Tuesday, December 3, 2013

PitchWars Mentee Bio

Here's me
No that's not my real car, I actually drive a blue Prius with a license plate holder that says my other car is a Tardis.

I live in the city with the big giant magnet.

With my fiance Andrew.

Yeah we're both nerds!

And my dog Sophie

I love to read and write YA and MG. In fact the only place I buy my books is in the YA and MG section of the bookstore.

And meeting authors is one of my favorite things to do!
Andrea Cremer

Ally Condie

Maggie Stiefvater
James Dashner
Holly Black

Cassandra Clare

 I am a giant geek!
Yes I'm holding a Zat Gun!
But I'm incredible!
To me.... this is funny....

And I wish I had somewhere to put one of these...
The shuttle not the sign, I actually own the sign :D

I wear t-shirts like this....
And this....
And this...
Yes I'm a Ravenclaw.

I'm addicted to twitter!

And anything Sci fi, fantasy, or paranormal on TV, at the movies or in books.

For me...

Oh and did I mention that I'm a Rocket Scientist?

And that's ....

Now go check out the other #PitchWars participants.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why the Numbers Don't Matter

Many writers enter contests wanting to know how many submissions there are and what their odds are of getting in. I totally get it. As an engineer I love the numbers game. I love to know the percent chance I have. But here's the thing, in writing contests the number of entries doesn't matter. Let me repeat, THE NUMBER OF ENTRIES DOESN'T MATTER!

I know it's utter blasphemy, but it's true and here's why. When you enter a contest, it's not about the numbers, it's about putting your best work forward. The same as when you query. We don't tend to worry about the number of queries an agent receives so why would we worry about the number of contest entries? Maybe it's because there's a finite number of entries and queries are never ending. But one way or another it shouldn't matter. The reason? Because the goal is to present your most polished manuscript and pitch possible, and to follow the submission guidelines exactly. That's it. If you do that guaranteed your ahead of the pack both in contests and in the slush pile.

That said there's another element in querying and contests that comes hugely into play, subjectivity. The numbers could be in your favor, but if someone doesn't like your submission it wont matter. It sucks but it's the hard truth. You can't control subjectivity, so stop stressing over it! Your manuscript could be error free and you could be one of ten people vying for nine spots but if the contest judge, or agent doesn't resonate with your voice or story concept, that's enough to put the odds out of your favor. The fact of the matter is, not every story is right for every agent, reader, contest, mentor, critique partner, etc. And that's perfectly okay. There's isn't just one path to success, so if one isn't working try another.

I know we like the numbers and we often find solace in them. We feel like it's something we have some sense of control over in a situation we have very little. It's comforting to know the odds. Sadly, knowing them wont change a thing. The best we can do is follow the rules and submit our cleanest, most edited work. We keep learning and growing as writers and one day, we might be that one in a hundred or one in a thousand or even one in a million. But it will be because we worked hard and kept going, not because of the numbers.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Thoughts on Goldie Blox as a Female Engineer

Over the past week Goldie Blox has drummed up quite a bit of buzz, but it has also stirred up some controversy. For those unfamiliar with the toy, it is a series of books and building items designed to teach kids about pre-engineering principles by combining story with hands on activities. Sounds like a great toy. So where does the controversy lie? The tools, spools, ribbons, and other items are donned in pinks, purples, and yellows in an effort to directly target girls. This has been labeled a "girl toy".
Now I will preface by saying I don't believe in girl toys and boy toys. My sister and I both played with Legos, dinosaurs, trucks, Hotwheels, and on and on. We also played with dolls, had tea parties, and played dress up. We did it all. So the fact that Goldie Blox is aimed directly at girls is both exciting and disappointing all at the same time. I'm honestly utterly torn.

As a female engineer it is readily apparent to me every day that I am in a minority. There are some days I look around me for a female face and there are none. Quite often I am the only female in a room. It sucks and unfortunately there's really no better explanation for it. In my job, I am often looked on to do "girl tasks" such as run webex meetings, organize things, and take notes in meetings. Women in the workplace are often viewed as the mom's and are expected to think of everything when others don't. No disrespect to mom's, secretaries, office administrators, or other hard working individuals but while those things are a part of my job, it is not my sole responsibility day in and day out. I have engineering work to do as well. And while others have similar engineering work, it is also everyone's responsibility to do the "girl tasks" in their day to day jobs. Just because there is a female in the office does not mean it is solely her job to take care of those things.

