Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First Page Critique

Well, I've been relatively quiet on the blogging front lately, mostly because I've been working on a few short stories. Short stories aren't my usual writing or reading style, to be honest. So it's taken a little work to really get into it, without trying to make the short into a full length novel. So, I thought, since my last few posts have been Query critiques, and since I'm not sure how well my opening is playing, I would open this post up to a critique on my first page...

Any and all comments are welcome. This one is called, Marigold Mourning and it runs a bit under 3,000 words. I wrote it originally a number of months ago and sent it out to rejection, before deciding it definitely needed something... and one of my favorite bloggers suggested I change the opening - which I did. So you guys tell me - does it hold your interest? Would you keep reading? If you wouldn't keep reading, where would you stop and why?

Marigold Mourning - opening page

Marigold stopped short at the sight of the bouquet standing upright against her screen door. She turned around, scanning the empty yard and walkway, but she hadn’t heard anyone at the gate and she’d only been to the alley and back. It couldn’t have been more than a minute, how did they get the flowers there and leave... what if they hadn’t left?

Her eyes fell upon the open back door as she maneuvered up the steps, each creak of the wood making her bite her bottom lip a bit harder than the last one. She peered into the kitchen, dreary in contrast to the bright August sunlight of the porch. Grabbing the flowers she searched for a card of some sort, knowing there wouldn’t be one – there never was. The stems were meticulously wrapped in lavender ribbon, and she tapped them against her palm as she paced back and forth over the small wooden porch, trying to decide whether to go in or not.

She held her breath and opened the door, plunging into her kitchen in a reckless clatter, as if the noise of her arrival might scare any intruder away. She shoved the offending flowers into the garbage and grabbed the phone off the counter, hoping her dialing finger would be quicker at nine-one-one than an intruder’s machete arm might be.

“Haaaaaaa!” she yelled, holding the phone over her head as she whipped open the downstairs closet.

After making sure there was nothing more insidious than outdated clothes hanging there, she continued her rampage through the entire house, shoving back curtains and checking under beds with frenzy. At the end of the mad dash, she wound up in the kitchen when the ringing doorbell sent her into orbit.

Okay, usual rules apply - thanks for reading and any feedback you guys can give me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Query / Pitch Critique.... Part II

I originally posted an offer to critique pitch and query letters here The offer still stands, so if anyone’s interested in working on their query, pop over and drop yours in the comments section there. For an idea of how this works, you can check out the lovely, Julie Weather’s Query Critique here.

Gina, who came up with the idea in comments on one of my previous blogs, has volunteered her own query. And here we go:

Dear Agent,

“Faithless” is my 100,000-word space opera set in the 70th century, in human-inhabited systems several light years from Earth.

It’s tough enough surviving the world as a human. Try doing it as a resurrected being in the body of a human. That’s Ilana, an impoverished, rebellious eighteen-year-old with strange urges and bad nightmares. She’s a Voth resurrected in the body of a human, but she has no idea—just the feeling that something isn’t right. Her world is turned upside down when her existence comes to the attention of emperor Xim, the only other known Voth resurrection. Imprisoned, and then forced into his service, Ilana manages to win over his treacherous military elite and masterminds a powerful assassination plot against him. But just as she’s poised to strike, she learns her true identity from a terrifying encounter with the alien race Cyon, former slaves of the Voth that are now hunting them. As her current life rapidly loses meaning, she is torn between searching out other Voths in the virgin depths of space, or staying with humanity. But how do you give up the money, power and fame that you struggled so hard to get… for an uncertain life among your own kind?

Here are the first few pages. The story opens in a city on planet Yurin, where eighteen-year-old Ilana is wasting time racing speeders before she is first picked up by the empire:

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Wow, you know, I have very little to nitpick here, which is a good thing, since I’m fairly nitpicky. I think you did a great job of keeping it short and to the point, especially since there seems to be a lot going on here. I won’t say anything about the names, as you pointed out posting this that the names will be changed... actually, I wouldn’t say much either way, except maybe about the planet name... he,he...

I’m not really well versed in sci-fi, so maybe someone else has something to add with the storyline itself. The only thing writing wise is to edit out the ‘But’, in this sentence:

“But just as she’s poised to strike, she learns her true identity from a terrifying encounter with the alien race Cyon, former slaves of the Voth that are now hunting them.”

