#Magicday…Choices

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I just read a blog post by the FABULOUS Julie Hutchings. Go…go read it…I’ll wait…here, let me help.

The Joy of Not Playing Well with Others

Isn’t she great? She’s my Gorky.

Anyway, her post made me think, as good posts do.

Taking control of your life is the greatest thing you can ever do. Having control means different things to different people. Everyone is different. Control means seeing the choices, it means not allowing life to put you in a box, afraid to take a chance, afraid to live.

We’re here. Alive. We should be living.

When you’re not happy, look at the choices. There are always choices! Always.

As Julie says, “WAIT I CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT PERIOD THE END OH MY GOD.”

Words to live by.

For writers, we have multiple ways we can go, agents, small presses, self-publishing… Like Julie, if you aren’t happy with previous choices, you can forge another path. Things in publishing (as in life) rarely go as planned, a big giant awful fabulous mess, one we jump into because we love it. But don’t ever feel like you don’t have control over your life. You do. In this glorious time, writers have so many choices, more than ever. Even if those choices are scary. Even if those choices mean more work, mean stepping out of your comfort zone.

Sometimes we forget. We forget we can leave the rut we have carefully worn. We forget to look at the things in life that frustrate us or make us unhappy and ask what else can we do.

Remember that when you climb out of the rut, when you find another path, there are people who will always be there to help. As I will be there to help my Gorky, and happily read all her books! Though, dude…five books in one year?

YOU ARE A MAD WOMAN, JULIE!

 

When you find what works, go with it. Happiness will follow.

Heart vs Brain: Facing the Great Writing Dilemma

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I have a friend in my writers group who is always telling us that she did everything wrong. She was always writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. She’s no good at marketing. To get a readership, don’t do what she did and jump around to other genres. We should learn from her mistakes.

Let me just say, she is the ONE person in our group with an agent. She just finished writing The Mill Pond romance series…if you like cute romances, these will make your heart sing. Go here and check them out!

At the beginning, she wrote mysteries, but she didn’t think that would get her anywhere, so she went with urban fantasy. Norse Gods, witches, and battles…OH MY! Her Babet and Prosper novellas are pretty darn fun. Go check out those books here! Well, she signed with her agent with her urban fantasy.

BUT…

Her agent just didn’t think they would sell. The market for that genre was glutted. Publishers weren’t asking for UF. After a long fight, trying to get her UF published, she finally got the go ahead to put them on Amazon. Then she was encouraged to go romance, because romance sells.

Now, me? I would have fallen over laughing if someone had told me to write romance. No way. I would have failed completely. Remember my whole thing with kissing…we won’t even get into my Happily-Ever-After feelings (saves that for future post). But this writer took the challenge and wrote a romance. Then another…and another… she liked writing them!

Now she’s doing what she told us not to and is preparing to switch genres again. BECAUSE SHE WANTS TO. Because the writing muses have been spreading their magic. This started a debate in our group… Write what you want to write? OR Write what will help you get a readership, write to make money?

Heart vs brain.

You should like…NO, LOVE what you write. And write what you love. And don’t let anyone tell you not to. However, be realistic. Be prepared to wait, to get rejections, to struggle with the fact that publishing is a business. If there are a million books like yours, you’re going to have a hard time finding an agent and/or publisher because they want to make money. Be prepared to leave certain fans of your work behind if you switch genres.

None of us writes to make money…well, most of us. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to earn a bit of cash, but we do it because it calls to us, because we can’t live without creating.

I’ve heard discussions on how we shouldn’t write certain genres because they are “dead”. A few days ago, I saw tweets proclaiming the ridiculousness of “dead” genres. I wholeheartedly agree.

We’re told not to write to the market. As much as that means, don’t look at what’s selling and write that, hoping to get in on the fun…because by the time yours is ready, the fad will have moved on. But also the opposite. Don’t look at what’s not selling and decide to not write that book that’s screaming in your creative brain.

Remember the shelves labeled Paranormal Romance? When that genre was everywhere? And now it’s faded. The wave has ebbed. But the wave isn’t gone. People who read PR will always be there. But the money is elsewhere, so publishing follows.

