Top 5 Finalist in YARN Halloween Contest

Happy Samhain-All-Hallow’s-Eve-Halloween! Costumes ready? tBpaYak3

The family is taking it to Oz tonight: I’ll be Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz, the hubs the Tin Woodman, daughter Glinda the Good, and son Cowardly Lion (though it sounds more like curfew lion the way he says it).

Last week YA Review Network announced their Top 5 finalists for their 2017 Halloween contest. Horror-writer Rin Chupeco, author of the Bone Witch series, (which is on my TBR list as it looks like the only book of hers that I can read without losing sleep for a week) judged. Adoring Halloween, I submitted my short story “The Séance” and did a happy dance for a full five minutes with my four-year-old when I got the email saying I was a finalist and won a super insightful critique from Ms. Chupeco. YARN published the winning entry, “The Survey” here so be sure to check it out if you dare. Super creepy and I definitely won’t be accepting cookies from anyone anytime soon.

As I had a few people ask to read my entry, I thought I’d share it here. It’s a short story from my YA novel that’s being shopped around now, THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL. Feedback urged for more mystery and less magical realism, so this chapter was cut out and reformed around the jaggedy edges to make it a stand-alone. Well, a bit more stand-alone-ish as the rough loose ends were mentioned in my critique-prize.

Hope you enjoy!

 

"The Seance" By Candice Marley Conner

 

The Séance

“Brought the stuff for tonight,” Honey says as she drags her bag closer to me
I perch on a stool, watching a yellow jacket discover a blot of dried sweet tea on the counter of the concession stand. Its tiny body hums with pleasure, even when I put a clear cup over it. It doesn’t notice, as if the cup doesn’t exist to it.
“Brown candles, for finding lost things and illumination. We’ll need to pick some flowers right before—fresh is best. And,” she pulls sheets of computer paper from the bag and waves them at me. “Instructions so we don’t mess up and let loose demons upon the earth.”