– also, I had to read that sentence twice to get it (which may be because I’m not a sci-fi buff, so I’ll put that up for another opinion too) I think you could edit it down, cutting either the name ‘Cyon’ or cutting the phrase, ‘alien race’, because they’re explained in the next few words.

I really liked your introduction to the scene in your closing paragraph, it’s unusual, but it had a very star wars kind of feel to it, and I thought it was a nice addition.

I hope that helps some, I know I didn’t give you very much in the way of crit, but I really didn’t see very much to crit. Many thanks to Gina for posting her query for our critique. I invite all of you to offer your crits in the comments, as these work best when they’re interactive with a lot of participation. Same rules apply, all honest feedback welcome, nothing derogatory.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Six sorta random weird little things... or, another meme

Sidenote: Gina and Query/pitch critiquers, I promised this meme out to Precie a few days ago, so I’m posting it first – I’ll have Gina’s crit up in a day or so, so stay tuned.

I've been tagged by Precie

The rules:

a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

My Six Things:

1. I have favorite desserts for each season, and occasionally each month... odd aren’t I? Seriously, January’s an off month as there’s nothing much going on and I’m probably too bloated from Christmas. Buuut:
- February – I have a need for chocolate covered cherries at valentine’s time
- March – My birthday month, so my cake has to be chocolate, preferably Devil’s Food
- April (or March depending on when Easter falls) You think I’m going to say peeps... but it’s jelly beans, I have to have them and they can’t be the jelly belly’s even though everyone else on the planet loves them and they can’t be starburst – they have to be the cheap crap ones in the ginormous bag, just like the ones I found in my own Easter basket as a kid.
- May (two birthdays and an anniversary this month) though I don’t have a need of it, I always wind up having Chocolate cake with butter cream frosting at least three times this month.
- June – ah, an off month, how flippin refreshing... though I do have to have good Italian Ice (and the place I like is like a half hour’s drive from my house, because it’s in my old neighborhood and yes I risk the flippin drive by’s to go back and get a couple containers and the homemade pizza at least once a summer... I also have a need to have at least one push up – you remember the orange sherbert crap in the little cardboard container that you had to push up from the bottom and it spilled all over your hand and arm... Yeah, that was my favorite from the ice cream man and though I haven’t seen him in eons, I still need at least one a season... So those two cover June and August...
- July – I have to have a slice of apple pie – I know, annoying, but I like apple pie, though not ala mode, especially if they use a good amount of cinnamon in the filling...
- September – Spice cake with butter cream frosting, as soon as fall starts rolling in I get a hankering... I also need at least one batch of banana bread with a large slathering of nut butter, but that’s not dessert so it doesn’t flippin count.
- October – forget the candy, I need a caramel apple, preferably affy taffy... with nuts, and I hate it when they hide the granny smith apples in there, those are no good, I like the red or golden ones
- Novemeber – me needs to have at least one slice of good pumpkin pie
- December... oh, let me count the ways... well then, I have to have at least a few mint meltaways (for those of you unfamiliar with Fannie May, I’m so sorry, you’re missing out) I also love the Christmas cookies, especially my homemade Italian Knot cookies with the red and green sprinkles... la, la, la... oh and of course a few candy canes.

2. Wanna laugh? Besides that long list of sweets I rambled on about up there, I rarely eat sweets... I have those specific things with the seasons they come in... Otherwise, I’ll usually pass on desserts and have a small slice of cake at birthdays to be polite, but I don’t go out of my way for a sugar fix often, and I usually opt for fresh fruit.

3. It’s been a weird few weeks and I’ve actually gotten to see a number of people who I haven’t seen since my early twenties – I’ve heard at least three times that I’m even smaller now than I was then, which is really awesome to hear, but.... I’m a size larger, thank you very much... rather proud of it in fact – it’s not that easy to bear three, rather large children (youngest was 9 pounds 12 ounces at birth) and only go up from an 8 to a 10.. It’s not a size two, I was never going to be a size two, I’d fall over, but you think I’m thinner because I’ve lost the baby fat in my face which isn’t supposed to be a good thing but there ya go.

