March 21, 2013

AMBITION- my published article

Ambition: Strong desire for success, achievement, or distinction.
I’ve always been an ambitious person. I can say for myself at least, one of the pitfalls of being overly ambitious is how much it devastates me when I fail. And boy have I failed—a lot—at a lot of things.
I can remember in High School sobbing to my mom because I didn’t get the lead in a play I’d auditioned for. Mom’s response was, “I wish you’d stop trying out for these things. You know how upset you get when you don’t get the part.”
But I couldn’t stop trying. I was ambitious and determined to succeed.
After ten or so failures, I eventually landed the lead in the High School musical my senior year. And it was completely worth it. Every tear I’d cried and every part I didn’t get made the one I did get so special.
Then I became an adult and I went out into the world with a pocket full of rainbows and dreams. This ambitious girl who reached for the stars was quickly knocked on her butt and left there—a complete failure.
There were so many things I wanted that I never got. Maybe it was a job I would have been perfect for, or a boy I thought I couldn’t live without. At times I thought it would be the end of me. Every door seemed to close in my face, over and over again. I was left asking, “God, where’s that window you promised me?”
I spent my teenage years and half of my twenties striving for greatness and feeling so defeated when none of my dreams came true. So, what’s an ambitious girl to do? Quit? Stop trying? “God, what’s my purpose in life?” (Have you ever asked yourself that?)
At twenty-five I married and had my first child, then two years later I had my second. As a wife and mother I wanted to be the best, so, getting myself back on track with God was the first step. I found a church my entire family could enjoy and grow in. But I still had no idea what God wanted me to do. I’d checked wife and mother off my list of goals, but what now?
At the church I attend, I kept hearing the pastor say the same thing over and over again. “When the earth perishes there will be two things that remain—the Word of God and the souls of men.” “Above all else there are two things God cherishes—the Word of God and the souls of men.” “There are two things that matter in this life—the souls of men and the Word of God.”
Okay, OKAY! The Word of God and souls of men, I hear ya.
I turned to the Word of God and studied the bible, searching for God’s answers for my life. The question that plagued me was—how can my passions line up with God’s? I had a burning desire to write, and not just anything, but to write things that would honor God. It seemed like a perfect fit. I could write things that glorified God and touch the souls of men.
Perfect, right?
I wrote my first, full length novel. Now what? It was God honoring, but what do I do with it? So I did some research and got connected with critique partners and began to query (send a one page summary of my novel to entice an agent to read my manuscript).
What happened next was rejection after rejection. So I sent out more queries and got more rejections.
I’d pray and read The Bible wondering why I was failing. It was abundantly clear to me I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. I was working within my spiritual gifts to glorify God, so why wasn’t I succeeding?
The answer: My definition of the word success was flawed. I thought every rejection letter meant I was a failure.
One Sunday morning the pastor preached on Noah—a story I’d heard a million times, but I’d never heard it preached like this before. I’d never known how long it took Noah to build that ark.
One-hundred-twenty-years Noah worked on that ark. I can imagine him looking up at the blue skies and wondering when God was gonna send the floods. But Noah didn’t give up and quit. He was obedient. Talk about ambition! Here I was complaining to God because after six months my book wasn’t published.
It’s funny how my timing doesn’t always line up with God’s timing, and yet, looking back, I can ALWAYS see God’s timing was so much better than mine.
I’m sure the world viewed Noah as a failure, building this silly boat when there were no signs of a flood. But Noah didn’t care what they thought, and he didn’t base his success on their opinions of him. He wasn’t building his boat for them—he was building it for God.
Through stories like this, The Bible tells me I can be ambitious. If I am glorifying God in my daily life, then in God’s eyes I am a success. Whether I’m a crossing guard, a school bus driver, a stay-at-home mom, or a senator, doesn’t matter to him. What matters is that in all things I bring Him glory. Dollar bills don’t hold any ranking with the big man upstairs.
In the book of MARK, Jesus brought his disciples out into the towns of Caesarea Philippi and spoke with them about what was to come, explaining that his time was drawing near. He gave them warnings to heed after He was gone. He then asked, MARK 8:36- “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
COLOSSIANS tells us in 3:2- Set your affection on things above, not on things of this earth.
COLOSSIANS 3:17- And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name if the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.
These verses have brought me so much peace. I still haven’t published any novels. I still haven’t made a single cent from anything I’ve ever written. Am I a failure? No. God tells me I can keep my ambition, just as long as my goals aren’t for worldly things. I can be who I want to be, as long as who I want to be is a reflection of Christ. What I am doesn’t matter to God. Who I am is what matters.
                                                                                    Written by: Amber Mauldin
Published by GIRL TALK with Len Jae magazine in January 2013

