Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reaching for a Dream

I was eleven years old when I decided I wanted to write.

I was in Mrs. Klein's fifth grade class, in a small rural school just outside Bozeman, MT. We were assigned to write daily journals before we could go to recess and, surprisingly, instead of resenting the work, I began looking forward to it. I wrote poetry (mostly very bad) and observations (mostly mundane) about my life--and Mrs. Klein told me I was good at it.

I'd been telling stories since I was little, mostly accompanied by pictures of women in dresses so long that their trains flowed off the page. But this was the first time it occurred to me that I might actually *do* something with those stories.

I wrote my first short story in sixth grade; I wrote longer ones in seventh and eighth grade--including a truly awful novella that only my sister remembers (all I remember is that the main character had the winning name of Killadee and the villains were the Dethka). This led to a derivative fantasy trilogy in high school that I revised in college and sent to approximately one place: Tor books. Shockingly, I never heard back.

And then life got in the way: I went to graduate school, I married, I wrote a 300 page dissertation on women's rhetoric, I had kids, I started teaching college writing classes.

About four years ago, I realized that if I wanted to realize that dream I'd had of writing a novel, I had to start. Otherwise, it would only stay this vague hope. So I started writing creatively again. I went to conferences and workshops. I read craft books. I started a writer's group (something that had saved me with my dissertation).

Zig Ziglar's photo.

I wrote a middle grade novel and queried it. I had a few requests, but the novel itself was flawed and I couldn't figure out how to fix it so I put it away. I wrote another book and started querying.

This time, the story was very different. In December, I got an offer from a terrific agent (Josh Adams). Over the winter break, I revised my book and wrote up synopses for two possible sequels. In January, we started submitting the book to various editors.

Editors, in general, seem like very lovely people. Most of the rejections I got were kind: either it wasn't right for them or their list, it was too similar to something they'd sold, they weren't looking for a trilogy, etc. A couple pointed out things they didn't love about the manuscript: my agent said that was a subjective opinion, and we kept trying.

My agent was wonderful--positive and encouraging when I wasn't feeling so positive after a string of rejections (because let's face it, no matter how kind the rejection, it still means one more person who doesn't want to publish your book).

About three weeks in, he said he was getting positive vibes from a particular editor. I wasn't sure what exactly those vibes consisted of, and I was raised by my mother, who was raised by her mother--and so my default belief is pessimism: if I expect the worst, I can be pleasantly surprised, but I won't be disappointed. So I wasn't particularly hopeful.

I knew the odds, too: lots of authors don't sell their first book on submission. A good friend is debuting next year with her fourth book on submission.

And then we hit the last day of our submission window. (My agent had asked the editors to get back to us with a decision by this day, and to his credit, they all did). A few more rejections trickled in, and my confidence, already waning, began to seriously deflate.

Then my agent called, late in the morning, to say  he'd been speaking with another editor at this particular publishing house about a different project--and they'd essentially given away that an offer was coming. Which it did--at the very end of the day.

About two weeks later, this showed up in Publisher's Weekly:



Needless to say, I'm thrilled! While some parts of it went down really quickly--I wasn't on submission for all that long (though it felt like an eternity while it lasted)--it also feels like it's been a long time coming. It's been more than twenty-five years since I decided I wanted to be a writer.

I'm also very humbled--and grateful. I know that there's a fair amount of luck that goes into getting a publishing deal (not all good writers or good books get picked up). I also know that I owe my current project to a long list of wonderful friends and readers--people who helped me revise the book, who encouraged me when I needed it, and so much more.

Now I just have to survive the revisions--and write two more books! (And hopefully many more after that).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cover Reveal: Numbers Game!

This is my first ever cover reveal, and I'm thrilled to be participating in Rebecca Rode's.

I met Rebecca last spring when we were in the same writing workshop at LDStorymakers. She was a lovely person--and also a talented writer whose story opening had me hooked from the very beginning. So, without further ado . . .


Pretty awesome, right? Read on for more about the book . . .

Numbers Game by Rebecca Rode
Publication date: March 2015
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

Synopsis:
Treena can’t wait for Rating Day. Her high score will mean a life of luxury, showing the world that she’s a valuable member of society, not a pathetic waste of space. It won’t hurt her chances with her top-Rated boyfriend, either. But when the big day arrives, her true number shocks everyone.
To get her life—and boyfriend—back, she must go undercover and expose a military spy. Doesn’t sound too hard, except that someone seems to want her dead. And then there’s the mysterious soldier with a haunted past and beautiful brown eyes. Together, they discover a dark numbers conspiracy, one that shatters the nation’s future. They must band together if they are to survive the dangerous game of numbers—and the terrible war that rages within Treena’s heart.




