Monday, September 16, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday, I sent out a query letter for the first time in almost a year. Between the baby, and the revision for the agent and awaiting the feedback-that-would-never-come, I just didn’t have the motivation to re-enter the query trenches before now.

A part of me still doesn’t.

But, I’ve been wading in my pity pool long enough. Truth is, I worked damn hard on that manuscript and it deserves another go-around, no matter how draining and life-sucking querying can be. So yesterday I re-twerked (can we still use the word this way or does it officially mean ‘to shake one’s buttocks in the air?’) my old query and began the process of re-composing an agent list. And even though I’m not looking forward to the ups and downs, I have to admit, sending out that first query was like re-lighting an old fire.

On a personal note- the baby weight is finally off. Thanks, in part, to the fact that Phoebe is nearing the 20 lb mark at six months old. #worriedmybabyisagiant. 

And it took a while but I’m finally over the disappointment of what-could-have-been if we’d gone through with the move to Brittany. Life is settling back down into its usual routine and this weekend I found myself scanning old manuscripts and partials, looking for inspiration even though I didn’t think I’d find it.

But one of the stories I’d begun before giving birth snagged my attention. I read through the first three chapters, twerking things here and there (yes, I’m determined to use this word the way God intended). And before I knew it, I was adding to it, just a little bit. No more than 250 words or so. But that’s more than I’ve written in a very long time, so it felt good.

Now, this isn’t a story I think I can get published. It’s too been-there-done-that- the kind of urban fantasy the market is completely saturated with at the moment.
But it’s just where I want to be, right now. (does that make sense?) And it has me writing. So I figure, why not?

Have you ever had a project just for you? Something you’ve never shown someone and isn’t intended for publication of any kind?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gotta Keep On Movin'

So, the move is off.

My husband changed his mind. Did a complete °180. I’m officially past the point of wanting to strangle him in his sleep, but it’s been a rough couple of weeks, to say the least. Isn’t marriage fun?:)

Anyway, on the bright side (as small and sliver-like as it feels right now)- Now that I don’t have a major move to focus on, and the girls are all back in school I’ve finally got this rare and priceless little thing we call downtime.

Now, if I were a liar, I’d say I can’t wait to get writing.

But the truth is, just the thought of writing and querying again reminds me of what a big fat failure I’ve been up until now.

No. In order to coax my muse out of her cave of misery and get out of my own sad-sack skin for a while, I think the smartest thing to do right now would be to read.

The problem is, being connected to the writing and publishing community can sometimes have its drawbacks.  Like, at the moment, I feel completely inundated when it comes to choosing which books to buy and read. There are just TOO MANY out there. Everywhere I look. Facebook newsfeed, flashing in my sidebars, all over the twitter feed, and don’t even get me started on trying to research books on Amazon or Goodreads. - It’s like those five-minute commercial breaks on t.v. where all they show is food from different restaurants. Sometimes, everything looks good. And other times nothing does. Getting hit with the perfect image at the perfect time and actually going to that restaurant for a fried bean burrito only happens occasionally.

Buying a book is kind of like ordering out at a restaurant for me. Except worse. Because I can’t just go to Amazon and say ‘I’d like something fantastic, addictive and uplifting. You know, the book equivalent of popcorn-covered chocolate cream puffs. Hit me.’


How do you guys go about choosing which books to read? And any recommendations for me? This girl needs an escape big time.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Time Will Come...

Sorry for being MIA this month of August. Truth be told, as far as writing goes, I simply don’t have much to report.

I discovered last week that the agent I did not one, but two R&R’s for on two different manuscripts has left the agency and maybe even agenting altogether. Some of you might remember me struggling to finish a very in-depth revision for this agent before Christmas, which I sent in and patiently awaited feedback for.

Feedback that will never come.

Strangly enough, I’m not as devastated by this new publishing setback as I may have been in the past. Yes, I did a lot of work on that manuscript. Yes, I would have loved to get her feedback on the finished product, but what can you do?

I think now is simply not my time.

There are some major-big-life-changing events going on in Katieland right now. The biggest being that the creepy family is kicking the dirt of this Parisian suburb off its heals and heading west to a lovely little town in Brittany, France.

