Trust Your Gut

I interrupt this blog’s eternal silence to bring you two bits of writing advice that are the only bits of writing advice you’ll ever need. This advice is nothing new or groundbreaking, but it’s what helps me navigate my way through the maddening world of being a writer, so maybe it will help you.

1) Do what works for you no matter what anyone else says.

I, for example, am a pantser. Or, if you’re feeling particularly charitable, a discovery writer. What that means is that my first drafts are unholy messes of contradictions, poorly written sentences, and plots that never really start to make sense until I type The End. But that’s okay. Because for me, the hurdle is finishing a draft. Once I have that framework in place, I can tear it down, rearrange it, put some spackle here, take a sledgehammer there, set the whole thing on fire, or otherwise rewrite every scene from scratch. What being a pantser really means is that you’re a reviser. Yes, everyone revises, even plotters. But plotters, in theory, will have less revising to do once they have a complete draft. As a pantser, however, my strength, and my clarity of thought, lies in revising.

Does that mean I never plot? Of course not. There’s probably more plotting in my process than I realize; I always have some idea about character arcs or where the plot might be going, I just don’t outline it all beforehand. I do write copious notes to myself in yellow legal pads, though, notes which I rarely go back and look at. I think that’s just my way of decluttering my brain. Am I suggesting you don’t attempt plotting? Of course not. Try it! You might like it. But if you don’t, if you just want to discovery write to your heart’s content, then that’s what you should do.

Next up: daily word counts and writing every day. I used to shoot for 2K words a day. On a good day, I could pull off 1K words/hour. I felt like a failure if I didn’t hit my goal. But the thing is, more often than not they were crap words. Oh, there were some lines here or there that I liked, but on the whole it was all stuff that needed to be completely rewritten. I took me a while to realize I was writing for the word count, not the words. So I turned off the word counter, and I’ve been happy ever since. Granted, I’m still conscious of my overall word count. But when I sit down to write, my goal is simply to write, whether I manage 300 or 3K words.

As for the edict that you should write every day? It’s a ridiculous edict. Yes, when I’m actively drafting, I try not to skip a day. But sometimes I do. Hell, sometimes I skip several. And that’s okay. Seriously. It really is. See, sometimes this thing called Life (which in my case involves being a stay-at-home dad) decides you don’t have time to write on a given day. Such is, well, life. I always feel guilty when I miss a day, as though that one day was the last chance I had to finish the draft. But that’s stupid. The fact is, it’s good to take a break now and then. It helps clear your mind, for one thing, on top of giving you a chance to recharge. Nothing will hurt your draft more than burning yourself out. Plus, you don’t suddenly lose the ability to write just because you took a day, a week, even a month off. Sure, it might take you a couple days to get back into the swing of things, but that’s more a question of making yourself sit down and, you know, write. Your writing chops are always there, they just might need a little coaxing. Or, in my case, a swift kick in the ass.

All of which brings me to my second bit of advice.

2) Trust your gut.

This is inextricably linked to everything I’ve already said. You need to do what works for you. Study up on methods, learn the ins and outs of arcs and structuring, pants or plot, shoot for a specific word count or simply putting any words down on any given day. But do what works for you.

Trusting your gut also means learning not to ignore the itch in the back of your mind when you’ve written something you know isn’t quite right.

When I wrote my first book, a CP called me out for avoiding payoff. He could tell I’d written around something because it was hard, and he was right. Readers can tell when you take the easy route rather than the right route. His advice has stuck with me ever since. And yet, I still do it, and it bites me in the ass in the form of total scene or chapter rewrites every single time.

What happens is, I’ll write something, think of another option, but ignore that second possibility. Why? Because the second possibility is always tougher to pull off. For me, that is 100% a sign it’s what I need to write. And yet, a lot of times, I’ll convince myself that such and such workaround will address the issue.

It never does.

In those instances, I always wind up going back and writing the harder thing. And you know what? Every single time, the scene is better for it. Now, I’m not talking about any old stray idea that wanders into your brain as you sit there deciding whether you can afford a new laptop if you throw the one you have into oncoming traffic. What I’m talking about are ideas that you instantly know sound cool, make total sense within the framework of your story, and would take that particular scene from a 5/10 to a 9/10.

So, when you get that feeling that something’s not quite right, it usually isn’t. Don’t ignore it. Trust your gut.

