Stuff Moms Know Nothing About

My (erica's) son turned 11 last week. And he - he of Ireaddeathlyhallowswheniwas8 fame - is deleriously happy reading books about cats. CATS!!


There is apparently an entire serious about cats that is - and yes, I quote - "so awesome." My friend who is a grade 4-6 librarian concurs with that assessment.

So, here's my "duh, I'm an aspiring middle grade author and I never heard of this series" moment:

Into the Wild (Warriors, Book 1) 

The first book is free on your Kindle. And once your 11-year-old falls in love, each subsequent book is $5.99. Did I mention there's like 33 books in the series? Marketing genius, I tell you!!

Anyway, I am so glad my son found another series he loves. He's on book 5 and can't stop raving. If you love Middle Grade, don't be scared by the crazy-looking fox/cat/like creature on the front and get it. Also, find out if your library carries it in order to save hundreds of dollars. :)

Congratulations Erin Hunter on developing a series of books about cats to appeal to a kid who has never owned a cat nor ever (even as a toddler) liked TV shows or movies about anything other than humans. A kid who reads at a way-above-age level who has a hard time finding books his teacher approves of him reading. A kid who has read the entire Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series(es) and never thought he'd find another.

Thank you, Erin Hunter. For giving my kid a love of reading (again). Also, for giving my husband second thoughts when he heard our 11-year-old was reading a book about cats and said "They better be ninja cats" and Zach said "Yep. Pretty much." :)

Have you read them? Any other great series recommendations? (any genre)


question for you

This post will showcase how little I know about publishing.  Maybe you know more and can answer my questions.

Why, when two books are in the same genre and incorporate the same components:   strong mc, two conflicting love interests, good writing, twists and turns, world building, etc does one gain more attention, higher revenue, more publicity and even movie rights when the other doesn't?

Is it the agent?  The publishing house?  Some tiny writerly thing that I'm overlooking during my comparison?


i'll confess already!

i have so many things to say to you that i can't say anything at all.
how's that for a lack of blogging excuse?

i store up blog posts, draft them when i'm  nowhere near my computer, and as soon as my fingers are in place to type--nada.  blank screen, blank mind.

except tonight i have so many things to blog about that i can't decide which to go with.  many topics are unrelated and would end up confusing you.  best to save those for separate posts.  *makes mental note to make notes for self.*

i'll stick with the many topics that are loosely related....

queries, conflicts, revisions, and confessions

as you all know, i've been struggling with my query. 

well, i think i've got it pretty much nailed.  finally, right?!!! except for the fact that it still pretty much sucks.  how does that make sense?  well, the query has what it needs:  the proper three-paragraph structure (Introduction, Conflict, Consequence).  what it doesn't have is a strong enough story to represent.

yeah, that's a hard one to swallow.
(hard truth:  sometimes it's not the query's fault for getting the writer rejections.)

especially since i have a full out with an agent i'd love love love to represent me.  will she decide she loves my premise and mc enough to give me a revise and resubmit?  who knows. i pray she will, but i'm sure she receives many that don't need it, so she may not bother.  i'd love the chance.  in fact, i plan to save my manuscript in another document and begin revising anyway.

here's why.

i've been going at my query like crazy.  it got me two full requests and an honorable mention in a contest.  i have 50 pages out with another agent (not based on my query). and a pile of form rejections (18, plus 2 no responses).  i've sent out 30 queries (still waiting on 7).  you can decide if that's a ton or not.  also, every three form rejections, i changed my query.  probably a huge no no.  (especially since we now know it may not be the query's fault.)  (you should also know that if i firmly believed in my query, i wouldn't mess with it.  it's not just the form rejections that drive me to rework it.  i knew it wasn't right, until now.)

however, i've also submitted to agencies who request 5,10, or even 20 pages with the query.  that's not just a query problem.  it's a pages problem.  a story problem.

or, you know...i haven't found the "right" agent yet.  i know. i know.  (i wish that were the case here.)

but deep down, i do know.  there's a problem with the way i write conflict.

because i don't.
write conflict.

i scare away from adding conflict.

this is my confession.  to myself.  and to you.

i'm way too easy on my characters.

and who likes to read about happy characters? 


my husband doesn't read.  (expect for internet news articles...sports stuff)  so what i mean is my husband doesn't read fiction.  yet he's awesome at reading my queries, my pages and nailing the problems.

so in my query i added the specific issue my mc had, the one that set off the whole novel (otherwise known as the inciting incident) and he laughed. 

he laughed at it.  at my mc's problem.

it shouldn't be a funny matter.

he said, "that's what she did?"  (see?  i'm even too embarrassed here to tell you the specifics.) 

