Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When to Stop?

I pulled another disappearing act. Sorry about that, but I'm back and with a topic I really want to get everyone's opinion on.

Something we aspiring writers are all too familiar with is the query letter. The usual conversation about the query gears towards developing the letter, what information is needed and how to get your voice across in a few short paragraphs. What I'm curious about today is after you have crafted that perfect query letter. You most likely have made a list of all the agents you want to query, including your top agents.

You've sent out the letter, maybe, hopefully received a request or many, but still no luck. When do you stop? When do you come to the point where you think it is time to just stop querying all together and put your manuscript back on the shelf?

Do you just go with the flow? Or do you have a set number of queries you are willing to send out before you pull the plug?

In the past what has always happened with me is while I'm querying I'm writing a new manuscript to keep my mind off my inbox. So by the time I finish the new manuscript I'm so gung ho about it I decide to put the other one away and start getting the new one up to par. Now looking back I wonder if I stopped querying too soon.

So let's get a conversation started. When do you stop querying?

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Loves Blogfest!!!

Today is the First Loves Blogfest - Hosted by the awesome Alex J Cavanaugh.

On May 14, post your first loves – first movie, first song/band, first book, and first person. Four loves, one blogfest! 
I thought this was going to be easy, but then I stopped to think and really had to go way back.

The first movie I ever fell in love with was probably...Hmm...I can't remember.  Seriously I can't. When I was younger I watched whatever my brother watched because I wanted to be cool like him. So that consisted of Ghostbusters, Terminator 2 and Indiana Jones. So not my type of movies. The first movies I remember falling in love with and watching over and over again were Home Alone, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Dazed and Confused.

My first love when it comes to bands/songs are a weird variety to say the least.
Green Day, Ace of Base, Billy Joel and Boys to Men.

Green Day's Dookie was the first cassette tape I ever bought. Do you guys remember those? I played it in my red Walkman, yes a Walkman they came before Discmans, over and over and over again. Best album ever. My favorite songs were Basket Case and When I Come Around.

Boys to Men was the first CD I ever bought. I remember buying it at the WIZ, remember those, and accidentally grabbing the Spanish version and having to go back and return it. End of the Road and I'll Make Love to you by far my favorite songs.

I was obsessed with Billy Joel's River of Dreams and Ace of Base's, All That She Wants, Don't Turn Around and The Sign. My mom won the Ace of Base CD on the radio and I stole it from her and practiced my baton routines with it. lol.

First book. Hmm. This is hard because growing up I was never a reader. Shocker, right? But if I went way back, I'm talking kindergarten when I would take the maximum ten books at a time out of the library then that's easy. The Stupids, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Madeline, The Berenstain Bears, Amelia Bedelia and then when I moved on from those it was definitely R.L. Stine's Goosebumps and Fear Street books.

Now the first person I loved. Does that mean like my real first love or an actor who I thought I would randomly meet one day and he'd fall madly in love with me? Because hello I was so irresistible! If that's the case the first actor I ever loved was definitely Jonathon Taylor Thomas. To say I was obsessed would be putting it mildly.

 If it was my first real love that's no secret to those that know me. It was my first real boyfriend and my best friend's brother. I was fourteen he was fifteen and we dated for a year a month and a day. Something I'll never forget. My world came tumbling down around me when we broke up. Now I can't imagine having ever dated him. He's like a brother and that's eww weird! I went to his wedding two years ago. His wife is awesome!

And because I know you guys love pictures. Below is a pic from that wedding with "the gang".  It's one of my favorite pictures because it was the first time we were all in the same place together since we left high school. A few people are missing but it was as close as being back in school as we could get. I'm the one with the long, messy, dancing hair. And right next to me, my BFF who married her high school sweetheart who was a part of our group and is standing right behind her. They were also a first for me. They were the first group of friends that I ever had that made me realize friends are as close to family as you can get without the whole sharing a bloodline thing.

So there you go all of my first loves. What about you? What were your first loves?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Winners of the Dust It Off Bloghop!!!

Once again, thank you all so much for participating. It was far better than I imagined and let me tell you my expectations were high! You all are awesome and Cortney and I had such a tough decision. Honestly, you're all winners in my book. But this is a contest and there are prizes to give out so lets get to it.

Day 1 The Pitch:
Becky Once Upon A Time
My exact comment on her post was:  I feel like I was punched in the face reading those last words and I love it! That's exactly what a pitch is about, holding interest and then hitting with something that begs for more. I really can't wait to read your excerpt! Awesome job!

