What the What? Another Award!

Holy crap! This week I have received not just one, which was extraordinary in and of itself, but two blog awards.  I am just on cloud nine this week. Thank you to BW Taylor at Descent into Slushland for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Like I said in my last post, I started this blog as a place to write about writing, but it evolved into something else, somewhere to share more of myself as well as my writing. I am thrilled to receive this award and to be considered a versatile blogger.

The rules say I have to give seven random facts about myself, so:

1.  I’m a big kid at heart. I have a saying that you’re never too old to roll down a hill and I live by that. I love to play, in fact, it’s one of the great things about my marriage, Hubby and I play–a lot, like sword fighting with wrapping paper tubes and playing hide and seek in the house. One of my goals in life is to never truly grow up.

2. I’ve been to 22 states (Alabama, Georgia, S. Carolina, N. Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado), and 6 countries (Switzerland, Italy, the Vatican, Monaco, France, Ireland, and Mexico).

3. In my entire life, I have only eaten on flavor ice cream at Baskin Robbins. A double scoop of chocolate chip on a sugar cone. After almost thirty years of the same thing, I now refuse to break my streak.

4. In college, I once ran around the dorm with a cardboard box on my head dancing to the song “Living in a Box.” In my defense, I was 18, and it made perfect sense. But in all honesty, I’d probably do it again now. (See #1).

5. I have a tendency to laugh like the cartoon dog Muttley (you know, from the Great Space Race) when I do something sneaky or devious.

6. Apparently, I eat like a lizard, flicking my tongue out and drawing food into my mouth. Hubby caught this and pointed it out as I’d never realized. With french fries, I curl my tongue around them and pull them in one at a time.

7. Similarly, I can touch my nose with my tongue.

Now, I have to nominate seven other bloggers:

1. My Writing Journey

2. A.M. Schilling: Thoughts of an Unknown Author

3. Aggghhhhh: Michelle Writes a Bunch and Yells at Herself

4. Jennifer M. Eaton (who I know has already received this award but totally deserves it again)

5. Emily Anne Shaffer

6. Ruth Lauren Steven

7. Valerie R. Lawson

I highly enjoy each of the blogs and the information and stories they share. Go check them out! And thanks again for this award.

 

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The Writer’s Voice, Cheese, and The Wild Blue Yonder

You may be aware that I’ve been competing in a multi-blog contest called The Writer’s Voice. (If not, you can catch up here).  200 of us put our work on our blogs for the world to see. 44 of us were chosen by the amazing coaches, Monica B.W., Krista Van Dolzer, Brenda Drake, and Cupid. They polished up our queries and story beginnings. We edited like crazy and submitted, and resubmitted, then they posted the shiny new entries to their blogs.

Anyone could come by and comment over the weekend. Every time I saw a new comment under my entry, I jumped in my chair and rushed to click on it. You have absolutely no idea how happy it made me to see others who enjoyed my work. I write because I love it and can’t imagine not doing it, but I also write because I’m a reader and I want my words to affect others the way my favorite works have affected me. So thank you, each and every one of you who commented either here, or over on Krista’s blog.

Yesterday was D-Day. The agents came through. Eight total.Lauren MacLeod of The Strothman Agency was the first out of the gate and Twitter was all a flitter! Agents were coming, agents were coming! We all rushed to put on our prettiest ballgowns and nicest suits and stood waiting, trying to look appealing. She swept through the four blogs and voted for seven entries, but not mine. Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc. appeared next and voted for a whopping sixteen entries, hooray!! But still not me.

While Andrea was still out and about, Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency showed up. I raced around the blogs, refreshing and hoping. She tagged six entries, pushing the first entry into full request territory. The crowd cheered! No Sarah, but I wasn’t too worried, that was only three agents, still five to go. Then Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency swooped in and voted for ten! More full requests! I refreshed, refreshed, refreshed, but no dice for my entry. Later in the afternoon, the word on Twitter was that Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary was out and about. I scoured the blogs and found seven entries with her name on them, pushing two more into full territory.

I kept my eyes glued on my Twitter feed. Never had I been so glad I decided to join! As afternoon turned to evening, and evening gave way to night, I started to worry. In the previous Cupid contest, one agent didn’t vote for anything. Could these last three not be interested? Then, Roseanne Wells of Marianne Strong Literary Agency popped up. I opened all four blogs at once, running through each entry. By now, I knew the comment counts for each one so I knew when an entry got a vote. She voted for seven. My team, Team Krista, was lagging behind now, and more than wanting myself to get a vote, I wanted my team to win, and more than that, there were several entries I absolutely loved still sitting alone on prom night with no date.

