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Darcy Drake

Triple Crown Try-Fail-Try-Fail

A couple of weeks ago I read this guest blog post by writer Dahlia Adler (a bonafide superstar with a tiara) on Cupid’s Literary Connection. The topic of knowing if a writing contest is right for you and when it’s time to retire a project from the contest scene sparked a lot of debate, most of which was healthy. Stupid rude people. Anyway, Dahlia’s sound advice and keen insight helped me revamp my immediate contest strategy and led to some greater peace of mind for me.

Since then I haven’t really thought about contests all that much.

To be honest, I’ve been focused on getting in the groove of juggling my new day job, a 40+ hour work week, seeing Lawyer Boy once in awhile, and making my daily word count for #80khotfoot. Then something happened yesterday which amused me.

Sometime between brushing my teeth and wondering if my polka dot thong would show through my pants, my mom messaged me a link to a RWA chapter contest AND a close writer friend (who shall remain A. Noun A. Moose) emailed me about another contest she suggested I enter. Now my mom doesn’t send me every single thing she sees to me. She’s not one of those moms. My inbox is not full of prayer chains to be forwarded or cute pictures of kittens and puppies. And the Anon Moosey writer friend who emailed me about the contest has professed her undying suspicious stance on contests more than once.

I’m taking it as a sign from the Universe that I’m supposed to enter another contest.

But having declared that, I do have some thoughts I’d like to share based on my own experiences with writing contests.

No, that’s not just some random picture of the Kentucky Derby. I mean, it is, but… Sigh.

A teen champion barrel racer, my mom comes from horse country in Florida, where all manner of champions are bred and trained, from Thoroughbreds to Tennessee Walkers. Ya’ll know I’m not a huge fan of all things nature and buggy, but I grew up knowing horses and when I thought about contests, I couldn’t help but think about racing.

I don’t mean to imply that publishing and signing with an agent and getting published and all that wonderful wonderful stuff is a race. But behind every horse that walks onto the track, there are people that know that animal backwards, forwards, and every possible way. You have to know your book that way if you want it to compete with all the other great books going for the exact same editor/agent/reader/audience/etc.

Your Book – The Three-Year-Old Thoroughbred

The Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse race, like, ever and three-year-old Thoroughbreds compete in it every year. I mention the age thing because one big mistake I made with my last book was that I threw it into contests too early. I tried to enter a two-year-old in a contest for its big brothers and sisters instead of giving it the extra year to mature. Aka, I needed to give the book more work first.

Too much early exposure can damage a book’s chances later on when it is ready. Wait for the sweet spot. Know your book and when the time is right to begin entering writing contests.

A Winner – Takes One to Know One

99% of the time, I’m not an advocate of contests for feedback. No random feedback from a contest can replace the value of a good critique partner. Finding one or two or a group is a struggle, but well worth it. What I do suggest, especially if you are a member of an organization like RWA, is to volunteer to judge a contest. At least once, before the agents and the editors and the contracts and the deadlines and all that fun stuff happen.

Seeing contests from that side will improve your own clarity in polishing your writing.

The Finish Line – Knowing When to Start Means Knowing When to Stop

The careers of all good equine athletes eventually come to an end and it’s time for retirement. Having the sound judgement to not rush your book into the contest circuit also means having a little on standby to know when to stop. Set it aside and focus on your new book. If you have to, motivate yourself by planning what contests your new book will enter.

Keep writing and keep trying.

Remember – when you don’t final in a contest or you receive yet another rejection, you haven’t lost. You will never lose as long as you keep putting words down on the page.

And that’s what you missed in Dar’s mind!  xoxo Darcy

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Real Life Inspirations and Writerly Creations

For my blog post today I knew I wanted to blog about my current rough draft, but wasn’t sure what to focus on. Then I thought about the inspiration for this story and how real life has a way of finding its way into fiction. Previously it’s been little meta details that have popped up in my writing, but in this book there are definitely big inspirations.

The star of the story is seventeen year old Salamandra Torres (at the moment I imagine her as Shay Mitchell), home from boarding school for the summer. Home is Misty Mills, a small town in the mountains of North Carolina.

