Monday, November 30, 2009

What's In A Website?

Okay, so I've sort of become addicted to the whole playlist thing. (Remember that whole week of songs I did? Yeah.) I even put a playlist on my website last week for my YA dystopian novel, CONTROL ISSUES. I like adding new stuff to my website, and I've read a lot of marketing posts (thanks, Shelli. She has awesome posts from publishing industry pros, so you should be reading her blog every day. Just sayin'.) about updating your blog and website often.

So I've got the blogging thing down. I don't really know how to update my website though. They seem more like static creatures. What do you guys think? Do you have a website? Do you update it "regularly?" With what?

And since I've got an uber-cool guy helping me re-design mine, I have to tell him what to put on it. And, yeah, um, I'm drawing a blank. What should a website have as a bare minimum? What do you like to see on an author website?

Leave me some examples of ones you think are wicked amazing, if you're so inclined. I'm in learning-mode on websites right now.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving and Other Such Things

Wow, what a great week of mantra-ing. You guys are made of win. I'm so glad I know each of you!

I'm going to be unplugged next week. I even took Tuesday off from work. Here's why.

Today I'm recovering from a 2 AM showing of New Moon. (srsly) And yes, it's a "recovery."

I've scheduled some major hours in the Revision Batcave of Awesomeness.

I need to make five pies for my husband's sixth grade class. That's how we roll. I toldja you wanted to be in his class.

Then I'm going to stuff myself with chocolate cream pie at my critique group on Tuesday night (make that six pies that need to be made). And then turkey on Thursday.

But since it's Black Friday next week, I'm going to offer a sale on my ebook, From the Query to the Call. This ebook offers everything from how to write a query letter, how to research and submit to agents, query letter samples and then a guide for how to field "the call." It's an essential read for every aspiring author.

And you can get it this whole week for 25% off! It's regularly $9.95. This week? $7.46.

Click this button and enter the code: 25percentoff (all one word, no spaces, caps, etc.)

Add to Cart

And I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving. I know I have a lot to be grateful for.

Later gators!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pay It Forward

As I was chatting with a friend last weekend, she said "Pay it forward." I can't even remember what we were talking about (I'm sure it was uber-important), but I thought it fit in perfectly with the mantra posts I had planned for the week.

So I'm adding it as the fourth part of the mantra.
1. Work Hard
2. Don't Give Up
3. Finish Strong
4. Pay It Forward

Yeah, I saw the movie. Didn't think it was all that special. But the concept is. The idea that you should lend support and help to those around you, showing them what you've learned, teaching them what you know, is made of awesomeness.

It's something I've been trying to do with my critique buddies. The query letters I read for people. The writing advice I've been given from agents. What I've learned in books. All of it.

I'm trying to pay it forward, so the next person who comes along, has the benefit of knowing what I've spent the last two years learning.

What about you? Do you subscribe to this theory of paying it forward? Is it worthy to be the fourth part of the writing mantra?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Finish Strong

The last step of the mantra is thus: Finish Strong. (Thanks to Katie for adding it.)

Dude, I can't even begin to tell you how hard this step is. It's freaking hard. It's harder than not giving up. Than working hard.


Because it's hard to want to finish if you can't be first. Isn't that what we're always told? Second place is the first loser? Win or go home and all that? So yeah. When you immerse yourself in the writing community the way I have, and you see all your friends crossing the finish line with flags waving and crowds cheering and you've still got three laps to go...

Holy hard.

So I started reminding myself every day of this fact. I'd say this inside my own head, "It's finish strong. Not finish first. Just finish." Sometimes I'd say it fifty times. Or one hundred. Or whatever it took to keep the finish line in sight.

Because if you lose sight of that finish've fallen flat on your face in the quitters pile. And we've already determined not to give up.

So the mantra is thus:
Work Hard.
Don't Give Up.
Finish Strong.

In honor of all those who've helped me do just that, I've created this (rather lame) badge. I'm passing it on to them, and they can pass it on to anyone they want. Maybe someone who's helped them work hard, keep the faith and finish the race. Whatever that race is, writing or otherwise. (Yes, that's Michael Phelps. Talk about the epitome of the mantra.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Give Up

Okay, so step two on the mantra is: Don't Give Up.

This is crucial. Because, seriously, if you haven't already, you're going to feel like giving up. Sometimes several times a day. Or even several times an hour.

It's inevitable.

So what do you do when you feel like giving in? Sure, you're already working hard. You're reading blogs and practicing, critiquing and reading trade books. Yet, that voice that says, "You should just quit." seems so. Loud.

