be found in any of my writings) turn!
April 14, 2010 | By: Tracy

Why Did You Choose That?

I don't know why, but when I got home from watching the O's snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again last night (seriously, 1-7. Not good. Not good at all) I started going through my To Be Read pile.

It currently sits somewhere in the low thirties range. I will say this, it is an eclectic hodge-podge of paranormal romance, historical fiction (I may, or may not, be mildly obsessed with The Tudors), young adult -- heck, I even have a sci-fi in there and that's a genre I typically don't care for much.

I'm proud of this diversity, because there was a point where if you weren't Stephen King, Anne Rice or Dean Koontz I had no intention of reading you -- granted I was much younger then, but still. How very narrow minded. Bad Tracy!!

So then I started wondering how I grew out of that and became so cultured. (For the record, I don't really think I'm all that cultured, but it makes me sound more sophisticated so I roll with it) I will admit that, in the beginning at least, I never had any intention to expand.

But sometimes we stumble upon the good stuff. Here's a couple I found in the past year -- completely by accident.

I'll be honest and admit that until recently I'd never been all that into straight romance. (And I mean that in a, if it didn't involve a fantasy element like vampires I'm not interested, sort of way) I had the stereotypes of the old historical romances -- ones where cheesy phrases like "throbbing love muscle" could be found -- stuck in my head. Then I picked up Jami Alden's Unleashed, which is a romantic suspense -- and the third book in a series.

I'll admit, the only reason I picked this book off the shelf in the first place was because I thought "Hot dayum, he is a cutie!". Yeah, I'm boy crazy, tell me something I don't know. So it was a book cover that got me, but I'm so glad it did, because when I was finished with Unleashed, I worked my way backwards through the series & now I *heart* romantic suspense!

The day I found my new favorite author I was in the store looking for a book by another author. They didn't have it in stock, but the crafty young associate led me over to the YA section & talked me into checking out the "Vampire Academy" series. Richelle Mead was having a book signing later that week and, of course, they were pimping her work.

Well, I'm glad they did, because not only did I adore the VA series - much grittier and plot based than Twilight - but it led me to Richelle's adult works as well. She has a paranormal romance series about a heroine who's a succubus. Great stuff!!

So, as much as I'm always on the look out for new & interesting things. It seems that some of my favorite things found ME, rather than the other way around.

What about you all? What makes you pick up a new book or branch in a new direction? Or do you find yourself unable to enjoy a book outside of your "zone"?
April 13, 2010 | By: Tracy

Feedback : When Does it Do More Harm Than Good?

As new writers, we like to try to help each other out as often as possible. Hence the reason why so many fledgling writers following other fledgling writer's blogs, and why message boards for aspiring writers never experience a shortage of posters.

We like knowing there are others out there suffering from the same trials & tribulations we are. We get tremendously happy (right after the seething jealousy abates) when one of our fellow fledglings gets a request for a full manuscript, lands an agent, or *gasp* gets a publishing deal.

But the one thing we have to keep in mind is that we're all just novices.

I've seen people get so bewildered when they post their query for a critique and watch helpless as it gets torn to shreds. I totally get the bewildered feeling, because I was there! A lot of good people gave me sound advice, but not all of it was relevant. There were several people that contradicted each other on the advice they gave. In fact, there were even some people that gave advice I've seen explicitly repeated by several agents NOT to do in a query.

I was a little worried when my newest beta (my new writing buddy, Jaime) first started reading my ms, because I thought. What if she just doesn't get my style? What if she starts nitpicking over things that I don't think need to be nitpicked over? How would I know if I was right, or if SHE was right?

Luckily, I didn't have to worry about that, because she was very complimentary & the critique that she gave me about the plausibility of my ending was valid. She had solid reasoning to back it up & her advice made sense to me. It felt right and that's how I knew it was something I needed to focus on.

Bottom line: the whole experience - from query critiquing to beta reading on my ms - taught me a very important lesson (something I think will come in handy when it comes to dealing with agents & editors in the future to). Everyone is always going to have an opinion, and you have to be willing to give credence to the critique of another -- BUT, the only time you should heed advice is if it makes sense to you & feels right.

In the end, as my father would say ... opinions are like ********, everybody has one.

So, how do you all handle critiques & advice? Do you doubt yourself & get too easily swayed by the opinions of others? Do you have a problem accepting advice, because you really don't believe anyone knows how to write like you do? Or have you found a pretty good rhythm in figuring out what works for you & what doesn't when it comes to feedback?
April 12, 2010 | By: Tracy

Writers Groups: To Join or Not To Join?