I’ve honestly never been much of a nature person. I like water that runs through a filter before I drink it, air that has been conditioned to the ideal temperature, and about a hundred miles between me and the nearest bear. My first experience in the mountains as an adult was not ideal due to the location, in which I learned that my claustrophobia will override my fear of heights if being on a four story balcony will make me feel less suffocated.

When I was Darcy-napped by The M Shelf to, like, the perfect mountain house in all of creation, I was skeptical. If you couldn’t tell already, I’m a pretty skeptical person in general. Enjoying the hell out of being in the mountains had to be a fluke. But then months later I ended up finishing my first Victoria Saint book while hiding away from the world in the mountains. I think the sheer high of typing ‘The End’ on my baby, the weight being lifted from my shoulders, allowed me to truly enjoy what was around me and I fell in love with it.

But as I spent two long years in a small town in Alabama, Sal’s motivation to go through anything to go back to boarding school comes straight from the heart.

If I ever become ridiculously famous, I wonder if I’ll get a plague and a mention in an edition of this book. Hm. Anyway, I spent two years in the home of Harper Lee and (briefly) Truman Capote. I took my driving test there… which is literally if you can make it around the courthouse in one piece. The nearest decent shopping was two hours away. We had Dial-Up internet. And the only thing to do was either raise cattle for 4-H or watch cotton grow. I decided to suffer with Dial-Up instead.

It wasn’t the town’s fault that my duration in it sucked. Looking back I know I could have made more of the experience. Monroeville does make the most of its literary heritage and their annual play of To Kill A Mockingbird (inside the courthouse) is brilliant.

But as a teenager I wanted to escape, and so does Sal, which provides some major motivation.

Now for the idea that got this whole story rolling!

When The M Shelf ladies told me there was a Starbucks in a funeral home… MAN. The creative gears in my head went into overtime. What a freaking awesome idea! I’m an advocate of coffee being served, well, everywhere. And it became my ‘setting within a setting.’ Wake the Dead Coffee Shop and Blessed Rest Funeral Home, owned by Sal’s parents, and definitely not making her stint in Misty Mills any easier.

So, tell me about your newest work in progress, your almost completed baby, or your #80khotfoot project! But for the #80khotfoot peeps, I have an extra challenge. Go to your blogs (if you have one, if not just comment) and write your own post about elements that inspired your story and post the link in the comments below.

C’mon, I want to know and you know you want me to know! *grin* There might even be a prize involved. I haven’t decided yet. *rubs hands together with glee*

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The Zen State of Reading

Would you believe this is actually the third topic drafted for my blog post today? The spazziness that has been my mind this week has been, well, uhm, spazzy. Finishing up the last few scenes in a novella, shopping around another, social media, emails, critiquing, and trying to decide on my next project. I love my ADHD medication, but it can only handle so much.

To be the most productive and happiest me that I can be, I want to be like this…

Chakra Agua

[Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, trying to unblock his chakras.]

No, I don’t mean I want to be an adolescent boy with a giant blue arrow on his head. I mean I want to feel all calm and… zen. Instead I have so much going on inside my brain that I’m more like this…

tumblr_m4y4nynRZ21rxph3eo1_500[Dar’s Brain – Squishy jelly legs and all.]

But before I begin studying up on Mahāyāna Buddhism, I’m going to share what I’ve done the past two days and how it helped clear the mental clutter to give me peace of mind.

First, I took two days off. In these two days I continued to make notes on CP’s manuscripts, answer emails, and scribble down whatever notes came to me. I didn’t fall behind on that and I still did my super fun day job. What I didn’t do was keep up with the 1.5-2k a day pace I’ve been setting for myself since I recovered from two weeks of flu/throat/fever misery.

At first this made me itch. I need to write or I’ll go crazy! But then I went out and foraged for a few good reads, returning home with a nice big bag of books. Bookstore. Used bookstore. Library. All the usual habitat of books. Wonderful, wonderful books. (I was in the mood for paper, but shhhh, don’t tell the iPad!)

