The Sweetie Chronicles

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Inner Demons: Links to Buy


Hey everyone! INNER DEMONS is now available for purchase at the following sites:

Barnes and Noble


Amazon's Kindle Store

Smashwords

This is Book 2 of my Young Adult Fantasy series, Peachville High Demons.

Please check out this and Book 1: BEAUTIFUL DEMONS.

INNER DEMONS Release

Becoming a Demons cheerleader was the last thing Harper Madison expected when she moved to the small town of Peachville. Now that she's an official member of the squad, her training can begin. Only, this is no normal group of cheerleaders. Harper isn't there to learn dances and cheers. She became a cheerleader in order to finally learn how to control the magic inside.

The Peachville Demons cheerleading squad is really a training ground for a powerful coven of witches called the Order of Shadows. The training opens up a new world for Harper. It's a world of beauty and magic beyond her wildest dreams, but also a world of pressure and impossible expectations.

A world where every secret hides an even darker secret.



INNER DEMONS, Book 2 of the Peachville High Demons series is out!

Thanks to all the awesome comments from my critique group last week, I was able to put the finishing touches on Inner Demons over the weekend. This morning, I worked on the formatting and published through Smashwords!

It feels so amazing to get my second book out there. I have really been working hard over the past several months, and I couldn't be happier with all the comments and reviews I've gotten so far. I'm both nervous and excited to see what you think about Book 2!

Buy INNER DEMONS now on Smashwords.

Kindle and Barnes & Noble versions will be uploaded today as well, but they usually take a little longer to show up in the stores. I'll keep you posted!

In the meantime, here is an excerpt:

Lark smiled mischievously, like she had a secret.

“What?” I asked.

“Watch,” she said. She slid off the bed and sat down in the center of her floor on a square pink rug. She crossed her legs and set her hands palm up on her knees.

I felt a tingle of energy on the tiny hairs on my arm. I didn't know whether to sit down with her or back away.

Her eyes closed and her lips moved silently. There was movement in the air that lifted my hair slightly off my shoulders. Underneath where Lark was sitting, the pink rug slowly turned a color of teal as bright as pictures I'd seen of the Caribbean ocean. The color crept outward from her in a circular pattern, like a drop of water spreading on a napkin.

The dark wood furniture suddenly became shiny white. The polka-dot bedspread turned black with teal and white stripes, the color perfectly matching the newly teal rug on the floor. Other details of the room changed too. Like the lamp on her bedside table. I watched as it turned from a wooden base with a pink shade to a tall chrome base with a shimmery white shade. When the circle of color reached the edges of the room, a bright white paint climbed up the walls, replacing the pink that was already there. One wall became a teal accent wall.

Less than ten minutes after Lark sat down, the entire room transformed in front of my eyes. I stood, open-mouthed, staring at each changed detail.

“You like it?” She opened her eyes and stood, hand on one hip, surveying her work.

“Like it? This is incredible.” I walked over to the bedside table and touched the lamp to make sure it was real. The chrome base was cool to the touch and very much real chrome.

“How did you do that?”

“It's called a glamour,” she said.

Book Cover for INNER DEMONS!!

My cover designer, Ken Vahn, sent me the final image of my new book cover, and I'm thrilled! He really does a great job, and I love how it's very similar to the first book, but that it has its own darker overall impression.


I am currently in the final stages of revision on INNER DEMONS, Book 2 of the Peachville High Demons series. It is scheduled for release around December 20th, 2010!

Monthly Sales Numbers of an Indie Author - Month #1

Yay! My first book, BEAUTIFUL DEMONS, has officially been out for one month! Technically, the book came out on Amazon on the 30th of October, but to make book-keeping easier, I'm just going to lump those 2 Oct. days with November. I have decided to write a monthly sales numbers blog, just for any interested parties who are also trying to self-publish online and want to see what's possible. Hopefully as the months go on and more books of mine come out, the numbers will continue to grow and grow!

So here's the scoop for Month #1 of my life as a self-published author. In the hopes of trying to set up a good reporting method now that will still make sense when I have multiple books published, I'm going to list the book title and a super-brief description, each sales outlet where my book is available, the date the book became available for purchase, and finally, how many copies were sold through that outlet for the month.

BEAUTIFUL DEMONS - a young adult fantasy book about cheerleaders who are witches

  • Amazon's Kindle Store - Available 10/30/10 - Sold 34 copies
  • Smashwords - Available 10/29/10 - Sold 6 copies
  • Barnes and Noble - Available 11/02/10 - Sold 99 copies
Total November Sales: 139

So far, my books are only available in digital format. I priced the book at only $0.99. I am hoping to add print copies soon, but right now I'm focusing on getting a second book available as soon as possible.

My numbers are definitely modest, no doubt about it. On the other hand, I'm extremely proud of this first month. My only marketing so far has been several mentions on twitter, a few blog posts here on my own blog, some time spent on the Kindle user forums, and basically telling my friends and family to tell everyone they know. I wasn't expecting to sell more than 50 copies to be honest with you, so the fact that I'm closer to 150 is awesome. By the time I'm writing this, I've already sold 147 copies!

Moving ahead, my plan is to produce quality books fast. Some other Indie authors have encouraged me to spend several months marketing a book before it comes out, but I have a different theory right now of what will work best for my career. Content is King. Without a publishing house backing me, I think the fastest way to build reader trust and confidence is to have several books out and available for download. Sure, lots of people self-publish one book. But how many people continue to crank out book after book? Not nearly as many. Readers today want content, so my plan is to concentrate on getting content out there as fast as I can. Obviously, I want them to be good, but I think I can do both!

I want to ramp up my marketing as well. I need to work on getting more Twitter followers, guest blog posts on popular book blogs, reviews of my book up on various sites, and I want to spend time working on some SEO. Each month I plan to ramp up with more and more marketing until I feel I have a firm foundation. My second book, INNER DEMONS, is currently in edits and is scheduled for release around 12/20/10!

The decision to self-publish was a difficult one to make, but now that I am doing it, I couldn't be happier. For me, this is 100% the right path. There's no waiting, no one telling me what I can or can't write, no one changing my story or slapping a cover on it that I don't agree with. I'm in complete control of my product, and I love every minute of what I'm doing. Month #1 was a great start, and I'm looking forward to seeing those numbers go up every month.

First 100 Copies of Beautiful Demons Sold!!

The 100th copy of BEAUTIFUL DEMONS just sold! I am so excited about how well the book has done in its first month. Honestly, I had very modest expectations since I hadn't done any promotion for the book. I was expecting maybe 25 copies in a month, possible up to 50 by the time Book 2 was released. If things continue at this rate, though, I may hit 150 or 200 by the time the second book comes out next month.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy, retweeted my promotional tweets, or told a friend about the book. It feels so amazing to finally have a published book out there that people are actually reading! This is truly a dream come true for me. At 100 copies, no one is going to put me on the NYT Bestseller list, but everyone has to start somewhere, and as an Indie author, I think 100+ sales in the first month is not too shabby. To me, it feels like the first sales milestone - with many more yet to come!

NaNo WriMo Tip #4: Reward Yourself

We're getting down to the wire here. With less than one week left, where can you find that extra ounce of motivation you need to get to the finish line? In a word: Rewards!

Find something that you really want. Something worth working toward. Something that motivates you. Then set your goal and go for it. For example, if your goal at this point is just to get to the 50,000 mark on time, pick out a great reward for when you hit that goal. Buy a cute purse you wouldn't normally splurge on. Get that new techie item you've had your eye on for months. Promise yourself a night out to see the new Harry Potter movie (plus popcorn!). Or, if you're cash-poor, try to think of other ways to reward yourself. Give yourself permission to spend an entire afternoon doing nothing but watching TV and doing your nails or eating pizza! Reactivate your WOW account and create a brand new character and play 24 hours straight. Whatever you can think of that inspires motivation, go for it. There's got to be something you want, right??

I am currently sitting at 30,069 words. With basically only six days left, I need over 3000 words a day to make my 50k goal. Can I do it? Absolutely. I just need a little push. So what did my amazing husband promise me? The one thing I've been wanting for over a year: a new Android phone! He came home from work tonight and told me that if I can write 9,000 words before tomorrow night at midnight, we can go to T-Mobile on Black Friday and get Android phones. Believe me, I already have mine picked out! For me, it's a reward worth working toward! Of course, it will also double as our one year anniversary gifts to each other (hey, we're not millionaires, hehe), but it's still an amazing incentive to work hard.

