Author Interview: Kara Bietz (UNTIL I BREAK)

until i break

by K.C. Maguire (cross posted from

Last week at a Highlights workshop, I was lucky enough to meet Houston-based writer Kara Bietz, a YA author whose recent debut, UNTIL I BREAK deals with the difficult and often morally charged issue of school bullying. Kara was kind enough to share her work with me and her insights into her process in the following interview, as well as to give us a sneak peek into what she’s working on now. I hope you enjoy our conversation …

KC: The first thing that struck me about your debut YA novel, UNTIL I BREAK, (after the arresting cover design) is the way you handle the movement of time in the book, jumping back and forth from the present to the past. What were the main challenges of writing with that kind of structure, and how did you go about it?

KB: The first draft of this story certainly didn’t start off this way! As I wrote that draft, I kept thinking that it would be a much more interesting story if we knew the ending FIRST, and then went back and built on why the heck this kid was standing in the school hallway with a gun. As I worked through a backwards version of what I had already written, I had another thought…that going backward wasn’t getting to the heart of what was happening, either. That I also needed an element of “future”. It was a very muddy writing process, that’s for sure, but when I finally landed on the back and forth structure, the story unfolded easily. One of the challenges I did have once I decided on the structure was making sure that each individual timeline could stand on it’s own, as well as mesh seamlessly with the other timeline.

KC: The book is written in the first person POV from the protagonist’s (Sam’s) perspective. Did you have any difficulties writing a first person narrative in the voice of a young man?

KB: When I sit down to write, usually what comes out is the voice of a teenage boy. I don’t know what that says about me, honestly, but it’s a voice I’m very comfortable with.

KC: The story is fraught with moral complexity. There are no real “good guys” or “bad guys.” All the characters feel more like “works in progress,” trying to cope with their pasts in a way that helps them to handle their futures, even when their decisions are troubling or morally ambiguous. Thus, they all feel very rounded and true to life. How difficult was it for you to craft characters who are neither all good, nor all bad, but who all make troubling choices?

KB: I think we all have those moments in our past when we’ve made REALLY TERRIBLE decisions that affected not only ourselves but the people around us as well. No one out there is perfect, and I think it’s important to show that one bad decision doesn’t have to define you. Will it change your life? Absolutely. Can you recover from it? Absolutely. Life is a series of these decisions…sometimes you make the right one and sometimes you don’t. I believe it’s imperative that, as writers, we write real people. The good, the bad, the ugly, terrible choices and all.

KC: Can you name some of the authors/books who have influenced you most as a writer?

KB: My favorite writer of all time is Laurie Halse Anderson. Her book SPEAK is what made me sit down and start writing again after many years of keeping that part of me silent. While there are several authors that write about difficult topics, that book in particular showed me that it was okay to write about the not-so-pretty parts of adolescence. The gritty and real things not everyone wants to talk about. Some other influences were Chris Crutcher, Francesca Lia Block and E. Lockhart. During the early drafting phase of Until I Break, I read Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. I remember finishing it and thinking HOLY CRAP…THAT’S how you tell a story. That, in addition to Speak, are books that have stayed with me for years.

KC: What are you working on now?

KB: I am in the thick of a first draft for a new contemporary YA that will be released from Riptide Publishing in the Fall of 2018. It is called UNAFRAID and it is an LGBTQ contemporary YA retelling of the Marius and Eponine story in Les Miserables, set in a football-obsessed, small town Texas high school. I’m really excited about it and proud to be writing it.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and your process with us, Kara! We look forward to UNAFRAID!!!!

America at Work

By Ellen Leventhal


Labor Day. People are lining up for sales, barbecue grills  are going  full blast, and some of us are putting the white shorts away until next Memorial Day.

