Monday, February 28, 2011

Win A FREE Copy Of J.M. Tohline's 'The Great Lenore'

Read A Sample
Happy Monday, friends!  Today marks the first day of the week long celebration I'm hosting in honor of my pal J.M. Tohline.  Jordan's debut, The Great Lenore, becomes available for pre-order tomorrow.  If you are feeling generous, read his post from Friday and learn how, in fifteen seconds, you can help spread the word.

Now, let's get to the real reason you are all here, shall we?  On behalf of this amazing young writer, I am honored to have the ability to send one lucky winner a free copy of the next literary masterpiece.  And, the best part is, entering this giveaway is quite possibly the easiest thing you will do today!

CONTEST GUIDELINES:

To Enter: Fill out the entry form below no later than 11:59 PM on Thursday, March 3.  That. Is. It.

At that time, randomizer.org will generate a winner and I will notify you via e-mail and a blog post this Friday.

Prize Requirements: As stated above, the winner will receive one (1) FREE copy of J.M. Tohline's The Great Lenore - a personal gift from me to you.  The novel will be shipped from Borders.com once it officially goes on sale.  The approximate shipping date is June 15, 2011.

The proclaimed winner will need to provide his or her mailing address so I can pre-order your copy.  Once shipped, I will e-mail you the confirmation notice and include the tracking information for your prize.

Bonus Entries: Anyone who visits this blog and fills out the entry form below correctly is eligible to enter this giveaway.  Additional contest entries will be added for any or all of the following:
  • Advertise this contest on your blog (+5 entries)
  • Tweet this contest (+2 entries)
  • Post this contest on Facebook or other social networking site (+2 entries)
Be sure to indicate any mentions on your entry form and leave me the links.

Thank you in advance to everyone who participates and helps spread the word.  Good luck to everyone!

And, be sure to stop in Wednesday for my interview with the man of the week himself.

This contest will repeat the first week in April, May, and June, as part of TGL Awareness Day.  Stay tuned!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mark Your iPad: JMT Week Begins Here This Monday!

I've always been a team player.  As far as I'm concerned, one of the greatest opportunities in life is the ability to meet and interact with different people, learn from one another, and help each other out. 

As a teacher, my most memorable moments occurred not inside my classroom, but when I joined forces with amazing colleagues.  Whether we were performing in the Halloween assembly, posing as pilots to 'fly' our kids around the world, or knighting the students during our cross-curricular unit on the Middle Ages, I loved working with these people.  It's what I miss most about teaching.

Writing is quite the opposite.  We sit at our computers, alone, spitting words into a document. The amount of time we spend interacting and collaborating is, for the most part, minimal compared to other professions.  Thankfully, in 2011, we have social networking to bring us together.  Quite honestly, I can't imagine the loneliness of writing prior to the Internet.  And coming from a self-proclaimed loner, that certainly says something.

Anyone who has experienced a period of unemployment understands the shift it brings to your quality of life.  When you genuinely enjoy reporting to work and seeing your colleagues, it can mess you up when that component is suddenly removed from your routine.  It is this reason, more than any other, I am beyond appreciative for my writing friends.  I consider myself blessed and privileged to be part of their journey, and benefit tremendously from having them involved in mine. 

This past fall, I crossed online paths with a 'rockstar' named JM Tohline.  By rockstar, I mean one of the most talented young writers to enter the profession.  He's a brilliant mind who produces brilliant work.  His blog provides valuable knowledge as I attempt to follow his lead and break into the industry.  And yet, for reasons I don't understand, he seems to think I'll be able to do it.

When we were introduced, Jordan had already secured a publishing deal for his debut novel, The Great Lenore.  Yet, despite the fact he was completing the ninth inning as I began the first, we connected.  He has become my greatest role model; my literary hero, if you will.  Accomplishing so much at a young age is inspiring.  The fact he extends his support in my direction is humbling.  And though I will never be skilled enough to play on the same field as Jordan, I like to picture a day I can at least play nearby. 

The Great Lenore will be available for pre-order this coming Tuesday.  In honor of my awesome friend and his big moment, I'm excited to announce that JMT Week begins on my blog this Monday at 6AM.  Five days dedicated entirely to Jordan, his book, and celebrating his accomplishment.

So, my friends, please plan accordingly.  What exactly is JMT Week?  Here is the breakdown:

Monday, 2/28: The Great Lenore Giveaway Begins!  Stop in and learn how, in less than a minute, you can be entered to win a FREE copy of JMT's debut - my personal gift to one lucky winner. 

Tuesday, 3/1: The Great Lenore is available for pre-order.

Wednesday, 3/2: #WW Featured Writer: J.M. Tohline (Blog spotlight)

Thursday, 3/3: TGL Awareness Day (Info. to come later)

Friday, 3/4: Winner of giveaway announced; date for next Lenore giveaway revealed.

Feeling helpful?  Spread the word!  Let's make this guy a best seller!! 

Have a question for Jordan?  Leave it below and I'll include it in my interview.

