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IWSG + WIPjoy #4

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

What am I insecure about at the moment? How my beta readers will react to my manuscript! That always makes me nervous.

Question of the Month: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

That’s for me to know and you to figure out!

Seriously, though . . . Probably? I do remember when writing a short story (“Immanent” in The World Ends at Five), I had the girl in the bookstore wearing one of my favorite outfits. It was the outfit I was wearing while walking to work the day I came up with the story, in fact. That’s the only immediate example that springs to mind, but there are probably more instances in my writing that I’m not thinking of.

And now:

4. A line that expresses your theme.

Probably the opening line: “I didn’t even make it home for Dad’s funeral, which sucked enough without everything that came after.”

WIPjoy #2

2. Tell us about YOU.

Well, it’s all right here on this page under the “About” tab, but here’s a recap:

  • I’m an only child.
  • Grew up in Texas but with my extended family and roots in Southern Louisiana.
  • Went to the University of Texas at Austin, where I studied media, screenwriting, and Classics. Also psychology because I was particularly interested in how fans interact with the works they are fans of.
  • Became a semi-well known fan fiction author whose works appeared in several zines (back before the Internet, folks). Won some fanfic awards.
  • Had the best job ever at a little mom-and-pop shop that I swear should be the setting of a sitcom. Only job I ever had that I didn’t mind getting up and going to each day. (And yes, that includes writing.)
  • I studied parageography under my mentor Dr. Douglass Parker. He helped me create the world of AElit, which was part of my Master’s thesis.
  • Was part of the Shakespeare at Winedale program.
  • Also active in local community theatre.
  • I interned on the set of Hope Floats and worked for producer Lynda Obst. But instead of pursuing that career, I chose to go to graduate school at Emerson College in Boston.
  • Interned at Houghton Mifflin, and they hired me after I graduated.
  • Met my husband in my first ever Emerson class and knew immediately that he was the person I would marry. (We hadn’t even spoken to one another yet. But I’m the kind of girl who knows what she wants. I proposed to him.)
  • We did marry the day before graduation, so we missed our graduation ceremony because we were on our honeymoon. At Disney World.
  • Eventually left Houghton Mifflin to work at Pearson Education. But left publishing when I had my first child. Which is when I began writing again.
  • First publications were in 2004: one short story in a magazine, two poems in other magazines.
  • Taught Shakespeare, mythology, and creative writing to elementary and middle schoolers (ages 9-14) for several summers at a local community college.
  • Moved to California in 2012 and self-published my first story (“Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line,” which was a story I’d written in 1999 as part of my graduate school application). It did pretty well, and I felt encouraged, so I kept writing and publishing.
  • Now here I am with three kids, two cats, and a hamster. Six published works (4 self-published, 2 small press), a WIP in the hopper, and more work than I can shake a stick at.
  • Oh, and I’ve had plays I’ve written produced, and one was made into a short film.
  • And I’ve won a screenwriting award and had a script given a professional table read at Sundance. (Still trying to get someone to actually film it, though.)
  • I still do freelance editing work as well.

And of course you can find all my work on my Amazon page. (Or under the “Books” tab on this site.) I write in a number of genres: fantasy, mystery, historical romance. Whatever strikes my preference. Hopefully you find something you like!

WIPjoy – October 2017

(I never finished the last one, but this one I’m determined to get all the way through!)

1. Introduce your WIP!

Well! I actually just finished the first draft of it. It’s a YA contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet titled . . . wait for it . . . Hamlette! I had a lot of fun writing it and it’s now in the hands of some beta readers. If you’re interested in beta reading it, you can apply to do so here. (Note that I’m on a tight deadline and also ask that my betas don’t discuss the manuscript on any social media until the book is published.)

Hamlette is about 16-year-old Hamlette Nerissa Dey (she goes by her middle name), whose father Bryce is was an A-list actor. After his abrupt death, Nerissa is visited by her dad’s ghost, and she and her best friend Bea hatch a questionable plan for confronting the murderers.

The novel resides somewhere at the nexus of funny, absurd, and sweet. Nerissa discovers a lot about herself and her world as she muddles through what seems to be an untenable situation.

Happy October!

Fall is my favorite time of year. After months of heat, jeans and sweaters make me happy. I wouldn’t mind a little rain, either. Where we live it’s not quite cold yet, but the weather is trending in that direction. Fingers crossed!

We’re also now entering the final quarter of the year. A good time to look at those goals and see what needs the final push. Last July I posted these revised goals for the second half of the year:

  1. Finish and submit Hamlette to the interested agent
  2. Finish and submit Changers: The Great Divide to Evernight
  3. Finish and publish Faebourne
  4. Finish the new Sherlock Holmes story

Even then I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish all of this in six months. However, I’m happy to be able to say the first goal has been met. Well, the finishing part. I’m having some readers look it over before I send it to the agent. But that will be done in a couple weeks, so I’m counting this goal as completed.

