Sunday, May 29, 2011

Forget About Being Published

Courtesy of asifthebes
One of the great advantages of going to conferences and workshops is that, if you're lucky, they blow your mind away.


Caped CONduit 21 just ended, and it was incredible. CONduit isn't a writing conference, it's a SF and F general convention. But I learned just as much about writing and story as if it had been a conference designed for writers.


Tracy Hickman said something that took my world, spun it upside down and turned it inside out. He said, "Don't seek to be published, seek to be read."

Don't seek to be published, seek to be read.

So simple, and it makes so much sense when you think about it. With advances in technology, anyone with a computer and Internet connection can be published. You might say that it's never been easier to be published than it is now, and I think it's only going to get easier.

That means there's going to be a lot of noise out there. And being heard and noticed is going to be a lot harder and take a little more creativity to achieve.

So many times we writers tend to focus on the wrong things, and getting published is one of those. I'm not putting down the notion of publishing. I seek to be published, and I think it's a great thing--but it should not be the limit of our dreams. Sometimes our vision isn't large enough, and that limits us. We cage ourselves in our own expectations simply because we never think to look up.

The thing about dreams is they're meant to be large. When you sit down at the table of dreams, forget about taking small servings, never snatching the last roll, or taking tiny bites of the pie. Forget about which silverware everyone else is using, and just dig in. Dreams are only as finite as we make them. Daring to dream big doesn't mean there will be less dream for the next person on your left, so don't cheat yourself by taming your dreams. Realistically, you're going to have to work hard--but that's the reality of dreams.

So, if being published isn't what we should be aiming for, what then? I believe the ultimate goal (besides being true to yourself) should be writing something that's worth reading. Something that speaks to people loudly enough, deeply enough, that your words reach out of the page and drown your reader in a sea of thought and perception that they become a part of. Something that will keep them coming back over and over and over again.

Being published is great, being read is better.

I don't believe that any of us seek to write into a void. We have something important to say, a story to tell. We want readers.

So how do we get them?

It's all about writing something that's worth being read. That means learning what Story means. How it's shaped and structured and why. I'm not a fan of all the writing rules floating around out there. I think they're good guidelines, but they can also clip your story's wings if your story needs to be something else. However, if you want to break the rules effectively, you need to know them in the first place. And I mean know--not be aware of or know about--you need to know them. Recognize them. Understand them.

And there are some guidelines I don't think should be broken. Story structure is one of them. If the foundations of the story aren't put together right, the reader's going to feel it. They may not be able to pinpoint exactly why, but they will feel the lack and it may be enough of a lack for that reader to never come back. Story structure is the bones of the story, it isn't the writing. Characters are the heart. They aren't the writing either. Themes and ideas are the muscle. And we still haven't hit the actual words yet.

Words are the flesh and grammar is the tendons. And yet, I'd wager that the words and grammar are around 90% of what writers focus on. Look at the "rules", we've all heard them. They're even called writing rules. Now, this isn't to say the rules are bad. They're not. It's important to know when to show and when to tell. It's important to engage the reader with tight, clean prose.

But if your skeleton's broken, if your heart's not beating, if your muscles are thin and underdeveloped, will it really matter if you've got acne or tendonitis?

Most of writing well has nothing to do with the actual writing. This is a mistake I know I've made, and one I'm going to work very hard to not make again. Because I don't just want my name in print. I don't want to just have my books on shelves in bookstores. I don't want to just be able to say that I'm published. That's too small a dream.

And even being widely read isn't quite enough for me.

I want to take a reader by the heart and soul and never let them walk away from my stories as the person who opened the cover for the first time or the hundredth time.

Our dreams should give us wings that allow us to fly past the stars. So don't keep your feet on the ground. Don't let fear cage you in. And don't ever, ever forget to look up.

Forget About Being Published

Courtesy of asifthebes
One of the great advantages of going to conferences and workshops is that, if you're lucky, they blow your mind away.


Caped CONduit 21 just ended, and it was incredible. CONduit isn't a writing conference, it's a SF and F general convention. But I learned just as much about writing and story as if it had been a conference designed for writers.


Tracy Hickman said something that took my world, spun it upside down and turned it inside out. He said, "Don't seek to be published, seek to be read."

Don't seek to be published, seek to be read.

So simple, and it makes so much sense when you think about it. With advances in technology, anyone with a computer and Internet connection can be published. You might say that it's never been easier to be published than it is now, and I think it's only going to get easier.

That means there's going to be a lot of noise out there. And being heard and noticed is going to be a lot harder and take a little more creativity to achieve.

