Saturday, May 30, 2009

Being Dormant

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I enjoy planting flowers, but I failed to point out that the same does not hold true for house plants. I've never had any luck with the indoor variety and have watched more than one shrivel up and scream, "All you had to do was water me!" Nevertheless, I've had one house plant for going on six years now. In fact, it's one of the only things we brought with us when we moved into our new home four years ago. When my husband gave it to me on Valentine's Day more than half a decade ago, its leaves were shiny, and it had stalks that bloomed glorious, white flowers. In recent years, the leaves faded, and I can't remember the last time it actually bloomed. That is until today. Suddenly, it's growing new wax-like leaves, and several new stalks have emerged with the white flowers that made me fall in love with the plant in the first place. This past Mother's Day, my husband bought me a new plant just like the old one, except this one was thriving. Call it coincidence if you must, but the arrival of the new plant seems to have triggered new growth in the old one. Maybe it was competition or perhaps inspiration. Either way, the old plant is active again. Okay, here's the part where I relate it to my writing: I've been in a dormant phase much like my plant was. Maybe I need a little inspiration to start blooming again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Writing and Music

I took a little break from blogging, mostly because I've been short on time. Anyway, I mentioned in my last blog that I'd have more on the topic of whatever works. Well, here it is. Like my son, I also find myself motivated by music. I love music and will pretty much listen to just about anything (except classical and elevator music--I need lyrics!). Lately, I find myself listening to a lot of Top 40. Not because this is my favorite, but because my children listen to it. And if I'm in my car, my kids most likely are, too. As I remember back to writing my first novel, I recall thinking of certain songs while writing certain scenes. And every time one of those songs comes on, I think of that part of my book. For example: The female protagonist has this eerie dream. Disturbia by Rihanna always comes to mind. When I wrote the scene where the villain arrives in a black Mustang, I was thinking of Let it Rock by Kevin Rudolf. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when the male and female protagonists are sitting in a row boat and have their first kiss. It's interesting--one of my favorite songs, I'm Yours by Jason Mraz, was playing in my head as I wrote it. I don't want to give away the ending in case my book does end up on bookstore shelves, so I won't describe any more scenes, but here are a few more songs that were inspiration for me while I was writing. No Air by Jordan Sparks Don't Tell Me if I'm Dying by Thriving Ivy Try to Leave a Light on while I'm Gone by David Cook I Don't Care by Fall Out Boy How do I live without you by Leann Rimes There's many more, but I can't think of all of them right now. I think I'll go listen to my I-Pod. (Maybe I'll write a scene or two for my next novel, too!)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Whatever Works!

I'm super tired and don't have much to say tonight. But I do want to mention, kid you not, that I had another answer to my question about giving up. Today was nothing but baseball. Both boys were playing in tournaments on opposite ends of town, which meant way too much time in the car. My daughter had her I-Pod hooked up to the car stereo, and the kids randomly fought over which songs to skip over and which ones to turn up louder. When Mylie Cyrus's song, "The Climb," came on, my thirteen-year-old son speaks up and says, "Don't change this." This wouldn't have been a big deal except for the fact that he hates Mylie Cyrus. The rest of us turned and looked at him in shock, and he says, "What? It's the song that was going through my head when I got that last hit." Whatever motivates each and every one of us is worth listening to, isn't it? More on this tomorrow. For now, it's off to bed before another day of baseball!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Piano Man

