My Secret NaNoWriMo and #ROW80 did a crazy thing. On November 12, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Yes, I know that 11 days had already passed, and the likelihood of my actually writing 50,000 words in the remaining 19 days was low. Frankly, knowing that my kids would be out of school for a week and my family would be traveling over the holidays made that notion downright ludicrous.

I had even declared that I would be in the NoNoWriMo camp–those writers who would not participate but would cheer on their fellow writers who had taken the 50k pledge plunge.

But after wrangling with edits on my young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER, I realized that I do better with editing a project when I also get to let out some creative writing juices on another project. And thus, my first book in a young adult mystery series has started to take shape. And while I didn’t announce my participation, nor expect to come anywhere close to being a NaNoWriMo winner, I did log a bunch of words and get a feel for how the website and process works.

So now I’m coming clean: I was a secret NaNoWriMo participant–who missed getting the badge by 34,524 words. But guess what? That means I have 15,476 words on a novel that I started three weeks ago! And I’m better prepared to participate in that challenge next year.

I have thus altered my ROW80 goals a bit. Check out the new weekly word count goal!

ROW80 Update

Editing: SHARING HUNTER, young adult contemporary novel.

  • Complete full rewrite. I’m through the first fourth of the novel. This is going slower than I wanted. However, as I’ve gotten into the revisions, I’ve found ways to make the story stronger that required more work than I expected. Given how long this is taking, I am crossing out the next two goals until the first ROW80 round in 2013. I’d rather take my time on revisions and really turn out a great book.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system.
  • Deliver to beta readers.



  • Write two short stories. Changing this to working on the new young adult novel. I will, however, work on the short stories during the holidays.
  • Write 3,000 words per week on young adult novel. Not sure of the working title, but it’s murder mystery with a preacher’s daughter as the protagonist. Wrote 2,592 words.


Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. I am still struggling with this calf muscle! Ugh. According to a former athletic trainer and current YA author (Tiffany White, Football Sweetheart), it can take 4-6 weeks to fully recover. Thanks for that info, Tiffany! So I guess I’ll just try to start walking for now.
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. (I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.) Uploaded photos from Thanksgiving trip and organized them into an album on Shutterfly.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? If so, how much did you get done? How are your other goals going?

Keep up that momentum, and cheer on fellow ROWers (many of whom were NaNoWriMo finishers!) HERE.

NaNoWriMo is an annual writing challenge for authors to start and complete a novel within the month of November, with 50,000 words counting as achieving that goal. Hosting this event requires funds. NaNoWriMo is still seeking donations to cover their expenses. Check it out HERE.

High School Halls: Football and Guest Author Tiffany A. White

I’m so thrilled today to interview young adult author and friend Tiffany A. White for Deep-Fried Friday and my High School Halls series. When I decided to have a post on football, I knew just who to turn to since Tiffany recently released a young adult mystery that revolves around that sport. I hope you enjoy the interview and will check out her novel, Football Sweetheart.

Welcome, Tiffany!

The Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys graced my family’s television regularly in my childhood. Did you grow up as a football fan? If so, who did you watch and why?

Did I grow up a football fan? I wish you could hear my wicked laugh right now. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve been a football fan since I was just a few days old—my aunt has a photo of me wearing a Texas Tech t-shirt that is about ten sizes too big. I may not have known how to smile at the time, but I had excellent taste in college football.

But seriously . . . yes, I grew up a HUGE football fan. Midland Lee Rebel Football, Texas Tech Red Raider Football, and Dallas Cowboy Football filled every weekend of my childhood from Friday night through Sunday. And honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I’m not really a football fan now. I’ve turned to baseball. Do you watch the pigskin sport now? If so, who is your favorite team (or teams)?

There’s that laugh again . . . yes, I watch the pigskin sport every opportunity I get! I’m still a die-hard Red Raider, and while being a Cowboy fan hurts more often than it is fun, I remain a fan of America’s team.

A few years ago, my guy and I joined a fantasy football league called Couples Therapy with some friends. Now, we’re addicted to watching NFL RedZone so we can see each and every score in the National Football League every week. Before, we only watched the Cowboy games and the Patriot games—the teams we love.

“Tom Brady is really easy on the eyes.”

That’s right, I didn’t mention the Patriots before; that’s because we’ve only recently started following the New England team because of our beloved former Red Raider, Wes Welker. Oh, and Tom Brady is really easy on the eyes.

I grew up in South Texas and you grew up in West Texas, but both places emphasized football as a key ingredient of the high school experience. What is your fondest memory of high school football?

Wow. My fondest memory of high school football in Midland? There are so many . . .

I was Lee High School’s mascot when I was five years old. Every Friday night that year, I dressed up in my miniature cheerleading uniform and stood on the field with the varsity squad. Those girls treated me like I was a princess—and I loved it!

In high school, my strongest memory would have to be winning a football game against Abilene the same night three of my friends were involved in a horrible accident on their way to the stadium. During warm-ups on the field, we could hear the emergency vehicle sirens. It wasn’t until someone came and told us what had happened that we realized those sirens were for our friends. The accident was extremely serious, leaving one of our friends in a coma for a while and hospitalized for months. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea to tell the team about the wreck before the game, but winning it meant that much more. We were always a unit, but that night we were family.