So many times we writers tend to focus on the wrong things, and getting published is one of those. I'm not putting down the notion of publishing. I seek to be published, and I think it's a great thing--but it should not be the limit of our dreams. Sometimes our vision isn't large enough, and that limits us. We cage ourselves in our own expectations simply because we never think to look up.

The thing about dreams is they're meant to be large. When you sit down at the table of dreams, forget about taking small servings, never snatching the last roll, or taking tiny bites of the pie. Forget about which silverware everyone else is using, and just dig in. Dreams are only as finite as we make them. Daring to dream big doesn't mean there will be less dream for the next person on your left, so don't cheat yourself by taming your dreams. Realistically, you're going to have to work hard--but that's the reality of dreams.

So, if being published isn't what we should be aiming for, what then? I believe the ultimate goal (besides being true to yourself) should be writing something that's worth reading. Something that speaks to people loudly enough, deeply enough, that your words reach out of the page and drown your reader in a sea of thought and perception that they become a part of. Something that will keep them coming back over and over and over again.

Being published is great, being read is better.

I don't believe that any of us seek to write into a void. We have something important to say, a story to tell. We want readers.

So how do we get them?

It's all about writing something that worth being read. That means learning what Story means. How it's shaped and structured and why. I'm not a fan of all the writing rules floating around out there. I think they're good guidelines, but they can also clip your story's wings if your story needs to be something else. However, if you want to break the rules effectively, you need to know them in the first place. And I mean know--not be aware of or know about--you need to know them. Recognize them. Understand them.

And there are some guidelines I don't think should be broken. Story structure is one of them. If the foundations of the story aren't put together right, the reader's going to feel it. They may not be able to pinpoint exactly why, but they will feel the lack and it may be enough of a lack for that reader to never come back. Story structure is the bones of the story, it isn't the writing. Characters are the heart. They aren't the writing either. Themes and ideas are the muscle. And we still haven't hit the actual words yet.

Words are the flesh and grammar is the tendons. And yet, I'd wager that the words and grammar are around 90% of what writers focus on. Look at the "rules", we've all heard them. They're even called writing rules. Now, this isn't to say the rules are bad. They're not. It's important to know when to show and when to tell. It's important to engage the reader with tight, clean prose.

But if your skeleton's broken, if your heart's not beating, if your muscles are thin and underdeveloped, will it really matter if you've got acne or tendonitis?

Most of writing well has nothing to do with the actual writing. This is a mistake I know I've made, and one I'm going to work very hard to not make again. Because I don't just want my name in print. I don't want to just have my books on shelves in bookstores. I don't want to just be able to say that I'm published. That's too small a dream.

And even being widely read isn't quite enough for me.

I want to take a reader by the heart and soul and never let them walk away from my stories as the person who opened the cover for the first time or the hundredth time.

Our dreams should give us wings that allow us to fly past the stars. So don't keep your feet on the ground. Don't let fear cage you in. And don't ever, ever forget to look up.

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Thousand Stars in My Pocket

Courtesy of fangol

Life can be hard. And sometimes I'm tempted to sit in the dark and feel sorry for myself.

But I can't. Not because I lack the will. :p But because I lack the complete darkness necessary to soak in. 

Thanks to the thousands of stars I keep in my pockets.

One of those stars is my health. It's not usually daisies and roses to have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There's so much to see, and so much to do. Perhaps too much. Having limited energy means I have to take stock of what's really important and let the rest of everything else drift away on the wind. Those who know me best can testify that I can be extremely, how shall we say, driven. And with normal energy, I might be tempted to focus on getting things done to the detriment of getting people love. So this star reminds me that it's not the check list that's important in my life *waves to the dishes and laundry piling up*, it's the people.

Another star is words. I love them. I like to bathe in them and paint with them. I like to roll them around on my tongue and let their meaning settle in my soul. Words, letters--they're beautiful to me. Each has a distinct personality, and they all color my existence.

A star I've discovered recently is being fed up with being afraid. Afraid of what people think of me, what they might be saying about me, how many ways there are to mess up. So, with this star in hand, I've been plowing through the darkness of my fears. If I'm afraid of it, I'm working on facing it. Except for skydiving and eating garden pests. I do have a sense of self-preservation, after all. This means I'm volunteering to present at conferences. I'm no longer hiding behind perhaps's. And I volunteered to edit for Underneath the Juniper Tree--an awesome kidlit magazine that I love very much. Chances are no longer something to run from, but to run toward.

