Monday, December 31, 2012

Agents for EVERYONE! And a New Year...

What a year 2012 has been! Finished my MS, queried it, met my critique partners for the first time(!!) and three of us went to an agent conference to pitch our books (eeek!), and ALL THREE of us signed with agents this fall!!

I signed with Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, Kristi signed with Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary, and KM signed with Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Literary Agency! And another of my crit partners, Amy L. Sonnichsen, signed with Kate Testerman of KT Literary! I am so so so thankful for these ladies. We are proof that a solid group of critique partners really does make you a stronger writer. We want each other to be the best that we can be, and I hope that your crit group feels the same!

Of course, I'm hoping 2013 will be the year of book deals for everyone haha! Unfortunately, there's not much I can do about that besides live in a constant state of mild panic at the thought that real editors have my MS. A nice problem to have though, I'm aware. I'm very thankful my agent took a chance on me, and I look forward to see what this new year has in store. And if you're querying or soon to be, I hope 2013 will be YOUR YEAR! (I'm looking at you Sarah, Abby and Colene ;)


Friday, December 28, 2012


I hope everyone has had a lovely holiday season!! 

Thank you for helping me celebrate Kristi's amazing agent news! 

Here are our Spread the Good Cheer Giveaway winners!!!

Jessica Capelle ~ Bree Ogden Query Critique and Peek at the first 5 pages

Shila. A ~ $25 Amazon Giftcard

Julie Dao ~ Jennifer Echols Prize Pack
(Forget You, Going Too Far, Love Story, and ARC of Such a Rush)

Shelly Hammond ~ Signed copy of Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Sarah Ahiers ~ ARC of Struck by Jennifer Bosworth


Kristi and I will be emailing each of the winners this week and will get your goodies out as soon as we can!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spread the Good Cheer Giveaway!

We're celebrating the AMAZING AGENT NEWS of my good friend and critique partner,

Kristi Chestnutt!

If you missed the news, you can read about it HERE or HERE.

We have some SWEET stuff up for grabs! There will be FIVE winners!!


query and first five pages critique from Kristi's agent, 
Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary!!


Also up for grabs:

$25 Amazon Gift Card
SIGNED copy of Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith
ARC of Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
Jennifer Echols pack: Forget You, Going Too Far, Love Story, and an ARC of Such a Rush

*US only, sorry
*Contest runs December 12-24th at midnight when Santa draws YOUR name!
*Winners will be notified sometime the next week and will be given time to get back to us--we understand it's a busy season!

Fill out the form below to enter! Good luck to all and to all GOOD CHEER!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Losing Your Eye

Recently I've gone back to some of the portraits I took in 2010 when I first started my little photography biz, and I noticed a few things. It was clear I knew nothing about Photoshop back then, because my editing skills were terrible. But I was actually a better photographer than I am now. The angles I chose to capture my subjects were creative. It was more interesting than the average portrait. I even remember that a client had chosen me because of that.

But somewhere along the line, as I was studying other photographers' work and learning the more technical aspects of this craft that I loved, I lost it. All of it. The style that made me stand out, the interesting angles, the creativity--my eye. I fell out of love with it. At some point, it became a job. Just a job. Always a potential problem when you transform a hobby into a business....

In our writing, of course we have to get a handle on the technical stuff. The structure, the grammar, motivations, story arcs, etc. But we have to hold on to what we love about writing. Our creativity and what makes our storytelling unique shouldn't be sacrificed during our quest to become stronger writers, especially if we want to make it a career. How tragic for writing to turn into "just a job."

I learned more about photography so I could grow as a photographer, but I wasn't careful enough about holding on to the part of ME that made it... me. This next year, I'm going to work on getting back to the heart of my photography. Falling in love with it again. And I'm going to stay ahead of the game and make sure my writing doesn't suffer the same breakup.

Hold on to your eye!

Friday, November 30, 2012

When a Critique Partner gets an AGENT!!

One of my amazing critique partners, 

has big big agenty news! 


Head on over to her blog and throw confetti at her!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Back from China!


Boy it's good to be back home. But this timezone thing is an issue. I've just spent the last couple weeks in Hong Kong and China, a fourteen hour time difference for me. Basically, when we're going to bed here in the central time zone, they're waking up over there. Total night and day. Going there wasn't too bad actually, but trying to readjust now that I'm back (head cold and all) is proving to be difficult (even with the help of NyQuil). Thankfully, my boss is taking this week off for Thanksgiving, so I have a while to reset my body clock and get back into the swing of things.

I haven't even scratched the surface looking through my pictures from the trip, but here's one I couldn't help but edit. One of the most amazing sights I've ever ever ever seen in my entire life. And I couldn't resist giving it a vintage look.

