Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Not a ton to share today -- it's been a busy morning.  Some things:

1.  The 24 winners of ON THE BLOCK will be notified by email on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2.  If you do not receive an email from me (facelesswords(at), then you are not a winner.  Advice: make sure I'm in your address book, to avoid the nasty spam monsters.

2.  The 24 winning entries will post on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6.  That's ONE WEEK FROM TODAY!  Critiquing may begin immediately.  (I will post all the guidelines next week.)

3.  ON THE BLOCK will take place on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10.  Each entry will go live for 10 minutes, and you'll know ahead of time when everything's going to post, so you'll be able to keep an eye on your favorites.

That's the big stuff!  The "me" stuff is that I've got 8 more chapters on this round of revisions.  (Which is why you haven't seen me much--I've been deep in a revision hole, so that I could meet my self-imposed deadline.  Which happens to be Monday.)

All right, then!  Spread the word about ON THE BLOCK -- it's going to be a fun ride!  (Also, I'll be live-tweeting on Tuesday, so that'll be fun, too.)

Have a glorious weekend!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Well, I almost made it through an entire week of not-being-home-at-night.  Last night, I just couldn't handle another evening of not being showered and in my jammies by 7:30.  (That's just who I am.  It works especially well in the winter, when we've got cozy fires in the hearth.)  So I stayed home from ballet class and worked on revisions.

I guess I'm a homebody in general, which drives Mr. A mildly mad, considering he'd be happy to travel the world.  Isn't that a sort of writerly thing, though?  Especially when we're in the midst of an exhilarating draft (well, okay, I don't have those, but some of you do) or intense revisions or are working to a deadline--there's just nothing so wonderful as curling up in a favorite spot and playing with words.

Mind you, sometimes "favorite spot" extends to "local coffee shop" or "quiet corner in the library", but overall, it's the leave-me-alone-and-don't-ask-me-to-go-anywhere-because-I'm-writing that seems to be a hallmark of our kind.

Anyway.  After three consecutive evenings of chorus rehearsal, ballet class, and a theatre performance respectively, I needed my evening-in-jammie-pants.  And it was productive, so I'm happy.

This revision round has been going remarkably well, too--up until 2 days ago, when I got stuck for the first time.  Not bad, considering I was already on chapter 29, but frustrating, because I was sort of liking the experience of, well, revising-without-getting-stuck.  I officially unstuck myself yesterday afternoon, though, so all is well.

 I was grateful to receive feedback from 2 more of my wonderful readers this week, and their responses have got me on track and inspired for my second pass through this revision round.  (May I just say that I have these AMAZING PEOPLE who read my stuff?  I'm so blessed!)

In thinking through where I'm going with my current chapter this morning (while putting on make-up--because brainless activities lend themselves to this sort of thing), though, I think I've got another small snag to work out.  It's not as tricky as the one I just worked through, but it still makes me go "ugh".  I'm to the point where I just want this project to be shiny and finished.  Time to hunker down!

Except, I've got another night out on my agenda--Mr. A and I are going to a ballet performance.  (Yes! He is coming with me to the ballet for the second time.  Do you feel the earth trembling?)  That means striving for a super productive afternoon, so that I can stop what I'm doing and feel good about it.  I know you know what I mean!

You might also want to know that I have chosen the 24 winners for ON THE BLOCK.  Whew!  At the very end, I found myself going back and forth between this "maybe" and that, trying to decide which of the remaining maybes needed to be yeses.  It came down to that slight stomach drop that said, "Yeah, I'm resonating with this one."  I'll talk more about this process once the winners have received their notice (November 2).

And that's it from my end!  To all my jammie-loving writerly colleagues: have a wonderful, comfy weekend!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On the Block: Our Lovely Lurking Editors!

In addition to the fast-paced bidding, On the Block will also include LURKING EDITORS, who will be skulking about, reading through the entries.  If they see anything they like, they will leave lurky editorial feedback!  So once the winning entries go live (November 6), keep your eye out for feedback from these four sneaky lurkers:

Gabrielle Harbowy
Dragon Moon Press

Gabrielle Harbowy has edited for publishers such as Pyr, Lambda Literary, and Circlet Press. She is the managing editor at Dragon Moon Press and a submissions editor at the Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine. With Ed Greenwood, she co-edited the award-nominated When the Hero Comes Home anthology series, and their next anthology endeavor is Women in Practical Armor, forthcoming from Evil Girlfriend Media. Her short fiction can be found in anthologies, including Carbide Tipped Pens from Tor, and her first novel is forthcoming from Paizo.