Geez, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. Here’s to you Monica, Luke, and Carissa.

I have many memories of pep rallies, wearing school colors, playing our fight song, and attending games on Fridays. Why do you think sports generally, and football specifically, play such an important role in school spirit?

High school can be stressful; and even more, high school can be awkward. I think football and all sports help the student body come together as one. If only for a little while, teenagers forget about what’s weighing them down in the classrooms and at home and get to have fun—blow off steam in a way.

“I think sports help break down the barriers that many of us put up.”

Also, I believe sports remind everyone, despite the social circles they belong to or their classifications, that being one is more powerful than being alone. When our team scores a touchdown, everyone jumps up and down in celebration and hugs the person next to them—regardless of who that person is. Because of this, I think sports help break down the barriers that many of us put up.

TEAM–Together Everyone Achieves More.

When I was growing up, I played football with the neighborhood kids. I used to be able to throw a perfect spiral pretty consistently. Have you played football yourself? Recreational? Powder-puff?

Have I played football? Julie, you sure know how to make me laugh! Of course I’ve played football! Much like Football Sweetheart’s protagonist Aimee, I served my high school team as a student trainer. Every Saturday morning after treatments and while the boys watched film, my good friend and fellow trainer and I would go outside, run through the fitness and drill stations that the boys would do during the week (logs, ropes, etc), and then we’d toss the ball around. Back then, we both had excellent arms and actually threw tight spirals.

Our senior year, I signed up to play Powder-puff against our cross town rivals. I learned all of the offensive linewoman routes and everything, but for whatever reason I couldn’t make it to the game. I think “real” high school sports got in the way. To this day, I hate that I missed it. My best friend Brandy supposedly took out one of the Midland High girls. Whoever said Power-puff was a no-contact sport obviously hasn’t played in West Texas . . .

Your recently released novel, Football Sweetheart, features a high school athletic trainer? Why did you choose a behind-the-scenes football team member as the protagonist?

The short answer is because I was a student trainer. But the long answer is because I was a student trainer. People not involved in athletic medicine don’t really know anything about it, and I wanted to showcase the trainers.

When I was fifteen, I dislocated my knee playing in a freshman basketball game. Because the injury occurred during a high school sponsored event, I was rushed over to the high school field house where the head trainer looked at my knee. After a visit to the orthopedic surgeon, an MRI, and brutal physical therapy, I picked up my rehabilitation schedule at the high school and worked every day with the student trainers. Despite the fact they were all high schoolers themselves, they took great pride in helping athletes get back into shape. Once my treatments ended and I was officially released to go back to basketball, I realized that basketball was no longer in my future; all I wanted to do was help other student athletes the way Doc’s group helped me. Trainers aren’t managers, even if student trainers oftentimes fill both roles on a football team. Student trainers are one of the most professional groups I’ve ever been a part of—student training changed my life.

You do a great job of describing the football preparation, practices, and games in your book. How did you get that level of detail? Did you research or use your own knowledge?

“My experiences gave me the behind-the-scenes knowledge I write about in Football Sweetheart.”

I may have answered this a bit in that last question, but I pulled all of my knowledge of the football preparation, practices, and games from my experiences as a student trainer. For three years of my life, I participated in two-a-days, after-school practices, and stood on the sidelines of all the Midland Lee football games. I already knew football, everyone “knows” football in Midland; but my experiences gave me the behind-the-scenes knowledge I write about in Football Sweetheart. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly; I know the true meaning behind the phrase, “What happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.” So, if there’s anything you want to know that I don’t talk about in my book, just ask. If it’s not top-secret, I’ll share.

Your novel’s tagline is “High school football can be murder.” Tell us a little about how you weave together high school football and a murder mystery. What is Football Sweetheart about?

Football Sweetheart follows Aimee Freeman, a high school student trainer at Midland Lee. Like most seniors, she’s looking forward to the start of her final year of high school and is excited to catch up with her best friend Ella who has been a bit secretive all summer long. With the start of football two-a-days, Aimee thinks she’ll have all of the time in the world to catch up with her friend—but then Ella goes missing.

Aimee realizes Ella’s secrets might be the key to finding her. As the case unfolds, Aimee discovers more than one person may have wanted to harm Ella. Was it Ella’s current boyfriend, a social outcast the entire city seems intent on blaming for her disappearance? Or her ex-boyfriend, the beloved star quarterback who has harassed Ella since their breakup? The list of potential suspects continues to grow after Aimee reads Ella’s journal, but she must first break her best friend’s secret code to reveal their identities.

Unbeknownst to Aimee, her investigation has not gone unnoticed. Ella’s abductor is watching and waiting. Will he decide Aimee needs to be silenced–making her the next target?

That’s all of the “about” that I can share without giving too much away.

I’ve known for years the story that I’ve wanted to tell. Obviously, football is and always has been a huge part of my life. I hail from a town in West Texas where high school football is life. I took my experiences and memories and weaved in a murder mystery because I’ve always been obsessed with the genre (in a healthy way, I promise).

