Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola Scare...

I don't usually write about things that irritate me on my blog, but this time I'm going to make an exception.  Let's talk a little bit about Ebola.  I'm sure you're tired of talking about it, but I'm tired of hearing both extremes on this topic, so I have to get something off of my chest.

First of all, I hate the media.  The media is blowing the cases that have happened in the US out of proportion.  They're making it sound as though the virus is airborne (it's not), and are trying to make people panic.  One thing about the US is that we're very good at making a crisis out of something that isn't one yet.  We tend to pretend the world is ending because deep down, people like a crisis.  I know that sounds weird, but it's true.  Here's the problem, Ebola isn't a crisis HERE yet, so we need to stop making it into one.  The political cartoons are true that the flu kills thousands of people a year and we don't worry over it, so worrying over five cases of Ebola is ridiculous.  We can't shut down our lives because we might be unlucky enough to get exposed to something that, as far as we know, only five people have in the US.  We need to pay more attention to common viruses and health problems that are dangerous before we start freaking out over something that we probably will never be exposed to in our entire lives.

HOWEVER, I am also tired of hearing the opposite extreme.  There are political cartoons and lots of people ranting and saying that Ebola isn't something we need to worry about at all.  That is just as ignorant and wrong as those that try to make this into a crisis.  This virus has killed thousands of people in Africa.  Granted, part of the problem in Africa is there are people who don't believe that it is a virus and have distributed blankets of the infected to healthy people.  Also, the established governments of some of the areas there aren't organized, etc.  But, out of respect for the thousands of people dying there, I really think those political cartoons are tasteless.  "Tacky" is a good word for it.  Don't make light of a virus that's killing thousands of people in a horrible way just because it hasn't happened here yet.  It's a nasty virus that should be respected.  And, even if only five people have Ebola in the US, I'd imagine that to them it's definitely something to worry about.  Apathy over something horrible like this is just as bad as trying to incite panic.

I think the reason that we are so fascinated and terrified over this virus is because it is truly horrific.  When the full symptoms set in, within hours the victim bleeds from every orifice and their organs practically liquefy.  You could die tasting every organ in your body.  Think about how horrible that would be and tell me, do you really want to die that way?  Does anyone?  That's why people are freaking out.  The flu usually kills the very young and very old, or those with compromised immune systems.  If you get Ebola there's around a 70% chance you won't survive.  Please, please, have respect and stop saying it isn't a big deal.

I want to have faith that the CDC and our government will keep track of those exposed to the virus and keep the situation under control.  I have noticed, though, that many hospitals are not prepared and some of the things that happened could've been handled in a better way.  What I don't understand it is why there isn't a travel ban to and from the most affected areas.  Most US citizens that are in Liberia exposed to that virus don't want to bring it back and infect their loved ones if they do have it.  Those that want to administer aid to those areas could be an exception.  Most of the cases, so far, that have made it to the US have been people coming directly from Liberia.  But, I have to assume there's a reason that there hasn't been a travel ban yet, but it seems the first logical step.

I do, however, have plenty of nurses who are friends.  I have faith in them and believe that with the help of highly trained nurses, we will get this thing under control somehow.  Time will tell, but in the meantime, the best advice I can give is don't buy into the media propaganda and don't panic.  Still, don't hide your head in the sand and pretend it isn't a problem either.  Be vigilant, watch the news, stay away from sickly people, and use your common sense.  And, get your damn flu shot.

And, that's my 2 cents.        

Weddings and Walt Disney World

Hello Again,

Wow, two blogs in one day.  I'm going to go for three, but let's talk a little about weddings and Walt Disney World.

First of all, I got to attend my friend Bob's wedding recently.  Since this is personal to him, I won't spent too much time talking about it.  It was a nice ceremony up in North Carolina.  My husband was the best man and it actually brought together a lot of old friends that we hadn't seen in a long time as well.  Bob is also our roomate, so now he has recently moved out.  He seems very happy and I'm happy for him.  He and Lynn are a nice couple.

A week after the wedding, Joel and I, along with our daughter, my sister and her boyfriend, and my Mom and Step-dad went to Disney World.  It was Eva's first trip to Disney, and I wasn't sure how she was going to do, but she did great.  She was wide-eyed on all the rides she could go on (she is only one and a half years old...), and she adapted well to seeing so many people.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  It's good to see that she's open to new experiences now.  For a little while, she was going through a fear of strangers phase that I thought would  never end.  Even though she's still antsy about people coming over to the house, it seems she's more accepting of people in a public setting.  Thank goodness.

