About hvandyne

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The “Do You Like Me” Note – Literary Agent Style

I was in first grade. The year was 1980. I remember very little from first grade, but this is the one thing I do remember: I had a crush on a boy named Mike. So, I did what every kid in the 80’s probably did at least once in their life. I wrote him a “Do You Like Me?” note. Three check boxes. One for the “Yes” (please, please, let him check that one!), the “No” (heartbreak sure to ensue), and the “Maybe” (not what I wanted him to check, but I could live with it.) I signed my name to the bottom, and ran over when no one was looking to shove it in his mailbox.

Then I hid. I can’t remember where. Behind the bookshelf across the room, maybe? I remember sweating when I saw him heading in that direction. True love at last! He pulled it out. He unfolded it. His nose scrunched up in a position I’ve never seen before (does love look like that?). He crumpled it up and threw it in the trash can.


Lesson learned, it was the last “Do You Like Me” note I wrote.

Well, until I wrote a book 31 years later. Then I had to write more notes. Lots more. This time in the form of a query letter to an agent. Every time I would hit the send button on one I’d think “Didn’t you learn this lesson already?” The good thing about it being emailed is that I don’t have to see what happens on the other end. The agents may scrunch their nose when they read it and hit that cute little trash can image to toss it in the virtual garbage or reply with the dreaded form rejection, but I don’t have to see it happening.

Well, I’ve gotten a few replies marked “Yes” (full requests), a lot marked “No” (rejection), and a few “Maybe” (partial requests).

There is one thing I can tell you — for me, the anticipation, excitement, and fear is still the same after all of these years. When I see that little (1) next to my query inbox telling me I have a new reply I cross both fingers, my legs, and hold my breath while I open it.

The best news is that for now (and hopefully forever!) I never have to send out another “Do You Like Me” note. I’ll post again this week with my happy ending story! 🙂

My Crafty Husband

I love the things my hubby makes (yummy dinners, beautiful children, etc.). Check out Mr. Crafty’s new Christmas ornament he made to hang on our tree! He dug out an old NES controller (we no longer had the system), put in a hanger on the top and viola – instant ornament!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!

Oh yeah, about my feet.

September is Charcot-Marie-Tooth awareness month. And since most of my friends and family really have no idea what it is that’s wrong with me (OK, well, one of the things!) I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you a little about CMT.

Charcot, Marie, and Tooth were the three scientists who discovered the disease, which is why it is called what it is. The disease has nothing to do with my teeth. We call it CMT because it’s shorter and easier to say/remember. In this case, CMT does not stand for Country Music Television (although as much as I can’t stand country music, I’m kind of glad I don’t have that CMT!)

Here’s the low down of what it does and a really quick health lesson (because I nearly flunked Health class in high school – go figure.) Your brain sends signals to your nerves to move your muscles. CMT affects the nerves in your extremities and makes them malfunction. So when my brain sends a signal to my brain and says “Hey, you’re walking now, move that right foot!”, sometimes my nerve gets it and does nothing. It doesn’t make the muscle move even though my brain told it to. You can imagine the problem that creates. I think my foot is taking a step forward, and maybe my leg moves like it should, but my foot muscles don’t move because it didn’t get the memo. And I fall down. Super-fun, right? It also causes all kinds of pain and muscle cramps. Last night my arms and legs were cramping horribly so I just took lots of Advil and went to bed.

So because those muscles don’t get the workout they need, they atrophy and cause my arms and legs to deform. My feet are pretty bad off. They’ve turned in at the ankles, and my ankles are really weak. So far my hands haven’t deformed but are just very weak. It doesn’t mean they won’t atrophy eventually, but for now they’re straight. When I was first diagnosed 11 years ago their solution for me was to break all of the bones in both of my feet and fuse them all back together the right way. I know a few people who have had this done and love that they did. I also know a few people who’ve had this done that hate that they did. For me, just the thought makes me get all queasy so I’ll pass on that one. Instead I wear leg braces up to the knee so that I don’t fall down. They are like plastic miracles for me! I still can’t run, but I don’t have to worry about falling for the most part. And they kind of push my feet back to the way they *should* be. Sure, I can only wear New Balance tennis shoes (so if you see me in a dress and tennis shoes, I’m not trying to make a fashion statement – promise!)

