I Fail at Blogging

Remember that whole, “I’ll try to post at least once a month” thing?  Yeah, neither do I.  Well, I stink at blogging.


Here’s an update on my writing adventures:  After an extensive revision, I started querying my second YA novel in earnest.  I’m only just getting started so I don’t have much to report, but this MS got a full request from a Twitter pitch event last year and I hope that wasn’t just a fluke.  Yes, the full request ended in rejection, but that’s still better than all the silence and form rejects I got the last time I queried.  However this turns out, I’m still making progress.  Slow progress, but I’ll take it.

In the meantime, I’m revising a MG contemporary.  I finished the first draft last year and finally got it out again.  I’m excited about this one, but it needs more work in the details.  I’ve had several beta readers give feedback and it’s been fairly positive and helpful.  If all goes well and I work hard, I think I can have it ready to query by the end of the summer.


2014 Reflections, 2015 Goals

I’m happy to say I accomplished all of my goals for 2014:

  • Continue querying my first MS after rewriting the query.  I rewrote the query and it was the best version yet, but after a few additional months of querying with no response whatsoever, MS #1 has been shelved.  I’m okay with this…moving on to other projects.  And just because it’s shelved doesn’t mean it’s dead.  I may just need to wait until there’s a better market for it (some minor feedback from agents I did get suggests this was their major issue for not requesting to see more, so I can wait).
  • Revise two manuscripts–done.  However, only one felt query ready.  I sent it out a little, got one full request for it that resulted in rejection.  Then I decided it needed more revision, so both manuscripts are still in the working stages.
  • Finish a new MS–also done.  This goal was an on-the-side goal if I had time.  It turns out I did have time and I got it done.
  • Continue keeping a writing journal–no problem.
  • Regular exercise–check.

My goals for this year are pretty similar, but I want to query a lot more so the focus will be getting multiple manuscripts to the querying stage:

  • Finish my planned revisions on Time Guardian (YA romance/sci-fi) and get it back out there into query land by spring.
  • Massive revisions on my new MS, The Hoard Life (MG contemporary).  Get it into the hands of a few CPs in the spring/summer and try to to have it query-ready by the end of the year (earlier, if I can manage it…I think I can).  Query this one extensively, especially if I have no luck with my earlier MS.
  • Continue revisions on The Mystic Road (MG fantasy).  I think I can also get this one query-ready, then it can wait its turn if the others don’t work out.
  • Writing a new MS isn’t a priority this year, although if I find I have the inspiration and the time, I have no problem starting one.  Even if I don’t start a new one, I would like to take some time to flesh out ideas I have rattling around in my brain and outline a few plots to consider for later.
  • Continue keeping a writing journal.  I find this really helpful to keep me on track.
  • Continue exercising regularly.  Not only is this good for the body, but it helps clear and focus my mind.  Also, keep up with the new menu I’ve been using for the past few months that seems to be helping a lot–more whole foods, less processed foods, and be aware of portions and snacking.

Happy New Year to all, let’s make 2015 great!

2014 Reads

Here is the list of new books I read this past year, it does not include any re-reads:

  • Doll Bones by Holly Black
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
  • Flora &Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
  • Twelve Steps by Veronica Bartles
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
  • Fire and Hemlock by Diane Wynne Jones
  • Dangerous by Shannon Hale
  • How to Write a Novel by Nathan Bransford
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
  • The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbit
  • 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture and Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen by Jame Howe (editor)
  • The Only Boy by Jordan Locke
  • The Promise of Everything by Robin Constantine
  • The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors
  • One or Two Things I Learned About Love by Dylan Sheldon
  • Jinx by Sage Blackwood
  • Winterling by Sarah Prineas
  • Storybound by Marissa Burt
  • The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood
  • Story’s End by Marissa Burt
  • The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth
  • Crown of Ice by Vicki L. Weavil
  • Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
  • How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Atlantia by Ally Condie
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman
  • Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schultz
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • Scumble by Ingrid Law
  • Clariel by Garth Nix

My total for the year was 51 new books.  Note many of them are Middle Grade which are pretty quick to read, but I love children’s lit and don’t find it any less relevant than adult literature.  In fact, I’d say that most of the books that have made an impact on my life would be considered children’s lit and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Because I prefer to write for children, I find it extremely important that I continue to read and enjoy books for kids.

My Favorites (haha, they are all middle grade reads):

  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter–I picked this up after hearing about it as a Newbery Honor book in 2014.  It’s about a boy who stutters and it was really, really good.  I read most of the Newbery Medal/Honor books from 2014 and this one was my favorite.
  • Flipped by Wendlin Van Draanen–This book is a just a super cute romance for middle grade readers, that’s really all I can say about it.  It was much deeper than it sounds, I loved it!
  • All of The Penderwicks novels by Jeanne Birdsall–This is a cute contemporary series for middle grade readers about four sisters and their normal, everyday adventures in growing up.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked the first one up, but I was enchanted.  Good writing and distinct, likeable characters.
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell–This is actually a graphic novel about a deaf girl trying to figure out how to fit in and find a true, real friend at school.  The book is autobiographical in nature, the author uses her real-life experiences to shape the book.
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead–I’m not normally a huge fan of magical realism, but this one was done so well and meshed with the awkwardness that is adolescence, I might learn to love the genre from now on.

