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Review: 100 SIDEWAYS MILES by Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith's 100 Sideways Miles is the story of seventeen-year old Finn Easton, an epileptic who believes he's a character in his father's science fiction novel, The Lazarus Door. He has an eccentric best friend, he falls in love with the new girl at school, and he becomes a hero.

I started reading Andrew Smith's books since The Marbury Lens. I really enjoyed his writing style, the way he wrote teenagers, but found the scenes where the main character “flipped” into an alternate universe to be confusing at times. I'd give it three point five out of five stars. Then I read Winger, a heart-wrenching account of one rugby player's sophomore year at a prep school. Excellent characterization, and it's only fault for me personally was that I had little interest in rugby as a topic. Four out of five stars. When I heard the synopsis for Grasshopper Jungle—a sexually confused teen releases a swarm of man-eating grasshoppers—I knew I had to read it. Smith's experience of writing both sci fi (Marbury) and contemporary (Winger) were on full display in Grasshopper, an almost flawlessly executed piece of speculative fiction. Five out of five stars, with my only nit being that I found his stylistic repetition at times went past the point of being rhythmic. But just seeing how much Smith had evolved as an author, I had to pick up 100 Sideways Miles the day it came out, like a true fanboy, even though the premise just seemed so... random.

It's his best novel to date.

When Finn Easton was just a boy, a dead horse fell from a bridge and killed his mother and left him with scars on his back. They look like: “colon vertical slash colon. Like this:

:|:” (p. 13)

Like: “What flounders look like when they fuck.” (p. 25)

:|:

Like: “A double pierced vagina.” (p. 188)

:|:

They look like the scars that the man-eating aliens got when they surgically removed their angel wings to better blend in with the human population in The Lazarus Door. The aliens also have heterochromatic eyes. Finn Easton has heterochromatic eyes. Finn sometimes questions whether or not he is a man-eating alien. But Finn has never eaten anyone. Apart from his scars, his different eye colors, his epilepsy, and the fact that sometimes he sees the ghosts of two girls who died in a dam rupture, Finn Easton is a rather typical, hormonal, and insecure teenage boy growing up in Southern California. He's a virgin. He's got a dog that likes to roll around in dead things. He's got a best friend that goads him into doing things he'd never do on his own. And like any perfectly-written fictitious character, I see a lot of myself in him at that age... apart from the disgusting dog.

Finn's best friend Cade serves nicely as his counterpoint. Cade gets daily handjobs from an exchange student, and she pays him five bucks each time. Cade tortures their history teacher to the point of giving him an aneurysm. When Finn goes to the 7-Eleven to buy condoms for his potential first time, Cade unabashedly talks to everyone there—even the local sheriff waiting in line—about how condoms come available in all different types, embarrassing Finn until he's red in the face. But later on, in a moment of humility, where Cade himself becomes a fully believable and fleshed-out character, he mentions how despite how boisterous he is, he has only one true friend. Finn is the only one who can put up with him.

Rarely have I read a story that depicts teenagers so believably and balanced. Because sometimes teenagers aren't just disgusting wads of hormones that only make crude sex jokes. Sometimes they put on displays of love so simple, yet so perfect. I won't give them away, but there are two moments in this book that make the scene in Say Anything where John Cusack holds up a boombox to play “In Your Eyes” for the girl he loves pale in comparison.

For me to describe what the actual plot is would be incredibly difficult, but there is one I swear. Here are my attempts:

A boy falls for a girl, and endures all the ecstasy and misery that come with first love.

:|:

A boy comes of age, and comes to terms with himself.

:|:

A boy realizes that you can write your own story.

:|:

Authors frequently try to tug and manipulate the reader's emotions until they can't help but cry, and this usually happens near the end of the book when everything comes together. I always try to look out for this moment, to build up my defenses and not cry. But this book did me in.

I was so pissed.

So yes, 100 Sideways Miles so far is Andrew Smith's masterpiece (I'm greatly looking forward to him proving me wrong with future works—no pressure, Andrew!), but I can't finish this review without my one complaint. And I'm going to address this one to Mr. Smith directly: at some point you need to write The Lazarus Door because holy hell, I can't recall a more compelling premise for a story. I felt short changed that I only got to see it in snippets.

Greenhouse Literary Agency Interview

This interview can also be found on my agency's website, over yonder way:

http://greenhouseliterary.com/index.php/authors/profile/gebhart_ryan/

When and how did you start writing?

