Random Wednesday (5/30/12)

Random Wednesday is back. Once a week, I share some of my favorite sites, blogs and the like, that may more may not do with writing.  This week though, I’m going to have some writing related things to share, by highlighting some of the blogs posts I found helpful and informative during my recent long (and unplanned…) abstinence from blogging.

The World Crafter: Starting in the Right Place: Learn how my writer friend Katrina (Cat) take on an all too common problem for any writer, but especially for fantasy or non-plot centric writers.

Writer’s First Aid: Quantity vs. Quality: Big Issue for Today’s Writer: If you need further convincing about what I feel is becoming a serious issue for unpublished writers today really isn’t a “newbie rant thing” maybe what ICL instructor and established author Kristi Holl has to say might add more needed weight to the discussion.

Adreienn Kress, The Temp, The Actress, and The Writer: You Are Not A Fraud: One of my early mentors on the writer’s path reiterates something we all struggle to embrace, but need to for our sanity if nothing else. We may not always agree, but our commitment to writing’s same, it’s worth checking out more on her blog, just be warned, she’s more pragmatic and realist in her approach to writing than I am, and that’s not a negative, just something to keep in mind.

Sometimes the best advice to the problem is presented in a “less than ideal” approach for our personality type, which in this case, is self-doubt.

Also, Here’s My Wish List for Nonfiction and Reference Books I want this summer!

That’s it for Random Wednesday. Next week, I’ll share what’s on my summer reading list this year, since I’m going to make reading more in general a high priority after a difficult start to 2012.

Birthday Tribute (A True Artist Who Taught Me A lesson I will Never Forget)

Today is my birthday, and as hard as I tried, I may not have any new posts up today, I’m trying to “Celebrate” and am still not feeling it yet, if I do update the blog further you’ll be alerted via the new T.A.A. Twitter feed, which you can find here

Before I was using my Author Twitter feed, but it is more streamlined and less spammy to separate my Author Twitter feed and the one for T.A.A.

In the spirit of the “Random Acts of Kindness Blitz” that’s going on other blogs today, I’d like to send special thanks to someone I’ve spent the last year working with on a project I wasn’t ready to talk about, and while the plans for this project are delayed for various reasons (Lack of money sadly being one of them) she deserves my deepest, most sincere gratitude.

Illustrator Ellie Record

Aside from being a joy to work with, my experience with her will explain in part why T.A.A. was yet again “Going Dark” with no new posts.

Late last year I was seriously considering going the self-publishing route when lack of interest in my middle grade novel, and being unable to find my next story with agents left to try with it, it seemed my only option left, so I looked into finding ways to essentially launch my own indie press.

However, unlike some of my writer friends who took a more simple DIY approach, which can certainly work, as in their case, I personally saw the idea of going indie differently, not necessarily better, but different. I wanted my brand to look no less professional than the few, and thus hard to reach independent publishers that have survived past the early years of the recession and continue to thrive.

Unlike T.A.A.’s logo, which I’ve grown to love (Though not quite what I envisioned), its fine for a blog, but I need every aspect of my indie press, including the logo, to evoke three key things-

1. Professional (I don’t shortchange what my best work deserves)

2. Playful (For the kinds of books I’d self-publish under this brand)

3. High Quality (Books from Candlewick Press and Dutton Children’s Books is what I personally strive toward)

I spent much of last year, mostly through the summer, trying to find illustrators who could deliver the quality and style of illustration for a price I could actually afford, but even one drawing or sketch costs more money than I’ve ever had in my life, but then I found Ellie, and she was gracious enough to guide me through the basics of art direction, and even negotiate pricing.

r, here’s where the story take a shameful (On my part) turn…

I had agreed to a price that I felt I could pay at the time without too much difficulty, but I didn’t budget like I should and delayed it for months after she delivered the art I needed for the logo, and this weighed heavy on my conscience for months, which caused me to be unfairly short with people. 

Especially the writers in my support circle, who I never told about any of this, they knew I wanted to go indie, but nothing about the mess I got myself into with commissioning art that while under $1000 USD, was something I shouldn’t have done without having it at the time.

For the writers in my support network who I hurt during this time (You know who you are) I again apologize. 

