The Light of Chicago

The night can mean different things to everyone. To some it is a peaceful time where part of the day dies and everything drifts off to sleep. To others it is a time of terror where monsters born in shadow hide waiting to strike. To a few it is a time of life; with the sun gone they are just waking up and eager to come alive under the stars.

It is in the night when the sound of a footstep against grass, pavement, or stone can incite feelings of trepidation, excitement, or remind one of a lullaby. It is in the night when the brush of wind can slow a heartbeat or set it to racing. It is in the night when distant sounds feel like lost memories that can’t be reached. It is in the night when the stars shine and moon looks down on the earth as the sun takes away its warmth. The night is the time when people come together or drift apart.

It was just last night Annabel looked out her window to see the sky. Her heart was being crushed under burdens and sorrows, and she was not sure how to go on. In the sky she saw the stars, the moon, and a great light reaching to her from far away. It was a light so great it pushed the blue of the night to a purple, to a pink, and never once faded. The light was, in fact, from many lights, the same lights which bring the city of Chicago to life, and on that night, they kept Annabel from taking her own.

Dreams to Reality – My Trip to Space (day 3)

Do I really want to write another “dreams to reality” post so quickly? No…I would rather post a quote or song or one of those small pieces of writing I like to do, but here I am sitting in front of my computer and about to write a post. Nothing has happened yet regarding my query letter (not surprised since it’s been three whole days), but I learned something about perspective today.

I visited NASA today (hence the space title) and while the science of space doesn’t interest me much (don’t get me wrong, the beauty of it does!), I feel as if I did learn something. I kept watching these interviews and quotes from astronauts and several of them expressed the same idea; in space border lines don’t exist. They couldn’t tell one country from the next (which, sadly, (side note) many people can’t do while looking at a map), and they thought it was beautiful. Countries became the world, and ethnicities became people, wouldn’t it be great if we could all believe that?

There is a giant space ship orbiting around earth right now which was built with the technologies of several countries, including Russia and America. The space race started with those two countries ready to blow the world to pieces in a nuclear war, and they got close enough to have fingers hovering over the buttons. But here we are today, 2012, and they are working together in space, the very thing they competed against only a few decades ago. Space must have an incredible power to bring people together, to let them see how big the world is and how small they are.

Space can bring people together while making them feel small, but small doesn’t have to mean insignificant. It was one man who took that first step on the moon, and before he did he was just a man, one person in a world filled with people. Sure Mr. Armstrong isn’t a “small” person now, now he means so much so many people. I’m sure his tiny step will be remembered for as long as the human race exists.

But what about the rest of the world then? Only one man can take the first step on the moon. Here is what I think, you don’t have to take that first step on the moon to have significance in someone’s life. I’ve moved a lot in the past four years (I should have blogged about that!), and every time I came to a new school it was a mini adventure. Where the people going to be nice? Would I make any friends? More than likely, me being a lurker introvert who likes to observe people, it would take me weeks (or months for me) to make friends. Most of the time the reaction was the same, “Oh so your knew? Where are you from?” these polite questions that gives the illusion of interest. These people wanted to know where I was from, but it usually ended there. But there was one man who didn’t do that. I don’t know him, but I wish I did.

I walked into class and sat in the front (I have a terrible eye site but hate glasses) and naturally most people hate sitting in the front, so I was sitting there by myself. Well this guy is talking to people and making new friends, and he sees me siting there. He smiles and I smile. Next thing I know, he is asking all the people he just met to move down so they can all sit to me. He introduces us all to each other and suddenly I have people to talk to. Sadly, he left the class the next day and I never saw him again, but I won’t forget what he did.

He was a small person. He was one guy in a class full of people, in a campus full of people, in a world full of people, but he did something significant to me. He didn’t need to walk on the moon, all he needed to do was say “hi”.