Writing an entire novel in a month is not an easy task. It's not something that most people can do. Just taking on the challenge is amazing and ambitious. If you've even gotten halfway to 50,000, you've accomplished something great. Don't forget to reward yourself along the way. We all need to refill our motivation every now and then, and during a month like November, we need extra motivation juice to keep us going. Next year, if you dare to try again, think about setting word count milestones. At 12,500 words, you get a new set of pens. At 25,000 words, you get to go out to your favorite restaurant and pig out on chocolate cake. At 37,500, you reward yourself with that new book you've had your eye on. And save something really special for the 50,000 word goal. Choose rewards you can feel good about that will push you to keep going.

NaNo WriMo Tip #3: Don't Give Up

Here we are just 9 days away from the end of November (if you count today). Obviously, I'm way behind. Not only on my NaNo word count, but also on this blog, cause hey, if I don't have time to write one, where would I find the time to write the other? I thought about doing 10 tips, but let's shorten it to 5. :)

Tip #3: Don't Give Up
This is my mantra lately. I repeat it to myself in the shower and on the sidewalk and in the car. I remind myself when I wake up in the morning and again sometime in the evening when I'm feeling exhausted after a full day. Don't give up! It's not over yet!

Those first few days and even weeks of November can seem so magical. The story you've been thinking about for the past few weeks (months?) is finally coming alive on the page. You see your word count shoot up beyond anything you ever imagined. But then somewhere, life steps back in. Your husband gets sick. Your mom turns 60 and you can't miss that party. Work needs you to work overtime. There's always something that is bound to come up that will derail your word count plans. But Don't Give Up!

With only 9 days left, my word count currently sits at 21,897, not even halfway to the 50,000 word goal. At this point, I have two choices. I can throw my hands up in despair and admit defeat, leaving my word count to sit at that measly 21,897 for the rest of the month and possibly the rest of my life. OR I can spend the next 9 days re-dedicating myself to the goal I set at the beginning of the month. I can try to recapture that excitement and happiness I felt when November 1st finally got here. I might not be able to punch out the over 3,000 words a day I need to win NaNo this year, but I could try. I could refuse to give up and just keep pushing through.

Who knows? At the end of the month, you might still be shy of your 50k goal, but what if you made it all the way to 40,000 words? And what if you persisted throughout December to finish this novel and make it great? Or what if you found your excitement again and pulled out a miraculous win over the next 9 days?? It's not too late, I promise you. I plan to be a winner in 2010, and I know you can do it too.

Don't Give Up. Not now, after you've come so far.

NaNo WriMo Tip #2: Make Friends

We're one week through NaNo. Three to go! How are you doing so far? Have you been to any local write-ins? Last night, I went to an amazing write-in here in Cary, NC. We had 12 people there. We ran period word sprints, got to talk and find out about each other's work, and enjoyed hot coffee and snacks together. It was so much fun! I got over 2,000 words written within the 3 hours we were there, and more importantly, I made some new friends.

Writing is a solitary life. Sure, writers get together to talk about craft and critique each other's work every once in a while, but when it comes down to it, it's just you and the blank page. NaNo WriMo isn't just about writing a 50,000 word book. It's about doing it at the same time as thousands of other people. It's about the collective struggle. It's about the community.

If you're doing NaNo this year, but you haven't had the nerve to go out to one of your local write-ins, you might really be missing something. I know it can be hard to walk into a cafe or library you don't know very well and search for a NaNo sign or a group of writers hard at work on their laptops, but it's one of the most valuable experiences of the month of November.

My first year doing NaNo, I didn't go to a single event. I wrote alone and stayed home. I was solitary. And really, other than a higher word count, it wasn't that much different or more exciting that a regular writing month. But last year, I broke out of my shell and went to some write-ins. At one, I met Jennifer. We hit it off right away and exchanged buddy info and email addresses. About a week or so after NaNo, she emailed and invited me to join a critique group. Through that, I met Erica, and the three of us are still working together. To be honest, they have become two of my best, most valuable friends in the world. And I never would have met them without a NaNoWriMo write-in.

Many of us who do NaNo are full-time, serious writers. Writing is an all year thing. But try to remember that NaNo is about more than just the writing. It's about belonging to a group of people - writers - who share your dreams and fears and interests. So get out there and find a local write-in. Meet people. Exchange email addresses and user names. Make friends. It could change your life.

NaNoWriMo Tip #1: Quantity Not Quality

As I get past the first few days of initial NaNo excitement and head into the really tough part of National Novel Writing Month, I thought I would write a series of posts on my top 10 tips for making it through the rest of the month.

I first started NaNo in 2008, just after I had started taking writing seriously in my life (meaning wanting to make a career out of it). I wrote a book called INTO DARKNESS about a girl whose twin brother goes off to college and disappears two weeks later, leaving nothing but a pool of blood behind in his dorm room. It was an awful horror novel, but when the month was over, it was 50,000+ words, and I had won! In 2009, I attempted a novel called PANDEMIC about a group of teens trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. I only got 30,000 words in by the end of the month.

So what made the difference? Why couldn't I reach my goal the second time around? My answer: NaNo is sometimes more about Quantity than Quality. The first year, I was clueless about what agents wanted or what the so-called 'rules' were. I just wrote for fun. I had nothing more than a basic idea of the plot and a joyful sense of oblivion. I wasn't worried about whether I was writing the great American horror novel or not. I didn't even worry too much about whether the plot totally made sense. I just let the words fly out of me and land on the page unedited.

By 2009, however, I'd been a member of several writing organizations, a critique group, had read a dozen or more books on writing and was avidly following agent blogs and author websites. I was full of do's and don'ts. With every scene I wrote, I worried and obsessed about whether the book was any good. I wondered if the plot was something an agent would find unique or if I was just writing something cliche and overdone. I ruined my chance at winning NaNo by worrying too much about things that honestly don't matter during that first draft process.

Quality is what second drafts are for. There will be plenty of time to revise and shape your first draft once November is done. My advice? Stop worrying about quality. You are a writer. The quality will be there. After NaNo, you'll discover moments of genius you don't even remember writing. Granted, you'll probably also discover complete dreckitude within those 50,000 words, but no one ever has to see it but you. Don't worry about whether an agent will ever think your idea is awesome or not. Just write. Stop thinking about the rules. Just let the joy of writing flow through you for once. Let it come without judgment. Be free to write material of questionable quality. It could be some of the best writing you ever do.

12 Copies Sold!

I know it doesn't sound like much, but a girl's gotta start somewhere! The truth is, I feel on top of the world. My new release, BEAUTIFUL DEMONS, went live in the Kindle and Smashwords stores just two days ago, and without much promotion beyond a few tweets and a facebook post or two to friends and family, I've sold 10 copies on Amazon and 2 on Smashwords.

So why am I this excited about just a handful of sales? Because these are the very first books of mine that anyone in the world has paid money to own and read. One twitter friend of my crit partner Erica's already finished the book yesterday and declared it "A Great Read!" That's a huge compliment and seriously the beginning of a new phase of my writing career.

For the past three years, I have longed to be a paid writer. I've written a total of four books and one novella in that period of time, but this book is the first I have been brave enough to put out there in the public arena and proudly say "This is my book! Go forth and buy it!". Every bestseller starts somewhere, and I'm looking forward to all of the victories (both big and small) yet to come. For me, 12 copies is a victory. Next, maybe I'll shoot for 100 on launch weekend. Some day, I might be able to say I sold over a million copies in the first month of a book release. The sky is the limit as long as I keep writing and keep reaching for my dreams.

If you haven't already, buy your copy of BEAUTIFUL DEMONS now on Smashwords and Amazon's Kindle store for only $0.99. (Barnes & Noble coming soon.)

Beautiful Demons: My First Novel is Out Now!

Haven't blogged here in a while, but this news is BIG. My first published novel is available now! BEAUTIFUL DEMONS is the first book in the Peachville High Demons series. All together, I am planning five books in the series. The second book, INNER DEMONS, is my NaNo WriMo 2010 project. If you don't know what NaNo is, it's National Novel Writing Month where thousands of writers across the globe pledge to write 50,000 words in a single month. It starts tomorrow night at midnight, and I can't wait! If you want to add me as a buddy, my user name there is sarramaria.

Now, back to my book! I made the decision to self-publish at the end of the summer, and I couldn't be happier with my choice. I know it's going to be a lot of hard work and a lot of promotion and marketing, but I'm ready for the challenge. Please check out my book, which is available for only $0.99 in the Kindle store and at Smashwords. (and just waiting for approval in the Barnes & Noble store!)

Here is a brief description:

Harper Madison isn't like other girls. She has extraordinary powers, but her inability to control them has gotten her kicked from so many foster homes she's lost count. Shadowford Home is her last chance, and she hopes Peachville High will be the fresh start she needs. But when evidence ties her to the gruesome murder of a Demons cheerleader, Harper discovers this small town has a big secret.