Well, there you have it. The advice that I as a writer try to live by. Hopefully it gives you some peace of mind. Do what’s right for you, trust your gut, and ignore the people telling you you’re doing it wrong. You’ve got this. Now go write.

I now return this blog to its regularly scheduled state of inactivity.


#PitchWars 2016 Wish List!



Hey, PitchWarriors! This year I’m co-mentoring middle grade (MG) with the amazing Elly Blake.


Me: I love all things fantasy, espresso, and Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for over 7 years; before the kid gig I worked as a reporter for The St. Augustine Record and as a college registrar. I was a #PitchWars mentee in 2014 and a mentor in 2015, so I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I write upper MG fantasy and am represented by Leon Husock of the L. Perkins Agency.

Elly PW pic


Elly: Elly loves fairy tales, old houses, and owls. After earning a BA in English literature, she held a series of seemingly random jobs before becoming a library assistant. She’s always hunting for new middle grade books to recommend to library patrons, or to bring home to her three sons. Her debut novel, FROSTBLOOD, comes out in January 2017 (Little Brown). Her work is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary.


We’d like to work with someone who enjoys open communication, is willing to listen and discuss ideas, and who is willing to make whatever changes are necessary to make the book stronger. You don’t have to use all our suggestions but we ask that you consider them!


We’re good cheerleaders. We will tell you what we love, as well as what we think needs tweaking. We will (hopefully) not destroy your writerly soul with our critiques. We want to be your partners, your brainstorming help, your second and third sets of eyes, and your biggest fans.


Your book is upper MG, preferably fantasy or science fiction with a dark and creepy feel. Though we admire books in the literary vein, our tastes tend toward the commercial. (That said, if you can combine literary and commercial, definitely send it our way!) No contemporary this year.


Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud

L.A. Meyers

Sheila Turnage

Rick Riordan

The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney

The Thief by Megan Whelan Turner


The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands


Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty


The 39 Clues series

As kids we loved C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Brian Jacques, Joan Lowry Nixon, Gordon Kormon, Judy Blume, Alan Garner, Scott O’Dell, Robin McKinley and many more.

Now it’s your turn! We can’t wait to read your submissions. Pitch Wars is an incredible opportunity to get help polishing and perfecting your manuscript, as well as showcasing your pitch and opening to a bevy of interested agents. Kudos on taking the plunge. No matter what happens, you should take pride in having the courage to submit your work. Good luck! And check out all the mentor wish lists here.

Oh, also, if you’re doing the scavenger hunt, here’s your letter!


Find us on twitter: @ronwaltersjr77, @elly_blake

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Worst. Blogger. Ever.

I’m the worst blogger ever. But in my defense, I have been writing! I’ve got a great MG fantasy set in the South that I’m almost done revising. And I contributed a short story to The Scribblers Club, which you can read here, if you’d like. But the reason you’re here–let’s be honest, the only reason anyone ever comes to this blog!–is to scour my PitchWars wish list. Right? Well, the wish list isn’t going up for a few weeks, but the one thing I can say that I’m mentoring MG this year with the fabulous Elly Blake, author of the forthcoming YA fantasy FROSTBLOOD. (If you haven’t pre-ordered it, do so now! It’s a wonderful, amazing book.) Other than that … I guess you’ll have to wait until the wishlists are live! (Also, to avoid any confusion, I’m going to take down last year’s wishlist, since I mentored YA.) Anyway. I can’t wait to read all your submissions! Good luck!


This may come as a shock to some people, but here it is. Ready?

Girls can jump.

I know, right? Mind, meet supernova.

Not only can girls jump, they are perfectly capable of leaping heedlessly off giant gymnastics blocks that might give some adults pause. In fact, they relish this, even when they smack their mushy-cheeked little faces onto the mat. They just leap up, laugh-screaming, and go back for round two. At least, my youngest does. At 2, she’s way more of a daredevil than her older sister ever was at this age (or is, for that matter). Does it give me a heart attack every time she goes all Evil Knievel? Absolutely. Not because she’s a girl, but because she’s my child, and I don’t want her to get hurt. (Plus, she’s a bit clutzy, and usually does get hurt, and ohmygod the drama.)

And yet.

Oh, and yet.

Today, after she jumped off the aforementioned block, the first comment a nearby mom made was basically (and I’m paraphrasing because my memory’s terrible), Oh sweetie, be careful, daddy needs to help you, only boys should be jumping off things like that.

