Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just When You Think You've Detached...

Now that THE TRAVELERS is querying (best of luck, my book baby!), I've been spending my time almost exclusively on ONE.

The day I hit "send" on a query, almost a month ago now, I checked my email about 20 times an hour. 
I'd read lots of advice about how, when your query letter and hopefully partials and fulls of your first book has been attached to emails and sent into the vast unknown of agents' inboxes, you should do one thing, and one thing only:

Start a new book.

I was reluctant, but I'd had this idea running around my head anyway, and within a few days, ONE was my new baby. THE TRAVELERS is out of my hands, at least for now. As deeply as I love it, I mean love love love it - the characters, the story, the relationships, all of it - I knew I had to put it away. I knew I had to detach, so that the waiting and the wondering of querying wouldn't wrap its fingers around my heart and squeeze it to death every time I heard an email ping.

I did it. I detached. Or so I thought.

But then? Then? My spit-polishing star of a critique partner, Chessie, emailed me this:

*Sigh.* There he is. 
Davis, the male MC from THE TRAVELERS. She did it. She went and drew him, read the manuscript and drew a picture of exactly what he looks like, and I just...just....WOW.

I opened the email, gasped, put my hand to my chest. I cried a little buckets.

I don't know exactly why. After all, Davis has been imprisoned in  my  hard drive for the past month, and waiting in some other folks' inboxes. But my new leading man is Elias. Elias, right? From ONE?

But I do know what it means. I love THE TRAVELERS just as much as ever. I suppose I always will love it. And I think when someone takes precious free time to draw a character from my book, it means she believes in it. Believes it's good, at least, worth reading and working on, and maybe even believes it'll go somewhere. 

So, fortunately or unfortunately, I'm not detached. I'm still so, so attached that a (beautifully, perfectly drawn) picture of one of my characters sends me into a heart-twisting spin of affection for it.

But maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.

Have you ever been able to detach from your work? Do you even want to?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tasting the Writing Life

(photo credit: Rebecca Nicole Montana under CC license)

This past week was a super-special week in my life. Magical, even.

My kids all went to school full time for their "trial week -" you know, the one where we send them to school and I wait at home to see which one will be the first to panic/attack another child/vomit on someone and be sent home early.

 Since I don't start back at work till September 1, it was just me, all by my lonesome, all day long, all five days. It. Was. Heaven.

I thought I'd use the free days to do some experimenting on what is the best work environment/conditions  for me, so I went to a different place each day. Indie coffee shop, commercial coffee shop, book store, home.  Some days I "dressed," and some days I stayed the schlub that is my natural state (sweatpants, sneaks, frizzed hair, etc.)

Here's what I learned:

Yoga pants and comfy tees win over real clothes. You will think it's a good idea to get dressed so you feel all professional and author-ish, but really it's just 20 minutes you spent getting ready (at least!) where you could have been writing that kissing scene. And now you lost all your ideas. Way to go, loser writer who thought it was important to look good when you are neither in NYC nor do you have a book deal.

You might think you like that hipster-infested coffee shop, what with its natural light, organic bananas, and good vibes, but by the end of your five-hour stay, you'll want to throw something at that barefoot dude who's been meditating in that cushy chair in front of the fireplace the whole time you've been working your butt off.

If you're going to sit on your butt writing all day, your only hope of staying awake and alert is to exercise a little and eat decent food. You can read while you're on the elliptical. Just do it. Also, Doritos and cinnamon soft pretzels are not - ARE NOT - brain food. Not that I would know that firsthand or anything.

For reasons we've already discussed, checking Twitter constantly is neither productive nor healthy. No, not for any reason. Same with email.

In that vein, "Free Wi-Fi" sounds really good, but it's not. It's not, it's not, it's NOT.

Writing in the presence of books is still inspirational, no matter what.

Have you ever had a chance to taste the Writing Life? What have you learned?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Third Writers' Platform Building Campaign

Have you ever run across another writer's blog via comments on a blog you already follow, or a link on a message board, and thought, "How is it possible that I haven't 'met' this person already?"

That's the story with two out of my three critique partners. I met Jenny because she commented somewhere that she also writes in third person, and I found out via Peggy Eddleman's blog comments that Francesca is just as in love with Scrivener as I am. (Gina, my first CP, I found all on my own, thankGod thankGod thankGod, right at the beginning of this whole crazy writing thing.)

A couple of other writers that I 'know,' I 'met' through these ladies, or because they randomly ran across my blog and made comments. Slowly I've picked up followers, but it's been S-L-O-W - I have to admit I did the happy dance when I broke double digits. Yeah.

