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I'm not lost! This is Christy. I'm home. I'm well. I'm beyond blessed!

  Besides lots of feedings and cleaning up after Christmas (we had too many toys BEFORE opening up all of the new toys...Goodwill, here we come!), I've been querying and critiquing. Next week, I'm looking forward to getting back into writing. I have a WIP to continue and a companion novel to the one I'm querying I'm excited to plot out!

I realized recently that although we share lots of advice on querying--most of which says to ONLY include what happens in the first 50 pages of your novel in the query--, I haven't actually taken that advice. My queries have included the main characters, the inciting incident, a few key events and then I jump to the climax and the stakes. Since the climax occurs around page 170 of my novel, that's hardly following the advice we've been given and have handed out.

I was also using the climax as my hook. Whoops. Plus, shouldn't the hook be in the first para? Well, I still don't think I have one of those (I have the first para, of course, just not the hook), but last night I scanned the first 50 pages of my novel and wrote a query that truly encompassed them. I don't know how good it is, but at least I'm doing what I'm told. (Something I constantly tell my kids and students to do. ("Follow directions!")  Teachers are the worst listeners, I tell you!

Have a happy and blessed week. I'll be back again soon, I'm sure.


Merry Christmas to all of our friends

Sorry, I'm a little late this morning. We had a wonderful candlelight service at church last night followed by a prime rib dinner at my sister-in-law's house. It was a wonderful Christmas Eve (although my husband had to work - boo). Then an early morning to get the new TV put together after my husband got home. Now the kids are playing their new Wii game (Harry Potter Lego Years 5-7) on the new TV, my hubby's in bed (he didn't get home until 6:15 am because some dumb guy decided it would be fun to drive past Wal-Mart security at 4:30 on Christmas morning and had to be detained by said hubby), the turkey is roasting (yes, I know, turkey's for Thanksgiving, but for some reason this year we flip-flopped and had ham in November and turkey in December), and I'm drinking Snickerdoodle coffee and wishing you and yours a merry, merry.

I have no idea where christy is. Probably entertaining that baby that keeps taking up all her time. ;)  Let's hope you're not stuck with me and my random thoughts for the next 8 weeks!

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come! It is a belief that christy and I share and we hope you find faith in your heart on this Christmas day and every day beyond. Merry Christmas, friends.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. - Dr. Seuss


A baby has joined us

note: this is not our actual baby

Christy did it. Sawyer John made his way into this world on December 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm. He weighed 7 lbs,  2 oz., measured 20.5 inches - and won hearts the moment he appeared. Mom and son are resting and loving and hugging and smiling and introducing and...they're fine. Probably (definitely) more than fine.

Merry Christmas (and if you're christy - get some sleep!)!


Merry Christmas (and every thing else you celebrate this holiday season)!!

This week we're gearing up for the big holiday break by making crafts with our students, decorating our houses with our kids, and celebrating with our families.

Oh yeah, and Christy's family is about to get a little bigger. Remember that baby bump? It's scheduled to come out on Wednesday. er, he's scheduled to come out on Wednesday. Yay! Yay! Yay!!

Wishing all of you the most blessed and happy season of all. We'll see in you in 2012. (and probably a few times in between) Thank you so much for being our friends!! Here, watch a video:

I love this so much I might not even mind being their neighbors.


a list of recent faves: LINKS FOR YOU

---as in posts or sites i've recently saved in my favorites.  enjoy! 

Susan Says:  Revision, or Helping Me Help You!

Wild About Words:  40 Reasons I Love S.C.B.W.I.

Miss Snark's First Victim:  Baker's Dozen: Reasons for Rejection

Jill Corcoran Books:  Activate Your Story

Oasis for YA:  Writer's Wednesday:  The First 250

Roni Loren-Fiction Groupie:  The (Not So) Dreaded Synopsis:  5 Tips To Set You Free

Kathleen Ortiz:  Synop-what?

The Creative Penn:  Self-Publishing and the Definition of an Indie Author

How I Became a Best Selling Author

happy friday to you all!  have a wonderful weekend.  i hope you get your shopping and wrapping done (if those things are on your to do list!)  otherwise, write, eat and put your feet up!


Wow, that's bad

I recently re-read the beginning of my first completed novel-length ms. Not the first draft - oh, no, that thing has long been deleted (although the long hand version still exists somewhere in the depths of my storage room). It was, um, well, yeah - bad.

And I'm almost positive that it's the version that went out to an agent when I got a partial request on my very first query (on an ms that had been revised and beta-read - yes, I'm a rule follower).

I had the dream. A book that would defy the odds and get published at record pace WITH ONLY ONE QUERY!!!!!

yes, I know. I'm experiencing some embarrassed laughter for me, too.

Here it is. Some stats on my very first - um, well, okayillsayit, bad - first page. Revealing more than the first page might give you a stroke and I can't be held responsible for that. (you know this is erica, right?)

Okay, wait. First I have a couple of awards to give out:

Best dialogue tag ever in a YA novel while the mc is having a temper tantrum: "...my mother replied with a tired voice." (because yes, you'd totally notice that)

Best trait to get someone to want to read your YA romance: mc has a temper tantrum on the first page (but dang it, it was a good one. and totally justified.)

