Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rest in Peace, Anne McCaffrey

One of my all-time favorite sci-fi authors, Anne McCaffrey, passed away at age 85 a month ago, on November 21st.  From Restoree, to Killashandra, to The Dragonsinger and Dragon-Rider series, to The Crystal Singer series, to The Ship Who Sang.... Mrs. McCaffrey's books and short stories were the ones I read and re-read the most.

Her women were so very human, and strong, and confident, and smart.  Her stories gave me stability in my younger world of turmoil.   Sanity when all around me there was none.  Confidence when I lacked my own.

She's left quite a legacy--a world that I hope to follow someday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs.

I'll forever be grateful for your contributions to modern technology.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Things I've learned this summer

Yes, I've learned a few things this summer. Some of these actually caught me off-guard.

I like reading more than I like writing. I think this is because I can read lightyears faster than I can write.

When the going gets tough, throw in an unexpected plot-twist. It seems to me, that the newest middle-grade books all employ this solution to problems. When the MC is backed into a corner, instead of working through the issue, the situation suddenly changes. I just have to remember that these authors have been published while I am not.

When doing intensive edits, it's disastrously simple to get frustrated and burned-out. Yes, my plans for the summer were sidelined by my frustration, and an intense longing to get healthier. I swam, I biked to nowhere (stationary bike), and I'm on my way to healthier.

Writing a book on an iPad comes with extra distractions. Games, news, etc...

Reading the news helps with writing sci-fi. For example, I learned about vertical gardening, which is very helpful in an enclosed habitat.

I also learned that I really do believe in my story, even though this fall and winter will bring another intensive rewrite. All I need to do is get started.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Written in 1967, Restoree is Anne McCaffrey's first full-length novel.  Sara starts out as a mousy librarian and soon finds herself as nurse to a strange man on a strange planet.

Her political expertise and technological savvy make this one of my all-time favorite sci-fi novels.

I read the book as a teen, and just completed my first re-read in several years.   Amazing how my perspective has changed.  :-)  The element of discovery and Ms. McCaffrey's flowing wording are what keeps the plot fresh.

This is one book that I'd love to see made into a movie.  We now have the technology to make it beautiful. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Prayer Request

My heart and prayers go out to the folks at the Indiana State Fair and their families.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Living Life to get some more ideas

It's always difficult for me to focus on desk-projects in the summer when there are so many other fun things to do, like see movies and go swimming. Spend time with family. Swat mosquitos, swim some more.

I've also just read two great new books. Jacob Wonderbar... By Nathan Bransford, and Supernaturally by Kiersten White. Both are fast-paced middle-grade books. One sci-fi fantasy and the other paranormal fantasy.

I need to unlock the secrets to making a read fast-paced. My book drags a bit in the middle.

Good news is that school starts in 3 weeks, so I might have a little more time to write, because electronics will be silent during homework time. Is anyone else looking foward to school starting again?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A case of writer's block?

My story is languishing on my table in the front hall.  I haven't been completely idle, though.

I've been researching another person's reality.  "Eat Pray Love" was a truly great read.  I loved the self-discovery, the descriptiveness, and the random trails of thought.

Now, applying that to my MC, I need to let her feelings and thoughts flow.  Memories come from everyday occurrences.  I wonder what would happen if more unusual, or alien, happenings filtered into my tale?

Yes, I found my alien lexicon--"Alienology," right on my own book-shelf.  Figures.  I searched far and wide, and the river of knowledge was in my possession all along. 

So, what mental map can I give my MC to deal with the known and the unknown? 

Completely changing topics, Harper Teen has the first 70 pages of "Supernaturally" available for reading, a full 13 days before book release.   Kiersten has done it again--her quirky, train-of-thought, second book in her paranormal trilogy is off to a great start.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Drawing Board Awaits

Another wonderful Beta reader, who I respect immensely when it comes to children's lit, has flagged many pages of my story for corrections, thereby reinforcing the concept that a diverse selection of beta readers is necessary for success.
My school of beta's includes:
-- A HS English teacher
-- Moms and their daughers
-- A technical writer
-- A children's librarian
-- My sons
-- A friend

So, it's back to the books for another major revision.  My one comfort is that my story will be much stronger when I come out the other side.  Also, I miss doing research.   There must be an alien lexicon out there somewhere on the web?  I will find it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why I write MG Fiction

I wanted to write a YA novel, truly. My first Beta reader, though, was an 8-yr-old.

