Saturday, December 31, 2011

To the New Year!

My first birthday, Dec. 31, 1989
Today is a very special day!  Today is my 23rd birthday and it's also New Year's Eve of 2011.

Goals for 2012

Writing Goals –

“Down in the Creek”
* Hear back from waiting agent/publishing company (May 2012)
* Revise – do a new round of editing (March 2012)
* Consider self-publishing for book

“To Love Without Hope”
* Complete another round of editing before January 23rd
* Modify 300 word pitch, create new excerpt
* Enter in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (Young Adult Fiction) on January 23rd
* If doesn’t do well in the contest, query a few more agents
* Decide if self-publishing is a good idea

“The Secret”
* Write a second draft, removing non-essential parts and changing the ending

* Complete first draft by August

NaNoWriMo – November
* Write a new novel!!

Research possible graduate colleges to get a MFA in Creative Writing

Personal –

* Go to New Zealand and see the beautiful land
* Stop biting my fingernails (I really want to achieve this one!)
* Reread “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy
* See “The Hobbit” Part 1
* Find a literary agent!
* Get a tattoo

I hope you all have a wonderful last day of 2011 and I will see you all on the other side! :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Hunger Games: A Review

I read this book series last week and I just had to share my review with you!

Title: The Hunger Games - Catching Fire - Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2008

Genre: Young Adult - Science Fiction, Fantasy

Plot: First, here is the summary of "The Hunger Games" from Amazon - In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

Wow... what a great premise!   Such a new and exciting story!  It was a little slow in the beginning and I almost gave up on the story, but once the actually training for the games began and Katniss and Peeta arrived in the Capital, I was hooked on the story.  I finished the book as quickly as possible and moved onto Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  The whole series was read in three days; it would have been less if I hadn't needed to go to work and sleep.  Suzanne Collins did an amazing job of taking something like the idea of twenty-four children killing each other with one surviving and being entertainment and turned it into a book that will open up your eyes to the horror that this could happen someday.  The third book was not as quick as the first two, but I did enjoy it.  I wanted a little more for the ending, but that's okay. 

Romantic Element:  Katniss and Peeta, Katniss and Gale... which one is right?  Collins did a fantastic job of leaving the reader guessing who was the correct person for Katniss.  The romance element of the story was captivating and it was a love, grown from fear and actually love, but Katniss could never understand it.  She's afraid of love.  Katniss is a unique character, full of different quirks and a fresh outlook on life.  Both guys, Gale and Peeta really grew on me too.  I won't spoil it and tell you what happens between the three. 

Overall:   Even though the beginning of the first book was a little slow, and the ending of one and two were terrible because they just dropped off, The Hunger Games is an amazing trilogy and you won't be able to put it down!  I most definitely recommend this book series to anyone of all ages.  It's thrilling and page turning!  Seriously, if you are looking for something to read - definitely read The Hunger Games!

I am very much anticipating this movie, which comes out in March of 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Since the next few days are full of sloppily wrapped gifts (by me, I'm actually quite terrible at it for a girl), crazy fun relatives and way too much of my dad famous pumpkin ice cream dessert... I just wanted a wish you all a Merry Christmas! :)

Have a great holiday!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

First Story

It's the time of year when we reflect on things.  Today I got to thinking - what was my first story?  I was eight years old and I wrote in a green notebook, labeled with stickers and a written note in the front to not read my stories.  My first story was called "Rosemary's Child".  About a little girl that lost her mom, she drowns in the ocean in Maine.  I can't even remember the little girl's name.  But they take her to Iowa to live in a foster family and the woman is not kind.  She mistreats the children.  But the girl gets sick and the foster mom doesn't take her to a doctor.  She almost dies and the doctor adopts her and another boy she had been looking after.  And it was only twenty four pages long!

I also remember my first poem when I was nine.  It was horrible.  I called it "That Chair":

That chair, that chair,
Covered in hair,
That chair, that chair,
My cat loves that chair.


What was your first story about?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's Your Brick Wall?

I follow Rachelle Gardner, who is a Literary Agent with WordServe Literary Group and she had an excellent post today about "What's Your Brick Wall?"  She was writing about the obstacles in our lives that we run into (like a brick wall) that make us question if we really want to continue.  This happens in normal life and in writing.  It made me think of what is my "brick wall".

