Monthly Archives: December 2010

Reading list for the beginning of 2011

I love to read, but I don’t read — fiction — nearly as often as I should. It’s probably fair to say I read fiction in spurts. I’ll devour half a dozen or more novels in a matter of days, and then go months without picking up another.

My tastes are eclectic. I love middle grade and YA, mysteries, paranormal, mainstream/commercial, and literary. My “keep forever” shelf includes Outlander, Harry Potter (the whole series, though I’m really a fan only of books 1-3), The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Color Purple, gods in alabama, and The Widow’s Season.

I recognize that I should read more often than I do, particularly in my own genre, so I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to read a minimum of one new novel per month. That will probably turn into one buying spree at the bookstore each month, since I rarely buy one book at a time, and I’m not likely to parcel out my purchases *too* far.

Jay and I went to Barnes & Noble tonight, and I bought an assortment of books to get started with. I’ll post reviews as I get them written up.

Ape House, by Sara Gruen. Ape House explores the ability of bonobos, a type of chimpanzee, to think and communicate. I’ve been dying to read this one, though I bet it’s going to be a tear-jerker. All of Sara’s books are about animals, which puts her at the top of my must-read list.


The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This is a dark, post-apocalyptic YA novel that I’ve heard absolutely can’t be put down. It’s book one in a trilogy that has had people lining up at bookstores at midnight. I love YA, but I’m not big on sci-fi. Still, I’ve heard so many people rave about this book, that I can’t wait to read it.


The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. This book is written from the dog’s point of view, which can either be very good or very cheesy. By all accounts, this book is very, very good. It also promises to be a tear-jerker. I don’t *know* that the canine narrator dies at the end, but I’m guessing he does. Why do the dogs in books always have to die? I promise you — the dogs in my books will NOT die.

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton. Kate is an Australian writer. I read her last book, The Forgotten Garden, and was thoroughly drawn into the world she created. When I saw this one on the front shelf in Barnes & Noble, it went to the top of my stack. I have no idea what it’s about, but it doesn’t really matter: I trust Kate to write a compelling story.

She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb. This is the first novel by Wally Lamb I’ve read. He has worked with women at a women’s correctional institution and put together several powerful books of the women’s essays. I love those books enough that I decided to take a chance on Wally’s fiction.


Petty Magic, by Camille DeAngelis. This is the only book I have no connection to, no specific reason for picking up off the shelf. I liked the title, and rather than being in the fantasy/paranormal section, this book was hardcover in the general fiction section. That intrigued me.

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The Professional Writer: Accepting Rejection Gracefully

If you’re a writer, you will be rejected. Your critique partners and beta readers won’t “get” your manuscript. You will be rejected by agents. Once you have an agent, you will be rejected by publishers. Then once your book is published, you will be rejected by book reviewers and by readers themselves. No book in the history of the world has been universally adored. No matter how blessed you are, you *will* be rejected, and it will hurt.

There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with the pain. Eating an extra brownie [pan] and having a cry fest with your best friend is a good choice, particularly when you dust yourself off the next day and get back to work. Taking the rejection personally, blaming the publishing industry, and  complaining about the rejection online is… not the best strategy.

I stumbled onto a terrific article today that looks at some rejection letters that writers posted online and then complained about:

This article was written in 1984, and the site it pulled the letters and comments from no longer exists. But the bitter comments the writers made are still out there. Yes, the writers posted “anonymously,” but some of those rejection letters were personal. Do you think an editor won’t recognize them? The Internet lives forever. Remember that before you post snarky comments to your blog or on a writers’ forum.

Publishing is a business. It’s highly unlikely — no matter how it feels — that an agent or publisher or reader is rejecting you as a person. They are expressing an opinion: that they didn’t like your book. That’s okay! This is a subjective business. Just keep working on your craft, keep making your writing better, and keep learning about the industry.

Like a professional.

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Looking forward to 2011… and beyond

I’m probably not the only person who has been reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next one. As I’ve thought about and planned my writing goals for the next year, I’ve been trying to put them in a more big-picture context of a writing career.

My first goal is to finish Doubting River. I should have finished it this year, but I completely overwhelmed myself in the latter half of the year. I backburnered it for a while, and then had trouble getting back on track.


I know I’m busy, so I’m going to be realistic. Desired word count per day: 500 words. Absolute minimum, must-accomplish-or-else: 250 words. If I do more than 500 words, that’s gravy.

Second goal is to update this blog twice a week. Sunday and Thursday, I think. I’ve been thinking about how to focus the blog in a way that will satisfy my current readership and, hopefully, increase it. The feedback I’ve gotten is that people seem to like the writing-related posts, which is good, because there aren’t enough dog- or farm-related events to warrant regular updates.

My plan, then, is to continue to blog about my novel and the industry, but to focus the bulk of the posts on “A Plotter’s Guide to Novel Writing.” I am a plotter to the extreme, and because I first wrote screenplays, I’m passionate about structure. Those “Just write and see where it takes you!” pantser types will no doubt feel ill at the thought of putting so much planning into your first draft. Keep an open mind though. You might find something helpful for your editing rounds!

Those of you who want to read more about River, Pax, Pflouff, and the rest of the critters, don’t worry! I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve needed more photos and videos on the site. So I think I’ll make a goal of including a dog pic (or video) with each post, plus a short anecdote or update. If you think about it, you’re probably going to get more content than if I targeted the blog around the dogs!

My remaining writing-related goals are dependent upon the completion of goal number one:

Goal #3: Get an agent. I want to attend at least one conference this year — preferably two — and I want to get another partial critique from an agent during Brenda Novak’s charity auction in May. I did that last year, and the agent has requested the full. I will definitely send it to her as soon as it’s complete.

And finally…

Goal #4: Start a new book! I already have the premise. I’ve been anxious to write it for a long time, but I refuse to do so until Doubting River is out on submission.

I’m really looking forward to 2011! What about you? What are your goals?

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Ol’ Man River

No, not my puppy. 🙂

I’m originally from Memphis, home of the Blues, Beale Street, Elvis, and the world’s best barbecue. (Seriously — Memphis barbecue has ruined me for barbecue anywhere else. Problematic, because I love barbecue and don’t get home very often.)

Memphis is a town of music and festivals. One of the biggest festivals is Memphis in May, a month-long celebration with an international focus. It begins (sort of) with the Beale Street music festival at the end of April, includes a massive barbecue cooking contest, and wraps up with the Sunset Symphony in Tom Lee Park overlooking the mighty Mississippi.

Each year, the Sunset Symphony ends with the singing of “Ol’ Man River” and a fireworks display (timed to the 1812 Overture). When I was growing up — and, indeed, all the time I lived in Memphis — “Ol’ Man River” was sung by James Hyter, and his bass-baritone rendition of the song made him a beloved local performer.

Mr. Hyter retired in 1998 and passed away in 2009. I stumbled onto this YouTube copy of his final performance, and it still brings me to tears. You are missed, Mr. Hyter.

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Query mistakes

Author JM Tohline wrote a fantastic blog post today on the biggest mistakes writers make when querying agents. This isn’t information he pulled from writers forums or the Web. Instead, he went to the source: agents. He e-mailed 100 agents and asked them for their personal lists of biggest query mistakes. Fifty responded.

Check out his fantastic post here:

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