In the Days After

Halloween is my favorite holiday, during my favorite season. There’s a special…feeling…to fall. Something that awakens something in me, and makes me feel extra creative. For the past couple Halloweens, I’ve been recovering from two separate horseback riding incidents. No parties. No dressing up. Just recuperating from first, a concussion, and second, a broken back. This Halloween, I got to celebrate one year, injury free! I currently work at a craft store that allowed its employees to dress up the entire week before. I was able to pull out my Renaissance festival attire for one day, and for Halloween itself, I got to do something very special that I’d been planning to unveil at a convention.

The Dean Winchester costume.

My co-workers’ faces were PRICELESS. They didn’t recognize me. Heck, I was convincing enough from afar that a couple though I really was a dude (um…thanks?). Mission accomplished.

Now, Halloween is over, and everything’s back to “normal.” Well, as normal as Christmas EVERYWHERE can be. Ah…the joy of working in a craft store.

In my writing life, I’m doing something very much NOT normal. November 1st marked the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’d decided earlier that I wouldn’t participate. I had too much to do, with editing one novel and trying to sell another. But then I realized that if I could pull off an awesome cosplay, why not try to pull off a new novel? Maybe it’ll be the kick in the pants I need. So…I’m in. If anyone else is doing NaNo, I’m simply “MaryLGibbs” on the site.

This week is going to be a double post week. Tune in Wednesday when I announce the other cool news! In the meantime, here’s a picture of me dressed as Dean:

Dean Winchester (excuse the messy room. We're redecorating). Including the Mark of Cain.
Dean Winchester (excuse the messy room. We’re redecorating). Including the Mark of Cain.
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All Good Things

I’ve got some good news! Jericho Rising and its sequel Jericho’s Redemption will be moving to Dragon’s Roost Press as of this month. It’s been a fun run with the previous publisher, but it was time to make the change. We don’t have a re-release date yet, but as soon as I know, I’ll share it!

Another piece of good news: I’m entering the “Dear Lucky Agent” contest for YA novels, sponsored by Writer’s Digest. If you’re a YA author, give it a try! Click here for the full information. Why is it good news? Because I’m doing something beyond my comfort zone. As a writer (or anyone, really) it’s important to move beyond where you’re comfortable, because that’s where greatness lies. Go out and do something brave today!

Beyond the Pitch Contest

This month, I submitted “Dragon’s Curse” to two different pitch contests: #NoQS and #PitchSlam. I didn’t make it into #NoQS, but I’m waiting to hear on #PitchSlam (which has a very cool Harry Potter theme this time around! LOVE IT!). It got me thinking Beyond the Pitch Contest – and not in a bad way.

I often see cool articles about people who have succeeded. We read interviews, see all the love between the mentors and their chosen authors, and the like. But what about the vast majority who don’t “make” it? What about them? What happens after their party’s over?

I’ll tell you: We live.

That’s right! We. Live. We continue to press on. We keep writing. We keep in touch with our awesome new writer friends (you DID reach out to other authors, right?), exchanging queries/manuscripts/first 250s/pitches/whatever to make our work shine. We continue (or start!) to query. WE LIVE, and live fully. Why? Because pitch contests aren’t the be – all, end – all of our writing experience. They’re a great enhancement to that experience, but not “IT.” Even when we get published, that’s not IT. Because we keep going. Here’s an interview I did with a non-winning pitch contest author (okay, it’s me…but still!):

Hey, Mary! How are you feeling?
M: Awesome, actually. Why wouldn’t I be?

Well…success…
Honey, success is what you make of it. I’ve met awesome people through these contests, and I’ve learned so much about my writing, the business, and more. In my book, forward movement is success.

That’s a good attitude. What are you up to now?
I’m making sure Dragon’s Curse is as good as it can be. All the advice I’ve received…all that feedback…I’m putting it to good use. I’ll be querying again soon (I stopped while I was gone on vacation). Plus, I’m still editing Cake or Death. I still have high hopes for that one. A cake decorating vampire hunter! Cracks me up. Oh…and I already have another novel outlined.