I can’t help but smile at her dramatics. I can always count on her to bring me out of whatever funk I’m in, however deep, and since my brother’s sudden disappearance and my parents’ refusal to acknowledge it, she’s definitely earned her best friend status. The trench in my head is sometimes as unscalable as the Mariana and just as full of deep sea freaks like goblin sharks and anglerfish. “Or evil ghosts.”
“Or the undead.” Honey shudders. “Eww, what if we had a zombie following us around? Fall Break would suck.”
“Nah, it’d suck if we invoked vampires.”
She laughs, almost rocking herself off the stool.
It’s Honey’s idea to have a séance on All Hallow’s Eve. Because it’s probably nothing but my overactive imagination reacting to closed off parents and fear for whatever happened to Jim. But what if the darkness in my head never leaves? With the end of the year fast approaching, my summer has disappeared, and with it, myself. I know I’m not crazy, but maybe I’m going there and I want at least one person to know where I’m headed.
Of course, with Honey planning a séance, she might be headed to Crazy with me. Which is fine because I like her company. Maybe we can get discounts on travel arrangements if we bring a buddy. Or more likely, she simply sees it as something exciting to do on a quiet night in a small town in lower Alabama. We’re too old to trick-or-treat, have too strict of parents to party like trolls under the bridge with the seniors.
Jim’s bedroom door stays closed though I’ve seen my mom rub the door handle like it might be a genie lamp and all three of her wishes would be: let me open that door and my son be asleep, or open sesame so my son comes out to eat one last meal with us (it would be fried pickles on top of bbq-smothered hotdogs, Jim’s fave), or even, why Jim? Why not take Bea Pearl? Yeah, I’ve heard her whisper that when she didn’t know I was on the other side of the door, movements frozen in an irrational fear of being caught. Caught at what? Being a tiny bit closer to Jim in a room of still unmade sheets and a rubbery smell of basketballs, looking for anything that could tell me where he is now.
We’re waiting for the dock to clear out, for night to fall heavy around us. A moth chases off the yellow jacket, as hungry for our light as the wasp was for our sugar. Bats chase the birds that ruled the day, slurping up their mosquito snacks midair. I turn off the lights, leaving only the faint glow from a streetlight. We walk down to the lake.
“Why the dock?” I whisper. It feels right to whisper as our feet leave land and echo hollowly on the weathered boards.
“Water. It’s an in-between place, from what I read on the ten million websites I found. That’s important to spirits, so I figured we’d have better luck.”
The moon is almost full. With it shining down, and its reflection on the water shining up, it’s easy enough to see.
Honey smoothes out a website print-out, reading it over again before lighting the candle. She hands me an orangey-pink rose and pulls petals off her own to throw into the water. “Water spirits are attracted to beauty. Toss these in the lake so they know we’re friendly.”
Silliness and nervousness run circles in my stomach, causing goose bumps to pop up on my arms. This is a game, but it’s not. Especially if it works. The seriousness of the occasion combined with sweet smelling, freshly torn rose petals makes me peer expectantly into the dark, still water.
Honey sits down on the dock and places the candle between us so we are facing each other. “We’re supposed to put our legs in the water to communicate better.”
“Fat chance,” I say. “There might be water sprites in here but there are without a doubt alligators that are accustomed to being fed from this dock.”
She smiles, looking relieved. “That’s what I was thinking too. Ready?” She holds my hands, one each side of the flame and closes her eyes. I’m too tense to shut mine, so I watch the flame flicker. “Water Sprites, please accept our gift of rose petals. We ask for your help in return. Since water travels in rain and fog, from lakes to creeks to rivers to oceans, in all your travels, have you seen Bea Pearl’s brother?”
“His name is Jim,” I whisper to whatever is listening.
“Please give us a sign you hear us.” Honey opens one eye. “Please give us a sign you’ve seen Jim.”
We hold our breath. Cicadas saw away in the pines, canoes bob gently against the dock. I strain to hear anything out of place in the night. Then, a fish splashes.
“Was that a sign?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Maybe? Look, there are rings around the petals.”
“That’s what water does,” I remind her.
“A website says the rings are water spirits.”
I roll my eyes. “More like surface tension.”
She sticks out her tongue. Then: “Did it just get darker?” she whispers.
I look up. “There’s a cloud covering the moon.”
The candle’s flame sputters and goes out.
“Why’d you blow it out?” she asks sharply.
“I didn’t.”
The cicada’s buzzing grows louder. Another fish splashes and it sounds closer, bigger. “I’m not so sure this was a good idea,” I whisper, goose bumps now on my legs. I want to itch them, but I’m not letting go of Honey’s hands.
“Me neither. What if some evil thing has Jim? And now it’s coming for us. Olive Mangled Ghouls, did we open a gateway to Hell?”
“You had to say that out loud?” I tighten my grip, her ring cutting into my fingers. Way back when we were in elementary school, we swore we’d never be one of those O.M.G girls: the annoying ones with beads crocheted on the socks, white Ked’s that never got dirty, the gum-smackers, the ones who laughed the loudest when you came back from the bathroom with your skirt tucked into your panties or toilet paper stuck to your shoe. So instead we used the acronym to inspire the randomest words on the tip of our brains. Back then we thought we were progressive. Now the habit’s ingrained into our friendship, probably for forever.
Something moves in the water.
We lean toward it, unaware ‘til after the fact that we’re mimicking each other, a mirror and a reflection, still clenching each other’s hands.
Something huge and dark rises and we shriek loud enough to wake the dead. We don’t wait around to see what happens next. Honey lets go and grabs her bag. I snatch up the hot candle and in that second of looking down, I hear a low snarling, snicking noise I can’t place, Honey’s cutoff scream, and a splash.
The dock is empty except for me and the dark candle in my hand. I blow my bangs out of my eyes but they’re stuck to my forehead with cold sweat. Again! my brain screeches at me, you’re letting this happen again! “Honey?” My voice is hoarse as if I screamed, but the only sound that reaches my ears is a whisper. No, no, no. She’s the only friend I have left.
I can’t let her disappear too.
Then moonlight reflects off churning water and a hand shoots out of the darkness, followed by Honey’s head. I drop to my stomach onto the dock, the air whooshing out painfully, and reach out to her. “Grab my hand. What’s got you?”
“My leg!” Honey finds my hand and I pull her toward me. She spits out water. “Something’s got my foot.” Her voice is pinched with panic. She belly crawls onto the dock but in the cloud-covered light, I can’t make out what covers Honey’s leg. “What is it? Get it off!”
I fumble for matches or a lighter in Honey’s bag that she somehow never let go of. I find a flashlight instead and switch it on, my hands trembling. A hysteric sort of giggle bubbles up through my insides. I startle both of us as I let out a sharp laugh.
“What’s wrong with you?” Honey demands, and then gives her ankle a closer look. “Oh snap. Is that a fish net?”
I nod, laughing too hard to answer.
“Get it off!” She shakes her leg at me. “It’s probably covered in fish poop.”
I kneel down and untangle her. “We must not have noticed it when we came down here. You know, thinking we’d see water spirits, not get caught in fish nets.”
“Whatever, make fun. Is my flip flop in there?”
“Nope.” I hold up a sun-dried bluegill. “Just this guy.”
She grimaces. “So this is a bust.”
“Did you really think it would work?” My voice wobbles. I get to my feet and help her up. I don’t know what I think, or what I expected. “You didn’t happen to see anything while you were down there?” I’m kidding, I know we wouldn’t see Jim’s ghost because he’s not dead. But a little spiritual help finding him would’ve been nice.
She shivers. I’m sure the October air is chillier to her wet skin than mine. My goose bumps borne of fear have pretty much disappeared. “I think he drowned.”
My head jerks at the sharpness of her words. They hang in the moonlit air like a watchful spirit. It is Halloween. The veil that I don’t know for sure if it exists might be thin enough that demons dangle from hateful words. “Because you tripped over a cast net and fell into a pond?”
At her widened eyes, that scathing demon might dangle from my mouth instead. I think she’s going to respond, but instead she shakes her head the tiniest bit. “I need a shower.”
She walks off. I don’t stop her. There’s no way Jim drowned. There’s no way she had that little epiphany in the seconds she was underwater. She knows something and won’t tell me.
***
I go back after my own shower, too worked up to sleep, and realize what we saw was probably a canoe bobbing. But we were both sure the thing in the water rose level with the dock and Lake George doesn’t get swells. So even if it was just a canoe, someone or something would have had to lift it. A ghost? A demonic water sprite? An alligator? More believable, but just as scary. The goblin I think I see hunkered in a black corner of the little bait lean-to at the beginning of the dock is more likely a bag of catfish food. But I don’t know for sure. Ghosts and water sprites and goblins haven’t been proven to not exist.
I sit, my back against the dock step and watch fog raise up from the warm water to the cooler air. A light breeze pushes it along so ghostly bodies waltz along the slick, black surface, disappearing when the moonlight touches them.
Why is everyone so adamant that my brother never existed? What happened to him?
With anglerfish, the male is absorbed into the body of the much larger female. She’s the one with the light.
He’s only a mouth, a toothy maw that bites, latches,
and then disappears.

