R & R News


Hi friends,

Holly and I are super excited to be working on an R & R, and no, that's not "Rest and Rejuvenation." (We WISH!) It's a "Revise and Resubmit" request. It's common in the writing world for writers seeking representation from a literary agent. (And we're thrilled about the agent we're revising for!)

You know...it's another part of this thrilling, stretching, fulfilling, harrowing adventure we're on. But the great news is that The Vale is closer to the next step, and that my friends, will always be progress. Motivating progress. 

So you might have noticed we've been a little sluggish on the blog and social media lately but it's for a good cause. 

Following the dream friends. Making it happen. YOU can too!

Stay tuned and thanks for all the support. We're excited to share The Vale with you hopefully soooon!! 

xoxox ~ Jenn & Holly

(For a more detailed description, read this great post about R&R's from Writer's Digest.)

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

Writing With Writer's Block


There are no truer words, right writers?

Anyone feeling particularly tortured right now? We hear you. We see you. We are SO with you.

That is all.

Keep creating. The world needs your stories.

{Jenn & Holly}

#writingcommunity #amwriting #evenwithwritersblock #keepitmessy 


Holly and Jenn

Social Media Fasting


It was painful at first, like starting a new diet. I was perhaps a bit cranky. But it was necessary.

The Social Media Fast!

Have you ever tried giving up something that you didn't have a healthy relationship with? Well, that was Facebook and Instagram for me. It really started during fall of 2020, when the vast majority of my feed seemed to transform from cute kids, spunky pets, and funny memes to anger, frustration, and negativity over all-things-politics-and-pandemic.

I'm not saying that any of those BIG, complicated, intense emotions were unfounded, I felt them too, but when what's supposed to be relaxing scrolling time lost the relaxation bit, well, it took a toll.

Like with any addiction, and don't kid yourself, scrolling and trolling can be addicting, one has to first realize there's a problem. 

I admit, I found myself being sucked into watching how online arguments would unfold. I didn't dare participate, I just grabbed the proverbial popcorn and let the angst be my entertainment. It was gross. I felt gross. That's when I knew I needed to make a change.

So, on December 31, not as part of any grand New Year's resolution or anything, I decided I would take a little break. I thought I'd stay off through President Biden's inauguration - platforms seemed unusually nasty after the election on both sides of the spectrum. Just a few weeks. It wasn't going to be permanent.

But then something interesting happened: everything felt lighter. Happier. Simpler. 

By mid-January, I'd mostly gotten over missing it, I'd filled the time with some other fun distractions (mostly puzzles and writing) so the fast continued.

Please understand, this is not a judgment on anyone's use of social media. Nor is this a deep-dive into how social media impacts mental health. There are so many positives that can come from the various platforms, like getting blog posts out. :-) But for me, and perhaps for some of you out there, if you notice a negative impact, maybe a break is a good idea. 

If any part of this post tugs at a little part of your heart, here are some simple steps you can take:

  • Check your usage on your phone. If you have an iPhone, you can see how much time you spend on each app by going to Settings - Screen Time - See All Activity - Week or Day.
  • If you are surprised or shocked at how much time you spend scrolling, think about a reasonable limit. Then commit to it. 
  • If you decide to just cut back, be selective with who and what you follow. Choosing where you engage and muting negative voices are things within your power. Use it.
  • Maybe with the family or a group of friends, you can make a fun game out of cutting that time back. I highly recommend prizes. It's way more motivating to change a bad habit when you have incentives and a support system.   
  • Replace scrolling time with something else you love. Phone dates with good friends, a fun house project, one-on-one time with someone special, a new hobby, reading, art, meditation, etc. 
  • WARNING: Quitting cold turkey like I did may lead to withdrawal symptoms...seriously. But you know yourself and maybe a quick rip of the bandaid is the best way for you. Stay strong. 

