June #writemotivation Week 4

photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. httpwww.flickr.comphotossahlgoodeI had so much fun mentoring my fellow writers and seeing the immediate progress my little group made after just one day of revisions. I also thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with my writers friends and staying up way too late to get to know some of them better.

I ended the weekend by attending a party for my lovely writing friend, Gwendolyn Hooks who just received a fantastic book deal on a much-anticipated project. We’re all so excited about this book that we felt like it was our success as well as Gwen’s. I couldn’t be happier for her. I didn’t even mind being “volunteered to participate in an original skit written and narrated by Anna Myers (who somehow got out of wearing any kind of ridiculous and embarrassing costume – the rest of us weren’t so lucky!)

 

 

Karen Grencik played by Jerry Pati played by Helen

 

The not-so-lucky ones – some of my fellow cast members

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt so inspired after such a beautiful weekend that I’ve worked my ass off this week. I’m so excited about the trajectory I’m on right now. Friends and unconditional support can sometimes make all the difference. Thank you to everyone who has inspired me this month! You all rock.

book pornI also returned home to find this lovely literary pile of gifts waiting for me, including two books signed by Maureen McGowan. I’m looking forward to reading the first two books of her Dust Chronicles series. All of this swag, including the Dan Krall book I received earlier in the month, was the result of entering contests on fellow writer blogs. It does pay to engage! This collection is an awesome way to add to my TBR pile! I don’t know which one I want to read first…decisions, decisions, decisions!

Here are my #writemotivation goals for June:

1. Submit Museum Crashers (MG mystery) to editor who requested the full. Tons of progress made. Should be sending out by the end of the month. Tentatively marking as DONE because of all the progress made.

2. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. DONE! I actually submitted to six agents. Two were rejected. Four are still out. (Five counting the full requested and submitted to an agent four months ago.) Waiting, waiting, waiting. Blech! Not my favorite.

3. Work on first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). No progress on this one. I’m going to use this as my Camp Nano project for July. I will get a rough draft of this completed by the end of the summer! I will. I WILL!!!

4. Read at least five books – review one on the blog. I will finish Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk before the end invisible-monsters-us-trade-3of the month and I discussed Tara Hudson’s Hereafter in my last blog post, so I’m marking this one as DONE! 

5. Work on outlining new blog project idea. DONE! More exciting ideas are coming next month.

6. Exercise 3 times each week. DONE! I’ll be increasing this for next month. :/

7. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. Finally started this! Will have to move over to July’s goals to complete – hopefully by my friend’s birthday.

I hope you all took a velociraptor-sized bite out of your writing projects this month. Don’t forget to sign up for next month! Visit KT Hanna’s site here to join us for #writemotivation in July.

Advertisements

Author Tara Hudson – Her Writing Journey

tara hudsonTara Hudson, author of the spooky Hereafter trilogy, was the honored guest and speaker at our Tulsa schmooze anniversary dinner earlier this month. She discussed her writing journey and spoke frankly about the realities of publishing and what happens after you get a book deal. She began by telling us all about her childhood reading habits – mostly magical and paranormal books by Christopher Pike and R.L. Stein – and how these books later influenced her writing. She said a good tip for any aspiring author when picking their genre is to pay attention to the books you devoured as a kid.

“There’s a reason you picked those books. You’ll spend a lot of time with your stories, so you have to love the world you’re writing about.”

Tara went through many ups and downs with writing during her college years, bouncing from being a science

Tara speaking at the Tulsa Schmooze
Tara speaking at the Tulsa Schmooze

major to a writing major, then finally settling on the law. “I fall in love with something, then panic and move on to something else.” She almost did this with her first novel, instead she pursued in further.

While working as a lawyer at an unsatisfying job, Tara began tinkering with an old short story she’d written in college about a girl walking through an old Texas town who doesn’t realize that she’s dead. Tara was inspired to write this story when she drove through a small, creepy town and she really wanted to capture the memory down on the page. This was the first time an experience, an idea, had compelled her to write, to record it on paper before it vanished into the ether.

