About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Readers Are Essential

It's a no brainer that to be a published author of anything, you have to have people who are willing to read your work. Readers drive the business of publishing. With the advent of the internet then ebooks, as well as the brick and mortar stores that have held on, there are more ways to get books into the hands of readers than ever before. There are also a wealth of ways these readers can offer up their opinions and reviews of the books they read for other readers to see, adding another element to the mix of what it takes to be published successfully. On top of that, with email submissions being so quick and convenient agents and editors can get submissions, easily within the thousands over the course of a year. All of these things combined mean the chances of being published in the traditional sense are steep for emerging authors. Not impossible, but very challenging.

That is why it is very important to have people you trust who can read your work while it is still rough. A critique group can be one way to accomplish this, but it isn't the only way. There are a plethora of reputable online sites that offer classes in creative writing. Organizations, like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), offer workshops and revision camps throughout the year all across the country. Even a local book group you might be a part of can be a source of valuable feedback on your story and how well you've constructed it. And let me tell you, construct is how it feels when you are polishing up a piece of writing whether it is a short story, novel, or creative nonfiction work. Getting it all down in a first draft is only the beginning. Revising it, reading it, having others read it, then revising it again, and yet again, is a process in construction. Scenes you loved sometimes have to be cut, others added. Characters you might have loved might have to be killed off or just cut out of the story altogether. It is a building process of monumental proportions that happens in your mind and is translated from there onto the page. So, it helps when you have a group of people who read it in its infancy, love it despite all its growing pains, and cheer you and your book baby on all along the way.

Last year at the SCBWI Midsouth conference when they announced the winner of the 2013 Crystal Kite Award, the author acknowledged that she never would have published her book let alone won an award for it without a strong support system of other writers and critique partners to help her. She called up all of the people present who were a part of that journey with her, so they could hold the award in their hands too. I could understand her sentiment. Over the last few years I've developed a cheer squad of people of my own who continue to encourage, advise and support me. Like me, they are writers working to get their work into the hands of readers, hoping to change someone's perspective of the world. Because while readers drive the business, it is the writers who open their eyes to another view, another world, that they never knew existed until they opened a book and got swept up in a story.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Falling Back Into It

It has been a full and rich last couple of weeks. My son turned ten and officially entered the double digits.

My Little Dude

Right before that big event I went to a writing conference. That was almost as exciting on a professional level as the birthday celebrations. Almost. ;)

Before I get into that however, let just say thank you to everyone who contributed name suggestions for my villain. Here are a few of the names suggested on sites other than my blog:

1. Otto
2. Jasper
3. Mortimer
4. Vincente
5. Vladimir
6. Nigel
8. Alexander
9. Victor
10. Ivan

It was fun to see the enthusiasm from all of you who took time to offer up names. I'm really liking Jasper as a suggestion. I might run it by my critique group when I meet with them in a week.

This is my first official week to be back into my full time writing schedule. As I mentioned back in August, I did have a temporary, part-time job for the past six weeks. It made the transition of my kids and husband going back to school and work less lonely this year. It also made the back to school sticker shock far less painful for my checkbook, as we tackled the extra expenses having the kids back in school entails. So I appreciated having a job outside of my writing and mommy duties for those six weeks. It did curtail my writing time, though. I just didn't have much motivation to work on my writing at all, which troubled me and made me question my chosen path. Then despite my misgivings about the extra money it would cost, I attended the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Fall MidSouth Conference.

My folder for the conference

It was my second year attending and I wasn't really sure I would get much out of it. Boy, was I ever glad to be wrong. Not only was the faculty this year stellar, but I submitted a story I'd felt was my strongest yet for a paid face-to-face critique as well as the First Pages event offered. First Pages, is an opportunity for the participating writers to submit up to 200 words of the opening of their story anonymously in one of three genre categories, young adult, middle grade, or picture books. In the course of an hour's time a prearranged conference volunteer draws pages from the submission pile and reads them aloud before all the writers in the room and the editor or agent who agrees to listen and give feedback on each submission. There is a separate room for the writers of each category to gather in to listen to the submission readings and hear the impression of the faculty member for each First Page. I was fortunate to have two faculty members sit in on the middle grade category that I submitted a First Page for, Kelly Delaney, an Assistant Editor at Alfred A. Knopf books, and Lauren MacLeod a literary agent with The Strothman Agency. As I sat and listened to the readings the minutes ticked by. I began to feel that time would run out before my submission was drawn. I kept watching the pages, looking or the one with two corners folded. Finally, only a few minutes before time was up I saw my page. I watched the two faculty members' faces as it was read. My heart didn't pound quite so much this time as it did last year. I knew nobody else knew those 200 words were mine. Then wonder of wonders the reading was done and BOTH listeners looked at my page and said they'd definitely read more. I don't know if any of you realize how little 200 words actually is, but it isn't much more than a full sized paragraph in length. This was high praise for my story indeed. It made the ultimate 'but' that followed much less discouraging. Ms. Delaney said that she wasn't sure my story was starting in the right place. This was something I already suspected myself based on feedback from an online critique group I'd been working on the story with. I was euphoric. I followed that up with my face-to-face critique which I ended up having with the keynote speaker of this year's conference, bestselling author Gennifer Choldenko (author of books such as Notes from a Liar and Her Dog and Al Capone Does My Shirts). Ms. Choldenko loved my story and said my writing was very strong, my idea marketable, and my premise very interesting. She told me that I write creepy very well. Since, my story is a mystery and is supposed to be suspenseful this was a good compliment.