My faith is a star that shines brighter than diamonds. Knowing that God is out there, that He loves me and knows me, keeps me going whenever I just want to sit down and stop moving. He is a shining light who has gotten me to where I am today and where I'll be tomorrow.

Another star is my children. Seriously. Having those little arms wrap around my neck in a hug. Hearing their I love you's. Seeing their trust and confidence in me. They are miracles I'm honored to be able to witness.

My Beloved Spouse Creature is another star, and one of the brightest. His unfailing love and forgiveness for a very imperfect person is amazing. He is the most self-sacrificing people I have ever met. He believed in me long before I could believe in myself, and my dreams have turned into our dreams. In his arms, I am safe. It is he that taught me that love and service and sacrifice are all saying the same thing.

A star that's still in the process of being born is my agent, my readers, editors, and people I don't even have names to. I don't write solely for myself, although I make sure that I mean every single word I write. And I'm so grateful for the people who catch hold of this star's glittery train and come along with me for the ride.

My crit group and beta readers are also a star that shines brightly in my life. Without them, I never would have discovered that my muse is really a fanged unicorn. True story. They make me reach higher, burn brighter, and laugh longer. And if I happen to learn 96 different methods of poisoning and the best ways to hide the body afterward, well, there's a lot to be said for creativity. O:)

And all of you are a star in my pocket. You cheer me up and teach me so much about life and living. I know I've been horrible about getting around to anybody the last few months, but I have been reading and lurking and your thoughtful posts have buoyed me up when I'm so tired I can't see straight. It is true that you can never know how many lives you truly touch. Each of you is a shining pinprick of light in my sky, piercing the darkness because of who you are and the words you use. There is so much hope in the future because there are so many of you quietly working to make the world a better place.

Those are just the biggest stars I keep close to me. There are hundreds of others. A stranger's smile. A thoughtful word. A thank you. A door being held open. Understanding rather than condemnation. 

Every day is ripe with stars just waiting to be plucked and pocketed. What are some of your stars?



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Out of This World With Angie Lofthouse


It is my honor to be able to present one of the most awesome people in the world to you: Angie Lofthouse. Angie's virtual home is at Notes From the Writing Chair. If you haven't met her yet, you should. Besides being awesome (despite the fact that I could not find a picture of her with one of her awesome, awesome hats), she shared some very happy news recently.

May has been out of this world as Angie has been touring the blogosphere and providing a chance for us to read her short stories. 
 
I'm hosting "Soul Singer" (love the title!) which first appeared in The Sword Review in September 2006.
 
Sixteen-year-old Maiya Lemesa first noticed the man at the back of a crowd of mourners around the deathbed of old Mr. Winters. Perhaps it was the unusual intensity of his presence that drew her eyes to him when she should have been concentrating on the dying man. . . . But it was not his appearance that attracted Maiya’s attention. It was the rhythms of his body, the harsh tattoo of his heartbeat, the tension in his muscles, like something wild and ferocious barely held in check. His song coursed through the room, twisting its way through all the other melodies. 
 
To enter The Out of This World Adventure giveaway, click on the story title to read the story, then come back here and answer the following question in the comments:
 
What is your favorite type of music?

(Mine happens to be a mix of celtic/gypsy/soothing/harp and flute/violin music. I also like some pop. Medieval, Baroque, things that make me want to sing, dance, or write kinds of music.)
 
Your comment will give you one entry in the grand prize drawing (includes an Amazon gift card, free book and other fun stuff!), plus one commenter on this post will win a Milky War bar. Mmmm. Include your email address, if it isn't on your profile, so we can contact the winners.
 
Be sure to visit the other stops on the Adventure and good luck!

Have a great week! *hugs and cupcakes* (Am behind, so will be announcing winner of Christine's book next week. Apologies. My recent busyness will be made clear soon. O:))

Friday, May 13, 2011

101 Success Secrets Review


101 Success Secrets
Christine Fonseca
189 pages
giftedness/nonfiction
Review copy from publisher

Okay. How to put into words the awesomeness that is this book. 

First off, while the target audience is kids that have been identified as gifted, this book is applicable to so many more people--both kids and adults.

The format is fun and highly interactive. There are words of wisdom from gifted kids sprinkled through out, and the sections are short and snappy. At the end of every chapter is a Parents Sound Off section that gives parents the opportunity to show kids where they're coming from. There are also What Do You Think? sections following the Parents Sounding Off where the reader can crystalize what they've learned. This section contains questions the readers can ask themselves for even better understanding of the section and themselves. There are also tip sheets, quizzes, and questions and answers.