Have a good weekend, all.  Hope to see everyone here on Monday!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WW Featured Writer: Steve Umstead

"There it was, available for sale to anyone with an ereader, anywhere in the world. Out came a couple of glasses of wine, and we toasted to the fact that my novel, the one I had been wanting to write for over twenty years, just got published. I have to say, that was a very significant feeling."

~Steve Umstead

Life is funny.  We never know the paths we'll cross.  We make friends in unexpected places.  Sometimes, we connect with people we'd never have imagined meeting.  And sometimes, those unexpected connections rapidly morph into meaningful friendships.  It's a pretty cool experience, in my opinion.

I wake up to a handful of new twitter followers each morning.  Out of the handful, the majority are spambots.  The rest are typically those who follow 80,000 people to in hopes of recruiting as many followers as possible.  They have no intention of actually communicating; I'm simply a stat.

Because of this trend, connecting with with real people has become even more significant.  That's exactly what happened when I met Steve Umstead.

Steve's an awesome person.  Actually, awesome sounds weak, but I'm having no luck choosing a more powerful word.  It's possible the word carrying the right magnitude does not exist.  So for now, let's go with awesome.

The man wears many hats.  He's a husband and father.  For the past ten years, he's owned a Caribbean and Mexico travel company.  He's an avid reader and sports fan.  And, most recently, he is a published author of science fiction.

Gabriel's Redemption is Steve's debut novel.  The first draft of his e-book, which totaled just over 64,000 words, was written during NaNoWriMo 2010.  From there, Steve entered the incubation period, distancing himself from the manuscript before diving into the editing pool.  "Jumped in feet-first," he said.  "Crushing my original manuscript. Paring it, adding to it, changing it, laughing at it, crying over it, drowning it in red wine, all the while tweeting and retweeting, blogging and reading blogs, until January 31st hit, and I put a big fat DONE stamp on it."

With a background in business and marketing, Steve devoted a lot of time and thought to the best way to pursue publication.  After extensive research and consideration, he opted to take the self-publishing route, feeling it was the best option for him and would deliver his baby the way he felt appropriate.

If you visit Steve's website, you can read his five-part series on his self-publishing journey.  Aside from being an interesting read, Steve walks readers through the ins and outs of self-publication.  It is especially beneficial for anyone considering this route for their own work.

Gabriel's Redemption is available for purchase in electronic format. For a limited time, it is available on Amazon.com for the Kindle for only $0.99.  It is also available from BN.com for the Nook and from Smashwords for other ereader devices.

Steve's journey to publication is both inspiring and motivating.  I consider him one of the best writer friends I've recently made, and am humbled by the friendship and support he extends in my direction...as well as the tropical beverages and beers he tweets me from Mexico.  Now, if only I could figure out how to get them out of cyberland; I'm working on that one.

Every writer takes their own journey.  Considering the obligations and responsibilities Steve finds on his plate daily, I'm in awe of his ability to remain a consistent, dedicated writer.  Writing, working, and parenting simultaneously is no easy task.

He doesn't know this, but Steve has really pushed me through some bumps in my own writing project.  He's one of those people who helps me believe my goals are possible - he's a loyal supporter of my blog and has gone to great lengths to know me as a person. People like that get me in ways I can't describe; they boost my confidence and remind me I'm working toward an obtainable goal.  Steve has become a permanent part of my writing journey and I'm happy he's joining me for the ride.  As far as I'm concerned, the people you meet along the way are just as important as the finished product itself.

I encourage everyone to get to know one of the friendliest writers out there.  He's cool, he's funny, and has a great personality.  You can visit his website, follow him on twitter, or friend him on facebook.  You can also 'like' his facebook author page to remain updated on his latest writing accomplishments. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

With Liberty And Justice For All: My Thoughts On A Local Teacher's Suspension Due To Blog Commentary

Over the past week or so, a controversial story has been circulating the Philadelphia area that has a number of people, myself included, rather heated.  For those who have not heard the scoop or read the article, I'll give you the brief summary:

A high school English teacher in a prestigious school district has been suspended (with pay) after her personal blog was discovered to include commentary many deem offensive.  The following is an excerpt from the article I linked above.

The debate centers over a post Munroe wrote on her blog just over a year ago. Entitled, “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…” it outlined the things she wished she could really say to parents about her students’ performance and personalities.

 They include:

 ■“A complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities.”
■“One of the few students I can abide this semester!”
■“Has no business being in Academic.”
■“Lazy asshole.”
■“Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”
■“Weirdest kid I’ve ever met.”
■“I hear the trash company is hiring…”
■“There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid.”

It ends with, “Thus, the old adage…if you don’t have anything nice to say…say 'cooperative in class.'"

For a year, the only response to the post was a “These are effing awesome” boost from someone, presumably a friend.

 
But the next response reveals the danger of the Internet, where everything ever written can be seen by all.

 “Jokes on you because this link is being cycled throughout the students of CB East via facebook. Have fun applying for unemployment. Sincerely, ‘cooperative in class.’” was posted at 5:54 p.m. on Tuesday night.

