Thursday, September 29, 2011


My three-year old granddaughter has been able to sing her ABC's for over a year and she now knows what sound each letter makes. She can even sound out a few words. In contrast, it's taken me two years to get through my "ABC Essentials for Writers" posts. I intended to write about one letter a week but it turned out to be more like one letter a month! But hey, at least I'm ready to graduate from blogging preschool and move into the high-tech arena of elementary- and, believe it or not, secondary-school of blogging. (Truth be told, I'm revamping my blog...all focused on what's happening with "The Stelladaur Series"...but that will be on the following post.)

Today we're learning about XYZ. "X" is for eXpect results equal to your skills, talents, efforts, determination, and perseverance. Expectation is a huge component to success in any endeavor. The key is to make sure your expectations are high enough to continually reach outside your comfort zone but not unrealistic in relation to your present strengths and weaknesses. If you're feeling overly frustrated in the writing or publishing process, ask yourself, "What do I have the power to change?" Be honest. Be objective. Let the rest go. Often determination and perseverance can make up for a lack of skill and talent. Skills (the craft of writing) can be learned. Talent is innate. But we all have some of both. Effort, determination and perseverance live at the apex of the self-expectancy continuum. Said another way, when it comes right down to it you have to make it all happen! No one is going to wave a magic wand around my busy life and give me more time to write, edit, send query letters, keep up a blog, deal with publishing decisions, promote my work, or schedule a book tour. And guess what, they won't for you either. Expect your best with the understanding that it fluctuates from day to day, and give whatever that best is to yourself. Then trust it's enough.

"Y" is for YES!!! This is the blessed word you'll be shouting when your agent or editor calls to make an offer! It will likely be accompanied by exuberant leaps in the air (or even gasping for air due to unintentional yet joyful hyperventilating), an immediate urge to send a text and facebook message to the entire world, and perhaps even a moment of silence. will happen!

"Z" is for ZANY! Make sure you do something zany-crazy every day to invite creativity. If you feel like you're in a rut, you are! Get up and go do something out of the ordinary--something you haven't done in a long while or that you've never done but have always wanted to. This will create some much needed positive energy. Writer's block comes from blocked creativity...which comes from blocked energy fields...which comes from too much emotional or physical "stuff" in our life. Be Z-A-N-Y and Zap Away Negative Yuck!

ABC to XYZ...we're done! Here's my complete alphabet for review.


A - Affirm aloud: "I am a writer!"
B - Browse your local bookstore.
C - Create something new today.
D - Delete at least one sentence from each page of your manuscript.
E - Edit...AGAIN!
F - Finish a chapter.
G - Give yourself fifteen more minutes to write.
H - Hook: If the one you've been using in your query hasn't worked yet, get a new one!
I - Imagination, Introspection, and Intrigue Invites Interesting characters.
J - Jeff Herman's Guide to book Publishers Editors, and Literary Agents: check it out!
K - Keep at it, no matter how many rejections you get.
L - LIterary Marketplace: check it out.
M - Memorize your pitch and practice it until you know it as well as you know the ABC's.
N - News: Read your local newspaper for interesting marketable writing ideas
O- Open a favorite book you haven't read in years and read it again.
P - Publisher's Weekly: subscribe today!
Q - Query letter: rewrite it again after careful research on agents.
R - Respect your agent's and editor's time...respect your own time.
S - Synopsis: condense it!
T - Trust your inner voice and write from your heart not your head.
U - Understand why you write and you will better understand yourself.
V - Viewpoint: reread your manuscript from a different viewpoint or write it from a different POV.
W - Writer's Conference: research options and sign up for one today!
X - eXpect results equal to your efforts, skill, determination, talent and perseverance.
Y - YES! The blessed word you will be shouting when your editor calls to make an offer.
Z - Zany: do something crazy everyday to invite creativity!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

W - Writer's Conferences

Choosing which writer's conferences to attend (and budgeting for it!) is sort of like trying to choose what kind of ice cream to buy at Baskin Robbins. I love 'em all! Well, most of them. I'd attend one every month if I could afford it. Many conferences are typically held in the summer, so if you've missed getting to one this season, go online now and do a search of conferences in your area and get booked for 2012. If you can afford the travel, find out where the agents and publishers who best represent your genre will be attending. I'm fortunate to live in the Northwest, basically a mecca for writers, with many conferences nearby to choose from. If you're in the Northwest, or if you're not, check out the following conferences for next year: in Seattle area and www.writeon on Whidbey Island. These are two of my favorites! Check out your local library and bookstores for guest authors, speakers, and smaller workshops. Whenever I go to a conference, I do so with an open mind, ready to absorb information like a sponge and with an attitude that there is always more to learn about craft, industry and myself.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's Your View Point?