To me, it’s not about making history or leaving your name for all of time to know that makes you a big person; you can make yourself significant simply by being kind (or mean, I guess). I did that myself once a long time ago, before I moved. I showed in a 4-H group and was right on the money that day. I won nearly everything. But I felt horrible because my friend was moving away and this was her last show. She had showed as well as I did, but her coat wasn’t as good as mine, her animal wasn’t listening as well as mine; but she did amazing. So at the end of one class, I gave my blue ribbon to her because I felt she deserved first more than I did.

It was a kind thing to do, and I did it to make her feel special. Giving away my award felt better than earning it.

So my dream of getting a novel published may not be stepping on the moon big, but it’s big to me. I write because I have something to say, because I feel my characters deserve to be heard, and because I feel like people will learn something from my novels that can help them, no matter how small of a way that help might be.

I took a journey today, a journey to space, and I came back realizing it’s not space that matter so much as the people who make up earth and how kindly you can treat them.

Dreams to Reality – Day 1 (kind of)

Lets start with the traditional stuff, I’ve always wanted to be an author, I love writing and have been since I was nine, this is my dream, blah, blah blah… I’m not alone in this dream. Thousands, and I mean thousands, of people want to be an author. There are thousands of other dreams people can have and for each dream there are thousands of people who want it. 

So how do we dreamers achieve our dreams?

We try, and keep trying, and try some more. Me? I’m took that first huge step yesterday (I know, a day late for blogging), and when I say “first huge step” there are lots of steps before it. The way I see it, for writing, these are the biggest steps.

First:

You have to write the novel. You’ve have the idea, the characters, the world, but you are afraid of putting the words down on that page (Guess what, I’ve written nine novels and every time I worry I’m not doing the idea justice). It takes courage to start a novel, and determination to finish one.

One of the mistakes I made years back was trying to write more than one story at once. This is a terrible thing to do. There is a strong temptation to do this when you have a million ideas running through your head, but you’ve got to focus on one. It takes conviction to fight all those other ideas and voice off when you are working on a novel, but you have too.

Second:

Edit. This must be done, several times. First drafts can be scary bad, and need to be edited. If you don’t do this, not only could you be left with gaping plot holes, awkward dialogue, confusing descriptions, horrible grammar issues (characters who change names, appearances, gender…) but it shows a severe lack of dedication to your story and to this dream. If you can’t reread your story in order to edit it, odds are no one else will want to read it. No one write the perfect first draft, everyone edits, so don’t feel bad about those mistakes.

When editing, I have added entire characters or taken them out. I have extended scenes, deleted pages of writing, or changed huge plot lines. The point I’m making here is you have to be willing to change your story. You like what you wrote in the first draft, good, great, now you need to recognize some of it needs to be changed. Don’t be stuck on the “original idea” of something, let it flow and grow in what seems natural, even if that isn’t fitting your first plan. I have had characters all planed out, but when I write their personality, history, and relationships can change. You have to willing to edit your story, and change it when that would better the result. Editing takes dedication, time, and patients, but it needs to be done. I will edit my stories several times before considering showing it to someone.

Third:

Have other people read your work before you think about sending it out to an agent. You’ve edited it, now you need some fresh eyes to look at it.

Here is where things can grow difficult. Finding someone to read your stories is probably harder than writing the thing. Why? You need to find someone who reads what you are writing; being familiar with the genre will help them give you better advice. But you also need someone who is going to give you constructive criticism.

I sent my story Iron & Glass out to people (trusted people) hoping for advice and they are too busy to read it  (They are doing you a kindness by even trying to read it, don’t be mad at those people) or people who say, “I loved it! It was perfect!” No! No, it wasn’t perfect. Those people tell you they couldn’t even find a single grammar issue, so you know their words, while nice, don’t mean much.