* Not feeling like a good enough writer
* Rejections
* Writer's block
* Having a friend/family member tell me to pick a different "love"

A brick wall shouldn't stop us from doing what we dream about doing.  It's ONLY there to remind us that it's not an easy path to become a published author, but we need to keep fighting for it.  Bricks wall as not indestructible.  We can take a hammer to them and break them down, so they aren't in our way.

I can think of many bricks walls in my normal life; my grandma's death, uncle's death, two family friends' death - all in the span of eight months, thinking that my life was worthless and considering suicide as a teenager, moving my freshman year of high school and having no friends for a year because I was so bitter and angry, losing my close friend Chris this year, no knowing what to do with my life, feeling undateable -- the list could go on and on, but those things have never stopped me from writing.  They have shaped what I write and who I am.  I'm a better person because I've survived through the tough times. 

I won't let a brick wall stand in the way of my dreams of writing.  I'll break it down.

This song has been really encouraging for me.  I know it's a kid's song, but it has a great message.

What bricks walls have you run into - in writing or in life?  Have they helped you understand how badly you want something?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

College Graduate!

I am now a college graduate - an alumni of Iowa State University with a Bachelor's degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services with an English minor. :)

Mom, Me, and Dad

Hope you all have a great Saturday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Editing - Why do I neglect you?

I just realized today that the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest begins accepting entries on January 23, 2012.  It's not that far away!  Last year I made it through the first round based on my 300 word pitch, but my excerpt didn't make the cut.  It also got bad reviews.  I have edited "To Love Without Hope" since that time, but I would like to edit it again with the information that I've learned in my creative writing class this semester. 

I really would like to make it past the excerpt round this time and though the odds are against me, I really think it is a great experience to be entered in a contest. 

I really need to stop goofing around and do some serious editing on "To Love Without Hope".  I would like to enter my new novel, but I haven't touched it since July and there's no way it could be edited in time.

Even though it is a little over a month away, will you consider entering a manuscript into the contest?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Not So Prince Charming

Here is my final project for my creative writing class!  I'm quite proud of how it turned out and I hope that it makes you laugh!  The visual includes a Ken doll with six toes on one foot, present box, a certificate, coupon for wings, and a CD including one song from every Disney princess movie.

Not So Prince Charming

Once upon a time, in an ordinary town with sixteen pregnant teenagers, one swimming pool with a hole in the bottom, a dysfunctional bowling alley that was usually missing bowling pins, and four pet shops that only sold cats, there lived a young woman named Cinderella, though everyone just called her Ella.  No boys wrote poems about her beauty or lined up to ask her to the dances at school; Ella was just Ella. 
Growing up, Ella always ended up in the principal’s office for throwing dirt, pulling pigtails, and yelling insults at the other little girls.  She loved to throw a football with the boys and watch horror movies that made her hair stand on end.  Being a girl was boring – books and fancy handwriting.  She had a handful of female acquaintances and that was plenty.  Ella preferred hanging out with the boys. 
Everything changed on her eighteenth birthday.  When other girls were asking for cars or fancy vacations, Ella received a different type of gift.  Wrapped in blue and white polka dot paper was a small box, the leftover container from some of her favorite thin mint cookies.  It contained a picture of a handsome young man that she didn’t recognize, dressed in a strange white shirt with gold stripes on the puffy sleeves, and a large black dress shoe that was scuffed. 
“I don’t get it,” she mumbled.
“It’s your birthday present!” her mother squealed.
“That much I understand… the wrapping paper and birthday card, but… why is there a picture of a guy inside and a shoe?”
“Tada!  I got you a handsome prince for your birthday.  He was on sale at the department store and I just fell in love with him.  All you have to do is find him by trying the shoe on as many guys as it takes until the shoe fits.  The prince has six toes on his right foot; the shoe will only fit him.”
Ella’s jaw dropped.  “You’ve got to be kidding me?”
Her mother flipped her hair over her shoulder and rolled her eyes at her daughter.  “Just be grateful that you didn’t have to rescue him from some tall tower and kiss him to wake up.  You could get communicable diseases from that.”
“And touching men’s dirty feet is okay?”
Ella’s mother sighed.  “Trust me.  I had to rescue your father from three witches that loved dressing him in pink and blue drag dresses.  It was awful.”
Ella threw her hands up in frustration.  “I don’t want a prince!  Did you ask me if I wanted you to buy me a prince charming?”
“Well, no… I just assumed that every girl wants to find her prince.”
“How am I supposed to find him?  Ask every guy I meet if I can put this shoe on his foot and if he has six toes on his right foot?  What is this, The Princess Bride?” 
Ella watched as her mother picked up the newspaper off the coffee table and opened to the commitments section. 
“No, it would be six fingers instead of toes.  You could put up posters or something to find him.”
“Mom, I don’t want a prince!”
Her mother sighed once, flipping the page loudly.  “Sorry dear, but it’s a nonrefundable gift.”
“Well… crap.”