Every book is told from a certain POV (Point of View). In other words, who is telling the story? A narrator, the protagonist, the villain, etc. Is it told in first person or third person narrative? I wrote Book One in the Stelladaur Series in 3rd person but when I began Book Two I subconsciously switched to 1st person. It's so weird because just as Reilly goes through a portal at the end of Finding Tir Na Nog (no, I'm not giving away the ending!!) he emerges in the first scene of Fallen Angel with a metamorphosis he wasn't expecting. Nor was I. It was like Reilly suddenly told me to step back and just let him tell the story. I didn't argue. I always try to trust my characters. I trust they know the best process for telling their story. After all, it's their story, not mine.

But POV isn't just about who is telling the story. It's also about considering each of your characters' view points--their emotions, feelings, responses, etc.--in such a way that you could actually write the story from their own POV. Get to know your characters well enough that if you write something contrary to what they would actually say or do, it will jump right out at you and scream, "What are you talking about? I'm the one who doesn't give a rip about the other guy, remember?" OR "Excuse me, but I think you have me confused with so-and-so. I would never eat a hamburger. I'm a vegetarian!" Even though you won't write everything you know about your characters, you still have to know them better than anyone else. Likewise, even though you won't share everything about yourself with most people, you must know yourself better than anyone else does. Tell your own story and be true to it.

Here's a great link to learn more about POV:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Understand Why You Write

I saw this cool mushroom on the side of the road over a year ago. It's uniqueness is obvious but I didn't know how much it inspired me, until it magically appeared again in the middle of Chapter One in Book Two of the Stelladaur series. And I don't mean I threw in a descriptive sentence about red and white speckled fungi for a mere botanical twist to the scene. The mushroom is significant to the story. Weird, I know. But it's a reminder to me of why I write. I write so the unexpected magical things in life come alive. In myself. In my life. On the page. It's that simple.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trust Your Inner Voice

As an author, one of my mantras is this: Write from your heart. Edit from your head. One of the messages of my first YA novel, "The Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog" is figuring out how to go beyond the menacing thoughts in your head so you can live and experience life from the heart. Not an easy thing to do. As children we did it naturally, but as we got older, we slowly forgot how. We may be left with a painful realization that our heart is buried under mindless layers of "stuff". People often say that stuff is "just life." Maybe so, but it's no way to truly live. Here's the paradox: It's in the going through of all the stuff that we learn to trust our inner voice.

Learning to trust our own inner voice is a slow process that requires honesty, courage and intuitiveness. These qualities rarely come naturally to teens or adults, so we need to create opportunities to allow them to emerge from within us. It can be as simple as taking some very deep breaths, walking a dog, digging in the garden, holding a baby, or watching the sun set. Spending time in nature always soothes the soul and calms the mind. If you can hear your inner voice during these simple pleasures, take it a step further and see what you can create in that space you've discovered. Creativity is the expression of our divinest self...Creativity is the language of our own inner voice. It's not a language you can learn from a blog post, in a class, or from anyone else. You're the teacher and the creator. Once you know that, then you'll trust your inner voice and live from the heart.

Monday, June 27, 2011

S - Synopsis

A synopsis is a brief summary. Brief means concise, succinct, or with few words. Summary means comprehensive. Hence, writing a synopsis for your novel means to use as few words as possible in being as comprehensive as is necessary. In an effective query letter the synopsis should be one paragraph. Only send something longer if an agent specifically requests it in his or her submission guidelines, and then limit it to one or two pages. It's just as important to choose your words carefully for your synopsis as it is in writing the book. Maybe more. Start with a one-sentence pitch and expand from there to a succinct and thorough paragraph. Here's my one sentence for The Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog;

With the help of an ancient guru, a talking tree, and an albino dog, sixteen year old Reilly finds a rare stone that helps him understand the difference between reality and imagination, as he deals with the death of his father and faces a renowned scientist who steals the imagination of others.