So she started writing her first book, one chapter at a time. She shared each one with some co-workers, friends who begged her for the next chapter. She thought at the time, “I can write a second chapter – not a fifth, maybe, but I can write a second”. She wrote this way, with a growing list of readers – her first beta readers, she later realized – until the book was finished. She left her job shortly afterwards and began the long, arduous editing process. The result was Hereafter.

Tara then began researching agents. As a lawyer, she said it is great to have an agent: “Those contracts are slippery little minnows.” She said she was so excited about getting published that they could’ve asked for the blood of her first born and she would’ve said, “That sounds reasonable”.

After 38 rejections, she changed her approach and soon caught the interest of Catherine Drayton from Inkwell Management. When she finally got the call, Catherine told her that after chapter nine, it was crap. She wouldn’t represent her. She said it “needs more ominous and sense of community”. Revise and resubmit. Tara went through a few days of just being angry. That direction was too vague to of any real help, but then she realized Catherine was right; she started revising.

Luck finally fell on Tara’s side. A few days after her initial rejection, Catherine called her back. Harper Teen was putting together a book tour and they needed one story set in a rural location. Tara’s book fit the bill. Catherine asked if she could pitch it, although it still needed work and there was no promise of representation. Tara agreed and Harper Teen bought her book eight days later.

“You’ll be put through a rigorous writing schedule after a book deal.” Once you’re signed up, you’re expected to have ideas for what to write next. You’ll have to write up synopses and submit them right away.

Tara and SCBWI gang 2
Tara with some of the SCBWI OK gang

During her querying process, Tara had returned to work full time and had learned that she was pregnant. To keep her health coverage, she had to continue working full time. On top of that, she now had three months to revise book one and then write a draft of book two.

She wrote book two during her maternity leave. “That’s why it’s the best and so dark”.

The Hereafter trilogy begins when Amelia Ashley, a ghost just awakening to her spiritual consciousness, saves a living boy when he almost drowns in her river – the same river she drowned in twenty years earlier.   The trilogy continuing with Arise follows the tale of their haunted love to an intense conclusion in Elegy, the final book of the series.

The final book, Elegy was just released this month. I raced through the first book and cannot wait to read the rest of the series. Here’s hereafter-200the plot summary for Hereafter, the first book, from the author’s website:

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Tara’s website has lots of extra goodies for fans of her Hereafter series. There are pictures from different settings, including the town of Wilburton, Oklahoma, the setting for the first book, and playlists of songs that inspired Tara while she wrote the books. There are also spine-tingling book trailers that make you want to pick up each book right away.

To learn more about Tara Hudson and the Hereafter trilogy, visit her website here.

Follow Tara on Twitter here.

June #writemotivation Week 3

photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. httpwww.flickr.comphotossahlgoodeModerate progress made this week on the goals.  I hope to make some serious progress this weekend when I’m spending time with a bunch of writers. Uninterrupted time to write and discuss all things of a literary nature for an entire weekend?

Ah! It’s my favorite kind of getaway.

We’re also going to be celebrating because one of our own just received a book deal on a much-beloved and much-anticipated manuscript. (I’m so excited for you, Gwen!) I can’t wait to own a copy. I’ll tell you all more about her story when it’s closer to publication time.

I’m really looking forward to this weekend!

Here are my #writemotivation goals for June:

1. Submit Museum Crashers (MG mystery) to editor who requested the full. I swear I’m almost ready. Next week is the final deadline!

2. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. DONE!

3. Work on first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). No progress on this one.

4. Read at least five books – review one on the blog. I’m more than halfway done with Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. I looooved The toprow-03-onWednesday Wars and this is the companion to it – so perfectly everything I want in a middle grade.

5. Work on outlining new blog project idea. DONE!

6. Exercise 3 times each week. Done and DONE!!! I may actually be getting used to this.

7. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. Still no progress on this one – must at least get through a few chapters next week or hang my head in shame.