Reading on a regular basis is important for writers, but there’s reading and then there’s reading. For lack of a better word, I tend to devour books. Three, four, five, six at a time and I’m a fast reader. I get my reading high on. Yes, I said reading high. This may be kind of judgmental of me, but anyone who doesn’t get ‘ermagerd man pass the doritos and check out that prose man‘ after a reading sprint of epic proportions must be doing it wrong. *wink*

After giving in completely to the need to read, I feel rejuvenated. Refreshed. Clear headed and ready to go.

Have you ever binged on books and come up with the same results? Did you feel better after a day or two of letting yourself go in a book or three?

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Just Run With It

After the awesomeness that was Fiona McLaren’s post yesterday, I’m tempted just to take the day off. Maybe stretch out, drink a mimosa or two, read a Victoria Dahl book and… No? Fine. But I am not changing out of my fancy-pants pajama pants. 😉

This week I have had my first experience with pure pantsing. At least, pantsing on a story in a way that I have never pantsed before. Pants… the final frontier… where no pants have pantsed before… AHEM.

Anyway.

I was feeling the itch to create new material between finishing a rough draft and jumping headfirst into the editing process. I needed to take a mental break from that story, that world, and those characters.

My first attempt at a novella failed miserably. It crashed and burned. Or I set it on fire because I couldn’t connect with the story at all. After putting the attempt aside, I thought I was also going to have to give up on producing new material and start on my edits sooner than I have planned. But then, I had an idea….

It wasn’t much of an idea. A blur of sexy gladiators, an alien queen in mourning, and a competition to be her studmuffin. And instead of pulling out the character sheets, writing the blurb, and drafting a quick plot outline like I would normally do for my full length fiction, I juuuuust started writing.

Then, I wrote…

…and then I wrote…

…and gosh darn it, wouldn’t you know? I wrote so’more.

Now I am a scene away from finishing this smexy little Sci-Fi short and it feels so fucking good to have written something new. To know that I will be able to hit ‘The End’ on a completed rough draft. However, I say that with a note of caution as I am writing this by the seat of my pants and the story could pull a fast one on me. Considering it now I don’t think I would mind if the story threw me a curve and I had to add another scene or ten. The unknown is what makes this novella fun and it’s been a wonderful experience.

Sometimes you just have to grab that idea and run with it. Run, sprint, crawl, and perhaps be dragged behind when your characters’ actions surprise the hell out of you. Just run.

 

Can’t wait to welcome Jessica Lee tomorrow on Bad Girlz Write! I better make sure there’s more mimosa supplies for our next Bad Girl For A Day. 😉

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‘My Bookstore’ and Signing with Carrie Ryan

On the 19th (it was a Monday night, a dark and chilly Monday night) I ventured into another part of Charlotte to visit Park Road Books, a gem of an indie bookstore in the QC. They’d chosen local author Carrie Ryan to represent them in My Bookstore, a collection of thoughts by authors on independent shops and their local haunts.

“My Bookstore “collects the essays, stories, odes and words of gratitude and praise for stores across the country in 81 pieces written by our most beloved authors. It’s a joyful, industry-wide celebration of our bricks-and-mortar stores and a clarion call to readers everywhere at a time when the value and importance of these stores should be shouted from the rooftops…” Source.

I was glad I made it to the signing. Not only did I get to ask the adorable Carrie Ryan a few questions and hear her success story on making homemade fake zombie flesh, but I got to see fellow CRW-er Ann B. Stewart and, well, there was wine. I can’t say no to wine. If there’s wine, it becomes a book signing partay~!

If you’re not familiar with Carrie Ryan’s work… well, first you should be ashamed of yourself. Are you ashamed yet? I want to be sure you truly ruminate on the travesty you’ve committed.

Alrighty, I believe you understand your crime and will strive to atone in the future.

Carrie Ryan is the fantabalous author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, The Dark and Hollow Places, many juicy contributions to anthologies, and much more. She’s also the editor of Foretold, a new anthology with an ‘end of days’ theme.

I’m NOT saying I have a giant fangirl crush on this woman, but dot dot dot. You shouldn’t judge me! If you’d met her (ermagerd her awesome boots) and read her work, then you’d want to plop down on a yoga mat, burn some incense, and learn the ways of the writer from her too.

But since Park Road Books had no spare mats and discouraged burning things around their inventory, I asked Miss Ryan a few questions. They must’ve been coherent even with the wine because I got back answers! Ha. Score.