Even worse, I still deal with gender stereotypes and comments that sometimes cross the line. And when a women has a baby, look out that's the end of her career. It is unfair to have to deal with these views. It is also something I've had to learn to stand up against. Something I never should have had to do. But that is the reality of women in engineering today. In fact, it's the reality of a lot of women in the workplace today. There are still stereotypes every single day, and I often have to work harder to prove that I am just as capable as my male counter parts. That I don't just bat my eyelashes to get what I want. That I struggle and claw and pull my way along some days just to show I can do it too, that my ideas are just as good as everyone else's.

So when a toy like Goldie Blox comes along and gets girls interested in a field that is struggling on a daily basis to not only maintain female numbers but also increase them, I applaud them. There is not nearly enough of this kind of thing in the world. That said, I think some of their marketing is a little misguided. But their heart is certainly in the right place.

There's no denying that most girls like pink, so I give Goldie Blox a ton of credit for making a toy that will attract young girls' eyes. But if you read Goldie Blox's FAQ, I mean really read it, there's a point in there that I think is being vastly overlooked.
6)    What engineering principles are being taught through the GoldieBlox toy?
  • “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine” explores wheels and axles, force, friction and tension to build a belt drive machine.
  • "GoldieBlox and the Parade Float" delves into wheels and axles, gear action and vehicle design.
  • Future toys will explore pulleys, gears, levers, circuits and even coding!
Whether this toy is pink, purple, green, blue or tie dye, it's teaching kids (yes I said kids and not girls!) about engineering principles in a hands on way. When I was young, I really only learned about these principles from a text book. Which is often a difficult way to learn. This toy combines multiple kinds of learning with storytelling and hands on activities. It helps kids understand complex ideas at a younger age. I'm of firm belief that the sooner we turn kids on to things, the more prepared they are to handle struggles.

Fact of the matter is, everything we've learned in our lives down to walking and talking was hard at one point. But we overcame those difficulties and learned to do them. Engineering, math, and science are no different. Nothing in life is any different. Everything is hard at one point. We don't come out of the womb knowing it all and able to do everything. Kids see this everyday. They struggle. Many quit because of it.

The sooner we get kids turned on to complex topics and help them build that foundation, the better. Once kids have the basic tools, learning more complex concepts becomes easier. And the longer you do something the simpler it becomes. While not overly advertised, that is something this toy focuses on. Teaching kids pre-engineering principles in a way that they can understand and master them. But you can't entirely fault their marketing scheme. Clearly pink and purple are working. Look how many people are talking about this toy. But I hope in the future Goldie Blox expands their marketing to include what the toy is really about, teaching engineering principles to kids.
In this country, we can't train people in STEM careers fast enough. There is not enough supply to meet the increasing demand. So any toy that turns kids on to engineering, boy, girl, alien or what have you, is something we need more of. So why focus on girls when this is a problem in general? Because girls are much more likely to abandoned STEM fields at an earlier age. When asked about skills mastery, girls consistently rank themselves lower than boys of equal skill level. It's one reason why so many women leave engineering fields everyday. Women have to work harder, not only to overcome the stereotypes, but to overcome their own internal thoughts and feelings. It's exhausting.

The sooner we turn girls onto STEM the better. The sooner we expose kids to these ideals, and show them the possibilities, the sooner we start preparing for the future. This stuff is hard, but if we show kids it can be done, they build that confidence. They work harder. They don't quit as easily. And this something every kid needs to see, hear, and experience. Something a toy like Goldie Blox shows kids. That this stuff isn't so hard, it just takes some work and looking at it in a different way.

In the end whether you like the toy or not, the controversy has brought light to a topic that is near and dear to my heart. A topic that is not addressed nearly enough. Something that doesn't get enough attention. That we need more women in STEM fields. And if this toy can make the world not only notice this, but also face this issue head on and talk about it in any light, then I am 100% percent behind it, no questions asked.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Perfect Pitch?

Unfortunately there is no such thing as the perfect pitch. Even worse, how do you boil all the awesome going on in your book into a query, or something shorter like a 35 word pitch. The short answer? You don't. You can't include every cool detail. You also can't answer every possible question asked. That's what the book is for. So how do you know what to include and what to toss?

The first question to ask yourself is what is the single most unique part of your book? What makes you book different from all the other ones out there with similarities? If you've found that bit then you have the basis for your pitch. Why start here? Because the point of your pitch is not to tell every little detail and plot point but to intrigue the reader, make them want to know more about your book.

From the unique piece, you can start crafting. Build outward from there. With that unique part, you should be able to tie to at least one important piece of your pitch, your inciting incident, your conflict, and/or your stakes. Once you have a link you should be able to weave all the details together into your pitch. Make sure you include enough detail that you can follow a logical progression through all of these things without leaving holes or too many confusing questions. But you also don't want so much detail that you are giving away your entire book or overloading the reader. Find the balance.

