Tales of Rejection

or the journey to becoming published

So, I have a website…

I have a website where I’ve been publishing blogs.

I’m not sure how to keep my followers or continue to gain followers here. It is all very confusing to me. I like writing here, but I feel like I also need to keep writing on my website. It seems silly to write both places. What do you all think? I imported all my followers with jetpack. But are you getting alerts about a new blog?

My brain is not equipped for this, y’all.

Eat, Pray, Publish

I met my husband on match.com. I’d known him approximately three weeks before we got engaged. I moved in with him a month after we got engaged. We got married the following spring, and a year later I was pregnant with our first child. 

We’ll have a five year wedding anniversary in may. 

When I think about it, I realize just how bat shit crazy I must have looked. I mean, who meets a guy online and then gets engaged before she’s even had time to complete at least one menstrual cycle?

I was 27. I’d just moved to the Delta of Arkansas to teach developmental English. I’d never been married. I’d had one serious relationship in my past and one on-again-off-again fling that took up a tumultuous seven years of my life. Anyway, like I said, I’d never been married. I’d never lived with a man. I’d never had any children. I’d never even taken anyone home to meet my parents. 

For the last decade, I’d just been having a lot of fun that never worked out. A lot of trial and error. I’d cried a lot. I’d laughed a lot. I’d grown up. College was over. Friends were moving on. My life, it seemed, had finally begun. And then I met my husband. It just worked. It just clicked. It was just the right relationship at the right time. Literally from the first phone conversation I loved him. After our first weekend together I called my mom and said to her, “I’m going to marry that man.”

For me, writing my first novel was like meeting my first (and only, I hope!) husband. I was in the bathtub one night reading 50 Shades of Grey on my Kindle when I thought to myself, “If E.L. James can write a best selling novel, then so can I.” That night I began writing Stay. No prep work. No notes. No character sketches. Just a first chapter and a promise to myself that no matter what I would finish.

No. Matter.What. 

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I’d had the idea for the novel in my head since 2008. However, it was always just an idea. I never made any plans to actually write it. To this day I don’t know how I got through the first draft without quitting except that night was the just right night. It was the right relationship at the right time. 

Similarly publishing contracts are that way. Becoming a best-seller is that way. Of course having a good agent, a good promotion team, a good publisher helps (and also being a good writer). But I’m convinced that 99.9% of that first book deal is all about luck. It’s all about catching someone at the right time. On a good day. After a good lunch. After a successful meeting. Whatever. You might have written the most amazing book in the world and a publisher might tell you just like he told J.K. Rowling, “You’ll never be successful in children’s literature,” or something to that effect. 

As writers, especially wet-behind-the-ears-to-the-industry writers, we tend to take everything that every publisher and agent say to heart. We let every word stab at us, wound us. It hurts. Don’t deny it. Let it burn. But then forget about it. Take what is helpful and better your work. Ignore what isn’t. They don’t know everything. Really and truly, they don’t. I’m still a newbie because I’ve yet to sell a book. I’ve been rejected by hundreds of literary agents over a span of years. Some of them venomous rejections. I’ve been rejected by publishers. I suspect that I will continue to be rejected by publishers. Keep in mind that although you are talented, today might not be your day. 

Or tomorrow.

Or the next day.

Or the next.

But your day will come. IT WILL. You’ve just got to keep on failing until one day you don’t. 

Until then have a lot of fun that never works out. Have lots of trials and errors.

Cry a lot.

Laugh a lot.

Grow up. 

 

 

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

My younger brother is a first year teacher. He’s also the assistant basketball coach at the rural school where he teaches. For as long as he’s been able to express himself, my brother has wanted to be a teacher and coach. Teacher first. Coach second. He’ll finish his M.A. in History this August. 

I went to watch him coach today for the second time. I had two thoughts upon entering the high school gym. They were:

1) Thank GOD I’m no longer in high school, and

2) I could never be a basketball coach. 

My brother is highly competitive. So is my mother. So is my father. So is my husband. So are my two very best friends. For as long as I can remember I’ve been surrounded by competitive people. My father once got so angry during a round of miniature golf that he threw his golf club into a pond. My husband and his brothers have been known to ignore each other for weeks over a video game. 

