Back to School, Back to Writing!

After a very eventful summer, my highly-energetic five and seven year old kids are back in schoolKindergarten and second grade (Sigh!)so now I have plenty of time to focus on my writing. No excuses! Its not that I didnt spend time on writing over the summer, but I didnt have the large chunks of undisturbed time that I craved. (See the part about my highly-energetic kids.)

In June, I sent my YA manuscript off for a professional critique by Kelly Hashaway. It was money well-spent! She gave me so many great ideas, insights, and areas to cut/expand. Lets just say, after receiving her critique I had my work cut out for me. Using her comments as a road map, I spent every minute of my (very limited) free time revising my manuscript. The revision process took two solid months. After giving my manuscript to several friends and relatives to read and making a few more changes based on their comments and suggestions, I believe I have the closest thing to a polished manuscript that I can write.

Heres a sneak peek.

Title: Trail of Secrets

The Query Meat:

“It’s scary because it’s true.” Brynlei warms her hands inside the sleeves of her sweatshirt as she listens to the ghost story around the bonfire. The glossy pages of the Foxwoode Riding Academy brochure hadn’t mentioned anything about the girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. But while the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei begins to notice signs that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows. Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. Someone soon discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. When Brynlei finally uncovers the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she realizes the world is not as black and white as she once believed. Now she must choose whether to protect a valuable secret or save a life.

So, there it is. Now what do I do? Ive started researching agents and publishers that would be good matches for my book. Ive written a hook, identified several comparable titles, and written both a short and long synopsis of my book. Ive drafted query letters and begun the process of sending them out. To be completely honest, Ive already received a few rejections. But thats part of the deal, right? Now its time to grow some thick skin, buckle down, and focus on finding the perfect home for my book. I know it will be a big project involving waiting, never hearing back, and rejections. I only need one YES, and thats what Im working for.

Are you refocusing on your writing this fall? Are you in the process of submitting your manuscript? Tell me about it. Lets cheer each other on!

Hone your Craft through Reading

In the midst of snowiest, coldest winter in Michigans history, Ive been hard at work, furiously attempting to complete the first draft of my first YA novel (working title, Foxwoode).  More than once, while Ive been trapped inside my snow-covered house frantically typing away on my computer, images of Stephen Kings, Misery, have crept into my brain.  But, thankfully, there is no crazy woman holding me hostage in a snowy cabin forcing me to write the next great American novel.  I dont have any fans to speak of.  The pressure to complete my first novel is coming completely from within me.

Im happy to report my thriller/mystery, which is set at a summer riding academy in Northern Michigan, is making progress.  I just passed the 35,000 word mark and Im nearing my first draft end goal of approximately 50,000 words.  Ive learned so much about the writing process, just by writing.  Its been inspiring to see the characters personalities and previously unimagined story lines develop before my eyes.  But, not surprisingly, doubts and questions have also developed as I write.  For example, how much adult content is appropriate in a YA novel?  How dark is too dark?  (My mind easily slips into dark places see Misery reference above).  Is my writing horrible?  What is the best way to begin a new chapter?  To signal the close of a chapter? And for that matter, how long should the chapters be?

I know there are many books out there dissecting the art of writing a YA novel.  Personally, I have found Mary Koles, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, to be extremely helpful in this area.  But all of the how to books in the world cant answer many of the most basic questions, including Am I on the right track? and What are they looking for?  By they, I mean agents, publishers, and the young adult audience.  Ive found the best way to answer my constantly developing questions is by reading other thriller/mystery young adult novels that have recently been published.  Just by reading similar novels, I can see how other authors were successful in doing what I am trying to accomplish.

In her book, Chapter After Chapter, Heather Sellers recommends reading 100 books from the same genre a writer wishes to write.  Im not sure Im going to make it to 100 before my first draft of Foxwoode is completed, but I am striving to read at least 40-50 comparable novels.  I love Heather Sellers idea of keeping a list of each book Ive read with a sentence or two about the story line.  That way, when it is time to query agents and publishers I can easily refer to the list and mention books that are most similar to mine.

The other day I went to Barnes & Noble and made a list of all of the best-selling teen thriller/mystery books on display.  Just from that one trip, I have about twenty new books to add to my list.  Im currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying, The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney.   I love that it is written in third person, just like my novel.  Ive been able to sharpen my technique of writing dialogue and internal thoughts by observing how Ms. Cooney did it successfully.  Next on my list is The Killing Woods, by Lucy Christopher. The cover of the book looks almost exactly how I envision the cover of my future novel to look (except mine will have a misty silhouette of a horse in the woods too).

