Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yesterday I took a day trip to South Bend to see an old friend. When we moved to Delaware, they moved to North Carolina. When we moved to Michigan, they moved to Indiana. Now we're just and hour and forty-five minutes apart. Pretty coolio.

I had to beg my friend's forgiveness and use her computer to do some work while I was there. We'd gotten a bite with an agent the day before, and I'd forgotten to get the work together that the agent had asked for...because I'd forgotten we were making a day trip...therefore, I had to work at my friend's house. She was sweet about it, though. And I was excited to do the work! Exciting day!

I have slim hopes of the first agent I contacted deciding to hire Heath, buuuuut it's pretty dang encouraging nonetheless.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Worth and My Trip to the Boutique

Went to a little boutique in town for the first time. I bought a necklace that I already sort of regret purchasing.  It looks like this...

Okay, it kind of feels weird putting this picture on here. It's like, "Here I am. With all my bling. Hair getting longer. Looking older." Whatever.

My daughters love this necklace, so perhaps it's worth it. That's an owl there, and the owl opens and has a clock inside. But it's not real. It's a piece of junk that will be tossed in the trash in a couple of years.

I should be buying the real deal. I would rather own fewer pieces of value than a ton of crap that was fun to purchase but is worthless. I need to change the way I think about things. This guy's book got me thinking about this. It's a pretty good read. It has a spiritual overtone, so maybe (?) not for the non-religion types. But he makes some good points. Not that I'm all angry at the government. I don't know what I am with regard to government.

What is "worth" to you?

Is the sign of a good boutique owner, a boutique owner who remembers the kind of stuff you picked through when you visited her store?

Killing it, Garth Brooks Style

I had some great topic to blog about last night. Totally forgot it.

This morning my husband surprised me with a trip to the coffee shop. It's spring break this week at his college, so he gets to work from home all week too. I am often jealous that he gets to leave every morning. This morning, I got to leave. I love my children. I also love being by myself.

The coffee shop owner has chosen to play country music this morning. I'm cool with it. Country is easy to drown out because I don't know any of the words. (If you know me at all, or have read my blog for long, you know that I like to work in silence. Thus the country music mention.)

The feel of country music also reminds me of my childhood in Oklahoma. Specifically, my cousin Sean's wedding-after-party at my grandma's house. That was a biiiiiiiig party with lots of drinking, lots of singing, and lots of Garth Brooks. Less specifically, my mom's brother's family, who did live in the country and whom we visited to for things like Easter.

When Garth Brooks hit it big, he hit it BIG, didn't he? Do you remember the new Garth Brooks days? Do you remember his televised concerts? What was your - or your mom's - favorite Garth song?

But anyway, I'm editing this morning, or will be in a minute, and I'm psyched. Heath sent in 130 pages of a new thriller he's working on tentatively called Bull Trout Late. (I doubt that will stick.) BTL is an actual lake in the middle of the Idaho mountains, and the creepiness that the characters experience in the book he experienced there with his family.

Here's a pic of the lake. 

Of course, Heath's beefing it up quite a bit for the book. The protagonists are a group of teens. I'm trying to figure out what I think about this. They are fairly "character." In fact, I can easily fit a few popular, or ex-popular, teen actors into the roles. Is that bad? I suppose if it's too obvious, then yes. That's bad. Or does that make the actors bad?

Regardless, today is my favorite read-through: the fresh read. Never seen the text before. Don't have to stop to do any edits. Just read. Then go back and kill, kill, kill!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When do you stop reading a book review?

I spend a lot of time reading book reviews on various book blogs, but I find that I don't stop to read an awful lot of them. In fact, I think I've read two in their entirety in the last week. I guess what they say in good-old journalism school is right:

The lead-in is everything.

If the first few sentences of a book review don't absolutely grab me, there are plenty more blogs out there with possibly better reviews. Obviously the book itself - what I've heard about it, whether the subject interests me, even what the cover looks like (ashamedly) - influences me, and sometimes that's enough to push me forward through some of a review.