I know there are so so SO many other writers and readers I would love to connect to via this blog. But who has the time to go trolling the internets for such kindred spirits, what with our critique work, blogging, and oh, yeah - our WRITING?

Enter the Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. In its third round this fall, it's run by Rachael Harrie, a YA Horror writer, whose dedication to it is astounding. Here's the description from her site:

Basically, the Campaign is a way to link those of us in the writing community together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. The Campaigners are all bloggers in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs.

So, Awesome, right? Why don't you hook up? Prizes: the chance to 'meet' so many other awesome people in the community, plus, PLUS! This shiny badge:


Friday, August 26, 2011

Mega-Awesome Critique Contest with CREWEL author Gennifer Albin

Yes, I know this is quite the unorthodox Friday entry, but it's WORTH IT!

Have you met Gennifer Albin? No? If not, hop on over to her blog,"Authorize" - she's fabulous.

I fell in love with Gennifer after she shared her WriteonCon success story - it's a whammy of an inspiration. Then, on Wednesday, I fell even *more* in love with her when she posted this bookmarkable-times-ten Writer's Excuse Destroyer post.

Then, this morning? I read the first chapter of her upcoming debut, CREWEL, and I was blown away. No joke, these books are going to rule.

Anyway. She's holding one of the most awesome contests I've seen in a looong time. All you need to do is give your 100-word pitch to win the chance for her to critique 50 of your pages. You guys, she's going to print them out and write on them WITH HER HANDS. Yeah. Cue freak-out.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go enter!

Friday Obsessions: Jane Eyre, Chameleon Circuit, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Everything I was obsessed with this week.
Because I know you want to know.

1. Jane Eyre. Ohhh, Jane Eyre. Someday I'll do a post all about my special relationship with Jane Eyre. The movie adaptations have always kind of bummed me out. (Yes, I'm aware that Jane Eyre is kind of a bummer of a book to start out with.) Jane has always been too plain and Mr. Rochester has always been too old and ugly and his (SPOILER) crazy wife in the attic has always been not awesome enough and there haven't been enough happy beautiful moments.

But this adaptation? This newest one that came to my house from Amazon last week?

Is perfect. In every way.

Mia Wasikowska is RADIANT:

And Michael someone-get-me-a-fan Fassbender is...well....

And the two of them together...oh LANDS....

(Excuse me while I compose myself.)
Go watch it. Now.

2. Chameleon Circuit and "Everything is Ending."  Time for a geek test. Did you know that there's a band out there, with more than one record, whose sole purpose it is to write songs about Doctor Who?

Well, there is. And they are awesome. They made this haunting, beautiful song about one of the episodes.

Now, I'm not the geekiest Doctor Who geek there is, but we all know how I'm a sucker for romance. And this was one of the more romantically-involved Doctor Who episodes. Myself, I just pretend that this Doctor (#11) is the one before him, (#10) because David Tennant? Yowza. Anwyay, here's a screenshot from the episode.

Isn't Amy pretty? This Doctor, I could have done without.

3. Goat Cheese Pizza. Nom Nom.


(4. The WiP. Duh.)

I've been tapping away like a crazy woman at the WiP this week, since it's the magical week when my kids are back in school but I am not yet back at work. I was doing really well until I realized I had no outline, being a pantser and such, and had nothing to write about today. So I spent most of the day staring at the screen, raking my fingers through my hair, and typing frantic bursts of notes that I'm sure, at this juncture, would make absolutely no sense to me.

No matter. I have a goal to hit 40K before Shabbat, and I think I can do it.

Here are some lines, because your weekly alpha reading makes me feel like this is not entirely for naught.

For the next week, I avoid Elias VanDyne like the plague.

He makes my stomach flip and my head spin, and in the space of four days he made his intentions of ruining my plans to skate through the next three years unnoticed perfectly clear.
What’s worse is that he wants to talk to me about my Oneness, because he wants to know if I’m more or less of a freak than he is, I’m sure. I should just leave a note in his locker - the damn locker next to mine - that says: “More. Stop asking.”

(Whee! Isn't my MC a barrel of laughs?)

Okay, now it's your turn. What were you obsessed with this week?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Querier's Hypochondria

So. Here are a couple of exciting truths that actually make life (read: my head) more complicated.

1. THE TRAVELERS is querying (fly, little bird, fly!)
2. Twitter (and the internet) exists. And agents are on it.

You know how you knew that guy in pre-med in college, and then he was always poring over all his medical textbooks, and then every time he had a cough or an itchy elbow he was sure he was dying of cancer?