I can't wait to share my experiences from Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, and Beijing! It was quite the trip!  

Monday, November 12, 2012


Another NaNoWriMo is in full swing, and again this girl is not involved. One day, I just might do it. I'm actually considering doing one in January. I know... it's unofficial, but November has got to be the worst month for me to try to write an entire novel. It's my busiest time of year as a photographer, and therefore the most stressful. Yes, I'm up late on the computer, but it's not with Word or Scrivener... it's with Photoshop. Sigh. There's guilt with either, but photography actually pays me, so it always wins ha!

Are you doing NaNo this year? How is it going?? (Or are you not allowed to visit blogs this month? ;)
Have you tried your own NaNo at another time of year? Was it hard to stay motivated if you were the only one doing it?

Monday, November 5, 2012


This time of year when the weather starts cooling off and decorations start going up, I like to bring out the movies that set the mood. Here are some of my seasonal favorites.


You've Got Mail
Meet Me in St. Louis
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Hocus Pocus


Meet Me in St. Louis (yes, again!)
White Christmas
Desk Set
Borrowed Hearts (I THINK this is a Hallmark movie)
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Hallmark)
The Holiday
Little Women
While You Were Sleeping

Really, this list is probably the tip of the iceberg. I'm a sucker for holiday movies. I don't get the Hallmark channel, but every year my Mom records all the movies she thinks I'll like and we marathon them for weeks. What movies are must-sees for you this time of year? Anything I need to add to my list?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Winners!! And Thoughts....

Thank you ALL for helping me celebrate my agent news! Kristi and I had fun with the giveaway, and WE HAVE WINNERS!! Head over to her blog for the announcement!

My thoughts and prayers are with those of you affected by Sandy Franksenstorm. We're no stranger to hurricanes (and other weather disasters) here in Houston, so I know how it can throw your world upside down. I wish all of you a quick and safe recovery!

And I hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween! Have anything exciting planned? We'll be doing a mini hayride with some friends for their kids, then come home early to watch Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's That Time of Year, When the World Falls in

Love? Nah. For me, it's the time of year when I fall into a pit and can't claw my way out until January. The life of a portrait photographer. October through December are insane. Everyone wants pictures for their Christmas cards, which gives me a strict deadline to get all my edits done. Which also means I don't get a whole lot of reading or writing done.

When I get home from my day job (which is part-time, and I basically make my own schedule, so I'm not complaining), I sometimes try to squeeze in a workout, make dinner, jump on the computer to edit some pictures, but since I've already been on the computer all day, I can't handle it for long. By this point my brain is so fried, I'm not creative at all, so writing is out of the question. And if I sit down to read, I feel guilty. So back to the computer I go.

I've tried to schedule fewer photo sessions this year, since last year I didn't enjoy the holidays at all. Halloween through NYE is my favorite time of year, and I don't want to be so stressed I can't appreciate the weather, the lights, the hot chocolate, the gift giving! I think what it all comes down to is time management. Which leads me to (again) consider the idea of devising a schedule.

Do you make a schedule for your day? An hour for this, and hour for that? It's tempting... I just don't know if I'd stick to it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Good News Giveaway! It's EPIC!

My critique buddy (and friend), Kristi Chestnutt had the brilly idea to have an EPIC giveaway to celebrate my agent news! If you missed it, you can check out the announcement HERE, and if you're looking to be inspired never to give up on your dream, you can read my "How I Got My Agent" story HERE.

Get excited because there will be FIVE winners!

That's right, party people. FIVE!!!

The goodies up for grabs:

*Halloween Prize Pack - (Signed copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray and Signed copy of The Dark Divine by Bree Despain)
*Middle Grade Pack (Signed ARC of Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale and Signed ARC of Whatever After: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski)
*Elana Johnson Pack (ARC of Possession and ARC of Surrender)
*Kody Keplinger Pack (Paperback of The DUFF, ARC of Shut Out, ARC of A Midsummer's Nightmare)
                                                       *Writer's Pack: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

We're a fan of easy giveaways, so all you need to do to enter is leave you name and email address (in case you win) in the form below. Please Note: the same form is on both of our blogs, so you only need to enter once-either here or there-all entries will go to one form.

There are, of course, lots of extra ways to get points for you overachievers! See the form below for details.

The contest will run from October 17-29, with the winners being announced on Halloween!

Enter using the form below, and GOOD LUCK!


Monday, October 8, 2012

How I Got My Agent

*I'm sorry this is a long post! But let's be real, you're going to skim it anyway ;)

Recently I signed with the amazing Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, a pairing that was actually rather close to not happening at all. I'm fascinated with "how I got my agent" stories, so for those of you who are curious, here's mine. Parts of it are ridiculously unbelievable, even to me, but I hope it will inspire you not to give up on your own dream!