 I’ve since resolved the payment issues, but the aftermath of my mishandling things caused tensions between my grandma (My stand-in parent) and me, to explode, and we were already on shaky ground with each other before this, but thankfully she got something out of Mother’s Day, more than I can say.

After today, that’s one thing I’d be okay with staying in neutral, for both our sanity’s sake.

Now for those of you who might deservedly think, “Why go through with something you didn’t have the money for right then?” and this is the only honest answer I can give-

I believe in my writing. 

As much as I still agonize over the process, nothing I’ve done up to now has been fake, and every time I come to the computer, I push myself hard, maybe too hard sometimes.

However, the more ambitious your goals, the more I feel you have to surpass your limits to achieve your dreams. 

Sometimes this turns me into a jerky tyrant, and I’m not proud of that, and what it did to my writer friends, but thankfully they know any rage is rarely ever about them.

Only the effort from sharpening my skills and not letting harshly conflicting critiques (However valid) stop me.

I didn’t do this to get rich (But I do need/want to make some money, and there’s a happy medium between earning pennies versus millions, that’s all I say about that), I did this as a proactive declaration of what I’m able and willing to do, so I can finally open some doors, after years of being blocked by closed ones. 

But that blinded me to the logistics of my situation.

While for some of you, spending over $400 is not a big investment (Medical bills, home mortgages and car and student loans can go well beyond that), I took what for me, and my life at this point time, is a BIG risk. Not just in money or time, but putting absolute faith in reaching the readers who will give my way of storytelling a chance, and prove to myself that there are still readers who connect with what I write, and by building a large and vocal enough following, I might open doors that otherwise remained closed to me.

Long shot, I know, but it DOES happen.

Despite how negative I can unintentionally come across, I’m really an optimist, even when it looks naive, it’s how I maintain even an ounce of sanity on the worst days. Today is thankfully not of those days. 

Generally speaking, despite some of the angst and touchiness about self-publishing going away, it’s still not easy or affordable to do it right, especially if you want to achieve professional results. 

I honestly feel it’s the only way to logically reach readers who might still be wary of books outside the big 6, or small publishers like Candlewick or Holiday House, who have proven their mettle from many years and successful authors in the business, and I’m not just theorizing here.

As a reader myself, with little money to my name, I too have to be selective, since many of the books I’m interested in are never available in my library network where I live, and I often have to buy much of what I read, including the market guides, my local library, even through inter-library loan only has editions of CWIM (Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market) that are two to five years old. That won’t do in finding markets THIS YEAR, and for those of you T.A.A. readers who are writers like myself, know what I’m talking about. 

It’s why I get a bit testy when people tell me to utalize my library more, but aside from working out ways to get to the library, they rarely have the books I want to check out, and with the slow pace I read and retain information, I’m better off buying the book myself, so I can take my time, especially in the case of craft books or market/reference guides.

Maybe if I lived in a more book-friendly city, with far less debt, this wouldn’t be as hard a problem.

Anyway, I sadly have been tempted to pack it in the past three years especially. As much as I take no one’s gratitude and support for granted, there’s still a difference between what my writer friends like about my writing, and finding either agents or editors who feel the same way, not to mention the readers I’m trying to reach in the first place. 

Back to the main point, in short I finally paid her for the initial sketches, but asked her to hold off coloring the art until the summer when I can pay that upfront a lot sooner, and hopefully that’ll be cheaper than the initial sketches were, but they were worth the money I paid, and once the coloring’s done you can the results when my indie press launches later this or next year. 

Originally, I planned to launch my indie press this month. 
But delays with the aforementioned logo art; limited funds to aid in book covers and other needed art, and the editorial process needed to weed out sloppy writing, not to mention the books I’m working on are either not emotionally, or technically ready to bring out–I had to delay the launch until things improve.

Ellie, thanks for being so patient and understanding of me the past year. I never intended or meant for things drag out this long. This has more to do with my lack of self-discipline and desperation on my part. I promise things will be different from this point on. 

As someone who can’t create art visually the way you can, you deserved more than we agreed on, and I’m truly sorry for any inconvenience my delays of payment caused you.

Writers, there are two lessons I hope you can learn from this story-
1. Patience (Duh!)