This decision has been awhile in the making and since my maternity leave came to an end in July, I’m not ready to rejoin the workforce quite yet, and we need to move into a larger place with four children - we decided to go ahead and find a place we truly loved to make the move.

We chose a small town 20 minutes north of Carnac, Brittany. Carnac is a writers dream with lush, green forests, rocky ocean coasts, white sand beaches, and ancient celtic megaliths. The place is rich in ancient lore and mystique and reminds me more of my native New England than any other region I’ve ever visited in France.

The move will take place in September, so until then I’ve got my work cut out for me.

In other news: Phoebe is bordering on six months old and slowly moving out of her extra-limb phase and into her discovery phase. Basically, she’s got mommy completely figured out and I’m officially boring. Old news. She’s begun to sit up in an attempt to discover more interesting subjects. Last night was her first night sleeping in the girls’ room instead of ours. And we’ve begun some spoon-feeding, which is always fun.

So yes, between all of this and the girls still at home for the interminable summer vacation, I’ve been out of the writing community loop for…*ahem* awhile, and will probably remain that way for at least another couple of months, which stinks. Because I do miss this part of myself.

But I’m confident that eventually, my time will come. My time to write. My time to blog. My time to finally, FINALLY get an agent and get published. Someday. At some point. I’ll be there.

Until then, a big thanks to all of you who have stuck around for my random, sporadic posts. It means a lot!  

Ever feel like you have to put your writing aspirations in a box for a little while, until it's time to take them out again?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How I Lost 6 Pounds on Vacation...

So, technically I’ve been back from our vacation for over a full week. But you know that old adage about needing a vacation to get over your vacation? Yeah, that’s pretty much where I’m at right now.

Camping wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. The tent was spacious and well-equipped. We had electricity and were able to rent a camping fridge, have a fan and outlets to charge cell phones or play music. 

The lavatories were clean and well-functioning and only 30 seconds away from our tent site. The campground had an awesome pool, a reasonably-priced snack shack, grocery store and restaurant and it was only 2 minutes from a fantastic kid-friendly beach!

Even though it was close by, I must have walked the equivalent of one-hundred miles to and from the lavatories. Yes. The kids made it their mission to need to pee at least once every hour of every day the entire time we were there. Not to mention frequent showers to remove chlorine or beach sand, and trips dedicated to washing dishes, of course.

Communal bathrooms and showers also, regretfully, permit you to know intimate details about your camp-mates hygiene. And it becomes completely normal for everyone to make some sort of announcement whenever they’re headed to the toilettes.  You know, just in case we began wondering where they went.

More Pros: The location was fantastic.

Only 10 minutes from the Port de Cavalaire where we went nearly every night for the best ice cream.

And had our Bastille Day activities like the kids’ lantern-march and fireworks.

The campground  was only 10 minutes from the fair grounds.

5 minutes from the medeival village of Ramatuelle. 

And 10 minutes from the beautiful Mediterranean beach - ‘Gigaro’.

And an hour’s drive to ‘Marineland’- France’s version of Seaworld.

All of this activity, plus the frequent beach, pool, and bathroom trips kept me active pretty much non-stop for two weeks. And even if I was bordering on exhaustion as we packed up to go home, it was totally worth it! 

Missed you all! How was your month of July? Any news to report? Have any of you ever had a vacation that was less-than-leisurely? 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Do You, Do You, Do You Saint-Tropez?

It’s that time of year again! When Creepy flakes out on her blog in preparation for summer vacation. Today is the girls’ last day of school and tonight we are heading down to the south of France for some R&R.  Eh, who am I kidding? My time at the beach goes more or less like the following:

And this will be the first year we go hard-core camping, tent and all. Needless to say, I’m sure I’ll be returning home with plenty of new material for my ‘living in France’ series. 

I'm in serious need of some book recommendations for this trip. My kindle is all charged up and ready to go but I'm pretty sure I'm about to blow through the last of my new material in there. What are you guys reading?

And for those of you who go camping regularly, any tips for me? 

In any case, wish me luck! I'll be back to irregular postings in a couple weeks!:)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Busy Being Superwoman...And Failing. Miserably.