Beautiful Demons is a young adult fantasy with a dose of romance. It is available for purchase at the following online retailers:

Note: Remember, you do not need an ereader to buy and read an ebook! Both Kindle and B&N's Nook have free apps for PC and Mac. You can also download Adobe Digital Editions to read books in epub and PDF format, which are available in the Smashwords store. Thank you for your support!

Plagued by Headaches

The last couple of days, I have been feeling pretty crappy. Mostly, it's the headaches. No matter what I take (Excedrin, Aleve, Ibuprofen) or what I do (Neti-pot, sit with ice pack, heating pad), nothing seems to get rid of it. I have no idea if it's an allergy thing or a sinus thing or a tension thing. /shrug. All I know is that it hurts.

This morning is actually better, but the headaches have been setting in around 3 or 4 and not letting go for the rest of the night. In fact, last night I took a benadryl and a tylenol pm to get to sleep, which of course means that I'm groggy this morning. And Wednesdays are my busy day. I'll be going tonight until 8:00, at which point Survivor's premiere is then on. Plus America's Next Top Model, but I think they are on at the same time this year. Anyway, thank God for internet playbacks.

Please, Lord, no headaches today. Only bliss and happiness and feel good-ness.

Productivity Booster

No matter how hard you work, there is always more that needs to get done. So much so that it can get overwhelming pretty fast. When I feel overwhelmed or I feel like there's so much to do that I will never be able to finish it or reach my goals, my first reaction is to freeze. I'm not saying it's logical, but it happens. Doing nothing at all is the worst thing I could do, and yet that's my typical reaction. Unless something forces me into action like a payment due or a meeting that I just can't miss, I have a hard time getting out of that paralysis and working hard toward my goals.

As a writer who sets my own schedule, this is a serious problem. I have set a very ambitious goal for myself during the month of September, and frankly, there's just no time for this bullshit. I want to write an entire 50,000 word novel that I can self-publish in ebook form. My goal is to finish it by the end of September, revise it over the first few weeks of October, and publish it before NaNoWriMo begins on November 1st.

For some reason, just knowing it was a huge, difficult goal, made me freeze up, unable to work as hard as I truly wanted to. In a way, I needed to trick myself into working harder. That's where my awesome husband comes in. He came up with this idea of making it into a kind of game. He's playing an MMO shooter called Global Agenda, which has little raids every hour or so that last between 15 and 30 minutes each. So, we decided that each time he went into a raid, I would work on my novel. We decided on a formula to compare his dps to my word count and now we race to see who can be the most productive in that time frame. Typically, this ends up meaning that I need to produce around 500 words in 15 minutes, which works out great for me.

Then, after the burst is over, I get an hour to watch TV or talk to friends on twitter or read a book or whatever. But when the raid starts again, it's go time. When we tried this method on Sunday, even though I was woefully hung over from the bachelor/bachelorette party the night before, I wrote 3700 words! Not too shabby!

We started talking about how I could extend that productivity into the daytime when G is at work. Last night at the Dollar Tree, G pointed out a digital kitchen timer. "Set this for 15 minutes," he said. "Then you can work at home when I'm not there." Aha! Great idea! We tried it last night even though he was here, and I still got six hundred words written before the timer went off. There's just something about knowing that I only have to focus on what I'm writing for a short 15 minutes that gets me quickly into this zone. There's no time to judge myself or my ideas. There's only time for writing. I think for rough draft writing, it's the best way I've ever found to add more productivity to my day in terms of writing. Now, I just need to set the timer for ten minute increments and get this damn house clean.

Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D

Zombies in 3D? Pure awesome. But first, an update on my life.

I haven't been updating much, I know. I'm sorry! I have been working on several big projects and thinking about starting a new blog that is less random and more specific. I have started a new novel I'm calling BEAUTIFUL DEMONS. I put PANDEMIC aside for now and am letting it sit before I go back to revise again. Things are good, just busy. I just wanted to write a quick post to say how much I enjoyed the newest Resident Evil movie. This is the 4th movie in the franchise, and it was definitely worth the $27 for G and I to go see it together. Most of the time, to be honest, I don't really find the 3D movies worth the extra money. Avatar was good, but some others just didn't utilize enough of the cool effects of 3D to make it worth the extra $3.50 a ticket. Resident Evil, however, delivered.

Right from the start, there was this awesome rain effect. On the streets of Tokyo, a girl in red high heels is just standing there in the rain amidst a bustling crowd of people, all of whom have umbrellas (of course). The rain effect was so cool in 3D, with some of the drops looking like they were right in front of my face. Later, there was also a scene where Alice was kicking zombie ass and as she shot a couple zombies in the head, the blood flew out into the crowd. It was awesome. The movie was action-packed to say the least, and Milla Jovovich is always so good at making Alice come to life for me.

If you're looking for something fun to watch and you enjoyed the other 3 Resident Evil Movies, then I highly recommend Afterlife. The 3D in and of itself is worth it. Our local theater just added an iMAX screen too, but we opted for the slightly cheaper regular theater. I'm thinking IMAX might actually be worth it on this one, so if you have the chance, upgrade. :) The ending definitely indicated a 5th movie on the way, and I can honestly say I'm looking forward to it.

Update: My Vision Board

I finished! Here's a look at my personal vision board:

It is full of affirmations and goals and dreams of what my future will be. I know that I already have the most important ingredient for my own happiness - my amazing husband. He's everything I ever dreamed of in a life partner, and more. Now, it's just a matter of us working together to achieve the rest of our dreams. Hopefully this vision board will help us to focus on those goals and get motivated to work toward them every day!

Creating My Vision Board

My goal for today is to create a "vision board". So what is a vision board? As I understand it, it's a place where I can put my goals and where I want to be in the future into visual images and affirmations. For example, I want to focus on losing weight and getting healthy. In the future, I see myself as someone who is thin, beautiful, and healthy. Last night, I cut out pictures of healthy food, exercise equipment I want to use, and words like 'beautiful' and 'go the extra mile'. Weight loss is just one part of my vision for my future, but it's important. There are four other things on my personal vision board, and while I won't go into them, I will post a picture of the finished board on Monday or later this weekend.

After I finish making the board, I will post it somewhere near my desk in the office where I can see it all day, every day. In the mornings, I will meditate on those images. I will picture myself having those things and imagine myself working hard to make them come true. I think the major difference between what I've been doing with my goals and the vision board is that in the past, I have always thought about my long-term goals and felt overwhelmed. It's easy to get frustrated and feel like these goals are so far away that they are nearly impossible. When I think of my goals in these terms, it's always negative thoughts like "I can't do it" or "I'll never happen" or "It's just too hard".

With a vision board, the whole point is to visualize myself already having this life that I want. If I meditate on these images and picture myself inside of this vision I have for my future, I will be more motivated to work toward those goals every day. Now, there are also people out there who claim that simply focusing on specific wants and declaring to the universe that I want them (in a positive way) will open up doors out of positive energy. The universe will move in order to bring these things into my life. I don't know for sure how or if that really works, but I'm willing to test it out and give it a shot. Being positive and finding a morning motivator will only bring good things into my life. A positive attitude can only help me in achieving my goals. So today, I make a vision board. It's my Friday project, and I'm excited to get focused and clear about what I want as we move into September next week and I begin writing a new novel.

Happy Friday all! Have a great weekend!

Book 15: NAKED IN DEATH


I know I've lost count at this point. I've definitely read more than fifteen books this year, but I have failed to write reviews on my site about them. /sigh. It was a good idea, but I've definitely fallen short on getting every book up here. This one, however, I wanted to mention for a variety of reasons.

'Naked in Death' by J.D. Robb was an awesome book. I read it over the course of four or five nights, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Eve Dallas, the main protagonist of the series, is a cop in the 2050's. She's tough-as-nails, sexy, and very smart. She doesn't take shit from anybody, which I love. But what I love most about her is that she doesn't feel... manufactured. She feels real, like someone who could really exist. She's flawed. She's capable of being vulnerable. As I read this book, I worried for her and cheered for her. No wonder there are now something like 30 books in the 'in death' series. I'm definitely a new fan.

Roarke, the love interest, is also quite sexy. He's a billionaire, for one. And has an Irish accent. What's not to love? He's definitely an Alpha male who doesn't take no for an answer, which for me can often be a turn-off. But with Roarke it works simply because he's so head-over-heels for Eve. He truly cares for her and is protective of her, but at the same time, he's impressed by her and respects her skills and intelligence. Very sexy.