Here's the synopsis in a 6 sentence paragraph:

Reilly McNamara is an unusual sixteen year old boy with multi sensory abilities whose best friend, Eilam, an ageless guru who most consider to be crazy, helps him deal with the tragic death of his father, and teaches Reilly how to use a magical stone called a Stelladaur to discover what matters most to him. While Reilly uses the stone to find Tir Na Nog--a place of beauty and wealth in all forms and where he believes his father has gone--Reilly must also prevent billionaire scientist, Travis Jackson, from discovering the power of the Stelladaur and destroying the imagination of others with is latest invention of a time travel device called The ROCK--drug-laced, laboratory-fabricated stones. Once Reilly discovers that a Stelladaur can bring to its rightful owner their greatest desire, he begins a series of mystical journeys through various unexpected portals in search of his father. Each time, Reilly returns to the real world with enlightenment which guides him in his assigned task to help others find their own Stelladaur and innate gifts, and to face Travis. When a beautiful girl enters his life, will Reilly continue to trust his heart without giving up what he wants most? Finding Tir Na Nog is about figuring out what you desperately want by understanding the universal connection between imagination and following your own heart.

The complete two page synopsis is for agents' eyes only!

Friday, June 24, 2011

R is for Respect...

When I first started my weekly series "ABC's for Authors", I was faithfully working my way through the alphabet every Monday. However, there are only 26 letters of the alphabet and at least twice that many weeks have passed since I started...well, let's just say time is indeed elusive. Said another way, I haven't yet mastered the art of insisting that others respect my time. My writing time. Does anyone else have this challenge, or is it just me? (Yes, that is a rhetorical question!) Originally "R" represented "Respect your agent's and editor's time"...don't be needy, clingy, demanding, etc. Do be professional, patient, and respectful of their time. This is a no-brainer. But for me, setting boundaries on my own time is a continuous process. Maybe I need to refresh my perspective about time itself by reading an excerpt from my first book, The Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog.

The scene takes place with Reilly in a Freshman science class and a discussion about time.

"Come in, come in!" Mr. Ludwig sang in a high pitched voice while stretching up on his toes and rubbing the palms of his hands together gleefully. "Hurry now! Find your seats. Let's get started. Much to do...much to do!" He clapped his hands numerous times in between the rubbing, while continuing to repeat these brief commands, and nearly dancing about the front of the class until the students were in their chairs and all eyes were up front.

Mr. Ludwig lived and breathed science. As a result, he came to class every day acting as if it was Christmas morning--hardly able to contain himself with the thrill of it all--and overly anxious to tell his students what they'd be learning that day. Or what totally amazing experiment they'd be doing. Or what plant or small amphibian dissection they'd have the opportunity to participate in. Sometimes he'd literally jump up and down with excitement. Reilly appreciated his zeal; most just found him amusing.

"Excellent!" he began again. "Today we're going to shift from our recent discussions on igneous and sedimentary rocks, and talk about something else...but something equally fascinating!"

Mr. Ludwig's philosophy was that anything could be related to science in one way or another. That's why he thought just about everything was fascinating. Without fail, he used the word 'fascinating' every day in class, sometimes in every sentence. And it was not unusual for him to deviate from the regular curriculum because his mind simply wandered off in so many directions at one time. This was precisely why Reilly, and most every student, loved his class so much.

"The science of time," Mr. Ludwig continued. He moved behind the large lab desk at the center front of the room and pulled out an enormous clock, a good three feet in diameter. Propping it up in front of the tall sink faucet, he then pulled out a common kitchen timer, twisting the knob until it ticked for a moment, and then back again to give a ding, and placed it on the counter. He reached in his lab coat pocket and pulled out a runner's stopwatch, dangling it by the cord in an almost hypnotic motion. After setting the stopwatch on the desk, he took off his own wristwatch and placed it, too, beside the other time devices. Finally, he opened the left drawer and retrieved a two-foot hourglass.

"What is time? How is it measured? Why do we measure it? Is it always the same? What is its purpose?" He posed each question while retouching the items he had just set up for display. "Let's try an experiment. When I say 'go', we will each do something to try to capture time for one minute."

Mr. Ludwig paced back and forth slowly--even methodically--behind the desk four times, without saying another word.

"Go!" he finally blurted out.

Most students looked around with bewildered looks on their faces. Some started chatting back and forth or wiggling uncomfortably in their chairs. The girl to Reilly's left inhaled deeply, puffed out her cheeks and held her breath. The boy next to him pulled out a cell phone in a desperate attempt to send a text message before the teacher would notice.

Reilly looked intently at Mr. Ludwig and tried to imagine what might happen next. With Mr. Ludwig, the possibilities were quite unpredictable. The fact that he looked something like the stereotypical mad scientist only added to the mystique.

"Stop! Time's up," he commanded with another single clap of his hands. "Uhm...time's up. Now that's an interesting phrase," he smiled thoughtfully. "What do you suppose that means?"

