Crafting the Weird.

Dwight Schrute.

Esqueleto.

Esqueleto from nacho libre! Haha. Funny guy

Phil Dunphy.

Mary Bennet.

Mr. Collins.

Kip.

Uncle Rico.

I could go on and on. There are so many perfectly ridiculous characters. I believe in humor, and sometimes when the story is too serious, or the pacing is too fast, we writers have the chance to create a character that makes an audience smile. So, this post is dedicated to all those weird characters that make stories more interesting, bring a smile to our face, or make us inwardly cringe (sometimes because we recognize a little bit of our awkward selves in them).

For those of you that are rolling your eyes, you should probably stop reading this post. Now. For the rest of you, enjoy.

Here’s to our favorite weirdos.

 

 

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The Right Resources

If you’re anything like me, publishing can feel intimidating, impossible even.

One resource that changed everything was this.

I can’t remember who told me about this book, but I am forever grateful. Each year, a new edition comes out, and it’s important to have the current edition. There are also many versions– an edition for novels and short stories, children’s writing and illustrating, poet’s market, literary agents, and even a gold deluxe version.

Below, I’ve posted a couple pictures of mine from 2015, when I first started trying to get my writing published. If you were to flip through my copy, you would find folded corners, tabs, highlights, notes in the margin. THIS BOOK IS GOLDEN.

So, what is this amazing resource, and why do you need it?

Well, for starters, this book is a great introduction to the publishing world. There are helpful articles written by successful authors and those in the industry (aka people who know what they are talking about and how to navigate the publishing world). From my 2015 edition, there are articles entitled Writing Strong Scenes, Capturing a Reader’s Interest, The Business of Fiction Writing, Breaking in, It has Merit, but..., and many others.

There are also sections listing many, many literary agents (what they are looking for, how to submit, etc.), magazines,  publishers (how to submit, what they accept, genres they are seeking, etc.), Contests and Awards (I need to reread this section…), and conferences and workshops.

Hundreds of pages, all of which are helpful. And, I should add, I have no affiliation with this book or amazon. I just love it, and wanted to pass it on to all of you.

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Marriage

Marriage is all about accepting each other at our worst, right? I keep reminding myself that this is true– like when I am picking up dirty socks for the hundredth time or when Mark still kisses me after I haven’t showered in days. However, last night was a whole new experience, highlighting this truth once again.

Mark needs a haircut, like bad. You know how there are some men that can pull off the Fabio look when their hair gets long, and then there are some that just look…like a wolf-man? Mark securely falls into that second category—wolf-man. It’s been a running joke throughout our marriage. He always waits until he’s two months past wolf-man to get a haircut. It is no different this time, and it might be even worse– perhaps three months past wolf-man?

And guys, I don’t get it. Seriously, every time he gets a haircut, it’s like we’re dating all over again. I’m swept off my feet, reminded of how very handsome my swarthy-Mediterranean husband is (that’s his nickname of choice). Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Mark likes to become crazy wolf-man so that when he gets a haircut, like normal people, I fall deeply and madly in love with him all over again. That sounds shallow. I like him a lot even when he is wolf-man. It’s just… I love a clean haircut.

Well, last night he was standing in front of the bathroom mirror shaving. I couldn’t stop staring at his ridiculous hair. So I grabbed a comb and my girls’ elastics and started combing his hair into small sections. I put pony tails every so often, and it was hilarious. We were both laughing so hard at how ridiculous it looked! Mark had to set down the razor and wipe at his tear-filled eyes. Secretly, it was my ploy to induce him to get a haircut. But we were laughing so hard that I forgot and got carried away. At one point, I put an elastic in my mouth as a holding spot while I combed a small section.

Then, Mark made me laugh, and yes…I swallowed that elastic. It was past the point of no return, so to speak, but it wouldn’t go down my throat (I have an itty bitty throat). Suddenly, mid laugh, I fell to the floor trying to huck the stupid elastic up. Mark stepped back, crazy ponytails and all, a blank look on his face.

I put my hand up, halting any question certain to come. This elastic was not going down, and I knew it had to come up. But how do you gurgle something that is past that point? I could hardly breathe. And that stupid elastic was threatening to go in my airway. So, I did what any natural person would do. And it came up.

So did half a frozen Costco pizza from dinner, along with various other food items that will remain nameless. I don’t want to get graphic here.

There was stifling silence for at least a minute. I was busy recovering from fight-or-flight. And Mark (still sporting the crazy hair) was standing with his jaw to the floor, his brows furrowed. At long last, he crouched down, lifting his arms in the air.

“What the hell just happened?”