D: What was it like editing an anthology? Was balancing writing and editing a challenge?

C: It was actually a lot of fun because you get to read all of these stories before anyone else does. I had no idea what people were going to write. I made the topic really broad. I wanted them to be able to come at it with anything… from any angle at all. Every time a new story came in it was a treasure. [Excited explanation of Meg Cabot’s story about interviews done after an alien invasion.] I remember when I got the email from Meg Cabot accepting the invitation.

D: Oh yeah, I’d drop everything to read an email from MEG CABOT.

C: I was at a rest stop when I got it and ran in screaming, ‘I GOT AN EMAIL FROM MEG CABOT.’

D: Oh the fangirl moments we’re glad no one has seen… [Insert me thinking of my many, many, many public fangirling episodes.]

C: A lot of the stories didn’t need editing. Maybe one where I questioned one word choice, but that was about it. They came in strong.

 

D: What inspired you to put the project together?

C: Actually my editor suggested doing an anthology and I really liked the idea, of working with other authors. I love the community and working with other authors in the community. It was fun making the list and when I sat down with my editor and agent, I had this big list of all of these possible authors. We didn’t just want one note. We were trying to bring in diversity and find a balance.

 

D: Do you prefer the in-person networking with authors or social media like Facebook and Twitter?

C: I think it’s different. When you sit down and talk to authors face-to-face or anybody face-to-face, it’s a little bit easier to get a better connection. You’re able to ask questions you may not feel comfortable putting into writing or answering in writing. I feel like that’s where you really establish connections whereas social media allows you to maintain them. There are people I only see two or three times a year… Twitter is a great way of keeping tabs. ‘What’s going on in your life?’ …They both serve a different purpose.

 

D: Last question. [I’d been dying to ask this one all night.] What brand of makeup do you use? You’re makeup is gorgeous!

C: Are you kidding me? Thank you! It’s a Chanel powder. Funny story actually. I saw a picture of myself six years ago and I was wearing the same powder. Told my husband I needed to start using it again because my skin looked really good. ‘That,’ he said, ‘and you were six years younger.’

I’m pretty sure we only have husbands, boyfriends, and significant others around to keep us humble. For some reason that seems to be a vital contribution or our writer egos would swell up. Mhm. Sure.

So, readers, do you have a favorite local bookstore or even a coffeeshop or favorite place to write? 

You can visit Carrie Ryan on her website and get updates on new projects by following her @carrieryan. If you want more information on My Bookstore, Bookselling This Week did a nice little blog post and has the full list of contributors.

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NaNoWriMo, You Had Me At- Uhmmmm…

Halloween. Hurrying up to put the final touches on my M&M submissions. Getting ready for a giant yard sale this coming weekend. Trying to finish the last details of signing up for a spring semester of classes. Paying the bills. Weird hours at the day job. A boyfriend. A crazy clan. The Carolina Romance Writers November meeting. All of my critique circle and writer pals being just as busy as I am.

All reasons why signing up for NaNoWriMo is a freaking bad idea, ya’ll!

Yet here I am, joining the throng of crazy people and my fellow Bad Girl Sydney, to write 50k in 30 days. Even though I’ve completed novels before and I know I can do it, it’s still an excuse to bust out my next book as fast as I can. It doesn’t get much faster than that. My rough drafts are normally 50k-65k and another 15k-20k get added in edits. Why? No freaking clue. Plus, I love meeting other writers and exchanging crazy stories about late night push for the final chapter and the weirdest place we’ve written a love scene and- *DEEP BREATH*

My nano handle is ‘drcydrke’ (identical to Twitter) and here’s my little page. Not sure how to add someone as a friend yet, but I will! …If you leave the link to your page, I’ll try to figure it out. *g*

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The Pumpkin Polarization

About a month ago (almost exactly a month in fact) I was sitting in Panera with a friend, sharing our lamentations over bottomless cups of coffee and desserts that were certainly NOT gluten-free. She could understand my woes with such clarity and perfection, being a writer herself. Being a writer and one of my closest friends also helped as I would hate to thrust my venting and ranting on just anyone. If you’re reading this blog, well, you’ve volunteered for the torture. *g*

Writers are constantly having to create new material. Not only is this a necessity for a vibrant, thriving career, but it’s a damn requirement for living. Eat, breathe, sleep, write. Eating and sleeping are negotiable. But in the creation process, 1% of the time, we fill like badass artists, throwing letters into words like fucking glorious paint onto canvases which will change the lives of whoever sees it.