But here’s something not everyone knows—when I was either an 8th or 9th grader, a local high school senior/student trainer went missing. The case is still considered open in Midland, but the girl’s remains were finally found years later in a field outside town. This true crime haunted me and haunted Midland for years. Midland is a small town; in 2011, I believe Midland only had a handful of homicide cases. Everyone knows the world is more violent today than it was in the ’90s, so just imagine how we felt. Here I was, watching the news about a girl just a few years older than I go missing. Then I joined the very same athletic training program that she participated in. I guess my story has been brewing ever since, but make no mistake—Football Sweetheart is fictional and the product of my imagination from years and years of watching and reading murder mysteries.

How do you think high school football has changed over the years? Is it still the same now as when you went to high school?

“High school football in West Texas hasn’t changed one single bit…”

High school football in West Texas hasn’t changed one single bit since I attended Lee. The players, coaches, school officials, and members of the community are still just as serious about winning today as they were years ago. The city has upgraded the football facilities since the ’90s; today the high school teams play in a state-of-the-art stadium that holds over 15,000 people—and they fill it all of the time. The Midland Lee football program has yielded multiple NFL success stories, including Eric Winston (Kansas City Chiefs) and Cedric Benson (Green Bay Packers), both of whom play today. A few of the players I went to school with also experienced successful NFL careers (brothers Rex and Ryan Tucker).

However, high school in general is so very different today than it was in the ’90s. For starters, the kids seem so much more insecure—primarily the girls. Society for whatever reason has taught teenagers today that dressing in as little clothing as possible and wearing high heels is normal. It’s not. High school is supposed to be about education, and how can one learn when wearing five-inch heels without focusing on the pain? We dressed for comfort back in the day; we looked cute, don’t get me wrong, but it was more about jeans and flats back then.

Back to the insecurity aspect, an abundance of teenage girls today are or have already been pregnant at least once. Shows like Teen Mom on MTV aren’t helping matters. I’m not going to imply that girls weren’t having sex in high school in the ’90s, but I will say one thing—they weren’t getting pregnant left and right. When a girl announced she was pregnant while I was in high school, she was shipped across the street to an alternative classroom. She was removed from the mainstream so that other girls didn’t see her and think it was okay to get pregnant.

I’m not saying this was the proper action in the ’90s, but it worked. I can remember only one girl having a baby while I was at Lee, and more than that, I remember the reaction of all of us—shock and fear. It was the perfect form of birth control for my circle. Today, pregnant teens are everywhere. I’m not just saying this; my mom recently retired after forty-four years of teaching and she once made the comment that it was normal to have at least one pregnant girl in each period. On average, she taught six periods a day. That’s six pregnant girls just in her classes. Hearing her stories about today’s youth frightens me.

Teenagers are always going to have sex, even unprotected sex. It’s a fact of life. But because of what seems normal today, I felt it imperative that I make Football Sweetheart as clean as possible. I didn’t want to ignore the social situations of today, but I also didn’t want to showcase them. I wanted to focus on other things, good things . . . like murder. LOL.

Football Sweetheart is the first in the young adult series. Have you already started plotting or writing the next book? If so, can you give us a teeny, tiny teaser?

It is and I have!  The second story of the Football Sweetheart series will be published later this year, and the third and fourth books in 2013.  I’ve yet to publicly announce the name of book two, but I am very close to revealing the cover.  Until then, I will say that FS2 picks up one month after the conclusion of Football Sweetheart.  It’s Halloween week, Aimee has a new boyfriend, and all is right in the world . . . until she realizes someone is watching her, following her, and getting a little too close for comfort.

But that’s all I can say . . . for now.

Thanks, Tiffany! What a pleasure to have you talk high school football with me today!

Be sure to find Tiffany on the web (she’s everywhere!) and to check out Football Sweetheart.


Facebook Author Page:
Barnes & Noble:

Taking Hits, Losing Track, and Counting Blessings: #ROW80

I have been off-track for three weeks now! One week, I was diligently getting ready for church camp, writing curriculum, purchasing supplies, and preparing lessons. I did some writing, but I didn’t attack my ROW80 goals much.

The next week was camp. My summary is that I rarely had computer time and was on the internet for about two hours for the whole week. When I returned, I had 236 blog posts in my reading queue. *headdesk*

This past week has been a flurry of activity as well–very little of it writing. You see, my mother-in-law died last week. Moreover, as we were on our way out of town to see her as she lay dying, a lovely young lady slammed her vehicle into the back of ours and caused a five-car pile-up. This is our car.

Since it was 6 years old and the frame was very damaged throughout, it has been totalled. Although the insurance company has been wonderful (good customer service from State Farm), it has been another hassle to mess with.

Then a wonderful woman who co-taught at church camp with me a few years back finally died of breast cancer–much too young. My heart aches for this family.

And without too much detail, another friend received news that her husband has been behaving badly and is leaving.

In the wake of all that, I am asking What ROW80? It feels like I haven’t done anything on my goals in so long that I don’t even know where to start. I’m just trying to catch up on sleep, paperwork, laundry, etc. while managing the emotional stress of life.