Most -ly words ever used in a sentence that has been revised several times to delete all -ly words: Unfortunately, her face was starting to turn a shade of red she usually saved for unruly clients.

Okay, fine, now for some stats.

Number of -ly words that had been previously edited out but somehow stubbornly remained (crap, there's another one. but stubbornly totally needs to be in that sentence) (crap again) (smile)7

Amount of times a person growls (I mean, people growl, right??): 1

How many times the 17-year-old mc says something that makes someone else think she's acting like a baby (even though the author was very clever in making the adults either roll their eyes at her, grin at her knowingly, or tell her she's acting like a baby to conceal the truth): 3

My personal favorite - how many times I used the word "I": 11

God, I'm glad I'm not an agent/editor/someonewhoreadscrapforalivingwhilelookingforajewel.

Come on, share 'em in the comments. Any cringe-worthy submissions of your own??


a picture is worth a thousand words, but takes so much less time to read

christy with sawyer john (a.k.a the ball-like figure under her shirt)

*oh, and the candles behind me aren't really crooked.  i don't think...
my five-year-old son took the picture for me.  (he's not crooked either.) 
the camera.  it was the camera that was held at a slant.

well, this is your blog post for today.
 i had planned something else to chat at you about, but you get this instead.  i'm laundried, shopped, graded, planned, revised, queried and packed out.  i'm taking a break tonight and am going to lay/lie in my bed.  (i had the whole lay/laid/lie thing figured out, but i guess i forgot it again.) 

i'm 38 weeks pregnant...and as you can see...huge.  i walk s-l-o-w-l-y.  i get sympathetic smiles everywhere i go.  the people at work beg me to take the elevator--i refuse to do this.

 i am was (will be again) a runner.

take a break if you need one.  or get your work done.  totally up to you.

whatever you choose, have a great time doing it!


How to Never Finish a Book

1. Become addicted to anything besides writing. The interwebs make this especially easy. So does deciding to catch up on past seasons of Sons of Anarchy any TV series you're behind on that looks remotely interesting and/or has hot guys in it.

2. Start a WIP that's full of voice. Make it mostly dialogue and add in lots of characters and then twist the plot several times to the point where you have no idea who half the people are or what they're doing. But it would make a really good movie, so keep thinking it over and delete parts and copy and paste. There's a chance you can use it later.

3. Delete your 1/2 done WIP and start over. Better yet, do this every time you get over 10,000 words.

4. Sign your kids up for every sport available. Make sure they're not located in the same town. Also, it's best if they're on at least 3 different days of the week.

5. Volunteer to be on committees and teach Sunday School.

6. Take on extra responsibilities at work. I recommend volunteering to teach regular ed. AND special ed. while also functioning as department manager.

7. Buy a 600+ page book to read. Better yet, make it a series of long books. Harry Potter, Twilight, and Clan of the Cave Bear would all be appropriate for this task.

8. It's best if your family and your in-laws live far apart so that you can maximize travel time during the holidays.

9. Work opposite shifts as your spouse so that you're always either at work or home alone with the kids (or entertaining your spouse for the one night a week you see each other).

And so, by following these simple tips, you too can never finish a book. Good luck!



We are so excited to be a part of Heather McCorkle's Blog Tour this month!  She's an amazing blogger, talented writer, and, above all, a generous person.  The proof is in the blog tour she's doing to benefit endangered species.  To take part, read the information below and you, too, can help these beautiful creatures. 

A special edition of Heather McCorkle’s The Secret Of Spruce Knoll is releasing from Compass Press this month and she’s doing a special tour to go along with it. The special part, a percentage of the proceeds from every special edition sold (in every format) between its release date and 12-12-2012, will go toward Heather’s favorite charity that protects endangered species. Her goal is to make at least $10,000 for the charity.

Of course there are prizes during the tour which goes from December 1st through the 17th. Prizes include:
  •  a symbolic endangered species adoption of the winner’s choice (a $50 donation by Heather to the charity for the endangered species of the winner’s choice )
  • a cute stuffed animal for the winner
  • signed copies of her novels
  •  great swag
For full details, and to enter, go here. http://heathermccorkle.blogspot.com Check out her recent posts with links to all the other tour stops.  There are many animals besides the one we're featuring that need our help!

For the tour Heather has asked each blog host to pick their favorite endangered species.  We chose the emerald hummingbird. 

Christy:  Hummingbirds are magical.  This past summer I finally bought a hummingbird feeder and sat watching it faithfully.  I only spotted a couple all summer long.  Mostly, I fed the thirsty bees in my neighborhood.  While the emerald hummingbird does not live near me in Wisconsin, please help us protect this amazingly enchanging bird!

Erica: The hummingbird feeders at my house have attracted a number of ruby-throated hummingbirds, including a couple that have nested in the same tree for the past few years. (and yes, a number of hornets, too - not to mention ants). My kids have always been fascinated by the little creatures and continue to argue about whether or not they can pet one!

