Monday, June 29, 2015

What my trunk novel taught me

Alright, let’s talk about something that no one like to talk about: The novel that didn’t work.

I have some of those novels, as I’m sure you do. Every writer has a book that didn’t land an agent or didn’t sell or whatever. And in a lot of ways these novels, tucked deep into a drawer or trunk or damp dirty corner of your hard drive, can feel like failure.

Because a novel without a home is a failure, right?


And here’s why:

The novel that didn’t land you an agent, the novel that didn’t sell, is a lot like a game that is lost. It’s just one game. It’s not the end of the world. And sure, some sports teams can accumulate a losing season (meaning they’ve lost more games that season than they’ve won). It happens. But the team doesn’t pack up shop and go out of business when they have a losing season. The team keeps moving forward.

And so should the writer. One novel in the drawer does not a failure make. Ten novels in the drawer does not a failure make.

It’s hard to look back at the novel in the drawer and think about it as valuable but there is value in it.

I was recently reminded of this when I picked up my first novel for a re-read. Here are the 5 things my trunk novel taught me.

1. In my first novel I was huge on telling – I used to get this feedback all the time: “you’re telling not showing, show more”. But of course, that feedback alone doesn’t help me. It’s like saying to a newborn baby “you’re not using your lungs. Try using your lungs more.” Well, the baby’s not going to know what any of that means. I later had my showing vs telling ah ha moment, but that moment came after I had shelved my first novel. So, during the re-read I was blown away by how simple my telling was. Some of it was easy stuff like calling emotions by their name instead of showing the physical manifestation of the emotion. I had a lot of “Sarah was shocked. Tom was sad.” Etc. etc. I had to laugh. The value in this first novel could be summed up in one line: I saw the telling. I recognized it immediately. Which means I’ve grown a lot as a writer since then and as all writers know, growth is good. Growth is valuable.

2. My MC lacked agency – Character agency is a huge required element in strong storytelling. Not sure what agency is? Check out this post by the brilliant Chuck Wendig: Just What the Humping Heck is "Character Agency," Anyway? Go ahead and read it, I can wait. *taps foot* Without agency characters have the story happen to them – not because of them. That’s it, that's lack of agency. I enjoy stories more when the characters make choices that change the world around them. When the choices impacting a character are made by other people it’s less cool. Sure, there is the odd betrayal and what not, but ultimately, the MC needs to be the wave and the conflict needs to be the shore. Well, in my trunk novel during the climax the MC is completely reactive. In fact, her friends save the day and she does nothing (embarrassing, right?). When I wrote the story I thought the betrayal and friend intervention were great elements. But during the re-read I kept asking myself “Why isn’t my MC kicking more @s$? Why isn’t she doing something?” Now, this book was supposed to be the first in a series and I had plans for my MC to grow and have more agency in each book – which is fab. But she needed more agency in book 1. The book can’t happen to her. I need her to force the issue (because I personally enjoy that more). What was eye opening for me was that I recognized this problem right away. I got to the climax of the book and this fatal flaw in my storytelling practically slapped me in the face. Lesson learned.

3. Plotting is the bomb – When I drafted that first novel I basically let the story ramble out of me. I was the queen of word vomit. I didn’t outline and I certainly didn’t plot. I was a true pantser back then and the story shows it. Now, that’s not to say you can’t be successful as a pantser. A lot of authors do it and rock it. I’m not one of them. In my re-read I got to chapter four and spotted a plot hole. I remember a CP once giving me the feedback that elements in my story were not plausible. And at that time I understood that to mean elements/actions within my story were not properly supported by previous information or action. Which is a fixable issue. However, what’s much harder to fix are glaring openings in your plot that are just that way because – why-the-f-not-I’m-story-god. Those why-the-f-not moments don’t read as fun and cool. No, to the reader those moments are implausible. My re-read illuminated this fact for me. Plotting isn’t easy. It’s hard hard work. But plotting allows us to build a story that is plausible. And readers want believability.