I am the opposite of competitive. I was that kid who wanted everyone to win. I always gave all the kids in my class Valentines. I invited everyone to my birthday party. I don’t like it when peole lose on my account. But I’d belying if I said I’m not competitive simply because I’m the nicest person alive. If think about all that I learned from that psychology class I took that one time in college, I know that there are other reasons for my outwardly non-comeptitive nature. For one, being competitive makes a person vulnerable. When someone knows how badly you want something, then that gives them power over you. It gives them that proverbial carrot to dangle in front of your face. Even at 32, I’d rather gnaw off my own arm than let anyone know how badly I want something. I’m working on that. 

I also think that I harbor a deep fear of failure (doesn’t everyone??). If I don’t admit that I want it, I don’t have to admit to losing it. This is yet another issue on which I’m working. I admire competitive people. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. They don’t apologize for their success. They don’t have a problem admitting that they have what it takes. 

As a writer, I’m constantly struggling with self-promotion. I’m constantly worried people will think that I think I’m a better writer than I actually am. I feel the need to write disclaimers on everything. Don’t worry! I know my book may never get published! Don’t worry! I know that I’m no literary genius! Don’t worry! I don’t think I’m the second coming of Jennifer Weiner

Not exactly tag lines publishers want to see. “Go read this book. She’s no cultural icon, but she’ll do for now.”

Nope.

What publishers want to see from writers is a platform. They want to know how many Facebook friends you have. How many Twitter followers you have. How many hits your blog gets on a daily basis. How many people subscribe to your newsletter (I seriously can’t believe people still do this). How many, how many, how many. How much work have you already done? How wonderful do people think you are? How much publicity can you drum up yourself by shamelessly self-promoting the book you’ve yet to publish?? How many articles can you write for magazines while you’re working full-time and taking care of a family while simultaneously writing your second novel? 

I’m pretty sure Ernest Hemmingway would think this is complete bullshit. Maybe not Oscar Wilde, but for sure Hemmingway. I understand why it is neceessary in today’s world, but as a writer it sends chills down my spine. Because what publishers want from me, what everyone ultimately wants from me, is that competitive edge.

If I want someone to buy my book, I’ve got to be willing to do what it takes. I’ve got to come out swinging, so to speak. I have to be active on Twitter. I’ve got to create a web page. Keep up with a blog (this blog). I’ve got to sell myself. 

I’ve got to sell myself. 

Because there are 10,000 writers waiting in the query line with query letters balled into their sweaty palms ready to take my place. I can sit around bitching about it all day, or i can do everything within my power to become successful in an industry that will absolutely eat you for Publisher’s Lunch and spit you back out again. If Mel Gibson wasn’t such an asshole, I’d probably start quoting Braveheart right about now. 

Instead, I’m going to go and write a few hundred words before I go to bed. Well, first I’m going to publish this post. 

Type in a bunch of tags so random people will run across it. 

Share it on Facebook. 

Share it on Twitter. 

Build that platform so I can jump right off of it. 

 

The Dog and the Dialogue

I have six dogs. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this fact in previous posts, but if I did I would have had only four at the time.

There are dogs in the bed. Dogs in the pantry. Dogs in the sink. Dogs in every nook and cranny.

I have been working in animal rescue since 2006, so I’ve had a while to accumulate such a motley crew. There is Louis, our fourteen year old Bulldog mix. He was abandoned in a hotel room. Then there’s Ruthie, our six year old Boston Terrier. Her front legs are fused at the elbow. There’s Lillie, our siX year old Pug/Frenchie. She was abused so badly at the puppy mill that she lived behind my couch for months. After that comes our seven year old English Bulldog, Winnie. She was found wandering the streets of a small Kansas town starving, deaf, and blind. A few months ago we adopted a fourteen year old wire haired Terrier mix we named Maisey. She has a heart murmur, is slightly incontinent, and has severe allergies. I’ve stopped counting the number of pills she takes in a day.

