Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cover Reveal: TWELVE STEPS by Veronica Bartles


So I'm pretty much ecstatic to be involved in the cover reveal for TWELVE STEPS, written by my wonderful and beloved CP, Veronica Bartles. I adore every single thing about this book, guys. Up to and including the beautiful cover. Seriously, isn't it all sorts of beautiful? (And I really want those purple shoes...)

Twelve Steps
by Veronica Bartles
Release Date: 03/25/14

Book Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. There in Laina's shadow, Andi's only noticeable feature is her pretty awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina's perfect everything else.

When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina. After all, great hair must count for something.

Step 1: Admit she’s powerless to change her perfect sister, and accept that her life really, really sucks. OK, maybe that's two steps in one.

Step 4: Make a list of her good qualities besides great hair. There have got to be at least three good qualities, right?

Step 7: Demand attention for more than just her shortcomings, and break out of her shell. Easier said that done, but worth the effort in the long-run. 


When a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi finds that her prince isn’t as charming as she'd hoped, and realizes she may need a new program--perhaps with less steps!

As cracks in Laina’s flawless fa├žade begin to show, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.

About the Author
As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. (She was sandwiched between the gorgeous-and-insanely-popular older sister and the too-adorable-for-words younger sister.) She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy.   When she isn’t writing or getting lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, Veronica enjoys knitting fabulous bags and jewelry out of recycled plastic bags and old VHS tapes, sky diving (though she hasn’t actually tried that yet), and inventing the world’s most delectable cookie recipes.

TWELVE STEPS is Veronica Bartles's first novel.

Author Links:
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Malcolm Reynolds Trumps All


The following conversation occurred during the opening credits of Love Actually. (This will make no sense to you if you are unfamiliar with Love Actually, The Walking Dead, or Firefly/Serenity).


Husband: Keira Knightley should've gone with the best friend guy. Then she would've survived the zombie apocalypse.


Me: But she stuck with the guy who killed Mr. Universe with a sword. And he was pretty badass.  And the reavers are pretty much like zombies.


Husband: But he didn't do that hot against the reavers!

Me: He did fine against the reavers. He had a problem with Mal.

Husband: *thinks for a few seconds* So really, the moral of the story is that she should've sought out Nathan Fillion.


Me: And this is why I love you.

Ah, Nathan Fillion. Like you, I will never move on from the glory that was Firefly. Long live Malcolm Reynolds.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Writing Process


So the lovely Veronica Bartles invited me to take part in this fun little blog hop. Just four questions about my writing process, and then I'll name someone at the end to hopefully keep this going. Here goes.

1. What are you working on right now?

I am working on two things. I'm finishing up edits for my MG fantasy TEARLESS, which I love so much it's almost overwhelming at times. And I'm working on coming up with the idea for my next book. Because eventually, I'll finish editing and start querying. And we all know that the best way to avoid the loony bin while querying is to start working on your next project. I have an idea rolling around in my head, but I'm not sure about it yet. I like to let these things sit and simmer for a while before I commit to them. Kind of like tattoos. I have a rule that I won't get a tattoo unless, a full year after I decide I want it, I still want the exact same thing. So far, nothing has passed this test, and I remain un-inked. But don't worry...I don't force myself to wait a whole year before starting a book. Because books, unlike tattoos, can be revised, or even put in a drawer, never seen or heard from again. 


2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

The big difference between this and other MG fantasies (or other fantasies in general) is that I've really created a form of magic that, to the very best of my knowledge, has never been seen before. I did the same with LUMINARY, my YA fantasy, and that's really what I want for my next book, as well. I think that's what I'm especially good at. Creating really fun, original words/magic systems, and then writing characters that you can truly come to love and root for. I really hope any future readers will love Sam, the main character of TEARLESS, as much as early readers have. 

3. Why do you write what you do?

I have been told, repeatedly, since I was old enough to speak, that I suffer from an overabundance of imagination. Well, suffer might not be the right word. Though it is the word certain people have used to describe me (the people who don't get me, and just think I'm a whack-a-doo). But I choose to believe that I have been particularly and especially blessed. I write fantasy because, to paraphrase Anne Shirley, it has more scope for the imagination. And because it makes me happy. Really, truly, and seriously happy. How many people can say that about their jobs? 