4. The rule of 3 is key – What’s the rule of three you ask? Well, the rule of three is an idea that you only need to describe three things at any given time. That your character is really only capable of absorbing three things and the same is true for the reader. My first novel, may it rest in peace, is rife with over-description. And at the time I thought it made my prose pop. But when I re-read it I was blown away with how clunky it felt. My storytelling voice has evolved into a shorter, sharper, direct voice. My characters no longer seem to amble through a room remarking on every trinket and doo dad they see. I did not abide by the rule of 3 when drafting the first novel and it’s painfully obvious now. So now, I can happily say, the dude abides (the dude, in this case, being me).

5. There is no replacement for good self-editing – when I drafted that first novel I entered it in every contest I could. I got a lot of critiques from other writers but I also got critiques from editors. I won a crit of my first 25 pages from a Harper Teen editor I admired. I also hired a freelance editor to do a full edit (big picture and tight grammatical stuff) of my entire 98,000 word novel. Both professional editors offered great feedback and I incorporated their changes. But even after all that editing there were still problems. Not necessarily grammatical issues (and we’ve already covered the problems with telling) but these problems were at the basic word-choice level. What I saw in this old novel were lots of weak words being utilized. A lot of this weak language could fall into the telling category but I think it was bigger than that. In this first novel I used a lot of language that distanced the reader from the story. These words generally come in the form of sensory descriptions (he saw, she felt, it seemed, she thought, he looked, etc etc). In each case these words get between the story and the reader like wedge. I have since developed a self-editing slash list of words I try to obliterate from my MS. These distance creating words are on the list. I adopted the habit of attacking these words after hearing a lecture at an RWA conference. But it wasn’t until I re-read that first novel that I really understood the value in this approach.

In all five of these areas I saw the problems right away. I recognized these issues and that means I’ve grown as a writer. The growth is valuable. Each MS I produce is better because of the book before it. The cool thing about writing is that you can constantly improve (if you’re willing to do the work). I’m thankful I started where I did and I’m happy to be where I am. There is value in getting the words on the page, no matter how crappy, and no matter the fate of the story because even if this story doesn’t find a home, my next story might.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

TBT: Are You Afraid to Shelve Your Book Baby?

For today's TBT I'm sharing Are You Afraid to Shelve Your Book Baby? Why? Because sometimes I need to remember there is life after this WIP. That sometimes the next story is the better story. This is a reminder for me, as much as it is for, you, dear readers - Fear is the enemy!


Alright, all those writers who have finished their first novel. Yay!

But, today we need to talk about a terrifying idea: shelving your baby.

That’s right. We need to talk about fifty thousand words does not a novel make.
You may have heard a million stories on the interweb about writers who were discovered after writing their first MS and your thinking, *maybe* *just maybe* it's your destiny to be discovered that way, as well. Before you get lost in months and months of cuddling with your first-born novel baby let’s examine three common myths about shelving your WIP:

Myth 1: This is the book of your heart and therefore MUST be published:

I’m going to rip this Band-Aid off. No mercy: Nothing MUST be published. Nothing. And just because this book is close to your heart doesn’t mean you are entitled to anything. That’s right, I said entitled because chances are you believe that you are almost there. You’ve finished the damn book (which may, or may not, have nearly killed you) and now you are part of a small percentage of people who can say “I’ve written a book.” But there is still a business to publishing and finishing the book is only the first step in publishing.

Why you should stick that crying, goo-covered book-baby on the shelf:

Finishing the book was the first step. Next you’ll need to revise the heck out of that book. In order to revise you will need fresh eyes. When I say fresh I mean can’t-finish-this-sentence-without-reading-it fresh. You need to be so far removed from your MS that the smallest mistakes are glaring. Things spell check can’t catch should jump out at you. In order to get this perspective you need space. I know, I know, you’re thinking ‘but I’m a new book-mom. I can’t leave my baby alone for weeks. What will people say about my book parenting skills?’

