Listen to the Mustn'ts, child, listen to the Don'ts.
Listen to the Shouldn'ts, the Impossibles, the Won'ts.

Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

-Shel Silverstein

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Meaning of a Word

Last night, rain beat incessantly on my bedroom window. I love rain because it makes you feel like curling up with a blanket and hot cocoa or running naked through the streets. It is nature’s gift that brings spring flowers and green grass.

For those of us who own a dog and don’t have any grass to appreciate said gifts, it means this…

Guess what I will be doing today? If you said mopping, you were right! But not because my floors are a disgrace—I will be mopping because it will keep me from having to write.


I guess six days wasn’t long enough to make everything roses again. I have decided to give INSIDIOUS a break while I finish the first 25 pages of my new book. I have a conference in June I need to prepare for so I figured it was a good way to get some distance. Maybe in a few weeks I will be ready.

I did receive two more rejections—one from the full manuscript and one from a query. So, I am still waiting to hear back on three plus the one agent that has my full manuscript.

I wish I had more to blog about today but I’m not in a jovial kind of mood. I received word this morning that last night a dear, sweet man died after a long battle with cancer. His story is one I have followed for years, watching the triumphs and setbacks, the happiness and the heartbreaks. He defied all odds and his family taught me so much about holding strong, being positive and never, never, never giving up.

Cancer is an insidious disease. My grandmother—who died of it thirteen years ago—taught me that. She taught me the meaning of the word and so, even though it’s a silly book about teenage boys and demons, I named it INSIDIOUS for her.

May God be with this man and his sweet family at this difficult time, we love them more than they will know.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Private Humiliation

The SCBWI conference in Boise, Idaho did not go as planned. I had hoped to return with tales of rainbows and pots of gold.

But alas, it was a dark cloud of discouragement with a thick, black, humiliated lining.

The agent critique I signed up for was painful at best. I am grateful for the honest feedback I received, but that doesn’t make the medicine any easier to swallow. Basically, it was like being in labor for 72-hours only to have the nurse come in and tell you your baby was the ugliest thing she’d ever seen.

I learned 10 very important things:

1) My main character is a jerk

2) There is no market for yet another book about…heaven forbid… demons!

3) My word choice was offensive, despite the context with which it was intended

4) My fight scene was unrealistic and stupid

5) My characters attempt at gallantry backfired

6) I started the book in the wrong place

7) I had food in my teeth

8) My shirt was ugly

9) My pants made me look fat

10) I am fundamentally flawed

…But despite all that, the writing itself was okay.

Um, thank you?

I spent the weekend wanting to give up. And not just give up—I'm talking take my computer and throw it out the window of a 100 story building kind of giving up.

But, I have to keep reminding myself that even though she thought my baby was hideous and should be burned at the stake; there are others who sort of dig my baby. I kind of dig my baby.

So here I sit at a very important crossroads. If I want to continue to query my book to agents and try and actually get the ugly thing published I have a lot of rework to do. My first two chapters need to be completely rewritten and I need to take a long, long, long and hard look at the rest of it. My other choice is to give up on this book and keep working on my new book, hoping that I can get it right the second time around. My third choice is to turn around, go back the way I came, and quit.

I am not a quitter by nature. Unfortunately, part of writing, part of putting yourself out there to the world and being open for attack, part of trying to achieve your dreams is being disappointed and humiliated along the way. I know that in my brain. It’s my heart that doesn’t understand.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do. I really don’t. But here’s hoping time will heal and I will be back to writing offensive, unreadable drivel in no time!

Friday, April 20, 2012

World Tour: Toronto, Niagara, Pepsico, Boise

I have returned from my ventures in Canada. I was able to sneak away from work for a quick jaunt to a little place the locals like to call Niagara Falls.

Now…I know. Niagara Falls is…like…one of the 7 Deadly Sins, or 7 Dwarfs or 7 something or other but it doesn’t even compare to the miracle that awaited me when I arrived at our offices in Toronto. That’s right, we were on the same floor as PEPSICO! Can you believe it? That means in the ladies room, I wasn’t just making water and reminiscing about last night’s asparagus, it means I was sharing a toilet seat with some of the greatest bottoms of our generation. A moment of silence for the dark mother, if you please.

