Thursday, February 26, 2009

I got it – at least I think so

So on Tuesday night I went into my query letter again. I asked my husband to read it and we spent about a half hour going over it. (I was almost late for my soccer game, which we tied and I got hit in the face really bad). Anyway, in my previous drafts I had all of the key points; my husband just helped me refine it. When we finished I felt good about it. The true test, of course, was to leave it for a few days and see if I still felt good about it. I read it again last night and still liked it. I’m going to read it again on Saturday and if it still feels good then I think I might have a winner.

Now I need to refine each chapter one more time. I’ve enlisted my husband’s help once again. It’s nice to have another set of eyes look at it and he’s brutally honest. He has no qualms about telling me when something doesn’t make sense or that a sentence is awkward, which is what I need

On to more the normal part of life:
My daughter lost both of her front teeth this week, my last baby is finally gone. I found with my boys that when they got their adult teeth they looked so different, more grown up. I feel so sad. In five years I’ll have all teenagers and that’s just plain frightening. When did I get this old.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm so excited

Okay I usually don't post twice in one day but shortly after I posted my first comments of the day I found out that I won a copy of Aprilynne Pike's book Wings, which comes out in May. I'm so excited.

Now my week if off to a better start.

What to do???

It’s been a tough week in my house. My daughter got sick last Sunday night and my boys were sick on Wednesday. At one point I had all three children in the living room with buckets in their laps. Then I was laid up Thursday and Friday. My husband got it Saturday night. Of course this all happened while the kids were off school for the week so they feel completely cheated.

I’ve also decided that I got way more done when my kids where little. Yesterday when I was on the computer trying to put together the query letter my eleven year old son kept pestering me every ten minutes, “How much longer are you going to be?” He wanted to go on garage band. My older son wanted to go on facebook, my daughter wanted to go on webkinz. Here I thought that getting a new computer was going to be a good thing. I’m seriously considering going back to my old one.

It was so much easier when the kids were content playing with their toys on the ground or watching Sesame Street. Now they have lives that I have to keep up with. Saturday was spent at basketball, three games to be precise. Left at noon and got home at ten. Here’s the schedule this week. Mon: middle son basketball, Tues: my soccer game (okay this one’s for me), Wed: Cubs and Scouts (I’m the cub leader), Thurs: (basketball & gymnastics), Fri: older son’s school basketball tournament, Sat: both boys have basketball games, daughter has friend coming from out of town, Sun: soccer AGM (did I forget to mention I’m the VP of women’s soccer in the town where I live – a job I’m hoping to relinquish)

Needless to say I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done last week and this week isn’t looking too promising. I might have to stay up late, which I’m finding more difficult the older I get. I also bought the book “The First Five Pages” which is making me re-think my first chapter and maybe cutting out a couple of scenes and putting that information in later.

I’m also beginning to wonder if I’ll ever get my query right. Is it possible to be completely capable at writing a good novel but not a simple letter? I’m really beginning to lose hair and my hair is thin enough.

And to top the week off I missed my soccer tournament because I was sick. Shout out to the girls for finishing second.

Anyway I’m done venting now. Hopefully this week is better and I can find some time.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The first few pages

I was at Chapter’s yesterday browsing in the teen section when I overheard a clerk helping a lady. She gave the customer a book then said it was excellent read, you just needed to get past the first twenty pages.

As a writer that’s something I wouldn’t want to hear.

I know it’s true as I have many books on my bookshelf that I had to force my way through the first 20-40 pages before the story got interesting. One book I had to try several times before getting past the beginning. I mostly did it at the very strong encouragement of my sister-in-laws.

Which begs the question how important are the first pages of your book. On Kirsten Nelson’s blog she revealed that she was the secret judge in a contest that looked at only the first page of a book. I found the winners very interesting, some were completely intriguing, others I found I had to read a couple of times to understand what the story was about, but that could just be old age. Take a read and let me know what you think.

