Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Thank you to all of the soldiers who gave their lives to protect my freedom. Happy Memorial Day. Go grill something.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My dream agent

Earlier this week I read on Chiseled in Rock that there are a lot of mistakes writers make when they send out queries. I've made several of those mistakes, but I was so clueless about the process in the beginning that I was forced to do research before I could even start writing my query. That saved me from total embarrassment. I learned about the most common mistakes before I started writing my query. I ran into nearly a dozen agent blogs that laid out basic etiquette, what agents look for in a query, and especially how a writer should NOT pitch to an agent.

So when I read Jessica Faust's post on why a writer should never talk about their dream agent on their blog, I decided that I've followed the rules long enough.

My dream agent is *insert drum-roll here*...

Okay, so I'm not naming anyone. But I'm afraid of breaking the rules. It's because if I query an agent, I genuinely want to work with them. I'm searching for an agent who will be a business partner as I move forward with my career. If I have a "dream agent," I won't know about it until I actually start working with them. I want to meet agents, I want to talk with them, and I need to know that we'll get along as we work together.

More than that, though, my "dream agent" will be passionate about my book. Maybe not quite as passionate as I am (because I doubt anyone will ever match my enthusiasm about my work), but I want them to get excited when they read my work. I want them excited to pitch it to publishers, and I want them to remain excited when the book arrives on shelves for the first time.

So in short, I don't have anyone specific in mind, I just dream of working with an agent who work with me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Internet issues

So I finally have real internet at my home, but Qwest messed up the install time. That means I now have to take care of a few errands on my way to work. I was supposed to work a half day and then come home for the install, but instead, I got a call yesterday that said they were going to be here first thing in the morning... ish. Anyway, I have time to get stuff done before I start my half-day, but only just.

I got a good deal of editing done while I waited for the Qwest guy to show up, and it looks like I'll actually get more hours than I otherwise would have, but I don't have time to put together a thought-inspiring post. But Friday I will get you a post with substance.

BTW, next week I will be talking about a new Charity of the Month, so please check out Compassion International and donate while it's still May :).

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Pain of Writing

I try to get up around 5 every morning. It usually ends up being closer to 6. But I stay up so late every night that, even if I sleep in until it's time to go to work, I'm exhausted. As hard as that is, I love it. The pain and heartache put in to writing is part of what drives me forward. There have been plenty of times where I looked at my progress (or lack thereof) and thought, "I'm done. This isn't going anywhere, and I'm just tired of fighting."

But I stuck with it. Why? Because I love writing. I mean, I would rather do this for the rest of my life than win the lottery. I would rather spend every day writing and creating stories to share with my friends than visit a new country every week (and that's something I would really enjoy). And I've put so much work into my books that giving up is more depressing that struggling in an industry that's getting shaken up from top to bottom.

It hurts, sometimes, to look at how far I have to go before I reach that goal of publishing. But it hurts more to think that I could have wasted all of the time I put into those manuscripts. I don't like wasting time, so I'm going to follow through, even though I don't know when I'll see the fruits of my labor.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Make bad choices

Bad choices make for great writing because sometimes the most foolish decision a character can make also leads to the greatest conflict that person will face. I know all of the great decisions my characters SHOULD make, and I'm going through my books right now and steering them away from those choices. Why? Because my characters don't get detoured enough by their bad choices. I need them to learn better lessons, make bigger mistakes, and generally ruin their lives to the point of near-destruction.

It's hard, though, because when I know what the RIGHT choice is, I always root for that decision. That just makes books boring.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Small update

I have a lot to do today, which is makes sense. I've been working a lot, and I still have a few things to take care of after the move. But more importantly, I have a lot of writing to do. So with that said, I encourage you to look through previous posts, consider donating to Compassion International, and have a great day! I'll see you on Friday.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Re-vamp and Re-work

First, thank you everyone for your patience while my wife and I settled in to our new home. We are all unpacked and completely out of the old place. I'd also like to thank my friend Danny Oertli for putting together a post about my Charity of the Month.

