Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

Well, last week was crazy. A good crazy, but crazy.

We have returned from the Chicago Spring Fling conference, hosted by the Chicago North RWA chapter. What an amazing experience. And I did everything I hoped to.

The Super Great Big News is that an editor requested to see a partial of my manuscript! Michele Bidelspach at Grand Central Publishing wants to know more! I can't tell you how great that is. And what's even better is that I managed to make a personal contact with her before dinner at the bar, and not only does she want to see my pages, but she's a nice person! A funny, real person! I really enjoyed talking to her, both about the book and non-book stuff, and hope that we can build a working relationship together.

Other goals achieved: I met people. People who write books. Some are published (Blythe Gifford, Lindsay Longford, Eloise James, Maureen Lang, just to name a few) and some just starting out, like me (Courtney Milan (who won second and third in her categories! Go Courtney!), Caley Greene, Andrea Dickinson, Barbara whose last name I've forgotten, and more! (Barbara - email me!). Just about everyone was kind and fun, and no one looked at me like I was some sort of weirdo for creating my little farm world. These people made it fun.

I learned stuff: I went to a workshop by Blythe Gifford on the four act structure, and learned a ton about Pretty Woman. And she gave me M&Ms to boot! I also attended After the Sale with Maureen Lang and Christine Hoegrebe, which was highly informative, and Maureen gave me an autographed copy of her book The Oak Leaves for "most difficult journey," because we stopped at the in-laws (although, don't tell Maureen, my in-laws are wonderful. Shh!) And the pep talk I got from Margaret Watson, Myrna Mackenzie, and Lindsay Longford was just what the doctor ordered.

Other goals I accomplished: We saw the house we lived in for over 3 years in Chicago, and the people living there are taking good care of it. The gardens I planted are still beautiful, and it's nice to know they appreciate my hard work. The hubby and I ate an anniversary lunch at the restaurant where we were married just over 6 years ago. I saw my best friend in the whole wide world, and we (finally) found the garbage truck for the adorable son's birthday. It's getting down to the wire, but we got it, and can remain Good Parents. Whew! Plus, he had probably too much fun with his grandparents, so he's a happy toddler, too.

Things are starting to happen, and a large part of the credit for getting the ball rolling goes to the Chicago North RWA for the great conference. So, Thanks Ladies!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Team Anderson!

First, let me begin by saying I love spring. My daffodils are blooming, and the magnolia outside my office window is stunning. I waited all winter for this riot of color. Plus, it's so rewarding to see all my hard work coming to fruition as the gardens return to beauty.

Now, on to business!

A new short story is on the website - "The Girl With the Coal-Black Eyes." To quote a friend, it's saucy, so don't read it at work, people! Plus, it's the companion to the final book in the Emerson series. Some things won't make much sense until you've read the book. But if you want to see what I've been up to, check it out. Sometimes you've got to go where your muse takes you. Mine spent a few weeks in Vietnam.

The hubby and I will be leaving for Chicago and the Spring Fling conference in a week. I have been frantically revising Marrying the Emersons on the optimistic hope that an agent or editor will request pages at the conference. I want it ready to go. All while the adorable toddler had the tummy flu. It's been a weird week, but it's getting better.

My critique team has been putting in some overtime too. The good news is I think I've finally got an opening I can stand behind. But it was a long week and a half as the team members wrangled with the best way to start this danged book.

Writing is, at times, a solitary event. But getting published is a group effort. Anyone who tells you different is lying.

So I'd like to introduce Team Anderson. Without the love, support, and occasional smack down these generous people provide, I'd be spinning my wheels.

Critiquing is what these people do best!

Mary D. - Technically, Mary is my supervisor at the day job. But she's a darned fun woman, and tolerates my babbling about adorable toddlers and plot twists with surprising grace and humor. She's a primary source - a farm girl, born and bred, and is more than happy to share such valuable information about everything from baling alfalfa to plucking chickens to outhouse construction. Plus, she knows more about grammar than Strunk AND White combined.

Leah Lucas - My sister, if you must know. But Leah has an unwavering grasp on how things SHOULD go and sound. If it ain't right, she's perfectly happy to get nasty on my manuscript when everyone else says it's fine. The new opening is mostly her iron-fisted editing in action.