"Duh, it means we don't have any more time," a kid from the back shouted.

"It means the one minute you gave us is gone," added another.

"Maybe it means after time is gone, it goes up?" laughed Reilly.

" there's a thought. But where does it actually go? How do we know it's really gone?" Mr. Ludwig inquired with a glint in his eye. He reached for the large clock and placed his right pointer finger over the second hand to make it stop moving. "What if we could stop time?"

"But you're not stopping time," the boy with the cell phone insisted. "You're just stopping the clock."

"Fascinating observation! And very accurate, too," Mr. Ludwig responded. "So, is there a way to capture time? Make it stand still? Can we understand its true properties and functions? I'm asking you, who thinks it is simply not possible?" Over half of the class raised their hands. Many shrugged their shoulders.

Reilly continued to grin and watch his teacher intently.

"So then...a few of you think it is, or could be, possible!" he said. "Let's me ask another question. If I take this bottle...and..." He reached under the lab desk and pulled out an empty glass bottle that looked like a small container for chocolate milk. "...put this egg on top of it, can the egg fit into the jar without breaking?" He placed a hard-boiled egg on the lip of the bottle.

"No, the egg's too big," insisted someone on the front row.

"Yeah, it's not possible," another kid agreed.

"Oh, so quick to decide what you think you know. What we think is possible is often limited by what our eyes perceive," Mr. Ludwig said, as he lifted his pointer finger and raised his brow.

Mr. Ludwig removed the egg from the lip of the bottle and set it on the lab desk. He took a box of matches from the drawer, lit one, and tossed it quickly into the bottle. Then, he quickly replaced the egg on top of the bottle.

"Hey, I've seen that trick before," someone whined.

The class watched as the egg slid gently into the bottle, contracting to fit the narrow space and then plopping to the bottom of the glass container.

"No trick," insisted Mr. Ludwig. "This is elementary science. Who can explain what happened?"

The girl two rows to Reilly's left and up one seat raised her hand. "Well," she began, "it's an example of a partial vacuum. The fire heated the air molecules inside the bottle which made the molecules move further away from each other. Some of those molecules even escaped past the egg. That's why it wobbled on top. Then after the flame went out all the molecules cooled down and moved closer together again. The air pressure--well, the pressure of the air molecules--pulled the egg into the bottle."

"I couldn't have explained it more precisely!" Mr. Ludwig squealed. "Extra credit points for you today."

"Okay, so it's not a trick," the whining kid concluded. "But what does that have to do with time?"

"That was my next question. Any thoughts?" siad Mr. Ludwig.

Reilly's brain was spinning. There could be lots of connections. Obviously, the teacher proved his point that some things which at first appear to be impossible are really very possible, when we undertand the laws behind their existence. And they can sometimes be proven in very simple terms. Perhaps Mr. Ludwig wanted his students to consider the possibility that time has invisible, yet very real, elements. What about the partial vacuum? Did that have anything to do with time?

Mr. Ludwig began again. "If time represents the egg, how can we change the conditions surrounding it to change its functionality? Can we hold time? Balance it? Force it? Move it?" He did not provide answers to the questions. At this point, no one raised their hand to give any further response. Everyone sat still, waiting for what would happen next.

There are a few things in my life which are so transcendent they seem to exist outside the boundaries of time: playing with my granddaughters, walking along the beach, and writing. And so I must respect my own measurable time--safeguard it and be disciplined with it--if I want to more frequently go to that place of timelessness. I hope you go there, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Q - Is "Query" a bad word?

There are certain four and five letter words I typically refrain from using in my daily language. And I don't make a habit of adding them unnecessarily to dialogue in my writing. But I swear sometimes the word "query" feels like one of those bad words! In the least, the level of insanity that invariably ensues as I anticipate a positive response from a query, makes me wish I could invent a new word to accurately express my exasperation. "Yaaaarghh!" just doesn't cut it.

Countless books, articles, blog posts, and tweets have outlined, hashed over, and revamped the "do this" and "don't do that" list of querying expertise and etiquette. They give the same basic steps and suggestions. Plenty online web sites, authors, and publishers also willingly critique actual query letters so a person attempting to write a successful one can learn from those who have failed miserably at doing so. And occasionally succeeded, as well.

This is not another post about the technical aspects of writing a dynamite query letter, who to send it to or how to do so, or what to do with your time while you wait for a reply. Nay, nay! After you've researched, written, edited, and submitted, here's what you MUST remember on your journey of finding representation: A perfect query letter does NOT equal representation! There are simply far too many other factors in the equation.