 From there, word of Munroe’s blog spread via Facebook and Twitter.

Written from a more neutral perspective, a second article discusses the defendant's reaction to her undergoing investigation:

"My students are out of control," Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post. "They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying."

And in another post, Munroe — who is more than eight months pregnant — quotes from the musical "Bye Bye Birdie": "Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS."

So, what do I think about all this????  Well, for one, I think it's a damn good thing I'm no longer teaching, or I'd be the next one removed.

In my honest opinion as a former student and educator, as well as a private citizen, the teacher made a 'ballsy' move.  That being said, so freakin' what???

Blogs are personal.  They serve a variety of purposes;  in this situation, it was an outlet for an individual to vent.  That is not illegal, and as far as I'm concerned, the situation violates the right to free speech. 

The teacher is not 'friends' with her students.  Her blog was not a teaching tool, nor was she inviting students to interact through that forum.  It was her personal intellectual property, designed by an adult for adult friends and family.  THEY discovered her.  Why?  Well, it seems they didn't like her much, so they went digging.  We've all done it; when kids don't like a situation at school, they feel they have the right to set out and 'fix it' themselves.  In this case, they didn't care for Ms. Munroe's brutally honest analysis, so they took matters into their own hands. 

No names were published.  The district was never revealed, and no information that could undoubtedly link Munroe's comments to specific people was provided.  The investigation took care of that, but not the author herself.  So, whether you agree or disagree with her words, no crime was committed. 

And that is the essence of the controversy - whether or not you AGREE or CARE FOR what was done, is it worthy of termination?  The lawyers don't seem to think so, and I'm pretty sure I agree.

I taught in a similar district.  Our clientele was comparable, as was the organization and structure of the surrounding community.  The population was composed of the same socio-economic status, and for these reasons, I happen to understand the root of Ms. Munroe's frustration.

The reality is, many of today's teenagers don't want to do anything.  And, when you ask or expect them to do something, they whine.  They whine and complain and question your motives.  Their goal is to make you feel insecure; to force you to question your professional judgment and alter your assignment or policy or grading system so that, essentially, they can jump through more hoops with ease.  In other words, they can get a higher grade with little effort.  Nine times out of ten, the kids will win.

It's about time someone called unmotivated kids out!  I'm not sure this was the bet forum to choose in doing so, but again, her comments were vague.  It takes a certain teacher to maintain high expectations.  In a world where administrators are afraid of parents and never back the teachers - a world where parents feel they have the right to speak to teachers in disrespectful tones, tones that, if we were to use in the classroom, would result in our immediate dismissal - teachers are clearly the underdog.  And GOOD teachers have become a communicable disease.

I'm going to wrap up for today, though I anticipate I'll be exploring this issue further throughout the week.  In closing, let me just say this: Ms. Munroe may have struck a nerve with many people.  Nerves tend to get 'struck' when people offer a dose of reality.  You don't have to like it.  You don't have to agree with it.  But, no laws were violated.

Ms. Munroe is guilty of one thing - seeking a creative outlet to reveal her frustration.  Sometimes, we have to let it out.  The reality is, she is a person first, a concept many fail to consider where educators are concerned.  As a person, she has the right to blog.  She has the right to be controversial and offensive if she wants to be - as long as no student or district information is revealed.

It wasn't.  Case closed.  Suck it up; move on.

AS always, comments are welcomed, but please BE RESPECTFUL!  Please respect my opinion if you expect me to respect yours. 

ADDENDUM:  I want to add that, during my teaching career, the kids were truly the best part of the day.  In fact, 99% were wonderful and I remain in contact with many to this day.  Sure, I had moments of frustration.  No, I didn't go airing it on the Internet.  We ALL make mistakes and handle situations in ways we have not.  Let's be honest, everything posted on the blog in question can be heard every Friday when groups of teachers hit Happy Hour - and considering how close this often occurs to the district, I find that to be just as risky.  The point is, should this situation be used against the teacher?  There are a number of teachers who have done things just as mean - just maybe not on the Internet. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Attention Passengers, We'll Be On The Ground Shortly

I hate flying.  Yes, I have done it many times.  Yes, my brother and I flew at a young age without our parents.  Yes, I once flew alone.  And yes, the total number of flights I have taken far exceeds that of a typical person with a 'fear of flying.'









But, I still hate it.  From the minute I learn I'll be flying, which is usually when the ticket is purchased, I stop sleeping.  This is why I've never bought my own ticket.  I will never willingly get on a plane; I'll never have that urge to travel to an exotic destination and begin researching the best fares.  I get on planes when forced - usually with laryngitis from hours of cursing out the culprit.  It's a good time for spectators.

A day of flying is my 'get out of jail free' card.  I'm not myself, and people just have to accept my behaviors.  On route to the airport, I sit silently in the car, staring out the window, envisioning myself clinging to the armrest when we plunge to the ground.  When I leave my house, I assume I'm not coming back.  And once I'm inside that metal test tube, you should probably just stun me. 

