Healthy Writer's Club: When things don't go according to plan

Dec 14, 2012

So. Hi. Ahem.

I have nothing to report on the Healthy Writer's Club this week.

My goal of running a half-marathon in the spring is basically...not gonna happen. I'll most likely be pushing it back until fall. All my glorious plans have tanked. See, I didn't plan on several weeks of sickness. Or a surprise vacation. Or a baby that is five months old and STILL won't sleep more than 3-4 hours at a time. Thus, there are whole weeks where I haven't been able to run as much as I've wanted (or at all, like this week).

The perfectionist in me screams that I'm FAILING, but I'm doing my best to chant the mantra, "Plans change. It's okay. You're doing your best."

In fact, plans have changed quite a bit around my neck of the woods. As of last week, we made a sudden decision to move. At the end of the month. It's a good decision, but it's sure thrown a lot of things for a loop. Both writing and exercise are kind of on the back burner for the rest of the month.

And that's okay. Christmas is coming. So is life in a bigger apartment (with a SEPARATE ROOM for the baby. And a DISHWASHER. I'm dying.). Lots of great stuff is afoot. Plans have changed, but change doesn't mean fail. In fact, sometimes change can be what we need to succeed. It doesn't matter I have to push back my half-marathon by several months. I can still run it. It doesn't matter I have to put a hold on writing for a few weeks. It'll refresh me and get me into a stronger groove. In the end, it can be exciting when things don't go according to plan.

So, my friends, plans change. It's okay. You're doing your best. How do you cope when plans change? I'll see you all in January-- what with the move and the holidays, I don't expect I'll have much blogging time until then! Hope you all have a merry Christmas and wonderful holiday season!

The Summer I Became a Nerd-- Cover Reveal!

Nov 30, 2012

Today is the cover reveal for my good friend Leah Miller and her book, The Summer I Became a Nerd!
I totally love this cover.


"On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl's body isn’t just unknown, it's anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.

Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever."

Born and raised in northern Louisiana, Leah Rae Miller still lives there on a windy hill with her husband and kids. She loves comic books, lava lamps, fuzzy socks, and Cherry Coke. She spends most of her days reading things she likes and writing things she hopes other people will like.

This is exactly the kind of contemporary YA I love, and I can't wait to read it! It releases May 7, 2013. You can pre-order at Amazon and BN, or add to your Goodreads list! And keep an eye on Leah's blog, because there will be a Goodreads contest as launch nears.

In Healthy Writer's Club news...all is not going according to plan. Illness, vacations, and Baby Noodles' opinion that sleep is for wimps mean I'm way behind on my half-marathon training schedule. I'm likely going to have to go for a race in the fall. Which is okay. As long as I can get running again-- all I did this week was half an hour of P90X. Someone tell this baby to SLEEP, please!

So, my friends, what do you think of Leah's cover? Are you as excited for the book as I am?

The Hard Truth About Writing: Good is not good enough (but you can be better than good)

Nov 27, 2012

Okay, folks. Today I've got some hard truth. But keep in mind that "hard" doesn't mean "bad"-- so stick with me a bit. I can always find a silver lining. ;)

While working on revisions, I had a conversation with my agent. She mentioned that in a lot of cases, editors are turning down good books they would have picked up not long ago. I joked that I'd better work hard to make my book "much more muchier" (Mad-Hatter-style) so it could really stand out.

And that's it, friends. That's the hard truth. Writing a good book, even writing a really good book, is not good enough. Thanks to wonderful writing blogs, writing books, and writing conferences, with some hard work, anyone can become a good writer. I firmly believe that-- and actually, I firmly believe that's a good thing. It means if we really want this dream, we have the tools to achieve it, no matter who we are. That makes my optimistic little heart happy.

Here's the flip side: it's also an equalizer. If anyone can be a good writer, it's a heck of a lot harder to stand out. It's a heck of a lot harder to get a thumbs-up from an editor/agent. And if you self-publish, it's almost more important. The self-pub market is glutted with a mix of good, mediocre, and terrible. If you want to sell more than a few books, you HAVE to stand out in that crowd. You can't be good. You have to be extraordinary.

So, then. Be extraordinary.


If only it were that simple, right? But you know, I truly believe if we want it bad enough, we CAN be extraordinary. I believe we were designed to be extraordinary. It takes hard work. It takes faith in yourself. It takes sacrifice. And that's what makes it worth it.

Granted, good books and bad books and mediocre books get published every day. Which is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. Here's how I think of it, though: If I have it in me to be extraordinary, why wouldn't I shoot for it?

So, my friends, don't sell yourself short. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to get better and better every day. Work hard. And be extraordinary. What will you do to be extraordinary today?

Writing Deeper: Turning a Character's Fail into a Win (and Vice Versa)

Nov 20, 2012

I'm lucky enough to have a brilliant and beautiful sister-in-law who is a fellow YA writer. She and I have attended conferences together, swapped stuff to read, and commiserated over writerly things others just don't get. She's author David Farland's assistant, and occasionally does crazy-awesome things like fly to New York just to meet J.K. Rowling. And she had some brilliant insights on my post about try/fail cycles, which I had to share with you all. So here for your reading pleasure is Kami McArthur!


"I had this sudden revelation that a character can succeed and fail at the exact same time, because characters have long and short term goals.

In Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter's main, overarching goal is to find out what Malfoy is up to, which he fails at throughout the book. In Knockturn Alley, Hermione goes to Borgin and Burkes to try to find out what Malfoy wanted fixed and she fails, so it's a fail for the short term goal and the long term one. But on the Hogwarts Express, Harry eavesdrops on Malfoy (short term goal) and succeeds. But he fails to actually find out what he's up to. Maybe that would be considered a "Yes, but"--but in the big picture it's a fail for Harry and a bad fail as he ends up getting his face smashed in.

So sometimes the same event can be a "yes, but" and a "fail" depending on the context.

And there are examples where a failure ends up actually being a success in the long run. Like how Harry failed to break the habit of using Expelliarmus in Deathly Hallows, but the fact that he failed brought him success in destroying Voldemort--since that's the spell he beat him with.

You could play with it and have a character try to succeed at something, and when they succeed they actually realized they failed--that their success, in reality, ruined everything, not fixed it. For example, Snape worked for Voldemort, and therefore against Dumbledore. He overheard part of the prophecy that Professor Trelawney made to Dumbledore, and seeking to help Voldemort, passes along the information, which he would have considered a success. However, at the exact same time, it’s his worst failure, though he won’t realize it until later, because the prophecy results in the death of Lily. When he learns the prophecy might mean Lily’s son, the context changes and his action becomes a fail, especially since he prizes Lily’s life more than Voldemort or the Dark Arts.

You could also have a success and failure at the same time WITH the character’s knowledge of it. I think this one is more common than the last. Like at the end of the movie Dragon Heart you have a success and failure because Draco’s death results in the death of the evil prince (success), but it’s a fail because it also means the death of the dragons. The characters had two goals that conflicted—kill the prince, and save the last dragon.

I think these are different from the “Yes, but…” because the “Yes, but…” means the character succeeded, but now there’s more to it. Like Frodo’s original goal in Lord of the Rings was to take the ring to Rivendell, and eventually he succeeds BUT then he has to take it to the Crack of Doom, which is way worse and more dangerous than the journey to Rivendell, and to top it all off he doesn’t even know how to get there!