We stayed at the "Art of Animation" resort.  The rooms were very small, but we made good use of the space.  The decorations were awesome.  Our suite was done in a "Finding Nemo" theme.  The entire resort was comprised of three different sections, Cars, Finding Nemo, and the Lion King.  The main lobby was decorated in storyboard art for Disney Movies.  I felt right at home.  I love Disney World and Disney movies.

There's not much to say about Disney World that hasn't already been said.  It is still the happiest place on earth.  I had the best trip this time that I've ever had there.  We got on almost all of the rides that we wanted to, and also somehow budgeted our time well enough that there weren't many long lines.  It also really helped that we went on weekdays in October.  If you want to go to Disney World, I highly recommend going in October because it's off season.  We also got to go to two different restaurants that we had always wanted to try (the Crystal Palace and the VERY nice Hibachi restaurant in "Japan").  And, for once, I went on every thrill ride in each park.  I decided that I wanted to go with Eva and Joel on thrill rides in the future, and I need to learn to be brave for my child (Though, some roller coasters I still can't do.  Being brave has nothing to do with motion sickness...).  Eva had the best time ever.  I have so many good memories of her experiencing the park for the first time.  My Mom also got to spend a lot of time with Eva when we occasionally split up the group, which was nice for her too.  

The best part of all was that John proposed to Holly (my sister).  It was very sweet.  He gave her a rose and a bracelet at the "Crystal Palace" with a note that said to make a special wish at Cinderella's wishing well.  Then, when we got to the wishing well, he proposed.  I'm very happy for them and very excited about the upcoming wedding.

Anyway, it was a great trip, but we brought something back that we didn't intend...a very nasty cold.  Eva had it first, then gave it to me, and then I accidentally gave it to Joel.  So, the past week, we've been mostly sleeping and trying to recuperate.  I haven't written anything in over two weeks, and it's driving me crazy.  I'm hoping now that I have time again to change that.  Anyway, I figured it would probably happen.  There were just too many people there for us to be lucky enough not to catch anything.  All things considered, a nasty cold is better than the flu, so I'm at least grateful for that.

Dragoncon Shenanigans...

Hey Everyone,

Sorry that I've been pretty inactive on the blog lately.  This  has been a really busy time for me.  I went to Dragoncon, my friend's wedding, and Disneyworld.  (I also just recently recovered from a nasty cold.)  So, needless to say, I've had an eventful couple of months, but I'm going to try to catch up on the blog.

Let's start with Dragoncon.  What I remember most about it was that it was more crowded than it has ever been before.  I attribute that mostly to the fact that Patrick Stewart was there.  Before you ask, no I didn't go to that panel or get to have his autograph.  He was untouchable.  We waited in line for his panel and then were told the place was filled up after we waited for thirty minutes in a line that stretched around the building.  There were other actors there, but mostly the same ones who come every year.  I think that we've decided that the next time someone like Patrick Stewart is there, we're just not going to go.  There were so many people there, that there were actually lines to get into vendors.  Most of the panels were hard to get into unless you lined up two hours early.

I did, however, get into two very helpful writing panels and got to see and talk to Todd McCaffrey again.  One was about Young Adult Fantasy and the other was about World Building in Young Adult Literature.  I learned quite a bit that I intend to incorporate into my own writing, and I have a few books that I'll probably be buying to read in the near future by the authors participating in the panel.  So, I felt Dragoncon was worth my time, but I hope they handle the crowds better next time we go.

Also, one last note on Dragoncon.  It is well known that Dragoncon is a party con, but I was very disappointed in the behavior of certain people there.  At around 8:00pm, things get kind of crazy and people start dressing in very little clothing, etc.  This is just a well known fact about the con.  I don't have a problem with that, because after eight most small children are not present.  However, at two in the afternoon, you don't expect people dressed as scantily clad "My Little Ponies" to start posing in suggestive ways for pictures in the most populated areas.  It was a train wreck, one of those things where you really want to look away, but you just can't do it.  They also probably were about eighteen, so not even old to drink, though they were clearly drinking as well.

I realize now that being a parent has changed me.  Normally, I don't care about that sort of thing, not anymore, but I was downright offended by the whole display because it was done in front of children dressed as characters in a children's show.  The parents of the children present were trying to steer them away, but the thing was taking place in the middle of the hotel thoroughfare.  Unfortunately, there was no one really moderating the con, so they probably did this for about an hour.  People with "daddy issues" are kind of sad.