Wow! You sound busy!
That’s the best way to be. Seriously. It keeps the ugly thoughts out of your head, and keeps your eyes on the prize.

Do you have any advice for other writers out there who may be in the same position?
Well, other than what I’ve just written here on my blog…yeah. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t think, “I wasn’t selected, so that means everyone hates me. I suck!” You don’t suck. Refusing to better yourself? That sucks. Taking a break? Doesn’t suck. Regrouping? Doesn’t suck. Bettering yourself? TOTALLY DOES NOT SUCK! Keep at it, writerly darlings. You’ve got this!

My Disney Adventure

This past week, the family and I went on a trip to Florida. Here’s our story:

On the first leg of the trip, we went to Panama City Beach. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, right on the Gulf of Mexico. Beautiful resort. Plus, sugar-white sand and lovely, clear water. The next morning, we headed to Disney, and to our home for the week: The All Star Music Resort. There are certainly pros and cons to staying at this resort. Food was great (get the dining plan! You will have more food credits than you’ll ever know what to do with). Theming was great. Disney transportation was actually easy to manage (once we parked the car, we took the buses). My biggest complaint? My bed was like a rock, and the pillow was like a boulder. NOT comfortable at all! Even without sleep, I was ready to go the next morning.

Day 1: Epcot

Talk about nostalgia! Journey into Imagination has changed (not necessarily for the better), but the moment I saw my favorite purple dragon – Figment – I got teary eyed. And the “One Little Spark” song… ::sigh:: We also rode Mission: Space and Soarin’. Both were a great bit of fun. World Showcase was absolutely alive, as we visited during the Food and Wine Festival. I wish I could have sampled some of the fare, but we were saving our tummies for lunch at Nine Dragons in the China pavillion. Great place! The rest of the countries were great fun. I got to pick an oyster in Japan, which held a gorgeous pearl. And, we saw Smash Mouth at the “Eat to the Beat” concert. My favorite band! Live! Talk about a thrill. Speaking of thrills, onto….

Day 2: Animal Kingdom

This park didn’t exist the last time I was in Disney World (over 20 years ago!). It’s awesome. Dinosaur! threw us for a loop. Talk about a wild ride! Kali River Rapids got us wet…but not as wet as I thought we’d get! The Tree of Life, a man made centerpiece for the park, is breathtaking. Seeing all the animal carvings was great. Even better? My daughter ran into her friend from school! What a great surprise. I wasn’t brave enough to ride Expedition: Everest, but hubby did. He enjoyed it. We all enjoyed Tusker House for dinner. Goofy, Mickey, Donald, and Daisy kept us company.

Day 3: Hollywood Studio

The Muppets! Phineas and Ferb! The Great Movie Ride! Songs from musical movies! Talk about heaven. We saw the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, too, where they show how stunts and such are done. Wow. Memories. I’d forgotten that when I was an actress, I DID do all my own stunts. It’s a pretty cool park. Got to get a picture in front of Mr. Gold’s Pawnshop. Once Upon a Time fans will recognize that reference. I wore my Hook shirt for good measure. 😉 We didn’t have as much time in this park, because we attended the “Spirit of Aloha” dinner show/luau that evening over at the Polynesian resort.

Day 4: Magic Kingdom

Oh, how I ADORE this park! Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World… My nostalgia meter was off the charts! Plus, we got to see Anna and Elsa from Frozen. Laugh if you want. I love Frozen. “Let It Go” helped me transition from actress back to writer. If you ever go, make sure you have LeFou Brew at Gaston’s Tavern. The Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was INSANE! Seeing the Sanderson Sisters perform with all the other Disney villains was great. So was the Boo to You parade. Trick-or-Treating. Rides. Awesomeness! The only downside is that hubby and son missed it because my son was sick. That’s okay, because…

Day 5: Magic Kingdom, Part Two

Yep, that’s right. We decided to use our last day to revist the Magic Kingdom. I had to share the magic with my WHOLE family. At Gaston’s Tavern, on the advice of someone we met on the bus (lots of chatter while on buses and waiting in lines), we tried the cinnamon roll. It was HUGE and DELICIOUS! We also got some shopping done.