Two weeks ago we took in a twelve week old English Bulldog puppy. His front legs are fused like Ruthie’s. His name is Tank. So far Tank has chewed through my computer power cord, a lamp cord, and my husband’s vintage radio cord. He attacks feet, hands, and any exposed flesh. There is no off button.

To say my dogs are a big part of my life is an understatement.

When it comes to writing, they have ended up playing a bigger role than I could have imagined. I’ve discovered what I assume everyone else already knows–animals make the best fictional sidekicks. They provide countless opportunities for dialogue. They provide countless opportunities for your characters to self-reflect, to figure it all out. They allow us to reveal a character’s true colors–all based upon how that character treats the animal in the book.

At first it wasn’t purposeful on my part. I wrote about animals because I lived with animals (and I’m not talking about my son and husband.) But when I began writing Stay, a novel where one of the main characters is a one-eared Pit Bull, I realized just how much of my story depended upon this dog.

Really, everything depended upon him. There was no story without him. He was the catalyst for every integral moment.

The dog in Just Fine With Caroline isn’t quite as important. Clementine, the three legged Boxer, is more comedic relief than anything else. But the story wouldn’t be the same without her.

My dogs are a lot of work. And having six, almost all of them with some kind of special need, can be frustrating. But it’s safe to say that I couldn’t have written my first book without them.

Once you get past the hair and the snoring and the farting, the pills and the pee and barking, well, it’s pretty hard to tell just who saved who.

Baby, it’s cold outside (and I’m freezing my ass off!)

I got an email today from my agent. She says she plans to begin submitting Stay (or resubmitting for some publishers) towards the end of January when the publishing houses open again. Apparently, even publishers need a break. I know it could be, and very likely will be, months before I hear anything, but it gives me something to look forward to. I know what the odds are like. But I’m going to continue to hope against hope. Besides, everytime I get an email or phone call from her I get school girl excited.

Last week I got a year-end-review type of email from her. It was sent out to all of the writers she represents, I assume. It listed all of her sales in 2013 and also listed the anticipated releases for 2014. It was impressive. I mean, I don’t really know how many books an agent should sell a year, but it seemed like a good number. I tried to Google this info, but didn’t come up with any solid numbers. I also appreciate the transparency. I feel like I can brag about my agent’s stellar sales. I already knew about many of them–they’re listed on the website. I’m just so thrilled to be a part of it all.

Of course, some would say I’m still in the Honeymoon Phase with my agent. They may be right, but I don’t see any reason not to enjoy it. I mean, afterall, isn’t that what a honeymoon is for?

I’ve written about author/agent/ Noah Lukeman before in previous posts. I think his How to Land (and keep) a Literary Agent is a stellar read for anyone beginning the querying process. It answers at LOT of questions. It is a good place to start, even if (maybe even especially if) you’re not quite to that querying phase yet. He’s also written another great piece called Ask A Literary Agent: Year One that you can access free. It answers all of those questions that first-time authors and first-agented authors might have about the agent/author relationship–you know, all those questions you’re secretly afraid to ask your OWN agent.

I guess I should get back to writing If I’m going to accomplish my word count goal for the day. I have a word count goal of 1,000 words for every day (except weekends when I know better than to expect anything). This weather–lots of snow and WAY BELOW FREEZING temps–here in Missouri has made me quite lazy. (My friend who lives in North Dakota is rolling her eyes at me right about now.) It sounds odd, but once I go back to work next week I’ll surely be more productive. I work best when I can be on a schedule. I don’t always meet my goal, and some days I go above and beyond it. The ultimate goal for Just Fine With Caroline is to be finished with the first draft by the end of May. That gives me about five months.

My child is still awake…so…wish me luck!

A Quick Game Of Catch Up

Gosh, it’s been a while.

I really thought this blog was dead. I mean, I haven’t updated in forever. But over the last few weeks I’ve been getting notifications that people are reading my posts and commenting on them. I figured that maybe I ought to come back.

I think the last time I posted I’d just signed a contract for two years with my literary agent. I signed in June, and my last post was around July. So…what’s happened since then?

Well, I immediately started outlining my next novel, which really didn’t amount to much. I scrapped it at a few thousand words. It just wasn’t working. I also got a much needed break from Stay. I needed some distance more than I needed just about anything.

