Writer’s Conference Recap

This past weekend I attended the Southwest Florida Romance Writers Super Saturday conference. We got to mix and mingle with other authors, agents & editors at the Friday night dinner and then attend workshops Saturday from 9-4pm. There was a key-note from author Jennifer St. Giles, a lesson on the Art, Craft, and Business of Writing Genre Fiction from Rita Winner Linnea Sinclair (whose book, The Down Home Zombie Blues is being made into a movie right now. If you’ve never heard Linnea speak or taken one of her classes, it’s a real treat . . . she knows her stuff!), then heard from the Editor/Agent Panel (visit my Twitter page to check out my tweets on what they said), and then heard from YA Author Stacey Kade, Adventures in Writing Who You’re Not. By some miracle, I won a three chapter critique from Stacey. Her series, The Ghost and the Goth, are one of my favs:) And it couldn’t have come at a better time because another miracle happened . . . three editors requested my YA:) Harlequin Teen & Sourcebooks both requested the full and TOR requested the first 100 pages. I have two weeks to polish so I haven’t commented as much on other blogs as I’d like (sorry). But on with the show . . . here are some notes from Stacey’s presentation:

•’Write What You Know’ is probably the most common piece of writing advice.
•It’s also likely the most misunderstood. We interpret it too narrowly.
•If we truly limited ourselves to our exact personal experiences, the story world would be a small and horribly boring place.

From Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction: “…your self is made up of many selves—the girl who wanted an older brother, the high school misfit, the college student who dressed in black and wanted to join French club, the woman who fantasizes about what she’d do with her own television talk show. You are, in part, not only persons you once were but also persons you have tried to be, persons you have avoided being, and persons you fear you might be. All these are people you know.”

•High school is incredibly political and very structured. However, each school varies. In my books, Alona has power (initially) because she is popular and pretty. In another school, where academics were the determining factor, she might not have been in the power position.
•When (and where) I went to school, being in the band was the kiss of death socially. For my sister, at a different school and in a different time, it was a social boon to be in the band. 
•When writing YA, I’m looking at the school environment as well as family. School, I think, operates as a substitute family in some cases. You need to know how your character fits in (or does not).
 
•I think this one of the factors we often overlook, perceiving it (and rightly so) as a sensitive subject. But you can’t accurately portray your character or your character’s world without knowing what role religion plays.
•We’re not always talking traditional religion. Religion is HUGE factor in Star Wars, for example. It’s the light side of the Force vs. the dark.
•If you’re writing about ghosts, angels, witches, you need to be thinking about the religious environment!
•Religions environment is not just about God but about gods, spirituality, ethics, and morality. What drives your character? “To what ‘gods’ are your characters responding? What is their highest aspiration?”
 
From Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: “Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen. Characters should not, conversely, serve as pawns for some plot you’ve dreamed up…I say don’t worry about plot. Worry about characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are, and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, now what happens?Find out what each character cares most about in the world because then you will have discovered what’s at stake. Find a way to express this discovery in action, and then let your people set about finding or holding onto or defending whatever it is. Then you can take them from good to bad and back again, or from bad to good, or from lost to found. But something must be at stake or you will have no tension and your readers will not turn the pages.”
 
Pretty good notes, right? If you haven’t read Stacey’s books, I highly recommend them. She’s pub’d by Disney Hyperion & the third and final book in the series comes out May 8th *squeeeeaaaal!
 
 
 
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Contest Winners & New Author Interview

Waz up, ya’ll! Thank you soooooooooo much for making my first page critique blog hop a huge success! We had 24 total participants and most people had a total of 10-20 comments on their page so hopefully you got something out of it. OK, I’m no Ryan Seacrest so without further ado . . . *drumroll please*

The 5 winners for Heather’s Burch’s critique are: (chosen at random by my kewl Kagan selector tool at school:)

1. Lindsey Loucks

2. Shell Philhower

3. Angela Quarles

4. Sharon Baylis

5. Hope Roberson

*Waiting for applause to die down* YAY!!! Congrats! Please email me your first page to info@jamieayres.com I thought you may want to fix some things based on suggestions instead of just sending her your blog address. I will forward it to the fabulous debut author of Halflings. When she’s done with your critique, I’ll email her notes back to you.  And speaking of Halflings, I finished reading it early Saturday morning and I must say, I’m kinda ticked at Heather for that ending;) Seriously, great book and those 3 male Halflings are invading my dreams for sure (don’t tell Dan) & I can’t wait for book #2. Ok, I am channeling a bit of Seacrest because I’ve kept you in suspense about who won a copy of her book *evil grin* Are you pounding your desk in drumroll like fashion?