And don’t worry, it’s nothing you can catch. It was passed down to me from my dad, and his dad, and so on and so forth. They didn’t have it nearly as bad as I do, I guess I just got lucky. 🙂 Could I pass it on to my girls? Maybe I already have. There’s a 50/50 chance. But the good thing is that it doesn’t get progressively worse with each generation, so even if they do end up having it – they may never show a sign of it. There’s no cure and no treatment. Yet. I keep hoping that someday there will be, but the reality is that CMT is somewhat rare and there just isn’t the funding available to make huge medical breakthroughs.

My reality is this. I’m a half-glass-full kind of girl. I’m not sad (except when the pain is really bad), and I do believe God had a reason for giving me this. Haven’t quite figured out what that is yet, but I know it’s there. I’ve figured out that stress is BAD for it, so I sold my high-stress company and got a low-stress job. I try really hard to stay away from stressful situations. And the best part is that I have THE most unbelievably loving family and group of friends who love me and support me – I couldn’t ask for anything more in life. I’m a happy girl and life is good, always.

UPDATE: September 2014
I changed my mind. Last summer I had my worst (left) foot completely rebuilt. It was a 9-hour surgery. Now, a year later, I’m glad I did. The difference in my foot is amazing and I couldn’t be happier with it. Maybe someday I’ll get up the guts to fix the other one. 😉

Knee Deep in Urine and Swagbucks

I’ve been writing, writing, writing. I was halfway through my current novel and was happy with the progress. But then a few days ago



I had an idea for a novel that I can’t not write. I can’t fall asleep at night without thinking about it. I can’t drive my car without thinking about it. I can’t take a shower without thinking about it. I hate to abandon the other novel I’ve been working on, but my brain won’t let me work on it anymore. I’m just going to put it on hold for a little while until this one gives my brain a rest.

I love doing research and this one is making me do lots. Internet research does wonders for my Swagbucks account and my Nook account balance, so I’m a happy girl right now.
Since I’m not too far into it yet, and it could change I hate to say what the books about so soon. But I thought it might be fun to post a few of my internet searches while I’m working on it to give you a few little clues. So here goes – two of the search terms I’ve done today…
1 – What year did the Vietnam war end?
2 – How to hide the scent of urine.
Oh yes, because of the title of this blog post you knew the word ‘urine’ had to be in here somewhere. Have a great weekend – I’m heading back to the book holding me prisoner at the moment. I get to meet with my critique group tomorrow and I can’t wait to hear what they think of the first chapter! Until later…

Back to My Super-Secret-Double-Life

So if you got here via my website you will know that I’ve always had a slight obsession with Wonder Woman. With a maiden name of Wendling, I’ve kind of always been stuck with a “W”. So “Wonder Woman” just kind of worked, you know?

And now, with the third week of school safely under my (gold) belt, I feel like I can slide back into my super-secret-double-life.
See, I’ve got this ultra-cool job that lets me take my girls to school and work there until 10:30. Then I have until 3pm to do WHATEVER I WANT! No one tugging on my shirt, “Mom! Play Lego’s with me!”, or little hands leaving the milk out on the counter before disappearing so I have no choice but to shuffle out to the fridge and put it away before it spoils. And the WHATEVER I WANT! is typically writing. It’s my afternoon-super-secret-double-life.
Yes, you heard me right. I like to write. LOVE to write. (Notice how its another “W”? Of course you did!) Having my fingers flying over the keys on my keyboard, creating life (well, close to it!). It’s about as close to heaven as I can get right now. I love falling in love with these people I create, adore putting them in crazy situations and figuring out how to get them out without killing them.
And I’ve found inspiration at school to get back in the swing of it…in the form of an 8-year old girl named Cara who happens to be my daughter’s BFF. I write a lot, but I think she’s been out-writing me! She wants to be the next J.K. Rowling and I love watching her energy and excitement about writing – so much that she makes me want to get back to my 2,000 words a day.
Now if I can just finish this blog post…right. NOW.

Books Can Talk (or at least write)

Wow – where did the summer go?