And fads always come back. Eventually those PR readers will start begging for more and BLAMM-O, you know that manuscript you have sitting in a drawer, start querying!…or that PR you self-pubbed, start marketing!

I write YA fantasy. You know how many people write YA fantasy? A BIG FRIGGIN TON LOT OF PEOPLE. But I have to write it. I choose to face the odds of being lost in the sea or of never being published, because I love it. The writing faeries in my mind don’t know how to make up anything else.

I’m soon going to dip my toe in MG and YA horror. Switching genres? Maybe, but not really, my fantasy gets a little dark. Will the market allow those to swim? Who knows? No one knows. I’m going to write them and LOVE every single second. Then I’ll see what happens. Maybe it’ll be what people are looking for…maybe not. Not now…but maybe later. I’ll wait. I am patient.

And if you’re not patient? Self-publishing could work.

Mistakes? Nah.

Following your heart is always the right answer.

 

#Magicday…Hope

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Yesterday was Easter Sunday. And whether you’re religious or not, the magic of that day is for everyone.

Hope.

Humans have an abundance of this power, we cling to it, raise it when it’s needed. Hope is so woven into our beings, it’s impossible to separate it from our souls.

The best kind of magic. The kind that persists. The kind that drives us forward even when we face terrible odds. The kind that keeps us smiling even when we want to cry…or helps us cry only to return stronger after the tears.

Pure magic.

The Human spirit is amazing.

Today, a contest RevPit comes to its dynamic conclusion. I have no idea how many, but A LOT of authors sent their words to a group of editors, who each offered their time and will each help one person make their manuscript shine. Authors sent their words to a certain number, three or four, of these editors depending on the editor’s wish list. The editors have been reading queries and the first five pages, tweeting about which ones they like and the reasons why they pass on others. Teasers. The stress and nail biting has been off the charts. Today, the announcement goes live, the participating editors make their choices, choose one manuscript out of the pile they had…(was it 50?). Together, editor and the author will work on revisions. I am not participating. I am not one of those brave souls who submitted, holding onto hope that their name will be announced.

@ReviseResub…the contest’s Twitter. Go see #RevPit on Twitter and meet all the fabulous people involved. I’ve been lurking there for days, and followed all sorts of cool people.

Go see their website here for all the details.

I remember being one of those people, in past contests. One of those many people sure they wouldn’t be picked, yet still stuck to the screen waiting to read the list of those chosen.

Because that little voice talking to me that…

Maybe…maybe…maybe…

Because hope.

I remember not seeing my name and that terrible sinking feeling of failure. I remember how I hated that hope for whispering those maybe’s. Yet that darned hope never went away. It came back.

The voice of light told me I hadn’t reached the end of my journey, just as those chosen in the contest hadn’t either. We were merely on different paths. That bright voice of never-give-up said that my time would come. Those shining thoughts of next time, of wait until you see what happens tomorrow made me keep working.

I have a dear friend who is participating in RevPit. She’s brilliant and marvelous and her time is coming. Maybe today she’s chosen for this. Maybe not. Like I said, her time is coming. Entering this contest is a step. Don’t know if being chosen is a step…yet. As her hopes soar in these final hours before the announcement, so do mine. Whether her name is announced or not, I’ll be by her side ready to cheer her one as she continues her journey. Just as she will be at my side as I walk my path.

Let the hope fill you today…everyday. Acknowledge those moments when it fades, when the shadows of failure and doubt nearly extinguish its light. But pay attention. Because hope doesn’t die. It will always return. Embrace it when it does.

Hope is the best magic.

We Don’t Have to Hear the Kissing Parts: YA and Romance

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Most people who know me know that I don’t do kissing. I don’t do romance. The genre doesn’t click with me. Not that I don’t enjoy a good love story now and then, but most of the time, I don’t buy into what I’m reading or seeing. It doesn’t feel real.

That’s just me.

However, romance is everywhere. It is unavoidable. Now I don’t read straight romance books, but when the kissing invades (like a bit of peanut butter on my chocolate) my horror or fantasy I accept it, though it doesn’t always add anything to the story for me.

