August #Giveaway: Win 1 of 20 free critiques

(*Updated to reflect additional critiques)

My birthday is this month and I’ve decided to give, give, give! (Oh, and I asked some of my friends to help me give)

For my August giveaway I’ve decided to gear it toward those of you out there who are still writing away, editing and polishing your manuscripts, obsessively revising your query letters, and dreaming of the day your efforts are rewarded. That’s right, authors, this one is for you.

At the end of  the month 21(!) free critiques will be given away.

So, what do you do to enter? Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the prompts. And yes, there are a lot of Twitter profiles that you can follow, but there were a lot of generous authors who volunteered their time to help out, so please show them some love.

Details (and the Rafflecopter link) are below. Best of luck to everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A Colorado Girl and Harry Potter Fandom

A few weeks ago I was in Scotland. Aside from the castles, thrones, and really old stuff (more to come on that later) I had the chance to indulge in some Harry Potter fandom. Just to clarify, I’m not someone who knows Harry Potter trivia in detail. I’ve read the books, seen the movies, and I’m a fan of both and of the mystique that surrounds all things Potter-ish.

That said, while in Scotland I did engage in some literary fandom. Months before our trip my sister-in-law, Kate, sent me a link to The Elephant House. This (for those who don’t know) is a lovely little tea & coffee shop in Edinburgh where JK Rowling spent some time writing Harry Potter while looking out the windows at amazing architecture of that historic city. After some more research I discovered just how rooted in Harry Potter this little cafe has become. People from all over the world visit and, because it’s become the thing to do, write messages on the bathroom walls. Initially, the owners and staff tried to paint over the graffiti, but it’s rumored that by the end of the day the walls would be covered again. And so they gave up. Now, the walls of the bathrooms, the mirrors, pictures, towel dispensers, even the ceilings have messages to and from Harry Potter fans from across the world.

And so, not only did I have a beverage–Fleur’s Fantasy–and a delicious piece of Victorian sponge cake, I made a point to use the bathroom (and I brought a marker and put my name on the wall!).

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mother’s Day 2017

Happy-Mothers-Day  Happy Mother’s Day to all the ladies out there who answer to the name “Mom” (also “Mommy”, “Momma”, “Ma”, and sometimes, “Worst Mom EVER!!!!”).

For all of you who have stumbled from the warm cocoon of your blankets at all hours of the night to chase away bad dreams, feed hungry babies, change the wet, clean vomit and to administer a cuddle because a small voice called out in the middle of the night to request it, Happy Mother’s Day.

For all of you who’ve ever spent hours pureeing fresh vegetables (even those of use who gave up that dream rather quickly!), baking birthday cakes, making halloween costumes, experimenting (and, maybe, failing) with Pinterest projects, and slaving over school b6fa1b1bf93319761fb4b557c7e88993projects with a day’s notice, Happy Mother’s Day.

For all of you who have handed over your soda on a hot day because your child spilled theirs, who eat cold food because you make sure everyone else has been served first, who’s “tv time” involves folding laundry, and who haven’t had an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom in years (maybe even a decade!), Happy Mother’s Day.

For all of you who are rocking this motherhood thing, and those who struggle, but keep at it because you know how important it is in the long run–for your kids and yourself–, Happy Mother’s Day.

And for those who have lost, and those who have craved or dream of motherhood, and those who care for others in mothering ways, Happy Mother’s Day.

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Online Writing Contests: To Join or Not to Join?

There are no limits to the number and types of writing competitions you can join online. You can submit a 35-word pitch or submit a longer manuscript for a more in-depth contest. The goal of the contests is the same: to get your manuscript before an agent/publisher who will (fingers crossed!) love it.

In the past several years I’ve taken part in my fair share of writing contests. My contest experiences have been varied as my results. While I’ve heard of a number of authors finding their agent/publisher through contests I haven’t been so lucky (…yet!). I have entered pitch contests and more involved ones with varying results. I’ve had my manuscripts selected to go on to the agent round, I’ve been selected as a team member, an alternate and I’ve also been completely left out of the running. I’ve had several partial requests, some full requests and (*gulp*) zero responses during the agent/editor/publisher rounds.

While the constant highs and lows of entering contests can sometimes make you doubt yourself and your work it’s important to realize what you are winning with every entry.

First–and most important in my humble opinion–is the support structure that you’re establishing each time you enter an online writing contest. You aren’t alone in your endeavors and dreams. A simple Twitter search for any contest will show you the number of people who are in the same position as you. The conversations that take place, messages of hope, support, guidance and empathy go on all day long. The writers who enter will often follow each other and end up with enduring online support systems. There are a  number of people who I’m still in contact with that I met because we’d all entered the same contest (or contests!) and struck up conversations. We continue to beta-read for each other, offer query critiques, pitch critiques, and even opening critiques. Most important we are there for each other when one is feeling frustrated or when someone has exciting news to share. I’ve also made some lasting connections with people who have mentored me and my novel during contests.