What I did: I found a safe place to say that. It could be your spouse. In an email to a dear friend. Your mom. Your crit group. Wherever.

But I believe that those feelings shouldn't be ignored or shushed. Say it. Say it out loud. (Holy vampires! Are you snarfing out loud? Cuz I am.) Say it, mean it, talk about it, but don't do it.

Don't give up.

And when you do, find that one person who can keep you going for just one more day. And then one more. And then one more...

So what do you do when you feel like giving up? (I close the lappy and turn on Pirates of the Caribbean. No, really. I do. I might make a batch of caramel popcorn and curl up under a blanket. It's my thing.)

Who do you turn to for help? Have you ever quit something and now you regret it? Does that keep you laboring down this long and winding publishing road?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Work Hard

Okay, so some writing buddies and I sort of have a mantra. Don't roll your eyes. Publishing is a hard biz. Lots of waiting. Lots of competition. Lots of ledge moments. Mantras are needed.

Anyway, step one: work hard.

You've gotta be willing to work hard if you wanna get anywhere in life. At least I think you do. And those two words are definitely true with writing.

When I sat down to write my first novel, I didn't pen a masterpiece. More like a finger painting. You know the kind you do in kindergarten? It was practice. Good practice.

The second was like a second-grade watercolor. Nice, but nothing special.

But the third. Yeah, the third had potential. Was it perfect? Heck, no.

It had potential.

I used to hate that word. Hate. It.

Let's define:
Potential: having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.

Yeah, my sixth-grade teachers used to say I had potential. If only I would apply myself. So I showed them. I applied myself. Graduated college with a 4.0. Ha! Take that, sixth-grade teachers!

Now I teach typing and let the littler kids play math games. I sure showed them, didn't I? *snarf*

Anyway, I'm way off track. The point is, just because you have the potential to do something, doesn't mean you will.

You have to work hard. Learn more. Get better. Read. Practice. And it all takes work. But you know what? All that hard work? Totally worth it.

What do you think? Have you ever worked really hard for something? Did you get it? How did it feel?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Budlight Presents... Real American Heroes

Budlight Presents...Real American Heroes (Real American Heroes)
Today we salute you, Mr. Fortune Cookie Fortune Writer. (Mr. Fortune Cookie Fortune Writer)

Most writers leave their wisdom in a book
You leave yours in a cookie (crunchy cookie)

Sure they taste good
But it's the information you provide that we're really hungry for (love is round the corner!)

Though your tablet is small
Your message never is (show me the way)

Of course the mushu pork and the egg foo young fill our bellies
It's your inspiration that keeps us well-nourished (yum, yum, yum, yum, egg foo young)

So crack open an ice cold Budlight, Mr. Fortune Cookie Fortune Writer
Because when you say our luck is about to change
We believe you. (We bee-ee-lieeve yoooooou.)

Okay, okay, so I've believed some fortunes at times. Dove dark wrappers, but who's keeping track of those? *wink* But I've always believed in myself. And I hope that you believe in yourself too. Read on...

Okay, so finding a literary agent is like dating, popping the question and agreeing to work together on something meaningful and worthwhile. Like publishing a book.

And I've found my better half. Shh, don't tell Mr. J. Well, he already knows. So shout away!

Because I'm now represented by Michelle Andelman of Lynn C. Franklin Associates!

Here's me signing the contract. Yes, I antiqued it. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Looked cool? Whatever.

And you can read more about Michelle here. Scroll down to the bottom. She's the literary agent that will be at the Oregon Coast Children's Book Writer's Workshop next July. It gives a good list of books she's worked on. My novel definitely fits on her list as "edgy, emotional Young Adult".

Can I get a "Woot! Woot!"?

And it's YOUR inspiration that's kept me well-nourished through this journey. So thanks to all of you, my favorite Fortune Cookie Fortune Writers.

And your fortune is: Your luck is about to change.... *big smiles*

Oh, and you wanna hear more Real Men of Genius? You know you do. Go here. I l-o-v-e the Mr. Really Bad Toupee Wearer one. Hilarious!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hey There De-LILA-h

Okay, so while I love this song, it does nothing for the writer inside. Sorry. But it is a catchy tune, and it has some cool lyrics about how this guy's gonna pay his bills with his guitar, which somehow could be skewed to writing... Yeah, I'm not feeling it either. Maybe because I'm writing this at 4:30 in the morning, and I'm tired. Or something.

Anyway, today, this song is dedicated to Lisa and Laura Roecker, who not only ROECK, but they apparently rule the universe too. Because they're giving away a Kindle. Enter here.

And here's some lyrics just for them. Sing along. They, uh, mostly work.