Now that you have a pitch, see what kind of questions people are asking about it. Questions aren't always a bad thing. Your reader should be asking questions after a pitch but they shouldn't be ones driven by confusion. They should want to know more about your story. Hopefully you planted a seed that makes them want to read and learn more about your book. So don't worry about trying to squeeze in every detail. Find what reels in the reader and ditch the rest.

Obviously a query is going to have more detail than a logline or short pitch but if you focus on the unique hook of your story first, that should help you bring in just enough detail to weave a great pitch.

What helps you construct your pitches?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Less Than Three

Yesterday I attended one of the most AMAZING conferences of my life. And I've been to a lot of fantastic conferences. But this is the first time I can ever say a conference was life changing. Less Than Three has shown me so many things but most of all how far I've come since I was bullied.

When I heard almost a year ago that Heather Brewer was organizing an antibullying conference, I knew instantly that I had to be involved. Bullying was a large part of my life growing up. I wish it hadn't been, but it made me who I am today. At the signing Heather announced the conference, I approached her and said, I think this is an awesome idea, how do I get involved. She told me there would be signups for volunteers so I waited. I waited and waited and waited watching Heather's tweets over the last year about how the conference was coming together. And then she posted saying she was looking for volunteers. I jumped on the link and signed up right away. I was in and I was excited.

Last week I attended a volunteer meeting to find out what I would be helping out with. I volunteered to shepherd Sarah Bromley's panel on Cyberbullying which meant I got to spend the whole day with her and the other authors on the panel: Carrie Jones, Mari Mancusi, Shannon Messenger, and Lisa McMann. Despite knowing what job I had, I really had no idea what to expect from the day. Would it be empowering? Would it be emotional? Would it be crazy? Would it be fun? I had no clue what I was walking into but I was excited to be a part of something so important.

From Left to Right: Carrie Jones, Sarah Bromley, Mari Mancusi, Lisa McMann, and Shannon Messenger

The night before the event I was a mix of emotion but mostly still filled with excitement. Which meant I woke up every couple hours, wondering if I missed my alarm. But 5:30am came soon enough. I fumbled around in the dark and was out the door at 6:30am. A little after 7:00am I walked into the Spencer Road Branch Library. Volunteers were milling around in various stakes of zombie. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself yet, so I chatted with some people and waited.

And then the authors arrived! That was my cue. I headed to the super secret author bunker and met the awesome authors I'd be hanging out with all day. Everyone was in good spirits and chatting. But when you get a room full of authors together, hilarity and crazy soon ensues. It started like this...
Me tweeting with the authors in the author bunker
But within minutes there was laughter and cartwheels. Yes CARTWHEELS! In a library!
But before I knew it the panels were starting. There were four panels throughout the day, Bullying in School, Self Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Bullies & LGBTQ. There was tons of uplifting messages and awesome advice that I shared over at Middle Grade Minded. But in this blog I want to focus on Heather Brewer's Keynote speech and how deeply it affected me.

Heather invited one of her very special minions, Jordan Brooks to talk about her experiences. Let me just say that Jordan is an extremely strong person and she hasn't had an easy go, but her message was powerful. She talked about her first memory of bullying and how she skipped her prom to go to a book festival. "What kind of person skips their prom to do that?" she said. To which one of the amazing authors in the front row yelled, "An awesome one!" But this was just the very beginning.

Heather Brewer giving her keynote speech

Heather took the stage and talked about her experiences growing up. She had a rough family life and a rough time in school. She didn't have any friends for a long time. She talked about how important it was to be yourself and that one day you would find your people. The people who appreciate you for who you are. And a large chunk of my people were in that room on Saturday.

But it wasn't until Heather started to speak about an instance where a girl started getting into her head about a crush she had, that things really started to hit home. Because a very similar thing happen to me. Only it was three someones and it is an event that I think about nearly every single day of my life. And it was in that moment that I started to remember things that I hadn't thought about in a long, long time.

I honestly don't remember the first time I was ever bullied. I was young though. I was always one of the three shortest kids in my grade. I was a good student, I was quiet, I loved my teachers, I was helpful, and I was over sensitive. You might say I was a bully's picnic. I reacted to EVERYTHING with lots of emotion. Is that a reason to pick on someone? No, but bullies look for reaction and oh did I ever give it to them.

In fourth grade, I sat next to this boy that liked to run his mouth a lot. But one day he decided he was going to sing at his desk while we were having quiet work time. I don't remember exactly what we were studying but it was history and it had something to do with Tuskegee Institute because he sat next to me repeatedly chanting Tuskegee, Tuskegee, Tuskegee Institute over and over and over again.