It's actually kind of like that with writers, except substitute "medical textbooks" with "agent blogs," and "cancer" with "complete and total failure as a novelist ever in the universe."

Examples? Obviously. ***

Fullscreen capture 872011 91713 PM.bmp
*Combs through query to see if any part of it might be construed as "aggressive."*
(Okay. I think we're good.)

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(Uh oh. I'm kinda screwed. Yeah, in both my books.)

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Oh my stars, I'm seriously screwed, aren't I?

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O_o Is there any "hip dialogue" in my manuscript? Worse, is there any dialogue that I think is "hip" but is, in fact, not? (Don't answer that, Gina.)

Fullscreen capture 882011 101145 PM
Okay, but I have a really, really good explanation for that. Like, really.

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OMG OMG OMG. Have I ever tweeted any agent? With anything about my book? Is that considered a "pitch?" It must be. OMG OMG OMG

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My manuscript? Has lots of eyes. And I'm pretty sure a big bunch of 'em sparkle, and maybe they dance once or twice too. GAAAAAAAAH.

And then I collapse into a weeping heap on the floor, ready to start a bonfire with my manuscript. Yeah, another one. I have lots of copies. (Actually, I don't have any copies, but it works for the drama of it all. See?)

***I actually have not submitted to a single one of these agents/editors, so I know 100% for certain that what they are saying is in no way directly related to THE TRAVELERS. Which makes this all that much more neurotic.

Do you have querier's hypochondria? What form does yours take? Or am I alone, so all alone in this sad, sad condition?

Monday, August 22, 2011

What Are You Awesome At?

It's really easy to get stressed about the quality of our writing.
And while hating our manuscript is just one step on the road to greatness, it really is a fine balance between criticizing our manuscript enough to whip it into shape and loving it enough to pick it up every day and keep going with it.

If you subscribe to every writing blog you can get your hands on like I do, you're bombarded with even more things to worry about every day:

How much are you using passive voice?
        (Way way way more than I would like to? Right, Chessie?)
Are you sure you're showing and not telling? Everywhere? You sure? 
        (Oh, geez, let me check...again...)
Is there too much back story? Not enough back story?
         (this has kept me up plenty of nights...)
Is your first page punchy enough? Uh huh. What about your first sentence? Your first word?
          (Kill. Me. Now.)
How's your voice? Will an agent fall in love with it?
          (*puts head in vice on desk installed specifically for this purpose*)

 It's really easy to get to the point where you're ready to have a party where all your friends will roast marshmallows over your burning, passive voiced, non-punchy, bland, good-for-nothing manuscript.

Yeah. I was there on Friday, actually.

Then I read this guest article  by the lovely Gennifer Albin over at the League of Extraordinary Writers that lifted my heart a little. In case you're too time-stingy to click over there, (yeah, I've been there.) it's about making sure that your villian is not a cardboard cutout. And that she has a backstory, and motives you can sympathize with.

And I realized: Yeah, I'm pretty good at that. (If you are one of my CPs, don't disagree now. I'm on a self-love roll.) 
I am pretty good at that. 

Other things I'm good at:
  • Writing kissing scenes (thanks Gina)
  • Describing clothing (thanks Chess)
  •  Writing fast (I can do a thousand coherent words in like 30 minutes)
  • Writing every day, no matter what (Seriously - no matter what.)
  • Revising - I get a super-invigorating rush out of it.

Oooh! Looks like it's time to call out the Team Travelers Cheering Squad!!!!

Thanks for the illustration, Francesca, my spit-polishing star of a CP.

 I'm not gonna lie. It feels damn good to call myself out for things I'm good at for once.

Recognizing it is giving me the push to go after those things with gusto on the WiP (23K and going strong!) and work even harder at the things that aren't on the list. It's motivation to move them from the "Things I Suck At" list to the "Things I'm Awesome At" list.

So, let's hear it - what are you awesome at? What writing tasks do you totally rule over? Consider yourself the goddess of? Leave a comment to tell me and to pat yourself on the back. 

And then everyone else will confirm your suspicions. You're awesome at SO MANY THINGS. You just keep on keepin' on.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Obsessions: WriteOnCon, Sara Bareilles, and Fish Tacos

Everything I was obsessed with this week. 
Because I know you want to know.

First up - Writeoncon. It is a full-on, no holds barred, completely epic annual online conference. It's absolutely free, and it has forums for writers to give each other feedback on their queries, synopses, etc. Perhaps even more awesome, this year they've started a Secret Ninja Agent program, where several of the best agents in the industry sneak around the forums, giving advice and - wait for it - MAKING REQUESTS.

Uh, yeah. This Conference has been incredible.  Here is a dissection of how I see the YA forum front page, which should explain my complete and total obsession with WriteOnCon this week.

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Next on the dockett: "Gravity" by Sarah Bareilles. This is a gut-wrenching, beautiful song, that just happens to describe pretty much the entire emotional conflict of my WiP. (Except, in my WiP, the "gravity" and the "keeping me down" is a good thing. I swear. You'll get it, if it ever gets published.)

*Sigh* Sarah Bareilles is too awesome.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Third - FREAKING FISH TACOS. I don't think this one needs any embellishment.

Fourth - My WiP! (This may be getting annoying, I know, which is why I always put it last.) What kind of a writer (ahem) would I be if I  wasn't head over heels for my WiP at barely 20K in? Hmmm?

Some lines, because your weekly alpha reading feedback makes my weekend brighter.

Mom told me I either need to stop hating myself or stop hating everyone else. “Preferably both,” she’d said in that condescending tone that makes me feel like I’m Michael and Max’s age, not a sophomore in high school. 

That was two years ago, and it didn’t work, because I hate everyone just as much and myself even more, probably. And her a little more too.

(Huge thanks to Gina and Heidi, who have each been good sports and alpha read, like THE central scene, all seven pages, from the rising action part of the WiP. You ladies rule.)

So, what were you obsessed with this week?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Author Crush - Elana Johnson

Have you read Elana Johnson's POSSESSION?

If "yes" - Congratulations. You're in the "I've Read One of the Best Books Ever and I Know It" club.
If "no" - Seriously!??! Go read it. Now. Maybe take the day off work or get a babysitter to watch your kids. It would be worth it.

Possession (Possession, #1)

Here's the short summary from Goodreads:

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself. 

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn. This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Got it? Good.

So, Ms. Johnson is an incredible writer in pretty much every area (which I hear you have to be, you know, if you want to be published.)

Examples? You know I've got 'em.

Her world building is intriguing and spot on:

Good girls don't walk with boys. Even if they're good boys - and Zenn is the best. He strolled next to me, all military with his hands clasped behind his back, wearing the black uniform of a Forces recruit. The green stripes on his shirtsleeves flashed with silver tech lights, probably recording everything. Probably? Who am I kidding? Those damn stripes were definitely recording everything.

Walking through the park in the evening is not technically against the rules Good people do it all the time. But walking through the park with a boy could get me in trouble.

She can deliver Big Messages in the midst of action and it doesn't feel weird or condescending at all:
"It's just a control tactic, Vi, to make you believe one thing over another."

I knew that, I did. But a lifetime of labels is hard to overcome. Maybe I just needed a new label, one that was neither good nor bad.

Her characters leap off the page:

Jag followed me, his breathing ragged. When I glanced at him, he was glowing. There I was, terrified, making stuff up on the fly, and this guy acted like he was on vacation.

The romance! Oh, the romance:

"You do smell like a guy, Jag whispered, his voice soft in my ear. His breath trickled down my spine. His fingers filled the spaces between mine perfectly.
"Shut up," I managed to say, but my voice sounded breathless. Surely he noticed the effect he had on me. I wasn't that good at hiding it. We'd only been living in the microscopic cell together for two days, but I felt a connection with Jag somewhere inside - somewhere I hadn't known existed until I met him.

But there's one thing in particular I'll never forget about POSSESSION. The Voice. Oh, my goodness, the Voice:

"Goodies are walking paper dolls, devoid of personality - and brains.
Yeah, that doesn't work for me. I don't want to be a paper doll."


So, In the Pantheon of Prose, I'm dubbing Ms. Johnson the Goddess of Voice.

This book is written in first person by a particularly badassed main character. By the time you're done reading this story through her eyes? I'm giving you about a 75% chance of sauntering around for the day, imagining what you would say to your whining children or boss if they were Thinkers, talking to you like that.

You might also start half your sentences with, "Yeah...." (just like Vi does.) But it'll only last for a couple of weeks, tops, and besides, it's worth it.

But you think my author crush ends with the book? No way. A good book is super-important, but someone only crosses into author crush territory if she is a super-extra-classy human being.  And Ms. Johnson? Well, she's among the best.

Her dedication to the writing community is so deep and intense that she's devoted hours of personal time to helping all of us on that fraught road from "I've always wanted to write a book" to "Holy schniekies, I have to edit it? and revise it?" to "Wait, agents aren't going to be clawing at my door to read this?" to "It might not sell?"