Hey there D'LILA
What's it like in Cleaveland, Ohio?
I'm a thousand miles away
But girls, tonight you look so...reli-a-ble
Yes you do
My forehead doesn't shine as bright as you
I swear it's true

Hey there D'LILA
Don't you worry about your edits
I'm right here if you get suicidal
Give this blog post another gander
Close your eyes
Well, don't do that, cuz then you can't see
That I'm by your side

Oh, it's how you bag on celebrities
That has me at your mercy
Oh, the hope tank is emp-tee-e
At least here for me-e-e
At least here for me.

Hey there D'LILA
I know Kate is gonna rock
So just believe me, girls
Someday she'll show up on the NY Times list
You'll have it good
You'll have the writing career you should
Your book's that good

Hey there D'LILA
There's not much left to say
You've got your book deal and an extra kindle
You'll take our breath away
With London's Call
Even more in love with you we'll fall
Don't drop the ball

Oh, it's how you can somehow see
That same talent in me
Oh, it's how you're now fancy
Oh, with Dan and Sourcebooks-y

And...I'm gonna stop there. I'm no song-writer. But, seriously! Go enter to win the kindle (I think I should get like, a million entries for the song. I mean, come on. Who else wrote a song??). And Lisa and Laura do Roeck. And I do like this song.

Random thoughts today? Should I stay in bed when I can't sleep? Yeah, I think so too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Have Been Changed, For Good

Yeah, I'm going totally musical on you today. Particularly from the musical Wicked. See I love Wicked. I like all the songs, but none as much as this one.

Today's song: For Good from the musical Wicked.

Lyrics that inspire:

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

I have many stories of people who have helped me in my life. Reminded me of who I am. Who I am not. Shown me that good exists inside of people. They have all touched my life, molding and forming me into the kind of person I am today.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, it could be applied in any number of ways to character development. But I think it has to do with the community of writers I've been lucky enough to "meet" and "know" online. We really are led to each other in remarkable ways. We help each other, lift each other up, change each other

And that's just kewl

Thus ends writing lessons from Wicked.

What do you think about your fellow writers? Aren't they WICKED awesome? Do you think you've been helped in your journey in some way by those around you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I Learned from the Hannah Montana Movie

Yeah, all right, I watched that movie. My girl kidlet loves to dance and she loves music. So we bought the movie OnDemand.

And you know what? It wasn't half-bad.

There's a song at the end, one that I've heard before. It made a small dent in my subconscious back then. But as I was watching the movie, it made a crater.

Today's song: The Climb by Miley Cyrus

The lyrics that changed my life (okay, that might be a tad overboard, you decide):

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

I don't think this needs further explanation.

What do you think of this? Totally inspirational, right? Now go write! It is NaNo after all. Just because I've fallen flat on my face doesn't mean you should.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Life Lessons From... Twisted Sister?

This week I'm going musical on you. I'm going to highlight a song and the specific lyrics that make me think about writing. And then, you know, apply them to writing, since that's what I do with everything.

Today: We're Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister.

That's right. These guys. Or whatever they are. (I especially like that one on the far left who's holding his stomach. What is he doing??)

Specifically this line: "If that's your best, your best won't do."

This sounds negative, but it's so not. It's inspirational to me when I sit down to write. I might write something and think, "Twisted Sister. Do it better."

And then I do.

I always listen to this song before crit group. It helps put me in the right mindset to take the slashing. Because I know they're trying to help me reach my best.

So thanks, Twisted Sister!

What do you think of this line? What lyrics inspire you?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Writing on the Edge

All right, so in keeping with my self-proclaimed title of world's biggest reality TV addict, I was watching Dancing With the Stars this past week. And Carrie Ann Inaba said something to one of the celebrities that set me thinking.

She said, "You always dance right on the edge. I never know which way it's gonna go." (Okay, that shouldn't be in quotes, because I'm pretty sure that's not word for word. But you get the gist.)

And I actually hit the pause button. (DVR, baby.)

Because it's the mantra for my life. I feel like I'm living on the edge in most of what I do. So I said something to my DH about it, and thankfully he confirmed my psychosis, er, theory. He said, "That's how people learn. You have to challenge them to the point that they're on the edge of their knowledge."

Thank you, Dr. J. (No, he's not a real doctor. I just like to pretend. He is a teacher, and he knows how people learn.)

So in my writing, I've decided to write on the edge. Right at the cusp of "Holy cow this is wicked amazing!" but in which I'm right on the edge of the precipice of "Oh, man, this is the world's biggest train wreck. - delete..."

And so I'm writing on the edge.

