Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Does it Mean to Be an American?

Okay, wow. The title of today's post is way too philosophical for this early in the morning. But it's one of the things that occured to me as the plane was touching down in NYC Saturday night.

I wasn't sure when I was going to be be able to blog again. Between the jet lag and the traveling from place to place, I haven't even had much time to think, nevermind come up with witty observations.

First of all, I'm writing this post without spell check which is kind of like standing on a podium with my clothes off. Most of you post early in the morning and, for that, I salute you.  Living in France, I had the advantage of taking most of the morning and early afternoon to come up with a blogpost and write it out so that it posted at 7 or 8am US time. Everything was on the fly. Not so easy now that blogtime is six hours earlier. I tried writing something out last night but I couldn't come up with a damn thing. I guess I've become too dependant on improv, if that's even possible.

In any case, we're all doing well. In vacation's past, whenever I came home to the US, I almost felt like I had split personality disorder. One half of me was French. When I'm in France, I speak a different language, have different mannerisms and a different humor. The French Katie would be sitting in a chair, pouting out her bottom lip and wondering why these silly Americans eat standing up so much.  The American in me would tell French Katie to 'shut up and go grab a hot dog off the grill'.

Now, the two of us seem to have settled down into one person. Maybe it's age, or time but I find I can understand, identify, and accept the good and the bad both countries and cultures have to offer and it's definitlely made our arrival back in the family fold that much more peaceful.

I hope you all are having a fantastic week! Have you ever had a cultural clash moment while traveling or meeting people from a different country (or a different region of the US, even!)?

Friday, June 22, 2012

FMFB- I'll See You On the Other Side!

Good Morning everybody and welcome to this week's Friday Morning Follower’s Bloffee! Looks like summer has finally arrived! The weather in France is glorious and I've been seeing loads of comments about the heat in various parts of the U.S. the last few days. I hope the sunny days last throughout the next five weeks!

So, for any newbies - all you have to do to participate in bloffee is:

1. Comment. 2. Tell us what you’ve brought for breakfast. ( I'll be serving up some virtual pancakes with maple syrup)  3. Find someone in the comments section you don’t recognize and check out their blog. Voila! An instant friend and potential follower connection has been made.

My blogposts over the next few weeks will probably be sporadic and all over the place since, well, I’m going to be all over the place.

We arrive in New York. My parents are picking us up and whisking us away to Richmond, Virginia where we’ll stay with one of my favorite aunts for a couple days before finishing the trip down to South Carolina.

Three weeks in SC before we travel back up the coast, staying with my sister in North Carolina for a few days, again in Virginia and then ten days in good ol’ Connecticut (where I grew up).

Lots of traveling and long car trips (but I honestly miss that. It feels like summer.) In France, it only takes about six-eight hours to cross the country by car, going the long way. This has kind of shrunk the French’s perception of space and time. Basically, if anything is over 30 minutes away, the French say it’s in ‘China’ and won’t travel there without some prodding.

As much as I love the East Coast, someday I dream of visiting other states like California, Colorado, and Louisiana. Or Quebec City! In any case, I can’t wait to see the U S of A again. I hope you guys have a fantastic weekend! Next time I write, it will be from the other side of the ocean!

Is there a state you’ve always dreamt of visiting but never got around to it? Any big summer plans?  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

That Is the Question

So, the question about whether or not an author should self-publish has been beaten to a bloody gurgling pulp.  And the general consensus is, there is no right answer. There’s only what’s right for you. (I know.  About as helpful as a wet fish in the face. But it's true.)

For me, when I walk into a book store, I just know. –I want to see my book in there so bad it hurts. I want to see it in windows and on shelves. I live in France so I’d like to have foreign rights sold and see it over here too.

In short, I want a traditional publishing contract.

Which means I might remain the Creepy Query Girl for years to come before being bumped up to Creepy Client status.

And I’m okay with that.

That said, I’m not closed to self-publishing.

In fact, I already have a project I’m thinking about putting out there. Why? Because I know I’ll never stop writing and living new adventures. It’s become a part of who I am and I don't feel like myself if I'm not working on something. I guess, my take is- even if a book wasn’t picked up by an agent, if I still believe it’s a worthy read that people will enjoy, why not share it?  Why hole it up on my hard drive forever, hidden from the world?

