Monday, December 31, 2012

Good Things to Come


Guys, I'm really looking forward to 2013. I just have this feeling. It's going to be an epic year. Maybe not in the way I'm hoping, but epic nonetheless. 

Speaking of epic years, 2012 wasn't so bad, either. A lot of firsts and big events for me. Maybe these won't seem so big to the rest of you, but for me, they were huge. And I think things will only get better from here. 

So here are the highlights of my 2012 and, at the end, I'll let you know what I'm most looking forward to in the coming year.

January

~I almost died in a skiing accident. (Actually, I was more or less unharmed, but I tried my first black diamond, and it didn't go very well. Seriously. The people on the lift going over that slope were pulling out their cell phones to call 911 because they actually thought I was dead (or at least very unconscious). Extra fun since this was on my birthday.) I realize this has very little to do with anything, but for me, it was pretty notable.  :P

February

~I finished writing/editing Diamond Tears after 1 year, 3 months, and 9 days (my fastest novel-writing time ever at that point). 

~I started querying Diamond Tears! I only sent 17 queries for my previous book (Hidden Stars), and I was determined to put more effort in this time. The first few months of querying were the most fun I'd had in a long time. Also, I didn't really sleep the whole time. 

~I started this blog! Fun!

~I came up with the idea for Luminary. It took months before I had a firm enough grasp of what I wanted to do that I could actually start writing it, but the very beginnings of the idea started here.  

March

~I GOT MY FIRST AGENT REQUEST! Not just for Diamond Tears. I'm talking ever. I think other writers would agree that while all requests are heart stopping and amazing, there's nothing quite like your first.  ;)

~I decided that I had to get over my prejudices toward (i.e. hatred of) Twitter. This is one of the better decisions I made this year. 

April

~I sent queries and entered contests. Honestly, I'm not sure there's much more I did this month (other than go to work). 

May

~I got my first CP! This was terribly exciting for me. Especially after she sent back a crit of some of my stuff, and I realized that she's amazing. 

~I took a shot at writing a YA Contemporary, Dr. Pepper Kisses and Vodka Smiles. I got frustrated with this project almost immediately. 

~Then I got my second CP! We'd been talking to each other on Twitter for months and I thought she was awesome, so when she posted a Help Wanted ad on her blog, I very quickly replied.

June

~I tried to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo. I epically failed. Around the time I gave up, I also gave up on Dr. Pepper Kisses altogether. Turns out I'm not meant to write contemporary stuff, whether the people who I let read my first couple of chapters agree or not. Writing for me is supposed to be an amazingly fun and exciting and fulfilling thing. Not an overwhelmingly frustrating thing. Also, I like magic. 

~I discovered Doctor Who! I realize this is probably about as notable to you as the skiing incident, but for me, this was huge. Such greatness this was. I will love the Tenth Doctor forever. And ever. And ever. *contented sigh*

July

~I finally sorted out enough of the details about Luminary, and got a good enough handle on the voice, that I could start writing. Sort of. I wrote about a page and a half (much of which I later deleted), and didn't touch it again for weeks and weeks.

August

~I celebrated my one year wedding anniversary!

~As for writing? Er...

September

~Umm...

October

~I got over my summer funk and stopped wasting away.

~Luminary finally got going for real. I couldn't seem to stop writing. 

~On Halloween, some Twitter friends and my husband railroaded me into signing up for NaNoWriMo. I ended this month with great feelings of trepidation considering how poorly Camp NaNo went in June.

November

~NaNo! It was a whirlwind month of awesome, guys. 50,000 words in 25 days. Hells to the yes. 

~I started my new work schedule of only 4 days a week, making Fridays my dedicated writing (editing/plotting/etc.) day each week. Fridays are pretty much my favorite day now.

December

~I finished Luminary. Not counting that page and a half in July, I wrote the whole thing in 2 months and 26 days. I felt amazing. I felt like a real writer. I haven't gotten over that initial high yet. 

~I wore my NaNoWriMo Winner t-shirt to my family's big Christmas get-together in Maryland. Because I'm proud. And a couple of them actually noticed and asked what it meant. And when I told them, they were proud of me. That's better than any present.

~I got some amazing early critiques of Luminary and did my first two rounds of edits. Excited, I sent the whole book off to my CPs. 

So that's my year in a nutshell. I found the writer community on Twitter (including my CPs!), started my blog, finished one book and wrote another, and got my first round of agent requests. Not too shabby, huh? So how about next year? I've listed my goals below. Will I meet them? I have absolutely no clue. But I know I'm sure as hell going to try.    

2013

~Use CP critiques to edit Luminary until it shines. 

~Query the living hell out of Luminary (and enter contests as appropriate). 

~Find the very most perfect agent ever, who is as in love with Luminary as I am.

~Get a book deal. (Bonus: have it be a three book deal with enough of an advance that I can become a full time writer. Wouldn't that be nice? But I'd be happy with any book deal and any size advance. The end game for me is getting my book out there. Anything else is icing on the cake.)  

~In the middle of all that, write another book. (Or two? Who knows.)  

How about you? How was your 2012? Did you meet any big goals or pass any personal milestones? What are you most looking forward to in 2013? What are your big plans?
 

Did you actually make it through this whole, incredibly long post and read all the way to this part?    



Monday, December 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing


You guys, this is huge. Someone actually tagged me in one of those fancy pants blog hop, Q&A things. And not just any someone. It was my totally fantabulous CP Delia Moran (check out her blog or follow her on Twitter (if Twitter is your thing), because she rocks). It's like I've made it at last! Or, you know, something like that. Either way, yay! I just finished the first draft of Luminary last night (insert insane amount of screaming and my happy dance here), so let's get started. 

What is the working title of your book?

 Luminary.

Where did the idea come from for your book?

Back in the spring, I was lamenting to my husband that I had no idea what to write about. So he took me to Barnes & Noble and told me to walk around, to see if anything gave my imagination a jump start. At the time, I remember thinking this was a very dumb idea and a complete waste of my time. But I went, because either way I got to hang out in Barnes & Noble. And you know what? It actually worked. There was a big Hunger Games display, and I started flipping through some sort of companion book to the movie. When I got to a picture of the people in the Capitol, all with their crazy clothes/hair/makeup, I decided I wanted to do something with color. And, since I write fantasy, something with magic. Next logical step was to combine the two.   

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have absolutely no idea. I only pictured someone else as I was writing one character in this book. And it wasn't even a real person. It was Darien/Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon. So this is what I picture when I think of Remi (except, you know, real), who is one of two potential love interests:



What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Knowing the king executes anyone who can see the colors of magic, seventeen-year-old Caya Filar is content with a life lived in grayscale. If only the stone in her engagement ring had stayed gray. 

Okay, I cheated. That's two sentences. But you've seen the lengths of my blog posts. And if you had any idea how often I started them with something like, "This will just be a short post," and then had to go delete that when I was finished, you'd be proud of me for putting it so succinctly. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I've done an awful lot of research into the whole self-published vs. agency thing, and I've decided that self-pubbing is not for me. I have a great deal of respect for the people who are able to take that path and achieve success, because I don't think I have what it takes to market myself in that way. I've also read a number of self-published books that I quite enjoyed, so I'm glad those people decided to do that. But I have my heart set on getting an agent/following a more traditional publishing path. I hope to start querying Luminary at some point early next year (maybe February?).

