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Friday Favorites – Slacker Edition

As the title suggests, I’m still slacking. I think it’s going to take me awhile to get used to the whole summer schedule. In the past, all I had to squeeze in around my kids was my work-from-home day job and my writing. Now, I’m teaching part-time and trying (and not necessarily succeeding) my hand at social networking. I do have some great posts, just not as many as I usually do:

First up, two great posts on Pinterest. I’ve joined Pinterest, but I’m still learning the ropes. You can find me here: http://pinterest.com/seschroeder/

Amy Clark from Momadvice has a post on being a Pinterest superstar. Then August McLaughlin offers 5 steps to making Pinterest-friendly blog posts. I know I’m nowhere near there yet (no great pictures to pin from here), but I hope to utilize that information soon.

Lani Diane Rich has an excellent post on how you need to fail in order to succeed. I think most people would agree with this, at least in theory. It’s something that I’ve tried to drill into my kids’ heads. But the thing is, I’m one of those people who have avoided doing anything unless I was pretty darn sure I’d be good enough at it to succeed. Writing for publication is the only risk I’ve ever really taken. I’ve always been a writer, and I knew I had skills, but writing for publication is more than being a good writer. You have to be a storyteller. That’s the part I’ve been so unsure of. How could I not be? After writing and getting rejections, you start to wonder. But when you look at some of those rejections, they can give you hope. I’m not one of those writers who has saved every rejection to either show to other new writers or to burn in a big pile when I think I’ve made it. I’ve only saved the ones that gave me hope. A little hope is all you need.

Finally, Trish Loye Elliot has a great post on advice to writers from the masters.

What was the best advice you’ve ever received?

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Friday Favorites – the Quick Edition

I’m writing this Thursday night with a bit of a migraine hangover (at least I hope it’s totally gone) because I’m going to be busy all day tomorrow at my chapter’s conference Chicago Spring Fling. It’s going to be amazing, assuming I can keep the migraine at bay.

Speaking of migraines, Marianne Hansen has a post about migraines and superstitions. I totally get what she’s saying and I think most migraine sufferers do the same. If we think a migraine is coming, we try to do whatever we can that might stop it. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most of it doesn’t work.

Emma Burcart has a great post about trying things even if you’re not good at them. I have a particular fondness for this post because she talks about singing karaoke even if she’s not a great singer. I like this because although I would never sing in front of an audience (I use my singing to torment my kids), I do make the heroine of my novel sing karaoke as one of her summer adventures.

Marcy Kennedy writes about the fear we all have as writers – What if we don’t succeed? I think for all of us, regardless of where we are on the path to publishing, we have this worry. The what ifs can kill all motivation, so I do my best to ignore them all.

Kat Latham offers suggestions for culling repetitious words from your writing. I like Wordle. It’s fun, but I’ve never used it for my books. I think I’ll give it a shot and see what happens.

Elena Aitken offers her insight into what she’s learned about indie publishing. Although I have an agent and publisher now, I have to admit that self-publishing crossed my mind. For me, it was a matter of not wanting to be in control of everything (weird for someone who’s usually a control freak).

Jennifer Jensen shares her story about landing an agent in an unusual way. The agent contacted her because of her blog. Congrats Jen!

Jillian Dodd offers up eye candy every Monday with her Man Day posts. Right now she has a challenge going with author CJ West. If he can get 5,000 comments on his blog, he’ll pose for Jillian’s Man Day post. Read Jillian’s challenge and then hop over to CJ’s blog to leave a message.

Finally, for anyone still looking for some inspiration… Pink Chocolate Break has a list of 10 self-improvement quotes and a selection of quotes on creativity.

Have a great weekend and I hope to bring more information to you from our conference.

Friday Favorites – Yoda, Ferris, & Writing

After more than a week of fabulous warmer than normal weather here in Chicago, it’s a rainy, miserable day. But, I do have some great posts for you to click through:

Fun Stuff:

taken from Google images

Marcy Kennedy writes about how Yoda was wrong. Now, I’ve mentioned before how Yoda is huge at our house, so my gut wanted to scream, “Never!” but then I read the post. Marcy is referring to Yoda’s famous quote, “Do or do not. There is no try.” This is something I’ve often quoted to my children (and they have of course spit back at me). Marcy points out that trying isn’t always enough. While she has very valid points, I think I’ll stick to the spirit of what Yoda teaches because I believe perseverance can take you pretty far.

It’s March madness all over this time of year, and it’s not all about basketball. Dabwaha is run by Dear Author and Smart Bitches an is all about books. March Movie Madness (MMM) is all about pitting movies heroes against one another.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson makes a plea for Ferris Bueller. Not only do I love this movie and Ferris, but I even have it in my book that’s coming out later this year. Even if you’re not voting, check out all the reasons she loves Ferris.

