Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolutions, 2014 Style...

Happy Holidays (belated, my apologies) to all of you around the world!  I hope that you had the chance to celebrate the season with loved ones and cheer.

As the new year looms, we often find ourselves making resolutions for it.  Lose some weight, travel more, keep better touch with friends, spend less, save more, climb a mountain, etc.  Personally, I make at least 5 and keep probably 1.  A year is a long time that goes by faster than we plan (life, in general, does this to us) and I find myself--as most of you do, I'm sure--making the same resolutions, promising I'll keep them this cycle.  In 2014, I plan to change my 80% failure rate by changing the way I make and keep resolutions.

Like with homework, people tend to put it off until time is running out.  If we have a WHOLE YEAR to succeed in something, many times, we'll find ourselves occupied in ways that keep our old habits alive and prevent us from following through with ridding them.  Or we'll start out hell bent on succeeding and actually keep our promises at first, only to burn and fizzle out a couple months in (this is especially true for smoking, money and weight loss/diet resolutions, I've seen).  So instead of giving ourselves this massive timeframe that will be done in a blink, let's tighten things up, really challenge our willpower.  

I have a higher success rate when I set goals without such a broad time line.  My resolutions for 2014 won't be just for the entire year.  No, I'll be doing it by quarter, by tier.  So to start, by March 31, I must complete the tiers of my resolutions to move on to the next phase.  The plan is to be reminded regularly, and rewarded quarterly, with progress and ultimately, success.  And with each quarterly success, the reward will not only be the self-congratulatory pat on the back; I'll treat myself to something, because what's effort without a little reward??  If I succeed in keeping my resolutions and make it to 2015 without needing to repeat the years prior, I'll give myself a big reward and follow the same game plan for that year.

Obviously there are resolutions that harder than others.  I give everyone who does what they've set out to do on New Year's Eve/Day a huge high five because it's not easy.  We shouldn't judge ourselves--or others, for that matter--too harshly when we don't follow through.  But I will tell you this: The only person capable of changing you and your ways, is you.  No amount of affirmations, positivity chants, meditation, etc., is going to make the changes needed if you're not willing to put the work in to succeed.  Invest in yourself, because you're worth it, and no one else will know just how valuable and amazing you are if you don't believe that.  I promise.  It's hard to believe in someone who doesn't believe in themselves.  Change is hard, I can't say that enough, but I believe failure to believe in ourselves and what we're capable of is harder to deal with, because with it comes regret and lost opportunities.  We live once, and if there is only one thing to remind of why you need to keep whatever your resolutions are, let that be it.  Today is a gift, so live in the present.  I love that saying.  :) 

And my little lecture is more for me and my self-deprecating alter-ego than it is for anyone else.  So without further adieu, here are my writing resolutions for quarter 1 of 2014 (I'll save you my personal ones because, well, they're personal, haha):

1.) Find a mentor
2.) Perfect the query that haunts me
3.) Submit said query to at least 5 agents
4.) Write every day for at least 60 minutes (this is something I used to do, but stopped once things turned sour).
5.) Blog more

And there you have it.  Number 1 is kind of a doozy, but I think it's a reasonable one to start the year with.  On March 31, I'll post my quarter 2 resolutions and my successes/failures from the first batch.  I'll also tell you what I reward myself with, because it'll be completely dependent on my rate of success.  

What are your resolutions?  Got any pointers for success?  Post them in the comments!!  

One more thing that I'll be changing in 2014...  Critique rounds.  As much as I love hosting them (I truly, truly do), I may start shying away from those for a bit.  I've spent a lot of time helping other writers get the feedback they've needed to grow and polish their work, and over a dozen of the participants have gone on to sign with agents and/or publishers.  I've personally critiqued countless writers, and I'm honored to have done so.  I've been a cheerleader, a councilor, a friend.  I'm proud to be a part of your journeys, proud of these rounds and all the writers who've joined in and shared.  I'm also humbled by it all.  But in turn, I haven't been helping myself when I'm busy focusing on helping others succeed.  It's just another one of the many ways I've lost sight of my own writing journey.  Like I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I need to focus on me and my characters more, at least until I get to a place where I can give more of myself to helping fellow writers without it causing my own writing to feel neglected.  It's partly why I want a mentor; after all I've been through and all I've given, I think I need someone to guide me back on course and help to keep me there, keep me accountable and level.  

