Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just Got an Offer!!!

Photo Courtesy of Arnold Bocklin, Wikimedia Commons
Okay, I will make this short, but sweet...

Stay tuned for more info once everything has been finalized, but I just wanted to let all of you know the most amazing news: I just got an offer of representation!  It looks like Kai, Noah, The Mermaid Gene, and I will all have a home by next Monday!!

OMG, OMG, OMG! Time for happy dances!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

RMFW Lesson #1: Time Management for Busy Writers

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
For my first installment of "Lessons from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers," I'd like to share some great information I learned during Becky Clark's "The Faster I Go, the Behinder I Get" time management class.

I know very few writers out there who DON'T struggle to find time to write.  We're spouses, parents, workers, cooks and friends, and it's exceedingly difficult to juggle all our roles while still finding time to squeak out 50,000-100,000 words through multiple drafts, query and revise, self-promote and network.

The conference's closing speaker, Allison Brennan, had the best quote of the weekend, I thought, when she said, "I can't tell you how many times someone comes up to me and says, 'I would write a novel myself if I could only find the time.' I've gotten to a point now where I simply look at them, nod and think, 'What a dumbass.'"

She went on to say that if you are really a writer, you WRITE. Not because you have time or even because you always want to, but simply because you can't imagine doing anything else.

This is where Becky Clark's lesson comes into play. She often struggles to juggle all the roles in her life, so she has come up with a great system to help her prioritize what's important and what isn't. Here are some of the tips she shared with us:

  1. A timer is your best friend. Use an egg timer or a stopwatch, and tell yourself you deserve this time. Don't compromise by focusing on anything else.
  2. Respond immediately to emails that will take you less than two minutes. If an email requires longer, schedule specific time later in day.
  3. Set your Yahoo groups or Google Alerts to a weekly digest. 
  4. Only check your phone messages at designated times and make sure your kids/spouse/parents know when that time is. Unplug when you are writing.
  5. Don't play Facebook games (they'll suck the life right out of you), and set your timer to make sure you only stay on Facebook for a specific amount of time.
  6. Bribe yourself when you hit a writing milestone. Desserts, pedicures, bubble baths... Anything you can look forward to while you're writing.
  7. When writing, make it easy to pick up where you left off. A great idea is to stop writing midsentence when you stop for the day/lunch. That will keep your head in the game until you return.
  8. Start anywhere. Lots of writers start with a scene or with the ending. Just start. 
  9. Reframe your thinking about writing. Yes, it's difficult to write a novel, but it's not TOO difficult, because people do it every day. 
  10. Determine your top priority for the day--the one thing you'd sacrifice everything else to achieve--and focus on it. If your "To Do" list won't lead you there, cross items off or re-schedule them.
  11. Tackle your hardest job first and save your favorite tasks till the end so you look forward to them.
  12. If you feel like you are being pulled in a million writing directions (writing, blogging, querying, networking, etc.), prioritize your tasks like they do in business. Ask yourself which task makes you money. If the tasks seem equal, ask yourself how long will they take. What's the return on your time investment? When's the deadline? 
  13. Learn selective perspective. Which things really need to be perfectly (query, synopsis, manuscript) and which can be good enough (housecleaning, store-bought cupcakes for bake sale)? 
  14. Multi-tasking is a myth. Don't confuse multi-tasking with doing a lot of stuff. Multi-tasking is trying to do all those things at the same time.
  15. Your brain simply can't focus on two separate things unless one of them is completely mindless. People multi-task because they're worried. Seems better to work on everything so 100% of your tasks are 50% done. But you'd feel much more in control if 50% of your tasks were 100% done and you know you have a plan to finish the other 50%.
  16. Don't confuse activity with accomplishment. Focus on one job till it's done or your time is up. Then focus on another one. 
  17. Your first defense against interruptions is education. Set aside time when people have unconditional access to you, and set aside time when you will be unavailable. Give your loved ones a head's up by saying something like, "I'm going to shut my door and write starting in about 10 minutes. Do you need anything before I go?" Be consistent and firm, and set your timer. 
  18. Don't interrupt yourself, either. When you are writing, never stop to look something up, check your blog or check your email. Don't give up momentum.
Many thanks to Becky for so many great ideas. I've already started stopping my writing in mid-sentence, and--although it drives me crazy--it DEFINITELY helps keep my head in the game.

Now, it's your turn. How do YOU juggle your time when writing??

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Updates from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference!