My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Virost introduced creative writing into the regular English curriculum, and I thought it was just the greatest thing, being able to make up whatever I wanted. Way more up my alley than structured essays. This desire for a creative outlet was renewed as I was finishing my master's in Spanish, spending countless hours prepping for structured comprehensive exams. I got so burnt out from the rules and rigidity of academia, so I was all, I'mma write about people who live on the moon!

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you?

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. I read it in fifth grade and it sealed the deal that I wanted to become an author. The fact that he was able to make the most absurd concept—a theme park with actual dinosaurs—sound like the most realistic and plausible thing, it just blew me away. And I was convinced that some day, maybe I could do that too.

Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

When I was a little middle grader myself, I wasn’t reading much in the way of MG novels—I’d gone straight from Go Dog Go to Stephen King and Michael Crichton. Okay yeah, so there was more of a transition period, but I dramatize for effect. And to this day, they're still my favorite authors.

Like Crichton, I want to create absurd scenarios with convincing amounts of detail... but maybe with a little more characterization. I love the guy and his books, but his characters were pretty generic and stilted, and basically just served as a method to get his ingenious scientific ideas moving on the page.

And Stephen King. Man, can that guy write. He could write a horror story about indigestion and I'd read it from cover to cover. He understands suspense as well as a surgeon understands human anatomy. And he does it with such ease and grace you can tell he's enjoying what he's doing. You know he wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

If I could have as much fun with writing as King does, then I know I've made it. Currently, it's still a struggle as I learn the essentials of good storytelling. And the essentials of life, I can't leave that out...

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I think this quote from The Simpsons (season 7, episode 4) best sums up how I wrote THERE WILL BE BEARS: “Lisa: But you know Bart, some philosophers believe that nobody is born with a soul. That you have to earn one through suffering and thought and prayer...

I wrote the rough draft for BEARS in three weeks, then spent the next three years revising it. I knew from page one that I wanted to tell a simple, yet funny story of a kid and his grandfather going on a hunting trip. The story had cute moments and interesting anecdotes, but no real point or meaning or tension. It was only through a grueling three-year trial of revision that I discovered my story's themes, my characters' wants, needs, and fears, and now I really feel that the story has a soul completely independent from me as a person.

Was it hard to get an agent?

Yes, lol.

Can you talk us through the process?

BEARS was the fifth novel I queried, so by that point, I already knew the importance of a simple, yet solid query, gripping opening pages, and a unique voice. So when I first queried BEARS way back in the long, long ago (January 2010), I got a pretty respectable request-to-query ratio. And that first offer of representation, man, that was an amazing feeling, but I had no idea how much work still needed to be done before my manuscript was worthy of publication. My first agent and I went out on submission to editors with a story that wasn't fully formed, and all fourteen editors rejected it. In hindsight, understandably so. Soon thereafter, my agent and I parted ways.

So yeah, an offer of representation is a great accomplishment, something to be truly proud of, but it's no guarantee of a book deal. It took another round of intense revisions until my book was discovered by not just one amazing agent, but two: John M. Cusick and Scott Treimel. And they went to town on my book, really bringing to the surface questions I hoped no one would ask, because that would have required too much work on my part. I'm so thankful for their scrutiny, and for their resistance to submit the book until it was in true fighting form, despite the fact that I was itching to get back out there.

Oh yeah, and that book is now getting published by award-winning Candlewick Press. Goes to show what good, patient agents can do to a book.

*struts*

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time?

My writing process is wholly inefficient and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I'll confess: I don't write every day. Sometimes the thought of writing—and the inevitable anxieties that come with it—is so unappealing that I'll go several months without opening my WIP. For me, writing can be an unhealthy endeavor. Often I find myself so lost in my head that I neglect basic human necessities—socialization, sleep... erhm... bathing. To this day, I'm still learning how to be a well-rounded writer and artist as well as human being.

Where do you look for inspiration?

When it comes to a novel-sized project, I believe it's good to bring in many different elements that, at first glance, might not seem to play well together. For BEARS, I combined my experiences and emotions from working at a hunting ranch with and old idea I had about a boy busting his grandfather out of a nursing home. The way these two ideas played off each other yielded some surprising, unexpected, and rewarding results.

I also threw in a dash of Taylor Swift for good measure.

Can you tell us about your next book?

