Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Call to Action - No More Death

Dear members of the black community,

I am so sorry. I weep with you today. I see the body lying in the street from the comfort of my home and I know I will never feel your pain. But I can hold your hand as you cry.

I write to you today sitting in a room of white bodies. I look around and I wonder who amongst these people knows that a man was murdered yesterday. How many saw the video? Had any of them used one of those lines while talking amongst friends?

-Well, he should have cooperated.

-Blacks kill more blacks than police.

-They commit 70% of violent crimes, what do they expect?

It makes me sick when I see it. It hurts even worse when it’s someone I know: a family member, a friend. My twitter feed is full of voices of color and writers and people who care. It’s a safe space in that I can attack any stranger who posts racist, anti-Semitic, disgusting things.

Facebook is not so friendly. That’s where my family resides. My racist, homophobic, #bluelivesmatter family. Every day they’re there. And when they are blatant in their vitriol, I call them out. Calling out the daily micro-aggressions is harder.

I share, I write, I try to educate, but it’s hard to fit anything in a cup filled with tRump.

And my family full of Republicans, those gleeful tRump supporters you see on TV and wonder huh?, they know better than to bring anything up in my presence. At a birthday party, I could tell they all walked on eggshells around me. When someone would bring up something mildly political they would look at each other in a silent, don’t bring it up or the liberal will start whining in her SJW voice.

While that means I had the peace of not listening to their bile, I also did nothing. I left the room of proud, gun-toting Mericans to continue in their hateful ways. And whenever I see the story of another black man murdered at the hands of police, I see their faces. I hear their voices in the press, in the fox news commentators. I read their words in every stupid twitter justification.

It only furthers my resolve.

White people, I’m talking to you now. We can do better. We can take part of the load. When you see the racism, call it out. When you see hate justified, correct with the facts. Get educated and get vocal.

We owe it to humanity. These aren’t just black bodies in the streets, that’s a human, a brother, a father, a son, a husband. Weep, pray, and then use your voice.

And for the love of it all, get out there on November 8th and vote. Because while you may think that Hillary has her share of problems, and she does, the other option only exacerbates the hate, the violence, the deplorables. Don’t let our community fall prey to it. Keep hope alive. You can make a difference.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Statistics Fun!

Yea! Let's have some statistics fun!

fun theme park skipping happy amusement park

What? There's no such thing? Well, that's probably true, but let's give it a whirl anyway.

Let me start out by saying I'm not a statistician. That takes more school and math than I am willing to do, but research and statistics cover most my background and I get paid to make meaning of globs of data, so let's pretend like I'm qualified.

Meaningful statistics are a combination of three components. If any of said components is lacking, your statistics are bullshit. Which I would say 90% of statistics people tout on the Internet are bullshit. See that made up number? It's not real, but it feels real so you want to believe it. Stop doing that.

First, we need a good data sources. Trust nothing that could have an alternative agenda or is a biased organization for raw data sets. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please check out any guns and ammo magazine or pro-life website. If they're gathering data themselves, it's probably wrong. Data collected from the Department of Justice or National Health Organization, those are real data sources; Department of Police Services or Organization for Healthy Living may not. Beware of real-sounding organizations that are just propaganda machines because they are very good at creating names that sound legitimate.


Second, is what's being tested the real data. Wait, I'm asking you to check the data? Yes, because pulling up shit results in shit statistics. If we're looking at the percent of Chipotle burritos with salmonella, it doesn’t make any sense to pull the results of the taco shells. Yes, someone is shitting somewhere, but the taco data doesn’t tell us if the burrito was to blame.

And finally, the data needs to be interpreted properly. I mean, you can’t run a chi-squared test if you’re comparing two separate populations. That would just be ridiculous.

What? Too technical?

How about you can’t say more puppies were adopted than kittens this month because 60% of the puppies were adopted. I mean 60% is obviously more than half, but that isn’t what the statistic is telling us. This goes back to the data set. If we have 100 kittens and only 50 puppies, then 60% of puppies being adopted is 30 puppies adopted. And 40% of kittens being adopted is 40 kittens. More kittens were adopted than puppies even though the statistic made it sound the other way.

fun roller coaster roller coaster

What am I trying to get at here? Don’t trust all the statistics you read. Do your research before you re-quote something, even if it proves your point. Especially if a politician is using it. And stop flinging around bad statistics to back up your bad ideals. To misquote the immortal John Oliver, “Don’t bring feelings to a fact fight.”*

Thank you to Giphy.com for the use of their gifs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Critique: It's not as scary as you think

It’s been nine months or so since I’ve last posted. So much has happened in that time—good, bad, scary, amazing. And yet what brought me back to the blog was none of it. I’ll save all that for another time.