Here's an example of a review I stopped to read b/c it was simply interesting to me. (This one comes from Julie at My Book Retreat.)
Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family took a pledge several years ago to spend an entire year only eating food that they grow themselves or that is grown in their local area. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life is a sort of memoir of that year in which Kingsolver, her husband and her oldest daughter share stories about their year as well as their thoughts about the food industry in general.
Okay, so that's interesting. The writing is good. I like My Book Retreat and visit it regularly. I recommend you read this particular review. But I made it all the way through the review most simply because the book is unique. Way to go, Kingsolver. Way to be timely.

Yesterday, I came across a lead-in that forced me to keep reading. I wasn't even interested in the genre, but the opening graphs were just so catchy. (This one's from The Sassy Librarian.)
The other day one of my colleagues, a psychologist and an avid reader of YA literature, walked up to me in the library and said, "If I read one more book blurb about a girl discovering her abilities who finds herself 'strangely drawn' to the local bad boy, I'm going to scream."
I hear you, Kathy.
 That's just great. Must keep reading...
It's become an obnoxious device in paranormal romance that a young woman with "new" powers or abilities ends up transforming her personality, often with the assistance of the recently arrived bad boy who knows more than she does (yes, the sexual implication is obvious even when it goes unexplored). Even when the guy is hot and compelling, it would be an easy step to falling into the trope that a woman needs a man to draw out her best, most powerful self, and many authors have tumbled into that ditch with abandon. Yuck!
The good news? Kresley Cole's awesome new book, Poison Princessisn't like that.
Okay, then. Tell me more...

I was drawn in by the quote, the writer's voice, and then of course the contrast.

(I'm not going to give an example of a bad lead-in because we've all read plenty of them, and I appreciate ALL book bloggers, regardless of their writing prowess. These are people who love books and have a great community going on. No need to trash any of it.)

There are so many different kinds of lead-ins. The sad part is, I taught them to students for at least three years, and I can't remember the names of all of them. But I do know when I read a good one. I suppose that's all that matters at this point in my career. Or is it?

No, not really. Because every day I have to write queries. MY lead-ins have to be solid too. I guess I need to get to studying those old journalism notes.

When do you stop reading? Why do you keep reading? Do you have a favorite reviewer or review?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Movie Faves

A blog friend just finished a blog fest titled, "Your Top 10 Movies of All Time" - or the like. I'm responding late but responding nonetheless because, well, how fun!

I love stuff like this. I love lists. I love movies. So here you go: my favorite ten movies, in no particular order.

Because yes.

The only time that the movie ended and I wanted to go buy a ticket to see it again right away.

Partly nostalgia, partly because I have had a crush on Tim Curry all my life, but still, so good.

Because I love Mike Judge, and just because.

I was so huffy when Dad made me watch this. By the end, I was riveted. Classic.

Just so quotable. Just so good.

I'm a fan of The Dude.

I sat amazed. Jaw to the floor. Unable to move.

I will never say no to putting this movie in the DVD player. (I feel like the original Ghostbusters can be included with this one. Suggest either, and I'm game. Just great, classic, feel-good movies.)

Because I was 19 the year this movie came out, and that was perfect timing. I might also scoot Stand By Me into this "category" of favorite movie. The perfect nostalgia. The perfect crush. 

-----And there you have it. I didn't give this a ton of thought, so be kind.----- 

The Sword of Suspense (Not a good title for this post)

Sick Kid Update: One is wearing Elmo jammies and a tiara, carrying around two bottles of hand sanitizer and saying, "No! Back!" to her sister when she tries to take one. The other is wearing Hello Kitty pajamas and a Pull-Up, which she won't take off because she's so super excited that I finally got her Pull-Ups. She's feeling better today, but we're staying inside for 24 more hours.

Just one more day home. Instead of working most of the day yesterday, I got the house in order (laundry, kitchen, toys, clean-sheets day). I'm starting to get spring fever and ready for the temps to rise so I can spend some time in our basement and garage, getting ready for a garage sale. This year's will be small, as I gave most everything away in our move to Michigan.

