An Update – In Case You Were Worried.

Writing Rambles

Welcome to my increasingly not up to date blog/website/storage room for my thoughts. The last fifteen months have been a whirlwind of change underscored by both personal and professional growth, and one of the threads in my own story that ended up getting dropped was maintaining this space.

So welcome back — me! — and everyone else!

Here is a smattering of what’s been keeping me busy, in no particular order:

Book News!

A few years ago I started writing a book on Wattpad with one of my best friends. We chose pen names (Victoria Fulton & Faith McClaren —I’m Faith), set up the account, wrote the pitch for ELLIE IS COOL NOW, and began publishing a chapter a week to readers. Over time the book gained a robust following. It also gained a book deal (!!!) with Forever/Hachette and while that was all getting finalized, we kept writing.

In March 2021, we responded to a now famous (at least in the publishing world) tweet from the legendary Wendy Loggia. She was looking for books to help build out the new Young Adult paperback imprint, Underlined. All we needed was an agent (we had one in the amazing Katie Shea Boutillier), a synopsis and a few sample chapters in one of the genres they were looking to publish.

A week after the tweet lit a fire under us, we delivered a proposal to Wendy and her editorial assistant (now a brilliant acquiring editor herself!) Ali Romig. And they snatched it up in record time. That proposal became our YA debut, HORROR HOTEL, available now wherever books are sold.

Not long after HORROR HOTEL’s debut, we got to announce the deal for ELLIE IS COOL NOW. And we’ve been drafting and deadlining, promoting and pinching ourselves ever since.

House News!

After living in Los Angeles for four years, my family decided to take the terrifying leap into the housing market. We spent months searching for the home of our right now dreams, offering on them, and then losing out to multiple (sometimes 100s) offers, often in all cash. Finally, when we really had resigned ourselves to forever be without our own little slice if this city, we got an offer accepted on a house with panoramic views and the right amount of bedrooms.

We are in love with the adventure that is LA homeownership. I love looking out on the lights at night and making new wishes on unseeable stars.

Apex Protection Project!

We’ve been volunteering with Apex Protection Project, a wolf dog rescue and 501c3 non-profit since before the pandemic trapped us at home. Every time we get to work with and for these beautiful creatures, we find our hearts full with gratitude.

About Apex:

Apex Protection Project, a Los Angeles based 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was created in 2015 to save the wolf species through education, rescue and advocacy. Co-Founders Paula Ficara and Steve Wastell are the driving force behind this mission, and their approach to advocacy has been shaped by the unique experiences that lead them to dedicating their lives to this service.

https://www.apexprotectionproject.org/donate

BTS!

A life update really could not be complete without spending a little time with seven of my favorite men.

In July 2021, I had a dream about BTS. At the time I was not a fan. I had little to no awareness of their music – besides the vague knowledge that some of my friends were super into them.

I didn’t know their names. I couldn’t have told you the title of a single song.

And then I dreamed I was sitting on the stage watching a performance of Butter, and when I woke up I couldn’t shake the feeling it gave me— the wandering, wild interest that overtook me. I searched online to find the performance from the dream, and discovered it was a real thing. I remember thinking, almost sneakily, that I would just watch it once. As a scholar in universal magic, I believed there had to be a reason I’d dreamed about them, and so I couldn’t just ignore it. I would just watch that one thing.

I would not become obsessed.

My deep dive into the BTS fandom has been one of the most healing and rewarding experiences of my adult life. ARMY (the name adopted by BTS stans) is a diverse, global, inclusive group of humans, and my IRL and online ARMY friends have become deeply important to me.

Yes, I fell in love hard with my bias, and yes, I am Ot7 (a term that means you love all seven members of the group without leaving anyone out), but beyond that, it is the call to Love Yourself that is baked into their music and message that has grabbed my heart and tugged me headlong into the purple ocean, is what I ride these waves with. When BTS found me in a dream, I was at a crossroads in my life, and I didn’t realize then how much I needed them beside me. With BTS and ARMY, you never walk alone, and we all could use someone, something in our lives to remind us of that.

Writing, writing, writing!

My writing life has been full, not only with collaboration projects that are hitting shelves soon (or are already out there!), but with solo written projects. The last couple of years have seen a lot of ups and downs in this area. I had sold projects fall through (after signing a contract for one — that was fun!) and solo projects almost land (thisclose) only to have to let them go.

I would like to say I had a great attitude about it all, but I prefer not to lie to you in this update. These misses, losses, near almost moments, were annoying. I felt tired and frustrated, considered burning down my career hoping maybe something magnificent would rise from the ashes like a Phoenix.