If you decide you need to take a break from any unhealthy habit, social media included, don't be too hard on yourself. Life surely seems to be more complicated and nuanced and volatile lately, and the need for a little escape is real. My advice: choose your escape wisely.

Sending you love and peace and stamina, friends. 

{J} 

P.S. If you haven't already, go watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It's insightful. 

Photo by Inspa Makers on Unsplash

Holly and Jenn

You're Only As Happy As Your Saddest Child


PARENTS!!! Could there be any truer words? No! 

I remember when a wise and gracious friend uttered this statement the first time and I didn't really grasp it. Because my kids were littles. Her's were emerging adults. But WOW, did I remember the sentiment the first time my daughter had a major friend break-up, the first time my son had a heart-break, and many times since.

It doesn't get easier. Moms of littles. Prepare your hearts.

So, how do we as moms and dads, steal our hearts to be strong for them? I haven't done it right every time, in fact, I've probably done it wrong more than not, but I'm here to offer some advice for when you find yourself in the midst of their sorrow. A pain that feels so much more because you can't fix it.

My first bit of advice is don't try to fix it. It's futile and it can ultimately put a wedge between you and your hurting child. Instead, try this:

Listen to whatever they wish to share. Try not to prompt or fill in the blanks too much. Sitting with them in their silence as they process and put words to the things they're experiencing helps them learn that skill, and reassures them that they were right to trust you. You are their safe place.

Acknowledge how hard, sad, stressful, (whatever adjective fits best here) the situation is. This is not the place to interject your personal experience, words of wisdom, advice, or really any other feedback than pure acknowledgment. Don't worry...if you have something helpful to offer, you'll get your chance. But this time is for them. Be patient.

Ask one simple question: "What can I do to support you right now?" And prepare for the answer(s) to be: 

  • I don't know
  • Nothing
  • Get me food
  • Give me a hug
  • Sit with me
  • Turn on _____ show
  • Fix everything
  • Some other request or any combination thereof

The important thing is to be there for them so they can figure out how to best help themselves. Resolving problems, having hard conversations, making amends, soothing heartbreaks, these are hard things that everyone must learn to navigate. And oftentimes, the fix isn't quick.

Which means, when we're invited in to the moment by our child in need, no matter what the age, it takes time. This is hard on us because we want to fast-forward to all-better so we can be all-better too. 

Humans are wired to avoid suffering. So when you volunteer to be there for your hurting child, you also volunteer to wade with them through the hurt. (UGH!) Maybe a good way to reframe is this: you are sharing your child's burden. You are taking a small portion of the weight off their shoulders. You are helping them get to a place where they will find healing.

Until that time, when you're sitting in the work with them, feeling all their feels, you are only as happy as they are sad. Be steadfast friends. Be strong. It'll make a difference.

Hugs. 

{J}

Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

Holly and Jenn

Deadlines: Motivating or Paralyzing?


A writer's desire is to have their words shared and appreciated by a broad audience. But there are LOTS of steps that lead up to that end. So when we met with FIVE great agents at our recent pitch conference, and EVERY ONE of them asked us to send them more, we were FREAKING OUT! (See all the CAPS here? Those represent the screams and yells and jumping-up-and-down that occurred with each request.)

After the adrenaline coursed through us and we sunk into the couch to assess the work to be done before actually sending our manuscript, we realized something that we'd forgotten since college: 

When you're faced with a deadline, if you want to have a chance at reaching your goal, you have no choice but to rise to the (stressful, terrifying, intense, exciting) occasion.

Have you ever been in the situation where a deadline did the opposite? Where you actually froze in the light of a looming pending project. Well, that almost happened. Because...the stakes were so high! So, we thought we would share the strategy that helped us get the job done.

Holly and Jenn present to you...The Four R's.

1. Relax: Remember the adrenaline? Well, it's a real thing that can change your body's/mind's ability to think rationally. So we took a lot of deep breaths, we cracked some cold La Croixes, and we just let our soaring hearts take their time finding their way back to steady rhythm. It took about thirty minutes.