Actually, no one will say that but that doesn’t stop you from thinking it because you’re scared. Here’s the thing, everyone steps back from their work. It’s the best way to get fresh eyes. I take 4-8 weeks off between books. That’s not to say you have to stop writing at all. No, keep writing. Write everyday. Just don’t write/revise/edit anything to do with your completed MS for a few weeks. Stick on the shelf and change gears.

Myth 2: This is the only book idea you have and anything else you write will be forced:

I hear you. I really do. Five years ago I finished my first MS and I panicked. I thought ‘This is it. This is the only idea I’ve ever had. Nothing else will come to me.’ So I spent years (yeah, I said years) revising that baby thinking ‘If I could get this right I know I could get published.’ And maybe, someday, it will be published. But I spent all my creative energy on that book-baby out of fear (not love). Think about that. I was afraid nothing else would come to me. I was afraid this was my one shot.

*hugs* *pats back* I know it can be scary but you are a creative, hardworking, artist. You are a writer, the real thing. Repeat after me: You are not a one-book-wonder.

Why you should punch fear in the face and shelve that book:

When I finally took the leap, and shoved that bratty book-baby into time out, I was free to imagine wonderful new worlds. I was flooded with ‘what-if’s’ that turned into great outlines. I’ve written more. Dreamed more. Learned more. All because I allowed myself to move on. It’s scary. I get that. But believe in yourself. Believe that this is not the end for you and see what dreams may come.

Myth 3: A few famous authors were discovered with their first MS. I am going to be one of the few who get discovered that way, too:

*crosses arms* *taps foot* Look. I know you want to be the exception to the ‘no one ever gets discovered on their first novel’ rule (remember above when I said I held onto my first MS for YEARS!?!). But here’s the hard truth (no mercy!): You are not the exception – probably. It’s a very rare few who are discovered with their first MS. It does happen, but it’s so freaking rare. Chances are good that your first attempt will not be good enough to snag an agent or editor’s interest. Sucks, I know. You love your book-baby and you want it to succeed.

Why you should knee your ego in the balls and shelve that book:

Confidence is great. It’s what sent you down the novel writing path to begin with (because, let’s face it, this takes some serious balls). But when your ego is getting in the way of your evolution as an artist then there’s a problem. When your ego tells you ‘you are the best writer in the world’ kick it in the nuts and say ‘settle down, ego. I’ve got some work to do.’

I’m not saying you should ball up your newborn book-baby and throw it away. I’m saying shelve it. Step away. Write something new. Write something outside your genre. Force yourself to learn and grow as a writer.

Fear is the enemy. It creeps into your life in small, insidious ways. As writers we must be ever vigilant in our battle against fear.

Where you afraid to shelve your MS? How did you overcome that fear?

Want more on the revision process?

Check out this post on What To Do With Feedback
Check out this post on Taking Criticism Gracefully

Monday, June 22, 2015

In The Zone- Hockey Romance Series Review

Today I’m going to review three books at once. Why? Because they are all part of a sports romance series that I devoured and loved.

The In the Zone series, by Kate Willoughby, follows the members of a professional hockey team as they find love. Now, please believe me when I say all three of the books pub’d in the series so far are hot. I loved the steamy elements in all three.

But first things first, let’s talk about book one: On the Surface


NHL player Tim Hollander lost his temper one time and threw a water bottle at an abusive fan. After "Bottlegate," he's traded to the San Diego Barracudas, where he'll need to keep the bad publicity to a minimum while proving he can still compete with the younger guys on the ice.

Erin Collier is a pediatric nurse who's never seen a hockey game, but gets in line for Tim's autograph at a PR event in hopes of impressing the doctor she has a crush on. When an obnoxious fan gets pushy toward Erin, Tim rushes to defend the pretty stranger, throwing a punch in the process.

Grateful for the rescue, Erin agrees to stand by Tim during the resulting press conference and host him at a hospital charity event. Their chemistry is palpable, and soon their lives are intertwined. But Erin doubts a hockey player is capable of anything resembling a real relationship. And if Tim can't get her to see beyond what's on the surface, they'll never last longer than a single season.