Sometimes I wonder whether I'm getting rid of too much. What if we do have another baby, and what if that baby is another girl, and I've gotten rid of EVERYTHING? We'll just work it out, that's what. Because I am not keeping all this stuff!

Switching gears a bit, we were excited over the weekend to have two old friends in town. Laura is one half of Laura & Sam, and Laura & Sam are moving to our town this summer! We couldn't be more excited, or more amazed and surprised. Laura was here with her dad, who was basically like our dad when someone's parents (see: mine) were acting a liiiiiiitle crazy during my engagement to E Lectric May Hem. So, it was super nice to see Dan as well and spend time eating, drinking, checking out our humble town together. Such fun.

Regarding Work: It's been difficult to get back into a mode. I'm not even in a reading mood really, which is very odd. I haven't cracked open "London" in a week. Maybe that just means I find it boring and I need to get a new book. I'd rather read my new Rachael Ray mag and browse my new favorite website,

But to work I go. Look out, book bloggers. Here I come, wielding my sword of good psychological suspense.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Updates & Rankings

Sick update: Drue is doing better today, but both girls are still in their pajamas and won't be leaving the house. I hate sickness. I do not love being stuck in the house. But so is life.

Weather update: We woke up to a stormy sky, then a quick snowstorm; now it's a bright, sunny day out there. I've learned that "Oklahoma weather" is not so special as we might have thought, for in Delaware we had "Delaware weather," and now in Michigan, oh, do we have "Michigan weather." I think Michigan weather is the most dramatic of all. A snow storm followed by a sunny day...and then probably another snowstorm later today? That's pretty awesome.

Back to work. I'm ready to start sending out letters but waiting on pages. I realized last Friday that the first few pages of TMI just aren't up to par. The editing schedule at Tate was such that I only had the chance to edit a book ONCE. My "second look" at the book was really just me going through and cleaning up my edits plus the author's corrections/edits. I didn't have a chance to actually reread the work.


So as I've gone back through TMI, which today, thanks to new metadata, is having a great rank day at Amazon (more on this), I've noticed areas where I would have changed or challenged things had I had the chance to read through the book more than once.

This begs the question: was I ever really a professional editor? Okay, let's not go there, because clearly, to some extent, I was. I just worked at a company that didn't have, shall we say, the best business model.

Back to the point: Friday night, as I was finishing everything up and readying to send queries and pages out early this week, I realized that those first few pages I would be sending needed more work. I was thrust back into grad school and heard professors telling me: the pages need to be alive, PERFECT. But there were places in the text where I stopped reading to think about what could make the text better! Wait...I don't want any agent, ever, to stop reading anything - no, no, no. They must want to keep reading. Therefore...more work.

Amazon update: I sent new metadata out to the book's publisher, and I'm assuming they've updated it on Amazon and B&N, because hello, it is working for us. This morning, TMI is ranked 213,756 in Books. WHOA. Whoa whoa whoa. Yes, please. And thank you.

To work!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Dreaded Boob Tube

Not feeling very bookish today. Also not feeling like working. I must be catching the thing my daughters are battling.

Poor, sweet bubby. So sad. 
What do we do on sick day? We watch television.

I so often find myself in conversations with other moms about how much TV our children watch. And I ALWAYS come out on top. Meaning, my children always watch the most.

Many of the moms in my area are unplugged and without a television. I will probably never be unplugged (at least not entirely), and though my children are getting better at playing - and playing together - they still need a break for boob-tube entertainment from time to time.

And so do I! I check out sometimes; don't you? Granted, I often do that with a book, but still. We need to be entertained occasionally, and that's okay. That's not worthy of scoffing. (Not that anybody is scoffing. It's probably just me scoffing at myself.)