So what do y’all think? Unsettling without being in-your-face-scary? Does it make you want to read more?

Enjoy your treating and tricking tonight!

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Susanna Hill’s 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest

Have I mentioned yet that Halloween is my favorite holiday? The weather’s sometimes cooler, you don’t have to clean cobwebs out of ceiling corners, and if you don’t feel like brushing your hair, a green wig is perfectly acceptable.

And the candy…peanut butter cups are a balanced breakfast, right?

I also love contests. So when I heard about children’s author Susanna Hill and her Halloweensie Contest, I couldn’t wait to write my entry.

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The rules: Entry must have a 100 word count or less, and contain the words candy corn (counts as one word here), monster, and shadow. And be for little ghouls and goblins.

Here’s my entry at exactly one hundred words (that’s harder than it sounds, people!):

The Candy Corn Craft Monster

Bean’s best friend Jilly said he was a monster when it came to crafts. A complete mess. He’d get glitter up his nose. He’d glue his fingers together.

So Bean hid in the shadowiest corner.

Miss Ann found him. “Halloween’s tonight! Come make spooky art.”

“I’ll just make a mess.” Bean hung his head.

Miss Ann led him next to Jilly. “That’s okay. Messes mean you’re being creative and learning.”

Bean looked at the candy corn and had an idea. He got to work.

Jilly squealed, then giggled. “It’s Bean the Candy Corn Monster!”

He grinned as he gnashed his candy corn fangs.

 

A Stroller-Ride, a Squirrel, & a Story

Around five years ago, my daughter (then about a year old) and I took a stroller-ride around our neighborhood. We sang our ABCs, hearty renditions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and mainly just enjoyed the shade of oak trees over the road, the distant, muted swishing of traffic, birdsong, and each others’ company.