I have ADD and while I didn't know I had it at the time, all noise was extremely distracting. And while I realize he had every right to chant, I also had every right to silence. So after repeatedly asking the kid to stop, I took it to the next level.

I approached the teacher and told him that I couldn't focus cause the boy sitting next to me wouldn't shut up. The teacher asked what he was saying and I told him what he was chanting. The next thing I knew this teacher was leading the class in a rousing rendition of the chant Tuskegee, Tuskegee, Tuskegee Institute. THE WHOLE CLASS! While I loved this teacher and he was a big joker, this time he'd taken the joke too far. It was as if the entire class had been laughing at me simultaneously with my teacher as the lead. I lost it. I think it was the first time I'd really cried and thrown a tantrum in front a large group of people.

I can't say for certain, but I think that event opened the flood gates for the bullies. In fifth grade, the kids teased me saying my mom bought my clothes at Walmart. It wasn't true. I didn't own a single item of clothing from the store and had never set foot in a Walmart but since one kid said it, that made it real. I didn't have name brand clothes from the Limited or the Gap and therefore wasn't cool. That stung a lot because I was being judged on what I was wearing. Really kids should have been glad I didn't come to school naked but that's neither here nor there.

There was more teasing throughout the year. In my anger from all the bullying, I even said something awful about a close friend of mine when she was within earshot. I thought it would make me cooler and make me feel better. It didn't do either. And while one mean comment doesn't make you a bully, I instantly felt like one. I'm still friends with this person today, but I've never mentioned that day. I hope one day to apologize properly because she never deserved that.

In sixth grade, the prank calls and trick three way calls started. There was an instance where a girl called me and told me a boy liked me. After many questions, I fell for it. I developed a crush on the guy. Turns out, I was in a three way call with her and another girl, and it was all a big joke. The boy called me and told me he didn't like me that way. And these girls had cooked up the scheme because we were newly assigned lab partners. They thought we'd make a cute couple. Too bad me and my embarrassment had to sit next to him for the next few months in science class.

Over the course of junior high, I shifted through numerous groups of friends. Trying to "find my people". I didn't find them. I only found hateful words and comments. Things got way worse before they got better. I was sexually harassed on the bus in seventh grade. Because I was in so many bad situations, my mom probably had the vice principal on speed dial by that point. She called on most instances I went through. This was the time the vice principal chose not to believe her. I told her exactly what happened and how uncomfortable it made me feel and she repeated it to the vice principal. He was ready to ignore it because it didn't happen on school property. Thankfully my mom likes to raise a stink!

And in a brief shining glimmer of hope, he said he would contact the bus company and see if they had film of it. That year they had started installing cameras in the buses. Turns out they happened to have a camera on my bus that day and while they couldn't see me in the film because the bus seats are tall and I was so short, they could see the boy in the aisle and what he was doing. The story lined up and he was kicked off the bus for a while.

But the next day his older sister got on the bus, got in my face and yelled at me for getting her brother in trouble. Saying her mom didn't have time to drive him to and from school because she had to work. I didn't have a response for her at the time except for impending waterworks. If I could go back to that moment, my response now would be "Well, maybe he should of thought about that before he did what he did." In this case, the bully tried to turn it on me like it was my fault and I had brought this on myself. I hadn't. And there is never an excuse for bullying or retaliation.

But that wasn't even by far the worst day of my life. That came in eighth grade when I was in Mr. McMonigle's science class. Mr. McMonigle had just redone the seating chart in class. I'd always been in the front because I was short and couldn't see. In this long narrow classroom, he moved me to the sixth row. There was one student behind me and that was it. I couldn't see the board and I was miserable back there. But I never thought it could get more miserable than not seeing the board. Sadly I was so very wrong.

One day Mr. McMonigle was teaching, I don't even remember what, but I was trying to pay attention. Until I heard a voice to my left. "Cracked over." It was a clear jab at my last name but what did that even mean? I turned and glared at the boy then returned to taking notes. But he didn't stop. Crack head came next. Then the boy behind me and the boy to my right joined in. Crack addict, crack baby, test tube baby, now the insults were flying from three sides. I tried so hard to ignore it. I tried so hard not to cry. But the voices were echoing from three sides. I told myself over and over again that I wouldn't let it get to me but it did. It ate away at me. With each word a piece of my soul fell to the floor. Until I couldn't take it anymore. I left everything on my desk and bolted from the room. This was not something I EVER did. I always asked permission for everything, I always followed the rules, I was a model student. I made it past all the lab tables and ten feet into the hall before Mr. McMonigle stopped me.