So I wrote this book... that was step one. Drafting and a few rounds of revisions took about a year. Then came the time to actually send out queries. At first I targeted agents that had success representing books similar to mine. This isn't exactly the best idea, since they already have a client like me. I got great feedback from several agents, two of which took the time to send extensive revision suggestions, and I reworked where I saw fit. The changes made the story stronger, but mid-end of summer was maddeningly quiet on the query response/request front. I was losing hope. Maybe this story wasn't the one. So I worked to emotionally let it go, and dove into my next story.

And I went query-rabid.

Now, Marietta was closed some of the time I queried, but I had a watch set on her agent profile on Query Tracker to be notified when she reopened. To me, her and her agency felt extremely unattainable. One of those dream agencies you query and try to forget you queried because you don't want to think about the rejection that's coming. One of my critique partners queried Nancy Gallt, and for a second I was tempted to fill out that form on the website too, but something held me back. Inside, I knew I needed to wait to query that agency until Marietta was open again.

I spent the first half of September sending queries to the rest of the agents on my list (the peak of my query-rabid stage, expecting nothing, happy with how my new story was shaping up). On a whim, I participated in a Twitter pitch event (#pitmad) on a Thursday (that I only knew about because my critique partner happened to mention it on gchat that morning), which led to a request, which led to my first offer by an unscheduled phone call the following Monday, September 17th, which happened to be the same day Marietta reopened. I had queried her as soon as I woke up that morning, and the offer that stemmed from #pitmad came just a few hours later. I notified a couple agents with my material of the offer, as well as some agents I'd queried that I was especially interested in hearing back from. Suddenly there were a handful of agents interested, all promising to get back to me as soon as possible. But being me, I didn't expect any more offers.

After that first phone call, I got an email from Marietta, asking to read the entire manuscript! A same-day response from an agent that JUST reopened, on the same day I got an offer. This was just too unreal. I sent her the full, and notified her of the offer.

I got a second offer on Tuesday, and my head was spinning. I now had a decision to make. I was going to have to tell someone no, and someone yes. I could hardly eat or sleep.

Thursday, on my way home from work, I got another unscheduled phone call. It was offer number three. I had to pull over to a parking lot to talk to her so I wouldn't wreck.

Friday, an email from another agent to set up a phone call. Offer number four.

What. The. Bleep. Do. I. Do. Now?

I spent the weekend in shock. Tossing and turning. Not eating. Anxious. Confused. Thrilled.

Monday I checked in with the agents still considering, letting them know I now had four offers, and that I was preparing to make my decision. Marietta responded, and we set up a phone call for that afternoon. Offer number five. I felt so good after speaking with her. Not only did she get my story the way I wanted readers to get it, but she was incredibly kind, experienced, and just... right.

But I still had time to think, and Tuesday I got another offer. Number six (I told you this story got completely unbelievable. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it).

Wednesday morning I woke up with the clarity that Marietta was my agent. I still had one more agent with the full, but she was pretty much unresponsive by this point. Convinced I was done, and confident in my decision, I emailed Marietta, set up a phone call, and accepted her offer on the phone. Much squealing of delight followed after I hung up.


Later that afternoon, of course, I finally got an email from the last agent I was convinced I would never hear from. She wanted to set up a phone call to make an offer. Number seven. You've got to be kidding. I wrote her back and thanked her, but had to decline the phone call.

I know what you're thinking. This story is bogus. Trust me, I was saying this to myself and my family the entire time. With each phone call, I just felt like I was falling farther and farther down some rabbit hole of a dream. It sounds exciting--the problem you want to have, they say. But it was, at times, heartbreaking. There were tears involved. There was much stress. I felt sick all the time because I wasn't eating or sleeping well. I had to choose between amazing agents who all loved my story. Who wanted to take a chance on me and my little YA contemporary story that I had just started to believe would never make it anywhere. Thankfully, once I talked to Marietta, the agent that almost wasn't an option, my choice was clear.

So I don't have one of those stories where I queried 10 people and got an offer right away. I queried wide, and for months. I got a lot of nos. I just about gave up, but decided to go ahead and send queries to the rest of the agents on my list. To jump into a Twitter pitch event, of all things. To go ahead and query that unattainable agent as soon as she reopened to queries. And suddenly it was all worth it. Every little thing during my query experience happened because Marietta and I were always supposed to work together. Let this encourage you not to take rejections so hard. They're going to happen. Keep in mind, that one "no" might be making way for that one "yes" you're meant for later.