I think you could also try to create a double or triple fail (three goals fail by the same action) and then it would be extra devastating and a big blow. Or you could double or triple success by accomplishing multiple goals at once—though, I’m thinking this is usually how many stories end. But you could put something similar somewhere else in your story to twist it up if you wanted."

So, my friends, have you ever tried to take your story deeper by turning a win into a fail? Or vice versa? And hey, if you're on Twitter, do you want to follow Kami? She's looking for more writing buddies. (And as you can see, she's sort of brilliant.)

How to Beef Up a Soggy Middle-- Your Character Must FAIL

Nov 13, 2012

While doing some key revisions on TUGL several months back, I realized something interesting about the middle of my book. Except for a key moment near the climax, my character succeeded at almost everything she attempted. This was not a good thing.

She'd be like, "Gee, I wonder if THIS would work."

And the plot would be like, "Of course. Naturally that works. Let me hand it to you on this silver platter."

#facepalm

I'd thought I was putting some great conflict in the book because there was tension in these scenes. But of course, with my character skipping her way through every challenge, there really wasn't as much conflict as there could have been.

A key part to conflict-- and a proper story structure-- is what is known as a try/fail cycle. Throughout the book, especially throughout that sticky middle section, your character should be trying various things to achieve their goals. And of course, the antagonist should be opposing those goals. Here's the thing with that. If the main character WINS every time they try something, it kills the story. At the climax, there's no tension because we've already seen them beat the antagonist constantly. In a try/fail cycle, the character must FAIL.

Ever seen a Die Hard movie? You know how Bruce Willis always looks like chopped meat by the end? Yeah. That would be the result of a lot of try/fail cycles.

You CAN have the character win occasionally. However, that comes with a caveat. If they win, something else needs to happen to complicate things. So basically, when the question is, "Will my character succeed at this attempt," the answer should be one of two things: "No," or "Yes, BUT..."

Your character should, of course, win at the end. But they need to work for that win. They need to be dirty and wounded and heartbroken and have had to really suffer and DESERVE that win. It should be the result of all those fails-- they've learned enough through all the failure that they can win this time around. By beefing up your middle, you'll make your ending that much more powerful.

So, my friends, is your middle soggy? Do you use try/fail cycles? And do you have a favorite Die Hard movie?

You Will Never Have A Fully Original Idea. And You Will Still Be Awesome.

Nov 9, 2012

It's Friday, which means Healthy Writers Club day. I ran 2 miles this week. Not great, but better than I have been! And I'm planning to do some P90X cardio today since it's raining, so I'm pretty happy with myself. Now, I've decided to only do full posts about HWC once/twice a month, instead of every Friday (depending on varying factors like my mood/the weather/how good I've been at exercising...), so now let's talk about creativity.

I watched a movie with the Hubby recently. It had wizards and witches. It had a troll. It had a magic-ified building. It had a boy named Harry Potter mixed up with these wizards and witches and trolls and cool places to live. This was not, alas, the first Harry Potter movie. It's a show from 1986 called Troll, and it was particularly ghastly for a 1980's film. (The Hubby loves subjecting me to his favorites from the 80's. Were there any good movies made in that decade? ANY? Oh, wait. Terminator...okay, the 80's get a win for that one.)

It would seem the two movies about a boy named Harry Potter have a lot in common. If you actually watch the movies, of course, they are NOTHING alike. And you want another book about a wizard in wizard school? How about Willy the Wizard?

The point? YOU WILL NEVER HAVE AN ORIGINAL IDEA. Even I had a recent panic when agent Sara Megibow recently tweeted about getting a lot of recent submissions dealing with memory-- one of which was mine. It's hard to be writing or have written a book with an idea that you find out has already been played with. But ideas are not what books are about-- they are about STORIES, and stories, as my own awesome agent says, "are bound up in how they are told."

And just this weekend, she tweeted something else: "great writing makes an old idea seem creative and new."

Say it with me, folks: I WILL NEVER HAVE AN ORIGINAL IDEA. I CAN STILL WRITE AWESOME BOOKS. Creativity isn't having a single brilliant idea. Creativity comes in what you do with that idea.

When you have that brilliant idea, how do you make sure you're being creative, and not rewriting what's already been written? Try this: think about the stories that idea could contain. Instead of going with the first story concept that comes to mind, make a list. Create a few stories from the same idea, and pick the one that speaks to you. Then, write it. The writing is where the story will truly become yours, and becoming yours is how it becomes original.

So, my friends, have you ever felt like someone "stole" your idea-- even if they wrote the book first? What was your reaction? How do you stay creative? And do you have a love/hate relationship with 80's movies like I do? 

The Stars Fell Sideways-- Review and Interview with Cassandra Marshall!

Nov 6, 2012


"Alison Arroway takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. She has to, or she won’t get paid. Alison is a stunt double for pampered teen actress Pomegranate and when the director takes the shoot to Portugal, Alison is anything but thrilled to be rooming with Pom. But getting to hang around teen hearthrob Erik? Now that’s a plus. 

Erik invites both girls on a sunset boat trip and Alison manages to have a decent time. Until the storm hits and the boat is shipwrecked on a small island, leaving Erik missing and the boat captain dead. 

In the morning light, Alison and Pom find themselves on the lost island of Atlantis. Only one problem: now that the girls know the secret of the island, the Atlanteans don’t want them to leave. They're stuck with corsets, full-skirted dresses, and the strange steam-driven contraptions that are just a way of life for the islanders.

When a plot by the ruthless army Captain to take over the island and declare himself General over all emerges, an underground group promises to return the girls to the mainland if they can help stop him. They'll go through a mountain, literally, to find the Book of Blue, a book that will explain how to make ‘the stars fall sideways' in order to save the day and earn their freedom."

I enjoyed this adventure on a (light) steampunkish island of Atlantis. It was a light read, and a quick one-- the pace kept the story moving right along. I wish there had been a little more depth to the characters and the world (I enjoyed the unique people in a unique situation and wanted more!), but overall it was a fun read! You can check it out here.

And now, a few words from author Cassandra Marshall.

What was the spark that started The Stars Fell Sideways?
I'm sad to say I don't remember :( I did a thriller-ish contemporary for NaNo '10, right before writing this, and wanted something completely different. What the spark was though, I have no idea. 

What did you enjoy most (or least!) about writing the book?
I really loved that friends of mine kept bugging me for more pages! Have that sort of accountability was great!

Which of the Atlantean cities in the book would you want to visit most?
I like making things, so I think I'd like to visit Hazzot and see all the things that are unique to the island and how to make them. But I bet Aeddlist has one heck of a view... and Scale does have canaries and I think having a canary would be fun too! 

What are some of your favorite young adult books?
Across The Universe, The Age Of Miracles, Life As We Knew It, The Giver, A Separate Peace, and of course, Harry Potter! 

What has been the most exciting part about choosing the indie publishing route?
Probably sharing the news with my local library! They've been super encouraging and are planning a book launch/signing party for me!

And, just for fun, if you could invite one character from any book/movie to Thanksgiving dinner, who would it be and why?
Hermione Granger! I'd listen to her tell facts and stories about Hogwarts all day long!

And now to you, my friends! What fun books have you read lately?

NaNoWriMo: Don't let the short-term goals get in the way of your long-term goals

Nov 2, 2012

I'm doing NaNo this year! Sort of. I'm actually still putting the finishing touches on my planning, and haven't written a single word yet. Hopefully that will change tonight-- I'm a little nervous about starting off behind.