And the winnnnner is . . . Nicole Zoltack! Let’s show her some love and give her a ‘heart’ of applause for pretty much commenting on everyone’s blog. Thanks for playing, Nicole. You’re A*W*E*S*O*M*E! (channeling the ex-cheerleader in me now)

A big thank u again to Heather. Lucky me, I get to meet up with her at a writer’s conference this weeked so I’ll get a signed copy of her book for you Nicole and then send it in the mail on Monday, if you’d be so kind as to email me your address. If you missed Heather’s interview & so have no idea what I’m talking about, please check out her website: http://halflings.ning.com/

Now I have another treat for you, another interview with a terrific new author, Callie Kingston! YOu can CHeCk ouT hER blog at: http://calliekingston.blogspot.com

JA: Tell us how your book, Undertow, came about.

CK: To best answer this, I’ll adapt a post from my blog last fall:

. . . I have an easy answer: Twilight. It set the YA world alight with vampire lust. However, Undertow does not feature a vampire.

But the plot was very much inspired by the Twilight series, to the point where I started calling it Twi-not under my breath. The more I read the Twilight Saga, the more intrigued I became of the idea of a girl who falls in love with some mythical creature. I decided it was quite mad, really. And decided to write about a girl who experiences madness and becomes delusional. You see, Undertow is a realistic story, not paranormal. I suppose most of my stories fall under the contemporary umbrella.

JA: Wow, now you’ve got me intrigued. I’ve downloaded your novel onto my Kindle & can’t wait to read it (sidenote: Undertow is also available in paperback). Readers have commented about how Undertow’s plot is quite different than they expected. Do you worry about that?

CK: Not really. Undertow is Marissa’s story, and to tell it any other way wouldn’t be fair to her or to the thousands of teens like her. Besides which, I believe that diversity in books is important, especially in YA. In another post I wrote this summer, I observed:

Teendom is an amazing thing. At an age where everything is possible, the future is limitless, and you can try out anything you like, the tendency is to give all that up and just fit in. But does this mentality have to apply in literature as well? Certain trends are saturating the teen book market. It’s a real problem. Sure, there are titles available in lots of categories, but the offerings are heavily weighted in one direction. But that’s a mistake. Because it’s those risks that yield something rich and new. Think Harry Potter, people. Glad somebody finally took a chance on that. And Speak. Thirteen Reasons Why. The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

All of which inspired me in a major way, incidentally. Along with Wintergirls, also by Laurie Halse Anderson, who is hands down one of my favorite YA authors.

JA: Oooooh, 13 Reasons Why also helped inspire me to write my  book, 18 THINGS (which I’ll pitch at that conference this weekend I mentioned earlier so keep your fingers crossed ya’ll). And I just read The Adoration of Jenna Fox last month-LOVED it! What effect do you hope Undertow will have on readers?

CK: Above all, I hope readers will be entertained. That’s the main reason to read fiction, right? Beyond that, I’d love for readers to fall into Marissa’s plight and cheer as she surfaces into a powerful young woman unafraid to take risks. And they might fall for Jim a little bit, too. Then I hope they are inspired to write and share their stories, too. As an author, it lifts me up to know that I’ve connected with a reader this way.

JA: Sounds like a powerful read. Thanks for stopping by again, everyone *waves* If you leave a comment, Callie would be happy to interact with you on here & it’ll also automatically register you to win a free signed copy of her book when she does the grand prize drawing: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/21250

First Page Critiques Update

 I had five people email me that wanted to participate but didn’t have blogs yet so the ones that already attached their first page I posted below. But since this was really to help promote Heather Burch’s debut novel, Halflings, I listed ways you can help even if you don’t have a blog. *If  you do have a blog and are participating, please give a shout out to Heather*  Now yessssss, I know we’re all super swamped right now & these things take time, but you do want that karma for when you get published one day, right? I must say, I’m amazed at the support of the writing community since immersing myself in it last month~Kudos to all of you! So some suggestions:

 Sharing on Twitter or your Facebook page. I’d like to invite you to visit and/or join Heather Burch Books on Facebook.