I floundered, dug in my heels, and kept trying. There is a lot I could say here about how much mindset matters. I could express something flowery for you about how I turned these seeming failures into something new, blossoming beautiful. But the bottom line is less poetic. I worked hard and listened to my gut.

And when I found a story I couldn’t let go of, I fought for it. I pressed into the idea, stomping out weak takes, working over the concept and questioning my knee jerk impulse until pieces began to click together. I fell in love with it. I dedicated myself to making it really fucking great, and going all in even when that made me feel VERY exposed and vulnerable. And when I finally delivered the manuscript to my agent, I knew without a doubt that what I had created was something supremely special.

I’m not sure what the destiny is, but I know the magic inside it is real, and I believe passion is a magnet that draws the best to it.

xo,

R

Query Tip: Mantra

Unbridled Unicorn Testimonials, Writing Rambles

One of the biggest parts of my job coaching writers on their publishing journey is prepping them for the QUERY TRENCHES.

After the book is written & revised, and we feel solid that the work is done, the manuscript is at its conceptual best, all polished up and shiny, we switch gears.

From creation mode to business time.

And this shift can feel really freakin’ strange.

This is the moment I notice most writers seeking traditional publication falter.

This is where fear creeps in like the Grim Reaper, scythe gleaming to slash hopes and dreams.

Writers look at the rules of Querying: Guidelines on agency websites, Google search results with daunting statistics and horror stories about fails and screw ups, and we get in our heads about how HARD this part is.

How easy it is to fail right here, at the threshold of all we’ve been working toward.

This is where many writers forget that without writers there would be no publishing industry. Writers are the fuel, the creative juice, the actual ones making the thing agents sell, editors buy, and readers read.

WRITERS ARE THE PRIZE.

So what does this mean for queriers?

Here’s a little mindset shift you can do right now, no matter which stage of the journey you’re in. Repeat after me:

When Querying:

  1. Be Professional
  2. Be Respectful
  3. Be the PRIZE

The rest — like whether you caps locked the names in your synopsis when you first introduced characters, or whether you put your name in the footer beside your page numbers — will never matter as much as your attitude toward the agent you query and your attitude toward YOURSELF.

Be a prize— which doesn’t mean: Be a brat.

It means send a query you are proud of, that looks and reads like YOU, for a book you worked hard to create.

The rest will follow. Maybe in a minute, or in five years, but timing doesn’t change the fact that YOU. ARE. THE. PRIZE. 💃🏼

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I offer a QUERY PACKAGE for writers who are ready to take the leap. For $350, It includes query & synopsis feedback, notes on your first ten pages and a list of 8 agents to start querying when ready. If you mention this blog post when you contact me I will take 10% off the cost. 💗

Writing the Wrong Book

Uncategorized, Writing Rambles

Okay, I know this can feel like a scary, touchy subject for writers to think about for long, but hear me out. I am *thisclose* to crossing the 25k word mark in this manuscript and I think it’s a fitting time to tell you that I wrote this book wrong at first. 

I wrote the whole thing. I revised it. I got feedback and it was nice, readers were enjoying it, they had thoughts, but ultimately nothing that was changing the way I was feeling about it which was…only okay. 

Here is the truth: We are never too good, smart or talented to write the wrong book first.

We might think we have to write it that way because on the surface it makes a whole lot of sense. Maybe we think it’s our brand, or we really WANT to write a certain kind of book because it’s something we like to read. Maybe we had an idea and we ran with it, but we were sprinting in the wrong direction for 70,000 words. 

And sometimes the book you wrote that was wrong, was good. Maybe even good enough. But not really truly YOU. 

The you component is what transforms a bunch of plot points into an unforgettable story. It’s what creates passion and unlocks imagination in a reader. It’s what actually makes the book “on brand” in the first place. 

I’m glad my agent could feel the lack of ME in the book and gently nudged me with her insight & great feedback toward the truth I wasn’t telling. Because the key to good story is getting to the honest truth. It’s dipping into the dark well inside you and finding the deep water hidden there. 

It’s okay to write the wrong book. And it sure feels good to bleed out the right one. 

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Weekly reminder that I work with writers at all levels & stages! You can check out my creative services right here on my website. 🦄

Don’t just ride.

Tid-Bits, Writing Rambles

me1

There are days when I feel a bit invincible in my own home. Cocooned in my little bungalow where it’s just my husband, my son and two scruffy dogs. When I know it’s okay and I’m okay, and despite the news, the world is okay, too.

There are days when I feel low. Dropped to the bottom of a steep incline and slammed into the seat, jolted, breathless, and ready to get off now, please.