But what is Labor Day really? It wasn’t meant to be an end of summer celebration, and it wasn’t meant to signal the start of school or football season. Labor Day is a day set aside to honor the American labor force. If you don’t know about the divisive Pullman Car Strike, you may want to take time this Labor Day to read about it. In 1894 President Grover Cleveland initiated the holiday as part of the federal response to that strike. But even so, a lot more work needed to be done in order to secure living wages and safe workplaces for American workers. Do you recall learning about the 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory? Again, if you are not familiar with it, Labor Day is a great time to learn about it and the Labor Unions which had a huge impact on workplace safety.

The Labor and Working-class History Association put out this list of what they feel are good books about labor. Take a look and see what you think.

So yes,  we can take this day to relax.  We can enjoy our friends and family, and we can hit the snooze button a few times.But let’s always remember the meaning behind Labor Day and be thankful to the workers who make our lives what they are.


~ Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.




Author Interview: Wendy Higgins (“The Great Hunt”)

great hunt Interview by K. C. Maguire

I’m so pleased to be sharing an interview I recently conducted with Wendy Higgins, author of the Sweet series, See Me, and now The Great Hunt. I’ve enjoyed Wendy’s work for many years. She writes fantasy and romance for YA audiences and has published both traditionally and independently. When I asked her about her work, here’s what she had to say …

KC: You’ve written in a number of different genres, and have, for the first time, ventured into high fantasy with “The Great Hunt.” What’s your favorite genre to write, and why?

WH: I think Urban Fantasy/Paranormal is my favorite. It’s fascinating to imagine things going on right here on Earth that we’re not aware of, things hidden. It’s just thrilling to write about those kinds of fictional possibilities, and for me it’s the ultimate escapism.

KC: What was the most challenging aspect of writing “The Great Hunt”?

WH: Two things: 3rd person point of view, and high fantasy world building. First person point of view has always been the style that comes naturally to me, so I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone with this one. It taught me a lot, and I feel that I grew as a writer by taking on the challenge. As far as world building, to come up with a completely different world, cultures, languages, magical abilities, etc, was SO HARD for me. Definitely the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and I’m not nearly as detailed as many high fantasy authors. I find that when I read high fantasy I end up skimming when there’s a lot of description, so I tried to build the world, but leave the minute details to reader imagination, the way I prefer it when I’m reading.

KC:  Even though your books are very different, they all include swoon-worthy romances. Are you a closet romantic at heart? And – the real question – how do you keep your characters’ romances interesting, particularly over the course of a multiple book series? How do you keep it fresh and engaging for the characters and the reader?

WH: Oh, I’m out of the closet when it comes to my romantic heart! I’ve always been a romance girl. The thing with writing romance is timing. I personally don’t like instalove stories where the characters are falling in love or hooking up quickly. I love to have the romantic tension drawn out as long as possible (but not so long that it just becomes ridiculous). I have to find realistic reasons for them not to get together, either internal or external. And then once they DO get together, there has to be a danger facing them – an obstacle they need to overcome to stay together and be safe.

KC: Unlike your popular “Sweet” series, “The Great Hunt” is told in shifting points of view from the perspectives of multiple characters (and in third person). What are the biggest challenges, and advantages, of writing shifting third person narrative like this?

WH: One big advantage of multiple points of view is that I can show different storylines, so in The Great Hunt and The Great Pursuit there are actually THREE romance threads that we get to see play out. That was super fun! When writing in first person, your hands are tied, as far as what you can show and how you can show it, because the main character has to be seeing it, experiencing it, or hearing about it. Writing in third person definitely opened up a world of possibilities. It was almost overwhelming!

KC:  Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?

WH:  I love Jennifer L. Armentrout, Kresley Cole (Poison Princess), and Karen Marie Moning. I’m currently reading the Written In Blood series by Anne Bishop and loving it.

KC: When can we expect to see second book in the Eurona duology (“The Great Pursuit”) on the shelves??

WH: The Great Pursuit will be published March 7, 2017!

Thanks so much for your time, Wendy. Looking forward to “The Great Pursuit.” Can’t wait!!!!