Today was our first day of school for the new school year and the past few weeks I’ve been hard at work getting the library in tip-top shape. Decorating bulletin boards, new books in the system, and setting up new users among lots of other things.

Last year I made a sign and put it on the library door for the first day of school that said “Welcome back – the books missed you!” Quite a few of the kids got a kick out of this, so this year I made a sign for the bookshelves from the books.

My third-grader thought it was hilarious, and I suppose if one kid finds it funny maybe more will too. We’ll see, the first library classes invade the room on Friday. Can’t wait!

Barbie has CMT (an unofficial diagnosis)

I’ve never kept the details of my Charcot Marie Tooth disease a secret from my girls. With each having a 50/50 chance of having it themselves, it wouldn’t be fair to them not to talk about it. I want them to be as informed as possible should they ever show symptoms.

There is a way we could tell if they have CMT now. We could get them genetic testing. But when I had mine done a few years ago, I got a bill for $15,000. I called the insurance company as soon as I opened the envelope to tell them they must have made a mistake and put one too many zero’s in there. She laughed and informed me that there were two tests they had to run, each for $7,500. So two children, at $15,000 each would be $30,000. And really, the money isn’t so much of an issue. It has always come down to this. Would my husband and I love them or treat them any differently if we knew they had it? Absolutely not. So we’re fine with not knowing.
When my 8-year-old was sitting with me this morning playing with her Barbie doll, she said “Hey look Mom – Barbie has CMT just like you!” and pointed to her feet. I have VERY high arches, a result of the disease. I had to laugh. Back when I was her age our Barbie’s had even higher arches than her Barbie does. But she’s so right. Barbie does kind of look like she has CMT. I just wish I could get all of the custom-made shoes that Barbie has!
Side note: Back when I started this blog and I was making the labels/categories for the posts I refrained from making a “CMT Goodness” label. Because really, how could an incurable, disabling disease be considered good. But as I think I’ve mentioned before – I’m a half-glass-full kinda girl. I can find something good in just about everything. And I do believe there are good things that have come from my having CMT. One day I promise to post a list. And as of today, I’m adding a new category to the blog – CMT Goodness. 🙂

Lucky Girl

What a lucky girl I am!

I threaten hubby within an inch of his life not to buy me flowers (why waste money on something that’s going to die?), but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get them.
When my mom showed up at my door yesterday I was blown away with this gorgeous, beautiful bouquet of flowers she had for me. The card read “You are such a good mom and a hard worker. Hope you have a great day.” Well, how could I not have a great day looking at and smelling these all day?
I’ve started another revision on Sophia, which after revising it so much already I would normally groan, but I now know exactly what it needs and can’t wait to make it so much better! SO EXCITED! Off to write – hope you have a great day too!

Anatomy of a Writers Business Card

Next weekend I’m excited to be attending the Central Ohio Scarlet & Gray SCBWI Writer’s Conference! I can’t wait to soak up the information and hopefully stay far away from embarrassing situations this time (previous post).

The last time I went to a conference I made some print-your-own business cards the morning I left. When I ripped them apart, the sides left perforations and ultimately I was too embarrassed to give more than one out. So this time, I was more prepared and designed some professional looking ones to print cheaply through Vistaprint. But I hit a bump – what information do I need on them? A Google search for “writer’s business cards” didn’t wield me many results or helpful examples. So I pretty much winged it and thought I’d share the results.