2, Just as important, be willing to take (reasonable for your life and finances) risks.

Until Next Time, this your literary rat signing off for today.

Face Your Fear Friday – Episode 3

Welcome back to Face Your Fear Friday. This week’s entry will be short and sweet as real life offline is getting cramped for time. 

Every Friday, as we slide into the weekend, I issue a challenge that even the more frazzled writers can at least identify with, if not execute.
This week’s challenge is simple. Again, I repeat for your multitasking parents/writers, 


Just answer the following two questions-

1. What’s one aspect of the writer’s craft that you’ve yet to master, and are working towards this year?
For me, it’s being able to rediscover the joy of writing, without the pain of drafting and rewrites make me a neurotic pessimist, which I’m really not at my core, though lately I have to hit rock bottom to realize that.

2. Name one book that normally is not your thing, yet read it anyway, but liked?(NOTE: What you were FORCED to read in school doesn’t count, that’s a unique pressure few of us want to relive)

For me, it’s “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield. Well, I actually listened to the audiobook, but it’s a top notch production in its own right, and for writers who know me well, this was the ONLY way I’d experience this book the first go round, and  I want to experience again, this time on the page, but like my writer friend Kelly told me recently on her blog, “Books are books, no matter what the medium.”

I agree with this, if only in part to ease my own guilt, but as craft books and experienced writers will tell you often, there are times when reading on the page, opposed to listening to the audiobook or even the e-book isn’t the same.

Writers say all the time they notice things in print they don’t on computer screens when they edit books, so doesn’t the same apply to reading books, too? But truth be told, if not for audiobooks, I’d have enjoyed few stories in the last three years.

I personally need to combat this problem, because for me it is a problem, not all the books I want to read are available in audio form, and I do have a restrictive feel when I read books on the page, because trying to mime craft from it is not a particularly helpful, never mind joyous experience. A feeling that wasn’t always there.

 Craft books aside, I read for escape and solace, and I don’t find picking authors apart all that entertaining, and that mindset has ruined the reading experience for me, at least at this point and time. I’m trying not to be so absolute in my thinking, since some struggles do improve and lessen with time.

If you grapple with this literary tug of war as I do, please share in the comments below, if you’re the only one among your posse of writer friends who has this problem, I URGE you to comment below, because I’m there with  you, I really get it because I’m there myself, know you’re not alone.

You have until April 27th, 2012 before comments are closed. Thanks to all who commented in last week’s challenge, and I hope comments increase this week.

UPDATE (4/27/12): Commenting Closed.

Face Your Fear Friday – Episode 2

Face Your Friday is back, after a long (unplanned) hiatus. 

Just like with “Take A Chance Tuesday”, I want to make this weekly feature more accessible to those you juggling far more than I can or do, but at the same time remember, facing one’s fear’s take TIME. 

All Face Your Fear Friday’s about is taking the 
FIRST BABY STEPS to facing the writer fear of the week.

For example, if the theme was “Reading what Scares You” or “Name 5 writers you respect, even if their books are just not your thing, and why” all you have to do is admit and share a little from your personal experience. There are no right or wrong answers here.

Writers are all different, even if our goals overlap in the the general sense (Those of us who are struggling for their first SALE, be it book-length story or magazine piece, poem, etc. Already published writers trying to advance their career, etc) how we get there is varied, and some wait longer than others, but unless your naturally pragmatic in your thinking, you can feel alone in your frustration sometimes, especially if most of the writers you know are strong in areas your weak, and it’s those weak areas that might be holding your writing back. 

Sometimes simply admitting to a fear, however off the wall it may be, is the first step to getting better at facing that fear and pushing past it to achieve your writer dreams and goals. You have to acknowledge your fear is REAL, no matter what anyone tells you, many writers I know don’t feel the same level of frustration about writing YA level fiction, and don’t have problems writing nonfiction, but these are barriers for ME, in the same way some of those pragmatical writers don’t feel as in tune with their imagination as I do,

While that makes critiquing each other’s work hard, we can appreciate what the other does better than us, and its imperative that support goes both ways.

With that said, let’s get into this week’s challenge.

All you have to do is answer the following question-

“If you could name ONE writer skill you could magically enhance, what would it be and why?”