This first installment of the 'in death' series follows Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she investigates a series of murders involving certified "companions", which basically means prostitutes. I'm guessing that each book hereafter will explore some other police mystery that will have her questioning witnesses, lining up suspects, finding clues, and eventually capturing the criminal. I can't speak to how well the series formula holds up after fifteen or so books, but the first book was certainly riveting, and I already have the second, "Glory in Death" here to read next. If you haven't read any of Nora Roberts' 'In Death' series, I highly recommend it.

Fish-sitiing

I am the proud babysitter of one very pretty Beta fish. His name is "Alpha", how cute is that? My friend J is going to Japan for a couple of weeks, so I agreed to watch him. I'm already loving him. As you can see, I couldn't really get a great picture of him. He tends to hide in the little grass most of the time, but every once in a while, he comes to the front of the tank to say hello.

Fish are so cool, and the fact that you can have one who is content to live in a small enough tank to sit on your desk? I love it. I just hope I can keep him healthy and happy while J is in Tokyo, hopefully having the time of her life. I'll try to get some better pictures of Alpha this week as we become more acquainted.

Shiny New Idea

I love new ideas. It's exciting to come up with a totally new cast of characters, a new setting, a brand new plot or premise. It feels especially shiny and new when you've been working on your last novel for almost a year. I'm burned out on it, to be honest. I know it needs more revisions, but I need space first. Time to let it cool off before I go back in and start dissecting it again or rewriting. I'm hoping that once I go back to it, I'll find out that it is actually pretty good. Haha. After struggling with one idea and one story for so long, it's awesome to start working on a brand new, shiny, fresh idea.

It's too early for me to share the details of this idea, because it isn't really formed yet, but I have this plan. I am going to write a series with the intention of self-publishing online. I am setting some pretty huge goals for myself, hoping to have two books written and published online by Christmas. Meanwhile, I am going to let my novel, Pandemic, get cold for a few months. Then I'll brush it off and begin rewrites again with the intention of querying agents and sending it out.

I have also been thinking of starting a new blog. Something totally fresh where I can explore the topic of self-publishing vs. traditional print publishing. It's definitely a topic worth exploring these days. So much to think about... If I do start a new blog, I'll be sure to let you know. :)

Digital Titles at the Library

Yay! My local library has finally started carrying ebooks! I went on their website to peruse the selection, and it's actually not too bad. In fact, I have already checked out 2 ebooks for my Sony reader. 'The Carrie Diaries' by Candace Bushnell, which is the teen life of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. I haven't started reading it yet, but I have loved almost all of Bushnell's books, and we all know how much I love the series her book spawned. I've been dying to read this newest book, but haven't wanted to shell out the $15 bucks or so to buy it. Another book in that same category (the category of not wanting to pay fifteen dollars, I mean) is Nora Roberts' 'Vision in White', the first of her Bride Quartet. I have to say, I actually love the actual trade paperback copy of this book in the bookstores. It's beautiful. Tattered edges, silky cover, gorgeous dress on the front. I love all things bridal, so this book appeals to me without even having to know what's it's about. Still, every time I pick it up, I see that huge pricetag and put it right back down.

Being a book lover is expensive. I support the industry and purchase several hundred dollars worth of books a year. But when the price of a book gets over $10, I often have to put it down and look for something else I wanted to read. Or I have to look for alternate ways to read that book. Does a friend of mine have a copy I could borrow? Is there a copy at the used bookstore for only $4? Do they have a copy at the library? I was extremely happy to find out that the Wake County Library system here in the Raleigh area is now offering digital audio and ebooks for check-out. The audio books are 7 day or 14 day check-outs and the ebooks are 21 days. You can download them to your computer, then transfer them to your ipod or your ereader. After the time has expired, they simply disappear. It's brilliant.

I will continue to support the publishing industry by buying books, don't get me wrong. In ebook format, audio, and paperback. I even buy the occasional hardcover (Mockingjay anyone?) if it's a book I have been waiting for or an author I can't resist. But it's nice to know that for those other books that I want to read, but can't really afford, there's now a digital option. I hope this spreads to all library systems and that more and more selections become available for temporary download. If you live in Wake County and would like to check out their selection, go to the library's digital media page to read more.

Making Character Collages

After this awesome video by Tera Lynn Childs at Writeoncon, I felt inspired to make a few character collages. I'm going to be starting a new project soon, and I wanted to get an idea of who these characters really are. Plus, I got to spend lots of fun time with my friends and critique partners, which is always good. We talked through our stories a little bit and worked out some plot details while we cut things out. I wish I had taken a picture of the living room floor with all of the magazines on it! It was completely packed with everything from Dwell Magazine to Vogue to Martha Stewart's Weddings. We probably had over 50 magazines spread out on the floor to choose from! When you're stuck on figuring out a character's personality or what kind of clothes she wears or what her hair really looks like, heck even what house she might live in, you can always grab a stack of magazines for a visual cue. It's visual inspiration that gets your ideas flowing and helps give that extra spark when you're either stuck or just tired or unable to make some decisions. I highly recommend it.

And no, your collages don't have to be the best looking, most artistic pieces in the world. Seriously. Check out my first collage from last night here. It's simple, but you can easily get an idea of what this character's personality is. Include words, outfits, details like the cheerleader, ice cream, kittens, her favorite handbag, a scarf, whatever. Anything goes as long as it gets you thinking and helps you clarify who that character is or what she likes. You don't even have to show them to anyone else. I plan to hang mine on the wall in front of my computer so that I can look up while I'm writing that character's dialogue or a scene from their POV. I figure it's worth a shot to see if I can get into that character's head a little faster and see things from their eyes.

Happy Friday everyone. Have a great weekend.

Making Decisions

Sometimes I feel paralyzed when I have to make important decisions. I'm certainly old enough to have been making my own decisions for many years now, but at the same time, there are certain kinds of decisions that leave me spinning my wheels for months, unable to really commit. Yesterday, I had a breakthrough when I realized that this is definitely where I'm going wrong with my career path. Too many options, not enough focus.

When I think about the different ways I can make money, I know that I am lucky. I have multiple options. I'm not saying I could become an instant millionaire, but making a decent living for myself wouldn't be too hard if push came to shove. I'm also extremely lucky because my husband gives me the freedom to explore these career paths so that I can find the best one for us both financially and emotionally. The only problem is that I've been spending a couple of years now bouncing back and forth between several possibilities.

Yes, I am a writer. But I'm also a voice and piano teacher who has thought about opening a full studio to make money. I also have put applications in at various teaching jobs and sub jobs. I also write articles online for money. And I write novels, hoping to someday get published by a 'Big Six' house. I also have considered writing books to self-publish in digital format. There are lots of options out there, and even though I'm working hard, I know I've lacked the focus I need to truly make any of those things work out the way I hope they will. It reminds of that old saying "jack of all trades, master of none." I don't want to be sort-of good at a lot of things. I want to be super successful and really amazingly good at one thing (and therefore, make a ton of money doing it, if possible :P).

Over the next week or so, I'm going to be doing a lot of thinking about my goals and options. I'm setting a September 1st deadline for myself to make some important decisions about my career focus. Self-publishing? Voice teaching? Traditional route? What is my number one career goal? I'll let you know :P.

5 Things

There are 5 essential things I need to do every single day in order to keep moving forward with my goals. Sometimes, life can seem overwhelming, so narrowing my focus down to these 5 things will (hopefully) help me seem less frazzled and make my goals seem less impossible. Earlier this week, I suffered a sort of meltdown. I couldn't sleep, so I got up and wrote in my journal until almost 4 am. What did I write about? Basically, the fact that so many of my goals feel so impossibly out of reach. I want to lose weight, but it's hard to stay consistent with good eating habits. I want a career as a writer, but it's so hard to get published or make any money. I want a nicer house with a garage so G can work on his old Hornet. And I want a baby. But when I put all those things together like that, it feels like there's all these huge, unattainable goals just out there mocking me.