Narcotics help.  Now, before anyone gets alarmed, know everything I have ever taken was prescribed by a doctor.  He probably wouldn't be thrilled to learn the quantities of alcohol that accompany those capsules, so let's keep that between us, okay?

I can't relax.  I panic, becoming shaky, apprehensive, and nasty.  Breathing hurts.  I snap when someone speaks to me; I say things I would never normally say.  And if it weren't for that no smoking law, I'd probably have an entire carton finished off in one short flight to Florida.

There is a point to this ramble.  My entire life, I've been plagued by plane crash dreams.  Generally, it's when I'm about to go somewhere, but they also sneak up on me out of the blue.  I have not flown since my college graduation, when my friends and I treated ourselves to a cruise before starting the horrific stage known as the employment search.  That was nearly six years ago, so why the recent dreams?

They're always the same - everything starts off fine, and then, out of nowhere, the plane nose-dives.  I never remember where I'm going; I rarely remember who I'm with.  But I remember the dive; those last few minutes where, in my dream, my thought process varies.  Usually I have that 'of course this would happen to me' attitude.  Though lately, it's more of a 'there is so much I wanted to do' attitude.  And when I wake up, breathing heavily, sweat layering my forehead, I'm relieved I have another day to journey toward my dream.

But this week was different.  Wednesday night, my recurring dream stopped in.  There were a lot of people I recognized on the plane, but I can't remember them at the moment.  I do remember I was traveling solo.

I share this story today because something interesting - something unexpected took place in that particular occurrence.  For the first time, at least the first time I can remember, the plane landed safely.  No nose-dive; no panic.  The wheels touched, I grabbed my duffle bag from the overhead compartment, and I walked off.  Proudly.

People say dreams mean a number of things.  Supposedly, plane crashes reflect a feeling your life is spiraling out of control; that you've set unreachable goals and now your life is 'crashing' down before you.

I don't know how true that is, but I am choosing to believe my recent dream is a sign.  I've decided the safe landing symbolizes finishing my novel.  It's telling me when it happens, it will be okay.  I have nothing to fear.  My draft is not the disaster I think it is; it's simply the test run before moving forward.  I'm the pilot; I'm flying the plane.  Although there is much work to be done,the work can be done and I am capable of doing it.  That knowledge will keep me going.

It's been a long journey, but the end is in sight.  We've started landing.  The pilot can see the runway.  The flight attendants have collected trash and prepared the cabin for arrival.  Gazing out the window, I can decipher signs of civilization - trees, houses, swimming pools.  It's close, and the view is breathtaking.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WW Feature: Congratulations Wendy Sparrow and Cory Jackson

Two women. Two days. Two success stories.

Happy Wednesday!  It's been an eventful week in the writing community.  Today, I'm posting a 'double feature', as I've stumbled upon two very different stories every writer dreams of.

Wendy / Sparrowbug
First, congratulations to Wendy Sparrow who just announced her representation with Sarah Yake of the Frances Collin Literary Agency.  She has graduated from the emotional stage of querying and begins the next phase of her journey toward publication.  Cheers to you, Wendy!

In her recent blog post, Wendy shared the following:

"For those that don't know, this has been a long two and a half years for me, and I just wanted to give up on traditional publishing
 just a month ago.
I should know by now how important the journey is, though...."

Her words deliver a powerful message.  Not only are they aligned with the emotions every writer wrestles, they reiterate the importance of perseverance.  I've always believed the best news arrives at the time it is intended; Wendy's story reaffirms that philosophy, and also reminds us the journey is an experience in itself.

In her blogger profile, Wendy describes herself as a professional insomniac and hopeful writer.  It looks as though she is now one giant step closer to removing the word 'hopeful.'

To join Wendy on the rest of her publication journey, visit her blog or follow her on twitter.

Cory JacksonOn the other end of the spectrum, YA author Corrine 'Cory' Jackson received what she described as "the best Valentine's Day present EVER."  Her YA contemporary, If I Lie, will debut from Simon Pulse in the fall of 2012.  If you get a chance, hop on over to her blog and read her entertaining and inspirational post outlining her road to publication.  Kudos, Ms. Jackson!  I am pumped to read your words!!

She's a friendly gal who, like all writers, has been through every stage of the process - including rejection, doubt, and fear.  Her story reminds us these feelings are normal, but it is by no means define our journey and career in writing.  Cory's success story inspires me to work through those moments I don't feel worthy.  Again, I encourage you to visit her blog for a more detailed synopsis of how this big moment came to be.

Cory is repped by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency.  She has been interviewed on QueryTracker and posted a guest blog on  Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog.  She is also active on twitter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Progress Report, Plus Write Hard Award

First, allow me to sincerely thank everyone who commented on my recent blog post.  I tried to personally thank each of you for your time and input, but in the event I missed you, please know your thoughts are appreciated.  I got some stellar feedback providing important points to consider.  Thanks, friends.

