Call for Manuscripts

An update on what Red Squirrel wants as well as Amazon Children's Publishing.

For one week (1/6 – 1/12/2014), Carolrhoda is open to unagented debut authors of YA fiction.  This means:

  • A first book-length work in any category.
  • Young adult.  NOT New Adult.

If you have a manuscript that you think is perfect for Carolrhoda but have been unable to submit to this closed house, warm up your printer.  But before you get ready to submit your work, check out both the call for manuscripts and their general submissions guidelines.

May the odds be ever in your favor.  (Sorry.  Just rewatched this last night so I didn’t even try to resist.)



New Year’s Resolutions: Writing Goals

GoalsDid you attain the writing goals that you set for 2013?  I did and, because of it, I’ve got some good things coming along in 2014.  I’ll report on those as soon as I can.

Over the years, my goals have changed.  At one point, my goal was to submit a query, proposal or manuscript/month.  Then that increased to two/month.   Unfortunately, queries are easier to send out than completed manuscripts (especially if you don’t need to have the manuscript done).  That means that when I was feeling lazy, I learned to send out queries vs. completing manuscripts.  Bad writer!

You can’t finish manuscripts without writing so then I set word count goals.  I’m really good at first drafts — I can pound out text without stopping to edit or tinker with things until they’re perfect.  Write, write, write.  But than doesn’t mean that things are going out the door.

This lead to me to my goals for 2013.  I had to submit a specific dollar amount/month.  Yes, it sounds mercenary.  But is also makes sense if you are trying to make a living with your writing.  If you set a goal of two manuscripts out/month, they can just as easily go to markets that pay only in copies vs those that pay a really good rate.  You may get credits and build a resume but you aren’t going to earn a living.

Since this type of goal worked for me in 2013, I am going to more-or-less repeat it with a few modifications.  I am going to increase my dollar amount by 50%.  I’m also going to set a goal of getting one old manuscript back out each month as well as one new manuscript.  Obviously, these won’t all be book manuscripts but they also won’t all be short materials.

To read more about resolutions in your writing life, check out my post today on the Muffin.



OverwritingAre you guilty of what my friend Margo Dill calls overwriting?  

When I first heard Margo use this term, I wasn’t sure what she meant.  Fortunately, Margo is an excellent teacher and was more than happy to explain.  Overwriting is Margo’s way of saying that you have said the same thing multiple times within the body of your story.

Sometimes it is at the sentence level, such as:

  • He confronted the evil villain.
  • She nodded her head yes.
  • “What is going on here?” he thought to himself.

In each of these examples, something could easily be cut.  Villains are generally evil.  Nodding means yes and I’ve never heard of anyone nodding their elbow.  Unless your character is telekinetic, he isn’t going to think to anyone but himself.

Other times we overwrite when we try to add interior dialogue to our stories.  Matt de la Pena gave a great example of this at the Missouri SCBWI fall conference.  Don’t bother to include a thought unless it is somehow informative.  AND do not try to tell the reader things that are obvious.  In Matt’s example, he wouldn’t say “He thought about how sad he was that he and his girlfriend had broken up.” Why?  Because you expect him to be sad.  Let us see his thoughts when they are surprising.  Perhaps he’s relieved they have split because she was verbally abusive.

You also overwrite when you both show us something and then also tell us about it.  If your character slams the door, kicks his desk and throws his backpack across the room, you don’t need to tell us he was angry.

I’d love to say that the only way I overwrite is the first example but, if I’m being honest, I’m going to have to admit that I’m just as guilty of thinking the obvious as well as both showing and stating.

Where do you overwrite in your work?



British library releases digital images for public use

11228106243_cfaba62d0f_zThe British Library recently released over 1,000,000 digial images.  As they state it:

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain.
The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

To make the images more readily searchable, the Library has tagged them by book (number), year, and author.

Read more about this endeavor here or take a look at more of the images here.




Merry Christmas!

Grandma Bradford's Christmas Angels.
Grandma Bradford’s Christmas Angels.

Wishing you all a Blessed Holy Day.

I’ll be spending the next five days with my family, recharging my creative batteries.  You’ll still be hearing from me tomorrow but I do hope you spend some time relaxing, nibbling on cookies and singing (three of my favorite Christmas activities).  We all need some down time so that we can return to our writing with energy and enthusiasm.

Merry Christmas to all of you!


Top Ten Books

A friend of mine, I don’t even remember who (it might have been Lynn Bohler) pinged me on Facebook to complete the following challenge:

Rules: In your status line, list 10 novels that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be “right” or “great” books, just the ones that have touched you. Tag 10+ friends, including me, so I’ll see your list. 

I had absolutely no trouble coming up with the ten books.  The reality was that I had troubles limiting it to ten.  And as I read friends’ lists, I kept thinking, “That one should be on my list!  And that one too.”  But I also noticed something funny (odd, not ha ha).  Most people included only books that they liked.  I included at least one book that I despised.  Here’s my list and a bit on how or why I chose each book.

1. Little House on the Prairie.  This was probably the first series I read and I devoured these books.  I’ve only visited two author’s homes.  I still love that, while her books are fiction, her books are realistic and based on her own life experience.

