Sunday, December 13, 2015

Surprise! Life Was Eventful Once Again

My son almost choked to death and my dad had a heart attack.

That's how my week started. I had to give my three-year-old the Heimlich, after watching him flail and make a soundless, gasping-like fish face while turning an eerily sick purple, grabbing his little throat. Thank goodness, he's okay now, but we're all still a little emotionally traumatized. I hope that no other parent has to face that kind of moment or feel what I felt then, watching my poor three-year-old and the fear register in his eyes. Grateful is not a strong enough word to describe how I feel about knowing CPR and the Heimlich.

But then the next day, my dad found out he had had a heart attack at the start of a stress test and was instructed (after refusing an ambulance) to go to the emergency room right away. He followed that up with "I'm going to get your mom an iced tea and then to pay some bills, first..".

Uhmm, what?

We finally convinced him to go and he's been in the hospital ever since. At first, he was admitted under the care of his cardiologist at our local hospital (a hospital I have no faith in due to a previous issue--or four), but things snowballed, BIG TIME, and now he's at one of the best hospitals in the world under the care of a dream team of doctors, scheduled for open heart surgery.

Have I mentioned that in his 65 years on this planet, this will be his first ever surgery as well as his first ever stay in a hospital? Or that he is my absolute rock of a parent and I have no idea how to handle any of this? The idea of my super-hero dad going under such a huge procedure with complications in the background posing threats is not one anyone relishes. It's downright terrifying and makes my chest clench and eyes water. He's not just my dad; he's my kids' Papa, a second father to my husband, one of my very best friends, and the only person I trust completely aside from my husband.

He has literally been there for me and my family whenever we've needed him. And now, he's faced with this and all I can do is sit back, lend my support and entrust doctors to save his heart. I have to watch my mom, his partner of almost 40 years, cope and witness the person who's cared for her all these years suddenly unable to leave a hospital for fear he may have a massive coronary. Knowing that the love of her life is in this situation and trying to put myself in her shoes, to feel what she may be feeling... It's plum horrid. She's terrified, too.

Feeling this kind of helpless and despair... It's indescribable to those who haven't been through it with their own parent while trying to help the other out along the journey.

To get to why I'm writing this post, though. First, I ask (beg) that you keep him in your thoughts and send positive vibes his way (and prayers, too, if that's something you believe in).

Second, I've decided after everything with my baby boy and now my father, there is no more time to wait around for SOURCE to be agented and subsequently published in the traditional manner. I'm going to self publish it. If people love it, awesome. If people hate it, sure, that sucks, but I appreciate the effort. Time doesn't stop moving for anything. I want to write and I want people to read the stories I pour out of my soul on to page. The amount of work and love and effort I've devoted to this particular story... It's unfair to wait around any longer on telling Lexi's story outside of my laptop.

That's all it is for me right now. Getting the work that I've given so much of myself to, the work that dominates all my passion outside of my family, out there for others to read. I'll continue to work on my other projects, maybe continue to query with those, but as for SOURCE, its time to shine is here. I have to push this baby bird out of the nest and hope that'll fly high.

Any advice for me on the self-publishing front? I'd love to hear it!

Depending on how the next few days go, I hope to be back with another post before the end of 2015. If not, I wish you and yours a very wonderful holiday season and a prosperous 2016. I have so much love for all of you. "Everyday is a gift, so appreciate the present." <3

Friday, August 7, 2015

Life As I Currently Know It

August. Again.

As always, life has been… Overwhelming. Between being a mother, running a business and trying to launch a professional writing career, time is limited. Sometimes I wish there was a way to buy extra hours, just so I could get that much more done in a day.

My last remaining grandparent, my Nana Mary, passed away at the end of June. It was surprising, only because of how quickly we lost her. Growing up, if you’re lucky enough to have your grandparents around, you tend to take them for granted. As you grow older, more aware of how precious the people in your life are, you begin to forget. Forget that the older you become, the closer you are to saying goodbye to someone you always assumed would be there. I can’t really express how much I appreciated having both my grandmothers for as long as I did. What I can express is how sad and hollow part of my heart feels knowing that they’re gone. I’ll never get to share milestones and create memories with them again, feel the warmth of their embrace. I cherish what memories I do have, though, especially those in which they were made with my children. I’ll miss their laughs, their smiles and joyous personalities. Most of all, I’ll miss their unconditional love and their stories. Both my Nanas were a part of a generation that is now almost extinct. Stories from their time will now only be shared through somewhat impersonal channels, like books and retellings. That makes me sadder. Their generation had a way with stories and words that is hard to replicate.