So don't let the word "query" cause you unnecessary grief or angst. Accept the fact that it's just part of the process. Embrace it...let it work for you, not against you. Sort of like giving birth requires some discomfort, pain and uncertainty. Yes, I know epidurals are an option, having a scheduled C-section eliminates actual labor pains, and every birth is different. But if you choose to give birth to your novel the good ole fashioned way, you better take a few classes on relaxation, focus, and breathing technique. You could be in for a long, hard labor! In the end it will all be worth it and you'll hold the little angel in your arms, lovingly smile in awe, and in time, completely forget the pain. Suddenly "query" becomes a thing of beauty that you instinctively cover with kisses, and you can't imagine how you ever considered using it as a derogatory word.

Monday, March 21, 2011

P - Publisher's Weekly

Check out the plethora of valuable information at This is the online place to go for international news related to the book publishing and book selling industries. Remember, in today's book publishing and marketing world, a writer (including novelists!) MUST be a business person, as well. Rather than a long post about Publisher's Weekly, spend some time perusing their site.

Monday, March 14, 2011

O - Open a Favorite Book

Okay, I never said that I've mastered my own "ABC's for Writer's". This week the letter is "O" which stands for "Open a favorite book you haven't read in a long while and read it again." The truth is, I'm currently reading four different books: "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins; "Partners Again" by my good friend, Arthur Lee; "Back Roads Ireland" - A travel guide; and "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson (yes, I started this two months ago!). Currently I have 21 other titles on my "To Read Next" list. Yes, an actual list...on my iphone...with all my other lists. What I don't have is a list of my old favorites. Frankly, it would take more time than I want to give right now. Or probably ever. Admittedly, I feel guilty because since I first signed up on Goodreads (two year ago!) I've only posted once. Every time I get an update from a friend (at least twice a week!) the twinge of guilt increases, until I face the fact that I'm a complete hypocrite. I mean, it seems like if I reap the benefits of Goodreads from others' posts, I ought to be required to post, too. At least periodically. Honestly, it feels like another distraction that takes me away from actually reading, and certainly from writing. Aaaaahhhhh! The twisted, cursed irony of technology! Humphf...back to my list of "Old Favorites". It would start with "Blueberries for Sal" and "Charlotte's Web" and end with "Autobiography of a Yogi" and "Harry Potter". Somewhere in the middle would be a handful of Classics, and selected nonfiction books on health and wellness, spirituality, or publishing. No rhyme or reason. No genre. Just an opulent smattering of information, ideas and imagination woven together by compelling stories and excellent writing. If I'm honest enough to say I haven't mastered by own ABC's, you might as well know the truth about my dysfunctional reading habits.

Monday, March 7, 2011

N - News Alert!

I do not subscribe to a local newspaper, although sometimes I'll read online papers. I absolutely never watch the news on TV. Frankly, it's just too much information for my brain to absorb and most articles deal with such negative topics, why waste my time? Until recently, keeping up on news events felt like a giant vacuum sucking out my energy and creativity--my oxygen. Then I made a discovery. Reading about what's going on in my local community, the country, or the world, provides an endless source of ideas for characters and plots! Duh!! True, if I wrote crime novels, legal thrillers, or murder mysteries there may appear to be a greater pool of scenarios to draw from. But every time I peruse online articles, blogs, and even the occasional newspaper, or listen to podcasts on a variety of topics, I find a plethora of ideas for writing YA Fantasy with a cross over into new Age Fiction. It's actually become a critical part of my creative processing. Sometimes I have to remind myself to stop reading and start writing. Certainly there are other ways to gather ideas for stories, but don't discount the news. Someday, your novel may be the next big headline.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

M - Memorize and Master Your Pitch

With Spring and Summer writer's conferences knocking at every door, it's time to memorize and master your pitch. It ought to roll off your tongue as easily as reciting the ABC's--and with as much enthusiasm as a child has when he or she blissfully sings it to whomever will listen. Yes, you could even try singing the darn thing in the shower (not to an agent!) if that helps you feel more relaxed about it. Certainly you need to know your pitch well enough to maintain a confident lilt while presenting it to an agent. At the very least, remember to breathe. And if at all possible, smile. Regardless of the genre, plot or subject matter of the manuscript, as far as the delivery of the pitch is concerned, you need to exude good energy! On the other hand, if you pitch to an agent who has no interest in fantasy or sci fi and your two-minute synopsis talks about an elf population from a lost world that morphs into other forms so they can travel through time to conquer a new civilization in an unknown galaxy, the agent won't care about your enthusiastic delivery and will probably look bored or annoyed. Do your research. Only pitch to the agents who may have the most interest in what you've written. If you have a chance to participate in a Speed Pitching session at a conference, do it. After you do a few of them, it's really kind of fun. Most agents and editors will do their best to smile and help you relax. Remember, they're just people, too.

