Curiosity at #DowntownHuntsville Art Walk #amwriting #writerslife

I’m an oddball among the other vendors selling art, jewelry, and handmade crafts—the only author. People stop and ask, “Did you write these?” or “Are you local?” Others want to know about how they’re published because they are thinking about writing a book of their own. I tell them to write. Just do it. See what you can do.

For the four hours that I stood there last night, a menagerie of people and their pets paraded past my table. Dogs of every size, color, and coat came through. Somewhere in the park, face painting was happening, so children passed with colorful cheeks. Actual dialog I overheard between a mother and son:

Mother: What do you need?

Son: I need a sword.

Mother: You do not need a sword.

(The vendor beside me happens to sell them.)

I noticed one man holding a pair of rubber duckies in his hand and tried to imagine what sort of story could be behind a situation like that. Surely I could use that in a future scene in one of my books…

Curiosity works both ways. :)

From Today's Catfish Literary YA Panel Discussion #amwriting

I enjoyed the YA panel discussion at the Catfish Literary Festival today. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the moderator brought some questions that I hadn’t answered before.

What is your favorite childhood book?

I was one of those kids who loved horses. I’d have to say The Black Stallion. I had a whole series of black stallion books in paperback.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block? (What do you not like to read?)

I’m not a big fan of mystery or fantasy books.

Since we’re in a library, what kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a new book?

I research all the time using Google. People would find my search engine queries peculiar, like “what sound does a shotgun make?” I don’t do a lot of up-front research before beginning a new book but instead research all along the way.

How many hours a day do you write?

An hour and a half a day during weekdays. On weekends, it depends—sometimes more, sometimes less.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Writing conflict is challenging for me. I’m an introvert by nature, and that means that conflict is hard, even on the page. Sometimes I have to go multiple times before I can get it right.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Amber D. Tran is another writer that I’m friends with. We have lunch together every month or so and share about our writing. She’s taught me about social media and things to do with Twitter. She’s so much more extroverted than me, and she’s helped me with self-promotion in my writing.

What did you do with your first writing paycheck?

I took a photocopy of it. Then I put it into the bank.

What’s the best way to market your books?

Face-to-face events work well. I’ve had good success with the book clubs, library events, and festivals. I do not think buying ads does a lot, and I’m not sure what social media does.

What did you or your editor cut out of a book?

In Hollow Beauty, I had some sections where the character started self-harming, and my editor thought that didn’t belong in the book. I took it out. She was right.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I read all my book reviews. The good ones make me feel really happy and full of joy, but the bad ones, don’t have the same effect on the negative side. It’s just feedback.


Manuscript Done

Yeah, my novel is done and off to my editor for review! I am basking in that post-writing glow. After seven months of immersion, I’m up for air again. This place is a restless one for me. I’m always writing, but I don’t want to start the next project until I’ve put the final bow on this one. I need to stay in this book-dream just a little while longer in case there are suggestions for scenes to add or major shuffles…

But a new idea is already beginning to take seed. I’m happy about that. It’s just a little one, but it will grow.

Wild Things at Reader Riot 2017 #ReaderRiot #amwriting #writerslife #Alabama @FLPLibrary

Monsters, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Curios George came out for the first ever Reader Riot this weekend, as well as tons of readers and authors.

I spent time talking with some young people who wanted to be writers and had lots of questions about that, and fellow authors shared their experiences in publishing. What a great day.

My colleague and fellow author Amber Tran carpooled to the event. Here’s Amber’s booth. She had the corner post and did an excellent job calling people into the vendor’s alley to browse for books.

Thanks to everyone at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library for hosting this great event and everyone who came out and made the day a success!

Happy National Library Week! #NationalLibraryWeek #amwriting #amreading #Huntsville @HMCPL ‏

I received this nice link from my local library about National Library Week 2017 in my email today. Libraries are wonderful. It's a great week to celebrate them.

I visited the Library of Congress in DC one year (amazing), and I walked past the New York Library, shown below. I didn't have enough time to look inside. For 3 years I worked in the mail room at my college library, and I have fond memories of the people and years. Every library in my life comes with a story--both on the shelves and in the time that I spent within its walls.