In September my agent called. She’d submitted Stay to a few publishers (about four). All had rejected it. However, all but one were willing to read a rewrite. My agent and I talked at length about the possibilities a good rewrite could hold. I read some of the responses from the editors. And I began to formulate a plan for a rewrite. I guess I could have been upset about the rejections. But really, all I felt was excitement. I’d been given a shot to make my book better, and I’d been given suggestions from editors in publishing houses. What was there to be sad about?

I worked on the rewrite from mid September through the end of November. Then I did some cleaning up with the help of my agent. I think I sent the final version to her about the fifteenth of December. Just in time to be sent out to publishers in the new year! I had such a good time with the rewrite. I’d had enough time away to love my book again, and it was thrilling to have a new direction–a fresh outlook. I hadn’t anticipated the rewrite taking so long, though. I thought (stupidly) that I’d be done by October. But I also work full-time and have a toddler. Everything takes a bit longer with a toddler!

I’m now about 2,000 words into Just Fine With Caroline, and I’m loving what I’ve got so far. I made a rookie mistake during the first draft. I hadn’t taken enough time to outline. To research. To character sketch. I got excited and jumped right in because that’s how I wrote the first book. The difference is that I’d been honing the concept for the first book since 2008. That’s a lot of time to think. And even then I still did several rewrites.

I’m what some people in the industry call a “panster,” which is just another way of saying that when I write I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. I’m terrible at outlining. I’d much rather write and see where my characters take me. But just because I’m not very good at outlining doesn’t mean that I don’t plan. I make notes. And lists. I DO make character sketches. I know the beginning, middle, and end. I don’t always know all the intimate details, but who does???

Still…I’m a total panster.

I’ve recently read a couple of books by Cathy Yardley that have helped me quite a bit. She’s a novelist by trade (chick lit, mostly), but has written a couple of books about writing that I think are great. One of them is genre specific and it’s called, Will Write For Shoes: How To Write a Chick Lit Novel. The other one is called, Rock Your Plot: A Simple System For Plotting Your Novel. Obviously the first one won’t help you unless you’re wanting to write chick lit or a genre similar. However, the other book is a great read for anyone writing any type of novel. Both books are fairly cheap, especially if you have a Kindle or the Kindle app. She writes extensively in both about her (what she deems psychotic) method of outlining. While I have no intention of being as extreme…ever…she’s really helped me get on the right track. She’s given me the blueprint I needed. I’ve read dozens of plot and outlining books, but hers is one of the best. She gives it to ya straight. No chaser.

So anyway, that’s where I am now. I have a problem keeping up with a blog when I’m writing, but I’m going to try. Eventually, I hope to move all of this over to aenoblin.com. I bought the domain and hosting last month…but I’ve yet to do anything with it.

Maybe you all can help keep me accountable. 😉

Scam America

I admit that I am a court TV junkie. I love Judge Judy, The People’s Court, and all those other shows that are lower on the televison food chain than daytime soap operas. 

I can’t help myself. They’re just so fun.

Today I watched an episode of The People’s Court where a woman sued a “publisher” for not following through on the contract to publish her books. The “publisher” was a complete jackass the entire time, and of course he WAS defrauding her and not following through on what he was supposed to have done. The ISBN wasn’t even correct on the books–it belonged to another book entirely! 

This episode made me so angry–at both the faux publisher AND the author. Sure, what this guy did was reprehensible, but the author does hold some responsibility for not doing her homework. Preditors are everywhere, and they are especially rampant within the publishing industry. It is really easy to get overwhelmed when searching for an agent/publisher, and it is even easier to fall prey to a scam agent/publisher especially as desperation grows and the rejections pile higher and higher. 

Below, I’m going to write about some of these scame agents/publishers and ways to spot and avoid them. This is based purely on the research I’ve done as an individual, and i suggest you do your own reseach before beginning the querying/submission process as I am in no way an expert. 