Pauline Friday - Truthfully, Pauline is good for one thing. Sex Scenes. If you want to know why, read her blog yourself at adatebyfriday.blogspot.com. But don't say I didn't warn you!

Mom - A history teacher, Mom and I have frequent arguments about including the exact number of people who died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and how much radios cost back in 1937, and whether or not I need to mention FDR more. Everyone should have a critique member who frequently strokes their egos, and Mom does it for me!

Dad - Well, sorta. He read an early draft, and I'm not sure he ever recovered from the sex scenes. But he had some good points - I just had to listen to them. Eventually. He could say I told you so if he wanted to, but he's just not that kind of Dad.

But Team Anderson is much more than a Critique group.

Other valuable Team members:

Hannah Clampitt - My other sister, she's a PR goddess. I haven't had much use for that yet, but the day will come, and she'll be all over that. Welcome back home!

Craig Clampitt - As I mentioned last week, he's my Web guy. I've got an amazingly beautiful website, http://www.sarahmanderson.com/, that's all him. Plus he's got a house by a lake. Hello, three day weekends!

Leah Hanlin - Some of us are just lucky enough to have a dear friend who is a hyper-talented graphic designer. Letterhead? Check. Business Cards? Check. Bringing her kids over to play with mine and just hang out? Check. Plus, she picked out pretty decent bridesmaids dresses. The girl's got taste!

The Passionate Pen - Run by Jenna Peterson/Jess Michaels, The Passionate Pen is my unofficial mentor in the world of romance writing. She's kind, gracious, and helpful. I can't wait to meet her in Chicago!

Friends who listen to me babble: Mary D., Melissa, Leah H., my whole family, Uncle Doug, my Hubby, and countless others who nod and smile. Some of my best ideas come when I'm bouncing them off others.

There you have it. As I've entered this new phase, these people have done everything they could to help me make a go of it.

I couldn't do it without them!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Self-Promotion Run Amuck!

This is somewhat ridiculous.

I don't have a book out. I don't have a contract. I don't even have an agent.

But I do have a website. And now I have a blog.

The theory is that this self-hype will somehow show agents and editors that I'm a Serious Author. I'm Committed to my writing.

Personally, I feel just a bit like being committed.

I could use the rest.

So let's review the basics. I'm got one book finished, Marrying the Emersons. I have the remaining books in the series, A Part of Her and The Best They Could, about half done.

I have a damned snazzy website, www.sarahmanderson.com, designed by my sister's father-in-law, Craig Clampitt.

I'm going to the Spring Fling Conference in Chicago in less than three weeks.

I have a part time job as a writer and editor for an educational publishing company (which is enough to get me a newly remodeled bathroom, but not quite enough for a new patio).

I have a son who will be three in less than a month.

Somehow, I'm supposed to be 'getting my name out there,' 'getting eyeballs' to look at my stuff. I'm supposed to be blogging (check!), posting comments on Amazon, writing articles, filming book videos, winning awards, designing promotional items for librarians, writing queries, getting contracts, and fielding offers from Hollywood actresses looking to win an Oscar for portraying my heroines.

And don't forget the actual writing!

On about six non-consecutive hours of sleep.

Let me explain.

My son, who shall henceforth be known as Thomas (see, it's not that I don't trust you all, but at heart, I'm a little paranoid, and would prefer that his adorable visage not be out there for everyone to fixate on) doesn't sleep. He's a great kid, all boy (except for the cooking thing, but let's give a shout out to Alton Brown!) and going to three in a month.

But he doesn't sleep. And when he don't sleep, I don't sleep.

Nightmares, night terrors, phantom night poops, you name it, he doesn't sleep. Some days, it's not so bad. He got me up at 1:45 last night, and my hubby at 5:15 this morning. Not bad.

But night before last? No sleep between about 12:30 and 4ish.

Oh, he's asleep, but he screams in his sleep. And the moment I get vertical, my brain kicks on. So even after I've tucked him in, I lay in bed for twenty, thirty minutes while conversations between my people play out, or I agonize over what to wear to the conference.

And just as I finally, FINALLY, drift off, he screams again.

It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

So, there you have it. I'm trying real hard to be a Writer. I'm trying real hard to raise a happy, well-adjusted boy in today's over saturated world.

Will these two goals be able to coexist?

Join me as we find out together.