Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wishing for a Writer's Deus Ex Machina

I don't know when to quit. With this book, anyway.

I wish there was some mechanism, a whooping alarm or a decisive trap door or something, that would sound off when I've sent my last query on THE TRAVELERS. You know, the last one I should reasonably send. Before I go into delusional writer's territory, querying a book that will Just Never Make It.

I know all the inspirational stories. Everyone rejected J.K. Rowling. Brodi Ashton queried a hundred agents. Elana Johnson queried 188 (one hundred and eighty-eight!) before she found her agent.

But maybe (probably) I'm not Brodi Ashton or Elana Johnson. Maybe I'm not talented enough. Or my first novel is too first-novelish. Or people don't care if the main character gets fed through a woodchipper.

I went through all the things listed in this post for how to tell if it's time to put your novel away, and I thought they maybe applied to TT. But I didn't know if I really felt that way, or if it was rejection-based disappointment flapping its jaw.

So when do I give up? When does this novel get lovingly wrapped in paper and stuffed in a drawer?

How did Beth Revis, who has NINE drawer-novels, know when to put each of them away?

In the lowest of the query trenches (form rejections on my subs!) the answer felt like, "Right now, you idiot, how could you have even thought you should query this piece of garbage?"

This sign would have helped. Maybe a good business to market to writers?

So, I tried to declare my own Deus Ex Machina (yes, I'm aware that's the opposite of how it works. Shut up.) And I said that if my project wasn't pulled for the next round of the Miss Snark's First Victim Baker's Dozen Auction, I'd put it on the shelf, forget about it for now, and pour myself fully into ONE. It had a 10% chance of being pulled from contest slush, so I thought it would at least be a definitive "yes" or "no." (I want to say very clearly for the record that all my CPs thought that this idea was completely moronic.)

And then a crazy thing happened. The ladies doing the choosing pulled TT from the slush and decided to put it on the auction block. There went my big plan for knowing for sure when to quit. The auction goes live to crit on Friday and to agents on Tuesday, and it just might be the big opportunity for me that it was for these ladies last year.

It's a funny thing, writing these projects we love. The littlest thing can get us down, make us want to host a manuscript-based bonfire party. But then something else can bring us right back to loving our manuscript, and save it from a future in the drawer for another week, or another month.

And the only thing we know for certain is that nothing about this business is easy - not even knowing when to quit.

Have you ever drawered a project? How did you know when it was time? Were you as much of a drama queen about it as I've been?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Perks and Pitfalls of Sending a Second Project Out for Crit

I thought that the most terrifying emails to send would be queries.

I was wrong.

See, ONE is about ready to fly to my crit partners' inboxes for critique. (A couple weeks now. Juuust a couple weeks.)

And I am completely freaking out.

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: Rather than sticking with meditation, I'm sticking with chronic anxiety.

See, I've known these ladies for months and months now. I consider them dear friends. I trust their advice, both about writing and life in general (and fashion, duh) implicitly.  So why am I so stressed about asking them to leave their comments on a manuscript that I KNOW needs critique? That I'm absolutely DYING for feedback on?

It really makes no sense at all. I know that this manuscript is better than the first draft of THE TRAVELERS I sent to Gina this June (poor, poor Gina.) They've all read excerpts (and Excerpts) and been all, "Wheee, I can't wait to read this, hurry up and edit!"

Well - it's precisely BECAUSE I know/love them so well that I'm worried, I think. Deep down, here is what I'm afraid the reaction will be. The crit reaction is first, but the reaction I'm really scared of is in parentheses.

  • This story is stupid/boring/makes no sense (you are stupid/boring/make no sense)
  • This story is essentially the same as the last one you wrote. (Don't you have a single new idea ever?)
  • You can cut this whole chapter. (Why have you wasted my time making me read this whole chapter?)
  • Your dialogue punctuation is consistently incorrect. (I thought you told me you graduated from High School...?)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: I'll be publicly sobbing for the next few weeks.