This is a roller coaster we can’t just leave. There’s no escape hatch. There’s no emergency off switch, and that makes us feel aimless. Like we’re just here for the ride, but we’re not actually required for the journey.

Schools are closed through the rest of the school year. The stay at home order is in place for many until May 1st – for now. I walk through my neighborhood and prickle when I see someone on the same side of the street, walking the same sidewalk. I take a wide berth, reroute, and feel lonelier when the dogs tug back, wanting to greet, and me just wanting more space.

It’s easy to feel a little defeated. To want to sit down, right here, and just stop. Not cry because that would mean you were still fighting. No – just sit, just let it all pass you by, because this coaster is going fast on the loops and the dips and you aren’t the one manning the controls.

Without vision we perish. Right now a lot of us are getting vision confused with existence. Existence is what we do to survive. Vision is what we need to prosper and thrive. And even in a season of collective cocooning, we must have vision or we’ll just ride.

The real question for many not on the frontlines of this fight isn’t what should we do to survive – it’s who will we be if we do?

Time isn’t going to stop.

We’re not just gonna pick up in a few months where we left off. Too much will have happened, and even though this pause touches everyone, we as individuals must still carry on. In our homes, in our work, dreaming our dreams, doing our deeds by whatever means possible — by innovation and with determination.

We must keep our eyes like flint on the vision, however we can, because even though it will surely tarry, it will still arrive.

The roller coaster of this pandemic will one day come to an end, but who we will be when we get out of the car, stretch our legs, and take the first steps into the new normal, is still up for debate.

Faith is not a passive thing. Faith is an action word. It is alive and it requires our participation.

Whatever you have to do – whether it’s make a mask, clean your house, rock your baby, call you mother, write your words – keep doing it and don’t let this pause convince you that you aren’t still here for a reason, for such a time as this. ❤︎

Power’s Out

Writing Rambles

Yesterday the power went out, & dealing with the, okay, pretty tiny crisis in the grand scheme of crises, reminded me that my power is unlimited.

I had a plan for my day. I had made a list & was dutifully checking items off. Then, about fifteen minutes past 11 am, I heard a hollow, metallic crash. It sounded like an anvil had dropped. Was Wylie Coyote running along the telephone wire after the Roadrunner?

Our fans slowly spun to a stop. My son’s online video game froze & then kicked him out. With the outage went all cell signal, the internet, & the only method we had to stay cool on a day when the temperature would soon rise to over 100 degrees.

We left the house, searching for signal, & blasting the air conditioner in the car. We ended up at an outdoor café where we got frozen yogurt and a Styrofoam cup of water for our dogs. We dropped our son at an IHOP so he could go to his friend’s powered and air conditioned house.

We went to another outdoor café, covered by awnings and surrounded by foliage. I ordered Rose and chopped salad, the dogs got a to-go container of water. We worked using the nearby Barnes and Noble wi-fi.

The power was out all day.

We finally went home, gave up trying to get work done, gave up having cell signal, & jumped in the pool. My husband & I were like kids, joyously swimming, laughing, playing – we never get to do that, just us. We had a picnic in the shade of our yard & talked without interruption. The power never came back on.

picnic

We went to get our son and ended up staying for dinner. We booked a hotel because we were over the struggle with the power. The hotel was beautiful – the power finally returned. But while it had been out, my own power had slowly restored.

cat

Often we focus on the struggle. The drama and the toil, the annoyance that things aren’t the way we want them to be. We get impatient to check off our life-list.

Sometimes throwing out the list, and going along for the ride, is all you need to remember that you have power no one can take, unlimited potential, and a choice to enjoy the journey. Then the struggle becomes an adventure you’ll never forget.

 

Throwback Thursday

Writing Rambles

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Reading through old blogs is like getting a letter from past me. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and full of hope.

Today, I’m going back to New York – but only in my mind.

Sometimes I think about living there and I swell with panic. I remember endless climbs from the subway carrying my two-year-old and a stroller. I remember the loneliness. I remember the disillusionment. I remember the bitter cold and the blistering heat.

Sometimes, though, I remember the pizza from 5th Avenue or the bagels from 9th. The picnics in Prospect Park and all the trees we climbed. The local bar, Rhythm & Booze, where I took my kid for dinner before it got too rowdy, where we waited out storms and we got midnight fries. The time I saw THE NUTCRACKER and had a martini at the Plaza. The time I was in the same room as Daniel Radcliffe.

Then I remember the most important part of all.

That I did it even though it terrified me, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am now. And none of it has been perfect, or easy, but it was right. And thank God it’s sunny here, that the flowers are blooming, and I have a pool – that I haven’t, and won’t, ever go backwards.

#TBT to this message from past me, and all the grace carrying each and every one of us through.

“There is a moment in the midst of the waiting, and crying — a moment in between public outbursts of anger and private laughter over pizza — that you realize the grace is holding. And it’s holding you. It’s holding your baby when he sleeps in his new bedroom. It’s holding the dog when he finds a spot on the floor in your empty house and takes a nap. It’s holding your parents and brothers and all those at home that you miss and miss you. It’s holding. The bottom hasn’t fallen out of your world. You’re just in a new world.”

Blooming

Book Posts, Tid-Bits, Writing Rambles

bloom

When I moved into my new house in LA, I wanted a yard full of poppies in springtime. A small thing, sure, but I could see it, and it was going to be glorious. Rows of sunset orange, tangerine, cream and dusty green. I bought seeds, put them in the fresh, damp ground — I expected them to grow.

As spring arrived, and the whole of California it seemed was bathed in that orange glow, my backyard filled up with green stalks. Rows and rows of green. Not a single blossom anywhere. I would walk outside, combing the —what really just looked like weeds at this point — green for the smallest sign of color.

And I was disappointed. I really wanted those flowers to bloom and they weren’t. Every time I saw a poppy on the roadside, or in my neighbor’s yard, it was a small reminder that my flowers might never bloom. It was hard to be happy for the rest of California when my yard was still poppy-free, and my expectations were totally dashed.

But, I didn’t pull up the green, even if it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. One day, maybe, there would be poppies in this garden, maybe I would get to see it, or maybe I would have moved on to some other house, some other garden, some other field of wildflowers waiting to bloom. One day, I would get my little sunset garden.

Sunday afternoon, while I was doing homework at the kitchen table with my son, my eyes traveled to the backyard, to all that wild green, and they caught on something.

Bright, vibrant, wide open, bathing in sunlight. A few perfect poppy flowers.

popp

When I look closely now, I see a multitude of blooms waiting to open up, promising me flowers for days, more than I even expected.

Expectations can create a false sense of urgency, they can push your patience into panic, your faith into fear. They can make you feel like everyone around you is getting the fields of wildflowers you hoped for, while you are getting green stalks of flowerless weeds. But patience pays off in time. Not pulling up the flowers you planted because they aren’t blooming yet, pays off, too.

Waiting for that warm Sunday, when the sun touches the garden just right, and the first little flower opens up, pays off in spades.

 

A Writer’s Journey

Book Posts, Writing Rambles

plane

I wrote my first novel during my then 2-year-old’s afternoon naps in my tiny living room in Brooklyn, NY. Writing it was a fever dream & I was consumed. I poured everything I could muster into it.

But I learned a lot writing that book over and over. I got close to signing with agents and met many of my core writing community during that time. I also learned how to let something go when the time was right.

I used the only guide I had as an early writer: the books I was falling in love with. I copied Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater and Leigh Bardugo. I spent way too long revising. Like three years. I obsessed. I didn’t want to give it up.

I wrote another YA fantasy, & it was better because I was a much stronger writer then. I landed an agent & I went out on sub. I wanted the sale, and it never came. It was time to go back to the drawing board again.

I also kept writing screenplays. Then, thanks to a real life fangirl experience, I fell in love with Comic Con. I became deeply fascinated, rooted, to what it meant to be a fan. I wrote a screenplay set at Comic Con that was about grief & isolation & being alive.

I ended up submitting that script to Austin Film Fest & placing in the second round of the competition. I decided to write it as a book. I’d never written anything contemporary before, or this personal, or this truly, deeply completely ME. It was exhilarating.

During the writing of that book, we decided to move to LA, and then I decided to part ways with my agent. To go back into the query trenches was terror inducing, but staying where I was no longer felt right.

I began querying again in January 2017. I had a 100% request rate. It was a roller coaster of feels. And then it was nothing. After few reluctant passes, mostly silence, I felt powerless, & confused, & I was not doing great with it.

I started writing a book with my writing partner. For six months, we wrote ELLIE IS COOL NOW on Wattpad & I worked on a solo book in the background. Then ELLIE took off. We were nominated for the Watty Awards, and won! It was freeing, and empowering.

January 2nd, 2019 I decided to query five more agents. I decided that would be it. Whatever happened, it was well with my soul. I searched MSWL on Twitter, & that’s when I saw Devin Ross. I had a punch in my gut that I should to query her.

And then she requested. Then she emailed me less than a week later in the middle of the night to set up a call. I ran around the house. I punched the air. (& maybe my husband a few times from excitement.