Kind of hit and miss, but I love that I have at least some goals completed. Feels good! How are all of you doing with your goals?

Quote of the day:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
– Douglas Adams

Kind of how I’m feeling right now…whoosh!

Cover Reveal – My Girlfriend Bites! by Doug Soulter

Today, I’m participating in the cover reveal event for a fellow SCBWI OK member. What can I say, we support each other’s work like one big happy family. Doug Soulter’s new book, My Girlfriend Bites! is a cross-species love story with teeth. Read all about it!

MY GIRLFRIEND BITES release date

Tuesday, July 16th

About MY GIRLFRIEND BITES:

When he sets out to find the perfect girl, 16-year-old Aiden discovers she’s the imperfect werewolf he’s always been searching for.

After his “dream” girl rejects him, Aiden tries to commit suicide yet mysteriously survives. Now he feels like a total loser with zero possibility of finding a girl. Enter Bree, the creepy girl with too much hair who is rumored to be mentally disturbed. When Bree gives Aiden a ride home during a storm, the girl’s random act of kindness spurs a friendship that blossoms into love. But that love gets tested when Aiden discovers his new girlfriend is a werewolf.

To make this relationship work, Aiden needs to keep Bree’s secret from his best friend. Deal with a family of werewolves who want to protect their daughter. Stop Bree from killing the first “dream” girl when she changes her mind about Aiden. Oh yeah, and he has to stay away from Bree during her mating cycle. Girl werewolves can get a little crazy when they’re in love.

But Aiden’s true test comes when he must save Bree from an enemy determined to annihilate all the werewolves. An enemy who killed all the wolves in Bree’s pack. An enemy so terrifying…they give werewolves nightmares.

Too bad Bree can’t turn a coward into a fearless werewolf. That bite thing is only a myth. So Aiden will have to do the most frightening thing ever…believe in himself.

Ready for the cover reveal?

BAM!

.

Sometimes the boy gets the werewolf.

Sometime the boy gets the werewolf.

.

About the author:

Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Doug went to college at nearby Oklahoma State where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Radio/TV/Film production and worked in local television for 20 years. Doug began writing screenplays in 1998 and became a 2001 semi-finalist in The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting for his fifth screenplay, Father Figure. His tenth script, Rail Fan, became a quarter-finalist in 2009. Soon after, Doug made the switch to writing young adult novels. Skid, a young adult novel set in the world of Formula 1 racing, is his first.

Here’s an excerpt of  My Girlfriend Bites! to tide you over until the release next month:

I step on top of the rotting trunk. Wrap the noose around my neck. Tighten it. Soon the rope is snug across my throat as its straw-like surface irritates my skin. But the rope over the pecan branch looks tight and ready to do what I need it to do.

Okay.

All I have to do is step off. Take one step and I can be happy again.

I wonder if Pamela will think about me when I’m dead. I hope she feels guilty.

They all should feel guilty.

A wolf howls through the trees. The sound pierces the silence of the forest as a warm breeze gives me a final kiss goodbye. Sounds like I’ll be a free meal for some lucky wolf tonight.

I feel tears racing down my cheeks. I don’t want to cry. Real men don’t cry when they’re about to face death. I try to stop because I don’t want to go out like this. But I can’t stop.

Damn it. I can’t even die like a real man.

I’m so pathetic.

I breathe in.

And jump off the stump.

Intriguing, right?

To read more tantalizing excerpts, you can visit the other bloggers participating in this reveal at the following links:

.
To learn more about Doug Soulter and his other writing, visit his website here.

Where I Talk About the Excitement of Winning Books – First is Dan Krall’s Latest!

I can no longer say that I never win anything. With all the great new releases that have come out recently, there have been a ton of book giveaway contests on some of my favorite blogs. I entered a few of them – not getting my hopes up – to support my fellow writers and let them know I looked forward to reading their books. Still, there was a small part of me that crossed my fingers and made a wish, hoping I’d win.