Peter Senftleben
Kensington Books

Peter Senftleben is an associate editor at Kensington Books, where he is building his own varied and distinguished list. He joined Kensington in 2006 after sharpening his editorial skills and red pencil while working at literary agencies. A graduate of Tulane University with a degree in chemical engineering and math (yes, math), Peter occasionally indulges the numbers side of his brain with a challenging Sudoku puzzle or by baking, but he can more often be seen watching trashy television shows.

Peter is currently acquiring many types of fiction; his interests include: mysteries, thrillers, mainstream and women’s fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal fiction, all subgenres of romance, gay fiction, and young adult novels with crossover potential. Peter is often drawn to distinctive voices, stunning writing, realistic characters, and stories that will make him LOL (literally), cry in public, scare the bejeezus out of him, or engage him so deeply that he skips meals. He does not want to see anything with terrorists of any kind.

Some recent releases include:

DANGEROUSLY DARK by Colette London (October 2015)

A MEASURE OF HAPPINESS by Lorrie Thomson (September 2015)

SUCH A DANCE by Kate McMurray (October 2015)

LITTLE GIRLS by Ronald Malfi (July 2015)

Lydia Sharp
Entangled Publishing

Lydia Sharp is an editor for Entangled Publishing and assistant to the executive editorial director Stacy Abrams. She is also a short fiction author and YA novelist represented by Laura Bradford at the Bradford Literary Agency

Over the years, Lydia has been a regular contributor to several writing and publishing industry sites, including the award-winning Writer Unboxed. Since joining the Entangled editorial team, she has had the privilege of working with some very talented authors in a variety of genres and reading categories. 

When not completely immersed in a book, Lydia binges on Netflix, pines for Fall, and hosts mad tea parties in Wonderland. Follow on Twitter @lydia_sharp. Here is a list of featured titles I've edited either as the main editor or as the assistant editor to Stacy Abrams:

CINDERELLA'S SHOES by Shonna Slayton, YA historical fantasy (Entangled Teen, October 2015), assistant editor

RED by Alyxandra Harvey, YA paranormal (Entangled Teen, March 2015), assistant editor

LOVELY VICIOUS by Sara Wolf, YA contemporary (Entangled Teen, upcoming 2016), assistant editor

SCARDUST by Suzanne van Rooyen, NA sci-fi (Entangled Embrace, upcoming 2016), editor

HEAD OVER HEELS FOR THE BOSS by Susan Meier, contemporary romance (Entangled Bliss, September 2015), assistant editor

WEDDING DATE FOR HIRE by Jennifer Shirk, contemporary romance (Entangled Bliss, October 2015), assistant editor

HIS MILLIONAIRE MAID by Coleen Kwan, contemporary romance (Entangled Lovestruck, July 2015), assistant editor

BEST FRIENDS WITH THE BILLIONAIRE by Coleen Kwan, contemporary romance (Entangled Indulgence, upcoming 2016), editor

Alison Weiss
Sky Pony Press

Alison Weiss is an editor at Sky Pony Press. Her focus is chapter books through YA. She’s especially eager to find a middle grade with a cozy feel, and a voice-driven, sweeping, romantic YA. She’s worked with New York Times best-selling author Jessica Verday (Of Monsters and Madness), Agatha Award winner Penny Warner (The Code Busters Club series), YALSA-award winning Sarah Cross (Kill Me Softly and Tear You Apart), ITW Award Finalist Kristen Lippert-Martin (Tabula Rasa), Mike A. Lancaster, Kristina McBride, Jessica Taylor, Amalie Howard, and Sarah McGuire, among others. She also assisted on Christopher Myers's H.O.R.S.E., which won a 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and the 2014 Odyssey Award. Follow her on Twitter @alioop7.

Some releases:

AMITY by Micol Ostow (August 2014 Egmont USA)

TABULA RASA by Kristen Lippert-Martin (September 2014, Egmont USA)

TEAR YOU APART by Sarah Cross (January 2015, Egmont USA)

VALIANT by Sarah McGuire (April 2015, Egmont USA)

THE ALMOST GIRL by Amalie Howard (March 2016)

THE FALLEN PRINCE by Amalie Howard (April 2016)

WANDERING WILD by Jessica Taylor (May 2016)

A MILLION TIMES GOODNIGHT by Kristina McBride (July 2016)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Yesterday evening, Mr. A asked, "How'd your writing go today?"