Then a squirrel scampered down, looked at us, grabbed an acorn with its tiny paws, and scampered back up the nearest tree.

“Did you see it’s tail? I’ve never seen one so scrawny!”

“Gggggh-mmftph” (Because she’s one and probably chewing on something)

Looking at things with a different perspective is a value I’ve tried to instill in my children since birth, so the rest of the stroll was all about that little squirrel with the bristly tail:

  • Squirrels use their tails to communicate, so do other squirrels have a hard time reading the tail-flicks?
  • They use their tails for balance, so does this one fall a lot?
  • Do squirrels even care? Is it a thing? Do they spend extra time grooming their tails?
  • How many toes do squirrels have?
  • mmmmffftpphhh (probably imagining what a squirrel tail tastes like)

By the time we got back home, an entire story about a squirrel with a tail as bristly as a chewed-up pine cone was born.

But like all things that are born, it has to grow. Learn new things like formatting picture book manuscripts, brevity (picture books are notoriously low on the word count), and because of this: which words paint the clearest picture, which is the most concise way to get this info across in a way both children and the parents that read this to them will enjoy, when to show and when to tell.

And so, it’s with great delight that I can now announce that the picture book manuscript tentatively titled Sassafras and Her Teeny, Tiny Tail is now under contract with MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing.

Here’s her potential Back of Book content:

Sometimes your differences make you a hero.

With her stubby, bristly tail, Sassafras is the laughingstock of the oak tree. But when danger strikes, the thing that makes her different might just save the day.

She still has some growing to do once I receive edits from my new editor, but one day this little squirrel will have her story.

(And squirrels have four toes on their front paws, and five on their hind legs, for those curious.)

The Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-recognition-award

Middle grade writer and recommender-extraordinaire of books, Laura tagged me in this fun blogging event. Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

Now onto the fun stuff!

The story of how I started my blog.

I’m pretty new to the blogging world. My first post was written on May 26th, 2016, so I’m just a smidge over a year old.

1st blog post announcement

I started the blog because I wanted another way to connect–not only writing and mothering and magically things–but to connect those things with other folks. I had a writing buddy ask how I balanced writing a novel and mothering a newborn, (that post is here) and an illustrator friend requested a post on creativity (click on my Melusine-caricature widget on the right for that). I thought, maybe I do have something important to say. Maybe I can help inspire someone, and wouldn’t that be the most magical thing ever??

Advice for newbie bloggers.

Since I feel like I am a newbie blogger, I think the best thing for me to do is give advice on writing in general (because a blog must have content, right?) I adore this Nelson Mandela quote a writer friend recently reminded me of when she posted it to her facebook author page:

Nelson Mandela quote

We are born to create and be creative. Our greatest fear is the limitlessness of our potential

So my advice? Let your light shine.

My other bit of advice is to study Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. If you aren’t familiar with this, I highly recommend it–it’s what finally tore down my mental blocks and allowed me the courage to write my first novel.

The Artist's Way

My pretty much illegible morning papers

My nominations for this fun tag:

I can’t wait to read what inspired these ladies to start blogging. If you’d like to play along too, tag me in yours so I can discovers what inspired you as well!

 

Mysteries vs. Thrillers vs. Whatever the Heck I’m Writing

I wrote a YA novel I thought was a sort of coming-of-age mystery. The protagonist, Bea Pearl, has lost her brother, her memory, and subsequently, a good bit of herself. The small Southern town she lives in thinks her brother is dead, and her crazy for thinking he’s not. The mystery unravels as Bea Pearl sets out to find out what happened that day her brother disappeared. Though with no memory, she has a hard time trusting what’s real.

Query Hook for my YA mystery now out on a R&R | How to Write A YA Mystery

This was my query hook that initially intrigued my agent and a New York editor. It has come a loooong way since then!

Or that’s what I thought I was doing. Turns out it was leaning a bit too much on the magical realism side and not enough on the mystery. I thought, well, everything is super mysterious (I didn’t even know what happened to the brother in the first draft) so that makes it a mystery, right?

Nope and nope. The super-helpful editor who requested a revise & resubmit suggested my magical realistic beginning needed to have a similar tone to my more thriller-ish ending. I didn’t even know what the difference between a mystery and a thriller was. Up ’til now it was just something I read and knew, but I didn’t know the differences–what made each genre unique.

