A Kind Word

I’m going to start with a quick introduction (i.e. excuse). It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written anything on here. Last fall, I accepted a part-time job with the local school district. So between two part-time jobs, two full-time kids, a minimum of three novels being balanced at any given time, and trying to find some time for my own mental health, blogging kind of fell by the wayside. But I realized recently that I have something to say, so I’m hopping behind the keyboard again. Hope you enjoy!

We live in a day and age that many people seem to have forgotten the impact that a simple word of kindness can have on a person. It’s so easy to be mean online. To not think twice about what you say. To let your emotions run the keyboard and never think twice about it. Cyber bullying runs rampant, partially because it’s easier to be cruel and hurtful when you don’t have to see the pain your words have caused.

As a result, I think people have started to underestimate the power of words. Yes, they’re just words. A strand of sounds put together that amazingly make sense in our human brains. Even so, words can hurt. But they can also help. It really is amazing how much an off-the-cuff compliment given at the right time can affect a person’s life. In my case, a rejection email I received years ago is part of the reason I haven’t given up on writing.

I started writing long, long ago. Like a million years in dog years. Okay, so maybe I’m not quite that old. But some days it feels like it. My first “querying” experience came when I was a sophomore in college. I had written a novel. Looking back, it was a hot mess of everything that could have been wrong with a novel. It was full of cliches, purple prose, and the plot had more holes in it than a piece of moldy swiss cheese. (Don’t ask why it has to be moldy. I’m the one in charge here.) But I was proud of what I’d accomplished. I had completed a novel. (I didn’t realize at the time that completed also meant revising the ever loving…whatever out of it.)

So with the cursor flashing at THE END, I threw myself into the world of querying. A world that I now realize I knew NOTHING about. Full of naive excitement, I attended a small romance writers conference that was held about an hour from my house. Prior to the conference, I sent an email to the editor of the small press I was going to be pitching to, asking him if he’d be willing to take a look at the manuscript and give me some feedback on it. (This is a no-no, by the way. Like I said, I didn’t know better.)

To my surprise, he agreed, and had me send over a partial manuscript. When I met with him at the conference, he had a lot of really nice things to say, and actually asked me to send the full. I was convinced my moment had arrived. I was going to be published. And my life was going to be full of fancy book tours and chocolates and…Then came the rejection.

It landed in my email a few months later. He let me down gently, saying I needed to concentrate more on my setting (which was probably his way of toning down “What in the actual f*** did I just read?”) It stung, but it was the end of the email that truly stuck with me. He said that even though it hadn’t worked out, he strongly believed he would see my name on the bookshelf some day.

At the time, it didn’t mean that much to me. I was licking my wounds from my first real rejection. But over the years, those words have burned themselves into my brain. There have been many other projects. More rejections than I care to count. And plenty of times that it would have been easy to give up writing and walk away. After all, it’s a big mountain to climb, and just like Mount Everest, not everyone makes it to the top. But every time I considered calling it quits, I thought of those words. And they were enough to push me to hit send on the next query, or jump into the next set of revisions, or start on a new project because the last one just wasn’t quite right.

I don’t remember his name, or even the name of the press he was acquiring for. And I’m sure he doesn’t remember me or that email. It’s possible he said that in all of his rejections. But for me, it was the push that I needed to keep going.

Is it possible I would have pushed on anyway? Of course it is. I’m a Taurus. We’re known for being stubborn. But I’ll never forget those words, and one of these days, I will prove him right.

Moral of the story: Don’t lose faith in words. They have power. But like superheroes, with great power, comes great responsibility. Be kind with your words. Use them to inspire. To encourage. To lift up. Not to tear people down. Because we can all use to hear some kind words every now and then.

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Why I write (and other things): My PitchWars mentee bio

Okay. So it’s do or die time. I think I’ve rewritten this blog post almost as many times as I’ve rewritten my query letter. It’s time to suck it up and post it.

I took the plunge and submitted my current manuscript to PitchWars this year. And, to be honest, I submitted largely because all of the people involved seem so awesome, and I want to get to know them better. So here’s a little bit about me.

I grew up in a tiny tourist town in Colorado. I wish I still lived there. Instead, I now live in a tiny tourist town in Utah. I grew up reading books and raising all different types of farm animals: sheep, goats, rabbits, horses and the occasional llama.

I wrote my first novel in middle school. I credit it with surviving that period of pre-teen angst. During seventh grade science, instead of listening to the teacher, I sat in the back of the class writing a story about my adult life operating a horse ranch with my best friend. We even raised a Kentucky Derby winner. The story enabled me to see past the bullying and failed friendships. It showed me a future that was only possible if I pushed through and survived. So I did. I didn’t go on to raise horses, but I am raising two pretty awesome kids.