If you read the book:

www.amazon.com is a good place to start. You can review a book without having purchased it from Amazon. Although you will have to register an account with them, it’s free and takes only a few minutes of your time. If you’ve ever ordered from Amazon you already have an account. After you have the account, in the search box type in Heather Burch and choose Halflings book 1, scroll down and give a review.
 
www.goodreads.com is a highly visited site. Again, you must register and then search Heather Burch or Halflings, choose Book 1 and review.
 
www.BN.com (Barnes & Noble) register and review
 
www.christianbook.com register and review
 
www.walmart.com Go to books- and search either Halflings or Heather Burch – you will have to register to review.
  
Your efforts are much appreciated!!!
 
First 250 Words from Kimberly Lynn Workman’s Paranormal Fantasy, Heaven and Hell Alike:

When Liam took over the body of a railroad worker fifty years ago, he hadn’t realized he’d suffer from caffeine withdrawal every morning. Though, at the time, he wasn’t able to be picky.
 
Liam was back on his Harley after only five hours of sleep, heading through Davenport, Wyoming to track down the local diner. He promised to meet Sid on his way through town, but that was something he was regretting now.
 
Rounding the next block, the weather-worn sign for Davenport Diner came into view. Liam headed toward the far right of the parking lot, safely away from the crowd of cars. He’d rather not be forced to do harm to some fool who scratched his bike, even by accident. The altercation in Stewart was still fresh in his mind and he didn’t have the desire for a repeat.
 
Shutting off the engine, Liam removed his helmet and watched Sid cross the cracked, gray pavement. Unlike himself, Sid looked like his early morning had been filled with sugar or illegal substances. Knowing Sid’s usual activities, it was more likely he hadn’t even been to bed yet.
 
I need coffee,” Liam said, his voice deep from lack of use. “Drag me out here way too early and then you’re all hyper. Something’s wrong with your head.”
 
Sid plastered on a wide grin and gave a shrug. “You always said we’ve got to be crazy in our line of work, boss. I’m just living up to my reputation.”
 
Liam grunted, walking toward the door and waving his hand, calling for Sid to follow him. Of all the demons who had worked for him over the centuries, Sid had become his favorite. It was mainly because he liked being topside almost as much as Liam did. There weren’t many of their kind who wanted to live among the humans littering the earth, even less who wanted the glorified sales job he offered, so Liam didn’t have a ton lining up for the task. And, not to lay the blame solely on Hell, he would also admit a few personality clashes had gotten in the way of lasting relationships with some of his former subordinates. The pool of potentials was almost empty when Sid was offered up to him, but so far the arrangement had worked out quite well. Sid took his assignments and did what Liam asked of him. He was even starting to arrange more contracts on his own, taking Liam’s guidance when necessary. In return for proving his worth, Liam let Sid have the run of the planet in his off-hours. Granted, most of Sid’s off-hours were spent trying to have sex with as many women as he could find, but they all deserved some perks now and then.
 
First Page of Sweet Tooth By Cynthia Gail:
 
Angela rushed into the small employee bathroom, hung up her apron and looked at the reflection in the mirror. After picking a speck of icing from her hair, she wiped the flour off her cheek and swore. Even her splurge for expensive cover up couldn’t conceal the dark circles anymore. And she was fairly certain the lack of shine in her dishwater blonde hair had nothing to do with bad lighting.
After picking up a light sweater, Angela hurried back to the front of the store and grabbed her purse from under the counter. “I’ll do my best to be back by eleven, Juanita.”
 
“Don’t worry about me. I can handle it. You just need to relax and concentrate on getting this job. Booking the Preston wedding will open the doors you’ve been looking for.”
 
“Thanks. But I’ll still try –.”
 
The sound of metal crunching and tires screeching stopped her in mid-sentence and both women turned to look out the shop windows. “Oh, my God! My car!” Angela dropped everything and ran out the front door.
 
“My car!” she yelled, taking in the scene. A large delivery truck had backed into her Ford Tempo, crumpling the hood and corner panels. Both front tires were flat. She’d just spent the last thousand dollars of her savings having the transmission worked on and couldn’t afford to buy another car. She couldn’t afford to have this one fixed. She couldn’t…
 
“Are you okay ma’am? You look a little pale. Maybe you should sit down.”
 