The last ten days I’ve been consumed by two major tasks:

Keeping my house clean enough to receive house guests.

Keeping my fridge stocked for said guests.

School is out in many areas of the U.S. which is great for me because it means people are leaving on vacation and, if I’m lucky, popping over to Paris for a sejour. This week my favorite cousin stayed with us for a couple days. Then my only American expat friend who re-patted herself back to the U.S. with her family two years ago came over for dinner with her kids and hubs. And, of course, yesterday was father’s day so we had the in laws over for a barbecue.

Now, I think you all know how I feel about housecleaning. Keeping even a hygienically normal house when you have four kids is downright exhausting. But I bit the bullet and used our upcoming visits as motivation to deep clean our place, washing drapes and linens, mopping, dusting, cleaning bathrooms etc…until the whole place shined!

Then, two days later, I pretty much had to do it again.

And again, a few days after that.

Trying to keep my damn house clean pretty much almost killed me. Because after about the third clean sweep, and mowing the front and back lawns, I came down with the Bubonic French Throat Virus (this may or may not be the official term).

Saturday my nose started running. Sunday it reached faucet-like proportions and my head stuffed up. Wednesday I thought I might be through the worst. Then Thursday I woke up with a sore throat. Friday the fever set in and it felt like I was gargling glass every time I swallowed. This was followed by a range of symptoms running the gamut from mildly irritating to downright bizarre that kept me on my toes all weekend- including chills, fatigue and hand and face swelling.

Finally, today, the virus seems to be receding back into the hell hole from which it sprung and as much as I love having guests from the U.S., I’m thankful for the opportunity to finally just get some rest and relax before we leave on vacation in July.

What I learned: house cleaning can be hazardous to your physical and mental health. Avoid at all costs.

And do you ever feel like life is out to get you despite your best intentions?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Living in a Musical

First, I want to thank you all for your kind words and advice on last week’s babyblues post. I’m happy to report the postpartum blahs have high-tailed it back to the swampy recesses from which they came (for the time being).

A few things that helped: First off all, the sun finally decided to make its grand debut after six straight months of rain.

Secondly, I was able to get out of the house and run twice this week. I’ll be honest. I’m not good at running. I actually really suck at it (think Phoebe from ‘friends’- I can never seem to get my limbs to work together like they’re supposed to and tend to look like a flailing crazy person the whole time) but the fresh air and time alone, plus the exercise did me a world of good.

And last, and most surprisingly, there’s songwriting.

Yes, I, creepy query girl, have been writing songs. But not the kind of songs where I sit around with a pad of paper and an acoustic guitar, humming lovely little notes and tuning here and there, like those glorious folky singers do in the movies.

My songs are more like an in-promptu soundtrack to my life.

There’s the baby’s bath time song entitled ‘If you keep squirming, you will slip and drown you soapy, squirmy little thing’.

And the spilled milk song. I think the person who invented the ‘don’t cry over spilled milk’ expression could have found a much better analogy.

Spilled milk is a serious pain in the ass, especially when you have children who seem to like to spill it once a week or especially like to let it soak into the kitchen chair cushions before, you know, telling their mother. Milk also makes everything sticky and will start to smell like old cheese if left unattended.  So no, I don’t cry when milk is spilled. But I do go just a little ballistic and start freaking the f#&k out. Thus I decided spilled milk deserves an angry, profanity-strewn black metal song a la iron maiden.

And then there’s my personal favorite, a pop-rock ode to breastfeeding entitled ‘One of these boobs is not like the other’.

It’s a real crowd-pleaser.

If you were writing a song, right now at this moment, what would it be called?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Back to Basics and Babyblues

I guess I should count myself lucky. I’ve never had to deal with the full-blown, emotionally/physically debilitating postpartum depression that some mothers have. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of baby blues.  Hormones tend to yo-yo up and down for about a year after giving birth, especially if you’re breastfeeding, which I am.

And for the last three months I’ve felt fiiiine. Completely fiiiiine!

Until, suddenly, I didn’t.