Long story short, it was an exhausting weekend.  I enjoyed the writing panels and shopping (I got a plush Umbreon which is kind of awesome), but I probably won't go back next year.  I might actually be having another baby next year.  We'll have to wait and see.  Who knows?

Anyway, I've rambled enough about the con.  I'll talk to you again soon.  I'll probably be posting another entry about Disneyworld today.  Bye!          

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blog Tour Entry

Writing Process Blog Tour Entry

I just got tagged to write this by my friend Joseph Lee who is also the winner of the Dark Crystal Author Quest contest.  So, here we go...

What am I working on?  
My current project is a horror young fiction story about a group of children who form a "junior investigator's club" to look into supernatural incidents involving the other children of their school.  The first book consists of the back stories that have made the main characters interested in the supernatural.  All of the stories are connected in a subtle way and the last chapter is about them coming together to form the club.  Subsequent books will be from the perspective of one of the main characters involved in the club about what they are currently investigating.  All of the books will feature some sort of supernatural element and a child brave enough to confront their fears and the fears of others.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, my current project is similar to the "Goosebumps" series, but different in that it focuses on the same five main characters throughout the series.  Also, I've created my own mythos about where the creatures come from, and my  monsters are my own.  Some are born from the fear of the children, some are in essence "evil fairies" and some are from a sort of "realm of shadows."

Why do I write what I do? 
I write because I enjoy it.  Writing is something that I hope to establish my career in, and even if I never got anything published (which I have), I would still do it because it is a great exercise in creativity and is a fun way to spend my spare time.  I write fantasy, horror, space opera, urban fantasy, steampunk, and cyberpunk because these are all genres that are interesting to read.

How does my writing process work?
First I start with a rough idea of what I would like to write.  Then, I devote a paper notebook to it and began to write the main idea and subsequent ideas that come to me within it.  I write a detailed description of the setting, the main characters, and their general backgrounds.  Then, I transcribe my notes to my computer and attempt to outline my entire story.  At times, I start writing before the outline is finished, but generally I try to finish the outline first to increase my chances of finishing the project.  At times, I get a good idea while writing that changes the outline slightly, so sometimes it is a dynamic process.

Moving On...

I tag Diane Riggins, my friend and a writer of many genres, but currently mostly urban fantasy.  She also works with publishing companies, writes articles, and designs video games.  

I also tag Sara Taylor Woods.  A writer of erotic fiction, Sara has recently found representation and we should be seeing some of her work on bookshelves in the near future. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cheer up, Charlie...

Hey everyone,

Well, the results are in and I didn't win the Dark Crystal contest. J. M. Lee, the finalist that I became friends with, won instead.  I was debating about opening this blog with an "Oompa Loompa" song, keeping with the "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" theme, but none of the finalists (myself included) did anything wrong so it wouldn't be appropriate.  All of us wrote very good stories, but Joseph's concept was what the Jim Henson company liked the best.  

I'm very, very happy for Joseph, but I have to admit I'm a little bit sad that I didn't win.  Mostly, I'm disappointed because I really liked my characters and they did have a story to tell.  While I could still write the story as a fanfic, I don't want to sink that much time into it.  So, I'm afraid they won't get to tell their story.  Still, they're my characters.  Perhaps I can recreate some similar characters in another story one day.  It won't be anytime soon, though.  Right now, I'm trying to focus on working on my "Goosebumps" styled story and I have another concept for a young adult fantasy novel that I'm writing notes about in my spare time.

I'm actually taking this really well.  I thought I would go to pieces if I lost, but I didn't even cry.  I was just relieved to finally know.  I think I was more stressed out from waiting than I would've been from even writing the book.  I think that stress might have also been the cause of my stomach issues.  I lost about five pounds over the course of June because I didn't feel like eating and when I did I was ill from it (of course, that had something to do with my antibiotics as well, but I digress).  I don't think the stress of writing is the same as the stress of waiting.  I've dealt with deadlines before and never had any medical issues from it, but something about the not knowing was much worse.

I heard the news at the beach and was having such a great trip, I wasn't about to let a little bad news spoil it.  I didn't feel sick (and I was ill throughout almost the entire month of June), I didn't have any stomach issues, I got to spend lots of time with my family, I ate home cooked meals nearly every night, and I got lots of mid afternoon naps.  (Naps at the beach are the best, by the way, with that mid afternoon sun pouring in, the gentle breeze, and the sound of gulls and gentle waves on the inlet...)  Anyway, I feel very refreshed now.  Getting out of town was just what I needed.  I also feel like writing on new projects again now that I know that I'm not going to be working on the Dark Crystal novel.