Let’s start with agents, because generally they are where you’ll start when attempting to secure a legit (and commercial) publishing contract. Not every agent is reputable, and although there are a few soldiers policing the industry, (such as the awesome people over at Absolute Write) it may take some time before a scam agent is found out. Therefore, it is really important to be able to spot the signs of a scam agent before you get taken for a ride. 

So, how do you spot a scam/incomptent agent, and what is the difference between the two? 

1) A scam agent is an agent that is going to take your money and never sell your book. They have no sales to major houses, and chances are that they never will. An incompetent agent really wants to be a good agent, but they don’t know how or don’t have the skills. Maybe they don’t have any contacts within the industry or just don’t know how to play the publishing game. Either way, a bad agent is actually worse than having no agent at all. 

2) Does the agent charge an up front “reading” or “processing” fee or any other kind of fee before they are willing to read or allow you to submit your manuscript? If so, then this agent is NOT a reputable agent. Chances are, they’re making their money off of these reading fees as opposed to the sale of books to publishing houses. In other words, they’re probably going to take your money and then never sell your book. At the end of your contract, you’ll be out a whole lot of money and have nothing to show for it. Remember this sentence, and repeat it to yourself any time you’re tempted to “take a chance” on a agent that charges fees, “An agent doesn’t get paid until I do.” 

3) Does the agent charge a yearly fee to continue to agent you? If so, then they are probably a scam agent. 

4) Does the agent charge a larger than industry standard cut from your profits? 15% is industry standard for domestic, and 20% is standard for international. Anything above and beyond that is NOT standard, and you should be wary of working with someone who asks for more money than other agents. Why are they asking for more money? Are they not able to make a living charging the industry standard? 

5) If the agent doesn’t want to talk on the phone with you, that’s not a good sign. An agent should call you to offer representation. You should have the opportunity to speak with them and ask questions. Sometimes, if you live close to the agent (say, in NYC) they may ask for a face-to-face meeting. However, a phone call is perfectly sufficient and is the general way agents offer representation.

6) Can the agent prove a strong track record of sales to publishing houses? Be wary of an agent that cannot produce a decent tract record. If the agent refuses to release that information (they may say they won’t give you any info until you sign) then that is a red flag. If they say that they’re a new agent and don’t have any sales, ask them if they are coming from another reputable agency with sales. They should be coming from somewhere within the business, whether it is from another agency or from the publishing side. In addition, be wary if they can produce sales only from small houses or e-publishers. There is nothing wrong with publishing through a small house/e-publisher. However, most of these small houses and e-publishers (even many e-pub imprints of larger houses) don’t require an agent to submit to them. The whole point of having an agent is to secure a commercial publisher. If he or she cannot prove a record of sales, chances are that they are not an agent you want to work with. That doesn’t mean that even the best agent will always be able to sell your book. Sometimes you’ll write three or four or five books before one sells. But a legit agent will never stop trying at least until your contract is up. 

7) Writer Beware’s 20 Worst Agents: many of these agents/agencies are now defunct, with the exception of the Barbara Bauer Literary Agency. However, this guide will give you specific information about what a scam agent/agency looks like. 

So, let’s say you’ve decided not to go with an agent. You’ve decided to find a publisher on your own. How do you know that the publisher you’re interested in submitting to is legit? 

1) Just as with a legit literary agent, a legit publsher will never ask you for money up front. Money should always flow TO the authot, not away from them. There are a few different types of publishers: 

a) Commercial publishers: like Random House, Simon and Schuster, Penguin, etc. These are the houses that will not allow you to submit with out an agent. I’m not necessarily saying this is the best or only way to go about publishing. However, for many writers, being published by one of these major houses is the ultimate goal. These are the houses that pay an advance, market your book, and the whole reason you want to find a literary agent. 

b) Independent publishers:  Samhain, Turner, Belle Books, etc. These publishers are reputable, but generally allow unagented authors to submit to them. They may or may not pay an advance. It is always important to have someone (preferably a lawyer) who is well-versed in intellectual property law look over any contract that is offered to you, especially if you are unagented. 

c) Vanity publishers. These publishers charge a fee to publish your book They are not selective. They will pretty much publish anyone willing to pay them for their service. 