March 20, 2013

One year ago...

I was going through some old posts and I came to this one 'One of those days'. It's always amazed me how everything falls into place when it's meant to--when God plans for it to.

I've always struggled with patience, and the lack there of. Being a writer means having to wait for the just right story, time, and person. And it's hard at times. Sometimes you just feel defeated. I imagine that's how I felt a year ago when I wrote that post. The future can be scary.

But it shouldn't be. This is why faith is essential to my life. Faith is what gets me through those dark days when I feel like nothing is turning out like I planned.

Someone once said, (and I'm paraphrasing b/c I don't know who exactly said it) "Life is like a puzzle. We have all of these random pieces that don't make sense. We try to fit some pieces together but they don't go together. It's hard to understand why we have the pieces we have and not the pieces we want. BUT GOD HAS THE TOP OF THE BOX. HE SEES THE ENTIRE PICTURE. HE GIVES US THE PIECES WE NEED AT THAT MOMENT."

Looking back, it's easy for me to see that both my writing and my faith weren't ready. I'm so glad I didn't give up and throw in the towel.

I took every rejection as God's way of saying, "You're not ready yet."

I've taken this year and really focused on who God is and who He wants me to be. Now don't misunderstand, I am still a flawed human being. The point is, I'm a better human being. I'm a stronger Christian. I've still got a long way to go, but I'm glad God doesn't make it easy for me. I like that He challenges me on a daily basis to improve.

And now, after two years of hitting a brick wall, God has cut out a window for me. I know He hasn't forgotten me and I know it wasn't all in vain.

So for all of you struggling today, chin up. He loves you and He hasn't forgotten you.


March 18, 2013

How you know you're 'this close' to getting an agent

Part 2 - getting close

I posted earlier about how to bring your A-GAME, which can be found HERE. Now that you've brought your A-GAME, here are some signs it's working.

Maybe you're on your first ms, maybe this is your sixth. We are all at different stages. So, how do you know when you're getting close to landing that dream agent? Here are a few signs.

Sign 1:
You've queried several agents and gotten a few full requests. You get your first response from an agent with your full ms and it goes a little something like this:

Dear wonderful writer,

Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to review your work. While I thought your writing was great, I just didn't connect with this story as much as I had hoped. This is a very subjective business, so don't take it personal. I would like to invite you to send me any future works for consideration.

Sign 2:
You enter a contest and DON'T make it, BUT several writers contact you on twitter or your blog to say how much they loved your entry and all of the sudden you have several new writer friends who are also "fans".

Sign 3:
You get your first R&R. This is a huge step in the right direction and a big flashing light that says: YOU'RE ALMOST THERE, JUST A FEW MORE FEET.

Sign 4:
You enter a contest and YOU MAKE IT IN!!!

Now, not just writers are noticing you, but authors, editors, and agents are noticing your tiny little 35-word pitch and opening 250 words out of hundreds! If you can catch their eye with such few words, this is a major sign that says: YOUR WRITING IS SO, SO CLOSE. Heck, your writing might even be ready for an agent. It might simply be putting yourself out there for that 'right pair of eyes at the right time' kind of thing.