"christy," he said, "there's no story in this.  nobody will want to read this.  kids are reading stories about way worse things. this is too innocent."  i said, "but i am innocent.  i would have read this."  he shook his head. 

and he's right.  he said i needed to really embarrass her.  make the event more catastrophic, something that would piss her off and really start a friendship war.

is rewriting fun?  no.  but being imaginative and creative is.  or should be.  i just need to let myself go a little.

it's all i've been thinking about in starting my "shiny new idea".  looks like my old one needs a bit of it too.

*cracks knuckles*  off i go to shine up an old idea and make the story more exciting!

channelling meanness.  what if?  what if?  what if?  must. complete. writing. exercises. 

(i know it's not the best to share query stats via the blog, but i did.  because it's on my mind, and the point of this blog is to help other writers, get help from other writers and be a support system.  and if ever i needed support, it's now.  so i'm laying it all out there in the open.  some of you do.  and i appreciate it.)


Serious business

Remember our blog? The one where we try to post everyday?? (note the use of the word try...) It's being used for good today, folks. (and, well, of course it didn't go as scheduled and now it's 12 hours later and I'm manually posting it. darn it, blogger, why do you do this to us?)
I (erica) have this really good author friend. One I know for sure is legit. And she has this other good author friend - one she knows for sure is legit. He's hurting because his son is very, very sick. One moment - stellar college student. Next moment - so sick no one is sure he'll live. Read Joshua's story here.

Go here to help. Give what you can and get something back (even if it's karma. Karma's good when you do something like this.)

We'll see you soon friends. Take care!


All In

Those of you who have been here know I (erica) post random crap about my life play Texas Hold 'Em poker. The league that we play in has a few "championship" rounds per year that win you seats in big tournaments in either Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Last year, I won one of them - and went to Las Vegas and won some money in. Last week, I came in 2nd in another (bridesmaid, blech). Tonight, I'm at it again.

I'm currently ranked 5th in the state. Which means nothing because this is only one league and there are tons of people who play whom I've never even met. But still. 5th in the state sounds impressive (if meaningless), so I'm spouting off about it. (please ignore the fact that my husband is 4th. I know I do.)

Where were we? Okay, poker. There are some basic rules you need to know to play. The rest is betting and knowing who you're playing against and tells. Tells=shaking hands and eyes that go all weird (roughly).

Best starting hand possible

Worst starting hand possible

The best hand usually wins. But sometimes, the worst one does. Sound familiar?? Good luck to us all!!

AND - it's my son Zach's birthday today. He's 11!!!! (aka how did I get so old??)


thank goodness for treadmills and iPods

(While you read this, you should know that I'm back at work.  It's my first day back since going on maternity leave.  I'm okay.  I'm okay.  I'm okay.  It's only for the morning.  Part of me is glad to get back to a schedule. Part of me is scared to go back to a classroom with a student who recently tried to smack my sub and had to be sent home.  I'm more nervous than the night before the first day of school.  Plus, I had an amazing sub, so I have some big shoes to fill in taking my classroom back.  Luck and prayers.  I need 'em both!)


Whew.  I started running again.  It's going to help me lose twenty pounds of stubborn baby weight.  It's also already helped me with my WIP (if I can call it that since it's nowhere). 

Last week I posted that in order to feel inspiration for a project I need to know my characters.  Well, while on the treadmill during my first real run (I could lift my thighs without pain.  I didn't feel like a bag of rocks was tied around my stomach.) the music I listened to gave me two characters and the situations they'll be in in the novel.  With that, I also felt my protagonist, how she will feel about and react to these characters and situations.


This character masks his fear with arrogance.  He's lived life keeping everyone at a distance.  He has a great capacity to love, but his emotions and actions are so warped with a lifetime of anger and bitterness and hopelessness.  He's the one person my protagonist can count on when everything in life is about to be lost.  In trusting him, in going to him, she loses the next character that I got to know while running.

