What’s Your Passion?

Boulder-2010Yesterday I watched a documentary about the history of rock climbing in Yosemite. To this you probably arch an eyebrow. “But Laura doesn’t rock climb,” you say to yourself. And you would be correct, but I found it absolutely fascinating. While I listened to the interviews and watched the athletes climb I was struck by their passion. Climbers have been referred to as dirt bags and adrenaline junkies. Both of these labels might be accurate and from what I’ve heard, often self-proclaimed, but I dare to say one-dimensional as well. It’s passion. Once a person is “bit by the bug” so to speak, you can’t hold yourself back. It can be anything. You can be a voracious reader without inching your way up the side of a sheet of granite.

I love to write. Clearly, that’s no secret. I’m passionate about writing. Even the thought of writing a new novel gives me a rush. And when I’m in the throws of writing – that’s just amazing. Not always euphoric, but emotional, crazy, and above all, essential. I’m also passionate about running, hiking, yoga, and most recently kayaking tickles me pink. Most importantly I allow myself to indulge in all of my passions so that I can be the best at being me. And trust me, my loves, Randy and Lane, appreciate that.

While I watched these climbers I respected them and their passion. I was happy for people I don’t know because they have a passion or many passions and they’re doing what they love.

So what is your passion?

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Should You Hire an Editor?

When I made the transition from short stories to novels and made the decision to publish my work, I had no idea how the publishing world worked. I envisioned an editor pouring me a glass of whisky and making suggestions while I sat in front a roaring fireplace making notes.  Maybe I wasn’t that idyllic, but close. Needless to say, that’s not how it works.

As a self-published author I have contracted with an editor for the entire editing and development of my novels. I’d recommend that for any author that wishes to self-publish. But what about authors who choose to pitch queries, hope to land an agent and then a publisher? You still should hire your own editor and this is why. When you submit queries your novel must be complete. All agents require a complete novel or they won’t respond to your query at all. Typically with your query, agents require a chapter or a number of pages. You want these pages and your entire novel to be submission ready. You want the best possible version of your work out there. Not anything short of what you consider to be story and copy perfect.

The next important decision is aligning yourself with an editor. I use the word “aligning” intentionally because you are glued to each other’s sides for the duration of your project. Maybe not literally, but definitely figuratively. Each editor has a style and so do you. Contact as many editors as necessary, have each one give you a sample edit on about six pages of your novel, meet in person if you can, have long conversations about whatever and anything, and evaluate your compatibility. Compatibility is the key. An editor that you are compatible with will coach you, urge you to make better writing decisions and encourage you to turn out your best work.  With a great editor, all of this will happen without you even knowing it.

Where do you find an editor? Start with referrals, then look online. I have built an entire publishing team by doing internet research. There are many, many freelance editors out there. Do the research, make a list, and start interviewing. It can be time consuming, but in the end it will be quite worth it.

Good luck to you. Your amazing novel is just around the corner.

Yours in writing,

Laura Albright

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Don’t Forget to Write the Movie Version

I finally had the chance to watch the “Hollywood” release of the big screen adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey. I didn’t rush to the theater upon it’s much anticipated release like most of my demographic; instead I waited in fear for the DVD release. I say “in fear” because like most readers I’m often disappointed when I see a movie following a particularly poignant read. I was disappointed for various reasons, but most importantly it made me think about writing in a different way. As I watched I started checking off a list of things I would have done differently and my mind went to my novels. The reason I turned the pages of that particular book was two-fold. One obvious answer and one maybe not so obvious. First, it was the first book I’d read at that point that introduced a love scene on almost every page and second, the inter dialogue of the protagonist and her inherent struggle was interesting. Those two qualities failed in the movie.

As I take away those observations I wonder how many authors think about the movie version of their work. Not who will be cast, but how it will translate mediums. We’re writing in an age where most everyone watches movies. Often when we read we imagine the Hollywood version. At least I do.

My next challenge – and I’m always looking for one – is to circle back to my works in progress and evaluate at a deeper level if I’m really creating not only a scene but an experience that allows the reader to transfer the written word into a screen adaptation in their mind. I think this exercise will uncover any weak areas where I haven’t portrayed a “GMC” (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) well enough. One of my ongoing works, The Fifth Day, has given me a bit of run for my money in this area, and I think this new outlook could help me turn this work around. Let’s see what I can do. Check back.

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Happy New Year!

IMG_0289This lovely Friday marks the beginning of a new year for all of us, so from my family to yours I wish you a great year ahead. I find so many of us use this time to inventory and set goals. My husband and I do the same. We take a quick inventory of our finances, vacation plans as well as home improvement goals. If you know my husband it should come as no surprise that although our house is perfectly renovated he always has home improvement plans. I, on the other hand, have vacation plans that are often out of reach – so there. Overall, each year marks a little more of the same for me and for must of us I assume. I find that comforting as well as a little rote. I plan to shake things up a little. I will enjoy the comfort of knowing I have some healthy routines in place, but I also plan to do a few things outside of my comfort zone. I haven’t figured out what those things are yet, but I will and I’ll post them here. So please enjoy your year and maybe do a couple things that are new to you.

 

Best, as always,

Laura

 

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It’s Not You…It’s Me!

I have been a remiss blogger. I know. I hang my head in shame.

To update you, The Emily Series is still my first love, but life has thrown me some curve-balls as of late, and I have been focusing on a new job. I love it, but it takes most of my time and all of the energy that I would otherwise give The Emily Series and subsequent novels.

But hey, it’s summer and when I think of warm summers and long ago loves, I think of Meet Emily. If you haven’t read the final novel in The Emily Series, now’s the time. Here’s a little teaser:

When Emily Parker returns to her hometown after several years, she’s reminded of the rolling hills and captivating quiet, the fond memories of growing up and one lost love. Years of relationships falling short behind her, she’s finally happy on her own. So why when she makes the turn into her hometown does she think of that one boy, that one relationship that only lasted the span of a summer but stayed on her mind over the years? Why have all other relationships paled in comparison?

Two Rivers

Introducing  Christian

   I was impressed, but he brushed it off as if it was no great feat. We laughed and talked about so many things, yet really nothing at all. We stood by the water and skipped rocks, counting how many skips the rocks made.

“So these are two separate rivers?” he asked.

“Yeah. See over there?” I pointed. “See where they come together?”

He leaned in closer to me and looked down my arm. “Oh, Yeah I see it,” he replied stepping back just a half step. “But then …”

I looked over my shoulder at him knowing what he was seeing. “Then they separate. I know.”

“So they don’t meet up again?” he asked.

“No, they only come together here.” I dusted my hands off against my legs and moved away from the water’s edge. I sat back against a tree and crossed my legs. He moved in beside me.

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Emily’s Calling is Finally Finished

It’s done! It’s done! It’s done! I want to shout it through the house and run around like a crazy person. I want to twirl, hop and thrash about and…do the dance. Yes, there’s a dance. The fourth book, Emily’s Calling, (third in the series) is finished, ka-put, put to bed – done. Well, phase one anyway.

As usual it’s late at night and I sit in my big bed with my laptop (much to my chiropractor’s dismay)  while my son sleeps and my husband watches a “thriller” of some kind – I don’t like realistically terrifying movies. So as I strike the last keys on my computer typing something close to “The End,” I smile. I reflect like a bad movie’s slow motion flashback at all the different emotions I’ve gone through with each scene. I laugh at the time I slammed my computer shut – frustrated with Emily and her behavior.  I feel my shoulders droop when I think about the times I had to have a box of tissue close to wipe away the tears. I sigh when I think back to how, when, and where I was when I had a plot breakthrough – the jogging trail – the shower – an important meeting (shh.) But above all I feel proud that I finished another novel. One that, like the other three, I’ve read numerous times during the writing process and thought, “who wrote this?” Sometimes in awe of a great chapter and sometimes in awe of the lack of one.

But above all I’m happy, no elated, that I finished another book. Then there’s this tiny twinge of sadness that comes with elation. I wonder if other authors have this mixture of bitter sweet when they finish a novel. Simply put, I know I’ll miss my characters. Hence the series. I get wrapped up in their daily lives as if I’m sitting right next to Emily, listening to her friends, feeling her happiness and sadness. I imagine that’s why authors write series and spin-offs; for that very reason. So while I can’t promise you a fifth book in the Emily series, I can’t promise you there won’t be one. You’ll all have to keep reading and see.

Once I’ve edited Emily’s Calling I’ll leave you with more excerpts, but for now here’s one to satisfy those of you who have been asking me to share.

Running with Joel:

In each of the books there is something that grounds the story. Something that brings you back into Emily’s psyche while the plot takes off with all of the characters. In Call Me Emily it was her constant struggle to find the right southern California outfit.  While in her closet thumbing through her clothes, she starts to learn about herself as an independent college-aged woman. That theme runs throughout Call Me Emily. In the same spirit, Emily’s Calling has something similar. While the plot takes on it’s own life for Emily, her friends and her family, the one constant is her friendship with Joel. They have a standing running schedule that they keep to. During those runs Emily talks to Joel about what’s going on in her life; events that change daily for Emily. Events that frame her transformation from college student to independent – career Emily. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1:

Emily and Joel

I opened the door and the fresh beach air rushed over and past me. “Joel. Hey.” I moved aside for him to enter. He was dressed in his running gear.

