Friday, April 29, 2011

Change of Scenery

So, I heard back from 'the agent' and she said she was seriously considering representing my story, Baltimore Heat. Then came the 'but'. She said it needed some fine tuning and recommended getting more critiques.

I asked some author friends, and four critiques have since landed in my inbox in the past three weeks... Then I sat on them.


Well, I could give you a list of reasons that include: sick children, sick mother, other projects I wanted to wrap up, etc.

But when I did a 'gut check' the real reasons felt more like: fear of failure and fear of success. What if my friends hated the book and tore it to pieces in their critiques? What if I no longer liked the book when I read it with fresh eyes? Or worse, what if the agent liked it and asked for what I have finished next? What if I can't ever write another one?

Do you know how to avoid such fears?

Lay on a really comfy couch and read historical romances for about five days in a row. Whenever anyone asks 'how's the writing going?' Say you're doing research. It doesn't matter that you don't write historical, all romance is research, right?

So, during that 'gut check', I also asked myself what I needed to do to get back to work because sitting on my couch staring at my laptop and the pile of critiques on my coffee table wasn't getting it done. I decided I needed to change my environment. Getting out of my house and parking my butt in a coffee shop or the library would put me in the mind frame that I was ready to work. The only problem is that I've been stuck at home with a sick kid all week. Poor puppy has had a fever for 5 days! And that's even with antibiotics.

Anyhoo! I looked over at my unused dining room and saw 'coffee shop'! As soon as I got home from taking kid #2 to the bus stop, I dusted the table, the buffet, and even the chandelier (call it procrastination, I'll call it setting the mood). I made a pot of decaf hazelnut coffee, lit a candle, wheeled in my comfy office chair (one of the perks of a 'home coffee shop') and stuck in my headphones. Instant change of scenery.

I was upright, focused and ready to get to business. And I had a really productive day. I didn't get past the first three chapters, but I spent a lot of time with chapter one, making it shiny, sparkly, polished. Then after dinner I was able to knock off chapter four.

Today, I am back in my 'home coffee shop'. The coffee is brewed, the candle is lit, the music is playing in my ears, the sick kid is parked in front of the TV, and my fingers are itching to make those revisions.

Do you ever find a change of scenery helpful when you are battling those common fears of authorship?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Authorial Interview with Allie Pleiter

Authorial Mom: Welcome to the Authorial Moms blog, Allie! Tell us a little about yourself. How many kids do you have? How old are they?
Allie Pleiter: I have a nineteen year old daughter and a fifteen year old son.
AM: What do you write? How many books have you written/published? How old are they?
AP: I’ve written fiction and non-fiction.  I have two parenting books, BECOMING A CHIEF HOME OFFICER, and FACING EVERY MOM’S FEARS.  I also have over a dozen inspirational novels for Love Inspired/Steeple Hill, the most recent of which are YUKON WEDDING, MISSION OF HOPE and BLUEGRASS EASTER.  Last year was my tenth anniversary as a published author!
AM: That's amazing! Congratulations. Tell me about a typical day. How do you write with kids around? Or do you have to ship them off to school or grandparents’ houses to get anything done?
Author Allie Pleiter
AP: Typical day?  I don’t think I ever get one of those words.  My kids are rather self-sufficient these days, but back when they were little I remember writing from the nanosecond they got on the bus until the nanosecond they got off.  My first book was written almost entirely in McDonald’s while my little ones were in the ball pit.  Summers, while the teens are underfoot blasting their stereos, are still challenging.
AM: Did you write before you had kids, or after? What changed with your writing when you had kids?
AP: I’ve only written with kids.  I think there’s an advantage to learning how to write with distractions and kids are fabulous teachers at that.
AM:  How old will one or more of your children have to be before they’re allowed to read your books?
AP: Love Inspired books are “sweet” romances, without sensuality but definitely with romantic attraction.  As such, I’d be comfortable with either of my teenagers (and anyone 13 or older) reading my books---if they ever wanted to.  My teenage daughter helped me with social media one summer, and I told her she had to read my current release.  She asked if she got paid for that like her other work.  I figured I’d have to pay anyone else, so she read my book “on the clock.”  I couldn’t resist asking her what she thought of it.  Her response was, “Like, if you weren’t related to me?”  I told her not to finish the thought. My son says he’ll only read my books if I put zombies and vampires in them.  He’ll have a long wait.
AM: Becoming an author means having a public persona. How do you combine motherhood with the demands of a public life? Do you feature your kids, keep them shielded under pseudonyms, or leave them out of the equation entirely? Have they asserted their opinion(s) on this matter?
AP: Once I asked my daughter if she was bothered by my public persona.  Her response was to roll her eyes and say, “Come on Mom, you’re not that famous.”  It’s hard to write parenting books without talking about your kids, but I do try to get their approval, think about what’s out there so it doesn’t embarrass them, and protect their privacy to a certain degree.  I’m write about them but never in sensitive detail.
AM: Most Moms I know have a limited amount of free time. Give me a few reasons why they should dedicate some of that time to your characters. What’s in it for us?
AP: You’ll come away with an encouraging, laughing adventure that will teach you something significant.  It will lift you up, not angst you out.  And you have my permission to read my books in the bathroom, because I know it may be the only place you ever get to be alone.
AM: Let’s have a little fun with fill-in-the-blanks. “The floor of my kitchen is so ___ you can ___ it.”
AP: “The floor is my kitchen is so carefully crafted in its color and texture you can not tell if it’s dirty.”  That strategy is my greatest--or perhaps my only--domestic achievement.
AM: That's quite an achievement--one that I wish I'd thought of! What’s up next for you?
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AP: I’ve just had a new release, the launch book of the Alaskan Brides continuity mini-series from Love Inspired, YUKON WEDDING.  This story is a grand adventure wrapped around a very tender romance, so it was great fun to write.  Then I take a bit of a break and my next book, FALLING FOR THE FIREMEN, launches a new series of mine in 2012 set in the fictional Illinois town of Gordon Falls.  I think fans of my Kentucky Corners series will really enjoy the Gordon Falls books, for they’ll have the same small-town cast of vibrant characters. 
   AM: Where can we find you and your books online?
AP: Find out all about my speaking, my parenting books, and my novels at  If you’re a knitter, you can also see my flex a different set of writing muscles at, where I have a travel/knitting blog from all my promotion/research adventures (and I do love me a good adventure!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Vacation observation...