If it’s not ‘the book’ that will get me a traditional publishing contract, it can still be ‘a book’ that touches readers regardless.

I don’t think we need to pick one over the other.  But maybe that’s just me.

What about you guys? Do you think a line has been drawn between self published vs traditional published? If you’re thinking of self-pubbing, what’s the biggest obstacle for you? (I think we’re all well aware of the obstacles faced when you want to traditionally publish:)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tell the World I'm Comin' Home

Mothers don’t get a lot of ‘true’ vacations. I mean, even if you and the fam take off to an island paradise, or to the top of the mountains, Moms still find themselves doing laundry, folding clothes, preparing or organizing mealtimes, cleaning up and taking care of the kids. (aka -work = opposite of vacation)

There’s no drinking Mojitos on the beach when you’re too busy worrying one of your kids is getting sunburned. Or putting sand up their noses. Or is playing too close to the water, or are at risk of drowning, or being targeted by sharks, kidnapped by pirates, etc

Anyways, I did have a point, here, somewhere…Oh yes.

This Saturday, we will be flying back to the United States for a FIVE WEEK vacation! Unfortunately, the hubs didn’t get enough time off to accompany us so it’s just me and the girls (ages 4,6, and 8)…traveling on a plane…for eight hours.

Needless to say, I’m a little nervous about being the sole parent during this adventure.

But I’m also really excited. My kids haven’t seen the United States in three years and their English could definitely use the exposure. Not to mention, it will be great to see them with my parents again.

But the biggest reason I’m looking forward to THIS vacation?

*leans in for a conspiratory whisper*

Something strange and magical happens whenever I stay with my parents on vacation. I always try to help out and do my part, you see. But sometimes, when I go to do laundry, I realize it’s already done.

Sometimes food replenishes itself when I didn’t even go shopping!

People ask me what I want for dinner or tell me what we’re having! (I’m pretty sure every time this happens one wrinkle magically dissipates from my face and turns into a beaming fairy of light. This is how fairies are really born, you see. Try telling a mother that dinner is already taken care of and watch the magic unfold for yourself.)

It’s really a beautiful thing to see. Funny, the only time I get a ‘true’ vacation is when I go stay with my parents. But I will never be too old or proud to refuse reverting back to semi-kidhood in exchange for a little TLCJ

What are your vacation plans this summer? What was the best ‘true’ vacation you ever had?

Friday, June 15, 2012

FMFB- What's Up With the Zombies?

Good Morning everybody and welcome to another Friday Morning Follower’s Bloffee! The weather in the parisian suburbs has been pure nastiness this week (grey, cold and rainy), but it's probably appropriate for today's FMFB debate.

For any newbies - all you have to do to participate in bloffee is:

1. Comment. 2. Tell us what you’ve brought for breakfast. ( I'll be serving up some virtual pancakes with maple syrup)  3. Find someone in the comments section you don’t recognize and check out their blog. Voila! An instant friend and potential follower connection has been made.

Today’s debate: What’s up with zombies?

I have yet to watch ‘The Walking Dead’ but I’ve heard it’s a great show. Truth is, I’m not a big fan of zombies. They gross me out. And the idea of a person and their loved ones at constant risk of being eaten by zombies kind of stresses me out more than anything else. That said, I have noticed an increase in all things ‘zombie’ and ‘zombie apocalypse’ in the last six months or so.

Now, from where I’m sitting, the fascination with zombies must be different from the fascination with witches, vampires, werewolves or other creatures of mystique. Zombies are mindless decaying corpses who feed off people’s brains and infect them. (again. Yuck.)

There is nothing sexy about zombies.

Which leads me to the conclusion that the excitement at the idea of zombies running amuck must stem from what regular people become in the case of a zombie apocalypse.  Suddenly we are the beautiful, skilled creatures of heightened intelligence with the need to kill or be killed. Only the ingenuous, quick, or lucky will survive.

Or maybe I’m wrong. So, if you’re privy to the zombie phenomenon, please fill me in- What’s up with the zombies?

Hope you all have a great weekend!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Never Surrender

Today I’m participating in Elana Johnson’s bloghop for the release of her novel SURRENDER.