And because it inspired me to see the numbers on these types of posts:

Total time querying: 5 months
Total queries sent: 121
Query rejections: 59
Partial requests: 13
Full requests: 13 
(Those numbers are the same, but not all partials were upgraded to fulls. Some agents ask for fulls right off the bat)
Offers of representation: 7
The rest are no-responders, or have yet to respond (as of the time of this post, I'm still getting rejections!)

"Your time will come, if you wait for it, if you wait for it. It's hard, believe me, I've tried..." 
- Imagine Dragons

Don't give up on your dreams. They're worth the effort it takes to get there. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Have an AGENT!!!

The past couple of weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, but I can now officially say, I HAVE AN AGENT!!! It's happened! And I might still be in shock. I mean, how long have I dreamed of this day? I found someone who loves my story just as much as I do. Who GETS it. Who is sweet, and funny, honest, professional, and just so wonderful I want to lace up my skates, hop onto the ice, and fling myself into a flying camel spin. (Considering I haven't been on the ice in years, probably not the best idea, but right now I feel like I could do it!) EEEEP!!

I've signed with Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency! I'm agent-buddies with the fabulous Hilary Wagner! And I'm agency-mates with Rick Riordan! Y'all.... I just... I can't even....

Marietta and Nancy represent so many great authors, I look forward to familiarizing myself with them, and I feel so honored and blessed to be added to their client list! Could I possibly add any more exclamation points to this post?! Just a few more!! And I'll post the whole story soon, for those of you who are curious!

A big THANK YOU to all of my followers, blogging buddies, and my amazing critique partners and betas (KM, Kristi, Kim, Amy and Cari). Your comments, encouragement and critiques have kept me going. Much love!

Never give up on your goals. Ever.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Querying as a Jane Austen Adaptation

When it comes to reading Ms. Austen's novels, I'm pretty lazy. I've read Pride and Prejudice several times, but I'm really bad about zoning out and setting it aside for long periods of time. Then I get frustrated and watch one of the movie versions. Oh, Movie Versions. What would we do without thee?

The other day, I was watching Persuasion for the millionth time. The version with THIS guy:

And I couldn't help sympathizing with Anne Elliot, our heroine. Really, any of Austen's heroines. With each unfortunate situation, I kept thinking, THIS IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. She's practically querying her manuscript! All she wants is an amazing agent that loves her book to marry for love (not that it hurts if he's well connected to the big six off), but with each man she starts to consider as a match, she's disappointed. She goes for a long walk with her family and the possible agent of her career love of her life, and she's the only lady that's not asked for the full manuscript escorted over the tiny bridge. Her cousin William starts to make eyes at her, even though he's obviously shady, but all along she's trying to get the attentions of Captain Wentworth. He's her dream agent come to life. For the majority of our glimpse into Anne's life, the Captain is quite unattainable, despite his own stolen glances and compliments to her writing and voice.

Before you start querying, you hear about the "ups and downs," but I don't think you quite "get" it until you're up to your neck in rejections and close calls. There are a lot of downs, but there can also be some ups that really mend the damage the downs caused. Take the criticism and learn from it. Take the praise and don't let it go to your head. Continue to study your craft and strive to get better daily.

Let those rejections roll off, because just like in the novels, the heroine always ends up with the right guy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Five: Fall TV and Shows Past

1. TVD: I am really really really impatient for The Vampire Diaries to start back up. Have you seen the teaser for the new season?!?! I mean, it's a huge spoiler if you aren't caught up, but DANG. #teamdamon

2. Castle: Last season's finale wasn't exactly a cliffhanger, but the preview for the new season looks super exciting and reviews are good! Love me some Castle and Beckett.

3. Once Upon a Time: I almost gave up on this mid-season, but I stuck with it, and now I'm curious what's going to happen next. They already killed off one of my favorite characters and Prince Charming gets on my nerves in the real world, so twil be hard to keep my attention. Better be good!

4. Revenge: Holy moly how this show is like watching a movie every week. It's so exciting and twisty and full of pretty. Can't wait for the new season! #teamjack

5. New Girl: I really miss the funny this show packs in a 30-minute punch. #teamnick

ALSO: Can't wait for Bones! Can't wait for new Big Bang Theory! Can't wait for the new season of Downton Abbey in January! AHHHHH!!


1. I miss amazing shows like Lost and Alias. Come on J.J. Give us another winner.

2. SO upset Jane By Design was canceled. The decent shows always get canned in favor of smutty, pointless ones with no good messages. What's wrong with America? GIVE ME A FREAKING NIELSEN BOX! I'LL SHOW THEM WHAT I WATCH.

3. Now that the show Bunheads is a thing, I'm realizing how much I miss the Gilmore Girls. You can tell the shows are similar, but it's not the same. That dynamic between mother and daughter was so special with GG. Then there was Christopher. And Luke. Bunheads needs to throw us older ladies a Christopher or Luke, right?