First Page of The Symbol of Infinity by Golda Kvint:
 
The reek of burning hair squeezed into Kai’s room.Oh, not again. He hurled his Algebra book into his backpack, flipped
the desk light off, and sprung toward the window. Forcing it open, he
cursed his grandmother for collecting her combings and disposing of
them in such a hideous way. Next she’d try to kill the odor with
lily-scented room spray. The perfect smell for a good night’s sleep.

Letting December freshness chase the filthy fumes from his lungs, he
stared at the snowflakes that swirled in front of the rickety fence
and melted before reaching the ground. Suddenly, the gate screeched
open and a tall body glided through the narrow opening.

Keeping his eyes on the trespasser, Kai inched toward the window
frame. His grandma had mumbled someone had tried to break into a house
across the street. If that was a burglar, he’d chosen the wrong house
to rob.

Kai made a quick plan. He’d have his grandmother run to the neighbors
and call 911 while he kept the intruder at bay. Before darting off to
his grandmother’s room, Kai glanced outside one more time.

As the man turned around to pull something through the crack in the
gate, the moon shone on his ponytail and coveralls. No doubt, that was
Kai’s dad.

Kai jerked away from the glass and ran into the desk corner with his
bony hip. Biting the knuckle of his forefinger to suppress a groan,
Kai flattened himself against the wall, covered with peeling
wallpaper, and peeked outside.

His father skulked toward the front porch carrying a box almost the
size of his six-foot frame.

 
*Please address your comments for them by referring to their name or ms. title below. Thanks! 

First Page Critiques

Thank you all for participating!!! If you spread the word, I’d be happy to add links here up until Wednesday, Feb. 22nd. So far there’s 22 peoplez, so you still have a pretty good chance of getting a special critique from Heather. Until the drawing, please hop around and help each other out. And pleeeeeeaaaase mention Heather Burch and her debut novel, Halflings (now available in stores & she’s already signed a shopping agreement with an awesome producer in Hollywood who is looking to build a team) , on your blog, twitter, facebook, Goodreads . . . anything to spread the love for this awesome author! http://halflings.ning.com/ is a great site to link to or her USA Today review: http://books.usatoday.com/happyeverafter/post/2012-02-11/review-halflings-by-heather-burch/625138/1

1)  Sharon Bayliss http://sharonbayliss.blogspot.com/

2) Anna Mormack http://carrieannebrownian.wordpress.com/

3) Nicole Zoltack http://nicolezoltack.blogspot.com/

4) Dana Edwards http://momslifeponderings.wordpress.com/

5) Alice Beesley http://alicelbeesley.blogspot.com/2012/02/first-page-contest-and-critique.html

6) Jennifer Kamptner http://jenniferloweryauthor.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/first-page-contest

7) Tania Walsh http://tfwalsh.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/first-page-critique-contest/

8) Cheeryl Yeko http://www.cherylyeko.com/

9) Aine P Massie http://apmassie.com/

10) Kirsten http://ascenicroute.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/novels-first-page-blog-hop/

11) Hope Roberson http://hoperoberson.blogspot.com/

12) D’Ann Linscott-Dunham http://dlindunauthor.blogspot.com/

13) Lindsey Loucks http://jessesaidyes.blogspot.com/

14) Stephanie Diaz http://steph-diaz.blogspot.com/2012/02/first-page-critique.html

15) Shell Philhower http://tangentshell.blogspot.com/2012/02/first-page-contest.html

16) Angela Quarles http://angelaquarles.com/

17) Jennifer M. Eaton http://jennifermeaton.com/first-page-critique/

18) J. Keller Ford http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/

19) Anita Exley http://mutteringsfromtheoubliette.blogspot.co.nz/

20) Kaylee Ayres (yep, she’s my 11-yr-old daughter, so please go easy on her:) http://peaceloveandponcho.wordpress.com/

I might as well get some input on my first page, too:) I’m attending our Southwest Florida Romance Writers conference next weekend and pitching to an editor so critiques are much needed. The following is from my YA contemporary love story, 18 Things:

The fact I lack any type of wheels while Conner owns a thirty-thousand dollar SUV is an injustice making Communism look good. The school parking lot is deserted aside from a few cars while I wait for him by his Hybrid. One of them, a Lexus, I recognize as belonging to Toe-touch Tammy. As if on cue, she parades like a peacock around the side of the building with two fellow cheerleaders.