Try as I might, I couldn't add anything that would make the book "too adult" for her. Therefore MG.

Try as I might, I couldn't get my wordcount much above 30,000 words, about the length of most Nancy Drew books. Therefore MG.

Try as I might, I couldn't write anything that my "dream agent" possibly wouldn't like. Therefore MG.

Then, finding out that an agent said in her blog that NY Publishers are looking for MG, I celebrated!!! Now, I'm working to get my current edit finished, an ace synopsis and query letter written.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cover Art Avatar

Here's what my iPad and I created for Brenda Drake's cover art redesign blogfest contest.  Wish I were skilled enough to create a full book-cover!  :-)

Josin does an awesome job with covers:

See more (and better!) at Brenda Drake's blog:

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Bleary-eyed Editor

Yup, that's me. Ten chapters of light revisions completed in a single sitting. I must be excited to get to another round of queries. Or insane. Or maybe both!

Of course, there is more to do after the edit: synopsis and writing a prize-winning query letter. And, the best part, researching and selecting agents or agencies.

Then, there's decision-making: whether or not to send out exclusive queries. Does anyone have any experience with serial querying and how long to give an agent or agency to respond to an exclusive?

I'm thinking 3 weeks on the first query, and then (hopefully!) 3 weeks on a partial, and up to 6 weeks on a full.

Please let me know what your experiences have been.

Note: Due to the nature of my day-job, I must moderate comments before releasing to my blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beta reader feedback

Yes, she liked it!!!

Beginning and end were good--middle needs some additional action and a hint of romance.
Voicing is good, though my use of past-perfect verb tense needs to be cleaned up (figures, since my last English class at that level of study of verb tenses was way too many years ago).
A few unanswered questions need to be cleaned up. I can do that pretty easily to make this a stand-alone book, with just one or two unanswered questions to leave the possibility of a second book.

I have 3 more beta copies out there that I should have back by the end of June. That gives me July for revisions and then off to another round of querying by August, if all goes well.

While I'm waiting for queries to come back, I can pick up my pen and write a song or two.

And all this while I have a DH and two DS and a more than full-time job. Multitasking is a way of life for me. Does anyone really do one thing at a time anymore?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anticipation--upcoming brunch with a beta reviewer

I'm having brunch with one of my extra-special beta reviewers on Friday.  I have soo many questions for her:

What did she like / what didn't she like?
Where does she recommend that I revise to expand / contract / remove?
Does the plot make sense?
Does she see a clear genre?
Is the voicing truly consistent?
Does my main character grow as someone who is fourteen years old and on a grand adventure would grow?  (Of course I think so, but does someone else see what I see?)
Is the world that I've created interesting and engaging?
Is the main mystery answered by the end of the book?
Are there enough unanswered questions for a second book? For a series?
...and the biggest question of all....Would she purchase this if it were in hardcover with brilliant artwork and in a pretty display case in a bookstore?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fun and Games post

Favorite Card Game:  Go Fish (played with National Parks or National Monuments cards)

Favorite Board Game:  Clue (many different versions)

Favorite PC Game:  Farkle (on Facebook)  (Don't even get me started on Bejeweled or Solitaire!)

Favorite Wii Game:  Wii Fit Plus

Favorite Nintendo DS Game:  Professor Layton (finished the first one...working intermittently on the second one)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ready for another round of Beta reviews

My MG dystopian sci-fi mystery, after a somewhat lengthy hiatus, is now ready for round two of full Beta reviews. Word-count is just shy of 31,000 words, and at 28 chapters, I think this is a good length--comperable to the length of a good Nancy Drew mystery. Not that I could claim that I'm that good of a mystery writer, but at least we match in word-count. ;-)

This edit caught some problems that, after I got past the first two chapters, were easy to fix. Voicing is similar throughout the book. Pacing accelerates towards the end, as it should. Interpersonal relationships are on a MG-compatible level.

Action exists, some self-discovery occurs, and the world is saved. What more could we need?

(Oh, I know.... an agent!)

Patience, Michelle, patience. One more round of reviews, then queries. Yay!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A story of the Turtle

A blog-friend of mine is querying.  This is what I posted on her blog.  (Please forgive the re-post).

This sounds a lot like the 5K race that I walked a few weeks ago. To put it into an analogy....