In 1985, when big hair was all the rage, and most girls my age were listening to Madonna or Duran Duran, my good friend, Lisa, and I were infatuated with the Piano Man. Yes, I'm talking about my all-time favorite musician, Billy Joel. His Innocent Man album had recently put him back on the charts, but Lisa and I were more fond of his older stuff. Now, I'm not sure what triggered this memory today. I was standing in the local nursery amidst all of these beautiful flowers contemplating which ones to buy when I recalled this poem I wrote about Billy Joel when I was fifteen. At the time, writing poetry and listening to music were my favorite pastimes, so I guess I decided to combine the two. Here's what I came up with back in 1985: On a piano in Long Island He plays of Summer Highland But he wasn't always there Life isn't always that fair From the teenage gigs in town To sold-out concerts all around He had a dream and reached his goal He gave is life to rock 'n' roll We all have dreams of our own, but we don't try to reach the sky We take what comes and then grow old, and soon we die Unsatisfied and Forgotten He played his songs and sang along But it came to fast, and things went wrong And then, stuck, nowhere to turn But what's life if you never learn He picked up and went away Maybe he'd come back another day He made a new life in a new land Where the sun reflects off of the sand We all have dreams of our own, but we don't try to reach the sky We take what comes and then grow old, and soon we die Unsatisfied and Forgotten Things were bad but sometimes good He worked things out and did what he could When things weren't going right He never once lost sight Of the one most important goal He knew was true deep in is soul He tried his best to reach the sky And the dream he reached will never die We all have dreams of our own, but we don't try to reach the sky We take what comes and then grow old, and soon we die Unsatisfied and Forgotten I'm not going to go into the details of his life story, but I do want to point out that getting to where he is today was an uphill battle. He never gave up, though. Here's the kicker: As I remembered this poem, I also realized that someone of note had read my writing and liked it. That person was none other than Billy Joel himself. My older brother was attending Pepperdine at the time, and frequently jogged on the beach behind Billy Joel's Malibu home. One day, his then wife, Christie Brinkley, was sitting outside, and my never shy brother convinced her to let him bring my poem back to her. She, being the kind, beautiful super model that she was, agreed. My brother jogged back home, called my mom, and had her recite the poem over the phone to him. (This was before the days of fax machines and email, of course.) He quickly jogged back, and gave her the poem. Two weeks later, I received a very kind and appreciative hand-written letter from Billy Joel. (He never turned my poem into a song, but at least he wrote to me!) As I said before, why I thought of this today is beyond me, so I have to assume it was God giving me another reason to not give up. As my fifteen-year-old daughter taught me a lesson yesterday, my fifteen-year-old self, taught me one today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I'm blogging late again, but it's not because I had a defeating day like yesterday. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I had an incredibly uplifting day. It isn't because I achieved some great success at getting published; it's because God gave me the answer I was looking for: DON'T GIVE UP! As a parent I try to be a good example for my kids. Sometimes I forget, though, that they also can teach me a thing or two and have on more than one occasion. Today was one of those occasions. As my daughter walked toward my car tonight lugging an enormous athletic bag, I was reminded of her perseverance and determination. Bright-eyed and grinning from ear to ear, she climbed into the car and immediately began pulling item after item out of the bag. "We wear this for practice. We wear this for competition. We wear this over our uniforms," she rattled off without taking a breath. I smiled. Her dream had come true--she was a Golden Girl. Now to fully appreciate why this was the answer I was looking for, you need to know where this story began. When my daughter was in fifth grade, she saw the Golden Girls (this is the high school drill team) perform and knew she wanted to be one of them. Two years later, she tried out for the the junior high drill team but didn't make it. We had a long weekend of her crying, me consoling, and friends offering sympathy. We all knew that if you didn't make it the first year, you'd never make it the second. And if you weren't a member of the junior high team, there was no way you'd ever be a Golden Girl. After her tears quit coming, she bucked up and worked harder than she ever had. She sought out advice from other dancers, practiced non-stop, and prayed for the next year. She was the only one in the history of her junior high to not make it the first year and still try out the second. And guess what--she made it! And then a year later, she tried out for the Golden Girls and made that, too. She never gave up. She never doubted. And she never said: I can't. So, why should I?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why Young Adult?

