Monday, December 20, 2010

My New Year's Resolution

It's that time of year again.  The time when you stop to review your life so far this year, before a new one begins.  I think as writers, this is a particularly important time for us.  This is the time we take stock of our accomplishments, whether it be financially, or based on the number of times you've been published as a freelancer, or how many words you've written towards your novel or short story.   But really I guess, we should be grateful for any type of work we are able to finish, or even the fact that we saw our name in print, even if it was just once.

I had a bit of a disappointment this year myself, but have resigned myself to the fact that there is always next year.  In September of this year, I signed up for the San Francisco's Writer's Conference, coming up in February 2011.  I was in the process of turning a short story that I wrote titled, "Blood Pressure" into a full-length novel of the same name.  I guess you can say I naively thought I could finish an entire novel in just 6 months.  Turns out I was right, I couldn't.  Though I am fortunate enough to work 20-24 hours a week at my dad's dental office, plus the fact that I get time off whenever I want, it still wasn't enough to allow me to finish a novel.  So, I had to cancel my hotel reservations and request my money back.  I felt like a failure, but am continuing to work on my novel.

My New Year's Resolution is to finish the novel by late summer and start submitting it to agents.  I did, however, fulfill one goal, and that was to get published in two new publications, which I did!  Tropical Fish Hobbyist and Writer's Journal.

I'd also have a yearning to travel and would love to find a conference that isn't so close to where I live.  Boston, or Maine are my two fav picks.

Tell me, what are your New Year's Resolutions?

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Update Of My Chaotic Life As A Writer

I have to say it feels good to be a busy working writer.  Last month, I finished off six articles with three different magazines!!  I just signed up for the San Francisco Writer's Conference coming up in February, and because there will be all manner of agents and editors there, I have decided to bust my ass in getting a manuscript completed by then.  Impossible you say?  Me too!  But I think I can pull it off.  I've already got 3 chapters done of my YA novel "Blood Pressure."  I just finished up an article for American Fitness on Endometriosis and will get started on another article for Feline Wellness magazine.  Oh yeah, and I also have to have the revisions done on a horror script by Thanksgiving in order to start sending it out to possible buyers.

Like I said, being a working writer is great and a little tiring considering I do most of my writing at night, knowing I have to get up early the next morning for work at my dad's dental office.  But, what would make  it even greater, is the fact that I got paid on a timely basis for my articles, instead of having to wait months for the piece to be published and then a few weeks of begging for a paycheck after that.  Why must we writers wait so much?  I mean, isn't our life hard enough?  What, with having to sell ourselves and sometimes even our souls for work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Education In Rebellion by Jake Brown
Copyright:  Originally in 2002.  Re-issued in 2010
445 pages
$20.00


      Nikki Sixx, rock 'n roll's ultimate bad boy and the ring leader and founder of Motley Crue.  The band's definitive history was recorded in the Crue's collective bio, titled, "The Dirt" in 2001.  It wasn't until a year later that Jake Brown came out with what fans hoped would be an inside look at their favorite "mad scientist of rock," Nikki Sixx.
      The title promises all the juicy inside secrets of Nikki's life.  Crueheads already know Nikki's story, but were hoping for a fly on the wall's view into their favorite bass player's life in and out of Motley Crue.  At almost 500 pages, the book should've delivered, but unfortunately, it didn't.  The book is nothing but regurgitated facts and interview quotes from Nikki himself and those closest to him.  Jake Brown robs from other sources to compile his chronological history of Nikki Sixx.
       Die-hard fans will instantly recognize quotes and facts from such sources as old interview footage, paragraphs from "The Dirt" and Vh1's Motley Crue Behind The Music.  This book is total and complete let down to Crue fans.  Not only is can the book be construed as plagiarism, but it often repeats whole paragraphs twice in the same chapter to make the word count larger.  There are grammatical and punctuation errors all over the place.  Each new chapter spends at least a page and a half recapping the previous chapter.
                                                                            As a long-time fan of Motley Crue and especially Nikki Sixx, I was sorely disappointed in Jake Brown's attempt at a "biography."  If you want an accurate account of the life and times of the members of Motley, read "The Dirt," or  the "Heroin Diaries."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Queen Of Twilight Review

Stephanie Meyer: Queen Of Twilight
Author - Chas Newkey-Burden
Copyright 2010
239 pages
$12.95




 