Writing-wise, I’ve been heavily focused on another manuscript, trying to get it ready for my editor and eventually submission. I’ve come to terms that it’s not the right time for “Source”, as the market is saturated by paranormal/urban fantasy and querying it during that kind of saturation doesn’t give it a fair chance. But, a writing friend of mine encouraged me to at least sub it to some publishers who accept submissions, for indy authors. So I have. The wait time on response is six months (yikes), so it’ll most likely be some time before I have any sort of update on it. Not getting my hopes up, for obvious reasons, but in order to make progress, I have to at least try, right? 

While I’m not mothering, working on my writing/focal ms and the online boutique, I’ve picked up my guitars again. I have SO MISSED PLAYING. I’m not very good, but I love strumming along, trying to learn all the different chords. It brings me such happiness. Like, euphoria. So has just listening to the music that ignites my passion. With all the drama my life has dealt with the past five years, the sadness and loss and struggle, it’s awesome to be back in a familiar place of comfort with writing and music. Cathartic, even. When I’m on creative mode, it’s the closest I get to serenity and complete happiness. That’s not something I ever expected to feel again. And those feelings lead me to a more positive way of thinking about the future.

It’s taken a long time, but I WILL get there. Through it all, I haven’t given up. That has to count for something.

Anyway, I’ve been quieting looking (more like lurking) for new critique partners, as mine have decided to go different ways. Which with any luck, I’ll find people who get me and my insecurities. I always worry I’ll do or say something wrong and scare them off haha. Or that I won’t quite get what they’re telling me and fear I’ll look foolish or amateurish and feel like an idiot. Sigh. I’m also REALLY trying to get out from behind the screen. Though I am confident online, the idea of going places and meeting/seeing people is terrifying for me. I have terrible social anxiety and I’ve let it make me more reclusive in nature. I’ve become awkward in encounters, simply because I spend the majority of my time with two small children and don’t have a lot of interaction with other adults face-to-face. And if I’m going to brutally honest (aren’t I always?) the fact that I haven’t really progressed professionally makes me feel like a bit of a failure, which then makes me feel inadequate to mingle with other writers. Which leads to even more negativity and self-deprecation. Crippling fear of rejection due to inferiority.  

Trust me, I am trying to change. Note the positivity mentioned above.

I know I mentioned in past posts that I’d like to get back into hosting critique rounds. Since it’s summer and it tends to be “dead”, I figure we can try one out come the fall when life gets off summer vacation for everyone.

I hope everyone is well and that your writing is progressing and fulfilling you and your dreams. I’d love updates, so feel free to post a note in the comments, send me an email or a tweet.

See ya soon. <3 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What's New?

Have you ever had a gut feeling that was SO STRONG, you let it compel you to keep pushing forward, despite the pile of evidence against it?

I took a long drive alone recently (a rarity), and turned up the music. I jammed along, singing and bopping to the happy beats that pulsed through my speakers. It was just what I needed, a fill in an empty cavity of my soul that I had not a clue needed filling. A calm clarity came over my mind, Something that doesn't happen as often as it used to. In reality, I forgot how much I enjoy solo driving.

Since having children, my life--and writing--have taken a detour. I don't get to focus on things the way I used to, my brain constantly scattered (which if you knew me, you'd know how much that drives me crazy; I'm kind of a super organized control freak). My thoughts are secondary to the thoughts about my children and responsibilities. Writing always possesses a big space in the somewhat less-than-controlled chaos, but this drive made my goals somehow brighten. It was both enlightening and disconcerting.