After critiquing the first part of a YA horror manuscript, there were a couple of times where the mc, a girl, went all swoony over a guy. I commented that it didn’t fit with the mc’s character…well, with the ms really. The author was so glad I thought that! He added those in because he had been told that romance was NEEDED in a YA.

Well…let me tell you what I think about that…

Needed?

Let me tell you about a teenage me. Now, YA wasn’t a thing when I was a kid. I was all about high fantasy/sword and sorcery stuff. Fighting and magic. A glorious world in which to escape. If YA was around way back then and every book I read held love stories, held the perfect girl looking for the perfect guy and finding him…I would have felt more broken than I already did.

Broken, Kathy? What do you mean by this?

Teenage me didn’t date. She didn’t talk to people much. She didn’t fit in. I thought something was wrong with me because I wasn’t like my peers. I didn’t have a group of friends. I didn’t have guys talk to me, school dances were pretty much my nightmare. And when a guy did ask me to a dance (after his first pick turned him down)…I said yes, but pretty much panicked and hid from him during the event. So does YA NEED romance? Nope. Teenage me didn’t need anyone showing her how much she didn’t fit. She needed stories of kids who were searching for themselves, not for their first kiss.

Kissing wasn’t important to me. Though I thought it should be. Forming relationships with boys wasn’t important to me…though I thought it should be. No one showed me it was okay to not care about that. No one told me it was fine to be different, to be me.

For teenagers relationships with people outside their families start to become important. They start to connect to people, look to make connections because they begin to understand that soon they will go out and merge with the world. But being a teenager is so much more than that. It’s about taking the first steps towards who you will be. It’s about questioning what you believe. It’s about realizing you will have to find a place in the world where you belong, exciting and gosh diggety darned scary.

When I write a teen character, I can’t help but channel teenage me. The girl who wants to love herself, not some hot boy. The girl who dreams of finding where she belongs in the world, not of touching some guy’s muscular chest. Not that I haven’t had a character have a crush, and it was awkward and horrible just like I remember. Not that I haven’t had a character fall in love, (though I tried to stop her!) with her best friend for heavens sake…and it was scary and exciting and a bit weird, as it should be.

Does YA need romance? Nope. Because not all teenagers need it. I admit that most teens out there probably like to read the kissing, the head-over-heals sensation of first love, the stories of boys and girls and making connections. But not everyone. Not me. So I write for those people like me.

So when someone tells you that a certain category or genre NEEDS something…stop and think. Does it? Is there someone out there making up rules for every style of writing? Nope.

There’s you. There’s the words. There’s your characters and how they feel and what they think. And all of it is relevant. All of it is needed.

#Magicday…Silencing the Shoulds

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Time to add a bit of magic to Monday!

I discovered something about myself. I had a revelation. Every morning, I wake up with a list of things in my head. A list of what I have to do, what I should do, a list of expectations. If I could do this…this…this…and this…I will have succeeded. I will not be a failure. I will be worth something.

Then I don’t…I don’t do one thing on the list…I don’t complete as much of a project as I wanted…I don’t live up to those high expectations.

And I fail.

I go to bed, preparing my list for the next day, I will do all the shoulds. I will do better. Be better.

And fail again.

I began to look at what I did do each day. WHAT I DID DO. Well, that put a new spin on my outlook. Maybe I SHOULD (Haha) stop trying to be some perfect image of me and be me.

I like me. I’m pretty cool.

Spring break was marvelous. I had a great time with my family and the voice in my head constantly telling me to be perfect, to do all the things, went away.

When I got home, the flood of words returned.

AND I WAVED MY MAGIC WAND AND SILENCED THEM.

I don’t need a head full of shoulds hounding me all day. I don’t need to have a mind full of demands to be perfect as I fall asleep. I’m not perfect. I don’t wanna be! Perfect is boring. Perfect is stupid. All the should dos…I magicked them into oblivion.

I will do what I need to do. At the end of the day, I will be happy and proud of my choices.

THIS IS THE MAGIC OF LIFE, OF LIVING. Do what you do and be proud.

 

Spring Break!

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Tomorrow spring break begins!

No school tomorrow and all next week.

As usual, we are headed to visit family, first my parents and sisters, then my in-laws!