So, here's the rundown on mastering your pitch. Write it. Rewrite it. Rewrite it. Rewrite it. Rewrite it. (Get the idea?) Memorize it. Practice saying it aloud. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. (Get the idea?) Research the conferences you plan to attend to see which agents will be there. Or better yet, research agents who you think will be a good match for you and your work, and find out what conferences they will be attending. In doing so, you can usually find out what agents like, what they're looking for, and what their expectations are. Perform. Yep, you've got to "act like" you have all the confidence in the world, both in yourself AND in your work.

Write...rewrite...memorize...practice...research...perform. Go get'em! (The photo for this post were taken in my yard and is a reminder to sign up for a Spring or Summer writers conference. I'll be attending Field's End in Poulsbo, WA, April 16; LDS Storymakers in Salt Lake City, UT, May 5-7; and PNWA in Bellvue, WA, Aug. 4-7.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

What's LOVE Got to Do With It?

Are you in love? If so, Happy Valentine's Day. If not, Happy Valentine's Day anyway. I've been married to the love of my life for thirty years! Long enough to know that a lasting, meaningful, successful relationship is a process, not an event. Loving the ups and downs of that process is imperative if you're going to hold on during the tough times. My husband and I are in that comfortable place of a relationship where appreciating the little things we do for each other every day, accepting each other just as we are, and being at ease with silence is what makes it so real. And so deliciously sweet!

As writers, we need to have that same kind of relationship with our work. Stay at it long enough to grasp being in love with the process. And accept the fact that there will ALWAYS be ups and downs. After all, being a writer isn't as romantic as the Hallmark movies portray. You know, the poor starving artist who falls in love with the wealthy and famous author and they live happily ever after. Or better yet, the poor starving writer who owns the neighborhood vintage bookstore, meets a wealthy business man who believes in her work and puts her in touch with an agent crazy about the hopeful author's latest novel which becomes an instant New York Time's #1 title. No, no, it doesn't happen that way. Not even close! But it does happen when you're in love: In love with the hard work. In love with the fact that you never give up even when it's tough and it's not what you expected. In love with your daily efforts to improve your craft AND keep up with the fast-changing industry. In love with your own voice. Not in an arrogant way, just in an "I-believe-in-myself way", sort of way. Mostly, you must be madly--and I do mean insanely--in love with those moments you listen to the story in your heart, not just in your head. It's called passion--the elusive quality that keeps writers writing and married couples married.

Monday, February 7, 2011

K - Keep At It

Waiting to hear back from an agent can make a writer feel a bit Kooky-eyed! But a few days ago I received a very nice rejection from a big name literary agent. It was more than just a form letter and actually left me smiling. I appreciated the agent for her time and effort to read my query and partial manuscript submission in a timely manner (less than three weeks), and then to give me an honest and personal reply. I do my research well before I submit a query to an agent--I need to have a feel as to whether or not they might be a good match for me and my work. Likewise, I appreciate the agents who genuinely consider if a manuscript is a good match for them. Agents typically receive hundreds of query letters a week--a daunting task to find not only a well written story but a marketable story that stands out from all the others. Am I discouraged? Not at all. As far as finding the best agent to represent my work, I intend to KEEP AT IT until the right match is found. It'll happen.

Monday, January 31, 2011

J - Jeff Herman's Guide

If you're a writer who is serious about getting published--and don't already have the most recent edition--you need to add "Jeff Herman's 2010 Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents" to your shopping cart at Or pick it up at your local bookstore this week. The book provides a wealth of information about the publishing industry. The website includes countless authors' testimonials attributing their success in acquiring an agent or editor with the information they gleaned from this valuable reference book. As an agency they handle mostly nonfiction. Check out their long list of impressive titles.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I - I Believe Imagination is Innate

A few days ago I had the unique opportunity to present a speech at an event in support of the "This I Believe" organization. A group of individuals from our community were asked to write their beliefs and then share them with the audience...all part of a high school student's senior project. Check out this awesome international organization at Here is what I believe:

"I believe one of the greatest treasures within each human being is the gift to create, and that our ability to do so is only limited by our imagination. I believe children innately possess the quality of mind and soul which allows them to tap into their own creative imaginations. They instinctively live in their own reality—in the now—which is created by their imaginations. This is why they are so joyful, honest, and determined. Often, somewhere between childhood and adolescence, humans become disillusioned by the imprinting of their circumstances, by other individuals, and even by entire societies of people who have forgotten how to live with creative imagination.

