Sunday, June 19, 2011


Oh, sweet practical blog. I've neglected you. It's good, though. Because when I'm not writing practically, I'm writing poetically and prosaically and prolifically.

Waxing poetic over at The Diary of a Lost Witch.  Come see!

~Novel News~

No news! Which is... most days... Good News!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A writer's Dream Lunch

Okay. Question for you.  If you were to have lunch with a famous writer (ALIVE) who would it be?  How about I add an hour or so of quiet writing side by side?

My answer: Alice Hoffman.

Oh Alice. Remember me? I'm the one who tweeted you back and told you how to "Unfollow" all the people you followed on twitter before you decided that tweeting wasn't your cup of tea.

Dear Ms. Hoffman,

My name is Suzanne and I'm a writer. My novel is going out on submission this week and I'm very, very scared. (And happy too!)

Today I saw my essay "The Mother Crush" was published in Life Learning Magazine. And I thought... dreams, they do come true, right??  So how about lunch?

I'd love to write with you.

All best,
Suzanne Hayes

How about you guys? Who do you want to eat lunch with and then write a bit with?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The importance of rituals

Rule one in the writing world is:  Write. Write everyday.

Sometimes this is hard to do. One of the things I do to help me with this is, well... blog. But sometimes? Sometimes I need to focus on my novels and essays. The paying things!

This morning I dropped my youngest daughter off at pre-school.  I took her inside because we were bringing back her pillow and blanket (freshly washed from spring vacation).

"Where do you put your things, Little Bit?" I asked her. (We call her Little Bit. As in, Little bit of luck, little bit of sugar, little bit of ---- whatever fits!)

She pointed to a set of cubbyholes. One said GRACE right above it. I laughed and we put her things away.

Then she took her lunch box out of her bookbag. I thought of asking her why... but I wanted to watch her. And I could tell she wanted me to watch her too.

She put her lunch box on the bottom of the cubby and then took out a snack. She put her snack on top of the cubby and then put her folder next to it. I looked and all the other children did the same thing.

Their morning ritual. It keeps them on track. It focuses them. It lets them know "I'm at School Now"

Genius.  So though I write everyday... I need a better schedule for the WIP. 1k at least a day. And I'm going to make sure I figure out a ritual to go along with it.

How about you? Do you have any rituals that help you to write?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On Submission!

Okay. Deep breaths.

Next week... next week I begin the next level of the game. (For my sanity I liken the publishing business to a video game. I love gaming and MAN was that Query Level hard to beat!)

I wonder what the level will look like. What demons will I have to slay? What are the tricks? How long will it take me to win?  Because here's the thing.

When I beat this level, I've won this particular game.

Wow. If there ever was a time for patience and perseverance it's now. 

And in an ASTOUNDING moment of pure literary gold......

Last night my oldest daughter and her friends finally beat the DRAN. It's a demon in an old school play station 2 game. They've been stuck on that level for eight years. EIGHT YEARS.

But they did it!

So there.

I'll do it too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

There's a Monster at the End of this Book


So I've been thinking about my last post. Did any of you ever read this book as a kid?

I did. And I think it's the BEST EXAMPLE of how to get a page turned in all of writing history. Throw out all those books on plotting and JUST READ THIS ONE!!!! You are welcome in advance.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's All About the STORY!!!!

It took me some time to figure this out.  As a new writer I was listening to a story in my head but it didn't have a path. It was all character and setting more than plot. So these scenes would flash across my brain and I'd have to write them down. One scene after the next like a flip book.

But the story? Not so much.  My first novel was one scene after another with beautiful moments and quirky characters. And here are some of the rejection lines I got.

"Beautiful! But not for us."
"Strong writing! But moves too slow."
"LOVELY! But no central theme."
"Ambitious. Too ambitious."

And they were all right, only I didn't understand how to fix what was wrong.

Until I read a book I couldn't put down and asked myself that all important question. "Why? Why can't I put this book down???"

And like a good writer,( and/or mechanic) I took the book apart.

It was the yarn. The ball of words that strung themselves together and pulled me from one point to the next. The breathless "And then????"

So, I humbly add to Stephen King's famous tip of the "What if?" in story telling. I give you Suzanne Hayes' practical way to get your story (novel) eaten up by agents and publishers alike:

Drum roll:    THE "And then?"  (You must create it at the bottom of every page. At the end of each chapter. Agent Anne calls them teasers.)

Oh, Oprah... take your "ah ha" moments. Me and my writing friends? We need "And Then???" moments.

For sure.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ooohhh! Pretty New Things! And news....

I hit send on the final (cross your fingers) set of edits to Glorious Agent Anne. And now?

NOW I can finish my WIP!!!!!!!!!!! Oh! How I've missed you. My pretty characters. My lovely old southern mansion. My murder mystery. My deep, aching sorrow.

And then the redemption. 

There is nothing like a shiny new story. Nothing in the world. It's almost more exciting than babies.

How about you? Are you giddy when you start a new project?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friends with Benefits: Oh Yeah baby.

I'm talking here about my writing friends. Now you get to giggle about why you clicked on the link, right? :) I know a thing or two about how to get people's attention with words.

Anyway. I felt the need this morning to shout out to the writers who are now close friends. The people who make this journey sweet. Those who I think about every day.

I wish I could wake up to these folks and we could have coffee together, discuss our writing, go to our separate corners and return to share out ideas over lunch. I guess what I'm saying is that these particular folks have become like family. The strange thing is, they don't even know one another. 

Amanda Bonilla: Amanda writes Urban Fantasy. Her AMAZING book Shaedes of Gray will be on the shelves in December. Amanda and I met online (Facebook!) and I have to say she has been my greatest champion. I don't really think I can express the amount of support I get from a quick email or chat. And when we started? When we started we were sitting on two of the WORST manuscripts imaginable. Put it this way, we met naked and now we wear ball gowns. (well, she does.) Amanda is represented by Natanya Wheeler of Nancy Yost Literary.

Loretta Nyhan:  Loretta is represented by Joanna Volpe of Nancy Coffee Literary. Loretta is my soul sister. Not only do we share a similar writing voice (though she INSISTS on writing YA ... she's so good at it. I can't do that for CRAP. I tried.) We not only read and love each other's work, but we have the same ideas about politics, organic lifestyles and parenting. I met her online through Lisa And Laura Roeker. Thank you so much L&L!

Sarah Wylie: (Or when I met her: Sarah with a Chance) She had more than a chance. Her novel  will be on the shelves in 2012.  Oh Sarah. How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Sarah is represented by Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Literary.

Simon Larter: Damn. He's an AMAZING writer good folks. And someday he'll finish that novel. Right Simon? WRITE? WRITE SIMON!

Glen: Who hates publicity but writes the best damn stories this side of anywhere. I love you. And if I don't get to meet you someday, the regret will be hard to bear.

Here's the thing. Three of these writers are represented. Two have novels coming out, one is on submission. One is writing fantastic (and award winning) short fiction. And one is a father and a husband who likes to tell stories. These are people I've collected. People who I fell in love with.

And people I've never met.

My friends. (And I have many more... but these folks seem to live inside my pockets)

I write for you. Thank you, thank you, internet.


*Pre-Order SHAEDES OF GRAY (available 12-6-2011):
B & N | Borders | Powell’s | Amazon | Indiebound | Books-A-Million

*Sarah Wylie's Novel:  ALL THESE LIVES, will be published by FSG/Macmillan in 2012. Look for it!

AND!!!!!! Read The Liar Society! Lisa And Laura's YA masterpiece!  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I've Decided!

So,  I've decided the first thing I'm going to do when I get a contract for my novel!

I'm going to book a writer's retreat! YES I AM. I will host it and plan it and invite anyone who wants to come!

Somewhere by the ocean... yes. And I'll invite my agent to speak (Sorry Anne! You must come!) And we will eat and write and talk and write and swim and write!

I am almost more excited about this than about a contract. But not really! Any of you want to Pre-Sign up?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Blog Link!!!!!!

Hey! Go on over to this awesome blog I found and read the interview given by Kate Morton! (The forgotten Garden???) Yeah. Great stuff for writers.

Click HERE to lift some of the mystery and see into the soul of the writer herself!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sarah's Key: Book Review

Sarah's Key, by Tatiana DeRosnay is a great read! And believe me... the more I write the more I become a plot snob. I've thrown books across the room! (not my e-reader... only the trade paperbacks!).  I'll do this review (gush) as I did the last one, and as I will do all future posts on reviews. In bullet points. Why? Because we are ALL super busy and it should be a fast decision. I don't want to read a book about a book. Just gimme the facts, Jack, right?
  • Beware: Holocaust and child endangerment. I like these stories but many readers don't.
  • Plot starts on sentence ONE! Want a page turner? You got one. 
  • I couldn't put it down.
  • It weaves artfully back and forth between a third person account of a little girl caught in a horrific round up in Nazi occupied Paris, and a first person account of a present day journalist whose life is taken over by the story. Literally.
  • Succinct prose. DeRosnay can successfully create an entire scene in one paragraph. This is hard to do, I know.
  • The only negative: The story ends before the book does... so the last four chapters or so are a little draggy. That's okay because I wanted to stay with the characters for a little while longer, but it's kind of like when you stay at a dinner party five minutes too long. You get tired of the host.
Thank you Ms. DeRosnay! Thank you for not making me throw my Kindle against the wall!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Wow. I just realized I'm waiting for just about everything!
~waiting to reach my goal weight
~waiting for final edits from my agent
~waiting for my 17 year old to go to college (it's a year and a half away, but I'm still waiting)
~waiting for an interview for a job I've been craving
~waiting for spring
~waiting for my muse to help me get 10k into this damn new WIP so I know it will stick.
Because that's how I know a new project will stick. If I get 10-13k in it's a winner.  And when I reach 20K I can't stop writing. I'm obsessed until it's finished. But that first 10K? Like the first five minutes on a treadmill. Just stinky and not fun at ALL.

How about you my writing friends? How long does it take you to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop... I mean... to realize you are on the right track with a project?


Monday, February 28, 2011

My Kingdom, my Vegas, my golden god......

Recently I took a vacation. To Las Vegas. I'm a whore for a good character. And let me tell you, Las Vegas is the place to go to meet some rich characters. Every dealer has a story. Every laughing, gambling couple. All the homeless on the streets. So much sad and luxury. So much kitsch and trend. My head buzzed, no... ached... with the cacophony of voices struggling to get free from closed mouths. Mouths with smiles pasted across lips even as their eyes betrayed them.

Poker chips and smoke. The smell of sour fruit embedded into carpets from spilled drinks. The desperate people standing beside the rich. Each roll of the dice meaning something different for each person.

Sometimes it hurts to be a writer. No. It hurts all the time.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Road to Publication: Ten Stages of Fear

1. I'll never finish this book.
2. I finished this book.
3. What do I do with this book?
4. Query Who? Query What?
5. OH! Agents. Okay. Hit send. Bite nails for a long time.
6. Count Rejections with bandaids on fingers.
7. Get offers. Who do I choose? (If you choose the wrong agent, go back to step one. I know. I did it.)
8. Revise for agent. (Ohmygod what if the agent reads it again and can't remember why he/she signed me?)
9.Go on submission to publishers. (What if I can't sell my book? I'm so close!)
10. Bargin bin book with a green neon sticker over my name. (Oh HELL no!)

I'm between stage 8 and 9 with an aching fear of 10.

where are you?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peg Leg Suzy

Today I decided to put on my fashionably high boots. This was an exercise in patience because they are SO HARD to put on. I have to shove my leg in, then wiggle my foot around then tug then wriggle then tug. You know...

So in the middle of it, with one boot on and one boot almost on-- the phone rings. I get up and walk across the wooden floor to answer it. My heels click unevenly. One confident, one dragging.

My writing mind kicks in. This is what a peg leg sounds like.

So I don't answer the phone. I walk around the house until I know how to write down the feeling. I mean... I don't have any plans to write a book about pirates... but you never can be too sure, right?

Wow. It's crazy, this writers life. Hop on over to my other blog for a birthday tribute.. if you'd like.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Clouds in my Head

My youngest daughter, four year old Grace Louise, woke up yesterday morning and told me about her dreams.  She said Daddy had frenchfries in his arms and I had clouds in my head.

"Did I?"
"Yes, and in you ears and eyes and mouth too," she said.

Writing does that to me. Puts clouds in my head instead of realer things like orthodontist appointments, bed making, dish washing, work going. Etc.

I can't tell you the things I've said YES to without even knowing what's been asked. the keyboard gets in my way.  I enter a place where time and space don't exist.

So for me, it's not about writer's block. For some reason that doesn't happen (yet). For me it's the fact that if I can't get at least three hours to write, I might as well not start becaue I'll be under water the whole time and say YES to bad things. Like:

Frosting for breakfast
Bike rides on ice.

Oh Dear Writing Gods! Help me finish these revisions and keep my children safe at the same time!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Rejection of the Literary Sort

NOTE: This is a repost. A heavily edited repost. Enjoy!

I finished my first novel in December 2008.

What I didn't know still amazes me. I didn't know you had to find a literary agent. I didn't know you couldn't just send your manuscript in a brown paper package and wait for a publisher to reject or publish your work. The business doesn't run that way anymore. The big houses require an agent submit your work, the indie houses are great, but they are very picky about what they represent, and the self pub route just isn't for me. And the really priceless part is that many of the great literary agents don't accept what they call "unsolicited queries" either. Huh? Shut UP...right?

So I did what any good American would do. I asked everyone I knew if they had an "in." And one did! Yeah! I was saved. But I did the unthinkable. I happily sent agent number 1 the wrong draft of my manuscript. Damn my disorganization, damn email, damn hitting send.

Agent number 1 was really nice to me. She told me my writing was "strong" which I know now is agent speak for "please don't kill yourself. I can't have your blood on my hands..." because that term "your writing is strong" pops up in almost every form rejection I've seen.

I didn't even know what a query letter was. I found out. And then I did unthinkable thing number two. I queried widely, to the most open and friendly of agents. To the agents who would really like my book. But I didn't research how to write a query letter first. Yes, I know. You don't have to say it. I'm still shaking my head. I filled those queries with boastful, typo'd comments and sent them out with names spelled wrong and with a vain, puffy bio. No joke. Some were nice enough to send out the automated rejections. Some weren't and I don't blame them.

I then wrote the good one. Really good! In fact I got a lot of response to my "good query letter." And the requests for partials flooded my inbox.

That's the process, for those who don't know it. You send the query and if the agent likes it they ask for a partial, if the agent likes that, they ask for the full, if the agent likes that you get an agent! Which still doesn't mean you get your book published, because after all that work, the agent has to do the same thing you just did with the actual publishing houses. Crazy right? Yep.

So I send those partials out and I proceed to do unthinkable thing number three. I know... high drama. Agents don't seem to like prologues. My manuscript started with one of those. Agents don't seem to like back story, my manuscript was full of it. (But I like a good back story, doesn't anyone want any description anymore? Sheesh.) And let's not even touch the typo issue. Needless to say as soon as I sent them out, the rejections on the partials began to pour right back in. Yuck. Oh sad and sorry day.

So here is my take on the whole adventure. I am a really lucky person. I have found what I love to do. This is rare. I can finish a book. That is rare. I learned the process the hard way... I don't think that is rare... maybe? I would like to think I am not the stupidest first time novelist on the face of the planet, but I guess I could be. Absolutely anything is possible.

Here are some of my favorite rejections from that first submission process:

"This is brilliantly written. A really sharp, vivid portrait.Unfortunately, this isn’t something we could represent ourselves. I wish you good luck elsewhere" This one made me very, very happy until I searched some writers forums and found out this person is usually very nice.

And then there was this one. I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants. It made me want to query him again with the next one. It made me want to sit with him and drink a beer. I am not kidding:

"'I am 38 years old and this will be my first published novel.'I can hear Annette Benning's American Beauty character saying that." My friend Sarah thought it was mean, but I think he was right. I can see Benning in that scene in the car, you remember..."I will sell this house."

UPDATE: When I finished my second novel I queried that agent again and he rejected me again. I sent him an email saying I loved him and he sent one back saying "I love you too." Unprofessional? YES. Really, really amusing? Absolutely!

And I have an agent now. I actually got one agent with my second novel and we parted ways. Now I have a much better fit for novel number three.

Would I do anything differently? Of course. The question is: Will you?  Will you avoid all those pitfalls?  Hopefully!

In the end, after all these words I only have a few more to say, and they are the most important: New writers. If you don't have leather skin and a sense of humor... run for the hills!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

CP means Critique Partner (FTW... forthewin)

There's a lot of jargon in this business. Here are some things I didn't know when I was new. Maybe it will help some of you or maybe you all know more than I do, or did. Here goes:

CP= Critique partner. Either virtual or in person this person will read your book and critique it. This means rip it to shreds.  You need one or two of these people who you TRUST and who know your VOICE.  Want to know how I found mine? I saw the term CP all over the place. I didn't know what it meant. I looked it up. Then I went on facebook to a page of a writer and bravely wrote on her wall. And another person who was looking for a partner commented on my post.  Luckily we were a good match. This means we liked each others books, worked at a speed that was fast enough, and didn't buckle under the tone of our line critiques.  I've had a few others here and there and the thing I know now? I only ever needed  TWO and I was lucky enough to find them. Thanks AMANDA and KARI!

BETA READER: This is a virtual reader who will read your book for content. Story... plot.  Sometimes confused with CP. :) Thank you Loretta!

MS= Manuscript 
MSS=Multiple Manuscripts



The most important portion of this list of jargon is the CP. A critique is not an opinion, it is a suggestion for change. Don't underestimate how much work it is to be a CP. It's like adopting a baby. You can't say you don't like something or something doesn't work without telling the writer why and/or offering a suggestion. Think about that for a second, line by line.... Yeah.  So while it's GREAT to have this free editorial service for your own work, you have to do the job on the opposite end.  I'm at the other end now... doing a revision for my agent at the same time when my CP's work is open on my desktop getting a scan and note when I take breathers from my own work.  Not to mention the acutal day-job and the mothering of three girls and the spousing of my darling husband. 

Hope this helps!

Friday, January 28, 2011

First EVER post! Book Review (Gush) Neverland


Today's post has to do with a good read. Do you remember those? The one's you get lost in?  Well this one might be a good one for you. If there's anything I've learned in this business so far, it's that a story is a subjective thing. So this book isn't for everyone. 
  • If you like Stephen King, read this book.
  • If you like a good spooky story, read this book.
  • If you like a page-turner, read this book.
  • Brief Summary: Two boys get into a heap of trouble in an old shack at the back of a vacation house. Steeped in family history and set against the backdrop (always tantalizing) of the deep south, Neverland takes us back in time to when we all believed that magically evil things existed and could snatch us up at any moment. Nostalgic at the same time as suspenseful the book was supremely satisfying.
Though not as rich in character development as King, Clegg achieves a level of psychological horror reminiscent of Stand By Me and Pet Cemetery.  

I give it a hell of a lot of stars and two big toes up. Way up.  


And by the way, welcome to this blog. I'll be posting three days a week. Reviews, interviews, and general information on getting a literary agent and the whole damn publishing process. If there's anything specific you'd like to know about this game... don't hesitate to comment or drop me an email.