Let’s say that you’re NOT interested in a vanity publisher. Let’s rule them out for the sake of this segment. 

2) A legit publisher will not expect you to buy several copies of your own book, even at “deep discount”. 

3) A legit publisher will not expect you to do all the marketing for your book on your own. 

4) A legit publisher will provide an advance OR a decent royalty rate, preferably both, and often you’ll be given a choice between an advance or a higher royalty rate. Remember, an adavnce is simply an advance against royalites. 

5) Writer Beware’s Thumbs Down Publishers List: I feel like it is extremely important to note that there are MULTIPLE threads about how horrible Publish America is. They are the subject of MULTIPLE law suits, and they have a HORRIBLE reputation among writers. PLEASE do not fall viction to the Publish America scam. They are TERRIBLE, will take your money, and won’t sell your book. They accept everyone. While Publish America is not the only publishing scam, they are certainly the largest. 

6) There is a difference between self-publishing (say, through CreateSpace) and paying a vanity publisher to publish your book. Years ago, self-publishing was looked down upon. Nobody wanted to take self-published authors seriously, and it wasn’t considered a legitimate avenue for publishing. However the times…they are a changin’. The stigma once attached to self-publishing is no longer what it was. Be advised, self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. It might seem like the “easy” way to publish, but if you choose to self-publish you must also be willing to market and sell your own book. You must be willing to work, and work hard. Most self-publishing authors are not successful, and I don’t think that’s because they’ve not written a decent book. I think it is because they don’t know how to market the decent book they’re written. Self-publishing is HARD WORK, and you must be willing to go the extra mile. 

A few good resources: Absolute Write, SFWA, AAR, Writer Beware, Publishers Marketplace, Agenty Query, Query Tracker, Query Shark, Preditors & Editors.

Skylines and Outlines

I would really love it if some of you would follow me on Twitter. You can find me @aenoblin I generally follow back, OR if you can leave your twitter name in a comment below. Cheers!

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate to outline? I’m not a linear thinker. I feel real sympathy for my students when we begin outlining speeches in oral communication. The outline really helps them gather their thoughts. It helps them understand the importance of a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is no different when outlining a novel. 

But it’s just not the way I operate. I’m a note maker. I’m a wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-write-on-my-hand kinda gal. I make character sketches. I need a pen and paper. I can’t brainstorm on my computer. 

I did chapter outlines for my last novel. Well, I did chapter outlines for some of them. Mostly throughout the middle. I didn’t need to do as much preparation last time because I’d been mulling over the concept in my head since 2008. I wrote the book in 2012, but all those years of thinking and talking outloud to myself while driving (am I the only one who does this?) kept the idea fresh, and much of it was fleshed out before I sat down to write. 

And let’s just be honest–I don’t really know what in the hell I’m doing. I’m sure I’ll look back at this blog in a few years and laugh at my stupidity. I have only one novel writing experience to compare this to. Before I began writing Stay, my primary focus had been non-fiction and poetry. I hadn’t attempted a work of fiction in at least five years, and it had been over a decade since my last novel attempt. 

So if you’re reading this, and you’re laughing at me, I don’t blame you.

Here’s what I know: every time I make a note, or read a book about writing/outlining, or even think about writing my next novel I get so excited I can hardly stand it. Writing Stay was absolutely one of the greatest joys of my life. It was so much fun. It’s a high I’ve been getting since I was 8 years old when my grandparents bought me my first journal. I still have that journal, and I can remember the feel of the cool, white pages and I couldn’t wait to dive in. It doesn’t compare to anything else.

ANYTHING. 

Protagonist Rising

I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so glued to governmental proceedings. I was waiting on pins and needles to hear the decision regarding DOMA by the Supreme Court, and I watched the live feed of Texas senator, Wendy Davis, filibustering Senate Bill 5 (an abortion bill that would virtually ban abortion in the state of Texas and limit the number of clinics able to provide abortion services to FIVE statewide).

Today has been a good day for equality. I’m proud to be an American today.