How exactly does one sum up a trip? Okay. Clarification. Not trip -- vacation. My first true vacation in three years. Just me and my hubby. Likely the last one of it’s kind for a while as the pod (baby), now affectionately called Blue, will make his debut at the end of July.
We hadn’t even left for London (our vacation destination) when I got the ever lovely and encouraging news that I had a total Golden Hearts fail. After a minor meltdown and threats of throwing in the towel with writing all together, I managed to get myself under control enough to pack.
After an all night flight, wandering through a HUGE airport (where it is small marathon to get from the gate to customs; let alone baggage claim); a trip on the London underground with luggage and a three block walk to the hotel; I remembered what drunk felt like even though it’s been 10 years since I had a drink.
SIDE BAR: I don’t know if this happened to you when you were growing up, but: My parents had friends who were world travelers and they loved to take pictures of where they went. Rather, they loved to take slides (for those of you too young to know what a slide is -- NOT the ones on the playground -- go look it up on wikipedia while I take pain medication for my sciatica -- oi!). Anyway, my family, who didn’t travel, was always “treated” to an evening of travel slides with the travelers commentary.
To prevent you from having to walk through my vacation and politely laugh at my antidotes, I will sum up:
Star sighting: we saw Cillian Murphy waiting in the “fast track” lane in customs. Don’t know who Cillian Murhpy is? Go to IMDB.
Words that seemed to come up a lot -- even in advertisements: Darling - euphemism for EVERYONE, but especially women and children. Proper - we even bought dog biscuits that tell us they are “proper dog biscuits.” Apparently Milk Bones are just too vulgar.
I realized that we, in the states, really are a nation of SUPER SIZE. Now, I live in an expensive city, where you pay a ridiculous amount of money for not a lot of space. I’ve also spent some time in New York, where you get even less space for even more money. I knew going to London that hotel rooms were tiny. EVERY freakin’ blog tells you so. However, nothing could prepare me for the elevator, our room or the shower. Again to save you from every detail, I will say that at one point, I had to have my husband come in the closet... er ... bathroom... and pick up the soap I dropped in the shower because I couldn’t bend over to get it. Oh, and the bathroom sink was about the size of the average american dinner plate. Even the produce was smaller.
While we’re on the subject of food... Coke was in a weird label and the bottle shape was strange -- more cylindrical that our hour glass shape. The candy, though it was the same Twix, Snickers and Hershey’s as here, ALL had different packaging as to be almost unrecognizable -- though a jonesing pregnant woman can always find what she needs ... unless it’s Benedryl in the pharmacy in London... but that’s a whole different story for another time.
If you have to go potty in London, you better know how to hover over a toilet because A LOT of the public restrooms don’t have toilet seats. Also, they don’t believe in paper towels ... at all. Only air blowers to dry the mitts.
I keep getting told that I would have to go to the countryside to experience the famous English politeness, which must be true. All I can say is that London was no different than any American city I’ve been in. People are pushy, self-serving and generally in a hurry. The only difference is that when someone bumps you in San Francisco, they don’t apologize or mumble anything to you; they just keep on walking. In London, they mutter unenthusiastically that they are sorry, but they don’t make eye contact and often times you miss the apology ‘cause they are already walking away.
We did have to ask seven different employees, from seven different shops, not including two security officers and a ticket agent, where the Paddington Bear kiosk was in Paddington Station.
The best moment hands down though, was finding that Londoners can watch an hour of Judge Judy every morning from 8am - 9am. Now, I hate to admit that Judge Judy is my secret little television vice -- we all have one, I’m just admitting to mine -- so I was thrilled to find Judge Judy in a foreign land. Then, I realized that THIS was one of the shows that represented the US to the UK. I was torn between amused and sad.
One of the biggest reason that we chose London was the history. I felt that I could glean a decent story out of the place. At the very least, some sort of idea for a character or an essence for a place. I was getting really bummed when, by our last day, I just had sore feet from walking, a bad back from the extra firm bed in our hotel and a really bad cold I caught from my husband. All that and no inspiration. The hubby, as a painter, really wanted to go to the Tate Modern and he’d been nice enough to indulge all my London fantasies, so we went to the Tate. Modern art is hard for me. Often times I just don’t get it and that only serves to frustrate me and make me feel inadequate in some way. It doesn’t help that everyone in my life have been artists and I feel obliged to at least act like I get it. Anyway, wandering through the halls of work, I stumbled upon a series of painting that sledgehammered my brain and gave me hope that story ideas weren’t totally lost in the nether-sphere of writers block. Who would have thought, I a center of epic world history, I find inspiration in the modern art museum. Typical.
So, as a writer, the trip wasn’t a total wash. As a wife and soon to be mother, the trip was a good break from reality - though I could do without the lingering cold and cough. Now, I have to channel that energy into something worth mentioning... like another story ... maybe one that won’t be a contest fail or added to my wall of rejection shame.
Here’s hopin’.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hop into Spring Break