2. Recap: Then we wrote some details down to make sure we didn't lose them. Which agents wanted the full manuscript? Which wanted a smaller sample? Where were we going to send our precious words to? What format was best? How about the text for the email? The one-sentence pitch? The comparable titles/authors? How much should we edit our query letter or synopsis? And most importantly, WHEN would we have it polished off and ready to go? We wrote all those things down and looked at the calendar. 

3. Relegate: We love lists, and we're good at them. Quite good. It's a Mom-Super-Power. The list became our roadmap, and included all the tasks we needed to complete to fully prepare for submission. Things like, should we capitalize King, Queen, Princess, Duke, etc. throughout the novel? Did we spell Elyssiun (and other unique names that spell-check wouldn't recognize) consistently? (The answer was NO. It was spelled five different ways - too many Ls, Ys, and Ss. Ha!) Don't forget to remove double spaces, fix formatting issues, check hyphens and ellipses, quotes and italics, then review it all again once it's converted to MS Word. The list went on. But once allthethings were written down, we assigned them and got to work. 

4. Realize: As in, put into action. It took six days of intense work, lots of calls/texts, too many cups of tea, late nights and early mornings, to finish polishing and prepping our manuscript. But by Friday, we hit SEND and watched our baby go off into the hands of qualified agents, all of whom we'd be honored to work with. 

And then we settled down to wait and pray for the right partner for The Vale. We will keep you posted.

But if you have a deadline, if the pressure of a pending project is a source of anxiety, we hope the Four R's can be a helpful tool for you.   

Happy Summer friends! 

#dontpanic #plan #keepitmessy #itisthebestoftimes

Photo by Katie Harp on Unsplash

Holly and Jenn

Writing Conference Inspiration

Writing conferences...we LOVE them!! Truly! It's in this environment where a writer can feel all the creative energy and hopefulness that budding authors share. Professional editors, literary agents, and publishing folks, gift us their insights, experiences, and nitty-gritty. They give honest feedback on ideas and map out the various paths to publication. Writing conferences are FULL of good stuff. 

Transparency here: writing conferences are also very stressful. Virtual ones too. For the authors who have spent years working and dreaming and re-working their projects, it's just another opportunity for someone to imply that they aren't good enough. That their idea is overdone or too obscure, either way, unsaleable. (That's a real word...a nasty one in my opinion.)

But if you really want to be a published author, as in any profession, you have to take the good with the bad. And with a little preparation and grit, you can learn how to make the most of the not-so-fun parts of any job, right?

Writing conferences can build and tear down. They can inform and overwhelm, inspire and discourage. They can be all these things. It's really up to you how you deal.

So this is the trick. Writers, aspiring authors, dreamers: we have to learn how to be game-players, in the most authentic, humble sense of the term. Here are some tips:

  1. Prepare for a conference like you do a job interview. Present yourself in every setting as someone who's serious about their writing career, even if you're just starting out. Practice your pitch with your family and friends, perhaps strangers. Get feedback and refine it. Arrive early, engage with the conference faculty and attendees, build relationships and take notes. Smile. :-)
  2. Create a list of talking points, the three most important things about your book, and make sure the information is relevant to the industry professionals you plan to talk with. Comparable books/authors, the audience and genre, and why the world needs your book. Start there.
  3. Do your research. Each literary agent has a web page with details on what they like and who they represent. Follow them on Twitter. Look up #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) to learn about trends. Maybe your book doesn't fall into a trendy box...that's ok. New is great!! Just know how/why it's great and practice selling it.
  4. Set your expectations in line with where you are in your writing journey. If you haven't let anyone see any of your words on page, or if you are stuck on chapter one, you're not quite ready to fully pitch your book yet. Still go to the conference. Attend the workshops that will answer the questions you have at the beginning stage of your project. Still talk to people, you can pitch your idea and state honestly where you are in the process. Every author started at the beginning once. And feedback at every stage is essential.
  5. Prepare your work. If you have a complete book and plan to pitch to agents or editors, make sure your work is the best it can be. Have you received feedback yet? It doesn't have to be a professional editor (though they are amazing and if you can invest in yourself, you won't be sorry), but at least someone who reads a lot and loves you enough to be honest. Even better, find a critique group. Send your words out in the world and see how they fare before you pass them over to the pros.  
  6. Believe in yourself. This may sound obvious but humble self-confidence is REQUIRED if you want to be a published author. And if you spend time doing the first five steps above, you'll find that goes a long way to helping you believe.
This weekend. we're participating in the virtual San Diego Writing Workshop. It's our first time pitching via Zoom but we're pumped. PUMPED, I tell you!  