My answer: Better Query Letters, Better Query Letters, Better Query Letters!

Why? Because these letters are becoming all the more vital, but I HATE writing them regardless, because it’s easy to feel like the most hapless writer on Earth because they have to be so professional without being soulless, and anyone who takes this lightly will be sorry, that’s as much speaking from my personal experience as it is a friendly warning.

Now it’s your turn! Share you answers to this week’s challenge in the comments below.

Please keep your answer PG-13 and below, and please stay on topic (No “I don’t have time to comment” type comments) comment when you do have time, or try again for next Friday’s challenge.

I moderate the comments on T.A.A. and will not approve posts that don’t follow the guidelines.

Your answers must be posted by Friday, April 20th, 2012, Noon EST, think of it as a mild time challenge, since for some of us, admitting to fear or weakness is a BIG DEAL, and sharing it among our fellow writers can help take the fear away, or at least bring it down to less traumatic levels, and we may even find a precious gem of advice, insight or a comrade-in-revisions (Comrades in Arms for writers, get it?) that will serve us well for the future.

Anyway, see you here next Friday.

UPDATE (4/20/12): Commenting Closed.

Take A Chance Tuesday – 1st Edition

I know today’s Wednesday, but I had too much to do offline to get it up yesterday, so bear with me a moment. Every week (On Tuesdays from now on!), I’ll post a new  writing challenge prompt, and you have only until next Tuesday to finish, and report your findings.

I’ll discuss the submission part in a moment, bur first it’s time to reveal this week’s challenge-

Since writers are at varying stages of the process, you’ll have a choice of two challenges, you can do only one, or both if you really want to get ambitious.

Challenge #1: To celebrate revision week on my new favorite blog of the moment (Dear Editor) your challenge is to take a chapter from your WIP novel, and try to shorten it to half it’s current length.

Challenge #2: Write a one page letter in the voice of your main character or antagonist.

Since I got this up a day late, I’ll give you until next Thursday before Noon EST to finish, and you don’t have to share the work on the blog.

To enter, all you need to do is post in the comments below, state your first name or pen/nickname if easy to remember and fairly short, and which challenge you’re taking on, or both if you’re the ambitious type.

Next Thursday, BEFORE Noon EST, go back to the first “Take A Chance Tuesday” post, and comment on how you did with the challenge. Whether you succeeded, or not, and why.

Share anything and everything you learned.

T.A.A. is about celebrating success and rising above stumbles along the way.

NOTE: After this week, all Take A Chance challenges must be completed by the following Tuesday.

The reason I don’t ask to submit your results to the blog is twofold. First, especially for new writers, it’s easier to acknowledge our growth (However fast or slow) when we don’t get overly competitive towards others, since not everyone needs or responds well to heated competition when they’re struggling to learn new skills.

Second, theses challenges are meant to help writers build their own sense of progress, rather than use other writers as a yardstick for excellence, since unless you know your process naturally gels with another writer, especially if you’re in a hands-on critique group, you can make yourself insane trying to work out if this is general info you need or  is just one writer’s subjective preference they make work fine for that writer, but will do more harm than good if you employ similar counsel.

I want to help writers learn to better trust their own judgement, because the better judge you can be to you, the more civil and impartial you can be toward others when you critique their work, and be able to provide better feedback to them.

Do your best, and until next time,
Take A Chance!


New Blog Schedule!

After much thought and care, I can announce the new schedule for T.A.A. starting next week-

Each day will a special feature unique to that day, as well as posts dealing with a particular aspect of books and writing. This will keep my eclectic interests in check, and still have some sense of order, but in a more flexible way.


Musical Musings
I review music, profile new artists (at least new to me), and share my passions and frustrations of what’s become my second art form/passion. 


Take A Chance Tuesday

A weekly writing challenge to get out of our comfort zone and unleash our inner-Avant Garde vigilante.


Random Wednesday
Thoughts and musings of anything intriguing in my world.

The World Building Wars
An ongoing series about ways to take some of the “Crazy!!” out of crafting our fantasy worlds.


Get VersedThursday
If you’re ready to take the pain out of poetry, whether you read it, write it, or both, stop by and learn along with me.