But not too nervous. I'm using NaNo as a tool, not as an end-game in and of itself. I want to punch out a draft quickly, and NaNo is a great way to encourage that. However, I don't want to turn out a crappy draft-- well, I guess I don't want to turn out a crappier first draft than I have to. I want to make sure I get it as "right" as I can so I don't have to spend extra time in revisions. Basically, I don't want NaNo itself to get in the way of the story, so if I don't "win," I'm okay with that.

NaNo is a short-term goal. Writing this book and writing it well is a long-term one. I don't want the short-term to short-circuit the long-term.

On the Healthy Writers Club front (you can join here!), I'm finding a similar issue. I twisted my ankle earlier this week, and wasn't able to run. I DID walk twice, half a mile each time, so I got some exercise in. But I don't want my short-term goal of running three times a week to get in the way of my long-term goal of running a half-marathon. So I scaled back in order not to injure myself.

So, my friends, are you NaNoing? What are your goals? Did you have a healthy week? And if you are NaNoing, I'd love it if you buddied me! My username is Shallee.

The Ghostification of Jonas Cray: The Scare Me Blogfest

Oct 31, 2012

Sci Fi Media is hosting the Scare Me Blogfest! I'm cheating a little-- this isn't a true story, though it's based on the numerous tourist-y haunted houses I've been through, plus an abandoned house I was sure was haunted when I was a kid. I now give you my shortest and creepiest short story ever. Please keep in mind this was written in an hour and a half and has not been vetted by my critique group, so there are no guarantees. ;)

The Ghostification of Jonas Cray

The front entry smelled of decay.

I lifted the voice recorder. “Nice sensory effects on entrance,” I said. “Sets the creep-factor high for the rest of the tour.”

The only light came from the flashlight I’d been issued. I stepped forward and a floorboard creaked. A gust of wind blew in from behind me and the front door slammed shut. I grinned. Real Hauntings, Inc. spared no expense. Built a whole freaking house just to grind it down to abandoned-slash-haunted specs, installed expensive effects, and apparently stashed fresh road-kill somewhere to get that nasty smell.

I couldn’t believe I was getting paid for this.

I swung my light around, admiring the warped staircase and faded family pictures. A shattered mirror hung to my right above a dusty wooden table. The mirror was on my list of “must-checks,” so I wandered over. The spider-web cracks in the glass distorted my face. I shined the flashlight under my chin, gave an impressive growl, and waited for the next haunt to cue.

Rippling in the warped reflection, a pale shadow crossed behind me.

“…he killed me…”

The voice whispered right into my ear. I jumped, then frowned at the goosebumps on my arms. “Impressive sound effects,” I said into the voice recorder. “Not exactly sure how you made it sound so close, and not from a speaker. Extra points for the unexplainable.”

A moan interrupted my reporting. “…please…” The girl sounded desperate. And terrified.

And way too freakin’ close to my ear.

I rubbed the shivers away. I’d laughed my way through the haunted house that sent Paul McBride screaming back out the entrance. This place was real chills, not just cheap tricks, but that didn’t mean the rest of the guys on the baseball team had to find out it’d gotten a rise out of me.

Moving on. Blood-spattered kitchen, here I come. I stepped down the hall.

“No!”

More screech than word, the sound sent me whirling around. A wisp of air, like a hair brushing my cheek, made me flinch. A thin, foggy shape drifted up the stairway in front of me. For a moment, I thought I saw brown eyes.

“...up here…killed me…”

The shape faded and I swallowed. Their recorded cues must be off-kilter. I was supposed to take the tour like any other guest—wander the house to learn the story and get fully jitter-fied before heading upstairs where the supposed ghost had been killed in her bedroom by a jealous boyfriend.

“Minus points for a lame story,” I whispered. I blinked and realized I’d forgotten to hit the record button on the machine in my hand.

Scratch the bloody kitchen, I was following the pseudo-ghost.

I tiptoed up the stairs, which only gave a few quiet squeaks. Nice. The silence built tension better while heading to a haunted murder scene. At the top of the stairs, I let go of the banister. My hand ached from gripping it so hard. The rotten flesh smell was stronger up here.

A narrow hall stretched out in front of me. I played my flashlight on the walls. Long sections of wallpaper had been torn away like someone had clawed at them while being dragged down the hallway. A dark smudge marred a gray doorframe.

“…hurry…”

The voice came from the end of the hall this time, and the handle of the far left bedroom rattled.

“Right,” I said, surprised as my voice cracked. Stupid dust. I cleared my throat. “Ready or not, here I come.”

I crossed the hall and flung open the door. My recorder and flashlight fell from my fingers and I choked on the rancid air. The flashlight rolled from side to side, throwing light over the grisly scene. The overthrown mattress was drenched in blood. Dark stains spattered the stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh in the corner. Tendrils of dank, cold air wrapped around me.

“This is…” I gasped. “This is…awesome?”

“Here.” Her voice came loud and firm now, from my right.

And there she was. I let out a squeak.

She didn’t float above the floor, though she was translucent. A ratty t-shirt and short jean shorts was different from the flowing nightgown I’d expected, though the torn throat and bloody hands were plenty grotesque. Hair pulled into a ponytail, and brown eyes. Kinda pretty, though skinny enough to be almost skeletal.

“Here.” She pointed at the folding closet doors next to her.

Half-ashamed and half-thrilled at the heebie-jeebies roiling in my gut, I recovered my flashlight and stepped toward her. She moved back, and I opened the closet.

“Ughhh.” I fell to my knees.

It didn’t matter how good their special effects were. A dead body was unmistakably a dead body.

The face—the body—the freakin’ dead brown eyes of the ghost girl stared up at me from her decaying, throat-slit corpse. I scrambled back, wheezing.

“Hurry. My mom.”

I looked around to see her pointing anxiously at the door. The exit. Her eyes—how could they look so alive when she was totally dead on the floor!—pleaded with me.

Hurry. Run. Tell somebody there was a dead girl sprawled in the closet. I ran through the hall and tripped my way down the stairs, finally wrenching open the front door.

“Jonas! Went well, I see.”

I jerked to a stop on the front walk. Mr. Walker, head of Real Hauntings, Inc. stood under the streetlight where I’d left him, leaning on the ratty picket fence.

“You—she—dead…” I rocked back and forth on the sidewalk. “She’s dead, someone’s really dead up there!”

He smiled and made a note on a clipboard. “Excellent. She’s doing her job perfectly.”

“Job?”

“Of course. She’s our ghost.”

“Who…who is she?”

He pulled out his cell and began texting. “Hm? Oh, just a runaway we found. On her way home, actually. She’d just learned her mother had cancer, so it was perfect timing to abduct her. Unfinished business and all that.”

“What?”

He pocketed his phone and smiled, the lamplight shadows turning his nose beaky. “We couldn’t kill her until we brought her here, naturally, or her spirit might have bonded with another structure. We should be able to remove the body tonight. It’s been sitting long enough to anchor her here.”

What in the name of all that was holy and unholy...ah, crap, I was going to puke. “You killed her. To make a real ghost.”

“Mm-hm.”

“I’ll turn you in.” I stumbled back, ready to run. “Tell everyone what you did.”

“That sounds like some excellent unfinished business.” He studied me carefully. “We’ll have to make sure to mutilate the face. We don’t want anyone around here to recognize you.”

From behind, hands closed around my biceps and held me against a hard torso. I yelped.

Mr. Walker smiled. “We need the boyfriend ghost, too. We’re staging the story as a murder-suicide.”

