Quick Writing Update

Hey guys. Here’s a stream of consciousness writing update.

It’s really hard to stay motivated sometimes.

In May I took a break from writing for two weeks because we had friends and family in town and now I’m really struggling to jump back into it. My Beatles book has only been querying for a few months but the rejections (although an important part of the process) can be hard hits sometimes.

Not only that but I discovered that Disney Hyperion picked up a series a similar idea as the one that I’m currently working on. I don’t know if that means the market is good for mine, or if I’m SOL. Now, I’m trying to shape this book into something that can stand on it’s own two feet. It’s different enough that I’m confident to finish, but still feeling that pressure knowing I’m going to have competition right out of the gate.

I’ve just been thinking about the back end of publishing too hard and it’s effecting my art. I don’t want to write for a publisher. I want to write for me. But then, can I really feel successful even if nothing happens with my writing? I’d like to think that I would. My bookcase is already filling with manuscripts faster than I thought it would. Soon I’ll have an entire shelf of my own completed work. But still would be nice to share some of these stories with you guys.

My electrician surprised me the other day by asking me all about my writing. When he asked me if I could send him the link to “my shop” I sheepishly gave him the name of the anthology I was published in three years ago. People asking where they can buy my work is happening a lot more often. I’ve always considered at some point self publishing. Even for curiosity sakes.

I told my critique partner that if I were ever to self publish Love Me Do, it would do the absolute best as a radio-play type audiobook. I envision this as being it’s highest and most entertaining form. There’s a lot of music in it; Beatles, 50s, and even new, original songs. I think being able to hear the quips from a Lennon impersonator would be fabulous. I could do the narration and the main character Em. That really wouldn’t intimidate me. But anyway, not to get your hopes up about it, because to be able to bring exactly what I imagine to light would cost a lot in production. I would have to find some bang up impersonators AND an impersonator band. Figure out copyright and legality. All the actors and sound production and music to mix. It would just be a lot. Even though that’s probably the best form this story could take.

I wanted to cheer myself up, so I had a graphic designer help me with a book cover. Not for any other reason than to put the thing on my shelf and feel better about the hard two years that went into it.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I’m sure it’s not fun hearing about projects that are not available to read. I’ve had a lot of brainstorming over this blog and well, about you guys! I’ve been playing with some ideas. Ways to bring you into my writing world a lot more! A fun community to build!

So that’s all I want to say I guess, is thank you from my inky writerly heart for supporting me and reading what I have to say and letting me have a voice. I love you guys.

I CAN’T BELIEVE I FINISHED THE BOOK!

My heart is so full right now. I am thrilled beyond belief to announce that I have finished all the edits on my Beatles time travel book! If you’ve been following along at all, then you know I have been pouring my soul into this project, off and on for the past two years. Typing ‘The End’ feels both relieving and a little sad haha (which I did NOT expect to feel that way).

There are just SO many people that I need to thank for the completion of this book:

DAN for enduring the countless hours of my absence

MY KIDS for playing quietly on occasion and allowing Mommy “book time”.

MY MOM for calling me early in the morning just to demand to know what happens in the next chapter. (Making me feel like maybe this book isn’t the worst thing in the world!)

MY CP MERRILL for all the feedback, creative insight, advice and emotional support

LIZETHE and STORMIE for being terrific invested beta readers and encouraging me through the drudgery of editing

TAYLOR for watching my kids a couple of times so I could write

KATE FRIDRICKS for being my Liverpudlian eyes and ears and teaching me all things Scouse.

The wonderful BILL HARRY for being very, very kind and answering the oddest questions, sending his articles my way and sharing his incredibly precious memories of John Lennon.

JOHN, of course, for being such a freaking interesting and dynamic person to write about

And EVERYONE for their support, related memes, interest of any kind, reading this blog post lol

So I’ve already started the query process (aaaaaaaah). I don’t really know what will come of it, but it feels good to have another manuscript completed and on my shelf.

I Wrote a Novel in 30 DAYS

Hey so it just occurred to me that I haven’t even told you about the project I started for NaNoWriMo.

(If you haven’t heard me blabber on about NaNoWriMo yet and you don’t know what it is. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. All of these authors around the world commit to writing 50k words in the month of November. It’s a fun challenge. And I do it every year that I can.)