Second, the feedback and help that you get is amazing. There are a number of “pop-up” pitch workshops in which contestants–and writers who just want to help–review each others pitches to make them stronger. There’s no shortage in the number of people who will put out an offer to help by reviewing your pitch, opening lines, query letter, etc. The online writing community is such a supportive one and those who have been helped often give back by helping others.As an alternate for one contest I was given a ridiculous amount of editing feedback/guidance. There is no way my manuscript would be as strong as it is now without that help.

Finally, you get an idea of your own determination and how much you can endure in order to meet your goal. Can you accept rejection, and use it to better your craft or fuel you further, so that you can continue this journey?

I’m not saying you should enter every contest. There are times when you’re not in a good emotional or creative place because of the number of disappointments we face as writers. Those are the times when you should sit out and tend to your creative/emotional self. But do keep in mind all the ways that you can “win” even if you don’t win a contest.

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Aspiring Writers: Throwing in the Towel…Or Not

You’re having a great day, and then ding, your email alerts you to a new message. Another rejection!

You’re enthusiastic about a new contest. You’ve gotten a partial request followed by a full and have had some delightful email exchanges with one or more mentors. You can feel in your soul that you’ll be chosen; this was meant to be. You scan the list and…your name isn’t there.

The life of an aspiring writer is one that runs deep with disappointment and rejection. We go into it knowing this to be true. At some point we’ve decided that the risk of rejection is worth the joy of being able to pursue our passion. But some days the disappointment starts to sting. Some days the rejection hurts so deep that you might actually consider giving up writing all together.

It isn’t easy to get through the disappointing days–the truly painful days. But don’t be so quick to throw in the towel. Take a few days to deal with the emotions that you’re experiencing. You’re sad, or mad, and those feelings are completely valid. Let yourself feel them. Refocus your energies for a few days: read, binge on Netflix, eat unbearable amounts of ice cream.

Once the initial feelings have dulled take some time to really think about what your next step will be. After an honest evaluation of your manuscript, does it need more work? It’s important that you are sending out the best manuscript possible. If you haven’t already, send your manuscript out to some beta readers–not just friends and family, but other writers who will give you an honest assessment.

In some cases–especially with your first or second novel–a manuscript just isn’t ready, or right, for publication. Consider putting that novel away and starting a new project. With each novel you become more skilled and can incorporate new things that you’ve learned about the art of writing, story structure, plot and dialogue. Each successive novel will be stronger than your previous. Starting a new project can also kickstart your creative juices and reignite your passion for the craft.

Once the disappointment and doubt have faded you may find that you’re eager to get back into the trenches and start submitting again–maybe after another round of revisions. You may decide that submitting isn’t for you. Some people write simply for the joy that it brings them and never submit their work for publication. Whatever you decide remember that there is a passion inside you that drives you to write. Don’t let that passion be extinguished.

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On the Loss of Deputy Geer

Something is going on in my mind. For the past three mornings I’ve woken up at 4 am, unable to go back to sleep and with one thing on my mind. It isn’t a thing that directly impacted me, it won’t alter the day-to-day realities of the rest of my life, and yet I feel the need to purge myself of my thoughts and feelings. This thing isn’t mine, I can’t claim ownership of it, as it really happened to someone else—to several someone else’s, actually—and yet I’m in a community of people who are feeling the sting.

On February 8, 2016 Deputy Derek Geer, with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, responded to a call. The suspect that he contacted was a 17-year old boy. There was an altercation. Deputy Geer attempted to use his taser to subdue the suspect. That 17-year old proceeded to fire a gun—several times—leaving Deputy Geer mortally wounded.

For residents in Mesa County the shooting of Deputy Geer has been a shocking blow. Although our community has grown significantly, a large number of residents have been here since it was a small town, and Grand Junction has managed to maintain its small town personality, despite its growth. Our town is a true “six-degrees” type of community: everybody is connected to someone else in town by no less than six steps—more often only 2-3.

While we realize that we aren’t immune from the crimes and tragedies that happen in larger cities, we haven’t experienced many of them yet. The last deputy of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office to be killed in the line of duty was in 1906. Our Police Department has only suffered from one active duty loss when, in 2004, a K9 officer, Gero, was shot and killed.

