Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 20 - Letter T

It's time to T it up on today's Blogging from A to Z Challenge - and my topic:


As I mentioned in my "I" post for inspiration, I love to travel. My parents instilled this in me, from a very young age - especially since my father was a pilot for Alaska Airlines, and my mother was an apparel buyer that traversed the world for her job (a career I ended up sharing, as I realized not only did I get to travel, but I got to shop for a living!).

I've been very fortunate throughout the years, to have had the luxury of traveling to many amazing places: from Okinawa, Japan, and Machu Picchu, Peru, to the Cinque Terre region of Italy.

Of course, there are still many places I've never been, but someday I will:

Geneva, Switzerland


Chamonix, France


The Maldives



The Great Wall of China
New Zealand
Easter Island 

The list goes on and on...

And since I haven't made it to some of these locations just yet, I find that including them in my writing, almost makes being there, a reality. My current manuscript primarly takes place here in the Northwest, where I live - but part of the journey takes my characters to the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland.

One of these days I'll make it there, myself. But until then, I get to live vicariously through my characters - after all, that's one of the great perks about being a writer - you get to write whatever you want!

Travel: where do your characters take you? Places you've been before? Or places you've always dreamed? 

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Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 19 - Letter S

S is up in today's Blogging from A to Z Challenge - and my topic:


"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft--and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade--how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King's overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.

Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower--and entertain--everyone who reads it.

My personal take?

If you're at all interested in writing, even just a tad bit, you MUST read this book. Packed with useful and often times critical information, this will be one that you keep within arms reach of your computer.

There are a ton of great books on the craft of writing - but this one is my favorite. Maybe it's because I'm a fan of Stephen King first and foremost. But I also think it's because of how brutally honest he is about what writing meant to him, and why he kept pushing forward...and ultimately, if you want to write, how that can translate to your own career.

Is Stephen King's ON WRITING on your list of favorite writing tools? What other books on the craft of writing would you recommend?


The polls are still open until April 23rd to vote for your favorite book blog via Goodreads! If you'd like to support my blog and all the book reviews I post (and thank you very much!), please click on the voting button over there to your left (just above my Twitter and Linky sections). Thanks again!! 

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 7 - Letter Q

You'd think the letter Q would be a tough one on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge - but I'm pretty sure quite a few of us writer's participating in the A to Z challenge, will be covering the same topic:

Query Letters and QueryTracker.net

There are many steps on the road to publication a writer must take. Of course, first you need to write something. This can take weeks, months, and even years - on the contrary to what many people think. 

Then you need to polish your manuscript until it's shining like a bright copper penny. Buff out the hard edges, sand out all the splinters, and fill in the gaping holes. Get critique partners and beta readers to rip it up and give you good, honest feedback - and take most of it, to heart; it's only going to make your story stronger.

Then do this step, all over again.

Believe me, you don't send out your manuscript the day after you've typed your last word (even though this is what I did, with my very first manuscript...no wonder it's locked away on my external hard drive, far, far, away!). 

But once your manuscript is ready to find a great literary Agent - it's not as simple as printing it out, wrapping it up in brown craft paper tied off with twine, and shipping it off to your top choice of agents. Nope. Not even remotely. Because you still have a few more steps you need to take - first of which, is write yourself a great query letter, so you can get the attention of said great literary Agent.

But what exactly is a query letter?

Plain and simple, a query letter is a one page cover letter, that pitches you and your story to those in the publishing industry. You have seconds to make a lasting impression, and only one page to do it all in. One. 

What it's not: a resume. Or page after page of how great and original your story is. Or how much better you write than that chick who wrote the vampire books

For the most part, your query letter should consist of the following: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Many believe this should pack down into three tidy paragraphs - but I don't necessarily agree with that. As long as you keep all of the above to ONE page, I think it's fine, to say, have 4-6 small paragraphs vs. 3 long ones. But net/net, it should be roughly around 250 - 300 words total, from Dear Agent to Sincerely, Your Name. 

Agent Query posted a great article on How To Write A Query, which goes into more detail on all three of the above aspects, that make up the query letter - plus, they give great examples.

And I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking a class on learning to write the perfect query: I don't believe C.J. Redwine teaches her workshop anymore (I took her query class a few years ago, and it was invaluable!), but I know she's published a book on the topic, which is worth checking out (just click on her name above for more details). I've also taken several classes through Writer's Digest - they always have guest agents that conduct them (I've taken a few from both Mary Kole and Sara Megibow, which were outstanding) - and you always get hands on advice!

So, what happens next?

Once you've landed on the perfect query letter - if you haven't already, it's now time to start researching the agents you want to query. There are MANY resources out there, for researching agents - Agent Query, Publisher's Marketplace, Twitter, and my all-time favorite: QueryTracker.