So, I'm going to try just making sure to get something done from eat of these 5 things every single day. If I can stay consistent and make it happen, then I'll be moving in the direction of those goals and dreams. What are the 5 things?:

  1. Eat Right - I have lost over 10 pounds, but I still need to lose 41 pounds before I hit my goal weight. Then I want to actually keep it off. This will help in my self confidence, but will also make it better for when we start trying to have a baby.
  2. Write - This means either working on my novel or writing articles online for adsense revenue. Either one works for the writing, but bonus if I can get both done in one day. Right now it doesn't equal much money, but eventually I have to hope that it will produce the millions.
  3. Exercise - In the same basic category as eating right, I want to also exercise. It will help me lose weight faster, relieve stress, and gain energy. I recently found out that I can use the gym and classes at my husband's work for free! I just have to get a health check first, so that's step one to using the gym. Other than that, I walk or use the stationary bike here in the house.
  4. Read - Definitely the easiest one on the list, but no less essential. Reading is important for my career and for my peace of mind. I love to read. As a writer, it is good to stay up with the market and to see how other writers handle plot, imagery, mechanics, characterization, etc. Right now, I'm reading Stephen King's 'IT' on my Sony Reader. This is the easiest of the 5 to fulfill because I can simply read for half an hour or so before I go to sleep.
  5. Clean the house - Ugh. This is one of the hardest for me. I hate cleaning, but there's always so much that has to get done. I can't imagine what this one will be like once there actually is a child living in our house. Hopefully doing all of the other things on my list will lead to making enough money someday that I can hire someone to do a lot of the cleaning for me. :) In order to keep it from getting out of hand, I need to do a load of laundry or clean the kitchen or something every day. For some people this is automatic and not worthy of going on the list, but for me, it's torture.
I am going to work to stay consistent with these 5 things. Every day. As long as I move forward with each of these, I will be moving in the direction of what I want in life. Simple as that. The more I can do, the further I go. Every single choice I make regarding these five aspects of my life makes a difference. My goals aren't nearly as unattainable as they sometimes feel, and I need to remember that some things are under my control.

The Pain of Rejection

Yesterday, I got rejected by the agent of my dreams. For the most part, it was a form rejection. And it broke my heart. There was a short note at the very bottom of the email saying that although my writing is strong, the story didn't stand out enough to make her fall in love with it. Sound familiar? If it doesn't, then you haven't been reading my rejection letters. They are starting to sound like a broken record.

I guess as far as rejections go, I would much rather be told that I have strong writing with a weak story that didn't quite grab them than be told that my story seemed interesting, but my writing sucked. Of course, G and I have spent hours talking about how a truly great writer can make pretty much any story fly as long as he/she can make you love the characters. Epic fail on that front, I suppose.

One agent does not a disaster make, though, and I plan to keep sending queries. Maybe someone will see potential there and want to give it a shot. I don't even have a list of possible agents yet, to be honest. My goal is to make that list, give the manuscript a final revision and polish, then send out a fresh batch of queries on September 1st. That's two weeks from tomorrow. I'm also toying with the idea of writing a 3 book series of short, 50,000 word books with a plan to digitally self-publish them through the Kindle store. There's a chance I would be like the majority and sell somewhere around 20 copies total. But there's also a good chance I would sell 20 copies a day at some point. Or more. I'm willing to work hard to see if it could be a viable career option. There's just something about not having to go through these gatekeepers that is so damn appealing. But that's another blog post all together.

Weekend Purge

Sometimes it just feels good to organize. For example, our office has been slowly growing out of control. We have this closet that used to have sliding doors over it. When I first moved in, we took those doors off, put in a few bookcases, and turned the closet into a little mini-library. It was all very organized. I promise.

G's side of the closet pretty much always stays organized. He rarely adds anything to it other than some spare computer parts, so it stays the same most of the time. My side, on the other hand, is insane. I stack books, CDs, pens, notebooks, and papers over there. Magazines, ugh. Once my shelves were full, I just started stacking things on top. I seriously wish I had taken a "before" picture yesterday so you could have seen it. It was... precarious.

Saturday night I had a minor melt-down in the middle of the night. I stayed up crying and writing in my journal, feeling like I was never going to be the person I want to be. It happens. It sucks, but it happens. To make myself feel better, G suggested I pick one thing and concentrate on making it right. I picked the mini-library/ex-closet mess. It took hours. First, I pulled everything out and organized it into piles. Real Simple magazine here. Game Informer there. Books I've already read and can (sadly) give away in one pile. Books I want to read in another. I even still had an entire box of tapes with my old singing lessons on them. G and I listened to them while I cleaned. Wow, it was like visiting another lifetime. A lifetime that reminded me just how lucky I am in this one.

My finished closet isn't perfect. I'm not exactly a natural when it comes to cleaning and organizing spaces. But I'm happy that there's no longer a tower of books on top or a mess of things on the floor. For the most part, it's organized. And G was right. I do feel better.

School Supplies


I have a school supply addiction. I admit it. Always around this time of year, I feel like a reformed gambling addict forced to live in a casino. I get all these daily emails from the office supply stores with promises of $1 items and 20% off! How can I resist?

Pens are the worst. No matter how many pens I own, I always want more. I can't help it. Pens and different colors of post-its. Come to think of it, it's the colors that get me, really. Anything that typically comes in lots of different colors - I want it. Binders, notebooks, rulers, index cards, post-its, paper, pens, flags, highlighters, and the list goes on. I get this from my mother, the teacher. In fact, it was one of the best things about being a teacher. I had an endless excuse to get more pens and especially more white-board pens in every color imaginable. Oh, and the magnets too, of course, which were fun.

Now that I'm a writer and I am using these school supplies all the time as real tools to help me create stories and organize ideas, I feel like I'm in heaven. All that's missing is making money so that I can afford to buy more. I'm thinking next week calls for a series of posts on how I use colorful office supplies to help me in my writing. Fun! Have a great weekend everyone!

Heat Advisory - Again

Ugh. The August heat is killing me. I keep hoping to wake up to a day of cool rain or nice 80 degree weather. Instead, my weather channel desktop gave me the ominous storm sound this morning when I turned my computer on - heat advisory today that the heat index will reach 105-107 degrees. Seriously? Again? It's sweltering out there. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for Fall.

I'm also super happy I don't live in Georgia right now.

Thinking ahead to NaNo WriMo

What's that? It's only August, you say? And National Novel Writing Month is still several months away? Yes, yes, but it's never too early to start planning! Having recently finished my YA novel, Pandemic, I am looking ahead to my next project. (Other than querying and trying to sell said YA novel, of course.) If you aren't familiar with NaNo WriMo, it's one month out of the year where thousands of writers across the globe attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. 2010 will be my third year participating. I won my first year with a novel I called "Into Darkness". I finished the word count, but never actually finished the book. In fact, it got right up to the most interesting and terrifying part of the book and stopped. My husband is still upset about it. Last year, however, I only made it about 30,000 words in (this being the same novel I just finished), at which point I trashed the entire thing save one scene and started over.

This year, I will be triumphant. Heck, I might even set my goal larger than 50,000 words! Oh, the insanity! But let's face it, 50k does not a novel make in most instances. It's only half a novel. Ish.

So, the question already tickling the back of my brain is which project do I write this year for NaNo?

Option 1. I write the second book in my Pandemic series. It's definitely not going to be complete at 50k since book 1 is easily almost 90k, but getting 50,000 words into the second book would be great. On the other hand, some writers have said that you shouldn't write the second book in the series until you know whether or not the first book is ever going to sell. Hmmm. Could be good advice, since selling book 2 would be particularly hard if no one wanted book 1.

Option 2. I write a book that will be complete at 50,000 words and is targeted toward an ebook only self-publishing route. I have been toying around with the idea of self-publishing a lot lately. The writing community is up in arms about the future of traditional print publishing and with last week's announcements that Dorchester is ceasing its Mass Market paperbacks and Barnes and Noble is possibly up for sale, I am beginning to wonder if it might be smart to test the self-publishing waters just to learn a thing or two. After all, any writing I do is good practice, and I might as well try to get some practice in with the publishing bit too, just in case.

And those are pretty much the two options I am tossing around. If I decide to go with option 2 and write a book I specifically plan to self-publish through Kindle and Smashwords and PubIt! or whatever other self-publishing ebook formats are out there at the time, then I'll have to completely brainstorm ideas for what I want that book to be about. There will probably be a little bit of research involved as well, such as what demographic is buying most indie ebooks. What genre is selling best and is there a market for my type of YA horror/urban fantasy/romance mixture? Option 2 comes with a lot of unanswered questions, but a lot of excitement as well.

Good thing I have a few months yet to think about it.

The Value of Critique Groups

For a new writer, joining a critique group can be one of the most important decisions you make to advance your writing skills. Shortly after I first joined RWA two years ago, I also met my first critique group. They have taught me more about my writing than I ever could have learned so quickly on my own. I probably would have learned it eventually, but there's nothing like having almost weekly feedback on what's going wrong and what's going right in your current work. Recently, I joined a second critique group that is (if it's possible) even more awesome-cakes than my original group. I am member of both right now, but what I get from the two groups is two very different experiences and critiques.