"Fine," I said.  "I'm on chapter 19."

"How are you moving through this so fast?" he asked.

Funny.  "Fast" is relative, but I know what he means.  He's seen me struggle through revisions in the past--he knows what it's like to enter a room and find a wife in the midst of plot angst.  Despite the fact that I adore revising manuscripts, it can sometimes be a fairly teeth-grinding experience, as so many of you know.

This one's different.  You likely remember my near-constant railing against the Draft From Hell, which I started over a year ago and muscled my way through, coming to full-stop about two-thirds of the way and STARTING OVER AT THE BEGINNING.

It was painstaking. Brutal.  But I think that, in the end, the plot was stronger for it.  So there's that.  I don't have any broken plot places slowing me down.

For another thing, thanks to brilliant notes from Danielle and the insight of several readers, I know exactly what I need to do right now.  I've already figured out the one little snag that appeared when I changed something about a main character (thanks, Danielle ;) ), so nothing is twisting me in knots.  Every time I get to a scene that needs to be reworked, I just...rework it.

Mind you, this isn't effortless.  But it really is moving along at a nice, chuggy pace--because I know where I'm going.  And I guess that, from the outside, it looks "fast".

I've got a bit more heavy lifting to do in some upcoming chapters, but it's still with the full knowledge of what has to occur.  So it doesn't feel particularly daunting.  And, hey--I like this!  I like feeling so confident about the direction of these revisions, and I like hearing my husband ask me how I'm moving so fast.

Yep.  Feels good.

I know there are many of you out there who hate revising, who live and breathe for the glorious first draft, when words flow like wine and characters jump off the page to daily embrace you.  But, oh, let me encourage you to view revisions as what they truly are--the means to bring real magic and life into your raw material.  The chance to mold and nudge and tweak and BEAUTIFY what you've done.

A potter can't create anything on an empty wheel.  But give him that lump of clay -- that "first draft" of his creation -- and watch him shine.

Truly, it's exhilarating.  You already know your characters; you've already created your world.  So now you get to walk among everyone and really get to know them and their motivations and their desires and the WHY of everything (because a story without the WHY won't make sense).  And every time you go back to a scene to rewrite or add or subtract, you're in familiar territory, like returning to the house of an old friend.  You belong there, and you are welcomed.  And, because you are the creator of the story, you can do whatever you want to do to make it better.

It's not "homework" and it's not "drudgery" and it's certainly not "penance" (though some days it might admittedly feel that way).  It's the heart and soul of writing a good novel.  It's the place where all the truly good things happen.  Things click.  Character motivations float to the top (as in, "Why didn't I see this before?) (the answer to which is probably, "I was too drunk on the nectar of first drafting").  Your world comes into focus.  Superfluous words die a hasty death.

And, if you're really moving in the right direction, brilliance happens.

So, then.  If you're a revisions-hater, try looking at things differently.  You will find so much more joy in the process if you do.  And the more experienced you've become, the more you will enjoy the revisions, because, well, you'll know what you're doing.

Onward, word soldiers!  And if you're revising right now--or avoiding revising because of unfettered loathing--take a deep breath and dive in, remembering what I've told you about the magic.  It's there for you to find!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

On the Block: Our Fabulous Agents!

The great bidding war is less than a month away!  Here are our Fabulous Fourteen, a little more up close and personal:

Sally Apokedak (Sally Apokedak)

I really want to see some MG sci-fi. And if your main character is a boy or girl Cinderella-type that will be just about perfect. I'm a sucker for the Anne Shirleys and the Harry Potters of the world.

Danielle Burby (Hannigan Salky Getzler)

I'm looking for writing that cannot be denied and at least one concept that slaps me across the face and forces me to pay attention. The perfect entry would be so energizing that it could take the place of my morning coffee, so engrossing that I would stop peering out the window wondering why I don't see fall foliage, and so absorbing that I'll forget about the chocolate bar that I just unwrapped. Bonus points if I'm so entertained by the read that I forget to leave the office at the end of the day. Those are the kinds of manuscripts that I go to war for.

Danielle Chiotti (Upstart Crow)

I'll be looking for YA and MG stories that make me sit up and take notice--stories that dare to be different, that are setting the next trend, not following current ones.