There were others that I really like, but I can’t mention them all.  Luckily, for the most part, I liked all of the books I read this year.  However there were a few stinkers I wouldn’t recommend:

  • Taste Test by Kelly Fiore–Cute concept ruined by trite characters, a predictable plot, and a romance  I just didn’t care about.
  • The Promise of Everything by Robin Constantine–I just found this entire book incredibly shallow and again featured a romance that felt forced and fake.

This is just my opinion, of course.  Feel free to disagree, we can still be friends.

I consider any year where I’m able to read 25 or more new books to be a good year, so I’d consider 2014 a great year!  Eventually, I’ll get these added to my book list with my star rating for each.  Here’s to hoping I can read many more lovely books in 2015.

Manuscript #5…The Follow-Up

In my last blog post I said I wanted to finish my WIP by the end of the month.  Well, I finished it last night.


It’s a 42,000 word MG contemporary novel.  Now, I’m back to revisions (after I take a little break) and I will be updating my projects page to reflect more accurate info about the state of my manuscripts.

Manuscript #5

Back in July, I started a new WIP.  This is new territory for me, it’s a Middle Grade Contemporary.  Up to this point I’ve only written Young Adult, and none of it was even close to contemporary.  I can honestly say it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever written, but the challenge has been great and it begged to be told so I’m glad to get it down on the computer screen.  My current word count on the sloppy first draft is 30,000 words.  My goal is to finish it by the end of the month.

Then I need to give a previous MS  more attention.  I’d hoped to be querying it by now, but I’ve decided it needs more revision before it’s ready for that.  I did query it a little during the summer (very little) and entered it in a few contests.  While I did get some interest in the concept, there’s still some plot points that need clarification.  It stinks to pull it from querying for now, but I hope when I’m done with this revision it will shine and generate even more interest.  Here’s to hoping anyway.

Pitch Wars (Unofficial) Mentee Bio

Hey y’all, this is my potential mentee bio for Pitch Wars.  If you aren’t sure what Pitch Wars is, check out Brenda Drake’s website for more information.  Basically it’s a contest for writers looking for an agent, where we hope to get matched up with an awesome-sauce mentor to help us polish our queries and manuscripts.

So, for anyone who happens across this blog post, here’s ten random things about me:

  1. My name is Joni.  I was named after the singer Joni Mitchell.  True story.
  2. I live in Texas and I don’t normally say “y’all” (see above) or have a drawl in any way.  I’m a native Alaskan, raised in Oregon, went to university in Oregon and Utah, and have lived since then in Colorado and now Texas.
  3. As you can see, I don’t tend to use gifs when I blog.  I don’t have anything against then, I just don’t have time to figure it out.  It’s hard enough just trying to sound somewhat witty.
  4. I am an unpublished, unagented writer.  I have four finished manuscripts in various stages of revision, and a fifth one in the works.  They are all YA or MG.
  5. My favorite books are:  The Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Prydain Chronicles (The Black Cauldron, etc.), the Percy Jackson books, The Giver, and anything by Jane Austen.  I do prefer fantasy-type things, but I read a lot and enjoy a little bit of everything.
  6. My own writing also tends to be more fantastical in nature, but my latest WIP is contemporary…no magic, wizards, fairies, or mythical beasts.  Yes, I’m shocked, too!
  7. I’ve been married for 21 years and my husband and I have three teenage children, two boys and a girl.
  8. I’m kinda shy, both in real life and online.  But once I get to know you I’ll talk your ear off.
  9. I’m not fond of cooking, although I do it every day, but I do love to bake…cookies are my specialty.
  10. Pick Me! (sorry, I had to say that at least once)

The manuscript I’ve submitted for Pitch Wars consideration is titled TIME GUARDIAN.  It’s a retelling of Jane Austen’s NORTHANGER ABBEY in a Victorian-ish imaginary place where the people are obsessed with time, including the main character.  So there’s lots of clocks and a little bit of time travel (a very little bit, not overwhelming or anything).  Mainly it’s a romance, but there’s actual story to it besides the lovey bits.

I’m under no illusions that it’s perfect so I welcome the opportunity to get another set of experienced eyes on it.

That’s it!  To read more potential mentee bios, be sure to visit Dannie Morin’s blog and browse the list there, it’s pretty fun.  And big huge thanks to Dannie for doing this, by the way, it’s been fun!

PS–also feel free to say “hi!” here on my blog or find me on Twitter @LittleJoni00

Why I Love Robin Williams

“…medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

So Robin Williams didn’t write these words, but he’s the one who said them (as Mr. Keating in Dead Poet’s Society) in a way that made me pay attention and remember.

I first heard these lines as a senior in high school, sitting in a movie theater with several disgruntled friends (they wanted to see some shoot-em’-up blockbuster movie, I don’t remember which now, but I insisted we see Dead Poet’s Society.  I was so stubborn about it, I flat out told them I’d go alone if they weren’t going to be persuadable, and I got a lot of heavy sighing and eye-rolling in return…but to this day I don’t regret standing my ground to see it even if I had to be pretty annoying to get what I wanted at the time).  Those lines, and so many others from this single movie stuck with me for years and years and I truly believe that a lot of what I took away from it made me want to be a writer in later years.

Because (from the same movie):  “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”  More lines delivered by Robin Williams.  His is the voice I hear in my head telling me these words are true.  I credit him for making me want to share my own words.

Robin Williams made me laugh.  A lot.  And that’s a beautiful thing.  But he also made me think and feel.

“To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”  —Robin Williams as Mr. Keating, Dead Poet’s Society

What will your verse be?