Now here’s my first page:

It was after school on a Tuesday afternoon when Dagny arrived at the grocery store with her mom. The sun was shining in the sky but dark clouds loomed to the west threatening to block the rarely seen light. She spotted Dora Jonson first, a middle aged woman, who was a little bit too short and a little bit too fat, walking out of the grocery store carrying one bag of food. Her brown hair with graying roots was tied up into a tight bun and her stunted legs were shuffling across the parking lot to meet two other ladies, Klara Johansen and Fanney Hardvardson. Together they were known as the biggest gossips in town and their favourite topic was Dagny’s mom, Hildy. This was due to the fact that Hildy could see the future, which would have been okay except that all she ever saw for people was misery. Not once did she have a vision of someone winning the lottery or falling in love. It was always accidents, mishaps and death. Dagny knew that her mother tried to keep them to herself but it was surprising how many people wanted to know about the bad things that were going to happen to them.

Dagny walked with her mom towards the door of the grocery store hoping the three ladies wouldn’t notice them. They were only a few feet away from the front door when a loud outcry from across the parking lot caused them to stop and turn around.

“Hildy Olson, how dare you!” Klara Johansen was marching towards them with her blonde streaked hair swinging behind her. Dora and Fanney flanked her sides, their short legs struggling to keep up with Klara’s long stride.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cutting stuff is good except…

Except when you reference that chapter in other parts of the book. I cut my first chapter plus a couple of others and now I have to go back and make sure everything else makes sense, either by adding information or deleting. Lately I’ve been taking a liking to the delete button.

Last night I printed my book out. I had to wait until the kids went to bed because I can’t get anything done while their awake and since there’s no school this week it was very late. Finally at 1:30am and 301 pages later I finally have a copy sitting beside me on my desk. (I have a very slow printer)

I’ve decided there’s only so much editing you can do on the screen and now I need to take a final read through on paper and make the final corrections. One more week to go then I start working on queries. It still seems so far away.

Anyway for everyone in Alberta “Happy Family Day”
For Americans I think it’s President's Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

First Ten Minutes

I’m not one of those people who loves to run but because I play soccer it’s a necessary evil. What I find the most interesting when I run is that it’s the first ten minutes that’s the hardest not the last ten.

It takes me ten minutes to get into a rhythm and for my body to get used to the pounding. If I can make it past ten minutes then I can run for another forty or more.

I find the same thing with writing. It takes me at least ten minutes to get into a groove where I’ve blocked everything else out: my kids, the internet, the TV, the dirty dishes. Usually it's when the kids are in bed, the internet and TV are off and my house is clean that I can sit down with a clear mind. Then once I get past that first ten minutes then I’m good to go and I can write for hours.

Happy Valentines.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Writing something I know for sure

A few months ago when I was feeling particularly frustrated with my book I decided to try something different.

Last year on a soccer tournament my friends suggested that I write a book about our soccer team. I thought about it for a while then realized that we’ve had our share of drama: death of parents, divorces, separations, illnesses, diseases and menopause (not me mind you).

So one day as I was waiting for a lobster dinner to begin, (work related activity). I took a green piece of paper and brainstormed events that had happened to our team or that I’d heard happen to someone else’s team. Things that have brought us together or made us complain. For eg. A breast pad falling out onto the field during a game, one of our players breaking the ribs of a player for an opposing team, being frustrated with our coach.

Then one day while I was bored at work I began writing a chapter. It was quite fun.

I just recently sent it to my soccer team and they thoroughly enjoyed trying to figure out who they are. A friend called me and said that when she read a certain section she was going to call me and suggest that it couldn’t possibly be her but then she re-read it again and said. “Yeah I’d do that.”

Anyway I thought I’d share a small excerpt from Chapter One. Of course now the problem is that I’m being pressured for Chapter Two. I’ve told them after March 1st (my deadline for queries).

After dinner Ellie sat down to read the paper while her husband and children watched TV. It was quiet for a change and she sat in the dimly lit kitchen flipping pages on their small town newspaper. The town council was in trouble for approving a land development. The local charity group thanked members of the community for contributing to a recent food drive. The south side high school basketball team had defeated the north side basketball team. She turned each page aimlessly, scanning the contents for something to peak her interest. Then she saw it, a story about a local lady who was interested in organizing a women’s soccer team to compete with neighboring towns. Anyone interested was to call the number below. Ellie’s heart jumped a beat. She hadn’t participated in many sports growing up. She played basketball in grade seven and had tried soccer for one season before that. All she remembered was having a hand ball in the box, which caused her coach to take her off the field and scream at her in front of all the parents and other players. In fact that’s all she remembered about playing sports were coaches yelling at her. No wondered she’d never pursued anything.