“Hey, Olga!” Tammy puts out her cigarette on asphalt and blows smoke in my face. I cough but manage to fight off potential asthma attack number two for the day. Waving a geekazoid prop like an inhaler in front of Tammy would be like pulling Star Wars figurines out of my pocket and playing with them. “So, um, like, how was your day? You look so cute waiting here for Conner like a lost puppy.” Her cronies scoff.         

Ugh, I hate her even more than Mondays. “I don’t really speak cheerleader, but let me see if I can put this in terms you’ll understand.OMG, my day was like soooooo totally fabulous, girlfriend! Ew, I think I just broke a nail! Gotta go!”

As I bolt past her, she snags my sweater and jerks me backwards. “Listen, go ahead and have your mercy sailing date with Conner-”

“I don’t need your permission.” I imagine my face matches the color of my red hair right now.

She holds up her palm in a talk-to-the-hand way. “I’m still the one he’s taking to Prom.” She flicks my hair. “In one week, I’ll make all his dreams come true and beat you like the red-headed ugly stepchild you are.”

A million insults flash through my mind. Somehow, Mom’s annoying lesson of teaching me how to always be the better person sticks with me and I try to respond appropriately. “Yeah, I get it. You’re prettier than I am.” She draws back her body, her perky chest sticking out even more. “Now that I’ve admitted it, why don’t you get over yourself and get a life instead of messing with mine.”

Author Interview & Contest!!!

Today is a first on my blog, a real live author interview! She is a busy lady named Heather Burch and her first book, Halflings, was just released into stores this month! I started reading the book last week and am devouring it.

 If you haven’t heard of Heather, and would like a review, please follow the linky link:

http://books.usatoday.com/happyeverafter/post/2012-02-11/review-halflings-by-heather-burch/625138/1

Now on with the show . . . *Stay tuned afterwards for details about a first page critique contest to celebrate my now 200+ followers, yay!*

JA: Heather, you should be very proud of all you’ve accomplished. Thanks for taking time out to visit my blog amid all the craziness of your book release!

HB: Thank you for inviting me!

JA:  It’s my pleasure! Tell us a little about Halflings & how did you come up with the idea?

In Halflings, Nikki Youngblood is being hunted by men and demons. She turns to three half-human, half-angel young men for protection, but when two of her rescuers fall for Nikki, it puts more than their lives on the line. Their eternal souls hang in the balance.

I’ve always been intrigued by the words in Genesis “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair and took them as wives.” For years I wondered about it because it didn’t seem to be about human men. Then, I found out some scholars believe it means fallen angels. That thought rolled around in my head for fifteen years or so. I knew I wanted to someday explore a book with angels…I just wasn’t sure when or how. Then, the idea for Halflings came. I also knew I wanted to write something that was one part X-Men and one part Cinderella. Halflings was the perfect combination. There were no angel books on the shelves when I first started writing it, but boy did they appear during the process! I was afraid that I’d missed the timing—Halflings was done for a year before I signed with a literary agent—but when Jennifer Schober signed me, she had an offer in the first six weeks of representation. Now, I can see the timing was perfect.

 

JA: Wow, that’s AWESOME! *running off to jot down the name Jennifer Schober to query later with angel project*  What has your writing journey been like from the moment you realized you wanted to be a writer until the moment you had a published book?

HB: Long. I started my first novel at age seventeen. Never finished it. Started another. Then, life happened and I didn’t have much time to write. In 2008, I left my career and stayed home to write full-time. I wrote two books a year and Halflings was my fifth completed novel. It’s the first to sell. I’ve heard from other authors that it often takes about five or six completed books to sell.

JA: I’ve also heard that, which makes sense, since it often takes 4-5 years to complete college and learn your chosen profession. I think writing should be no different. I cringe when I reread my first manuscript.  If you could give us inspiring authors any advice, what would it be?

HB: Don’t give up. What if I’d stopped after book four? You must write and write, then write some more! Get involved in an organization like RWA. Great instruction and general camaraderie. Be part of the community and let others read your work. Hone your craft. And don’t spend a lifetime on one book. If you knew right now that book five was a guaranteed sell, you’d write one through four! Stay the course and let others come along side you for support.

JA: Amen, sista! Shout out to all my blog buddies & RWA friends for helping me in more ways than you’ll ever know*dabbing eyes with Kleenex*  Is there anything you know now that you wish you could’ve told yourself before you went through the publishing process?