Here are my top 5 tips for making a critique group work:

  1. Make sure you get along with the people in the group. If you don't get along or have anything to talk about, eventually you might find yourself bickering or getting your feelings hurt. You might start to dread the entire experience if you can't get along with the group and learn to trust them.
  2. Give your critiques the time they deserve. Most of the time, you get what you put into something. If you only give half-effort critiques, how can you expect the people in your group to spend effort and time on your piece? If you want them to put a lot of time into your pages and give a detailed, constructive critique, then you should do the same for them every time.
  3. Be honest. If someone says something that hurts your feelings, let them know right away. Do it in a non-confrontational way, but don't hold it in. Believe me, I know this from experience. If you hold it in, then what happens the next time they hurt your feelings? And the next? Eventually it builds up, and that can lead to an argument or worse, the breakup of the group. Critiques should be helpful and everyone in the group should be supportive. It's all about working together to make sure that the group is successful and that people reach their personal goals. If a comment hurts your feelings or is presented in a way that seems ugly or personal, speak up! A simple, "The way you worded that hurts my feelings. In the future, if you could try to present that in a different way, I would appreciate it." might save the group.
  4. Be clear about your goals and what you want from the group. Let your critique partners know what you are aiming for. Just want to finish a dang book for a change? Brainstorm ways they can help encourage you to keep moving forward. Looking to polish the first fifty pages and enter that contest you've already dreamed about? Let them know they're going to be micro-critiquing those pages for the next month. Stating your goals and putting them out there where you can find support and be held accountable goes a long way toward actually reaching those goals.
  5. Find people with similar goals and writing time. If someone in your group is writing 100 pages a weeks and you only have time for 10 on a good week, you might not work as the best critique partners. You'll end up spending hours on their work and only getting a small amount of critique in return. Also, if your goal is to get published and to be a serious author, but your group members are writing for fun and without any serious goals, you might find that they don't take the critiques as serious as you do. Find people who have the same goals you have and want the same things out of the group that you want. You'll all get so much more out of it because in the end, you all want the same thing.
I am a huge advocate for critique groups. They can change your writing for the better. Just make sure you know what you're looking for and who you're committing to before you get into it. After all, these are the first people you're going to trust to read your work. And your work is important and unique and it's personal.

Have a wonderful Friday everyone! Hope you had a great week and an even better weekend!

Pitching at Conferences

Pitching face-to-face with an agent or an editor is one of the best ways to get your material on their desk. With the experience fresh in my mind, I thought I would share some tips about how it works, what you should wear, whether or not you should be nervous, and whether the stress is worth it.

First things first. Before you even sign up for an appointment, do your research! Make sure the person you are meeting with represents or publishes the type of novel you are pitching. Also, make sure your book is finished. Pitching an unfinished book about a serial killer to an agent who only represents sweet historical romances is only going to waste her time and will get you nowhere in your goal to become published.

How does a pitch appointment work? There are probably lots of different kinds of pitch appointments, but so far in my experience, a one-on-one pitch lasts about ten minutes and is given sitting down at a table with the editor or agent. Like in this photo of last week's pitch room at RWA's National Conference, pitches are often given in a room full of agents and editors, rather than in a private room. Be sure to arrive at least fifteen minutes early in order to sign in and find your seat. At RWA, a volunteer was there to line up all of the people who had appointments at a specific time so that we could walk in an orderly way to our respective agent or editor's table. Personally, I like to sit in the waiting area for about thirty minutes thinking about my pitch and getting my mind in the right place. (Translation = giving myself a pep-talk and saying things like "you're awesome" and "everyone wants to read my book!")

Once you sit down with your agent or editor, you have about ten minutes. It's a good idea to introduce yourself and ask how their conference is going or if they are having a nice morning. Compliments are always nice, especially if you have done your research about this particular agent and you love some of their client's books or have been following their blog for the past year, just be careful not to ramble! A lot of times, the agent or editor will then ask you what your project is about, at which point you should launch into your pitch.

"The Pitch" is best kept to around a minute. That way, the editor or agent has plenty of time to ask questions about your novel and to judge whether this particular project sounds interesting to them or not. Having notes in front of you doesn't seem to be a problem most of the time, just try to remember to look up from time to time and make eye contact. As far as what to say in your pitch, I personally have had a lot of success with simply telling them about the inciting incident that pushes the story forward. What's the hook of your story? What's that first thing that sends your character into a new world? A pitch appointment is not the time to tell the agent or editor the entire story all the way to the end. Think back cover blurb or query blurb, not synopsis!

As far as what to wear, keep it professional. Be comfortable and most importantly, be yourself. Jeans and a tshirt is probably not the best choice for a professional meeting, but in the end, what really matters is your story. Write the best book you can. Period. I just think that dressing nice shows an editor or agent that you respect them and that you take the opportunity seriously. This is a first impression scenario, so make the most of it!

Try not to be too nervous! I know, this is a tough one! I get nervous too, of course, but try to remember that editors and agents are people too. The reason they are taking pitch appointments in the first place is that they are looking for new authors. They want to find a book that they can sell or publish. They are rooting for your book to be the next story that touches their heart or keeps them up late at night turning pages. Deliver your pitch, answer questions slowly and speak clearly, and chances are, they are going to ask to see something from you. Most of the time, it's a partial - like the first 30 pages or the first three chapters and a synopsis. Sometimes, they might even ask for the full manuscript! Outright rejections at a pitch appointment are rare unless you didn't do your research and are pitching your novel to someone who simply isn't interested in your genre or sub-genre.

Most importantly, follow up. If someone requests your manuscript, send it! This is your chance to bypass the slush pile and get your work in front of someone who can potentially change your life! Don't let that opportunity pass you by simply out of fear of rejection or because you weren't prepared. One question people ask a lot is how much time after the pitch do you have to submit? I think the answer is different for everyone, but my advice is the same no matter what - send it in as soon as possible. An editor might still look at your partial manuscript six months down the road, but by then they might have already acquired a book like yours and no longer have room on their list. An agent might have truly been interested in your hook and excited to read your pages, but if you wait three months to send it in, you're allowing that interest to cool and pass away. Send your pages as soon as you can, preferably within the first week after the request was made. That alone will put you way ahead of the game.

Pitch appointments are always worth it as long as you are ready to submit and are looking for an agent or an editor. It's great experience talking about your novel and answering questions, and it's the fastest way to get your work on an agent or editor's desk with the words "Requested Material" on it. Take the chance to pitch every single time you have it, just make sure you aren't wasting anyone's time by pitching something you might never finish or send. Now, I'm off to finish reading through a final polish of my novel so that I can send requested pages to both an agent and an editor I met at RWA last Saturday! Wish me luck!

RWA 2010 - Heart of Carolina Pictures

A fun time was had by all at the RWA 2010 National Conference in Orlando! Here is a slideshow of some of my favorite pictures from this year's conference, featuring the beautiful and talented women of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, the Raleigh, NC chapter of RWA.

I tried to get by and say hello to all of our authors at the signing, but somehow I missed taking pictures of Alexandra Sokoloff (who was looking so good in her sparkly top btw) and Beth Williamson. Also, I could have sworn I had pictures of our fabulous Deb Marlowe, one of our very own RITA finalists this year, but alas, there aren't any pictures of her on my camera. I'm not sure what happened, but it makes me sad. She looked so good and so happy. I might have missed a few others too, and if I did, I'm so sorry! It was a great week, and I am so happy to be a part of such an amazing chapter!

An Amazing Conference

I had an amazing time at the RWA National Conference! Of course, I got home yesterday and crashed for about five hours, then slept like a baby last night in my own bed, but it was worth any loss of sleep! I met some amazing authors, fellow YARWA members, spent time getting to know people who have the same dreams as me and are working to get published and also talked to writers who are in the position I WANT to be in someday. It's an amazing networking opportunity and I am so happy I went.

I have a feeling it is going to take a few days to recover, haha. Laundry is piled up, my sweet dog is hungry for attention, and I really missed my husband. Plus, I have a couple of requests for the first three chapters of my novel, so I want to go over it one last time to make sure I'm sending in the very best opening I can. Today or tomorrow, I will post copious amounts of pictures from the conference, so stay tuned :).

Congratulations to all of the RITA and Golden Heart winners! Especially want to give a shout-out to Erica O'Rourke, the YA Golden Heart winner. You go girl!!! Can't wait to read your book when it comes out! Also, a huge congrats to fellow YARWA member, Simone Elkeles. PERFECT CHEMISTRY is an awesome book and you totally deserve the award. As one last have-to-mention, my amazing fellow chapter-mate Sabrina Jeffries did the best job as emcee! She looked amazing up there! Plus, she was super fun and well-spoken. Great job Sabrina!

RWA National Conference in Orlando

Laptop? Check.

iPod loaded with a brand new audio book to enjoy (Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You!)? Check.

Super cute business cards? Yep.