I kinda failed on my promise to get around to see everyone this weekend. A three game losing streak by the Orioles & some nonessential - yet tiring - drama in my "normal" routine made a liar out of me. Such is my life.

Okay, so today's post: I really don't get the full purpose of writers groups.

There are so many out there. From the biggies that are attached to a specific genre, like the RWA (Romance Writers Association) to the regional groups established to help writings in a specific area, like the Maryland Writers Association.

I have yet to join any group, because I'm not really sure I need to. The cost of annual membership for most of them is relatively small, so it isn't a money situation that's kept me from jumping in. I honestly don't know what the benefits are & if they're really worth it.  If I'm not the kind of person who enjoys going to monthly meetings, and I'm not actively looking for a critique group is there still a point to it? Do agents & publishers think more highly of those with a membership than those without?
I'm not being snooty or derogatory when I ask what the point is, I'm genuinely curious!

So I guess I'm asking you all. Do any of you belong to any sort of officially recognized writing groups? Which one? Do you feel membership has helped make you a better writer? If you aren't already a member, do you plan to become one soon?

April 9, 2010 | By: Tracy

My Life Away From Writing

For starters : Thank you sooooo much to everyone for your thoughts & such awesome encouragement on my query pitch yesterday. You don't know how relieved I am to hear good reviews -- that sucker has been driving me crazy for WEEKS!  (And for those of you who asked, YES it is very different than my first try over at Nathan's)  So again, I thank you all so much. Kisses and hugs for everyone!

Okay. So, in case you haven't noticed by now (or I haven't mentioned it ad nauseam) I'm a huuuuge fan of baseball. Most particularly the Baltimore Orioles. When I say I'm a huge fan, I mean it!  As in, I have tickets to 81 games this season -- and I use them all (it's one of the few upsides to being single & childless).

I fancy myself as a sort of Stephen King type (even got him on my twitter quiz last night), since we're both writers and big time baseball fanatics. Sure, he's a Red Sox fan (ugh) and I bleed orange & black, but otherwise we're the same. Okay, there's also the age & gender differences. Crap, there's also the fact he's a famous NYT bestseller and I'm . . . so, maybe I should say the one thing Stephen King and I share in common is a love of baseball.

ANYWAY -- Today is the Oriole's Home Opener, which means I'm kinda like a kid on Christmas morning! I've got my baseball bag all packed and ready to go. 

Think I'm joking?

I'd post a picture of me in my jersey, but that will have to wait until later. I have to take a shower and do something with this mass of curls that looks like I slept the night on them, because . . . well, I did.

So for all my people that I regularly follow (and those new peeps I still need to check out) and to everyone I owe a comment -- bear with me, I'll get to it all later tonight. I promise.

Wish us luck! (Yes, I'm one of those people who refers to her team as "we") 

Happy Friday All!

April 8, 2010 | By: Tracy

It's Query Time

After numerous revisions (more than I did on the freaking manuscript mind you) I think I'm close to done with my query pitch.  I figured I'd lay it out here and let all y'all (country moment) take a look and tell me what you think.

I've decided not to post it on another forum like Nathan's . Not as any sort of slight to their good advice, because I look back at my first query letter -- the one I sent out to four agents -- and cringe. But in a place that big, with so many differing opinions,I'll never get to a point where everyone agrees. Now that I think I'm close I would rather keep the suggestions coming from a smaller group of people. That way I don't get too much conflicting information.

So for you guys, if you like GREAT!!! If you see problems with it, or there is clunky writing that I'm missing (the whole forest through the trees thing) don't be nervous about telling me. Overall, I think I've finally narrowed the story down to its base capturing point & I want to see if I did it well enough.

Its a paranormal romance, btw and I'm only tossing the pitch out here for blog purposes.


Every twenty-three years, Anna Rodwen embarks on a new search to find the only man she's ever loved -- a pattern she's been forced to repeat for five centuries.

From the moment he stole her heart, Anna would do anything for Thomas Rodwen. When a fatal illness sweeps through Tudor England threatening to take his life, she resorts to using a magic she doesn't understand in order to save him. A mistake on her part leaves him with an eternal existence far different than her own. Anna never dies. Thomas never lives a life past the age of twenty-three. Their past is something she can never forget and he can never remember, yet they fall in love time and again.