Ella fidgeted at the table, kicking off the ridiculous hot pink heels that her mother had insisted she wear.  The one-strap, hot pink dress with sequined top and puffy lace bottom was also not comfortable and totally not her style.  Her mom had hung up posters and rented out the local ballroom for Ella to try the scuffed shoe on every available prince in the city.  Ella’s best friend, Snow sat quietly next to her, applying another coat of red lipstick and adjusting the ridiculous matching red bow in her hair.  She had picked a bad wingman… err, wing-woman. 
“I wish my mom would buy me a prince,” Snow said, tucking away her mirror.
“You can have mine if we ever find him.”
“I already read the contract that your mom signed; he is nonrefundable and you can’t transfer him to someone else.  It’s totally unfair.”
Ella rolled her eyes, watching as groups of men dressed in puffy-sleeved shirts wandered around the room, sipping raspberry punch and munching on chocolate chips cookies.  She was surprised that no one had bolted yet.  These princes must be as desperate as her mother.  Ella groaned as her mom ran up onto the stage, almost tripped on her long blue dress and grabbed the microphone.
“All right, gentlemen,” her mother said.  “It’s time to begin.  You will each get two minutes to talk with Cinderella and she will slip a shoe onto your foot to see if you are her prince.  Don’t be shy!  Have a lot of fun!”
Snow sat up straight beside her, sticking out her flat chest.  Ella put a fake smile on her face as the first man approached the table.  He had wild blond hair, a dark blue tunic covered by gold colored armor, brown gloves, and a sword strapped to his hip.  Was he going to fight someone for her love and his shoe?
“Hello, I’m Phoebus, Captain of the Guard.  I have a horse.”  He cleared his throat.  “I also like saving girls and attending fairs with gypsies so I can watch their breasts.  I mean chests!  I mean I like their dancing.  Oh, and I really don’t like goats.”
 Phoebus just stood there.  It was apparently all that he had to say.  Ella picked up the shoe and watched as he stuck out his socked foot, which smelled of mold and horse dung.  Ew.  It didn’t fit.  Thank goodness!  Phoebus shrugged his shoulders and quickly darted after a well-endowed girl serving sandwiches from a plastic plate. 
“He wasn’t really a prince,” Snow whispered.
“I know and I’m pretty sure he was looking at your boobs the whole time he was talking.  Pig.  And he didn’t have six toes on one foot.”
The next potential prince approached the table.  His dark brown hair fell slightly into his dazzling blue eyes and distracted Ella momentarily from the small planks with tassels sticking out from his shoulders and the twenty buttons on his white suit top.
“Hi, I’m Prince Eric and I must say that you look lovely.  I saw a girl with your hair color once… she saved me from drowning.”
“Thanks,” Ella mumbled.  “Tell me about yourself.”
“I have a dog named Max and I live on my own private island.  I have a butler named Grimsby, a crazy cook, and I love crabs.  I also have no other family members, so we would never be interrupted.”
Ella snatched the shoe off the table and stared at the pristine white sock with his name sewn into the bottom.  Way too childish.  Luckily, it didn’t fit either.  Also, he only had five toes.  The instructions on the poster said that they had to have six toes on their foot.  Could these princes not even read?  Ella sighed, waiting for the next prince.  The next man was big and burly with broad shoulders and blond hair.  He flashed his white teeth.
“The name is John Smith.  I love exploring and talking to animals.”
“Next!” Ella shouted.
Her mother quickly popped up from talking to Prince Eric.  “Honey, you’re supposed to try the shoe on his foot first,” she said through her teeth, the smile not leaving her face, though her voice was tight with disappointment.
Ella grimaced.  “Do you have six toes on your right foot?”
“No, but – I”
Ella glanced down at the impossibly long list of names and photos and groaned.  One of the men had actually signed his name as “Tarzan” and half of the letters were backwards.  Next to the name was a picture of a long haired man dressed in only a brown loincloth.  No way!  This was a waste of time. The next suitor was followed to the table by seven extremely hair and short men, grumbling about unwashed dishes, a pest problem, and the lack of soap in their hut.  Talk about baggage.  Ella didn’t even look at the prince before dismissing him and his pack of dwarves.
“He was cute!” Snow protested.  “I wish I had dwarves as pets.  So much better than fish or birds or ferrets or –”
“You are welcome to have him,” Ella exclaimed, throwing her arms up in frustration. 
Snow jumped up from the table and chased after him, claiming that she could sing to animals and they would clean for them.  Wow, desperate.  