He asked me what was going on. With tears streaming down my face and between hysterical gasps, I told him what they were doing, what they were saying to me. He told me to wait in the hall and went back into the room. I don't remember what he said but I remember him yelling at the entire class, in the harshest voice I'd ever heard. All because of what had happened. All because he cared enough to drop everything including his lesson and his classroom full of students to come talk to me, one student. I honestly don't know what I would have done if I got more than 10 feet down that hallway but I think Mr. McMonigle might have saved my life that day.

I was lucky enough to have parents that cared and teachers that listened. Some kids aren't so lucky. High School wasn't a picnic either but I started to find the things I loved to do. I made some real friends that wouldn't turn on me at a moments notice. But it would be a very long time before I wasn't afraid to tell people about myself. To not be afraid to hide parts of myself for fear of what people might think. To stand up for myself. I was 28 years old before I was comfortable in my own skin. Before I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me. Before I started really living my life.

It was no coincidence that it was around this time that I started writing. It was a time in which I'd found books and I'd found my people. People that loved to read and write and that didn't judge me. A community full of people just like me. The writing community is so incredibly supportive and for that I am so unbelievably grateful. I can honestly say I'm more happy now than I've ever been in my entire life. I'm not carrying around the bag of stress and worry about saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. I'm just me and that's enough.

And Less Than Three made me realize just how far I've come. How strong I've become. How I've found myself. How I can be myself. How I've found my people! Less Than Three are my people!

Thank you to everyone who attended Less Than Three and made yesterday so amazing and special. And to Heather, thank you so much for making this happen. Less Than Three meant more to me than you may ever know. I'm already looking forward to next year!

The Less Than Three Authors
The Awesome Less Than Three Volunteers

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Awesome News!

So I have some pretty freaking awesome news. But before I get to that, a little story.

Back in Summer 2012, I wrote a fun little short story about my family and our crazy Passover Seder antics. I mostly wrote it because I was experimenting with nonfiction writing. When I finished it, I figured it would be a good thing to read for the St. Louis Writer's Guild open mic night. Despite thinking I'm the least funny person on the planet, people were laughing when I read the story. Needless to say I was shocked.

At the end of the night, Linda O'Connell who is seriously one amazing woman and one of the best nonfiction writers I know, approached me. She said my story was hilarious and that I should submit it for consideration in a book called Not Your Mother's Book... On Family (think Chicken Soup for the Soul with humor.) And when a co-creator of a book tells you to do something, you do it. So I submitted my story then promptly forgot about it until a couple of months ago when I received an email saying I'd get to work with the lovely Linda O'Connell to get my story ready for publication. It wasn't a guarantee that it would get published but definitely a step in the right direction.

After some polishing, I sent it off and tried to forget about whether or not my story might make it into the book. And it wasn't easy.

Well, tonight I'm excited to say that my story "Seder Insanity" is officially going to be published in Not Your Mother's Book... On Family releasing in March 2014!!!!!

In the mean time be sure to check out their other amazing books. For more information go to http://publishingsyndicate.com/


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Murphy's Laws of Writing

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And I'm not just talking about the bad things you do to your characters. Welcome to writing! Murphy is a little pain in the rear and he will strike when you least expect it! So make sure you learn his laws as they apply to writing.

Murphy's Laws of Writing:
1.) You come up with a really cool idea... YAY shiny... only to discover it's been done a million times. Not so shiny anymore is it?
2.) After making a command decision to take your story in a certain direction, you commit the words to your draft. Only then does a better scenario present itself.

3.) You write in a side character only to later discover you don't need him/her.

4.) Halfway through a draft you'll learn something really valuable about your characters and/or plot that would have helped you from page one.
 5.) You give advice to a critique partner and days/weeks later discover that you should listen to yourself more often.

6.) That line you thought was really cool... yeah now you're cutting it. Either that or you're making it completely unrecognizable in edits. 

7.) You'll write something absolutely brilliant. The next day you'll wonder what the hell you were thinking.

8.) Find/replace is your best friend... until you realize it's become your worst nightmare.

9.) Corners aren't just for bad children. They're for plots too!

10.) Writer's block is not a myth. It's a reality. And it will strike at the most inopportune time. Especially when you have a deadline.

BONUS: After you send a query/manuscript to an agent/editor you'll find a typo, several if it's a manuscript.

Have any others? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Am I the exception?

The short answer is no your aren't the exception to the rule. So how do you know if that writing advice directly applies to you and your manuscript? Odds are it does. However, there are times you may want to ignore that tip. But should you?

When it comes to writing and subjectivity there is no quick yes or no answers, but there are some things you can ask yourself to see if you should make use of that tip.

1.) Are you doing it deliberately?
If you are making a conscious decision to ignore a writing rule and you know why you are choosing to do so, you might be the exception. MIGHT. However, just because you are aware of what you are doing doesn't mean it puts you in that small percentage. Make sure you check with your critique partners as well as people who aren't familiar with your work to see if your choice works. Ask yourself if making that choice really makes your writing stronger.