And I'm breaking my own rules and picking a second winner. Morgan Shamy! 
Becky you have your choice between Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson or Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and whichever one Becky does not choose is all yours Morgan!

Day 2: The Excerpt (Can I say again how hard of a decision this was. There is so much talent out there and I am rooting for every single one of you.)

And the winner is:
Laura Stranger than Writing

Laura, your excerpt was awesome. For those of you that might not have read it:

I heard her pain-staking scream as I locked the door, drowning it out as best as I could. The sound still rang in my ears thought, cutting through me worse than my own pain ever could. I had to face the fact that tomorrow would be the last time I saw Mikayla. There was no way she would stay with me when I had been the one to do this to her. She may forget the pain she would sustain tonight, the human mind had a way of blocking out such painful memories that was sophisticated and dangerous. But she wouldn’t forget waking up in a glorified concrete slab and she wouldn’t forget that I was the reason, that her pain was my entire fault.

I put my hand to the door, listening for as long as I could possibly handle it. Torturing myself. I cried silent tears as I made my way to my own cell. I wasn’t one for crying usually, but I couldn’t not when I knew she was in such pain. The thought of losing her was killing me, and I was sombre than night as I changed. My body was used to it, and though I couldn’t stop from transforming tonight it hurt nowhere near as much as Mikayla’s transformation would. My body was used to the change, skilled at it, and I knew her body would fight against it with all that it could.

And last but certainly not least. Day 3 The Lessons:

Elanor Lawrence!

Elanor, you had me at KISS, Keep it simple, stupid. Love it. Absolutely love it.

For Cortney's winners hop over to her blog!

Congrats to all the winners please email me at tmpmarkmajor@aol.com

I also just want to say how happy I am to hear that some of you are not going to put these WIP's back on the shelf. On behalf of everyone YAY!!!!!! That is exactly what I hoped for going into this hop. Please keep us all updated. (I'm especially talking to you Clare and Kyra!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh, Those HIgh School Dances Bloghop!

Since I totally forgot today was the Oh, Those High School Dances Bloghop and of course am participating I am going to postpone announcing the winners from the Dust It Off Bloghop. So much bloghopping fun! Thank you again to everyone who took part.

Now on to the coolest idea for a bloghop. Thanks Kelley and Emily for hosting! I cannot wait to hop around and look at all the pics and read all the stories. Okay so let's get started:

Here are the rules for participation:
1. Post pictures of your high school dances. (Make sure you tell us which one you are if they're group pictures.)
2. Share with us your funniest high school dance story.
3. That's it!

There are three categories to win prizes and Emily and I will both be picking a winner.

The three categories are:
1. Best Dressed
2. Funniest Dance Story
3. Cutest Couple

What can you win? A choice between a three chapter critique or whatever book you desire ($10 or less).

So dig through your photo albums and scan in your pictures. This is going to be a crazy fun blog hop!

The picture above is one of the funniest moment of my senior prom. I was eighteen  and my date, steady boyfriend, Eric was 22 he robbed the cradle as the saying goes. My mom insisted that we get our picture taken as well as individual pictures which she still has hanging in her living right by the front door. Eric who is usually unbelievably talkative became very quiet. Hmm. What's going on? We took our pictures as he stood there awkwardly uncomfortable. Once the pictures were over he told me the girl taking our picture was in his graduating class. He had graduated high school four years earlier and he was back at senior prom. He was happy to be with me, but mortified at the same time. Now I think it is hilarious! I can only imagine what was going through his head.

Later that night a slow song played over the speakers and he grabbed my hand and pulled me out onto the dance floor. I don't dance, at least not without a few drinks in me, but a slow dance with him I was more than willing. I wrapped my arms around his neck and we swayed to the music, he made fun of me for moving us into a slow turning circle, but like I said can't dance. Then the song ended and the most upbeat dance song blared out. The dance floor erupted, arms flying up, circles forming and there was me looking for my closest exit. I couldn't dance, still can't and there was no way I was going to give it a go at prom. While I looked for my exit route Eric grabbed my hands and was about to start dancing when I spotted a friend, yelled her name and abandoned him on the dance floor. Flat out left him in mid dance move. Two weeks later when I received my VHS tape, yes a VHS tape, of the prom I couldn't wait to put it in. The only appearance me and Eric made on the tape was when I abandoned him on the dance floor. The person recording happened to be standing right next to us at that exact moment and it is as clear as day. We celebrated our eleven year anniversary on Sunday and he still hasn't let me live that one down.

