Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hello from New York!

New York City skyline
Thanks to a wonderful combination of circumstances, I'm blogging from the Big Apple this morning! What an awesome adventure! I'm here for a few days, mostly sight-seeing but also fitting in a few visits and writing related things. I've even conquered the NY Subway system, and managed to get myself downtown without incident. I walked...and walked...and walked, and I am very, very grateful for a good pair of shoes and a good sense of direction.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to meet the fabulous Jennifer Mishler and Frances Black of Literary Counsel...AKA my agents! 

L to R: Jennifer, Me, Fran
We had a great chat, inhaled some caffeine, discussed the virtues of coffee over tea (sorry Fran) and talked a teensy tiny bit of shop. I am so fortunate to have these two amazing ladies on my side, helping me navigate the winding but very rewarding road of publishing. They are exactly the fit I was looking for--proof that good things come to those who wait! I am so looking forward to working together and turning our challenges into successes! Go Team LC!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wintery Wednesday

Zeus and I (photo credit: Vicki Morrison)
As a result of this wickedly wintery weather we've been having, I've been working a lot on my WIP tentatively titled FROZEN. It's set in present-day rural Maine, in a snowmageddon type of storm, and the world's supply of oil is basically gone. I posted a small excerpt a few weeks ago.

Anyway, it's pretty easy to work on something like this when just walking outside freezes your nostrils shut. Today's high is in the -15F range. I've been soaking in the heat from the woodstove, working on this and having a rather good writing streak.  Thought I would share a bit more with you all. Keep warm and enjoy.

It’s so cold the snow makes that squeaking sound as I walk down the driveway. My nose hairs freeze together and my breath fogs the air, blurring the winter world before me. I’m thankful for Mom’s coat, which is too big but warm, and for my new mittens that I managed to knit myself with only a couple of dropped stitches. I'll never be a competitive knitter, if such a thing exists. Bomber barks and strains at his chain as I walk by, not to hurt me but because he’s not keen on being left alone outside.

“Sorry, Bomb,” I mutter through my already-damp wool scarf. “I’m late.” He whines once and then disappears through the crooked door of his shack. He’s not sticking around in the cold. Smart dog.

I trudge down to the road—squeak, squeak, squeak—trailing behind Frankie and Meadow, the twins, wishing I could stay home where it’s warm. No such luck. I pull my scarf further up around my face and scrunch my neck to escape the wind, mentally reviewing my list as I turn right and head down the hill to the stop. Fire stocked, check. Lights off, check. Animals fed, check. Door locked, check… the roaring of the bus behind me interrupts my list.


Our bus driver is notorious for leaving kids in the dirt. “Crappity-crap.” I grasp my bag tightly, and sprint the last hundred feet to the stop—skidding to a halt at the same time as the bus. The door screeches even louder than the brakes, and old George the bus driver scowls as I follow my brother and sister on, slamming the door shut with a squeaky clunk. The whole bus could use a coat of oil. I can hear my dad’s voice in my head. It all comes down to oil now, Janie-girl. We don’t have it…and only those who know how to live without it will survive.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Be Prepared

I was thinking about advice last night after a chat with the Twitter #writersroad folks. I've been at this for a while now, and though I don't count myself an expert, I've certainly got a bit of experience in the world of writing. So if I were to give advice to someone just starting out, just getting their feet wet, what would I say to them?

Be prepared.

Novels do not give birth to themselves, magically springing forth onto the earth. Sure some people have lucky rabbits feet surgically attached to their forehead, writing full novels in 25 days and walking into contracts with Big Six publishers after their first drafts, but it is very, very rare. It takes a lot of guts to work through the mechanics of writing a novel. And a lot of perseverance. Pushing a novel through to success is not an easy task, whatever route you take--self published or traditionally published. Be prepared for a long road ahead.

1. Be prepared to work. Writing a novel is work. Long hours at a keyboard. Emails. Phone calls. Networking. Reading. Research. Editing. Editing. Editing. Numb hands and sore butt cheeks. Sweat, tears and more editing. Writing is a 'profession' for a reason. You have to work at it to be successful.

2. Be prepared to learn. When I started writing--really writing--about eight years ago, I thought I knew everything. Sure, I'm smart. I'll just pop a few words down on paper, send 'em off, and voila! I'm an author! Wow, was I an idiot. My education began then and it is ongoing. Every day of this journey I learn something new. How to format a manuscript for submission. How to get my self-published book into Chapters bookstores. How to build a platform (still working on that!). The dos and don'ts of writing--don't start with a dream, a prologue, a mirror, a purple frog...oh my goodness there are a lot of don'ts (my self-pubbed novel starts with a prologue! Oh horrors!)! The dos and don'ts of querying (made tons of mistakes there, too...). How to make an em dash on Blogger (how the heck do you do that anyway??). The learning does not end. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. Each step is another door to learning. Embrace it.