For those at home curious (which I assume is why you’re here), I went to Nathan Bransford’s always-helpful blog. He wrote a great post here on the differences and includes a link to BookEnds Literary’s more in-depth breakdown.

I wondered if there were any specific rules to writing mysteries for a young adult and stumbled across this Writer’s Digest post on Writing Tenacious Teen Sleuths (anything that refers to Veronica Mars is sound advice). The eight tips they mention helped me streamline my thought process AND my plot.

My agent kept pushing me to further get out of my protag’s head and into the action, so I thought reading YA mysteries would help me in a leading-by-example sense. I could unravel how their mystery plots unfold organically and see if mine following the tips did as well. (This took a few read-throughs as it was hard not to just fall into the story.)

Reading example novels of YA mysteries & thrillers to better my own manuscript.

Reading is my favorite kind of research

The books I studied were:

Carol Goodman’s BYLTHEWOOD because it’s considered a mystery but has a lot of supernatural aspects, like mine has the magical realism.

Kimberly Giarratano’s GRUNDGE GODS AND GRAVEYARDS, the Writer’s Digest suggestion from the above post. And another mystery with supernatural aspects, this time ghosts.

Kristen Lippert-Martin’s TABULA RASA, a YA Thriller so I could better understand my pacing further into my own manuscript.

So this is how I worked through it, what has helped you define your story’s genre? And if you have any tips on writing mysteries, or suggestions to further my library, please leave a comment!

 

Second Annual Miss Bookshelf USA

I realize y’all have been waiting all year for this pageantry of books that follows Miss USA. I did better this time around, woke up from my celebratory Mother’s Day nap just in time to watch Miss District of Columbia straighten her wobbly tiara.

The books eligible for this prestigious award (yes, it’s fine, go ahead and snort at that)  are the twenty-two books I reviewed last year on Goodreads. You can find the complete list here.

In a book slump and need some recommedations on what to read next? Check out my spoofy Miss Bookshelf USA lieterary pagent to see some of my favorites, from middle grade to adult!

After much deliberation and only three hardbacks falling off my bookshelf onto me (they were immediately disqualified for unruly behavior), here are my Top Ten Delegates in no particular order:

Ronald Smith’s HOODOO

Karen Russell’s SWAMPLANDIA!

Marissa Meyer’s CRESS

Kristen Lippert-Martin’s TABULA RASA

Angela Quarles’ MUST LOVE CHAINMAIL

David Mitchell’s THE BONE CLOCKS

Melanie Benjamin’s THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE

Sarah Glenn Marsh’s FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP

Shannon Hale’s THE GOOSE GIRL

Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’s GOOD OMENS

Once again, a nice, eclectic mix. Be sure to check out my Goodreads reviews to see why they made it on such an awesome list.

Without further ado… Miss Amity goes to GOOSE GIRL

ggIsi is such an amazing and brave character for believing in herself and her aunt’s stories when others refused to.

Mr Photogenic goes to MUST LOVE CHAINMAIL

thThere are no mipples that Ms. Quarles is fond of, but the cover is electric all the same, and in my head, Robert is indeed photogenic *swoon*

And Miss Style was a no brainer one–this book positively oozed with style… THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE!

I must say, we were quite stylish too at the 50’s Cocktail Party.

Second Runner-Up is THE BONE CLOCKS!

and it didn’t hurt its chances one bit when David Mitchell actually responded to me on twitter. Total fan-girl moment!

First Runner-Up goes to GOOD OMENS

go (which I cannot wait ’til it hits the screens. Loving what I’ve seen so far of American Gods)

And now… the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Miss Bookshelf USA is FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP!

Nt5KvertThe Isle of Man and it’s folkloric inhabitants have always been fascinating to me.

So what do y’all think? I’d love to know who you would have crowned from your list of read books. And if you’d like to see which books made it into last year’s pageant, check out that blog post here.

The Magic of Mardi Gras

Dinner is a rushed affair of sloppy joes and not enough vegetables. Shoes are sensible and closed-toed for the streets will get messy. Downtown is more packed than the kids have ever seen but we manage to squeeze into a parking spot not far from Royal Street. As soon as we get out of the truck, jazz music swells up in our toes and it’s impossible not to walk in rhythm to the horns.

We find a spot against a barricade and the crowd swells. Both kids gasp. My three year old grabs my hand in his.