I never really planned on pursuing writing. In fact, in high school, even though I did well in English, it was one of my least favorite classes. It wasn’t until college that I decided to abandon my dream of professional trumpet playing (just one of my not very realistic career choices, including country music singer) and pursue a degree in creative writing.

I am now a stay-at-home mom, and a freelance writer doing regular work for the local newspaper. I have written six novel-length stories, though many of them are doomed to the obscurity of my computer’s hard drive.

So why pick me? Well, I can sing my alphabet backwards (a trick I taught myself after hearing that cops made you do it for sobriety tests), and I can ride a unicycle. Not very far, but I can do it!

I’m also a hard worker, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get this manuscript whipped into shape so that it’s presentable to the world.

So there you have it. That’s me in a nutshell. I just hope you aren’t allergic to nuts.

Oh, and if you’re interested in checking out some of the other awesome authors that I’m up against, you can find more bios here: http://dcmorin.blogspot.com/2014/08/2014-pitchwars-contestant-hop-now-its.html

Need to get away?

Sometimes in life, we need to escape. Hit CTRL, ALT, DEL. Reboot. Whatever. But that’s not always easy. Life can make it difficult to hide from all of its problems, so we find our own ways to escape within the confines of daily life. Some people use music. Others turn to drugs and alcohol. Me? I write.

When I sat down to write my first novel-length piece, I had no intentions of writing a novel. It was just a story. A story about my future. A story that gave me hope. I was in middle school, and I was miserable. Now, to be fair, middle school is a rough time for most kids. Changing hormones, acne, trying to fit in . . . I don’t know a single person who wishes they could go back.

Middle school was extremely rough for me. I was bullied routinely. Because I cut my hair short. Because I listened to country music. Because I preferred soccer over makeup. It was non-stop noise, constantly buzzing in my ears, making me question everything about who I was, and who I was going to be. Add to that a healthy dose of family drama and a falling out with my best friend, and some days I was pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel had been snuffed out.

Then I started to write Rosewater Creek. It was silly, really. A story about my life on a ranch on a horse ranch in Texas. All of my friends played lead roles. I had a jockey who eventually quit to take a job riding wildebeests, a sassy stablehand who was always yelling at me, and even a trashcan prophet.

Though the story was awful and will never see the light of day, it was not a waste of time. I didn’t write Rosewater Creek dreaming of fame and fortune (though I did ask a famous country singer to come star in the film adaptation my friends and I had planned. I’m still waiting to hear back on that request. I’m sure he’s just busy.) I wrote Rosewater Creek to remind myself that life could get better. That middle school wouldn’t last forever.

I don’t live in Texas. I don’t even own a horse. And I certainly didn’t raise a Kentucky Derby winner. My life isn’t anything like I pictured it to be during those bleak days, but that’s okay. Because by picturing that life . . . by writing it down, I gave myself hope. Enough hope to struggle through the daily grind that was middle school. And I came out the other side. A little bruised and battered, and definitely a different person than I was going in. But I made it.

Rosewater Creek isn’t my only novel that is destined to never see the bright lights of publication. I’ve written several novel-length pieces that are likely to reside in obscurity, but they’ve all served a purpose. One helped me realize that I wanted to pursue the dream of being a writer. Another helped me handle the ups and downs of an unexpected pregnancy. And every single word I wrote brought me closer to a reality where I can call myself a writer.

When you write, there will be naysayers. People who think you are wasting your time. And chances are, in their opinion, you will waste a lot of it. But you know what? It’s not a waste. Because if you’re anything like me, even if you never achieve your dream of being traditionally published, you love writing. And doing something you love can never be a waste of time.

Victory!

I did it. I have won the epic battle. It’s taken me seven years, more hours than I am willing to admit, and literal blood sweat and tears, but I finally accomplished a feat I once thought was impossible. A feat that an estimated less than one percent of the US population can lay claim to. I have slaved. I have toiled. And I have triumphed. I am unicyclist. Hear me roar.

Wait! You’re probably asking yourself if you read that right. Well, you did. I can finally say, without an ounce of trepidation, that I can ride a unicycle. Now to some of you, that may not be as exciting as say . . . getting a publishing contract. And maybe it’s not. But there is a lesson to be learned, and it’s all about perseverance.