4. How does your writing process work?

I am a plotter through and through. But long before I start plotting, I come up with a premise. Like with LUMINARY, color=magic. Or TEARLESS, a wizard controls everyone in his kingdom through their tears...except the boy who can't cry. Once I come up with this premise, I let it simmer and percolate. I try to let characters and plot points and worlds and rules of magic come to me naturally. And once I feel I have a firm enough grasp on what I want the book to be about, I sit down and write it all out. I prefer the program Scrivener, which has a nifty cork board page. I can put all my plot points on separate notecards, and then move them around as I see fit. It's so much easier than what I used to do (basically just writing out a bullet list in Word, with no order, rhyme, or reason to it). Then I also have separate cork boards for my characters and settings. Couldn't recommend this more. Anyway, after I have things meticulously planned out and written down, I start writing. And 99.9% of the time, I write in order. I generally find writing out of order stressful and just plain strange. And once I'm done with a first draft? Edits, edits, and more edits. This part of the process has grown particularly intense and awesome ever since I met my three fabulous critique partners. They see things I never would or could, and have made me a significantly better writer. 

And that's about it! So now I'm supposed to tag someone else to keep this going. The awesome Rachel Horwitz has agreed to take part. Go here on Friday to read about what she's working on and her writing process.  :) 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fantasy and Science Fiction are Totally the Same Thing, Right?


Grrrr.

Let me think about that question a little more.

Hmm.....

GRRRRRRRR.

Yeah. No. Not the same thing. Often lumped together (especially in book stores) but so not the same thing.

I don't write science fiction. I've never written science fiction. I might, on occasion, read a book that could be qualified as science fiction light.

I write, read, live, love, breathe fantasy. Have for very nearly all of my life, and don't see that changing anytime soon.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I was called a science fiction writer during a meeting at work today. (In a rather derogatory (and inaccurate) context to boot.)* And apparently I've made my views on this subject known to coworkers, friends, and family. Because as I corrected my coworker for making this false statement, so did several of the other people in the meeting.

Then I got back to my desk and my darling friend Taryn asked how the meeting was.


Not long thereafter, my husband asked me the same question. 


Any of you ever have someone make a completely wrong statement about what you write/writing in general? Ever have them think you're crazy when you object, because really, they're totally the same thing, right? 

(Grrrrr.)

*Additional note following a conversation I had about this post with Delia Moran: I would like to go on the record and state that I actually don't mind explaining the difference to people who actually care/simply didn't know/are interested and want to listen. What bothers me is when people think fantasy and science fiction are the same because they're both trash anyway. Just a bunch of useless words lumped together. So why bother differentiating? I must know I write the crappiest of crap, so why would that really matter to me? This is like when people ask me why I don't try writing a "real book." Not acceptable. So once more for the road: grrrrrrr. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why You Should Take A Break After Finishing A First Draft


Me, to my MS, right after I finish writing it:    

My MS is as beautiful as Keira Knightly *nods*

What it probably actually looks like:


Moral of the story? Take a break. Step back. Look at it with fresh eyes. Because when you do, you'll see everything you missed when the draft was shiny and new. And it'll be so much better when you're done. So good, in fact, that you'll probably do this:



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Power of Storytelling


I realize it's been a while since I've blogged. Sorry about that, guys! But something happened the other day that I just can't stop thinking about, and I wanted to share it with all of you. (I tweeted about it at the time, but I have so much more to say on the subject than can be included in just 140 characters.)

So on the way to work on Monday, I saw a truck for a stairlift company. It had a picture very similar to this one on it:


The instant I saw that picture, this is what popped into my head:

Carl from the wonderful Pixar movie Up

The image of Carl scowling while riding his stairlift stayed in my mind for a couple of seconds. But since I was thinking about Up already, my mind very naturally went to my favorite part of the whole movie: the montage of Carl and Ellie's life together. And I seriously burst out crying while driving down the highway. If you've not seen it before, I've put the video below. Or maybe if you have seen it and you love it as much as I do, you'll want to watch it again anyway. 