Always try to see things a little differently--that's real magic. Check out this blog post to experience a tiny but of #mobilemardigras

The magic of Mardi Gras

A train, the Conde Express, massive, gloriously green, purple, and gold steams toward us.

“Hands in the air!” I instruct the kids as beads and stuffed animals and moonpies rain down.

“Hey Mister! Throw something to me!” My daughter, at six, is a pro at this now.

A mermaid, as tall as the oaks, swims by shortly. Then Darth Vader. Gorgon Medusa. By the end of Carnival season, the kids will see a smoke-billowing dragon slither down streets that look normal in the daytime. But at night, and on Fat Tuesday, something magical happens that allows one to see the world a little differently. The fantastical comes to life. mardigrase7fda6b782fc781940e46900ceca9174

Mobile, AL is the birthplace of Mardi Gras. New Orleans may do it louder, bigger, and raunchier, but the magical event that is Mardi Gras was born right here in 1703 when Mobile was the first capital of French Louisiana.

Even just being present, being part of a tradition that’s been around for centuries is magic unto itself though, for the most part, the two-tiered, gilded floats have come a long way from the very first parade: sixteen men of the Boeuf Gras Society pushing a cart with a papier-mâché cow head.

1923316_506931169223_353_n The secrecy of the masks and mystic societies make ordinary people seem larger than themselves. An anything-is-possible thrum in the air that connects us, that makes adults beg for plastic beads and cups, but then hand everything over once the parade passes to little children with wide-eyes and chocolate-smeared mouths.

15439702_10101325313189053_7928266597404588128_nAnd all that will remain once Lent arrives are beads draped like Spanish moss from the live oaks. A tiny reminder to see the world on different terms.

Have you had a chance to experience the magic of a Mardi Gras celebration? I’d love to know how it helped change your perspective of things.

 

Writing Goals: A Look Back on 2016

I began the year with a goal. setting-goals-tony-robbins-quoteBeing on submission was nerve-wracking and I needed smaller creative outlets so I wouldn’t drive myself (or my agent, critique partners, and beta readers) crazy. So I challenged myself to get published at least once a month for the entire year. It’s tricky as a goal, because as a former Mobile Writers’ Guild president once cautioned us, a goal should be something YOU can control. But I could control the opening up to inspiration, the butt-to-chair writing time, the search for publications, and the strength and confidence to put myself and my words out there. I did better than I thought I would, although rejection never got any easier and was sometimes hard to bounce back from.

I submitted fifteen poems, six short stories, and eleven personal essays. On the first day of the new year I received an e-mail that my personal essay, The Fairy House, would be published online by Mothers Always Write.

Setting writing goals is how I coped with being on submission. Check out my blog post to see what is working for me, maybe it can inspire you too!

I was ecstatic. It was the first personal essay I had ever written, and I found the challenge cathartic. I felt like it would make me a better writer and a better mother. More truthful with myself.

Then in February, Mothers Always Write wanted to publish my poem, Lake Geneva. The Fairy House fit their acceptance theme slated for March and was published then. In April, I was beyond excited when Mamalode published my Top Ten Reasons Why Playgroup Moms Make Awesome Friends. Babybug Magazine printed my poem, Gardening, that I had actually signed the contract with back in 2013. Then, I–or really my secret identity, the Saltwater Scribe–was invited to be a part of the author/illustrator group, The Inscribables, and they published my post, Being Creative is as Awesome as Surfing on Dolphins.

Mothers Always Write published another one of my essays, Earless Bunnies in May, and The Good Mother Project allowed me to share my Mother’s Day gift to my mom with their readers when they published my poem, Dear Momma.

Short stories are hard for me to write so I was giddy when the Scarlet Leaf Review published Weak in June. Then Haiku Journal published a haiku of mine mentioned in this previous blog post.

In July, I had my first reprint when The Good Mother Project asked to republish Earless Bunnies, and then again when they republished my Top Ten list in August. In September, they published my poem to my daughter, You Walked Away from Me, as I struggled to be okay with the fact that she was now all growny in kindergarten.

I had a YA short story accepted for publication in October, but the editor decided to push the publication date back. So I’m still hopeful, though I couldn’t make my goal. November was full of rejections, but more positively–revisions on my YA manuscript that’s out on R&R (an editor-requested revise and resubmission). I also have a poem and short story accepted for publication later on next year and a personal essay that’s made it to a final round selection that I’m extremely hopeful for.