I am ready to get away from the everyday routine. I am ready to chat and laugh and let all the things swirling in my head go…let them float away…float…

We all float down here…

Sorry! After seeing the trailer for the movie IT coming in September…I have been slightly obsessed… OMG IT LOOKS SO GOOD!

Okay. Right.

Back to spring break!

Before we leave, I have things to do. Some of the chores have begun. Hello, laundry my old friend…

Most will happen tomorrow…

An ortho appointment…

Grocery store…

Packing…

Dropping the dog off to be boarded…

Cleaning…

I will run about like an idiot wondering what I have forgotten. I will fight the little voice in my head telling me to stay home, home is good. Because I love to visit family, I love our adventures out in the world, but I am always reluctant to leave my house. It’s just me…

Luckily the kids will be home to help me!

When we drive away…all will be well. I will no longer care if I forgot anything. I will no longer care if all the chores were completed. I will be able to focus on the fun waiting.

Today, I want to sit and write. We’ll see if that happens. I tend not to be able to focus right before we go anywhere.

However, if my Weeping Cherry trees bloom while I’m gone…I WILL BE UPSET. They shouldn’t bloom this early, but…*eyes buds*

Have a great week, next week! I’ll be back with more thoughts and words when I return.

 

#Magicday…Friends

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In my life, I have had a couple of really good friends. People who really know me. I was never one to have a lot of friends, but the ones I have are priceless. And thanks to Twitter I have more, though they are far away, and some I haven’t met in person, they mean the world to me.

So, when I had kids, I shared my wisdom…

If you want to have friends, you have to talk to people. Go say hi. Ask them questions. See if you click.

Not everyone will be your friend. Life…people don’t work that way. And that’s okay.

And flip it the other way…You don’t have to be everyone’s friend.

You can have a million friends or one. Choose. Never feel terrible if you only have one friend, because it’s your choice. Choose what makes you happy.

People change. Your interests will change as you age. You might find new friends and not talk to others as much. This is normal. This is okay, but never be upset, never be angry with that friend because you’ll have all the good memories to hold onto…they’ll always be a friend.

My son had a very best friend from kindergarten to about fourth or fifth grade, then they started off on different paths. He talks about a few kids at school, kids he thinks are funny, but I never see them. He doesn’t invite them here. But he’s happy. So I am happy.

My daughter had a best friend from kindergarten to about fourth or fifth grade, then they drifted apart. My daughter went into the band, finding a new set of friends. She surrounds herself with a few people, a close knit group. I know these girls, for my daughter invites them here. They are cool kids. They are all different. They are all happy to be themselves. They are all ready to stand up for the others.

Having people to go through life with is important. Having people who understand you is important. Having people who never expect you to be anything but you is important. If it’s a group or one person, friendship, connections, can make us strong.

It’s magic.

 

#Magicday…Quiet

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Monday, for most, means the unfriendly sound of the alarm clock and back to work or school. For me, Mondays bring a special magic…quiet.

The kids go to school and the hubs goes to work, leaving me and the cats and dog. Seriously…my happy place. Last weekend was a little crazy. My son’s first high school track meet, which we had very little information about, ended up being an all day event. Somehow hubs and I saw him run in two races and managed to run a few errands.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to Sunday…but I don’t feel like I got to sit down.

So…I welcome Monday. Though I cleaned for the first couple of hours (I even flipped couch cushions and vacuumed them!), the house feels better. I have reclaimed my area and will settle back into my routine. My workout. Writing. Reading. Maybe some laundry…because there is always laundry.

In the quiet.

Whether you find a moment of peace on a Monday or not, I wish you quiet time. Maybe that was what you had last weekend. If so, I hope you enjoyed it. I will enjoy today.

Quiet moments are magic.

 

Me and the Words: A Tale of Critique

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I like to critique. If I have something to read and comment on, I will happily set aside my crappy words and do it!

I love to read what other people have imagined.

After critiquing so many queries and first pages for Son of a Pitch, after going to my writers’ group and commenting, after sending numerous manuscripts back to their authors…I can’t help but wonder why people come to me. If what I say is helpful. Though I have been told it is.