To top off my wonderful week, we are leaving for Boise today. I get to see some of my favorite people and catch the SCBWI Read, wRite, Revise Conference. Is anyone else coming? I have a one-on-one with an agent to discuss INDISIOUS. I am so excited to get some professional feedback! I’ll blog all about the conference when I get back.

Until then…everyone have an amazing weekend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

GoldiBen and the Three Fish, Eh

Today’s blog comes to you from the windy city of Toronto, Ontario, eh. I don’t have the best internet access so this will be short and sweet, eh. I am hoping to make it to Niagra Falls while I am here so here’s looking forward to some pictures on Friday’s Blog, eh.

GoldiBen decided while the cat was away, he would take Thing 1 and Thing 2 fishing. They caught a Papa, a Momma and a Baby. Aren't they cute?

Now onto my discovery in the wonderful world of writing. This weekend I read SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. I am beyond excited about the advice he gave on screenwriting. I worked furiously today getting my storyboard put together for my latest book. If you are struggling with putting your scenes together for your book, this is a must read!

Also, is anyone going to the Annual August conference for SCBWI in LA? Let me know if you’re going. I am trying to decide whether I can justify the cost and I want to know if 1) It is worth it and 2) is anyone going to be there I can hang out with.

Let me know!!! Do I hear a road trip coming on?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Leering and Plotting

Today I am reading the book SCENE AND STRUCTURE by Jack M. Bickham while watching three strapping young men dig post holes in my backyard. They keep adding and removing articles of clothing thanks to this warm, yet rainy weather. But sadly—I don’t think the naval is going to make an appearance. I will have to find solace in the fact that yesterday I received my second request for a full manuscript. Granted, I also got my second rejection but who’s counting. Certainly not me!

I have been grappling with my latest manuscript, THE ROOST. I am trying to prepare for the June 2012 WIFYR conference and am hoping to find nuggets of inspiration in Mr. Bickham’s book. So far, I have learned 1) that I don’t know the first thing about writing a book and 2) the first book I wrote wasn’t nearly long enough to be considered a novel! How encouraging for me.

Nevertheless, I am enjoying Bickham’s advice on scene writing.

The first point Bickham makes is that fiction must make more sense than real life. Effects must have causes; and causes must have effects. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately in my own writing, I can always think of effects, but never causes. Because the causes require creativity and planning, something I struggle with. They have to be believable. They have to be logical while still being unpredictable. That is a tall order.

Bickham recommends three components of a good scene.

The Goal:

Tarzan loves Jane and wants her to come back to his tree house.

The Conflict:

Tarzan is dumber than a monkey’s butt

And Jane doesn’t know how to swing on trees

The Disaster:

Jane falls out of the tree and blames Tarzan. She files charges of neglect and stupidity and Tarzan is thrown in jail for 7 to 10 years…which is like 8 months in human time or something.

Jane is a player and refuses to wait. She breaks up with Tarzan.

Now, according to Bickham I have just propelled my story forward with this scene, leading you to wonder about the bigger question…will Tarzan and Jane live happily ever after? Can they overcome this obstacle?

In theory, I get it. In practice, it eludes me. My current manuscript reads like a travel log (as my dear and brilliant writer friend helped me to see). Tarzan woke up. Tarzan ate bugs. Tarzan saw Jane. Tarzan liked Jane. Tarzan wants Jane. Tarzan fails. So, I am dusting off my spreadsheets this weekend and I am going to try to implement Bickham’s advice and plan a Goal, Conflict, and Disaster for every scene within the book. That’s a lot of plotting and planning to get done before I can start to rewrite my first 25 pages for the conference.

*Sighs to self*

So what will all of you be doing this weekend?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Query Score Tied at 1!

First, the housekeeping issue of the day. The winner of the Easter Egg contest is…

Brenda Fisher!

Email me your book of choice and your address and I will have Amazon run it on over to you.