I barely had the strength to squirm as a plastic bag swept over my face.

“No,” I whispered. Thin plastic clung to my open mouth.

“Congratulations, Jonas Cray,” said Mr. Walker. “You’re about to become a prop for Real Hauntings.”



image credit

What's on Your Writing Desk?

Oct 26, 2012

No Healthy Writer's Club post today...because I am at a ZERO on the healthiness scale this week. Too much candy...no running...getting over a cold...some weeks, I guess healthy just doesn't happen.

And now, [insert clever transition to real post]. <---Yes, this is an indication of my current limited brain function. ANYWAY.

I went to Disneyland with the fam last week. The Kiddo was in ecstasy on Haunted Mansion and the AstroBlaster, Baby Noodles tolerated Winnie the Pooh and was entranced by the Tiki Room, and the Hubby and I blissfully took in our children's joy.

Oh, and I got an R2D2 for my desk.

R2D2 has been my favorite Star Wars character since childhood, and Disneyland is a great place to find Star Wars merchandise. So I scoured the park to find a new desk buddy. I was disappointed to see very little of my favorite droid. BUT THEN. The popcorn stand outside Space Mountain proved to have just what I wanted: an R2D2-shaped bucket full of popcorn.

So now, I've got a new place to keep special treasures/secret eatings on my desk. I'm a firm believer that whatever's in your writing space can inspire you, so here's what I've got, from left to right:

  • A sand picture from Dubai containing seven colors of sand from each of the UAE's emirates.
  • A picture of a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who, drawn by my awesome crit partner, Chersti.
  • A woven basket made by a Cherokee woman in North Carolina.
  • A picture of me and the Hubby on our honeymoon in Hawaii.
  • A carving from Ghana of a woman praying.
  • R2D2-- a sci fi writer's best friend.
  • A candle that smells like the ocean.
  • My bamboo plant with inspiring fortunes from fortune cookies.
All of these things have meaning to me, and help keep an ambiance of inspiration from my favorite life journeys.

So, my friends, what graces your writing desk? What meaningful things do you keep nearby as you write?

Healthy Writer's Club: Even Breaks are Productive

Oct 19, 2012

Welcome to The Healthy Writers Club! As writers, we hear a lot about the "butt in chair" tactic, which is great for our manuscripts, but not so great for the actual butt in the chair. Every Friday, I'll be posting about how healthy I've been that week and how it connects to writing. If you're game to join the fun, you can run, walk, bike, make a healthy dinner, play tag with your kids, etc. Then, you post about it on Friday (or whenever you want). Sign up here!

Just a quick post today because I'm on VACATION! I only ran once this week, but I figure with all the walking I'm doing at Disneyland, I'm getting plenty of exercise. The fun thing about taking a break is that even breaks can be productive-- for both exercise and writing.

Writing breaks often give me time to refuel, and get some new, fun ideas. Breaks are necessary in exercise to let your body breathe a little, even if the break comes in the form of varying your exercise. I don't run every day. Some days I don't exercise at all, and others I do yoga, take a walk with my son, or gambol around Disneyland. :)

In unrelated news, if you've seen the sidebar picture, you'll know I'm now (dun-duh-duh-DUN!) a redhead! Like The Doctor, I've always wanted to be ginger.

Not going to lie, I'm totally digging it. Who knew changing my hair color could change my outlook on life? Not that my outlook was bad before...but I'm just having a lot of fun at the moment!

So, my friends, do you take breaks from your exercise? What about your writing? Any fun changes in your world?

Have You Met Your Heroes? An Evening with Lois Lowry

Oct 16, 2012

I know I've said this before, but when I was in about the fourth grade, the book The Giver by Lois Lowry changed my life. I'd never read a book quite like it, and it basically stirred my little mind and gave me the direction for the type of stories I wanted to write. In fact, my current book about a girl whose memories are stolen is a result of the seeds The Giver planted in my mind. In so many ways, Lois Lowry is a personal hero of mine.

When I told my crit partner Chersti that a few weeks ago, she said, "Oh! Did you know she's coming to town?"

!!!!

As part of her tour for Son, the fourth book in The Giver quartet, Ms. Lowry was coming to my town. Tickets were hot, but we scored some. In preparation, I dug out my fourth-grade copy of The Giver, then bought a new, hardback special edition. 'Cause obviously I needed both the nice copy and the well-loved copy signed, right?

Ms. Lowry's speech was amazing. She spoke about how The Giver came into existence, and it resonated so hard with how my own story about memory came into existence. Though we both had different experiences that led to the idea, we both asked ourselves the same question: "What would happen if we could take away our difficult memories?"

She was eloquent, funny, approachable, and wonderful. At the Q&A at the end, she said something about the young boy asking the question having a t-shirt that said "Tigers" on it, then said, "Okay, ask your question, Tiger."

He paused. "Please don't call me that."
With Chersti and Baby Noodles

The audience roared with laughter, but Ms. Lowry only smiled a little, apologized, and invited him again to ask the question. Her respect for him was obvious, and it made me realize how well she still identifies with her target audience, though I believe she's now in her 60's.

I waited with Chersti, Bree Despain, and her friend Michelle for our turn at the signing. As Ms. Lowry signed my books, I told her how instrumental those books were in my own writing, and she smiled.
 
It was so inspiring to meet one of my heroes. Just hearing her talk and meeting her briefly reminded me why I love to write-- I love writing stories that have the potential to touch people's lives. It was incredible to meet the first author who ever touched mine.

So, my friends, have you met your heroes? Who are your heroes, and why?

Let's Pretend We're All Human Beings for a Few Minutes

Oct 12, 2012

I'm veering really off-topic from my usual posts today because there's something weighing on my mind. This morning, I read two articles. One about political posts on Facebook and Twitter destroying friendships, and another about a teen girl who committed suicide because of bullying.

Okay, world. Here's the thing. Can we all pretend we're fellow human beings for a little while?

Those two articles don't seem to be related, but to me I see a sad trend that common decency is no longer common. On the political front, things are very hot right now. I purposely do not get political online-- not because I have no opinions, but because I value people more than online political discussion. That doesn't mean you shouldn't state your opinions, that's just my preferred tactic right now. Politics have a tendency to be divisive, particularly, I've noticed, in this election. There are two vastly different choices for our next president that are polarizing the field.

Let's hit that pause button again,  peeps. We're all humans, remember?

I hate seeing nasty, biting comments online about people from one group or another, or even about one candidate or the other. Because here's the thing. The other side? They're not the anti-Christ. Believe it or not, I don't think anyone here wants to vote for a particular candidate because they want to destroy the country, and I doubt that's either candidate's motive, either. Of course, depending on your views, you may see the other side's tactics as a bad idea. But can we please remember that underneath our conflicting views, we're all human beings whose desire is to MAKE THIS WORLD BETTER? Disagreement is fine, and even healthy on the political front. 

But please, let's be human beings. Let's at least be civil in our discussions.

Be inspired to be kind.
The girl who was bullied and committed suicide is a darker issue. In fact, it's completely appalling. Granted, mistakes were made on all sides. And I know bullying is by no means a new thing in this world. But for the love of all that is holy, why on earth are there teenagers (and let's be honest, adults as well) in this world being so completely horrible to each other? Who is teaching the rule that each of us is personally responsible to take another person to task--in cruel ways-- for mistakes made or perceived? Or just for being different?

There was once a rule to treat others as you want to be treated. Fellow human beings, right?