Wow. I just watched the video to make sure the whole thing was there and it was loaded properly, and I was crying my eyes out. *grabs box of tissues.*

So anyway. *sniffles* The point I'm trying to make here is that there is very real power in good storytelling. I seriously saw a picture of a stairlift and, within a matter of about 10 seconds, I was bawling. Because of a picture. Of a freaking stairlift. If I'd never seen the movie Up, would I have reacted this way? Definitely not. I probably wouldn't have more than glanced at the stairlift truck on my way by. But because the image I saw on the side of that truck was associated with something else in my mind, all of a sudden I have an absolute flood of emotions running through me.

This is what truly good storytelling can do to us. (To us, or for us?) It can take the most mundane things and make them really mean something. It can turn an otherwise boring commute into something special (if exceedingly sad).

That's such a large part of why I decided to become a storyteller, guys. I mean, I write books instead of making movies, but I feel that words are every bit as powerful as images if they're used correctly. When one of my CPs told me that my most recent book made her cry, that was pretty much the best compliment I could ever remember getting. The fact that my words made her care so much that she started crying filled me with such happiness. Such pride in the years I spent on my writing to get to the point where I am today.

And I hope that, some day, my writing is good enough where someone will be driving down the highway or walking down the street, see something that reminds them of one of my books, and they'll feel something. Could be they burst into tears (if that's the case, though, I hope they're not driving too fast...safety first, you know), or burst out laughing, or even just smile a little. As long as my words, my places, my characters matter to them, I'm pretty sure I'll have accomplished what I set out to do the first time I put pen to paper.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Writer's Voice


**UPDATE: I was picked for the agent round of this contest! Go Team Krista! You can read my revised entry here.**

It seems I'm one of the lucky 150 to make it into the next round of a rather awesome and exciting contest, "The Writer's Voice." (You can read about it here.) Thanks so much to all of the people involved in putting this contest together! You guys are awesome! :)

(A note to my regular followers: two blog posts in one day? I'm sure you're as shocked about it as I am! I suppose it was bound to happen someday.)

And now, without further ado, here's my entry!


Title: LUMINARY
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 91,000

QUERY

Seventeen-year-old Caya Filar, like everyone else in her city, sees only in grayscale. Colors exist as magical energy, once worked by Luminaries like her father. But when a prince, terrified of magic he couldn't see, slaughtered the Luminaries and stole the king's throne, colors became something to fear.

Now little better than an outcast, Caya steers clear of the king's guards. She knows they're eager for any excuse to brand her a Luminary and execute her, whether she can see color or not. And there's no chance of leaving the city with guards patrolling the walls, murdering anyone who tries to flee. Keeping her head down, she works in a shop to feed her family—at least until the shopkeeper's son proposes. His respectable name might help her overcome the stigma left by her father's Luminary magic. 
 
If only the stone in her engagement ring had stayed gray.

FIRST 250

Every day as I left to work, Avara tried to make me feel guilty and I tried to make her feel useless. It was a daily routine for us. I kept my head high and my shoulders back as I made my way to the grand foyer, knowing she was there.

Sure enough, I was only about halfway down the curved staircase when I heard her usual sound of disgust. "Stubborn as ever," she said softly, and I followed her voice with my eyes. She was leaning against the doorframe of the parlor, arms crossed over her stomach.

"Not stubborn." After months of the same argument, my voice came out flat and disinterested. "Just not in favor of starving to death."

"You're making things worse. You have to see that." 

"Yes, because so many people were clamoring to marry us before I took a job."

She glared at me. No matter how many times I used the line, she had no response. Yet she still picked the fight, pretending nothing had changed in the six years since King Elun stole the throne from his brother.

The uprising happened the night of Avara's debut ball, ruining her plan to be betrothed by midnight. She'd known Elun's guards were coming for our father, hunting down anyone who could see the colors of magic. But all she'd cared about was getting a ring on her finger, no matter the cost.

If she hadn't argued for so long, we probably all would've gotten out of the city alive.

Shiny


So did you ever come up with an idea for a novel, and you loved the idea, and you thought it could really go somewhere, but something about it just felt wrong? Like, not something small or easy (changing a character's name, or making some tweaks to the plot, etc.). Something BIG. And it's like it's there, just on the edge of your brain, and if you only concentrate hard enough, it'll come to you.