Heather:  This breathtaking hummingbird lives in the arid thorn-forests and scrub of Honduras. Honestly, I had no idea such a beautiful bird existed before this tour and now to find out that it's critically endangered is so sad.

Some secrets change your life, others change your world.  Discover the secret.

Immerse yourself in the story of Eren Donovan as she uncovers the secrets of her new town, Spruce Knoll.  The more she learns about the people of Spruce Knoll, and herself, the more she knows she must try to save the world from its fate:  total destruction.  Through it all, she faces loss, death and love.  Only time will tell if Eren has the power to protect the people she has come to love.

This is a special edition that contains an extra chapter and deleted material not published in the Abbott Press version. But what makes this version special is that a percentage of the proceeds from every copy of the special edition sold~digital and bound book~will go to my favorite charity that specializes in protecting endangered species.

To be a part of the solution for these animals, buy THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL.  To purchase it as an eBook just click on a link below!

click right here:  to buy from amazon  

or here:  to buy from barnes and noble

Thanks so much for stopping by today!  Together we can make a difference (and enjoy a great book)!


Holy crappoli

Yes, I'm here. Seriously, are you sick of me (erica) posting how busy I am? The answer is: Yes, yes I am. er, we are. Hence the title of today's post. Holy crappoli. Yeah. Well. Here is my post...

There's snow here. Lots of it. It's a freaking Winter Wonderland in West-Central Wisconsin. Do I have pictures? No, of course I don't. My camera's charger isn't working and I have to order another one before Christmas. Yep, holy crappoli. (I know, it's a weird phrase. please stick with me. or at least don't abandon me. I'm hanging on a thread here...)

Okay, fine. I'll show you why I'm stressed (okay, one reason. which isn't really a reason. but still.)

Yep, this is my driveway. (last year, but whatever. Holy crapoli, it's not easy to make your way down that.)

Okay, fine. I've been reading books and watching movies and living life and working work. So, well, I offer you one last image. That of my youngest son, who truly is a snow angel. (Holi crapoli. don't tell my husband I posted this. thanks.)


Recent Reads-- With Reviews!

I've been reading one YA Contemporary after another these past two months and what I've found is that it's true:  Many contemporary novels for teens deal with friendship issues.  And boy issues.  So, are those plots overdone?  Or are they just what happens to be realistic in the world of Teen? 

Without adding any paranormal elements into my own contemporary novel (with friend and boy and parent issues), what I need to do is this:  make my MC different.  Make her a page-turning MC.  Make her the difference.  How can I get the reader to care about her when they've already read about a dozen other MCs with the same dilemmas in their lives?

(I so hope you are NOT expecting an answer here.  Not today anyways!)

Because those are the questions circling round and round in my brain these days.

So while I contemplate and frustrate and try not to regurgitate (plot lines)...I'll share these three novel reviews with you.  I hope you have time to enjoy one or all of them! (Er, not just the reviews, but the actual books!)

Getting Caught

by Mandy Hubbard and Cyn Balog

This story is about two girls who used to be the best of friends, but due to a misunderstanding, become enemies.  Not speaking is beyond these two.  They take no longer being friends to a level that is page-turning and funny--at the same time that it's pitiful and saddening.  They are horrible to each other, but it's worth it to see how they up the stakes for each prank they pull to make the other miserable. 

The book is told from alternating POVs and I loved getting inside each girl's head to find how they really felt about their lives and their ex-friend.  There's a wonderful romance blossoming for one of the girls too, and I don't know about you, but it's love that makes the world go round.  I mean makes pages turn.  This was a fast read and even though it centered around a friendship gone bad, the plot was uniquely done as were each of the characters' voices.

Perfect You
by Elizabeth Scott

The MC of this book has to deal with it all--parent issues, an ex-best friend who can't stop breaking her heart, and trying to figure out if the "hot, everyone wants him boy" is really interested in her or not.  Yup.  Another YA contemporary novel.  See?  It can be done in oh so many ways! 

The unique aspect of this book is in the family situation.  Her dad quits his lucrative, reliable job to live his dream--and sell vitamins in a stand at the mall.  What's worse, she has to help him every spare chance she gets.  All the while, her ex-best friend is living it up with the most popular girls in school and ignoring her. 

I liked that this book showed the reality of how everyone has their own struggles, their own agendas and most times it's hard to make it all mesh.  Nobody can make the others understand.  There won't always be a happily ever after.  Although, some parts of her life will work out and leave you saying ahhhh as you close the book for the final time.

This was another fast read and another book that made me say....sugar, maybe the long-time best friend gone bad because they've grown apart and now one is super mean and nasty and the other needs to get a backbone thing is all been there done that.....  Sigh.

width: 100%
by Chelsea Fine

First Lines:

I’m late for English.
This is not uncommon. I have a tendency to doddle at lunch. ‘Doddle’ is a word my mom would use when she wanted to call me lazy. I never use it out loud, but I use it a lot in my head.


Each chapter alternates between the POVs of Sophie and Carter.  Their lives are NOT typical.  Each wears a mask at school, never letting the other kids know what kind of lives they lead at home.  Carter supports his mother who has fallen apart after the devastation his abusive father left behind.  Sophie is raising her brothers and sister on her own.  The two are neighbors and the only happy time either have is the time they spend on her porch swing each night. 