Yesterday I hit a milestone.  Somewhere in the five o'clock hour, I finished writing the draft of chapter 21.  My regular readers can testify how hellish this chapter has been - I began in November and it gave me a run for my money ever since.  I can't blame writer's block.  I knew what needed to be written but severely struggled in doing so.  Distractions presented themselves.  The holidays disrupted my flow and the brutal weather hasn't been much help.  Shoveling takes time.  Plus, it's physically draining. 

Getting through it was a good feeling.  I've never been so excited to have written pure crap.  Now, I'm back in the game.

I started a new routine today.  By new, I mean I set up a routine I plan to follow diligently.  No more waking up whenever I feel like it and no more staying up late for the hell of it.  My daily activities now have a designated time slot - meals, writing, working out, social networking, and sleeping have all been accounted for.  I even included personal time to catch up on the books and films I've neglected to experience.  We'll see how long this lasts.

Yesterday concluded with a bit of a personal high for me.  As if completing the immortal chapter wasn't enough, Liza Kane ironically tagged me with the perfect award to reflect the obstacles I've been facing.  Since I appreciate the recognition and consider it an honor, I'll be passing it on.  Of course, should those people choose not to, I will not be offended.  To each his own.  Lame or not, since when do I skip opportunities to brag on my awesome friends?!



The rules for when you win:


1. Post the picture above to your blog.

2. List at least three writers who you feel live up to the “write hard” spirit. Think: writers who work at their craft, writers who never give up despite the odds, writers who constantly turn out quality work. Writers you admire. Optional: explain why you think they are awesome.


3. Include these rules or a link to them.

4. Notify said writers of their victory. Ask them to pass on the torch.


5. Continue being awesome.

I'm passing this award to the following fellow writers:

1.  Austin James - because over the past few months, he has poured his heart and soul into developing his blog and helping it grow.  It shows.  Personally, I think it's off the hook.  I admire his ability to write quality posts on relevant writing issues and provide us a forum to learn.  And he's a nice guy.

2.  D.L. King - because she has devoted her entire self to being the best writer she can be.  She has accomplished a number of manuscripts for her age and everything she does is stamped with her best effort.  She is one of the most supportive people in the writing community, and she's a super cool gal.

3.  Draven Ames - because everything this guy does screams quality.  I admire his dedication, passion, and perseverance.  His work reflects his intelligence and philosophical approach to life.  I respect his ability to view the positives and lessons presented in every situation.  Draven is a man of character.  He's a good friend to me and I'm lucky to have his support.

4.  Michael Lockhart - because anything stating admiration in the criteria will go to this guy.  He's deep, he's passionate, and he is one of the most brilliant people I know.  I respect him for the person he is and his outlook on life.  He gets me thinking and helps me reflect.  His words bleed insight; the guy is awesome.

5.  Josh Weed - because the guy is both amazing and dedicated.  I can't imagine working his job and still devoting adequate time to writing - and slaughtering me in facebook scrabble.  I admire Josh for his humor; he makes me laugh.  He's an outstanding storyteller who draws his readers in and incorporates his unique personality attributes.  And he's an awesome friend.  I'm really proud of this guy; he's got pure talent.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Do You Write An Accurate Story When Details Contradict Good Writing?


Earlier this week, my brilliant friend Matthew Rush wrote a post that seriously got me thinking.  One of the most challenging aspects of my first W.I.P. has been balancing a realistic, true-to-life story while adhering to guidelines for writing a solid novel.  On more than one occasion, I have stumbled upon a situation where I must make a choice: do I portray a situation inaccurately so that it is well-written, or, do I ignore these guidelines to describe the event as it would actually play out in real life?

Allow me to explain.

A chunk of my story occurs inside a mental health clinic.  Having no knowledge of these facilities whatsoever, my project began with months of extensive research.  Online articles and web sites were helpful, but to gain a thorough understanding, I needed to go beyond the Internet and conduct live interviews with professionals in the field. 

One of my earliest realizations was that certain procedures and policies vary depending on the facility. Since the facility in my novel is fictional, I stopped trying to "get it right" and began focusing on whether or not something was plausible.  As long as an event could happen as described, it passes my initial test of believability.

But many practices are standard and cannot be negotiated.  It is these components that leave me at a loss.  For example, an adolescent being treated in a psychiatric hospital has a number of professionals overseeing his care.  Each of these professionals carries a different license with training and qualifications specific to that role.  The primary members of the treatment team include a psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker.  Beyond that, there is the unit staff, which includes nurses, technicians, allied therapists, and group leaders.  Because teens are required to attend school, they work with an academic teacher.  And, depending on the reason for treatment, the patient may have a one-on-one aide supervising twenty-four hours daily.

Furthermore, certain roles are filled by more than one person.  Shifts change three times a day.  The staff member leading morning group and escorting patients to breakfast would not be the same technician running evening group and escorting patients to dinner.