Created Equal

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is generally understood that when Thomas Jefferson (he was the designated scribe of the committee of five that came up with this document) put quill to parchment, the word “men” meant land-owing white males.

Many of us are familiar with the heroic exploits of our Founding Fathers, but many of the equally heroic tales of brave women are much less well known.

Who could forget the tale of sixteen year-old Sybil Ludington’s forty mile ride (twice as far as Paul Revere’s) to muster the local militia to fend off a British raid on Danbury, CT? You can read about her in Sybil’s Night Ride, Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride, and Women Heroes of the American Revolution.

Cokie Roberts wrote Founding Mothers about the challenges of the wives and other female family members faced while their men were away.

If intrigue, espionage, and cross-dressing are more your cup of tea, you might check out Vicki Leon’s Uppity Women of the New World.

Whatever your Independence Day plans, fresh and novel tales of derring-do make them better!


Genius: The Relationship Between Editor and Writer

by Monica Shaughnessy

red-pen-1422017The movie Genius, starring Jude Law and Colin Firth, is catching buzz in writerly circles. It’s the story of famed editor, Max Perkins, and his protege, Thomas Wolfe. Okay, so the reviews aren’t great. Ironically, one reviewer said the movie was overly long and could’ve used an editor’s red pen itself. 🙂 But that’s not going to stop me from seeing it, and here’s why…

A reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that a literary biopic “usually describes sensationalistic yarns that cover every aspect of an author’s personal life — his or her sexual hangups, drug addiction, legal and economic woes — but hardly ever his actual job, writing.” This movie breaks that mold, and I find this refreshing – poor reviews or not.

You see, writing IS a job. It’s not a silly daydream or a gift from Heaven or the residue of angel wings or even what’s at the bottom of a whisky bottle. It’s thinking. It’s showing up and putting your rear in the seat. It’s planning. It’s debating, sometimes with yourself, sometimes with your characters. And it’s hard work. A lot of people who don’t write (and a few who dabble) think it’s purely art. If only that were true. So a movie that focuses on the actual job of writing, a movie that lifts the curtain and shows the struggle and heartache and emotion and finesse that goes into spinning words into prosaic gold needs, in my mind, a round of applause.

But that’s only half the story, isn’t it?

Genius asks the thought-provoking question: Would Thomas Wolfe have become an American Icon without the help of his editor? Likely not.

Enter one Max Perkins. The man was no ordinary editor, though. He worked with both Fitzgerald and Hemingway (my idols). Standing toe-to-toe with literary giants is, I imagine, no easy feat. To do so, one has to possess gifts of equal or greater value. Before anyone calls me out and says, “Hey, if that Perkins guy was such a genius, why didn’t I read his book in high school English?” Well…because editing is a completely different skill.

A reporter for the Houston Chronicle writes, “Of all the creative gifts, the ability to edit — that is, to edit text — is the least heralded and the least understood.
Most people have never been edited, and those who benefit from it most tend to forget that the editing ever happened. But the ability to see a shape within a mess, to recognize a structure before it’s in place, to understand on a first read what is there that doesn’t belong and what belongs that isn’t there — this is no casual talent.”

Disclaimer: I am a developmental editor.

Am I biased? Heck, yeah. Nonetheless, the Chronicle reporter hits the nail on the head. An editor’s job (at least a developmental editor’s job) is to see inside a story and interpret what the writer meant to say. Once that’s done, the editor must gently shepherd the writer toward the stronger version of their story, a version the writer must actually agree is stronger. Now if you’ve never been edited before, you might be thinking, “The only version of my story I’m interested in is mine! I won’t have someone telling me how to write!”  To that I say, keep calm and carry on. If an agent accepts your manuscript, you’ll be edited then. If they sell it to a publishing house, it will be edited a second or third time. And if you go straight to self-publishing, readers themselves will tell you how you should’ve edited it. Rarely does a book succeed without input.