Face Your Fear Friday
Writers don’t just need to “Write outside the comfort zone” but also must “Read” outside it, too. Every week a new prompt will get you, and me, to embrace worlds and ideas we may NEVER want to live, but are fun to read!

I know many writers who thankfully don’t have this problem, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes through this, and I invite those of you like me in this regard to take the leap of faith along with me, we need to show writers who deal with this they are not alone, even if we are not the majority. 

T.A.A. Top 5

A weekly list of anything and everything I love, and why, in as short a way as I can say it. (That in and of itself is a fear worth facing)

Saturday (Check Back Tomorrow!)


Shout-Out Sundays 

Every week I’ll highlight any blog, book, writer or publishing tips that I want to spotlight.

The T.A.A. Sunday Gazette 
(Info to come 3/3/2012)

More tomorrow,

Okay, I’m tagging myself!

Sorry I’ve been MIA, but this time it’s not because I’m depressed, but I’m writing again and the blog got neglected more than I intended, but I’m still working out the new format and schedule so I won’t be gone too long.

In the meantime I’m tagging myself. What do I mean?

Well, my friend Kelly Hashway got “tagged” today, but so far no one tagged me, but another writer I know gave me an in so to speak, to see what I mean, click here.

1. You must post the rules!
2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Questions to answer:

If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
That’s a tough one! I’ll get back to you….

Do you read in noisy or quiet places?
Ideally I’d prefer quiet (Moms, don’t hate me!), or a little music that’s not distracting from the book, I can read through some noise, provided it’s not a heated argument between people, at home or in public. At least it’s easier in most  cases to move away in public than at home.

What was the first book you ever read?
A Rat’s Tale by Tor Seidler. Not my first book in terms of reading on my own (I can’t remember, but it was something for school), but this is first book I  bought with my own money, and read solely for ME, as opposed to what I was forced to read in school. This book was also the inspiration for my last completed MG novel. I was 14, but my life as a pleasure reader started with this book.

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oy! This is another tough one. Well, I’d have to say Time Stops For No Mouse by Micheal Hoeye. It’s got it all: action, danger, murder, mysteries, even unrequited love (Well, until books 3 and 4, but I would’ve been ticked otherwise…)

Favourite author?
I can’t choose, there are too many!

Do reviews influence your choice of reads?
Sometimes, while it’s never my sole influence, I’ve taken chances on books I normally wouldn’t touch if the reviewer’s testimony gives me something that informs me enough to go for it without spoiling the story, something that’s hard to do, especially with series books. For the most part I trust my judgement and know how to find my own “Diamonds in the Slush” so to speak.

Fiction or Non fiction?
Primarily Fiction, but I’m embracing nonfiction more, and not just for novel research.

Have you ever met your favourite author?
No. But I have more than one favorite author, and sadly most of them rarely come to America (Especially Michigan…), and most are dead now, the most recent of which I touched on in during my Dangers of Rivalry series in January.

Among the still living (Far as I know), Vivian Vande Velde, Megan MacDonald, and Tor Seidler who in particular is one of my greatest inspirations. His books are so witty and well written, and while he may be a bit “Dawdling” for some, I’m addicted to his prose, and his ability to make unlikely heroes from animals who often tend to be demonized unfairly in my opinion, something I’ve adopted in my own writing.

Audio books or Paperbacks?
Both! Primarily hardback/paperback. You didn’t say I had to pick one or the other…

Classic or Modern Novels?
Both! As much as I love/admire numerous writers from the 21st century,  don’t deny me the pleasures of Potter (Not Harry, kids, think female from before color movies), Scarry and Waber. Which reminds me, I need to re-read all my Lyle books…

Book Groups or Solitary Reading?
Solitary, but I’d like to give a book club a try.

Who am I tagging?
Angelia Almos /Angie Derek (1 Author – 2 Names)
Mariah Deitrick
Jami Gold
Janice Hardy
Jill Kemerer
Casey McCormick
Sheri P.
Patricia Puddle (Hey Trish! So proud of your progress and imitative!)
Allyn Stotz
Hilary Wagner (Hey Hilary! Hope to see my name by yours on the bookshelf one day)
Gueh Yanting

Will post again soon,