3. Be prepared to spend money. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a superskilled and generous friends, a rich spouse, or an inheritance big enough to pay the bills and then some, don't give up your day job. No matter how skilled you are sooner or later you will need to cough up money to pay someone for their professional services, especially if you are planning to self-publish. Good books take money to produce. If you skimp, it will show. HOWEVER, there are also a whole lot of people out there willing to take your money for sub-standard work or fraudulent reasons. Before you give anyone your money, do your research.

4. Be prepared to step WAY out of your comfort zone. The first time external eyes looked at my first manuscript I was an emotional wreck. My first radio interview was insanity (can you believe I used to aspire to be a TV journalist?). And surprisingly, what I view as my best writing so far was also the hardest to write, because it was an expression of some of my deepest fears and required me to take risks. Stepping out of your comfort zone opens your writing to new possibilities. Take a deep breath and go for it!

5. Be prepared for curveballs. This one became very evident to me last month. After self publishing TREASURE, and months of flogging my new manuscript SKIN to anyone who would listen, I was disheartened and on the verge of going the self pub route with that too (and not because it wasn't good enough...but because I hadn't found the right agent yet). As you now know, I took one last chance at the encouragement of my CP friend Tina, and was thrilled to be offered an agenting agreement with Jennifer Mishler at Literary Counsel! Whodda thunkit? Thanks to my 'why not?' attitude, I made what could potentially be my most valuable publishing connection yet (Yay, Jenn!)! Writing is like that. Sometimes the unplanned is the magic.

6. Be prepared for criticism. The most well-known writers are also the most highly criticized. There are people out there who make a living criticizing writers. If you publish anything, in any way, people will comment and not all comments will be good. Those comments will hurt, but keep going. Highly polished manuscripts go through draft after draft of revisions. My self pubbed novel went through at least six drafts, and probably could have gone through more. Be ready to hear bad things about your writing.

7. Be prepared to SHINE! Conversely, the BEST part about writing is having someone read your stuff and tell you they like it! I am a praise junkie. I eat it up. Every single bit of praise fuels me to write more, do better, learn more and work harder. It's even better (and somewhat shocking) when a complete stranger comes up to me and says "I read your book in an afternoon! I loved it! Please write another!" I grin ear to ear and want to shout out to the world--"DIDJA HEAR THAT? She liked it! She really liked it!" What a wonderful feeling!

Most important of all...If writing is your dream, do not give up. Believe in your writing. Be realistic, and ready for the unexpected, but keep writing. Believe in yourself.

And that, my lovely writing friends, is what it is all about.


Friday, January 11, 2013

A Beautiful Life

On Monday of this week, my family and I said goodbye to a wonderful lady. My grandmother, Evelyn Flora Corey who passed away peacefully and surrounded by loved ones on January 3, 2013.
My beautiful grandmother and I
She was ninety-six.

I was asked to say a few words on behalf of her five grandchildren at the funeral, something quick and light, and so I asked my cousins and my siblings about happy memories they had...snapshots of Gram, as we called her, to help others see how special she was. I also spoke with many different people at her wake--some strangers, some friends, some family. What I discovered was one common thread that we will all remember about this amazing, unassuming lady.

She never complained.

From rough lumber camps to high-profile dinners with Members of Parliament, from near poverty to relative grandmother was one of a rare breed of people who always saw the good in her situation. Asked to feed twenty strange men...she put a pot on the stove.  When our children came to play on her antique furniture and prized piano...she showed them where the books were and gave them a candy. Asked to leave her home of seventy years...she walked into the nursing home and embraced the social schedule, going to bingos and bell choirs and waiting patiently for her evening cookie. Her glass was always more than half full, it was overflowing.

She loved life, loved people, and was so very proud of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. People I had never met told me of how proud she was of my book, my letters, my family, the photos I'd sent. While I thought I was neglectful of her, never spending enough time, she was singing my praises to anyone who would listen. I'm humbled when I realize how much she endured graciously in relation to my small discomforts that send me spinning.

So this year, instead of New Year's resolutions that I know I'll break, I'm making a personal goal in honour of my beautiful grandmother. It's a simple one, really. I'm going to try to see the good in things like she always did. The operative word is try here, because I know I will fail. I'm going to try to praise my kids and my husband and my siblings and my parents and my friends...instead of looking for their faults. I'm going to search for the positive when things go wrong. And when life requires me to do something I don't want to do...I'm going to think of the little woman who always recognized that sometimes you've just got to get on with it if you want to find the reward at the end.

She's gone to her reward now, and I am so privileged to have been a part of her beautiful life.

Rest in peace Gram. May your legacy live on in those who loved you, including me.