Now the fun part the pictures. I wish I remembered to grab the hundreds of pics I had at my parent's house. The ones I do have are scanned from a photo album so sorry if they are blurry.

 We went into Manhattan after prom and took a carriage ride around Central Park.

 We thought we were Charlie's Angels. We did this exact pose at Vanessa's (Right, black/white dress) wedding when she married her longtime boyfriend and date to the prom five years later.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dust It Off Bloghop Wrap Up.

I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who participated in the Dust It Off Bloghop. Cortney and I were both surprised by the amount of people who signed up as well as the mind blowing amount of manuscripts sitting, collecting dust that we think deserve all the respect in the world. The talent in this community is undeniable and I wish you all the best of luck. Never give up because I honestly can say each and everyone of you deserves the chance for your works to be read.

I am still working my way through Day 3's posts. Unfortunately I threw my back out and it's not liking my desk chair at the moment. So if I haven't stopped by, don't worry I'm on my way. However, if I did not comment on your Day 1 or Day 2 post PLEASE let me know. I don't want to miss a single post. Cortney and I will announce the winners on Wednesday. Thank you again. If you haven't already go hop around and see just how hard of a decision Cortney and I have.

And if you haven't already  go sign up for the next bloghop Oh, Those High School Dances! Bloghop hosted by the lovely Kelley and Emily R.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 3 of the Dust It Off Bloghop

Can you believe it's day 3 already? I can't. I waited so long for the hop to start I can't believe it's almost over. However, day 3 is the day I have been looking forward to most. The pitches and excerpts were fantastic, far beyond anything I would have imagined and I am so curious to know what lessons you all learned. So lets get it started.

Day 3: Post what you learned from this WIP. You become a stronger, more rounded writer with (I totally wrote which on the first post. Oops) each manuscript and we want to know what this particular work taught you.

I learned so much from Prove Me Wrong where to even start. I guess with the background. Prove Me Wrong was I'd like to say the second manuscript I finished, but technically that is not true. It is the fourth. The three prior were a series of books and my first attempts at writing a complete novel. I loved those books but I believe they were meant for me and me alone. Prove Me Wrong was the one or so I thought. I read more, researched more,  basically gave it all I had. After querying my first book I was determined to get on the shelves and I honestly believed this was the book that would get me there. And it might have, but the big but. I jumped the gun. I read it over myself had a few people read it and once I got their approval I started querying. They liked the story itself, but as we as writers know, there is so much more to a book than just the story. It was riddled with mistakes, mistakes that I was blind to.

I shelved it after the twentieth or so rejection, but took it back out when I met Kelley (my CP for those that don't know). She read it sent it back to me with corrections and comments and after reading through her critique I was embarrassed that I had already sent it out to agents. What was I thinking? I wasn't. Obviously. I jumped the gun. I was so happy to write the end I never stopped to think that it needed more work. Reading it over two times didn't qualify as revising. I did give it another go, but still no bites. It was hard. It helped me build a tough skin though. I was so certain agents would love the concept and be begging to read more and when I received form rejection after form rejection I slowly began building that tough skin, the one that all writers need to have in order to survive this world.

The thing I remember most about this manuscript is the day I watched my mom read it. At the time we worked for the same company and I had printed it out and gave it to her. It was a slow work day and she had already read the first half so I stood by as she read through the second half. I was driving her crazy as I lingered over her, analyzed every face she made and kept asking if she was done yet. And I will never forget when she finished.

She looked up at me, smiled and said "This is it. This is the one." My mom had read my other manuscripts and always found something wrong with them. There was always something she didn't like or she thought needed to be overhauled. Most people think your mom will sugar coat it and make you believe you are amazing. Not my mom. She is about as honest as they come. She wouldn't let me set myself up for disappointment. I was prepared for her to say good try but it's missing something. The characters seem like cardboard cutouts. There are plot holes that need to be worked out. Not this manuscript. My mom actually told me it was the one. So as the rejections continued to come in, it hurt yes, but it didn't hurt as bad because I learned that my mom believed in me. She didn't think I was chasing an impossible dream. She believed in my manuscript and most importantly she believed in me. Out of all the lessons I have learned over the years of writing and querying I think that one is the most important.

So to sum it all up. The three things Prove Me Wrong taught me are:
1) Don't jump the gun
2) The power of a great critique partner
3) My mom has faith in me as a writer and I'm not chasing an impossible dream.