Here's a little side note about myself. I entered PitchMadness back in Dec. I wasn't Brenda Drake's first pick, BUT I was in her top three out of who knows how many entries. After the contest was over, AND I DIDN'T GET A SINGLE REQUEST FROM AN AGENT, Brenda sent me an email to tell me how much she loved the premise of my MG ms and if I didn't snag an agent by the time she was done with edits on her ms, she would read my entire ms and crit it because she believed in my story and me that much!!! I wasn't her top pick. I didn't get any requests from agents. But I stood out.

These things are how you know you're THIS CLOSE.

So don't give up. Don't lose heart. You've come this far. Your writing has improved leaps and bounds and you're getting noticed. Walk on with your bad self.


It takes a village to raise a writer

Writing is fun and pretty easy. However, being a great writer is crazy hard and takes a ton of work! Getting noticed by an agent or publisher is nearly impossible. NEARLY. Here's my basic outline of how to bring your A Game to the table.

PART 1 - getting started

The first step is to write. Sit your butt down and let you fingers do the talking. Then, and I can't SHOUT this loud enough, FIND A CRITIQUE PARTNER!!!!!! They are essential to your success. Yes, I'm sure there are a couple of people who are so brilliant they don't need an extra set of eyes to dissect their work, but let's be honest, 99.99999999% of us, including myself, aren't that person. Yes? Okay, now stay with me. DO NOT ASK A NON-WRITER TO CRITIQUE YOUR WORK, ESPECIALLY A FRIEND. Yes, I made this mistake, and here's why it doesn't work: when you write your first novel, it will suck horribly and you will have no clue. You will think it's brilliant, and your poor, dear friend will not know how to tell you, "you are the worst writer in the world!" It puts them in a horrible situation.

BUT a writer will know how to say, "I made this same mistake, but it was pointed out to me the word 'that' doesn't need to be in every single sentence in your entire manuscript." And they will add a :) to let you know their words may seem harsh but they are coming from a loving, helpful place.

Okay, are you still with me? Now you have a honest cp to point out all the rookie mistakes you are making. This isn't someone you know very well, but by the time they've gone through your entire manuscript and hacked it all to pieces with red lines, highlights, and tons of notes saying how terrible it is followed by a  :), that person will be your closest friend.

So, your ms has been dissected, now you need another pair of eyes on it. CALLING ALL BETAS. This is where you ask one or two people to read through your entire ms (which is in much better shape and close to querying). Beta readers won't and shouldn't be nearly as detailed as a cp. They will typically give you their overall thoughts on pace, plot, and characters.

Now for the disclaimer. It's okay to be picky when choosing cps and betas. In fact, you NEED to be picky. Typically, they read your work and offer their FREE critique in exchange for you to do the exact same thing for them. It is an equal exchange of works. So you want to make sure you connect with that person on a writing level because you will be reading their manuscript too. Start with 1-3 chapters. Make sure you enjoy their writing, otherwise you will be miserable when reading 300+ pages. Also, you want someone who writes a similar genre to yours. It doesn't have to be exactly the same, but a picture book writer who has a ms complete at 2k words, might not want to exchange with an adult erotica writer who has a ms complete at 150k words. Right?

Now that you've found cps and betas and have edited your ms so many times you can't see straight, WRITE A QUERY. I will be the first to admit this is a crazy hard thing to do. You've spent months perfecting your ms and to summarize all that into ONE PAGE is just cruel. BUT IT'S IMPORTANT YOU GET THIS RIGHT!!! This is where you want to invite every writer you know to chime in with their opinions. QUERIES ARE HARD. ASK FOR HELP.

Start with the people who've read your ms. Let them get you to a basic starting query. Then send it out into the world. Post it on your blog for your followers to pick at. (And be grateful for all their help).

Once you think it's good. Send it to Matt at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. He is brilliant and SUPER helpful. And you will get to meet a bunch of new writers when he posts it publicly to be ripped to shreds. It's scary, but the end result is what matters!!! Those people are all there to help.

There are other means of help. Queryshark is one I know many people have used, but I haven't personally.