2.) Does it fit your character/setting/plot/story?
Think about the rule and how it will affect your characters/setting/plot/story. Does this rule honor those things or does is seem contradictory. If the rule seems to ruin an important aspect of your story you might consider ignoring that writing advice.

A good example of this is grammar in dialogue and thoughts. Not everyone speaks properly or is grammatically correct all the time. So there may be situations where you would ignore the rules of grammar. But again, going back to number one, make sure if you break the rules, you are doing it deliberately and you know why.

3.) Is it part of your voice?
Consider the advice, and then look at the voice of your work. Try editing a section using the advice. Did your voice disappear or diminish or did your work get stronger? If it got stronger then you should definitely follow that advice but if you lost the essence of your voice then you may want to consider ignoring the rule.

4.) Are you happy with your work?
Above everything else you have to be happy with what you've written. If you don't like it, you can't expect other people to like it either. So do what feels right. Write the best story you can and don't stress too much over all the rules. You aren't going to follow every rule all the time. It's not possible. But don't blindly break the rules either. Even if you still aren't sure whether or not you are the exception (and sorry but you're still probably not), at least you are aware of what you did. Make the conscious decision to ignore that rule, and know why you need to deviate from traditional advice.

Does anyone else struggle with whether or not to follow certain pieces of writing advice? Is there a time you ignored a rule or writing advice and your work was stronger for it?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

After reading through a series of facebook posts incessantly complaining about a series of trivial things, I realized something really important. By worrying about every little small thing that goes wrong in our lives, we are stressing ourselves out. BIG TIME!

Believe me, I get it. I'm just as guilty as the rest when it comes to complaining about things. But you know what? While venting makes us feel better, odds are if we have time to complain about stupid stuff, we are really lucky in life. And should stop and remember that.

I came across an interesting study over the weekend about happiness. Know what the number one thing is that makes people happy? Well, it's sure not whining about dumb things.

It's showing gratitude.

Just think about that for a minute. (I'll wait)

By showing others how much they mean to us, we make ourselves happier.

So stop for just a few seconds and appreciate all the people and things in your life that are special to you. Forget the little things, that traffic jam, the barista that got your coffee order wrong, the fact that it's Monday morning, and remember all the good and wonderful in your life. You'll be much happier for it. And who knows, if you share it with someone else, you just might make them smile too!

Happy Monday all! I love you guys!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Review of Ultraviolet Catastrophe by Jamie Grey

Quantum Electrodynamics. String Theory. Schrödinger's cat. For sixteen-year-old Lexie Kepler, they’re just confusing terms in her science textbooks, until she finds out that her parents have been drugging her to suppress her outrageous IQ. Now Branston Academy, a school run by the world’s most powerful scientists, has tracked her down and is dying for her to attend - as a research subject.

She takes refuge at Quantum Technologies, a secret scientific community where her father works as a top-notch scientist, and begins her new life as girl genius at Quantum High. But the assignments at her new school make the Manhattan Project look like preschool - and Lexie barely survived freshman algebra.

Her first big assignment – creating an Einstein-Rosen bridge – is also her first chance to prove she can hold her own with the rest of QT's prodigies. But while working with the infuriatingly hot Asher Rosen, QT’s teen wonder, Lexie uncovers a mistake in their master equation. Instead of a wormhole, the machine they’re building would produce deadly ultraviolet rays that could destroy the world. Now Lexie and Asher have to use their combined brainpower to uncover the truth behind the device. Before everyone at Quantum Technologies is caught in the ultraviolet catastrophe.

*Summary from Goodreads

My Review
Sixteen-year-old Lexie Kepler has strange flashes of brilliance that she can't explain. Turns out she is one of the smartest teens in the country, but her parents hid it from her. Under the rouse of needing ADHD medication, her parents suppressed her extreme intelligence. But when some of the world's smartest scientists from Branston Academy come looking for her, her mom sends her away from the life she's always know to live with her dad who she barely talks to. Her dad lives in a town run by Quantum Technologies, a secret scientific research facility where the best and the brightest scientists and students research and learn.

On her first day at Quantum High, Lexie feels less than average compared to her super smart classmates, including the handsome Asher Rosen. Asher is the resident class hottie who dates all the girls in their small class. And as if feeling stupid in a class full of geniuses wasn't hard enough, Lexie finds herself inexplicably drawn to Asher and jealous of her classmates that seem to fawn all over him.