As I was refreshing, I noticed Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency out and about. There was hope! She picked a member of my team, joy! Then my heart sank. She only chose one entry from each team. I was about to call it a night when I clicked on one more new tweet. Louise Fury of L. Perkins Agency made a triumphant entry! Better yet, she tweeted as she voted! It was glorious! It took stalking to a whole new level!

She started on Brenda’s blog and I refreshed as she tweeted each vote, rejoicing for those who were picked. “Go to Krista’s blog next,” I begged. “Please go to Krista’s blog next.” She went to Monica’s. Hubby yawned and I stifled one myself. I had to stay awake. I kept refreshing. Still on Monica’s blog. Hubby and I did our nightly Bible reading, then I immediately scooped up the computer. Still on Monica’s. It was late, and I was so sleepy. So, I decided to go to bed.

Of course I promptly loaded Twitter on my phone and kept an eye on Ms. Fury’s flurry of activity. Right before I put the phone down, she was spotted on Cupid’s blog. Of course Krista’s would be last. And she was taking her time combing through the entries, which is amazing and wonderful that she took such care, but I couldn’t stay awake any longer. I turned the phone off, my hope dwindling with every yawn. No sense stressing over it, I didn’t feel like it was going to happen. My poor little entry was the cheese in a giant game of The Farmer in the Dell. I went to sleep.

This morning, I stretched and picked up my phone, as I do every morning, to check the weather and email. I had a tweet. To me. My coach, Krista, asking if I was awake. Because “Playing with Fire” had a vote. I sat straight up in bed and read it again. Then I squealed, and started hopping up and down. Hubby ran in. “You got a vote?” “I got a vote!” We fist bumped, we hugged, we fist bumped again. I had a vote. I’m not the cheese!

Louise Fury, much like the comic book character of the same surname, swept down in the eleventh hour and voted for NINE of my team’s entries. Twenty-five total. I don’t know how she’s going to have the time to read all that. I guess maybe she does have super powers.

I had a vote.

While getting ready this morning, I danced and bee-bopped around the house. Then I realized what my celebratory song was and burst out laughing. It was “Wild Blue Yonder,” the Air Force anthem. (Edit to add, I realized I crossed it with “The Stars and Stripes Forever. Just think what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to sleep when I did. Ha!). Except I was singing my dad’s made up lyrics: “Be kind to your web-footed friends, ’cause a duck could be somebody’s mother,” and “Off we go, wearing our striped pajamas.” No idea where it came from, but I hummed it in all it’s silly, ridiculous glory.

My triumph waned as I went through the blogs this morning, adding the new votes to my spreadsheet (oh yeah) and tallying. Some of my favorites still didn’t get picked. Some entries were still the cheese. There are some amazing stories out there though, and while they might not be what these eight agents were looking for, the writers are all phenomenal, and I have no doubt they’re going to go places.

So that was The Writer’s Voice. Exhilarating, nerve-racking, exciting, frightening, silly, crazy. I met a wonderful group of writers, who I hope stay connected, I got some incredible help with my work, and I got a partial request. We also, all forty-four of us, got personalized feedback from author Tara Dairman, whose debut novel, The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby, come out in 2014. How awesome is she? Thanks for your comments Tara!! Oh, and my team won. Go Team Krista! What an incredible experience.

We Belong

I’ve brought this up before, but after this weekend, I think it bears mentioning again: I love the writing community. LOVE it.

As you all are (should be) aware, I’m in a contest called the Writer’s Voice (see my entry below).  There are 200 entries. 200! Plus more writers who tried to get in and couldn’t because of the rush, and problems with the Mr. Linky widget (yes, it’s really called Mr. Linky, and yes, I have fun saying it and have been trying to come up with creative ways to drop it into conversation. “So I entered this contest via Mr. Linky.” “Have you heard of Mr. Linky?” “Hey Sweetheart, have you fed the dog? Oh, by the way, Mr. Linky.”)  So basically, all this means is there are a lot of writers circling through the blog waters reading entries and waiting on comments from the judges/mentors saying they’re on a team. (FYI, I got picked, whoop whoop!)

Here’s the amazing and wonderful thing: everyone has been so incredibly supportive.  Most have made it a point to read each entry, several have commented on every one.  I read them all and tried to comment on most (especially those without many comments, at least when I first read the entries, ’cause I know how good it feels to get comments!). Even though 200 people are vying for 40 spots, everyone has been extraordinarily encouraging. Initial posts of “good luck!” and later posts of “congratulations!” on the entries who are in so far is all I’ve seen. Not that I really think people would post something nasty. I’m sure they just wouldn’t post anything on an entry they didn’t like rather than something hurtful.  But even that speaks well of the community, doesn’t it?