It's in my nature to help others, it's something that gives me great joy, but I have a tendency to give more of myself than I can afford, and little-to-none to myself.  I can't help it, helping others is something I love to do.  I'm very motherly haha.  And like a true mother, I am riddled with guilt because no matter how much I give, I never feel like it's enough.  But I want to celebrate a writing success of my own soon, outside of NaNoWriMo.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a tad left behind by my writing pals who've "made it".  I'm so happy for them, but sad, too, because I'm not there yet (which is entirely my own fault for falling behind).  Time for me to catch up!

This decrease in rounds may also help those who enter, though.  The number of entrants have started to slide, so I'm hoping that by spreading out the rounds a little, it might increase the traffic when I do host them.  Because the more traffic, the more feedback for your work.  

I hope you guys understand--it feels like a punishment to lessen the opportunities to get valuable feedback on your work because I know how rare these chances can be, but to me because I'm the one stepping back, if that even makes sense.  Maternal guilt, I guess, haha.

Just know I love and adore you guys and will always be here to offer my support in anyway I can afford.  We're all in this writing adventure together.  It's time for me to really shine.  2014 has got to be my year.  I hope it is for you, as well.  

Happy New Year!  <3

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Under the Influence #4


LOGLINE:  When Ella, a spunky cook who loves all things green, is offered her dream of hosting a TV cooking show, she finds that being a celebrity isn’t easy peasy, and someone’s sabotaging her show. With help from her Pomeranian, Artichoke, Ella learns that, holy moley, she’s blaming the wrong person, and she must decide whether to risk her career by telling the truth or play into the network’s plans to exploit her for higher ratings.
FIRST 250:  

With her mom’s pageant crown nestled in her red curls, Ella Baxter poured blended broccoli into her homemade spaghetti sauce. It was her seventh try for the perfect recipe. She stirred the green into the red and let it bubble for a few minutes before scooping out a spoonful. Blowing across the wooden spoon, Ella closed her eyes, and tasted. Not the kind of taste where you chew twice and swallow. The sauce slid across her tongue, hitting every taste bud. 

Wrinkling her freckled nose, she sighed. “Holy moley, I did it. This is it.” Ella imagined what it would be like to stand in front of an audience as the host of her own TV cooking show. After tasting the spaghetti, her fans would jump out of their seats applauding. They’d love her green recipes. Her shoulders slumped. She was just a ten-year-old kid. How old would she have to be before she realized her dream?
Au-au, woof! Ella felt soft paws on her legs. She knelt down and ruffled the neck of the world’s most adorable golden Pomeranian. Holding out the spoon, Ella said, “Okey dokey, Artichokie. What do you think?” His enthusiastic tail told Ella that he thought it was perfect too.
Two great things happened on the day Ella found Artichoke. For her birthday, her dad had taken her to the shelter. She fell in love with the tiny three-pound dog when his sad brown eyes peered through the bars of the cage.

Under the Influence #3

Title: The Last Innocent
Genre: NA- Urban Fantasy

Logline: When a demon prince kidnaps her best friend, twenty-two-year-old Sarah Croshen must fulfill a destiny she never asked for, to be unveiled and become a Supreme, or risk her friend’s death.