How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Well, I wrote the first page and a half in about 20 minutes back in mid-July, and then didn't look at this project again for a couple of months. So excluding those 20 minutes, it took me 2 months and 26 days from the time I started seriously drafting to the time I finished the draft (last night). To put that in perspective, the fastest I'd ever written a book before was 1 year, 3 months, and 9 days. I shaved over a year off my personal best, guys. And I couldn't be happier with the result. 

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

I need to put some more thought into comp titles before I can answer this question. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Isn't this kind of the same question as the second one (Where did the idea come from for your book?)? Because that was the inspiration.

What else about your book might pique a reader's interest?  

The thing I really think is going to interest people is the magic system I've created. Just to reiterate, color is magic, and anyone who can't use magic sees in grayscale. Since we talked about actors for a movie version, just imagine how visually cool that would be as a movie. Starting out in black and white, all Wizard of Oz, and then colors slowly start appearing. Until everything is color. And then when my characters use magic, they essentially pull the color away from the object in which it's gathered (magical energy likes to gather/pool). And if you use up all the magic in an object, it goes back to gray. It has to build up its magical stores again. I hope it's not narcissistic of me to say I think that's really freaking cool. 

Other than that? I write character-driven books. I always have. To me, caring about the characters is by far the most important part. (I went on about that at length here.) I absolutely love my main character, Caya. I think she's fabulous and smart, and I hope others will agree. Also, I'm in love with both Remi (think Tuxedo Mask) and Brye. I won't tell you which one, but I will tell you that falling for one of them was a mistake. He was just kind of supposed to be there. But I accidentally made him wonderful. I believe I've created several other characters (ranging from utterly lovable to the "I really want to punch that guy in the face" types) that will jump off the page. Above all else, I hope that my book will make people feel. What they feel is up to them. As long as they're feeling it.  

Okay, so now I'm supposed to tag someone else to do this. I would like to tag Veronica Bartles, who wrote a YA contemporary that I absolutely couldn't put down, and is hard at work on another one I absolutely can't wait to read. Veronica, I'm pretty sure you haven't done this already, but let me know if you have and I'll rescind the tag.  ;)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

SipSwap


So have you guys noticed that little #SipSwap button on the left? For those of you who have no idea what that means, let me explain. The very awesome Jessica Love and Kelsey Macke decided that writers survive on caffeine. And what do you need to drink your coffee or tea? Mugs. Lots of cute mugs. So when I signed up for SipSwap, I was randomly assigned to someone (another writer), who would choose a mug for me based off what she knew about me (from Twitter, my blog, etc.). Likewise, someone else would be assigned to me and I would do the same. Sounds fun, right?

Now, I don't actually drink caffeine. I used to. Excessively, in fact. And it's been a long, hard road getting to this point, I can tell you. But caffeine gives me terrible headaches. So I can either a) be in pain all the time, b) take way more Advil than is strictly healthy, or c) just learn to wake up/stay up without it. After years of various combinations of a) and b), I finally transitioned firmly into c). And somehow turned from a night owl to one of those annoying morning people who smiles all the time. Who knew that was possible?

Okay, I've gotten distracted. Whether or not I'll use my new mug to caffeinate myself is not the point. The point is that I LOVE mugs. If you look in the cabinet in my kitchen where glasses/cups/mugs are stored, you will see a small collection of real glasses for my husband and guests, and a shelf and a half of my mugs. I drink everything out of them. So the idea of getting a new one in the mail, perhaps making a new friend in the process? AWESOME. Just as much fun was choosing the mug for the person I was assigned. I actually got one of the organizers, Jessica Love, and she had lots of adorable pictures of her dog on her blog. So I pulled the ones I thought were the cutest and put them on a mug for her (you can read her post about it
here).

The person who drew me was Keri Gilles, and the mug she sent me was PERFECT. Like, seriously guys. I love every single thing about it. So without further ado, here it is!


I have absolutely no idea why the picture is sideways. It's not sideways on my phone (where I took it), or on my computer. But oh well. You can still see how wonderful it is. I immediately sent her a tweet when I got it, telling her how much I loved it and asking how she knew? Well, back when I first got my business cards, I posted a picture of them on Twitter. If you take a gander, you will see that they have adorable pictures of owls on them. From this, she guessed (correctly!) that owls are my favorite animal. So now I have the most adorable owl mug imaginable, in bright, happy colors (my favorite!) and covered in flowers! I LOVE IT!!!

I really hope SipSwap becomes an annual thing, because I will definitely participate again if it does.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Final Thoughts


Okay, so last night's post came to you from a state of exhausted euphoria. For one thing, I was up way past my bedtime (I'm an early riser, and so I go to bed pretty early, too). For another, I'd been writing for about 16 straight hours. As much as I love writing (it's an every-fiber-of-my-being kind of love) it's hard work. I have to put all of myself into my writing (how else would it be any good?), and putting all of yourself into anything is exhausting. Especially since I've been doing it all month.

So, with a little more reserve than I used yesterday, I am happy to say that I am officially a NaNoWriMo 2012 winner! I verified the word count late last night, was given a choice of winner badges to add to my blog (it really is beautiful, isn't it?), received a lovely certificate that is already hanging over my desk at work, and was officially labeled a winner on the NaNoWriMo site:


It's a little blurry, but that pink box to the left of my picture says WINNER!

You see how it made a big spike there right at the end? I was on track to finish right on time, but the words pretty much exploded out of my fingertips yesterday. Then, when I was starting to get tired and thinking of calling it a night, I tweeted my word count. And people tweeted back, cheering me on. And I got a little rush of energy and kept right on writing. Then I hit another big word count landmark and tweeted that one. And got more tweets cheering me on. GO GO GO!!! So I went. Their encouragement made me eager to push myself that much harder. To make it happen five whole days ahead of schedule. So it was that I hit my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal on day 25. And immediately ordered my winner t-shirt because I want people to know. Granted, I doubt anyone but a fellow writer will even look twice at it, but it'll make me happy every time I put it on.

So here are some arbitrary NaNoWriMo stats. Just because I think stats are fun, so why not?

  • Number of days it took to finish: 25
  • Most words in a single day: 8,951 (and that's not just most in a NaNo day; that's most ever)
  • Least words in a single day: 0
  • Number of days I didn't write a single word: 9/25
  • Number of days where I wrote at least the target average of 1,667 words: 9/25
  • Longest stretch of consecutive days where I didn't write a single word: 4
  • Number of novels I read when I should've been writing: 3 (oops)
  • Likelihood that my longest stretch of consecutive days was a direct result of reading 3 novels: 100%

Now I just need to finish the book. But since I'm just getting started with the big, climactic part at the end, I think that'll happen sooner rather than later.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

AHHHH!!!!


Holy crap, guys! I did it! I actually did it! 

Take a gander at the top word counter off to the left there. 

Then scroll on down and look at the beautiful NaNoWriMo winner badge.