Because of our size, our history, and the close ties in our community, it was devastating to find that our law enforcement personnel—valued members of our community—aren’t as safe as we imagined them to be. And, because our citizens are so closely linked together, even those who didn’t personally know Deputy Geer or his family knew someone who did know them. We knew his friends, his coworkers, and those of his wife and children. We saw how it hurt those who were directly impacted. We knew details about how his family was notified, who was with them at any given time and who was preparing them dinner that night. We saw the local law enforcement at the hospital, and later at the mortuary, standing sentry (which they may not realize that we saw, and appreciated, but lacked the words to pass on). And, we waited until the final announcement had been made, that Deputy Derek Geer had committed his final selfless act—the donation of his organs—on February 10.

On Monday, our community—and others from across the U.S.—showed up in force to bid our final respects to Derek Geer. The support was so great that several remote locations were used and the services streamed to those sites. Even with the staggering number of people watching the services, the streets of our town were crowded along the processional route with those paying their respects. It was truly awe-inspiring that our community came together once again, like the small town we still identify as, to say good-bye to one of our own. And, while I know that the loss to Kate Geer and her children is far greater than what we experienced, I am still saddened for my community in what we lost along with Derek Geer. We lost a little more of our innocence and our sense of safety. But, we also proved how strong we are and how our neighbors will pull together to support each other in the darkest of days. For that—the overwhelming sense of living a community that will stand up together to say, “you are not alone”—I am grateful.

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Derek Geer (11/15/1975-2/8/2016)

#GeerStrong

As a member of the community in the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County, I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to all of the members of law enforcement and EMS who traveled our area to pay their respects to Deputy Geer. I’m sure we missed some but we did note the presence of representatives from the following cities, towns, counties and agencies in addition to Mesa County, Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade:

Adams County

Adams State University

Alamosa city & county

Archuleta County

Arvada

Aspen

Auraria

Avon

Basalt

Boulder City & County

Breckenridge

Broomfield

Buena Vista

Cañon City

Castle Rock

Cedaredge

Cheyenne County

Clear Creek County

Collbran

Colorado Springs

Conejos County

Cortez

CU Boulder

De Beque

Delores

Delta city & county

Denver

Douglas County

Durango

Eagle County

El Paso County

Engelwood

Evans

Fremont County

Garfield County

Gilpin County

Grand County

Greeley

Gunnison

Hotchkiss

Hinsdale County

Lafayette

Lake County

Lakewood

La Plata County

Larimar County

Limon

Lincoln County

Logan County

Loveland

Meeker

Moffat County

Montezuma County

Montrose city & county

Norwood

Oak Creek

Olathe

Ouray City & County

Paonia

Parachute

Park County

Parker

Pitkin County

Rangely

Ridgeway

Rifle

Rio Blanco County

Salida

Sanford

San Juan County

Silt

Sterling

Summit County

Telluride

University of Colorado- Anschutz Campus

Weld County

Westminster

Wheatridge

 

Cottonwood Heights, UT

Moab, UT

Montezuma Creek, UT

Salt Lake City, UT

Missoula, MT

Sweetwater County, Wyoming

Rapid City, South Dakota

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Fish & Wildlife

US Forest Service

United States Navy

United States Army

 

 

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A Horse With No Name

I was on my way to pick up my 8-year old from school when I had the kind of experience that a person just has to share.

As I came over the hill of a busy four-lane road I had to slow to a stop. Although the light was green, traffic was barely moving at a crawl. I strained my neck, looking for the sputtering jalopy or student driver who must be trying–and failing miserably–to find first gear. My automatic response systems kicked in, along with all the names I could call the offender when I finally honed in on him. And then, I found them. Not just one, but the four responsible parties who were impeding the flow of traffic.

I saw the first one when he peeked around the corner of a truck with a camper shell. His dark mane hung over the right side of his face, his dark eyes cautiously assessed traffic as he stepped toward the center line. His errant friends galloped along the cars on the outer lane before darting into traffic as well. That’s right friends, I said “galloped”, because today, by the grace of all things good, wonderful & bizarre, there were four horses on one of the busiest intersections in town, literally destroying the timeline of some very pissed off commuters.

Adding to this glory were the men who were chasing them. Four men and a police officer, all on foot and in hot pursuit–dodging in and out of traffic. The horses were evading the law. How many times can  you say that? How many times in the short time I am granted on this earth will I ever get to see a uniformed officer involved in a foot pursuit…with a horse?

This was truly a blessed day that was gifted to me by a greater power. One who has a disturbed sense of humor and could think of nobody better to share it with. And, for that, I am eternally grateful.

Amen. 

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Powerball: Live the Dream

One point five billion dollars.

That is the current, estimated, Powerball value. Imagine that (go ahead, take a moment, I’ll wait…).