The two are best friends who rely on each other and I fell in love with each of them while inside the pages of their stories!


People are strong

Strange things happen no matter who or where you are. You can use these to your advantage. After everyone has been determined alive, that is.

Take today.

I (erica) teach preschool (special ed and Head Start). This is my 15th year of teaching. But today (well, yesterday, by your standards), this happened:

It was someone's birthday. Not just anyone's, but one of the most vocal, most happiest, most cutest ever (yes, I can say that, I'm a preschool teacher and everyone is the most cutest, but most especially this one) girl's. She brought Caramel Apple suckers. You know them. They're awesome.
AND THEN????? (dum dum dum dum) (that was supposed to be a drum roll, not a declaration) One of the other girls - who has special needs but can eat everything anyone else eats - clamped down on hers. Like this:

well, but cute. and around a caramel apple sucker.

So, no problem, right?? Just open her mouth and get the sucker out.

That's when it gets tricky. And erica gets scared. Because, see, the teeth can not be opened. The sucker can not be dislodged. erica has now seen this child's death a million times in her mind. Trust me, if you imagine it, you can come up with a million ways to die by sucker.


At which time erica and her aide put said child in a car (yes, in a car seat in a school van, don't you worry now - ha) and take her to the nearest dentist BECAUSE SERIOUSLY SOMEONE HAS TO UNSTUCK THIS CHILD'S TEETH BEFORE SHE DIES!!! (and by she, mostly at this point I mean me - erica - because the heart is seriously going haywire at this point)

The dentist tells me it will dissolve. Seriously. After half an hour of clamped jaw, he tells me it will go away on its own.

I'm dying a little bit more each second. Because what will dissolve first - the inside or the outside??

And who can do the heimlich on a little girl whose teeth ARE CLAMPED SHUT TIGHT????

Okay, fine - it all turned out. The sucker dissolved, mostly. Her mouth opened. I saw the sucker (with part of the stick) go down her throat and plucked it out with the tips of my fingers. In her throat. Umm, yeah.


Don't be worried to make weird things happen in your novels. Weird things happen all the time. And THANK THE LORD we mostly make it out alive.

Oh, did I mention that shortly after my dentist visit with my little cutie patootie, a mad/drunk/drugged man walked down THE SAME STREET waving a gun and threatening to shoot anyone in sight, prompting a big man hunt, complete with agents and assault rifles? Yep. And I live in a town with less than 1,000 people.

Feel free to use that in your next book. I know I can't. No one would believe me. ;)




-you want to increase your daily word count
-you want to double your daily word count
-you want a formula for success
-you want to write 10k/day
-you want to write more efficiently
-you want to eliminate crap scenes from your writing
-you love inspirational blog posts


-you love art
-you love to combine images with the ideas and characters of your novel
-you need a new and creative blog post idea
-you love matching actors' faces with your characters' faces
-beautiful images are your muse
-you are creative
-you wish you were creative
-you love the idea of creating a collage that represents your writing


-so go to these sites, order and have the gifts sent right to their doorstep so their parents can wrap them for you!

melissa and doug puppet theater (go ahead, spoil them rotten!)

melissa and doug floor puzzles (beginner, intermediate, and a little more challenging)

alex toys (bath toys, art toys, educational toys, etc)


-okay, so another shameless plug for my father-in-law's cheese store:  Springside Cheese--family owned, Wisconsin-made cheese!


Best cheese EVER.  REALLY.  I KID YOU NOT!  Squeakiest, freshest CHEESE CURDS! 


and...just for no reason at all.  i leave you with this.


Sorry, I got distracted

The latest Black Friday sale resulted in my husband getting the 3rd season of Sons of Anarchy for really, really cheap. And letting me watch it.

So blame them. Black Friday. Whoever that may be. Or look at this. He's to blame for me not being able to blog. Never mind. Just look at this:

Holy crap. I mean, really.

Kill me now. I'll still be happy.

 I just died. Good bye, cruel world.

It's good I'm dead. I won't know what I'm missing.


I was wondering....

When you are critiquing someone's writing, and you tell them it's well written, what, exactly, are you saying?  What facet of that person's writing are you referring to?  Or does your "well written" comment vary from writer to writer?  Do you sometimes mean its grammatically well written and other times think the voice is right on?  Can you tell they did a sound -ly search and omitted all extraneous adverbs and adjectives?  Are the sentences clear and concise?

What does well written mean to you?

(And for those of you with hyphen issues, like me, I had to look this up.

This book is well written. (The compound modifier comes after the noun, so no hyphen.)

This is a well-written book. (The compound modifier comes before the noun, so it gets a hyphen.

Hyphenate the elements of a compound modifier only if that modifier precedes the noun.       

Article Source:


Happy Thanksgiving!