I’m not going to share my story, however, but someone else’s.

Andy Whitfield was a talented actor, a father, a husband and a strong and handsome guy. When he was up for the part of SPARTICUS in the Australian television series SPARTICUS: Blood and Sand, he and his family kept a positive attitude and spread post-it notes throughout the house reading ‘Andy IS Sparticus!!’ He eventually won the roll.

Andy was living the dream until he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2010 and a completely different goal took up the thoughts and prayers of him and his loved ones.

He just wanted to stay alive.

He fought hard. He didn’t give up. But in September 2011, after an 18 month battle, the cancer won out and he passed, leaving behind him a wife and two young children.

But that didn’t mean Andy had surrendered. During those 18 months, he filmed a documentary about his struggle. He hoped, in sharing his story and showing how cancer can destroy a perfectly strong, healthy body and affect a family, he might raise awareness and funds for cancer research and help others in their struggle.

Unfortunately, since his death, the documentary has lacked the funding needed for additional filming and editing. And yet, his family and friends refuse to surrender. They’ve begun the BE HERE NOW project on Kickstarter and many other blogs and professionals have joined the battle, including Kathy Bradey, an Australian author and blogger who has organized a Writer’s Auction to raise funds for Andy Whitfield’s documentary.  The auction offers up chapter and query critiques from well established YA authors.  There are some fantastic writers on that list and I encourage you all to have a look! It begins today and you can find all the details here.

Thank you Kathy, for bringing this project to light. Andy’s story should be shared. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

If I Must Leave You

This morning, as I was sweeping the floor, one of those terrible thoughts crept up on me.

You know the ones – about how awful it would be to lose a loved one, or die yourself and leave your loved ones behind? We all have them, just like we all probably have the same daydreams about what we’d do if we won a few million dollars. But mostly, we try to quickly push those scary thoughts aside because it’s terrifying to imagine.

This morning, though, I thought about what I’d want my girls to know if I was suddenly taken away from them. And the answer came to me in a poem. (Yikes) Or at least, a bunch of phrases that rhyme. Kind of.

So, I stopped what I was doing and wrote it down.

I don’t normally write poems, (for good reason) but since it’s such a rare occurrence, I thought I’d share it here.

If I Must Leave You

If I must leave you before our time is through,
know that you will miss me, and I will miss you.

Life will seem long and you’ll wonder where I am.
But for me, it will pass quickly, and I’ll again hold your hand.

Until then, I am near you, every time you may need me.
I hope you will feel me, even if you can’t see me.

Where I am, there is no shame– no reason to hide.
There is nothing that would keep me from being by your side.

We are what we are – and what we are is love,
each a small piece of the great body above.

-         K.L. Mills

Am I the only one who’s had their thoughts start rhyming spontaneously? I hope you all had a great weekend!


Friday, June 8, 2012

FMFB- Debating the Act of 'Querying'

Good Morning everybody and welcome to another Friday Morning Follower’s Bloffee! This week was filled with some fun and fantastic book launches. Congratulations to Elana Johnson, Hart Johnson and Elizabeth Craig on their new releases!

All you have to do to participate in bloffee is:

1. Comment. 2. Tell us what you’ve brought for breakfast. (In reality I just had coffee and a lowfat yogurt. But in my virtual world I can have greasy eggs and bacon and real-buttered toast. So that's what I'm bringing.:)  3. Find someone in the comments section you don’t recognize and check out their blog. Voila! An instant friend and potential follower connection has been made.

Today I'm having bloffee over at Misha Gericke's My First Book where I (hopefully) reveal how to stay in the query trenches when it's 'Just Not Happening' (Yeah. I know plenty about that.) Writing the post got me thinking. --Where do you think the act of querying agents stands now a'days?
Different opinions I've picked up on in the last few months:
a. It's a necessary step and can teach a writer a lot of valuable lessons and traits for the future. Time well spent.
b. In today's market, it's unecessary and without interest. Just self publish already!
c. A useful process but it's no good to stagnate in there forever. Keep writing books. Keep querying. And if it doesn't happen, then look into other avenues. 
d. If a traditional agent doesn't pick you up, then you're probably not good enough.
e. If a traditional agent doesn't pick you up, it's because the system is flawed. Just self-publish already!