All that said, I am grateful for the many blessings I have in my life. Let me count a few:

  • No one was hurt in the car accident.
  • The offending driver accepted responsibility and the insurance company claimed liability.
  • The offer for totalling our car was more than we expected to receive.
  • We still arrived in San Antonio with plenty of time to see my mother-in-law before she passed.
  • My mother-in-law passed peacefully.
  • My husband and his siblings are in agreement about arrangements, so there is no post-mortem family conflict.
  • My sons received a life lesson in saying goodbye to a loved one and grieving, and watching my husband walk them through that reminded me again how much I respect his wisdom and integrity.
  • My friends both have extensive support systems. The family of my friend who died and the woman whose husband has left have people to hold them up and care for them during their grief.

Somehow, no matter what you go through, having people who love you and whom you love back makes life manageable, hopeful, and even positive. Speaking of which, I do want to take a moment to feature two links from friends that you should know about.

First, romance author Roni Loren told her story about using photos on her blog and getting sued. Oh my! If you (somehow) haven’t seen her post, check it out HERE.

Love the cover!

And my fabulous blogger and real-life friend, Tiffany A. White, released her debut novel, a young adult mystery titled FOOTBALL SWEETHEART. Check it out HERE.

As for ROW80, forget goals. I’m not even listing them or any feigned progress. I’ll be back next week with checkmarks and happy faces!

Meanwhile, how’s your ROW80 going? Has life thrown you for a loop anywhere? Or let me live vicariously through you and tell me how wonderful your writing week was!

I Know Whodunnit

Maybe my dream is finally coming true, and I’m turning into Nancy Drew!

I’m here on Deep-Fried Friday once again, talking about story.

One of the drawbacks of reading a lot of mysteries is that you start being able to guess the killer. With surprising accuracy at times.

I was recently watching a season one episode of Bones (catching up with Netflix) and halfway through I said to myself, “That guy did it.” The next twenty minutes were filled with FBI Special Agent Booth and Forensic Anthropologist Brennen searching down other leads until they finally came around to my way of thinking and arrested the right guy. It was the third episode in a row where I had guessed the killer before the main characters figured it out.

I’d fault the writers of Bones, except that it happens with books and other shows too. I no longer fall for the red herrings like I used to. I can pull out relevant facts and ignore the irrelevant ones. I make relationship connections early on the story that inform me on motive and opportunity. I notice details.

Does this happen to you too?

Presumably, one of the worst things an author can do is write a predictable story. Twists and turns are considered a good thing. Rabbit trails are good fodder for the tale. Unexpected discoveries and surprise endings should keep us turning the pages.

However, the author simply cannot account for the reader’s part in all of this. What if your reader has consumed 200 romance novels and is now reading yours? Do you think she’ll foretell how the two will get together? No matter how well you’ve written your story, she might.

And if there is no way she possibly could predict, you might be hiding information from your reader that would help them connect to the story better. I don’t like being completely in the dark, like the author is being all cagey about releasing information just in case I might get ahead of him. Just tell me already. If I figure it out, I figure it out.

Suspecting how it will turn out, however, doesn’t stop me from reading. I watched the rest of the Bones episode not because I had no idea who the killer was. I knew whodunnit. I wanted to watch the characters interact and put the puzzle together. I enjoyed seeing them solve the mystery.

Indeed, every fairy tale and romance novel has a happily ever after (HEA), and heroes consistently defeat villains. What the reader wants to know is how the characters will get there. Did you doubt that:

  • The Rebels would defeat the Empire and the good side of the Force would prevail?
  • Frodo would get the ring all the way to Mordor?
  • Sleeping Beauty would awaken with a kiss from her prince?
  • Hercule Poirot would use his little grey cells to uncover the culprit?
  • Batman would thwart the evil plans of Catwoman, the Joker, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, or whichever villain-of-the-week was around?
  • Bella and Edward would find a way to be together forever?

Of course not. So is a predictable ending always a bad thing? No.

In fact, while I remember sitting in the theater watching The Empire Strikes Back and being wowed by Darth Vader’s revelation, my kids already knew about all of that. I knew the overall ending, but they knew the whole story and still wanted to watch every minute of the Star Wars trilogy.

It’s okay for a reader or viewer here and there to know whodunnit. But in that case, you have to give them another reason to read or watch.

Why do I continue? Because I care about the characters. This is why superhero movies continue to be made and remade and we continue to watch them. Why the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back plot never gets old. Why we read or watch police procedural dramas, knowing that they will solve the case. We want to know how these particular characters resolve the conflict.

Perhaps we’re less interested in whodunnit than howdunnit.

I have to admit that seeing Psycho without knowing the ending will make you gasp (see Tiffany A. White and Catie Rhodes for reviews of that creepy film). The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of my favorite mysteries because Agatha Christie stunned me with the conclusion. And the last episode of Newhart was the most brilliant surprise ending for a TV series ever.

However, not knowing what will happen isn’t necessary to keep me turning pages or tuned in. Give me relatable characters that I can follow as they uncover the twists and turns of their lives, even if they end up where I suspected they would.