Wish us luck and all the right words. 

Love you all,

{J & H}

Photo credit: Debby Hudson: Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

Meet John


Imagining John, our 17 year old male lead and second POV. His deep cerulean eyes and his heart of a lion pull Emily in. He's also the reason she get's kidnapped and stolen to the enemy realm. He'll have to break all the ancient rules to find her. He'll have to stay alive too. Small sacrifice for love.

#John #theprince #lionheart #allthefeels

Holly and Jenn

Meet Emily


This is who we imagine when writing our lead, Emily. She's 16, a resilient empath with an overprotective mother, and she's about to find out who she really is. Then she'll have to decide who she wants to be. Choices are everything. 

#Emily #thesparrow #theunexpectedsavior #thevale

Holly and Jenn

Meet Finn


This is who we see as Finn, the Messenger. He's been 20 for 300 years, give or take. So he knows a thing or two about the realms. But will he be able to do the one job he was tasked with? Or will he miss something so big it'll change the course of the realms? 

#Finn #themessenger #bringingbackthetrenchcoat  

Holly and Jenn

Pitch Madness...But It's Oh So Fun!!


ROMEO AND JULIET+SUPERNATURAL
The Princess doesn't want to be royal. Funny she thinks it's her choice. The Prince wants to fix it all. He should start with his demon issue. The Keepers should've kept them apart. These four will either save the world . #PitMad #YA #F #R

Sometimes you're born in an outer realm, hidden on earth, spellbound from your powers, and no one tells you. Then one day you fall in love and all hell breaks loose. Literally. Because your families are enemies and have been at war for a millennia. #PitMad #YA #F #R

Emily and John have been hidden in the Vale all their lives so they have no idea they're really heirs to opposing realms. That's gonna mess up their relationship. Will one of them abdicate the throne for love, or will they go to war? The realms vote war. Damn. #PitMad #YA #F #R

Join in the #PITMAD fun here!

Happy writing, writerly friends. 2021 is your year!
Holly and Jenn

Love In All Seasons


When you're a child, Valentine's Day means decorating a shoe box to collect fun notes and cards and sweet treats from your classmates. There may even be a lunch exchange or a party. And whether you like all of your classmates, you'll bring enough Valentines to share with everyone in your class. It's an "equal opportunity" holiday.

When you're a teenager, Valentine's Day has a little more at stake. The girls hope they get some sort of acknowledgement from the boy they like and the boys just hope that the girl likes them back. The communication about "the liking" is typically carried out by the friends of the supposed "likee," probably through social media. It's a "socially conscious" holiday.

When you're a young adult, Valentine's Day is about over-analyzing the level of investment of your first serious mate. Your expectations are high and the pressure's on. Your gift needs to represent exactly how you feel for him or her without overshooting or underestimating, either of which could be deadly. It's a "make-it-or-break-it" holiday.

When you're a newlywed, Valentine's Day is about indulgence. Fancy dinners, elaborate gifts, extensive foreplay and lingering passion. You and your spouse are completely into each other and demonstrating your undying love is paramount. If it's IG-worthy, even better...you'll score major bonus points. It's a "more-is-better" holiday.