I’m no expert on writing. I don’t really know if anyone is.

My hubs told me that I should be an editor…and I laughed. I know he was thinking of a way I could be paid for the work I put in, BUT I AM NOT AN EDITOR. I critique.

So what does that mean?

Critiquing for me is an immersive experience…especially if I have the words…listening at writers’ group is another thing, I’m not as good at the listening. I critique because I am an author and it is part of the job, a give and take kinda thing.

As I read, I make tons of comments. I ask all sorts of questions. I will point out where the words don’t make sense to me…where I get lost in the choreography…where a certain word doesn’t quite fit for me…basically any time my brain skips a beat and says…

But I also highlight the moments I love. The words that flow in a perfect wave…the moments in the story where I have a serious reaction (I will write what my exact reaction is, I have been told those can be humorous)…the moments I have thoughts about the characters or story…

So, basically…everything I think, I write down. I’m not telling anyone what to do. I’m not giving orders as to what must be done for the manuscript to be “good”. I’m giving my perspective, so the author can see one person’s interpretation of their work. We write with a single idea in mind, but writing is art and that is always seen in a million different ways. It’s always good to know how others envision it.

I ask questions for a very simple reason. Not because I think they all need to be answered in that paragraph, but to kick the author’s creative brain into gear, get the imagination flowing outside of the stream…to spark any ideas that the author never knew they wanted.

I write down my reactions so the author will know as a reader, what I am reacting to…what I am interested in. Of course, not everyone will react to the same things. I will react with a lot of flailing and all caps reactions to demon fights or creepy ghosts than kissing or falling in love.

That’s just me.

I expect authors to read my comments, to digest them, then to ignore all the questions that don’t spark any ideas, to ignore all the things that don’t matter. I expect the author to do what is right for their story. The author is the only one who can be certain their manuscript is finished (though I’m pretty sure no one knows when this thing called “finished” is).

I saw a tweet yesterday of an author who wanted to know about finding critique partners…about how one faces social anxiety and talking to people about their work. I have a group of trusted individuals who will read my crappy whatever drafts. They haven’t always been the same group. It takes time to find people. It takes guts to swap chapters to see if you will work well as CPs. It takes being open to what others have to say, but knowing what you need to hear and how you need to hear it to help push you to be the best writer you can be.

It takes time to find people to trust with your words.

But critiques are important. Getting that view from someone outside the story is important. Growing as a writer is the objective.

 

#Magicday…Community

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I live in a small town. Our area school isn’t very big, but we are mighty Warriors. My daughter is in eighth grade and, as you may know from previous posts, joined the Spirit of Woodlan marching band last fall. AND THEY FINISHED FIFTH AT THE STATE COMPETITION! Making them the best HS marching band in the northern part of the state, the winners are south of Indy.

And they did it wearing uniforms that have been around for 16 years. I watched a volunteer hand sew tiny holes shut on gloves every competition day. I watched parents carefully tuck jackets into bags hoping they wouldn’t fall apart. I heard stories of pants ripping, and not down a seam, and the frantic search for ones that would work.

Time for new uniforms?

Well, when our fabulously talented Spirit of Woodlan marchers were nominated and then invited to play in the Fourth of July parade in Washington D.C. this summer, new uniforms were added to the list.

But these things aren’t cheap. Goodness no. So we have been asking for donations. And TONIGHT the community will come together to help raise the last little bit they need.

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We have volunteers manning the concessions, selling food donated by the parents of the band members. We have Woodlan alumni coming to play a basketball game against the K-105 Hoopsters. Should be a good time! All for our little town’s school. All to help our incredible marching band look their best for our country’s birthday parade in our nation’s capital. And send them into next competition season looking snazzy.

My daughter is super excited to be one of the first to wear the new uniforms. And we are buying her one of the old hats with a plume to remember her first year in the Spirit of Woodlan…that money also going to the uniform fund.

These kids work so hard. It’s so great to see the community come together to support them.

If you’re in the area, come to Woodlan HS. $5 at the door. Yummy food. Great fun! Game starts at 7! I’ll be there in my Spirit of Woodlan shirt!

Magical.