Going along with my last response, about bringing together two or more contrasting ideas, my WIP is about an eighteen-year-old confronting the challenges and unrealistic expectations of first love, all while the world is coming to terms with the discovery that we're not alone in the universe. Not gonna lie, this has been a tough one for me to write, because now I'm fully aware of everything required of a publication-worthy book. I'm getting there, slowly, and I really hope once it's finished that this one will surprise readers.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

if you have patience (in my case, years of patience), a good idea, and the ability to take criticism well and to revise, then the odds of traditional publication are ever in your favor. But don't be arrogant about your genius, and... well, even if you are arrogant it doesn't matter, because the publication business rarely has time for that. Be courteous and respectful with any professionals you may come in contact with. And not just so you can get an agent and editor, but come on. It's just common decency.

Also, go on real life adventures. I never would have come up with the idea for BEARS had I rejected the random offer to work a season at a hunting ranch in Wyoming. It wasn't just great source material, but also... dude, it was fun.

Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

The hardest element of the craft for me to develop is plotting. Making every page consequential to the following involves a lot of consideration and ample time in between considerations. But if you look back at the bigger picture, eventually you'll see how all the little puzzle pieces fall into their proper place, and you'll almost feel stupid that you didn't see it earlier.

Since I prefer to write my stories in first person, setting needs to be shown in a way that's relevant to the POV character. You don't want to over explain, but you also don't want to leave the reader in a white, description-less room. It's a balancing act that requires spot-on observations and finesse. Also revision. Everything requires revision.

I think, for me, the easiest element to convincingly pull off is voice. I never try to follow trends, or to write anything unappealing to me, and that's half the battle to creating great voice right there. I'm pretty sure that if I were to write a historical fiction, or a Harlequin-type romance, or the next The Hunger Games, the voice would be embarrassing because my heart just wouldn't be in it. I write about awkward characters, characters with random anxieties and likes. I'm random, anxious, and awkward, so the voice just comes natural. Find what comes effortless to you, and your writing voice is good to go.

Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party?

Stephen King, Andrew Smith, Patrick Ness, and Allie Brosh.

What fictional characters do you wish you’d invented?

Annie Wilkes, Hans Moleman, and Butters.

Why I Hate 3D Movies So Much

I figured out what I hate so much about 3D movies. It's not just the nausea and the disorientation, the weird fuzziness around the edges or the resulting headaches. It's the fact that the all the camera angles and everything is to emphasize LOOK YOU'RE IN 3D LAND.

Prior to this new wave of 3D mania, movies were shot in a way that helped the story, now they shoot the movies in a way that helps the 3Dness. It just seems showy and superficial and juvenile.

I just saw the trailer for the new Hobbit movie, and I could totally see how the camera moves in and out and through everything all swoopy, so you could ooooh and ahhhh when it's converted to 3D. Look Ma, we're going through the jungle WITH the hobbits! Look Pa, we're diving in this pool of gold too! I'm rich!!!

Let me hold this SPOON up to the camera.

These new camera angles put way less emphasis on how the image helps the story and greater emphasis on just how cool these images are. And for that, 3D movies do not get the coveted Gebhart Seal of Approval.

Now get on your 3D glasses and let's all watch Friday the 13th 3D, because it's awesome.


Crab Apples

I went to Whole Foods yesterday to pick up some tea, and in the produce section I found crab apples for sale. To eat. I stood there for a minute with the most perplexed face. Growing up, my grandparents had a crab apple tree in their front yard, and we were strictly warned never to eat them because they were poisonous. So instead me and my brothers just pelted each other with them.

But yeah, on the produce display it said "crab apples, full of vitamin c!" instead of what I expected it to say: "crab apples, full of poison!"

So today, I grabbed a crab apple from the tree in front of my apartment, which looked identical to the ones on sale at Whole Foods, then I went upstairs to see what the internet had to say about all this.

Apparently people make jellies out of them. Crab apple jelly? Who knew?! And the crab apples from the ornamental trees like the one in front of my apartment are completely edible. Internet says they're pretty sour and not too tasty, but they won't make you experience death.

So with enthusiasm and hope that I was going to discover that the greatest fruit ever grew right in front of my house, I was all, I'm going to eat one now!

It was disgusting.
I was going to tweet this, but then I realized that 140 characters wouldn't be enough to contain my blathering. So...

Lately I've been so overwhelmed by just how hard it is to write well. Because my God... writing a novel is harf. I meant to write 'hard'. Goes to show just how hard writing is.