Josh Getzler (Hannigan Salky Getzler)

I'm looking to beat Brooks. That's all. Just beat Brooks. Wait--Brooks isn't IN? Then I WIN! (Suck it, Brooks!)

No, no. I'm looking for meaty historical fiction and sassy women protags. Not fantasy, not science fiction. Teach me something about a place. If you feel like killing someone in the process, so much the better!

Pam Howell (D4EO)

Tricia Lawrence (Erin Murphy)

I am calling 2015-2016 the years of the novel. I need more. And I’m hungry for anything that could sit on a shelf next to Laura Ruby’s BONE GAP for YA, or Alice Hoffman’s NIGHTBIRD for MG or even N.K. Jemisin’s DREAMBLOOD series, which is adult, but write me something like that (similar to Renee Ahdieh’s THE WRATH & THE DAWN or Sabaa Tahir’s EMBER IN THE ASHES), and I’m a happy agent.

 Lauren MacLeod (Strothman)

I have two goals for the On The Block auction: 1). Find books with a really amazing voice-- this is absolutely the hardest thing to teach, so this is the bit of innate talent I'm always hoping to discover and 2). Winning. I mean, obviously. With the notable exception of bowling-- for which I lack even the most basic talent, something I've finally made my peace with--I cannot compete in anything without engendering my highly competitive side. This is both why I'm a good agent and why my husband will not play Jenga with me anymore.

  Victoria Marini (Gelfman Schneider)

(Note:  Victoria will not be bidding during the On the Block auction, due to a conflict.  However, she will be lurking on the blog and reading entries!)

Ammi-Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy)

What am I hoping to find? More than anything, a manuscript that ties me to the railroad tracks and leaves me there screaming, unable to move or turn away. That book I just can’t put down. 'Nuff said!

Tamar Rydzinski (Laura Dail)

Jennifer Udden (Donald Maass)

Rena Rossner (Deborah Harris)

I spend most of my time in worlds other than my own - historical, fantastical, or other-worldly - and that's usually what I look for as an agent (in Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult and Adult Fiction) - a book that can successfully transport me to a fully realized new place and/or time (and preferably as far away from my 5 crazy kids as possible.) All queries must pass muster with my pug, Pablo who is part-Neruda part-Picasso in his sensibilities (like him, I'm a sucker for beautiful language and art.)

  Caryn Wiseman (Andrea Brown)

Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson)

As always, I'm looking for manuscripts (YA in particular) that keep me reading late into the night, long past when I should be asleep so that I can barely drag my butt out of bed in the morning.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Fricassee (Battle of the Critiques)

Battle of the Critiques

Anyone who has sent out a manuscript to a group of readers (which may or may not include your agent) knows what it feels like when those critiques start to roll in.  Each one that lands in your mailbox makes your stomach do this weird, twisty thing that's a combination of excitement and dread.  You're dying for the feedback, but you're not too excited to have your work's flaws highlighted in lime green for all the world to see.

Okay, it's not all the world.  But it can sort of feel that big.

The collective wisdom of the critiques--assuming you're sending them to the people who should be reading you--can either gently or not-so-gently open your eyes to inherent flaws in your story.  A gaping plot hole that you might have missed will be easily spotted by those who've never read the story before.  A protagonist who does a big Thing without having a believable motivation is going to be crucified by those who just aren't buying it.  Good readers will ask questions like, "Why is she doing this right now?" and "Could this have believably happened in the time frame you've outlined here?" and "What the heck did he do that for?"

And, too, there's the ever-useful "Huh?"  I've used it myself.  Sometimes it's just that the reader missed something she shouldn't have.  But more often than not, it means "this thing you just wrote makes absolutely no sense and I'm not even sure how to address it".

I see you nodding.

As your writing matures, the nature of the critiques shifts.  It's likely you've learned, at some point, how to avoid plot holes, and how to write dialogue that doesn't sound like Lord of the Rings fan fiction.  Your critique partners will pull out things that are more subtle, like a protagonist whose arc isn't strong enough, a supporting character who doesn't add anything to the story, or information that is being shared too early or too late.

The key to knowing which advice to hold onto is twofold: 1) You need to be hearing it from more than one person, and 2) It needs to resonate with you and with your vision for your story.