Now for the first time in five hundred years, Anna is unable to find Thomas. She fears a break in their long standing pattern may signal the end of his existence. With his current lifetime set to expire, she must find him by the end of the night or face the possibility of losing him forever.
April 7, 2010 | By: Tracy

Awards Time

Thanks to Jessica at The Alliterative Allomorph I have recieved my very first ever blog award. (I'm still relatively new to the game, bear with me.)

If you're unfamiliar with this award (I was) go to Advance Booking to see what it's all about.

In a nutshell, I'm passing this award on to seven bloggers I know -- finding ones on my list (still growing) who haven't already received it is tough. If I have and you've already done it ... we'll just pretend like I already knew that. K? 

Here we are. In no particular order:  ***I previously wrote some nice stuff about each person's blog, but my blog hates links & the formatting wasn't working right***

The Write Stuff

I'm cheating because I KNOW Mary already got the award, but I DO like her blog and I'm running out of people I read who might actually check in at some point and see this.
Whew, that was tough!

The Good, The Bad & The Beta

I'm in a good mood today -- even though my Orioles lost a heartbreaker of a game last night to start the season *sigh* 

I got a GREAT response and some really good suggestions for strengthening my ending from my latest beta reader. She's the second of my 6 betas who read the whole thing in one sitting, because she liked it that much. Yay! So that gives me something to smile about -- even if my baseball team seems determined to make me cry.

One of the harder parts for most newer writers is letting someone else read your manuscript for the first time. Sure, we all harbor those secret hopes that our story is one that the masses will love & know that's not likely with the first several drafts -- but it can be super hard to put it out there for the first reads anyway.

We desperately want to get feedback, yet we're terrified of it at the same time. Terrified the feedback we'll get will turn out to be things like "This is boring", "I didn't like the characters" or "The plot just doesn't make any sense", etc.

That's why it's so important for us to have good beta readers, and know the reason WHY we chose them. I bucked the conventional wisdom that it isn't a good idea to use family & friends (only my most recent beta is a writer I'd never met before joining Nathan's forum ) I think you CAN choose people you know, ya just have to know why you're doing it.

Here's the types of people I chose for my beta (new writer friend not included) :

The Non-Reader  - I'm sure some people are saying "What?!?". Hear me out. I chose this friend, because she isn't an avid reader ... which, like it or not, is the category most of the general population falls under. I knew if I was able to entice her to read through the whole manuscript then I had a story that the non-avid reader could enjoy.

Super Nice Reader Friends/Family  - I had two people that I knew read a good deal, especially in this particular genre. So I knew they would be able to tell if this story was as good as, or better  (I was praying "worse" wasn't an option) than what they normally read. I knew they were too nice to ever offer any criticism ... but I also knew they both suck at lying, so I'd still know the truth when I asked them questions.

The Nit-Picker  - This person fusses over the smallest of details in her every day life. I knew she would never be mean about her criticisms, but she'd have zero problem saying. "I don't understand how ...." and if the tiniest of details was out of alignment, she would catch it. This was the kind of person who would notice if someone's eye color suddenly changed.

Switzerland  - I let my brother play the role of Switzerland. I knew he'd be completely honest with me, and tell me things even if I didn't necessarily want to hear them. (He'd try to do it in a nice way, but he'd still do it). Plus, paranormal romance isn't really his preferred genre, so he'd read for the overall writing more than getting caught up in the story line.

So the moral of this post is ... just kidding, I don't DO morals.

I'm just curious to see how everyone else feels about beta readers, and how you pick yours. Do you allow any family & friends or do you just keep it strictly authors, etc? Are you set with your group or are you always looking for new people to read & give you their thoughts?
April 6, 2010 | By: Tracy

Crushing on Characters

I haven't had a whole lot of time for personal reading the past week or so, but last night I finished Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. Overall, I liked the story a lot (there were some things the characters said that I found more profound than most adults are capable of, let alone teenagers, but otherwise two thumbs up.)

It wasn't the type of story line I would usually think to pick-up for myself, but I wound up totally enjoying it. The reason why, I realized, is because I developed a crush on the male character. So what if he was only seventeen and a gang member?  He was also really smart, with a good heart, and only part of the gang because he was trying to protect his family & keep his younger brothers out of trouble, and then he fell head over heels for the girl from the right side of the tracks and ... ahem, sorry.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about most of the books that I consider to be my favorites. The reads that I enjoy so much I take the time to tell other people about them. The stories I still remember long after I've finished reading. Of course, good writing & excellent story telling are key components, but I've come to learn (for me) there HAS to be something else. It doesn't matter what genre it is, but in order for me to LOVE a book it has to have one of the following ingredients:

1) I have to fall in love with the male MC

2) I have to want to be - or be friends with - the female MC 

If a story can make me do BOTH at the same time, I'm guaranteed to love it!