Except you spend hours, days, weeks basically going like this:


And NOTHING! Absolutely nothing. So frustrating. So you put the story aside and you move on. Clearly, it's not going to happen with this one.

So you come up with some other new stories. For some of them, maybe you just write down a few sentences, because all you have is the basic premise. Something to let percolate and come back to later. Others, your brain is absolutely on fire and you write down plot and setting and character studies and maybe even start some chapters. But maybe your heart isn't in it. Because it's not the story you want to write. So you start to act like this:


And you sigh a lot. And you worry that maybe you're going to get frown lines. And then you actually do get worry lines from all the worrying about frown lines. And you have absolutely no idea what you're going to do because everything ever is wrong.

Until you're driving to work one day, listening to the Rock of Ages soundtrack, and suddenly, you're all, "I've just had an apostrophe." And Captain Hook says, "I think you mean an epiphany, Smee." Well, I mean, that was these guys:


But whatever. Same difference. Suddenly, out of nowhere, while you're singing Don't Stop Believing (ironic, I know), you know exactly what was wrong. And you were right. It was a BIG thing. I'm talking you had the entirely wrong person as the main character big. But if you change it...oh, the possibilities! So you write down notes and ideas and bits of dialogue like an absolute mad woman because it's just flooding your brain, and you want to get it all down as quickly as you possibly can. Then you read over everything you just wrote and can't help but go:


Which then makes you think of Doctor Who. Which only makes you even happier. And suddenly, that tarnished, old idea is shiny. Life is shiny.

Okay, I realize I probably got a bit too specific for this to apply to any of you. But, you know, if you take out the odd details, how about then? Ever go from confused and depressed to, "I'm brilliant!" in the space of a moment? Because that is one of my favorite parts of creative writing. That feeling of shiny elation when a plan comes together.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Bit of Humor


As I did back in this post about my dogs, I'm going to tell you a quick story. Just for fun.  :)

So a week ago, the neighbors' kids were over at my house, because they were going to be taking care of Mickey (my guinea pig) and Bartleby (by gecko) while the hubby and I were out of town. They'd taken care of Mickey before, but Bartleby is pretty new, so they had to learn the ropes. 


Before they left, they asked if they could look in my office. This is because my office is full of many fun and wondrous things. For example, neighbor kid #1, an eight year old girl, oohed and ahhed over all the clothing I have for my American Girl Doll, Felicity. Neighbor kid #2, a six year old boy, found a plastic sword and ran around like a swashbuckling pirate. 

Anyway, while they were in my office, they saw a cross stitch sampler that my grandmother made me long ago, which was hanging on my wall. The following conversation ensued:

8yo neighbor girl: That's so pretty!

Me: My grandmother made that for me when I was four years old.

8yo neighbor girl: How long ago was that?

Me: Twenty-four years.

6yo neighbor boy: You're twenty-four years old?

Me: Twenty-eight, actually.

6yo neighbor boy: Were you one of the original pilgrims?

Me: -___-

I guess age is all about perspective!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What's In A Name?


I have frequently changed my mind about what my Official Author Name is going to be. At some point, I'm going to have to actually make a final decision and stick with it.

So I was kind of hoping that you guys could help. I created a survey (it'll probably take you all of a minute to complete it) with the different options I've considered over the years. If you could please choose the one you think sounds the best (and there's the option to tell me why you think it sounds the best), I would greatly appreciate it.

Click here to take the survey.

Thank you!

Monday, March 11, 2013

On Bullies, Apologies, and Making A Real Difference


I'm going to take a break from my normal posts to talk about something that's very important to me. It's a tad long (even for me), but I hope you'll stick with me. 

Here goes. 

I had a dream last night that surprised me. I was at a bookstore near where I grew up, signing books. And that's not the surprising part. I have dreams about that sort of thing often, and they're always wonderful. That's what every writer dreams about, right?

No, the surprising part was that a boy (now a man) who made fun of (bullied, teased, tormented, tortured) me in elementary and middle school showed up. He smiled and said, "You don't remember me, do you?" So I gave a small, polite, embarrassed smile and asked his name. Recognition and anger flitted across my face when he gave it, and he said, "I guess you do remember me."

"Yes, well, it's hard to forget the person who systematically destroyed your self-esteem for six straight years. So, you know, there's that." Insert not-so-polite smile here.