And I didn't even turn into a zombie.
 

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update


Hello all! Just dropping by for a NaNo update. If you take a gander at my lovely little word count tracker thingies to the left, you'll see that I'm doing pretty well so far! I'm actually a little ahead of where I'm supposed to be according to my fancy pants NaNo stats graph (below).


Not too shabby. Especially since, this time last NaNo, I had long since gone crazy (or, as my husband claims, gone zombie) and given up. But this time around, I'm right on track to finish this book by the end of the month.

So what am I doing differently this time that's making it work? A couple of things actually. 

1. I'm still spending time with my husband. A lot of the time, I'm writing on my laptop and he's playing a video game, but he's only a few feet away from me. We can still talk. If you remember from last time, this was probably the biggest problem for me. I luuurve him, guys. And when I was writing during so much of my "spare" time that I saw him about ten minutes a day, I must've gotten separation anxiety or something. I don't often feel I have anything in common with dogs, but I guess that's not 100% the case. At least I didn't rip up anything in the house. 


2. I, umm....actually like the book I'm writing. Last time around, I was trying to make myself write a contemporary. Thing is, I don't generally read contemporaries. I'd never tried writing one before. If it's not in some way a fantasy or paranormal, it has to have one hell of a hook to draw me in. And I thought I had a pretty awesome hook. But as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I realized I just didn't care. And how am I supposed to write about something I don't care about? Whereas my new book has completely ingrained itself in my soul. I love every goram second of it. (If you don't know what goram is, go watch Firefly. Like, seriously. This is a much bigger emergency than when you hadn't yet seen Sherlock, as Firefly is the best show ever created in the history of television.) Moral of the story? If you absolutely love what you're writing, you're less likely to turn into this: 


3. Last, but certainly not least, I'm not making myself just write whatever comes to mind with no regard for quality. I actually dumped one entire chapter the day after I wrote it and wrote a new one to take its place. I know that there's not supposed to be time for that kind of thing in NaNo, but frankly, I cannot write that way. At all. I'm one of those people who will sometimes sit and stare at the computer screen for half an hour as I try to come up with exactly the right word. I don't want to throw something in there and go back to fix it later. I know I said back here that it was a good thing, and that it was liberating. But you know what? I was lying to myself. I was trying to convince myself that I could be like all those other prolific writers out there. But when it comes down to it, I want to do it right the first time. I mean, I'll still go back and edit the crap out of the MS, but it's not the same thing as writing something I know I'm just going to delete later. For me, that makes me wonder what the point is? And why would I be able to fully devote myself to something when I don't even see the point? So I'm writing at my pace, my way. And instead of being a mutant zombie, I'm more like this:


And that, ladies and gents, is my very most favorite Doctor from Doctor Who. Which you should also watch. Pretty sure my TV recommendations are giving me some serious nerd cred. :)  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

10 Steps


Saw this today and just wanted to share.  :)

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lost My Mind Again


Hi all! This is just going to be a quick post. And, umm...it may be my final post until December. More on that in a minute.

First, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! I've spent the month of October prepping for this fun and fantastical holiday. For example, I decorated my house with things like sparkly spiders, skull lights, and a Winnie the Pooh Halloween flag. I've also worn Halloween socks every single day this month. Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I have a great and resounding love for vanity socks. Especially Christmas socks, but those obviously aren't appropriate for October (I do wear them the rest of the year, though).

I never got around to getting a pumpkin this year, alas. I was thinking of carving Jack Skellington, but I guess it'll have to wait for 2013. So I'll just post a picture of my pumpkin from last year, instead.




Other pumpkins from past years have included a witch stirring the potion in her cauldron, complete with smokey tendrils, and the epically awesome Darth Vadar. I probably have pictures of these at home, so maybe I'll post them later if I think of it.

Anyway. Back to the main point. Why will I probably not be posting in November? Well, it's the same reason for the title of this post: I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. As I posted
way back when I epically failed Camp NaNoWriMo, I went about it all wrong last time. And I very nearly lost my mind. (Only kind of kidding...) But I think that if I pace myself a little better this time, and given the fact that I'll now have Fridays off (Starting this week! Hurray!!!), it might actually work. Also, when I tried to get Twitter and my husband to talk me out of it, it backfired. All responses on Twitter were along the lines of, "Doo eeeet," and here's the gchat conversation I had with my husband: 

Husband: I think you should do it, because you have Fridays to yourself to really work on it and your goals, and you're just far enough along that you could realistically finish it during NaNoWriMo. Then obviously you'll have to go back through and edit it, but at least you'll have gotten the plot and major events down...

Me: Grr! You and Twitter aren't helping. I want to be talked out of it, not into it!

Husband:  Okay. You were a wreck last time. And miserable. And hated the quality of work you were producing. And got so fed up you dumped the entire project...and almost turned into a zombie. Seriously...I had to act dumber around you so you didn't think I had a big, tasty brain. 

Me: ...as if I'd ever think that. OOOH! SNAP!

Husband: My plan is obviously working...

So now I have to prove that I can do this without nearly turning into a zombie. And it helps to know that he'll support me completely through the whole process. Even if I go crazy again. 

Wish me luck! Also, if you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, add me as a writing buddy! It'll be awesome to cheer each other on. (I'm NHNovelist.) 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EVER Blog Tour: A Review of the Awesomeness



So do you remember a few weeks ago, when my blog was hijacked by a ghost? Well, that was because Ever by Jessa Russo was coming out. Not only did I want to help her get the word out then so lots of people could read her awesome book (okay, you got me...I let Frankie hijack my blog with his ghostly ways), but now I'm also going to be an official stop on her blog tour. Isn't that banner up there super pretty? Ever easily has one of the prettiest covers I've ever seen. And I believe I read in an interview that Jessa herself played a big part in figuring out what the cover would be. That's one of the coolest parts of working with a smaller press, in my opinion: the level of input you, as the author, get on your own book.

Okay, let's not get sidetracked. I'm writing this post today to review Ever. Which I loved, by the way. But more on that in a little bit. First, let me give you the blurb about the book, so you'll have an idea of what it's about.

Seventeen-year-old Ever's love life has been on hold for the past two years. She's secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he's completely oblivious. 

Of course, it doesn't help that he's dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible. 

Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor, Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever's life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer. 

Some girls lose their hearts to love. 

Some girls lose their minds. 

Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul. 

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? Now do you see why I let Frankie hijack my blog, and why I so readily agreed to take part in this blog hop? So now that you know a little about the book (which you should totally go read, by the way...I really did love it), let's get into my review.

Remember my post a couple of weeks ago, where I talked about how the ultimate deal breaker for me with books is to not make me care about the characters? Well, that sure as hell wasn't the problem here. If anything, I cared too much (though don't think I'm complaining; that is never a bad thing). I loved Ever Van Ruysdael from page one. She had such a wonderful, and such a true and real, voice that it made me feel like I was sitting in a room listening to her tell her story instead of reading a book. She was interesting. She was hilarious. She had problems that I related to and understood. Yes, I just said that I related to and understood her problem of being in love with a ghost, and yet also finding herself falling for hot neighbor Toby, which comes with a price. Have I ever been in love with a ghost? Nope. I can say with all honesty that I've never seen a ghost, and I don't even believe in them. Have I ever been in love with two guys at once, and had to deal with figuring out that craziness? Nope. That one hasn't come up either. And I've certainly never been in danger of losing my soul (to the best of my knowledge, anyway).