The combination of his crazy hair and confused expression was just too much. We both laughed until our sides hurt, mine infinitely more from my recent upchuck.

The point of this story is: Marriage really is all about loving each other through the worst of times. HUSBANDS, cut your dang hair. WIVES, never put elastics in your mouth.

And most importantly, laughter really is the best medicine.

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Getting Published 101: An Interview with an Acquisitions Editor

“How do you get published?”

I hear this question often. My writer friends (or complete strangers) want the process laid out for them. This is a difficult question to answer because in all honesty, I have no idea. I feel incredibly lucky to have had my manuscripts accepted by Cedar Fort. I could share my personal experience, but there is no saying if that would help anyone.

There isn’t much to be found online or anywhere about how to get published either. Maybe it’s because everyone’s path to publication is a little different. I’m not really sure. But, for everyone that would like a little more guidance on this process, I’ve decided to start posting interviews and tips for aspiring authors, and perhaps some of my own experience. For lack of a better term, I’ll be posting these topics under the tag ‘Getting Published 101’.

To start off, I emailed my friend and former editor Emma Parker and asked if she would be willing to do an interview with me. She was so kind to agree. I think her answers are informative for anyone trying to catch the attention of an acquisitions editor. So, without further ado, meet the amazing Emma Parker 🙂

Emma is a former acquisitions editor at Cedar Fort, Inc. She is now breaking into the technical editing industry at her job in Southern California. She loves her new career but misses going to work everyday to read books and her group of author friends that she worked with everyday. She continues working on her first love, juvenile fiction. Her first book, Papa’s Book of Mormon Christmas, was published in October 2015. You can find her website here.

***I guess I need to start with a disclaimer. I’m sure I did things very different from other acquisitions editors. Cedar Fort is a small publisher with a pretty specific market; however, they accept all submissions (which means LOADS of work for acquisitions), so a lot of our processes were impacted by that. ***

When skimming through the slush pile of submissions, what makes a story stand out?

Good writing is the absolute best way to keep an acquisitions editor reading. For us, we would read a few pages of every single submission and just go in order from when they were received (aside from returning authors who we were contractually obligated to provide answers to faster), so there is not much you can do to make your manuscript pop to the top of the pile. I know “good writing” is a vague answer, but editors will know if your submission is a first draft, and they will stop reading. They are looking for books that are worth a several thousand dollar investment. If it wasn’t worth the author’s time to clean up and tighten their book, it probably wasn’t worth the publisher’s investment. 

What are the biggest deterrents that lead to a rejection?

Writing and story aside, experience and willingness will go a long way. After giving the green light on the writing and story, I would then review the author info. If the author provides little information about themselves or appears unwilling to participate in social media, events, or marketing, it could be enough cause for a rejection.

How important is a cover letter?

A cover letter specifically is completely unnecessary. (This is one of those answers that might be specific to Cedar Fort.) Editors do not have time to dissect a cute a quirky letter for the information they need. Everything we need to know is asked in the submission form. In addition, there’s no need for a letter to show your personality and how creative you are because the manuscript should do that.

As an acquisition editor, how much control do you have over the manuscripts that ultimately get published?

Acquisitions editors are the gatekeepers, so if you can impress them, you stand a good chance of making it through. Editors have the power to throw rejections around like free candy, but if they want to get a manuscript published, they need to pitch it to the editorial board. (In our case, this consisted of the CEO, president, sales team, and production manager.) So if the acquisitions editor has a good manuscript and/or is a good sales pitcher, they have a great amount of influence in getting a book published.

How much time do you devote to each submission? How long does it take you decide whether to accept or reject a manuscript?

I would have loved to devote more time to every single manuscript, but since my department alone (fiction) received 100+ submissions each month, I could only read 5-10 pages of submissions that had little or no potential. I would need to read entire manuscripts before deciding to move forward with them. This meant that there were several manuscripts that I would get several hundred pages into before realizing that the story wasn’t moving well enough or it wasn’t portraying themes that our market would appreciate. But if you do receive an offer, this also means that tons of time and research has already been spent of your manuscript. 

What submission advice do you have for aspiring authors?