Do you think querying agents is still necessary and/or useful? Do you think authors lose patience easier/faster/too fast/not fast enough with querying in today's climate?

Hope you all have a great weekend!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Being Published

Today I’m thrilled to interview Elana Johnson– the queen of the query, blogging phenomenon, and the author behind the books POSSESSION and the newly released SURRENDER.

So, Elana, you've been through so many of the ups and downs that come with the road to/and beyond publishment (I know it’s not a word) and it seems, to me, that you took each step as it came and threw yourself into it wholeheartedly. -You analyzed and perfected ‘the query’ and helped hundreds of others as you did. You stayed determined through the soul-sucking climb through the query trenches until you found the agent who was right for you. And not only did you make it through the aftermath of signing that first contract (and all the pressure and work that comes before a book hits the presses) but the promotional movement for POSSESSION went down in blogging history as the most epic and memorable of any other book launch I’ve ever seen. (Really? Thanks so much!)

If I’ve learned anything from watching your journey, it’s that living the dream of being a published writer means challenging yourself over and over again in new and unexpected ways.

So I have to ask, now that you’ve made it so far and SURRENDER, the second book in the POSSESSION series is hitting shelves:

What are the three biggest and best moments of your writerly journey in the last five years- moments that you’d mark as the highest on the scale of happiness?

1. The launch party. Seriously. Every writer, no matter how or when you’re published, should have a launch party for their book. It’s the time when virtually no one knows about you or your book, so you’re surrounded by those that matter most—those who knew you “way back when” and love you with or without the book.

I’m getting weepy just writing this, because it’s so, so true. I can still see with perfect clarity my launch party, and looking across the hundred or so people there and thinking, “These people love me.”

Everyone should have that moment. That brief second to feel loved, to celebrate the huge accomplishment of writing a book and seeing it go into the world.

2. Getting the first book deal for POSSESSION. What a great moment, you know? I mean after querying for 8 months, and sending so many letters, and getting close a couple of times, and all the rejection? I honestly wasn’t sure if I could handle editorial rejection too—and I didn’t have to. So that was a super-shiny moment as well.

3. Getting the cover for POSSESSION. There is nothing like seeing the cover for your first book. You have a vision of it in your head—usually what you’d really like NEVER to see—and when you get that email with that jpeg attached… It’s a rush, let me tell you.

And when it’s as brilliant as a butterfly in ice? Yeah. Amazing moment.

And of course, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the highs without the lows – So, what were the three most challenging (emotionally or work-wise) moments of your writing career?

Ah, the lows. Okay, let’s start with something I’m not even sure I’m supposed to talk about…

1. The third book in the POSSESSION series has not been purchased. It’s not a “we won’t, no matter what” but more of a “we’re looking at sales and the market” type of thing. Apparently the dystopian market is a bit softer now than it was 2.5 years ago when POSSESSION sold.  WHAAAT???? That’s just plain crazy. You’d think the new HUNGER GAMES movies would incite even more interest in the genre by consumers.

So that phone call was definitely the lowest of the low for me. It’s the only time I’ve cried tears of unhappiness over this business.  

And hey, you have the power to take this depressing moment and make it better—buy SURRENDER! Good sales for this book help determine the success of the series and if it’s worth continuing. Amen to that!

2. I’m going to say querying here, even though I did end up with an amazing agent. I think sometimes we think querying will be fast and easy. We think because we’ve A) had an agent before or B) we’ve written our best work or C) that we’ve already suffered so much rejection that we won’t have to go through a long, hard query process. <-Oh yes. These delusions seize me every time I query a new project. The query trenches are most certainly one of the suckiest places to be on the road to being published. I've been here so long, I wonder if I shouldn't start selling tickets to see agents take a shot at me.

Some people don’t have to. We’re glad for those people. But a small number of days and a low number of queries don’t determine if your book is good or not.

So yes. I queried two books over a combined period of 16 months. It was hell. I hated it. I hoped every single one of those 480 days, and I spent many nights on the ledge, wondering if I had enough hope for another query, another day, another email.

It was terrible. But I made it through.

3. This last one is writing-wise. Post-publication, I found my attitude toward writing shifting, changing, morphing. And what it was becoming I didn’t like. I love to write, and I love to tell stories. But I found myself writing stories I didn’t like just in the hopes they would sell.