So, my friends, I think there's only one thing to do. Kindness often engenders more kindness, so go out and be kind today. And tomorrow. And for as many days as possible. Maybe write a book that deals with cruelty and hardness in the world, and maybe write about it being overcome. 

And each day, remind yourself to do three things: Be kind. Be considerate. Be a human being.

Rejection isn't personal-- it's trite but true

Oct 9, 2012

We hear it all the time-- "rejection isn't personal." When I queried my first book, I never felt like I personally was being rejected, but what was hard was feeling that rejection was personal to my story. It wasn't so bad when I got a rejection on a simple query. At that point, I figured the "not personal" thing really was true, and I was (mostly) okay with that.

Source
What stunk was rejection on a full or partial. Even when it was a "positive" rejection (if there is such a thing), and the agent specifically said they simply didn't connect with it because of this or that, I always had this niggling suspicion they were LYING. They hated  the book! Of course, that wasn't true and I knew it, but it was hard to remember that they weren't making a judgment on me or my book-- except that it just "wasn't right" for them.

When I queried my current book and was in the position where I was actually the one choosing between agents, I learned something interesting about rejection. Each of the agents I talked to was so excited about my book. They were all very friendly, and I liked them all. They were all very professional and I knew they could sell my book. But each of them had different ideas on where to go with my book, and some of those ideas just "weren't right" for me. In that way, I had nothing personal against them when I made the difficult decision to tell them no thanks.

There was one agent that I felt really GOT the book. We connected not just in terms of vision for this book, but of what I wanted with my career and our agent/client relationship. When it came to saying YES, that was personal, in the sense that it was an individual choice that was right for me.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that's kind of how it is with agents accepting or rejecting manuscripts. Rejection often doesn't even mean the agent doesn't like the book-- it's just not one they really loved and connected with enough to read it multiple times and champion it to editors. Acceptance means that's exactly how they feel about the book. Not everyone can LURVE your book like that, and that's okay. The thing that stinks about that is you have no control of it.

It's hard to remember that when the rejections come in, whether from agents, editors, or readers themselves. After all, WE love our books an awful lot. But rejection is part of the game from beginning to end, so I thought it might be a helpful thought-- at the very least, for me to look back on from time to time!

So, my friends, what are your thoughts? How do you approach rejection?

Healthy Writers Club: How Story Structure Gives You Freedom

Oct 5, 2012

Okay, first off-- the winners from the You Are a Real Writer contest have been chosen!
Winner of the $10 gift card: Adrianne Russell!
Winner of the 10 page critique: Tony Dutson!
Winner of the 5 page critique: Reece Hanzon!

Congrats to the winners, and thanks again to the rest of all you real writers for your awesomeness. :)

Now, onto the HWC post. When I was on the track team in high school, we had a "guest" coach for a few days. He'd run (and won) more marathons than I even knew existed, and he taught me the greatest thing I ever learned in running: form. I didn't even know there was such a thing as proper running form, but the way you move your arms, lean your body, and point your feet all plays into becoming a better runner. From one track meet to the next, I shaved a full 30 seconds off my race time using this form (which doesn't sound like much, but was pretty impressive for me).

In writing, structure is much the same way. 

I never used to use any kind of structure in my stories, at least not consciously. I didn't want my books encumbered by the form and tedium of anything as banal as the three-act structure. And that was okay. My writing was decent. However, when I grudgingly learned all the points of the three-act structure and saw how it worked for a myriad of different books and movies, I learned something important. 

Applying a structure to my writing didn't encumber or hold back my story-- it actually freed me to tell the story in a more compelling way. When I began to write with a full understanding of structure, all of a sudden my stories had tighter pacing, natural-flowing plot lines, and more room to play around with the actual story idea. Oddly enough, structure gave me more freedom. I was no longer trapped by writer's block, or struggling to come up with a new scene. I knew where I was headed, so I could explore all different routes to get there instead of feeling my way blindly. 

Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, it's worth it to know some form of story structure!

Weekly stats: 2.5 miles (kinda pathetic this week, but after some knee pain early in the week, I scaled back to make sure I didn't injure myself)
In-flight entertainment favorite: Writing Excuses podcast: Death
Coolest moment: Uh, maybe being able to sleep in on the day I took off? :)
Hardest moment: Forcing myself to wake up the day AFTER the day I took off.

So, my friends, do you use any kind of structure when you write? Does it help you or is it hard for you? Or is it both helpful and hard?

Healthy Writers Club-- Don't forget to sleep

Sep 28, 2012

**Don't forget to enter the You Are a Real Writer Giveaway for a $10 gift card and some critiques!**

As writers, we hear a lot about the "butt in chair" tactic, which is great for our manuscripts, but not so great for the actual butt in the chair. Hence the Healthy Writers Club. If you're game to join the fun, you can run, walk, bike, make a healthy dinner, play tag with your kids, etc. Then, post about it on Friday (or whenever you want). Sign up here!

This is what I want right now. (Link)
I'm tired today. Between staying up late to write, getting up early to run, and getting up a few times in between to feed a hungry baby, my sleep is suffering. So I've decided I've got to change my schedule a bit, because if I'm a walking zombie, I can't really get much done, can I?

That's all I've got for you today, I'm afraid. Just some stats, and then it's naptime!


Stats: Ran 5.5 miles
In-flight entertainment favorite: Gaston from the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack (I'm on a musicals kick.)
Coolest moment: Cutting my mile time from 17 minutes to 14 minutes over the last few weeks. Woot!
Hardest moment: Upping my distance to 2 miles at a pop. I'm sore!

So, my friends, what's your schedule? Are you a stay-up-late-er or a get-up-early-er? Do you feel like you need as many naps as I seem to want?

You Are a Real Writer-- Enter the Giveaway!

Sep 25, 2012

After signing with my agent last week, I felt the love from so many people. And to thank you all for your support, I'm hosting a giveaway! First, though, something interesting struck me this week-- and this ties into the giveaway, I swear. :)

I had several people say to me over the last week, "I'm so happy for you! You're a real writer now!" Here's the thing, though. The book I wrote is the same book it was before I signed with Hannah. I'm revising it again, just like I revised before. I'm still tearing my hair out as I plan out my next book, just like I did with this one when it first got started.

I called myself a writer even before I got an agent, but I think I sort of had that feeling that I wouldn't be real until I did certain things that would "prove" that. But in so many ways, nothing has changed. I'm the same writer I was before, and I've realized I'm not any more or less of a "real" writer than before I signed my contract.

I write stories. Therefore I am a real writer. And so are you. So let's own it, people! In addition to this being a thank you giveaway, it's also a giveaway for everybody to claim that, if you're getting words on the page, you are a real writer.

Three prizes you can claim:
A $10 giftcard to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your preferred online bookstore.
A 10-page critique
A 5-page critique

To enter:
Fill out the Rafflecopter below, and claim your writer-hood! Open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway So, my friends, have you ever felt you had to somehow prove yourself before becoming a real writer? Or do you already take pride in your awesome writerliness? And again, I want to say, THANK YOU ALL!

The Healthy Writers Club: Getting on a Schedule

Sep 21, 2012

As writers, we hear a lot about the "butt in chair" tactic, which is great for our manuscripts, but not so great for the actual butt in the chair. Hence the Healthy Writers Club. If you're game to join the fun, you can run, walk, bike, make a healthy dinner, play tag with your kids, etc. Then, post about it on Friday (or whenever you want). Sign up here!