Of course, the accurate list above is a ridiculously long cast of characters that no reader could keep up with.  So, what makes sense?  Condense the characters; if two or more perform the same role, kill some off.  Easy, right?

Not exactly.  While many of the above occupations are similar, certain technicalities make them unique.  Where psychiatrists have medical training and can legally prescribe medication, psychologists perform a therapeutic role but cannot provide medical treatment.  And that's just one example.

Because my novel is for teens and not psychology majors, I've taken a lot of, shall we say, artificial license.  The way things look now, the psychologist performs her own role as well as the role of the social worker.  One of my sources actually recommended the opposite, but after legitimately considering her request, I decided against it.  I feel more readers are familiar with the term 'psychologist', thereby enhancing their ability to comprehend the storyline.  The role of a social worker is most likely less familiar, despite this individual playing a more vital role in an adolescent's treatment.

Other parts of the story occur in a high school setting.  Everyone knows high school students can have as many as eight teachers in a given day, but in the bulk of YA novels, maybe two are mentioned.

My point is this: I'm fine tweaking the reality of my MC's daily life.  I just want to know that by doing this, someone isn't going to jump down my throat for being 'unrealistic.'  At the same time, if I cover the content accurately, I don't want to risk complicating the novel and making it impossible to understand.

So, fellow writers, I open the floor for input.  Have you ever faced a similar dilemma?  How did you choose?  Is it more important to focus on believability or good writing?  How do you intertwine the two when one contradicts the other?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

WW Featured Writer: Mr. David Kazzie


"In this business, you need someone who believes in your work, and I'm fortunate enough to have found someone who does just that."
~David Kazzie

He's the brilliant mind behind this cyber phenomenon: 



And guess what, folks?  I'm excited to announce Mr. David Kazzie has recently signed with literary agent Ann Rittenberg.  Please join me in congratulating this talented, good-natured individual as he segways into the next phase of a sure to be successful writing career.  David, I wish you nothing but the best and anxiously await the day I rush out to buy your literary debut.  Based on the creativity and entertainment provided in your videos, there is no doubt in my mind it will be a stellar piece.

As an aspiring novelist, I love reading stories about how other writers land agents.  Today, in lieu of a traditional Wednesday feature, I'm suggesting you visit David's blog and read his journey.  It's rather inspiring; it motivates me to keep plugging along, and reminds me to keep both eyes on the prize.  I think it will do the same for you.

Plus, I encourage you to introduce yourself to David and get to know this compelling writer.  You can follow him on Twitter or visit his site to send him an e-mail.  He also has a fan page set up on facebook.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm Ten Months Pregnant

Saturday night, I once again rocked my coolness at Borders.  (Don't be jealous; my exciting life is not for everyone.)  My favorite Barista was working, as she typically lands herself the Saturday night shift.  She's a genuine soul whose become a true friend.  She's also an aspiring writer herself.  Our recent conversation went something like this:

Awesome Barista: You will get there.  Are you having departure issues?  Are you afraid to let it go?

Me: Are you kidding? It's like I'm ten months pregnant!  Get. It. OUT!!

She chuckled, and I must admit, I was a bit impressed by the analogy I created.  As a teacher, I worked with enough pregnant women to hear what those final days feel like.  Like them, I too have grown tired, cranky, and irritable.  I long for a good meal and a decent night's sleep.  I'm uncomfortable; tired of lugging this excess weight in my brain.  I'm so ready to give birth.

Our conversation ended and I decided to further procrastinate by scoping out my Twitter timeline and reading what the rest of the writing community was up to.  During my entertaining conversation with D.L. King, she asked how things were going and I once again replied with my ten months pregnant analogy.  Hey, she hadn't heard it yet.

Her reaction was favorable.  She knew exactly what I meant - because writing a book is like having a baby.  And as far as I'm concerned, my current status is like being in the tenth month.

How so?  Let's take a look:

1.  The Foreplay.  You're hot for an idea.  Passion ignites; it's the only thing on your mind.  You dismiss any thoughts of logic and reason, and ultimately, decide to go for it.  You throw yourself at the computer, ignoring all potential consequences your parents warned you about.  You want it; that's all that matters.

2.  The 'Deed'.  Your fingers caress the keyboard.  You like the way it feels.  Words appear faster and faster, stimulating your mind in ways you never imagined.  You like it.  You like it a lot.  Sentences turn into paragraphs; paragraphs into pages.  You continue typing - raw, uncensored, and unprotected.  Now you are in a moment; there is no turning back.

3.  You're 'Late'.  It's been days since you left the house.  You've neglected your family and friends, failed to return phone calls, and been slacking at your job.  You called out twice because you suddenly weren't feeling well.  Focus is no longer in your vocabulary, at least not in the context it used to be.  Tension arrives.  Panic sets in.  Am I....?  Could I be.....?  Holy Crap!  "Honey!!!  I think I'm writing a book!!!!!!!!!"