I have started reading to my daughters every day. I pray they find enjoyment in books. It's not looking too promising these days, as Drue has only recently decided she'll sit and listen to a story (and forget about it if it's not a book she's picked, though I still try), and Paige is still not very into it. My girls just aren't the type to sit in a corner and look at books. So, I read to them. And I tell them to listen. And when I'm done reading, I asked them to tell ME the story. And Drue often says, "I can't," so I'll tell her the story without reading the book, as an example, and one of these days I know she will get it.

Until then, we're having some freaking TV TIME.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Upmarket Fiction

Okay, so maybe I posted too soon. Maybe yesterday's post was naive, or at the very least, the list was too flippant. Writing query letters is tough stuff.

A word I continue to come upon as I search for agents is "upmarket fiction." It sounds so pretentious, but I'll roll with it (there's that "roll v. role" again).

What is upmarket fiction? I am admitting my ignorance here, but this whole blog probably communicates that, so, as a an old friend used to say, whatevs.

Upmarket fiction is basically book club fiction. The top lit agents want fiction they can sell, but they want it to be damn good fiction. Literary fiction is damn good, but it's hard to sell, thus the new "genre." We want books that people will talk about, but we want to be able to fit them into a category, and we can't quite do that with literary fiction, which is damn good get the point.

Lucky for me, my client's books might just fit into this category. At least I can pitch them as fitting in. Why? Because he's a freakin' doctor who writes heady novels. But they're also fit very clearly into the category of suspense. They ARE the kind of books you can sit around and talk about. But they move at a fairly fast pace.

Huzzah! Now if I can just communicate this brilliantly in a query letter.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


I have thieved the title of this post from an old editor friend.

Yesterday I spent nearly four hours on a query letter to one agent. I suppose some of that time was spent editing the "first chapter" that I'm going to send along with the letter, but still: that's a lot of time. Sometimes I obsess over emails to FRIENDS, so it's no surprise I'm obsessing over this letter, which will probably be rejected. But maybe it won't! Maybe, MAYBE this woman who likes "smart psychological thrillers and novels of suspense" will take a look at the work I'm about to send her. Maybe something about it will strike her as interesting. Maybe she hasn't read much psychological suspense lately and will be thrilled to have such a query cross her inbox. But only if the letter I write sparks her interest FIRST.

That's a lot of pressure.

So how do you write a query letter? Sheesh. I studied it in college, in graduate school. That was TEN YEARS AGO. Okay, so I can read about query letters online. Do a little catchy uppy. There is so much advice out there, but really, aren't the only things that matter these?

1. Follow the agent's directions. Follow them. Exactly. Do not stray.
2. Don't send a form letter; the agent will know it. Write her personally.
3. Be interesting, for goodness' sake. Your story had better have an incredible "So what?" factor.
4. Be perfect (i.e., no grammatical errors).
5. Pray to the living God.

Yeah, that last one? I mean really. Say you're not a believer in God but a believer in fate, what have you... Doesn't that play a role here? (Btw, I have little love for the cursed role v. roll.) Thousands of people are sending query letters every day. How in the world is that one agent going to pick up that one letter - mine - and be amazed and then open that one attachment or scroll down in the body of the email to read those few pages of work and shout, "Yes! I have found him! The one I've been waiting for!"

It's like when my husband was searching for a job as an assistant professor of psychology (social). There are so few jobs out there, and more than 200 men and women were applying for each position along with him. How did it happen that he finally found a job? I would argue: "Thy will be done."

So, there you go. I try to be perfect. I obsess. I follow rules. I don't stop. And I pray that part of the eternal story is that my client's work be published.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Working myself right out of a job?

I had a realization this morning that I might be working myself out of a job.

Part of what I'm doing for Heath Sommer is trying to find an agent to shop out his books for a re-release and all that comes with that. If I succeed, I will no longer be his editor or his publicist.


When life hands you lemons...make lemonade?

Okay, that just came to mind. I was going to write a post about what a bummer this all is (not that we're even close; I just started trolling agents YESTERDAY for goodness' sake). But what I should be thinking is, if I accomplish this, I can surely accomplish it for others. I'm simply building my resume here.
I am a freelance goddess! 
(That's me being a goddess. Maybe instead I should be hunched over a laptop, bleeding on the keyboard.)