Um, seriously?


Why, in this day and age, are people STILL reinforcing this bullshit?

Why, in this day and age, do people insist on inserting that tiny sliver of doubt into girls’ minds?

My daughter doesn’t need to hear that crap. She needs to be protected, just like any other kid needs to be protected. But if she wants to jump off a block that’s higher than she is tall, you’d damn well better keep quiet. Because jumping off that block leads to jumping off an even higher block. Jumping off that block teaches her how to take risks. It gives her confidence, and, on occasion, freaks her out, which in turn teaches her little impatient butt that sometimes it’s better to take a moment to evaluate a given situation rather than flinging herself headlong into the unknown.

And yet, with a single, seemingly benign comment, those lessons–lessons which are so simple, and so utterly important–can be completely undone. Because you, lady, think my daughter’s bones are made of lesser stuff than your son’s.

Bones are bones, lady. Kids are kids. The next time my daughter wants to jump off that ridiculously high block, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your antiquated notions to yourself and watch while she sticks her landing.

The Liebster Award: 10 Question Blog Hop

Oh look, an award that exists only to sucker you into participating in a blog hop! Thanks to Mary Ann Nicholson for tagging me, because I am a HUGE fan of anything that distracts me from writing. So, ten questions. Let’s rock.

1) When did you decide to become an actual for real, sweat-pants-wearing, coffee-drinking, dirty-kitchen-inhabiting writer?

I kinda sorta realized I wanted to be a for real writer about ten years ago. (I’m 37 now. Shut up.) I’d always been good at writing essays in high school and college, and I worked as a newspaper reporter in my early 20s, which was great experience for meeting deadlines, but wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do. I moved onto really terrible plotless “literary” short stories because I guess I wanted to sound like a pretentious jackass? Finally, after my first daughter was born, I realized I should, you know, write the kind of thing I actually might want to read. And I’ve been doing that ever since.

2) What genre(s) do you write and why are you drawn to that?

I grew up reading epic fantasy. David Eddings, Melanie Rawn, Barbara Hambly, Tad Williams, and so on. So clearly my background is fantasy. The simple answer for why I’m drawn to it is, it’s what I love, and every idea I come up with has some sort of weird element to it. Although, I recently realized I wasn’t necessarily writing fantasy, per se, but speculative fiction. Basically, a story set in the real world with some off-the-wall (as my father-in-law calls it) stuff thrown into the mix. (Ugh, I suck at answering questions like this. Next!)

3) In fifty words or less, what is your current project about?

Think a YA version of The Bourne Identity meets The Long Kiss Goodnight meets Hanna meets some yet-to-be-determined speculative stuff. (I’m terrible at explaining my ideas before I’ve actually written the book.)

4) On an average day, what’s your writing routine?

Writing routine? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that kills me. *sigh* I’m a stay-at-home dad. My 5yo is in kindergarten, but my 2yo is still home with me. I write when I can. Sometimes it’s 300 words throughout a day, sometimes it’s 3,000. Every day is different, which is fine. It has to be. But, when I’m on a deadline (say like Pitch Wars) I can get stuff done super fast.

5) Are you a plotter or a pantster?

Die-hard pantser. I try to plot ahead, and sometimes I come up with stuff. But most of the time I get too bogged down in what-if ideas. I worry too much about the concept rather than just keeping focus on the characters and letting them dictate the direction of the story. I would love to get better at plotting, though, because pantsing a first draft often means the next draft needs a lot of revising. But, my stories flow best as I write them, not as I plan them. I do think that all the lessons I learn from each book (structuring, pacing, character motivations, etc.) inform how I write the next book, so I’m more aware of why I should or shouldn’t do something as I write the next project, and am willing to stop and fix it if my gut is telling me something’s off. Because usually, if your gut’s making noise, something’s not right.

6) Who is your favorite character you’ve ever written and how would you describe them?

Frau Eich, an older German woman who plays a small role in THE GOLEM INITIATIVE. She’s absolutely sincere, more than a little bit nuts, and just as likely to stab you with a kitchen knife as hug you. I’ve had Germans tell me I totally captured their mother or grandmother in her personality, which to me is the greatest compliment.

7) What’s the most egregious writing cliche you’re guilty of committing?