First off-- ya'll rock. :) Thanks so much to everyone for all the love on my agent news. I want to give everyone a hug! *virtual hugs*

Today on the Healthy Writers Club, I want to bring up schedules. For my running, since I'm actually training for a half marathon in March, I have a specific running schedule. I run so many miles so many times a week (right now, it's 1.5 miles 3 times  week). If I'm really going to hit that goal of my half marathon without hurting myself, I've got to keep to my schedule and work my way up to that 13.1 mile distance.

Having a schedule works really well for me and my writing, too. I write in the evenings after my kids are in bed, and my writing time is designated as 8:30-10:30 pm. Knowing that's my time specific to writing really keeps me on task, so that I'm not doing something else (though let's be honest, sometimes I still watch a movie with the hubby if he's not working, or play around on Facebook for a bit). It helps me make sure I get my writing time in by having a specific schedule for it.

This doesn't work for some people who have more flexible schedules, but it has helped me punch out two and a half books in the last two and a half years.

And now, to the weekly stats!


Stats: Ran 4.5 miles
In-flight entertainment favorite: My Strongest Suit from Aida
Coolest moment: Looking in the mirror and seeing my stomach already flattening
Hardest moment: The hill in my new route-- it kills me every time


And on an unrelated note, the episodes for Writer Therapy went live yesterday! Check out the first in this funny series about the antics of a critique group!

So, my friends, I'm curious-- what's your writing schedule like? What about your exercise schedule?

Big, Agent-y News!

Sep 17, 2012

I'm thrilled to announce that, as of today, I have an agent! I'm now represented by the amazing Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates. Basically, I've been doing this all day:





I actually met Hannah almost two years ago on Twitter, when she was interning at the agency. I had asked for beta readers for my previous novel, and Hannah volunteered. She gave me some awesome feedback that formed the core for my revisions of that novel. We stayed connected on Twitter, and when she became an agent last year I couldn't wait to submit my new manuscript to her.

Around June this year, I posted my pitch for The Unhappening of Genesis Lee on Twitter, and Hannah asked me to send her the manuscript when it was ready. I started querying in the last week of August, and sent it on to her. Nine days later, I got an email from her that requested a phone call. I was so excited and shocked that I gave a crazed laugh and started shaking.

That was a Friday, and I talked to Hannah last Monday. She was so excited about the book (she'd read it twice!), and from the way she talked, I could tell she really GOT the story. I loved the ideas she mentioned for revisions, and felt like we clicked really well. I told her I was excited about the prospect of working with her, but needed to contact the other agents who had my material (I had another full and a partial out, and contacted the others who I'd queried as well).

Over the next week, I got two more offers and a revise and resubmit request. The other agents were wonderful and great to talk to, but I still kept coming back to Hannah as feeling like the right choice.

So this morning (after having a dream where I called Hannah back to accept and she said she'd changed her mind-- and reminding myself IT WAS JUST A DANG DREAM), I accepted representation. I signed the agreement, sent it off, and went out to a celebratory lunch with my hubby and kids. (And yes, those flowers are from my totally awesome husband.)

So, my friends, I have an agent!! And not just any agent, one I love, who loves my work, and shares my vision for it. I'm beyond excited to work with Hannah for this book and for future ones. Thanks to all of you who've been supportive of me on the internets and real life! Anyone else have good news they want to add to the good news pot?

The Healthy Writers Club: How to Push Your Writing (and Exercise) to the Next Level

Sep 14, 2012

UPDATE: You can sign up officially for The Healthy Writers Club by going here! That way we can all find each other.

As writers, we hear a lot about the "butt in chair" tactic, which is great for our manuscripts, but not so great for the actual butt in the chair. So welcome to The Healthy Writers Club! Every Friday, I'll be posting about how healthy I've been that week, and I invite you to join me! Of course, that means you need to get out and do something healthy. :) Basically, if you're game, you can run, walk, bike, make a healthy dinner, play tag with your kids, etc. Then, you post about it on Friday (or whenever you want). You can even use this handy-dandy button to link back here.


Right now, I run about three miles a week-- one mile every other day. It's a little pathetic how slow I am. My current pace is between a twelve and fifteen minute mile, and in the track team in high school, I could run a seven minute mile (also a little pathetic, at least for the track team). But hey, I just had a baby two months ago, so I figure any running at all is pretty good.

The thing is, I can't run three miles a week forever, not if I'm planning on running a 5K in November and a half-marathon by March. So I looked up a bunch of training schedules, and I have a plan that bumps me up gradual running distances each week so I can reach my goals.

I thought about this in terms of writing today.

We all want to write. And hopefully, we all want to keep writing better, to push ourselves farther. There's no exact schedule for this like my half-marathon training, but some of the rules are the same.

Don't push yourself too fast. This week, for example, one of my runs was a mile and a half, and next week two of them are. As I train, I have to be careful not to exceed about 20% of my current distance during a single week, because that can lead to injury.

With our writing, while it's good to work toward more words a day, deeper plots, more complicated characters, better prose, etc., we can't do all that at once. If we try, we'll end up burning out and getting discouraged. With each story, we can apply some of what we learned from the last one to make the next one better. But it's okay if we don't write the perfect book for our next one!

Allow time for rest. I don't run every day. If I did, I might get hurt. Now, I DO write almost every day, because I love it. However, I never write on Sundays, and I don't get after myself if there's a day during the week where I'd like to watch a movie with my family.

Have fun! Running is fun for me-- even though it hurts. Same thing with writing. Pushing myself to do better can be hard. It's hard to hear what my critique group says sometimes, and it's hard to pick a new story idea when I know it's going to involve deeper characterizations than I've ever done. But it's fun! I love writing! I love pushing myself to do better and work harder.

And now, my stats for the week:

Stats: Ran 3.5 miles
In-flight entertainment favorite: Writing Excuses episode 6.30: Help! I can't end my book!
Coolest moment: Adding a half mile to my run and completing the whole thing
Hardest moment: Adding a half mile to my run and completing the whole thing

The Healthy Writers Club

Sep 7, 2012

UPDATE: You can sign up officially for The Healthy Writers Club by going here! That way we can all find each other. 

I recently went a little crazy and decided I want to do a half-marathon next spring. I've got a training schedule all planned out, my brother-in-law convinced to run it with me, and brand-spankin' new running shoes.

I've been running all week, and I feel great. That got me thinking. As writers, we hear a lot about the "butt in chair" tactic, which is great for our manuscripts, but not so great for the actual butt in the chair. So I'm starting something new: The Healthy Writers Club!

Every Friday, I'll be posting about how healthy I've been that week, and I invite you to join me! Of course, that means you need to get out and do something healthy. :) Basically, if you're game, you can run, walk, bike, make a healthy dinner, play tag with your kids, etc. Then, you post about it on Friday (or whenever you want). You can even use this handy-dandy button and link back here, and use my "template" below if you want.

Being healthy is important not just for your body, but your mind. My energy and creativity has increased already, so it's a big plus for my writing too. Here's this week's update:

Stats: Ran 3 miles, did Yoga for 20 minutes
In-flight entertainment favorite: Writing Excuses podcast on Authentic Emotion
Coolest moment: Getting my new shoes! Happy very late birthday to me from my awesome mama.
Hardest moment: The altitude and crazy hills when I ran on Labor Day at my in-laws' cabin.

So, my friends, if you're up for this, feel free to join the Healthy Writers Club! What things do you do to stay healthy?


Let the Querying Begin!