Taking a little break to enjoy family, go shopping, do some writing, and eat some turkey. Happy Thanksgiving to all our fellow-United-Statesians. (ha) And happy weekend to everyone else!

all turkey phots courtesy of photobucket

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Go Pack Go!!!!


don't forget to get your title critiqued

I didn't nest at the end of my first two pregnancies.  I think I'm making up for it this time around.  Yes, I have triple nesting syndrome.  And let me tell you trying to scrub and scour, especially those hard to reach places that I haven't cleaned in way too long for me to mention here, is not only exhausting but extremely difficult with this HUGE, and by huge I mean GINOROMOUS stomach.  In the past two days the baby must have doubled in size. I'm NOT exaggerating.  No kidding. 

I am being induced on December 21.  Unless he decides to come earlier than that.  He'll be 39 weeks that day.  I'm not placing any bets that he'll come earlier.

Feel free to.

And there is no way to tie that info to writing.  So I'm just going to switch topics now.

We've covered TITLES on this blog before because we were surprised to learn over the summer (@ WOC and I believe through a query contest @ Mother. Write. Repeat with agent Sara LaPolla) that TITLES MATTER.  We always figured they'll be changed later so why spend a heck of a lot of time sweating over the title.

BUT if our last post on how titles matter didn't convince you, maybe this post (by agent Suzie Townsend ) will.  See it here.  (And yes, apparently she requested 37 manuscripts from her last query contest.  Mine was not one of them.  Remember?  YA contemporary is too hard to sell right now.  (Especially mine because it does not stand out in a crowd.  *sniff*)

Personally, I love choosing my title.  Unfortunately, once I choose one (usually before I begin writing or shortly after getting going), and it stays the same.  I grow attached. 

I figure the best thing to do is choose a fitting title it when the novel is all said and done, but since when do I listen to my own advice? 

I've recently started hanging out and posting stuff at Query Tracker (Did you know they had forums there?  I didn't.  They're nice and very helpful.)  Besides just critiquing my query, one person commented on my title and why it didn't work for them.  Nobody has ever commented on my title before, so it was a bit of an eye opener for me.  It made me realize that people will have an opinion on it and it may determine whether or not they choose to read/crit my stuff.

The same goes for agents.

So, put a little extra thought into how your title represents AND SELLS your manuscript!


Your First Time

Remember your first?

It doesn't matter what "first" you thought of when you read that question - obviously you remembered it. First contest, first trophy, first crush, first kiss, first - um, we'll stop there.

It's deer hunting season in WI (and if you are totally opposed to hunting, still feel free to read on and comment - and also read my note below). This morning, (it's Sunday and I'm hoping for the best with the darn Blogger scheduling system THAT USED TO WORK AND NOW NEVER DOES) my son took his first shots at a deer (he did shoot a turkey last spring).  The adrenalin hit and his arms and legs started twitching and his mouth wouldn't stop smiling and his fingers wouldn't stop pulling the trigger.

Seven shots. Zero hits.

First times are awkward and uncomfortable and absolutely the most exciting moments of your life (so far).

Now, to apply that to writing (you knew I would). Think of your first story. Your first 20,000 word completion. Your first *gulp* draft of a full ms. Your first *double gulp* beta. Full edit.


Exciting? Hell yes.

Now use that energy and get out there. Again and again and again. Someday, your arms might stop twitching and your smile might fade - but that's when it can happen. Don't lose hope. Sometimes, your next deer big opportunity is hiding just behind what appears to be a closed door.

And don't be afraid to twitch a little. :)

note: I understand the theories behind not being supportive of hunting. I myself do not hunt, although I married into a hunting family and have relatives of my own that do. I also live on a farm and we practice good management. We also eat the meat harvested and if there's extra, donate it to families in need. These are all good things. Trust me.

note #2: my son is 10 years old. To learn more about the WI mentoring system that allows 10-year-olds to hunt, please click here. I was not completely supportive of this at first. But for my family, it's working. As usual with new regulations, your mileage may vary. :)


one of the reasons i suck at writing queries

Um...and querying.  Yup, it's me, Christy with her one-track mind.  (Not that kind of one-track mind....get yours out of the gutter.  I'm almost nine months pregnant, which means huge and uncomfortable.  Jeesh.)

query, query, query.  if you're sick of this topic, sorry (BUT, there's a chance i'll switch topics at some point in this post.  i may have a one-track mind, but it's also hard to stay focused on any one thing for too, too long these days.)

one of the reasons i suck at querying is...

 i still have no confidence when it comes to writing one. 

so, i love every single version i create...until it gets a critique or a rewrite. 

then, i'm like, oh, yeah, you're so right. ack, it's ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE!  i SO see what's wrong with it now!!!!  (i was like so blind before!)

(trash it.)  (rewrite it.)  (send it out to people who may or may not be sick of seeing the 167th version of shelby's query)

another critique comes in.  this time a rewrite by a stranger on a forum! (fresh eyes. yes!)  ooooh, this version is GREAT!  why couldn't i put it like that!  (i use the rewrite in its entirety.)  was it even in my MC's voice?  probably not.  who knows, really.  i lose shelby's voice sometimes when i'm in the midst of query drafting. 

(to be totally honest, i lose a bit of my MIND when query drafting!) 