4.  The Test.  You have to be sure.  Using sunglasses and a hat of some sort, you conceal your identity.  God forbid anyone were to recognize you.  With your laptop concealed beneath your coat, you discretely enter the local coffee shop and begin testing ideas.  In a matter of minutes, the screen turns positive, and confirms what you knew in your heart to be true - you're writing a book.  You respond one of two ways:
  • Damn!  How could I let this happen?! I'm married; I have kids! I have a JOB!  I don't have time for this.  Man; they warned me this could happen.  Why didn't I listen?!
  • This is AWESOME!  The timing is perfect!!  I'm single, I'm unemployed -  this is just what I need to get my life back on track!!! WAHOO!!!

5. The Second Opinion.  These tests are often inaccurate, so you visit your doctor for a second opinion.  He asks your symptoms.  You list insomnia, lack of exercise and physical activity, and poor eating habits.  You mention you've been hearing voices and that the boundaries of reality appear more and more blurry.  You've begun losing yourself in the process.  Your doctor smiles.  "Congratulations!  You're writing!!"  He prescribes lots of caffeine and suggests alcohol as a way of staying sane. 

6.  The Nine Months.  The protagonist takes over; your baby owns you.  You sleep when its tired; you eat when its hungry.  When you're not writing, you're thinking about writing.  You fight with your character; you both want to be the boss, but we all know who calls the shots.  Post-it notes wallpaper the rooms of your house.  Notebooks are everywhere - under your pillow, in you car, next to the toilet.  You can't leave the house without a recording device.  Inspiration comes from many venues - observation, music, television.  Sometimes, it doesn't come at all.  For months, you fight the charm of social networking.  Eventually, you lose.  And eventually, you realize the whole 'nine months' thing is a crock.  It takes significantly longer.  The further you get, the more impatient you become.  Exhaustion claims your soul; you want this thing out of you!

7.  The Water Breaks.  You type the final period in the first draft, and for a second, feel a sense of relief.  It's finally on its way.

8.  The LaborIt's also known as revising.  And it's excruciatingly painful - perhaps the worst agony your brain will ever feel.  It's long, tiring, and there is a great deal of pushing.  In a moment of weakness, you vow never to touch another keyboard again.  The others in the room laugh, since everyone says the same thing..

9.  The Birth.  Your own flesh and blood comes out of the printer.  Many play a role in cleaning it off, polishing it up, and getting it ready for the world. 

10.  The First Holding.  It's the most beautiful creation you've seen.  A tear falls from your eye as you look down at the cover page for the first time.  It's the strongest connection you've felt; the tightest bond you've experienced.  You vow to protect your manuscript; to never stop querying until it finds a home - the home you feel it truly deserves.  You will comfort it through rejection and teach it to persevere.  You may need to sculpt and adjust along the way, but that's okay.  Whatever it takes; you want what is best for your book.  This is your baby; your very own creation that entered this world from your own blood, sweat, and tears.  You love it, you believe in it, and you will fight for it for the rest of your life - even if nobody else does.

And that, my friends, is the true miracle of birth.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WW Featured Writer: D.L. King

 "Writing a novel is like tightrope walking blind folded. You can't trust yourself to see your project clearly and need help getting across and keeping on track."

~D.L. King

If I were feeling manipulative, I would challenge each and every one of you to try finding a nicer young writer than D.L. King.  Why?  Because I would so win that challenge!

She is a proud YA and picture book writer currently seeking agent representation.  Furthermore, she has volunteered with several writing and literacy organizations, including SCWBI, Washington Reading Crops, and America Reads.  

Today's feature revolves around a passionate young woman who, as far as I'm concerned, will be making her literary debut any minute now.  Fellow writers, I encourage you to remember this name.  And when you see it prominently displayed in your local bookstore,  send me a quick note confirming I was right about this one.

Ms. King's talent was evident from the moment she introduced herself.  After realizing I had a new follower on Twitter, I investigated her profile which connected me to her five-star blog.  Honestly, if you have never before journeyed to this destination, do yourself a favor and click the link.  Aside from being a forum for sharing ideas pertaining to YA trends, D.L. has compiled an extensive collection of resources for writers in any genre.  Her blog is a great place to network with writers in all stages of the process, including those awaiting publication.

Within seconds of browsing, it became impressively obvious D.L. is a writer who does her homework.  She is beyond supportive of her fellow writers and goes to great lengths for promoting debut authors.  Her recent interview with novelist Ty Roth is just one example.  Ms. King's extensive knowledge of the craft and publishing industry makes her an excellent resource to the writing community.  She has truly mastered what it takes to make it in this tough business.

Ms. King never presents herself as anything less than professional.  Her interactions with others are both positive and educational.  It's refreshing to see an insightful young mind working diligently to accomplish her dream.  Furthermore, she is equally passionate about writing AND reading.  D.L. is a true advocate for literacy; she has taken on projects such as organizing a teen book club and implementing reading awareness programs for elementary school students.  As a former teacher myself, I can vouch this kind of enthusiasm for literacy is a rare gem in today's society.  I love that she takes time to share her passion with children - they will clearly benefit from her dedication.
   