What about you? Do you enjoy surprise endings? Are you disappointed if you figure out the conclusion? Do you care more about whodunnit or howdunnit?

What I Learned in DFW and #ROW80

NYT Bestseller James Rollins & Me

If you did not attend the DFW Writers’ Conference, you may be tired of hearing those of us who did talking about how AWESOME it was. Rather than go on and on about how everything is bigger and better in Texas, even writers’ conferences 😉 , how about some general take-aways?

  • As long as you aren’t stalking or incredibly annoying, you can strike up conversations with agents because they are real people, at a conference to meet writers, and like talking about what they do (see Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference). At the 2011 conference, I spoke to one agent — the one I had a pitch appointment with. This time, I walked away with six different agent names to send my work to after personal contact at the pitch session and agent/writer reception. So chat it up! What have you got to lose?
  • When you attend a conference, you are paying for it. Don’t feel obligated to attend a workshop you don’t need or to stay in one that wasn’t at all what you expected. I attended a class that was titled one thing and ended up being something else. (That was not common, by the way.) Ten minutes in, I gathered my stuff and left the room as quietly as possible. The teacher has no idea why someone leaves early — a pitch? a phone call from home? sickness? I wasn’t dissing her; the class simply wasn’t a topic I needed after all. I walked into a class next door and was SOOOO glad I did.
  • You can learn as much from chatting with other writers as you can get from the conference classes. I gleaned so much knowledge from conversations with Jenny Hansen, Donna Newton, Kristen Lamb, Tiffany A. White, Nigel Blackwell, David N. Walker, Jess Witkins, Kait Nolan, Jillian Dodd, Piper Bayard, and others that my brain was tingling with electricity by Saturday night. Asking others about their writing process, publishing plans, and life in general enlightened me in ways that made my trip to Big D well-worth all those hours and money.
  • No matter who you are, you can always learn more. It was marvelous to step into a workshop and see several published authors in the class as well. Taking notes. Learning more. Improving their craft.

What workshops did I attend? In case you’re interested, here’s a quick rundown: How to Pitch to an Agent (Rosemary Clement-Moore); The Changing Face of Publishing (an expert panel); Writing Love Scenes (Roni Loren – incredible); Anatomy of a Book Launch (Laurie McLean-agent, Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan); Fast Draft (Candace Havens); Inside Publishing (Jill Marsal-agent); Revision Hell (Candace Havens); Writing Emotion (Lori Wilde); Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction (Laurie McLean-agent).

Bayard/Lamb 2012: Foxie with (literal) Moxie

Links to some FABULOUS posts about the conference from fellow speakers/attendees:

Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb encourages writers to push themselves in The Comfort Zone is for Pets, Not Professionals.

Romance author Roni Loren summarizes what agents like and don’t like in queries and first pages with What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages.

Writer (and my awesome conference roommate!) Jess Witkins discusses lessons learned in Celebrating My Writing Slump.

Jenny Hansen reports progress on her conference goals and teases us about Fast Draft (thanks, Candace Havens) with Bestselling Authors, DFWcon, and the Flu…Oh My!

Donna Newton makes me kick myself in How to Hook an Agent…The ‘SOO’ Publishing Way. How has this Brit managed to shoot so much stuff when I (a born-and-bred Texan) have yet to meet my goal of firing a real gun?!!

Jess Witkins, Me & Donna Newton

I also posted on Friday about What’s Next? The Hybrid Author, which was partially culled from my conference experience.

(I guarantee I forgot someone else’s wonderful post; I may update this later.)

One last pic: Me & Tiffany White

Enough already. Here are my ROW80 goals and progress report!

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. DONE.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I started revising, using the notes from my class with editor Tiffany Lawson Inman and tips from Candace Havens’s Revision Hell workshop.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). Did it! Pitched. Need to send my queries.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. I can’t find the March/April issue, so I started working through the issue that just arrived in the mail.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Slowly catching up!
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read six books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; The Heart-Shaped Box; One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Keeping up.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Skipped Zumba. May I count the four hours of helping with our church youth’s group car wash on Saturday? I know I burned some calories there.

So how’s your ROW80 week? Be sure to cheer on fellow writers HERE.

And if you are interested in attending the DFW Writers’ Conference in 2013, they are offering a super early-bird registration price of $225 (early-bird is $295) until June 1. The conference will be held May 4-5, 2013 at the Hurst Conference Center. I will be there!

Howdy from Big D and #ROW80

Inspired by Kristen Lamb and Jenny Hansen, I’m vlogging from Dallas today, where I am attending the DFW Writers’ Conference. I have been blessed to meet some of the fabulous fellow writers who have been my cyberpals and encouragers for over a year now. Here’s a quick hello:

And now for the weekly ROW80 update:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. I wrote 6,555 words on Monday and Tuesday and completed the first draft of SHARING HUNTER!
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I’m waiting until I return from the DFW Writers’ Conference this weekend. While it’s tempting to try to get through an edit, I’d rather hold off that pressure and use my time to prepare for the conference.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). I pitched this weekend. I give this experience a thumbs-up.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. Now I can’t even find the magazine. *facepalm*
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Working on the second assignment and plan to hit this hard next week, as it will help with edits for SHARING HUNTER.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read five books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; and The Heart-Shaped Box.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Here I am!
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. I went to Zumba twice this week, but one of those sessions was 1 1/2 hours instead of the usual 1 hour, so I feel pretty good about this.