I’ve read plenty of posts other places, and articles, etc on the internet where people have said mean, hateful things.  Here though? There’s only love. My Twitter feed has been blowing up all weekend with supportive tweets. Every time I see one, I grin ear to ear. Even if it’s not addressed to me or about me.

A song keeps playing in my head, yes, I’m about take you back, way back, back into time (that’s totally another song, points if you know it!). Maybe because I heard it on the radio this weekend and Hubby is a sucker for a ballad, so he’s been singing it randomly since, but I can’t shake “We Belong” by Pat Benatar. It’s pretty apt for what I’m talking about though. We writers belong to this remarkable and marvelous community. (And now you have it in your head too, muahahaha!)

This contest, this opportunity, has not only spread my writing to a wider audience (over 500 views of my blog this past weekend, wow!), it has also introduced me to other writers.  I’m following new blogs and people on Twitter that I might not have otherwise found, and I’ve gotten new followers as well (hello! *waves*).

So, if I wasn’t enamored with writing already, and trust me, I was, I’m even more in love with it now.  Because it means I get to be a part of this wonderful group of people, and whether or not this current story, or my writing period, takes off, that’s something special.

Stay tuned for updates as the contest progresses, and check back later in the week for a Super Special blog post (hint, it might be my first guest…)

Writing’s Dirtiest Word

There is a dirty word in writing.  Equivalent to the f-bomb in church (or the RT words to an Auburn fan- Auburn family, you know what I mean and War Eagle).

Plagiarism.

For a writer, it’s the lowest of the low. Despicable.  Dishonorable.  Disgusting.

And yet, it keeps happening.  It comes up again and again.  The biggest recent scandal comes from a man who calls himself Q.R. Markham.  He “wrote” a book called “Assassin of Secrets.” I use the term “wrote” loosely.  Almost the entire thing was plagiarized.  Entire paragraphs and conversations were lifted from James Bond books.  All you have to do is Google the title and you’ll get a slew of references on this, but here’s a few for you:Q.R. Markham: Plagiarism Addict, Assassin of Secrets Plagiarism Charges.  The saddest link I have for you on this comes from author Jeremy Duns’s blog.  Jeremy blurbed Markham’s “book” and had several conversations with him regarding writing, becoming a mentor of sorts.  Jeremy then discovered the heinous act.  His post on the subject, Highway Robbery: The Mask of Knowing in Assassin of Secrets, makes me sad to read, and sick at the same time.

The question everyone asked was: how did this happen?  How did publishers not catch it?  My question is: how could the writer do such a thing?  How can any writer do such a thing?

Several years ago, before she became popular for her own novels, YA author Cassandra Clare wrote Harry Potter fan fiction.  She wrote a trilogy of fan fiction books.  There was a huge debacle in the fan fiction community when it was discovered she had plagiarized large chunks from other books and from a variety of television shows.  Now, I don’t write fan fiction and have never been part of this community, however, this post, Cassandra Clare Plagiarism Debacle, pretty much spells out the details, complete with plenty of examples of the plagiarism.  I know this is just fan fiction, and I’ve never read any of her books, they just aren’t something that appeals to me, regardless, I find this appalling.

I could never plagiarize.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Fan fiction, something I’ve written just for me, something for publication.  Never.  I fail to comprehend how you can take someone else’s work and put you own name on it.

Maybe I’m just jaded, but I write for the joy of writing.  I get a thrill from putting my thoughts down and wording a sentence just right.  I enjoy observing the world around me and putting that world into words.  I like creating characters and digging deep to see what makes them tick. Of course I enjoy reading others’ work.  But that’s their words, their impressions, their feelings.  My writing is my perspective.  It’s my release.

I get paying homage to something that inspired you.  I can even understand writing a new interpretation of a published work (like the re-imagined fairy tales that are popular right now-see Beastly by Alex Flinn– or modernizing of classic lit- see Jane by April Lindner).  Passing off someone else’s ideas as your own, though?  I don’t understand that.