So let me introduce you to the new book I’ve been working on. Ready?

Drumroll…

Dun Dun dun DUN!

It’s an adult paranormal thriller called, “The Glass Box Town”. (working title but we’ll see). Here’s the cover I made for it once upon a time:

Having just stolen her father’s car, Hallie finds herself lost on a desert road. Then the unthinkable happens, a strange woman from nowhere hurls herself in front of the moving vehicle. When Hallie goes to an eerie small town for help, they accuse her of the woman’s murder and force her to stay. The longer she stays the more the town’s diabolical motives begin to unravel.

If you follow my work, you know I’ve been writing Rom Coms for the past… forever. So switching to this one was definitely intimidating. A bit out of the comfort zone, but in a good way.

I won NaNoWriMo even though I felt like I was losing my mind almost every day. I also made a short video on my NaNo journey if you haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet!

Stay tuned for more updates on this novel. And thanks for checkin’ in!

New Year’s Resolutions

I have this friend who posts her New Year’s resolutions on her blog and then UPDATES HER PROGRESS THROUGHOUT the year. Like, who is actually responsible and accountable like that? (And if that friend is reading this, you know who you are, you goal goddess).

So FINE. I guess I’ll JUST HAVE TO DO THE SAME. Maybe I’ll actually have some follow through motivation here.

I have a lot of ambitious ideas… And usually what happens when I have a lot of ambitious resolutions is that they don’t get resolutioned… SO, what I decided to do is to take all these dreams I have for 2021 and break them into a much smaller, more reasonable goal. Something so simple it just HAS to done. For me, this is a better recipe for success, especially considering how emotionally draining 2020 was.

Here are my 2021 ambitious dreams vs. the realistic goal:

THE DREAM: Spend the year putting my entire house together

Okay. I have lived in my new house for more than 10 months now… and yet it looks like I’ve lived here for ten days. There’s no artwork or decorations. We patched all the nail holes in the house… and then didn’t touch up the paint, so there’s literal white splotches all over my house. Random doodads have broken off the walls. Furniture still in its box that I haven’t assembled haha. Not to mention the big projects that Dan and I keep talking about. I don’t know why I just gave up putting my house together, I think maybe because of the pandemic?? And hardly anyone was visiting anymore? I don’t know!

THE GOAL: Make a list, do some of the things.

I’m going to walk around and make a COMPREHENSIVE INVENTORY on everything that needs to be done around the house, and then I’ll do one room at a time and pick the top two or three things to do in that room. And I’ll probably be doing that for the next few years or maybe as long as I’m living there. Going room to room and improving as best I can. That’s the only way I can keep my motivation, my sanity and my budget on track.

THE DREAM: find a sexy cardio exercise routine and get into shape

Classic New Years amiright?

THE GOAL: Make a habit of stretching every day, slowly build up a yoga routine

Okay… I really need to be honest with myself here. I want to be in shape, I want to take care of my body, but I know me. And I know that if I don’t start THIS slow, it’s not going to stick. I’ve tried to start an exercise routine many, many times. And I know yoga or tai chi is something that I would have the most interest in. It’s something I can do at home with the kids (even though at that point it will essentially be goat yoga). It just fits me the best. If I tell myself hey get up at five AM and run in the hundred-degree Arizona heat, it’s not going to happen. But if I tell myself, okay five minutes of stretching, I have a much better shot at establishing a habit, which is mostly what I need right now.

THE DREAM: find a cleaning routine and keep my house sparkling

Ahahahaha

THE GOAL: Clean for the 20 minutes the boys are in the bath

Last night, Dan bathed the kids and I ran downstairs and sped-cleaned the playroom. I was SHOCKED at how much I was able to get done while the boys were distracted! I told Daniel we ought to start doing this regularly and he said he would rather be the one cleaning HAHAHAHA Hey man! Either way! We could even switch off! We already routinely wash the boys… so if we made it a routine to speed-clean at the same time, I think we’d be surprised at how impactful those 20 minutes would become! Really!

THE DREAM: Query my Beatles Book in the spring. Have the first draft of my Paranormal Thriller finished by fall. Blog once a week. Publish a short story.