I prepped for the race, walking my laps on the nice, cushy track. Round and round I went with laps, revising my walk so that it was as perfect as I could make it, lengthening my stride, breathing deeply.

Then came race-day. I dressed for the race in my best, race-like attire, including a neon yellow T-shirt with the name of my son's running-club. I put on my number and attached the timing chip to my shoe, with my husband's help.

We warmed up and lined up like lemmings overflowing an e-mail box. The race started and I, to my disappointment, quickly fell to the back of the pack. Last, dead last. I walked quicker than I had on the track, and immediately started hurting w/cramped shins....but I kept walking.

I huffed and I puffed and I struggled my way through that first half-mile, knowing that no matter what, I wasn't quitting.

By the end of the first mile, I'd forgotten the pain, and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other, doing what I needed to do to finish the race.

Before I reached the half-way turn-around of this out-and-back race-course, other runners approached on their own home-stretch. I cheered them on as best I could.

Grabbing that cup of water at the half-way point felt like heaven to me!

The home-stretch brough with it the realization that this was my own race, that I had to do this alone.

I even tried to pass the walkers in front of me, but that didn't happen. I realized that I was a turtle.

With about a half-mile remaining, my knight in shining armour approached with a bottle of water. Yes, a most-welcome surprise! I was no longer alone. His strength gave me strength.

He walked with me until I was almost back to the finish-line. Then, as if on auto-pilot, hearing cheers from the crowd of 70+ other runners and their families, I ran the last 50 steps or so to cross the finish-line of my very first 5K race!

It wasn't easy, but it was possible.

Calling all English Majors!

Have a question / need help!

I'm editing my book and have found that I use a lot of "be" verbs to help tell the story in past-tense.  What else can I use without (egads!) using adverbs?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Do You Color Your Scenes?

I've discovered that self-editing and amping is soo slow, especially after a stressful day at the office. The last thing that I really want to do is sit down in front of of my iPad, put my fingertips on the docking station keyboard, and type some more.

Now that I've got that complaint out of the way, it's fun to climb back into my story, and update it with a new perspective. It's fun to look around the environment of the scene and be true to the characters, adding more of what is said, seen, and felt.

What do you do to color your scenes? Do you focus on one small detail, or on the bigger picture?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is it a Girl book or a Boy book?

30,000 words, woo hoo! It feels like I've written a hard-earned million words on a book that has taken my thoughts and dreams for over two years now.

I'm a very slow writer, with short poems my preferred style. A sci-fi novel is quite a stretch. My re-write is taking 28 chapters and telling a complete story in each. 1 down, 27 to go!

This re-write takes my MC from age 17 down to age 14, aiming for the middle-grade reader.

My son told me that because my MC puts on lip-gloss in chapter 1, it's a girl-book. Oy!

What indicators do you use in Chapter 1 to tell the reader that the book is geared primarily for one type of reader? (e.g. Boys or Girls?)

Monday, April 11, 2011

I ran out of excuses!

Yes, I finally ran out of excuses to not do my edit, so here I am, working on chapter one (of twenty-eight). My stretch-goal is to have the edit done by early June.

If I can walk a 5K race, (Yes, I turtled my way in last-place, but I FINISHED), then I can amp my book up to 50,000 words.

My goal is to have each of the 28 chapters stand on its own as a complete short-story, with the later chapters building to the book's climactic moments.

It's kinda that way now, but lacking some poetry.

If you know me, I'm all about poems. Not just rhyme, but pacing also.

Poetry has a flow to it. Sometimes it walks, sometimes it runs, and sometimes it just skates around the edges.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Don't be Shy. Share a Talent!

What do you do when you're not writing stories?

Me, I co-write songs and sing a little at my church.

Here's a sample of a couple of songs that I've co-written.

This one is titled, "I Will Always Reach For You" and is sung by my co-writer, Todd Cunningham.

This one is audio-only, and is titled, "God Bless This Country."  Yes, that's me in my first real attempt at a studio recording.   Not bad for a first try!
God Bless This Country (on

Please share a bit about what you do--links to pictures, video, or audio are great. 
PG-rated material (good clean fun) only will be posted.

Thanks y'all!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I love my new dishwasher

Yes, I do!  The dishes are clean and sparkly, and it's so quiet that I can work while it's running.

The moral of the story is that good things definitely come to those who wait!