Today I want to talk to you about a very serious issue. Something every writer needs in their arsenal if they want to be read.


New Girl scared scream screaming nick miller

Stay with me now. I know to some people it’s a four letter word that sends your writing soul curling up in the fetal position. It was for me too, at one point…

Lately I’ve been seeing too much backlash when it comes to the critique. I get it, it’s hard to listen as someone tears apart your sweet written baby. They don’t understand, they haven’t worked on it for hours upon weeks upon years. You know everything about your world and the story, they don’t know anything. Idiots.
angry work archer office frustrated
And that’s the point.

If you want other people to read your work, then you need to open your ears to them.

I’m going to share a little of my own pain. I don’t know if it will help, but misery loves company. There are three critiques that have stuck with me, critiques I will never forget, as they have shaped my critique receiving behavior forever.

When I finished my baby MS, I had bright doe eyes, ready to share with the world and hear what others thought about it. I tried different online forums with mixed results. The truth was, the anonymity and mean-spiritedness of online didn't work for me. So I searched on meetup.com and found I found a critique group in my local area.

They first time I walked in the door of that Starbucks, I wanted to throw up. Surely these were Craigslist kidnappers who murdered people showing up to their "writer's group." To my surprise, none of them seemed the kidnap/murder-y type and I actually felt a little at home with the eclectic group.

They were welcoming, but the leader made it clear from the beginning: we aren’t here to critique sandwich you with fluffy happy stuff. We’re here to work. And as scary as that sounds, I appreciated the honesty. So I put up my first piece and  braced myself for my first real critique.

It was brutal. To my never ending embarrassment, I didn't know how to properly use quotations, I committed so many commatrocities I thought I would be jailed by the grammar police, and I used the phrase "magically delicious".
frozen elsa let it go

But I learned, and I kept submitted. I won't lie, I usually had a drink beforehand because it took some of the sting off. But I kept at it and I got a little better each time.

Then one day during my critique I heard these words, "You've got a problem, and it's a big, fucking problem."

I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. It was happening all over again. I shouldn't be a writer, I was a pathetic impersonator. Every horrible thought that writers think, I went through in the moments and hours and days after.

hen I felt less vulnerable I read the piece. You know, he was right. Everything they said was right.

After that moment I started listening more. And I learned some very important things. Not just about the pieces being critiqued, but how attitude can make or break you.
ron swanson nick offerman headphones listening
Don't argue and say, "Well, if you get to the next chapter then it'll be explained." Because the truth is, if someone reads it and it doesn't make sense, then it doesn't make sense. If you want to be read, then you have to appreciate reader feedback.

Not everything in critique is perfect, and sometimes different people will argue over if it fits in the piece or not. But it's your job as the author to review that section with a critical eye and decide if it needs fixing. Don't dismiss your critics just because your ego is too soft. Open your mind and your writing will thrive.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ready, Set, Write! Wrap-Up

It's late, so I'll be brief. Which suits my writing style.

I have taken Beauty Bound from 80,000 words to almost 100,000. Because of the revisions I put the query search on hold. But I will be picking back up with a new and improved MS.

I added 8,420 words to Arrow Nocked.

I ran two chapters of Survivors through critique group, then put it on hold. It needs more time and research.

The most important accomplishment of the summer was one I hadn't planned on. I feel like I took a step forward in my writing. Through some excellent feedback and critique I saw a huge writing issue that I had. So my MS is so much better now, I feel embarrassed for even thinking the first one was ok.

Because I have to go into work tomorrow, I can't use the paint quite like I had intended. But I would use the following colors:

Dark green on the thumb- to represent the growth and spirituality in nature
Blue on the index finger- to represent the ocean and sky as they point to peace
Red on the middle finger- to flip off the evil
Light green on the ring finger- for a secret twist
Pink on the pinkie- for the littlest surprise

Have a wonderful rest of the year. Keep up the wonderful words!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ready, Set, Write! Update # 10

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison Miller, Jaime Morrow, Erin Funk, Elodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. We check in every Monday and conclude on August 31.

1. How I did on last week’s goals

Add 5,000 words to Beauty Bound: I put it over the 90,000 target, so I feel accomplishment, even if it's not the total 5,000

Perfect #PitchWars entry: yes, and submitted

Exercise three days this week: yes, including a very fun dance party with the family to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Finish piece for critique partner: no, bad girl

Read a book off of my "to-read" list: no, in my sheer panic I pulled out my comfort book (ACOTAR) and re-read

2. My goal(s) for this week

Pick up Arrow Nocked and write in it, it's feeling sorely neglected

Finish piece for critique partner

Exercise three days this week

Read a book off of my "to-read" list

Clean my sorely neglected house

3. A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote

 “I'd be happy if you were naked.”

She tapped him on the forehead. “Not once have you looked genuinely happy. Not even when I am naked. So do what I say and stop talking.”

4. The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write, the siren song of SNIs)

The panic of pushing myself to a deadline. But I think it was good practice.

5. Something I love about my WIP

My villains.

Write because it makes you happy!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ready, Set, Write! Update #9

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison Miller, Jaime Morrow, Erin Funk, Elodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. We check in every Monday and conclude on August 31.

1. How I did on last week’s goals

Add 5,000 words to Beauty Bound: Up 4,000, so pretty good

Perfect #PitchWars entry: Will it ever really be perfect?

Blogpost on MWW: YES!

Exercise three days this week: Done!

Finish piece for critique partner: half done

Read a book off of my ever-growing "to-read" list: Thirteen Reasons Why, fantastic, but terrifying as the mother of girls

Scope out places and setting for author photos: a little, now to convince the husband to do them

2. My goal(s) for this week

Add 5,000 words to Beauty Bound

Perfect #PitchWars entry

Exercise three days this week

Finish piece for critique partner

Read a book off of my "to-read" list

3. A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote

How long could she last? Where else would she go? She couldn’t go home. Her nightmare would only come back.

4. The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write, the siren song of SNIs)

Finding focus. Finding time. Finding my brain.

5. Something I love about my WIP

The characters and their complicated relationship.

Write like no one is watching!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Oral Pitchin is Bitchin

Or the bane of a writer's existence.

Yes, the second one.

If you've never been to a writer's conference and engaged in the horror that is the oral pitch session, then you have lucked out. Don't get me wrong, you give me three alone minutes with an agent or editor, I am happy as can be. I just hate what pitching does to authors.

I recently attended the Midwest Writer's Workshop for the second year in a row. If you live in the Midwest and haven't been, you are missing out. It is one of the highlights of my year. And not just my writing year. You get to meet tons of writers in your field or out of your field or you just like to drink beer with them. And, of course, there are the agents.

Why are you so obsessed with me?

Agents. It is easy to imagine them as a lion to stalk and pounce on as soon as you might get a free moment with them. Yet you look around the conference, and everyone is freaking out about their pitches. If you haven't been in the world of querying hell, then it's hard to understand just how exciting it is to get a real, live agent in front of you. They will say yes or no. No waiting for three months and never getting an answer. A three minute decision. And you'll know.

The problem is, you don't know. It's one agent, who is the best fit for you out of seven agents. Querying is about identifying agents who fit your category and genre, making sure they like what kind of book you're writing them, then sending them your carefully crafted query that encapsulates the essence of your book and has been revised as meticulously as your manuscript. Or at least it should. You're a writer, written words are your craft.

Oral pitching is like word vomiting on someone and praying that they like you.

But pitching doesn't have to be evil. I pitched the past two years, and the experience was amazing. You just have to treat it right to make it not so stressful you think about losing your continental breakfast beforehand.

At MWW there were a lot of people around to help with pitches, which essentially is boiling your book to a paragraph. Kind of like a QUERY. But I say, take the pitch prep a step further. Taper your pitch down to one sentence or two. Your hook. The magical, elusive hook.

It's Magical

So BAM! Hit them with your hook. Both times, with my initial hook, the agent sat back. They appeared refreshed by not having words chucked at them in rapid succession. Then, the best thing happened. The agent/editor asked me a question.


The question they wanted to know, not what I guessed they wanted to know. So I would answer, then they would ask another question and another. Last year, I got a small bit of interest, but what was more valuable, I could see where I lost her. And I could tell what the important parts of my story were from the agent perspective. Not my warped writer's perspective.

So yes, some of my fellow writers got requests for 100 pages, and I am super duper excited for them. But I wouldn't want to put myself through the stress some people did, only to be told by the editor that she's not into medieval settings. That's cool, I got to talk to her for three minutes about what she did like.

This method might not work for everyone. Some people want to be completely prepared. It might be your dream agent and you want the pitch to work perfectly. But if not, consider the alternative.

Have pitchin day!
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