If you’re a reader, I encourage you to marvel at the unseen hand of an editor the next time you consume a flawlessly executed book. If you’re a writer just starting out, considering hiring an editor to take your prose and plot to the next level. It’s an eye-opening experience.

Am I a genius? Nah. I’ll leave that to Max Perkins.

“No Bones” Author Interview

by K.C. Maguire

no bones

This week I had a ton of fun interviewing fellow Space City Scribes, Monica Shaughnessy and Mandy Broughton. Both are familiar to readers of this blog. Together, they are launching an exciting new series under the pseudonym, Annie Basset. The debut, No Bones, released last week and kicks off the Dead and Buried series in criminal style!  When I asked Monica and Mandy about the series and the challenges of co-writing for the first time, here’s what they had to say.

KCNo Bones is the first in a series of crime books featuring sniffer dogs and colorful characters in small town Texas. How did you come up with the concept?

MB: It’s funny because even coming up with the series was a joint effort. It all started with a missing woman in Montgomery County, Texas, Danielle Sleeper.

Through a series of events, I have been involved in helping search for Danielle. People who know that I’m an author suggested I write a True Crime story about Danielle’s case. But I’m a fiction writer. I would never be able to tell the story the way it should be told. Danielle, her kids, and her parents need justice. I am not the writer that can do that. I pray for her recovery every day–dead or alive–her children and parents need to know what happened. The community she lives in needs to know. The person or persons responsible for her disappearance need to be held accountable.

As I joined in one of the searches, I came to admire Texas Equusearch and Klaas Kids for their dedication to the lost and missing. The searchers donate their time, money, horses, and dogs to help find those who are lost. They do it because they care. They do it because it is the right thing to do–to help a family find answers and closure.

And from this great group of volunteers, I observed wonderful personalities, full of passion and dedication.

I told Monica we needed a passionate main character who does Search and Recovery (SAR) on horses. Monica said she thought horses would be too difficult. She said she loves dogs and can write all day about them. What if we used SAR dogs? I said I love dogs too and off we went.

MS: My answer is a lot less fantastical than Mandy’s, so I’ll keep it short. I think we both naturally gravitated toward the small town Texas theme because we’ve both experienced that unique culture and are able to write about it authentically. As for dogs, yeah, I’m passionate about them. So it makes complete sense for me to write about them. Besides, I wanted to balance out my feline books (Cattarina Mysteries) with a little canine energy!

KC: You have both written in other genres, and in other pockets of the mystery genre. How did writing this book compare with the other genres you’ve tackled?

MB: I’ve had to keep my target audience in mind. This has been difficult because I like a wide variety of genres–sci-fi, cozy, thriller, horror, just to name a few. With a dog cozy, it SCREAMS cutesy. Puppy dog eyes! Silliness (okay, I am into silliness but Monica edits most of it out). With cutesy, silliness, and a barking good time firmly set in my brain, then I can write for dog mystery lovers.

MS: I tend to write about the bizarre: talking cats, blind dates with Satan, children from other worlds, and blood-thirsty jackalopes. So this is one of my few “mainstream” stories. And Mandy’s right about the audience. We tried to keep it firmly in mind when writing and not take any ‘off genre’ detours.

KC: This is your first time collaborating. How did you find the experience compared with writing as a sole author? How did you go about setting out who would do what in the drafting process?

MB: This is my first collaborative effort. Work divided itself very neatly along our strengths. Monica is a detailed plotter. She wrote a chapter by chapter outline. I think too much about crime so I always have an idea or thirty on a crime and its perpetrators. Monica is disciplined enough to keep herself and, more importantly, me, on track. I only veered off a couple of times. I’m the Tasmanian devil of writing first drafts. Monica can pick apart a first draft easier than a dog picking a bone clean. Monica has a great character sheet she created, full of arcs and ideas to carry us through a series.