I read twenty-two books this year, critiqued four manuscripts, and beta read too many to keep count. I met some awesome authors at book signings. I was part of a 4-H Authors and Illustrator’s Panel, a facilitator at a Young Author’s Writers Conference, a writing contest mentor for FicFest, completed my fourth manuscript, a middle grade magical realism, revised (and revised again) my YA mystery, began my fifth novel, a YA Southern Gothic named Amalee, and am co-writing an adult psychological thriller with two other creative mamas. So throughout the rejections, I’d say a lot of awesome things happened writing-wise for me in 2016.

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What positive things happened to you writing-wise this year? Did you read a book that changed your perspective? Did you write the book that will change your life?

 

 

The Autumn Reading Tag

Autumn lasts only a couple weeks here on the Gulf Coast but maybe that’s why we love it so much. We can drink coffee outside, have a toddy around the grill as we eat jalapeno poppers, wear leggings that reach our ankles, all without sweating! The crisp air is so fleeting, most of our trees are oaks or evergreens so if we want to see a color change we have to go north, or transplant a maple so we can experience a green leaf turning red. I’m not even going to comment on the pumpkin-spice-everything epidemic that began as soon as temperatures dipped into the low 80s.841222_10100312904658863_333803395_o So when writer and book recommender-extraordinaire (seriously, she’s never steered me wrong on a book rec. If you read middle grade, you should follow her blog.) Laura Noakes posted about an Autumn Reading Tag (created by Amy Jane Smith), I couldn’t wait to participate.

Are there any books you plan on reading over the autumn season?

Thirty-eight books are stacked on my desk, waiting to be read. pkqpiry3 It’s glorious. Of those, I plan on reading GRUNGE GODS AND GRAVEYARDS by Kimberly G. Giarratano, a YA mystery recommended by Writer’s Digest. Ghosts and ’90s grunge music? Sounds like the best of my high school memories. Perfect for an All Hallows Eve read.

I also plan on reading HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD because like Laura said, nothing says fall and winter (especially Christmas!) quite like Harry Potter. And my kids are finally getting into the movies which warms my muggle heart (though my youngest is terrified of Dobby).

Cooler months for some reason allow for nonfiction more than any other season for me, so I’d also like to read A PRIMATE’S MEMOIR by Robert Sapolsky.

September brings back school memories: what book did you most enjoy studying? And what were your favorite and least favorite subjects?

I’ve been exposed to so many good books in school, though I must say my absolute favorite to study was A WRINKLE IN TIME. I didn’t even know books like that existed before then! Favorite subjects: English and zoology, least favorite: any math (hence my degree in English!). Absolute worst was Math in Society. Compounded interest confounded me.

October means Halloween: Do you enjoy scary books and films?

Much to my husband’s chagrin, I can’t handle scary films. I didn’t sleep for a week after watching The Ring. Saw? Nope, I know my limit. Bookwise, I can handle a little scarier–psychologically speaking, not gore. I was on a Dean Koontz kick in high school. Now, I’m worried the wights might be more than I can handle in the movie-version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, though of course I read the book.

With November, it’s time for bonfire nights. What’s the most exciting book you’ve read that’s kept you gripped?

1425754_10100335642292463_1970888259_nI cheated. This bonfire, or Circle of Love as my husband’s family calls it, was actually in North Carolina.

Oooh, this is hard so I’ll break it up by age group:                                                                                                                                                                                  MG: Wrinkle in Time series, including all the companion ones like AN ACCEPTABLE TIME    YA: I devoured Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, as in, read a 600 page book in two days, also Laini Taylor’s Smoke & Bone trilogy. Adult: my guilty pleasure is Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series (not a fan of HBO’s True Blood. Deviated away from the books too much for me.)

What book is your favorite cozy comfort read?

As much as I like to own books, I don’t usually reread them in their entirety. Mainly, I like being able to dog-ear passages that speak to me and randomly reread those (yes, I’m a dog-earer. Throw your stones!) That said, I have reread Harry Potter and my favorite cozy read is probably Frank L Baum’s OZ series.

Curled up with a good book, what is your hot drink of choice?

1557453_10101061863763813_1615716691172101697_n Mmmm… Hot Caramel Macchiato. It’s just usually too hot to drink it.