I started falling off the unicycle around seven years ago when my husband got it into his head that he was going to learn to ride one. (I’m still not entirely sure of the thought process there.) He ordered one, and promptly left a grey streak of rubber across the living room carpet as he wobbled his way through our house (because naturally he decided to learn this skill in the winter.) It wasn’t long before we were making excursions to the park. He was riding further and further every day. It wasn’t long before he decided that he wanted me to learn with him.

So I indulged him. I grabbed a stepladder and started falling off the unicycle. Repeatedly. Again. And again. And again. And eventually I started to make some progress. But before long, life got in the way. Or I lost motivation. Either way, I quit trying.

That became a constant cycle over the next seven years. I would decide I wanted to try again. I’d work at it for an hour. I would make progress. Then it would get put away, and I wouldn’t try again for another six months. Or a year.

This year, the Moab Munifest (mountain unicycle festival) returned to Moab after a five year hiatus. My husband was thrilled and eagerly signed up to go ride some trails. I took their return as a sign that I finally needed to get my ass in the saddle (literally) and make it happen. So I did. I spent night after night outside, falling off the unicycle. Making progress and falling off again. And you know what? All that hard work paid off. I’m not a great rider. I still fall off more times than I don’t. And I can’t ride more than a couple hundred yards before my legs get tired, and I need a break. But I can ride a unicycle dammit! And that’s more than a lot of people can say.

Now what does this have to do with writing? You probably already figured it out, but I’m going to indulge myself and spell it out for you anyway. When you’re a writer, you’re going to fall. A lot. And there are going to be times where you’re going to walk away from it all because you’re tired of it. That’s okay. If you need a break, take it. But keep coming back. Keep fighting. When you fall off, dust yourself off and climb back on. You may not get it this time. Hell, you may not get it the next sixty-two times. But if you keep trying, eventually you will make it. 

Or you can give up writing, and learn to ride a unicycle with me.

 

NaNoWriMo Eve

As I sit here writing this blog post, it is officially NaNoWriMo Eve. To most people it would be know as Halloween, but Halloween is over in this house. The costumes have been stripped off and left lying in the middle of the floor surrounded by candy wrappers, I’ve eaten more candy than real food, and the kids have finally slipped off to dream in their sugar comas. The last trick-or-treaters have turned in for the night. And I am left staring into the eyes of NaNo.

This year will mark the first year I’ve actually planned on taking the NaNo challenge. I first heard about the 50,000 word race two years ago, but it was already halfway through the month of November, and I had no ideas on new material to write, so I didn’t even bother. Last year, I was (as usual) late to the party. I’d forgotten about it until I read about it on a parenting forum. By then, it was the third of November. Even though I didn’t have the beginnings of a novel in my brain, divine inspiration struck, and a novel was born.

This year, I’ve had time to prepare, and maybe that’s the reason I’m feeling somewhat apprehensive about it. I’m not sure why I’m so worried. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve succeeded once, which makes the idea of failure even less appealing. Maybe it’s the fact that my kids have spent the last week sick, so I’ve had almost no time to myself to sit down and write. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m halfway through a rewrite that I’m reluctant to put aside for the next month. It’s hard to say, but the excitement that I felt a week or so ago has turned to nerves.

It probably doesn’t help that I find myself lacking slightly in the familial support department. My husband seems to think that NaNo made me into a cranky, hermit last year. (You should see his, “Don’t bother me. I’m writing.” impression.) The one big plus here is that he has decided to enter a November contest of his own. He and his coworkers have all agreed to participate in No-Shave November, and they’re going to vote to see who grows the best beard. I think that buys me a little bit of wiggle room. If I have to put up with his bushy beard, he can deal with my need for writing time.

So I’m sitting here, while my husband eats the kids Halloween candy, wondering what the next month will bring. And hoping I’ll be able to find the time to bang out the 1,666 and 2/3 words that I need to get down every day to make my 50,000 word goal. And worrying that I’ll run out of material before I hit 50k. But you know what? Tomorrow I will sit down at the computer, I will hit the keys, and I’ll do the best I can. And I’ll let you know how I do along the way. (Assuming I can find time to write a blog post in addition to my NaNo necessities.)

Wish me luck and may the NaNo be with you!

Ask me about my NaNo

The leaves are changing colors, the mountains are covered with tiny blankets of white, and there is a definite chill in the air. That means it’s almost my favorite time of year (and probably my husband’s least favorite.) I’m talking about NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. Granted, it’s also No Shave November, National Diabetes Awareness Month, Sweet Potato Awareness Month, Native American Heritage Month, and a whole slew of others. So it’s totally understandable if, between all of those and the holidays, you didn’t know about NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is celebrated with an online writing contest. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Doesn’t matter if they’re good or not. The point is just to sit down and get the story out. My husband actually wrote, “This is my novel” and copied and pasted it a billion times. He actually made the computer freeze up after getting over a million words. He threatened to actually upload it just to say he was a winner, but he chickened out, leaving me as the only NaNoWriMo winner in this house.