The fact that someone was expecting me to finish and publish has helped me in so many ways. I have three completed novels on my computer but they are not out because I’m currently “editing” them (editing = sit until they are magically perfect). I hate to let people down so having a writing duo made me hold to a deadline. My daughter had a moderate to serious accident during the second half of writing this book (she’s doing better, just very slow recovery and still not 100%). Finishing this book has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Knowing that Monica was there waiting on me (and cracking the whip!) helped me push through when I felt like I couldn’t write another word.

MS: As any writer knows, you might start strong – great plot, tons of character backstories, free time to craft – and then life gets in the way. This happened to both of us. Mandy mentioned her daughter. But I had my own turn around. I began working for a wonderful company full time in March, and while it’s a terrific boost to my career and bank account, writing temporarily took a back seat. So yes, yes, we divided work based on our strengths. Mandy’s great at first drafts, and I’m great at second drafts (and plotting). But where I truly think collaboration saved us was during these hard times. When Mandy’s daughter was ill, I gave her lots of encouragement and helped push us forward. When I got bogged down with a new job, Mandy began shouldering the final edits. So we each helped the other at different times. That’s a true partnership.

KC: Were there any major disagreements during the writing process?

MB: At one point in the writing, Monica and I disagreed on a clue/mystery point. It was about three days of going back and forth until we finally agreed on how to handle Cecil’s truck. Looking back, I think it’s pretty funny that we disagreed about such a minor point. No one would probably care when they read the book. We agreed on major plot points, characters, arcs, and all sorts of things but that silly truck gave us fits for a few days.

We still are at loggerheads about which dog is the smartest. Of course, a German Shepherd is the smartest dog. But, randomly, during the day, I get emails that said “Border Collie” but I would delete it because I’m sure Monica meant to type “German Shepherd.”

MS: I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Border collies are the smartest, hands down. My grandfather had a border collie named Nipper that helped him work his sheep herd, and I grew up watching this special relationship. That dog not only knew my grandfather’s hand signals and different whistles (several dozen), but he read his body language, too, and kept the herd moving wherever they were supposed to go. Tragically, after my grandfather died and the sheep herd was sold, Nipper ran away and was never seen again. This broke my heart as a kid. I always wondered if the dog left to find another old shepherd in need of a companion.

KC:  It seems that the mystery genre (along with the romance genre) is blossoming in terms of self-publishing. Why do you think those particular genres have been so successful outside the traditional publishing model?

I think that readers can’t get enough of mystery or romance. From that love of reading, readers are willing to give self-pubbed authors a chance. They are very forgiving too because I believe they have a voracious appetite (I know–I’m one of them!). They want to read in their beloved genre. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to help satisfy that appetite.

MS: I completely agree. Like romance readers, mystery readers (especially cozy readers) are voracious and can go through an entire series in just a few days. Indie publishing lends itself to this model. Buying traditional paperbacks at $6.99 is not only expensive, it clutters your house. I’m not talking about a lovely filled bookcase. I’m talking about stacks and stacks of books everywhere! And then there’s lugging them to the used bookstore. Low pricing and digital publishing make indie books the perfect choice for cozy readers. That’s why it’s taking off. Big time.

KC: How difficult is it to write a book where the main character shares so much page space with animal characters and where, in some ways, the animal characters are as major as the human characters in terms of character development? How do you go about writing rounded and believable animal characters like Sasha?

MB: This was mostly Monica. She is excellent at character development. I tended to get caught up in the action and would forget main characters while I laid clues and suspicion. But Monica was always there with her red pen, figuratively, to fix a scene. Or even the blurb. I wrote the first draft of the blurb and completely left out Sasha. I was totally in the doghouse for that faux pas.

I have watched about a thousand YouTube videos of different SAR dogs. Even through the computer, their personalities came through. I tried to combine or see the dogs and the characters in my head while I wrote. It was the best way to keep me grounded.

