Books and Pizza!!!!

Today is special for a couple of reasons...

1. It's National Pizza Day, which by itself is awesome.

2. It's release day for A PIZZA MY HEART!

In case you don't follow me on other social media platforms, allow me to explain: A PIZZA MY HEART is a pizza-themed anthology of short stories for Young Adults, and I am lucky enough to have a story of my own included!

There are a lot of pretty snazzy authors contributing, so you really should check it out. PLUS, it's ON SALE for two more weeks! For only 99 cents you can have a kindle copy of your very own.


BLURB:

Gooey cheese and warm pepperoni, with a side of kissing and murder.
A Pizza My Heart is a quirky and fun anthology that crosses all genres. Fifteen extraordinary authors have united to tell stories of mystery, mayhem, romance, danger, deceit…and pizza.
Sometimes spicy, sometimes cheesy, but always delicious, A Pizza My Heart invites you to explore life, happiness, and the pursuit of pizza.

Add it on Goodreads, purchase it on Amazon, and after reading please leave a review!

Publisher and editor is Jolene Haley with Hocus Pocus & Co. Check out their website.

Cover art by the amazing Haley Crosby, whose artwork you can see more of HERE.

****************

Thank you for supporting authors and creators! Go grab the anthology and a pizza and have a fantastic Pizza Day!

-DC

First Impressions

For whatever reason, lately I've been kind of obsessed by these tv talent show auditions--specifically the blind auditions on The Voice. I've always loved them but only recently have I started wondering why they fascinate me. I've come to a few conclusions, and I want to talk a little about what they have in common with publishing.

Have what it takes?
First of all, I love to watch the dynamic we see between an aspiring performer and the entertainment professionals. I've wondered how can they possibly know whether someone has what it takes in only a 90-second audition? I was an aspiring singer throughout high school, I have a solid knowledge of music, and despite having to do auditions like this many times myself I still wondered this.

While watching a string of blind auditions for The Voice the other night I decided to try it. I would keep my eyes closed and just listen, then only open my eyes when I felt like--if I were a coach--I would turn my chair. It was interesting to me that sometimes I "turned" super early, and other times I matched one or more of the judges, and yet others just didn't interest me enough.

First of all, this shows just how subjective art is. Second, the more I listened the more I was able to recognize what I liked in a voice and what I didn't, who was trained or experienced and who wasn't, and who had the *spark* and who didn't. Ninety seconds is not much time to show off your abilities, but these professionals know their craft, and they know what they're looking for.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Agents and editors in the publishing industry are the same as these judges on The Voice. They see hundreds of "auditions" every day in the form of queries and first pages. They know what they like, they know what they're looking for, and they can tell--sometimes within a sentence or two--which submissions have what it takes.

Show Off
Sometimes a singer will come on a show and audition with a song that just doesn't fit them. And the judges can always tell. Sometimes they can sense there's talent, but it's not the best performance. For the performer, that's frustrating. It's hard to know sometimes how best to showcase yourself. The same holds true for writers. It's why we absolutely must surround ourselves with *other* writers. People who--as closely as we can get--mimic those judges, the agents and editors, and can give us the feedback necessary to know how to showcase our talents within a query and first page.

Sometimes the judges/agents pick people with FLAWLESS performances/pages, other times they choose people who obviously need work but have amazing potential. Again, they can tell. Why? Because they are constantly taking in so much content of so much variety. It's one of the biggest reasons writers are told to read so much. We have to gain at least some level of knowledge as to what works and what doesn't so we can be our best.

Sharing
There are some moments where you can see the judges looking to one of them in particular to press their button, because they know that person will be the best judge for that person. Agents do this too, sharing submissions with their colleagues when they feel like that person will be a better fit. Other times, agents fight tooth and nail for a writer, just like the judges do on the show.

Watch this audition and see (starting at about 1:45) how much the judges fight for Wé McDonald to join their team.


I mean, the one advantage we have as writers is that we can ask for a week to decide if we have multiple agents offering representation. *wink* Regardless, you want someone who will fight for you like those judges did for her. You want someone you connect with the way Alicia Keys did with Wé.

Passion
Agents, like these judges, are very selective about the books and people they take on. As John M. Cusick says in this post, agents aren't looking for good books. They're looking for something they love too much to NOT represent it. They're looking for manuscripts and writers they can champion.

These are the special auditions that are not only great enough to get the judge to turn around, but also showcase a performer unique and special enough once seen that they impresses all of America and succeed throughout the competition. That special something, that spark, is what the judges--and agents--are looking for. They take on the singers/writers/manuscripts they truly believe in, and they work with them to make them the best they can be.