In the mid 1950’s, Dr. Allen A. Stockdale gave a unique perspective on imagination: “When God made the earth, he could have finished it, but He didn’t. Instead, he left it as raw material to tease us and tantalize us and set us thinking and experimenting and risking and adventuring, and therein we find the supreme interest in living. God gave us a world unfinished so that we might share in the joys and satisfaction of creation. He left the electricity in the clouds. He left the rivers unbridged and the mountains untrailed. He left the cities unbuilt. He left the laboratories opened. He left the diamonds uncut. He gave us a challenge of raw materials, not the satisfaction of perfect, finished things. He left the music unsung, the dramas unplanned. He left the poetry undreamed in order that men and women might not become bored with life, but engage in stimulating, exciting, creative activities to keep them thinking, working, experimenting, and experiencing all the joys and durable satisfactions of achievement. Work, thought, creation—these give life its stimulus.”

In November 2008, at a worldwide conference for women, former international airline pilot, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, said this about the process of creative imagination: “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before. Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty. Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before.”

As an author, I explore and create a story that didn’t exist before. In my most recent work, a young adult new age fiction titled, The Stelladaur: Book One, Finding Tir Na Nog the main character makes personal connections between imagination and reality, inviting the reader to do the same. Here is a brief synopsis:

Reilly McNamara is an unusual sixteen year old boy with multi sensory abilities. His best friend, Eilam, is an ageless guru who most consider to be crazy. His worst enemy, Travis Jackson, is a billionaire scientist who owns the marina near Reilly's island home. After his father dies in a tragic accident, Reilly is led to a magical stone called a Stelladaur which was used by his great-grandfather to travel back and forth to Tir Na Nog--a magical place of endless wealth in all forms. Once Reilly discovers that a Stelladaur can bring to its rightful owner their greatest desire, he also begins a series of mystical journeys through various unexpected portals in search of his father. Each time, Reilly returns to the real world with enlightenment which guides him in his assigned task to help others find their own Stelladaur and innate gifts. But Reilly must also prevent Travis from discovering the power of the Stelladaur and destroying the imagination of others with his latest invention of a time travel device called The ROCK--drug-laced-laboratory-fabricated-stones. When a beautiful girl enters his life, will Reilly continue to trust his heart without questioning what he wants most? The Stelladaur Series is about realizing your greatest desire by understanding the universal connection between imagination and following your own heart.

In one scene, Reilly goes through a vortex in the violet stream of a rainbow to a place called Jolka where he meets Fiala. She tells him that his desires must be "educated with imagination" which "gives great power to envision and believe".

"Each colored vortex provides specific education for one's greatest desire. One perspective, and then another, and then another," Fiala explained.

A comfortable silence that reminded Reilly of quiet moments with Eilam now settled upon him. They inched along the moving sidewalk for a while without talking, as he continued to digest what Fiala had told him. Still trying to absorb everything he was experiencing, Reilly was, nevertheless, certain that it was all very real. He broke the silence between them.

"Can a person have everything they want, or only if it is a greatest desire?"

"Every desire is for receiving and enjoying,” Fiala began. “One must only be in alignment with the law which manifests the desire. Most beings from the place of habitation where the One called Reilly resides, do not allow such understanding," she smiled.

"Then what’s the purpose of a greatest desire?" Reilly questioned again.

"To reveal the endless potential within every One being."

Like Reilly, I believe every dream, goal, or desire we imagine is a seed of endless possibilities. These seeds of creativity are given to cultivate our greatest potential as human beings. This I believe."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

H - The Hook

I just finished reading a post by literary agent, Kathleen Ortiz, who stated her agency received over 580 queries in December! From those, only 24 hopeful writers were asked to submit portions of their manuscripts. (Read more about it at Obviously there are many factors involved here. However, if the hook you've been using in your query hasn't caught the attention of an agent yet, you may need to get a new hook. Although an agent did request an exclusive read of my manuscript (and even a second read after I completed a few minor edits she recommended), she nevertheless, could not find the right fit for the novel. Did the hook work? I don't know. I don't have an agent yet. After careful research to determine who might be looking for a YA New Age Fantasy, I queried a few other agents. I sharpened my hook and hope it does the trick!