So...how am I relating to this girl and her problems, you ask? Because that's what good writing does, ladies and gentlemen. It puts me smack dab in the middle of a situation unlike anything that's ever happened to me, and it makes me think what the character thinks. It makes me feel each and every thing that the character feels. And let me tell you, when it comes to emotion, I ran the full gamut in this book. I laughed out loud (always fun for scaring the dogs when I've been silent for a long time), I cried until I couldn't breathe, I got so angry that I wanted to hit something, and there were more than a couple of literal jaw dropping moments. And let's not forget the sexy, sexy make-out scenes. I was so involved in this book that I couldn't put it down. I absolutely had to know what happened. Once again, a sign of good writing.

And I've been focusing on the main character, Ever, since the book is written from her point of view. But there's a full cast of characters that I just loved, ranging from Ever's best friend to her dad. Not to mention the ghost of her heart, Frankie, and hot neighbor Toby. You know how you read a book with two possible love interests (a la Edward and Jacob in Twilight, or Peeta and Gale in Hunger Games), and you have a very clear preference for one over the other? So if she picks that one, you're all excited, but if she picks the other one, you never quite get over it? Well, Jessa Russo managed to make me fall for both of them. Do you know how hard that is? I'm Team Edward and Team Peeta all the way, people. No one can convince me to even give Jacob or Gale a second glance. And yet, I got all the way through this book and still couldn't figure out what I felt. Or rather, which one made me feel more. I can't wait to spend more time with these characters so I can figure it all out.

Let me just close this review by saying this: the second I finished the book, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I grabbed my phone and tweeted Jessa. The content of that tweet? I absolutely had to know if there was going to be a second book. (It's actually going to be a trilogy! Hurray!) If your first order of business upon finishing a book is finding out if there will be more to the story? Yeah. That means it's a damn good book.

And, last but certainly not least, I want to give you a little info about the author herself, the lovely and awesome Jessa Russo.


An unashamed super fan of all things paranormal romance, Jessa Russo reads, writes, and breathes paranormal YA, rarely straying from her comfort zone. When not writing or reading, Jessa enjoys making memories with her awesome family and amazingly supportive friends, while secretly planning her next trip to New Orleans. She's won a few flash fiction contests and had a short story published, but feels her greatest accomplishment is raising the coolest kid ever - a little girl with a Tim Burton obsession and a desire to save every animal she sees.

Jessa will always call Southern California home, where she lives with her husband Jon, their daughter Faith, Bronco the Great Dane, and Lola the Chihuahua.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Changes (Awesome Ones)


So you may or may not have noticed the new word count meters I've added on the left. Aren't they cute? (If you're a writer and have a blog, and would like some meters of your own, I got mine here.) Anyway, as you can see, my new book has a title: Luminary. At some point, I'll tell you more about that and what it means. As you can also see, I think it'll round out to about 75,000 words. It may actually be a little longer than that, which I think will be just fine. I've had a couple of people express concern about Diamond Tears, thinking 65,000 words was a little too short for a fantasy. So as long as I don't get too close to 100,000 words, I think I'll be just fine.

I also have a weekly word count goal now, which is pretty awesome. Remember way back in
this post, when I was talking about how Camp NaNoWriMo very nearly killed me? Okay, maybe I didn't use those exact words. Mostly, I was talking about pacing, and how trying to write with all of my spare (read: not at work) time was burning me out. And I said that if I could figure out a better pace, one that fits with the way I like to write and still gives me down time with my beloved husband, I could actually write a book fairly quickly. Maybe not in a month like the whole NaNo thing, and I don't intend to sign up for NaNo in November. But certainly a lot faster than my previous record of one year, three months, and two days.

Hence the weekly word count goals. This makes sure that I write regularly, rather than taking off a month or two at a time (as I'm known to do). But it's not exactly the grueling, strenuous pace I set for myself back in June. In fact, my entire weekly word count goal is the same as a single weekend day during NaNo. That's something I can keep up with. It's also something that has me finishing this book about three months from now. Not too shabby. 


I've even been doing a pretty good job of sticking to the goal. Well, I mean, sort of. This is my third week with the goal in mind, and only the first one where I actually met it. (I was only a few hundred words short in week one, though). I realized that just writing whenever I felt like it after work/on weekends was a little hard for me. I fell back into the same problem I had during NaNo. To put it simply, I missed my husband. So I kept wanting to spend all of my free time with him instead of writing. Not very good for the whole getting this manuscript written in three months thing (though quite wonderful for my ever so wonderful marriage!). So what's the most logical solution? Instead of using the time I already had but don't want to give up, just make new time. Every day this week I got up at (more or less) 4:45 in the morning. This gives me a little under two hours every morning to work on my book. And then I still get to relax with my husband when I get home from work at night, and my brain is fried. That weekly word count goal is looking pretty attainable right now.

HOWEVER! (And this is a big however, so that's why it got its own all-caps sentence, and even an exclamation point.) I might actually be upping my word count goal in November (not related to NaNo, I promise). Why, you ask? Well, I have even more changes to report. After a good deal of discussion with my husband, quite a few work-place trips to the looney bin, and a heart-to-heart with my boss, I have decided to switch to part time. I will now be working four days a week instead of five, and Fridays will be for me. All for me. Just me in my office with my laptop, losing myself in my writing. I can't even begin to express to you how much this means to me. When my boss gave me the thumbs up, I felt like about six million pounds of pressure lifted off my chest. I could breathe easier. I was instantly happier. So November 2nd will be my very first of weekly writing days, and I absolutely can't wait.

See? I told you my changes were awesome ones.  :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ultimate Deal Breaker


As I mentioned in my last post, this one will be about my #1 deal breaker when reading a book. If a book has this problem, I won't ever read another book by that author.

Drum roll please.

The ultimate deal breaker is not making me care about your characters. For example, if someone important dies, and I just don't give a shit, that's not ever a good thing. If I get to the end, and my first thought is that all the characters could die and I still wouldn't give a shit? That's extra bad.

This can happen in a number of ways. I've included some examples below of books that just couldn't make me care. It will contain spoilers (some mild, some not so mild), but I have a picture of each book's cover before I describe anything about the book itself. So if you haven't read that book and intend to, just skip the paragraph right after the picture.

Maybe the book is completely plot driven. It's all fine and good to have a plot-driven book, but when the only interesting thing about your book is the plot? That's just not enough for me. (Honestly, some of these types of books don't even have plots that I find very interesting). The primary example I have for this?