I keep hearing and truly hope that the civil rights activism of today will be compared years from now to civil rights activism of the 1960’s and to the women’s sufferage movement of the early 20th century. I would love to believe that the people opposed to marriage equality today will be seen the same way as the people who opposed equality for people of color or who opposed equality for women. However, as long as there are people out there who still see homosexuality as a choice there will always be people who believe that it is okay to deny them rights. We all know that sexism and racism are not dead, but in order for homophobia to be seen with the same disgust as the former more people have to start believing that being gay is no more a choice than being female or the color of our skin.

We must believe that we are all equal regardless of gender, color, or sexuality. I don’t know that I’ll live to see that day, but I won’t stop fighting for as long as I live. That much I can guarantee.

I generally try to reserve this blog for writing about my writing (haha), and I’ll get there, I promise. But the truth is that much of my writing has been flavored by politics for as long as I can remember. Writing and talking about politics has been one of the greatest loves of my life.

You can all thank my mother for this personality trait.

When I sat down to write Stay, I tried to steer clear of politics. Rather, I tried to create characters that could be enjoyed by all people (namely women since Stay is a contemporary romance), regardless of political or religious affiliation. It was a conscious effort on my part. I feared at first that this would make my characters boring, one-dimensional. But I soon found that as the story developed there was really no room for politics. The characters of Addie and Jasper wouldn’t allow it. I thanked them for making my life easier on many occasions.

There is, of course, the underlying theme of animal cruelty (primarily dog fighting) within the pages of Stay. Animal welfare is a hot button issue right now which also makes it a political issue (think Proposition B in Missouri in 2010 or the Humane Society of the United States’ campaign against puppy mills). However, it is not necessarily a controversial issue. Most people would probably say that they are opposed to animal cruelty. The dabate begins when we start talking about how our laws will prevent such cruelty. There are parts of my novel that deal with this issue, more specifically the issue surrounding the lack of enforcable laws in many states when it comes to punishing criminal activity such as dog fighting.

I wrote about animal cruelty to tug at the reader’s heart strings. I wrote about animal cruelty because it is one of the issues I care about most and is a much more emotional issue to me than it is political. I have four rescued bulldogs at home, and 3 of them are puppy mill and cruelty survivors. But Stay, in the general sense, is not a novel frought with politcs.

My next novel may not follow the same guidelines. The protagonist in the outline on which I’m working is much different than Addie. She’s not as sweet. In fact, she can be a real bitch. As I make notes, she’s turning out to be much more flawed than I planned.

I realize that every character that an author creates will be different from the last. So I didn’t necessarily expect the protagonist in these books to be the same. I mean, how boring would that be? But what I’m finding is that this protagonist is giving me a little more to work with…a little more room for politics and a little more room for crazy.

Early a.m. arrest, anyone?

So far, some of the notes I’ve made while on vacation look like this:

–ferris wheel/fair

–Magnolia Hotel

–arrested

–chimpanzee

–law officer character similar to **** (a person I know in Real Life)

I really can’t wait to get home and start putting my nose to the grindstone. Is that the proper cliche? I can never remember. Why would anyone put their nose to a grindstone? It sounds terribly painful if you ask me.

Toes in the sand

My family and I left for Gulf Shores, Alabama on Friday. So far, I’ve been totally ignoring the fact that I promised I’d get some writing done. All I’ve done is think about what I want to write as I lie in bed at night.  

I know a lot of people probably use their vacation time for…well…vacation. But I do some of my best writing while on vacation. The change of scenery invigorates me. My mindset is different, and that means that I have the opportunity to write pieces that I might not normally write. 

Of course, I’m spending a lot of time keeping my toddler from running straight into the salty arms of the ocean. He is not afraid of water. This makes me happy and terrified all at the same time. I’m glad he’s such a water baby. But I’m literally having nightmares about him being carried away by the tide. 

About 10 miles from Gulf Shores is a little town called Foley. It’s got tons of cute, little thrift and antique shops. It also boasts an old hotel called The Magnolia. This year when we drove by we noticed that The Magnolia is for sale. It gave me an idea for my next novel, and I’ve begun working on the details (in my head only, of course, ha!). I want to go back to Foley sometime this week and walk around the hotel and maybe take a few pictures.  

But right now, this is what I’m doing: