Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Happy Holiday Week! 

My friend and I had a discussion that inspired me to write this blog post. It's timely as we're heading into 2015, creating new goals.

We writers are an interesting and sometimes neurotic bunch. And oftentimes on our path to traditional publication we ask questions like, "Am I a good enough writer?" or "Will I ever be published?" 

Completely normal. All of us have done this, and will continue to question ourselves for whatever writerly reason. 

But here's the thing, most of this publishing path, you control in one way or another. It has a lot to do with how much work you want to put into it. With how willing you are to persevere. 

Are you a good enough writer? That's a great question. Write a manuscript. Get critique partners who know what they're doing. (CP's who don't try to edit your voice, but rather look for character and story line issues.) What if you learn you're not a good enough writer? Easy. You get better. You read a ton. Pick apart books and movies that you love and hate, figure out why. Practice. And then write another manuscript. Have CP's pick that one apart too. They didn't finish reading it? Find out why and fix it.

Will you ever be published? Well, that's kinda up to you.

I've met many writers who have gone merrily down the path to publication only to realize there's a fork in the road. A bunch of forks. And they find themselves looking into options they wouldn't have considered in the beginning. The publishing world changes and so do you. It's okay to examine your wants and needs every now and again and change your mind about them. 

And yes, if you're wanting traditional publishing with a big house, you're going to need an agent. That may be daunting. Believe me, I queried two manuscripts and felt like I'd taken up residence in the query trenches. But you still aren't completely powerless. Agents WANT to sign new clients. They WANT to sell your manuscript. So give them a reason to choose yours. Try not to give them a ton of reasons to reject it. 

Is your concept unique? Is it marketable? Is your manuscript well written? Does it fall within the word count guidelines? Is your query stellar? Are you sending it to agents who represent your genre? These are all things YOU HAVE CONTROL over. 

You're not a frog sitting on a lily pad, surrendering to wherever the wind chooses to push that round green leaf. You can hop to other lily pads. Heck, you can swim in the pond. You have options and you have power.

I completely understand the flurry of emotion this publishing path can bring. So I'm not trying to trivialize or simplify this at all. I do know, however, that when we feel powerful, we stress less and behave powerfully. We write powerfully. That's my goal for myself in 2015 and it's my goal for you as well.

I have one question: You feelin' froggy?

Friday, October 24, 2014


Good FRIDAY morning! 

Today I was invited to the 777 challenge by my agency sibling, Suzanne Warr. Here's the gist: Post 7 lines from your work in progress (WIP), which you will find on the 7th page, 7  lines down. 

I've decided to use my WIP, THE CURSE of the MUMMY PRINCESS. I'm in the final revision stages of this manuscript and pretty excited about it. Oh, and it's a middle grade time travel, adventure novel. :) 

Here's my 7 lines:

Halima cracked open the lid to my sarcophagus. Light flashed in slivers through my bandages and the pain in my empty gut faded. Sharp brightness burned my eyes. A loud thud echoed and shook the casket as Halima removed the lid altogether. With a quickness, she went to work on my wrappings, starting at my forehead, pulling and tearing the linen strips. One more rip and the unfiltered light seemed to pass through my eyes and sear my brain. I blinked hard. I wished my hands were free, so I could rub the stars away. I closed my eyes, but opened them again. Despite the pain, I had to see what the afterlife held for me.

And also, when I'm writing a manuscript I like to find pictures to inspire me. Here's a few of my favorites for THE CURSE of the MUMMY PRINCESS. :) 

Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I was attending my first ever writer's conference. My goal of this conference was to make an agent fall madly in love with me and my novel. Months earlier, I'd entered my ms, DEADLY SPLENDOR, in the conference's writing contest. As I was handed my registration and welcome packet the day the conference started, I was told that as a finalist in the writing contest I'd earned an extra pitch session as well as the opportunity to sit at the editor's and agent's table during the award luncheon.

Yes, yes, lovely, extra pitch session, agent's table, okay. Not important. Not if my pitch wasn't brilliant, which it wasn't. My focus was to perfect my pitch before the next morning, before pitch time.

I couldn't afford to stay in the hotel, and I lived 45 minutes away from the conference, so I'd leave the conference late at night, get a little sleep...

...then be back on the road, returning early the next morning. I arrived at the conference on Saturday morning after a nervous night's sleep, ready to pitch my heart out.

I was scheduled for three three minute pitches and one ten minute pitch. Back to back to back to back. My nerves were shot. But that wasn't the end of it. Directly following my last pitch, which ran over, I had a query class taught by an agent who wasn't taking pitches. We went around the room, sharing and critiquing our queries, and when it was my turn, the agent said she hadn't received my query. Therefore, she hadn't critiqued it. Broken heart in my throat. "But," she'd said, "Go ahead and read it to me."

I did. I read my query in front of a room full of people and a very impressive agent. Do you realize how scary that is? She asked for the manuscript. :)

Directly after the query class, was the awards luncheon. I had totally forgotten to freak out about it! Not only was I about to find out if I'd won and then stand on a stage in front of a bunch of people, but while I waited for the YA division to be called, while I bit my nails off, I'd be sitting among agents and editors. Yes, I asked if they served wine.

And no they didn't.

Turns out, out of that whole crazy morning, sitting at the big round table right beside the stage had been the most relaxed part. They mostly chatted among themselves about their recent travels and personal lives. I think a couple of them didn't even know I was an author until my name was called. Ha! And of course when I returned to my seat with an award they all congratulated me. I didn't end up pitching to any of them during that lunch, which was a relief to me and probably them too. ;) And I had a great opportunity to chat with the two professionals I sat between, both of which had requested my manuscript earlier that morning.

SO there's my story of the crazy whirlwind day I ate lunch with a table of editors and agents. :) Do you have any similar experiences?      

Sunday, August 3, 2014


It's that time again, when I step away from the lensometer, pull my lab coat on, arrange the PD stick and pens in my pocket, and basically don the cloak of an optician. Because this is another blog post brought to you by Rachel, the author who's also an optician. :) 

I recently had a visit from Dave, my office's lab representative. (We mainly use a lab called Hoya, but there's others out there). Every so often he swings by our optometry practice and chats with us about the new technology offered in lenses. After the meeting I pulled him aside to explain my vision needs and the fact that I'm an author who stares at the computer screen for hours on end. He suggested I order an aspheric, digital lens with recharge coating. And while I do plan to tell you writers all about aspheric and digital lenses, today I want to talk to you about recharge coating.

And here's why:

It blocks a portion of the blue light from electronic devices. 

Odds are, if you've bought prescription glasses, you've been offered a clear coating on your lenses called anti-glare, or anti-reflective coating. The coating is clear, but can leave a faint greenish sheen if it's tilted in a particular way. It cuts the glare of oncoming headlights at night so you don't have the star-burst effect across your lenses. It also helps with glare from overhead lighting. I mainly love anti-reflective coating because it makes my lenses practically clear so people can see my eyes and not their own reflection. 

But, as Dave explained to me, there's a new kind of anti-reflective coating. His lab, Hoya, calls it Recharge. It's works similar to the traditional anti-glare coating, but it goes a step further. It protects against the blue light emanating from computer screens, tablets, back-lit eReaders, and smart phones. 

See, there's something called a visible light spectrum, and it's basically what it sounds like. Within this light spectrum, there's good blue light that regulates our sleep patterns and then there's bad blue light that basically messes up those patterns. Overuse of devices can cause Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) and Digital Eye Strain (DES). Symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, and fatigue.

Once David left our office, I ordered the lenses he'd suggested and then waited impatiently for them to arrive shiny and clear and beautiful. 

They did. And they are amazing. 

(While the traditional AR coating has a green sheen, Recharge has a blue sheen. I've tilted the glasses so you can see the sheen. The top picture is viewing the lenses straight on and you can see they are clear.) 

My eyestrain after a day of editing on the laptop has been cut down considerably, if not altogether. And a headache is no longer a part of my nightly reading sessions on my Kindle.    

Next time you're finishing up with your eye exam and picking out frames, make sure to ask for the Recharge coating on your lenses in lieu of your regular anti-glare coating. I think it's a great step up in eye-care technology, especially for those in my publishing industry. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Blog Release Party for Michelle Merrill’s novel, CHANGING FATE!

All Kate wants is to live. Battling cystic fibrosis is hard enough, dying from it is even harder. When her mom moves them closer to the hospital in the middle of her senior year, Kate’s determined to isolate herself—saving everyone the trouble of befriending a dying girl. It’s a difficult task when cheerful optimist Giana insists on being Kate’s friend.
Kate’s resolve falters even more when curly-haired Kyler captivates her with his sweet melodies. As her emotional walls collapse, Kate realizes the people she’s been pushing away may be the ones giving her a reason to live. But it might be too late.

Want to win a free copy? Visit each participating blog and find all 16 key phrases—2 in each fun fact about the author. Put them together and answer the question in the giveaway on Michelle’s blog for extra points! The giveaway is open to everyone no matter where you live!
Carol Riggs (3 & 4)
Kelley Hicken (7 & 8)
Annette Larsen (9 & 10)
Rachel Pudelek (11 & 12)
Melanie Stanford (13 & 14)
Chantele Sedgwick (15 & 16)

Michelle Merrill loves kissing her hubby, snuggling her kids, eating candy, reading books, and writing first drafts. She names her computers after favorite fictional characters and fictional characters after favorite names. To learn more about her, visit

2 fun facts!
11.      My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Brandon Sanderson, Maria V. Snyder, Jessica Day George, and Shannon Hale. If you haven’t heard of them, well…why haven’t you heard of them? You’re missing out!
12.      I like to sing, but only in a large group. I pull some sweet solos when I’m all alone, but no one will ever get to hear them!

Michelle Merrill
Author of Young Adult Contemporary, Changing Fate

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Hi there! Happy Sunday! My lovely agency sister, Sarah Glen Marsh, wrote about her writing process and tagged me in the blog hop to share mine. :)

1. What are you working on? 

I'm currently revising a MG novel about a twelve-year-old mummy (the daughter of a pharaoh) roaming New York City with her servant-turned best friend. I'm also doing a last read-through of my YA light sci-fi romance before sending it off to my agent. The YA manuscript includes parallel universes and immortal humans acting as the consciences of moral humans. Oh, and there's lots of kissing. :) And then there's what's going on in my head...The plotting of a dark YA contemporary romance that sheds light on a fairly private American sub-culture.

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?

When I'm building characters, I tend to flip gender and societal stereotypes on their heads. For instance, in my YA horror, DEADLY SPLENDOR, the female protagonist is the predator/monster, not the guy. Oh! And one more, I almost forgot. My stories are deeply connected to nature. In DEADLY SPLENDOR, the plants play a big role in healing, punishing, and surviving. In my YA sci-fi, SHATTERED CHOICES, the immortal's technology, clothing, and buildings are all nature based.    

3. Why do you write what you write?

Because it's what's in me. My very first book was nowhere near the genre I write now. And while I loved the process of creating, I realized the story wasn't truly what was in me. I believe in mystical things, have a deep regard for nature, and love genuine people, flaws and all. So that's what I write about.

4. How does your writing process work?

This may sound weird, but I don't feel I have a writing process. Because although I've written four complete manuscripts, with each one I had a slightly different process. With my first one I pants'd it in nine months, edited it, and queried it way too early. With my second I pants'd it in two months, revised it, had it critiqued, queried it too soon, had it critiqued some more, rewrote it, queried it some more...You get the picture. With my third manuscript I plotted the whole thing beforehand. With my fourth I did a mishmash of plot and pants. I think it really depends on the story.

But I do have writing guidelines. Here's the guidelines I've set for myself.

1) Write the rough draft. NO EDITING!
2) Read through the completed rough draft and edit as I go.
3) Read through edited rough draft, add world-building and character layers, if need be.
4) Send manuscript to a CP or two.
5) Using CP's notes, read through manuscript, revising as I go.
6) Load manuscript onto Kindle and read it as I would any other book, with laptop nearby for changes.
7) Send manuscript to another CP or two.
8) By this time it's tiny things the CP's point out, usually personal preference stuff. I fix a couple things based on their suggestions that I agree with.
9) Send manuscript to my agent. :)

Please know, this is SOOO not the end of the process. Christa is a hands-on type of agent so once she reads my stuff, she sends great feedback and ideas to make my story sparkle.

So that about wraps it up. Interested to know what others would say about their writing process? I've tagged these writers:

Jennifer L. Alvarez is the author of the Guardian Herd Series. Book one, STARFIRE, will be out 9/23/14 from HarperCollins Kids. You can find her on Twitter here. Not only is Jennifer a great writer, she's also a wonderfully supportive friend. You can find her latest blog posts here.

Amber A. Barden is the author of FOR HER PROTECTION, coming soon from Ellora's Cave. You can find her on Twitter here. Amber is a writer friend I've known since...I'm not sure how long. But it's been awhile. We traded queries way back when. And believe me, her stories pack a sexy punch. You can find her latest blog post here.

Rayna Stiner is my best friend and has been my critique partner from the moment I finished my first manuscript. She's incredibly supportive and genuine. Her lovely prose and fantastical plots make her a gifted writer. You can find her on Twitter here. And her latest blog post you'll find here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Happy Thursday, all! 
A little while back I met Michelle during a query critique event. We chatted about out story premises, and as she explained her manuscript, I knew I had to help share the news about this book. Michelle wrote CHANGING FATE in honor of a young women she'd met struggling with cystic fibrosis. Absolutely beautiful. So I am very pleased to host Michelle's cover reveal today!   

Release Date: May, 8 2014

Book Description
All Kate wants is to live. Battling cystic fibrosis is hard enough, dying from it is even harder. When her mom moves them closer to the hospital in the middle of her senior year, Kate’s determined to isolate herself—saving everyone the trouble of befriending a dying girl. It’s a difficult task when cheerful optimist Giana insists on being Kate’s friend.
Kate’s resolve falters even more when curly-haired Kyler captivates her with his sweet melodies. As her emotional walls collapse, Kate realizes the people she’s been pushing away may be the ones giving her a reason to live. But it might be too late.
NOTE: Half of all proceeds will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Michelle Merrill loves kissing her hubby, snuggling her kids, eating candy, reading books, and writing first drafts. She names her computers after favorite fictional characters and fictional characters after favorite names. To learn more about her, visit

Where to find Michelle and stay updated on book details.
Follow her on Twitter-

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Eye Health Tips for the Writer

Give me a second while I step away from the lensometer, shrug on my white lab coat, arrange my PD stick, and make sure I have all the right pens in my pockets.


Now that that's done, I should tell you, I'm writing this post as an optician AND a writer.

How are your eyes doing? More specifically, how's your vision? I ask because spending hours at a time, staring at an illuminated screen, searching those little commas and letters, can take its toll. And while I plan to touch on a few vision issues noticed by writers, today I want to talk to you about prism.

Depending on what you're dealing with prism can mean a few different things. For instance, Katy Perry's new album is called Prism. (It's pretty good, by the way.)

But here's the definition as it relates to your vision: When you have prism, it means your eyes are not aligned in how they see things. For instance your right eye may see an object slightly lower or higher than your left. Or maybe farther right or left. This can result in double or blurred vision.

Oftentimes you won't know for sure if this is happening. And the reason I bring this up to you all is because if you need a slight or low prism correction you won't notice the necessity in everyday life. Our brains are pretty amazing at compensating for this need. Except when you're tired and when you're reading.

Here's how it works, if one eye sees things higher than the other, the brain has to work that much harder to line up words on the page, just so you can read them. Because your brain is working overtime to place these words in a straight line, it's less capable of retaining what you just read.

When you're super tired and watching TV, your brain wants to rest for the night, so it's more likely to give you a headache till you call it quits, or you'll close one eye without realizing it, just so your brain can stop trying to match up the image on the TV screen.

Make sense? See why I bring this up to my fellow writers?

So what are the signs that you need to be checked for prism? I'm glad you asked.

~ Difficulty driving at night.
~ Issues with depth perception.
~ Notice you close one eye when you're tired.
~ Headaches while reading or studying.
~ Unable to fully comprehend as you read.
~ Must re-read a sentence over and over to retain it.
~ Using your finger or another object to keep your place while reading.
~ Tightness in your shoulders and/or neck.

If this list rings true for you, go to a trusted optometrist and ask to be tested for prism during your next refraction (when they give you a glasses prescription). The test is quick and non-evasive. If you do have prism, wearing corrective lenses will ease the strain of studying story research, editing, and even pleasure reading. It'll help you retain the information you read much easier, and lessen the headaches.

Stay tuned for my next post about eye health where I'll explain the different correction lenses for reading and computer use.

Have a question? Feel free to leave it in the comments or email me directly. :)