But. The rational part of my brain reminds me that the manuscript needs critique/revision. The only way I'm going to get it is from critique partners. And here's where the wonderfulness of sending a second project to the same group comes in. I already know that my CPs are  the best - I mean THE BEST I can hope for. Here's why:

  • I trust them implicitly. When they tell me to change something, I change it, or at least take them seriously enough to figure out what was bugging them and how I can fix it, even if it's not the exact change they suggested. And that's BECAUSE
  • They care about me and my book. When they make suggestions, exclamations, or giant red slashy lines, on my manuscript, it's all in the name of making my book better and helping me succeed - not cutting me down, or making themselves feel superior, or nitpicking just to nitpick.
  • I can predict the things that will bug them, and remind myself in advance that they are not personal judgements against me. For example:

I know that Gina will have some issue with one of the following:
- the denseness of my MC
- the douchebaggery of her boyfriend
- some of the relationship cheesiness between them.
- lack of description and consistency, which I call "sloppy writing" (but Gina never would, doll that she is)

Maggie's never critiqued a project of mine beyond an alpha read, so I can't predict that much about her, but she's looked at the first page of TT a ton, and I already know she'll tear my grammar limb from limb. Probably paragraph structures too. And then help me put everything back together again.

Jean is ruthless with her dedication to flawless craft. Show don't tell.  End every scene on a question mark. It's chapter five and you are just now introducing a main character? Are you effing kidding me? And why is that character so flat? SHE KNOWS I AM A BETTER WRITER, QUIT WHINING AND SUCK IT UP.

And Chessie is going to MURDER me on what I'm audacious enough to call "science" in this (light!) science fiction manuscript. She'll also indicate at least a dozen times a chapter how much my rampant use of the passive voice makes her want to vomit/stab her own eyes out. You know, lovingly.

(I already know that Heidi, who's going to crit for me for the first time, is a master of paring down a story to its essential elements and an all-round genius.)

Now! Having these things in mind doesn't mean I won't take them seriously. On the contrary! I've assembled my own awesome Charlie's Angels of a crit group.  I know that each member has an eagle eye for different things. I can count on them to help me polish ONE to a high sheen.

Is it still TERRIFYING to think of sending them this draft? Absolutely. And I'll be in my office focusing on deep breathing for about half an hour after I do it.  Because, at the end of the day, I also know that

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: No one understands my work, including me.

but at least I won't get (too terribly) offended when they tell me that.

Do you get nervous to send new stuff to your established crit group? Is it worth it, like it is for me? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making the Magic

Thanksgiving is amazing, right?

It's a magical week where Wednesday is like Friday, but really people stop working so hard mid-Monday. Everyone travels to hang out in someone's warm, cozy, welcoming house, there's an amazing dinner with all the trimmings, then everyone piles onto couches or stretches out on the floor just to fall into a turkey coma.

Yeah. Thanksgiving is the best. So relaxing, so effortless. Travel, eat, and snooze. Maybe play football, or video games. No gifts, no church, no hassle. Ahhhh.

Unless. are the hostess.

If you are the hostess, Thanksgiving starts at least two weeks before the actual holiday. Its onset may be marked by anxiety, cold sweats, and disturbed sleep.

You must plan a menu so that you can start to shop. You buy an eight pound bag of russets for $2.49 twelve days before the holiday, and then nearly bust a vein in your neck when you see a ten pound bag for two bucks on the Monday of Thanksgiving week.

You must make a prep/cooking schedule so that all your food will be cooked, warm, and ready to serve at the exact time that everyone is sitting at the dinner table. You will prep cranberry sauce and bake rolls at six o'clock in the morning the Monday before Thanksgiving because those things can be stored and/or frozen while the sweet potatoes/mashed potatoes/green bean casserole/turkey/gravy/stuffing cannot. You will scream, then throw a turkey breast, then assume a fetal position when there is just no more room in the freezer.