THE GOAL: … I just think I can do it…

I know I get a little carried away with writing … but I seriously think this is doable for me. I only have eight more chapters to clean on Love Me Do. It’s been through three or four beta readers and done well. (It’s always a SUPER GOOD sign when your betas pester YOU for more chapters vs. the other way around!) My NaNo project already has 50,000 words done, so I would say… maybe… 30-40k more? Maybe even for Camp NaNoWriMo in April?? I have a couple of short stories that I’m sitting on and working up the nerve to submit… I usually spend a week or two and knock out all my blog posts for the next few months (if you were wondering how I do it so “regularly”).

… I really think I can do it…

I’ll keep you updated. Every quarter, I’ll use the blog to check in with these goals (April, July, October…)

Super Quick Life Update: WE ARE BUYING A HOUSE!!!

NEW HOUSE:

Sorry, I’ve been MIA this month. Things have been super crazy since we’re BUYING OUR FIRST HOME!!

excited 2

I seriously am in love so hard. Sometimes when I think about it, I feel all blubbery and teary-eyed haha. It’s everything I wanted and then some! We are signing all the closing paperwork TODAY and I honestly couldn’t be more STUNNED/ECSTATIC.

excited 1

 

THE KIDS:

Has everyone else been like non-stop sick? Because holy moly. This month has been the WORST. We’re just barely getting over the flu and thanks, it only took us A COUPLE OF WEEKS.

 

THE WRITING:

Things have been slow as hell. This is the slowest I’ve written in years. I remember when I proudly wrote a breezy 2k a day. Now when I write two sentences, I have to stop to wipe my brow and binge watch a horrible reality show because my fingers are so tired. It’s been some rough stuff man. In November alone, I wrote 50k words. Then it took December, January, February to wheeze out 20k.

crawling

And it’s not without a reason… House hunting and house buying has become like a full-time job almost. It’s so much work and time! One other hilarious thing that has slowed me down, is I can’t get myself to stop reading my own book. Usually, when I draft I have a strict no-reading-back policy, but with this one, I’ve been pretty naughty. I’ll try to refer back to a scene ‘real quick’ and ‘hey this is kind of funny’. Suddenly 100 pages later, I’ve been sucked in and I just wasted my designated writing time. That’s a good sign though, right? I mean, I don’t know if anyone else will be turning pages, but I LOVE THIS RIDICULOUS BOOK OF MINE. AND GOSH DARNIT I AM DETERMINED TO FINISH THIS FREAKING DRAFT BEFORE I MOVE! AND I WILL! JUST YOU WAIT NAYSAYER!

(I can’t tell you too much about the book yet, but what I can tell you is that it’s a dark-comedy time-travel story about The Beatles.)

Stay tuned for more updates, book announcements, videos of the new house, so on and so forth.

Another Short Story Finds a Home

TAMELESS (1)

Hey. I haven’t had a chance to share this because I’ve been so busy with NaNo but I had another short story published. Which you can read for free online in the Salt Lily Magazine…

*PG13 warning* This story is a direct modern translation of a scene from Taming of the Shrew. Some of Shakespeare’s inappropriate jokes survived the translation. Plus some swears here and there.

Even if you don’t read the story, you still should check out Salt Lily Magazine. They often feature artists and musicians and just have really great content.

 

READ HERE:

NaNoWriMo 2019!

So I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Woot woot!!!! So excited for it too. I didn’t participate last year because ya know… newborns will do that to you. But back at it again with the lofty writing goals.

  • REAL QUICK If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is… It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Authors from all over the globe attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I’ve already been working on it for several days now.

Last time I did it I FREAKING CRUSHED IT. Finished my whole novel in THREE WEEKS. But I’m kind of a freak when it comes to writing soooo… Do I anticipate to do that again? Abso-freaking-lutely NOT. haha. For some reason (a reasonable reason) adding the second kid really slowed me down when it comes to drafting.

But I DID do 10k in a single day with both kids so… I could just do five of those and then… ugh. That makes me feel so tired I can’t even finish that sentence.

I’m doing a couple of things differently this year and I’m *intrigued* to see how they go.

One of the biggest differences is that I’m not going in sequential order. This is the 4th novel I’ve started and I’ve always strictly gone in order. Chapter One, Two, Three… But yeah, I’ve decided I’m not doing that this year. This time if there is a scene I’m really excited “to get to”, I’m just going to straight-up write it!