Coffee. Unless it’s late at night, then some honey lavender tea.

Any plans you’re looking forward to in the next few months?

All the Halloween Things!

I appreciate any occasion to dress up. Last year I was Elphaba from Gregory Maguire’s WICKED and the Queen of Hearts.

It’s my favorite holiday, though this year will be the first our family costumes aren’t themed. Kiddos have their own opinions now, so we’ll be Alice and the Mad Hatter, a cowgirl, and Marshall from Paw Patrol.

Then in November, my birthday (!), my daughter’s in December, and then Christmas and all the family and friend festivities that come along with it. I’m also hoping to have revisions on my YA mystery turned in, and it would be The Best if I get good news on any of my manuscripts currently out on submission.

Even though today reached 82 degrees, football’s on and the air conditioner is turned up high. It’s officially Fall. This was a fun post to do so you’re welcome to play along too. Just make sure you tag me so I can read your responses!

I’m tagging Margie Brimer at The Write Niche, MeLeesa Swann, and Carrie Dalby, the Wonderwegian.

 

 

 

 

Autograph Your Book

As a writer, you’ve worked on a glorious assemblage of words that can tower up to 200,000 in the case of one of my critique partners (it’ll probably end up as a trilogy, don’t worry). The longest amount of words I’ve strung together so far is 70,000. Then, once you have every word exactly how you want it, deeply imbued with meaning, and loadbearing-ness, and imagery, you have to summarize it into a one page synopsis, then a paragraph in a query letter, then a two sentence hook, and maybe a 140 character tweet if you participate in twitter contests such as #pitmad.

I thought of something else while I was in the shower–too early for my right brain to be awake and tell my left brain and me how silly we are–what about the authors who summarize their grand literary conglomeration into an autograph?

A couple well-known author autographs in my collection, like Maggie Stiefvater and Rick Riordan, are just their names–and I feel honored to have them on my bookshelves. Many that I have say something along the lines of “good luck with your writing”, which is awesome because it means I had a chance to talk with them in person about the craft of writing.autograph

But some authors take their book itself and connect it to the readers.

I imagine JK Rowling’s is pretty easy. All she would need to write is “Always.”

Here are some of my favorites:2qdeqfyx

“Here’s to finding our edge but never going over it!” -Lena Roy, author of Edges.

This one is great because, as the title implies, there are so many edges in this book: the literal ones of the canyons in the Moab desert, and the figurative ones the main characters must find-Luke with grieving for his dead mom and alcoholic dad, and Ava with tiptoeing the edge of sobriety as she tries to regain control of her life.

autograph2“What’s the one thing you want most?” -Stephanie Lawton, author of Want.

The main theme centers around what the characters, Juli and Isaac, want whether it be a prestigious music career, or something off-limits, juxtaposed with society’s (especially Old Mobile) traditions and familial responsibilities.

autograph1

“Stay true to yourself” -Joyce Sterling Scarbrough, author of True Blue Forever.

This novel (and now a trilogy!) is about the ever-changing friendship and rivalry between Jeana, Mickey, Billy Joe, and Wade and staying true to each other.

autograph3“Never give up on your dreams.” -Robin Bridges, author of The Gathering Storm.

Her protagonist, Katiya, holds fast to her dream of becoming a doctor in 1888 Russian royal society which gets her through all the craziness that being a necromancer brings, namely, zombies and vampires.

What would mine be?

Yes, I know it’s way too early to be thinking about this though I thought it would be a fun exercise and maybe help me with query hooks. One of my manuscripts is a YA mystery about a girl who’s brother is missing. My main character, Bea Pearl, copes with memory loss, questioning reality and wondering if her dreams might actually be memories. So my autograph message for her book might be something along the lines of Mrs. Scarbrough’s and Mrs. Bridges’ with “believe in your dreams”.

Another manuscript I have out on submission is an upper middle grade fairytale retelling of Melusine, the two-tailed water spirit on your Starbucks cup. It’s about a girl, Mellie, who is banished and cursed by her mother. It has an ecological theme so I’d want to incorporate that, maybe something along the lines of “It’s not easy being green (-tailed!)” Haha, that’s horrible but I have time to come up with something better.

I’d love to know what your autograph message is (or will be), how you connect your story to your readers. You’re welcome to leave a link in comments if you have a book out, or share what you’ll write once your writing dreams come true.

Thanks for reading!