I wrote the rough draft for my debut novel There Will Be Bears in three weeks. I had so much fun, and drafting it was as easy as destroying anyone at Mario Kart. I'd just gotten back from an amazing adventure in the Grand Tetons working at a hunting ranch and I was full of ideas and optimism. I didn't care about plot holes or an inconsistent voice with my main character. The story twisted and turned from pooping jokes to over-the-top and unrealistic sentimentality about furniture to breaking out of a nursing home. Old people were dressing up as the Joker, cops were chasing my main character and his grandfather through the Tetons, the parents resembled parodies of the adults in Rugrats or Bobby's World. On one page my character sounded like a philosophic know-it-all teen. On the next he better resembled a seven-year old with emotional problems. At the time I didn't know all the effort it would take to get a book into publishable form and I didn't care. I was just having fun with the words and laughing at my own stupidity.

Once those three weeks were over and I was looking at my steaming mess of story did I begin to realize how much work it would take to get this... uh... mutant story boob to look like the things readers see on shelves. I revised it once, then twice, deciding that maaaaaaaybe my main character's plan to bust his grandfather out of a nursing home--which consisted of putting hot sauce in all the pumpkin pies served during Halloween dinner, causing someone to shout "Fire!", causing my MC to pull the fire alarm, causing the sprinklers to douse over one hundred geriatric residents--maaaaaybe that wasn't "realistic".

And thus the story began taking shape. I began asking myself questions I never even considered during this novel's inception: what's the point? What am I trying to say? Why would anyone, ever, want to pay 20 bucks to read this mutant boob-shaped thingy?

After the story seemed acceptable to me, I enlisted multiple beta readers to prove me wrong. I revised it again. Then one more time for good measure. I began querying agents and two months later I got an agent offer on the precipice of moving on a whim from Austin to Los Angeles with my good friend and aspiring actor. I could imagine my future life to a tee--my buddy would be in movies and I would be a published writer and life would be EXACTLY the way it is in Entourage. I'd be cruising in my Aston Martin with my supermodel Sloan McQuewick girlfriend down Sunset, LA'ing it up on my cell phone with my agent about movie rights for my novel, and for once everything was coming up Ryan.

I ended up sharing a bedroom in the Valley with my buddy Bert and Ernie style. One of our more unstable housemates who resembled Milton from Office Space claimed he had his ex girlfriend's mother killed and buried in the Mohave Desert, then I was witness to his attempted suicide as he sucked down can after can of computer duster, and then I proceeded to call the cops, sending him to a mental institution. Instead of an Aston Martin I had a dying two-seater pickup that I'd driven from Texas to Ohio, Ohio to Texas, Texas to California. Instead of Emmanuelle Chriqui in my passenger seat I had a small dog.

Not *exactly* Entourage, I suppose.

And throughout this entire "adventure" I was revising my little coming-of-age story about bears and hunting, first crushes and best friends and getting older. My first agent and I parted ways after twelve editors rejected my novel, who collectively said that the voice was inconsistent, or that my MC was unrelatable, or that there was no market for a contemporary boy-centric MG about hunting. And so with nothing normal going on in my life like usual, I revised. I revised again. And one more time because after all I'd gone through I HAD to have something to show for it.

I got my second agent. I revised with him. I revised for my agent's agent. And as I was moving back to my home state of Ohio to try and recapture a life resembling normal, I reread my book and for the first time it actually began to look like something you'd see on a shelf at Barnes and Noble.

And then it happened--my agent and I got an offer from Candlewick Press, home to M.T. Anderson, Patrick Ness, Kate DiCamillo, and Where's Waldo?

I was, and still am supremely ecstatic about this. But after all the HOMG I'M GETTING PUBLISHED euphoria waned I thought to myself, is this what it takes? Will all my future novels require an agonizing three-year labor filled with anxiety and adventures that were more horrifying than enlightening? Would I even WANT to go through that again?

The thing is, I want nothing more than to be a full-time writer slash artist. I have so many ideas that I think would make great stories. But as I begin work on my next project, I keep thinking about all I went through with my debut, not just with writing, but with life in general. And I'm all... that sucked. I don't want to endure that kind of starving artist lifestyle again. I like hanging out and reading and destroying people at Mario Kart, not adventures halfway across the country with 300 bucks in my bank account.

So in a nutshell, this is why I'm too intimidated to write. My writing process for my debut wasn't exactly... normal. I hear about all about other writers' processes, about how they get up in the morning and write 500 words without question before they begin their day. And I'm all, but where are the crazy roomies? Where are the drug dogs sniffing my pickup truck in El Paso on my drive to the west coast, or the severed elk heads in Wyoming, or the porn stars slash California gubernatorial candidates on the exercise bike at my gym in LA?