HB: Getting a contract in hand takes a lot longer than I ever expected and I kept thinking the publisher would back out. I didn’t realize that once the offer is made, the literary agent and the publisher do a back and forth dance about rights, numbers, marketing, a bazillion things. Each amendment to that contract takes time. I was a nervous wreck until I had the papers in my hand. Next time, I will be less stressed.

JA: Hmmmm, good to know! Finally, tell us something, anything, fun about yourself, related or unrelated to writing:)

HB: Well, I love theme parks. On December 10th we did a VIP tour of Disney with an awesome tour guide from Create-a-Dream. We hit all four Disney parks and got to ride every roller coaster there. It was the most amazing day ever. I’ll never forget it!

JA: What fun! I also LOVE theme parks:) Now who’d like help with their first page to make sure it’s worthy of grabbing an agent/publisher/reader’s attention? *hand shoots up in the air* Wellllll, Heather Burch has agreed to help. This is how it’ll work: If you’d like to participate, then please email me at info@jamieayres.com  & post the first page of your manuscript on YOUR blog. I will compile a list of the participating blogs and post them here. That way, everyone can hop around and post constructive feedback on each others first page. I will randomly draw five names to receive a personal critique from Heather Burch, whose debut YA, Halflings, was just released to stores everywhere this month, so please give her a shout out on your blog! I’ll announce the winners on my blog next Wednesday and then contact you with instructions. Also, I  will personally visit everyone’s blog to comment and will keep a tally on who is leaving the most helpful comments for others:) That person’s reward will be a mailed copy of Heather Burch’s book *can I get a woot, woot* I’ll announce that winner on my regular blog next Wednesday also.

Okay, nuff said. Until next time . . .

“That’s YAMore” Romance Blogfest

I don’t normally post on Sundays but I thought the YAmore blogfest sounded like fun. All you have to do is post 250 romantic, swoon-worthy words from your YA WIP.

Time in slow motion, tile seems to stretch on forever as my heels click against the surface of the dance floor, leading Nate to our fate. My own breathing is loud in my ears, overpowering the words of the song singing about the end of a relationship, a turning point, something that’s unpredictable but in the end right, reminding me whatever happens is meant to be. As we reach the center of the room, I step backwards, letting Nate read the sign I painted for him two days ago. Nicole and Sean stretch the banner in front of them, faces frozen into a smile. The song fades out and amidst the silence of over three thousand people standing still, Nate reads my words out loud to himself.

“Nate, I’m in love with you. You’ve been one of my best friends through four grueling years of high school. I was kinda hoping you’d be my boyfriend for, I don’t know, forever. Yours Truly, Olga.”

I forget to breathe as he repeats the words I’ve wanted to tell him for months, but then he turns slightly and takes my other hand in his and the warmth of his skin calms me again. I’m on the verge of tears, something I’ve tried so hard not to shed in front of anyone this past year (and failed majorly), but these are happy tears. He reaches up and brushes them away with the back of his hand before leaning in, his breath against my breath.

*Don’t forget to check out other entries to put you in a romantic mood for Valentine’s Day: http://oasisforya.blogspot.com/p/thats-yamore-blogfest.html

Angels Among Us

Once a month I’m trying to blog about how my love of books relates to my love of God. When I got the Kreativ Blogger Award a couple of weeks ago I had to write 10 random things about myself. Some of you may recall this one:

When I was 11 yrs old I prayed to God to show me a sign that He loved me (I was severely depressed) . . . and when I woke up the next morning, an angel was in my room, on his knees, with his hands folded in prayer, smiling & looking up at me. We stared at each other for a moment, then I closed my eyes & said, “Thank you, Jesus, and please don’t ever show me that again” b/c ok, it was kinda scary? And then he was gone, but I KNEW there was a purpose for my life:)

Welllllllll, that’s not the end of the story. At the time, I never told anyone about it for fear that I’d be taken away in a little white van, strapped to a bed. I finally told my husband and his best bud one night when I was 17. They laughed hysterically, making fun of the fact I saw him dressed in blue (didn’t mention that above) & was I watching Smurfs before I went to bed, and yada yada yada. At the time, none of us were Christians but I knew what I saw was fo real yo. Flash forward a year later, Dan & I are married & attending the University of Central Florida. One day while I was bored in-between my 2 classes, I stopped at the on campus Barnes & Noble & perused their Religious section, picking up a book called Angel Power & flipping to page 100 (for some reason, I’ve always like to read the first page and page 100 of a book to see if I want to buy it). Here’s a quote from page 100 of that book, talking about the diary of a German woman who saw angels:

“The Guardian Angels of children are exquisitely lovely. They are dressed in blue and always are seen with their hands folded in prayer.”