4. Pushing Daisies. I'm not sure why I'm not over this yet since it was several years ago now. It was so quirky and funny and adorable. And the narrator was the same guy who did the audio books for Harry Potter!

5. Arrested Development. I watched this series for the first time nearly a year ago thanks to Netflix instant, and oh my if it wasn't one of the funniest things I've ever seen. They keep teasing us with talk of a brief season to catch us up before a movie release, but could they be any SLOWER?

What shows are you looking forward to coming back this season, or what new shows are starting you can't wait to try? Any shows you still miss that are long gone?

Monday, September 3, 2012

GUTGAA Blogfest Meet and Greet

I'm taking part in some of the activities in the GUTGAA-Gearing up to Get an Agent Blogfest this month hosted by the lovely Deana Barnhart, and this week is the meet and greet! I look forward to meeting the other writers involved!

Getting to know me:

I'm quickly approaching the big 3-0, so that's exciting (not). I've always enjoyed being creative, whether with crafts, painting, music, photography ... and I started taking writing seriously around the time I graduated from college. I even brought paper to my graduation ceremony so I could work on my first novel (I mean, what else was I going to do all those hours they were calling off names?).
Born and raised in Texas, I still live here with Handy Hubby and our two boxers, Duke and Mylie.
And this is my blog, soon to celebrate it's third blogiversary!

-Where do you write?
Sometimes in my home office, sometimes on my laptop at the dining table, on the couch, in bed, at Starbucks. Sometimes in a notebook I keep stashed in my purse. 
-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
Well, at my desk would be a row of Ball jars filled with pens, sharpies and highlighters. At the dining table I'm surrounded by research books, on the couch would be... the back of the couch since I sit on it sideways, in bed would be my nightstand, and at Starbucks, often Joy Preble will be to my left, churning out another awesome book. 
-Favorite time to write?
I'm probably most productive at night when it's dark and I don't feel like I'm missing something stuck behind a computer. 
-Drink of choice while writing?
I'm mostly a water drinker, but sometimes if I need a boost I'll reach for skim milk or apple juice. I'm probably the only writer that doesn't drink coffee, though I do love the way it smells when I write at Starbucks!
-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
I need music most of the time. I prefer movie scores (Danny Elfman, Alexandre Desplat and Hans Zimmer are some of the favs right now), but if I'm unfamiliar with the song lyrics I can listen to music with words (If I know it, I'll sing or type the words instead). Sometimes I listen to KPOP, because I REALLY don't know the words and never will. 
-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
The MS I'm querying was inspired in part by my trip to Italy, and in part by my intense brainstorming session to try to set a story over there. 
-What's your most valuable writing tip?
If you don't have at least two really good critique partners, find some! Make sure they're honest and can balance the encouragement with actual constructive feedback. We're artists, we're needy. We need to be told how awesome we are, but we also need to know where to improve. Make sure your critique partners are helping you get better rather than holding you in place. Also, find a reader you trust--someone who doesn't write, just enjoys stories--because they can spot inconsistencies and plot holes your critique partners might not have found. Everyone looks for different things. I'm very very very blessed to have my critique parters and readers. They are made of awesome!  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Writing the Next Novel (Getting Your Groove Back)

Since the query process is taking its old sweet time, I've finally made myself work on something else. But it's been like torture trying to get even 300 words out of myself in an hour. Most of my ideas are for later on in the story ... it's the beginning I'm not sure about, and that's where I am. I'm still getting a handle on the characters, working on their introductions, laying the groundwork for what I know is coming. It's exhausting. With the last book, I flew through the first ten chapters in a week (of course, the first three didn't survive revisions at all), but that's far from happening this time around.

I know it's not a race, but it's frustrating when something that came so easily before is now a source of intimidation. I'm going to blame it on my inability to completely refocus on something other than querying. It's easy to say "dive into another project" but really, you can't ever forget that you're waiting to hear back from actual agents. It steals your joy consciousness. I mean, it's exciting for any of us to be at this point--we finished an entire book! That's huge, right?! But now we have to work on another one. And my original goal of a chapter a day is not quite happening yet. But I'll get there!

How do you transition from one completed book into another with new characters? How long does it take you to get your groove back?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What stresses out one person...

Might relax another....

So, I hooked up the old Super Nintendo system last night, and challenged Handy to a battle of Tetris/Dr. Mario. He talked a big game up front, but I'm the one that grew up with the game, so I was confident in my abilities. I was sailing through like I'd never stopped playing since I was eleven years old and he couldn't get past the first round--kept yelling at the TV, gripping the controller really hard while punching the little purple buttons. He finally said, "This is stressing me out, I'm done."