And he winced, and said he was sorry, and that he'd come to apologize. That he'd wanted for years to apologize for what he did to me, but he didn't know how to get in touch with me until he saw my picture on a poster at the book store. I told him Facebook would've maybe been a better option than showing up at my book signing, and that he was holding up my line.

Yes, there was a line. Because it was my dream, and in my dreams, I always have long lines at these things. ;)

So I woke up, and as I clawed my way out of the haze of sleep, I found myself wondering what on earth had caused this dream. This is a person I haven't spoken a single word to since eighth grade. Seriously, guys. That wasn't even in this millennium. But apparently my subconscious isn't ready to let the past go, even if the rest of me is.

And I really am ready to let it go, though that wasn't always the case. For the longest time, I intended to be published under my maiden name. It was a pretty unusual name, and I wanted all of the people from my past to know that I'd made it. That I'd done something with my life. That I was somebody.

Then a little over a year ago, I found myself wondering why I care. What does it matter to me what people I don't know and haven't seen for years think of me? It's not as though I think of them. (Except, I guess, in my subconscious, but I didn't know about that until I woke up this morning.) It's not as though I need their approval for anything ever. I didn't become a writer so that I could get back at people who were mean to me or to prove anything. I became a writer because I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Since before people decided I was fat and needed to be laughed at and embarrassed and made to feel like garbage on a daily basis.

So why am I dreaming up apologies from my former nemesis? Would that help? Would it really change anything fifteen years later? Because, honestly, I don't think it would. What good does that do? How does that help me? I don't need apologies to feel good about myself. Not at this stage in my life. 

However, I couldn't seem to let this dream go. I couldn't help thinking about what I would actually do if such a thing came to pass. And I figured it out. I would tell him that apologizing to me doesn't do anything. But if he has kids, or nieces and nephews, or God children, or anything else, he could try to teach them not to do to others what he did to me. That he could teach them to respect other people. Even if those people are overweight, or unattractive, or don't have nice clothes, or aren't super smart, or are gay, or are "different" in any other way you can imagine.

Trying to help me is a waste of time. I figured shit out on my own. And with the help of some amazing people, including the best friends I could possibly have, and the most wonderful husband I could ever have imagined. So no, I don't need an apology. I'm already good on that front. At this point, I don't need any help.

But there are plenty of people who do. People who feel like they'd rather die than have to go to school and face everyone. People who are constantly on edge, knowing that insults and barbs are coming, and it's only a matter of time. People who cry every single day, because they're hurt in some way every single day.

There are kids being bullied and teased and made to feel like shit about themselves right this second. So what would I say to this person if he magically showed up and apologized? 


You want to make up for what you did? Do everything you possibly can to keep it from happening again. Even if only one other person doesn't have to go through the crap I put up with, the world will be a slightly nicer place. That's what would really make a difference.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Very First Blog Anniversary


So I realized this morning that I completely missed my blog anniversary! For shame! And I didn't just miss it. I missed it by a good two and a half weeks.

On a similar note, I can't believe that I've actually been (more or less) regularly blogging for more than a year. This is actually my third foray into blogging, but the only one that has succeeded. The first lasted for about 10 posts, and the second for about 3. And I never got any readers that weren't in my immediate family.

Anyway, to celebrate my one year blog anniversary, I'm going to play a little game. And I want every single one of you to play along with me. More on this in a moment.

So the game is the 7 Line WIP Game. I was tagged to play by the awesome Rachel Horwitz (you can read the seven lines from her YA alternate history mystery here). Here are the rules:

Go to either page 7 or page 77 of your manuscript. Count down seven lines and paste the next seven lines in a post. After that, name seven more authors to come out and play.

So to start, here are the seven lines, from page 77 of Luminary:


Closing my eyes, I leaned my head against the rough bark. I'd made it. 

I had only a few seconds of relief before I heard voices again. My eyes snapped open, and I started moving further into the forest, wanting to be safely away before they came even with me. As I had the last time, I rushed from tree to tree. I was moving between my fourth and fifth trees when I started understanding their words. But I didn't pay them much attention until the deeper of the voices asked, "Did you hear something?"