So why do I love this book? Because I'm a highly intense person with highly intense, children who are incredibly smart. This books speaks to the kids--to, not down--on how to manage the traits that come with being gifted, high intensity being a hallmark trait. The book points out that their brains are wired differently, so while some of the traits can be hard to manage at times, there's nothing wrong with this.

As the book says, it's filled with 101 secrets to succeeding, and one of the first steps is understanding what it means to be gifted and embracing it. And that's really what the success secrets all boil down to: understanding yourself, accepting yourself, and embracing yourself.

Kids need more books like this. :)

But 101SS isn't simply a feel good book. Many of the sections give ideas and suggestions on how the reader can change their perceptions and actions so the intensity and giftedness works for them, not against them. And doing this takes work. 101SS deals with the reader on a personal level, as well as hitting topics dealing with school life, friends, and family.

101SS is geared toward gifted kids, but I believe it can benefit adults and highly intense people as well. I would definitely recommend this to anyone regardless of age.

(And don't forget there's still time to enter to win a copy of 101SS. You have until Sunday. :D)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

101 Success Secrets with Christine Fonseca

First off, the winner of THE ROYAL TREATMENT is . . .

Taffy Lovell!

And now, the awesomeness that is May Madness continues with a guest post by Christine Fonseca about what inspired her to write 101 SUCCESS SECRETS FOR GIFTED KIDS. You'll see my review on Friday in which There Will Be Much Gushing because of how incredible it is, but I just want to say that this book isn't just for kids. It has been a source of help and inspiration to help me deal and embrace my own intensity. So, enough about me, and onto Christine! (And yay! There will definitely be a chance to win her book, so stay tuned!)

Wow! I cannot believe I am in the middle of my second Blog Tour! What an amazing ride this has been. Sorry, but I get a little emotional about it all – and this post definitely cranked up my emo-meter. Thanks, Danyelle, for hosting this leg of the tour. Be sure to  check out the great contest at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy of 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids. Now, on to the post –

When I first asked Danyelle what she wanted in terms of a guest post, she quickly answered “talk about GT kids and why you wrote the book.”

Perfect!

This book started out as a conversation with my agent during THE call. She mentioned how much she would like to see a book like this on the shelves. That idea sprouted and grew in my head over the next month or so. Talking with the GT parents I hang out with, the idea started to take shape. We talked about interviewing hundreds of GT kids and seeing what they would say to other GT kids. My vision developed into a marketable idea and I wrote the proposal.

In the process of selling it, my publisher had some suggestions and other plans for the book. I learned that I would need to adapt the idea – which I did (and for the better, BTW). By the time the book sold and was re-titled, I had to really shift some of my original ideas for the book and rework it.

But that isn’t the real story behind this book. The real story comes from two places – my mom and the hundreds and hundreds of kids I met on this journey.

When it came time to actually pull the research for the book I conducted focus groups, both in person and online. I spoke with more nearly a thousand kids from more than four countries, asking for their opinions on every topic in the book – friends, school, expectations. Nothing was off limits. The kids were nothing short of miraculous. Not only could they openly answer everything I asked, they freely talked about themselves, their friends and families, and their experiences. They provided the numerous quotes in the book and shaped the success secrets themselves. Before the focus groups I really had no idea exactly how I would shape the book – but after, it was crystal clear!

Then came the actual writing. It is no secret that 101 Success Secrets was written during a very dark period of my life – the months leading to my mother’s death. But it was also a time of tribute. Writing this book proved to become the most beautiful tribute I could offer to my mom.

See, my mom raised me on her own for most of my childhood. She influenced my particular view of the world, and taught me a lot of the strategies that managed to find their way into the book. Her final gift to me was given on November 28, 2010. I was sitting at Starbuck’s finishing some edits on the book before I needed to send it to my editor. I had just returned form visiting my mom and new her days were limited. The previous night had been particularly difficult, and honestly – I needed the distraction. So I went into my writing cave and decided to work for an hour or two. At the end of the second hour, I called my husband to check in. He explained that he had spoken to my dad and mom was resting peacefully. Things were fine. I decided to go ahead and finish the edits on the last two chapters of the book – just get it turned in. It wasn’t due for another week, but I just wanted to have it off of my plate in case mom took a sudden turn for the worse.

I finished the book an hour later and sent it to my editor.

And two hours after that, my mom died. Her final gift to me was the peace I needed to complete the book.

Now, as I read each success secret in the book, I see her in the pages, remember the advice she gave throughout my life, and hear her whispering to me. It is the reason I dedicated this book to her.