I found myself viewing writing as a job, instead of a hobby or as something I do because I love it.

I found myself resenting everyone who seemed to “have it better than me.” More marketing. A better cover. More excitement. Better sales.

And I didn’t like anything about writing. I didn’t like the actual act of it, I didn’t like the thought of spending hours (after my day job!) doing it, I didn’t like participating in the online community.

As soon as I realized this, I pulled way back. I examined everything about writing, and thanks in part to my fabulous husband, I found the joy of writing again. Now I write what I want, when I want. I’m happy for those around me in their writing successes, and I don’t ever want to go back to that low of realizing that writing had become a chore rather than a source of contentment.

What words of advice do you have for others who might be facing the lows that come with the game? What helped you most to find perspective and push through?

Honestly? I think the best advice for pushing through the lows of this industry is to write more. Keep writing. Another story. Another book. Another character. It’s writing that you love. Do that to combat any of the lows you might experience. This is absolutely fabulous advice and so so true.

For me, writing a new story always makes me smile. So that helped me push through the tough times. My family helped keep things in perspective. And it’s said that if kids have just one really good friend, they won’t get bullied or into too much trouble. I think that’s true for writing too. Everyone needs just one really good friend, one really safe place, to make it through the rough patches in the publishing industry. Mine knows who she is. *waves*

Thanks so much for giving us so much insight into your journey! SURRENDER sounds amazing and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for for your newest characters Raine and Gunner!

Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control…

     Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

     All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

     Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque….

Monday, June 4, 2012

Nobody Will Ever See This...

At least, that’s what I tell myself when in the midst of writing a first draft. Every writer says it at one point or another: You have to write for you! Not for anyone else! But when you’re writing in hopes of one day getting published, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering what people will think or writing ‘for’ the market.

Unfortunately, wondering how your work will be received before it’s even written is one sure way to bloodily murder your creativity. And writing for the market is useless since the market is constantly changing.

The moment I find myself wondering about what other people might think, the self-doubt starts to clamp down hard and suddenly everything I’ve ever written seems ridiculous/subpar/amateur/why-do-I-even-bother?

So, in order to get through that first draft, I tell myself every step of the way, whenever doubt clouds my judgment – Nobody will ever see this but you. Just write what you want to write, how you see the story and don’t worry about anyone else. This is yours. Your world, your characters and if, at the end, you aren’t happy with it? Well, again, nobody ever has to see it! So chill out!

This explains why I prefer beta partners to critique partners. I’m not ready for ANYONE to see my work until I’m on the second or third draft.  I know critique partners can be just as helpful and motivating when you’re trying to complete a draft, but my first draft is kind of like a big clump of clay. I had to add the water and the powder and form it into something solid that I could work with. But then, before I’m ready to show it off (because, let’s face it, nobody will be impressed by a dirty fat lump) it has to be molded into something that reflects the story in just the right way.  (<-Today’s gratuitous writing analogy people. You’re welcome :)

What kind of mantra gets you through that mucky first draft?

Hope you all had a great weekend!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Incredible Contest Opportunity!

I received an email the other day about the ‘Biggest and Best’ contest ever held by the Writer’s Workshop. I don’t know if many of you remember the interview I did with Harry Bingham a couple years back.  He’s the author of several bestselling fiction novels, and the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook's GUIDE TO GETTING PUBLISHED and HOW TO WRITE.

This month, in honor of Harry’s soon-to-be released title TALKING TO THE DEAD, the Writer’s Workshop is holding a competition with fantastic prizes including:

One FULL WEEK ticket to the Festival of Writing! (each worth £525)

3 Places at a lunch in London with Harry Bingham and Bill Massey- deputy publishing director of ORION where they will give you personal feedback on the opening chapter of your book.

10 Signed copies of the Writers’ and Artists’  Yearbook Guide to How to Write

10 Signed copies of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published

Holy Crap!  You can read full contest details here. The bigger prizes might hold more interest for those living in or around Europe but the signed copies of WAY’s How to Write and the Guide to Getting Published are still marvelous additions to any writer’s artillery.

Congratulations Harry on your new release!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!



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