Now onto the part about how I want you all to play along with me. As I said above, the rules say I need to tag seven more authors to join in. So I definitely want to tag my two other CPs, both of whom are working on amazing books. 

Delia Moran
Veronica Bartles    

So hopefully they both agree to participate so you can get a glimpse at what they're working on! And I want all the rest of you who are writers to play, too! I want to learn a little more about what each of you are writing. So please, if you haven't played this little blog game yet, join in and put a link to your post in the comments. And if you've already played, give me a link to that post so I can go check it out! 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Awards!


So I'm very late on blogging about these. Several weeks ago, my wonderful and lovely friend Veronica Bartles nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award.


Then a little over two weeks after that, my wonderful and lovely friend Delia Moran nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award.


So I'm lovely and versatile! Yay! And since both awards instructed me to reveal 7 interesting things about myself, I've decided to kind of cheat by combining them. Because I don't know that I can think of 14 interesting things on such short notice. Granted, short here means several weeks, but whatever. Here goes! Here are 7 completely random facts about me.

1. I love to bake. Especially pies. Naturally, I enjoy eating them myself. But even more than that, I enjoy giving them to other people. This is maybe a tad narcissistic of me, because my favorite part of baking is when other people tell me that it's the best pie they've ever eaten. Or that I should quit my job and open a bakery. This was especially exciting for me when I baked a mixed berry pie for Christmas with my father's extended family two years ago. Nothing from my childhood led them to believe I would have any skill at baking, and they were shocked when they tasted it. When they showed up the next year, every single one of them asked if I brought a pie.  :)

2. I have a very high tolerance for pain. My mother has informed me that I used to get these massive double ear infections when I was a young child, and I wouldn't say a word about them. Then all of a sudden the pain would get so bad that I would burst into tears or, on occasion, faint. Apparently, the doctor used to give her looks, thinking she was a terrible mother. (Sorry mom!) I've also been told that when I broke my arm (I was six), my mom noticed me frowning about five hours later and asked what was wrong. My response was, "My arm kinda hurts." And she took that to mean, "My arm is majorly broken. We need to go to the emergency room immediately." She was correct.  

3. I don't like the vast majority of modern music. If you look at the CDs (yes, I still have CDs...I don't even like modern ways of listening to music!) in my car, I would venture to guess that 85% of them are Broadway/musical movie soundtracks, 10% of them are Disney, 4% of them are music from the 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s, and that final 1% is music from this millennium.

4. I spent a large part of my childhood on a farm. This farm, to be specific. My grandparents lived there (my grandfather is a farmer) until I was 6 or so, and then built a beautiful home on the property behind it. Those two farms are my favorite places in the world. And it's because of my time there that no one in my father's family believed I could bake. I was always outside, climbing trees, wading through creeks, and just basically getting into trouble. (By that I mean disappearing for hours and making everyone worry, or getting things like poison ivy, Lyme disease, or rocky mountain spotted fever.) My sister was always the one who helped my grandmother in the kitchen/house. 

5. For my 9th birthday, I desperately wanted a Felicity American Girl Doll. Instead, I ended up with one of those dolls who you get to look like you. Only I guess they didn't have curly hair as an option back then, because mine had straight hair. And I was upset about it for about 15 years. I don't mean to say that I literally thought about this doll for 15 years. But more like whenever I thought about American Girl Dolls (because I saw a store or a catalog, etc.), my resentment simmered. So then, 15 years later, I asked my mom to give me Felicity for Christmas. So yes, as a 24 year old, I asked my mommy to buy me a doll. And I've never regretted it.

6. One of my favorite activities is geocaching. If you don't know what this is, the tagline is that I use multi-billion dollar government satellites to find tupperware in the woods. Basically, it's like a treasure hunt. People hide things all over the world (there's also a cache on the International Space Station!), and post the coordinates online here. The "treasure" isn't usually anything special. Little plastic toys and the like. And sometimes, the cache is so small that no treasure will fit. I've found caches the size of a pencil eraser.