And what exactly is QueryTracker.net?

As posted on their site:

QueryTracker is not just another list of agents. In fact, our agent list is secondary to the real purpose and power of QueryTracker.

QueryTracker.net is a model for what I like to call "Social Data Gathering." Which means each QT user contributes data about their query and agent experiences. Alone, this data does not reveal much, but when combined with the data from our ever-growing membership, we can see trends and identify important aspects of an individual agent's actions.

But really, QueryTracker is an amazing data base, were other writers in the querying stage come to learn about agents, share who they've queried themselves, offer support, and understand many of the typical habits of most agents (response turn around time, average acceptance / rejection percentages, correct name and mailing address, etc.).

It truly is a valuable service to those ready to query an agent - and the best part? It's a free service (although for $25 / year, you can upgrade for more in-depth features, which are well worth it). Not to mention, Patrick - the King of QT support - is a-mazing! He's constantly monitoring the list of agents tracked to make sure none of them are on the Preditors and Editors list (aka, the agents that don't have your best interests at heart), is there to answer any questions - and overall, maintains the awesomeness that is QueryTracker. 

Head on over there and sign up, if you haven't already!

To sum it all up:

A query letter takes time - and lots of it. Sometimes it takes multiple versions, before landing on the right one. But to be totally honest, this is one of my most ABSOLUTE favorite steps of the writing process. I love writing queries - however sick and twisted that sounds - but I do. Synopsis on the other hand? Not so much.

I was going to post my query letter for THE LUCKY FEW, which netted the most success I've had in the querying process over all the years (5 weeks of querying: 17 agents queried = 10 fulls, 3 partials, 4 declines - and an exclusive rewrite with my top choice in agents) - but instead, I'd rather hear your thoughts on the whole process. If you have any questions or you'd like to share your query letter, I'd love to see it!

So...Query Letters and QueryTracker.net: how did YOU tackle the query process and what tools did you use? 

Additional resources:

The infamous Query Shark

Mary Kole - KidLit.com 

The polls are still open until April 23rd to vote for your favorite book blog via Goodreads! If you'd like to support my blog and all the book reviews I post (and thank you very much!), please click on the voting button over there to your left (just above my Twitter and Linky sections). Thanks again!! 

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 16 - Letter P

It's time for the fabulous P in today's Blogging from A to Z Challenge - and my topic:


I love poetry. Always have and always will. 

Some of my best memories growing up, are tied to many of my favorite poems: My sisters and I reading the wonderful rhyming words from the late-great Shel Silverstein, in WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, THE LIGHT IN THE ATTIC, and THE GIVING TREE.

And recalling as if it were just yesterday, my mom reading one of my favorites from the fabulous Dr. Seuss:

Oh, The Places You'll Go! - Dr. Seuss (excerpt)

On and on you will hike.
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many stray birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with you left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent garanteed!)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Alenn O'Shea
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So... get on your way!


But after all these years, there is one that stands out from the rest of them. It's a poem I had to memorize in junior high English...which I then had to recite back in front of the entire class, as the boy I had the biggest crush on, sat and watched from the front row. Fifteen years later, he was the best man in my wedding.

And the poem? It's still my favorite: 

The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 


Words, no matter how they're strung together, can mean more than just what's written down.

Poetry: What's your favorite - and what memory does it bring back for you?

The polls are open until 4/23 to vote for your favorite book blog via Goodreads! If you'd like to support my blog and all the book reviews I post (and thank you very much!), please click on the IBBA link - or the voting button over there to your left (just above my Twitter and Linky sections). Thanks again!! 


Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 15 - Letter O

Today's the magnificent letter O in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge - and my topic:


Definitely one of the age old debacles for a writer - to outline or to not outline. 

Myself? I've always been a total pantser-style writer - letting my fingers fly across the keyboard with zero pause for censorship. At least that's what I thought...

But lately, I may have changed my tune. Which I actually find humor in, considering how much of a planner and list-maker I am in my day job. For five days a week, twelve hours a day, I'm owned by my to-do lists...and I actually relish in the satisfaction of filling in each tiny box next to all of my projects for the day, once they're done. Not to mention, I'm a huge Excel lover - and am fascinated with spreadsheets and the formulas that make the spreadsheets what they are.  

So why did I find it so hard to translate all of the above, into my writing?

Well, it's simple: Fear of losing my creativity.

While my job as a Creative Development Manager may sound creative (after all, it's actually in my title!), thanks to process, politics, and the need to get more done faster in less time, I've practically lost all the creative aspects that drew me to it, five years ago. Which is probably why in turn, my writing has picked up immensely, over the last five years.