Photomontage to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tiffany White has a great round-up of midseason replacement shows. Check them out.

The Romance Man has a ton of fun with his post Chicks with Dicks (no, not that kind). He’s talking about why girls fall for guys who treat them like shit. The post is great, but you also have to read the comments. You’ll have plenty of laughs. As a girl who fell for many assholes, I can’t explain it. It’s not that I didn’t date any nice guys; there were a few. One guy I broke up with because he was so nice. What did I know? I was 16. I still know this guy and I also know that I wasn’t ready for him at 16. If I had met him when I was 30 and looking to settle down, I totally would’ve snapped him up.

Writing Links:

I have two different posts about the rules of romance. Both are interesting, especially if you read through the comments.

Greta van der Rol normally doesn’t write romance and she’s struggling with some of the “rules.”

Merry Farmer lists some of the expected rules of the romance genre, but points out that rules can be broken.

Jenny Hansen invited Margie Lawson to write a guest post for her blog. Margie is great. If you’ve never taken a class with her, I urge you to do so. You will learn so much from both Margie and your classmates. Your writing will improve and you’ll learn skills to carry into your next MS. In this post, Margie talks about writing smiles fresh and new.

Shelli Johnson has a post about how to know if you’re stretching yourself as a writer. She suggests that when you feel like you’re in over your head, it’s a good thing.

Jody Hedlund writes about why it’s important to put our books to bed. It’s important to give ourselves breathing room after we finish writing so we can look at the book with fresh eyes. A lot of people will attempt to plow through without giving themselves a break when they go from first to final draft. The problem with that is that you’re too close to the book and you can’t see problems.

Kvetch Mom, Jennifer Liberts Weinberg, writes about the importance of having a writer’s group. I personally wouldn’t want to have to start one, but I’m lucky enough to belong to my local RWA chapter. It’s not just about finding people to critique your work, but about finding like-minded people who can understand you. My group is a critique chapter. Someone reads for critique at every single meeting. I haven’t read in over 2 years, but I still get so much out of going. It’s a group of friends who understand the process and frustrations of being a writer.

Emma Burcart had a revelation that the bathroom is her think tank. It’s a good about when and where we have time to let our stories develop. I’m like Emma, shower time is my plotting time (and I use the word plotting very loosely). It’s the one time and place where I’m least likely to get interrupted by the kids.

Finally, Jenny Hansen offers some great advice on getting organized as a blogger.

Have a great weekend and I hope your weather is better than what I’m looking at.

Friday Favorites and Turning 40

Before I get to my mash-up of awesome links for the week, I have something to show you. I recently had a birthday and I guess it was supposed to be a big one (see the title). I’ve said it before, I’m not much for celebrating for myself, but my best friend and I got together for dinner last night (which is why this post is so late). Right after I parked my car, she caught me in the parking lot and hefted a huge basket into the back of my van. My birthday present. When I got home I spent a good 15 minutes unwrapping and laughing over 40 individual gifts. She bought me 40 things I like. Here’s a bad photo, and although you can’t see everything, you get the idea:

With all the chocolate, junk food, and alcohol, you'd never guess that she's not a writer.

I think it was the best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten. It’s not the items themselves, of course, but it’s having someone who knows you that well. I hope you all have a friend like her 🙂

On to lots of links. I’m too lazy to separate these into categories this week, since I’m  running so late and I’ll have to head out soon to pick up the kids. Trust me when I say, they’re all worth a read.

Emma Burcart describes the best relationship she ever had – back in the third grade. What I love about this post is that when we’re that young, we know what we want and what we expect, but somewhere over the years, we tend to lose some of that. Here’s to remembering our nine-year-old selves.

Linda Adams talks about the commercialization of Star Wars. Although I see her point, and maybe it has gotten out of hand, I still wouldn’t want them to stop making the toys. Everyone in my house has spent countless hours playing with Star Wars action figures.

Debra Kristi has a great post about chocolate. I love it when someone validates that chocolate is good for us. 🙂

August McLaughlin uses her father’s retirement to explore how writers should approach their dreams.

Merry Farmer continues her series on how she writes. This week, she talks about using music to set the mood and maybe offer inspiration. I’ve mention before that I created a playlist for the first time for my WIP. I’m still revising book 2 for my contract, so I haven’t gone back to my WIP in a while, but I have to admit, I wish I had a soundtrack for book 2. I miss not having specific songs to ground me in that world with those characters.

Tonya Kappes writes about how it’s important to review your goals to see how far you’ve come.