(do you wonder why i punctuate even though i don't capitalize?---see, that's me getting off-track.)  shh, don't tell christy I added this - but why does she capitalize WORDS when she doesn't capitalize letters? these are things I want to know. er - erica

(am i even supposed to hyphenate one-track and off-track?) 

and that's my signal to sign off for this post.

more query talk writing posts pregnancy updates crazy blabbering to come from me next week

i bet you can't wait!!!

Oh, and anyone else having trouble with Blogger? We schedule our posts and they're not going up on time. Which accounts for us posting on random days and times. >:(


Sophomore Status and a Snippet

I wrote my first completed ms in about 4 months, most of it longhand, before I got my laptop - while raising two kids and working full time. Sure, it took awhile to edit, but the idea was there, the desire was there, and I did it. Did I mention that I decided to write a book about 2 days before I started? Don't hate me. (I mean really, it isn't published yet. or even agented).

But you know what? Writing that second book is hard. I got half done with one, trashed it, started over, and got about a quarter through again. Then I started another one. And another. And, now, another.

So, well, here's a snippet of my newest. It's about a girl whose entire life changed when her older sister had something tragic happen (how's that for cryptic?). But it does go back to my 17-year-old girl voice, which I absolutely love. (and this is totally first draft. no editing or critquing necessary! God knows in 2 years when I finally decide I'm done, this part will no longer exist. ;) (and to continue the parentheses - wow I love this book) (and, oh, the mc's name is Sydney, aka Syd):

(the mc's sister, Devlyn, is a writer. yes, original, I know *shrugs shoulders* *smiles sheepishly* *wants to tell you Dev's also a really great painter, but feels weird now*):

I sat next to my big sister.

"Can I read it?"

"If you want to. I told Elizabeth I'd send it to her tonight if I could get it finished on time. Can you dye my hair later? This one's all faded."

"Sure, what color did you get?" Devlyn was crazy about her hair. She'd been every color of the rainbow, including this one phase where she made me streak it like a rainbow.

"There's a box in the bathroom. You can pick one if you want."

Mom glanced at the bathroom door and back at me. I shrugged an apology. Five years ago, when Dev lay on the bathroom floor, bloody and pukey and dying, my parents flipped out. Called 9-1-1 and then ran around crying and screaming. When I saw her, I hugged her and told her I loved her and didn't want her to ever leave me.

Now, I did the same thing every Monday.

"I wrote this poem about a girl with cancer. I read about her on the internet. She went through so much pain, yet had the best outlook on life ever. She deserved a poem about her, right?"

"Definitely. Read it to me when I get back," I said, walking out to get the box out of the hall bathroom we shared. Mom followed.

"What'd you do to make her mad this time?"

"She's hiding something, Syd. She was putting something in her closet when I walked in."

"Who cares? She's twenty years old and hardly ever goes anywhere or does anything. All her friends live inside her computer. Maybe she painted a picture of a guy or something. Let her have a little secret."

"Dr. Waverly says -"

"Dr. Waverly is paid to tell us to watch every little thing. That doesn't mean we have to freak out whenever one of them happens. Besides, she said she's sending a new poem to Elizabeth tonight. That's a good sign."

"There's a reading on Saturday that they're getting ready for."

"Even better. Dev's good when she's working. Plus, she wants to dye her hair again, so that's good. The green's been making me nauseous."

(ha, and you wondered why I made it such a weird color)

Any tips on finishing the second? Leave 'em below!!


DID YOU SEE IT YET? (and querying)

While many are getting ready to see Breaking Dawn (part one), there's another movie you may be psyched to check out this upcoming spring. And now you can see more of it than you ever have before.

The trailer for THE HUNGER GAMES is out. And we have it for you. Right here.

They're all I think about lately. They're all I talk about. All the sites I link you to have to do with QUERYING.

While there's plenty out there telling us how to formulate those important paragraphs sharing our hook, characters, stakes, plot points, etc,.... what do we do with those "other" paragraphs? The ones that go before/after the paragraphs we sweat, bleed and cry over?

The personalization, novel info and bio paras? Hmmmm?

You don't want to make them too long. You don't want to add any irrelevant information. You shouldn't personalize it just for the sake of personalizing it. Meaning: don't just type out meaningless crap that you took only seconds to research. Take it from (click link) Mary Kole,  "Just like with citing comparative titles, if you’re not going to do it well, don’t do it at all."

You don't want to comp titles/authors that are too well known.  You don't want to use books published too long ago.

You don't want to include information about yourself that doesn't pertain to your novel, yet you want to give the agent a sense of who you are.

Many times there is a lot of conflicting advice floating around on agency websites, in agent interviews and on agent blogs, and in feedback from various agents.

What's a writer to do?

I think for us newbies, the best bet is to keep it short and simple.

DO personalize.  BE specific.  Tell the agent about a specific conference you attended with them and quote them.  Tell them something they said that you connected with or felt was brilliant.  Mention a specific blog post they wrote and how it helped you.  Mention something they said in a specific interview.  How did that comment/information lead you to believe you and the agent would be a perfect fit?

DO share  about your education/studies in one sentence.  DO share any published work you have, but INCLUDE the publisher, the date, the specific information.

