Sarah's Scribbles

The Year of Months

You know, Dear Readers, that I don't normally ask too much of you but this time, I need your help! It won't cost you any money or even much of your time, I promise!

I was recently struck on the head by a story idea that is much different from my normal. Seriously, it wanted so much to be heard that it nearly knocked me out in its excitement. I will not tell you much about the story, but what I need from you, my well-traveled readers, is a location. Here are my requirements:
  • It should be a touristy type place with a feeling of history about it: like an old grand hotel or historical building (Like Mount Vernon, but smaller)
  • Small towns are preferred.
  • Ideally, it would be a single large building with maybe a few smaller buildings around it.
  • A garden would be a great plus, especially if it is in a courtyard of some sort 
  • Bonus points if it is in driving distance (short weekend trip or less) from me so that I can visit and take 10,000 pictures.
  • Super extra bonus points if there have ever been rumors of ghosts at the site.

Now I need you all to reach into your memory banks and pull out the perfect setting for this story! (please leave at least the name in the comments here. If you know the website, that would be GREAT!) For those Miranda's Fire or even Brigid's Cross enthusiasts, don't worry. This story will need to marinate a long while before its ready to be put in black and white. But if I can do it well, it's going to be awesome!


On another note, March is fast approaching! What do you think my next YOM challenge should be?

Also, I have been reading this book that is so good that it's making me rethink much of Miranda's Fire (not the main story, just some small elements). Have you ever read a book that just makes you happy you live in a world where it exists? I'm currently tearing through Graceling by Kristin Cashore and I will probably be reading through it again, much more slowly. The heroine is definitely not a weakling and the MMC is someone you can believe Katsa would fall in love with - someone worth falling in love with, unlike so many MMCs in recent YA novels. So Good!

My Very First Query Letter

Ok, I just danced around the house and woke my sister up (SORRY KAYELEE! There are still cupcakes in the kitchen if you're angry with me) to tell her this... so I need to take a deep breath.

Whew.

So, most of you know I recently won a query letter critique on Kathleen Ortiz's blog. For those of you not knowledgeable of the publishing world, a query letter is something you send an agent/editor to try to get them to read your book. So winning the contest meant that a Real Live Book Agent was going to take a vicious (virtual) red pen to my query letter.

And then I thought: Um.... What query letter?

It's confession time, Dear Reader. Before entering this contest, I had never written a query letter. I know, I know, but I thought it better to focus on revisions for Miranda's Fire first. I, of course, had written/spoken less polished summaries of my WIPs... and the summary/hook is the main part of the query letter. Also, I had read countless blog posts on how to write a query letter, query letters that worked, biggest query letter mistakes, etc... Plus I've gotten pretty good at writing letters that make people give me their money, so that helps.

So I wrote one. Then I let it sit for a day and revised it. Then I let it sit for another day and revised it again. Shortly before I was about to send it to Ms. Ortiz, I had a slight panic attack. It was late at night so I went on facebook chat to see who was around and asked two very smart people (Thanks Brent and Cookie!) to read over it real quick. I made some minor revisions based on their comments and sent it off, stomach flip flopping.

I know it was silly to be SO nervous, but this was my very first query letter experience and I hear people bemoan them so often that I am quite terrified of the whole concept.

Well, I just got back the agent's notes. She made some minor comments - three to be exact - and I mean, like, MINOR. Three! I was thinking, "What does this mean? Was it so bad that she didn't even know what to say?"

Then I read the note at the bottom and I squealed like a teenage girl at a Jonas Brothers concert.

She said that it "was a REALLY well written query" and then some more stuff about not fixing something that isn't broke. THEN! Then, Dear Readers, she said that it "sounds REALLY intriguing" and that, when I'm ready, she would "love to take a look at the first few chapters" and that I could "feel free to bypass the query stage" and send her an email.

As a writer, I lament that have nothing better to express my feelings than this: SQUEE!!

Now, it's back to revisions. A good query letter isn't worth a darn thing if there's not a great novel to follow it!

Things I Think You Will Like

It's been far too long since I posted here and since all I'm really doing right now is attempting to hydrate myself enough so that I don't die when I go to the gym in an hour or so, I thought I'd post something.

But what?

So then I thought: Oh, Dear Readers, my blog posts are so often about me. Me, me, me. What about you? Here are some things I (gosh, there I go again) think you might be interested in.

It's no huge secret that many of you are nerds. Or, in the case of my sister, at least have nerd-ish leanings. If you also have some time to kill, I suggest you check out my newest favorite time-suck: the Vlogbrothers, aka Hank and John Green. It's a little hard to explain but they send rather entertaining four minute video messages to each other. The topics are entirely random and usually not at all connected. I can't really explain WHY it's entertaining; it just is - but here's what pushes them past oh-that's-amusing good to i-should-tell-people-about-this great: In addition to being entertaining they are also dedicated to reducing world suck, which is something you all know I'm a rather big fan of.

In case you have been living under a rock with no internet access, here are some pretty gosh-darn entertaining web comics:
Least I Could Do
XKCD
And before you can ask "What about Questionable Content?" let me just say that I stopped reading it when he got super political and superior and I don't care if it's gotten better, I don't want to go back. No really. Stop. You're not going to change my mind. There is too much vying for my time to put up with that kind of crap.