Long story short, despite being a little disappointed, I feel like this is a win.  The whole experience has been a good one.  I gained a contact in the writing industry, I made a new friend, and I even got to be in a very fun anthology with a group of very talented writers.  No one needs to feel sorry for me because I couldn't be happier.  I legitimately feel happy for J. M. Lee.  Since we became such good friends, I was hoping that if I didn't win then he would win instead.  It made me feel good to see his name announced as the winner.

I'm convinced, one day my lucky day will come along as well.  Now that I was a finalist of this contest, maybe, at the very least, that will make finding an agent easier for me.  I have a lot of books that need to be published and a lot more ideas that need to be written.  I'm confident now that I'll have a novel published soon.  I just have to keep writing and working hard.  I'm almost there...      

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dark Crystal Author Quest

Hey Everyone,

The Dark Crystal Author Quest e-book is finally available through amazon.  :-)

If you're a fan of The Dark Crystal, Jim Henson, or Penguin Books, please pick up a copy.  There are five very good stories within it that are worth your time and money.  This might sound like a shameless plug for my own work, but it isn't because all of the stories were very fun to read and fit very well in the Dark Crystal universe.  If you like the Dark Crystal, you'll like this e-book.

I picked up the book the first day it was available, June 24th, and I'm very honored to be included with so many good authors.  I must admit, though, I'm not as confident about potentially winning the contest after reading the other stories.  I think I have as good a chance as anyone, but I think the Jim Henson company has their work judging cut out for them.  I'm still praying to win it.  Every one of the featured authors, myself included, has something different to offer in their interpretation of the universe, and all of us have different strengths and weaknesses as writers.  I think what it really comes down to is what type of story the Jim Henson company wants, and it isn't a bad reflection on any of us as writers if we lose.

When I first became one of the five finalists, that I was looking at the other four finalists as competition, and I didn't like myself for it.  I try not to be the type of person to be jealous or bitter.  I can be a sore loser on small things, like video games, but on bigger things I don't tend to be that way.  For some reason, this time I started to feel really competitive, and I didn't like the feeling.  

Long story short, I decided that wasn't who I was, and I started looking at the other finalists as people, and colleagues.  We're all in this book together, and we all want the same thing, so why not make this a friendly competition?  We all have at least one thing in common, other than this book as well--we're all writers.  I've already reached out to one of the finalists and I think we've become pretty good pen pal type friends.  I'll probably reach out to the others as well at some point in the very near future.  If they don't want to be "friend friends" that's fine, but I feel like wishing everyone "good luck."  I still want to win, but I am hoping that whoever is chosen is the best person for the job.  Depending on what Jim Henson's would want, I may or may not be that person.  I think that I can be.

Anyway, I rambled on about this for too long.  Time to review the book.  (To those who have seen the movie "The Dark Crystal" there are no spoilers in this review...if you haven't perhaps you should wait and watch the movie or read the book first.)

Vinni Chiappini "The Gelfling Guardian" - This story features a Gelfling of the Spriton Clan who works as a guard of the Castle of the Crystal.  He looks to the Skeksis with respect and admiration until he finds out that they might be responsible for the disappearances of Gelfling and Podlings all over Thra.  He has to decide between his loyalty to them, or his loyalty to his people and search for the truth.  I think the strongest element of this story is that the Podlings were portrayed as a very sympathetic, intelligent race, which is important since they are the first victims of the crystal.  It makes the sacrifice of the Podlings a very real problem.

Greg Coles "Rebels of the Dark Crystal" - The main character of this story is a Harath (Woodland) Clan Gelfling who is crippled and working as a blacksmith in the woods.  His friend, a soldier of the Crystal Castle, stumbles into his forge one evening in shambles, and accidentally dreamfasts with him.  Through the dreamfasting, he learns that the soldier discovered a terrible secret kept by the Skeksis that puts him in terrible danger as well.  One of the strengths of Coles' story is that it's written in first person, so it pulls the reader in and makes the main character very sympathetic.  Also, since the main character is disabled, it makes his struggle particularly poignant.

Nancy Gray "Chosen" - Sorry, I'm not reviewing my own story, that would be silly.  Please, read it and tell me what you think.  It's about a Gelfling of the Sifa Clan that is chased by a waterspout onto a deserted island.  While there, he and his friend find an abandoned cabin containing a journal with information about the Skeksis that puts them and their families in danger.