This character has been a part of my protagonist's life for a long time.  He's reliable, he's loving, but he can't do for the protagonist what the other character can.  He can't even begin to fathom why he's not enough, and my protagonist is not allowed to explain.  They are torn apart, but it's for the good of many.  He may never understand.
So right now I'm up to two miles.  Ha!  Today I have a four miler scheduled in.  I signed up for a half marathon in May.  So, I need to run 10 in April.  I'll be keeping you posted on my goals.  And I'll be begging for support and some pushing!

The more I run, the more I'll write.  I know it!


It's Saturday Already?? Yay!!!

Stupid week. Oh well, all's well that doesn't end in a lost eye, right? shut up, that's a saying. er

Moving on. . . you know how me and christy actually admit to enjoying the Twilight series? Well, we still do. And yes, we both saw Breaking Dawn. And double yes, we laughed at this parody. It's both delightfully witty and extremely disturbing. Do yourself a favor and break out a glass of wine or two (if you're not 21, it's okay. you still have that great sense of humor the rest of us need wine to break out!) (or maybe that's just me this week).

Wishing us all a very happy next week. Please???!!!!!!!


what makes your writing heart go wild?

happy valentine's day to you all!

my writing heart has been a little weak since finishing FIXING SHELBY.

lately my writing time has consisted of the following:
  • checking emails for agent responses
  • checking twitter
  • checking emails for agent responses
  • emailing erica
  • rewriting my query
  • refreshing inbox...again (do i need to repeat why?)
  • reading blog posts (not commenting often because frequently i'm one-handed-one arm is full of baby--he's beautiful and sweet and lovable and amazing btw!)
  • writing the next chapter in TTM (erica and christy's novel)
  • opening up one WIP after another, rereading what's already been typed, refreshing inbox....(uh huh)
  • ???  staring blankly at the wall
  • reading CP's manuscript (not critiquing as much as i should be--one-handed again)
  • critiquing at QT (much less frequently than two months ago)
  • rewriting my query
so as you can see, other than TTM, not much is getting accomplished. bah.


my writing heart flatlined.

at first i thought it was because i was in revision/critiquer mode and having a hard time getting back into writer mode.

that wasn't it.

then i thought it was rejection anxiety.


i finally know what is causing the freeze on my fingertips!!!

it's not for lack of ideas.  i have plots all set and ready to be written.  so--why couldn't i open up my documents and get going?  was it because i couldn't decide which project i wanted to do more? 

unh unh.

the REAL problem was lack of character understanding. 

rewind a year.  this is exactly why i had to table SOLSTICE (novel #1).  i still think it's a great story idea.  the reason it didn't work was because i didn't have a strong connection to my protagonist.  i didn't know her well enough. 

the reason i wrote FIXING SHELBY rather quickly was because the story was based on her character.  i felt her, knew her.  the feeling i conjured up when i wrote was her voice, not just excitement for the events in the story. 

the two projects i've been going back and forth between could be great, but i just don't know those characters well enough yet.

so tonight, i remembered a project i thought up a long while ago.  immediately, i felt that character. 
ding ding ding ding.  i found a winning project!

what makes your writing heart go pitter patter and skip a beat?

what motivates you more?  characters or events?


Blurb. Oh, excuse me.

I (erica) wrote a broken book. Well, I wrote over half a book, but it had too many characters and too many storylines and was going in the wrong direction...so I rewrote most of it taking out some characters and some storylines...and then it was boring, so I rewrote some of it again and put in a new character and a new storyline and I like it, but it's still missing something. Like I took my characters and made them into something they aren't.

Like I said, it's broken.

christy is trying to convince me to write a "blurb" for it. You know, a few sentences setting up the who, what, where, when, and how of the story. Not exactly a query, more like a quick commercial. To help me envision how this is going to go.