AUTHOR BIO:
 
By day, I'm a busy mom of four who struggles with housecleaning and cooking. By night...well, I'm still a busy mom of four. But scattered into those rare quiet moments is my life's passion--writing. My first book, HOW TO HAVE PEACE WHEN YOU'RE FALLING TO PIECES, was released in March 2013. It's a nonfiction quick-fix book for moms whose lives feel as crazy and out of control as mine does--and from what readers are saying, it's fun and entertaining to read. I also write for Deseret News and KSL.com on occasion, and some of my articles have also appeared in Schooled Magazine. For a sneak peek at the first two chapters of my book, HOW TO HAVE PEACE WHEN YOU'RE FALLING TO PIECES, check it out on Amazon.com. Bye now!
 

Author links:

Blog tour hosted by:
 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Atlantia

I really enjoyed Ally Condie's latest, Atlantia, which has a quiet, restrained beauty to it. The language is spare but lovely, and the plot is quiet but moving. Readers who come to this expecting something fast paced--or about mermaids--are likely to be disappointed, but I thought it was well done.

AtlantiaRio Conwys is a twin, and she has spent her whole life in Below knowing two things: one, that when it's her turn to choose Above or Below, she will choose the world above, and two, that she has to always conceal her siren voice. In Atlantia, the world Below is a carefully engineered underwater city to house humans who fled from the terrible pollution above. But some have remained above, to grow the crops that sustain those below. And each year, those who reach 17 can choose whether to stay Below or go Above--but only one can go from each family. So when Rio's sister Bay chooses to go above, trapping her below to deal with Bay's loss while still grieving the recent death or their mother, Rio doesn't know what to think or do.

Much of the early part of the novel is spent with Rio trying to find her new place in the city and to find a way to reach Bay in the world Above. She tries racing for money, and meets True, a warm-hearted boy who constructs clever machines to attract more viewers (and money) in her races. At the same time, Rio tries to avoid her aunt, a siren who may or may not have been responsible for her mother's death. But the more Rio  learns about the politics of Above and Below, the more she begins to question what she's always known, and what her true role is.

I think what I liked most about this book is that, in it's heart, it's not about the romance, but about the relationship between sisters: between Rio and Bay and between her aunt and her mother. And I liked that the slower pace allowed it to be more character driven--the readers see Rio coming into her true voice in more ways than one. There were some things about the world-building I would have liked to understand better, but ultimately, I thought it was lovely.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ruins

Ruins (Partials Sequence, #3) I'm not a huge fan of dystopian novels, but Dan Wells' Partials series is pretty amazing. He's built a detailed, fascinating world that's complicated and interesting and rich all at once. In the wake of a world-war where humans created Partial soldiers, the world was nearly destroyed when those same Partials (built with modified human DNA and with a unique ability to link to one another emotionally) attacked the humans who made them. Now, the humans are vastly out numbered and unable to reproduce--every human baby dies within days of birth. And the Partials too are expiring--literally. Something built into their genetic code means that each Partial dies when they hit twenty.

Kira, who is as far as I can tell the heroine of these stories, is a Partial who was raised as a human, and she's spent her whole life trying to figure out what is killing human babies. She's also fallen in love with a partial, Samm, and she wants nothing more to figure out a cure for the expiration as well (something she doesn't seem to have). She thinks she may have found the solution--but that will require the humans and Partials *not* killing each other, a task that seems increasingly difficult as a small band of human rebels is carting a nuclear bomb north to detonate in human headquarters, and the Partials are growing even more distrustful of humans as a new virus (one humans appear immune to) begins attacking them. 

Wells does a nice job pulling the plot forward even as the characters have to wrestle with complicated questions, like, what makes people (humans and partials alike) human? And what kinds of casualties are acceptable when looking to preserve an entire species.