But for me, it was like jumping back into an unfinished conversation with an old friend I haven't seen in years. It was relaxing. Took my mind off of everything else that's been stressing me out. My source of escape from my stress actually caused Handy to be stressed.

He loved telling me that he wasn't good at the game because "While you were inside playing video games when you were twelve, I was outside building forts." And I said, "Oh yeah? Well I came inside to play video games AFTER building my fort outside, so...."

Yes, I laughed at him. Then I played Donkey Kong.

So what gets your mind off your stress? Walking the dog? Reading a book? Playing video games?

Monday, August 20, 2012

3-2-1-Contacts! Or Glasses?

This post will be a quick little poll about corrective eyewear. It's only been in the last handful of years that I've needed glasses. At first it was just for driving to make things in the distance sharper, but it seemed that the more I wore them, the worse my eyes got and FAST, so I started having to wear these glasses all the time or I'd feel cross-eyed without them. Lately I've been pretty active (tennis and kickboxing) and wearing glasses all the time just isn't practical. I'm considering contacts.

And I'm terrified.

Growing up with a BFF whose father is an optometrist, I only heard all the horror stories about eyes (because those are the exciting ones people remember), and several of these stories involved contacts. But they sound so convenient, I think I might be ready to suck it up and learn to shove something in my eye. People do it everyday, right?

Do you need help with your vision? Are you strictly in the glasses camp or do you use contacts too?  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Breaking Bad (Habits)

Bad habits happen. I still hold my pen weird when I write, despite the efforts by teachers and my parents to set me straight. My hand doesn't like it the "right" way, so now after years of abuse I have a lovely impression on my right ring finger that's even misshapen my nail. And my handwriting is still just as hard to read as when I was in second grade. o_O

There are also bad habits in another form of writing: TYPING. Remember learning to type back in school? Well ... I retained that information incorrectly. I'm fast, but I know I'm not hitting the right keys with the right fingers. And my biggest problem with typing?? CAPS LOCK. For YEARS (and by years I mean from jr. high up until just LAST YEAR, people) I used the caps lock for ALL of my capital letter needs. That's right. Even for just the first letter at the beginning of a sentence or a name, I would hit caps lock, hit the letter, and hit caps lock again. Extremely inefficient and the source of much laughter when I typed in front of anyone. It took me a good six months or so to break the habit, but after much determination, I DID IT. I broke that sucker. Me and the shift key are tight now. We're like THIS *crosses fingers*.

Another habit I had to work really hard to break is the amount of space after a period. I thought two were standard, but not these days it seems. Only one space after the end of a sentence. ONLY ONE! Too bad half my book was written before I knew about THAT rule (and all of my older writings which I discovered recently when I pulled one back out to work on it). What a nightmare getting rid of all those extra spaces was, and training myself to hit space once instead of twice. But I broke that sucka bee too.

These broken habits may not seem like big deals to some of you, but I shall celebrate these victories. They were hard work! Have you broken any writing habits?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just when I needed new music, I found....

MERRIMENT! I've been an Eisley fan for years, but recently discovered the two younger siblings (the ones that were too young to be in Eisley when they started) started a band together called Merriment and they've released an EP. If you're looking for sweet, soothing melodies, check them out.

And just because... here's an acoustic version of an Eisley song in a very echoey room! I've always loved their harmonies. Sigh.

Any other Eisley or Merriment fans out there? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

When Critique Partners Finally Meet!

This post is a little late coming, but things in the querying world have been keeping me busy and insane, so that's my excuse. In June, I got to meet all of my critique partners/my best blogging buddies!

First, Amy from The Green Bathtub and her littlest came to Houston (for a rather sad reason, initially) and she stayed a night with me and hubs. The next day we went shopping where we felt underdressed at Tiffany's and chowed down on some froyo!

Then the next week, KM from One Page at a Time and Kristi Chestnutt came into town, and together we drove all over half of Texas (Houston, obviously, San Marcos, Canyon Lake, Boerne, San Antonio) and we went to the Writers' League of Texas Agent Conference in Austin where we pitched to agents for the first time!

KM, Kristi, me

We got a chance to meet up with Kim Franklin too, and we all went shopping at the largest outlet mall in Texas! It was a fabulous time to hang with the girls in person, and I can't wait until we're all together again! Maybe a book launch party for one of us?! A girl can dream! :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When to Say When

Revisions are pretty neat if you think about it. With a little planning and determination, you have the ability to give your story a face lift. Freshen it up. Delete an unnecessary character, make another more interesting, beef up the MC's motivation. Add some funny! The possibilities are endless! And that's the problem. When do you stop?