Things were different now, she thought to herself. She was a grown woman with three children, a husband and a home. She was independent and strong, plus surely a coach for a women’s team wouldn’t yell.

Visions of lush green fields with white lines floated through her head. Scenes of her in short black shorts kicking a ball through the air until it sailed passed a goalie and into a crisp white net. A slight smile appeared on her face as she looked up at the ceiling as though watching her vision unfold on the roof. This was her solution. No more sweaty gyms watching slim people get slimmer. No more running on a treadmill or trying to build muscle on weight machines. She would become a soccer player.

That's it for now, back to the YA book, which I just finished the climatic scene in the second to last chapter now I have to edit my wrap up chapter and I'm all done, well done for now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fear of Failure

Some people have a fear of spiders, fear of dark or confined places or even a fear of flying. I myself have quite a few fears but one of the worst and the most debilitating is the fear of failure.

I've struggled with this my whole life. If I wasn't good at something right away I'd quit for fear that I would never become very good. I quit swimming, highland dancing, gymnastics, basketball and soccer (although I've recently made up for that one). Luckily I married someone who pushes me to succeed. He's gotten me into mountain bike, mountain and rock climbing, even canoeing on a lake, although he still can't get me inside of a kayak. He's also cheered me on and encouraged me to keep writing this book.

I'm trying to get over this fear of failure as I'm about to send my novel that I've worked hard on out into the publishing industry. My fear is at an all time high but I'm pushing forward like I've done with other things. Hopefully this time I'll succeed.

Maybe one of these days I'll even get inside of a kayak, on second thought probably not, I also I have a deep seeded fear of water.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Book Titles and Covers

What attracts you to a book?

Before you even read what a book is about, there’s something that makes you pick it up, whether it’s the color, the title or the cover.

When I go to a book store I have to admit that what makes me first notice a book is the cover and title. It's what gets me to pick the book up and read the back to see what it's about. That’s why I think covers and titles are so important, which is a problem for me because I’m horrible at deciding what to call a book. I’ve even gone so far as to enlist the scientific process of to figure out what percentage my book has of becoming a best seller.

Here are some titles and the percentage I got:
The Hidden People –41.4%
Becoming the Hidden – 55.4%
Becoming Hidden – 55.4%
The Land of the Hidden – 41.4%
The Hidden –35.9%
Hidden – 8.6%

Do you have any other ideas? I’m up for suggestions.

To give you an idea of what the book is about here's a rough draft of my hook:

At fourteen, Dagny Olson lives on a tiny island with her mother, a known seer who has visions of the future. When her mom foresees a death in their own family, Dagny discovers there’s more to her mom than she first believed. Now they are forced to return to a hidden world where old allegiances are faltering and Dagny finds herself drawn towards an unknown danger that only she can see.

That's it for now.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Way Back When

I start this blog by saying that I just got home from my soccer game and we won 1-0, it was an ugly win, but still a win.

Song from the past Erasure - Break These Chains -
Yes I was a teenager of the 80's.

Anyway, way back when, before there was the internet and computers were in every home, I used to write everything down in coil notebooks. They were my constant companion. Just the other day I was going through some of my old ones and found a couple of promising stories. Of course I had band names written all over them. One story I wrote was when I was 14 and was babysitting my niece and nephew in Utah for the summer and they didn't have a TV and I had no friends so I wrote a lot. The story was a love triangle or should say a love hexagon with names like (Nik, Natasha, and Tim). It had everything a teen book should have, clothes, hair and shopping but by the end I had turned it into a mystery, where one character finds out that her mother isn't really her mother after all. Unfortunately the summer ended, I returned to Calgary and never finished the story. Maybe one day.

I recently read a blog about choosing names and whether there are any names you'd never use. I have to say I'd be less inclined to use the name of someone I know or was related to and I would never use Jason because I just knew too many Jason's that weren't very nice people, sorry to the Jason's that are. Another hobby of mine growing up was reading through phone books and collecting odd and interesting names. Thank heavens for the internet because my fingers always got really black.

On the book front: I began reading The Complete Guide to Editing your Fiction by Michael Seidman and almost feel like I need to start over even though I'm almost half way through. He had an interesting piece of advice: "Reread your book concentrating only on one character at a time." I think I'll take that little tidbit and start at page one, again.

Bye for now.