Okay, so I have already answered the question about why I write. But, now, I'm faced with a new soul-searching question: Why do I write YA fiction? Well, the answer is simple: I want to make a difference. I don't know about you, but as a teenager, I read Danielle Steele and Sydney Sheldon. There were no romance novels or mysteries written for the teenage audience (at least if there was, I didn't' know about them). And, I have to say that I'm not sure I want my fifteen-year-old daughter reading Danielle Steele and Sydney Sheldon just yet. Teenage girls like to read romance, especially if the boy swoops in to rescue them from some danger or mysterious situation. In their young adult minds, they dream of meeting their own Prince Charming and riding off into the sunset with them (I know, cliche, but it's true!). This is all fine and good, but I don't want my daughter to think that sex has to be a part of it. I want her to know that holding onto her morals isn't going to keep her from snagging the boy of her dreams. I want her love story to develop into a healthy, God-centered relationship. If I write about teenage love which doesn't involve sex, isn't that a step in the right direction? Tick-Tock is just that. It's not only a love story, though. It is also the story of a less than perfect protagonist who chooses to abandon her morals (and I'm not talking about sex here) to be with the one she loves. In the end, she discovers that it is her decision to become someone she never wanted to be that is the cause of all of her problems. It's an entertaining read, and yet a life lesson, too. I want to mention a blog that I've read a couple of times this week: Ms. Wendy and I apparently have a lot of the same things on our minds. On more than one occasion, we have written about the same topic. It's not always on the same day, and we tend to come at the issues from entirely different angles, but still, we broach the same subjects quite often. The first post of hers that I read was about writing to make a difference. This is exactly why I write young adult fiction.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Querying After Midnight Is Not Advised!

I'm a night person and always have been. I hate mornings, and it usually takes at least three cups of coffee before I can function. My wake-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn husband just doesn't quite understand this, but we manage to get along anyway. At any rate, I often find myself querying after midnight. Apparently, my head isn't as clear as I think it is at night. Here are some of my late-night query mistakes: I sent three chapters in the body of an e-query to an agent whose guidelines specifically state: QUERY ONLY. I knew this, but I meant to send the query to a different agent. (A rejection soon followed.) I indicated that I was enclosing a SASE for the agents response in an e-query. It's kind of hard to send an envelope with an email, wouldn't you say? In my defense, when I checked the agency guidelines, they specifically asked for snail mail queries, but upon further investigation, I learned that this particular agent preferred queries by email. So I copied and pasted my original letter from Word into an email. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the part about the SASE out. (I haven't received a reply on this one yet, but it's only been a couple of weeks.) I sent five e-queries with the same typo. Keep in mind that I read, re-read, and re-read again without catching the mistake. That is, until I hit send on the last one. (Three of the five were rejections, and I'm still waiting on responses from the other two.) I addressed and e-query to someone named "Mitchelle." Yeah--it was supposed to be "Michelle!" Again, my midnight mind didn't catch it until the next morning. By the way, did I mention this query also contained the same typo mentioned in the previous example? (No response from this one yet!) Now, here's one about a snail mail query. I enclosed a SASE or, actually, an SAE. Yes--I forgot to put a stamp on it! How do I know? Well, because I was out of stamps before I even wrote the query. Now, why I didn't realize it until after I went to the post office, bought stamps, put them on the query, and stuck it in the drop box is anybody's guess! Apparently, my head isn't so clear in the morning either. (Hm...I wonder if I'll ever get a reply.) So, I was in the middle of writing down all of these examples when my son finally got off the computer. Before typing this post, I decided to visit a livejournal posting that I love to go to on Saturdays. Ms. Jodi Meadows is the query reader for The Rappaport Agency, and every Saturday she posts "slush stats." It is a definite wake up call about the number of people querying and the number of requests for additional materials. (I'd say it ranges somewhere between 1 and 2%.) She is also a writer seeking representation, and I love to follow what's happening with her. Check it out: Low and behold, her post was about the same topic I'm writing here. I love to read about other writer's mistakes because it makes me realize that I'm not alone! Please bear in mind, though, Jodi is one of us, so she's a little more forgiving of these types of mistakes than an agent might be. Okay, for now, I'm off to another baseball game!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Writing Vs. Thinking