So - do you blurb your book to get direction? What's your process for doing it? When I write a query for a COMPLETE ms, I have trouble boiling it all down. For a broken book (but one I really, really, really want to finish because it will be total awesomeness), I don't know where to start (to, you know, help it end). HELP!!

christy wrote a blurb for our co-writing project in about 5 minutes. I need her brain...other than that, I definitely need your help! Any ideas for pushing along a broken project are welcome here!

oh, and I thought about including a cute picture of a baby animal burping to illustrate my title of the blog, but there weren't many to be found and I can't sit around looking at pictures of cute baby animals all day. So you get this one, which made me laugh and has absolutely nothing else to do with this blog post:



Nicki Elson, author of  the romantic and humorous novel THREE DAVES (a book that takes place in the 80s!), is hosting a fab blogfest today!  Check out all the entries by clicking HERE to go to her blog where you will find all the other participants.

erica and I were on the young side in the 80s, but you're never too young to have a crush, right?  here are three guys that came to mind when I thought of crush-worthy movie stars from my youth.

at one point, in elementary school, i think, i watched the monkees and had a crush on this one:
 davy jones

laugh all you want....

later in the 80s, like the very last year, i had a crush on these two.  (was i supposed to pick just one?)

  andrew mccarthy

i loved weekend at bernie's

Still of Robert Downey Jr. in Chances Are robert downey jr (who i still love, by the way)

one of my favorite movies (the movie my wedding song came from) 
chances are

who was your 80s crush?


trick question and some teasers

In reference to erica's post from Tuesday, (the one she gave away the secret that we're writing a novel together in) I'm curious what you thought about the lines she shared.  Do you think the voice is consistent?

I ask because syncing our voices to make our character consistent would be the most challenging part of cowriting a novel, right?

Who says we're writing the same character, hmmm?

Yes, cowriting is so much fun.  Especially when each chapter reveals more about each of our characters...to each other.  erica was especially pleased when she learned her character's best friend's name was Goon and that her character liked to stay up late writing comic books.  In the last chapter she sent me...she got me back.  I learned that my character practiced kissing at a young age--with her mom's make up on and using a mirror....  Funny girl, that erica.

Here are a few more teasers.

Then the phone in my hand dinged. Okay, maybe it beeped, or clicked, or vibrated, or played the entire National Anthem. That's not the important part.

My voice echoed around the library. No crabby librarians here to tell me to shush, that was for sure.

Now I was ticked at two people and I just wanted to stop thinking about them both for a little while.

I had everywhere to go.  But all I could do was sit there with my head against the steering wheel.


Aside from passing the manuscript back and forth, I'm still struggling, sweating and crying over my query.  I've had some luck with two versions of it, but it's still not good enough.  The people over at QueryTracker have been so so patient with me. 

I've known for a long time that I'm supposed to start my query with a hook, but that H word has never sat well with me.  I never fully understood what it meant.  I guess I still don't.  BUT I think I finally understand how one is supposed to start a query.  I said I understand how ONE is SUPPOSED to start A query.  NOT that I understand how to start MY query. 

One really SHOULD start with a summarizing logline that tells the agent about the character and the conflict.  THEN follow with the details about that character and conflict...ending with the stakes. 

My problem is knowing my MAIN conflict.  CONFLICT.  CONFLICT.  (so important that it's worth repeating, in shouting print) There is one angel on query tracker who's never read my book and yet was able to HIT ME IN THE HEAD with my main conflict.  I KNEW what it was.  Really, deep down I KNEW. 

My novel is a contemporary one.  There aren't any ghosts or flesh-eating zombies or catastrophic fires or world-ending wars or governments trying to kill my characters.  Just a girl with some mean friends, a couple of cute guys who tug on her heart strings, a boss with the early onset of dimentia, and a few family issues. 

My character starts out almost annoyingly weak--a doormat.  So her biggest problem is herself.  HERSELF!!!!  And that's who she has to deal with throughout the book and overcome in the end.  HERSELF!


And that information may or may not make the next (final?) draft of my query go a little better.

oh, and i liked THIS POST by gabriella lessa.  she offers a helpful Query Wednesday post.  to learn more about improving your query letter, go read it!


The Truth's Out

christy has hinted. I'm here to broadcast the truth.

erica and christy are co-writing a book. does it mean erica and christy are co-writing a book that will go on to get an agent, be published, have wonderous reviews, be made into a movie with the next big stars in it, and earn them millions upon millions of dollars?

yes, yes it does.