4. I have no sense of direction and don’t really care. Seriously, I will get lost going anywhere without a set of directions, unless it’s a place I know by heart. I’m notorious for taking the wrong highway and getting us lost and for me it was always the fun of the trip, which tended to annoy my friends – once, my friend Taryn and I were on our way to a concert and I missed the turn off, so instead of going to the concert we hung out in Milwaukee for the day – bothering sailors (seriously, we found sailors on leave and made them take pictures with us) and goofing around... we had such a good time, neither of us cared that we missed the concert.

5. I smoke. Gasp, go ahead, call the smoke Nazis and tell me how bad it is for my health... I actually already know it’s bad for my health.. really, I do.... so is my driving, but I’ll digress on that point. I’ve quit, I think eight times already, sometimes for months, even years... (three pregnancies and breastfeeding... you’d think I’d just never start again)... I will quit again, and for good this time. I was supposed to start on those pills, my dentist had me all hyped about it, and then she wouldn’t prescribe them because she thought I should go through an MD, which was probably a wise thing to say, but jeesh, just prescribe them and shush-y... so I’ll ask my thyroid guy when I go for my next check up and let you guys know where I’m at with it.

6. Okay, here’s a good one – my blog address is happy cat, my name literally translates to Happy Mountain lion, but I hate cats... I’m a dog person.

Well, if you made it all the way through that ramble, here are my six people for to pass on this meme....

Colleen Katana
Mary Witzl
Stephen Parrish
Julie Weathers
JJ Debenedictis
Jersey Girl

Okay, I’ll let all my meme recipients know in the morning... feel free to point and laugh at my silliness in the comments.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Town Monday and other announcements...

Query / Pitch Critique: For those of you who haven’t ventured by lately (my own fault as I’ve been a sporadic blogger) The last two posts have been dedicated to critiquing queries and pitches... If you’d like to help crit our first query, graciously volunteered by Ms. Julie Weathers, stop on over and leave your feedback in the comments. I’m still open to new queries and pitches so if you’d like to work on yours stop by the original post and leave your pitch in the comments section.

Spotlight Blogger: My real world friend, Dina Darling, has a blog!!! Though when I knew her, we simply called her Dina Beans... Dina and I went to high school together and recently got together with another close friend for a girl’s night of silliness. She is one of the most genuine and caring people you will ever meet so if you get a few seconds, pop on by and welcome her into the blogger fold. Dina posts some poetry and verse and a lot of musical musings as well as photos – she freelances as a band photographer (how flippin cool is that?)

And on to the post...

Haunted Chicago... meet the neighbors

For those of you rolling your eyes bear with me here. One of the great things about studying the legends of an area is that it brings you closer to the place’s history. Chicago has a wide array of people from different parts of the globe and many of us are first or second generationers, which make us a little more intrigued by all things superstitious. Where there is a personal connection with these places, I’ll include it – otherwise, what follows is just a brief snapshot of some of our more infamous hauntings and the legends behind them.

Resurrection Mary

Resurrection Cemetery is located on Archer Avenue in Justice Illinois, west of the actual city limits. Since the 1930’s there have been sightings of the woman who has become known as Resurrection Mary on a stretch of Archer between what is now Willowbrook Ballroom and the main cemetery gates. Sightings include men who’ve met with the young woman (usually described as a blond haired blue eyed girl in her late teens or early twenties) in the dance hall, one that was in fact there during the 30’s, then called the O. Henry Ballroom. The men tell varying stories – some danced with the young woman for most of the night, when driving her home she asked them to stop in front of the cemetery and then she ran toward the gates and disappeared. Others say she disappeared from within the car when they got to the cemetery gates.

Other stories involve men picking up the young woman hitchhiking on the road or, in fact, running her over – but by the time they exit their vehicle the apparition has disappeared. Chicago area ghost hunters have been on the hunt for the actual historical verification of the young girl for years. There are a few different theories on who she might be, usually identified as a girl of polish decent, sometimes a girl named Anna Norkus who was killed in an automobile accident on the way home from the O. Henry with her father in the 1930’s.

There are a plethora of pictures taken by amateur ghost hunters showing orbs and other variations of light play, but perhaps the most notable physical evidence of this legend, or that has been tied to this legend, are on the bars of the cemetery itself. One observer noted the girl’s hand grasping the bars to the cemetery gates as she disappeared. When he went to look at the place she had been, the bars were badly misshapen and burned where her hands had been. Cemetery officials claim that the damage to the bars is due to an accident involving a truck.