Scrabble. This is a new (or renewed) obsession of mine. I'm not really that good at it, but I do ok. So if you're on Facebook and have a few spare minutes, feel free to start a game with me! The best thing about the Facebook version is that you can play as slowly as you need to! You can play a word, come back a day later and play another word.

Disney's Give a Day Get a Day Program. My sister was lamenting to me the other day about how most Americans won't do anything charitable or humanitarian unless you tell them specifically what to go do AND it doesn't inconvenience them very much. I'm sad to say that I couldn't argue with her. Please click on the link above and give me some ammunition for the argument (technically, I'm showing the incentive, not telling you what to do..) And if, after satisfying your minimum requirement to get your free ticket, you want to continue volunteering your time... well I wouldn't mind at all.

Well, I hope you like this version of Things I Think You Will Like! I've drank so much water that my eyeballs are swimming.

Until next time...

Go Outside!

I have remarkably low blood pressure for someone who has faced a lot of stress over the past year. I think it's because of my "it will all work out ok" philosophy. Then a month like the last makes me doubt: what if it doesn't work out?

Then I have a day like today and my faith is renewed. After running some errands, I decided it was time for my daily YOM walk, despite the icky weather and dark clouds. Not wanting to bore myself with the tediousness of my neighborhood, I asked Jessica (the name of my GPS on my phone) where the nearest park was.

She brought me to Shadow Bay Park. A place only 2.5 miles from my house though I never knew it existed. It's a great urban park, with loads of tennis courts, basketball courts, playgrounds, picnic pavillions and walking trails.

I parked my truck and just started walking - probably not the best idea for someone who can get lost in a parking lot, but whatevs. I knew it would all work out... right?

I walked past the tennis courts and saw two fathers on different courts coaching their daughters, both of them probably hoping for the next Serena Williams. I rounded the corner of the sidewalk and the blue sky struck me like a warm slap in the face. There were clouds in every direction, but not above the park. I unzipped my jacket and took another turn into the mangroves and young pines struggling to grow in the sandy earth.

Soon after, an unpaved trail swerved off to the right and I hopped on it, ignoring the fact I was wearing my work shoes and jeans. The ever-present sound of traffic was never fully muffled by the trees or drowned out by the chirping birds and scattering wildlife, but for a moment, I forgot I was in the middle of a tourist's city. I grinned when the warm sun shone on my face and forced me to remove my jacket. The sandy path wound close to the paved path several times but I stayed on the soft ground each time, tipping my metaphorical hat to Robert Frost.

Finally, my path dumped me out into a parking lot. Not looking forward to trying to navigate my way back to my truck, I rounded the corner and couldn't help but smile when I saw that dirty front bumper with the Gatorhead license plate. As I drove away, I noticed the dark gray clouds moving in on my blue sky.


On another, though related, topic. I've thought for a long time that people these days don't spend enough time outside. With the internet, TV, facebook, twitter, and - oh yeah - responisbilities, most peole just don't find the time. If you're not doing any sort of Year of Months challenge with me, I will challenge you with this one task: Go Outside. Whether it's full-on rock climbing or just a 30 minute walk in the dense vegitation of a city park, it will do you some good.

Is This Gypsy-Soul Slowing Down?

It's the first day of Walk Month and it was rainy and gross all day! The universe has a dark sense of humor. The bottom of my pants are still wet. And cold.

As most of you know, there is a good chance I will soon get a job offer to work with AB (but for another company) in Jacksonville. Over the past few days I've been noticing a strange feeling - one that I'm not used to so I wasn't quite sure what it was until today.

And here it is: I don't really want to leave Orlando. As someone who has always shirked anything that resembled any kind of permanence, this bothers me. Again, as most of you know, I've lived in many many places and have never considered any of them 'home.'

Orlando is certainly not the best place I've ever lived. Gainesville was more fun. St Louis had better food and more culture. Central New York was GORGEOUS in the fall and the people made me feel at home despite living in a hotel. The Keys and Guam were practically paradise. Even still, I was thrilled to leave all those places. Well, more accurately, I was thrilled to go somewhere else. The adventure and uncertainty of a move to a new city has always energized me, so why not now?

After walking around with wet and rapidly cooling feet, I came up with a theory. As odd as it sounds, it may all be thanks to my under/unemployed status since I've moved here. Not having much money to spend, I've had to focus on other aspects of life - to keep me sane. I have some pretty fantastic friends in this town - both new and old. Jasper is a constant and loyal companion who I've been growing closer to every day. I have two great writer groups in town that are helping me focus on developing my writing. I now notice when it's a beautiful day outside and I feel compelled to celebrate it.

If that's the truth - that focusing on things like my friends, Jasper, writing and my surroundings has made me happier - then there really is no reason why I couldn't find the same happiness in another town, but still I'm reluctant. Maybe I haven't felt like I belonged to any other place I've lived because there is only one place (or maybe a few) that I belong. If Orlando feels like my home (something no other place has accomplished), should I be so quick to leave it?

The question all of you want to know is if I receive that job offer, will I take it? Probably. I'm not stupid. This economy sucks and a well-paying job is hard to come by. I have bills to cover, debts to pay off, a fantastic dog to feed.

Even if I have to leave 'home' to do it.