 

People went frickin' nuts about this book. If I recall correctly (it did come out long ago), it got a ton of publicity because it was written by a teenager. Included in the masses of people going nuts? My husband. Who bugged me for years until I finally read the whole thing. (He had to keep bugging for that long because I tried about 5 or 6 times to read it before I finally just forced myself to power through it.) This is a book where every single person could have met a horrible, painful, nasty end, and I wouldn't have done so much as raise an eyebrow. In fact, one of the main characters, who was basically in a mentor/replacement father figure role, did die. And I felt nothing. Nothing. I didn't know enough about these characters to care what happened to them. All I saw was what was on the surface. And that's not enough to get me emotionally involved. Needless to say, I didn't read any of the other books in the series. (My husband loves all of them. He also thinks some of my favorite books (all character driven) aren't "cool" or "exciting" enough. So there's that.)

Then there are books that don't really intend to get you emotionally involved with the characters. They are driven by a combination of plot and humor. And I don't necessarily hate these books. But I don't tend to read them, either. Example?



I do actually enjoy the random humor of this book. As far as humor goes, random and clever/smart/historical are my favorite types. And I actually quite enjoyed the movie, in spite of Zooey Deschanel, who I don't think could act if her life depended on it. But in the movie, I got to see the characters. I got to see reactions and facial expressions and feelings. This was particularly the case with Martin Freeman, who I love and adore. (By the by, have you gone to watch Sherlock yet? If you don't understand the segue, you clearly haven't. Get on that.) At any rate, I didn't get those things in the book. Instead of caring about Arthur when the world blew up, I got randomness and ridiculosity. Which were both vaguely enjoyable. But not enjoyable enough to make me read the next book. For me, humor can only carry you so far in a novel.

And, last but not least, you can have just plain shit writing. When this happens, I don't even get far enough into the book to find out if I could possibly care about the characters. Now, someone without any grasp of spelling or grammar wouldn't get a book published by the traditional routes, and I haven't read more than a handful of self-pubbed books. So that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about are books with absolutely no voice or personality. Stilted, boring writing. Mayhap an overabundance of pointless descriptions that make me want to tear my eyes out and fall asleep at the same time. The best example of this?



I know, I know. How can I be a fantasy writer and not like Lord of the Rings? How can I be a fantasy writer when I've never even finished Lord of the Rings? Well, sorry folks, but this book is, in my opinion, the biggest freaking snoozefest in the history of the fantasy genre. I've tried to read it at least a dozen times. I've gotten a little further each time, but no matter what, I end up asleep in the middle of the afternoon. I realize this is an exaggeration, but it seems like he'll spend 5 pages describing a freaking leaf on a tree. I suppose that's very literary and beautiful and sophisticated, etc, etc. But whatever. It's so bogged down in descriptions of things that don't matter that I have a hard time weeding out descriptions of the things that do. Like who the people in this fellowship are and why they've decided to do this insanely dangerous and brave thing. In the movies (which I absolutely adore), I get that. I can see it. I can feel it. And if there happens to be a pretty leaf on a nearby tree, fine. I can see it out of the corner of my eye as I focus on the faces and words of the characters. 

So how about you? How do you feel about the books I mentioned (if you've read them)? What are your ultimate deal breakers? And which books have been the most guilty of the things you hate?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Well, I Promised, Didn't I?


So I promised you that I would write at least once a week from now on. And I fully intend to keep that promise. I even went so far as to think up a bunch of different blog topics during the last week and a half or so. Just so that I would be prepared when the time came to sit down and write. I came up with some good stuff, too.

At least I'm almost sure I did. Because, as I tweeted earlier this week, I didn't bother to write any of this stuff down. I used to have the most incredible memory. I would remember everything. Okay, well, I guess not everything everything. Not like this guy:

If you don't know who this is, that's totally lame. Also, you should go watch Sherlock on Netflix. Immediately. Or at least immediately after you finish reading this post.

But still, I remembered a hell of a lot more than most. I could remember huge chunks of conversations, verbatim, years after they took place. In fact, I once repeated back to my friend in college, right before we graduated and went out into the world, a conversation that we'd had early our freshman year. I did this because I mentioned something about him that he said never happened, when he'd told me all those years earlier than it had. And after I told him exactly what he'd said, he realized that he'd completely forgotten that such a thing had ever happened to him. Or, put a little differently, I knew more about him than he did.  :P

It was almost tiring, actually, having that many memories in my brain. But I kind of liked it nonetheless. And it definitely helped with my writing. I'm not going to get into how I felt about the creative writing program at my college right now (let's just leave it at this: genre fiction isn't sophisticated enough for some people), but I did still get some pretty good feedback on some of my short stories. (I'm also not going to get into how much I despise writing short stories, because I never have to write another one ever, ever again. So who cares if I hate them?)

Okay, getting sidetracked. The point I'm trying to come to is that, in all the feedback I ever got, in all of the fiction writing classes I had to take, one thing was consistent: they all thought my dialogue was completely natural/believable/real. This is because I have hundreds upon hundreds of conversations that actually happened milling about up in my brain. It's never been all that hard for me to draw on that knowledge to write dialogue that sounds like what people would actually say. Well, with contemporary characters, at least. My WIP at the moment is a traditional fantasy (something I haven't done for, oh, eight years or so), so that's a whole different kettle of fish.

Yeah, I didn't mean for this blog post to take this turn. In fact, I was mostly going to lament about how I guess I'm not as young as I used to be, my brain is turning to Swiss cheese, the mind is the first to go, blah blah blah. And how I need to write shit down. But I like the turn this post has taken. So the lesson of the day? LISTEN TO PEOPLE. Nothing you can possibly do will ever help your writing as much as listening to other people talk. You'll get a better idea of how they talk. The words they use. The cadence. So the next time you're sitting in a restaurant or shopping or just at your desk at work, listen to what the people around you are saying. Honestly, it's some of the best research you'll ever do. Nothing sucks more than crap, unrealistic dialogue in a book. That is one of the top two deal breakers for me.

Ooh. And now I have another idea for a blog post. Next time, I'm going to talk about the ultimate deal breaker. The one thing that will make me never read another book by an author, no matter what. Because with all the awesome books out there, why read something that sucks? And I followed my own advice and wrote it down. On the internet, no less. No way I can lose it now.

(And seriously, if you haven't already seen it, go watch Sherlock. It's amazing!!!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Little Blog Hijacking


Hey guys and dolls, how's it going? 

Don't look so startled - I don't bite. 

My name's Frankie. And I'm just a regular guy. 
Well, except for the whole ghost thing, I guess. 




You’re probably wondering what I'm doing here. Well, it’s pretty simple actually. Something is coming for my best friend Ever - something I alone cannot protect her from. Regardless of how much I love her how hard I try. 

So I have to spread the word.

And I need your help to do it.

I've been a bystander for far too long, trapped in this ghostly shell for the past two years. I've decided it’s time to make myself known and set some things into motion. See, I've hijacked Amazon, Curiosity Quills Press, and blogs all over the internet to make my move. 

You're probably wondering why, right? 

Well allow me to be a bit more specific. Something isn't just coming for Ever; her actual soul is in danger. So I've decided to stay silent no longer. Word needs to spread. People need to know. 

Evil lurks in the shadows.  

To give Ever more time to figure things out and try to protect herself from the trouble that awaits her, I'm upping the publication date of our story. 



 I'm sure you can understand. I mean, souls are on the line here. 