MS: I have a greater sense of empathy than the average person, and because of this, I am able to get inside heads and hearts more easily. Human or animal, doesn’t matter. As you can imagine, this makes every day living a little more difficult. But it’s a tailor made trait for a writer. I’m also keenly observant, eerily so. And if you need any more convincing, just read The Tell-Tail Heart, book one of my Cattarina Mysteries. Cat lovers everywhere have praised me for nailing her personality and thoughts and POV.

KC: When can we expect to see book 2? How often do you plan to release “Dead & Buried” mysteries?

MB: Book 2, Dog Gone, is deep into plotting. I sent Monica a rough “big 5 scenes” idea for book 2. True to her dedication to the series, she dropped everything and immediately provided feedback. Or maybe my ideas were so crazy that she felt I needed guidance. But either way, we tend to agree and build on each other’s ideas that are thrown out there. I think it is truly a case of Proverbs 27:17 As iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another.

The plan is for Dog Gone to be released later in 2016. And we’d love book 3 out in early 2017.

MS: Yes, I’d agree with early Christmas of 2016 for Dog Gone. I know, I know, that’s six months away. You might be thinking, “Hey, other cozy writers are penning a book a month!” But ask yourself this, how is it possible to publish a 200 page book, complete with editing, in only 30 days? It’s not. That’s why some unscrupulous authors are outsourcing their writing to other countries or to starving college students or to anyone willing to churn out content for pennies. Whenever you read a review, and it says, “This book reads like it was written by a kid,” it just might be true. Sorry, self-publishing content mills are a big pet peeve of mine, especially when Mandy and I have worked so hard to create a quality book. So while our publishing schedule may not rival some cozy authors’, you can count on a quality product authentically written by two Texas women. Who love dogs.

Thanks for the interview my fellow Scribes!!!!

Secrets to Short Stories

by K.C. Maguire

Folks have been recommending lots of short story collections to me lately, and that’s outside of the Space City Scribes releasing our own latest collection First Last Forever: A Collection of First Date Disasters recently.

I’ve started to think more about the differences between the short story format and the novel. As a reader, I tend to be drawn to novels because I like to be totally immersed in a narrative for a long time, rather than a short time. I want to get to know the characters and play around in their lives for as long as I can. This is probably true of me as a writer as well.

Some stories unquestionably work well in a shorter format: slice of life stories and vignettes, pithy stories that often have a sting in the tail, and some “concept” stories where the story is a teaser to a bigger concept. That’s not to mention side-stories that many of us (including many of us Space City Scribes) write to illuminate aspects of the lives of secondary characters, or main characters outside our novels’ story arcs.

As a reader, I tend to LOVE science fiction and fantasy short stories because sometimes I’m really in it for the “what if” and, once I’ve gotten that, I’m satisfied. Sci-fi and fantasy seem to lend themselves to high concept stories where a quick dip into the waters is satisfying enough.

But for romances, say, and a lot of coming-of-age narratives, I like to live with the characters for longer.

Do blog readers have preferences as to the genres they prefer to read in short story format versus novel format? What about the things you prefer to write? Any secrets to share on short stories?


Books, Books, and More Books

by Mandy Broughton

This Friday and Saturday, Lone Star College, Kingwood Campus, is hosting a book festival. When I say book festival, I’m talking over 150 authors! From the brochures, it looks to be an exciting event for the entire family. Books, music, animals–real animal, not just the authors–will all be on hand.

Friday starts with keynote speaker, Larry Dierker. Sports fans–you won’t be disappointed by the rest of Friday’s lineup. While yours truly and fellow Space City Scriber, Monica Shaughnessy, will be sitting on a Friday afternoon panel, my eyes are on the football stars that will be found elsewhere. Dan Pastorini and Jackie Sherrill are hosting a panel, “Aggies and Oilers: God and Football in Texas.” Wow! This should draw a huge crowd from our little southeast portion of Texas.