– Get involved in the writing community. This can even be done completely online now. Social media has a lot of communities where you can meet other authors and stay in the industry loop. It is always a good idea to have author connections for beta reading, blurbs, advice, or just to have an understanding support group. 
– Don’t bug the publisher about the status of your submission unless they have passed the date by which they said they would get you an answer. Publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts will need a lot more review time. You also don’t want to get a bad rap for being a needy author. 
– Provide a list of comp titles to your manuscript (not all of them being best sellers). Editors will want to hug you for doing some of their work for them. It also just shows that you are a credible author. Believe it or not, I read a few submission forms where the author said that he or she didn’t read much. If you aren’t a reader, there is just no way you can be a writer. Also, not being able to think of any comp titles or thinking that there are none is not a good thing. If nothing compares to your manuscript, you either need to read more or there’s a reason why.
– Here’s an important one. Do your research on potential publishers. All publishers do best in a specific market and have to cater to what that market wants. For example, Cedar Fort’s market prefers clean, upbeat, and/or Christian books. There were several times where it pained me to have to reject a fantastically written manuscript because it was too dark for our market. Publishers make it easy to find out what they are looking for because they don’t want you to waste your or their time. It takes a little effort to research but not nearly as much as it would take to submit to every publisher that isn’t looking for what you are writing.
Thank you, Emma! You were so fun to work with, and I am grateful for all you did to help me as a new author. 🙂
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Making Room

Recently I watched The Minimalists on Netflix. It was so fascinating to see people that have transformed their lives by living a life free of the crippling debt and the constant stress of things. It inspired me. I am, by no means, planning on selling all of our family’s belongings and moving into a 500 sq. ft. tiny house. I am, however, seriously considering how to make my life more simple by getting rid of stuff. How much time do I spend cleaning all my space? Why do I need 10 mixing bowls in the kitchen? Do I really watch all the DVDs in our cabinet? Do my kids really need as many clothes (after all, they just make for more laundry)? Do I need as many clothes? Could someone else use them more? What about the winter hats and stretchy gloves, or the mounting pile of towels in my linen closet? And what about all the books I have lying around? I don’t even have enough shelf space for them all!

We can do better. I can do better. I like the idea of someday building a smaller house that still accommodates our lifestyle. A 4000 sq. ft. home just seems so…unnecessary. There is wasted space in our house. Things just accumulate. It seems that if you buy a large home, you will find enough junk to fill it. Add to that the many, many weird things my kids bring home from school and parties. Why do people pass out plastic spinning tops and fake jewelry that breaks after 5 minutes? And, why, oh why, do my kids hoard the broken pieces, spinning tops, kid meal toys, little bubble containers, pencils, and everything else you might find in a party favor bag? You could say I have cabin fever, and you might be right. We have had record amounts of snow this year. Feet outside our front door.

But I am so ready to go through our whole house and make room. Room to breathe. Room for less. Room for my ideas and projects. And, most importantly, more room for those I care about.

I am ready to deal with all the things that are holding me back. I’m not just talking about stuff here. I am so ready to go through my mental junk also. I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert this last week. Wow. Talk about inspiring. I had so many “aha” moments. Creativity is such a part of me, and I want to be able to make more room for it. I want to teach my kids to follow their curiosity and find their own creativity.

You’re probably wondering why I am even sharing all this. And here it is– I feel excited to clean out my house and habits, and I am hopeful that in the process, I will make more room for creativity and the people I love most.

What is holding you back from creating the relationships and life you want? Perhaps this question can help each of us to identify the clutter surrounding us, be it mental or physical, so that we can deal with it accordingly and live a more intentional life.

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January Update

If you follow me on Facebook, by now you’ve heard that I have another novel contracted to be released September 2017!

I am so excited about this book, The Forgotten Girl. It is very different from my regency writings. This new novel is set in the early 1900s and follows a young girl named Stella as she immigrates to the United States from Russian-ruled Poland. It’s a story of strength, survival, and hope. Of course I had to add a bit of romance in it, but this book is primarily Stella’s story and not necessarily focused on the romance. The Forgotten Girl was an emotional journey to write, and I am hoping that my readers will enjoy the ride as well!

Now that my novella is off to the printers and my new novel has found a home with my editors, I find I finally have time to imagine something new. Creating a new story and characters is my favorite part about writing. Some authors love to edit. I admire that. Most of writing is editing after all. But I crave the creation process. I absolutely love it. So, for the next few months I will be in creation paradise– creating a new world, characters, plots and so on.

In the meantime, have you read Mischief and Manors by Ashtyn Newbold? Or To Suit a Suitor by Paula Kremser? I absolutely loved these books! I can’t wait to read Mandi Ellsworth’s Uneasy Fortunes, too, especially after reading her novella. It was such a fun read! It’s nice to relax and read a story every once in a while. It’s so refreshing, and it inspires my sometimes burned-out-writer’s soul.