     Stephenie Meyer's success is nothing short of extraordinary.  Growing up a voracious reader in a Mormon household, Meyer never dreamed that one day she would become a bestselling author.  Fortunately for her fans, she would one night dream about a young girl and a vampire lying in a meadow and that the vampire sparkled in the sunlight.
     Chas Newkey-Burden's biography gives Stephenie's "Twihard" fans an inside glimpse into the life of this wife and mother of three.  Though the book reads like the Reader's Digest version of the author's life, it manages to take us on her journey from woman with a dream to her status as a pop icon among 'tweens, teens, and adults of all ages.
     With only a set amount of pages to tell Meyer's story, Burden has a tendency to waste valuable text on repeated facts, statements and even whole paragraphs at times.  Waisted writing space is used up by occupying 5 or 6 pages with reviews of each of Stephenie's books; from different countries even!  One or two examples would have sufficed.  Since this book is largely dedicated to Meyer's backstory and the road her books in the Twilight series have taken as first a dream, then being on the bestseller's list to finally blockbuster movies, Burden burdens us with a whole chapter on Stephenie's book The Host, which has nothing to do with Bella and her sparkling vampire.  The last chapter is devoted to Stephenie's foray into the music video world and her treatment for the song "Resolution" by the rock band, Jack's Mannequins.
     The whole book reads like a twelve-year-old's book report on "Their Favorite Author," complete with summaries of each of Meyer's journeys through different parts of her life and milestones to who she is today, including quotes thrown in for good measure.
     On the whole, the biography is a good read for Stephenie's younger audience who just want to know more about their favorite author.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Angel's Gate Hospice And Rehabilitation Center For Animals.


Sara Kristine Jackson I urge everyone to donate towww.angelsgate.org. This woman is an Angel herself and should be commended and rewarded for work. My parents and I are making a donation and I ask you to please please do the same.
Angel's Gate Hospice - Animal Hospice - Animal Rehabilitation Centerwww.angelsgate.orgAngel's Gate, Animal reha...

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Thursday, September 30, 2010


    




       My grandmother has been one of the strongest women in my life who has continued to inspire and amaze me over the years.  Born on October 1, 1918, Midge Smith has survived every type of hardship that life can throw at you.  Having made it through the Great Depression, she met he future husband, Norman Smith, who was working as a butcher at the time.  The couple soon married before he was shipped overseas during WW2 and stationed in Kwajalein.
     After the war, my grandmother settled down with my grandfather and they had two children.  My mom, Judy, born in 1948 and my uncle, Jeff, born in 1946.  My grandfather turned his passion for cooking into a restaurant located in downtown Vallejo, California called, "Norm's Buffet."  With my grandmother working alongside him, they turned the Haufbrau into a booming business, churning out hot sandwiches, mashed potatoes and gravy, and old-fashioned ice cream beverages.
     After many years of serving their community, my grandparents sold the restaurant and focused on the next phase of their life together.  Papa Norman went in to real estate, while grandma worked for the next seventeen years at the Allergy clinic at Kaiser hospital.  In the years to come, they saw their children grow up, graduate college, and start families of their own.
     After 55 long years together, Midge lost Norman on May 23, 1998: she was 79 and he was 88.  The next eleven years that my grandmother would have to face without my grandfather would prove to be trying to say the least.
     In the early millennium, grandma met a woman named Joyce at her water aerobics class.  They became fast friends, spending every minute together.  A few years into their friendship, Joyce was diagnosed with cancer.  After many surgeries and numerous rounds of treatment, the news came in early 2008 that her cancer had metastasized and was inoperable.  In August of that same year, grandma had to have her beloved Shih Tzu, Tesse, of thirteen years put to sleep.
     On October 1, 2008, my grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday, and just a few short days later suffered a left-sided stroke that rendered her speech garbled, and unable to read, write, or tell time.  One week into, what would become a very long recovery, Joyce lost her battle with cancer.
     My mom and I immediately began the search for the perfect dog for my grandmother.  After weeks of searching for the right match at our local shelters, and coming up empty. There was this constant nagging feeling in the back of both of our minds that it was very unlikely that the animal shelter would relinquish one of their dogs to a 90-year-old woman who lives alone and had just had a stroke.  Beth, a generous friend of the family, gave grandma a Chihuahua/Papillion mix named Tinkerbell.  From that point on, she was on the road to a quick, but not so easy recovery.
     In the months that followed, grandma would undergo speech therapy, along with therapy at home that included puzzles, toy clocks, poetry, and coloring books.  These were often times of great frustration and humiliation for her, but made all the easier with Tinkerbell lying beside her or perched on her lap.
     Grandma, during this time, would speak out loud around the house as part of her speech therapy.  She would often tell us that Tinkerbell didn’t mind if she talked crazy.      Whenever my grandmother was having a particularly difficult time with getting her words to come out right, she would take Tinkerbell outside and read  “Cat In The Hat” to her while sitting on the front porch. Tink enjoys sitting on the bench and watching and barking at the neighborhood cats that dare to walk on her lawn.
     "Tink" has come to fill those long days and nights, slowly healing the pain of so much loss.  Adding to this grief was the death of her older sister, Betty in January 2009.  Tink has become a permanent fixture in grandma's life, always by her side wherever she goes, even becoming somewhat of a celebrity at various stores around town.  “Tink, want to go for a walk?” prompts the raising of her bat-like ears and her scurrying to the front door.
     On the rare occasions when Tinkerbell doesn’t get to go, like when grandma goes to the doctor or goes out to a restaurant, she barks like mad from her perch at the kitchen window and doesn’t stop until grandma’s car is out of sight.  When she arrives home and says, “Hello” to Tinkerbell, she turns her head defiantly.  The cold shoulder act only lasts a few minutes before Tink’s right by grandma’s side again.
      Grandma puts Tinkerbell in a walker with a pouch on the front.  With a little tiny head poking out, they make their way along the street where she lives.  Stopping to talk to neighbors and anybody who seems drawn to the tiny dog with a big personality.
     When not out and about with grandma, Tink likes to spend her time in the backyard stalking the squirrels on the telephone wires, which seem to enjoy taunting her.
     On October 1, 2009, my grandmother celebrated he 91st birthday and complete recovery from he stroke.  We know and so does my grandmother, that without Tinkerbell in her life, recovery would not have been possible.