My characters look at everything. Or nod. Or sigh. There’s a lot of directional exhalation. I’m breaking myself of the habit, though, I swear!

8) What’s the greatest word in the English language?

Here’s the thing: We all know what the greatest, most versatile word in the English language is. But I’m going to be professional, and not actually write it here, since I’d rather not offend some of my audience until my first book is published. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT WORD I’M TALKING ABOUT. I KNOW YOU DO. AND IT’S A GREAT FUCKING WORD.

9) What do you do on days when you just. can’t. write.

I stare at the computer. I rewrite sentences that don’t need rewriting. I wander around the house. I eat something. I go for a drive. Honestly, I write in spurts, so I take lots of breaks between putting the words down. But some days? I just don’t write. And you know what? That’s alright. I know, I know. Everyone says you’re supposed to write every day. But sometimes, life gets in the way. I’ve got a family, and other things that need doing. Other jobs get the weekend off, so I see no reason why taking a day or two off from writing is a bad thing. It’s a good way to recharge.

10) Which book do you wish you’d written and why?

WINTER’S TALE, by Mark Helprin. It’s an absolutely beautiful fantasy. The prose is stunning, evocative, and fully immersive, and the story is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is, hands down, my favorite book ever, and even though I know I’d probably catch consumption and die, it makes me want to live in its version of New York every time I read it.

Alright, so now I’ve got to nominate some other writer friends to play along:

Jill Corddry
Eva Gibson

Plus, I get to come up with my own 10 questions for them to answer! So:

1) Do you listen to music when you write?
2) Do you have a story you want to write, but feel like you’re not quite ready to write?
3) What, in your mind, equates success as a writer? Or, how will you know when you’ve “made it”?
4) Do you talk about writing with non-writers, or do you keep quiet about it?
5) Name one writer, living or dead, you’d want to hang out with, and why.
6) How long does it take you to write a first draft of a novel?
7) Do you wear pants while you write?
8) Where do you write?
9) Do you let other people read your stuff as you write it, or wait until you have a readable draft before seeking outside opinion?
10) What’s your favorite booze?

Why I Wrote THE GOLEM INITIATIVE: Confessions of a #PitchWars Mentee

(Since Pitch Wars is coming up, and I’m going to be a co-mentor this year (!), I thought I’d bump this post up.)

When my 5-year-old was 3, she asked if I’d help her steal the moon. Now, I’m a pretty good dad. But planetoid theft? That’s a little outside my skillset. However, me being me, my brain immediately thought, STORY IDEA! So when I went downstairs after kissing her goodnight, I sat down and started fiddling with an idea about a young girl whose dad helped her steal the moon. What little I came up with was kind of sad: the little girl and her dad met loads of night creatures on their way to the moon, but when they took it down from the sky, all the night creatures could no longer see. I planned on ending the story by having them return the moon, but, me being me, that’s not what happened.

What happened was, I started writing about a kid named Aaron whose dad had recently up and moved them to Prague. I knew the dad worked at the American Embassy, and I knew Aaron was lonely and homesick. I also knew I wanted it to be a speculative thriller: some fantasy, loads of action. But other than that? No clue. Eventually, Aaron’s story grew to include spies and mercenaries and unhinged alchemists, and I realized my setting demanded I work the Prague Golem myth into it. Hopefully I’ve done right by both the lore and the city. I’d always wanted to set a story in Prague, but until Aaron came along, nothing ever quite fit.

Fast forward to #Pitchwars 2014: My book was good, but now? It’s freaking awesome. And I owe it all to my amazing mentor, Meredith McCardle. (If you’re curious about #PitchWars, here’s my post about it.) There is no way I could have pulled off this massive revision without her, and for that I will be forever grateful. In the end, my daughter didn’t get a story about lunar theft, but because of her request, I now have a book I’m immensely proud of. I owe you the moon, kid.