Yeah… 1%…. the remaining 99%, every word jotted down or typed looks like absolute shit. I mean, really, the rankest old man’s jockstrap wrapped around a dirty diaper and left out in the sun to ferment.

Even when we send our writing out for critiques and take strides to guard ourselves from harsh words said about our “babies,” it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. Beta readers, contests, and random blind markups with a stranger’s red ink. Still, it’s not good enough! Our writing needs to be stronger, tighter, faster, meaner, stronger… Ahem.

No matter how much we do “what we’re supposed to do” to make our writing perfect, it’s never going to look that way in our eyes. We’re always going to find new flaws.

So, what does this have to do with pumpkins?

Maybe it was the plethora of pumpkin lattes percolating  or the pumpkin muffin sitting on my plate, but right there in Panera, I came up with an analogy for this whole problem. And yes, it’s pumpkins.

This time of year, we’re buying pumpkins for all sorts of tasty and creative reasons. To carve jack-o-lanterns and make delicious treats like pies and muffins. Both, to the best of my knowledge, involve scooping out all that pumpkin goop inside.

That pumpkin goop? That’s how we see our writing.

No matter what awesome end results for the pumpkin and that icky stuff, we’re still going to see the handfuls of gooey, gross, disgusting pumpkin goop. Everyone else is going to eat the pie and enjoy the terrifying holiday decorations. They’re even going to tell us (except for the weirdos who just hate pumpkin) how delicious or amazing our creations have turned out after all of our hard work. It doesn’t matter! We’re still going to see pumpkin goop.

EMBRACE THE GOOP, PEOPLE!

Well not so much, because that would be messy, but what I’m trying to say is that writers shouldn’t stress or feel guilty. They can’t see the pumpkin pie for the pumpkin goop. Big whoop! We get to enjoy others savoring the pies and oh-ing and aw-ing over our lanterns. And that? That’s a great feeling. One of the best!

And, in all that goop, we find the seeds and they become the big idea for our next book.

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#GRWMM12 Pitch Practice — Darcy Drake

Inspired by Tuesday’s twitter conversation on pitching, I took the initiative and made a video of my pitch-in-progress for Moonlight and Magnolias.

 

I appreciate all comments and feedback, just not on my hair and makeup today. *g* Also it goes without saying (yet I’m saying it anyway) that I begin with introducing myself and chitchat because I’m annoyingly outgoing at conferences.

What I wonder is if anyone else (be they Bad Girlz or friends of the Bad Girlz) will post their pitch videos now… If you’re reading this and you’re pitching at a conference this year, I double-dog-dare you!

#GRWMM12/Moonlight and Magnolias

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“This is the song that doesn’t end…”

Yesterday I had my first uncomfortable writer-life-meets-personal-life experience since I was a wee thing and declaring I wanted to be a writer was (in my mind) a great act of rebellion.

 

Stuck between my grandmother and my new boyfriend as they meet each other for the first time, all I can think about is how much I want another cup of after dinner coffee. It’s been a long, tedious evening, but just one more fix of caffeine and I know I’ll be able to put off destroying everyone in a massacre 300-style. At least for another ten minutes. But before I can get to the coffee pot, to the carafe of chocolate truffle goodness calling my name, I hear these interesting words…

 

“…Yes, [Darcy] doesn’t tell me anything about her writing these days. She used to show me all of her work, but the last word I got to read was eight years ago…”

 

And she just kept going

…and going

…and then there was more

 

What do you do in situations like this?! I haven’t given my grandmother samples of my work to read because I highly suspect she’d find it distasteful. It’s not even about the smut factor! Aliens in spaceships, zombies, and dystopian themes aren’t her thing! But it comes across looking as if I’m embarrassed and I’m NOT!

 

I’m a writer. Deal with it.

 

But really, what do you do in situations like that? I need help here, people. In case this ever happens again.

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