My thoughts:

Tim is absolutely delicious. He’s the type of hero who will stand up for your honor. And Erin, the heroine, is the type of woman who wouldn’t ask her man to fight her battles. I love how feisty Erin is. And I also enjoyed how real and final their love for each other seemed. It was like once they clicked everyone could see they were perfect together. I love that.

In fact, I was so happy with the middle section of the book that I almost stopped reading. Because, as any fan of romance can tell you, the middle is where the steam is good. But what comes after the steamy middle? Conflict. Ugh. I loved the couple so much I didn’t want to experience their conflict. But I powered through it and I was happy I did. Yes, the couple’s love is tested but in the end there is a HEA moment that makes it all worthwhile.

I loved On the Surface and immediately downloaded book two.

Alright, so let’s talk about book two: Across the Line


Calder Griffin needs to get back in shape. Sidelined last season by a knee injury, he's determined to return to the San Diego Barracudas and play the best hockey of his career. This might even be the year he gets out of his talented older brother's shadow.

For months, Becca Chen has poured her energy into Cups, the restaurant she owns, desperate to prove to her parents that she can succeed in the career of her choice, not theirs. But after she spends a five-hour plane ride flirting with charming, magic-on-the-ice Calder, she tells herself she needs a fling.

Becca and Calder can't keep their hands off each other, but they know the relationship can't last. They live on opposite coasts, and they're both too devoted to their careers. All they have to do is prevent their feelings from crossing the line from lust to love…

My thoughts:

Calder is a cutie. I think he melted my heart immediately because he’s this powerful, talented athlete rehabbing from an injury. As a runner who has had to recover from injury, and a wife who has had to watch her husband recover from knee surgery, Calder’s story tugged at my heart. His yearning to improve was palpable.

But for me, the star of this show was Becca, the heroine. She is a restaurateur who has poured her entire life into her passion. I could relate to Becca on several levels:
1. I watched my parents own/operate restaurants over the years. It’s hard, grueling work but for my parents it was absolutely rewarding. I can understand why Becca sacrificed so much to open Cups.

2. Becca turned down a potentially lucrative career in medicine to open a restaurant (which, as a general rule, fail more than succeed). It’s scary to pursue a passion that could potentially pay less and be less secure when you have this shiny, high paying, secure position in the wings.

3. Long distance relationships suck.

When Calder and Becca start hitting it off it’s under the pretense that it’s ‘just for fun’ and can’t possibly last (they live and work on separate sides of the country – so, not good ‘relationship’ material). I loved watching the couple overcome their obstacles and finally make things work.

The battle of wills that unfolds in Across the Line had me biting my nails. These characters really earned their HEA.

But I had to know more. What about the other team members? What happens next?

So, you guessed it, I downloaded book three: Out of The Game.


Alex Sullivan may be the San Diego Barracudas' resident playboy, but he hasn't been able to forget the woman who kissed him like her life depended on it ten months ago. When he sees her again at a teammate's wedding, he can't think of anything but spending more time with her. Preferably naked.

Claire Marzano lost years catering to an overbearing husband, and she's not going to answer to anyone ever again. A hot fling is just what she needs to get back in the game, and that's exactly what sexy Alex offers—one wild long weekend away, with no promises or obligations.

But that one weekend changes everything. Despite knowing full well Alex isn't the kind to ever commit, Claire is falling for him. And Alex secretly imagines a future with his strong, smart "accidental girlfriend." Until a surprise announcement and an on-ice accident threaten to derail everything…or cause Alex to finally ditch his old ways and become the man Claire needs him to be.

My thoughts:

UGGH! This is such a hard book to talk about because it’s heart breaking.

Okay, so this book stars Alex Sullivan – the team bad boy/player who we see as an ancillary character in books 1 and 2. Alex melted my heart at the end of book 2 when he begins quoting lines from Rom Coms. Okay, here we have a guy who is talented, driven, manly, AND he likes Rom Coms?! *SPLOOSH*

Also returning in this book is Claire, Erin’s sister who we meet briefly in book 1. Claire is so easy to love because she’s ending her marriage and moving forward. She’s recommitting to herself and what she wants. I think we can all relate to that.