Shelli Johnson does a post about offering words of encouragement to yourself because it’s always easier to believe the bad stuff. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve taken a few classes with Lani Diane Rich and one thing she requires from her students at the end of each class is for them to announce (in all caps and tons of exclamation points) “I am a great writer!” The post reminded me of the importance of that.

Trish Loye Elliott over on Wordbitches has a post on inspiration and optimism. The part I love most is the Wordplayer’s manifesto that she took from K.M. Weiland.

Finally, Annette Gendler has a photo essay showing some great shots of Millennium Park and Crown Fountain in Chicago. I love these pictures and I had to include this because I have a scene in my book that takes place at Millennium Park.

What was the best birthday gift you ever received?

Friday Favorites – Writing and Publishing

For my Friday Favorites posts, I usually try to find a balance of fun and educational posts to offer as links. This week, however, is a little heavy on the being a writer posts. There were just too many to try to narrow them down more.

Being a writer–

Trish Loye Elliott posted 10 ways you know you’re a writer over on the Wordbitches blog. It’s funny, but oh so true. A gazillion books? Check. Carry pen and paper everywhere? Check. Talk to yourself? Check. We all know these things about ourselves, but it’s funny to see them in writing.

Merry Farmer has a post on casting your characters. I’ve talked about this before, when I wrote about creating a collage as part of my discovery writing before starting my WIP. I got so much out of it that I’m actually going to go back and create come collages for the manuscript I’m in the middle of revising. After doing a healthy edit, I discovered that during one of the many revisions, I took out every description. No one knows what any of my characters look like. I think doing the collage with help.

August McLaughlin has a great post on using deadlines to increase your productivity. Even if you don’t have a contract yet, creating reasonable deadlines for yourself helps. I’ve always done it. It also helps if you have a critique partner who can give you a kick in the pants when you fall behind your goals.

Emma Burcart has a post called Don’t Poop on My Parade, and while she wrote the post about her move to Florida, I think it definitely applies to writers. People are quick to put down what we do and try to squash our dreams with a dose of reality. I hope we can all have poop-free parades 🙂

Chuck Wendig holds nothing back, as usual, as he offers 25 things he wants to say to aspiring writers. My favorite is #8. It’s so good, I think it deserves its own quote:

I’m just going to type this out a dozen times so it’s clear: finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit.Finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit! FINISH YOUR SHIT. Finish. Your. Shit. Fiiiiniiiish yooooour shiiiiit. COMPLETO EL POOPO. Vervollständigen Sie Ihre Fäkalien! Finish your shit.

Publishing —

Emmie Mears wrote an open letter to New York. She’s writing about wanting that traditional book deal, to be able to hold a bound book in her hands. I understand this dream, as I think most writers do. The publishing world is in the middle of a whirlwind of change. Publishers either have to get on board with making changes, or they will fall apart like my beloved Borders. Many companies are. As I’ve written before, I’ve accepted a 2-book deal with Kensington for ebooks. Ebooks are the here and now, not the future, but that doesn’t meant that paper books will disappear.

Kristen Lamb writes a great post about the new publishing paradigm. She too loves New York and doesn’t want Amazon to swallow everything. No one is saying that self-publishing is bad. It is a viable route to publication. But it shouldn’t be the only route.

Just for Fun–

Jennette Powell has follow-up post one one she did last week about not finishing a book. This week, she wants to know what big name book you haven’t finished. For me, the DNF (did not finish) happened most often with classics. I was an English major and there were lots of books I was supposed to read that I couldn’t. Most British lit falls in that category. I love American lit, but I started The Great Gatsby at least 3 times and never even got to the halfway point.

Last, but certainly not least, Tiffany White has a couple of great TV posts for the week. She talks about some new and returning shows.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice? Or which show are you most looking forward to?

Beginnings

When I started this blog, I mentioned that I came to romance later than most romance writers. When it comes to writing, I’ve been doing that a lot longer, but I still started later than many. When you read author bios, so many say that they’ve known they wanted to write since they could hold a pencil. No so for me.

I remember walking around with a clipboard and stack of looseleaf when I was ten. I was writing a short story. A really bad short story. And now that I think about it, it wasn’t so short either. It wasn’t until high school that I really fell in love with writing, but I wrote poetry. I gobbled up volumes and loved to toy with language. I could spend a week thinking about the best way to craft one line.

Writing poetry was therapeutic for me. I was always writing something. I was published in our school literary magazine, but it wasn’t until I won a contest that I knew I was good, that I had talent.

I was 16 and I can’t remember if my English teacher mentioned the contest or if I just saw it in the newspaper, but Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate of Illinois, held an annual contest for kids. I had a week until the deadline and had nothing written. I flipped through my English book during study hall and came across a list of writing prompts. One stood out — Write about one of your earliest childhood memories.