DO state your novel's title, word count, genre, and intended audience.

DO comp your novel to others IF you can be specific.  Does your novel match another author's voice? (Make sure it shows if you've included pages.) Does your MC have the same spunk as so and so's MC?  Is there a conflict in your novel that matches the conflict in a published novel?  Does the romanctic tension in your novel mirror that of a published novel?  Does your world-building compare to another author's fantasy world?

HOWEVER.  If comparing your novel to others out there, make sure your query shows how it will stand out next to all the novels already out there that have similarities.  Otherwise, you know, it's like...yeah, been there, done that.  Already published!

What's your advice to me on how to handle the beginning and end of my  query?  Where do you tend to put the novel information, at the beginning or the end?  Why?


Got Football?

It's been a pretty darn good year for Wisconsin sports. Although I won't lie, the fact that the Cardinals took the World Series is killing me stings a bit. BUT the Packers are right back where they finished last season - winning games and taking names. What are you doing tonight? How about a little football???

There are so many great plays in this, but I LOVE Clay Matthews at about 1:33

But who can watch football without snacks? And since we're watching Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, there HAS to be cheese involved. (I recommend deep fried cheese curds whenever you can get them, but since I've never made them, let's go with this) (then again, yesterday at a salad bar, I topped a piece of french bread with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits, so obviously I'm not picky about my snacks) Enjoy!

Super Easy Quesadillas
4 soft-shell tortillas (either spray with cooking spray or brushed with melted butter)
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or a cheddar/jack mix or for the adventurous, pepper jack
jalapeno slices (optional)
1/2 cup shredded chicken or smoked turkey (optional but highly recommended)

Place 2 tortillas side-by-side on cookie sheet. Top each with remaining ingredients and put another tortilla on top of each. Broil in oven, 5-6 inches from the heat for 3 minutes per side until golden brown and nice and cheesy. (I think you could also bake at 350 for 15 minutes, but haven't tried it) Provide salsa and sour cream for dipping.

OH and I can't forget - if you need Christmas presents for people you love, give cheese. Yes, cheese. Christy's inlaws can totally hook you up. Go here and try not to drool: Springside Cheese


I am Not Normal

I spent the past five days in Vegas. Okay, 2 days in airports/airplanes and approximately the past 4.12 days in Vegas. Whatever.

I found out there that I am not normal.


I like to gamble (okay, that's not weird there). High stakes (you know, two dollars at a time). Without my husband. By myself. Alone.

Want to know what one guy said to me at the poker table after several hands that I won? If not, stop reading now. ;)  'Cuz I was kinda' proud.

Him: "Oh, you know how to speak?"
Me: "Why?"
Him: "You walked in here like you owned the place. Nice to know you can talk."

Thank you, writer friends. You helped me win at poker. Because, yeah, I can talk. But sometimes it's better to let the voices tell you things you never knew before...

Now forgive me. I played Texas Hold-Em for many, many hours this week. Including until 4:30 Tuesday morning, which left me with 3 hours of sleep before our flight back.

I'm sure my teaching skills were spot-on today. Yep. I'm sure.

Converse amongst yourselves. I'm taking a nap.



You're all always so helpful to us.  You give us advice.  You visit us.  You say nice things.  We <3 you completely.

Here are some FREE links to help you with all many some of your writing wants needs.  We do what we can to keep you coming around. 

Sorry. Did you think we were giving away free books?  Maybe soon.  Maybe sooooon.

Check out this post @ BookEnds, LLC:  SUBMISSIONS 101

Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire has done one for you:  THE SATURDAY SLASH

Cassandra Clare links to some helpful information on writing, creating characters, building fantasy worlds, plot, dialogue, and getting published.  GO HERE.

From a helpful agent/author chat @ Mother.  Write.  (Repeat).  HERE.
Here's a teaser. I found this advice particularly helpful:  "That said, once you’re ready, I recommend drafting a concise query that doesn’t summarize the plot in step-by-step fashion but instead moves us through your story’s major movements and gives us a sense for how your characters arc. It’s so important, I think, to highlight in a query an emotional throughline for your story or protagonist--really, I don’t see enough queries that do. It’s the emotional arc (that runs alongside your story arc) that hooks me in a query, and which makes me want to read the book."--Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary


Do you like to give advice?

Last spring erica and I met at a writing conference in Madison, WI.  While we were there, we pitched our completed novels to several agents, each of whom requested pages.  So far, none have panned out in offers of rep, although erica recently recieved a full request from one.  :0) 

One of the agents who was supposed to attend the conference had been unable to due to an illness or family emergency.  Later, she was still unable to take our pitches via email, so the writer's institute had another agent take the email pitches in her place.

I'd forgotten all about those submissions until yesterday when the agent emailed me. She said she appreciated my pitch and my patience.  She ended the short email message by saying she'd love to take a look at the first 50 pages of my manuscript. 

I'm sure she's taking the pages to be polite, so it'll make it easier for me not to send them.  (Keep in mind she does not (according to her agency's site) represent YA...which is what all of my manuscripts are.  And I was clear about that in my pitch and brief description that I sent her.) However, I need some advice. 