What’s heartbreaking in this story is the surprise announcement and on-ice accident. When these two bombs go off I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know how it ended. This story is a bit bitter sweet for me because I love love love Alex and I want so much for his character to be happy.

Also, at this point I’m desperate to see the San Diego Barracudas’ win it all!

I emailed the author asking if there were more books planned in the series and she said there are. YAY~

I’m in love with all the Barracuda guys and I’m excited to see how their stories unfold.

Kate does an excellent job in all three books of building believable athletes that are still relatable. They seem like regular guys you or I could date (isn’t that what makes the fantasy so intoxicating?). I also really enjoyed how each book was markedly different from the next. Each hero and heroine are unique and as such, each story has its own flair.

These books are FABULOUS and I give the series five out of five screaming cats! Loved it.

Buy On the Surface here:Amazon | B&N

Buy Across the Line here:Amazon | B&N

Buy Out of the Game here:Amazon | B&N

Want more on Kate Willoughby? Visit her website here or follow her on Twitter.

Monday, June 15, 2015

More on my recent burn out

I mentioned my burn out in my May recap.

It’s been tough. A lot of times I can sense burn out coming. And sometimes I can take steps to stop burnout in it's tracks. But in May I was blindsided by burn out. I was riding the sugar high of just finishing a rewrite. My energy was good and I rolled that into outlining not one – but TWO – potential WIPs.

In April I was reading a ton as well. But I burned out there, too. In May I started a lot of books and put them down right away. I just wasn’t connecting with anything.

And I think I know why –

I’m going to law school in the fall. I start in August. It’s fantastic, terrific, thrilling news. I’m ecstatic be going. I love the law and I love learning. I’ve wanted to go to law school for more than ten years so getting in and actually making this dream a reality is amazing….and also not amazing. Because there’s this nagging guilt that seeps into my daily thoughts, whispering “you’ve given up, haven’t you? You’ve given up on your dream of becoming a writer.” Ugh…hate that feeling.

And that feeling is total bull because it doesn’t have to be that way. My rational mind knows that I don’t have to be one dimensional.

Yes, being a published author and writing full time is a goal of mine. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. But I need a Day Job for the time being and I don’t see why I shouldn’t work a Day Job in a field I am passionate about: law. So why does it feel like I tied my writing dream to a chair in the basement?

Why can’t I have both? Why can’t I be both?

I think I can. I see men and women all the time who work as husbands/wives/mothers AND as writers, AND some other job (be it part time or full time). Not to mention all those folks likely have hobbies, and friends, and other commitments or obligations (some fun and some not so fun). People are not one thing.

So being a law student, an employee, a wife/sister/daughter/friend, AND a writer shouldn’t feel impossible. It can be done. A singular passion does not define me….so why do I feel all this guilt?

I think I’ve imposed an arbitrary dedication meter to my passion. If I am not writing 1000 words a day or 3 hours a day while braiding the mane of a unicorn I’m no longer a serious writer. I doubt I’m alone in this belief but it’s arbitrary. And if this dedication meter is helping me to be more disciplined then great! But if this arbitrary dedication meter is making me feel terrible then it’s no longer useful and it needs to go.

Because the reality of writing as work is this: sometimes you must to step back. Sometimes you must take a break. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about resting but we do. At least a lot of us do anyway. Ugh. It’s the worst.

I don’t know what my life will look like after I start school. I know this new path means I will need to make a lot of changes in my life. And change is uncomfortable. Waiting and anticipating this change is uncomfortable. It’s a lot like riding home from the beach with sand in your shorts.

I don’t know what my new normal will look like. But I do know that in the new normal there will be writing. Not just writing for school but writing for me. Fiction. My stories. The plots and characters I love. It’s important to me and that won’t change. But what and how much I write is still a mystery at this point.