J. M. Lee "Shadows of the Dark Crystal" - This story is about a Gelfling girl from the Drenchen Clan who goes to find her cousin, a guard at the Castle of Crystal, and finds more than she expected.  She and her Father are attacked by a huge nebrie that has been driven mad by the crystal's darkened light.  She must travel alone to find Aughra to tell her what happened and for advice.  Lee's descriptions of setting are eloquent and beautiful, painting the images into the mind's eye.  His characters are also likable and the creatures are interesting, especially the Gelfling girl's pet.

Esther Palmer "Music of the Shards" - A young Gelfling girl from the Vapra Clan is playing just outside of her village when the child she's playing with is killed by a Skeksis, "The Hunter."  She finds out that her Grandmother is the keeper of a journal from a soldier from the Castle of Crystal.  She tells Esther to go to Aughra with the journal to find out what to do, but it seems her journey is far from over.  Palmer has a way with words and some very vivid imagery, especially in darker scenes.  

That's about it for the review.  As I've said, I don't envy the judges for having to choose between so many good stories.  I hope that I win, but right now I just feel honored to be among this very talented group of finalists.  Please, consider buying this book.  You won't regret it.

Keep reading and writing, and never give up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Skin Game and Childhood Horror

I borrowed the new Dresden Files book, "Skin Game," and once again I can't say enough good things about that series.  I'll be adding it to the collection once I have the money, but I need to buy some of the other previous books first.  One thing at a time, maybe one day I'll have an income...

Anyway, continuing with the book review, the characters are all so good that I can't really pick a favorite (though, I'm favoring Waldo Butters right now), and the plot had me so hooked that I finished reading it in three days.  I missed out on a little sleep, but it was worth it.  Jim Butcher really knows how to create likable, awesome characters and some very disturbing villains.  One of the things I think is most important about writing a good book is coming up with good characters, but he also has interesting plot twists, humor, drama, and a great setting.  I usually write specifics about the books I review, but this time I'm not going to go into a thorough review since it would give away plot from the previous books.  I will say if you haven't read this series, seriously, go pick up "Storm Front" right now.  This is the best urban fantasy series I've ever read and the books just keep getting better.

I've also been reading some young reader horror to get an idea about how to write my story.  I've been pleasantly surprised.  I read "Scary Stories, Goodnight Zombie" by James Preller, and am currently reading "Wanted, The Haunted Mask" by R. L. Stine.  I didn't think that they would be very graphic or scary, but I was wrong.  I remember being scared by R. L. Stine books when I was a young reader and enjoying them, but I didn't expect to be so impressed by them now that I'm an adult.

Even though I'm going to tone down my violence a bit for my story, it seems I don't need to tone down very much.  The descriptions of the flesh dangling over the main characters eye feeling like hamburger meat, in "Goodnight Zombie," surprised me.  And, even more disturbing, the old man at the beginning of "Wanted, the Haunted Mask" pulls the mask off of his face and the flesh from his face with it, killing him.  Long story short, it makes me think my descriptions in my horror story might even be pretty tame in comparison.

I shouldn't be too surprised.  Children are fascinated by gore and tend to enjoy a safe scare.  The world is a pretty scary place, and I believe (much like Jim Henson) that sometimes being a little scared from a story is healthy for a child, especially if the story shows the character being brave and standing up to things that frighten him/her.  I remember when I was in elementary school reading "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" with my best friend and being horrified and fascinated at the same time.  I think, I can write my story to be scary, and that children that like scary stories will be able to handle it.

If I end up winning the Dark Crystal contest, I'll put this project on hold for a later date, but in the meantime, it's very fun to read these type of books again and work on something new.

In conclusion, READ "SKIN GAME" BY JIM BUTCHER!  It's the best one in the Dresden Files yet, but be sure to read this series in order.  One thing that is slightly negative about the Dresden Files is there are a LOT of characters and villains, and if you don't read the books in order, you will be lost.

Also, if you want to remember what it was like to be freaked out by scary stories as a kid, read James Preller or R. L. Stine.  (And,one day maybe even, "Nancy Gray," who also hopefully wrote the first prequel series for "The Dark Crystal."  Hey, I'm allowed to dream!  No I haven't heard anything back yet and only have a one in five chance of winning, but if I've learned anything from this process it's to be optimistic.)  ;-)  Anyway, Take care everybody.  Keep reading!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Hello all.  I know, it's been a long time.

Despite the fact it's been a while since I've written in the blog, there isn't too much to report.  Basically, I'm waiting to hear the results of the Dark Crystal contest.  I have to admit, I'm a little bit stressed about it.  I guess I wanted to win much more than I realized.  I knew it was one of my dreams, but getting so close to finding out if I'm going to get to write that book or not is killing me.  For a few weeks now, I've had alternating dreams of winning and losing, to the point that now I just really want to know the final result.  I won't have to wait long now, though.  The judging is supposed to take place sometime in June.  Today is May the 29th.  I'm staring to feel a little fluttery in my stomach just thinking about that...

On a brighter note, I mailed my contract for the e-book today, so that's definitely going to happen.  It's exciting to think of being published again, so I'm looking very forward to it.  (And, truthfully, I really can use the extra spending money...the trip to DragonCon is coming up as well as Disney World, and the new Jim Butcher novel is out.)  Win or lose, I'm still very happy that I got to be a part of this.  Being in that e-book is so much more than I expected when I first wrote the story, and I feel honored just for the recognition.  

This whole thing has made me think more about what originally caused me to want to be a writer.  I started thinking about my original dreams too, the ones I've had the longest.  One of them I've never even attempted...  

When I was in middle school, I used to read the "Goosebumps" series by R. L. Stine.  I think that might even the first series that caused me to like horror as a genre. (I started reading Stephen King shortly after that.)  Anyway, after reading those stories I wanted to attempt to write a horror story for younger readers, somewhere between ages ten and twelve but I've never even tried it.  It was one of the reasons I liked running that Little Fears game for my friends so much.  For some reason, I have very vivid memories of my elementary school and my elementary school teachers and how everything felt more magical as a child, and much more frightening.  Well, long story short, I've decided to try to write a young reader horror story while I wait to hear the results of the contest, and I've already finished the first few chapters.  

I feel like it's going pretty well.  I like my characters, my plot, and the way that I'm setting up the first book.  The first book is going to be a combination of five short stories featuring a different main character each time that intermingle.  (For example, some of the characters will be introduced as friends of the main character in the first story.  Also, things that happen in the first story might leave a lasting change in the next one, like if someone patches up a hole in a fence, then in the next story, that hole will be patched up, etc.  The stories will happen in chronological order, only with a different main character for each.)  Something supernatural or unexplained will happen to each of the children and in the end of the novel they're going to form a monster hunting and supernatural investigating club.  

If the first book is successful, subsequent books will be about the group trying to solve supernatural mysteries for the children in their school and the main character of each book will depend on who was approached by the person they are trying to help.  The main characters will continue to be the five featured in the first book, Duane, Ian, Sophie, Jane, and Nick.  I like the thought of five courageous children facing off against the forces of darkness to make life better for other children, and to conquer their own fears.   

Anyway, that's the general idea.  I'm pretty excited about it, because it gets my mind off of waiting and allows me to continue to keep working.  Win or lose, I need to keep writing.  That way, my style and grammar will continue to improve, which will help me write the Dark Crystal story if I win, and at least I'll have something to show for my time if I don't.     

Well, that's about it.  Please keep praying for me and keep reading and writing.  The new Dresden Files book came out on May 27th.  I didn't have the money to buy it.  ::sigh::  But, I will be borrowing it from my friends soon and plan buy it later when I have the money.  READ THE DRESDEN FILES IF YOU HAVEN'T YET!  It's a good series.  (I'm talking to you, Joel.)

I'll try to keep in touch this time, but now I have to go.  The baby will wake up soon.  Also, it's time to work on my young reader horror project.  Wish me luck.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Medical Issues, a Happy Birthday, and Writing

Hey Everyone,

Sorry that it's been a little while.  I've been kind of busy lately.  I'll catch you up with everything that's been going on through this blog, and hopefully I'll do a little better on blogging more often.

First of all, medically speaking I've had a few "issues" lately.  About a month ago, I ended up going to the hospital for heart attack like conditions.  Basically, I had every symptom of a heart attack without actually having one.  They still don't know what happened.  I did panic a little, but I know it wasn't a panic attack due to the fact my symptoms were what caused me to worry (plus, I don't have a history of panic or anxiety attacks, and I was perfectly calm when this happened).  The current guesses are that it could be gall bladder problem or a mitral valve prolapse.  I got an echocardiogram, but so far no results.  The last time I had an irregular heart rate and a bit of difficulty breathing, the guess was that I had a prolapse.  Now, hopefully, I'll find out one way or another.  Long story short, I'm just very glad to be alive and glad that whatever happened wasn't the worse case scenario.

I do want to be healthy again, though.  These allergies are awful this year and have caused fluid to build up in my inner ear, so every now and again I feel dizzy or that my body is pulling in one direction or another.  I'm on allergy pills and special nose drops to fix this problem, but I'm guessing it'll be something I'll have to live with for awhile.  I'm still just so grateful that it isn't something worse.  It would be awful to have heart trouble, and it does run in my family a bit.  So, long story short, becoming dizzy and almost falling down shortly after the hospital trip didn't make me feel much better, but it did still make me even more grateful to be alive.

On March 22nd, I turned thirty two.  I was reflecting on the fact that this has been a very good year.  Despite health scares, I've had a baby (who is about to turn one soon), lost some of the baby weight, have many fun vacations to look forward to (including DragonCon and going to Disney World) and have gotten to be in the top five finalists of a writing competition that, if I won, would change my life for the better and would be my dream job.

I really, really want to win the competition.  I don't know how to describe how bad I want it.  It's rough having a one in five chance of having all of your dreams come true, but knowing that even if you're working as hard as you can, you still might not reach it.  I feel like I have a lot of good ideas to contribute to both Penguin and the Jim Henson Company, but the only way that I can is by winning.  Well, that settles it, I just have to win. (If only it were that easy...)  Either way, I don't regret entering the contest.  It's been a great experience.  Having my work edited by a real editor, learning what the revision process is like, and improving a story that I enjoyed writing in the first place makes me feel like I'm finally not "spinning my wheels."  Also, even if I don't win, I've still won a spot in an e-book with the other finalists, so that is an achievement in and of itself.  

I must be a very strange writer.  Even though I like my characters and I like my story, I don't feel like I'm "murdering my darlings."  People compare editing their work to killing/hurting their children, but I'm looking at it as an opportunity to make my work better.  I have a child, and the thought of hurting her or anything bad happening to her is the most horrific thing in the world, but when I'm working on my story it feels almost liberating to make changes on it.  It feels like I'm making my story better, that I have a challenge to outdo myself from last time and make my characters even more interesting.  I've actually mostly enjoyed making the edits, even if a few of them did make things a little more difficult.  Also, I feel it would be arrogant of me to think that my work can't stand to be improved.  Even though I thought this was one of my better stories, I didn't expect to be part of the top five finalists (I was hoping and praying for it, but I didn't expect it).  

I've worked very hard on the outline this week.  The first draft of it is almost done and things seem to be falling into place.  I've finished the minor edits in the manuscript and have started on the major edits, including changing the gender of one of my characters from male to female.  I've found that I like this character much more as a female, and she's somehow become just as interesting (if not more so) than the main character due to the change.  I think, if I win, she might be the main character of a second book, if it becomes a series.  Oh please, please Jesus let me win...

Oh, things I've learned...don't double space after the end of a sentence.  I'm not sure why, but I think it's an industry thing.  Avoid passive tense (I knew about this one, but it's something I need to improve).  And, in this case, make it more "Gelfling."

I need to try to make sure that I can't just make the characters human and have the plot be the same.  From what I've observed, Gelfling are more gentle than humans and in some ways more naive.  They're much more in tune with their planet in an almost religious way.  (I kind of think of Augra as the avatar of the planet.)  And, they also have a mystical connection to one another.  Making it more "Gelfling" will probably be the most difficult improvement, but I know that I can do it.  Over the years, I've practically memorized the movie, I have access to the website, and I have a vivid imagination.  When I turn in this outline and manuscript, it'll be the best I can do on my own, and if/when I get to do more edits, I'll make it even better.

Well, please wish me luck and pray for me.  I'm going to do my best.  Keep reading and writing!    

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I've got a Golden Ticket!

"I never had a chance to shine, never a happy song to sing, but suddenly half the world is mine, what an amazing thing!  'Cause I got a golden ticket..."

I can now answer the question from one of my previous blogs.  Do I have a golden ticket?  Yes, apparently I do.  I also believe in my last blog entry I said that it would be "some miracle of God" if I became a finalist for the Dark Crystal Authorquest competition.  Well, thank you God!  I'm officially one of the top five authors chosen for the contest.  It's actually a really humbling experience.  I don't feel like my story was any better than anyone else who entered, but I'm very grateful.

I'm also elated to say that my writer's block is completely gone.  I think what I needed was a little encouragement and an actual deadline again.  Shortly after I found out that I was on the top five I started working on the outline again.  (That will be due as the next part of the judging process.)  The ideas are flowing like a chocolate waterfall.