7. Since this is the last one, I'm going to give the most random fact I can think of. I have a great and resounding fear of static cling. Seriously. I carry around a dryer sheet in a ziplock bag everywhere I go. Then if my shirt gets all clingy with static, I wipe the dryer sheet around the inside of the shirt for a few seconds, and all is well in the world. My husband once had to look in my purse for something and saw my dryer sheet, and decided then and there that I was crazy. But I use it often enough that it's worth it to me. Though maybe taking it with me when I climbed a Mayan ruin was overkill.  ;)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bucket List


Okay, so I know my last post was a long time ago. Like, almost a month ago. Oops.

But I really did have good reason to be away! I went on a cruise, everyone! An incredibly awesome cruise to the Western Caribbean. My darling husband and I chose this cruise specifically because it stopped in Cozumel, Mexico, and an available excursion there was to visit the Coba Mayan ruins. It's a frickin 4,000+ year old Mayan pyramid, guys. And I didn't just get to see it. I got to climb it.


The coolest thing I've ever seen.
 
Here I am partway up.

I made it to the top!!! Woohoo!!!!!!

Still at the top, with the hubby. And yes, I wore my 2012 NaNoWriMo Winner t-shirt. Because it's my favorite shirt, so I wore to the coolest place I've ever been.

So yeah. That's what I've been up to. And I would've posted this shortly after returning, but I woke up sick the morning we left the ship. The flu. Blech. I missed almost another whole week of work, after taking a week of vacation. Not very fun. But totally worth it. I'd be willing to get the flu a dozen times if that's what it took to get me to that pyramid. We're talking bucket list stuff here, guys. Cross that one right off.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Editing, Editing, and More Editing


Yeah, I'm in that stage of the whole writing process. I've read through my book (as a whole) several times. I've made every change I can think of at this stage of the game. I fixed typos, took care of inconsistencies, etc. The little things.

Now it's with my critique partners, two of whom have already finished reading. Their feedback so far has me all manner of excited. And all manner of ready for the next big round of revisions. Because I'm pretty good at taking care of the little things by myself, though I'm always willing to accept any help or suggestions on that front. Big picture stuff, on the other hand? Well, if I thought my pace was lagging or a character didn't have enough depth, etc., I wouldn't have written things the way I had. I think it's one of those things where I'm just too close to the project (it is, after all, my baby) to see it clearly. And I've already gotten a lot of big picture feedback from one CP that was incredibly helpful.

At this point, I'm holding off on revisions until I hear from the other two. I want to go through all of the notes and comments that I get, make a game plan, and then kick the crap out of my revisions. That's the way I like to work. 

So what am I doing in the meantime? Well, I (kind of) started plotting a new book. I say kind of because I only have two pages of notes, but I think this one will be fun to write. I need to do quite a lot of plotting, world building, and character development before I get to that point, though. I'm also still working on the little things. For example, one thing I'm notoriously bad with is using crutch words. Using them without any clue that I'm doing it. In fact, I had no idea whatsoever until I made a word cloud of Diamond Tears.


Mercutio and Robin make sense, because they are two of the three main characters. (The third is Emma, who is on there, but very small, as she is the 1st person narrator. So it makes sense that her name wouldn't come up outside of occasional dialogue.) But just? Just is one of the two most common words in the book? And then back? Really? After I made this word cloud, one of my CPs read the book and pointed out that just was a crutch word, used to distraction.

So when I sat down to write Luminary, it was with this knowledge in mind. I would use just sparingly. All would be well. Imagine my surprise when I made a word cloud of the first twelve chapters, and just was the largest word. Seriously guys. I have no idea I'm doing it. So I made sure I was extra careful through the rest of the draft. Here's the word cloud I made after I finished that first draft:


Just doesn't look too bad, does it? (Look a little over halfway up, on the far left.) But it was still way too big. And look at back! The biggest word on there! I went into my Word doc and made good use of Find to, as my CP Delia said, search and destroy. Here's where the draft is right now:


I know you can't tell because some of those words are pretty small, but just isn't even on there! Hurray! Back is still pretty big, but it's getting smaller. Maybe another few rounds of editing will get it down to one of the tiniest words. Or off the word cloud altogether. At least I know what I have to do. 

If you're a writer, do you have any helpful tools like this to help with your editing? Do you do a lot of self editing, or do you rely on others (critique partners, freelance editors, etc.)? I'd love to hear about your process!


**Someone on Twitter asked me how I make these word clouds, so I figured I should share. I use Wordle.**