About Jack's Dreams Come To Life by Sara Jackson-fReado

About Jack's Dreams Come To Life by Sara Jackson-fReado

Monday, September 13, 2010

Murphy's Law

A few weeks ago, I had made the decision to cut back on my freelance writing and focus more on my YA novel "Blood Pressure."  The next week I received two article assignments from the same editor of two magazines.  I got a "Yes" from two of the queries I sent out a month ago, so there was two more writing assignments.  Now, I'm not complaining - not by a long shot, but it just goes to show you that when you're not looking whatever you want finds you.  Maybe the universe is trying to tell me that I shouldn't give up freelancing completely.  However, I am in a bit of a rush to get a first draft of my novel done by February, because I'm attending my first writing conference in San Francisco.  I will be signing up for the "Speed Dating With Agents."  This may be a stretch I know, but the story is based on a short story I wrote under the same name.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Keeping A Schedule

I know. I know. The best part of being a writer is not having to answer to "the man" and not having to live by a schedule.

But, sometimes I need a schedule to help keep me on track. So, every Sunday I write out a schedule - listing what I need to do that week. The schedule consists of days to work on my magazine articles, setting time aside to work on either my short stories or novel and making sure I get at least 5 queries sent out.

I leave my schedules pretty loose, meaning that I never set a goal of pages to write or a word count. If I did that, I would drive myself insane and be guilt-ridden if I wasn't able to adhere to this strict a schedule.

Let me know what your schedules are.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tips And Tricks I've Learned

Three years ago, when I set out to be a published writer (by the way, I was published only a few short months later), I started organizing my research and papers into my "Writing Binder."

The Writing Binder:
What you'll need-
1. Large-ringed binder
2. Dividers
3. Plain paper
4. Folders

I've divided mine up into sections:
1. Payment - where I list what I made from which magazine and how much. Date paid.

2. Contests - where I list which stories I've submitted to which contests. Date submitted and response time. I also include a second piece of paper which lists date responded, story, and whether or not it was accepted. If so, what the amount was.

3. Queries - where I list which queries went to which magazines. Date submitted and response time. Here, I also include a second piece of paper which lists date responded for which magazine. And whether it as a "Yes" or a "No." If yes, the date published.

4. Contests - this is another section in which I will include listings of contests I've found either in magazines, online or in Writer's Market. I take down all the information from these sources and type them up and include them in this section. Each contest is divided into three sub-sections: Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry.

5. Taking the same concept for contests, I apply it to magazines that I've come across. Each magazine is divided into three sub-sections: Consumer, Literary and Online.

6. When I first started out, I wrote a lot of reviews, so I put in a section for Reviews. Here I just added some college-ruled paper.