Watch this video of Jordan Smith singing "Somebody to Love." He ended up being the 2015 winner, but this performance came during the middle of the competition. Throughout this performance, Jordan's coach, Adam Levine, is cheering him on. But watch how at the end, from about 3:10-3:43, Levine's enthusiasm really comes out. You can see how insanely proud he is of Jordan, how excited he is that the song went well, and--I think--happy to see Jordan succeeding and having fun while he does it.



I can PROMISE you, this is how AwesomeAgents feel when their clients succeed. I had the opportunity to sit with a group of writers and agent Jen Rofé at Storymakers in 2015. We talked genre, and books we loved. Hearing Jen talk about her clients' work was incredible. She was animated, excited, eager, and sometimes speechless with pride for the work she represented.

I'm planning to start querying again in the next couple of months. Fellow writers, we only get a query or a few pages to show what we can do. We need to make the most of it. Work at it, read a lot, get feedback, practice your query the way a singer would for an audition--try different things, arrange words in different ways and see what works for you, what makes you feel confident. The agent or editor you're querying will absolutely know whether (a) you've got what it takes or not and (b) whether they'll love your work or not, based on how you arrange those few hundred words.

Don't take it for granted. Enjoy it. Good luck.

-DC

2016 Thoughts, 2017 Goals

Y'know, some people can multitask in life, and some people can't. I see people in publishing doing so many things at once--reading slush, agenting, parenting, traveling, editing, revising, drafting, and the list goes on and on. But if there's one thing I've learned about myself in the last five and a half years that I've been writing seriously, it's how much of a binge-er I am.

I am not a multi-tasker. I'm a binge-er.

When I draft a novel, everything else in my life takes a back seat. My kids eat hot dogs and toast for a month and the dishes and laundry pile up until I finally get to them maybe once a week during that time.

When I read a novel, I sit and shut out the entire world. It takes my husband three or more tries to get my attention.

When I clean my house, I put on headphones and listen to a book or a podcast or a lecture on writing and I forget about anything else happening. I could do this for hours.

When I play with my kids, I am present and excited and I don't look at my phone for hours. When I read to them, I abhor being interrupted by anything else.

As most of you probably know, for most of 2016 I was pregnant with my third child. And all of my mental focus went toward that task. You'd think it would just happen subconsciously and I could do other things, but no. Every other section of brain space was limited because of the pregnancy. As evidenced by the fact that I blogged four times the entire year.

I revised well for a while. I drafted 25k words during nano. I read a few books. I mostly kept the house clean. But I could not for the life of me FOCUS on any one thing except Being Pregnant and taking care of my two boys.

And now? Well, the baby is here.


It's been a single exhausting week, and I'm just starting to help her get her days and nights on schedule. She's beautiful and perfect and I couldn't be more grateful that I now have another thing to binge.

Taking care of a newborn is hardest in the first month and a half. After that, things tend to calm down to something resembling a new normal. So for the next five weeks I'm bingeing taking care of a newborn baby. I'm basically in survival mode for a while.

But the thing is, I miss writing. I miss it a LOT. And now that I'm not pregnant my mind keeps floating back to my many manuscripts and side projects and wishing I had the energy to stay awake and work on them instead of sleeping when the baby sleeps. As it is, I'm writing this blog post on my phone while she's sleeping, and I keep nodding off.

But this is why I chose Patience as my word/goal/mood for 2017. Because I know writing will be there waiting for me when my mind and body are ready to get back to it. My baby won't always need me this much, and I won't always be this tired. It's hard to see that far ahead, but I have to keep telling myself these things or I'll crash and burn.

Usually I'm very much a go-getter in my life. I set goals and I achieve them. I say, I'm gonna write this book by this date, and I do it. But with a tiny person who needs me so much, I can't ask so much of myself. So I'm trying to learn to say no to things, to take a step back and take my time when it comes to my personal goals. It's difficult, especially because I have amazing friends who are agented and publishing and doing all the things I want so much to do... but as Aaron Burr says, "I'm willing to wait for it."

My time will come, just... not yet.

I have other things to focus on in the mean time.












-DC

Acceptance

The good news: I'm fifteen weeks pregnant!

*cue confetti*

The bad news: I haven't written since about week four, and the drive/ability doesn't seem to be returning any time soon.

*cue sad "aww"*

Good news: I have no agent or publisher yet who is demanding me to write when I mentally cannot. (Except for a short story, and I think I'll be able to push through that.)

Bad news: I also have a hard time reading much these days, so refilling the well is not going well either.

Good news: the well refill is sort of happening with a Supernatural binge.

Bad news: .....actually there's no bad part to that. I'm loving Supernatural.

~

Here's the thing: I've been writing pretty consistently for five years, and in that time I've had a baby and raised two boys and moved houses and served in my church children's program and dealt with anxiety and depression and two miscarriages and querying and drafting and revising five and three-halves novels plus multiple short stories and on and on and on.