I will check back with my fellow ROW80ers next week once the conference high dies down a bit. Y’all have a great week!

Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference

Within a couple of hours of this post going up, I’ll be driving up to Dallas to attend the DFW Writers’ Conference. Talk about a Deep-Fried Friday for me. I expect this weekend to be better than a plate of beer-battered shrimp!

I attended last year and got my feet nice and wet at that conference. However, being the introvert I am, I approached the event as an information-gatherer and only talked to a few people. When I returned, I sent in my synopsis and chapters to the agent who requested them and received a lovely rejection letter.

But then I started this blog, began reading craft books, and connected with some fabulous writers. So this go-around, I am approaching the conference a little differently. Here are my Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference (in no particular order):

1. Turn cyberfriends into real-life friends. You know that person you’ve traded tweets and blog comments and even emails with — dishing about the writer’s life and life in general? You might actually get to meet them! Thus far, you’ve imagined your friend as the 1×2-inch profile photo on their Twitter account. But your friend is not Flat Stanley: She is three-dimensional with a real-live voice! I for one am eager to finally meet in person great writer friends like Jenny Hansen, Tiffany A. White, Roni Loren, and many, many more.

2. Hang out with agents. Note that I didn’t say, “Convince an agent to rep my book.” Since my rookie experience, I have discovered that agents are real people. Of course I knew that before, but I care less this year whether they want my book. I simply want to get to know them. They are an interesting bunch of people who get to read for living, have their fingers on the pulse of book sales, and come to conferences to hang out with us writers. Why not make a few friends of agents? If we get along great and they like my book idea, oh yeah, I’ll send them a manuscript, pronto. But if they don’t, we can still have a drink and chat.

3. Hand out business cards. You’ve got 250 cards in that box, and there are only so many restaurants with that fish bowl where you leave your business card and they draw for a free lunch. You have to hand them out somewhere! What better place than a writers’ conference, where people might look at your card later and connect with you?

4. Be an author groupie. Last year, Sandra Brown was the keynote speaker at the DFW Writers’ Conference. This year, it’s James Rollins. Um, hello! These authors have a string of bestsellers and a truckload of wisdom about writing. Instead of spending their Saturday working on their next brilliant novel, bestselling authors often come to conferences to tell us what they’ve learned, sign books, pose for pictures, and converse with us future bestsellers. While we must remember not to stalk them, it’s okay to be a groupie of a great author. Squeee a bit when you see them, get your book autographed, and have your friend snap a picture of you leaning in close like you and James are best friends.

5. Trade pitches. Of course, you may be pitching your book to agents, and that’s wonderful. However, this is also an opportunity to bounce story ideas off people who love to hear them — other writers. Ask “What’s your book about?” and then listen. You’ll hear some amazing tales and get excited about what’s being written out there. You can also gauge interest in your own novel or in the way you’re pitching it based on others’ reactions, which can help you hone your story or presentation of it.

6. Get book recommendations. What to know what to read next? Ask writers what they loved. Peruse the book tables. Check out the titles from the authors who teach a class. After last year’s conference, I concluded that the much-touted Save the Cat by Blake Snyder had to be on my reading list, began reading Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Maggie Quinn, Girl vs. Evil series, and downloaded Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

7. Show off your fashion sense. One of the most-often asked questions of conference planners is “What do I wear?” The answer is essentially “Whatever you want.” From my limited experience, it seems that writers run the gamut regarding personal presentation. You’ll find the business man in a suit; the pierced, tattooed biker girl with blue hair; and everything in between. Whatever brand is you, comb your closet and put together something that shows off your fashion sense. Then again, you might simply grab whatever’s comfortable and go with that.

8. Shop the tables. There will likely be product booths at the conference. See what goodies you can find. It might be a book, a t-shirt, a writing resource, or a trinket, but you might discover a treasure. Last year, I entered a contest to get a slogan put on a t-shirt. I was one of three winners, and my t-shirt idea was sold at the Penguin Promo table. That was kind of cool.

9. Make new friends. I started to write “make new connections,” but if you approach the conference as an opportunity to make friends, you will have more fun and be more fun. Of course, your friends are connections, so if you focus on engaging with people personally, they are likely to want to help you professionally. That said, even if they never recommend you to their publisher or agent, this is a chance to make friends. Much of our writing lives are spent alone with our notebooks or laptops, and conference time is an opportunity to hob-nob with people who “get” us.

10. Fill in your knowledge gaps. Wherever you are in your writing career, there is more to know. Last year, I focused on querying and synopsis writing, since I knew how to write and just wanted some help landing my book deal. (Stop giggling.) This year, I have a broader focus because I know where my knowledge gaps truly are and plan to fill them by taking workshops that address those areas. You are at this conference to learn something! Go forth and learn it.

So are you planning to attend any writing conferences this year? What are your reasons for going? What goals do you have in mind as you attend?