And win I did.

June 2013 Download 577I’ve won four books over the past week! Outstanding!

The first one has already arrived and I couldn’t have been happier. I won a signed copy of Dan Krall’s new book, The Great Lollipop Caper. Dan wrote AND illustrated this witty book. And I won it simply by reading and commenting on a blog post by Jama Rattigan. She has a fantabulous blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where all things delicious and picture book -related are destined to appear.

This was so exciting to me, and not only because Dan’s book concept sounded intriguing, but also because he did the illustrations for Oh, Nuts! by Tammi Oh NutsSauer – a fellow Oklahoma native and friend with ten published picture books (and more on the way).

It was most exciting because I rarely ever win anything!

Dan went above and beyond in the giveaway department. I received the following in my goodie package:

A personalized note.
A personalized note.
Two - count them - TWO!!! actual lollipops.
Two – count them – TWO!!! actual lollipops.
...complete with instructions.
…complete with instructions.
AAAAaaand of course, a signed copy of his book, with a postcard and several bookmarks thrown in for a little more icing on the cake.
AAAAaaand of course, a signed copy of his book, with a postcard and several bookmarks thrown in for a little more icing on the cake.

After sweating over which lollipop I’d eat first, I indulged in the story of Mr. Caper and Lollipop. I laughed out loud at least four times. That to me is a sign of a great story – especially one that’s supposed to be funny.

Here’s a brief story synopsis from the author’s website:

One cranky caper is about to learn that being salty might be just as good as being sweet.

Having adults love his acidic taste is not enough for Mr. Caper. He wants more. He wants the children of the world to love him—just as much as they love the sweet, saccharine Lollipop.

And thus a plot is hatched: Caper-flavored lollipops are dispatched throughout the world…and everything goes horribly wrong. Will Mr. Caper find a way to repair the havoc he’s wreaked by over-reaching? Maybe, if Lollipop helps save the day!

This quirky tale, illustrated with humor and heart, contains sweet and salty delights for both adults and children.

The Great Lollipop Caper even has it’s own designated website where you can find a book trailer, activities, and much more.

Thank you, Dan. I adored the book and the lovely literary package immensely!

And thank you, Jama for holding the contest! It’s so nice to feel like a winner every once in awhile.

To Learn more about Dan Krall, visit his website here.

Follow Dan on Twitter here.

.

I’ll keep you updated on my other wins when they arrive. (Finally, a reason to be excited about checking the mail!)

June #writemotivation Week 2

photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. httpwww.flickr.comphotossahlgoodeIt’s been a busy week here at the Lawson hacienda. I had the opportunity to see a Shakespeare play at the Philbrook Museum thanks to a generous gesture on the part of fellow blogger Paula at stuffitellmysister. She gave me the tickets when she couldn’t use them. So thoughtful!

It was also Autism Awareness Night at the Tulsa Drillers baseball game. Much to my parents’ dismay, the Drillers beat their fave home team, The Springfield Cardinals. There was such a good turn out for the game – so many autism families participated!

Our family had a great time.

Trevor too involved in watching the game to pose for a picture.
Trevor too involved in watching the game to pose for a picture.
Me and the daughter.
Me and the daughter.
View of downtown Tulsa from stadium.
View of downtown Tulsa from stadium.

6 Tulsa Drillers Game 06 11 13

Husband photo bombs pic with me and Trevor.
Husband photo bombs pic with me and Trevor.
Almost good! Foul ball.
Almost good! Foul ball.

Trevor loves baseball and can actually sit through a couple of hours of watching the game before he gets restless and is ready to go home. We all enjoyed getting out as a family in a fun, accepting environment. The kids got to go down on the field before the game and the announcer talked about signs and symptoms of autism throughout the evening. The more education out there the better. That’s why the Autism Center of Tulsa is such a great organization and why our family supports them every year during their autism walk fundraiser. Movie Night at Circle Cinema is coming later this month and in July there is the fabulous family fun night swim party. For any other families with autism in the area looking for opportunities to socialize, make sure to sign up!

