Back to the Grindstone

The last of my #PitMad queries came back this week. It wasn’t quite the yes I’d been hoping for. And in fact, wasn’t a yes at all. But to have multiple agencies request fulls was a beautiful thing. It means that people believe in my story, my ability. And in the end, it was a “fit” issue that led me to the beginning of the process once more.

But here’s what I gained: a successful query letter. A successful manuscript that people can believe in. Confidence.

I mean, I’ve been through this process a fair amount. I had a 90k manuscript that got rejected a LOT. And I put it away, to give myself a break. I started new projects, started new processes. Outlined. Drafted. Edited. You know, the writing stuff. And I ended up with this 60k piece of work that I enjoy reading, and that I actually LIKE editing. And that’s new. I believe in my work.

So as much as it hurts to have come so close (I’m talking that last gasp before a contract close) and leave empty-handed, I know that it’s a project that someone will take.

And in accordance with that, I sent out 2 dozen query letters this weekend. And I have another set that will go out in a month or so, pending any responses. It’s gone through an additional edit since this last round, and I feel even more confident about it.

I mean, how great is it to know-to just know-that you have something worth putting energy into, and participating in the process to do just that?!

Guess we’ll see where this leads!

Wish me luck!

And for those interested, #PitMad is a Twitter based manuscript pitch that happens 4 times a year. More information (including what hashtags to use, who/what/when) can be found at: https://pitchwars.org/pitmad/

Happy writing!

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One More Rebellion

To understand where this post is coming from, it is important to know that I’ve been in a very pensive, reminiscing attitude lately. I’ve been working on a new book in which much of the young adult culture of the early 2000s plays a part. But also, I’m about to start the semester and that’s the point where I start thinking about how I got to where I am.

Part of the business of growing up is a little thing I’ll call “going corporate”. Masses of people leaving behind the neon hair, the black and red eyeliner, the studded belts and chucks for business suits, natural hair colors and 9-5s.

And I’m not having it.

So many people my age (and older) make comments like:

“I don’t know what I was thinking about that hair.”
“I can’t believe I wore that/dressed like that/went out like that.”
“I’m so glad I grew out of that.”
“I’m so glad that phase ended.”

And that’s fine… for them.

But I look back at the pictures, the memories, the status updates and I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. And the thing is, I can’t remember ever thinking I’d made a mistake. In my closet you’ll find business clothes-interview attire, internship outfits. But you’ll also find band tees, studded belts, two pairs of chucks, and skinny jeans (yep, even my size). My makeup is all deep and vampy.

So imagine my surprise when the suggestion came across my screen that instead of just 2019, we should be celebrating 20NineScene (Scene being the neon cousin of the emo culture that I reference above.). And I could not be more excited.

Because you see, we are the cycles we have lived through. Yes, I believe in moving past periods of time that are too negative for you, that are toxic. After all, what kind of (future) social worker would I be if I supported toxic environments? But why should I (and may others) feel that there is something to be ashamed of by exploring who we are?

So this 2019, instead of walking longingly past Hot Topic and pining for the days when I didn’t feel like a kid in their parent’s business suit, I’m going to allow myself one final rebellion. I want to slide into 2020 (and the return of the Roaring 20s) in the throes of the crimson and black smudged eyes, the black-like-my-soul outfits, the spiky hair, the splashes of neon breaking up the monotony. I never stopped listening to the music I did in high school, and in fact I prefer it to the stuff now (I’m exactly that old). Grunge music like Nirvana and Three Days Grace. Emo punk like All American Rejects. Emo pop like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy. Dashboard Confessional. My personal favorite, Boys Like Girls. My Chemical Romance. And so many of the glorious others.