D.L. has completed four picture books and has two others in the works.  Her YA manuscript, Scarlette Hood, is a dark retelling of LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD that takes place in 18th century France.  In her recent interview with Dorothy Dreyer at We Do Write, D.L. explains she has been writing since the age of five.  And although many of us know that familiar struggle to put our best foot forward, D.L. shows no signs of slowing down; she will be writing for years to come.

If you're in the mood to connect with an outstanding writer who is wickedly talented, reach out and introduce yourself to D.L. King.  She can be found on twitter, facebook, or through her blog, which again is a site worth following regularly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Here I Am, Raw And Uncensored

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me....

Well, usually.  Today she's running late; I bet the snow held her up.

I'm scared.  Really scared.  And this is going to be one of those "I have to get stuff off my chest" posts.  So if this isn't your thing, I recommend visiting another blog today.

Over the past three days, I spent a good eighteen hours or so hanging out with my manuscript.   Saturday was rough.  I wanted to break into work, print it out on the fancy schmancy printer, and light the sucker on fire in the parking lot.  I hated it; I wanted the pages to bleed pain.

Sunday was better.  My streak of productivity continued for the duration of today.  I moved beyond the section I've dwelled on since before the holidays, and now, finally, I know what I need to do.  I'm motivated; I have direction.

From the moment I started this project, I knew how the story ended.  I deviated from that course a few times, but always ended up returning to my original plan. 

Until recently. 

In light of current headlines related to my plot, I feel compelled to travel down a path not highlighted of my original route.  It's a road that makes me uncomfortable; one that dramatically alters the vision I once saw so clearly.  And, despite my reservations, I plan to fully embrace this modification.  I'm actually excited to do so.

So, why the fear?

Good question.  I can't explain it.  All I know is I'm a mess.  My eating and sleeping patterns are completely out of whack.  I'm up all hours of the night listening to my protagonist's voice.  He's become a real pain in the ass, blatantly refusing to converse during normal daylight hours.  You know what, buddy?  You're a lot younger then I am - I happen to like my sleep.

Kidding aside, I think my fears are advancing as the end springs closer into view.  I see the finish line.  My friends and family are waiting with water and a soft pretzel.  Yet despite how badly I want to move into the next phase, I find myself slowing down - easing from a sprint to a jog and from a jog to a brisk walk.  Anything to delay crossing that line for good - and not because I loathe the thought of editing.  I'm ready to kill some darlings.  I'll be slaughtering sections that once caused me agony; rewriting dialogue and deleting my favorite parts that don't need to be there.  That part I welcome; it's the next part that scares me.

I don't believe in myself.  I never have in twenty-seven years, and I highly doubt anything is going to change that.  The best literary agents could look into my eyes and tell me they like my manuscript.  I'd ask them what they smoked before reading it.

Rejection is not a stranger.  We've spent many years together and have a fairly intimate relationship.  As I look into the not so distant future, I know she's booked a ticket to visit and there is nothing I can do to change that.  I think I'm prepared to see her again, but how can I really know until I'm in the moment? 

What I do know is this: when I sat started writing, I did it for me.  It was a hobby to pass the days of unemployment and boredom.  Something to get me up in the morning; a goal to keep me focused and away from booze.  Of course it didn't take long to become plagued with greater desires - the fantasy all aspiring authors dream about.  It's the same for everyone - we want to see our novel being sold in bookstores across the country.

Now, when I say I want this, I realize the vocabulary to convey the magnitude of that desire does not exist.

Failure is not in my vocabulary.  When I decided to pursue this project seriously, meaning I was no longer writing for "fun," I had to alter my entire mindset.  Instead of thinking how cool it would be if one day I was published, I approached each writing session as if the deal was already sealed.  In order to produce my best work, I had to convince myself I was capable.

But the truth is, I don't think I am.

Had I never breathed a word of this to anyone, it wouldn't matter as much.  But stupid me had to get excited and broadcast to the world what I was working on.  The good news is I have so many people rooting for me.  The bad news is, I'm terrified of letting them down.

I'm cursed with two character traits that continuously reduce my life span.  I'm a perfectionist and I am a planner, neither of which have a place in writing.  I can't plan for a particular outcome, nor can I write the perfect novel.  Man does that suck.

Some say I set myself up for disappointment; that I set goals I'm not capable of reaching.  I have some great friends, don't I? 

But, the truth is, I have set some high expectations.  I want to be living proof that when one door closes, another one really does open.  I want to visit my former students and show them everything worked out okay.  I want to testify that the quote in my tag line is true.  (Oh, and I want to mail a signed copy to my former administrators with a professionally worded In Your Face note attached...)

And I want to be worthy of the friends I've made in the writing community.  I want to be part of their world - enter an industry I'm passionate about and have opportunities to meet those I respect and admire.  I'm tired of standing outside in the cold, peering through windows while others live my dream.  I want to join them; I want to learn from them.     

The road ahead is far from smooth.  I just wish I knew if I'll reach my destination.