So, when us lowly unpubs panic, Ms. Johnson is right there.

First of all, she's written and released - 100% FREE - her amazing e-book, FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL, that holds your hand and walks, you, step by step, through the incredibly nerve-wracking process of putting your novel-baby out there in the world of agents and saying, "Read this? Love it? Please?" without looking like a total idiot.

This book is the one and only reason that I can officially call THE TRAVELERS "ready to query." If I want, I can send out a 100% polished query, synopsis, and full or partial manuscript with a professionally worded email without panicking, stressing, or going into a fetal position.

Go download it. Now. I'll wait.

She also has a blog with even more tips on writing, querying, and everything about the publishing world.

Second, and most mind-blowing amazingly, Ms. Johnson is one of the founders of WriteOnCon, an intense, jam-packed, infinitely useful and inspirational annual online writing conference that is - wait for it - 100% FREE.

Hundreds of other authors wait in the forums to help you with your query, pitch, synopsis, writing, all of it. It's the hub of the online writing community for four days every summer, and it's so supportive and amazing.

As if that weren't enough, WriteonCon also has (description from Ms. Johnson herself) :
Literary agents! Editors! [Published] Authors! Live chats and events. AND a Ninja Agent program where your query could earn the feedback from an anonymous pro!
(No, I'm not stalking the ninja agents. Not at all.)

Well, I think that about wraps it up. If you don't have an author crush on Elana Johnson now, too, then you haven't been paying attention.

 So, who else is in the club? Loved POSSESSION? Love Ms. Johnson just as much? Tell me all about it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Disastrous Kiss

I love a book with just enough romance - give me a great fantasy, dystopian, or sci-fi with a driving romantic subplot and I am yours forever.

Of course, that's the kind of book I want to write. I'm not sure if I succeeded, (I mean, I think I did, but who am I to say?) but I wanted romance to be just enough of THE TRAVELERS to make hearts melt, but not so much that it was the whole story.

As I was reading ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, and I had a lightbulb moment - one of the most awesome devices in a romantic subplot is something I'm calling "The  Disastrous Kiss."

Everyone loves a good near miss, but there are only so many times an author can pull that sucker before I start rolling my eyes and either flipping to the end of the book or wanting to throw it across the room. Probably the latter.

 Because, here's the thing. You know that character 1 and character 2 are Meant to Be Together, you know they're going to hook up eventually, so how many near misses can you use as conflict to draw out the tension? Not that many.

But The Disastrous Kiss? That's pure gold. There's just something incredibly heartwrenching and exhilarating about it, because you know in your heart of hearts that these two are Supposed to Be Together, yet the disastrous kiss is so horrifically AWFUL that you really don't see how they're going to overcome this most romantic of obstacles.

I really can't explain it any further than that without showing you an examples, which you may consider spoilery. So, warning - a pretty disastrous excerpt from ACROSS THE UNIVERSE after the pic. (It's in bold, so you can scroll through it to the rest of the post if you want.)

This kiss still could end in disaster.*

From ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis: 

And then - I'm not sure how it happens - but she takes a step closer and I take a step closer, and then we're both just entirely too close. 
And there is nothing between us but rain.
Then there is nothing between us at all.
My lips melt into hers. A drop of rainwater slips around the edge of my mouth, and then her lips part, and so do mine. The raindrop falls on my tongue, and then it's lost on hers. 
My body is drenched; I should be cold. But the warmth of her fills me.
My arms snake around her body, pulling her hard against me. I want to crush her into me.
I never want this to end.
And then -
-She's pulling away.
She's stepping back.
Her fingers are on her swollen lips.
Her eyes are wide and sparkling.
Raindrops drip down her cheeks, but it's not rain, and for the first time, I taste salt on my tongue.
"It's always in the rain," she murmurs. "With Jason, too."
And whoever this Jason is, I want to kill him.
"I'm sorry, she says, taking another step back. "I never meant to - 
And no, no, it's not supposed to be like this.

See how that just - ?  Oh my - excuse me - I'm a little breathless from my heart being torn out and thrown on the floor.

There's not really a Disastrous Kiss in THE TRAVELERS. (There's kind of a sad one, but it's not a disaster by any means.) But I learned my lesson. If I can throw a disastrous kiss into ONE anywhere, at all, I've gotta do it.

So...yeah. I already wrote one for ONE. And even though it's one of my darlings, it has to stay in that MS in some form or another. Critique Partners, you've been warned. I'm holding on to this baby with an iron grip.