Maybe, I can apply this to my writing, too?  :-)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

2011 Update

2011 Update: Sometimes, I need to just take a break. My WiP has been read in its entirety by a Beta reader, and chapter 1 has been edited by an English-teacher friend. And there it sits. It's starting to call to me.

Yes, my day-job has been overwhelming at times. Yes, I have two teenagers in the house. Yes, I feel like I hardly see my DH. And yes, my new year's resolution diet has already failed. 

My QChord spends most of its time in the case....

I did discover that my iPad fits on the book-rack of my exercise bike and I can do all my Internet stuff while pedaling. It is just a bit of a challenge to type and pedal at the same time.

In the meantime, I've had a new dishwasher on order since Feb 18th. Wouldn't you know it, my current dishwasher finally did croak over a week ago. Believe me, I will KISS my new DW when it finally arrives and is installed. (Long story as to why it's not here yet...which will remain untold).

Anyway, the first two months of 2011 have zoomed by, hardly with any notice. Hoping to at least grab hold of the caboose and jump on the train soon. I have a book to edit.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Author Showcase!!! Welcome EMHE Viewers!!!

Hi, EMHE viewers!!!

The Feb 20th Zeigler-Hansen Family episode was filmed in Salado, TX in December 2010.  My husband and I brought books for staging the house for the big reveal.  (On some future build, someday, I hope to donate books that I've written!)

Since you've taken the time to click through from the "As Featured On" link from the episode listing that was posted after the show, please stay awhile and read the comments below, as other authors introduce themselves, tell a little bit about what they're working on, and provide a link to their websites.

I'm honored to go first.
My name is Michelle Vann and I'm a part-time author, singer & song-writer, and a full-time wife, mother, and program manager.  My current work is a middle-grade, sci-fi novel, titled "Interstellar Creations."  This book is currently undergoing revisions, and should be available for submission / publication by September 2011.  My website is

Monday, February 7, 2011

Patience is a virtue

Looks like we'll have to wait at least another week for my surprise. Sorry about that.

In the meantime, winter weather keeps changing scheduling for school and social activities. You'd think with all this new-found time, I'd at least have some time to write? Kinda. I did work out, though.

So, we could say that today I exercised my body, and tomorrow I'll exercise my creativity.

Looking forward to rewriting and amping the word count on chapter two of my Interstellar Creations this week.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Almost 1,000 Pageviews

I am humbled. Truly. From my own little corner of the world, my thoughts have been read almost 1,000 times, by people other than myself. Amazing!

In a sense, I am a published author already. We all are.


Have you ever listened to the silence in your home, heard the buzzing of everything electronic, and seen the small points of light from everything electronic? The humm of the freezer reminds me of a lawnmower and the lightswitch on the wall reminds me of a car's running lights.

What I'm trying to say, is that every sight or sound can invoke an involuntary association, or emotion, if we just let it. Our characters in our stories need that same freedom to let their thoughts and feelings roam. It won't be easy, stepping not only through our characters' lives, but also through their memories. Sometimes these memories are good, and sometimes, these memories are bad. Let the memories be strong enough to help drive the story through its twists and turns.

When we're ready, we can share these stories, just as we share our own thoughts and feelings in our blogs and in our comments.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Writing Process

Hi, I'm participating in Shallee McArthur's "What's your writing process" blogfest!  See the links at:

My writing process has been a long haul, about 2 years now on the first book, and I have another re-write to do.  I've learned soo much!  I want to share what I did.

1) Have a dream, or idea, for a story.  Just a kernel will do.
2) Research how to write a book in your genre.  I use a couple of out-of-print guide-books by Foster-Harris. 
3) Analyze other "great writers" in your genre.  What works/what doesn't.  What do you like so much that you want to be sure to include something similar in your books?
4) Write first draft without self-editing, then Read your Book!  See my post on How to Start a Story.
5) Revise and send to beta readers.
6) Revise based on beta readers' feedback.
7) Send out a few trial queries.  Give it 3 months.  (I started ideas for my 'book two' during this time period).
8) Send to another beta reader.
9) Revise again (<--this is where I am now!)

Hope this is helpful to you.  Please comment and let me know.  (I moderate comments so it may take a day to appear).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yes, I'm Still Here!!!

The wonders of an extended vacation have helped me A LOT!

I'm finding a balance that was never in my life before.

Stay tuned for more soon!