Now, onto today’s post. I am happy to update you on the 8 queries I sent out. As of today the score is tied at one rejection and one “Gee I didn’t run screaming in the other direction after Chapter 1 so please send me the entire book and then I’ll reject you.” That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I was asked for a full manuscript. Yippee!!! I was so shaky after the request that I went and ran 4 miles just to calm down. It’s a small step, but it’s a step. I only have 6 more to go…

On the reading front, this weekend I finished Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT.

It was incredible. I highly recommend this one if you liked Hunger Games…or if you just like a good book. I really must stop falling in love with so many fictional characters. The least someone could do is name them all "Ben" so I don’t get so confused all the time. I feel like Cybil. You know…if Cybil were a chubby little accountant wannabe writer.

Well, I’m off to have lunch with fabulous writer/blogger Brodi Ashton to talk about the wonderful world of writing. SO much better than work! What is everyone else up to?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pirate Booty and Bedazzled Eggs

At the beginning of the school year, Thing 2 came home and asked if I could help in her classroom as a “Shopping Mom” one day. I hate other people’s sticky, snot-nosed, whiney children but the teacher was offering Pirate Booty for the kid’s prize bags. So, begrudgingly, I acquiesced to her request.

What Thing 2 forgot to communicate to me was that this was a weekly gig.

So here I am, 8 months later, still volunteering at the school 1 day a week just so my daughter could have some loot for her Booty Bag. Every Friday I go to the school and help the children shop for books.

Guess what I have learned? Other people’s kids aren’t so bad once you get to know them and...reading excites kids. They are so excited each week to pick out a new story to read, they handle their books like treasures. They laugh out loud during the funny parts. They get engrossed in mysteries and suspense. They love to read and I am glad to have had the opportunity to help them discover the amazing world of books.

I just hope they remember it as they grow older. All those feelings that a book can bring to the surface, the world it can create for you to get lost in. That is what reading…and writing…is all about.

Which brings me to my version of Pirate Booty. Amazon.com. Ahhhh….Amazon.

It was like Christmas morning when I opened my email and realized that my long awaited copy of Holly Black’s BLACK HEART had indeed been released and is on its way to my doorstep as we speak. Yeah me! Sequel’s are the gift that keeps on giving.

If any of you haven’t read the Curse Worker Trilogy, I highly recommend them. Holly has created a fantastic world of magic based on the mafia that is completely new—a refreshing break from the norm. Go team Cassel!

Until my book arrives, I am keeping myself busy with Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT, the sequel to IF I STAY, which is gut wrenching. Ben even loves these books. And, now that I have pried my copy of WHERE SHE WENT out of his hands, I am happily engrossed in the world of Adam Wilde and my heart hurts for him.

Has anyone out there read any of these books? What did you think?

Well, this weekend is a big one with Easter and all. Our rotten eggs have been dyed and bedazzled beyond repair so we are ready!

If you haven’t already, don’t forget about the Easter Contest for a free book of your choice!! There is still time to enter. Just. Click. HERE.

Have an amazing weekend everyone!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Free Books for Easter!

In the spirit of the upcoming Easter Holiday, today’s blog will be an egg hunt.

Here's how it works. You get your name in the hat once or twice for each of the following to win a free book of your choice...

1 for each of the 5 questions you get right
2 for each referral you give me on your own Facebook, Twitter or Blog.
2 for each friend request on Facebook (Camille Andersen Ballou) or follow on Twitter (CamBallou) or on the Blog.

The goal is to double the number of followers I have. I need 10 more! If we reach this goal,  I will give away 2 books! But only if I can get 10 NEW friends! Winners will be announced a week from today.

Also, don’t forget the REJECTION CONTEST. A signed copy of Bree Despain’s THE SAVAGE GRACE is still up for grabs.

And now, without further ado, here are the five questions…

1) How many agent queries have I sent out?
2) What is the title of my book?
3) How many mistakes did my mom find in the first chapter?
4) What is my favorite/most influential book?
5) What is my favorite drink?

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor! (Bonus: Name that book)