In high school, I had so many dreams about who I would be when I approached my current age. And I’m honestly nowhere close. I thought I’d be done with school, traveling, maybe even semi-famous. And if I’m honest with myself, I still hold out for that. It’s why I took a chance on a manuscript that I sent out before winter break to agents. I believe in that manuscript like people praying in church. It’s raw and honest and hopeful-everything I am at my core. I believe that someone will look at it and see the potential, will give me a chance to prove that it’s worth it. I believe in myself.

And none of that would be the case without the high schooler who felt the world a bit too much. Who needed validation more than air. Who wasn’t afraid to rock the red eyeliner, the spiked hair, the black wardrobe. I believe in her as much as she believed in the future. And that’s why I’m completely in support of 20ninescene. Because why on earth would I ever choose to lose who I am just to “go corporate”?

Writing Tips for the Busy

This Winter Break I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I really dove into my hobby and I made it work for me. I’ve got one fully polished manuscript, and I’m about 10% of the way through the first book of a trilogy (doesn’t that sound impressive!). But in just a hot minute, I’ll be back at classes, this time with a field placement and I’ve realized that I’m going to need to block my time more prudently. So.

  • Make the time

I’ve got a calendar all set up, which shows me what my major obligations are. I’ve got class days marked in one color, homework blocks in another and writing blocks in a third. This way, it’s the most important date with myself-and I’ll be able to keep on track. (Famous last words, I know.)

  • Change scenery

I’m not talking field trips here, I’m talking the thing you’re looking at. Sometimes the words just don’t plop on the page as quickly (or numerous) as you beg them to. Change fonts. Change programs. Switch handwriting (or languages!). That difference will let you pick out editing mistakes, and may just get you out of the slump.

  • Word Sprints

I learned this trick from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Sometimes all you have is 15 minutes. And that’s plenty. Take your 15 (or 10, or 5) and jam as many sentences as you can into that time. Don’t go for edited masterpiece-just go for words on a page. Do this 4 times and you’ve got your hour of writing for the day.

  • Start with your favorites

This one I learned the hard/easy way. For me, starting at “Sentence One” and taking my idea start to finish is hard. Great for continuity, terrible for inspiration. I’d always have that “But I wanted to write THAT scene” syndrome. So with the polished manuscript, I jumped out of my habit and wrote what I call “Scenes Out Of Context”. (I even label them as “SOOC: Scene Name”). I have a list of scenes that I know need written, and I start working on whichever one seems the most awesome to me at that moment. About halfway through, I’ll decided none of them sound awesome and then I’ll start “Sentence One”. Which, by then, I’ve got a great idea of how I want the tone to be, I’ve got enough to do some foreshadowing and I’m not offended by linking the chapters together (which adds to my word count).

  • Use said, then add

This last piece of goody info is actually an editing piece. I discovered that the easiest way to come up with the basic manuscript is to low-ball it. Write through the skeleton of it, using only the most basic of dialogue tags: said. Don’t describe things unless absolutely necessary to the scene. Don’t describe the characters unless absolutely necessary to the scene. And give yourself the most basic of word counts. For a 62k book, I gave myself a 35k skeleton goal.

And then? As you edit, you’ve got a feel for the people. Apart from the obvious editing (grammar, punctuation, etc) you can now search your document for “said” and add in fleshed out dialogue tags (any number of which will give you an additional 1-10+ more words). Then add in the descriptions that you left out: buildings, aromas, the way the food tasted, what the characters were wearing, any mannerisms that weren’t obvious in the skeleton but you knew were there. (Leave notes as you add bones, so you can add in stuff later and not forget!). I added several plot-hole-fixers during that point, and an additional 15k words in just “meat” that I’d left out. That way I knew my structure was solid, and the rest added layers.

See anything I missed? Any tips you’d have added? Any of these not work for you? Let me know!

Ya’ll, I’m a writer.

I got some really epic news today: I’m getting a book published.

It’s not the traditional way, but I have 100% agency over it, and I’m 100% okay with that.