Taryn Albright offers great deals for her professional help at low costs. I recommend using her services. It's just a few dollars for a query crit. I've used her services MANY times. But I do think this should be your final step, not your first.

Think of your query as the heart of your ms. Yes, your ms has life, breath, blood pulsing through its veins, beautiful eyes, a southern drawl, and all that jazz, BUT the query is the extra piece that is needed for it to survive. It seems so small, but without a strong query, it doesn't matter how "great" your ms is.

So, now that you've got a polished ms and a strong query, it's time for research.

Websites like QT make this easy. I don't know a single writer who doesn't or hasn't used QT at some point. This website tells you which agents rep which genres, their requests %, plus it links you to each agent's agency website. Query five to ten agents at a time. DO NOT RUSH. If you get to ten queries and they all come back as a rejection, then you should take another look at your query and opening pages, make adjustments, then send another batch of 10 queries.

And use twitter. I refused to join twitter for the longest time because I "didn't have time". Well, I'm telling you to make time. Twitter is such a great way to get a feel for the agents' personalities.

DO NOT INTERACT WITH THE AGENTS. Sit on the sidelines and silently watch. Most agents do not want to "chat" with some new writer who just joined twitter. Instead, use twitter to connect with other writers and do interact with them. Chat, be friendly, build relationships. Once you've shown yourself to be "normal" and not some Creepy McCreepster,
then maybe from time to time you can comment on an agent's tweet. But please understand, these agents remember names. Don't be a weirdo. They will remember your name. When they get your query, they will hit the delete button. Be polite and professional at all times. You never know who's watching.


You will learn so much by reading other entries that made it. And many times you'll get great tips on your opening page and/or your pitch. Heck, you might even make it through and get to showcase your work in front of agents!! It's a win-win either way. Here are my top three favorite contest blogs.

Miss Snark


Brenda Drake

Go. Write. Be brilliant.


March 13, 2013

My WIP (bloghop)

The lovely, oh so wonderful, can't live without her DMs, Jenna, tagged me in a bloghop.

1. What is the title of your book?


2. Where did the idea come from?

That's a tough one. I'd say it's a combination of many things. I'm a HUGE Supernatural fan! And I'm a huge fan of The Bible. I think the "idea" hit me at church one day. Or maybe it was just during my personal devotions. I really can't remember at this point :/

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Currently I have it labeled as MG horror, but I'm not SURE that's what it actually is.... It's a dark fantasy, and it has a thriller feel to it. I guess if I had to compare it I'd say it's Percy Jackson meets Goosebumps--but with Biblical truths throughout the fantasy.

4. What actors would you pick to play the parts?

Oh wow. Time for some pics :) I'm on a time crunch (gotta clean before hubs gets home and sees I've been playing ALL DAY) So I'm just gonna throw out my two favorite characters :)

Ryder would have to be: Joel Courtney--isn't he adorable?!
Uncle Al: Allen Mitchum AKA-my brother. From day one he was the Uncle. He looks like he would be a super awesome warrior angel, right?
5. What is a one sentence synop of your book?
When twelve-year-old Ryder's visions of the future turn to flashes of his mom's death, he goes on the hunt to stop her murderer.
6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
Huh? What was that? I didn't hear what you asked. Oh hey, look over there. *points at nothing* *quickly changes the subject*
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Umm, well I've rewritten this long before finishing. I really love the characters and the adventure, so I want to make sure it's solid. So my first draft--which was heavily edited--took around four months.
8. What other books would you compare your story to in your genre?
Well, I've already answered that one, I guess. It's a Percy Jackson meets Goosebumps with The Bible thrown in :) Jenna said my main character is like Dean Winchester and Percy Jackson had a kid.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Jesus Christ.
10. What else about your book my pique the reader's interest?
Hmmm. I don't go more than one chapter between "fight" scenes. Among the "monsters" in my story are a possessed raccoon, horse, spiders, cockatrice, "Ancient", and a monster who shall not be named... dun, dun, dun.
Oh, and there are secrets that come out bit by bit throughout the story. Poor Ryder has no clue what's happening around him.