The evening continued to get worse.  Prince after “prince” described his lack of intellectual ability to think for himself, his loneliness, and his longing for a beautiful woman to become his princess.  Even a green frog with a strange accent tried to convince Ella that he really was a prince and he didn’t have a gambling problem, but one kiss from her sweet lips would break the spell and they could hang out or something.  However, he also wanted to know if she had a rich father and could bake.  No.  Another man, with a strange bun on top of head claimed that he could make a man out of her.  That was not romantic in the least.  Her favorite was the man was the puffy white hat with a purple feather sticking out of it, billowy white pants and he claimed to be Sultan… except he had a tattoo of “Street Rat” on his left hand and a monkey named Abu hiding with a lamp under his hat.  Hmm, that wasn’t at all suspicious. 
Only two more princes left.  The second to the last approached the table.  It was hard to see his face, partially covered by a long dark purple cloak.  Two furry hands were holding the cloth in front of his face and Ella could see that the hair went up his arms and down his neck.  Okay… he was fuzzy.
“What’s your name?” Ella asked, trying to see around his cloak.
“Beast,” his deep voice rumbled.
“Beast… that’s an interesting name.  Tell me about yourself.”
She rolled her eyes as he leaned in, looking around anxiously.
“I live in a castle with enchanted talking objects.  The candlestick won’t shut up and the clock is extremely annoying.  I demand that you come and live with me!”  Beast yelled.  “Please,” he added as an afterthought. 
“No,” Ella said.
“I said please!”
“And my answer is no.  Move on.”
Finally, the last prince stepped up to the table.  His blond hair looked as if someone had placed a bowl upon his head and cut off all of the hair that wasn’t underneath the covering, and then sprayed it down with an entire bottle of hairspray.  His eyes were color of a blue baby blanket and his lips looked as if he’d borrowed a young girl’s pink Chap Stick.  He was dressed in black dress pants that were a size too tight, a hideous pink and black checkered suit coat, a white button down, and a hot pink bowtie.  The suit coat was too small and he could barely move his arms in it. In his hands were a bouquet of six plastic roses and a heart shaped box of chocolates with a silver ribbon on the front. 
“Do you have six toes on your right foot?” Ella asked in a monotone voice.
What?  Ella sat up a little straighter.  She actually found a guy that had six toes on his right foot?  She had begun to think that he didn’t exist and it was a typo on the certificate.
“Oh, well… have a seat.  What’s your name?”
“Henry, but first I have something to admit to you.”
Ella frowned.  “What?”
“I’m not actually a prince.  My mom forced me to sign up as a “prince” since she calls me her little prince.  I actually work for a living.”
Ella rested her chin on her hands and leaned forward on the wobbly table.  “What do you do?  Tell me about yourself, Henry.”
“I’m actually a fire-fighter, so I work late hours sometimes and I smell like smoke most of the time.  I spend way too many nights watching reruns of Law and Order and I secretly like musicals, but I’ll deny it if you ever tell anyone.  I’m not romantic at all.   For my last girlfriend’s birthday I bought her a hammer and screw driver kit and she dumped me.  I’ve got four younger sisters and a dog named Frodo.  Oh, I almost forgot.  I’ve got a little bit of a fear of commitment.  I once told a girl that I was getting a sex change so I didn’t have to take her to prom.”
The young woman’s laughter filled the room.  He was the first real guy that she had met all day.
“So, you don’t try to have conversations with your dog or sing with him?” she asked.
“You don’t have crabs or like the chests of dancing gypsies?”
Henry’s laughter sounded like music to Ella’s ears.  He shook his head “no” and gave her a big smile.  Surprisingly, she felt her heart skip a beat.
“Would you like to go for wings?  I’ve got a coupon, if you buy twenty you get ten wings free,” Ella asked.
“Isn’t this the part where you are supposed to return my shoe and propose marriage?”
Ella picked the shoe up off the table and handed it to him, before coming around the other side and taking his offered arm.  He gently guided her out of the ballroom and out into the chilly night air.
“Don’t you want to see my foot?” Henry asked.
“Let’s just save that for the second date.  We don’t want to move too quickly.”
And they lived happily ever after.  After two years of dating, one hundred sixty-eight chicken wings, two live performances of “Wicked”, a new haircut for Henry, and finally trying the shoe on his foot – they finally settled down and decided to get married, adopted a cat named Walt Disney, and had two children.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Friday!