Hello Kitty notebook so I can make tons of useful notes during workshops? You betcha.

I am so excited about heading out to the RWA National Conference in Orlando! I've been packing all weekend, making sure laundry is done (both mine and my husband's - not sure he would even know how to do his own laundry anymore. He's so spoiled :p), downloading a new audio book for the trip, working on my pitch, going over any last minute revisions. I feel totally ready to go, and I know that this year, I'm going to make the most of it.

Last year was my first time at RWA Nationals, and I have to admit, I was nervous. I barely knew anyone, I was sharing a room with two others and ended up sleeping on a rollaway (ugh), and I basically had no idea what I was doing. Things have changed for this year. I'm much more confident in my writing, I have an actual completed book to pitch that I love and truly believe in, and this year, I have my very own bed in the hotel room. Well, not MY bed exactly, but it's mine for five nights and I plan to enjoy it!

My plane leaves in the morning, so I'm not sure how often I'll get a chance to update the blog this week, but if anyone reading is heading to Orlando, feel free to email me if you want to get together! (It's times like this I really wish I had an iPhone or a Droid or some other email-enabled phone. /sigh.) And if you're going to Orlando, I hope you have an amazing time. I will write all about it when I get home!

Zombie Jellyfish and Sarra Bonanza!

Two completely unrelated topics, but hey, it's Friday and I can do what I want! First, I just had to share this crazy story about a zombie jellyfish who stung 150 people near a New Hampshire beach AFTER it was dead. It decomposed off shore and its still-active tentacles dispersed into the waters, stinging people. Some of those who were stung ended up at the hospital, so I realize this is no laughing matter. However, it's still crazy.



In other news, tonight is the Sarra Bonanza! My friends and critique partners are coming over tonight to talk about my completed novel now that they've read through it. We're also going to take a look at my outfits for conference, eat some pizza, and play around with makeup. Yes, it's wild and crazy! It's also super nice to have great friends who support me and want me to be successful. I feel so grateful and blessed right now.

Have a great weekend everyone!

The Value of Outside Advice

No one ever said that being a writer would be easy. For the most part, it's a solitary task. It's just you, all alone, sitting at a keyboard somewhere, trying to come up with an original story and unique characters who will draw people in and make them care. Since joining RWA and my local chapter, HCRW, I have found that there are valuable resources out there that can change everything. Through RWA I met two amazing critique partners that read everything I write and encourage me every step of the way. Of course, they also tear my writing apart sometimes, but that's one of the reasons I've gotten better and better over the last couple of years. BUT (and this is a huge BUT), outside advice is not the be-all, end-all. It's not the final word or the definitive answer. I think this is something I'm learning bit by bit.

As a writer, I find that I am constantly searching for that positive feedback and validation. It's simply a hunger deep inside of me I can't control. So, when I put my pitch paragraph out there for my critique group, some people from an RWA loop or on an agent's forums, I hit "submit" and pray for that validation. Sometimes, the response is brutal. "Your story isn't unique." "Haven't we seen this before?" "This is unclear. What's really going on in your story?" "I don't like the wording here, this is too generic." And the list goes on.

Other times, you've got one person saying they hate it and another saying they think it's perfection (knuckle bump, girl! this rocks!) So how do you tell who is right and who is wrong? That's the truly infuriating part. No one can decide which pitch to put out there when the time comes except for you. Er, me, in this case. The writer, when it comes down to it, is still that solitary figure, making those decisions alone. It can sometimes be a very scary place to be. Not everyone is going to love what I write or the decisions I make, but at some point, I have to just believe in myself enough to make a choice and know that this is ME. My passion. My best. My voice.

Six More Days!! Plus THE ENEMY by Charlie Higson

Only six more days until I leave for fabulous Orlando and the RWA National Conference!!! I'm so excited! Of course, I've been working so hard on my pitch, my synopsis, and last-minute revisions on my novel that I sort of feel like my brain is fried. Hopefully, I will be able to UN-fry it by the time I leave so that I can actually get something useful out of the PRO retreat and all the amazing workshops throughout the week. Last year I learned so much, and I hope to make it to as many events this year as I can.

Last night, in order to relax and stop working on my own writing, I decided to finish a book I started a couple days ago called THE ENEMY by Charlie Higson. It's a YA zombie-apocalypse book set in London after a disease wipes out everyone over the age of sixteen. Well, almost everyone. The grown-ups that didn't die have become decomposing creatures who eat anything they can get their hands on - including kids. *shudder* The book focuses on a group of kids who have set up a life for themselves in an old supermarket. They are running out of food, though, and the grown-ups are getting smarter and more organized in their attacks. When a young man comes to the gates, claiming there is safety and food at Buckingham Palace, the kids decide to take a chance, leave everything behind, and follow him back to a new life. But their fight to stay alive is from from over - the threat from within the palace is as real as the one outside it. (The little blurb there is a combination of my own words and the back cover copy.)

This book was excellent! Told in multiple third-person POV (like mine), the reader gets to know a lot of different kids and teens in the book. The battle scenes are intense, the author isn't afraid to kill anyone off, and after the first few chapters, you'll find yourself turning pages faster and faster. I love it when books grip me so hard that I can't even force myself to turn off the light and go to sleep because I just have to know what's going to happen next. It's a rare kind of high, but it's so awesome when you find it. THE ENEMY certainly delivers, and I'm so glad I picked it up. If you like zombie stories and want to see it from the perspective of a group of kids trying to survive in a world where the adults are the enemy, it's a definitely recommended read from me.

My New Website Is UP!!!!

Yippeee!!! My amazing husband and I have been working on my website for several weekends, trying to get it up and running before next week's RWA National Conference. Last night, we launched the site! Now, before you click over to check it out, just keep in mind that G and I designed and put together this website all by ourselves! I designed the images in Photoshop and made a little drawing of where I wanted everything to go, then G did the html and put everything in place. I am so excited I could pee my pants! I hope you like it. Please let me know what you think if you have a chance to check it out. Does it look homemade? Anything misspelled (god forbid) or wonky? Any hard-to-read areas? Comments and feedback appreciated either in the comments of the blog or through personal email. Heck, give me a call if you want, I probably haven't talked to you in a while because I've been glued to my computer screen working on this novel for months! :)

So, after much rambling, I give you:

Sarra Cannon's Amazing New Author Website!!

Synopsis Finished!

Last night I wrote the dreaded Synopsis, and survived! I really do hate writing a synopsis. I understand it as a necessary evil, but it's just so darn difficult! Honestly, how are we supposed to condense a 400 page novel down to just 4 pages? It's like cutting out a part of your own heart!

Most submissions to contests, agents, and editors all require a synopsis. I can definitely see why it's a valuable tool, but writing a synopsis feels like an entirely different skill from writing the actual novel. You have to stand back and see what your story's essence truly is. Where are the turning points? What is the strand of character development that becomes essential to the story? What are the climaxes?

With National Conference only about a week and a half away, I had no choice but to sit down and pound it out. It's definitely going to need some work, but at least I've gotten four solid pages down. Now, I'm headed out to Cafe Carolina to write with my critique partner Jennifer.

Late Night Magic

There's just something special about writing late at night. It could just be me, but once everyone in the house has gone to bed and it gets dark out and quiet, I slip into this zone. Like last night, for example. I've been struggling with getting this battle scene down, but last night I went over to one of my critique partner's apartments (emergency critique session at 11 PM... don't ask) and after we talked about her chapters, I set up my laptop and started writing. I only wrote for about an hour, but guess what? I wrote over 3,000 words! In one hour!

Usually, my average in an hour is about 1,000 words. That's a decent pace for me, and I'm happy with it. Well, I don't know if it was the night or just the right time and place or what, but I rocked that battle scene out last night. Of course, it could also be the momentum since the story is almost ready to start sending out. It could be the knowledge that I'm going to be pitching this to my dream agent in just two weeks. I don't know exactly, but for some reason, it worked. I'll take that kind of writing magic anytime.

If it hadn't already been 3:30 AM by the time I closed my laptop on the battle scene, I would have kept going. Unfortunately, my need-to-sleep internal alarm was going off, so I had to drive home and crawl into bed with my gorgeous hubby. It was a good night. Tonight when the sun goes down and everything gets quiet again, let's hope I can recreate that late-night magic and have one more super-writing-burst so I can finish the book and get back to the work of revisions!

Writing A Pitch

There are all types of skills you have to learn in order to pursue being published. As if writing, say, A NOVEL, isn't difficult enough, you also must learn how to write both a brief (4 page'ish) synopsis and a longer synopses (10-15 pages). It sounds easy enough, right? What's 4 pages, really, compared to an entire novel? Yeah, you try slimming down your baby with all its plot twists and intricately carved out characterizations. It aint easy. And you know what's even worse? Writing a pitch/query letter.