I went back over the list of some of my favorite books to see if my theory holds true:

Pride & Prejudice : Lizzy is plucky and easy to admire, but really it's Mr. Darcy who makes me swoon at the end.

New Moon : I don't really like Bella, but I'm so crazy about Jacob Black that I'm willing to overlook the fact that he's only sixteen ... and a werewolf.

Vampire Academy Series : Rose is so snarky, I can't help but adore her. However it is her seriously sexy Russian mentor, Dimitri, that keeps me turning pages well into the night.

Those are just a couple examples (I didn't really think it would be appreciated if I listed every book I ever really enjoyed & why).

I wonder if this is just me, or if others tend to feel this way too. If developing crushes on characters is a common theme to really enjoying a good book, it could explain why women make up the larger percentage of fiction readers. Not that men can't do it (I've heard more than one guy admit to being smitten with Hermoine from Harry Potter), but they're more likely to need the action first & the affection will come with time.

Anyway, do you all find yourself developing crushes on the heroes & heroines in the stories you read? If not, what is the leading factor that draws you in and makes a really good book stand out from the rest?
April 5, 2010 | By: Tracy

Am I Ready For a Nook?

Morning All, hope everyone had a great weekend!

So ... over the past several days I've been doing a lot of internal debating. All along I've been one of those people who is lukewarm on the whole e-book/ e-reader deal. I still prefer books to anything else, but I can't deny the benefit of having an easily portable device that can hold far more reading options to choose from at any given time. It's led me to be pretty Switzerland about the whole thing.

But lately, I've been feeling a strong pull to just break down & purchase a Nook. (I have ZERO interest in getting an iPad, and I prefer B&N over Amazon ... sorry Kindle) I'm still debating. Quite frankly, the main reason I'm leaning toward an e-reader is for my general distaste for hardcover books - which is a post for another day. What I'd ultimately love to be able to do is buy new releases on my Nook & save myself from having to buy it in a hard cover format. I don't care if it's more expensive than the normal e-books because it's a new release (it should be). I just want options, dangit!

Only thing that's holding me back from getting one ... I'm not so sure the publishing industry is allowing new hardcover releases to be formatted for e-book so early. And if I have to wait six months to a year after the initial release to buy an e-book version, I'd rather just buy the trade paperback anyway.

Anyone already have one of the e-readers & have experiences to share with this? If you don't have one already are you thinking about getting one, or would hell have to freeze over first?
April 1, 2010 | By: Tracy

Brad Pitt Helped Me Become a Better Writer

One of the things I've learned in writing --  just because you love to read a certain genre, does not mean you were meant to write it! 

I grew up reading Stephen King. A LOT of Stephen King. Why? Because when that man is on his game he can write scenarios so eerie it makes your skin want to crawl into your body to hide. And I was that strange kid who liked being scared by movies, ghost stories, and such. "Nightmare on Elm Street" was one of my favorite movies growing up (though I always cried over what happened to Johnny Depp)  So, naturally, when I first started writing I kept trying to steer my stories towards the "horror" realm. 

Only I quickly discovered a problem -- I SUCK at writing horror stories! Truly. My horror was never scary, so much as melodramatic. Stephen King, even in his nicest moments, would have laughed 'til he had tears in his eyes if he read my early attempts at manuscripts. (This level of suckitude is probably why I never made it to the end of a story before) 

Then, thanks to massive crush on Brad Pitt in the mid-nineties (who am I kidding, I still have a pretty big crush), I can't tell you the number of times I watched "Interview With The Vampire". I worked at a movie theater in those days, so I could see any movie I wanted without paying a penny. Perks!   Although, what started out as an appreciation for Brad's pretty face, turned into a huge fascination with the portrayal of the vampire world Anne Rice had created. I bought all the books in the Vampire Chronicles and devoured them. (To this day Lestat is still my all-time favorite fictional character)

Anyway, what that taught me (smooches for you, Brad) is that while horror was something I really enjoyed reading . . .  paranormal/ fantasy stories, with a bit of a dark edge to them, were the type of ideas my mind could conjure and create without trying to force it -- hence the melodrama disappeared from my writing.  This is the genre that I was MEANT to write in, at least for this stage in my life.

So I'm curious for you all ... What genre do you typically write? And have you always written those types of stories, or did you make a switch as well?