I have been working on my second novel, and I feel like I am spinning my wheels. The first book seemed to write itself. I would sit down to create, and before I knew it, I had ten to fifteen pages. The first two chapters of the second book were that way, too. But I seem to have hit a road block. All week, I've been wondering why, and today it occurred to me; I'm thinking too much about it. While writing Tick-Tock (that's the title of my first novel), I just wrote whatever came to mind. I had these characters I already had fallen in love with, but I had no idea what was going to happen to them. The story unfolded as I was writing it. I didn't worry about punctuation, spelling, or even over use of adverbs and adjectives. I just wrote. My first draft was 122,000 words--WHOA!--that's a lot for a young adult novel. But then I edited and rewrote. My second draft was 110,000 words--still too many--so I edited and rewrote some more. I cut entire paragraphs and even a whole chapter, which was like part of me dying, but this chapter wasn't necessary for the outcome of the story, so it had to go. My final draft is 85,000 words. According to some, this is still too many, but it is already down to bare bones; I can't cut anymore. My point is that I was flying by the seat of my pants when I wrote Tick-Tock. I didn't worry about rules and conventions; I didn't follow an outline; I didn't worry about how long it should be; and I wasn't worried about getting it published. I just wrote for the pure pleasure of the process, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every step of the way was success to me. Wow, I wrote a page! Wow, I wrote a chapter! Wow, I finished a book! So what changed? Well, my mind is filled with the rules now; I'm working from an outline; and I'm trying to write what I think an agent will want to see, instead of what feels right to me. I'm wondering how I can get back to writing like I used to. For now, I'm going to set it aside and try to clear my head (perhaps my house, too) of the clutter. By the way, I thought of a fourth reason I write this blog--it's an excuse not to work on my novel!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hello? Is anyone out there? followers yet (except me, of course). Is this bad? Well, let's break it down. First, I haven't told anyone about my blog. Second, does anyone even care what I have to say? Probably not. So, why am I doing this? Because I like to hear myself talk. No, seriously, there are two reasons why I'm doing it. #1: It's a diary of sorts. It is a tale of my journey through the publishing jungle. In other words, it's a place where I can vent my frustrations, and hopefully, some day, celebrate my successes. #2: It's a chance to share with other writers (if they should visit my blog) my experiences on the road to publication. If I ever reach my final destination, it's a testimonial of what I did right. If I never make it there, it's an example of what not to do. Either way, it could be useful to someone. Oh, yeah, there is one other reason I do it; I enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Susan Who?

So I've been asked (not really, but I thought someone might be wondering) why I chose "Lazy Writer" as my handle. Well, the writer part is obvious, and the lazy part is perhaps misleading. I do not mean to imply that I'm lazy when it comes to my writing. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I spend so much time writing that I tend to be lazy when it comes to other areas of my life--cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc. Thus, Lazy Writer was born. Speaking of calling myself a writer, I recently read a post on Literary Agent, Nathan Bransford's blog. He posed a question about whether or not a person should call themselves a writer if they have never been published. His take on it was that a person who enjoys writing shouldn't define themselves as a writer any more than a person who enjoys collecting stamps should define themselves as a stamp collector. Here's my opinion: I have never been paid for being a wife and mother, and I never will be (this might account for my laziness in these areas), but I still call myself a wife and mother. Just because I have never been paid for my writing, doesn't mean it isn't a defining part of who I am. And as far as being paid goes, it's not my main objective. Sure, it would be nice if my writing came with a paycheck, but that's not why I do it. I love my husband; I love my kids; and I love writing. Being paid for what I love would just be an added bonus. If I can call myself a wife, and I can call myself a mother, why can't I call myself a writer? FYI--if you haven't read Nathan's blog, you should. He has great tips for those of us who are still brave enough to call ourselves writers despite the fact that we have never been published. Check it out; it's well worth your time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I have been wondering lately why I ever started writing in the first place. When my daughter gave me a hand-made Mother's Day card, I realized that it wasn't a conscious decision. It was just something that was always a part of me. My first greeting card (unpublished, of course) read something like this: Roses are red. Violets are blue. There's no other mom quite like you. Okay, so it wasn't very original, but I was only five. Give me a break! On another note, I watched my fifteen-year-old perform her last dance for junior high Drill Team last night. Next year, she's off to high school. And my thirteen-year-old is suddenly more concerned about his girlfriend than his batting average. This isn't good news for me on this Mother's Day. They grow up too fast! So, I decided to make a Mother's Day resolution. I will spend more time with them. They may not like the idea, but they don't have a choice. I am their mother!