“Hey Em’ly. You forgot again, didn’t you?” Joel’s thick Louisiana accent still held true even though he’d lived in southern California now for years. I could always hear it best when he said my name. He pronounced it like no one else. And yes, I had forgotten.

“I’ll be right back.” I ran to my room to change, and when I turned to close the door I saw him pick up one of Trish’s Cosmopolitan magazines only briefly then toss it back on the table as if simply holding it would make him a little more feminine. Boys! Whatever.

In no time I was in my running clothes and on the familiar path Joel and I had found a couple years earlier. It followed the side of the mountain that rose abruptly from the sandy beach just down a bit from the house Trish and I rented. The weeds were tall on the hill for this early in the summer, but the path remained clear; a sign that we weren’t the only ones that used it regularly.

I let Joel lead and fell into his pace fairly easily considering he had a much longer stride than me. We talked, keeping our voices above the sound of the crashing waves below and our feet as they trampled the earth. As if he didn’t know I would have trouble talking through my breathing on our climb up the hill, he asked me a question anyway. “Sue and Hunter will be gettin’ in soon huh? And your Dad, right?”

Two things were funny about those questions. One, my mom, Susan, only let Joel call her Sue. Otherwise, she hated the nickname. Two, he knew when they were getting in. He and Ethan had been best friends for years now. And, as my friend too, he knew I knew. I responded briefly anyway. “Yeah.”

“So, you excited about tonight?”

Seriously Joel? Can’t we wait until we reach the top? I thought to myself then responded briefly again. “Yeah.”

We reached the top and I stopped, bent at the waist and rested my hands on my thighs searching for my breath. “Is that fun for you?” I tried my angry face but behind it was a joking one, so it didn’t work.

“What?”

“You know that hill kills me.” I stood up and stretched my arm across my chest. “Yet you always force me to talk on our way up.”

He leaned toward me. “I know.”

“Brat!” He’d definitely earned that title after the last three years running together. He was a good friend. The best, really. But, still a pain in the you-know-what. “Did you talk to Ethan today? Is Allison excited about graduation?”

“No, I didn’t call. You know how those two are. I’m sure they were still staring into each others eyes over breakfast or something.”

“Probably.”

I sighed after I took a drink from my water bottle then we started along the path again. That was one thing we both agreed on. Allison, once only my friend, started dating my brother at the end of our freshman year and they’d been inseparable ever since. As much as it made me happy that they had each other, it was still a little sickening to me, a single girl. Joel, on the other hand, was in a long-standing and long-distance relationship with his high school sweetheart. I imagined his annoyance with their cooing love glances had to do with how much he missed her.

We turned and headed back toward my house. It was heating up and promised to be a warm day. I felt the perspiration on my neck and forehead and wiped my brow with the back of my hand. I looked at Joel and saw his sandy-brown hair growing darker on the sides, a true indication of sweating. Thank goodness it wasn’t just me. I knew he was a stronger runner than I, but I didn’t always like to admit it. We looped around and were back on the path that hugged the side of the mountain overlooking the beach. Cars were already lined up parallel parked with their trunks popped up full of beach chairs and towels. I heard the surfers talk to each other loudly over the crashing waves. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but their low voices promised some sort of conversation containing the words “bro” and “dude.” I felt a little smile sneak out of the corner of my mouth as I relished how content I felt while I ran the last stretch of trail before it came to an end and opened up to the beach. Physical exertion combined with the salty and crisp scent of the ocean air spelled perfect for me.

Joel smacked my back somewhat gently as he came to a walk beside me as if we were racing all along. We weren’t. “Sorry I’ll miss tonight. You better tell me all ‘bout it.”

I nodded. It was a bummer he couldn’t come to my graduation. We’d had such a blast at he and Ethan’s a couple of years earlier. But I understood. He was leaving for Louisiana in a few hours: visiting his girlfriend for the week and probably trying to talk her into moving out her next year when she graduated. I wondered how that discussion would go.

“So, next Tuesday. A night run? Em’ly?”

“Sure,” I replied, out of breath and pissed off in a funny kind of way that he was having no trouble reinstating his jog all the way to his car. He was pulling out of his parking spot and waving to me before I even crossed the street to get to my house.

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The Query Response

Dear Author,
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your
submission.  We appreciate you considering us for representation of
your project.

Unfortunately…

And they go something like that.

What I’ve learned:

So far the response has been huge. NOT! Well, I shouldn’t say that. Every agent I’ve queried, with the exception of one, has responded with a similar letter. I just started the query process in January so I haven’t sent that many submissions, but it feels like it sometimes. Every time I see a query response pop up on my Blackberry my heart quickens and hopefulness bubbles over. Then I have a few minutes of disappointment, which is better than the tears that flowed the first day, and I move on. It’s a humbling experience dealing with rejection. It makes you stronger for sure.

What I know:

The world will soon be ready for my gifts. (And not only because I opened a fortune cookie the other day that said just that.) But because Call Me Emily and the sequels are wonderful books that WILL touch the lives of many. Someone will love the story and the writing and ask me for the full manuscript. It only takes one yes and I know it’s not far off. So while the next query responses pour in, regardless of what they say, I will take it in stride knowing these things take time and I’m exactly where I need to be right now. Exactly.

What I ask:

So what I ask from you, my loyal readers, is to repeat after me:

YES!

Say it in the shower, when you’re driving, whenever. Just say it. And be happy I’m not asking you to do the dance. Everyone around here is.

Until next time,

Laura

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This one’s for you, Mountain View

I’m not really trying to rhyme. That’s just a bonus. But I wonder as I probe my blog statistics in search possible visits from agents, who are you Mountain View? Are you a long – lost friend of mine from years ago? Are you a friend of a friend? Or are you simply a loyal reader? Whatever the case, I’m grateful for your visits.

So this one’s for you, Mountain View.

As I submit each round of queries for Call Me Emily, I fixate on when I will hear from an agent and when, oh when, will they ask for a partial or a full read. So to keep my mind off that craziness, I’m ever so happy that I’m in the middle of writing

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The Query Quandary

The query quandary…well, it’s not really a quandary, but it rhymed. I guess if I had to address any query quandary it would be the dilemma of sending them out at all.

On January fifth I sent out eight query letters. On January sixth I receive three no thank yous. My initial response was, “Hey! Slow down there quick draw! Did you even read it?” The letters were relatively the same.  They went something like this: “Thank you for your query letter. Although we find your project interesting, we do not feel it fits with what we represent.” Then there was the acknowledgment and apology that the “no thank you” came by way of form letter.

I can’t lie. I got a little depressed. Let’s just say the martini shaker was out that night. Then later, as I lie in bed, I pondered the questions that I think all writers do at some point or another. Should I have kept my writing a hobby? Why did I tell everyone I want these books to be published? Why didn’t I simply stay in the blissful world of writing book after book only to read a few chapters aloud to my husband? The answer is simple. I believe these books have a place on the shelves of Borders and Barnes and Noble as well as the cyber bookshelves of Amazon.com. I see them in the hands of teenage girls who learn from these books that life is made up of a series of their decisions with a little fate mixed in. And these same girls learn to listen to their inner voices that tell them they already know who they are and urge them to make the right decisions.

So with that I push on. No matter the outcome, I will continue to submit queries. I will not let the “no thank yous” deter my plan, because some day I will see the cover of Call Me Emily poking out of a teenagers backpack at my local Starbucks.  I will jump up and down with excitement and wonder why I ever doubted my decision to send out queries.

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What’s Up?

I know. I know. I’ve been distant. It’s not you. It’s me. I swear…

The end of 2010 came like a rolling wave. I worked hard to finish the final edits of my first two books. Barely giving myself a seconds break, I dove into the first round of query letters. I wrote each agent specifically and poured over the letters time and time again before sending them out on the fifth of this month. And now I’m waiting patiently. Well, not really, but I’m waiting.

To distract myself I’m writing another book that will take its place behind Emily Calls It. What was once a three book series has grown to four. Emily’s Calling doesn’t quite pick up where the former book left off, but close. It’s Emily’s graduation day and changes are in store for her. Changes she doesn’t see coming at all.

Emily’s Calling

When Emily graduates from college she soon finds out there is more to life than simply less homework. She is tried again when professional challenges come her way with new responsibilities. Can she juggle the corporate world, a new love and all that comes with it?

Chapter 1

“Good morning graduating class of 1994.” Trish lifted her cup in my direction. Her long auburn hair was pulled into a ponytail and in even the most casual shorts she still could have easily passed for a model; tall-thin-beautiful. A combination you would hate about her if she wasn’t so completely likeable.

“It is a good morning isn’t it?”  I said as I approached the kitchen. She handed me a cup and slid against the counter top moving out of the way of the coffee pot. I poured quickly then lifted it to my lips. It was a ritual that started my first day of college which now seemed long ago. I let the dusky coffee aroma fill my lungs before I took my first sip. Trish rolled her eyes as she usually did at my morning ritual but did so with a little smirk on her face.

“So when is the family getting in?” she asked holding onto her cup with both hands as she pulled it up to her lips.

“Mom, Grandma and Hunter should get to Ethan’s house…” I looked at the microwave clock for a clue. “In a couple of hours. What about your family?”

“You remember. I have to pick them up at the airport.” She looked at her watch. “Now! Crap!” I heard the slam of the coffee cup and the sliding of the keys across the counter then the door shut before I had a chance to say anything.

“Bye,” I called after the door closed. Then I heard a knock about two seconds later. At her fierce pace I was sure she was gone. Who could it be?

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