My advice is this; find someone you are writing for. I didn’t come up with that on my own, but read it in Stephen King’s On Writing (amazing book, it recommend to all want to be authors). But really, you can’t please everyone, so don’t try. Find one person and write the story for them. I can’t explain it better than King himself, so read the book if you have the money (abebooks.com is a great place to buy cheap books!) Me, I’m lucky. I know the person I write for (there blog here, if you’re interested)

Fourth:

So now someone has read it over and given you suggestions (hopefully!) of various kinds, now it’s your job to consider everything they said, and reedit and reevaluate the story. Do you need to accept everything they said? No. Should you honestly consider and accept most of what they said? Probably. It’s a fine line between changing things that will help, changing too much because now you’re worried it’s wrong, and changing nothing because you think it’s perfect. This is why it’s good to have more than one opinion. Odds are if everyone is saying it needs fixing here or there it does. (Don’t get upset when people point out faults, and don’t get defensive. If you want to make it in any industry you need a thicker skin and more open mind than that).

Fifth:

Write, edit, and polish you query letter. Query letters are thee most evil thing in the world. Writing the story, editing it, changing it, those aren’t too bad, but condensing everything down to 300 words or less? That is evil. Writing a query is hard, frustrating, and time consuming. My advice? Read examples online, buy books on how to write them, edit them, don’t be afraid to change them, and tailor them to your agents. If you search online you will several “must do” rules that contradict each other. Pick your agent (which really should be its own step) and make your query fit to his or her specifications.

Sixth

Send out your query. You are never going to published (with an agent) if you don’t do this. You wrote the story, edited it, and wrote a query. All of that is for nothing if you can’t hit that terrifying “send” button.

I did this for the first time last night, and yeah it was horrible. I have little to no hope of hearing a response from the agent, and I have the six weeks date (November 13th) marked on my phone (meaning, that is when I can start pursing other agents). Hitting that send button was is hard; its just one click but I almost didn’t do it. Then I did, and it felt great. I wasn’t nervous excited, you know the feeling like you have to pee and throw up at the same time, I was oddly calm. I was at peace. It was an official declaration to myself that said; I am going to do this.

Seventh:

What comes after you get an agent? I wish I knew, and one day I will. I assume it means a lot more work than writing the book was. The book will need a publisher, self promotion, more editing (probably the biggest changes the book has undergone), book tours, blog tours, and who knows what else.

I’m looking to step seven, and I can’t reach it yet but I’m trying. This blog segment is all about trying to get there, and if it does well, all the steps that come after seven. I look forward to them.

If you have any questions about writing, or “my writing journey” feel free to ask me. I’m not an expert (and I won’t pretend to be), but I have been writing for years and am willing to help other who are looking for it.

I will keep this blog updated on my road from step six to seven, from turning my dream into a reality. I’ll still keep posting quotes and music and those short little stories too.

Iron & Glass

After editing my book over nine times, I am preparing to send out my manuscript to an agent! Yeah!–no. This is, more or less, the most terrifying thing I will ever do. I’m, traditionally, expecting a nice rejection letter, but it can’t help to be prepared to the best of my ability. For that reason, I am posting my query letter to my blog. If you have the time, please read it over and tell me what you think. Do you want to read the book now? Does it make since? What works and what doesn’t? I’ve spent hours on this thing and I still hate it. So please feel free to rip it into pieces, if you fancy that. 

Small note: I wrote this letter with a specific agent in mind (I have al list, I’m going down in order as the rejections pile up). This particular agent, I discovered in an interview, likes it when you compare you story to other novels. I know some do and some don’t but this one does, which is why it’s there. 

Thanks to anyone who reads this over, I am now in love with you (in a platonic internet sort of way). 

—–

Dear (Name withheld) 

Ballerina Calissa Delano Lavallee killed her mother in a car accident. Now that memory and lurking mysteries surface as new danger threatens to shatter her fragile world. 

Calissa has won every dancing competition she entered, but since her mother’s death she cannot land a pirouette. After Coach Caudle Professor recommends a break from dancing her life cannot be worse, until animals start stalking her. 