Last year was my first year competing in NaNo, and it was an eye opening experience for me. I had written several novels before, but each had taken me years to get down on paper (or the computer screen). By forcing myself to ignore my annoying, OCD inner-editor, I was able to hit the 50,000 word goal days before the deadline. It was a huge victory for me, and I still smile thinking about it. Was it hard work? Yeah. I had to dedicate a lot of my free time to writing. It meant spending less time on Facebook and more time thinking. And it was totally worth it.

Now, obviously a novel written in the course of a month isn’t likely going to be publishable right off the bat. I’m still working on the one hundred and ninetieth rewrite of last year’s novel (not quite, but it feels like it.) But come November 1st, the gloves are off. The rewrite will be pushed to the side, and if all goes well, another 50,000 words will be born.

So join me if you like. There’s nothing to lose even if you don’t hit the goal. At least you can say you tried. And feel free to ask me questions about NaNo. I may not be an expert, but I’ve lived it, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Top Ten Ways Writing a Novel is Like a Relationship

Writing this blog has helped me realize several things. One is the fact that I probably need serious therapy. I mean, really, who confesses to being a failure of a coffee drinker, gushes about being rejected and then posts about having intimate relationships with the main characters from their novels? Well, probably most aspiring authors, but that’s not the point. I’m starting to suspect I have daddy issues. (Just kidding Dad. Love ya!) But I’ve also realized that writing a novel is like a relationship. So here are the top ten ways the two activities are similar.

Top Ten Ways Writing a Novel is Like a Relationship

  1. You learn all of your main characters dirty little secrets, and you finish his/her sentences. You laugh when they laugh (because it means you’re funny!) You cry when they fail or are hurt. You want them to succeed, but sometimes you’ll hurt them to help them get there. And you’re constantly trying to change them to be what you want. (Not necessarily a hallmark of great relationships, but still pretty common.)
  2. First impressions are important. Even though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, most people do. And even if they’re willing to look a little deeper, they usually know by the end of the first conversation if they’re willing to give it a try.
  3. Sometimes things will be great. Especially in the beginning. You’ll get along great, and even when you don’t you’ll brush it off. Everything will be sunshine, rainbows and unicorns that poop marshmallows (which I hear taste awesome if you add sprinkles. I can’t claim ownership of that beautiful imagery, but I still love it.)
  4. Sometimes things will be tough. Your main character may not see eye-to-eye with your vision of where you want things to go. You might fight because you put the roll of toilet paper on backwards (something I didn’t realize was a sin until I started dating my husband.) There will be times where you’ll feel like you’re wading knee-deep through mashed potatoes (without gravy) just to make progress.
  5. In the beginning of a really good one, things are all fireworks and sparks and excitement. You’re incapable of thinking of anything else. Not your kids (if you have them), your real job (if you have one), or cleaning the house. The only thing you can think about is spending some more time together. When you finally manage to fall asleep at night, you’re thinking about where things will go next and where they’ve already been.
  6. Everyone has their own taste. They may like skinny or thick, funny or serious, young, blonde and charming, or old and crotchety. You have to pick what works best for you and stick with it regardless of what everyone else likes. Because if you try and make it work with someone who really doesn’t fit your style, it’s going to be painful for both of you.
  7. Sometimes you have to share with others! Okay, so maybe that’s not typical in most relationships, but it works for some people. Those swing parties that people have are disturbingly similar to a critique group. Everyone brings theirs and lets other people take it home.
  8. Juggling more than one is not easy. I made the mistake of starting a new relationship with Joann after promising Phoebe that I’d spend more time with her. But Phoebe and I were struggling to get by, and what Joann and I have is new and exciting.
  9. Sometimes it ends. You may reach a point where it just isn’t working, and you have to move on to something new. Or, after a dozen revisions, it may be time to start seeing other people (hopefully agents or editors for your manuscript, and new characters for you.) One way or another, you have to move on and let go.
  10. If you’re in another relationship (ie married, like I am) your significant other is constantly jealous and suspicious. You find yourself lying to cover things up. (Him: Why are you so quiet? Me: I’m thinking about . . . umm . . . the stars. Yeah, the stars. I’m certainly not thinking about the next conversation between my main character and her love interest and how they’re going to resolve their fight.)

What do you think? Are there ways that I’m missing? Let me know.