I've heard more than one published author say that once their book hits the shelves, they have a hard time even thinking about reading it again. They know they'd find more things they want to change, even though they've already read it through countless times, making it the absolute best they could. There's always something you're going to want to change about your own work. We are our own worst critic, after all. But at some point, you've got to stop obsessively reading over it. Trust yourself that you've made the right decisions by your characters, that you've caught all the pesky typos and out of place commas that you can (let someone else find the rest--sometimes it takes another set of eyes) and send that puppy out into the world! (can you tell I just did another round of revisions this past week?)

Have you done any revising lately? When did/will you say when?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Difference a Year Makes

A year ago we were in a terrible drought here. Last September one of the Texas wildfires got within two miles of my parents' house and they prepared to evacuate several times. The fires were widespread across several parts of the State and did extensive damage, mostly to residential areas too. Those areas are still recovering and rebuilding, but there's a lot of green that has sprung from the ashes now.

This year, we've had quite a bit of rain, especially this week. It's been raining for days, hours and inches at a time. Even now as I write this at nearly ten o'clock hour, it's pouring, and it was pouring when I woke up from a clang of thunder at 5:30. Our backyard is a lake today, and I know there are flash flood warnings all over Houston. Flooding is it's own kind of beast. I've been flooded before, when I was 11. But that's a traumatic story for another time.

Also a year ago, I was in the heart of drafting the book I'm currently in the heart of querying. Looking back and seeing how far you've come is a whole lot easier than trying to guess where you'll be a year from now (though I'd better have a whole other book written and polished a year from now, or I'm going to have to seriously step up my game!).

This past year I've met some wonderful people in the book community (bloggers, authors, even met my critique partners in person finally!), went to TLA, went to my first agent conference with said critique partners, pitched to an agent IN PERSON! I don't like to toot my own horn, but I've done some things I'm proud of this year, out of the comfort zone. What else could you ask for in a year's time? Always move forward.

This time next year, I'd love to have an agent. That's the goal (well, and it would be great to have a book deal, but you know, one wish at a time)! Anything is possible!

What has the past year brought you? Do you have ideas of where you'd like to be a year from now?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dawson and Jane

Oh Netflix, how I love thee. Last week I finished the entire series of Dawson's Creek. Really, it should have been called Joey's Creek because it seemed to be mostly about her. I'm pretty sure there were a couple episodes that didn't even have Dawson IN it. This was my first Dawson experience... even though the show had them graduate in 2001, which is exactly when I graduated, I was "younger" than those kids so I didn't "get" it back when the show was on.

Also thanks to Netflix, I've been watching a new show called Jane by Design. SO CUTE and ADORABLE and PRECIOUS and I CAN'T STOP WATCHING IT. It's about a girl still in high school that tries to get an internship for a fashion designer, but she's mistaken for someone else and lands a real job as the creative director's assistant. So now she's basically leading a double life so obviously, hilarity ensues. The acting's good, the storyline is fun, the characters are lovable.

And if you need another reason to watch it... watch it for Billy! He's SO SWEET it KILLS me.

So what has Netflix done for you lately? Have you watched either of these shows?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Italy Prints in my Store!

Due to encouragement from a friend that saw these images of mine framed at my parents' house, I added a couple new prints in my Etsy store today. They put me in the summer mood!

Happy July!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Pitch Has Been Pitched!

What a weekend that was (I know it's already Thursday and I'm just now blogging about it, but I've been recovering and catching up on sleep)! I've almost got my voice back too. Nearly a week playing hostess to my critique partners proved to be more than my little vocal chords could handle, and I went hoarse pretty quickly. Hopefully the agent I pitched to didn't think I was trying to sound seductive or anything. I promise I wasn't. o_O

That's right! I pitched to an agent! A real, live rockstar of a literary agent! With the help of my critique partners, I memorized a two sentence pitch but she started asking questions halfway through the first sentence so a lot of good that did me haha. I'd been a bundle of nerves all day, but once I sat down with her, I instantly relaxed. She was so nice and enthusiastic about everything I had to say, I couldn't help feeling like I was chatting with someone I already knew. Our ten minutes together flew by, but I had a minute at the end to ask a couple quick questions. On the whole, I learned a great deal at the conference, and I'll take this opportunity to encourage you to attend a conference if you haven't been to one before. Break out of your comfort zone and meet with an agent in person. If I can do it, anyone can. Seriously. It's worth the nerves going into it.

I know you're wondering, but no, I'm not going to reveal who the agent was. I make a point not to get into specifics on social networking sites at this stage of the agent hunt. And I know what else you're wondering. This agent had everyone who pitched to her send a query and sample pages with the conference as the subject line. Less than two days later she requested the full! EEEEEP!

Are you querying right now? How's it going?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Anastasia Forever Trailer Release! Check it OUT!