First 250

After adjusting the showerhead to pulse, Sarah turned the knob to increase the temperature and drew a deep breath of the moist, dense air. Water pelted against her delicate flesh like hot needles. Her pale skin blotched from the extreme heat, but it felt so good. Sarah closed her eyes against the pain in her abdomen as she slipped under the jets. Her long blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders.
A thirty-year-old tune from 1993 streamed through the house speakers and bounced off the blue-and-white tiled walls of the small bathroom. The sensation of someone watching her crept into her consciousness. Despite the heat, a chill ran down her spine. Sarah opened one eye and looked around. It was a familiar feeling, but as always, no one was there.
“I’m not going crazy, damn it.” The sound of her voice did little to calm her anxiety. Besides, who would believe her if she told them? Sarah tipped her head to the ceiling and laughed at the idea of how she would sound to her friends and family, then gagged and sputtered from the spray of water.
The razor lifted from its cradle. Sarah’s eyes widened. She watched as it crashed to the shower floor, separating the blade from its handle then ricocheting off the glass door. She jumped, nearly losing her footing on the slippery enamel when she landed. Her instincts were correct. She wasn’t alone. 

Under the Influence #2

TITLE: Return To Spender
GENRE: MG Fantasy

LOGLINE: Return To Spender is a story about an eleven-year-old boy who
inherits a magical twenty-dollar bill that he can spend over and over,
then risks losing it forever when he fails to keep the bill a secret.

FIRST 250: 

William's eyes locked on the large silver mailbox as the
school bus pulled up in front of his house. Pushing past everyone, he
raced off the bus into the bright sunlight, reaching the box in three
giant steps. He tugged the door open and found it empty. Again. In the
last four of his eleven years, it had been his job to bring the mail
in, but not anymore. Not since Christmas when his mother changed
shifts at the bank. It hadn't been a big deal then, but it was now.

His backpack, one strap frayed and holding on by a few threads, hung
heavily on one shoulder covered by a jacket that was no longer needed.
The long sleeves of his Detroit Red Wings shirt threatened to make the
trek up the driveway into a workout on the warm mid-March afternoon in
Mason, the small Midwestern town where he lived. This only added to
his frustration.

He sent a small rock halfway up the driveway with a swift kick. Two
weeks ago when William found out about the secret family gift, he
couldn't wait to see what happened. But now he was anxious to see if
being born on the twenty-ninth of February held any real magic. When
he came to the same rock again, he slowed and aimed the front end of
his sneaker. This time it tumbled across the driveway and into the
brown grass. He looked for another but, unable to find one, kicked at

Under the Influence #1

TITLE:  The Blame Collector
GENRE: YA Fantasy

LOGLINE: With her execution imminent, 16-year-old Selby, who everyone believes brought a curse upon the land by killing her cousin, decides to save herself and her people by using black magic to raise her cousin from the dead, with disastrous consequences. The Blame Collector journeys to remedy the horror that Selby has unleashed, while Selby herself works frantically to solve the mysteries of her past--before the ax falls.

FIRST 250:

           The black robes were like the shiny black surface of a tar pit, ghostly hands protruding with sharp nails.  Poison green eyes gleaming from beneath a heavy hood.

           A demon come to take her away.

           Tap, tap, tap.  Each step forward a warning.

           Air swirled around the black robes, billowing them out.  The candle on the table flickered.

           The curtain ripped from its rod and fluttered to the Blame Collector’s feet.  “You cannot hide from me, child.”

           Selby pulled her little legs tighter into her body, her chin tucked behind her knees as she tried to push further into the corner.  She was only six years old, but she had already done the worst thing in the world.

           “For what you have done, I curse you,” the Blame Collector growled.  “There will be suffering in this land because of you.  Still, I will give you ten years to repent, to rid yourself of your evil.  If you fail, you will be subject to whatever punishment the lady of Yarrow sees fit.”

           The ghostly hands clapped together.  The candle blew out.  The air in the room grew still, sticky, warm, like heart’s blood turned to vapor.

           Then the robes swished against the flagstones as the dark figure disappeared into the night-black hallway, leaving the little girl alone with her curse.