The animals turn from creepy to dangerous when she is almost killed by two strange creatures at a beach. She finds herself unwilling dragged into a world were Faeries are real, dangerous, and, for some reason, want her dead. Out of her league, she reluctantly accepts the help of two beautiful and possibly lethal boys who agree to protect her and her friends.

Her past and future become tangled and linked as her life starts to unravel. Battling with Faeries and forgiveness, loss and secrets, Calissa must search deep within herself and discover what it means to be human.

IRON & GLASS, a young adult novel consisting of 49,000 words, is a paranormal fantasy about the struggles of a sixteen-year-old ballerina and her two best friends. It offers twists and revelations, which will compel readers to turn the page.

IRON & GLASS is comparable to author Maggie Stiefvater with mature characters whose real world problems juxtapose their paranormal ones. Focusing heavily on characters over Faerie politics, it stands apart from works like The Iron King and Wicked Lovely.

I was a journalist for The Campus Compass newspaper, published in Hanford High’s newspaper, and won best of show at the Armada Fair with an invitation to show at state level. I am majoring in Journalism at Seminole State College, and working as an editor for The Creative Writing Institute. 

If you would like to consider IRON & GLASS, a full manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration, 

 

A Whisper and a Bang

Somehow and somewhere deep inside of her she knew this world wasn’t real. Maybe the reflective shine of everything gave away the secret, or the way the air seemed to shimmer and shake as if under heat. It smelled like pine trees and rain, but stars were falling from the sky and flowers grew from the ground with stems as wide as she was. A soft melody hung in the air like an old sent, the song tickled her mind like a memory she couldn’t quiet recall. It whispered for her to follow it, and so she went.

Leaves crunched under her naked feet as she walked. The melody grew louder, and a soft mist hugged the bottom of stems like a child to a mother. Deep in the mist sat a singing man. He wore a dark suit and his head was topped with deep purple hair. His eyes shone black but still managed to twinkle, his cheekbones cast dark shadows across his face. In his hands he held a small metal box with a red button on the top. His pale elegant fingers made it look beautiful. 

“Hello,” His voice sounded like a lullaby sung under a cold star-filled sky.

“You have a lovely voice,”

“Thank you,”

“Where am I?”

He looked at her, his head tilted to one side. A thin smile spread across his face, “You are at the end, and the start.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I am the end and the start.”

“The end and the start of what?” 

Falling stars gathered into his hair, and when he shook his head they fell around him like snow, “Of this world, that sky, those flowers, my song,” He smile pulled back into a small line of lips pressed tight together. 

“How?”

“With this,” He held up the small metal box with the red button, “With my box.”

“What does it do?”

“It has the power to destroy, and to create, like fire.”

“Destroy What? This world?” She looked around as the mist and stars, breathed in the pine and the rain.

“If I press this button,” His white thumb brushed against the red button, “This world would vanish in a heart beat. It would fade from time and memory leaving not a single trace. But,” the smile was back, “A new world would replace this space, perhaps a better one.”

“How can you live carrying so much power? How can anyone live here knowing you have it?”

“Is it so different from the world in which you dwell?”

“Yes! My world cannot be destroyed by a button.”

“No,” He looked down at this box, twirling it with long fingers, “Your world would take buttons, but they could destroy it nonetheless.”

“What do you mean?”

“You live, your world lives, on the precipice of destruction. You have buttons which control weapons and point them at your neighbors. A forefinger and a thumb could bring your world to its knees, and it would leave fire and poison and death in its wake. The question remains; how do you live with that?”

“I…I don’t think about it. It’s not going to happen.”

“It could, as quickly as this.” He moved his thumb over the red button and pressed it down. 

She watched as the stars dimmed and the mist cleared, an invisible force blew away the sent of pine and rain, the flowers withered and fell to the ground in large dead heaps. The dark man was starting to fade, his lips moved with a practice grace and he left a whispered promise in the air; “My world ended with a whisper, your world would end with bang.”