And everyone tells me, just write! But I can't stop thinking that no matter how well I crank out this rough draft, it's still going to be awful just like There Will Be Bears was three years ago, and it's going to take three more unpredictable years just to get my new book right. That I'm not that good of a writer, I just revise enough so it *appears* that I know what I'm talking about.

Those are intimidating, crippling thoughts. So for these last six months plus, I've been kinda like a mountain climber at base camp prepping for his second journey up Mt. Everest. He's too afraid to make the ascent, too aware of the troubles ahead. He keeps checking the safety rope and making sure he has enough granola bars for the excursion.

I've gotten to the point where my literary backpack is effing stuffed with granola bars--my outline for my WIP is spit-shine polished and my characters are already identifiable, but I still don't feel ready to make the ascent.

I know. Everyone is probably right.

Just write.

But I don't wanna...

The Next Big Thang

Currently in MG/YA literature, everyone's talking about The Hunger Games. Before that Twilight. Then Harry Potter. Before Harry Potter? Uhmmm... Goosebumps? I should know the answer, but I'm not the most well-read MG writer, so take this post and the opinions expressed within with a grain of iodized salt (I'm pledging a cliche-free post, in case you were wondering).

  So what's next? Publishers and agents and writers and insiders are putting together their formulas to try and see what concoction is going to take off next, and placing their bets accordingly. It probably won't be sloths, unfortunately. It SHOULD be sloths—I mean come on, just look at this guy!


And I'm probably shooting myself in the foot knee when I say this, but it probably won't be bears either. As much as I love my little book and as much as I think YOU will love it, it's a standalone and it's very difficult for standalones from debut authors to really become trendsetting. So here's what I think... and yes, I'm just another pseudo-blogger in a sea Great Lake of far more prolific and informed writers/bloggers. You ready? Okay, here's the next big thang:

Everythang.

Bears. Zombies. Caterpillars. Sloths. Vampires. Leprechaun pirates. Medieval stuff. Maybe my dog Tayla? She's a trendsetter. Sasquatches. Wars on other planets. Future diseases. Ancient robots. A modern retelling of The Blob. Volcano cats (btw, that's a WIP idea, so if anyone steals volcano cats, I would be sad). Love triangles involving gnomes and/or gerbils and/or Nutella. I've never gotten into Nutella, but I've seen what it can do to people.


I don't know about you, but I'm incredibly excited about what's coming next. I truly feel we're entering, or on the verge of entering a Renaissance period in YA/MG literature where anything goes. In a post Hunger Games/Twilight world, everyone's scrambling trying to come up with some new trend that they're pairing the most absurd and unlikely ideas. And instead of rehashing the same old creature, like vamps or angels, writers are coming up with new creatures or completely reinventing old ones.

Maybe this really isn't the case and I'm just being idealistic and hopeful that people are just as crazy as I am. But I think we should have fun with our ideas, you know?

Check out some of these new/upcoming releases to see just how amazingly eccentric these concepts are: Above World by Jenn Reese, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Struck by Jennifer Bosworth. Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz.  I mean, Robo-Cinderella? Lightning addicts?  Magic gay fish?  Who comes up with this stuff?

I love it.

Anyway, as much as anyone speculates, it's insanely hard, nee impossible to consistently predict trends. Sure, someone probably read Harry Potter back in 1996 and thought, “ho schnap, boy wizards are going to be HUGE.” But if that same person had read Twilight circa 2004 before its release, do you think he/she would have called that one too? Would that same person have also predicted the success of The Hunger Games?

Yes, maybe you're absolutely positive that The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen has all the right ingredients to be a blockbuster—think YA Game of Thrones—and maybe it DOES. But that doesn't mean that kids are going to be engaged by the story or fall in love with the characters. Now, I'm not offering any opinions on this particular book because I haven't read it yet (on my to-read list, however), but I've heard it could be big. And I'm fascinated why people think some books could be big, while others not so much, and to see if their predictions pop or fizzle.

So anyway, I think here's the point I'm trying to make that's been made in one hundred other writer's blogs: don't write to trends.  You can't predict this stuff.  Write what inspires you and have fun and maybe all the elements of your story will hit the publishing equivalent of Mega Millions.  But if it doesn't, who cares?  Even if only one person loves your story, isn't it still freaking awesome that you're a hit with that one reader?  That you've connected and really spoken to someone else on a meta level?