What about you? What have you learned from shelved WIP's?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Day 2 Dust It Off Bloghop!!!

First off I want to thank everyone who is participating. I had so much fun hopping around and reading all of the pitches. They were all amazing. Cortney and I have our work cut out for us that's for sure. So without further delay let's jump right back into it.

It's day 2 of the bloghop so you know what that means. Time to post your favorite excerpt, 300-350 words, from your shelved WIP.  
Just to give you a little background on mine- Hailey has convinced everyone that her son is her brother and because her mom works nights she has to babysit. This particular scene she cancelled on her friend Roxy, who despises Luke for reasons still unknown, because she's "babysitting" but Luke shows up to her house uninvited, unexpected and she succumbs to his charm letting him in. This is their goodbye.
My excerpt from Prove Me Wrong:
“Luke!”  He turns and before he can say a word I jump into his arms, taking his mouth onto mine. Our lips move in perfect sync, his hands travel from the back of my neck down my spine. My knees become weak as I lose myself to Luke.
“Babysitting my ass!” I hear from across the lawn. I remove my lips from Luke’s to find Roxy across the lawn with a bag in hand.
“Shit!” I mumble under my breath. My heart pounds against my chest. This looks bad. Really, really bad.
“I better get going. Call you tomorrow,” Luke says, leaving me with Roxy. Alone. I’ll have to thank him later.
“It’s not what it looks like.”
“Oh really because it looks like you ditched me to spend the evening sucking face with the one person I despise the most.”
“I know that’s what it looks like, but it’s not. My mom really did get stuck at work.”
“You know what Hailey spare me. I should’ve known Luke would’ve won you over with his charm. He’s notorious for it just ask all the other girls he’s used and abused. You know what, when he dumps you and you are left alone don’t come crawling back to me. I warned you. Obviously our friendship meant nothing to you.”
“Roxy it’s...”
“I don’t want to hear it.” Roxy puts her hand up, stopping my unplanned, unrehearsed arsenal of explanations. When she lowers her one hand the other tosses a brown paper bag at my chest. “That’s a piece a cake. I felt guilty that you were home babysitting on a Saturday night so I brought you home a piece from the party. It’s obvious who the fool is here so I hope you choke on it.”
“Roxy!” I call out in a last attempt to salvage our friendship. Too little too late. She is already in her car peeling off down the road. How is it possible that one minute everything can seem absolutely perfect and then the next everything is falling apart?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Dust It Off Bloghop is HERE!!!

Today is the kick off to the Dust It Off Bloghop! If you haven't signed up it's not too late (Click above. I can't figure out how to repost the linky list) and we'd love for you to hop along with us.

First off I want to thank the fabulous Cortney Pearson for hosting this with me. This is a first for the both of us and definitely a learning experience. So thank you for not blocking me when I inundated your inbox with questions. Now let's get to it.

A quick recap: 
The Dust It Off Bloghop will be three days, May 3rd, 5th and 7th.
 We've all had those manuscripts that we poured our heart into, fell in love with the characters and still think of them at random, but unfortunately had to shelf. Now it's time for a little spring cleaning. Take out those manuscripts and Dust It Off!
The first day, May 3rd: We want you to post a 1-2 sentence pitch (Great way to practice pitches) about the shelved WIP. 
The second day, May 5th:  Post your favorite excerpt (300-350 words)
The third day, May 7th: Post what you learned from this WIP. You become a stronger, more rounded writer which each manuscript and we want to know what this particular work taught you.

You can participate in all three and we hope you do, but you don't have to. We know you have lives away from the computer. If you can great. If not we'd be happy with anything you can give us :)

Day 1 prize: 
A book. Who doesn't like a free book?
Cortney's Book: Ditched by Robin Mellom (So jealous!!)
My book: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Andersen
Day 2 prize:
A query critique
Day 3 prize:
A FULL MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE!!! (And of course it is the manuscript of your choice. It doesn't have to be for the shelved WIP. This goes for the query as well.)

And now my pitch from my shelved MS Prove Me Wrong: 
Hailey, a seventeen year old mother, hides behind lies to avoid ridicule when starting at a new school, but when she meets Luke, charming, honest and relentless in making her his girl, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue the lies. As the connection between them deepens Hailey’s secret is revealed, blindsiding Luke and leaving him with a choice: be his father's son and walk away, or accept her and the little man she already loves.

Now get your hop on and let the games begin!!!!!

I will be hopping around after my 9-5!