Oh my gosh, I just returned from my very first writers conference, and I was blown away by all the fun and learning Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers packed into just three days of their annual Colorado Gold Conference. I was also blown away by how many amazing, talented and 100% approachable writers live in Colorado.

(I was also wigged out to actually see several of the agents on my list in real life. Who knew they were so little, petite and not-terrifying in reality?)

I've decided I'm going to spend a few blog posts disseminating some of the incredible knowledge I picked up so you guys can benefit from all the crazy tips, tricks and lessons--as the workshops literally blew my socks off. (Okay, not literally. I was actually wearing ballet flats all weekend, but you know what I mean.)

But first, I'm going to tell you about a few authors I met, starting with Mark Stevens, who quickly became one of my conference BFFs after I randomly sat down beside him during a pitch workshop. He was generous enough to help me fluster through the pitch script I was frantically preparing for the following day (which was a success... yess!), and we ended up buddying up and attending many of the same workshops and lectures together.

Mark writes environmentally-focused mysteries about a female hunting guide named Allison Coil. His work has been compared to Nevada Barr's "Anna Pigeon" mysteries (which I LOVED), and all his stories are set in the Rocky Mountains. Here is the cover art and jacket description for his first book, Antler Dust, which is available on Amazon.com. (His second, Buried by the Roan, is available on Amazon as well, and he is working through his third as we speak.)

Antler Dust begins with a bang. Two bangs.

On the opening day of the hunting season in the Colorado Flat Tops wilderness, two men go missing. The first is a hunting guide. The second is an animal rights protestor who believes his creative suicide will galvanize the animal rights movement.

Hunting guide Allison Coil hears a distant rifle shot and sees just enough through the swirling snow to believe somebody knows something-and isn't coming forward. But what exactly did she see?

Outfitter George Grumley fends off the formal investigation and works to discourage the informal and persistent inquiries by Coil. Grumley knows no limits in the effort to protect his guide service, which caters to fat-cat clients. Who needs hunting regulations when technology can produce the quickest and most thrilling hunt that money can buy?

The next author I want to introduce you to is Robin Perini. She's a debut author, and I scored an advance copy of her first novel, In Her Sights, which will be available on Amazon.com on November 29, 2011. Robin taught my very favorite class of the weekend, "Layering Complexity, Texture and Theme Using Sub-Plots, Secondary Characters and Villains." She's a crazy plotter (like me!), and if her book is anything like her workshop, it will be mind-blowing. Here's the cover art and jacket description:

Jasmine "Jazz" Parker, Jefferson County SWAT's only female sniper, can thread the eye of a needle with a bullet. But she carries a secret from her past that she thought she buried for good at the age of fifteen. Two years ago she even drove away the one man she believed she could love--ex-Army Ranger turned reporter Luke Montgomery--to keep her past hidden. Now, in a fleeting second, the time it takes for one clean shot, one perfect hit, to save the life of the governor's daughter, Jazz's world begins to crumble around her. 

Luke splashes her face and name across the front page of the newspaper, reawakening her past with a vengeance. A vicious enemy is now bent on destroying her life, forcing Jazz to turn to the one man she can never have in order to stop a killer before she and everyone she cares about pays the ultimate price. Full of explosive action and almost unbearable suspense, In Her Sights is a relentless, steamy thriller surprisingly infused with soul and poignancy.

Finally, I'd like to introduce you to Mario Acevedo, who is a bit of a local legend in Denver thanks to his hilarious, sexy and bizarre series about Felix Gomez, a private investigator who happens to also be a vampire.  He taught a lot of panels, and he has an incredible sense of humor, which is apparent in some of his titles.  With books like X-Rated Bloodsuckers and The Undead Kama Sutra, how can you possibly go wrong?

I walked away with a copy of The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and--although I will be a little embarrassed if anyone catches me reading it on a street corner--I am definitely stoked to get started.  Here's its cover art and jacket description: 

Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier, and came back a vampire. Now he’s a private detective hired by a trusted friend to penetrate the murderous conspiracy cloaking an outbreak of nymphomania at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.

Hahaha, definitely NOT a book I'd write, but that was what was so fun about this conference.  I met writers from all walks of life, and we were able to socialize and brainstorm, hone our craft and network.  

I walked away with that dizzy feeling of inspiration that we as writers so often crave, and I've been pouring myself into my new WIP, which now has a shiny new name to go along with its fantastic polar bear antagonist: The Purest Shade of White.  Watch my progress meter on the left sidebar as I continue plugging away, and stop by soon for Part One of my conference lesson notes and tidbits!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Novel Idea

Photo Courtesy of David Wilbanks
Oh my God, I have a new idea.