2. Misty of Chincoteague.  I could have picked any of Marguerite Henry’s books.  I read them all.  She is the only author I ever wrote and she responded.  As an adult, I know it was someone on her staff but as a child — wow.  I am hers for life.

3. Black Beauty.  Yep, another horse book.  I still get goofy teary (and really crabby) if a horse character gets hurt in a movie.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale.  Powerful and moving.  My favorite Atwood novel.

5. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  I read Twain as a child and his was the first author’s home that I visited.  The only one that I dragged Jared to see (and he had a blast!).  I loved that he wrote about places I knew.  Along with Laura Ingalls Wilder he taught me that good stories didn’t have to come from far off lands.

6. The Dragonrider’s of Pern.  But good stories could come from far off lands and my favorites were written by Anne McCaffrey.  Although I read many of her books, my favorites all took place on Pern. I loved that there was such diversity among her characters and it was no big deal. They were just there, doing their thing.  You know, just like real people.

7. The Hobbit.  I have successfully read only three Tolkien books and my favorite (because it is obviously the best) is this one.  I loved the epic sweep of his stories.

8. The Origin of Species.  I didn’t read this one as a child and have to admit that I am reading it now.  But this is one of those books that you have to read to know what is in it.  It has been amazing to see what Darwin (one of my scientific heroes) said and didn’t say.  Yep.  I’m geeky enough to have scientific heroes.  

9. On Walden Pond.  Hated this book.  It was more tedious even than Darwin’s writing.  But again, you should read it.  Slog through it and when someone talks about Thoreau you will know if they read the book or only read about the book. Seriously.  But I will never ever read it again.

10. The Blue Sword.  Robin McKinley will always remain one of my favorite fantasy authors.   Yes, I’ve read a host of her books but perhaps because this was the first, it remains my favorite.  A girl hero with a sword.  What isn’t to love?

Hope you manage to work in some amazing holiday reading!


Main Street Books

Sad, sadder and saddest news.  Just last week Vicki Erwin, co-owner of the independent bookstore Main Street Books in St. Charles, Missouri announced that unless a buyer can be found the store will close on January 31st, 2014.  I have to say, this is not on my birthday list so I hope that they find a buyer.

My precious son offered to take out a loan (I think he was eyeing a particular relative) and run the store.  Main Street Books is consistently in the black.  How sad that we may loose a solvent independent simply because they can’t find a buyer.

Pass on the word to any and all, because, while I understand that Vicki wants to retire, I can’t imagine Main Street without this store.  Find a buyer and you never have to get me a birthday present again.  Promise.




The Twelve Days of Christmas

My writing friend Anne Marie Pace worked with a group of authors, editors and agents to make this fun video to celebrate the holidays.

She describes it as both creative and fun and I have to agree.  Even from the viewing end of things (vs the creating end of things) that comes through loud and clear.


Finding Time to Write

TimeFinding time to write can be tricky.  That’s why it makes me nuts when someone tells me how lucky I am that I get to write.  No, that’s not how it works.  I choose to write. This can be especially hard to do when everyone else is home.  Not that I write all the time, but still.

When everyone is home for the holidays, it can be tricky.  I need some writing time, because writing time is quiet time.  I’m not having to make small talk and interact with people.  If you’re an introvert, you get it.  If you’re an extrovert, you’re not going to get it so just smile and nod.

Here are a few things that I can do that make it easier to squeeze a little writing time into my day:

  • Announce my plans.  I’ve given up on sneaking off to write because that’s like hiding a treat from a dog.  Finding you is a challenge.  Instead, let them know “I am going to write for 20 minutes.”
  • Shut the door.  I don’t normally close my office door.  The study is right over the furnace and the room tends to get warm.  But when everyone is home, I put on a tank top and shut the door.
  • Fire when I see the whites of their eyes.  You laugh, but I have resorted to this.  Unless they come bearing gifts of chocolate, or warnings that they’ve set the house on fire, that door had better stay closed.  He who opens it will be shot with a Nerf dart.  Oddly enough, some people do not take this well and go off in a huff.
  • Interact.  When I finish writing, I make a point of interacting with them.  Because after you’ve all interacted for a while, the introverts will want to go their way and will gladly let you do the same…

For more on writing during December, and how it is like baking Christmas cookies, check out my blog post for today on the Muffin.



Karen Thompson Walker: What a Novelist Has to Say about Fear and Creativity

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I found this TED talk, “What Fear Can Teach Us” by novelist Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles. The beauty of using the treadmill for a minimum of 40 minutes most days is this —  you’re going to be on the treadmill whether you watch the TED talk or not, so you might as well be both amused and educated.

Not surprisingly, I’m glad I did.  Walker’s presentation pulls in a wide variety of information including the story of the whale ship Essex and how fear played a role in the decision made by the survivors.  She also compares fear to spinning stories and writing.  She states that good readers bring both an artist’s passion and a scientist’s coolness of judgement to the story.

Here to speak for herself is Walker:


The next time my character is facing two fearful solutions, maybe I’ll have the foresight to keep in mind that subtle fears are often the truest.  And that the lurid?  Often leads to disaster.