Believe it or not, there was actual goal progress made on top of everything else. Hell , yeah! Overall a pretty great week.

Here are my #writemotivation goals for June:

1. Submit Museum Crashers (MG mystery) to editor who requested the full. Getting closer to the end – trying not to rush it. I’m really excited about submitting this one!

2. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. I’ve submitted to three agents and received an immediate rejection from one. I’m researching specifics on three more to submit to this month.

3. Work on first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). No progress on this one.

4. Read at least five books – review one on the blog. I’ve just finished my second book, Hereafter by Tara Hudson. It’s hereafter-200the first in her Hereafter trilogy. Fantastic book. She recently spoke at our June SCBWI schmooze and I really enjoyed meeting her. There may be more news to post about this meeting, soon. Stay tuned!

5. Work on outlining new blog project idea. I made some headway with this by starting my new series of posts, “Inspiring Stories”. More still to do, though.

6. Exercise 3 times each week. Still making good progress on this and still feeling crippled with pain every day from overworked, whiny muscles. (Tell me this gets easier!)

7. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. No progress on this one, either. Will do better this week!

Nothing overwhelming me so far. It feels good to be back out there submitting to agents – even with the rejections. How are all of you doing with your goals?

Quote of the day:

“In waiting for the glorious moment of that first book contract, writers must have giant reservoirs of patience. Yet they must persevere because they don’t know the destiny that is being worked out for them. They creep humbly along the ground, without the spacious aerial vision of their lives that would show them the destiny in store for them.”

– Ron Chernow

Here’s to creeping humbly and having massive reservoirs of patience! Have a great week, and keep writing!

Inspiring Stories – A New Segment

Sometimes when I’m reading or listening to a news story or looking at a piece of art, I get this overwhelming feeling of inspiration that I can hardly contain and I must drop whatever I’m doing to start writing. I thought sharing some of these moments of inspiration might be a fun element to add to my stable of blog posts, so here’s the first one.

Caroline Shaw recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her piece Partita for 8 Voices.  At 30 years old, she is the youngest composer to win since the inception of the award. She is also one of only a handful of female composers to win this honor. Shaw wrote this piece for the vocal group partita-for-8-voices---shawRoomful of Teeth, “a vocal octet dedicated to re-imagining singing in the 21st century.” (Description from group’s website.) Shaw is also a member of the group.

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing 305
Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 305 – Inspiration for Shaw’s piece

What I found most intriguing about this interview on NPR was how modern and avant garde her composition was and that she was inspired by a piece of artwork by Sol LeWitt entitled Wall Drawing 305. I love it when one form of artistic expression inspires another. It happens to me all the time.

This particular art piece is one of a series “in which LeWitt experimented with textual instructions that direct the draftsman to construct shapes on the wall. Called ‘location’ drawings, these works are done in black pencil with geometric figures emphasized in crayon, foregrounding the process of drawing as a problem-solving mechanism.” (excerpt from Mass Mo Ca website).

As to how it inspired Shaw, there’s one moment in her music piece  where the lush harmonies give way to a cacophony of vocal noise, like several people talking at once.

“It’s funny, my first thought was, ‘Wow, that’s what the Internet sounds like!’ When you open your computer and everyone’s talking at you suddenly,” Shaw says. “But I was really wanting to hear the sound of jumbled talking, where you can’t understand what’s going on — and then, suddenly, one beautiful, simple chord.”  (excerpt from A Moment With Pulitzer-Winning Composer Caroline Shaw.)

After hearing the interview and this description of what it sounded like, I had to hear it. I found it surprisingly beautiful and haunting. The spoken voice part blended in so well with the whole composition. Click on this link to hear Partita for 8 Voices for yourself.

So that’s my first “Inspiring Stories” post. Be sure to let me know what you think and feel free to share any inspirations you’ve had.