Aug 29, 2012

As of last night at approximately 11:26, The Unhappening of Genesis Lee is DONE. WOOT! And this time, I mean done for real. As in, so done I'm jumping into the querying trenches. At any given moment, this is how I feel about that:


 


And now, in case you care at all, here are some facts about my book! I was tagged by Melissa Brady King for this meme.

1. What is the name of your book? The Unhappening of Genesis Lee
2. Where did the idea for your book come from? After visiting my mother, who is very nostalgic about certain heirlooms, my husband commented it would be cool if we could store our memories of objects IN those objects. And so the story was born.
3. In what genre would you classify your book? YA science fiction
4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition of your book, who would you choose? Kristin Kreuk as Gena, and Jeremy Sumpter (aged somewhere between Peter Pan and now) as Kalan
5. Give us a one sentence synopsis of your book. A 17-year-old girl who stores her memories in external objects must hunt down a memory thief before she is robbed not only of all her clues, but her entire life.
6. Is your book already published? Not yet. :)
7. How long did it take you to write your book? I wrote the first draft in 6 weeks during June/July of 2011, and revisions took about a year.
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? (Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?) It's sort of a mix of the mystery in Across the Universe and White Cat.
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book? Ever since I read The Giver by Lois Lowry as a kid, I have been fascinated with memory. I always felt there was a story lurking inside me that would deal with that-- it just took about 20 years to come out. :)
10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book. Well, it involves a society that stores memories in jewelry called Links, because their brains literally can't store them anymore. Also, there's a bouncy-ball-collecting, curly haired cutie of a boy. My main character has a pet snake named Hades. Um...anything else? :)


The Coming of Querying...and Writer Therapy

Aug 23, 2012

Short post this week, because I'm mere days away from finishing The Unhappening of Genesis Lee! Like, REALLY finishing this time. As in, it's been through crit group, a dozen betas, and at least a dozen rewrites. This is the final, nit-picky edit I'm doing now, and then...(gulp) to querying.

Querying always gets me nervous/excited. (Always? What am I saying. This is only my second time querying a manuscript.) Part of me thinks, "I'll get a million requests! They'll see the awesomeness of my book and beg me to send it!" Then I think, "But then they might actually read the book and shake their heads because it ended up stinking up their office." Then I think, "I probably won't get requests anyway. Sea of rejections, here I come."

Ah, the emotional instability of writers. I think I might need therapy.

And speaking of therapy, the wonderful peeps of my critique group have created just that-- Writer Therapy! It's a web series about a zany critique group and their antics preparing for querying. Check out the preview!


So, my friends, have you gone query-crazy before? Do you expect you will someday? How do you handle the crazies?

Deadlines-- Do you have 'em?

Aug 14, 2012

I'm a very type-A kind of person. I thrive on things like schedules, deadlines, and organization. So it's sort of killed me that I missed my personal deadline for finishing The Unhappening of Genesis Lee.

See, I had planned to finish around the first of July. But I was nine months pregnant, had a threat of early labor, and then actually had the baby (though not early-- one day late, in fact). Luckily, a new baby is a wonderful and adorable excuse, so I haven't been too hard on myself. I've been back into the writing groove for a few weeks now, and I've been able to set a new deadline I think I can stick to.

September 1, guys. That's my goal for finishing the ultimate final draft of TUGL. And then, to querying.

Deadlines can be a hugely helpful thing. They help me stay focused, keep my butt in the chair, and (because I'm weird), they actually get me excited as they get closer. They can also be stressful. I've found that the key for reaching my own deadlines with minimal stress is to create a plan for how I'm going to reach it. If I just sort of attack things willy-nilly, it's hard to do that. But if I know how much work I have and how much time I have, I can set out roughly how much time and effort I have to put in per day.

Then I just have to make sure I put that time and effort in. Which can be hard, especially with self-inflicted deadlines. Rewards for hitting deadlines can be a big help with that. I usually prefer it in the form of a new book, or a fun activity.

So, my friends, what about you? Do you set deadlines? Do you meet them? Do you have tricks and tips? And hey, are you hanging around WriteOnCon like me? If so, look me up and say hi! 

image source

The Uncertainty of Rewrites

Aug 8, 2012

Maybe it's because I'm extra tired from getting up at night with a new baby and chasing my toddler around all day, but I'm feeling rather uncertain about the final revision I'm doing on my book.

Who am I kidding? I ALWAYS feel uncertain when doing certain revisions on my book. Namely, final revisions.

Final revisions are where I try to dig deep. After all the semi-final revisions, I take the advice from my beta readers that I haven't already put into effect and get into things like characterizations and deepening relationships. It makes me a little jittery. Am I making things better-- or destroying them?

I think a lot of is due to the fact that in a FINAL revision, this are likely the last big changes I'll make before querying. And that makes me nervous enough to bite my nails. I still have my crit partners look over any big changes I make, and run ideas by them to see what their reactions are to what I'm doing. That's helpful, but a lot of times that voice comes up again that says, "You're destroying the book. You're making it worse."

I do my best to ignore the inner nag and trust my instincts. And my instincts say I'm not destroying it. I hope.

So, my friends, what do you do when your inner devil says you're making your book worse? How do you know when to trust the voice that says something isn't working or when to ignore it? How do you get your confidence back during rewrites?

image

Birthdays and Birth Days

Jul 20, 2012

Hey there folks! Just jumping into the blogosphere briefly to announce both a birthday and a birth day!

My birthday was July 17th, and I got the fabulous present of a little baby girl. Yup, the little one hung on til one day past her due date so she and I could share birthdays from now on.

We're both feeling great. Hopefully I can get back into the full swing of blogging again in a month or so. However, baby girl (nicknamed Noodles by her big brother) and family will be the focus for now, and much as I love ya'll, I've also got to focus on finishing my last draft of my book. I'm excited to jump back into writing in the next few weeks.

And mostly, I'm so happy to be mommy a second time around to a perfect baby girl!

Celebrating the Awesome in Our Own Writing-- and Life

Jul 5, 2012

Sometimes, especially as a writer, I focus on...well, maybe not the bad, but on the things that need fixing. You know, I get a critique, and hurrah! So many things I can make better! (Of course, before the "hurrah-ing" comes the "aw-crap-I-should-have-known" and the occasional *wallow*-I-suck-*wallow.*)

But sometimes, things are just good. And I think we should take time to hurrah for the good! Because even though we all have things we can improve in our books and in our writing as a whole, there are things we've done pretty darn well with, too. In fact, there may even be a crap-load of awesome in our writing that we're overlooking because we're so focused on the fact that it's NOT YET PERFECT, MUST MAKE IT PERFECT.

So, my friends, take a little time today to look at your writing and find the awesome. And remember that you have a whole life outside of writing that has nuggets of awesome, too. Celebrate the awesome, folks!

Here's a bit of awesome from me. :) For all you fellow Americans, I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day, and for all you non-Americans, I hope your July 4th was a great day too!

The Kiddo and The Hubby enjoying the fireworks

Summer Bookishness and Other Coolness

Jun 26, 2012

So. Being nine months preggo in a house with no AC except remarkably ineffective window units is turning me into the equivalent of a beached whale, but I'm still alive. :) I've been doing a lot of reading lately since my brain is a bit mushy, and wanted to share the cool books that I've read or am excited to read this summer!