So on Friday, when I actually had access to the internet, Blogger shut down their site for some emergency maintenance. I don't know all of the details, all I know is that I couldn't get on to write a post. Instead, I spent my day reading through WYRM FIEND to find out where I can work in some great re-writes. As I put together a new pitch for this book, I started to realize that I wanted this book to be about something very specific. But every time I tried to write the pitch and SAY that the book focused on this topic, I realized that I didn't write the story that way. In fact, the more I analyzed my book, the more I saw that my book didn't stand out from the other books on the shelves. So I'm going to add some scenes, re-write the bland scenes, and add some valuable substance to the characters and their reactions to the events that come to pass.

Here's a question for you (if you read YA Fiction): what is your favorite YA book/series, and why? What makes that book/series stand out when compared to the wide variety of books out there for young adult readers?

This weekend, I started to re-vamp my own efforts to move forward in my career. I joined a writing group. The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, to be exact. They have an annual conference that I'm going to attend this fall, and I realized a while back that I need to get involved in a critique group. And not just for my own work. I edit my own manuscripts better when I actively participate in critique groups. When I go out of my way to help other writers, I learn from their styles, their well-written passages, and those areas of their manuscripts that need some polish.

Another question: are you involved in an official or unofficial writers' group? Does it help?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guest Post from Danny Oertli

This is a guest post from my friend Danny Oertli. He's a musician from Colorado, and he's been working with Compassion International, my Charity of the Month, for fifteen years.

I can still hear the song in my head even though it’s been almost 30 years. Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy, singing Who Will Save the Children. I was in elementary school and away at summer camp. The lights were down in the camp chapel and a video of children living in poverty was being projected on a tiny screen. Phil and Randy were providing a soundtrack that reached deep into my soul. I knew I wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how.

Years later, my family moved to Colorado Springs. Each day, I drove by the Compassion International Office building and often remembered those images and that song. God was continuing to grow the seed He had planted in my heart.

In college, I went to a 4th of July concert by an artist named Bruce Carroll. Bruce spoke of his involvement with Compassion and challenged the audience to sponsor a child. I made my way back to the table, saw a packet with a picture of a little boy wearing a shirt that said feminine gymnastics. I figured any boy wearing a shirt like that, needed some help. So, I filled out the form and started sponsoring Andualem from Ethiopia.

Many years have passed. Andualem is no longer a skinny kid in a funny shirt. He’s a college graduate. Andualem not only provides for his children, but also for many of his family members who live near him. Most importantly, Andualem knows Jesus as his savior as a result of the guidance and teaching he received at his Compassion project.

It all began with a song. The song was the seed God planted in my heart so long ago at summer camp. That seed has grown, and for nearly 15 years, I’ve been an advocate for the ministry of Compassion International. At each of my concerts, I tell audiences of how Compassion not only provides food, clothing, and medical attention, but more importantly, Compassion exists to tell these kids about Jesus. This message of hope tells the precious childrwn they are worth something, that a King loves them and has plans for them, and that poverty cannot hold them down.

I’m honored to work alongside a ministry with the impeccable integrity of Compassion. My prayer is that you’ll sponsor a child and change their life, not just for today, but for all of eternity.

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I'd like to thank Danny for taking the time to put this post together. And again, I ask that you consider donating to Compassion International or one of the other charities in the sidebar.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Charity of the Month: Compassion International

I've sponsored a child through Compassion International for more than five years. For every contribution, more than 80% of the donation is given directly to the programs that need them most. And if you've sponsored a child, then that monthly contribution goes directly to that child. They help many children in third-world countries, feeding them, sending them to school, and they've even been able to help adults find work so that the children don't have to earn money for the family.

Whenever an earthquake or tsunami hits in a country where they work, they send aid, raise money for relief, and bring in extra food an medical supplies for the community. And if the child you sponsor lives in an affected area, they'll keep you posted on how that child and their family is doing throughout the process of recovering from the crisis.

More than that, Compassion has a great AIDS relief program. So please consider sponsoring a child for $38 a month, or at least give a small donation to help a community in need.

The website is compassion.com.