That should be okay with me. But it’s not. It’s uncomfortable.

This anxiety and uncertainty contributed to my burn out. Here's a glimpse inside my brain over the past few weeks.

Should I start this project? Probably not because you’ll just have to put it down in Aug and you may not be able to pick it back up for a while.

Should I read this book? No, it’s part of a series and you won’t be able to finish the entire series before Aug so don’t bother starting it now.

Should I revise this project? No, there might not be time to finish it all before Aug.

Should I continue to query this project? No, because if it gets picked up by an agent they will want you to revise and you may not have time to revise it before Aug….

These are actual thought’s I’ve had. These are self limiting and self defeating thoughts. And there is a lot of fear there. A lot of fear masquerading as practicality. I am scared. I’m scared I won’t have enough time.

So I need to evaluate this further. Maybe I don’t send queries for a while. Maybe I don’t revise that WIP right now. Maybe I don’t do anything for the next three months….But if that’s the case I want the decision to be evaluated on more than just fear. I want to get passed the fear so I can understand this anxiety.

I don’t have an answer for this burn out yet. I plan on going through some of the burnout-fighting steps that worked for me in the past. And in addition, I plan to really get to the bottom of this fear.

Until then, I’m just going to take things one day at a time. Maybe I blog, maybe I don’t. Maybe I draft, maybe I don’t. Maybe I read, maybe I don’t.

This doesn’t mean I’m a failure or lazy or undisciplined. It just means I’m still working things out. As uncomfortable as that is….it’s okay.

Want more on book and/or writing related burn out?

Check out this awesome post by Jenny Kaczorowski on why rest does not equal failure.

Or my post on managing book burn out and contest fatigue.

And if your book burn out is actually writer burn out (as in I can't write another book) check out this post by the lovelies at Writer Unboxed

Thursday, June 11, 2015

TBT: All About Pitching Your Novel

For today's TBT I'm talking about pitches. If you are thinking of pitching at a conference (which isn't as scary as you think) or sending out query letters you should practice your pitch. I drafted this post after attending my first writers conference (RWA13) and I still use this advice when I draft a query. Check it out and I hope you Enjoy!


As most of you know, I recently attended RWA13 in ATL. It was ah mazing (see my posts here and here).

One of the staples of writers conferences, I’m told, is pitching. I’ve only been to one Con so far but all the industry vets said that pitching was common. Which might make an introvert, well, more than a little nervous.

If you don’t know, pitching is basically speed dating for writers/agents/editors. You get 10 minutes to quickly highlight the kickassery of your MS.

If it sounds scary, wait, there's more: Pitching is not just some horrible hazing designed to scare off prepub writers. Pitching is done throughout the pub process. Once you get an agent you will still need to pitch to editors. And once you sell your shiny book baby you’ll need to pitch to your fans. And when you try to sell the next book baby, guess what. *gasps* you’ll need to pitch again.

The good news is, pitching is a skill and like all skills it gets better when practiced. Do you think Buffy was this good at butt kicking without practice?

So what goes into a pitch? And what can you expect if you are brave enough to pitch at a Con? How can you practice?

I’m glad you asked.

Pitches should read like a log line. Or very succinct back jacket copy. It’s not as long as a blurb but it’s detailed enough to communicate the premise and leave the person hearing your pitch wanting more. One super cool author at RWA said she thinks of pitches like this: She is ___________. *He is ___________. Together they must___________.

*Note, since it was a romance con, and romance novels have 2 protag’s, this formula works. If you don’t have a second protag it’s totally fine to leave this part out.

The important thing to remember is that each sentence should use the most powerful language available. You don’t have space for boring words.

Here’s an example of a boring pitch for Sleepless in Seattle:

She’s a journalist engaged to be married. He’s a widower raising a son. Together they must overcome their prejudice about true love to find happiness.

Pretty boring right? I mean, you get nothing of their personalities or their situation. This is ‘just the facts, ma’am.’ Which is fine – but not great.