7. In the back part of the Writing Binder, I've included 3-4 folders. Each folder holds anything you want for misc stuff. My folders hold rejection letters, contest entry forms, old clippings from Opinion articles I wrote for my local paper.

Each year I update the binder. And each year you can go back and look at how you did moneywise, how successful you were with querying and your contest entries.

HOW I EDIT MY FICTION:
I'm one of those writers who still does everything longhand. I don't know, I just like to feel close to my work and be able to cross out, scribble and write off in the margins. Once I've typed something, I print it out and look at it. Now I don't want to rewrite the whole thing again while doing the edits. So I go through with the type copy and with a separate notebook, I will go through and write what I don't want to change in black ink and make all of my corrections in blue ink. So, when I go to type the edited product, I won't have to spend hours at the computer retyping the entire manuscript.




Monday, August 2, 2010

Quoting Virginia Woolf

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

Technically I have both, but still feel stifled by my surroundings, which prevents me from being creative. I seem to be stuck writing for magazine, which I love and am grateful to the ones that I write for, but I wish I could churn out creative prose on a daily or weekly basis.

Soon I am to move into my very own home, and somehow I feel that the creative juices will flow then - at least I hope so. By then I will have a "room of my own," and be earning a steady paycheck working part-time at my dad's dental office. I could be lying to myself in order to put off procrastinating the need or want to write. I know I'm losing essential skills in order to cohesively put together a story and make it believable and readable.

Who knows what will happen, but I will soon find out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Revising Your Work

I was thinking about the revision process of writing while I was doing it on a story last night. Then I got to thinking about how I wish I could do that sometimes in real life. You know, take stuff out, rearrange characters and settings, and even add elements in to make it better. We know better how the lives of our characters are going to play better than we know the events of our real lives.

What do you guys think?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Updates

As of a couple of months I've had the opportunity to write more articles for Fangoria magazine just as it changed editors. A great honor for me, since I've been a fan for a lot of years. Recently, I just received my first feature article for the magazine on a film titled, "Hypothermia."

I'm still writing articles for Animal Wellness. Check out this month's issue on Canine Blood Donors.

I recently got a "yes" from the editor of Writer's Journal to write on an article on Copyright on spec.

I'm supposed to have a meeting in the next week or so with a children's book editor to see if we can't get something going with my new picture book "Jack's First Halloween."

Amidst all of this, I'm working on a Young Adult novel that I'm hoping to have finished by Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Money, Creativity, and Everything Else

It's been awhile since my last post, so here I am to impart some more words of wisdom related to my life as a writer.

Since September of last year, I've been working four days a week/5 hours a day at my dad's dental office. Though I'm grateful for the opportunity and most importantly - steady paycheck, I'm a little frustrated about my writing career. Okay, I'm VERY frustrated. I've been working pretty steadily for two magazines now for almost a year and love it!! I'm trying everything I know to get my writing out there and keep busy with assignments. But it never seems to be enough. The one magazine I work for is unable to pay their writers now, but I refuse to quit because it's a prestigious magazine in the horror film industry. Maybe money should be the motive for me to quit, I don't know. The hardest about writing is the waiting. We wait to hear back from editors, we wait to get published, and most importantly - paid! I honestly don't know how freelance writers are making a living at it. But I digress. My main concern is that I don't have enough time to land and work on articles and also write creatively. I have several short story ideas floating around in my head. I've got a novel I'm yearning to work on and another children's picture book manuscript that is in desperate need of rewriting before it can be sent out to a publisher. As for my screenwriting (what I went to school for), I've had several promising emails from a horror director that is reading my work and asking me for pitches. I've also sent one of my horror scripts in to a screenwriting contest. So we'll see. Fingers crossed.

Now this is where the advice from fellow writers comes in handy. How do I balance my "day job," creative writing and querying and meeting deadlines for magazine articles? Since I'm making steady, good money, should I give up entirely on my freelance writing and focus on my novels and short stories?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Breaking The Rules.

It seems like writers are inundated with rules or "guidelines" when it comes to writing, selling, and promoting their work and themselves.

Early on we're taught how to write those eye catching queries that will make the editor sit up and beg for your articles. Well, I've come to learn that some of the rules of contacting editors is true, but some aren't - or at least in my case.

The first is the query letter. Every time I query a new editor, I always work hard on my query. If the editor buys the idea I'm selling them, then the hard part is over. In my experience, I've come to learn that making yourself known loud and clear and often, is a sure fire way to let that editor know you're passionate about working for them and the articles you write.