What about you? Who was your elementary school librarian? Did he or she read stories to your class? How many libraries have you visited?

Revision Spiral #amwriting #amediting #writerslife #writerproblems

Reading through my first draft and beginning the revisions, I cycle through a full range of emotional experiences. This novel is the best one I’ve written yet. No, it’s a complete disaster. Wait, it’s brilliant. Nope, I’ve just wasted five months.

Revision is my favorite part of the writing process, but having a fresh, critical eye can be difficult with that chorus running around in my brain. I’m not always sure if I’m questioning something because it’s not working, or I’m just questioning myself.

In the past few years I’ve learned to push past the doubt because I can’t trust it. It’s like the “dark night of the soul” portion of the story itself. All seems lost right before everyone is saved. Things always get much worse before they get better. That’s just how the best stories work. If my first draft seems like a glorious pile of trash, no worries. I just need to keep climbing the spiral until I reach the light.

Everything will work out in the end.

At least, it’s supposed to.

Southern Meet-and-Greet #amwriting #amediting #writerslife #Alabama

I just signed up for another event. This spring, I’m going to shake off my introverted tendencies and visit several libraries in northern Alabama for local author events—even daring another panel discussion! If you’re in the area, come and check it out. We have a lot of indie authors, and our public libraries are pretty awesome.

Saturday, April 22, 2017 (12-4 PM) – Huntsville-Madison County Public Library – Author's Market

Friday & Saturday, April 28-29, 2017 – Florence-Lauderdale Public Library - Reader Riot

Saturday, May 27, 2017 – Athens-Limestone Public Library – Catfish Literary Festival

Patience #amwriting #amreading #writerslife #5amwritersclub

Being patient doesn’t come easy—especially when waiting for this particular news.

“Have you heard from your agent yet?” My friends ask this question frequently, and the answer is always the same.

“No,” I say, “but it takes time. I expect it to be awhile. I keep busy with writing.”

Inside, my heart is screaming: When? When? When?

I count the days since I last exchanged email with my agent, wondering if she sent really sent it out, who she sent it to, how many rejections have come in, or if she simply forgot all about me. Maybe I am a To Do sticky note that fell off the side of her desk and am gathering dust on the carpet. The doubt monsters run rampant through my mind. Rational brain says that all writers go through this sort of thing, from the writing process through the query process, and right through to the very end. This is perfectly normal. It is the nervous tick of the creative mind.

Waiting patiently is an act of faith. Whatever happens is out of my hands. Trust. Believe.

So I do the one thing that I can do. I write. About this, I am very patient. I try to count words and pages instead of minutes and days that have passed since our last communication.

This morning I crossed 39,000 words on my new book.

I know where I’m going.

Vacation from Writing #amwriting #amnotwriting #amreading #writerslife

I took vacation last week to see family. No computer, no writing, for a whole week. This is what people do: rest. I slept late every morning. We watched movies, played cards, and ate well. We looked through old photos. We visited.

I had to drive in snow.

I also brought two novels, read both, and even picked up a new one in the airport on the return home. Devouring entire books on vacation is immensely satisfying.

Still. Being away from writing for any length of time fills me with a kind of ache. I miss my characters. I long for their world. Creating stories is the thing that fills my heart with deep joy. Even when I vacation in a Caribbean paradise, I’m eager to return to the keyboard and my art.

The truth is that I never want to take a vacation from writing. Writing is the vacation. Writing is the rest.

Enjoyed the Time Out Book Club #amreading @HMCPL #Bookclubs #Huntsville #amwriting

I had a great time meeting the ladies of the Time Out Book Club over lunch today at the Madison Public Library. Being invited to the group and having an opportunity to talk about "The Future Unborn" with them was a real pleasure.

This was my second meet-up with a reader group, and I loved it. The questions were interesting: "Why didn't Kansas ever cry?" and "Where did her shoulder injury come from?" Hearing how they answered their own questions was the best part of all.

I hope to have more chances like this!