I'm so excited about this project.  I really, really hope that I win.  This would be my dream job, and I really want to write the book now that I've nearly finished the outline.  I feel like it's a good story that needs to be told.  I'm going to keep praying and do my best.  If my best isn't good enough, then I have no business writing the novel anyway.

They asked, if I won, if I could finish the book in two months.  Over the phone I acted hesitant, but now that I've started working hard on the outline, I can definitely say that I can.  I know it for a fact.  I've written books in two months before, and this time I have so many ideas that I know I can knock it out of the park.  I just need to be given the chance.

Even if I don't win the contest, I feel honored just being included in the top five.  At least, I'll be able to be a part of something amazing.  I also feel it might still open up some more opportunities for me.  The Jim Henson company is planning to produce an e-book compilation of the top five stories.  When they do, who knows, maybe someone will be interested in my other work.  Still, I'd much rather win the contest and work for Grosset and Dunlap (Penguin Books) and Jim Henson Company.  As I said, that would be my dream job.    

Now, I just have to avoid rivers of chocolate, new chewing gum, golden geese, and television transporters, and maybe even fizzy lifting drinks.  Wish me luck.  

In all seriousness, I'm going to have that outline polished to a shine by March 15th.  March 15th is when I find out what revisions I need to make on the opening chapters that I submitted and they will start accepting outlines.  Hopefully, the revisions won't cause a problem with the current plot of the outline, but I'll cross that bridge if it becomes a problem.

I wanted to tell everyone who has supported me, "Thank you."  I especially want to say "Thank you," to Diane, who told me about this contest and has been a good friend to me.  I couldn't have gotten here without my friends and family, and all the people who told me never to give up on my dreams.

Well, I'd better get back to work.  Keep reading and writing!

Friday, January 10, 2014

No resolutions...

Sorry, I know it's been a long time since I've written a blog entry.  I guess you really don't realize how quickly time flies by until you have a baby.  Christmas crept up on me, and before I knew it the new year was over.  However, for as fast as time is going by, I haven't had much progress in terms of writing.

I got a rejection letter from Curiosity Quills.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.  I really thought that "Blood Rain" would be a good fit with them, but I still haven't given up on that book.  My test readers assure me that it's a very good book, and I trust their judgement.  I'm running out of agents and publishers for it, though, so I think it is time to either finish the third book of that series or move on to a different project altogether.  My readers are eagerly awaiting the third book, but I don't have it entirely planned out yet.  I like to at least have an entire outline done before I start writing.  I have so many unfinished books, some of which I think are even better than "Blood Rain" that I had to put down for that very reason.  I had a rough idea of what to write for "Blood God," so I got started, but then I hit a snag that I'm hoping will work it's way out.

Sadly, the Dark Crystal contest judging was postponed for a few months.  I have a novel outlined for it just in case by an act of God I win, but I'm not going to start concentrating on it until I know for sure.  Just being a finalist would really help me along the way in my writing career.  Winning would be living a dream.  Be praying for me folks.  I'll need all the help I can get.  From what I understand, there were about five hundred entries.

I'm currently revisiting a few of my old books.  I'm debating about writing a short story just as a writing exercise, something to give my creativity a workout.  (Plus, it couldn't hurt to get into another anthology.)  To be honest, I'm feeling a little down on myself right now.  I think its because I'm so ready to have something published.  It's a start of another year, and I've been doing this for at least seven years now, possibly more if I count the time before I started submitting my work.  I want to succeed.  I want to follow my dream if nothing more than to show my little girl that if you put your mind to something and work very hard you can accomplish anything.  In order to do that, I need to get over this funk I'm in and start writing again.

For once, I don't have any resolutions for the new year.  I lost the ten pounds of baby weight the doctor told me to lose, I've  had a healthy baby and I work to make sure she's healthy and happy without needing a resolution to do it.  I intend to continue to write, but I'm not so arrogant that I'll make it a resolution to get published.  That's not in my power.  At some point I'll write a story that fits with a publisher, but resolving to do that would be kind of silly since that's a two way street.  I think this year that I won't make a resolution so this time I won't break any.  I'm just going to do what I always do; take things one day at a time, work hard everyday, and write on what I feel like at the time.

Well, I guess that's about it for now.  I'll try to post a writing sample for you sometime in the near future, once I've got an introduction for my next book ready.  In the meantime, keep reading, writing, and above all, living life to the fullest.  (Something that having a baby has taught me is that writing is good, it's great, but life goes by while you're telling your stories.  Make sure your own is also worth telling.)