I've queries editors four or five times in a row with ideas, until they eventually say they'll contact me with something "juicy." And even after being told this, I'll query with something else a few days later and get the gig!

I've learned that, with the editors I work for, I can now just email them and ask, "What do you think about this?" And they'll give me their opinion.

I've seemed to have developed a good relationship with the editors that I work for.

I believe that it should be all business the first time. But after you get to know a certain editor and they get to know you, then it becomes less formal. If you query enough and keep in contact, then they'll realize how passionate you are about the magazine, or whatever it is that you're writing for.

It works for me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When Writing Can Become Unhealthy

As some of you may know, I'm working on a horror script for a director and producer. I've got to have it done by the end of this month.

I work four days a week at my dad's dental office - five hours a day. I spend at least another 4-5 hours of writing, which I do mostly at night. Which means I go to bed around 11 or 12:00.

I've noticed that I haven't been feeling that great lately and now I know I'm putting too much pressure on myself to write. I feel achy, tired, and sick to my stomach.

Does this happen to new writers?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

All Business and No Creativity!

I don't know if many writers experience this, especially new writers, but I spend more time promoting myself and my writing than actually doing any writing. Now, I have landed quite a few writing jobs that keep me busy. But I feel like I'm doing anything creative. I want to write a novel and more short stories, but just can't seem to find the time. I miss it. But I also love the researching and writing of articles; especially writing for Gorezone, Fangoria and Animal Wellness.

Anybody else feel like this? Does it ever even out so that you can do both kinds of writing?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Self-Promotion Is Harder Than It Sounds

On July 28, 2008, my picture book for kids ages 3-7 titled "Jack's Dreams Come To Life" available on www.amazon.com.

So far only a few and I mean a few copies have been sold. I've had 15 blogs review it, I've advertised it on websites and in my local paper once. I've gotten it in to a couple of independent bookstores. My marketing package included a 500 postcards to send out and I've send out a 1/3 so far.

Does anybody have any suggestions on how to promote my book better? I'm trying to raise money for my local Humane Society. For every copy sold, I will donate $1.00.

Any help is appreciated.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Reading List

By late summer I will have moved in to the house that my parents built for me on our property. And for this special occasion, I have set a goal that involves a very ambitious reading list.

In one year's time I hope to finish the following:

All of Stephen King's books published (in order).

The Vampire Chronicles.

Let me know what your reading goals are.

I once read that Stephen King reads 80 books a year. That really is my ultimate goal. So far I've only been able to read between 20-25 books a year. Slow reader I guess.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Big Opportunity Could Be On The Way...

I think that's why I have a huge case of writer's block. About four months ago, I submitted my horror script to a well-known horror director. He read it and liked, but said he couldn't do anything with it now. He asked me to pitch him another idea and I did. He liked it and said he wanted me to write the script and submit it to him.

With a month of writing, I'm only on page 22 out of 90. I set a goal for myself to have it done by the end of February. I don't know what I'm going to do. I went to school to be a screenwriter, have written several scripts, but now can't seem to remember how to write one!!

I think that part of my writer's block stems from the fact that this is a big opportunity for me. I found someone who is interested in my work. Is there a such thing as being afraid of success?

Some other possibly good news is that I have another director looking at the first script. I got an email from saying that his producer is going to read it first.

The horror genre is something that I'm in love with. All I watch is horror films. Through my work as a contributing writer for Gorezone magazine, I have made some really great contacts with big names in the horror industry. I've written for Fangoria and Scars magazine. I consider myself extremely lucky, but can't seem to wrap my head around finishing this damn script.

I'm not afraid of the "no" I'm afraid of the "yes."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Updates

Well, a lot has happened lately since I've written last. I got a full-time gig at the magazine I write for in the UK. I've written more and more articles for Animal Wellness magazine and have been entered on their list of writers!

I'm working on a horror script for Rob Schmidt director of Wrong Turn and Alphabet Killer. I'm in the process of getting a new gig writing for a website that a friend of mine (and fellow writer) has called www.hijackhollywood.com.

But since writing is never a sure thing, I've been hired by my dad to work at his dental office part-time, four days a week. It's okay, the most important thing is that it's steady money.

Sales on my picture book, "Jack's Dreams Come To Life" are slow, so I'm looking into marketing it better. Because for every copy sold, I will donate $1 to my local Humane Society.