What's your favorite Disastrous Kiss? Do you have one in your MS?

*Photo credit:*

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Obsessions: Hourglass, Polyphonic Spree, and Caitlin Thomas

Friday Obsessions: Everything I was obsessed with this week. Because I know you want to know.

1. Oh my holy heck you guys, I am completely and insanely jealous of OBSESSED WITH Hourglass by Myra McEntire.

 I need to do an author crush post all about it, but for now let's just say: kickass heroine + sexy boy + time travel + risking everything to save something/someone/the world as we know it = I am in raptures. No kidding.


What? You need some lines from the book to convince you? Well, I've got 'em.

"Now Michael sat across from me, as normal as next Tuesday, claiming he was like me."

(Omigosh this mc is so cute.)

"I felt great. The sass was back. It's amazing what flipping a grown man over her shoulder does for a girl."

(Oh! And kickass.)

"I left my bunny slippers on. Just to be cheeky."

(And cheeky. What's not to love?)

2. The Polyphonic Spree's "Light and Day." #2 on the Soundtrack for my new WiP!

Section 9 (Light & Day / Reach For The Sun)

Just an incredible, exhilarating song. Perfect for when my MC finally hits her stride.

3. This girl. And her beautiful drums. Caitlin Thomas is a seriously amazing drummer, who is also a girl and also teeny tiny and also SMOKING HOT. (Just like the main character in my WiP *ahem.*) Both me and my kids are obsessed with watching Caitlin drum this week. (Especially my daughter. Go, girl. I will buy you drums as soon as you can hold the sticks.)

4. My new WiP, naturally. I hit 13K this week. Here's another bit, from the scene where two of my MCs meet:

Then he draws two stick figures sitting closer to each other than any of the other ones, one tall and one much smaller. He labels one “Elias” and the other “Girl Who Won’t Talk to Me or Tell Me Her Name.” Then underneath it, he writes, (pretty blue eyes.)

(Raise your hand if you love Elias!)

What are you obsessed with this week?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Drafting from Conversations: Guest Post at Cristina DosSantos' "Once Upon a Time!"

Well, hot diggety dog! (Yeah, I just re-coined that phrase. Make a note of it. It might be the biggest thing I'm ever known for.) I'm guest posting over at Christina DosSantos' beautiful, inspirational blog today.

In the post, I'm talking about one of my most tried-and-true methods for drafting - building scenes around conversations. The scene I share is actually from the sequel to THE TRAVELERS, ACCESSION, which has since been backburnered. But for all of you who have read TT, you'll enjoy reading the resulting scene.

Here's the first bit of the post:

I just finished my first manuscript, THE TRAVELERS, and now I've imprisoned it in my hard drive until October, when I'll take it out and look at it one last time before parolequerying.

I started writing it as a Project 365 on January 1st, never really thinking it would amount to much besides providing me with a slice of sanity during naptime. A few weeks later, I was too in love with the characters and their story to quit until it was finished.

That is all one long horribly-argued excuse for "I pantsed this sucker." *Hangs head in shame.*

Hop on over and show me some love, copious (or five) followers!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Books and the Courage to Keep Writing

Hi there! If you happen to be Mr. Michael Bourret, agent extraordinaire, please click over here to read all about how your incredible client, Brodi Ashton, gave the unflappable Gina (and me, too!) full-on permission to 'stalk' you. I promise, Gina and her manuscript are worth your while.

(Sunday) I've just spent the morning at the zoo with my children. It was so hot, my head is left with a fuzzy, thick feeling. The sinus cold my baby just gave me probably isn't helping. 

The house is cluttered, the children aren't wearing pants, and there are crumbs ground into the carpet. I just vaccuumed yesterday. (Didn't I?)

I am exhausted. (Who isn't?)

I need to write. There are other things I need to be doing. But I need to write.

Needs: 1. Air Conditioning 2. Coffee 3. Other people who revere words strung into stories.

I'm going to the bookstore.

I don't believe that paper books are better than digital. I don't care about the smell of their pages or the feel of their weight or the crack of their spine. 

Except when I do.

People live in these books. The people who wrote them and the characters they wrote. People who abandoned the housework and fought oppression and kept their eyes open despite exhaustion and poured their entire beings into their work and did magic and saved the world, and maybe saved themselves as well.

Which is author and which is story? 

(Does it matter?)

When I look down the rows the evidence lines up, spine strong against spine, an army of authors telling me that I shouldn't give up. 


"Look at us," the books say. 