So, if one person says "Ed the Janitor has no real purpose in the story, and I think you should delete him", and five people say, "Ed the Janitor is my favorite supporting character", then probably Ed's role in the story is safe.  But if more than one critique partner is pointing out the inherent weaknesses in Ed's character, then you need to listen.

It takes an open heart--a combination of vulnerability and teachability--to be able to receive what people are saying so that you can then move toward allowing it to resonate with your story.  That's when you start asking questions like, "Okay, what does Ed really accomplish?  Do I need him?  Is that scene in chapter 12--the one I love so much that it's going to be engraved upon my tombstone--really adding to the plot?"

Those questions can be painful!  But so it goes.  As a general rule, if more than one set of eyeballs sees the same problem, YOU'D BETTER PAY ATTENTION.

You probably know all this already.  I certainly know it.

So you can imagine my reaction when, earlier this week, I received two critiques on the same day that were polar opposites.

I'm talking, there is no way that these two people read the same story.  

Reader #1:  "...spellbound and incredibly invested in the characters"
Reader #2:  "I had no sense of any of the characters...there was nothing to like about them."

Reader #1: "I had a hard time putting the book down and I feel like you hit all the really big moments beautifully."
Reader #2:  "...there was nothing to hook me..."

Now, before you make the assumption that Reader #1 was my mom--she wasn't.  Both of these readers are highly qualified to critique a manuscript.  Both are talented and experienced.  Both are honest and forthright.  

Reader #1 went on to point out (beautifully) all the areas she felt needed work (I agreed with every single one).  So it wasn't all cotton candy and fairy wings, for sure.  And Reader #2 made it clear that she was this level of honest because of our relationship and her belief in my abilities.

Meanwhile, my head kept spinning.  Counterclockwise, rapidly.

So I sent a mildly frantic message to Reader #3, asking if she had time to read my first chapter and tell me everything she hated about it.  (Yes, those were my exact words. I wanted all the ugly up front.)  This reader is also highly qualified and experienced.  And knows how to be brutally honest.

Reader #2: "The biggest problem I found was no real worldbuilding."
Reader #3:  "Your world is solid...but almost too detailed."

So I did what I always do when I don't know what's going on -- I asked Jodi Meadows, who is bossy and likes to always be right.

Her response?  "It's probably a good sign, actually."

I had no idea what she meant.

So she clarified, and it made sense:  People are having different reactions.  They're not all pointing to one inherent flaw, like a broken plot or a superfluous character.  They are reading the same words and seeing different things.  Some of them pointed out similar flaws (like too much telling when I should be showing, or a lack of clear motivation for my main character), but there was no single, enormous flaw that ALL or MOST readers have pointed out.  (Others have read, too, besides these three.)

Know what's most encouraging of all?  I am incredibly motivated to revise this based on ALL the feedback, including the heart-knotting response from Reader #2.  Which speaks well for my ability to get slammed with conflicting (to a high degree!) critique and to move on quickly.  Already, I've done work on the first chapter with which I'm really happy.  As in, I am eager to pull it out this morning to continue fine-tuning.

Honestly, I'm sitting here thinking, Who am I?  I'm so thankful to be not only emotionally stable this morning, but incredibly excited to write today!

Because, oh, this story.  It's on the cusp of becoming what I dreamed it would.  And I'm digging in and not letting up until I'm finished.

Reader #1: Thank you for your incredible support and brilliant insight.  You rooted for me all the way through the first draft, and you're still working your magic.  It is my intention not to let you down.

Reader #2:  Thank you for your courage, and for honoring me with raw words that you self-admittedly would not have sent to someone with whom you didn't have a relationship.  Thank you for loving me instead of fearing to offend me.  Because of you, I have discovered within myself depths that I didn't know existed.  And that's no small thing.

Reader #3:  Thank you for rescuing me!  And for your incredibly thoughtful and encouraging critique.  I covet your eyes on my work, because they've always produced good things.  You are kind, you are gifted, and you are appreciated.

Jodi:  You are bossy and you are beautiful.  And you, my very first critique partner, have walked me all the way through this journey--with grace, selflessness, wisdom, and humor.  You taught me that I could grow wings and fly.  And you're still teaching me.

To everyone:  We are all part of the same circle.  May you learn from me today as I continue to learn from those around me--and may you go on to share what you've learned with others.

And keep writing, no matter what falls down around you!