I’m also going to dabble in dictation. I’ve used it a little with outlining and blogging but never drafting. I think it would help with speed or situations where I can’t sit down and write, but I dunnnnoooo… my speech to text on both my phone and laptop are hilariously inaccurate. So if I do too much of it, I’m going to be rewriting my whole book in the editing room.

I also am going to vlog a little each day. *Try to* that is, so don’t hold me to it.

If the NaNo site fixed their links, you can see how I’m doing here:

https://nanowrimo.org/participants/val-manwill

 

A Spooky Writing Update

I went to that conference I said I was going to go to. And it was super helpful. Um, not in the way that I thought it would be though.

I had a critique workshop. And oh, boy. You know yours isn’t very good when everyone pauses before their critique and goes, “Okay, yeah… … so this one…”

critiqueaww

*Me, listening to their critiques with my hand on my chin.* Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yep. Okay. Perfect! I know exactly how to fix this.

*scoops entire manuscript off the desk and into the wastebasket underneath*

I’m kind of glad. From the beginning, I knew this had some really messy challenges. It was the first novel that I had ever formally finished and even though the premise is cool, it’s extremely difficult to pin down and write… and have it make any sense.

I spent the first day of the conference mourning the unpublishable mess I had scooped together, and then the next day of the conference pushed me in a really good direction. I realized that through all of the obsession over publishing I had completely abandoned my original dream (I couldn’t think of a less dramatic way to say it haha). That dream is to one day in my lifetime, have an entire bookcase full of my own printed-out manuscripts. I’ll always aspire to be traditionally published, but I have too many book ideas to be married to just one.

The fog lifted. The direction became clear. I NEED to start writing my next book IMMEDIATELY. That has been the obvious take away from both the conference… and also from being aggressively haunted…

haunted

Yeah, so, okay. There are muses. And then there is Lennon. I’ve already mentioned how pushy he is as a muse … it’s no joke. I COMPLETELY understand why there are THOUSANDS of books and movies (and Broadway plays even) that are all about him. Because honestly, once he picks you. You’re done. You’re writing something for him right then and there. Maybe that’s even how he continues to influence music. I mean, probably.

musician

I tried to read a book. A manuscript for my critique partner. And this imaginary Lennon-presence-thing would have none of it.

 

LENNON: Reading again, ay?

ME: Go away, John, this has nothing to do with you.

LENNON: Hmm, you’re right you know. How about this ol’ bookie that Cyn wrote about me, then?

ME: No, thanks.

LENNON: Let’s have a look…

ME: I already committed to—

LENNON: LET’S HAVE A LOOK THEN, SHALL WE!

 

So, whatever, I ended up switching mid-way through for one of the books that Cynthia Lennon wrote. (“John”) I read it in like a single day, because of this imaginary shotgun to the head. At the end of the book she mentions that John had once told Julian that if anything were to ever happen to him, he would send a white feather. So that anytime Julian saw a white feather he would know that ‘John was there and watching out for him’. Which I thought was a really nice sentiment.

OKAY UNTIL WHITE FEATHERS STARTED SPONTANEOUSLY POPPING UP ALL AROUND ME EVERY FREAKING DAY.

The first time, it was a cool anomaly. I was walking the boys to my neighbor’s house and there it was. A perfect pure white tail feather. I was ecstatic, because wow, what were the odds of finding a pure white feather the day after finishing that book? I took a picture even.

20190726_114437
awkward phone shadow bro

I began seeing white feathers every single day (still do btw). On the sidewalk, on my car, on the playground, even in the pool.

One time, we took the kids outside to play and I told my husband about how weird it was that I was finding these perfectly white feathers all over. He totally laughed at me. He said, “Okay, just because you have a little crush on John Lennon you think he’s trying to give you a sign or something…” I shrugged. Because, yeah, that was probably right. And I went inside the apartment to get the boys a drink of water…

My husband swears that right after our conversation, as soon as I shut the door behind myself, A WHITE FEATHER DROPPED FROM A BIRD AS IT FLEW OVERHEAD, RIGHT WHERE I HAD BEEN. And he got the heebie jeebies … and now he doesn’t make fun of me for it anymore…

But even after that, I was like, wow. Pretty funny coincidence…

Do I need to mention again how pushy this muse is?