It’s a book I’ve been through the gauntlet with: I sent query letters out to 75 agents in the span of 9 months and got nothing back (besides a few well meaning rejections). It was my very first NaNoWriMo novel, and I’ve been rather attached to it. I put it aside for a time and have been editing it, working through all the things I messed up.

And when you take a leap of faith, sometimes you’re rewarded in some amazing ways.

So I’ll be on Channillo, a place where writers write and readers read. I have a more political thought essay collection there too, called Coffee and Criticisms, which you’re more than welcome to also check out!

So about this book!

The Queen of Souls

It’s called The Queen of Souls (which makes me giddy every time I look at the document). It’s YA lit, with some upper YA themes. And well, here’s the snapshot I have for it:

Katerina Alkaev has only ever known how to be one thing: an outcast. With no real memories of her past, no family and no prospects of a future, she’s stuck in a spiral of bad luck, non-committing foster homes and an extreme lack of self-worth which bring her to the little town of New Hollow. She struggles to find her place in the world, not sure she’d recognize her destiny if it slapped her across the face, which was nothing new to her. When a fight with her abusive boyfriend Michael leaves her broken and bruised, Katerina discovers a world that she might just belong to, provided she can stay alive long enough to find out. With the help of her best friend Isobel, Katerina begins to unravel the past, creating allies and enemies that all seem to stem from an ancestral act of love and sacrifice. As Katerina begins to accept her fate, she discovers an ages old prophesy that demands she side with the darkness or die. With love and life at stake, one thing is absolutely clear: if she wants to survive, she’ll have to transform.

This book is based loosely on the mythology of Psyche, the goddess of souls with a touch of modernity. Set in the fictional world of New Hollow, it features coffee shops (obviously), a small town on hard times, mystery, rebellion and love. Apart from that, well, I guess you’ll just have to read it and find out!

It will be published in parts, so it’s perfect for a little bit of light reading every now and again. I’m working on more books (both the traditional and self-pub way, so if a subscription service isn’t your style, stay tuned-there’s more good things to come!) and I’d say that’s a pretty swell ending to a pretty swell day.

Time May Change Me

I feel like I need to step away from the facts, the stats, the in-your-face business for a minute (just a minute) and speak about my own life. I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, I just want to document some things before I get back to being a loud-and-proud feminism activist.

I’ve been working on a project, which has the potential to be the biggest, most life changing project I may ever get the chance to be a part of-and as soon as I get the proposal submitted, I’ll tell you all about it. I’m sure you can guess-it’s got lots of caffeine inspiration and some very epic ideas for change and a brighter future.

I like to think of myself as an introvert inside an extrovert’s body. I really like to hang out with a limited amount of people-but my goals and aspirations require me to be very upfront and outspoken to large masses of people. It’s a lot of stress for one person. That stress translates to weight issues. I mean, I’m not really upset by it anymore-because I only get one body and the more I understand myself and my destiny, the less I hate who I am (funny how that works)-but this whole anxious person hits a wall when it comes to that very topic.

I want to workout. I want to swim everyday, I want to work on my core muscles and maybe even do a little boxing or something that’s useful as self-defense. But. I don’t want anyone to see me do it, or to help me. I’m only just learning how to love myself but that doesn’t mean my self-esteem has been built up yet. I don’t have workout clothes, can’t afford to go out and get any, and even if I did, I have no idea how to use the equipment. All of that, combined with me having a real issue with going new places, being surrounded by people I don’t know and not liking to appear stupid means that the gym is not place for Michelle. And the swimming pool? There are beautiful people with golden tans who make me look-and feel-like a big albino elephant. I’m not saying that for sympathy. I know that no one can make me feel inferior without my consent.
And running? I think not. If there is one thing I absolutely hate in this world it is running. So I’ve started using twelve pack cases of soda as dumbbells. My arms are sore, but at least I can say I can “lift” 10 pounds per arm.