I'm sure some of you super writers out there are smirking. I've met so many amazing folks during the past few months who literally have two or three or seven manuscripts up their sleeves--completed, polished and just waiting for the right agent. 

But I'm not like that.

I'm seldom struck with "new story" inspiration, and when I am, it's usually just a dream that seems brilliant at the time but is either illegible or is just plain stupid upon my night scribble re-reading.

I'm serious. Here is a real-life idea I came up with in the middle of the night and later realized made absolutely no sense: "Girl and ex-boyfriend time travel to 18th century island (or other planet) and begin rescuing people from tyrant... Girl falls for new boy, and they promise to rescue everyone and go to other planet (or time) for safety, but ex-boyfriend doesn't tell anyone the time machine is actually broken."

WTF?? What IS that?? It was a dream, I think, and I remember being so inspired by the beautiful, tropical water and sense of danger. But in retrospect, it's just kinda... stupid.

Here's another late-night jewel: "Two fifth-grade sweethearts reunite and begin dating, but they soon realize things have changed since they were kids, and they have to struggle to overcome their differences."

Alright, that one's not quite as bizarre as the first one, but it's just kinda... trite.  And boring.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise to me. I am, after all, the girl who dreams about arranging pool chairs and driving to work. I can't remember the last time I had a really awesome, creative dream--although I did used to dream that I got to fly around with Peter Pan when I was a kid. Life has just kinda... gotten in the way, I guess.

So now you can fully appreciate the excitement I feel about this brand-new idea. Which is not a sequel to the novel I'm currently shopping to agents (although I'm still working on that one, and I'm still stoked about it). Nope, this is a brand-new idea, and it's raw and immediate, with alternating viewpoints, alternating chronology, and fun digressions into memories and tangents.

AND it's about polar bears.

What more can I say? :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dolphin Fish-Eating Trick Catches On

So many great articles from DiscoveryNews lately that I feel totally inundated--and nerdy. Did I mention nerdy? ;)

Photo by NASA, Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Dolphin Fish-Eating Trick Catches On
Analysis by Jennifer Viegas
Wed Aug 31, 2011 08:09 AM ET

Humans may have invented the spork, often seen at fast food joints, but a very clever group of bottlenose dolphins in Australia has created its own new combo tool that both captures fish and functions as a food bowl.

Use of the tool, described in a Murdoch University press release, is called "conching." Dolphins first trap small fish in large conch shells with their rostrums (beaks). They then bring the shells to the surface and shake them. Like a strainer, this causes the water to drain out and sends the fish right into the dolphin's mouth.

This isn't the first time dolphins have converted a natural item into a useful tool. For example, you might recall the journal paper from a few years ago describing how dolphins use sponges to protect their beaks and to help with fishing.

What's particularly interesting about this latest news is that the conching tool and technique appear to be spreading throughout a population of dolphins at Shark Bay, Australia. Scientists first observed dolphins engaging in these behaviors in 2007 and 2009.

Now many people are seeing dolphins conching.

"In the last four months alone, the research team have seen and photographed the behavior no less than six times, possibly even seven," Murdoch Cetacean Research Unit researcher Simon Allen was quoted as saying in the press release.

"If -- and that is a big if -- we are witnessing the horizontal spread of this behavior, then I would assume that it spreads by an associate of a 'conching' dolphin closely observing the behavior and then imitating it," he added. "It is a tantalising possibility that this behavior could spread before our very eyes -- over a field season or two -- and that we could track that spread."

No one has ever before documented the spread of a learned behavior through a population of these marine mammals over a short period of time.

The researchers also hope to learn more about how the dolphins actually use the shells.

"As yet, we don't know if dolphins simply pursue fish into the' refuge' of the large, empty conch/bailer shells or whether they actually manipulate the shells prior -- perhaps turning them over so that the opening is facing up in order to make them 'appealing' to fish as a place to hide from the jaws of death," Allen explained.

He continued, "If we were to set up a few shells -- opening down -- in a known location and either witness dolphins turning them over, see evidence of them having been turned over when we weren't around, or better still get some video footage of dolphins manipulating them in some way, then that would be priceless, since that implies forward planning on the dolphins' part."

"I wouldn't be too surprised to find such cunning and devilish ploys being adopted by Shark Bay's bottlenose dolphins."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

You Know You're a Zookeeper If...