It stuck and a poem was born. I was named a winner for my age group. I got to meet Gwendolyn Brooks, shake her hand, and hear her read “We Real Cool.” I received a $50 money order that I didn’t want to cash because it had her signature. She also gave us each a book. I had to read my poem in front of the group of winners and their families. My anxiety at having to do this prevented me from paying attention to the other winners.

Gwendolyn Brooks - image taken from http://www.poets.org

It was an amazing day for me. I continued to write poetry throughout high school and college. Some of it good, some not. But it was having Gwendolyn Brooks choose my poem that made me believe in myself.

Here is that poem, written last minute (as usual) by a 16-year-old Shannyn. I read it now and consider changing it, but I always stop myself.

The Final Good-Bye

Watching from knee-height,
She sees many tears shed.
In the distance, a statue, a religious statue,
Surrounded by flowers.
Do the flowers live forever?
Green grass as far as the eye can see
periodically interrupted by engraved gray
slabs of cement
The sun’s glare on the glistening bronze box
makes her eyes tear, so she turns away.
Men in black suits and white gloves stand silently.
Faces, vaguely familiar, look upon her with pity.
The final “Amen” is said and delicate rose petals
are thrown to the box.
Not quite tall enough—the child is lifted
off the ground by hands unknown to her,
To toss the petals and say good-bye to her father.

When did you know what you wanted to be? What happened to help you believe in yourself?

Book Deal, Querying, and The Voice

Before I get to talking about TV for today, I want to announce the news I shared on Twitter yesterday. I have an offer from eKensington. I’ve been holding the news for a couple of weeks and I’m really excited to be able to share. I got word from my editor (so cool to be able to day that), Peter Sentfleben, that I could go ahead and announce. Details are still being ironed out and I’ll post more as I learn about it. Virtual chocolate for everyone!

On to my regular TV talk. This past week, The Voice started its second season. I never watched The Voice last year, and I don’t know that I would’ve tuned in this season, but I had towels to fold and it came on after the Super Bowl, so I watched. For those of you who didn’t watch, contestants are pre-screened and invited to audition for the 4 judges, so there is no terrible singing like you get during the first episodes of American Idol. The judges are Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, and Adam Levine.

The auditions are blind in that the judges face the audience and can’t see the performer. If they are interested in adding the performer to their team, they press a button which will turn their chairs around and light up a sign that reads “I want you.”

I was fascinated as I watched. If more than one judge turns around, the performer gets to decide which judge he/she wants to work with. What surprised me is that it appeared that for most of the people this happened to, they didn’t know who to pick. I’m sure they didn’t go into it thinking that all 4 judges would want them, but didn’t they at least dream a little. Isn’t it natural to think to yourself, “What if?”

But then I got to thinking…

I know this seems like it has nothing to do with querying and finding an agent, but to me it does. A lot of advice out there will tell you to create tiers for the agents you want to query. Your dream agents, followed by the next level and so on. I can’t say that I had any idea of a dream agent. Are there agents that I’ve followed on line and thought they would be good to work with? Sure. Anyone who is serious about publishing will do that, but I didn’t have my heart set on anyone.

By the time I queried my agent, Fran Black, I had already queried lots. I revised the manuscript in between bouts of querying. I got requests for partials and fulls. And I continued to query. I didn’t stop just because some agents requested material.

I was a self-described query slut. I would query any agent who might consider my manuscript. That’s not to say I queried someone who only reps mystery (I’m not dumb), but I queried agents who offered any indication they might take on romance or women’s fiction. Some people would tell you not to do that, but my goal was to find someone who loved my book.

That’s my dream agent.

Within a couple of weeks of querying Fran, she contacted me for the full and then shortly after offered representation.

She loved my book.

The thing is, Fran wasn’t on my original agent list. In fact, she wasn’t anywhere on my radar. She wasn’t on QueryTracker or Agent Query. I found her on the Absolute Write forums, where someone briefly mentioned her and then I checked out her PM page and her web site. (Sorry, Fran, if you now get flooded with queries.)

In thinking about those performers on The Voice, I can see now why the decision is so hard. They get a few precious moments to try to figure out who loves their voice the most. Is it the one who turned around first? Or is the one who listened to nearly the entire song before deciding?

If a performer went into the audition banking on one particular judge to pick her, would she then be disappointed when a different judge turned around and not her top pick?

I think that by setting up a dream agent list, you’re selling yourself short. Do your research and know who the players are, but search until you find the one who loves your work, your voice.

Although I missed a few of the performers, my favorite so far is Juliet Simms:

Do you have a favorite yet for The Voice?