Needless to say, I love this book. I give it to the kids I work with when they’ve mastered some of the things in the book. And I read it myself – over and over. It is a reminder of the amazing minds of the kids I interviewed for the book, and a reminder of everything my mom gave to me.

I sincerely hope you find it equally as enjoyable for you and your kids.

And thank you, Christine! You can find Christine in any of these places:


Find me on Facebook or Twitter


Enter to win a copy of Christine's book. You have until 5 pm MST, May 15th. Good luck!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Book Contest, Winner, and Some Royal Treatment with Lindsey Leavitt

First off, the winner of the HOURGLASS contest was...

Nisa!

I will get this mailed off to you this week, Nisa. And congrats! 
And no worries if you didn't win. You'll have a chance to win three different books this month. :) One of which is:


Details coming, but if you want an extra 5 entries, send me an email and your picture (Twitter and/or Facebook) so I can tiara-fy it for you. :) Contest runs until 9pm MST on May 8th.
Now, onto the interview:

I'd like you to meet Lindsey Leavitt, author of Princess For Hire, The Royal Treatment, and Sean Griswald's Head.

Photo by Jennie Slade


I love the idea for princess stunt doubles, magic compacts, and a hint of a fairy godmother (in a corporate world :p). How did you come up with the idea for the PRINCESS FOR HIRE series?











I think it was more a series of moments. I grew up a total tomboy, yet had a fascination with beauty queens, old Hollywood, and royal history. The girly stigma was such an enigma to me that I thought such research would suddenly teach me how to part my hair the right way. It didn’t. Would attach picture, but some memories are just too painful.
Next, I was at a writers conference a few years back and an editor joked that her perfect book would involve princess dinosaur vampires (or some other assortment of high concept trends). I thought… well, I can’t write that book, unless I wrote the anti-princess book. How to do that?
From there, I began taking notes for a picture book about a little girl who tries out to be a princess for a bunch of countries but never measured up. I shared the idea with a friend, and she said it sounded more like a mid-grade. That one comment brought me back to thirteen-year-old me. Wouldn’t it have been cool if I could still be myself and do all the things I liked doing back then, but every once and awhile pretend to be someone else, someone popular and crazy rich? Someone like Audrey Hepburn, who EVEN PLAYED A PRINCESS in the movie Roman Holiday, about a princess who takes the day off. And viola, my main character, Desi became a substitute for princesses.

Ultimately, PRINCESS FOR HIRE is about wanting to make an impact for good in the lives of others. From Desi's experience, the power to change the world began with helping a single person change their perceptions about themselves. What drew you to this theme? Do you believe this has real life application?
That theme really came out as I revised the novel, at first the book was really just vignettes of fun little jobs, and I needed a motivation to tie the book together, tie the series together, and the hope to make an impact just seemed to match Desi's character so much. In THE ROYAL TREATMENT, that idea is explored in a broader sense also. And I certainly think there's real life application. When I was thirteen, I was very self-involved, and I think I did a disservice to my family and friends by being so aware of myself and not so much others. So although my first goal is to entertain the read, I'm also happy if this story makes tweens and teens maybe a little more open to how they can reach out to others.

What was something about THE ROYAL TREATMENT (part 2 in the PFH series) that surprised you?
Every one of my books surprise me! I look forward to the day when I actually know what I'm doing :)
Hmmm, I'd say... the first princess. There are some things I mention in the first book that laid the groundwork, and that wasn't intentional, just a happy coincidence. And THAT is all I can really say. 

What's your dream job?
Doing it, baby. I always wanted to have children young, and I wanted a job that would afford me time to be home with them. It can be tough to balance both, but it's still easier schedule-wise than a regular 9-5 job. Not to mention, I love having a creative job that also allows me play make-believe, but also interact with children, teens, and literary adults.

If you got a hold of a magic compact that let you look like any of the royals, who would you want to look like and what would you do in their shoes for a day?
I'm going to be terribly cliche with this answer, but I would have to say Kate Middleton, right at this moment. She is still such an enigma to the media, and thus she's even more under the microscope. And although that kind of world-wide impact would be daunting, it would also be interesting to witness first-hand (especially knowing the moment would be short lived too). 

What's your favorite part of the writing process?
Writing The End. And the beginning. The middle part is the trickiest

Thanks so much for the interview, Lindsey! Isn't she awesome? You can learn more about Lindsey at her website, her blog, the Princess for Hire website, Facebook, and Twitter

I fell in love with Lindsey's work beginning with PRINCESS FOR HIRE and can't wait to read the sequel! And I want to share it with you. Fill out the form to enter to win a copy of THE ROYAL TREATMENT: