Today is the day before my first published novel hits the market. As of tomorrow, I will feel free to finally call myself an AUTHOR. Tomorrow, I’m going to listen to Paperback Writer by the Beatles…and I’m going to remember the 7-year-old me thinking how cool it would be to sing that song and mean it. Yes…a lifelong dream is about to be fulfilled. 

Thank God my dream wasn’t to keep a face in the jar by the door. I mean, that’s how much the Beatles influenced my early years. But I was wise…wise enough to go with the dream that made more sense to me at the time, even though it also seemed like the biggest impossibility in the universe. Me, an author. At 6 or 7, it seemed ludicrous to even imagine it. But imagine it, I did.

I wrote Summer on Fire in 2003-4. At the time, I was working simultaneously on two novels. I thought the other one, also a young adult title, was going to be the first one out of the gate. I was so excited over it. But it turned out it was more a ‘novel’ about me. Chasing Empty…I still love the title of that one. It’s a novel about a group of teens struggling to survive the 80s punk scene in one piece. It’s almost finished, too. And I think it has just the right amount of grit and reality in it to appeal to the young male reader. I’m just not sure of its overall appeal. I’m still considering a major overhaul on it before I go about attempting to find a home for it. I like to aim for an overall appeal in my YA writing. I am of the belief that some books can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. A YA title can have a target gender, but it shouldn’t be suitable only for that gender. And I’m sure I made the mistake of writing Chasing Empty only with the male reader in mind. But I’m working on correcting that mistake. (-:

If you’ve been following my blog, you don’t have to be reminded that Summer on Fire comes out tomorrow. In my excitement, I may have mentioned it once or twice.

In the meantime (I know you’re watching the clock…counting down the hours before you can get a copy of Summer on Fire!), a little about what’s in the hopper.

My contemporary Young Adult/Paranormal crossover is currently with my agent. As she searches for the proper home for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN, I will be heading up to Huntsville (July 15-18) for the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon. This will be my fourth marathon. I cannot wait to get up there and start writing. I’m having all these crazy ideas battling to be the one I choose when the starting pistol goes off on the 15th! I can’t wait to see which idea I run with.

My other 3 Muskoka Marathon novels have been huge successes as far as the marathon goes—Sebastian’s Poet and The Reasons won Best Adult Novel Awards in 2007 and 2008 & Half Dead and Fully Broken won the Best Young Adult Novel Award in 2010—none of them have seen publication yet. But I’m not giving up on any of them. I’m not a confident writer…I don’t think the publishing world owes me a living. For me, it’s always about making my work better, and then making it better. And then I go through the submission process. It’s all process. I can talk myself out of self-evaluating my work, by just seeing every step as part of the process.

My main concern today is for the baby that’s going to drop into the world. It’s hard to believe it’s leaving the womb. It’s been an extremely long gestation period. I really fell in love with these characters. Not only the three main friends, either. Zach, Jeff and Arnie are awesome guys. Each has their own unique qualities that would have had me happily hanging out with them in my teen years. But some of the less main characters (I don’t even want to call them minor, because to me they seem anything but minor), like feisty Ms. Halverton and Zach’s sister Sherry, are also real to me. I think most small communities has a Ms. Halverton character…someone the kids—and the adults—gawk at in wonder as she goes about her daily eccentric life in complete oblivion to what people are thinking about her. She originally appeared in Chapter 2 and was never to be heard of again. Thanks to my WIP (Works In Progress) critique group, Ms. Halverton now appears throughout the novel. With their help, I even fleshed out Zach’s troublemaking older sister & Jeff’s delinquent older brother. Sometimes a writer has to listen to the reader. I’m positive my critique group made Summer on Fire so much better than the original draft. 

If you’re writing in a bubble, make today the day you take a needle to it. Pop the bubble. It’s really important to find a community of people whose opinions you can trust. That community need only be two people in size. Beta switch for a writer friend. It’s extremely hard to see your own weaknesses, just as it’s extremely hard to see your own strengths. With help, you can polish your manuscript to a higher shine prior to sending it off for consideration. Once you go that step, you don’t really get a second chance. So you want your first impression to be your best impression. My critique group was eight people strong. They were always kind in making suggestions for improvement in my manuscript…they always respected it (and me). Getting outside help is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself and your novel. Critique partners will tell you what isn’t working. More often than not, the person passing on your manuscript will not give you any feedback other to say it’s not what they’re looking for. A rejection doesn’t mean your manuscript is bad. It could simply mean it’s not right for the place you submitted it to. I’d rather be criticized for stumbling points in my work, than receive a blind NO THANK YOU. You can’t grow with a rejection alone. Sure, having a few under your belt makes you stronger. They’re even helpful. But without the all important feedback, you’ll never know the value of your manuscript. So, get the feedback first. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to jump around a bit more. Paperback Writer is on a Repeat loop just now. It sounds like they’re playing my song!

Summer on Fire

Click on my book above to be taken to the Muse Bookstore, where you will be able to purchase Summer on Fire as of July 1st, 2011!