Photo of Resurrection Cemetery Bars, from Wikipedia Page on Resurrection Mary

When I was a teenager, this was a favorite spot to go at night and creep yourselves out. We’d stand at the bars and take turns putting our hands where Mary’s hands had supposedly left their imprint. The legend as I was told it... while drinking and scaring the bejeezus out of one another, was that the bars had been replaced once, but the marks came back in the same exact spot.

Meet Emily

Theatre people have some of the best ghost stories. In Cicero, theatre is taken pretty seriously, oddly enough. As a side note for the star minded, Cicero and Morton High School and College are home to Joe Mantegna... and the kid from My Bodyguard of 1980’s fame, but I don’t remember his name.

Me loves me some Joe Mantegna - come on, he's adorable! Photo from his website

Emily is (or was) the ghost of the Morton College Theatre. Historically, she was an actual girl who was murdered in 1969 and the crime was never solved. At the time of her disappearance and death, the college campus was just about to be built – Morton College was, in its early days, operating out of Morton East High School Campus, and their Chodl auditorium has its own ghost story as well. Emily’s body was discovered when the construction crews went to break ground on what is now the site of the theatre portion of the college campus.

I had a lot of friends involved in that theatre and for a year or longer, I worked on sets and did lighting for some of their productions, so I’m pretty familiar with the lore. Emily had her own seat in the back of the theatre, to the right hand side of the booth. That particular seat got icy cold and no one who spent any time around the theatre would sit in it. In researching this particular post, I ran across a number of articles that indicated that Emily was known to frequent particularly violent productions – but I’d never heard that during my time around the theatre, so I don’t know where that bit of lore comes from.

What I do know is that sightings almost always occurred late at night. The janitorial crew was especially spooked by Emily as she seemed to like to mess with people when they were alone in the building. She did such things as play with the elevator buttons, appear on the roof and then jump off, and throw stones and small objects at people. As I recall, she was around for a lot of the musicals, or at least people seemed to think she was around. A friend of mine who’s been in and around the theatre in recent years informs me that Emily has finally moved on. She hasn’t been sighted in a long time and the theatre community no longer has a fear of the seat in the back row. The theory always was that Emily couldn't rest because her killer was never caught. There weren't even any leads at the time. So one theory is that her murderer may have met his demise or gotten caught on a different crime - there were all sorts of theories on who and why, but there never was a concrete suspect. Most of us aware of her story assumed it was a stranger, and in 1969 the idea of serial killers wasn't really well known.

Dillinger’s Alley:

Many of you know the story of John Dillinger, but I’ll refresh your memory if you’d like. John Dillinger and his band of bank robbers were notorious during the 1930’s. While FBI sources list him as a scourge and cold blooded killer, the public consensus at the time was much more forgiving. Remember, this was during the great depression and people were none too keen on banks, having been left penniless by these un-backed institutions after the crash of 1929. Dillinger was seen as a sort of robin hood, though he didn’t actually give his loot to the poor to my knowledge, but he and Baby Face Nelson and other criminals of the time did revel in burning the bank’s mortgage notes and debt records, which was a nice little boost to all those people getting ready to lose their homes.

Photo of Biograph as it appeared in 1934

Dillinger was set up and ambushed at the Biograph Theater in Chicago in 1934. He made the FBI agent upon leaving the theater, drew his gun, and tried to escape down the alley next to the building – but he was gunned down in the alleyway. The neighborhood still boasts Dillinger’s death as a claim to fame and the bar next door actually put a sign in the window the next day implying that Dillinger had his last drink there. You can go into the theater and sit in the seat that Dillinger occupied before his death and there’s a plaque erected near the ticket booth to commemorate the event. Most notorious for ghost hunters though is the appearance of Dillinger in later years. Witnesses claim to have seen him running from the theatre, a lone spector in the middle of a scene no one else can see, and then falling to the ground in the middle of the alley to disappear.

Photo of Biograph today

There are, of course, other haunts in the Chicagoland area, such as Hull House, Harpo Studios, and the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But this post has gotten far too long already, if you feel like researching haunts in your own hometowns though, let me know... I always love a good ghost story.