You see, after my last post, I decided to pursue another dream of mine while I continue to work toward "the big dream"; traditional publishing. I've opened an online retail boutique (Shameless plug here: I have a long history in the retail world, and have been told I'm very "astute and business savvy", so putting my skills and affinity for shopping and business management to work seemed like a good idea for my family and our financial security. 

Here's the thing. I am super duper excited about this new venture, thrilled to be able to actually do it after years of toying with the idea, but it's making me feel like I'm cheating on writing, somehow, giving up in a way. I now have to divide a precious little amount of time between the two. And since I'm known for being brutally honest and open here, I have to say the idea of dividing time and possibly moving further away from a career as an author is breaking my heart. I'm definitely not quitting, I'll never stop, but somehow, this makes me feel like that.

I'd hoped by now I'd have good news on the query front, but alas, I do not. Rejections have come, and I'm still waiting on a few responses (one being from my dream agent). Which is depressing; I was prepared for this, but it still bums me out big time. This is definitely a patience test. Overall, I feel like I'm failing because I haven't succeeded in this quest to sign. I know deep down I'm not, but still, it's tough to still not be agented, especially as those around me in the writing world move on in their careers. Without me. I worry they think I don't take it seriously enough, or that I'm not really worth the effort or time anymore. I'm not alone, though; there are many others who feel this same way, which as much as I hate that they're in the same position, makes me feel better that it's not just me. 

Circling back around to my opening question, I know at this point I may need to consider moving on from the project I'm currently subbing, that clearly it may not be its time (if ever it will have that). I have other stories to pitch, stories I am passionate about. But my gut keeps arguing, saying "DON'T GIVE UP ON THIS ONE". (Which, coincidently, I wish I could say about myself to those who doubt me and this dream I hold so dearly) I can't imagine investing all this love, effort and energy into a story and just putting it away after years of working on it. Lexi and the gang have such an amazing story to follow, and I know if they're given the chance to tell it in whole, it'll be worth the time on an agent and/or editor's end. A lot to ask for, I know, given how busy both are. But I know in my heart that with the right agent to back and support this story, it could be incredible.

I just need an agent to believe that, too.

This is something that is commonly debated by many writers in this spot, some who've went on to publish other works after retiring an ms that they once believed to be "the one". Deciding to move on and start new submissions on the next project. It's just not spoken of often. It's one of the harder parts of this career choice--shutting the drawer on that beloved manuscript. The chances of landing an agent and a pub deal are actually a lot smaller than believed to be. We do have the option to self-publish now. I've mentioned before that I considered self-publishing SOURCE. And still am considering that. But self-publishing is publishing, and once it's done, it's done. It shifts the tides of my writing career and is not a decision to make without thought and consideration. 

How about you? Have you ever shifted gears and swayed from the goal you truly, gut-wrenchingly love to pursue another you love in a different way? Retired a manuscript you adore?  For me personally, this post has been cleansing. Let's have a therapy session in the comments and see if helps you feel cleansed, too.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Let's Talk About Queries, Shall We?

Querying is a process that most writers go through in the hopes of becoming traditionally published. As I am currently in the thick of this, I have noticed trends of my fellow writers that I want to point out. Why? Because I want you to succeed as much as I want to.

--Please, research your story's genre!!! There is no such thing at Barnes & Noble as the "Young Adult Sci-Fi romance with magic realism twist" section. Nor is there a section for "Fantasy romance" or "Mystery with supernatural crime edge". I wish I could say I was kidding about these fauxnres (a word I made up for faux genres) but these are actual genres people are listing on their queries. And it's scary. Your story could be PHENOMENAL, but if you can't be bothered to narrow down its genre by doing your research, you're basically telling agents you don't take publishing seriously. To help, here are a couple of great resource for figuring out genres and subgenres:

--Don't mass query!! Again, research is key here. Did you write a non-fiction historical novel? Then you need to find agents who represent such. If you send out your query in an email with twenty agents cc'd, guess what? You're most likely going to hear crickets in response. 