Monday, January 3, 2011

(i) (i) (i) = I i (C)

Although I'm no mathematician, numbers and equations do fascinate me. A different form of language which, for the most part, seems quite foreign. Yet I know hidden in the formulas are answers to complex problems which impact real life scenarios. (i)(i)(i) = Ii (C) is my formula for character development. Multiplying (i)magination by (i)ntrospection by (i)ntrigue equals (I)nviting (i)nteresting (C)haracters. Okay, I'll simplify.

Without imagination fiction would cease to exist. It's the foundation for all elements of a compelling story with interesting characters. With imagination, anything is possible! The writer's challenge is to make possibilities believable. (A topic for another post.) Once imagination is tapped into, it must be multiplied by introspection. How does what you've imagined apply to another person? Who will care about what you've imagined? Why will they care? What benefit is it to the reader to go to the place you've imagined and with the characters you've imagined? What emotions will they experience as a result of your imagination and introspection? Blending imagination with introspection creates a synergism of intrigue. Intrigue is essential to draw the reader in and not only capture but also keep their attention. The product of these three elements--imagination, introspection and intrigue--is an Invitation for interesting Characters. The formula works but you have to work it. It's up to the writer to accept the invitation and make it happen. Using this equation will result in characters that evolve, come alive, and are interesting enough to care about.

Here's an exerpt from a scene in The Stelladaur: Book One, Finding Tir Na Nog. Reilly is in his precalculus class, bored and daydreaming, as usual.

For a few minutes he zoned back in to what Ms. Lamar was saying. Something about coeffecients and plugging constants into the quadratic equation. Oh yeah, that was covered in the last chapter. Got it. No need for review there. When is she going to get on with the next chapter?

Math had always been easy for Reilly. He was fascinated that numbers were so precise, always anxious to learn something new about how they worked.

Like when Eilam showed Reilly how to take one times nine, plus two, to get 11. Then to make the one a 12, multiply it by nine, and add three to get 111, and so forth.

Reilly drew it out on the back of his test paper. Soon the final equation was clear in his mind: Take the number 123456789, multiply it by 9, add ten, and the answer is...

(Grab a calculator and draw it out yourself!)

He looked at the pyramid of numbers for a few minutes, remembering the exact moment Eilam had explained it to him. They were sitting on a dock at the kayak hut, feet dangling over the water, on a hot summer day. A tiny crab scurried up the piling near their feet.

"Some may think that little creature is useless," Eilam had said. "But even the very smallest of all creations is essential to our existence. Every single one adds to the whole." It was the way he emphasized one that caught Reilly's attention.

He had watched Eilam carve something beside them on the dock with his pocket knife. It had a similar pattern to the mathematical picture Reilly had just scribbled on his paper, but it fascinated him even more.

Reilly lifted his head now and stared blankly out the side window while he drew it out in his mind. Every number started with only ones. One times one equals one. Then he began again with 11 times 11 to get 121. He kept adding ones to both sides of the equation until multiplying nine ones by nine ones revealed...

(Get out your calculator and pen again!)

It was just as Eilam had told him. Perfect. No disputing its authenticity. It was a fact: "Everyone is vital to the whole. And everyone has a purpose and place in this world," Eilam had told him as he folded up his pocket knife.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"G" - Give Yourself Permission

Today is the day to celebrate a new year and welcome new opportunities. For the most part, we are the creators of those opportunities. As writers we must give ourselves permission to do what we love to do. Write! When I wrote my first novel, "The Stelladaur: Book One, Finding Tir Na Nog", I wrote 5-6 hours every day. It was intense but pure bliss! I miss that. That wonderful groove when I gave myself permission to put everything else on hold. I let the dishes, laundry and my inbox just pile up; and I exerted my right to say 'no' to an endless list of other demands, both self imposed and otherwise. If you're currently in that realm of euphoric oneness with transferring the words in your head to your computer, then simply give yourself permission to write for a certain number of minutes longer each day. Fifteen to thirty minutes more may be just the boost you need to finish a thought or complete a scene.

Over the holidays I performed the role of a Who in Whoville in the play "The Grinch". The Whos did not let the Grinch steal from them what they loved to do the most. Feast, feast, feast, feast. And sing, sing, sing sing. Nor can you let any "grinchiness" (distractions disguised in endless varieties and emotions) keep you from doing what you love to do the most. Write, write, write, write! This day, this week, this year, give yourself permission to write until your heart grows ten times larger. You may even find yourself bursting into song: Wah-who for-aze...Dah-who dor-aze! (I've attached a photo of me as a Who, sitting on my son's bed before leaving to the play.)