I'm an idiot!!!! I forgot to thank the wonderful Travis for starting the My Town Monday series... if you've just stumbled upon it here, go check out Travis' blog for a list of all the bloggers participating and to get a flavor for all the locations being spotlighted.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Query / Pitch Critique.... Part I

The first post in this series is here. If you missed it when it was first posted, haven’t had a chance yet to post your pitch in comments, or decide after reading this one that you’d like to post your own pitch for critique, feel free to drop a comment with your pitch at the first post and I can include it in subsequent crits. Originally I planned on doing one blog post with any pitch / query critiques that were wanted – but I realized how long that one post would be, so it’ll be a series, for as long as you’re all interested in working on them.

Before posting my critique, I thought I’d point out a few things for anyone who needs to do a little digging on how to better hone their query. Most of the best advice on query and pitch writing that I’ve gotten over the last year or so has come about through blogging – it’s more than just a time suck, though as Josie points out from her time with Donald Maass, if it scratches the itch it can be detrimental.

Here are a few blog references for those looking to see how a query / pitch might work best, from some people with much better experience than I:

Most of the agents in my sidebar have done posts on how to write (or how not to write) a query – if you search their sites, you’ll find some fabulous advice.

BookEnds held a series of pitch crits that I learned a great deal from... my own pitch has changed significantly since then, but I knew I was at least on the right track there... there are numerous posts and a significant amount of great feedback from writers in the comments, but it’s worth the time to read through if you haven’t seen it yet.

Our own JJdebenedictis, who recently gained representation, held The Goblin’s Crucible, and many pitches were improved. (Check out JJ’s winning query letter for a good example of what’s worked).

The lovely and talented Moonrat held a Book Blurb contest that was stellar in not only developing pitch but also a working start at synopsis... her contest was to give a back cover blurb (your pitch), jacket flap copy (your synopsis minus the ending), and a tagline.

Okay.... and now it’s time.... our very first entry:

Dear Perfect Agent;

I’m guessing this was a typo, but just in case, it should be a colon (:) or comma (,) depending on your preference or the agent’s

(Personalized note about agent.)

I generally include genre and word count in the opening paragraph as well, that way you don’t have to include the line towards the end, “Paladin's Pride is a fantasy novel, which is complete at 130,000 words.” Which seems out of place and a little awkward stuck in between the pitch and bio sections. I try to keep it to one or two sentences particular to the agent and why I am querying them, usually I can tie it neatly in with my genre – for an example with yours, you might mention a book they rep in your genre and draw a parallel between the writing style or subject matter and your own and finish the sentence with, ‘I thought my fantasy novel would be a good fit for your list’ or ‘a good fit for representation’ I finish that small paragraph with a straight forward sentence on word count – if you’ve already mentioned the genre, you might use, “PALADIN’S PRIDE is complete at 130,000 words.” – When you reference the name of your novel, most sources state that ALL CAPS is the correct format for query.

Just to give you an over-view before I get into specifics, this is too long with too much description. Your story sounds both interesting and fun, but a reader might not wade through all the extra verbiage to find that out. You want your pitch paragraph to be just that, one paragraph – two at the most, but it needs to be concise and it needs to intrigue the reader – the agent doesn’t need to know the whole story from your query, they only need their interest piqued. Look at some of the back cover blurbs on your favorite books – the really good blurbs will give you a great indication of what your pitch paragraphs should look like.

The king is missing. The infant prince is being poisoned. Guards loyal to the king are systematically exiled or killed. It's a dangerous time for a sixteen-year-old girl to join a unit connected to the king's elite Horse Guards, some of his most loyal troops. It's especially dangerous for a girl who has caught the eye of a demon, a pirate and the demon caller.

Gentyl has always dreamed of joining the Horse Guards when she was old enough. However, after the last of the missing king's personal guards is executed like a common criminal, her parents enroll her in an exclusive healing school, where she will be protected. Gentyl thinks her prayers have been answered and she has found favor with the Divine One, when she is accidentally assigned to a military unit instead.

On the verge of civil war and ethnic cleansing, her kingdom is rapidly approaching a disaster unless the king is found. Gentyl is assigned to watch over the king's seemingly senile wizard, but when he includes her in his efforts to solve the disappearance of the king and his guards, she learns Saerowyn is not nearly as helpless or addled as he wants people to think he is.

She survives an assassin's blade, court intrigue, a battle with an undead champion, the pirate's attentions, and the demon's attempts to possess her, but her greatest challenge may be conquering her temper and pride.