And will you be at DFW Con? Be sure to look for me there! I look exactly like my 1×2-inch profile photo. 😉

Commitment & #ROW80

So TV expert and fab writer Tiffany A. White recently gave her television show recommendations by night of the week. Her pick for Wednesday was Revenge — an ABC show about a “young woman who is welcomed into a community filled with people who don’t know she’s only there to exact revenge on those who had destroyed her family” (from All of the episodes are currently available to watch on ABC’s website. Given that Tiffany has been spot on in her descriptions and suggestions thus far, I thought I’d give it a try.

I wasn’t sure that revenge was a topic I wanted a whole show on, though. After all, isn’t forgiveness so much better? But alas, this series is addictive! In fact, while I am in favor of forgiveness, there is a strong side of me that wants fairness and justice. Which makes me understand the desire for vengeance.

Of course, Emily Thorne (main character of Revenge) does not get revenge easily. She must pursue many less-than-admirable paths to achieve her eventual goal of bringing down those who betrayed her in childhood. Among the themes is her commitment: How far will she take it? Can she persevere even when things don’t go as planned? How committed will she be to exacting revenge?

Thank goodness I’m not exacting revenge on anyone. But I am asking myself how committed I am. How far will I take my writing? Can I persevere even when things don’t go as planned? Because this is the home stretch, people! One last week to kick it into gear and finish strong! Commitment to your goals can be the very thing that spurs you on to success.

So here’s this week’s report:

  • Finish editing Grace & Fire mystery novel and send to reader. Finished January 19.
  • Write 2,500 1,500 words per week on young adult novel, Sharing HunterIt was Spring Break, so my kids and hubby have been home. I wrote one day for a total of 1,013 words. I probably could have written more; however, I spent some time replotting the midsection of the novel.
  • Blog twice a week on Amaze-ing Words Wednesday and Deep-Fried Friday, and check-in with ROW80 updates twice a week. Posted If Twain Tweeted and Sarcastic Wednesday and ROW80 on Wednesday; posted Reading Habits on Friday.
  • Comment on at least 10 15 blogs per week (not counting ROW80 update comments). Commented 16 times by Wednesday; stopped counting.
  • Read one writing craft book. Finished On Writing by Stephen King.
  • Read five eight fiction books. I have read 11 books.
  • Exercise three times per week. Walk one mile three times per week. I went out twice and practiced a little hitting in preparation for my Going for a Guinness World Record game at the end of March.
  • Read through Writer’s Digest magazine issue. Finished.

Added goals for last week:

  • Research agents and select top choices for pitch session at the DFW Writers’ Conference. I have gone through the list twice — once eliminating a few agents, and the second time connecting with some agents and making a spreadsheet for information. I really must pick soon!
  • Write and enter a scene for Jenny Hansen’s More Cowbell Dirty Fighting Extravaganza. Went a little crazy and entered TWO scenes! I drafted one original concept and then wrote a climax scene for my YA novel, which is definitely a dirty-fighting moment.

How’s the last week of ROW80 going for you? Were you committed this last round? Do you hope to increase your commitment in the next round? (Do you watch Revenge?)

Team YA and #ROW80

Team Angel

Much of our lives involves a this-or-that decision. With each yes to one thing, we say no to another. I was thinking about this as I recently tweeted with What-to-Watch TV Master Tiffany A. White about where am in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series (season 5 of Buffy, season 2 of Angel. Please do not tell me what happens!) I’m sure the ending I would like to see isn’t going to happen, but I am still holding out for Team Angel.

That’s how we talk about it these days, right? The Twilight fights of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, this American Idol contestant or that one, this presidential candidate or that one (Bayard/Lamb 2012, by the way), and so on. However, my decision for the coming week is which of two novel ideas I should leap into and write. I have two plots and sets of characters that have been tugging at me like a protective vampire and a bullish werewolf. Which one to choose?

As a matter of fact, I had already written a chapter for each novel idea. Having let them air out for a while, I sat down on Friday to take a fresh look. The young adult novel is much further along in story structure. I know where this novel needs to go — what the protagonist’s goal and obstacles are, how to incorporate the characters’ quirks, what the conflict of the scenes should entail, and how the climax will unfold. The other plot idea is mushier — more promising in some ways, but less solid. As much as I like it and want to get crackin’, that plot needs more time to simmer. So I’m going for Team YA. With that decision made, here’s a look at my ROW80 progress for the week.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Individual writers set their own goals for an 80-day round. Here are my ROW80 goals for Round 1 of 2012:

  • Finish editing Grace & Fire mystery novel and send to reader. Edits done and in reader’s hands.
  • Write 2,500 words per week on work in progress. Most importantly, I MUST decide which work in progress to tackle. I have two novels plotted and can’t choose which one to focus on. Both stories are tugging at my hem and begging for attention. I have decided to write the young adult novel; its working title is Sharing Hunter.
  • Blog twice a week on Amaze-ing Words Wednesday and Deep-Fried Friday, and check-in with ROW80 updates twice a week. Finito.
  • Comment on at least 10 blogs per week. Done. Commented on 14 blog posts. This does not include any ROW80 updates or replies to commenters on my own blog.
  • Read one writing craft book. Still reading another nonfiction book before I jump into On Writing by Stephen King.
  • Read five fiction books. 3 down, 2 to go.
  • Exercise three times per week. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad?