The reason I'm not sending the pages is because since pitching that particular novel  (You may remember the one--Solstice.), I put it in a drawer--where it belongs.  This past summer (after spending a year or so writing, rewriting and rewriting it again), I decided that since it was my very first novel ever, it just wasn't going to be good enough, marketable enough, publishable enough.  Plus, after my final rewriting, I left it with about three plot holes, and when I decided to put it in the drawer, I just left those plot holes laying there (lying there?) without filling them in.


I have since decided to make it (Solstice--(no longer the title btw)) a family saga.  Only now I've begun my newest manuscript two generations before the "Solstice generation" (with the "backstory" of Solstice).  What was Solstice will be a brand new  ms (with the same general characters and plot) and will take place 60 some years in the future--the book after the one I'm currently writing.  (You know, if all goes well with this one.)  Anyways, I'm only 30 pages into my WIP (entitled HIDDEN CHARMS). 

Do I tell the agent all of this?  (You know, it'd be a shame to put to waste the chance to put 50 pages of my writing in an agent's hands....)  (There's always the spin that she may be reading it in case another agent at her agency would like it.  There are several who rep YA at her agency.)

I could offer to send 50 pages of my YA Contemporary that I'm about to query now.

Or should I simply tell her I apprecieate her response, but that I I decided to table that novel to work on another one?

I'd love to know what you advise I do.


While I'm laying all my tales out there for you.  Last week, Suzie Towsend held a query contest.  She agreed to respond to queries (if sent between 9 and 10 on Tuesday morning) via email with her honest thoughts.  I'll admit, I'd hoped for more of a critique of FIXING SHELBY's query than anything else.  I hadn't really looked at it like I was submitting it to her as much as I just wanted to get an agent's view of my query.  Dumb of me, I know.  Obviously I should have considered it a submission.  I mean, I personlized it for her and everything, but I wanted to know what she thought of the writing in the query, the hook, the paragraphs, the layout, the information, etc.  Instead, I got this:

So the news. I'm going to pass on FIXING SHELBY.

The main reason--contemporary YA is a really tough market right now. There have been a lot of them and books that are paranormal are selling better. Nothing about this one seems to say that it would stand out in an overcrowded genre.

Good luck with your submissions.

So that leaves me wondering if I need to change my query, my novel, or both. And, well, take that confession and do with it whatever you want. I'll think on it for a while. But you should know, I really, really hate query writing!


(I miss erica who's still in Vegas.  And now my husband has joined her there.  So I miss him too.  Well, he hasn't joined her there, but he is also in Vegas, for work.  For the whole week.  Just me.  8 months pregnant.  Me and two little boys.  And a dog who takes trips around the neighborhood every time I let him out. (Naughty, naughty boy.)  So, what I'm asking for is this:  Wish me luck!)


Where will you be tonight?

Vegas, baby. That's all I have to say. Well, that and a few more things. Because I'm erica and I talk a lot.

Las Vegas. Friday through Tuesday. Poker tournaments (Texas Hold'Em.) I'm good at them, so if you're at Binion's at 11:00 PST on Saturday, I'm the tall brunette who talks a lot.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Except this: WTH Las Vegas? 80 degrees on Tuesday and 55 on Friday? No fair. I could stay in Wisconsin if I wanted 50-degree weather.

But yeah, I won't. Have a great weekend, folks! See ya' next week!


why i should listen when erica speaks

erica told me that there's something for everyone in baseball.

i should have listened!

and i should have watched the world series!!!!  because then i wouldn't have missed one of my faves (See below).

(well, technically, now i didn't miss him because i obviously found the footage online.  and not only did i get to watch it, but i'm sharing it with you luckies!)

here he is for you.  chris daughtry.  (yes, he's his own sentence.)

and if that didn't do it for you...


Twitterview with Sarah Darer Littman, author of Want To Go Private? a contemporary novel for young adults that was published this past August.  (P.S. There's a giveaway at the end!  Win a signed copy of her book!)

Cheryl Reif Writes:  How to Write When You Aren't In The Mood (especially for those of you with a daily word count goal!!!)

Nathan Bransford's How to Start Writing a Novel (My fave part of this post are his links to:  How to Make Sure You Have a Plot and What Makes a Good Voice)

Did you know?  Suzie Townsend moved!  Here she is at her new home--Nancy Coffey Lit Agency (oh, and she's accepting queries again!)

Checking out Maureen Johnson's Web site and titles since a new agent mentioned(in an interview) her books when stating she is looking for sweet contemporary ya projects.  I can always add more contemp ya to my TBR list!!!! 

OH!  And here's the above mentioned interview (@motherwriterepeat) and agent:  Hannah Bowman with Liza Dawson Associates! 

The Sharp Angle:  Starting a Trek Up a New Mountain (advice on starting a brand new novel).  This blog is worth a look, not only for this post but all before it and after it!)

have a great thursday!  (personally, i'm looking fwd to friday.  i have parent/teacher conferences again tonight.  i'm used to putting in a five hour day, but today is over 12.  blech.)

(who am i kidding?  i just want it to be saturday.  that's writing day, right?)