Here’s my attempt at a punchier pitch:

She’s by-the-book, in life and love, which is why she’s about to marry the nicest, most boring man in Maryland. He’s a recently-widowed, believer in true love who struggles to hide his pain in order to provide stability for his son in Seattle. When a popular radio show connects the two, against all odds, they must decide to break through their own walls in order to let love in.

Better right? You know more about the people and their stories without knowing too much. You want more.

It’s a great formula and it really helped me when I pitched. At RWA I pitched 4 times. 7 if you count my practice pitches.

Here’s what to expect when you pitch:

1. It’s similar to an audition for a play. The Agents/Editors will be in a room. Pitch participants will be corralled while they wait for their turn. Generally, someone will be calling out times and names. When your Agent/Editor is called for your time slot you will fall into line.

2. When your time slot begins you will be walked into the room where the Agents/Editors are sitting. At RWA there were three rows of little tables. Each Agent/Editor had a name tag on their table. The volunteers working the pitch area walked the participants in and dropped you off at your table.

3. Agents/Editors are people. Just people, like you and me. They love books and stories and they love this industry. They want to hear about your story. They want you to succeed. Heck, they need you. They don’t have jobs without your product. So they are excited to meet you. Everyone I pitched to was really nice throughout the entire thing. I even ended up pitching to two Editors that had no interest in my work. I misunderstood how it was all supposed to work and I ended up picking two editors that managed lines in Harlequin that had no interest in me. Even those Editors were still super nice. They listened, they laughed, they talked. It’s like a really short job interview. It’s normal to be nervous but if you make it a conversation – don’t just talk at them – you will have an enjoyable pitch session.

4. After the pitch the Agent/Editor might hand you their card. They might say ‘send me something to review.’ *cue internal happy dance*

5. Someone will call ‘1 minute’ and then ‘Time.’ That means your session is over and you have to leave. You stand up, thank the Agent/Editor, shake their hand, and leave. That’s live pitching in a nutshell.

Now, how do you practice pitching?

Easy, pitch. Just pitch. Write the pitch for your story early, while the MS is still firmly in the WIP territory. That way, when a friend or coworker asks you the question “What’s your book about?” you can drop the pitch bomb on them. It’s important to practice saying the pitch because the words can get twisted on your tongue like a cherry step. Say it out loud in the car. Say it to your bestie. Say it out loud in front of the mirror.

Just keep saying it. It does get easier. Still feeling uneasy? Here's an epic hug to make you feel better *sigh*

Have you pitched? What was your experience like?

For more on pitching, see this recap post from WriteOnCon 13

Monday, June 8, 2015

Thunder Beach - my experience at a biker con

Some of you may know that my husband, Handsome Jack, is a motorcycle enthusiast. Scratch that. He’s obsessed with bikes. We got him his first motorcycle about two years ago and he now rides his bike everywhere. We live in GA where you can get away with riding year round (as long as you don’t mind layering up with heated gear – which Handsome Jack does not mind doing).

I don’t love the risk he takes by getting on the bike but I love him and how happy he is when he rides. So I forced him to take a safety course and buy all the special armored gear to protect him in case he crashes.

And for a while, riding alone was enough for him. Then he wanted me to ride along. Ultimately, he decided to seek friends with a similar motorcycle addiction and ended up joining a riding club (which I lovingly call his biker gang friends – even though they are not a gang at all).

The club goes to a rally every year, as bikers are want to do, and their rally is Thunder Beach at Panama City Beach, Florida. This year I decided to tag along.

Now, first things first, I drove the support vehicle. I couldn’t manage the six hour ride on the back of a bike. I’m just not there yet.

On the way down I was blown away by how many bikes I saw on the road. I saw more bikes on the road to Florida than I’d ever seen before.

I was impressed by how coordinated the ride was. The club rode in a staggered side-by-side formation and used hand signals to indicate merging, turns, road hazards, etc. Watching anything that coordinated is impressive.