John-being-cheeky-in-the-plane-the-beatles-41011791-497-322

This one day, I’m coming back from lunch with the boys. I get out of my car. Notice the feather. Haha, there’s my feather for the day. Cute. Still happening. I take another step. Another feather. Step. Feather. Step. Feather.

I freaking look up to see -THIS IS NOT A JOKE OR MADE UP STORY OR PRANK PULLED BY MY HUSBAND THIS IS A REAL THING THAT HAPPENED THE OTHER DAY – small white feathers were scattered on both sides of the pavement leading all the way up to my front door.

I slowly walk inside with my children. Turn the deadbolt. And call Ghostbusters.

Anyway, long story short, I started writing a book about John Lennon. So, that’s fun!

 

5 Reasons I’m Attending an Online Writer’s Conference

Guess who has two sore thumbs from drafting and is attending a writer’s conference?

 

Writer’s Clearinghouse is having their conference completely online. And oh man, I am here for it. Here are my top five reasons why:

#1 It’s a good ice breaker since I’ve never been to a conference before

If you are an itty bitty baby writer like me, everything seems very prestigious and scary. I don’t know why I haven’t tried to attend a conference yet. Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome or the crippling insecurity… (yeah, probably that).

Or going outside in general, honestly. I didn’t even know that was a thing that other writers did. What is a sun? You mean there’s a whole world on the other side of my laptop screen?

pug-1210025_960_720

#2 I can attend in my own comfy house

The idea of attending a Q&A with agents and editors while wearing secret pajama bottoms under a desk is exhilarating at best. Not to mention, being a mother of small children makes leaving my house MISSION FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE.

Recently, we moved the baby into his own room and had to get creative with our office space…

20190828_112338

Yes. That is actually a closet. I will be attending a writing conference in the comfort of my own closet.

#3 The networking is more personable

The faculty to attendee ratio is 6:1.

Granted, at a larger conference, you would have MORE industry professionals in attendance. But having a lot of time for personal feedback is pretty dang desirable. And you really get to know the faculty you’re working with.

Authors so often feel intimidated by literary agents that they forget that they’re “shopping” too. You want someone who is going to be the best fit for your book as well as your work style. For example, I’m interested in partnering with more of an editorial agent. That makes these workshops invaluable for me because I can get more of an idea of what and WHO I’m looking for.

And if you want to talk tactical efforts, I don’t think it would hurt to leave a lasting impression on only one agent. The publishing world is so tight-knit that it would only help you to be memorable. (Favorably, of course.)

#4 A free partial evaluation from Writer’s Clearinghouse is included

WCH

Yo. Not a sponsor. But I just really dig on this company, y’all. I’ve been in and out of the query trenches for a year now. AND THEM SLUSH PILE BLUES ARE NO JOKE. I’ve seen quite a few automated rejections in my day.

Writer’s Clearinghouse is an evaluation service done by former editors and agents. It’s designed to let you know how ‘publishable’ your book is. They score your manuscript in twenty different categories picking out your strengths and things that could be improved. (I’m both annoyingly pragmatic and an art educator, so the sight of a rubrics system fills me with such a giddy glee. TAKE THAT SUBJECTIVITY!)

The most delectable part of Writer’s Clearinghouse is that if your manuscript scores high, they will notify compatible agents about it. UM YES PLEASE!

If you are interested in that sort of thing, click HERE for more information.

And finally,

#5 I’m trying to make real, tangible investments into a dream

I have a hard time spending money on myself, so it took a while for me to bring myself to register. I mean, really. How dare I spend this much selfish money on myself, when I could have used it to buy 30 kids meals for my toddler? (…I only understand currency if I convert it into chicken nuggets.)

It was my husband who finally said, “We’re spending this money and we’re investing in YOU.”  And that sure is a true thing. My dream is worth it. It’s not stupid, it’s not irresponsible and it’s not impossible either. Especially if you take actual real steps toward it, instead of just saying you’re going to do it someday.

So, go and do the thing.

… And if the thing for you is this online conference, mention me. Maybe we’ll be in the same critique group together and you can cringe over my first ten pages. It will be so fun!