Annette's blog

Editors: you can’t live without them

Ray Bradbury asks wanna-be writers, “Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven’t friends. Go find some.”

I found one. My editor, Maudeen Wachsmith. Recently, Maudeen offered to read my manuscript for BONE GIRL, which I’ve had no luck selling. Here’s what she had to say:

“I finished reading BONE GIRL just a little while ago. I really enjoyed it. I think there is a market for this book. And like I said earlier I really couldn’t put it down and it kept me interested and engaged the entire time…. Keep writing. You have a gift. Don’t give up or become discouraged.”

P.S. For readers who are curious about my second novel, please visit www.authonomy.com and type Bone Girl in the search field. I’ve posted the first 10 chapters there. Also, my rejection count increased by one this week. The current count is 17: 16 from agents and one from a publisher. I remind myself, it only takes one yes!

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, the realities of an e-book tour.

Annette's blog

Worth it!

Last Thursday was meant to be a busy but organized day. My husband and I were going to rise early, efficiently pack our 16-foot Oasis travel trailer and hit the road about noon for a 5-hour drive to Seattle. My daughter was graduating from the University of Washington-Tacoma at 10 on Friday morning. My husband and I had a plan. And by 8:30 Thursday morning, that plan was dead.

It started about 7:30 when we were in the backyard. Eeyore, our Basset hound, yelped and limped over to us, his right rear paw sticking straight out. Bassett hounds are known for back problems, so I thought he’d thrown his back out. Then my husband pointed out all of the blood on the ground. Sure enough, he had a cut on his right rear paw. We spent about 30 minutes trying to dress the wound, but we couldn’t get it to stop bleeding. Off to the vet we went.

The vet came into the exam room and after a quick look at the wound, he pronounced our dog needed stitches. “Let me get you an estimate.” And with those six words, the money we’d managed to squirrel away for this long-anticipated trip was gone. As for leaving at noon? Ha! Joke’s on us. We could pick our dog up after 2 p.m.

The hits just kept coming. I misplaced the keys to the car we intended to leave at home. Not a big deal, but it became a very big deal when my husband hooked the trailer up to the other car and with a burst of white smoke, the electrical system shorted out. Now, we had to find those keys. Thankfully, I had a spare key.

My friend and fellow writer, Cherise Marshall, agreed to stay at the house with our recovering hound while we attended the graduation. And sure enough, at 6 p.m. on Thursday night, we hit the highway. Only to find the highway closed. 

Construction crews are expanding I-90, and that requires they blow up a mountain. So, during the times when they blast, they close the highway. But not to worry. It was closed from 8 to 10 p.m., and we wouldn’t even be in that part of Washington by then. At 11 that night, when we finally drove across that section of I-90, we were treated to a site I had never seen before: huge blocks of rock, the size of our car, being carted away. The ground shook as they dumped the boulders into massive trailers.

Friday morning, sitting in the uppermost tier of seats in the Tacoma Dome, I watched my daughter graduate from college. Worth it!

Congratulations to my daughter, Megan Noel Hestir. University of Washington-Tacoma, class of 2013.

Annette's blog

Music that moves me

The first step for me when I sit down to write is to click on Pandora and choose which station I’ll listen to as I create. The music I choose varies with which book I’m writing.

For Bone Girl, I prefer bluegrass, from the joyful fiddle playing of Mark O’Connor to the fast pace of the Barn Owl Band. Throw in a dash of Adele and top with the soulful duets of the Judds. All mixed together, these are the themes of my middle-grade novel, Bone Girl. . Here’s a few tunes that fit this novel best:

  •  “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele,
  • “Emily’s Reel” by Mark O’Connor,
  • “Road to Spencer” by The Three Pickers,
  • “Johnson Boys” by The Barn Owl Band,
  • “Love will Build a Bridge” by The Judds,
  • “Home” by Phillip Phillips,
  • “Squirrel Hunter” by The Wilders,

If I’m working on A Year with Geno, a contemporary romance that takes place in Anchorage, I leave my bluegrass stations and head straight to the music of Ella Fitzgerald and crooners like her. Lately, I’ve spent most of my writing time sculpting the rough draft of this novel, so I have quite a few songs bookmarked:

  • “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday,
  • “All Right Okay You Win” by Joe Williams,
  • “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy,
  • “Smile” by Nat King Cole,
  • “The Very Thought of You” by Harry Connick, Jr.
  • “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” by Arethra Franklin,
  • “Many the Miles” by Sara Bareilles,

For my paranormal romance, Celebration House, it’s pure Norah Jones. I wrote the rough draft of the book when I first fell in love with this blues singer. Even my hunky hero, Maj. Thomas Stewart, remarks on Norah’s voice: “She sings as though she’s courting me.”

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, I post my book, Bone Girl, on Authonomy. Quick! Go to www.Authonomy.com and read the first few chapters of my book. Tell me what you think.

Annette's blog

The siren’s call of giving up.

Now that I have returned to working full-time as a nurse, I’m tempted to quit writing.

First thing in the morning, I head to my little office, AKA the spare bedroom. I turn on Pandora – which station depends on which novel I’m working on – and I start to write, to lose myself in the tale I’m trying to weave. A few minutes later, I hear the words that signal the end of my writing time: “Mommy…”

It’s my six-year-old son, calling me to come and rescue him from his bed. He’s ready to get up and start his day. It’s not even 6 a.m. But for him, the day cannot wait (Which by the way, is the title of one of my picture books).

So I promise myself, I swear an oath, that I will write after he’s asleep. Later that night, with my early-morning riser tucked in bed, I head for the office. But I’m so tired. Is there a new Stephen Colbert episode to watch? Maybe I’ll just read tonight. Because everybody knows that writers are first and foremost readers. I have a Julia Quinn novel that I’m getting ready to dive into. Did I mention I’m tired?

And so it happens: another day goes by and I have not written a single word.

I know I’m not alone in my desire to throw in the towel. At a SCBWI conference a few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing a keynote speech by Jay Asher. I didn’t know who he was before this conference. Jay is the author of a young-adult novel, Thirteen Reasons Why. The book spent 65 weeks on the New York Times children’s hardcover bestseller list. There are currently 750,000 copies in print in the US alone.

But success didn’t come easy or early to Jay. At one point in his writing career, Jay told his wife he was quitting. She convinced him to do otherwise.

In April, at this year’s western Washington SCBWI conference, successful authors shared their experiences. The journey to publication is a hard one; it’s not for the faint of heart. All agreed that at one time or another, they wanted to quit.

I’ve got to figure out how to make time to write. Perhaps the answer is to forget any fantasy of a one-hour window of quiet and take my solitary moments in whatever time increments I can get them. Or maybe it’s to ask for help. I live with two other people who could take care of my little guy for an hour. Maybe it’s to move my writing up on the priority list. Or perhaps it’s as Deborah Hopkinson says, “You’ve got to want it more than sleep.”

I don’t know how I’m going to accomplish my goal of 1,000 words a day, but I do know this: writing makes me better. It makes me smarter and funnier. It’s exercise for my soul.

And I have to think that I’m not the only person who needs to hear the voices in my head, the ones that say things like, “Celebrate your life,” (Celebration House), or “You have all of the answers within you” (Bone Girl), or “You are beautiful and deserve to be loved thoroughly” (A Year with Geno). I sincerely believe that others need to hear these voices too. But they won’t if I quit.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, music that moves me.