I like your opening three sentences, they’re punchy and to the point and they draw you right in. The last paragraph has good potential, too, it’s everything in the middle that needs to be edited down. I’m going to give you a brief rewrite at the end, feel free to keep or discard whatever you like. Obviously, you know your story a heck of a lot better than I do. Another thing to keep in consideration is the fact that your own voice, the voice of your story, needs to be as present in the query as possible.

Another thing I noticed, and this may be a personal thing but I’ll include it anyway – the name, Saerowyn, for a wizard sounds too close to Sauron from Lord of the Rings to me. It was the first thing I thought of – though others might disagree.

Paladin's Pride is a fantasy novel, which is complete at 130,000 words.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse Racing Report for seventeen years. During that time I wrote weekly stories about Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa racing in Canada, Mexico and the United States. I also wrote several stories about the history of various tracks and articles about equine health. One of my stories was nominated for the AQHA Sprint award.

I like your bio; you keep it right on track tying your publishing history into the specifics of the Horse Guard aspect of your story. The only thing I might do differently is to list the story that was nominated for the award by name, giving the date or year of the nomination.

Thank you for your consideration and time.

Julie Weathers

My Pitch Re-Write:

The king is missing. The infant prince is being poisoned. Guards loyal to the crown are systematically exiled or killed. It's a dangerous time for sixteen-year-old, Gentyl, to join the king's elite Horse Guards, especially since she’s caught the eye of a demon, a pirate, and the demon caller.

When Gentyl’s assignment includes watching over a senile wizard, she’s drawn into his clandestine efforts to solve the disappearance of the king and his guards. She can survive an assassin's blade, court intrigue, and the demon's attempts to possess her, but her greatest challenge may be in conquering her own temper and pride.

Okay, as I said earlier, use or discard any of my rewrite / crit as you see fit. I’ve cut a lot of information that you may think is more important than what I’ve kept – you know your story better than I do, so it’s really all about how you are comfortable pitching it – the main point is to narrow down exactly what you want to say to entice a reader, rather than giving it away plot point by plot point.

A very big thank you to Julie for putting her query up for public critique. I’m going to open the comments here to you guys – add in all of your thoughts, crits, whatever is constructive to our author. As I said in the first post, honest crits are always welcome, but nothing derogatory.

If you all are still interested in my opinion, feel free to hit the link at the top for the first post on Query / Pitch crits and drop your own in my comments for feedback....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Query Critique - Work with me, people!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.... at least that’s my excuse...

Hi everyone, sorry for the long hiatus from the bloggy realm. Besides getting sidetracked with things like scrabulous and some other interesting time sucks around the internet, I’ve been catching up with friends and getting in some reading... I’m also planning my son’s upcoming Communion and softball and baseball seasons have officially started, so life is getting very full. In my writing time, I’ve been fine tuning my queries and really digging in and narrowing down my agent lists... As I said in a previous post, I’m not going to discuss much more of the submission process on that ms, unless there’s news, but a commenter on my last post gave me an idea:

She asked if I would crit her query letter, which is very flattering and I’d be glad to, but with the caveat that I’m obviously not an expert.... So instead of just exchanging emails and critting for her, I thought I’d open up this post for a pitch / query crit. I know a lot of my regular readers are doing really well with their writing momentum (if you’re all still around after my lengthy absences of late). Many of you guys are farther ahead in your careers than I am, and I know I got a ton of great feedback from pitch crits I participated in and JJdebenedictis’ blog and others....

So here are the rules: If you’d like to play, you can post your pitch or full query in the comments section. I’ll go through the pitches and give my feedback in my next post and the comments section will be open to participation and feedback from all of the writers reading along. Your comments will be censored by me (and remember I’m brutal)... I’ll allow anything and everything constructive in criticism, because I think it’s important to hear... I will not allow anything demeaning or derogatory – I’ve never had a problem with that on this blog as you guys are all fabulous, but I thought I’d mention it in case we get someone new around these parts who’s a knucklehead.

If you’re not done with your novel, this still might be a good exercise as it will help narrow down your pitch for when you’re ready. I worked on mine months before I was finished with revisions, and it’s been a great load off my mind to have a polished pitch so that I can really concentrate on my agent research, narrowing my opening paragraph and tailoring it specifically for that agent, and following their specific guidelines... If you already have representation, feel free to leave links to your own pitch (so other writers can see what’s worked for you) or to post in comments.