Phoebe turned three months old on Monday and this entire week I’ve felt entirely un-fine. Emotions are pretty much stuck between the irritation and sadness settings, and a part of me would very much like to grab a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of wine, and a block of chocolate and whole up in a shadowy corner to start writing dark poetry about fading beauty or the abyss.

But then, I realized the fact that I suck at poetry would render the whole thing more depressing than I could bear.

So I cleaned my house, thinking that a shiny environment would make things feel better on the inside…Then I realized just how much I hate cleaning and went on to despise every minute of the monotonous tasks before me.

I also felt bad about missing not one, but two blogging days this week. So I decided- who cares if it’s Thursday!? I’m going to blog today. I miss the interaction with my writer friends. I miss opening up my email and reading the comments.

And you know what else I miss? I miss what pushed me to start this blog in the first place.

Writing and Querying

Okay, maybe not querying so much as acting on the perpetual hope that somehow, some way I’ll one day see my books on bookshelves all over the world one day. That hope has been evading me now for quite some time and I need to set its tail on fire.

And then, there’s writing. I’ve had a premise in the back of my mind for awhile but haven’t felt that pull quite yet- the one that makes you want to take a break from your life and go wade in a different world of your own creation. I don’t want to force it, because I’ve tried starting projects just for the sake of writing, in general, and they always remain unfinished. But at the same time, I really miss that thrill and hope inspiration will strike me hard, soon.

Where are you guys at, writing wise?  And for those of you who have ever had to deal with periods of ‘un-fine’, hormonal or not, what are your tried and true pick-me-ups?  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reading in the Cemetery

Yes, I was just the kind of melodramatic, slightly emo-teenager who used to go to the local cemetery to read in the summertime. It was quiet there, of course, and added ambiance to the spooky stories that were my bread and butter back then.

Plus, when I wanted a break from paranormal love affairs, I could take a walk and let my imagination fill in the blanks behind some of my favorite older-than-dirt headstones.  Who were these people who died so long ago? What were their lives like? Why/how did some of them die so young?

Dianne Salerni’s The Caged Graves reminds me of one of those beautiful days spent in
my cemetery- surrounded by mystery, the scent of fresh-cut grass and the tingle of something other climbing up my back with each warm breeze.

In her book, Dianne captures the fictional story behind two very real graves located in an abandoned cemetery outside the town of Catawissa, Pennsylvania.

SARAH ANN, Wife of Ransloe Boone, Died November 15, 1852, Aged 22 years

ASENATH, Wife of John Thomas, Died November 15, 1852, Aged 17 years

How the young sister-in-laws died and why cages were erected around their graves remains a mystery. But Dianne did a hell of a job filling in the blanks!

The story is told from the point-of-view of the daughter of one of the deceased; 17-year-old Verity Boone, who arrives back in Catawissa to live with her father after fifteen years away.

Her arrival in town stirs up memories and rumors that had been thought long-laid to rest but Verity is determined to learn the truth behind her mother and aunt’s caged graves, despite the reluctance of the townspeople. Were the cages erected to keep someone out? Or make sure the dead remained inside?

Add a hot love triangle between Verity, her intended, and the doctor’s apprentice to the mix and you’ve got everything needed for a fast-paced and engaging YA historical mystery. Congratulations Dianne, on another fantastic story!

Have you ever spent time contemplating the lives of those long-deceased? Why do you think we feel such a pull to explore and ponder the lives of people who lived and died centuries before us?

Monday, May 13, 2013

When Good Series Go Bad...

As one of my favorite television series (based on one of my favorite book series growing up; the original L.J. Smith Vampire Diaries Trilogy) comes to a season 4 series finale, I can’t help my utter dissapointment.- Not because I’ll have to wait four months for the show to start back up again, but because this season was just so... bad.

I don’t know what happened. It's like the writers got so caught up in the plot (which was much weaker than usual), they forgot about the importance of their character arcs and development. Up until now, there had been a steady deepening and growth in each of their main characters over the course of every season that really made the show come alive. This season, however, not only did their characters' development come to a grinding halt, but they actually regressed. Or, when that was too much trouble, they just got killed off altogether. *sigh*

And it got me thinking, when I asked the agent I sent the R&R to why she preferred I make my book a stand-alone rather than the first in a series, she explained that a lot of YA authors today tend to over-do it with a series and it’s definitely felt by their readers. 
I couldn’t help but agree.