Once we arrived I was blow away. Bikers had overrun the place. The entire first level of the parking garage for the condo we stayed in was dedicated to parking bikes. And unlike cars, you can cram several bikes into one parking spot. So in our parking deck alone there were over two hundred bikes. Every hotel on Front Beach Road (the main drag in PCB) was pretty much catering to bikers. The parking lots were sectioned off with signs that read Bikes Only.

Now, you might imagine a place full of rough bikers would be gross/manly/mean/ignorant/drunk/inappropriate/inser-negative-sterotype-here. And you wouldn’t be alone. But the group I was with, and the bikers I encountered, were all wonderful people who just really enjoy bikes. We chatted with strangers while standing in line for a food, when stuck side-by-side in traffic, and when shopping for accessories during the event.

Basically, going to Thunder Beach was like going to an RWA conference only with way more leather. Everyone was hyped up and excited to be there. People competed in bike shows and bought and sold goods. It was a Biker Con, just like I imagine Dragon Con (but with less makeup and more leather).

We cruised up and down Front Beach looking at bikes and showing off ours. We also took a trip down 30a and got to see some adorable little resort towns. And of course there was drinking and eating and good times.

What struck me most was the energy. The energy was intense but in a happy way. Everyone was just excited to be there. By the end of the trip I had my leather vest, a patch, a sparkly belt, and a hip pouch so I looked like I belonged. It was a great vacation.

Overall, I found this biker con to be a thrilling, low-key, laid back event. It was like attending a music festival without the hipsters. Like attending opening night of a harry potter movie but in the middle of the day on the beach. And as we all know, beach time is never wasted.

10/10 would go again.

Monday, June 1, 2015

May 2015 Month In Reiew

**Recapping my monthly progress serves two purposes: first, it keeps me honest and accountable to my goals; second, it allows me to truly capture just how much work I’ve done over the last year. So let the recapping begin!**


May is done!! Thank goodness!! I don’t want to say May was terrible but May was terrible.

Don’t get me wrong. Good things happened in May but I was blah for most of the month.

First of all, I slammed face-first into burnout. Reading burnout and writing burnout. No book felt right.

I’d start reading something and put it down while still in the first chapter. I’d start writing an outline for my future WIP and stop.

I didn’t send out queries as I had planned and I didn’t enter the contests I had scouted. I just didn’t do writing related stuff for most of May. And I felt pretty terrible about it. I’m still exploring this feeling but when I figure it out you better believe there will be a post dedicated to it.

In addition to the crushing burnout suffered in May I also caught and suffered with the dreaded spring cold. I hate hate hate being sick when it is warm and pretty outside. Getting sick in the spring/summer seems unnaturally cruel. But alas, it happened. I was laid out for a full week. I was supposed to travel to St. Louis to visit family over the Memorial day weekend but I had to cancel. Traveling while sick is no fun.

On the fitness side of things, our trainer left us and moved to Houston. This was particularly difficult because we have worked out with him three times a week for three years. We see him more than family and friends. He was a great coach and we learned a lot from him. I’m happy for him and his new gig but sad to see him go.

Here are the details for May 2015:

1 terrible, no-good, very bad cold
13 gym workouts (mostly weight training although I did discover the stair stepper and I think I’m in love!)
1 book read for fun (review coming soon)

And on top of all of that I still had words. Not many, but any words are worth celebrating, right? *does happy dance* This month’s grand total is 4,468 words. This brings my total ‘tracked’ word count for 2015 to 40,705! Not too shabby.

And as for miles, this month’s grand total is 17.6 miles, bringing my total ‘tracked’ mileage to 153.3 miles. I still haven’t found a 5k or 10k to run. Most of these are scheduled for closer to the fall (which doesn’t work for me as that’s when I start school…bummer). Also, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the stair stepper lately (which I love) but I’m not sure how to translate that into ‘miles’ so I haven’t been counting those workouts.

All in all, May was……a month. It’s over and tomorrow is a new day. #NeverGiveUp #NeverSurrender

How are your writing goals coming along?
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