Check out some of my other fellow mentees’ blog posts on why they wrote the book that got them into #PitchWars: Carleen Karanovic: HOPE ON A FEATHER Heather Truett: RENASCENCE Tracie Martin: WILD IS THE WIND Susan Bickford: FRAMED Rachel Sarah: RULES FOR RUNNING AWAY Amanda Rawson Hill: GRIMM AND BEAR IT Charlotte Gruber: CODE OF SILENCE Kip Wilson: THE MOST DAZZLING GIRL IN BERLIN Mary Ann Nicholson: CALAMITY Nikki Roberti: THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES Anna Patel: EXODUS A. Reynolds: LE CIRQUE DU LITERATI Susan Crispell: WISHES TO NOWHERE Rosalyn Eves: THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION Ashley Poston: HEART OF IRON Mara Rutherford: WINTERSOUL Janet Walden-West: Damned If She Do Kazul Wolf: SUMMER THUNDER D. Grimm: WITCHER Kelli Newby: THORNVAAL Tara Sim: TIMEKEEPER Elliah Terry: POCKET FULL OF POPPIES Alessa Hinlo: THE HONEST THIEF Rachel Horwitz: THE BOOTLEGGER’S BIBLE Whitney Taylor: DEFINITIONS OF INDEFINABLE THINGS Lyra Selene: REVERIE Natalie Williamson: SET IN STONE Robin Lemke: THE DANCE OF THE PALMS Stephanie Herman: CLIFF WITH NO EDGE Shannon Cooley: A FROG, A WHISTLE, AND A VIAL OF SAND Ruth Anne Snow: THE GIRLS OF MARCH Elizabeth Dimit: PHOEBE FRANZ’S GUIDE TO PASSPORTS, PAGEANTS, & PARENTAL DISASTERS Elliah Terry: POCKET FULL OF POPPIES Gwen C. Katz: AMONG THE RED STARS Jennifer Hawkins: FALSE START Kelly DeVos: THE WHITE LEHUA

Go Ahead, Call Me Mr. Mom and See What Happens (Redux)

Apparently, my blogging skills are lacking, because I somehow managed to delete my first ever post. So, since I’ve been inactive because of #PitchWars revisions, and I kind of liked that first post a lot, I’m just gonna repost it BECAUSE IT’S MY BLOG AND MY LESS-THAN-ONE READER CAN’T STOP ME! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Anywho. So here we go, round two.

Okay. Everyone comfy? Good.

Hi there. I’m Ron. I’m a writer and stay-at-home dad. As it happens, this is my first ever blog post. (Not anymore, but bear with me.) Initially, I wanted to tell you a story about something crazy one of my kids said, or impart some words of writing wisdom that other author parents might find helpful.

But then the guy behind the counter at the airport coffee shop called me Mr. Mom.

So we’re gonna talk about that.

At first, coffee dude was all, Welcome to the Savannah Airport, what brings you here today? To which I replied that my family and I were heading home to Germany. Which prompted the following exchange:

Coffee Dude: Wow. I never would have guessed you lived there. What do you do?

Me: My wife’s a teacher on a U.S. military base. I’m a stay-at-home dad.

Coffee Dude: *passes me espressos* Oh, Mr. Mom, huh?

Me: *envisions returning espresso by way of cup projectile into his face* Yep.

The thing is, I may sound pissed off, but I’m not. What I am is annoyed and disheartened. Look, I get it: Traditionally, most stay-at-home parents have been moms. The reasons for that are myriad, and I’m not about to drop a long-winded dissertation about gender inequality and societal expectations. But nowadays, plenty of dads choose to stay home. For me, the decision was simple: where we live, jobs are hard to come by, so even if I scored some sort of work, most of my salary would go toward paying someone else to watch our kids. Therefore, since my wife already had a decent job, we decided I would stay home. Plus, I’d have (in theory) more time to write.

Most people I know think it’s great I stay home with the girls. But some people–typically new faces in kid-centric settings–are either befuddled or straight-up weirded out. There’s a look people give me sometimes, when they first meet me and realize what I do. Kind of like they’re attempting to pinpoint the fundamental flaw in my masculinity that pushed me onto this particular road. I’ll admit, part of it could be my own insecurities making me extra paranoid, but I’ve been at this for a while. I’m pretty good at noticing when a conversation abruptly ends, or how what seemed like a pleasant chat with someone new fails to produce a follow-up the next time we run into each other. More often than not, it’s usually after someone finds out I stay home with the kids.

Which leads me to the point: I have no patience for buffoons. As such, I have no patience for the titular Michael Keaton movie that gave birth to, or at least codified in the mainstream conscience, the Mr. Mom moniker. Sure, the movie’s funny. And fine, he pulled it together in the end. But it popularized and reinforced the notion that dads, by the very fact of their testosterone, are incompetent morons totally incapable of caring for their own children whenever mom’s away.