On Saturday morning, we headed to Disney Springs to grab some things we saw on our first trip Sunday evening. I can’t share what we got, because they’re gifts. 😉 After Disney Springs, we headed back up to the Holiday Inn at Panama City Beach. Swimming in the ocean! Relaxing in the hot tub! A great way to end a wild week. I was, however, happy to get home on Sunday. My pups were thrilled to get home, too. They spent the entire week at the “luxury pet resort” in our hometown.

Final observations: Amazing food, super nice people (who outnumbered the selfish jerks, thankfully), and awesome memories to last a lifetime.

Spaceship Earth at night
Spaceship Earth at night
Cinderella's Castle, pre-Spooktacular show
Cinderella’s Castle, pre-Spooktacular show
SMASH MOUTH!
SMASH MOUTH!
Pick-a-Pearl. Counting to three in Japanese: "Sun-Knee-Itchy!" (that's how she taught the crowd)
Pick-a-Pearl. Counting to three in Japanese: “Sun-Knee-Itchy!” (that’s how she taught the crowd)
Fultons Crab Shack - Disney Springs
Fultons Crab Shack – Disney Springs

Screenwriting and Story Mastery with Michael Hauge

This past weekend, a dear friend invited me to attend a screenwriting workshop at the library. I’m no stranger to screenwriting. Jericho Rising started as a script, and I helped write a few scenes here and there with Star Trek: Osiris. Everything I’d learned had been on my own or with friends, so to learn from a professional like Michael Hauge would be exciting.

We showed up Saturday morning and took our seats at a table just for us, after receiving a handout highlighting the key points of the day’s workshop. Looking around, we saw quite a few students from our local college (who later admitted that the only reason they were there was for extra credit – Michael joked about that for the rest of the day). The first thing we did before any introductions or anything was watch a couple of film clips (The King’s Speech and About a Boy, to be specific). Then, we got down to business.

For the first couple of hours, he spoke on his six-stage plot structure, easily adapted for film or prose. It was quite indepth. After a break, we learned about the hero’s outer journey. The “hero” is simply the protagonist. The “outer journey” is the visible goal the hero must achieve. After a brief break, we moved on to discuss the inner journey. The intangible stuff.

Wow. It was…wow.

There are two parts of us: Our identity (the “self” we show to the world), and our essence (our true selves, stripped of fear). The inner journey is leaving one’s identity to live fully in one’s essence. The character arc.

See? Wow.

We stuck around for the second presentation. It was a shorter version of the earlier meeting, but this time, we watched selected moments from the movie Hitch and discovered exactly when each step in the process occurs. It’s really formulatic, but works very well. All in all, it was a really good day. I highly suggest ANY writer take part in this event if they have the opportunity.

That’s my quick run-down. I didn’t want to get too involved in what we learned. Go grab one of his books/DVDs/etc! You won’t be disappointed. We did each pick up a book: Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds. The tag line: “The Guaranteed Way To Get Your Screenplay Or Novel Read.” Oooh…! I’ve yet to dig into it. Vacation prep is keeping me busy!

If you read this, thanks for the talk, Michael!

It was great meeting him!
It was great meeting him!
Michael Hauge
Michael Hauge

Pitching, Editing, & Baking…Oh, My!

I’ve been pretty quiet lately, I admit. I guess this will have to be an epic brain dump to get everyone caught up on what I’ve been doing. Things I’ve learned. Stuff like that.

At the end of August/beginning of September, I entered my YA (young adult) fantasy “Dragon’s Curse” into a contest on Twitter called #PitchWars. Pitch Wars is the brainchild of writer Brenda Drake (www.brenda-drake.com). She’s pretty much an angel in the writing community. Along with our entry, which consisted of the query letter and first chapter, authors select five potential mentors from a pretty extensive list. I chose my five, and the game was on. In the meantime, Twitter lit up with #PitchWars tweets. Questions about characters, plots, etc. popped up as part of the conversation, and so many people took part! I made a ton of new Twitter-friends. Inspiring, awesome people. Sadly, I didn’t get selected for the second phase: the mentor round. It’s okay, because I did receive lovely feedback from a couple of the potential mentors I’d chosen. I was actually kind of relieved that I wasn’t chosen, because the very next week was one of my FAVORITE times of the year.

