2018 A to Z Theme Reveal!


Is this an extra blog post on a Monday?

Yes… yes it is. 🙂

Blogging A to Z is back for year 8, and this will be my personal 6th year.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s a challenge to blog every day in April, except Sundays. Though this year, we will blog on the first Sunday, because sometimes we need to do one Sunday to get to 26 days. Hope that’s confusing enough.

It’s a lot of fun, and not too late to join, for any bloggers out there who might be thinking of giving it a try.

Without further ado, I’d like to announce that my theme is…

Books About __________

Now I just have to write the blogs. I know some people get theirs done in advance, and I always mean to, but… don’t. At least I figured out my theme and have brainstormed most of the categories.

And if you’re someone who participates, please don’t forget to leave a comment with a link to your blog. To make a live link, you type:

<a href=”your blog url”>How you want your blog name to appear</a>

I made a word document with mine to make it easier. I keep it on my desktop so I don’t have to look up how to do it every year.

Happy blogging!


How Querying is Like Online Dating

Back in 2000, I met my husband through an online dating service. Back then, people didn’t admit that they met their significant others online. I never saw the big deal. Was it really classier to say, “We met when he spilled his Miller Lite on me”?

I was lucky enough to have my husband be the first person I met in real life, though he had a different experience. He has many, many stories to tell about bad dates, and I have other friends with stories too.

All this to say that I know about online dating.

I also know about querying because I’ve been doing a lot of it. So, here we go…

Writing The Intro

Writing the intro online is nerve-wracking. Do I include my love of cats right away, or does that make me seem like a crazy cat lady? Should I talk about the scar on my chin where my best friend hit me with a golf club (true story… it was an accident), or leave that for a second date? The query letter is the same way. I really, really want to put in the subplot and some interesting parts, but the query is meant to get an agent interested. It’s a teaser. And with both, I can’t and shouldn’t include everything or it’s overwhelming.

Finding A Match

So I have the query letter (or my intro), and next, I need to find a match. Online, I put in my interests and some facts about me, and then an algorithm shows me who might be a good fit. For queries, I scour manuscript wishlist or query tracker or #mswl or a number of other websites. I find an agent who likes YA and horror or thrillers, and then I look closer. Does this agent like the same kinds of books I do? Does that agent seem approachable? I look at the photo of him or her and wonder, “Is this the kind of person I could really talk to?”

The Match

Once I find someone who might be a good fit, I take my basic query letter and personalize it based on what I know about the agent. Or maybe not. Some of them say they prefer just the pitch. Some want something signaling I’ve done my homework. Some don’t specify a preference, so I’m left to guess what they might want. When I pitch (or respond to someone’s profile), there’s that balance of how much to be myself and how much to be formal and distant. Query letters should be professional, but agents also say that if you can include voice in the query letter, it’s helpful. So, I have to be two things at the same time, and really, I’d rather be reading. But no success story ever started with, “And then I decided not to follow through.” So BOOM, I hit send!

The Wait

Luckily, as far as I know, agents have no weird rule about playing it cool and not responding to a query letter right away. I’ve gotten responses as quickly as hours later, and as slow as months later. Some agents never respond. This is a weird time. There’s all that possibility that maybe I’ll find THE ONE. Each time I send a query letter off, it’s a mix of excitement and nervousness. Will this agent (or potential date) like this first impression of me?

The Response

The response is always a moment where I don’t know how to feel. Most positive and negative responses start with “Thank you,” so I never know from the opening if it’s going to be, “I liked it, send pages,” or “Not for me.” The worst is probably no response, when I really, really thought an agent was THE ONE because they specifically said they wanted books that channeled Christopher Pike, and then nothing? I really thought we could have had a connection. Did the agent think my query was too long/ too short/ not enough voice/ a stupid premise? It’s like wondering if your potential date didn’t like the fact that you mentioned you hate red velvet cake.

Friend Zoning

In dating terms, this is when you think someone is cool, but you just want to hang out with them and not date them. Sometimes this is mutual, and sometimes not. I’ve had a few responses from agents who read my manuscript and gave a list of specific things they loved about it, BUT ultimately just didn’t connect to it. This confused me at first, until I realized that it’s like falling in love. Sometimes the chemistry is there, and sometimes it isn’t. We can’t make chemistry happen. I’ve read perfectly well-executed books that I hated and my friends loved. And they’ve read lovely books that I adored and they just didn’t. So I get it. And I appreciate the honesty up front that it wasn’t love. Because I want an agent who’s as enthusiastic about my book as I am.

Everyone’s Journey Is Different

Some people find true love on their first date, and some have to go through hundreds of horrible dates before they find THE ONE. Some people go through lots of perfectly okay dates that don’t go anywhere, and some people think they’ve found a connection, but then don’t. I know fellow writers who seemed to find their agents easily and some who went through hundreds of queries before they found a match. I’ve read stories of authors who thought they found THE ONE, only to later realize it wasn’t a good fit. But I truly believe that in any endeavor: love, writing, getting published, it’s about persevering, to keep trying, to believe that it will happen. Success and happiness aren’t easy, and they probably shouldn’t be. Because every step of the path teaches something wonderful, and I’m soaking up all that learning. Someday I’ll look back at every agent who rejected me, every agent who friend zoned me, and I’ll know that it had to happen exactly that way.