During their first big assignment on wormholes, Lexie is picked by Asher to work on the student team. When she discovers a mistake in the primary equation, it looks like someone may be trying to sabotage the project. Lexie must work closely with Asher and her classmates to figure out who is behind the plot, all the while wondering who she can trust and if Asher's flirtations are genuine or not. 

Lexie is a great lead in the story. She's a strong character. While she frequently doubts her intelligence and self, it's based primarily on her past and the fact that her whole life has been hidden from her to keep her safe. As she learns the truth about her life, she continues to grow confidence and learns to trust her instincts even when it comes to Asher. 

With girls dying to date Asher and his incredible skills in computers, one would think he'd be extremely arrogant. But Asher is the furthest thing from it. He knows he's smart but he doesn't flaunt it obnoxious way. He's charming, caring, and aside from his high level of intelligence, pretty down to Earth. I found his character refreshing and a fun addition to the story.

When Lexie and Asher pair up, things to do with the project seem to go well while their romantic interests are a constant struggle. Asher wants to know more about Lexie but she just sees the other girls and how smart Asher is in comparison to how far behind she is. There are many tense romantic moments between these two that I really enjoyed.

Overall Ultraviolet Catastrophe is a fun read filled with really smart kids, cool technology, a bit of romance, and a hint of mystery. I really enjoyed uncovering the truth and following along as Lexie's story unfolded. I'd recommended this book to anyone who enjoys light sci fi with some romantic elements. It's a solid 4 stars.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

MG / YA Blog hop

I’ve been tagged in a MG/YA blog hop and was asked to answer the following questions by the amazing Thomas Torre. 

1.      What are you working on right now?
I have a few projects going on right now. 
  • I’m querying a MG science fiction about 13y/o Gary Jones that gets abducted by aliens and gets telekinesis. He has to complete missions for the aliens in return for his ability, while trying to figure out what they are really up to. It’s Sky High meets Ender’s Game with young alien trainers reminiscent of Jedi masters.
  • I’m furiously editing a YA science fiction called Tracker 220. It’s a futuristic science fiction thriller that blends technology similar to Google Glass and a fast paced thriller world like Minority Report.
  • I also have a very baby WIP that’s also a YA science fiction. I can't say too much about it yet but it’s set in space.
2. How does it differ from other works in its genre? 
For the MG, there’s not tons of MG science fiction but there is a lot out there that has kids with superpowers. So I tried to set my story apart by making the origin of the powers from aliens and I made them come with a cost. I mixed in some cool advanced alien technology while putting a unique spin on how superpowers are used.

For the YA science fiction thriller, I combined advanced technology, with a fast paced thriller world. I threw in strong female characters including the protagonist and a cute nerdy boy.

For the baby WIP, well I can’t say much but I’m basically trying to take a popular space scifi tv show and spin it for YA while throwing in some other interesting and tricky elements. Do with that what you will.

3. Why do you write what you do? 
Why do I write science fiction? Two reasons. One, I’m a rocket scientist. I was brought up with scifi and I want to share it with the world. Two, I love the question what if. I love looking at things that could be even, if they are sort of out there. What if can take you anywhere.

Why do I write YA? Because it’s basically all I read. Despite never wanting to write, once I started reading a lot, I started having all these ideas of my own. One day they wouldn’t shut up so I started writing them down.

Why do I write MG? More details on that, on the fantastic MG Minded blog! Check it out.

4. How does your writing process work?
Oh there’s a loaded question. I would say several times a week I hear something or see something that makes me go what if… and I write it down. Usually that doesn’t go anywhere, but every once in a while, from that idea and plot, characters start to emerge. The more the ideas stew the more of the world and characters develop. So then I start an outline. Chapter by Chapter I usually write a handful of sentences about what should happen in that section. Every once in a while I’ll get a few paragraphs of prose and/or dialogue that I’ll include with that chapter.

When I have about a quarter to a third of an outline I usually start writing. I don’t typically know how things will end other than a general idea when I start. As I write, the back of the outline starts filling in. And I write in order until I finish. If a scene snippet comes to me, I fill it into the outline where it belongs.

Every time I sit down to write, I spend the first 10 minutes or so reading the prior section. If I find typos I fix them but mostly I just read to put me in the mindset of the story. Typically that’s enough to launch me into writing the next section. It also helps me maintain flow and pacing.

So that’s my writing process. We won’t talk about how brutal I get with my editing ;)

And that’s a little bit more about my writing. I’m going to tag a few MG/YA writers, Mandy P., Christina, and Michelle, so they can give your their answers to the questions above. :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Harsh Reality of Querying

I've been kind of quiet lately on Twitter about my writing and things going on. And it's because I've been pretty down lately. Okay not just down, I've been a miserable wreck. Honestly I hesitated to write this post because as writers we are often told it's best to keep quiet. We shouldn't talk about requests, rejections, or being out on submission. If we are feeling down we shouldn't blab on twitter, because that is something we should keep behind closed doors. So that's primarily what I've been doing because we aren't supposed to look crazy in public; even though everyone knows writers are crazy. But I've come across some hard truths that I thought I should share with everyone.