So, with that said, EVER IS NOW AVAILABLE. Yes, you read that right. NOW. I couldn't wait any longer, so I did what I had to do to protect that stubborn girl I love my best friend, Ever. 

I had to do it. Some things are too important to wait for, and Ever is one of those things for me.

Now as you’re spreading the word about this new development, take heed this one warning:

Evil lurks in the shadows. And not just any evil. 

It’s disguised as that slick talking, good-looking bastard, Toby James ... the new kid next door. 





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Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer Funk


At least one of you already knows this (because I've mentioned it to you), but for the rest of you: I hate summer. I think I liked it a little more back when I was in school, because it meant time off. And it's hard to truly hate a time where you have minimal responsibilities. But even then, I don't think I ever loved summer the way so many others do. Such as my parents, who absolutely live to be on the beach and out in the sun, and anything under eighty degrees is long sleeve/pants weather. And heaven help them if it drops below fifty, because then it's practically too cold to survive.

I kind of lean in the other direction. Anything over eighty degrees is so hot that I feel like I'm going to just fall over and die. Heat and humidity and an overabundance of sunlight make me feel exhausted. Sometimes even woozy. Just generally lethargic and icky, with a longing for fall weaving its way through my very being. I won't even wear a jacket until it gets down to around forty degrees. No wonder I moved to New England!

So they say that the publishing industry basically shuts down in the summer. Whether or not that's true is a different story (I've seen a lot of tweets to the contrary), but for sake of argument, let's say it does. Well, so do I. Remember back in July, when I was so excited because I'd written a page of a new WIP? As exciting as that was, it didn't manage to get me out of my summer funk. I wrote a few more pages after that, but my battery was running on low, and I just didn't have the mental or physical energy to do much more than that. Which, as any writer would understand, made me sad. Which made my battery run even lower. Vicious cycle and all of that.

What's my point, you may ask? Well, as you may have noticed, my summer funk also meant that I haven't posted on this blog in almost six weeks (for shame!). I know some other people who had to take a hiatus of a month or two over the summer for various reasons. But they were good enough to do a quick post letting people know. My hiatus, on the other hand, wasn't planned. I kept meaning to blog. And I managed to keep up with all of the blogs that I follow. But I wasn't writing anything. I wasn't even reading much of anything. Every time I sat down to write a post, I'd realize I had absolutely nothing to say. So I'm writing this post today to let you know that the weather has made a change for the better, my outlook on things has improved, and I'm ready to get back into the game. I got the jump start I needed.

This is the first post of many. I intend to post at least once a week, as I have in the past. Also, I now have two chapters of the WIP. At some point, I'll pull together a few paragraphs and make a new page for it here on the blog. But for now, that's just not possible. I don't have a title, you see, and my working title is...well, honestly, it's both ridiculous and kind of embarrassing. Only my husband and one of my CPs have been trusted with it. When I come up with something more suitable, you'll all be among the first to know.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Puppy Shenanigans


In a bit of a departure from my regular posts, I would like to tell you the story of my morning. Because my dogs were acting like crazy critters, and I feel like sharing.

First, for some background, let me introduce you to my darling pups. I put them in the order that we adopted them, which is also (roughly) the order of their ages, oldest to youngest (we only know the exact birth date for pup #1).

Pup #1: Jujube
 
Pup #2: Dash
 
Pup #3: Indy
 
Pup #4: Shadow

Now that you've all met, on to the story. So I learned something new this morning: Indy and Shadow are terrified of the smoke detector. Now, before you start worrying that I, say, set my house on fire, let me assure you that this was a case of the battery getting low. So about once a minute, the smoke detector on the main floor would beep really loudly and an annoying voice would say, "Low battery." This started while I was in the shower, so when I got out, I opened the bathroom door to see what all the fuss was about. Indy and Shadow immediately ran into the bathroom (they usually avoid the bathroom, as it is the scary, horrifying place where the hated baths take place!), and went as far in as they could. Which means they were right by the hated tub. 

*BEEP!* Low battery. 

*BEEP!* Low battery. 

Every time it happened, they freaked out, and looked around like the frickin' grim reaper was after them or something. When I finally got them to leave the bathroom (quite a chore...I swear, at one point, Indy reared up like a spooked horse), I opened the bedroom door. At which point, Indy and Shadow rushed to hide under the bed. In Indy's case, this makes sense. He's tiny. But Shadow? He's not exactly a small dog. Nonetheless, he was somehow completely under the bed, about a foot and a half from the edge. 

*BEEP!* Low battery. 

*BEEP!* Low battery. 

Try as I might, I couldn't get the dogs to come out. We always shut the bedroom door when we're gone (it isn't one of the puppy safe rooms), so I had to get them to come out. The logical solution? Go downstairs and turn off the smoke detector. So I manage to twist it away from the ceiling and, after a couple of false starts, locate the battery compartment. I remove the battery with a triumphant grin, happy that I have made the fire alarm stop scaring the poor pups hiding under the bed. 

Or.....not. 

*BEEP!* No battery. 

*BEEP!* No battery. 

Stupid hard wired thing. So I tracked down a 9-Volt battery, managed to get the stupid thing in there (a couple more false starts...that smoke detector is really weird), and finally, at long last, silence. Victory!

Except the dogs were still hiding under the bed. And apparently, it became the place to be, because when I went back up to try to coax them out with treats, Jujube scurried under there and also refused to come out. Three crazy dogs hiding under the bed! Gah!

Like I said: treats. Lo and behold, treats are not a good enough motivation for Shadow or Jujube. Who knew? They stayed under the bed, staring at me with a "Yeah right!" look. Or maybe it was more of a, "Hells to the no!" look from Shadow, and a, "I have better things to do than make your life easy, Mommy," look from Jujube. (You don't know Jujube, but trust me when I say that's her general attitude.) Indy however...the second the treat came into view, his eyes lit up. And after about 10 seconds of indecision, he army crawled his way to the edge, sticking his head out just enough for me to hand him the treat. Unfortunately for him, that was also just enough for me to grab him and pull him out. Yay! One down! I put him in the hall and shut the door.

I decided Jujube was my next best bet, because she wasn't completely under the bed (her tail was sticking out). So since words and treats weren't working, I grabbed and pulled. There was a bit of a scramble of front paws, but alas, she has no thumbs and couldn't grab hold of anything. Two dogs down. And while this scramble was going on, I'm pretty sure Shadow's thought process was something along the lines of, "Oh, shit...she just pulled both of them out. Is she going to do that to me!?" And by the time I'd gotten Jujube out, Shadow was waiting by the door.

Dash got an extra treat for being the only one not to make my morning difficult. And even with all this, I still made it to work 10 minutes early. Ooh yeah.  :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Life Is Short, So Go Kick Ass


So tomorrow is the three year anniversary of when I totaled my car. (You already know where I'm going with this, don't you? It's okay...I'll be brief. Well, as brief as I'm capable of being.)