Hi all!  I hope that you have a great Friday and enjoy this hilarious clip I found!  It's totally worth watching!  I normally don't like cheerleaders, but boys dressed as cheerleaders is hilarious!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I have a job!

Yesterday was truly a day of good news!  I went to the bookstore to purchase my graduation cap and gown, which I wasn't too excited about.  It honestly feels really weird. 

"Santa's coming!  I know him!" - kinda like that excited!
But that wasn't the most exciting thing - I got a phone call and I was offered a fully time position as a Caseworker for an agency.  Very exciting!  I start three days after I graduate... with a real job!  It's very exciting considering not many college students have a job waiting for them when they graduate; most end up in retail or something else.  I'm very blessed to have a job!  Whether I like it or not, I'll have money to the pay the bills and save for my trip to New Zealand and for the possibility of getting an editing service for one of my novels.  Wonderful!

What great news have you had lately?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Contest or Scam?

I realize that I haven't done any writing on my WIP "Nameless" in almost two months, but I might have had an opportunity for one of my other books to be entered in a contest.  It's through Deep River Books - a Christian publishing company.  The contest seemed like a good idea and my book does fall within the requirements and genre. 

But... there seems to be a catch with the agency.  If you are chosen for traditional publishing with that company, you have to buy 1,000 copies of your book to get it published.  I am not sure if that would work the same with winning the contest, but I would assume since that it how they operate.  I don't know if I would want to enter my manuscript in that contest if I discovered I had to buy 1,000 copies of my book to get it published.  It seems like there is something wrong with that.  I have yet to come in contact with an agency that requires that. It should be a clue when they only have 3 successful authors listed on their website.  Are they the only ones to do well with that company?  Most publishing companies can give you a list of successful authors.

So, as a writer that wants to be wise - I did a little research about the company.  It's apparently better known as a vanity publisher.  You get to feel great because you are published, but you are shelling out the money for your book and there's no guarantee that your book will even make it into the stores that they "claim" it will be sold in.  Buying 1,000 copies would probably cost around $9,100 and that's at a discount for the author.  OUCH!  I can definitley think of many ways to spend $9,100 - paying off my tuition or using that money for living in New Zealand for a year or maybe two years on that amount.  I am thankful that I did some research - "Absolute Write Water Cooler" had a BEWARE post about them and other vanity publishers.

Just because it is different doesn't necessarily mean that it is a scam, but it is not some place that I would give my manuscript to. I prefer to stick to traditional publishing and wait for find the right agent/publisher.

Have you ever come across something like this?  It almost makes me sick.  I hope that other writers don't get sucked into something like this.  Beware of this publishing company and contest.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of Year

December is upon us and it's a time of delicious treats and family!  My little sister, little brother, and older sister made this while my parents were on their cruise last week and I wanted to share it with you.  Hope you have a good night!

I baked and decorated the people! :)