There were a few slow parts, when various groups were on the run (though I generally didn't mind them as it was an opportunity to explore more of this post apocalyptic world). There were also a lot of characters--sometimes it was hard for me to keep everyone straight in my head. There as also a secondary plot thread involving the creepy Blood Man that I found incredibly disturbing (and unnecessary?), but it's very in keeping with the style of Mr. Wells' earlier books. But for the most part I found it a satisfying ending to the trilogy--one that managed to offer hope without resolving things too neatly.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Almost Super

My 9 year-old-son read Marion Jensen's Almost Super a few weeks ago--and reread it again the next day he liked it so much. So I figured I should probably see what the appeal was, and after reading, I have to say I get it.

Almost SuperJensen's book has a lot of humor, heart, and action, and if not everything is plausible, well, it's a super hero story.

In the Bailey family, everyone over the age of twelve gets their super power on February 29th at 4:23 p.m. So Rafter and Benny are eagerly awaiting the powers that they'll use to fight their arch-enemies, the Johnsons. But when the pivotal time comes and goes, they discover that their powers are, respectively, the ability to light a match on polyester, and turning an innie belly button into an outie. (Incidentally, my kids and I had a hilarious dinner-time discussion trying to come up with our own useless super-hero abilities).

All this would be bad enough, but now they have to face Juanita Johnson at school. But when a chance conversation with Juanita reveals that the Johnsons think *they* are the super-heroes and the Baileys are the villains, and that an unknown enemy might be using their long-time enmity to conceal a real villainous plot, Rafter discovers that they have a chance to be . . . almost super.

This really is a fun book: the story rockets along and the characters are funny and likeable. (If some of the adults are a little dense, that just lets the kids shine more). A great book for younger readers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sky Raiders

 I don't read as much middle grade as I do YA, since that's what I write, but I thoroughly enjoyed Brandon Mull's Sky Raiders (and I think my nine-year-old will love it).

Sky RaidersTwelve-year-old Cole Randolph just wanted to impress his friends and the girl he liked by telling them about the spooky haunted house set up near by. But they got much more than they bargained for, when the haunted house turned out to be a set up by slavers from the Five Kingdoms. Cole manages to hide, but when creepy grownups start pulling his friends through a hole in the floor, he can't abandon his best friend and the girl he likes. So he follows them--only to find himself in an alternate world. He's quickly taken captive and sold to Sky Raiders, an unusual salvage operation who try to salvage goods from weird sky castles that float from the Eastern Cloud Wall to the Western Cloud wall. No one knows where they originate--they don't seem to exist past the cloud walls--and while sometimes they can be rich treasure troves, other times the castles are deadly. Most new slaves don't survive the fifty minimum missions to rise through the ranks of the Sky Raiders.

But when a stranger comes for the girl Mira who works for the Sky Raiders, Cole finds his own mission to save his friends temporarily hijacked by his need to save a new friend.

Like most of Mull's books, the most fascinating part here was the world he's created. The book is the start of a five-book series, one for each of the Five Kingdoms, which practice their own form of magic. My favorite part of the book was his time with the Sky Raiders, but all of it was interesting and quick-paced. If I have any complaint, it's that sometimes the characters themselves take second seat to the action--aside from being brave, I don't feel like I know a lot about who Cole is. But the story is such a fun read, I'm not sure that matters.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IWSG Wednesday: The Waiting Game

IWSG Badge

It's the first Wednesday of February, which means it's once again time for Insecure Writer's Support Group! Because so much of writing is done alone in your head, it can sometimes feel a little lonely (well, aside from all the imaginary characters tromping through your head). I'm grateful for the richly supportive writing community, which reminds me I'm not alone in my madness!

That said, the name of this month's writing insecurity is waiting. It seems like a lot of writing also involves waiting: waiting for your CPs or beta readers to get back to you, waiting for turnaround from the editor, waiting on agent feedback, waiting for an editor to fall in love with your book. For someone like me with a few OCD tendencies, waiting can be extremely hard. I don't like surprises; I like knowing what's coming next--and sometimes that just isn't possible with writing, particularly with the traditional publishing route I've chosen.

Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (Kremlin exhibition) by shakko 32.jpg

The good thing is, I do have control over my favorite part--and that's the writing itself. Since I spent most of November in a revision and querying frenzy, I didn't do NaNoWriMo in November. So some writer friends and I tried a modified version of JaNoWriMo. I set myself a modest goal of 30K by the end of the month--and I just passed 35K in a new manuscript! It's still quite a drafty mess, but it's reminding me of the pleasure I get exploring a new world and new characters, and it gives me something to invest my energy in while I wait.