What do you think? Do you think you need to be pushed right up to the edge of your abilities to get better? Have you ever been pushed that far? Did you learn what you needed to?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Believe it or not, I have a real life. And there's some funny stuff that happens. People do interesting things. Weird things. Things I cannot comprehend. The list goes on and on.

One day I went to lunch (there's a shocker) with my husband and his former boss. Now that lady has some stories. And not the "ha ha!" kind. More like the, "You've got to be kidding me" kind.

So I said that.

And she replied, "I'm not kidding. You can't make this stuff up."

So I know you know where I'm going with this. Writer-Elana reared her ugly beautiful head and pondered that statement.

And she realized: Good fiction has roots in real life.

Sure, I write mostly speculative fiction, which includes fantastical elements and cool powers. But ultimately, I try to make my characters real. Experience real life in their own way, their own world. And I found that including aspects of people I know, stories I've heard, etc. is a great way to do that.

Because you can't make this stuff up.

What do you think? Do you include real life situations in your fiction writing? Have you noticed it being more authentic when you do?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Okay, before you go all "Whatev." and roll your eyes, it's different. This isn't the kind of consequences we talked about a while ago. More like a grand-scheme-of-things type of discussion. When sitting down to write a novel, there is an essential question all writers must ask. I think this question is often skipped over. Often unanswered. Often left out--both in the novel and the query letter.

It's the consequence.

And here's the question: What does the MC have to lose if they can't overcome Conflict A, B, or C?

Can you answer this question for your WiP? Can your readers? Is it addressed in your query letter? It should be.

Because everyone wants to pick up a book, read the back, and go, "Oooh, I have to read this RIGHT. NOW. to find out if/how super-awesome MC can overcome that nasty super-bad."

And that's why I'm floundering a little bit in my NaNo novel. I'm not exactly sure what my MC has to lose if he can't overcome the conflict. Maybe because I don't really have the conflict nailed down either...

But that's another post for another day. *wink*

Thoughts on the overarching consequence of your novel? What does your MC have to lose? Internally or externally?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Speed Blogging: Tips From a Blogaholic

Okay, so I posted on Facebook last week that I'd just read AND commented on 30 blogs. How long did it take? 30 minutes.

Scott provided the title of this post when he said, "Speed blogging!"

So I give you, Speed Blogging, Tips From A Blogoholic:

1. You need a blog list you can click from quickly. This is one of the many reasons why I created my Wicked Awesome Bloggers list. I go to that blog and viola! Every blog I care most about reading is there. In order of their last post.

2. Quickly click on every blog you wanna read. They'll open in a new window. This is good for you. Sometimes I have 40 windows open. This might freak some of you out. It's okay. Deep breaths.

3. And go! Read the post. Comment. Close window. Guess what? The next blog pops right up, where it was waiting in the background. No extra clicking. Read post. Comment. Close window. Rinse and repeat.

The end.

I can usually go through the morning's posts (up to 30-40 blogs) during my 35-minute lunch break. That includes heating up my lame leftovers and using the restroom.

I then do a nightly round of blog reading. This usually consists of making sure I go to the blogs of people who leave me comments, and anyone else who didn't post by 11:45 AM. I probably spend 60 minutes, TOPS, reading blogs. And I probably read and comment on 45 - 60 blogs every single day.

And that's it. Speed blogging. It's all in spending that 3 minutes to get the windows all open. Then it's click, read, comment. Done!

What tips do you have for reading a lot of blogs in a short amount of time? Lay it on me, I'm all about the speed blogging, baby.

Oh, and I just wanna say that I'm at 6800 words for NaNo. Hold the applause. Ha ha!

Monday, November 2, 2009

It Takes Practice

Okay, so my boy kidlet takes piano lessons. He's pretty good. But he's got this weird thing. When he sits down to play, he gets frustrated when it's not perfect the first time. When he has to go back and back (and back) and practice certain parts.

So the other day, I was in the kitchen while he was practicing. And he was frustrated and muttering to himself. (Don't know where he gets that!) And I said, "You practice to get it right. You can't expect to sit down and have it be perfect the first time."

He said, "I know."

And then I dropped the stupid pan I was washing because I'd just learned the gospel truth about writing.

You can't expect to sit down and have it be perfect the first time. It takes practice.

Then I went to my live crit group, and one of the girls talked about practicing. It was like a profound moment. Because it's so true. I've penned a lot of novels--I won't tell you how many because it's quite embarrassing.

Only 3 of them are worth working on. Perfecting. The others? Just practice.

And you know what? That's okay. THAT'S OKAY. Through practice, we get better.

What do you think? Do you have "practice" novels? Do you allow yourself to write, knowing it's just for practice?

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