Got goosebumps yet? I know I did. Of course I bought the book! I was amazed at how personal God can be, that out of 6 billion people on earth, he brought me full circle, leading me to a book that described my experience, on page 100 no less!! Needless to say, hubby never doubted my sanity again (joke’s on him b/c I’ve truly lost my mind since then;)

So, what about you? Do you believe in angels, or are they just another book character? One fellow writer I know who believes and writes about them is newly published author Heather Burch. Stop by here next week to hear her perspective on the whole process, & earn a first page critique from her & maybe even her book! Sidenote: For the first time, I’m writing a fantasy YA & angels are in it, baby! It’s been a lot of fun.

IWSG

It’s my second month participating in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group & it couldn’t come at a more crucial time. If you are interested in joining, feel free to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh’s website: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/

The first week of January I sent out my query to 15 targeted agents. So far I’ve received 4 generic rejections & 2 requests for the fulls. I’m not holding my breath. I’ve sent out 15 queries to targeted agents twice before for different novels. Both times I got 3 requests for the full & both times 1 never got back to me & the others ultimately rejected me, all for different reasons. I honestly expected better response this time though. Perhaps the comment from Leah Hultenschmidt during the discussion for “Pitch-Slam Weekend January 13-15 on YALITCHAT.ORG holds the answer:

“The idea of completing a set amount of tasks is all over the genre right now (Little Blue Envelopes, Instructions for a Broken Heart, 13 Reasons Why to some degree), so you’ll need something extra special to make this really stand out. Maybe give more detail at what’s unexpected so that can be as much of the hook as the instructions.”

Yeah, I see her point. But then I go, “Ahem, how many, like, vampire novels did we have before we stopped rejecting those?” So I’m asking for your help. I hosted an agent query contest with the fab Nicole Resciniti last month, but kept myself out of it. Now I’m asking for your honest opinion. Oh, before I post my query . . . a HUGE thank you to everyone following my blog:) The query contest was to celebrate 100 followers, & now I’m already at 200! Please check back next week for the dets on a contest I’ll host on Feb. 15th to celebrate again (hint: get those first pages ready). Ok, *deep breath*, here it goes:

Seventeen-year-old Olga Gay Worontzoff thinks her biggest problems are an awful name (after her grandmothers, of course) and not going to the prom with Conner, her best friend, drummer in a popular band and secret crush since kindergarten. But when Conner is struck by lightning during their sailing trip on Lake Michigan, Olga’s life loses meaning. She feels responsible for his death, and all the girls at Grand Haven High who also loved Conner have no difficulty in blaming her, too.

The sarcastic and nerdy girl who never missed a day of school is suddenly lost, replaced by someone with no will to get out of bed. As she battles depression, her counselor suggests she write a list titled “18 Things.” She must complete eighteen quests the year of her eighteenth birthday as part of her therapy. Olga enlists the help of her friends, who are eager to offer suggestions. Now all she has to do is fire-walk, try out for the cheerleading squad, break a world record and hardest of all, sail again. What she doesn’t count on is acting as a catalyst for healing in the lives of her friends and finding herself in the process. Then Nate, a good friend who brings a hearty dose of fun to the list, complicates things by asking her out on a date. It’s time to put into practice the lessons her life list has taught her. Life truly does go on. She must risk her own heart, but if she fails, she risks losing her true soul-mate forever.

At 58,000 words, my contemporary YA, 18 THINGS, is a coming-of-age story about acceptance, friendship, love and what we can and should do in matters of life and death. In its own unique way, it could be described as a young adult version of The Bucket List with some unexpected twists.

After working with adolescents as a youth group volunteer and teaching at a public school for the past ten years, I feel connected to today’s young adults. I’m a member of SCBWI, YA-RWA, RWA-PRO and Southwest Florida Romance Writers. I read on the agency’s website that you are seeking realistic YA and I’m hoping my novel will be a good match for your list. As requested on your submission guidelines, I’ve pasted below the first five pages. Thank you for your time and consideration.

By jamieayres Posted in IWSG