#PitMad!

PitMad is another of Brenda’s babies (see? the woman is amazing!). Authors tweet “pitches” of their books to try to gain the interest of agents and publishers. If the pros like your pitch, they give you a star. That’s an invitation to query. Earlier in the year, I took part and had the interest of an agent. Lightning struck twice, apparently, because no sooner had I tweeted my first pitch, I got a star. Color.Me.Floored. I immediately sent off my package. I still have to resubmit to the first agent, who very graciously said that if I did a revision, I could and resub to her.

Full disclosure: I’m a chicken poop!
I’m getting better…

Onto EDITING. Wow. That’s all I seem to have been doing lately! First, Dragon’s Curse, because it had to be ready for #PitchWars and #PitMad. Now that it’s in Queryland, I’m back at working on the revamp (haha!) of Cake or Death.

Speaking of cake, I made my co-worker’s wedding cake. Wow. That was an adventure. Up until the morning of the wedding, it looked like CRAP. Inspiration struck, and I was able to save it. Kind of like editing. But editing isn’t edible.

weddingcake1
The wild wedding cake in its natural habitat

Pitch Wars – My Mentee Bio by Notorious MLG

Notorious. ::giggle::

Since I’ve finished polishing my latest manuscript, I figured I’d immediately throw it into the fire that is #PitchWars on Twitter. I’ve had the chance to read the mentor bios and choose my faves, but what do they know of me? What about my fellow contestants? Surely they’d like to meet me. Well, here you go.

First, to introduce “Dragon’s Curse.”
Elizabeth Morrow learns she’s the last in a long line of cursed dragon slayers when her Homecoming dance is crashed by Kieran, the dragon. When she learns the sorcerer who cast the curse in the first place is in town, she finds an unlikely ally in Kieran as they band together to hunt him down.

Dragon’s Curse was written umpteen years ago. I only recently dusted it off to give it another shot. This time, the shot it deserves.

EVERYTHING ME:

*I love fantasy. LOVE IT. And Disney. And anime. And Supernatural. And…I could go on. I’m not ashamed to say I’m a pop culture geek.
*I also love chocolate. And chai latte.
*I’m a former professional actress. SAG eligible and everything. Writing is my first love. I’m glad to be “home” in my head again.
*You can see me in “Star Trek: Osiris” (webseries) and “Vampirism Bites” (webseries, seasons 2-3)
*I share my home with my husband, two kids, two dogs, cat, and six chickens. Ok, the chickens don’t live in the house, but you get the idea. Yes. Chickens. They’re adorable.
*I’m a former competitive fencer. They used to call me “The Silver Queen” thanks to all the second place medals I’ve received over the years. My other nickname: Buffy the Fencer Slayer. Apparently, I looked like her. I *was* blonde.
*I’m a cake decorator with my own biz.
*I also teach jewelry making at the local craft store.

MY WRITING

*I’m a thrice small-press published author. I’m SO ready to take the next step to traditional publication. It’s been my dream since I was 10.
*Speaking of 10, that’s how old I was when I was first published. My poem “Love Is” appeared in the Detroit Children’s Museum newsletter.
*I actually love editing. Taking a sentence/paragraph/scene/whatever that isn’t working and making it something beautiful is AWESOME! Let’s blow it up and put it back together again!
*Why do I write YA? Because that’s what really got me into writing in the first place. I used to read YA “thrillers” from LJ Smith, Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusick and think, “This is the best thing ever. I want to do this!”
*Why do I write, period? I have to. It’s like breathing. And, I love inspiring other people. They see me conquer my fears, and think they can do it too. That’s pretty darned humbling, right there. I want to keep at it.

And, there you have it. Me, in a slightly long nutshell.