Life is so freaking short. You never know what's going to happen. Even if you live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in your sleep at 105, life is still freaking short. I mean really? 105 years? Out of all of human (and pre-human) existence? Just a drop in the bucket. So why waste even an instant? I know so many people that say, "I've always wanted to write, but I just can't seem to find the time." Or a very good friend of mine who loves to paint and dance and do so many different things, who never seems to find the time for any of it. Or another friend who is stuck in a job she hates, and just can't seem to get out. 

So I say again: life is so freaking short! If you don't like what you're doing, do something else! I realize it's easier said than done, but it sure as hell isn't going to happen on its own. And if you have a dream, something you've wanted to do all your life, for the love of happiness, go do it! No time like the present. Yes, it'll take time. Yes, it'll take effort. Yes, it'll probably be hard. But God almighty, it'll be worth it in the end. Even if you don't succeed, you'll know you tried, and you'll know you tried your damnedest, and you can be damn proud of yourself and what you've done with your life. 

Here are a couple pictures of my car after the crash (and it was a single car spin out, so no one else was hurt at all): 




I would be lying my ass off if I said this crash didn't affect me. For one thing, I'm a much better driver! And for another, I know that I shouldn't waste any time. There are so, so many things that I want to do in my life. And for me, there's no time like the present. Why waste your time being miserable? Why waste your time wishing for something, but never trying to get it?

I have the mangled front license plate from this car hanging on the wall of my office (we never found the back plate...I think it ended up in a ditch with my antenna and some other random car parts). Some people probably think this is weird and/or morbid. But for me, it reminds me every time that I see it that I am so fucking alive and I have so much I can give this world. And damn it, I'm going to give it.

The only one who can make your dreams come true is you. Now get out there and kick some serious ass.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Code Name Verity: Anger, Awe, & a Lack of Tears


Time for another book review. Unlike my review of Amanda Hocking's Trylle trilogy, this one shall be spoiler free. Let's start with a quick blurb about the book. Here's what is says about it on Amazon:


Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 

Okay. So I bought Code Name Verity for a couple of reasons. One, I love stories set during WWII. This has always been a particularly interesting period in history for me, so I was already sold on the idea. And two, because people kept going on and on and on and frickin on (on Twitter) about how it made them cry and cry and cry. I love books and movies that get me so emotionally involved that I cry (tears of joy or sadness are both welcome), so I was sold. 

The title of this blog post may lead you to believe that I didn't like this book. For the love of all things good and shiny, please do not think that! It was wonderful. Absolutely out of this world, awe-inspiringly wonderful. From the very first page, I was so involved in this story that I couldn't put it down. Literally. It's been a while since I had the stamina to read a book in one sitting. But there I was at 4 o'clock on Saturday morning, turning to the last page with exhausted, tearless eyes. I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone who has even a passing interest in WWII. The writing was absolutely stellar. I felt so very connected to these characters. Like I was right there with them. It was beautiful. It was heartbreaking. I loved every god damn word.

I wanted so much to cry during this book. It makes me feel like I must not have a scrap of humanity in me that I didn't. Especially since I'm a big crybaby. Seriously, everything makes me cry. My husband sometimes thinks I'm a crazy person (it's just fiction...why am I getting so upset?). I cry when people die. I cry when people almost die. I cry when something in a movie or book might possibly be something resembling sad or bad or unfair. And it's not just sad/bad/unfair things. I cry when I'm really happy, too. I cry at the end of chick flicks when the guy and the girl finally get together. I cry when someone's lifelong dream comes true.

And it's not just books and movies. I cry in real life when things are emotionally charged. When something horrible happens in the world, even though it technically has absolutely nothing to do with me, I cry myself sick. Without fail. And when something wonderful happens, I turn into a blubbering idiot. Like my wedding, for example. I knew myself well enough to know that I might just be so happy during the ceremony that I wouldn't be able to keep it together. So my something blue was an embroidered handkerchief (my new initials and the date in a lovely, light blue) that I kept with me the whole time. And thank goodness I did. Here I am, before the ceremony, looking good and happy and in control of my crazy self:


See how I'm not crying? I was actually quite proud of myself. I've shown you this picture first so you won't think I looked horrible on my wedding day.  ;)  I managed to be perfectly normal until it came time to start walking down the aisle. Even then, I held it together. I held the tears in. I didn't want to spend my wedding ceremony crying. But I guess it was pretty obvious, because as soon as I got up to the front and my husband took my hand, he whispered, "Don't cry." And he continued to mouth those two words throughout the ceremony. So I must have been hanging by a pretty tenuous thread. And when our Justice of the Peace said, "By the power invested in me by the state of New Hampshire, I now..." that thread snapped. That's as far as I made it. And then I was sobbing:


Not the most attractive I've ever looked. Hence putting the pretty picture first! See how my beloved husband, the maid of honor, and the Justice of the Peace are all laughing at me? Yeah, everyone else was, too. You just can't see them.

My point in all of this? Everything makes me cry. And it pisses me off that Code Name Verity didn't. Because it deserved ALL THE TEARS. But I had been hearing for weeks about how I would sob myself silly. So when it came to "that part," I had nothing in me. I was expecting it. I knew I was supposed to cry, and I've never been very good at doing what I'm "supposed" to do. I think my subconscious is just too damn stubborn. So in a way, I feel cheated by all of the hype. It robbed me of my tears (hence the anger). But I don't regret reading the book, even despite that. Because it was just that amazing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finally Moving On


Or starting over. Or something along those lines. But whatever it is, the ultimate moral of the story is you can't keep a good writer down. There are plenty of people through the course of human history who have started writing a book and never finished it. Or started writing several books and never finished any of them. I'm sure this could be for a number of reasons. Lack of focus, maybe. Or just a general lack of passion. Maybe writing was a passing fancy. Something they didn't actually care about, but figured they'd give a try just for the hell of it. And when the going got tough, they said screw it and moved on with their lives. 


Having already written four novels, I'm obviously not one of these people. That said, I do have projects that I started and haven't (yet) finished. The WIP I was working on during Camp NaNoWriMo has been added to this group of unfinished manuscripts, at least for now. Pretty sure I mentioned this in my last blog post, but I haven't written a word of Dr. Pepper Kisses and Vodka Smiles since June 10th. In fact, until today, I haven't written a word of anything since June 10th. But today on my lunch break, as I was standing by the microwave and waiting for my leftover spaghetti to be ready, it came to me. The perfect way to start a different WIP. One I've been plotting since March, but could never figure out how to write. 

I didn't write much. Just a page or so. But that one page means so much to me right now. I'm back in the game, people. And while I'm a little sad that I only made it about halfway through the first draft of Dr. Pepper Kisses, I know that it's time to move on/start over/whatever. That WIP just wasn't working for me. I need more time to let the idea percolate before I can finish it, because it was too rushed and underdeveloped and just...wrong. And it frustrated me so much that I just stopped writing altogether for weeks and weeks. (Horrible, I know.)