After all, when an author is writing a series because they tend to sell more copies than stand-alones, some very scary things can in sue.

The author can get bored and resort to using the same old tried-and-true plots and plot devices. I’ve definitely gotten tired while reading serialized romance books. After the first three or four, I could see the same storylines being used over and over again and lost interest.

The author can get bold. Which can be good thing. Or not so much. Like in the case of poor L.J. Smith, who wanted to stop the Vampire Diaries at three books but was pushed to write more by her fans and publisher. Which led to downright weird plot twists involving things like angel wings, Japanese anime antagonists and other dimensions. Not good.

The author can get cocky. When a series is really popular, some authors take liberties they wouldn’t have otherwise taken with the mindset that anything and everything they do will turn to gold and be appreciated by their fans. Yeah. No.

I think it’s easy for authors to picture writing a series, especially when they feel really close to their characters. They want to spend as much time with them as they can BUT, if the passion and the vision don’t follow, some stories really are better off being wrapped up in one volume.

What do you guys think? Have you ever read a series where the author should have/could have stopped after one or two books? In what cases do you think more books are necessary for the author and the reader?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Do You Have to Be Rich to Self-Publish?

Okay, maybe not rich. But am I the only one that feels like, in order to successfully self-publish, you gotta have an extra couple-thousand-dollars lying around?
As I enviously watch many of my writer friends take the giant leap into self-publishing, I’ve seriously considered following their lead and publishing one of my books to amazon. It just seems like the next logical step for someone like me, even though I’m still determined to keep querying agents and get published traditionally someday as well.

However, it feels like all the successful self-published authors I meet agree on the absolute
necessity of a high quality product if you’re going to put something out there. I’m not just talking about the quality of your writing, which has taken years to hone- But of every aspect of your self-published book from formatting, to cover art, to copy-editing. As well we should, I suppose. The majority of readers won’t be drawn to shoddy book covers, weirdo spacing and grammatical errors galore and putting out a less-than-stellar product can diminish the view of self-publishing as a whole.

Now, I could try and do all the work on my own and not spend a dime. But it feels like most self-pubbing resources warn against it. While reading the do’s and don’t’s of self-pubbing, doubts and worries fill my mind. ‘You’ll never be able to successfully copy-edit your book and it will have a ton of errors.’ ‘Your book cover might appeal to you, but won’t appeal to a huge audience like a professional’s would.’ ‘Learning to format correctly and actually formatting your book will take forever and you’ll probably have to go back and fix it a million times, if you’re even successful at all.’ ‘In the end, it will be just so hard and time consuming and you’ll probably fail anyway so why try?’ *sigh*

Except, whenever I look into what kind of budget I’d need to hire someone to make a spectacular book cover (150$-400$), copy-edit my manuscript (450$-1000$), and format my book (100$-300$), I can’t help but feel like ‘the perfect product’ is far beyond my financial reach.

Am I the only one with the impression that in order to make money self-pubbing, you have to spend it? I wish there were some way to see how much money a mixed group of authors put into their first self-published title and if that effected the success of that book in the long run as opposed to someone who put in less money.

And, also, I can’t help but think that a pretty cover and perfect grammar can go a long way, but in the end- isn’t it the genre, concept and story that take center stage when it comes to the success of a title?

What do you guys think? Are ‘do-it-yourself’ SP books of a lesser quality and less popular than those that were invested in financially? Or does the amount of money put into the book not matter at all when it comes to success?

Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm BACK, Baby!

So, today is the first time in a long time I’ve sat down in front of the computer to try and put together something coherent. My baby girl, Phoebe, was born February 27th, 2013 and just turned nine weeks old which means I finally have the ‘go ahead’ to start exercising and getting myself back into shape. Therefore I figured it would also be a good time to stretch back out the ole’ writing muscles and get blogging again.
The last 8 weeks have been FILLED with ups and downs so I thought I’d do a brief recap:

Week 1- Baby’s born! First thoughts- ‘Look what I DID!’ *looks around the room
frantically* Do you guys see this? I made this brand new little human practically all by myself AND it feels like my body just broke about a million rules of nature to squeeze the little sucker out! It’s a miracle! I am magical! I should have food and presents brought to me on golden platters and tribes of people should bow down and sing my praises! Or I should at least be given a medal by the mayor, or something. So what if hundreds of thousands of women do this every day!? I still deserve a damn medal!’