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Upcoming Release and Blog Tour

About the authors:

Heather Chapman: Being the youngest of four sisters (and one very tolerant older brother), Heather grew up on a steady diet of chocolate, Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, Audrey Hepburn, and the other staples of female literature and moviedom. These stories inspired Heather, and she began writing at a young age. After meeting and marrying her husband Mark, Heather graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University and settled down in a small farming community with her husband and four children. In her spare time, Heather enjoys volleyball, piano, the outdoors, and just about anything creative.

Mandi Ellsworth: Mandi is an avid reader, a slow jogger, and disinterested in board games of any kind. She lives in Utah with her husband, three children and no pets.

Paula Kremser: Paula Kremser focused on a career in science for a few years after graduating from Brigham Young University. Several years later when she moved with her young family to England, Paula seized the opportunity to focus on her love of the Regency Era. The enchantment of the aristocracy and the fascinating stories from every stately home she visits have been both research and inspiration for her first novel, “Sophia,” and second, “To Suit a Suitor.”

Ashtyn Newbold: Ashtyn Newbold discovered a love of writing early in high school. Inspired by regency period romance, she wrote her first novel at the age of sixteen. Because she can’t vacation in her favorite historical time periods, she writes about them instead. When not crafting handsome historical heroes, she enjoys baking, sewing, music, and spoiling her dog. She dreams of traveling to England and Ireland. Ashtyn is currently studying English and creative writing at Utah Valley University. She lives in Lehi, Utah with her family and is the author of “Mischief and Manors.”

“Unexpected Love” blog tour schedule:
March 14: Literary Timeout
March 15: Live to Read
March 16: Seeker of Happiness
March 17: Rockin’ Book Reviews
March 18: Inklings and Notions
March 19: Kindle and Me
March 20: Hardcover Feedback
March 21: Writing Worm
March 22: Geo Librarian
March 23: Getting Your Read On || Bookworm Lisa || Mel’s Shelves || Singing Librarian Books
March 24: Bookworm2Bookworm || Making Life a Bliss Complete
March 25: Kaki Recommends
March 26: The Things I Love Most
March 27: My Book a Day
March 28: Katie’s Clean Book Collection
March 29: Blooming With Books
March 30: Jorie Loves a Story || Wishful Endings
March 31: The Dragon’s Nook

I am so thrilled to have a part in this collection of novellas. I have read each of them, and they are so much fun! Getting to know these authors has also been wonderful. I hope you’ll enjoy this anthology!

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MIA

This blog has been a little neglected lately, but for good reason.

I have these four tiny voices that are constantly demanding my attention (and my heart). Every once in a while, I sit down and try to remember all the awesome things my kids have said. Lately, my favorite has been from my five-year-old.

“Mommy, Makenzie’s mom is a bus driver, and I wish YOU were a bus driver! Why can’t you be a bus driver?!?”

HAHA. I am not a bus driver, and frankly, no one in their right mind would want me to be. There’s no way I’d be able to drive that huge thing around while keeping young ones safe. NO WAY. And let’s not even talk about the patience aspect of such a job. I would fail and probably come home with gum in my hair and a new wrinkle each day, not to mention the nervous ticks I would acquire.

Anyways…

I have been so busy writing, so busy that I haven’t been writing on this blog. My novella is in the editing phase as we speak, and I am excited to share that with all of you. I have also been devoting a large amount of time (in the wee wee hours) to a new novel. I am excited to (hopefully) one day share that with you as well.

In the meantime, I realize I never gave a recap of my launch party… It’s coming. Late. Like everything I seem to do now.

I don’t even have it halfway together. The other day I stepped out of the house (as in, I went out in public) in my stinky-not-showered-for-three-days self, wearing maroon pajama capris, a floral sweater, long white socks, and slip-ons. That’s how crazy it’s been lately, but things are slowing down. The holidays are here, and I cannot wait to share some new posts.

 

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Blog Tour Schedule

Second-Season-blog-tour

 

“The Second Season” blog tour schedule:
September 13: Live to Read | Bookworm 2 Bookworm
September 14: Rockin’ Book Reviews | Robyn Echols Books
September 15: Bookworm Lisa | Fire and Ice
September 16: Megan Linski
September 17: Literary Time Out
September 18: Jorie Loves a Story
September 19: Katie’s Clean Book Collection | Julie Coulter Bellon
September 20: Geo Librarian | Jorie Loves a Story | The Dragon’s Nook
September 21: Mel’s Shelves
September 22: Getting Your Read On
September 23: The Things I Love Most | Singing Librarian Books
September 24: Hardcover Feedback | A Bliss Complete
September 25: Inklings and Notions | Blooming With Books
September 26: Storyweaver
September 27: Novel-ties
September 28: My Book a Day
September 29: Wishful Endings | The Story Sanctuary
September 30: Writing Worm

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