"Just look. We had day jobs and housework and exhaustion and heartache and we did it. We still found a way to pour our hearts and souls into words, to breathe life into characters and stories that never existed before, and to defy the odds to get them printed on this paper."


I sit with that for a moment, considering them, countering that they were better writers and more determined people. And then they whisper, "What makes you think you have the right to stop trying?"

And then I turn to my keyboard and start to write.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How Critiquing Has Transformed Me as a Writer

Hi there! If you happen to be Mr. Michael Bourret, agent extraordinaire, please click over here to read all about how your incredible client, Brodi Ashton, gave the unflappable Gina (and me, too!) full-on permission to 'stalk' you. I promise, Gina and her manuscript are worth your while.

 When it was time for betas to look at my work, I have to admit, I felt a little stressed. See, betas, or critique partners, typically trade work. That means each of them spends and hours  (well, good ones, anyway)  reading and brainstorming and nitpicking and scrutinizing work that isn't theirs.

So, on top of the rearranging and compromising and ignoring the housework I ALREADY do in order to write my own darn book, I have to somehow squeeze out *more* time for critiquing someone else's book? In the case of Gina's book, it turned out to be a few hours a week, no small potatoes when you have a day job. Normal critiques - like the one she had to slog through with THE TRAVELERS - probably took much more time.

My husband asked me why me and critique partners were willing to put hours and hours worth of computer time, and agonizing, and franticallly emailing and rewriting and REreading (Gina has read so many versions of the same three things, it makes me crazy for her. In a few ways.) on a book that isn't ours.

I shrugged and said, "That's what we do."
An awesome critique pair is just two people who really understand that writing, and writing good stories well, is essential to the soul. Each wants their work to be torn apart by someone else so that we can build it up to be better.

It took me awhile, though, to realize that while Gina was definitely making me a better writer, but that critiquing Gina's stuff was also doing SO much for improving my subsequent revisions and, ultimately, my new WIP.

Critiquing someone else's work:

  • Helped me learn how to plot and pace. With fresh eyes on a new story, one that didn't already exist, perfect, in my own head, I was really able to analyze what happened, when, and how quickly, and recognize when one of my own darlings was slowing down the plot in my own book too much, or just not serving a purpose.
  • Got me to fall in love with characters in a different way.  Of course, I didn't write Gina's characters, but I was working so hard to make sure their story was told in the best way possible that I wanted their characterization to be solid. Everything from the way they moved and smiled to the words that came out of their mouths had to fit my ideal vision of them, and taught me to be mindful of whether my characters were doing the same.
  • Taught me to look for things like rhythm, sound, feel, and VOICE . Again, since I didn't already have Gina's book in my head, I read a lot of stuff out loud to see how it sounded, how it flowed. Soon after, guess what? I started doing it on my own stuff, now even as I'm drafting.
  • Gave me an absolutely ruthless eagle eye for: passive voice, repetitive sentence structure and word choice, purple prose, unclear phrasing, run-on sentences, etc. Not because Gina uses very much of that at ALL, but because it was partly my job to eradicate it, as she so kindly did so many dozens of times for me. Ahem. I mean, hundreds. (Oh, God, sorry Gina.) 
  • Showed me that criticism does not equal doom, and in fact, if you have a good CP, it is a gateway to being held up and cheered on. For example: That time Gina made me rewrite and then re-rewrite that scene? Check out the email she sent me when I finally nailed it:
Fullscreen capture 7162011 71316 AM.bmp
(Yeah, I framed that sucker in scrapbook paper and hung it above my desk)

Last, but most importantly, critiquing made me a cheerleader for another soul who's trying so, so hard to make it in a really tough industry. When you've been through so many ups and downs connected to something so close to your heart, and you know your crit partner truly loves your book (even if she doesn't love Davis) and believes it it almost as much as you do, there's a strange sort of friendship that forms. You know she'll read your query letter twenty times, or cheer you on in contests that she's entered too, or answer the same neurotic email, with slightly different wording, over and over again. It's a friendship that knows that the best gift ever is a book by a real live person who struggled as much as you are now, and a handwritten note of encouragement for your inspiration wall.
(Yes, Gina did write on the inside of the card, but I'm going to hold off on showing you that till we're both published. You're going to die. And then I'll auction it off for charity, because I'm awesome like that.)
(Hey, a girl can dream, right?)

And that? Is worth every. single. hour.

Photo Credit: Mike Stimpson 2010 via Creative Commons License. Thanks, Mike!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Obsessions: Ever After, The Givers, and NEW WIP!!!