I think my brain is telling me to take a break.

I'm still a writer. I'm not quitting, because I know I love it and I know it helps me cope with normal life. Writing is a part of me now, and nothing will ever change that. But I'm starting to realize that for this period of time, I need to set my manuscripts aside to focus on me and my family.

I don't know for how long. Hopefully not much longer than the nine to twelve months it takes to grow, birth, and acclimate to a new baby. But if it takes longer, that's okay.

It's difficult to admit I'm setting it aside. It's difficult to see my friends and writers I admire working so hard and accomplishing so much and remembering when *I* did that and wishing, wishing, wishing I could do that right now.

But I need to set it aside.

It's frustrating, but I need to.

If you're the praying type, I could use the support. And if you're not, happy thoughts and good vibes are greatly appreciated.

I love my family, and I'm beyond grateful for this baby I carry. Also, I miss writing. And I don't think the two have to be mutually exclusive.

-DC

(Tumblr link to this post: http://darcicole.tumblr.com/post/147251226354/acceptance)

"Fight Your Way Through"

A few years ago, I posted an April Fools joke on here that I'd signed with an agent. Well guess what?!

No, I still don't have an agent. *snort*

***

Yesterday I was going through some old papers and folders looking for some information and I came across a one-page handwritten outline for a story. It was vaguely like the one that eventually became the "first" novel I ever wrote, but based on the stuff it was around I knew I had to have written it long before I actually started writing. Speaking of which....

Tomorrow, April 2nd, is my five-year anniversary of Being A Writer.

That's right. Five years ago tomorrow, I sat down and wrote the first sentence of my first novel. I had no idea what I was doing, I had no outline, I had no plan, I had nothing. But I wrote it. I started. Curious to see it? I was, so I looked it up:

Prince Canton sighed in relief as he slouched lazily in his chair. It had been a very long day. He pried his left eye open to look out the window, and visibly flinched when he realized how late it was.

It was pretty terrible, and the book that followed was terrible too, but that didn't stop me from writing it. I wish I knew the exact date that I finished that draft, but the closest I can guess is September 28th-ish of that year. A good six months it took me to write what...53K? Maybe? Oh the follies of youth.

It's incredible, really. Last week I saw Sam Sykes talking about writing advice on Twitter. He said:


And he's absolutely right. It hit me hard when I saw that, and made me remember one of the first quotes I heard when I started. It was from Ira Glass. I'd heard people say "you've gotta suck at it before you can get better," or something to that end, but Mr. Glass said it in a way that I was able to make a sort of game plan out of it. Take a look:


A gap. A period of years, where you can tell that what you're making isn't as special as you want it to be. It's missing something. And the only way to close that gap, is to write.

Guys, this is a big deal for me. I've been writing for five years. I've been trying, I've been working at it, learning as much as I can, reading, studying, and writing. And it's been five years. That feels like such a long time, and it is. Five years. Five. Years.

The bad news now is I still suck at writing. But the good news is I suck a heck of a lot less now than I did five years ago, and I can confidently say that there are even a few things in writing that I am very, very good at. I hope.

Either way, I needed this reminder. The reminder that in the big picture of things, I am moving forward. I am progressing. It's hard to see that sometimes when it looks like everyone around you is getting agents or selling to editors or releasing a book. I've said it before, but it's conflicting, isn't it, when you are genuinely so thrilled for your friends and their accomplishments, and yet a small part of you wonders...

...will I ever get there?

There's a small part of me that cries inside all the time, no matter how much I try to shut it up. It wonders if after all this time, all I've done is wasted five years of my life. I wonder if these words, these stories I've poured my heart and soul and sweat and tears into will ever ever be good enough to sit on a stranger's shelf. It's hard, sometimes. It's hard to see the bright side through so many clouds.

But the thing is, I'm not going to quit. I know that. I'm too stubborn. I'll keep writing, and I'll keep working, and eventually I'll get published somehow--though who knows when. But I know it won't be easy. And I can't even say that it gets easier. Because you know what?


Even Bestselling Authors feel this pain.

It's not easy, and the fear of failure is constant. Why do we put ourselves through this? Why do we "suffer for our art" so much? Here's why: because at the end of the day, when someone reads your words and swoons at a kiss, or cries at a death, or laughs at a joke, or swears at you for something you did to their favorite character--

That makes it all worth it. It's weird, I know, but it's true.

So this is my advice to me on my fifth anniversary, and my advice to you no matter what stage of your career you're in: keep writing. Keep creating. Keep dreaming those dreams. The only way you fail, is if you stop trying. So don't stop. Never stop. Keep moving forward; you'll get there.

-DC
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