--Find agents you want to work with. So Sally Smith may represent middle grade fantasy, but do you know anything about her? Is she someone you think you'd mesh well with? The agent/author relationship is important for many reasons. You'll need to find someone who shares the same interests and enthusiasm for your novel, but also someone you can trust to guide you through things like revisions, submissions, publishing contracts, etc. This is a person you want to like working with. So get to know the agents you plan to query. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter, read their blogs and/or interviews they've done. Take a workshop (if they happen to be offering one nearby or online), meet them at conferences. Get familiarized with authors/books they represent. Most importantly, review their submission guidelines and ms wish lists. Agents want to know you WANT them as your agent for themselves and their skills, not just because they happen to represent what you're trying to sell. Once you've done that, make sure you mention it in your query letter why you chose them, and if there a titles they represent you feel yours would fit in with, mention that, too. Some great places to learn more about your dream agents are just a few clicks away. Google them, check out their profiles on sites like or Comb over their agency's site, as well. I know, it sounds a little like virtual stalking. But knowledge is power, and knowing who's the right fit for your novel is key.

--Market yourself. Above I mention how you should research agents before querying, but did you know that agents you query will research YOU? Oh, heck yes, they will. Google is a vital tool in an agent's quest for signing authors. This is something virtually all agents do now, because the working relationship goes both ways. They have to want the same things listed above in an author, to know that you're serious about what you're doing and that professionally, they can depend on you to do what's needed on your end. And like they represent you as an author, you represent them, as well. A little like an employer/employee. So if you have a public social media presence, make it count. Present yourself professionally, keep things you talk about in open forums civil and clean. If you don't have a social media presence, it's time to make one. A simple author website, Facebook page, twitter account, and/or blog are great ways to put yourself out there for agents to find you. Build your platform, then stand on it with pride and confidence. Think of it as a second chance after querying to prove that you're the author they want to sign. 

--No thank you. So you've received a dreaded rejection. LEAVE IT AT THAT. I can appreciate the desire to respond with a polite note of gratitude for their consideration and time, or the need to say one more thing in the hopes it'll change their minds, but agents typically receive thousands of emails a year. Though a nice gesture, save them the space in their email accounts and just move forward. They'll appreciate that more.

--POLISH YOUR MANUSCRIPT!! This is where my own personal experience is going to shed some unfortunate light on mistakes I made early on, ones I want you to avoid. When I finished my first novel (as in, the first draft of it), I googled how to get a book published, learned about writing a query, and wrote one in a haste. I quickly found the information of the agent whom represents one of my favorite authors, and anxiously--and naively--mailed out my letter and first chapter, without doing any of the crucial steps needed to succeed. Like revising, editing, and getting critiques on my ms and query, giving it that sellable shine. I figured that's what editors at publishing houses are for. Nope. Mind you, this particular agent is amongst some of the most coveted agents in the literary world. So imagine my disappointment when I got a very polite form rejection three weeks later. Knowing what I do now, I'm embarrassed to have done that. But, it led me to learn everything I could, to hone my craft and educate myself. Writing a novel is a tedious endeavor; it takes time, LOADS of patience, a thick skin and hard work. You have to have passion and determination to succeed. So do yourself a favor. Learn everything you can about publishing. Learn how to self-edit (or hire a professional editor with reliable references), find critique partners you can trust. Revise, edit, polish. Join writing associations/groups, take webinars and visit conferences, and READ. You may not realize it, but being familiar with what's in your genre and reading regularly will help you become a well-rounded author. 

--Don't put all your eggs in one basket!! What I mean is, don't query fifty agents at once. DO query agents in small batches of six to eight at a time. Wait and see what the response is. I know this is the tough part as some agents can take up to eight to twelve weeks to respond, but again, this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you receive rejections from all, you'll know you may need to work on your query and/or opening pages. This will allow you to go back, revise and submit to the next group of carefully researched agents on your list.

--Be PATIENT. As I said above, some agents have response times of eight to twelve weeks. Some a little less. Some more. And those are their best estimates--it could be even longer. What's important to remember is how busy agents are. They have much more on their plates besides slush piles to go through. They're some of the hardest working folks in publishing, so cut them a break and just wait it out. After you send out your queries, put it out of your mind as best you can and keep writing. Don't call, don't email, unless their submission guidelines say it's okay to. You queried an agent fourteen weeks ago and heard nothing back? More often than not, this means they're passing on your ms, so unless they specifically state to follow up after a certain amount of time, don't. For example, I received a rejection today for a query I sent out three months ago. This agent in particular had a typical response time of six to eight weeks listed on their website, so at week ten, I had already closed it out as no response (though I do very much appreciate the closure even this far out). So pad the numbers a little. If they say six weeks, give it eight before you close it out. Waiting stinks, but being professional and courteous is important.