Week 2 – ‘Yeah,- still waiting on that medal’.  *Hmph*

Week 3- ‘Boy, this baby sleeps a lot!’. I mean, I practically have time to do whatever I want! Why did I think this was going to be so hard again?’

Week 4- ‘Boy, this baby cries a lot!  What’s wrong? You’re fed, burped, changed and in the loving embrace of your spectacular mother! Why do you hate me?’ *tears*

Week 5- ‘Boy, this baby sleeps great! I mean, she only wakes up once or twice a night. I’ve got this new baby thing totally licked!’

Week 6- ‘Oh my god, I’m never going to get a full night’s sleep again ever for the next seven years. What the hell was I thinking? Why do you HATE me? *tears*’

Week 7- ‘She SMILED! Oh my god, she totally loves me. I’ve got this new baby thing completely licked.’

Week 8- ‘Holy crap, this baby got heavy fast. What are we feeding you? My back is killing me. And now the doctor says I can work out on top of all this? Yay- *fake mini fist pump*.’ *Looks in mirror* ‘I don’t look that bad. But what the hell is going on with my thighs? I mean, I understood when I had that big baby belly to support that my upper legs had to kind of spread out to support the weight but it’s been TWO MONTHS now since the baby jumped ship. Shouldn’t they start, I don’t know, deflating on their own?’

Which brings me to the present- nine weeks later and slowly learning to balance baby care, body care and all the fun things in life in-between. You guys aren’t here to see it, but I just took a nice deep breath and got a little teary. I hadn’t realized just how much I’ve missed this part of my life.  The simple act of writing and sharing.

Well, that and the hormones have me tearing up pretty regularly over things like nutella commercials and realizing we're out of trash bags…But that doesn’t devalue just how much I’ve missed all of you, too!

It’s good to be back! Now, your turn! What have I missed? When you think back on the last 8 weeks what’s the first word/event that comes to mind for you?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Extended Hiatus

So, the last few weeks ‘baby brain’ has set in. I wanted to keep up with the blog and the writing community. I really did. But the truth is, I can barely manage to string two coherent sentences together that don’t contain the words ‘baby, labor, or birth’. I’ve searched the recesses of my brain, but unfortunately I’ve had nothing witty or relevant to add to the blog about writing, querying, books or publishing. I sent in my big revise & resubmit to the agent in December, and any further motivation to create has seemed to disappear along with my stretched-out belly button.

I knew this would happen. I hoped it wouldn’t- but deep down, I knew it would. I’ve always been useless the last months of my pregnancies. The growing baby sucks the last of my energy while mentally preparing for her arrival takes up any brain power I may have on reserve. Like Gloria said in Modern Family -‘I have two brains in my body, but never felt so dumb’.

And the worst part is, it’s not going to get any better after the birth. Because once the baby comes, so do the hormones. And in my case, breastfeeding and hormones compile to create a ‘drugged and in denial’ effect that allows me to go days without sleep, clothes that don’t smell like spit-up, or adult interaction and actually be happy about it. Now that I’m on my fourth time through this rabbit hole, I fully anticipate and accept the two-month mental, emotional and psychological journey through ‘la la land’ needed for baby and I to adapt.

Which is why I prefer to go an hiatus now, before I forget I have a blog altogether.

But I hate to leave things hanging. So,I was looking through my settings and realized in the last three years, I’ve written 415 posts (Holy Crap!).

Not to mention, a bunch of other posts surrounding those themes (agents, blogging, bloghops, books, reading, etc…) that haven’t been labeled or aren’t labeled under the above. You can scroll down to the ‘Labels’ section of this blog for a full list. For any newbies, I hope you find what you’re looking for here. For all my regular blogging friends and readers, I’ll miss you over the next few months and I will update my writer facebook regularly! (see sidebar)

See you all in the Spring!



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