When you're a parent to babies or young children, Valentine's Day is about falling deeper in love. You never imagined your spouse could become more attractive, but seeing them love your little ones--changing a diaper, singing a lullaby, kissing a boo-boo, telling a bedtime story--fertilizes that deep-rooted emotion you have for the person you've chosen as your partner in all things. It's a "count-your-blessings" holiday.

When you're a parent to tweens and teens, Valentine's Day is about remembering the reason you fell in love in the first place. Life is less about your marriage and more about your all-consuming, completely-exhausting, totally thankless job of parenthood. Even though you're tired and the newlywed luster has faded while the business of life has settled in, it's more important than ever to sincerely demonstrate what a loving relationship looks like. Your children are watching and they need to see that the terms "unconditional" and "everlasting" are attainable and worthy of the work. It's a "put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is" holiday.

When you're an empty-nester, Valentine's Day is about a more refined level of indulgence than during your newlywed bliss. You enjoy life at a slower pace and have discovered a true understanding of what your lover wants and needs. On a daily basis, you act out your vows with more intention and promise than ever before. It's a "slow-and-steady" holiday.

So on this Valentine's Day, please take the opportunity to surround yourself with the people you care about, sharing your love and fostering relationships that will last throughout all the seasons of your life. In fact, the same goes for the other 364 days of the year. After all, there is no limit to love.

{J}
Holly and Jenn

The Six Sisters


Characters. Sometimes they just show up on the scene and you have to step aside and watch them dance.

We had no idea Emily had so many half-sisters. She met them recently. We did too.

  1. Jilaya is the youngest. She wishes she was a vampire. She's working on it. Don't sit too close or she may try to bite you.
  2. Lilyth says she can manipulate the weather. If you doubt her, even in your thoughts, some sort of storm is sure to descend. That's her proof.
  3. Casdeya. She's a poison master. Watch out if you see her mixing anything.
  4. Mara is the teller of dark stories, the cause of nightmares. Beware.
  5. Her twin, Nimu, is the prettiest one. If you wrong her, she will steal your lover.
  6. Jezebeth. She can twist the truth like no other. She's passed every lie-detector test she's ever taken. 
Can't wait for you to meet them...


Holly and Jenn

#oneword2021

 


Happy 2021 friends! Can you believe we survived 2020!?! We really did. Let that soak in a moment, will ya?

As you know, we open each year with the #oneword campaign. Looking back at previous years' words, and the runners-up, it's clear how great a guide these words have been for me. A beacon to help me create some goals and then, over the year, find a way to see them flourish. I hope that you have scribbled down your #oneword over the years and can glance back with a similar sense of perspective. And if not, there's always a new year. This NEW YEAR. Perhaps give it a try.

So there were quite a few words in the running for 2021, but most of them didn't quite capture the need for endurance and the acceptance of the unknown that no doubt 2021 requires.

Then the word DREAMS came to me one night in a...(I know, corny) dream. And that was just the right kind of thought I could get behind. Because when you don't know what's in store, when you don't have a lot of control over things, the environment is just right for DREAMING! And for me, I'm dreaming of a book deal, a new WIP, a vaccine, followed by a TRIP on a plane, and all the HUGS with friends and family to make the pain and loss of 2020 disappear. DREAMS can be whatever you make them, but when you let them lead you, great hope can be found there. And I am hopeful for 2021.

At the end of 2021, my dream is to look back on the year and at all the ways that I worked hard, the ways that I brought love to the world, and the ways that I showed grace. Those actions are within my power, after all. Even in a volatile year. 

So if resolutions have a tendency to overwhelm you, if you find it too easy to fall victim of the "be-more, do-more" hellscape so common this time of year, consider #oneword as a healthier option. What do you think? How will 2021 shape you?

It is the best of times friends. Take it, shape it, DREAM it, and have a blessed and bountiful new year.

{J}

By the way, if you want to make a cool word cloud to inspire you, check out this site. It's free and so so fun!
Holly and Jenn