I’ve started work on two novels. One is inspired by real life-about my struggle with self harm and you know, life. One is a more dime store romance novel that’s basically just me trying to tap into some unused creative voices. I’ve written nearly 10K words in the first and a thousand in the second (which I only started today). I’m developing the power of words and I think that’s a great thing. More than most things, I wish to be a writer. I just want to be able to do what I love-and that is helping people and writing.

I’ve really been getting into spirituality and meditation. I mean, I was before, but I’m trying to incorporate it into each and every day. It’s a little hard when Ben and our housemates are home, but I try. In fact, that’s how I’ve managed to get my proposal for the project done.

I’ve narrowed down my list of law schools to 13-which I will be applying to in THREE MONTHS. My life just keeps plugging away and I can hardly contain my excitement. I mean-in three months I ask colleges to look at my applications and take a chance on a girl from the midwest with a heart full of passion and a brain full of song lyrics and sarcasm. And then in just about six months, I’ll find out which ones believed in me!

I suppose that’s about all for now. ❤

It Got To Me.

I’ve got a blog scheduled for tomorrow (first time I’ve scheduled one!) that goes into detail about what I will speak on tonight. Tonight I am blogging as a mental purge. As usual, you can ignore it, or you can read it for what it is-me stumbling around, searching for answers. Today, though, I’m going to try something a little different. I present to you:

A Seed

I passed by the garden of the no longer living, their flowers an ashen pillared stone. I hear their whispers call to me, the wind bringing the weepings of those passed on. Regret thickens the air around me, my breath turning to crystals in my chest. A hand reaches out for me, the keeper of the gate claims I have no right to pass through. “Please,” I whisper, “I have already died while I lived. The feelings claimed me, the bondage of my emotions pulled me through the depths and I ceased to be years ago.” He eyed me wearily and nodded, his expression relaxing.

“It is so for many.” He sighed, the sweet tobacco smoke caressing my cheek. My path opened and I could see a single plot of earth undisturbed. My feet glided, the pain in my heart weighing down my steps, until I could barely move them. I reached my reservation, the tension in my body forcing my gaze skyward. I lifted my hands higher, the heavens leaning into my touch. I felt the sorrows of the years form rivulets on my cheeks, washing away the body I had outgrown so many years ago.

“Why?” My heart roared. “Why was I alone for so long? Lost in the ocean, I perished amongst the apathetic and the unconcerned. My blood was spilled for far too long, the agony never being relieved.” The sky above my split, lifting my chin as high as it would go.

“You had to enter oblivion to be made new.”The rumblings of sadness reached my ears just before the cleansing rain. With the last of my awareness, I watched the scars on my wrist become barky ridges. I closed my eyes at last, the sweet peace overcoming me as I’d begged it to for years.

What I had hoped for in death was given to me in life. The world which sought to bury me alive didn’t know that it was that very thing required to bring about the greatest transformation.

tree woman.jpg

(Image Credit: Willow, at Wallpaper Up)

The story came before I found the photo.

Enough

I’ve been unable to find words lately,and that seems to be a pretty common trend. I have ideas floating around in my head, but to tie them to words, sentences and blogs is a little hard. It isn’t that I have nothing to say, it is that I have too much, I feel too deeply and I have thoughts which maybe should be best felt not said. But, I also know that for some things, it is better to break your silence, and that is why I write today.

You are enough.

You are enough to change the world.

You are enough to make your own voice be the one that is heard.

You are enough of a reason to continue going, even when it sucks so bad.

You are enough to remind the world that each person, each problem deserves a chance to be loved, a chance to be solved.

You are enough to be pleasantly surprised.

You are enough to be respected, to be accepted.

You are enough of a reminder that there is still hope.

You are enough.

You are enough to be worthy of value.

You are enough to keep our head held high in the face of adversity.

You are enough of a reason to keep going.

You are enough to be happy.

You are enough to make wishes come true.

You are enough to dream dreams and smile.

You are enough.