Daily conversation for the two weeks preceding Spring Break.

Matthew: I wish we were going somewhere for Spring Break.
Me: I do, too.

Finally, on the last day of school before break started, he offered a solution.

Matthew: I wish we could at least go somewhere and do something fun for a day, like Michigan Adventure's water park.
Me: Matthew, this is Michigan in April. It's 40 degrees outside and the water park is closed.

(I said he offered a solution. I didn't say it was a good one.)

Me: In the past, we've gone to Crazy Bounce. Do you want to go there again?
Matthew: No, they never get any new ones.
Me: And you always get bored before the hour is over.
Matthew: What about Great Wolf Lodge? Sarah is trying to talk her parents into taking her there.
Me: That's a long drive that requires an overnight stay.
Matthew: Oh. (Bottom lip sticks out in small pout.)
Me: What about going to a movie? We can splurge and get sodas and popcorn.
Matthew: And refills?
Me: Yep.
Matthew: Yay!

So, the "Spring Break that was no fun" crisis was averted. On Monday, I took my three boys to see the movie, Hop. (Very good for a kid movie. Kept this Mom entertained as well as the kids.) I even went so far as to stop at the gas station to let the boys each pick out candy to go with their soda and popcorn.

On the way to the theater, I had a thought.

Me: Has anyone eaten lunch?
Threeboys: Nope!
Me: Whoohoo! I guess it's popcorn, candy and soda for lunch today. Happy Spring Break!

So, by now you're probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with being an Authorial Mom? Well, when I got home at 1:30 pm, I was so full of popcorn, Twizzlers and Diet Coke that I was able to sit down at my desk and write until 5:30 pm without even once needing to stop for a snack break for me or the boys. And that's a miracle!

P.S. The downside of this miracle is that all the caffeine (which I don't usually drink) kept me awake half the night. Hopefully, it won't diminish my productivity today. :(