Yeah, you're right.  It's all about the bling bling.

There Will Be Bears







From Publishers Marketplace, March 15, 2012:

Ryan Gebhart's THERE WILL BE BEARS, in which a thirteen year-old confronts first crushes, losing his best friend, his grandfather's failing health, and a man-eating grizzly, to Joan Powers at Candlewick, in a nice deal, by John Cusick at Scott Treimel NY (World English).

...

After two and a half years, two agents, four titles, countless revisions, and one amazing adventure in Wyoming with my good friend Brendan Rien that helped inspire this story, I've sold my middle grade novel There Will Be Bears.  I must give a huge shout out to my agent, John M. Cusick, and my agent's agent, Scott Treimel, who both have helped tremendously with molding my novel into what it is today.  And to the Musers, for all their support, encouragement, empathy, etc etc during the trying revisions and submissions processes.  And to my editor Joan Powers, who's willing to take a chance on me and my story.

And most importantly, thank you Grandma and Papa.  You mean more to me than you'll ever know.

Thank you all so much and I can't wait for everyone to read it!

roar.

The Monster

And that monster is in my head.  He's part bloodthirsty grizzly, part adorable red-cheeked gnome, part whatever.  He's very loud and he spouts such confusing words and he's convincing me that the entire world is this indifferent floaty thing and there's no point in writing because I'm just eyeballs looking around too fast connected to a brain that can't process... well anything really.  

Yes, that was a confusing statement.  It's the best way I can describe this velociraptor beaver thingy that's been pressing it's talons on my brain for I don't know how many years now. Now, as much as he mentally abuses me, I kind of like him.  On one hand, this leech-with-a-million-teeth feasts on my gray matter to the point where I'm just a mindless thing googling "the dark knight rises" for the fiftieth time today, on the other hand he comes up with all these weird ideas about talking trees floating in the ocean and volcano cats and dead children on a mountaintop... even the biggest mushroom tripper couldn't think up this kind of crazy.

So what do I do?  How do I stay sane, and how do I keep this insert-clever-monster-name in check without sacrificing his endless fountain of creativity?

Now this monster goes by another name... anxiety disorder, but I like to think that my descriptions are a little more awesome.  Case in point...



That's basically what my anxiety disorder look like--scary, stupid, ridiculous.  It's a monster that doesn't exist, except in my mind.  But it's very real in my mind.  Medication might put him down for awhile, but he would still be there, sleeping with one soulless lizard eye open.  Through years of trial and error, I've learned the only way he can be appeased is through expression--he's a slave driver that demands I write, play the piano, paint a pretty picture.

And I haven't been doing much of any of those things lately.

If I don't share his beautiful raptor song with the world, he lashes out on me in unpredictable ways.

I think too much.  If I don't channel all that thinking into some absurd fiction story about shamanic voyages and angels who wear shrunken heads as necklaces, then I'll be thinking about the meaning of life on this indifferent floaty whatever planet, or the fact that my heart could stop at any second, and those are some pretty scary thoughts.

I'd rather be thinking about volcano cats.


This is my dog

Her name is Tayla. She is cooler than your dog.


Birds of a feather...

...flock together and stuff

I could say that I'm lucky that I've found a group of writer friends who are successful in what they do, and who are passionate about reaching goals, and who are continually raising the bar. But I'm not lucky--I sought them out because I want to be just as successful as they are. I want to prove something to myself as well as to others. I'm also just a very competitive person--maybe that's the result of having five older brothers. In my writer group, I have friends in different stages of the game. Some have garnered six-figure deals while others are working on getting their work ready to be considered by agents. I fall somewhere in the middle.

We did not come this far collectively through undeserved praise and pandering. When we feel that a work needs a thorough rewrite, we say so, because no legitimate agent or editor will ever represent or acquire a novel just to be nice. This is a business, and as much as we all love the art of writing, we have to become hardened a bit if we ever want to make any money from our art. And believe me, my writer's group has given me some very rough critiques.

But I'm better because of it. I would not have gotten this far without my writer friends. Apart from the critiquing, they have been there for me for encouragement during the trying times, and they've been there to celebrate when good news comes my way. This, in my opinion, is invaluable.

On the subject of my writer friends, I want to announce that Amanda K. Morgan has just accepted an offer for representation from Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary. Yup, my agent now represents Amanda, and this is definitely a win-win situation for both parties. Go check out Amanda's blog and see just how awesome (and hot) she is: http://mandymorgan.livejournal.com/

Holler.