Just sittin’ here waiting..no rush…

Like everyone else, I’ve watched lottery fever grow as the jackpot reached $450 million, and then $880 million. Who can’t imagine winning even a small portion of that jackpot?

Last weekend, on one of my social media feeds, a post popped up from an acquaintance that left me feeling a little, well, judged. The person who’d written the post was essentially saying that playing the lottery is a foolish endeavor and that the only true “winning lottery” is the one you create for yourself through financial planning, sacrifice and saving. They went on to imply that the lottery is more likely a detriment to the lower and middle classes.

While I agree that people should be wise in how they spend and save their money, and I don’t think that anyone should invest large amounts of money in the lottery, I feel that this person, and likeminded others–and I know you’re out there!–overlooked one really important thing: the lottery inspires us to dream.

Dreaming (aka-wishing, hoping, aspiring, striving) is a wonderful ability that humans possess. It allows anyone the opportunity to look beyond the reality of their own existence–be it a fulfilled one or one riddled with heartache–and imagine something different or the chance to better yourselfWhen you dream, you are filled with joy and optimism, even for the few moments you are engaged in the dream. Correlations have been made between optimistic outlooks and healthier minds, bodies and spirits, so how can that be all bad?

Some people choose to pursue their dreams, but if you don’t dream first, how would you know what it is that you’re in pursuit of or the course of action to take in order to fulfill that dream? Successful artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and athletes throughout the world all started with a dream. Through the success of some people in reaching their dreams, others are then allowed to reach their own. Imagine a successful business owner who now employs hundreds of people, some of whom were previously struggling to make ends meet. Maybe the business owner mentors another dreamer who also becomes a success! It’s a wonderful and fruitful cycle of dreaming and achievement.

Now, can dreaming win you the lottery? No.

Here is what the lottery does offer though, that no other pursuit (aka dream) can: you have as much of a shot at it as anyone else. Everyone who plays the lottery is on an even playing field. The payout won’t go to fastest runner, the most skilled craftsman, a talented songwriter or the most genetically beautiful person who reaches for this dream. Successful financial analysts have the same chance as nurses, ranchers, fry cooks or a person struggling to survive on disability payments. All you have to do is pick six numbers (or let fate chose them for you with a Quick Pick) and buy one ticket. For some people, all it took to realize their dreams was $2-3.

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Embracing the Change

The past few months have brought a lot of changes to our home. Some has resulted in relief, some in absolute chaos, and one in sad acceptance of how tenuous our grasp on life can be.

At the top of our stress list for the past fourteen months was having the paternal figure living with us. Assume that there is one person in the world whom you recall having seen a few times per year (and also assume that you and this person are polar opposites) and that person falls upon hard times and you are their only salvation. Not only does that person move in, but then blatantly disrespects the rules of the house and the lessons you are trying to instill in your kids. Yeah, it was that awesome.
The good news is, he’s gotten his own apartment now and our peaceful semi-peaceful mojo has filled the house again.

In August I was faced with the traumatic reality that my forty-*****th (number redacted to protect the vanity of the blogger) birthday was approaching. Each day seemed to bring another gray hair, another wrinkle and some other mortifying symptom of aging. On August 15, as I was wallowing in my own self-absorbed personal aging crisis, my grandmother passed away. I not only had my ass slammed to the proverbial mat, but I had to get back up, get in the car with my husband and drive to the mountains to find the parental units, my brother and my kids who were camping and couldn’t be reached by phone. Few things suck as bad as having to tell your mother that her mom has passed away and having to deliver your kids through their first experience with death.
The most recent change has brought another stressful situation to an end. Three years ago we enrolled our kids in a local charter school. We’d heard great things about it: kids learning Spanish & Latin in the third grade, playing in band in the fifth grade, reading classic literature and a focus on education. There were some draw-backs (shorter summers, school uniforms, etc) but the benefits of a classic education model seemed to outweigh them all. And so, we enrolled them. Right away our kids hated it. There was no support for kids coming in from schools with lower (née regular) expectations and our kids were missing some basic knowledge that their classmates possessed. They fell behind in a few subjects and struggled. It became apparent that nobody was interested in helping kids learn, they were expected to sink or swim, and our kids were sinking. Not only was the school failing them academically, there was no personal support, no interaction between teachers and students that would foster a pride in the school. Everyone, including parents, were expected to tow the line and never question the process. Yet we did. We questioned. And we finally found the answer at other schools. Our kids are now back in the public school system. In the first six school days, my middle schooler has gotten after-school help in math and band on four different days. My youngest is reading far better and all of them come home happy and do their homework without trouble. The stress level in our house has plummeted and we are finally optimistic about school.
All of the changes, the good and the bad, have forced us to evolve as a family and our evolution has been a joy.

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