Rose Kerr, an amazing friend and mentor I met while volunteering for the Marine Mammal Center of Monterey Bay in 2005, just forwarded me this hilarious "You Know You're a Zookeeper If" list. Credit apparently goes to Ashley Gordon, a zookeeper at the San Diego Zoo, and the list is fantastic. (Although I haven't experienced EVERYTHING here, I have to admit--for better or worse--that many of these points hit home. Kinda disgusting, I know... ;))

Knobby the Bactrian Camel and Me (October 2010)
  1. Your pets greet your shoes and not you. 
  2. After work, all you attract are flies. 
  3. Your tan lines wash off. 
  4. You never shake hands without brushing your hands on your pants. 
  5. All your pants have stains where you wipe your hands. 
  6. You walk with a limp because of all the tools on your belt. 
  7. Your snot is black and not clear. 
  8. You get really excited about a good solid poop. 
  9. You spend all your vacations visiting other zoos. 
  10. Half your kitchen equipment and a good portion of your kids' toys end up at the zoo. 
  11. You will eat most anything from the animal cooler as a snack. 
  12. You don't even notice that you smell until you get into the car with the windows rolled up to go home. 
  13. You think nothing of pulling off ticks while in line at the local fast-food place. 
  14. You have two closets...one for work and one for the real world. 
  15. You have more photos of your animal kids than of your friends. 
  16. You wash your hands thoroughly BEFORE using the toilet. 
  17. You politely decline to shake hands because you know WHERE your hands have been. 
  18. The word "shit" is not a bad word. 
  19. New rakes and shovels are more exciting than diamonds. 
  20. You can be bribed to do anything for chocolate cake. 
  21. You sit on a clothes dryer for warmth. 
  22. You lock any and every door behind you. 
  23. Your most cherished gift is a Leatherman Super Tool. 
  24. You shop the toy section in Wal-Mart. You don't have kids; you have monkeys. 
  25. A three day weekend means the ground-in dirt on your hands is gone. 
  26. You leave a trail of hay everywhere you go. 
  27. You check to see which way the wind is blowing before dumping anything. 
  28. You can make water run uphill, because architects believe all drains should be in the highest corner. 
  29. Taking off your boots at night is better than...well, just about anything. 
  30. Your pants and shoes are tan instead of white. 
  31. Perfume is offensive, while bodily smells are not. 
  32. You are not phased by a fecal sample in the fridge next to your lunch. 
  33. You have no pictures of you without animals in them. 
  34. You can identify which species a fecal originated from by smell. 
  35. You are routinely tested for internal parasites. 
  36. Your favorite smells are bleach and disinfectant. 
  37. Your pets aren't the only ones who receive a rabies shot. 
  38. You look better when you wake up than when you get off of work. 
  39. You have scars to prove it. 
  40. You use an ice chipper as a prying tool and a lock as a hammer. 
  41. Your radio doubles as a handy hose-rest. 
  42. Hair-ties are also good temporary rubber washers. 
  43. Friends and family get concerned you are in an abusive relationship because of the number of bruises you have all over your body and the fact that it takes so long to try and remember how you got them. 
  44. If your hose stays kinked for more than two seconds, you go postal! 
  45. It's normal for you to have to wash your clothes at least twice to get them clean. 
  46. You look forward to rain and snow days, but you dread the day the sky clears. 
  47. You can name more animals than friends. 
  48. You aren't intentionally showing your underwear; your radio and tools on your belt just happen to pull your pants down. 
  49. You have eaten things off the floor in your area, after you have logically thought about it and used the 10-second rule. 
  50. You have tasted the food your animals eat. 
  51. You sometimes wear a face mask but you aren't in the medical field. 
  52. You use duct tape for EVERYTHING! 
  53. You have more uses for hay string than duct tape. 
  54. You have extra socks at work for when the hose springs yet another leak. 
  55. You don't need to work out because your job is hard enough. 
  56. You can carry a full five-gallon bucket of water without spilling a drop. 
  57. You have sledded on the shovels at work. 
  58. You have been electrocuted by at least one hot wire. 
  59. It is normal to get bitten or chased by an animal...sometimes daily. 
  60. You ask people if they want to see a picture of your baby, and they look at you funny when it is something furry, feathered or scaly. 
  61. You can hold your tongue (and laughter) when visitors ask some of their questions. (i.e., “When are those mice going to lay their eggs?”) 
  62. You find yourself saying “10-4” instead of "thank you", "yes", or "okay" in your everyday conversations. 
  63. You sometimes feel like MacGyver because of all the stuff you have built from odds and ends. 
  64. While you wait in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, a nurse you have never met asks what animal tried to eat you this time.