And away we go......

Friday, April 04, 2008

My Kids Are Weird... and other parenting dilemmas

First, a hearty congratulations!!!

For those of you who hadn’t heard, JJ Debenedictis has a new agent!!!! Go drop by her blog when you get time and help her celebrate.

And, on with the post:

My kids are strange... Lately I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of different things about parenthood and motherhood and it got me to thinking about my own mode of parenting. It’s funny how it evolves. It’s funny how on top of things I thought I would be when I first became a mom, the things I never thought I’d do, the kind of parent I thought I’d become... you know, as opposed to the parent I actually am... What happened to my once lofty goals? Well, I had kids. They don’t actually conform to what you think they’ll be – they have a need to be their own person, which means switching up the way you raise them because what works for one will not work with all... Ah, if new parents only realized that.

When I was a new mom my television set was almost never on. I watched a few shows here and there, but mostly I watched baseball and my husband watched football and I thought, jeesh, those people who plop their kids down in front of the TV and use it as a babysitter are just terrible.

Yeah... my TV’s on all the flippin time these days. Oh, yes, I shut it off and we play games or do school work. But my kids watch way more TV than I ever thought I’d allow, and my youngest has watched TV since infancy, because I already had three and you’ll take any break you can get at that point!

When I was a new mom, I stood aghast that anyone would allow their kids sugar all the time. No pop for my kids. Candy would be a rarity, and only as a treat after a good, healthy dinner.

Ha! I still don’t let them drink pop, my two youngest don’t even want it... but the ten year old, well, she’s had it at friends’ houses and she likes it... really likes it, asks for it all the time. We’ve settled on her having one (sprite or sierra mist with no caffeine) occasionally with dinner – not every night, I’d say once every two weeks or so, and on those nights she foregoes dessert... but no sugar... please, my cookie jar is a candy treasure trove and they average at least one sweet a day, sometimes far far more... though they still have to finish their regular meals first, I’ll cave on the veggies way more than I should....

Those aren’t the only differences between what I thought and the reality of raising three kids. I thought that if you raise them well, they become good people... Lots of little discipline things, but I found that each kid comes with their own sensibilities, so what works on oldest would be detrimental to my middle guy. Oldest is a hard head. She’s ridiculously bright, but lazy. So being strict with her is what works. If I didn’t set hard and fast rules, she wouldn’t care what grade she came home with or how many rats her bedroom drew... she’s just that way. She’s independent; too, so you have to check up on her, because she won’t tell you she needs help she’ll just try to wing it.

My second is a sweetheart. He gets very nervous about doing things wrong and needs a lot of encouragement and a bit of hand holding in new situations until he hits his comfort level. I’m far less strict with him because he wouldn’t do well with it, and he doesn’t need it. He never has to be asked twice and often will tell me he wants to do his homework, clean his room, go to bed, etc.

Really all of this is to say that they will surprise you and often teach you a hell of a lot more than you teach them. My daughter, while she drives me nuts with her procrastination, is a constant source of amazement for me. She’s ten, just the age where you really start to worry. Sitting at the kitchen table after dinner the other day, she informs me that she wants to be a medical examiner when she grows up... Oooo-kay. I figured she didn’t know what one was. But she did. She wants to examine the bodies and tell the police how they were killed and help them find the bad guys... That’s her take on it, which is pretty good for a ten year old, though a little scary (But I bet Josie would love her). I figured, heck, it’s better than wanting to be a trampy pop star or something.

Anyway, we had this whole conversation about what kind of education she’d need and how she could work toward a career like that – seriously, I was just happy she was so intent. I figured telling her she’d have to get a medical degree would have kyboshed the whole thing... nope, but my figures for future tuition just went up dramatically. In my surreal state of not really fathoming how my ten year old daughter arrived at this career choice we exchanged the following dialogue:

Me: You really want to play with dead bodies? (I’m occasionally flippant)
Her: I’m not taking them out to tango or anything.
Me: (doubled over laughing, cause I thought that was pretty good for a 10 year old)
Her: Though, I wouldn’t have a problem getting to lead.

Okay, seriously, love that she has such interesting career goals, but I’m really thinking comedian... she just doesn’t know it yet.