Querying is hard. No not just hard, it's soul sucking torture at times. I honestly never anticipated how gut wrenching it would be. I did my research before I even sent out my first query. I didn't make any of the standard rookie mistakes, I got critique partners, I workshopped my query, and I followed all the major do's and don'ts of querying. I figured because of this I'd have a little easier time in the querying trenches.

Boy, was I wrong.

Just because you studied what makes a good query letter, does not mean you will instantly get requests. And even though you may know what makes up a good query letter, it doesn't mean you wrote one. In fact you may get form rejections just like everyone else who does make those rookie mistakes. And that could be for a variety of reasons.

You aren't standing out in a crowd
So you had an awesome idea, you wrote a book, and you edited and polished it until it was ready. Now you're querying. So what makes your book different from every other book out there with a protagonist that has superpowers or is a ghost, or just discovered there's a secret world within their own? You may think you're idea is great and so different than anything out there, but if you aren't conveying that clearly in your query, an agent is most likely going to pass and may not even read your pages. Harsh? Yes, but it's the truth of matter.

Again you may have an awesome idea, and the agent may even look at the query and agree. But then they get to your pages and they don't connect with the voice, or the character or think you started in the wrong spot. There's any number of reasons an agent may pass and it may be because they personally just don't get along with your work. They don't love it enough to want to read your book a million times and that's what it takes.

Your query is too long
A lot of agents skim queries. It's seems unfair that you put countless hours into perfecting your query and an agent just spends half a minute on it. But the reality of the situation is, agents get anywhere from fifty to several hundred queries a week. And queries, are unfortunately at the bottom of their list of priorities. They read them in between working with their clients, trying to sell books, negotiating contracts, and numerous other things.

While agents love new clients, they have to take care of their current ones first. So when they open a query that looks long, they are probably just going to start skimming. Think about it, when you open a webpage or blog that has a lot of words, you skim too. So why would an agent who has a million other things to do take the time to read your six paragraph query? They aren't, unless they find something that piques their interest.

In fact, even if your query is short, they may have only a few minutes so they may start skimming. So do yourself a favor. Make your queries short, and to the point. Make your sentences snappy and pack a punch. Do everything in your power to make your book stand out in as few sentences as possible while highlighting the voice of your story.

Honestly that right there is where I'm getting hung up. It's not easy to paint a clear unique picture about your book in a few short voicey paragraphs that grab someone's attention. So even if you are doing everything they say in the do's and don'ts you still have a lot of work ahead of you. The harsh reality is just cause you're ahead of the pack and not making "rookie" mistakes doesn't mean you're where you need to be in the querying trenches to catch an agent's eye.

But I didn't write this post to scare anyone. I wrote it to put the truth out there and to talk about my experiences and lessons learned. I wanted to let other writers know they aren't alone in the querying trenches and it's okay to feel down. I'm right there with you! If you are getting requests pat yourself on the back. It's quite an accomplishment. And if you aren't, maybe it's time to take a step back, look at your query, and re-evaluate. I know it's been eye opening for me.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Finding the Strength

We all feel it-that nagging voice that tells us we aren’t good enough, that we have no idea what we’re doing, and that we’re wasting our time. That little voice, or even person, that says you can’t do this no matter what you do.

It sucks; especially when you want something more than breathing air.

So how do you pick yourself up and keep moving forward when you feel like you’re at the bottom of a million foot cliff with no way out?

Well, you have two options. You give up or you pick yourself up and find a way.

But how do you do that when your head keeps telling you how much you suck?

There’s been a lot of talk on the #keepgoing hashtag which is motivating writers to not give up. To do exactly that, KEEP GOING! It’s inspiring to see writers making it and achieving their goals. Even to see the difference one year makes.

Most of the time.

But sometimes those gremlins get in your brain and make you feel like you’re a slacker compared to the rest of the community, that you aren’t working as hard as the rest, and that you just can’t live up to everyone else.

You tell yourself you’re too fast, or too slow, or aren’t on the right path or any other host of things that eat at you from the inside out. You tell yourself you aren’t where you’re supposed to be.

I’ve got news for you…



There’s only the path you are on and what works for you. Do what helps you learn and grow in the way that you need to in order to accomplish your goals.

Do what you have to do!

Plain and simple.

Find a support system, hone your craft, work at your own pace, and don’t give up. Only you know what’s right for you, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Have faith in yourself, and stick with it!