I can even see how someone might plagiarize for a school paper or something.  I don’t approve and think it’s terrible, but I get it.  You have to get a grade, you don’t care about the subject, whatever. (If I were a teacher and caught the lazy, thieving student, they’d fail, no questions asked).  But writing is art.  If you’re published, not only are you making money from those words, you’re acquiring fans.  People love you because of your words.  When your words aren’t your own, not only are you lying, and cheating, and stealing, you’re misleading your fans, and I can’t support that.  If I discovered my favorite authors had plagiarized, I wouldn’t be able to continue supporting them.  Period.

Most recently, there has been a big scandal in the YA book blogging community.  I don’t follow the blog, and hadn’t heard of it until this week, but the Story Siren has been caught plagiarizing blog posts.  I’m not going to link to the Story Siren’s blog because, honestly, she doesn’t deserve the traffic.  She gets paid for blogging through ads on her site based on blog traffic.  If you want to check it out, you can search it on your own, but I don’t want to support a plagiarizer.  Worse, she even posted on plagiarizing before.

There has been a huge uproar in the YA writing community on this issue.  Some people don’t think it’s that big a deal because it’s only a blog.  Others think it’s a huge deal because she is part of the writing community and should know better and misled her followers.  I think she made it worse for herself by not apologizing, then when she did issue an apology, by not being sincere.

Plagiarism, in whatever form it takes, is a dirty, nasty thing.  I can promise you right now, you will never catch me plagiarizing.  I may draw inspiration from other blogs and other books, but everything I write is from my own head. And I think that’s the way it should be.

My “Cheers”

While I’ve been writing for a while, I only recently (like in the last year) joined the writing community.  I guess I always knew there was a one hanging out there somewhere, there’s a group or community for everything these days, but it never occurred to me that I, as a writer, was, or could be, part of it (don’t you love all the commas in that sentence!).  I dove in when a co-worker who has a great book published with a local publisher invited me to his critique group.  Through the group, I’ve met some wonderfully talented local authors and gotten excellent feedback on my own work.  That same co-worker/friend also told me about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which opened a world of conferences, contests, and other opportunities of which I was previously unaware.  I discovered the Absolute Write forums through a website that provided query letter guidance.  Eventually I stumbled across blogs and other writing websites.

I write this to say, the writing community amazes me.  It’s a relatively small world.  In relation to the rest of the population there really aren’t that many people who are serious about writing.  The actual publishing community is even smaller.  You’d think such a competitive field would be just that, competitive.  You’d think people would be reluctant to help one another because the query you just critiqued might be one an agent picks over yours.

But it’s not.  It’s one of the most encouraging, helpful, supportive groups I’ve ever encountered outside of church, and certainly from strangers.  There are people I’ve never met, and probably never will meet, who are willing to take time out of their busy lives to help me become a better writer, or draft the perfect query letter, or synopsis.  When one person gets a rejection, everyone is sad.  When one gets an offer or contract, everyone celebrates.  I know there are a few sour grapes here and there, but I’ve yet to encounter them.  On the whole, the writing community is warm and friendly and I’ve been thoroughly impressed.  It’s like walking into “Cheers”.  Everyone is glad to see you.  (Norm!)

For example, I recently entered a writing contest.  Another entrant sent me a message letting me know she also entered and asking if we wanted to help each other.  We exchanged excerpts and critiqued each others’ work, tightening the language, etc.  When we swapped back, we wished each other good luck and each promised to keep the other updated as the contest progresses, and genuinely meant it.  I believe in my work, but hers was really good too.  I wouldn’t be upset if her work beat mine out (disappointed I didn’t make it, yes, but in no way bitter or anything).  In fact, I’d be pretty proud to say “I ‘know’ her!”

In this time of sucky economy and high competition for jobs and with the seemingly grim future for paper and ink books, it’s refreshing that people still work together like this.  I find myself pondering why.  The chances of getting published are like a bazillion to one and it seems every book that gets a contract means there’s another book, or several, that won’t.  Yet, the majority of writers work together.

When I really sit down and think about it, I think every time a colleague makes it, it gives the rest of us hope.  If they can, someone we “know”, then we can too!  I also think it comes down to loving what you do.  I love to write, but I also love to read.  I’ve read some fantastic works on the AW forums.  Works I want to read more of.  Members generally only post a chapter or two, or maybe even a paragraph they’re struggling with, but sometimes that’s enough to hook me.  Enough for me to care about the character and want to know their story.  (As a side note, you’d be surprised the number of published authors who hung out at AW before they got their deals or who currently hang out there.  It’s really an excellent place for assistance from people who know what they’re doing).

I’m lucky to be part of such a great community and I hope my “friends” get published so I can read more of their stories, and so they can get the recognition they deserve.  What other professions can truly say that?  (Not many).