Did I miss any steps in the query/ love process? Do you agree or disagree that it feels like this?

The PostSecret Live Show

I don’t even remember how I fell in love with PostSecret. I think someone mentioned it to me, and I checked it out. It’s not part of my routine to check the Sunday Secrets. I own all the books.

When I went to Virginia to visit my in-laws a few years ago, the only thing I wanted to do was go to the PostSecret exhibit at the Postal Museum.

I’m obsessed. I’m aware, and it’s okay.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, PostSecret was started by Frank Warren in 2005 as an art project. He gave out postcards and asked people to write a secret on them. His goal was to get 365 postcards. He got way more than that.

He started posting secrets he received on his blog. They update every Sunday (hence, Sunday secrets). I enjoy reading the secrets, and I keep a folder of my favorites to use as writing prompts.

I’ve never made it to a PostSecret Live show. I’ve always wanted to, but it seemed that every time one came to town, I already had a prior commitment, or I was going to be somewhere else.

I finally made it this past Tuesday.

When I got there, I realized that I hadn’t known what to expect. I didn’t have any expectations of it, but to me, that was part of the fun.

We were set up in a small theater in San Antonio. The show started with three actors speaking various “secrets” as if they were their own. Their voices broke with laughter or tears. It was powerful.

They flashed secrets on the screen. At the intermission, they encouraged people to tweet about PS #pssantonio, then they flashed tweets with the hashtag on the screen. In the ladies’ room, they had post-it notes and pens. Women wrote on the post-its and put them up on the mirror.

They also had postcards for people two write on, then after break, the actors read the secrets of people in the audience. Then more acting and secrets on screen.

As a finale, they had a Q&A with Frank Warren and with the actors. After that, a book signing where I got to meet the man behind it all.

Frank Warren never intended for PostSecret to become a national phenomena. But I think that it speaks to the fact that people want to make connections with one another. Our secrets isolate us, but they don’t have to. As Frank said, any secret anyone has is shared by someone else.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 6.19.47 PM

I always love live events because the emotion in the room changes the event. In this case, I heard people laugh, gasp, or go hushed after various secrets were read. People cried, and no one cared because others were crying too.

This was a bucket list item for me, and I wasn’t disappointed.


First Kisses

I’m writing a special Thursday post because Miss Snark’s First Victim is featuring 15 first kisses from unpublished manuscripts to be critiqued. You can find them here. I’m #12 with an excerpt from my young adult novel, Not Dead Enough.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer at least some romance in books I read. To me, love is part of what makes life so grand, and it’s wonderful to read about people falling in love, even against the backdrop of things going horribly wrong. (Romance + horror = happy me)

The 15 excerpts are a maximum of 250 words, so they’re all quick reads. Stop by and read one or two and leave a comment. At least 15 unpublished authors would love the encouragement and/or constructive criticism!

Five Things Friday- January 2018

Starting today, I’ll be participating in Five Things Friday on the last Friday of the month.

In the past, my focus has been on more of what I’ve been reading, but since I now post updates on that every Monday, it would get a bit redundant. Because personal posts were pretty popular last year, I thought I’d change the focus a bit.

One- What I’m Writing

Right now, I’ve been working on my newest YA horror novel, set in a post-apocalyptic world with some terrifying creatures. I’m also querying my last novel, and have a short story that was just accepted for publication. Stay tuned…

Two- Random Fact About Me

I’m a vegan at home. When I go out to eat, it’s a cheese extravaganza! I use cream in my coffee! But at home, we try to stick to no animal products.

Three- What I’m Grateful For This Month

I’m grateful that my animals are currently all healthy. I’m grateful that I get along with my sister-in-law and her husband, and that we have our annual “Christmas” celebration every January. I’m grateful for my fireplace and stereo, which make for a cozy and wonderful reading experience. I’m grateful that my house is finally unpacked and organized.

Four- When I Wasn’t Reading

This month, I was mostly cleaning up and organizing my house, or going on walks with my dog. This past week we had our annual “Christmas” celebration, and we were playing board games and laughing a lot. I went to my first hockey game, Texas Stars vs. the San Jose Barracudas. I loved it, and got to see the home team win in overtime.


Five- Favorite Picture This Month


Our very patient 17 year old kitty let us line up Exploding Kittens cards on her. I guess she wanted to play too!


My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2017 and My Plan for 2018

I got a lot of new subscribers in 2017, which was nice. (I know you’re there, even if you’re not talking… come join the conversation!)

2017 was a year I tried to settle into a groove with blogging. In previous years, I tried to do daily (which was way too much) and other times when I had no schedule. In 2017, I tried to post on Tuesdays and Fridays. For 2018, I’m going to go back to a Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday format. Because of the interest in book challenges, I’m going to try to check in once a week with what I’m reading and my progress on various challenges. Starting next week, that will be on Mondays. (Happy New Year, BTW!)