Happy weekend, all.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Fricassee (When Friends Stop Asking)


Yesterday at Whole Foods, I bumped into a friend of mine whom I don't see very often.  I'm really fond of this guy--he's warm, passionate, quirky, and he and his wife sell the most amazing food at our local farmer's market every Saturday.

I've known him for almost a decade.  We go to the same church, and I first met him when he sang in a special choir that I was asked to conduct one Easter.  The funny part was that, for several years afterward, I would pass him in the hallway, and he would say hello and call me by name--and I didn't know who he was.

Because let's be honest.  When you run a handful of rehearsals and a couple of performances for a group of thirty or so people, you don't exactly remember all their faces, let alone learn their names.  It was actually Mr. A who finally said to me, "He sang with us!"

After that, I made a concerted effort to remember my new friend's name, and the rest is history.  He's a peripheral friend, not someone in my closest circle of influence.  But I treasure him, because he's one of those people who always makes you feel like you matter.

Almost five years ago, when I first signed with my agent, he was especially encouraging and supportive.  Whenever I ran into him (which was often at Whole Foods), he would ask me how things were going with my writing.  As in, every time.  He was interested, and he knew it was important to me.  He's a creative type, too, so he "gets" that part of me.  He was rooting for me to sell that first book, to get things moving.

Of course, I never had anything exciting to tell him.  Still, he kept asking, and kept offering support.

Yesterday in Whole Foods, he didn't ask me.  I wasn't surprised, because he hadn't asked for quite some time.  In fact, it's a relief to not have to continue to say things like, "Oh, we've got another book out there right now, so I'm just waiting."

Such a relief.  Seriously.

But the absence is glaring.  This man always asked.  No matter what else we were talking about--no matter where we happened to see each other.  I could count on him to always touch base with me on my writing.  In his own way, he was walking along with me on my journey.  I deeply appreciated it.  But at this point, it's much easier--much less painful--that he doesn't ask.

He's not the only one.  As time has passed, other friends have fallen gently silent.  And why wouldn't they?  After a while, it becomes awkward to keep asking the same questions--and getting the same answers.

No, I haven't sold a book yet.  End of story.

And this, folks, is the quiet valley through which you've got to push if you want to keep going.  There are no cheering crowds.  There's no one asking to interview you (those requests have died away, too), no one following you, no one insisting that you will get your break soon.  And the ugly truth is that they've stopped believing.  (And, because these are decent folks, they would never say that to you.)

And it doesn't matter.  It's not pretty, but it doesn't matter.  Because when you get to this point, you have to press on.  Despite everything.

Despite, perhaps, having stopped believing yourself.  Somewhere along the way, it stops being about the believing, and is only about the doing.  Writing because that's what you do.  Telling stories because they're in your soul, and you've worked so hard and so long to write them well, and others have confirmed that, yes, you actually have learned to turn a phrase or two, and, dad-gummit, you're not going to stop writing just because your dreams haven't come true.

Just because your dreams aren't even there anymore.

No.  It's way beyond dream-chasing.  It's set-your-jaw, sit down, take a deep breath, WRITE.  It's meeting folks you know and love, and not thinking twice when they don't ask you if you've sold anything.  (And if someone does ask about your writing? You don't have an emotional break-down.  And you don't feel like a failure, either.)

Mine was clearly never meant to be an exciting, holy-cow-her-agent-sold-the-triology-in-just-2-weeks! story.  That's not what I have to offer you.  And it's a good thing, because those fast-success stories aren't the norm.  We just hear about them a lot because, well, they're exciting.  And people vomit them out, and we slurp them up, and our spirits long for a similar story.

Heck, even sold-in-two-months is exciting.  Or sold-in-six-months.  Or her-first-book-didn't-sell-but-her-second-book-sold-in-a-week.

You get the idea.

The only way to keep going is to move past all that.  And if my role in all this is to be an example to you of what it means to JUST KEEP GOING, then I embrace that.  One of the things that has kept me going during the difficult times is remembering that you are watching me.  That you need me to carry the banner so that we can walk the walk together.

That's what I'm doing.

Press on through the hard times.  Press on when friends fall silent.  It's about you and your writing.  It's about determination and dedication and stubbornness.  It's about rising above everything -- everything -- and continuing to write.

And one day, I'll bump into my sweet friend at Whole Foods or the farmer's market or church, and I will exclaim, "Guess what!" What a moment that will be.