So, hey, maybe getting this done will prove my worth as a publicist. And I'll always be an editor. I just need to send my name farther into the world of bookishness. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Last night I made the mistake of having the television on while I was working. I had two hours to edit a final copy of a book for egregious errors, and I proceeded to get nearly nothing done. Add to that, it takes my brain nearly an hour to detox from the computer screen before it can shut down for sleep, and you have me here this morning: stressed about work and babysitting five children on not enough sleep.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Books for 3s and 13s

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I met this morning with a group of local women and Wall Street Journal columnist Meghan Cox Gurdon. Cox Gurdon, a children's literature critic for the WSJ, might best be known to some for her controversial article in June 2011 about contemporary teen fiction and whether it's too explicit, graphic, troubling, etc., and just a bad idea.

While I mostly went to speak with Cox Gurdon to find out what I should be reading my 3-year-old (because I'm ignorant of anything beyond the Little House books), the article mentioned above got me thinking about my work. Specifically, whether my author should focus his most recent detour from psychological suspense, a "horror" novel (maybe thriller...I'm not yet sure which genre we're entering into, as I've only read a third of the book), and aim it at the YA audience.

My first inclination was, "Yes! Good market. Let's do it." I even pushed it on him. It hadn't crossed his mind. But almost immediately I started questioning my initial reaction.

"Do I really think he should push such a scary story on teens? Do I like YA fiction? Do I want him to be a part of what is going on in this genre? Would I let my teens read this?"

Definitely things to think about. I'm leaning more toward NOT hitting YA with this book now. Mostly because my author writes books for adults, so why should I have him shifting? Too confusing. And then also because of these questions.

So many more thoughts going on today, but no time to blog. Must. Get. Working.

But before I go, if you have a three-year-old: what books do you read him/her? I have a good new list going, but I'm always up for adding more.

Friday, March 08, 2013

My working buddy. "Smile!"
She was too busy eating almonds to flash a big smile. This is Paige, or more often Paigey. She is going to be two in a few weeks. She likes almonds and dress-up and cheese and riding her rocking horse. She doesn't talk very much yet, but she'll talk soon enough. Oh, and she also loves music and dancing - and eating dirt when she can get away with it. Perhaps my favorite (see: least favorite) thing about Paigey is that she will carry the same piece of squishy food or Playdough around with her all day if I let her. I suppose she's doing no harm, but sheesh!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

I Love the '90s

I have plenty of bad middle- and high-school memories, but when I hear a song from the '90s, I am usually transported to a good place. Even the bad memories become somewhat warm and fuzzy, because man, what great music.

Now, I'm not talking about The Rembrandt's I'll Be There for You or The Macarena (both Top 40 faves my senior year) or some other pop song from the '90s, though there were some good ones, it's true (I'm looking at you, Lisa Stansfield). I'm talking about alternative and grunge rock. Flannel shirt and Doc Marten wearing guys with guitars. Or British guys with huge guitars. I love just about all of them.

So you can imagine I was pleased when, today, my husband posted this video to his Facebook page. Dave Grohl has made some silly decisions musically in the past few years, but when matched together with these dudes, well, he will always and forever be Dave Grohl from Nirvana. And who can resist Trent Reznor? Well, maybe a lot of people. I never liked his music videos; I wasn't even supposed to watch them; they made me nervous, and understandably so. But still, isn't there something so cool about him? And the 2005 With Teeth album: let me just say yes.

So, without further ado, these guys making cool music...

Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and Trent Reznor Performing a Song Together for the Sound City Soundtrack

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Book club last night. I looooooooove book club. Thank God for book club.

The women in the group were not interested in baking or cooking or throwing a bunch of vegetables on a tray last night. Instead, we all, or nearly all, brought a bottle of wine. So there we sat, each with our own bottle of wine to drink...