I've always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of writer - believing that having to sit down and outline a story, took all the creativity out of writing it. And I wasn't about to put a damper on any of my creativity, with a silly ole' outline. 

But after realizing the potential for my book to actually become a series, I had to start thinking about all the legs it could have and how far I could take it. What would happen in book two, or even more so, in book three? And how would the ending I originally planned, morph into something even more involved, to encompass all that would happen across all three books?

Which led me to begin the outline for my story.

And wouldn't you know? The love I have for outlining my day, has translated into outlining my stories! Sketching out ideas on my giant white board, with multi-colored pens, is down-right gratifying - not to mention, fuels my desire to create. And now? Yeah, I think it's safe to say, that while I do love to write by the seat of my pants - it's almost just as much fun sitting down to outline the next steps. 

Does that mean I'll outline always? I'm not 100% positive on that. I'm also not sure I'll outline before I actually start to write something new - sometimes it's half the fun to just sit down and go...but at least now I know how great it can be to add an outline to a work in progress, and the benefits of what it can do!

Outlines: Are you a believer? 


The polls are open until 4/23 to vote for your favorite book blog via Goodreads! If you'd like to support my blog and all the book reviews I post (and thank you very much!), please click on the voting button over there to your left (just above my Twitter and Linky sections). Thanks again!! 


Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 14 - Letter N

We've got N up for grabs in today's Blogging from A to Z Challenge - and my topic:

Naming Your Novel

So you've finally finished the last line of your manuscript. It's maybe even been through a dozen or so re-writes. Your critique partners have scoured over it - and your beta readers love it. But...what did you end up naming it? 

For some, the name just comes, as they write. For others, maybe it's at the end, when all is said and done. But for many, finding the perfect name isn't as easy as it would seem. In fact, it may have been easier to write those 80,000 words that make up your manuscript - but the few simple ones that will adorn the cover? Yeah, not so much.

Why is a title that big a deal?

A title is everything! It’s the first thing a potential reader sees - it's what will either catch an agent or editor’s attention or send all your hard work straight to the trash can. Just as your name represents you, the title of your book must be representative of your novel.

I've determined that titles can be separated into three groups: The good, the okay, and the not-so-good…

The first is the good: These are the titles that catch your attention right off the bat. They make a reader pick up the book, scan the front, turn it over and read the back...and ultimately, move on to the cash registers, with said book in hand. Examples: The Hunger Games, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Slaughterhouse-Five, and The Lovely Bones.

The okay: These titles have a 50/50 chance of getting the attention of a reader - but that might only be because they had a great image on the cover, or maybe an impressive quote from the New York Times (or another reputable author). Examples: Twilight, Shiver, and Hourglass.

Then the not-so-good: Oy vey. If you didn't know a stitch about these books - hadn't heard any buzz what-so-ever...chances are, you'd walk right on by. Examples: The Road, Fallen, and Passion. 

So...how do you come up with a name?

It's all about being creative. 

Here are several tips that I use, when naming my novel:

Ah, my favorite: make a list:

1. List out all the names of your main characters.
2. Add all the major places in your book - school names, places of employment, locations.
3. Do you have any special talismans/objects that play a specific or important role? (for example: The Sorcerer's Stone)
4. Does your book contain any unique creatures, animals, or beings?

What is your story about?

1. What is the plot of your book?
2. Do you take your reader on a journey - and if so, to where?
3. Does your book relate to a current event or a trend?

When all else fails, turn to Google:

1. Search for pictures that represent your characters, your plot, maybe the school in your story - anything that represents aspects of your book. This is a favorite for me - and something I do from the very beginning of writing a story (and yes, I keep a spreadsheet of all my pics, so I can reference them later).
2. When you think of what other books your's would sit next to in the book store, what are their titles? This might get the creative wheels turning - but just make sure your title isn’t too close to another book already published!

Be creative and have some fun:

1. Pick out words that are unique to your manuscript - is there something there that can be played off of?
2. Use humor to help grab the attention your book deserves!
3. But don't forget - make sure your title is original. Don't be too quirky - but do pick something that's catchy.

Here are a few great articles I've found to help aid in finding a creative title for your story:

Writer's Digest posted a great article on the 7 Tips to Land the Perfect Title for Your Novel.

Absolute Write also posted a decent article, A Title for My Novel.

What's in a Name? Everything. So tell me, how did you come up with your title?


And just a reminder: the polls are still open to vote for your favorite book blog via Goodreads! If you'd like to support my blog and all the book reviews I post (and thank you very much!), please click on the voting button over there to your left (just above my Twitter and Linky sections). Thanks again!!