Next, I’m turning my attention to some editing work I’ve been hired to do, and then I’ll get back to my other goals. These will likely loop into 2018, but I’m okay with that. I’ve accomplished a lot so far in 2017:

  1. finishing and publishing Brynnde
  2. compiling my Sherlock Holmes stories and releasing them on audiobook
  3. finishing Hamlette
  4. having a short story accepted to an upcoming anthology

I feel as though 2017 has thus far been a strong year for me and my work. (Knocking on wood now in hopes that these last months continue to be as good.) For sales it’s been my best year since the first year I began publishing (2012). So that’s something to be proud of!

Beta Readers Wanted

I’m super excited to announce that I’ve finished the draft of Hamlette! Very soon now I will be looking for people to read it and provide feedback as I spruce it up.

What does being a beta reader entail? I will send two to three chapters at a time (or the entire manuscript if you prefer). You’ll have a week to read what I’ve sent, and then we’ll do a little interview in which you tell me what you think. What you like, don’t like, etc. What works for you, what you don’t understand. The interviews will likely be via online chat or Google hangout or something like that. Yes, you get to really and truly interact with me! If that scares you, I can also just send a questionnaire. But I find it more helpful to have a kind of conversation with my beta readers.

Anyway, feel free to contact me if this interests you, or else be on the lookout for a sign-up sheet to be posted soon.

Miss Magnolia

The other night at dinner my kids began to ask me questions that started with, “Back in your day…” As in: “Back in your day did they have cars?” Since I felt like saying, “WTF, you guys, how old do you think I am?” was probably poor parenting, I answered in the voice of an old Southern woman who I’ve since named Miss Magnolia.

This delighted the kids. They asked me what I thought when I first saw a pizza. Miss Magnolia answered, “Why, I saw it and thought: someone’s murdered the cake. I mean, it was so flat! And why did it have cheese on it?” They asked what I thought when I first saw a pineapple. “I thought it was a spider! I smashed it, and it made such a mess. And then someone told me I was supposed to eat it!”

Miss Magnolia spoke at length about Hubert. Well, Hubert VI, that is. And his pet turkey. And the corns on his feet. You see, Miss Magnolia is from Hubertville, Alabama. (Not to be confused with Hubbertville.) The first Hubert founded the town, and now no one will speak to Hubert VII because he named his son Edmund.

She also talked about Pop’s, which is where she and her friends used to go for candy and sodas. It was the soda shop. She mentioned that she doesn’t eat dumplings or ravioli because she doesn’t trust food if she doesn’t know what might be inside it. In short, she’s quite the character. The kids have been asking for her, though my youngest son says it is a little weird to hear me talk in such a different voice.

Maybe some day I’ll sketch out a full picture of Miss Magnolia and her little town. It’s been a fun experiment.

We’ve Got Another One

The Guardian is batting, uh, maybe not 1.000, but the number is up there this week as they approach the subject of celebrity endorsements on books. Someone (a judge of the Man Booker Prize or something?) said such blurbs “blackmail the reader.” Do they?

What do you think when you see a celebrity quote or blurb on a book? I’m jaded and cynical, so I often think, “They probably didn’t even read it.” Or, “They’re probably just friends with the author and so were cornered into saying something nice about the book.”

The whole thing makes me feel a bit ill, really. A bunch of snobs rubbing shoulders and patting one another on the back. That’s how it comes across to me.

But what about you? Do you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t read the latest, hottest thing? Particularly if a celebrity has blurbed it? Do you trust a celebrity’s review or opinion more than anyone else’s? (And if so . . . WHY? I really want to know.)

I’ve worked with celebrities, so maybe I just don’t have it in me to be swayed by their opinions. I don’t know. I do know I’ve never picked up a book just because someone famous liked it. The blurb may get me to look at the book, but I always decide for myself whether to read it.

So let’s say your favorite actor or singer or writer “recommended” a book. You pick it up and start to read it, and you hate it. Do you, as the Man Booker judge suggests, feel stupid for not liking something a celebrity likes? Do you try to convince yourself to like it? Do you make yourself finish reading the book no matter what?

I just . . . I mean, does anyone really read the quotes to begin with? I usually only notice them after I’ve already bought the book because I, you know, read the back of the book or the dust jacket or whatever and thought it sounded good. Then I might notice the quotes and think, “Oh. Cool.” But most likely I think [see paragraph 2].

But I’m also not one of these celeb culture followers. So maybe for other people it’s different. Maybe some people only read books their favorite celebrities read. Or wouldn’t read at all if those famous faces didn’t encourage it.

I’m NOT judging. I’m just acknowledging that circumstances may be different. Just today I was explaining to a second grader that, yes, he had to learn to read well because life requires that skill. But I told him, “Look, reading for fun may not be your thing. And that’s okay. You have to learn to read, but you don’t have to spend your spare time doing it. It’s not for everyone.” Because, much as I love reading and writing, I’m aware that there are people in the world who don’t.

So, you know, maybe celebrity blurbs are a good thing. If they get people to read.

But I don’t know the statistics on that. I don’t have any data. Just like no one know whether these blurbs “blackmail” people either. It’s an opinion, but what is it based on? Some old guy’s irritation? Seriously, I don’t know, I’m just wondering.

Anyway, let me know if celebrity book blurbs sway your reading choices. They’ve never really impacted mine.