First: Code Name Verity. Oh. My. Gosh. Two girls, a spy and a pilot, one captured and tortured into revealing information to the Nazi's...it's one of the most compelling, haunting, beautiful reads I've had in a long time. Every time someone asks me for a book rec lately, I tell them about this one. It's actually been out for a while, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Next: Not Your Average Fairy Tale. My friend Chantele Sedgwick's fun book comes out August first, and I'm excited for this one! It sounds like such a fun read. A guy as a fairy god mother-- doesn't that just make you giddy for the shenanigans that will follow?

 
And: Crewel. Okay, this one isn't a summer read-- it doesn't come out until October. But I'm SO excited for it. It sounds unique and fascinating, and I've heard great things about it.

And in other coolness this summer, I got to hang out with the awesome Michelle Merrill when she came into town last week! We went to high school together and are crit buddies. It's always fun to hang out with writerly friends!
So, my friends, what books are you looking forward to, or have read recently? Any fun summery plans?

Book Reviews for Writers: The Hollow City by Dan Wells

Jun 12, 2012

So if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a huge fan of Dan Wells. Not only did he give me awesome feedback as a "boot camp" critique instructor at a conference several years back, but he's a hilarious and nice guy-- and he writes FREAKING AMAZING BOOKS.

And lucky for me, one of my crit partners is his assistant, and I managed to snag and ARC of his next book. So ladies and gents, I give you: The Hollow City.

"Michael Shipman is paranoid schizophrenic; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex fantasies of persecution and horror. That’s bad enough. But what can he do when some of the monsters he sees turn out to be real?


Who can you trust if you can't even trust yourself? The Hollow City is a mesmerizing journey into madness, where the greatest enemy of all is your own mind."

I read the entire thing in one sitting. I mean, did you read that cover copy with that brilliant premise? How could I not keep reading? The murder mystery angle gives the story a familiar base to start from, and from there it twists off into one of the freshest reads I've had in a while. Dan has a real talent for taking slightly twisted characters (like John Cleaver in I Am Not a Serial Killer) and making them sympathetic and engaging. Michael, the main character, was one of the most brilliant unreliable narrators I've ever read-- and one that I loved. I spent half the book questioning what was real, and the other half of the book constantly going OH MY GOSH, WHAT?? Seriously, people, I cannot recommend this book enough.

And now for the writing lesson from this. I saw Dan at the Storymakers conference back in May, and told him how much I loved the book. He laughed and said he was glad to hear it. He said he loved it, but knew it was kind of a weird book, so he wasn't sure how people were going to respond to it. It does have some weird stuff going on, but this book completely blew my mind with its engaging premise, twisty plot, and brilliant characters. It made me wonder, what if Dan had decided at some point that the book was just too weird, and despite how cool he thought it was, he didn't write it?

This is why I think it's important to write what you love. Maybe it's weird. Maybe it's not trendy right now. Maybe it's an odd mash-up of genre's that make it hard to classify. WRITE IT ANYWAY. When you write what you love, that's when you pour all your passion and brilliance into a story that can be incredible. And that's what will make people love it.

So, my friends, I leave you with two bits of advice. 1. Write what you love, and do it brilliantly. And 2. Read The Hollow City-- it comes out July 3rd. (And to whet your appetite in the meantime, you can check out his ebook A Night of Blacker Darkness, a horror farce.)

Good News Tuesday

Jun 5, 2012

So folks, here's the deal. What with having a baby next month, finishing edits and getting ready to query, and a busy summer, I'm not going to be here much. I already haven't been around much, and I miss reading ya'll's blogs and seeing how you are. I'll try and stop by and say hi when I can, and post here once a week, but until August is up, I can make no promises.

Today, though, I've got some good news to share! First, one of my critique partners, Chersti Nieveen, just got an agent! I'm so excited for her and so glad I can finally share the news. She's repped by Nicole Rescinti, and I can't wait to see what happens with her amazing book. Feel free to hop over and tell her congrats. :)

Second: I'm *this close* to being done with my own book. I finished major revisions and even my line edits, and now am working on a few more tweaks from a final critique. Querying shall begin soon!!

Third: I finally settled on what book to write next. It's a brand new idea mixed with a few old ones, and I'm super excited about it. I'm also terrified of it. It's going to be challenging to write-- I'm doing dual first-person POV in present tense. I swore I was never going to do either of those things, but it's really the only way to tell this story, and it should work well (provided I can pull it off). Also, there are some deep, horrible, complicated, emotional, and personal things in this one. I'm a little afraid of some of the subject matter. I think the fear is a good thing, though. It means this story has a lot of meaning to me, which will hopefully make it more powerful.

So, my friends, what's going on in your neck of the woods? Do you have good news to share?

Hangin' with David-- Get Outside Yourself to Write a Deeper Book

May 28, 2012

Today, I'm hanging out over at David Powers King's cosmic laire, talking about a random road trip and how getting outside yourself can help you write deeper books. Come say hi!

When shiny new ideas lose their shiny-- What to do when you're not sure what to write next

May 22, 2012

I've finished major revisions on TUGL, yay! I'm currently doing line edits, which I typically do by reading out loud. This takes forever, but man, is it worth it. Helps me find all those tiny problem areas I tend to skip when I skim through.

ANYWAY, because I'm so close to being finished, my brain is salivating to play with a brand new shiny idea. Throughout the last year, I've had about four ideas that now have folders on my desktop. My process for dealing with shiny new ideas when writing another book is to take a few hours to brainstorm ideas, find pictures that go with that idea, and basically flesh it out a bit to see which direction it wants to go. Then I let it sit, usually for months, and when the time comes to write something new, I have multiple simmering ideas to pick from.

This is not working this time around.

Several of these ideas are cool. They would be fun to write. But I've found as I let myself play with them over the months and weeks, none of the are working out quite right. The deeper I get into them, the more I lose my enthusiasm. They all have PIECES I love and think are awesome, but none of them is coming together with the "WOW, I have to write this book, I can't leave this concept alone!" feeling I need to pick one and start writing.

So now what?

Step 1: Let yourself feel frustrated.
I mostly had to put this one in here so I feel justified in being frustrated. I mean...ARGH! Why aren't any of these as cool as they started out? Why can't I have a stroke of genius on one of them, or on a new idea, that will make it "the one?" It's okay. Let those feelings out.

Step 2: Fill your creative well.
Read new books. Watch new movies. Take walks in a new place. Eavesdrop on people's conversations at the mall. Read the news. Draw a cool picture. Knit something. Whatever you do to fill up on creativity and ideas, or even just to create something different, do it. Let crazy ideas come to you, or even just chillax, be creative, and try to forget that nagging feeling that DANG IT I NEED A STORY TO WRITE.

Step 3: Play.
If, like me, you have pieces from multiple stories that you love, but the story itself is a little blah, play with that. Pull pieces from different ideas together. Go back to shelved manuscripts or short stories and rip them up to find the good bits and see if they can fit into a puzzle with the other shiny ideas. Let that creative well you just filled come up with hair-brained ideas that would NEVER work, but sound fun anyway. Just let your brain play.

Step 4: If all else fails, pick one and write.
If you still can't come up with a new shiny that is "the one," don't sweat it. I haven't either. So I've picked my favorite of the ideas (a mash-up that came from step 3), and even though it doesn't feel perfect to me right now, I'm going to start writing it. And I'm giving myself full permission to do two things: 1) Fall in love with it again, and 2) Scrap it if it isn't working and something better comes along. Because the thing is, you're never so creative as when you're actually writing.

So, my friends, have you ever had a shiny new idea lose its shiny? Ever had a hard time deciding what to write next? 


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