Just kidding. But we could have. There was that much wine. I abstained due to overdoing it Sunday night at the CCA (we viewed Casablanca and watched people in the movie drink, then attended a reception and dinner where we got to do the drinking, while talking about the drinking in the movie, among other more important things).
Anyway, the book we discussed last night.

(Only I had my mom's 1969 college English class version, with notes, which was cool.)
Yes, the powers that be chose the book because they wanted a movie night to go along with the book club meeting. I would not have chosen this book, because frankly I find it boring, but the conversation was okay.

This leads me to my point.

There is a reason I was a journalism major and not an English major. I can edit a book, talk about narrative action, stimulus-response, dialogue, hooks, holes, pace, etc. I CANNOT - and this is a deep and embarrassing confession here, so be gentle - keep up with conversations about, goodness, I don't even know what to say...and English-class conversation about literature. There.

I sit, and I listen, and I mostly appreciate (and sometimes scoff, because I'm an asshole), but I don't take part, because I don't know what to say.

Oh, yes, I's ironic that Gatsby (spoiler alert) dies because of mistaken identity when we're trying to figure out his real identity the whole time. I wouldn't have thought to add that to the conversation. Yes, I agree that the characters are two-dimensional and would love to talk about that, but that the story really jives well with poetry also published in the 1920s about hollow men (maybe I read that in college?) - that doesn't come to mind.

Back in my publishing-house days, I was in a book club with fellow editors. We had great discussions, but there was one gal in the group who would always find things in the text that I would NEVER have thought of. Is she just digging? I would think. Is this stuff really there? Did the author think through ALL OF THIS when he or she was writing? Because, man, I must be a really stupid person - and an even more shallow writer - if that is the case.

Me and poetry and - see, I still don't even know how to talk about it - we don't mix. But I don't want to give up. So two nights ago, I turned to the left and grabbed the first book of poetry I could find.
"The Works of Kipling"

But I'm not going to read it for the "deep stuff." I'm going to read it for story.

Am I stupid?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

I have loved the sunshine the past two days. Looks like it might fade away today into another snow storm. I knew spring would come late in Michigan, but I am ready for it. I don't know what to post about this morning: what I'm reading, what I'm editing, whom I'm harassing, what my children are doing. It all feels boring and meaningless this morning. I'd like to go to the local coffee house and work, but the time it would take to get there and settle in would leave me with very little time to work before I have to get the girls, so here I remain. Brown couch sitting, living room gazing.

Monday, March 04, 2013


I follow a number of writers on various online media, and I'm always surprised when I read a post that seems to have been posted in the middle of a writing session. How is this possible, I think. I've written one complete novel and three incomplete novels, and all of them were written as I sat in silence. No phone. No people. No internet. I worked at a publishing company for nearly three years, and I had at least one colleague who had a movie up on his/her screen almost always. She/He was supposedly editing while he/she watched movies. Is this possible? Even when I'm doing publicist work, searching out blogs, trying to "meet" people who would be a good fit for my author, I am so easily distracted. I have to shut every window on my computer, or else I find myself stopping and checking them constantly, and then I've lost the flow. When you're writing, editing, reading, etc., do you unplug? And if not, are you actually getting writing, editing, reading, etc., accomplished?

Friday, March 01, 2013


It's sad how easy it is to bribe my eldest child. I am currently trying to figure out how to work at home, and Fridays tend to the be the day when I try to work most of the morning and then give the girls the afternoon. Unfortunately, my youngest is not quite two and, while she is learning to play with her sister, isn't the best playmate yet. And my eldest, well, she would be at my feet all day long if I let her. So it's been a challenge. This morning, as I was going through my allowance and shelling some of it out to my husband, who needed money for lunch, I thought: maybe if I tell Drue I will take her out to lunch if she's very good for me and lets me work, she'll actually let me work! Now, the one "how to raise a child" book I read is NOT about bribery, so I try to make this a rare thing. Maybe that's why it worked so well. Because she was all about it. "Paigey! Would you like to go play Duck, Duck, Goose? Paigey, let's go play! Come on!" And she's still going strong.