--Don't trash talk. You receive rejections, and it stings. You may get angry, you may be hurt and disappointed, but don't lash out, don't blast insults about agents on your Twitter account, and definitely don't insult them directly. Would you do that after applying for a job and being passed over? I would think (and hope) not. Their rejections are not a personal attack, and there are countless other writers who know exactly how this same rejection feels. Even many of the most famous authors have felt this same burn. And if you've been doing your publishing homework, you know exactly how competitive and hard it can be to get noticed in mountain-high piles of slush. So instead of calling Agent X a jerk and an idiot or whatever, take a deep breath and turn that frustration into creative energy. Put it back into your writing and use it to make your query stand out to the next agent.

Lastly, don't give up. I don't mean to scare you with everything I've written about the querying process. It's not a tactic to get you to drop out of the race to the bookshelves. I revel in your successes; they help to keep me going. Stay positive, stay classy and stay focused on the right course. Hard work and dedication will pay off in some way. But if you decide traditional publishing is no longer the direction you want to go, you're in luck. We live in the digital age, and there are several other ways to get your stories out to readers. Querying directly to publishers that are open to submissions or self-publishing are also great options that may offer you more peace of mind and the creative flexibility you desire. Just remember that what you're willing to put in to your writing is what it should give back. 

I hope you've found this helpful, and as always, if you have a question or comment, feel free to post below.

Until we meet again. <3

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hello, Stranger...

It's March. 

It's March, and I have been so wrapped up in writing, querying, researching agents of awesomeness and absorbed in life outside of this blog (My kids and The Walking Dead especially, those of you who follow me on Twitter can attest to that), that you may be feeling a little neglected. I'm sorry! I promise, I have not forgotten you lovelies who have been here for me. I couldn't, ever.

The pages here have been dusted and updated, finally. I really hope to be updating them again, soon, with news of representation! 

In waves, I have been submitting to my carefully curated list of agents, at random and in no particular order. No joke, I have trouble breathing every time I compose a letter, and my heart pounds when I hover the mouse over the "send" button. Legit, shaking hands and everything else that goes with nerves. Sadly, I have received a handful of rejections; it hasn't stung as badly as I anticipated. BUT I've also received some requests, too! Thrilling and scary, but mostly, nerve wracking. "Waiting is hard!", my four-year-old says. He's right. My anticipation level is higher than ever before.

I feel a little like a flake because after all of my hard work, all of the time and energy and effort I've dedicated, I realized I didn't edit the info pages here correctly, so they remained outdated. For that, I'm embarrassed (and apologize to anyone researching me for the misinformation), but I will not let that happen again. I'm usually obsessive about having things in perfect order, too, trying to be a consummate professional, so it's like an itch in my brain now. Rookie mistake, lesson learned! And once I learn a lesson, it sticks, trust me. I can't let my excitement and nerves cloud things. 

While I'm patiently awaiting responses--with everything crossed--I'm focusing the rest of my writing energy on some unfinished mansucripts, as well as round one of revisions on one ms and round two on another ms. A new beta reader recently read SOURCE and said she couldn't put it down, which echoed someone else who read it not too long ago. That is the type of validation I needed, and I think it may be part of the reason I've taken the rejections well. One day, I hope that my novels elicit that response from readers worldwide. 

I've missed this, terribly. All of it. Being back at it, pounding the keyboard, racing to jot down thoughts and dialogue, overflowing with creativity and energy, it's...well, it's electrifying. The ever amazing Jen Malone has been such a huge help, too, which has made the process even more wonderful. I hope each of you reading this get to experience the joy and passion I've been feeling.

That's about all for today. If you want an update sooner rather than later, check my Twitter (@KTCrowley), as I'll be sure to update that with breaking news first. 

Wish me luck! <3