In the meantime, my new WIP is ready, and I'm ecstatic. Not only because it's one of the coolest ideas I've ever had (though that's a big part of it). But also because it's fantasy. I threw my hat in the contemporary YA ring with Dr. Pepper Kisses, but I kept feeling like something was missing. Pretty sure that something was magic. And while magic has absolutely no place in Dr. Pepper Kisses (and I still might finish it, despite that fact), writing the first page of my new WIP felt like coming home.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lessons Learned


Okay, so you've probably noticed that I haven't blogged in quite a while. Again. Let me assure you that it has nothing to do with laziness, nor have I just grown tired of blogging. I actually love blogging. When it comes down to it, I just haven't been able to think of anything to say. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, I haven't been tweeting as much, either. (And honestly, the tweets I have sent have had more to do with Doctor Who than writing. But I'm already on the 5th season, so it won't be long before my attention turns elsewhere.)

I think a Camp NaNoWriMo update is overdue. As I posted here, I was attempting to finish writing Dr. Pepper Kisses and Vodka Smiles in the month of June. Alas, I did not succeed. I started off really well. In the first ten days of June, I wrote 22,362 words. That, for me, is really good. Like, incredibly good. I was setting word count goals for each day, and very nearly always hitting them. For those ten days, things were going swimmingly.

But then I hit a wall. And I hit it hard. On Sunday, June 10th, I was absolutely miserable. I was exhausted, I was grumpy, I had a splitting headache. I was, in all ways, overwhelmed. And, frankly, I missed my husband. Even so, I forced myself to write, aiming for 5,000 words. I made it to about 4,600 before I just couldn't do it anymore. And I haven't written a word since. (Don't worry, though. I'll get back into the swing of things very soon. I'm still hoping to finish a first draft of the MS this summer.)

So what did I learn from my Camp NaNoWriMo experience?

1)  I don't have to try to make it perfect the first time. With all my other novels, I'd get bogged down in striving for perfection. I'd ponder over what word to use for twenty minutes, just to make sure it was exactly right. I was so, so careful. And so, so slow. The fastest I've ever written the first draft of a novel is just about a year and three months. The slowest is a little over two years. For this book, I wrote about half the first draft (total word count so far is 33,531) in under a month. That's under a month from the moment I came up with the idea to 33,531 words. And writing that way, just letting the words flow from my mind and knowing I could always go back and change them later, was liberating as hell.

2)  I can't be a full time writer and have a "real" full time job at the same time. In other words, I need to work on my pacing. As it was, I was going to work (with my commute, it's usually about 10 1/2 hours from the time I leave home to the time I get back again) and using up a large part of my energy (mental and physical) there. Then I'd go home, hang out with my husband just long enough to eat dinner, and then seclude myself in my office until bedtime. Then on the weekend, I wrote from the time I woke up until the time I hit my word count goal. Which was usually about 12-ish hours. I'm sure there are lots of writers out there who can do that, no problem. But I'm not one of them. Writing is harder work than anything else I've ever done (professionally or otherwise). The sheer amount of energy it takes to create these characters and these scenes is incredible. I was exhausted all the time. If the writing was my "real" job, and then I finished when my husband got home and spent my evenings relaxing with him, I'm sure I could write a draft in a month without any issues at all. But that's not how it's working right now. And ten days of running on fumes while I basically ignored my husband was more than I could take. But if I try to schedule it better, I think I could succeed at something like this. I just need to figure out what works for me, personally, and the way I can and cannot write.

3)  You writers who are able to have full time jobs and husbands and kids (kids! I can't even imagine!) who are still able to win any of the NaNoWriMo challenges are INCREDIBLE. I bow down to you and your seemingly endless stores of energy. I am forever impressed by your greatness.
  
Final Camp NaNoWriMo thoughts: do I regret trying to write the book in a month, and almost making myself go crazy? Not in the least. It was an awesome experience. Would I do it again? Absolutely. But as I said above, I would have to approach it differently. Since I'd never tried anything like this before, I didn't know how I would react to it. Now that I do, I think I can adjust my methods accordingly.

What about you? I know that several of you were participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. Some of those who weren't have participated in other NaNoWriMo and similar writing challenges in the past. Did you succeed? If so, any tricks you can impart for keeping one's sanity? And if not, what were your biggest challenges? Any ideas on how to overcome them in the future?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hot or Not?


I've been following an interesting debate on Twitter recently about whether or not the male romantic leads in YA novels need to be hot.

Argument A: Not every teenage boy is hot. In fact, the vast majority of them are probably not hot. There are plenty of guys that are good boyfriend material who are not drop dead gorgeous. And on the flip side, just because a guy is super duper sexy, that doesn't automatically make him good boyfriend material. When it comes down to it, a lot of the hot guys are self-obsessed jerks. So making teen girls that are reading these books believe that they have to find a guy who is beautiful and swoon worthy is unrealistic and, frankly, ridiculous. Not to mention overdone.  

Argument B: Teen girls want to read about hot guys. They want to fantasize about their Edward Cullens and their Jacob Blacks. It's just a fact of life. If you write an average-looking character, teen girls will not find him swoon worthy, and your book will not sell. Simple as that.

These are obviously the two extremes of the argument, and there's certainly a place for middle ground. Which is around where I am. Because I very much agree that not all male leads need to be the stereotypical version of hot (like the otherworldly/godly beautiful boy, or the sexy bad boy, etc.). Not by any stretch of the mind. As long as your MC finds him attractive, that's the part that really matters. It's all in the description. The words you choose to have your MC describe this character. You can describe a character's traits that might not necessarily be included in the mainstream definition of hot, but if you do so well (i.e. endearingly, making it very clear that the MC likes this trait), I think that's wonderful.

Because really, what matters more in a book is who the character actually is. His personality. How he interacts with the MC. How he talks in general. His quirks. His flaws. How he overcomes his flaws. What he does when it's crunch time, and he has to either stand up and make the hard decision, or wimp out and take the safe road. All of that, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes a character truly attractive. Using hotness as a character trait, or more specifically, as the most important character trait, is just plain laziness.

Personally, I've gone both ways. The love interest in my book Diamond Tears, Robin, is definitely more cute than hot. For example, one of his traits that my MC loves/finds most endearing is that his hair kind of sticks up from time to time. Usually when he's upset, and therefore running his hands through his hair. Hardly the look of a one of these Adonis leads who always looks perfect all of the time. He has three older brothers who are big, beefy guys. And when compared to them, he comes off looking scrawny as hell. In fact, he's actually a tiny bit shorter than my MC. I know that a lot of women would consider that a deal breaker, but that's something I've never understood. Who the crap cares how tall a guy is? Do people seriously decide that someone can't possibly be right for them as a human being because their genes made them short? 

[If that sounded a bit ranty, I apologize. I may have mentioned elsewhere on this blog (and I have certainly mentioned on Twitter) that my husband is six inches shorter than me. And some people actually are incredibly shocked when they see us together, and think we're abnormal people for being able to "get over it." Still haven't figured out what there is to get over.] 

Anyway, then there was my absolutely beautiful vampire, James Quinn. This one was from flawed book number three, Hidden Stars. I made him a perfect, sexy creature from top to bottom. Why did I do this? Because it was fun. 

Why did I make Robin not a perfect, sexy creature from top to bottom? Because it was also fun. And I am absolutely in love with them both. So I guess my ultimate opinion is that I see no reason why we can't just have some variety. As long as your hot guys are more than the sum of their parts. Otherwise, I'm just not interested.