Now I need your help.  I am searching for some great YA thriller/mysteries that involve horses and have been published in the last 3-5 years.  Any suggestions?  Please share!  Also, Id love to have more friends with me on my YA reading journey. Please be my friend on Goodreads to join me.  Id love to see what youre reading too!

Until next time, happy reading!

Published in Practical Horseman!

I received my February issue of Practical Horseman in the mail yesterday and flipped directly to the very last page where the My Life column is housed.  And there it was!  My article!  Published in Practical Horseman!  To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.  To be honest, I dont know who was more excited  me or my son, Brian, who was pictured in the photo with me.  The poor kid honestly believes he is going to be famous now.  I didnt have the heart to tell him that no one he knows will likely ever see this magazine article, unless their parents happen to be serious English riders.  My ever-supportive husband promptly ran out and bought a rustic wood frame (reminiscent of a barn door) that fit the page perfectly.  The article now hangs in my home office as a token of one goal accomplished.  Although there are many other goals yet to be fulfilled (as documented in my article), this little piece of success is a solid step in the direction in my writing and publishing journey.  So Im taking a moment today just to be happy.  After all, these moments on the long and lonely road of writing are few and far between.

On the riding front, stay tuned to my blog for news on our big move to the new barn.  Hint:  the new barn is unheated which is not fun during the polar vortex in Michigan!  But lots of changes (hopefully good ones) are happening in the horse arena.

Until then Happy Writing and Happy Riding!

HORSE FLOWERS is Published!

Do you know any horse-crazy kids? I just received word that my eBook, HORSE FLOWERS, has been released on the MeeGenius! App for iPhone/iPad and Android. It can be found under the Featured tab or by CLICKING HERE and is now available for $2.99.

Summary of HORSE FLOWERS: “No horsing around!” Isabel’s mother reminds her as Isabel runs out to gather wildflowers for her grandma’s birthday. Grandma’s party is starting soon and Isabel’s journey is not going smoothly. But Isabel knows exactly which of her horsey friends can use its breed’s unique talents to help her overcome obstacles along the way. Ride along with Isabel on this heartwarming and educational equine adventure with a surprise ending that celebrates the power of a child’s imagination. HORSE FLOWERS is intended for children ages 3-8 and is illustrated by the very talented Kathryn Selbert.  HORSE FLOWERS also includes a glossary of horse breeds.

Thanks for checking it out and for the support!

Publishing Success!

I am ecstatic to announce that my picture book, HORSE FLOWERS, is being published by MeeGenius! This has been in the works for several months, but I can no longer keep it to myself. HORSE FLOWERS will be ready for purchase in a matter of weeks. MeeGenius! is an eReader App for iPhone/iPad, Android, and Google TV. It also happens to be my kids favorite eReader, (even before they accepted my story for publication.  I promise!)  And the best part, the MeeGenius! App is FREE and includes several free eBooks.

Summary of HORSE FLOWERS, coming soon on MeeGenius!: “No horsing around!” Isabel’s mother reminds her as Isabel runs out to gather wildflowers for her grandma’s birthday. Grandma’s party is starting soon and Isabel’s journey is not going smoothly. But Isabel knows exactly which of her horsey friends can use its breed’s unique talents to help her overcome obstacles along the way. Ride along with Isabel on this heartwarming and educational equine adventure with a surprise ending that celebrates the power of a child’s imagination. HORSE FLOWERS is intended for children ages 3-8 and is illustrated by the very talented Kathryn Selbert.

But wait, theres more! Two days ago, I signed a book contract with Guardian Angel Publishing to publish my story, HENRIETTAS HOOF POLISH. This picture book will be available both in eBook and print form. The illustrator and release date are unknown.

Summary of HENRIETTAS HOOF POLISH: Henrietta will do almost anything to fit in with the fancy horses at the Cottonwood Riding Club next door. But when her plan to be discovered at the annual Blue Ribbon Horse Show does not work out as intended, Henrietta realizes that the grass may be the greenest in her own pasture.

Unfortunately, there is no way to pre-order either of my books prior to their release dates. But rest assured, I will keep you updated!  In the meantime, download the MeeGenius App on your favorite portable device and enjoy.  HAPPY 4th EVERYONE!!