I am so excited to be a part of the exclusive ANASTASIA FOREVER BLOG TOUR!  Only a lucky few have the chance to debut this trailer, and I’m beyond thrilled to see where Anne’s dreams lead her in the third and final installment of the DREAMING ANASTASIA Series.  Will she unlock the secrets of the past before they destroy her future?

Here’s the scoop on the DREAMING ANASTASIA Series!

There is so much to love about this series as Joy brilliantly blends Russian history, romance, magic and mythology into an enticing adventure.

In DREAMING ANASTASIA, Anne Michaelson begins to have unusual dreams and discovers that she is the only one who can save the daughter of the last tsar of Russia, Anastasia Romanov.  Believed to be dead by the world, Anastasia has been kept captive all these years by the Russian witch Baba Yaga, and only Ethan, a handsome and mysterious 18-year-old, can help Anne free Anastasia. 

Anne once again leaves behind her ordinary life in HAUNTED to join forces with the mysterious and gorgeous Ethan as the journey with the Romanov continues.  This time she is haunted by classic figures from Russian mythology, a rusalka, , a Russian folklore mermaid with a malevolent streak –  and a particular interest in Anne,  who tells her that Anastasia is still alive.  As she and Ethan team up, Anne’s search for the rusalka’s identity reveals deep and startling secrets - including the true source of Anne’s powers.

Now in ANASTASIA FOREVER, having survived Baba Yaga and the Rusalka, Anne finds herself bound by the witch to undertake a journey into past, present, and future that will determine her destiny - and that of everyone she loves.

Catch a preview of the danger, romance, and magic await Anne in this exciting glimpse ahead of ANASTASIA FOREVER by taking a look at a special sneak peak with the first three chapters here!

Are you ready to see the trailer?! Are you? Huuuuuuuh??? Check it out HERE!

ANASTASIA FOREVER comes out this August, be sure to look out for all things Anastasia at Joy’s website 

Monday, June 18, 2012

This is THE WEEK!

This week, I'll be playing hostess to two of my critique girls, Kristi Chestnutt and KM from One Page at a Time! We're going to a conference together this weekend and I'm confident we're going to have a GREAT week of writing, sightseeing, shopping and cupcake eating. We're also meeting up with Kim Franklin for a day of shopping at the largest outlet mall in Texas! It will be SO great to finally meet all these girls face to face for the first time, ALL AT ONCE!

Now about this conference... I'm still working on my live pitch, and wow it's lame. I can already tell what's going to end up happening. I'll give up on writing a word for word pitch because everything I write sounds stupid, so I'll bullet point everything, get in there and start rambling, mixing them all up so my pitch makes no sense whatsoever. She'll smile politely and nod with a bubble cloud over her head that says, "Not another one...." Then I will run to the bathroom and throw up.

But at least I'll have my girls with me! :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Five: The Query Resource Edition

I'm just going to be honest here (like I'd lie to you anyway). When you're in the midst of querying, you can't help but think about it. All. The. Time. Even though you know worrying about it and refreshing your email account won't make those responses come any faster. There's a lot of research involved in making that list of agents to query. You have to make sure you choose ones that are actually looking for works in your genre, if they're open to submissions, if they prefer direct emails, sample pages, the synopsis, etc. It really can make your head spin.

If you've queried before or are querying now, you're probably using these resources already. But for those of you that have yet to partake in the joy, these could be helpful tips for you.

1. Read the acknowledgments page in your favorite books in your genre. Authors almost always thank their agent. I've added quite a few to my list this way. The way I see it... if I've heard of the book and have even read the book/it's sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, their agent did something right.

2. Query Tracker - this FREE database is a gold mine. They let you build your list, keep track of it, mark when you queried who, when and what the response was, etc. You can also search by author to see who reps/has repped them. Become "pen pals" with your friends that are also on there, and you can see each other's lists of agents they've queried. You never know who they found that you haven't, and vice versa.

3. Literary Rambles - Casey and Natalie run quite the blog here. It's FULL of interviews and a series called Agent Spotlight that pretty much tells you what you need to know about each lit agent they spotlight, complete with links to interviews and other goodies. This is my go-to info site next to agency sites, and if the agent I'm researching isn't on there...

4. There's always Google. Just a search of the agent's name turns up interviews, client announcements, sales, etc.

5. Twitter. I know, I know. But if you haven't caved yet, my bet is that you will. Check out the agent's tweets and see if you like their vibe. I like to get a handle on their personality and see how/if they interact with authors, clients, other agents, etc. Are they helping to promote their clients/other people's clients? Do they feel like someone you could work with?

There are lots of tools out there at our fingertips. We just have to put in the work and use them! Good luck to everyone querying or gearing up to start!