She offered to represent me. She loved this thing I loved and wanted to work on it – wanted to work with me. It was exactly where I was supposed to be, a whole year later than I expected.

The journey we take as writers is a lot like the journey we take as people. We think we have a path we’re on, & that we know where it’s leading, what it will look like. We even think we know what we want. Then we learn: we don’t know, not a lick.

Your journey may be different. It might seem easy for me to say “Never give up” because so far that’s worked well for me. But it isn’t. There’s nothing easy about looking back. At any point I could have stopped – I DID stop even – & I might never have gotten back up.

Now I have to believe that book will sell (and sure, another will if not that one but that’s not the point) – I have to believe somewhere very near is my next yes, and somewhere out there is yours.

Never give up. No matter what.

COMMIT

Writing Rambles

stoop

WRITING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A HOBBY.

When I was 26 -years-old, I moved to Brooklyn with my husband and son. The move was for my husband’s career — at the time my career was caring for my then two-year-old son. But I had always WANTED to write. To be a WRITER. I had dabbled in it for years- mostly with one act plays and screenplays that lived in perpetually unfinished states of being.

Writing was a hobby, for me, not a career.

I will never forget the moment that changed. I was sitting on my front stoop watching my son draw with chalk on the sidewalk. The sun was low and everything was bathed in orange and pink light. I had just started writing my first novel EVER and I was in that heady stage of early romance with the process. It was unfamiliar and sexy and deeply, unthinkably terrifying.

It was a beautiful evening, and I was doing what I had always done with my time — and LOVED doing — except one thing had changed.

ME.

My fingers itched to type. My head swam with a character’s voice. I was in another world and it was exactly where I wanted to be. Right then and there, I knew I had to commit.
I had to call myself a WRITER.

I had to admit I wanted to make money with my craft. I had to claim the time necessary to get there. Because I wanted it for more than a hobby — I was love-drunk with it and I never wanted to break up. I knew that in order to get where I wanted to go, I had to stop pretending there was anywhere else I COULD go. That any other thing would ever be ENOUGH.

Making the transition from I WRITE IN MY SPARE TIME to I AM A WRITER takes nothing more than a moment of choice. For me, that moment was there on a red brick stoop outside my Brooklyn pad, watching the sunset and knowing I had work yet to do that day. Every time I sit down to write, I commit again. I’ve been committing for seven-years straight. Through multiple novels and screenplays, ghostwriting jobs, and MANY ups and downs in the publishing industry.

I KEEP ON COMMITTING.

If you want to be a writer – then you are one. You don’t need permission. You just need to commit.

MORE

Writing Rambles

me

Today we signed a lease for a new place in LA, and we’re so excited, but not just because it’s bigger, with a yard and a pool and a cute little patio, on a quiet tree-lined street, but because we just did a thing neither of us ever really expected we’d do. And we LOVE surprising ourselves.

Six years ago, we were living in Brooklyn, and we needed to move. Our grocery store had closed down, which had changed the landscape of our neighborhood dramatically – something you can really only understand if you have lived in New York City. I couldn’t imagine committing to another apartment, because that meant committing to Brooklyn for another year. So we didn’t. We found a house back in Texas, and we left.

For years I have gone back to that moment, the moment I chose to leave. I’ve examined it from different angles, in different light, under a microscope of new experience, lessons learned. I never question my choice, but recently I began to question the reason behind it. I was afraid of that really being where I lived. I was afraid of not making it there. I couldn’t commit because I didn’t believe I was capable, or it was right.

We don’t have to move in LA. Our apartment is nice. We have a Starbucks right across the street. Our landlord is low-key. But still I knew— as I began to make new commitments in LA, and my son wanted friends over, wanted space, more autonomy, and my dreams began to take shape in big ways— we were starting to outgrow the walls of our apartment.

Examining your feelings can be SCARY. It always surprises me what I’m actually feeling at all when I take the time to look closely. When I saw this house was for lease, I knew, in that small place reserved for absolutes, this was my house. It was easy to choose it, and then easier to pursue it with bulldog tenacity. Then easier still to work through the challenges that arose, the fears, the stretching. It was easy because I DECIDED it would be.

Guys. I cannot stress to you enough how important that part of the equation is. Deciding to believe, or not believe, will make the difference. Faith is not about what it visible and proven, it is about what you believe without seeing.

So when I signed the lease today, sent the money, drove by again to glimpse my future, I wasn’t scared of all the unknown ahead of me. I was excited for all the growing I get to do in that bigger, brighter house. Because now there is space for something MORE.

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