Be sure to check out my fellow ROW80ers and wish them well HERE.

How are you doing with your goals? Have you had to make any this-or-that decisions lately?

What I’m Watching and Why

Every week, I follow Tiffany A. White‘s Tele-Tuesday posts and Tiffany’s and Amber West‘s What to Watch Wednesday posts on their blogs. They have done an excellent job of breaking down television series, classics, and specials so that readers can discern what might be worth their time.

After trying out various series and being well into the fall season, I wanted to give my two cents on what I’m watching and why. For Deep-Fried Friday, I hope you’ll add your own recommendations.

The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps the funniest sitcom on television right now, this show tracks four brilliant but geeky scientists attempting to make it in a world where they don’t fit in. When beautiful but shallow Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves in next door to Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), their lives are permanently altered. We have all known someone like these nerds. They are not understood and socially awkward, and yet we feel for them trying to navigate social situations and find love and meaning in their lives. Still, there is enough to mock there. I also have to credit this series with introducing the word “Bazinga!”

Castle. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is a bestselling author who has killed off his long-running series main character and needs a new idea. Maybe that alone endeared me to him, since there are some writers out there who need to kill off their cash-cow star and write something else for a change. But when a killer begins to copycat murders from Castle’s novels, detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) brings him in to assist. The partnership turns permanent and Castle finds his idea (Beckett inspires his Nikki Heat series), even though there is tension of all kinds between the two and their differing backgrounds and personalities. Another great supporting cast here with fellow detectives Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Castle’s mother (Susan Sullivan) and daughter (Molly C. Quinn). The plot lines are intriguing, the relationships are complicated, and the script-writing is excellent. In addition, Castle has featured real-life writers playing poker with Richard Castle – Stephen J. Cannell, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, and Michael Connelly.

Grimm. I have initially enjoyed how this series presents the original Grimm’s fairy tales brought to life in modern day. Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) is a police detective who is informed by his mysterious aunt that he is a Grimm – a descendent of the family that has fought against the evil fairy tale characters for generations. He must now balance his own police work with the new knowledge of odd creatures living in their community, which he can see but other humans cannot. Of course, there is the solving of a crime each week, alongside his partner Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby). But the crimes weave a tale into them (e.g., Red Riding Hood, the Pied Piper). So far, a supporting character is outshining the rest in this series – Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed Bludbad (wolf creature) who helps Nick navigate the fairy tale world. I don’t know if I’ll stick with Grimm. It’s interesting, but not yet a must-see on my list.

Hart of Dixie. New York doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) must complete a year of family medicine before she can obtain the position she has wanted for . . . well, ever. As it turns out, she ends up in Bluebell, Georgia, where her practice partner and a few other townspeople don’t want her. In addition, she struggles to adjust to small-town Southern life. Like other favorite series set in small towns – Northern Exposure, Gilmore Girls, Jericho – the rich characterization carries the storyline. The residents’ charm and quirkiness pull me in, and their conflict, both internal and interpersonal, keep me engaged.

How I Met Your Mother. Main character Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) tells his children the story of how he met their mother. Being long-winded, he also tells about a thousand stories that led up to that moment. The ensemble cast – with Marshall and Lily (couple friends from college, Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan), Barney (a womanizer and opportunist, Neil Patrick Harris), and Robin (a tough-minded, tender-hearted newcomer, Cobie Smulders) – is the focus of the show. Each character has a distinct personality, but the viewer can understand how these people would gravitate to one another. The slapping phenomenon of several shows is one of the best running gags. My only complaint is that the show has recently had a few sad episodes in a row. I’m ready for the comedy to return.

Psych. Break out the pineapple, it’s fun-time with Psych! Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is a slacker whose detective father trained him from an early age to notice every teeny, tiny detail in his environment so that he can solve crimes. He’s so good at it that he catches what others miss and then claims a psychic vision. The police end up hiring him as a psychic police consultant. Shawn drags along his best buddy, Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill), and their antics alone are worth the price of admission. Psych has done a particularly good job of borrowing from other series and films (Twin Peaks, Hitchcock). That tongue-in-cheek humor treats the audience with a clever wink-wink. Best recurring one-liner? Perhaps it’s Shawn’s “I’ve heard it both ways.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am catching up on the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer series years after it aired. Thanks to my Netflix account, I am currently in the third season. I can see why it was such a popular series. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a California high school student chosen as the One to slay demonic vampires in their midst. Armed with her wits, physical prowess, a knowledgeable and caring mentor, and supportive friends, she battles the forces of evil. It’s interesting to watch her shift between the intense end-of-world rescues and her daily concerns as a high school student and teen. The characterization and acting are good enough that I believe just about anything they throw at me. With as far as I’ve gotten, I can honestly say, forget Team Jacob or Team Edward; I’m on Team Angel (David Boreanaz).

In addition, I look forward to continuing to watch Downton Abbey, Sherlock, The Glades, and Necessary Roughness when they return in 2012.

It’s your turn! What are you watching and why?