I'm so glad I attended this conference. Being a member of SCBWI has helped me along my career path as a writer already in so many ways. It helped me find my critique group I meet with once a month in person. The society provides wonderful information for writers and illustrators on everything you could want to know about the children's writing market and the professionals involved in the business. And with this regional conference I've attended the last couple of years I've been reinvigorated both times about my writing and where I want to go with it. This year was the best because it affirmed for me that I haven't been doing this all in vain and I am on the right path. Something that made it joyful and easier to fall back into it now that I'm back in my home office full time. Now if you'll excuse me I really must get back to work.

Conference Faculty left to right: Jennifer Rofe'(agent), Kelly Delaney (editor),
Lauren MacLeod (agent), Rosemary Stimola (agent), Lucy Cummins (art director
for Simon & Schuster), Stacey Barney (Sr. Editor for Penguin/Putnam Books),
Daniel Nayeri (author and director of children's publishing at Workman Publishing Co.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Calling All Readers...My Villain Needs A New Name

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

In my current round of revisions of my tween fantasy, I've been putting off the inevitable. It seems I really liked names starting with D when I came up with names for most of my male characters. There is Daniel one of the main characters and a giant of a boy/man, Dyfan the foolish and misguided prince, and Damien the villain. I tried renaming Dyfan. But it didn't work for me or my critique group. And it was too cool of a name to give up. But it doesn't suit my villain either. So, now I need to come up with a chilling and cool name for Damien.

This is a very hard thing to do. I've known him as Damien for so long now. Since I first began writing the novel he's always been Damien. But I know that if I could find a name that was equally dark that didn't start with a D or an M I could learn to adapt.

Unfortunately, lots of meditation and paging through baby name books hasn't helped. Like his conniving and deceptive nature in the book, Damien refuses to help me with this. He remains adamant that this is his name and be damned the other characters with D names. Pardon my language, but he is a villain after all.

So I am turning to those of you who love fantasies and fairy tales for help. I am taking suggestions on any cool names you can suggest, or any sites out there that would be good sources to plum for villainous names. Leave me a comment here, or on my Facebook page, or Tweet me, whatever works for you. I am grateful for any help or suggestions. Below is a description of the character in question if that helps. Thank you!

Damien-The younger brother of prince Dyfan and main adviser and counselor to the prince. Damien is smart, conniving, and wants the throne of Orthavia for himself. He has studied dark magic and become adept at stealing the powers of other magical beings. He enjoys the suffering of others and seems to derive strength from conflict and pain in others. He is of average height, slight in frame, loves to wear black robes, seems to be able to almost disappear in shadows, has dark eyes, a very handsome face with dark arched eyebrows, a straight narrow nose, a small mustache and goatee, and is bald. I don't think he is bald by necessity, I think it is by choice. I suspect it has something to do with his appearance and with the type of magic he practices. But I'm and not certain of this because he isn't forthcoming about such things. He is a secretive creature and he loves being bad.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quiet Meditations in the Bathroom

My Kiddos the 1st Day of School

I apologize for not getting this posted sooner. But last night a storm knocked out my power for almost the entire evening so I didn't get this post up and running on Tuesday evening as planned. But here it is now...

Like most busy parents sometimes my quietest time to meditate can be found in the bathroom and even that isn't a guarantee. Recently, I found myself pondering the beginning and end of summer as the Labor Day holiday approached. In the US we often mark the beginning and ending of summer as being between Memorial Day and after Labor Day. I began to wonder why this was, when according to the astronomical calendar summer doesn't officially start until the summer solstice (around June 21) and doesn't end until the autumnal equinox (around Sept. 22). I decided it was a conundrum that needed solving.

Having limited time to actually research this and not really having a real idea of where to begin I turned to Google. According to the Farmer's Almanac the dates for the four seasons revolve around the solstices and equinoxes and are determined by the amount of sunlight we receive which is determined by the orbit of our planet on its axis around the sun. But, this didn't really tell me why the US calendar seems to revolve around the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.

Looking up when the holidays began to be observed was interesting but didn't shed any light on my problem. Asking friends didn't really help much either. One, posited that it was because of our swimming pools. It was a conspiracy they created to maximize their summer time hours. This didn't sound right to me, since in some places in the US  it is warm enough for pools to stay open longer than Labor Day and in other areas it is cool enough that they could close sooner. Another person advised me that it was our school systems that began to dictate when our summer season started and began. While more plausible, not all states start and end around these holidays. Some states have year round school while others start earlier or end later than either holiday.

Finally, while watching the news the weatherman mentioned that summer had officially ended according to the meteorological calendar. This was the lead I'd been waiting for. Looking up the meteorological calendar led me to realize all the various factors that determine the beginning and ending of summer. The meteorological calendar bases the seasons on average temperature patterns and for the northern hemisphere encompasses the entire months of June, July, and August. The meteorological calendar starts and ends at the beginning and ending of a month. That made more sense with the US custom of marking the beginning and ending of summer around our annual festivals of Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day at the beginning of September. It turns out that our holidays jive well with the meteorologists, and the theory of summer being determined by the pool or school calendars didn't hold water. [Sorry couldn't resist] Thanks Mr. Weatherman! 

What about you? Are there any conundrums you've wondered about but had no idea how to solve? Where is your best place to meditate?