Most of the popular posts from this list are from 2017, but some are older (some much older). Without further ado, my top 10 from this year…

  1. 11 Best Non-Fiction Books About Mental Illness You have no idea how happy I am to see this at #1. People are becoming more interested in mental illness, and I think that’s a wonderful step toward conversation and destigmatizing what so many people struggle with.
  2. 10 Best Novels from Over 100 Years Ago This post is from 2011 and has consistently been one of my most popular posts. It’s a little sparse, back when I just made lists but didn’t consistently post pictures or say anything about the books. But… I guess that’s what Amazon is for?
  3. What Bullying Looks Like as An Adult Again, another post I’m happy to see as popular. We really, really need to stop telling children no to be bullies and then turn around and do it ourselves. Take a look to see the subtle ways you might be participating in bullying.
  4. Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park A post from 2016. I’m so against book banning. I think that any book that really speaks to someone is going to make someone else mad, and that’s okay. Kids need books like these. Eleanor & Park is a book I wish had been around when I was in high school
  5. Book Challenges 2018 A very recent post, but it just goes to show how interested in book challenges people are becoming. I’m going to try to be better about posting updates on my progress next year. Join me and feel free to update me on your progress too!
  6. Open Letter to the Writer Who Left My Writer’s Group You know, I almost didn’t write this post. I hate that I may have contributed to discouraging another writer. But it wasn’t done out of a spirit of meanness, and I think that it’s important to admit to my mistakes so I can become a better person. None of us are perfect. And even though the writer who this letter was intended for will probably never see it, maybe someone else who needs to see it will.
  7. 5 Things Not to Say to a Writer This post is from 2013, and I remember what made me write it. I was still working at crisis back then. We had some down time and were sitting around. I was working on a story and started bouncing ideas off my Arizona bestie, who is not a writer. He pretty much said everything on this list, and it made me crazy. When I showed him the blog post, he laughed.
  8. Promoting Kindness This post was inspired by all the vitriol I see (even among friends) over differing opinions regarding politics.
  9. 10 Best Fiction Books About Mental Illness I love that more people are trying to write characters with mental illnesses; I just prefer that people get it right. Exposure to fiction is known to increase empathy, so reading about characters with mental illness definitely can promote understanding and reduce fear of these disorders.
  10. The Pros and Cons of Writing in Coffee Shops Spoiler alert… it’s not my thing!

Doing a very scientific analysis, it seems that my most popular posts are lists of books and more personal type posts. I’ll try to keep that in mind as I’m brainstorming topics next year.

Are there any topics you’d like to see me write about? Any topics you’d like less of? I’m always open to suggestions, so feel free to comment on this (or any post) or email me at doreeweller@gmail.com.

Thanks for coming along for the ride that was 2017 for me! I’m hoping that 2018 will be even better.

5 Things I Learned When I Critiqued Harry Potter

For awhile, my critique partner and I were reading and critiquing published novels. One day, he suggested critiquing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a book we’d both enjoyed. I’ve read every Harry Potter book multiple times, and while I know they’re not perfect, I also know that they’re wonderful.

But an odd thing happened when I read Harry Potter with an eye to critique it. I found tons of flaws. If JK Rowling had brought the manuscript to group, I would have probably shredded it.

It taught me valuable lessons that have somewhat changed the way I approach critiquing and being critiqued.

  1. No book, no matter how wonderful, is perfect. These books are among the most popular of all time. A book doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to invoke that magical connection with the reader.
  2. If you look for the flaws, you’ll find them. The “flaws” in Harry Potter were always there, but I wasn’t looking for them, so all I saw was what I enjoyed. When I started looking, they were everywhere.
  3. Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold.   (paraphrased) Proverbs 11:27

  4. Flaws don’t interfere with the reading experience. I’d never noticed any of the so-called flaws before I went looking for them. In some books, I can’t ignore the flaws. They’re so glaring and make me angry. But any flaws in Harry Potter melted into the background because the story, the characters, and the setting are so engaging that the rest were just details.
  5. When writers bring work to group to be critiqued, I should balance looking for flaws and enjoying the story. It’s not an easy thing to do, read with both my critic hat on and my reader hat. I want to point out as many “flaws” as possible so that the writer sees them. That doesn’t mean they have to change everything I point out, just that they should be aware of them. At the same time, I need to ask myself, “Would I read this story if I weren’t critiquing it? Why or why not?” It makes a difference to what I point out and what I choose not to.
  6. My story is never going to be perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. When other group members ask me questions I don’t have answers to, or that I just didn’t put in the story, I feel myself tightening up, like I should have all the answers to every possible question anyone can think of. (Overachiever alert!) JK Rowling didn’t answer every question I ever had about the Harry Potter universe, and I still love those books.
  7. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” -Voltaire

  8. Critiquing Harry Potter was probably one of the best things I could have done. I can know that there are flaws and still love it. (And read past them when I reread it in the future.) Have you ever tried critiquing a published novel? What did you learn from it?