Is there some truth to the movie? Absolutely. Some dads suck at being dads. But I’ll let you in on an industry-insider secret: Some moms suck at being moms.

At best, calling me Mr. Mom implies that I’m an inept, incomplete stand-in for a biological mother. At worst, it propagates the idea that, by their nature, women are better at raising children, and in fact SHOULD be the ones staying home. To which I say, MEH. I can hear the biological argument already, but in my experience, nurture trumps nature hands down. Can I, as a man, give birth to a child? No. Can I nurse a child? No. Can I comfort her, feed her, change her diapers, read her stories, hug her, teach her to read and write, show her the difference between right and wrong, shake my head when she throws a blanket over her head, starts singing “LET IT GO!”, and charges right into the closet door, and perform countless other tasks that fall under the infinitely expanding blanket of what it means to be a parent?

You’re damn right I can.

I’m not saying the role I’ve assumed came easily; it most certainly did not. I struggle with it every day, but find me a parent who doesn’t and I’ll let you ride the unicorn my kids and I rescued the other day and now ride to school. Her name’s Spike, and she sleeps next to Larry, the wyvern.

So the next time you think about calling a dad Mr. Mom, regardless if he stays home with the kids or is just giving his wife a well-earned and much-needed break, do me a favor:


It’s time for everyone to start Running Away from Julie Hutchings!

Okay, we’re not actually running from Julie. What we are doing is celebrating the release of her latest New Adult Paranormal Romance, RUNNING AWAY (The Shinigami series, #2). It’s out today, from Books of the Dead Press. Get it from Amazon or your seller of choice.

As I am a naturally lazy person, I’m pretty much going to dump all of Julie’s press materials here. What you need to do is go buy her book. If you haven’t read the first in the series, RUNNING HOME, do it now.

Now that you’ve read it, here’s the cover for the sequel, RUNNING AWAY:

Running Away Final Cover

And here’s the book blurb:

Eliza Morgan is desperate to escape the horrors of her mortal life and understand why death follows her, leaving only one man, Nicholas French, in its wake. He’s the one she loves, the one she resents, and the one fated to make her legendary among the Shinigami– an ancient order of vampires with a “heroic” duty to kill. He’s also decaying before her eyes, and it’s her fault. On the ghostlike mountaintop in Japan that the vampires consider home, Eliza will be guided by the all-powerful Master for her transition to Shinigami death god. When Eliza discovers that sacrificing her destiny will save Nicholas, she’s not afraid to defy fate and make it so—even when Nicholas’s salvation kills her slowly with torturous, puzzle-piece visions that beg her to solve them. Both Nicholas and his beloved Master fight her on veering from the path to immortality, but Eliza won’t be talked out of her plan, even if it drives the wedge between Nicholas and her deeper. Allying with the fiery rebel, Kieran, who does what he wants and encourages her to do the same, and a mysterious deity that only she can see, Eliza must forge her own path through a maze of ancient traditions and rivalries, shameful secrets and dark betrayals to take back the choices denied her and the Shinigami who see her as their savior. To uncover the truth and save her loved ones, Eliza will stop at nothing, including war with fate itself.

And here’s what you need to know about Julie:

Julie Hutchings is a pizza hoarding, coffee swilling, beer guzzling, karate loving book geek with a love of all things creepy and obscure. She lives in America’s Hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts with her hilarious husband and two genius children.

Julie on Twitter:

Julie’s Blog:

Julie on Goodreads:

Running Away (book #2) on Goodreads:

Running Home (book #1) on Goodreads:

Other books by Julie & Buy Links:

Running Home on Goodreads:

Don’t forget to join in on the book buzz using hashtag #RunningAway


It’s funny, because I just started this blog but am already slacking on posts. And it looks like I’ll be slacking for the next couple of months, too. But I swear, I’ve got a really awesome, totally legitimate reason for my slackitude. That reason?
What is #PitchWars, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a contest in which unpublished writers can, if they’re lucky, get mentored by published authors. Actually, let me borrow from the contest’s host, author Brenda Drake:
“What is Pitch Wars? Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better. Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Mentors also pick one alternate each in case their writer drops out of the contest. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to the four mentors that best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for the next two months. Then we hold an agent round with over a dozen agents making requests.”
Sounds awesome, right? It is. It’s an amazing opportunity. And you know what? I got in!
I submitted my YA fantasy, THE WATCHMAKER, which made it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award quarterfinals earlier this year. Since then, I’d had it professionally edited and started querying literary agents. The rejection letters arrived in droves. But such is querying. On average, a writer can expect dozens upon dozens of rejections. I actually got a request from a small press editor who wanted to read my full manuscript, but that scored me a rejection, too. I was bummed, because it was my first full request. But it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, because I got the rejection right as the #PitchWars submission window opened. (Having a full request out for consideration would have prohibited me from entering the contest.)
Over 1,200 writers entered #PitchWars this year. There were 75 mentors to choose from. Of the 4 mentors I submitted to, 3 asked to read my full manuscript before the list of mentees was announced, which in and of itself was fantastic. When the list was posted last week, I was floored to learn a mentor had picked me to work with!
Her name is Meredith McCardle. Her YA book, The Eighth Guardian, has spies and time travel and flat-out rocks. (Yes, I’ve already read it. You should go buy it right now.) For the past few days we’ve been bouncing around ideas about ways to revamp the overall plot of my book. It’s going to mean a fair amount of rewrites, but I am super excited by all the changes we’re making. Hopefully the agents agree come the agent round in November.
Anyway. That’s my news. Cool, huh?!

Copernican Kids

The other day, a friend posted an article on Facebook which defended parents who *GASP* dared to use their smartphones while their kids were playing nearby. Apparently, if you’re a parent, the expectation is that you will devote 100% of your attention, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to everything your children do.

To which I say, Um, nope.

Here’s the thing: Love ’em to death, children are not the center of the universe.

*dodges rotten fruit, rocks, parenting manuals that admonish you for telling your kid no*

Children are an important part of the universe, to be sure. Raising them is an important job, one that requires a great deal of time, patience, and willingness not to apprentice them to the next chimney sweep who knocks on the door. I love my kids. I would do anything for my kids. I will do my best to set a positive example for them. But what I will not do is give up who I am simply because I am a parent.

Being a parent is one facet of a greater whole, that greater whole being me the individual. My individuality is enhanced by parenthood, not diminished. I did not lose my identity when I had kids. In fact, I’d argue the opposite is true. I wanted to be a writer for a long time, but didn’t actually write my first book until about six months after my first daughter was born. Before kids I had time to waste, and essentially was under no pressure to do anything.

But now? Now I’ve got kids. And let’s be honest: kids are time-sucks. They are adorable, but they are demanding little turds. Because they require so much attention and care, they force you to prioritize and buckle down when it comes to ensuring you maintain some semblance of your own self. Only, I think a lot of people believe a parent’s sense of self should be cryogenically frozen until some indeterminate point in time when the kids are done being raised.

I am a parent, but I am still a person. Walking around regretting all the crap I want to do but feel guilty about doing so I wind up not doing it is only going to make me feel worse, which in turn will make me cranky, which in turn mucks up my ability to parent well.

(Here’s the part where I finally start tying all this rambling to smartphones.)

The longer I stay home with the girls, the harder it gets to do things like play Barbies, color, do crafts, watch cartoons, and take trips to the park. Partly it’s because I’m a grownup, and want to do grownup things. But mostly it’s because all the Barbies, crafts, coloring books, cartoons, and trips to the park are 24/7 of the same thing we’ve been doing year in, year out. Everything my kids do does not have to be recorded, remarked upon, or otherwise acknowledged. Sometimes, it’s okay for me just to be there in case they need something. Sometimes, daddy needs a break.

(Okay, lots of times daddy needs a break.)

So, I turn to my phone or iPad. I don’t play games. I don’t watch shows. When I’m tapping away, apparently ignoring my kids, I’m usually on Facebook, twitter, or refreshing my email 300,000 times a day. What am I doing on all those sites? I talk to friends who live in the states. (Most of my friends here work, so most of my day is spent interacting solely with children.) I talk to other writers and beef up my online profile, because like it or not, a social media presence is a requirement for anyone who wants to break into, let alone make it in, the publishing world. I also try to squeeze in moments of writing, because I’m a writer, and that’s what I need to do to feel like a complete, productive human being.

I chose to have kids. I did not choose to lose my identity. Do things I want get back-burnered? All the time. Does that drive me crazy? All. The. Freaking. Time. But that’s life. You figure out how to fit in what you need for one very simple reason:

It makes you a better, happier person, and, by extension, a better, happier parent.