Saturday is a full day of children’s authors and events for all our future readers. What could be more fun than a petting zoo and books? More books!

And some of us (read Monica) got a really cool poster to promo the event.



If you’re in the Houston area, we’d love to see you there. Monica and I are Friday at 3 p.m. in the music wing. Stop by and say hello.

That’s the Breaks, Kid


Sam greets visitors to Huntsville, Texas

Spring break! That fabulous time of year in southeastern Texas when spring has sprung, flowers are flowering, and it is still cool enough to go outside past 9:00 AM. But what does this have to do with writing?

I’m glad you asked. Are you looking for a fresh idea to get out of the dull winter doldrums? Go on a road trip. Museums hold many a mystery and interesting artifact for non-fiction writers, and story prompts about for novelists and short story writers. Mystery Domino


Why did Sam Houston’s first wife leave him after a mere eleven weeks of marriage? He took that secret to his grave, but it could make an interesting historical fiction. Who left the mysterious double five domino, stamped with the Huntsville State Prison logo in a holding cell in Harris WP_20160319_051County? What, if anything, did it mean? Secret message, or simple Rawr!mistake? Dinosaur tracks, right here in Texas? Indeed. How were they formed, and who found them? Young readers love dinosaurs! Who were some of the colorful characters during the heyday of the Ft. Worth Stockyards? Maybe you could borrow one or two for the hero or villain in your wild west romance. Did you know there was such an adorable thing as a tree kangaroo? Picture book! Was there really a mysterious character on the grassy knoll? The Sixth Floor Museum may spark some ideas for an alternative history novel.

Tree Kangaroo

Grassy KnollSpring break has passed? No worries. Stay local – there’s bound to be something nearby that you haven’t seen before. Take pictures. Take notes. And limber up your typing fingers!

Have a Piece of Chocolate and Move On

By Ellen Leventhal

I know I’ve written about rejection before. But see, that’s the thing. It’s not something you think about once, get over, and move on to a field of daisies and puppies to write happily ever after.  Yes, after a rejection, eat chocolate, have some wine, and move on.  Definitely move on. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that once you move on, you’ll never get that punch in the gut feeling again.

For traditionally published authors, and those attempting to be one, the rejection letter is sometimes a literary form of “It’s not you, it’s me.” It usually reads something like this: “Although you have a wonderful way of telling a story, it’s just not right for our list. We hope your manuscript finds a home.”  (That always makes me think of hundreds of poor manuscripts huddled together under a street light; homeless and cold.) Sometimes that’s true. Different agents and editors are looking for different things. And sometimes it’s timing. I once got a beautiful rejection telling me that they liked my writing, but they just published a book with a very similar theme, and they are a small press….blah, blah, blah. You know, it’s not you, it’s us. But then there are also the ones that pretty much tell you that you are a fool to have submitted because your work is way below their standards, and you might as well throw your computer away because you are a hopeless hack. OK, I may have overreacted and read that into my last rejection, but you get the idea.

So how about if you indie publish? No rejections? Right and wrong.  Although there may not be actual rejections, you still need a thick skin. Most critique groups have caring, diplomatic members who will point out issues in your manuscript without making you cringe. Critique groups are wonderful for finding things you missed because you are too close to the project. But sometimes an editor may not be as diplomatic. And what about when you pay someone to critique your work and then get a less than stellar review? You may take their criticisms as a form of rejection. Again, drink wine, eat chocolate, and fix the manuscript. You still may feel like you have been punched in the gut, but at least you have a chance to revise. So do it.

Now, what about the indie writer who doesn’t get his work critiqued or edited? Well, maybe they won’t face the same type of rejection, but most likely, their book won’t do well. But those writers are for a whole different blog post. Indie writers need to go through all the same steps as traditionally published writers. When they don’t, they make the rest of us look bad. More on that another day.

We all face some type of rejection. It’s not just about writing.  How do you handle it? I’d love to hear because I’m running low on chocolate and wine.