A – Name
Don’t forget it. And don’t forget to make it stand out – CAP it,bold it, throw a different color on it, stick it at the top. Your name is one of the most important things you have going for you. Use it and make it look GOOD!
B – Title
So what are you? Writer seems pretty general, I’m sure you could probably think of something more creative than I did. But I’m a simple girl (hubster’s nickname for me is “mashed potatoes without gravy). Whatever it is you do – be sure to put it on there and let the world know.
C – Picture
I was on the fence about this one. I HATE pictures of myself and normally don’t use one if I don’t have to, but the point of the card is to help people remember/recognize me. Like it or not, my mug is one of the best ways to do that. It’s so much easier to put a face with a name, isn’t it?
D – Book Name
I hesitated on this one. If your book is already published or at least agented I would say “Go for it!” because its a smaller chance of you wasting your cards. But I’m still working on those two things for SOPHIA. So say I order 100 cards, give out twenty then decide to trunk the novel down the road. I’ll have to throw the other 80 cards out, won’t I? But I want people I meet to remember the book, so I made the (possibly silly) decision to put it on there. If SOPHIA doesn’t end up getting published then I’ll just use the backs for doodling in my art classes.
E – Contact Information
No questions on this one – you NEED this. The person holding the card needs to know how to get in touch with you, that’s the whole point of the card, right? I figured I didn’t need my snail-mail address but did include my website and email addresses. I also put my phone number (that I erased for this posting).
F – Extra Goodness
Make it look like you! Or in my case, I made it look like my website. Same colors, design elements, fonts, etc. If someone has been to my website before, chances are they might look at this and think “I’ve seen this before.” Branding is huge and having coordinating marketing efforts help establish your “brand”. Even if you can’t do the same design, using the same colors would help.
And last of all – you want to make your business card (and you!) stand out. Just something as simple as flipping the card 90 degrees will do that for you. Now don’t get me wrong – don’t go printing your card on toilet paper or something crazy like that. Like your query letter, synopsis, ms, etc. it still needs to look professional and presentable. Sometimes it just needs a little something extra to make them remember your card (and you!).

Phases of a Critique

My adorable and very expressive five-year-old is demonstrating my second phase of a critique.


I know critiques are a necessary evil. I get that.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I still get the clammy hands as the feeling of dread washes over me. It’s so hard for me to click on that email that I know is going to tell me things about my ms I’m not going to like. I know the phases I’m about to go through, and while I hope I get through them fast – sometimes they seem to take forever.
PHASE 1 – Wait, what? (Disbelief)
They say love is blind. If you love your manuscript as much as your own children, then there are problems in it you’re just not going to see. Like when you don’t notice that your significant other hasn’t showered in three days (OK, well maybe you’ll notice that one).
I had a critique on my ms once that said, “Geez this girl faints at the drop of a hat. NO NO NO. I’ve got to say you’ve maxed out on the fainting business.” My first reaction: “Slowly step away from the crazy juice”. Then the second phase kicks in.
PHASE 2 – Meet me in the parking lot in 20 minutes (Anger)
“She faints twice. TWICE! And its a quirk!”
If I’m lucky I morph from disbelief to anger in the matter of a few minutes. Sometimes it takes me days. Some people may never even reach phase two, they just plain don’t believe it even if it is a valid point. At this phase I feel like yelling, screaming (see photo above), and the “for better or for worse” part of my marriage vows kick into effect because luckily I don’t take it out on who critiqued it. I take it out on my husband. My husband, the quiet man who brilliantly listens and nods his head like the best of them. He’s been around me enough to know that he should just ride out the storm, agree with my screams and hope that phase 3 gets here super-quick.
PHASE 3 – Oh! Pounds head against the wall (Comprehension)
Once I read through my manuscript again I noticed a pattern I hadn’t noticed before. Yes, my MC fainted twice, but the intruder in her room got knocked unconscious in chapter two and her love interest got knocked out in chapter four (and that was just the beginning of the book). I was taking the easy way out again and again and didn’t realize it.
I think that’s the major reason not everyone can get out of this phase – some critiques are very hard to decipher. When I first read her comment, I assumed she meant my main character. But you need to have the ability to think outside the box. Could they have meant something other than what you thought they meant? Sometimes this phase takes me the longest. But once I put my anger aside long enough to realize the true meaning of the comment, its an easy transition to the last phase.
PHASE 4 – Butt in chair (Revise!)
Once I get through the first 3 phase, phase 4 is like heaven. Luckily I’m the fix-it queen. Once I know the problem, I can hunker down and get it fixed. Life is GOOD! (Well, until the next critique hits the ol’ inbox throwing me back to phase 1 again).
You’re not going to agree with every critique. I’ve gotten a few that I just flat-out didn’t get through phase 3 with, and I’m OK with that. I know I’m not going to agree with everyone. The bottom line is that its YOUR book and you need to make the changes YOU feel comfortable with. Wait, another email? THAT’S why the hubster went down in the basement to drum. Smart man.