Now that my novel is nearly complete and ready to start submitting to agents, the query letter and synopsis are the next big hurdles for me. Sure, I've been working on these things all throughout the novel writing process, but it's only now that I have a clear view of the novel and truly can see what it's become that I can sit down and get to work on my pitch. Ah, the pitch. I curse you!

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to have the opportunity to pitch and query agents. I'm thrilled to have a novel I believe in that is so close to being ready to send out. On the other hand, I hate writing a pitch. Condensing the entire novel down to just a few sentences is one of the toughest things in the world. And even if you can get that done, you have to ask yourself: Is this interesting? Am I getting my hook across? Does the voice and tone of the novel come through? Would anyone in their right mind want to read this novel based on these five sentences?

Seriously. It can drive a writer crazy.

Over the next two weeks, I am going to be working on my pitch. First, I will pitch in person at the RWA National Conference in Orlando. Then, I will start sending out query letters to agents soon after. This pitch has to be dynamite. It's so incredibly important to get it right and to entice the agent/reader to keep reading. How do you do that? Well, what I think might be most important is to keep it simple. Too much plot information soon becomes a jumbled mess in a query letter. I am going to try to focus on the inciting incident - that thing that makes the story take wings. Then I'll briefly mention the central conflict of the book and make sure that my hook is clear. Five or six finely crafted sentences. It won't be easy, but I know I can do it.

My new Tattoo

Okay, so maybe it's just too hard to stay away! I was planning to start a new blog that was totally dedicated to writing, but I'm too attached to the sweetie chronicles. I need my morning blogging fix!

G and I just got back from a week in the Outer Banks with my family. It was fun, not completely drama free, but fun. And guess what? I finally got a tattoo! It's something I've been wanting to do for a very long time, but since it's kind of, well, permanent, I figured I should have a good design and an even better reason for it. This year, everything came together.

The design? All I knew for sure was that I wanted the word "Believe" on my inner right wrist. I wanted script letters. The tattoo artist took care of the specific design. As for the reason, it's two-fold. For one, it's been exactly 10 years this fall since I was sexually assaulted. Heavy topic for a blog I'm writing at only 9 am, I know, but unfortunately true. Because of him, I've spent 10 years of my life not believing in myself. It's time to take that power away from him and give it back to myself. For good. The second reason is simply that I don't have enough confidence in myself as a writer sometimes, and I know it holds me back. Some days, I spend more time telling myself I suck than I do actually writing! It's time for that to stop. My novel is almost totally finished, and it's time I got behind myself as a cheerleader for once. Believe!

Here is the final result:

Pretty sweet, huh? I love it. From now on, any time I start to allow negative thoughts into my head, I can look down at my wrist and think, "Stop hating and start believing." Cheesy? Perhaps. But I don't care! It's my time to start living up to my potential and to stop letting things from my past get in the way of my future success.

And, yes, I'll be blogging here every morning again :).

Break

I know that I have been absent lately from blogging, but it's been a busy few weeks. I've been writing like crazy, went to the beach for a week for George's best friend's wedding, and now I'm just out of the habit of writing every morning. The truth is, I would love to start a brand new writing blog and leave this one behind. On the other hand, it's hard to let go of a blog I've had for a couple of years. On the other, other hand... well, only about six people read it anyway. :)

So, long story short, I'm going to be taking a break from writing every morning so that I can concentrate on finishing my novel and being ready to pitch at RWA Nationals in July. I'll be back later!

Sex and The City 2: Review


Last night, my husband and I went to see the 12:01 am showing of SATC 2. It made me so happy to see the girls again and to check in on what their lives are like these days. It's so weird how fictional characters can seem so real. Overall, the movie didn't quite live up to my expectations, though. It wasn't as emotionally satisfying as the first movie, so I missed that punch in the end that I have come to expect from Sex and the City - you know the part that makes me cry. But on one point the movie did not disappoint - the GLAMOUR! It was definitely all about the fashion and the fabulous lives of these NYC women. The whole trip to Abu Dhabi was pure decadence, and it left me wishing I could afford to go on a trip like that with George or with my best girlfriends. Of course, once you see the movie you'll see why, by the end of their trip, I sort of changed my mind. Maybe Vegas? Or the Caribbean? Middle East - not so much.

This time around, the movie explored the idea of 'traditions' and how women (and men, I suppose) are dealing with the traditions of family, career, and especially marriage. Is it okay to make our own rules in marriage? Is it a sin to admit that your children are driving you crazy? Questions like this are important to women in today's society, and SATC, as always, cuts right to the heart. The movie had me laughing and bouncing in my seat right from the start, and I loved every minute of it (Okay, so the Karaoke scene wasn't my fave). I just wish it had been able, like the first movie, to bring the point home and give me that emotional punch that I love so well from the series. In the end, however, if you're a SATC fan, it's a must-see. I, for one, will go see it at least one more time while it is in the theaters.

Sex and the City 2: Today's the Day!

Okay, so technically the movie doesn't come out until tomorrow, but G and I have tickets for tonight at 12:01 AM. I am so excited! I hope it's every bit as good as the first one. Here's the trailer for the movie. Can't wait!

Oh the Pain!

The excitement for Sex and the City 2 continues, but damn, this pain is unpleasant. I had to have some oral surgery yesterday, and I thought I was tough enough to handle it - no big deal. Until I pretty much passed out and my husband had to catch me. He had his hand on the phone to call 911, even. Yikes! Luckily, I forced myself to try to wake up and take some deep breaths. He got me back into the bed and got me a cool towel. It was about half an hour before I started to feel better, but wow, that was scary! In light of that, I'll be staying home today all day, resting.

I'll just leave you with one of the most iconic parts of the SATC show - the opening. Ah - can't wait until tomorrow night at midnight!

LOST FInale Rocked


Last night's LOST series finale was brilliant. Yes, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but what would be the fun in being spoonfed the answers? Part of the legacy of the show is the debate and the questions. I personally feel that they cleared up enough to make me satisfied. I also cried like a baby just about the whole episode. For a television show to be able to make me feel emotions like that, bravo to both the writers and the actors.

For one, the 'heart of the island' is a light that is the 'light within every man'. In a way, it is the spark and beauty of the good in all of us. Definitely a religious theme. The man in black has tried to put out this light for years in an effort to get off the island. In the form of John Locke, the man in black's spirit actually does convince Desmond to put out the light - but all this does is make it possible for the new Jacob (which is Jack) to finally kill him. Then, Jack has to save the island by saving the light. He sacrifices himself for that.

Then, after he dies, laying in the bamboo forrest just as he did when the plane first crashed, he goes to a purgatory (the Sideways flashes). There, he meets up and remembers his life with those who meant the most to him. Their souls gather there and reflect on the impact that they had and the life that they lived together on the island. Once they have all remembered, forgiven each other, and seen and held those that they loved the most, they are led into the light so they can 'move on'.

From comments around the internet, it looks like so many people didn't understand the finale. Some people took the ending to mean that everyone died on the initial plane crash and the island was some kind of purgatory. That's NOT what happened. Christian tells Jack, "What happened, happened." It was all real. In the end, Jack died, but as he died, he saw the Ajira airlines flight take off. That means that Miles, the pilot, Kate, Sawyer and Claire and Richard all got off the island and went on to live out their lives. Hurley became the new protector of the island, immortal for a long time, possibly centuries, while Ben became his 2nd in command, just like Richard was for Jacob. (I'd like to think Desmond got better and ended up taking the boat back to his family) Everyone who died on the island, like Jin, Sun, Alex, etc. They all really died. And everyone's souls created this purgatory sideways where they could meet up and recognize each other so they could find forgiveness and love before moving on. That's my take on the finale. Anyone out there want to disagree, I'm happy to listen to comments, but I feel very satisfied with this ending.

It just frustrates me to hear people say it was a crappy ending because "they were dead the whole time." Of course, I guess you have the freedom to take the finale however you want. It's not the most important issue in the world. I just encourage you to watch it again if that's what you think happened. I got something totally different out of it, myself. Well done writers, I say. And truly some of the best acting television has ever seen. What an amazing show that really created a whole new way you can present a TV show. It was truly epic, and I will miss it.

Sarra Cannon

Young Adult Indie Author

I always secretly wanted to be a cheerleader. And a witch. Now, I write about both. The first five novels in my Peachville High Demons Young Adult Paranormal series are available now in ebook!

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Beautiful DemonsThe Time Traveler's WifeLoveroot: PoemsFear of FlyingWe the LivingAnthem

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