Okay, fine. I miiiiiightttt exaggerate a bit.Okay, a lot. BUT - we are sending each other chapters and finding it to be a fun way to learn a new voice, a new style of writing, and how to work under a deadline. (trust me, christy seems all nice, but when she wants you to send her the next chapter - WATCH OUT!)

Anyway, want some teasers? You know you do. Here you go (given in totally random order with no explanation other than last week's fun 'cross between The Lake House and Labyrinth clue!) (and no, you don't get to know who wrote what. but yes, guess in the comments!) (also, these are completely unedited, fyi):

She didn’t have a lot of functioning brain cells, but she definitely had nerve.

I could barely simmer down enough to go home.

By then, it's back to normal. New normal. 

I also had no idea why he was wearing a miner light.

If I ever got around to writing the comic book of this particular part of my life, I'd never admit I ended up here in a t-shirt and a towel.

I screamed and shouted, “Make it stop!”

I walked toward the next house, hoping for some sketching pencils, shorts that fit, and a jar of peanut butter.

This was no time to dwell on his intentionally messy-looking handsomeness.


Thanks for visiting, friends! Happy February!


Here's why.

Here's why I love reading the following:

Product DetailsCassandra Clare.  I love her  description of the setting and the metaphors she uses.

Product DetailsJandy Nelson.  I love her poetic writing.  I love it.  Did you hear that this may be/will be made into a movie?  Did you?

Product Details epic fail by Claire LaZebnik.  I loved her mc's humor.  Great voice. 

Product DetailsMaggie Stiefvater.  I love her writing, all of it., every time she strings words together into sentences.  That's the part I love.

Product DetailsStephanie Perkins.  She can do a love triangle like no other.

Product DetailsTahereh Mafi.  I love her uniqueness.  In this book.  Also.  While following her down the street on twitter.  And while reading and rereading her humorous blog posts for the past two years.  Hers was the very first blog I ever followed after becoming a writer and discovering blogs.

Here's why this is important.

 I need to know what I love about these books, and these authors, because then I can try, try, try to incorporate those phenomenal writerly characteristics into my writing.  Metaphors, poetry, beauty, description, settings, humor, flair, uniqueness, voice, personality.  If I can bring it all together while telling my characters' stories, then I will love writing, and eventually, I'll find readers who will hang on my words and remember them.  Remember them until another one of my books comes out.  That's when they'll rush out to get more, more, more.  Someday.  It will happen.

For now, I'm hanging on words.

But I'll keep scribbling my own and tapping them out on my keyboard.  Until I get it right.



When Life Sucks the Life Out of You

This is how I feel lately. Dried up. Beyond my usefulness. Withered.

I'm a teacher and I'm not here to complain about my job. That wouldn't be either useful or professional. But, well, yeah, I'm withered right now. There's been misinformation and misinterpretation and a whole lot of crud that I've had to work through.

My actual job of teaching makes me happy. My students and learning and blossoming and making me smile and laugh and feel proud every minute of every day I am with them.

Some of the other stuff? If I really took the time to sit down and think about it, I'd never set foot in a school again.

But I'm not taking that time. I refuse to let it destroy my life and my career (which has always been a huge part of my life - I've wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten). I need to shrug it off and know what I'm doing is meaningful and know that I have made a difference. It isn't easy to do. I've been sharing my story with a coworker and she confided in me today that when I tell her the things that are going on (sorry to be so vague, but I have to be), I physically make her tired.

I feel withered.

Writing is my nourishment, my water, my food, my way to find happiness. My job (which, let me remind you, I love WHILE I'M ABLE TO DO IT) makes me tired and dejected, so writing almost seems a chore at times lately. Querying? Don't get me started.

It's those times I need to remember that no matter what, I am worth it. I make a difference every day. My family loves me. Kids look up to me. I have friends I know I can count on that can also count on me. If I keep writing and working and perservering, I can do this thing. I can.

Feeling withered? We're in this together. Writers are some of the most supportive people I've ever met. We share our successes and support our. . . well, dejections.

So, my success for today? A day I really just wanted to be over? A little boy in my class, who doesn't speak much English, touched my face and said "I love you Etika." (I'm pretty sure he meant Erica). *deep sigh* *happy*

What made you happy today?