Hi there! If you happen to be Mr. Michael Bourret, agent extraordinaire, please click over here to read all about how your incredible client, Brodi Ashton, gave the unflappable Gina (and me, too!) full-on permission to 'stalk' you. So, if you're so inclined, click over. I promise, Gina and her manuscript are worth your while.

Wheee! It's time for Friday Obsessions: Everything (or the three most important things) I was obsessed with this week.

Obsession #1: 
The "Ever After" Promo for ABC's fall lineup. 
Two main reasons: Ginnifer Goodwin, (duh) and Prince Charming = D-R-E-A-M-Y. In that order.

Obsession #2: The Givers', "In Light."  No matter how bad my mood, these guys get me up and dancing. And I DO NOT dance.  (Also "Saw You First," track 4, is on my personal soundtrack for THE TRAVELERS.)

Obsession #3: MY NEW WIP!!!!! (Tentatively titled "ONE")

5 K in and I'm head over heels. Here are two sentences. (You know, because I love you, and your cheerleading gets me through the week.)

But my body whispers to me. It tells me I can fly, if only I am brave enough.

What are you obsessed with this week?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Contests Contests Everywhere!

Hi there! If you happen to be Mr. Michael Bourret, agent extraordinaire, please click over here to read all about how your incredible client, Brodi Ashton, gave the unflappable Gina (and me, too!) full-on permission to 'stalk' you. So, if you're so inclined, click over. I promise, Gina and her manuscript are worth your while.

Hello, friends! I'm so excited to announce even MORE contests going on in the writing/publishing/awesome community!

Contests are a great way to get feedback from other authors on your writing and querying pieces, and usually to get the feedback from REAL LIVE AGENTS as well!

Do you have a stellar synopsis? Think you can condense it to three sentences? Then here's your chance to pitch charismatic agent/author John Cusick over at YATopia.

Are you really in love with your first 500 words? Think an agent would fall in love with them too? Run over to Rachel's incredible blog, Blackbird in My Window, for instructions on how to get the chance to submit them to agent Lauren Ruth.

Happy Contesting!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Free Fallin'

I guess I always knew it, deep down.

Between listening to Brodi's Interview and reading Beth's post yesterday, it really hit home.
The Travelers is probably not going to make it to publication. 
This is not self-deprecating - I now know that first novels are an exercise in pouring a story out from beginning to end, on falling in love with characters and  writing and rewriting until they read on paper just like they look in our heads.

CC Nathan Rupert

But most of all, for me at least, it's proving to be an exercise in letting go.
Hearing those ladies' voices yesterday allowed me to finally close The Travelers file on my computer, and to delete the 17 (yes, seventeen) drafts from my Kindle.
That is, until an agent asks for revisions, (see how I just slipped in that cheery little bit of positive thinking?), because we all know how I love the Revision Rush.
I'm not giving up on The Travelers - not by a longshot. I'm still going to query it, because I believe in the story and the characters and I think that the writing is solid. I do. 
(Please let some agent somewhere love Nik and Davis as much as I do and give them a chance.)

But. I am, slowly but surely, realizing - that novel does not define me as a writer. This is not a one-shot deal. That first novel was training wheels, and it did a really awesome job. It might get rewarded for its work with its own hardcover binding one day. Or it may not. And that's okay.

Now, here's my real problem: I don't know what to do next. 
I'm dying - DYING to write.  Here are my options:

1. Sequel to The Travelers. I already have a basic plot outlined and a bunch of scenes (10 K worth) written, just because I can't get the story/characters out of my head.

2. Shiny New Idea #1 - A murder mystery with light paranormal overtones (that is not vampires, werewolves, faeries, shape shifters, zombies, angels, demons, or anything like that.)

3. Shiny New Idea #2 - A kickass, tech-y dystopian (I know, dystopian is over) that is a retelling of an old-school legend. (think Tristan and Isolde. But it's NOT Tristan and Isolde.)

4. Shiny New Idea #3 - A story about misfit superhero kids, but not like x-Men at all - actually, the opposite. Kind of. I promise, it's not tired.

I feel like I'm free-falling, and I'm a little panicked about it, to be honest. I've been spending time every day with the same beloved characters for EIGHT MONTHS. I miss them, and I need new ones. Or old ones. If I'm being honest, I'm still obsessing over the sequel to The Travelers, but I know writing sequels is a stupid idea before you even have an agent (ahem.)

So, not that I'm going to depend on it, but just for fun - if you were me, what would you do? I need to feel driven, I need to throw myself into something new. Which would you pick?

Photo credit Colin Wu under Creative Commons License, copyright 2010