Your house must be clean and ready for guests. Since you will be in the kitchen for 48 continuous hours before the holiday, you must accomplish this thorough deep-clean and massive Washing of All the Linens the weekend before Thanksgiving. You will spend the three and a half days between this cleaning and Turkey Day screaming at your four year old that YOU KNOW HE HAS TO USE THE POTTY BUT IT HAS TO STAY CLEAN FOR FOUR MORE DAYS SO JUST HOLD IT GEEZ. (Bonus points if you have three children under five. Triple bonus points if they're all potty training.)

On the day of Thanksgiving, your guests will try to be helpful by puttering around your kitchen and asking vague questions like, "Are there any tupperware containers?" or "What do you use to clean these counters?" They will think they are helping but really they are pushing you one step closer to the straight jacket with every step they take. (There may be one family member who knows your kitchen inside and out, shuts her mouth, puts her head down, and CLEANS. This person will be invaluable to you. Never let her have Thanksgiving dinner anywhere else. NO MATTER WHAT.)

At Thanksgiving dinner, someone will do one of the following:

  • Insult your personal religious or political beliefs.
  • Comment that the turkey is dry.
  • Ask why you didn't cook that dish again that only they ate last year.
  • Make an inappropriate comment about your choice of career, sex life, or reproductive status.
  • Engage in a marital spat - or worse.
  • Get completely wasted.
  • Throw up.
After dinner, there will be approximately three hours worth of cleanup. Your guests will be snoozing in the living room. You will curse their names in a continuous loop until you collapse next to them, only to have one of them ask you whether there is leftover pie.

Yeah. Very relaxing.

One year, my dear sister and I were co-hostessing (she is that invaluable relative I told you about up there.) We paused during our second hour of preparing food to serve and setting the table to gaze at the rest of our family, happily chatting, laughing, and relaxing in the other room. They were completely in love with Thanksgiving. She was sweating up a storm and I had pregnancy-induced sciatica like you wouldn't believe.

"What are we doing?" she asked me.
"We're making the magic," I said. 
She nodded, we looked at each other, and got back to work.

Writers. Does all of this sound familiar?

When we write a story, it starts with a mere list, maybe a few words, maybe a character profile, maybe a photograph. We painstakingly plot, outline, and dream, switching out elements that don't make sense for others that might work better. We carefully lay everything out so that something in the Rising Action foreshadows the Climax in the subtlest way, and hopefully all comes to a gorgeous, sweeping, stunning head that leaves readers delighted and breathless.

Will there be unhelpful comments? Yeah. Blog contest participants to nitpick for the sake of saying anything nitpicky? Absolutely. Agents who will bring the snark and make fun of your query or even *gasp* concept on Twitter? Oh goodness yes. Will there be people who slam your story because there is a typo, or a shallow character, or because you are Mormon, or female, or Russian, or black, or gay? Even if that has nothing to do with your book? Uh huh.

See, to readers, our book lasts six to ten hours. To agents, it lasts maybe a few seconds (before they form R the query.) But to us, it is a year or more in the making. It's easy for others to take the giant turkey dinner and clean house gorgeously plotted book and sweet characters for granted when it doesn't mean nearly as much to them. When they haven't worked their fingers to the bone for it, lost sleep over it, cried over it.

So, what do we do to overcome this inevitable gloom slump of writing stories? We find those gems of supportive crit partners, writing buddies, and author luminaries. We stick to them like glue and hold on to their advice and inspiration like precious jewels. We count on them to feel assured and not so alone, and above all, we use their words to grow.

And then? We keep making the magic.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Don't forget to hug your hostess, compliment the gravy, towel off the bathroom sink, and maybe even take out the trash. But if you do that, don't forget to replace the garbage bag - and find the damn thing yourself.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Living the Dream

(My stomach's all twisty-turny and my nerves are wrecked for a couple of reasons today, so I thought I'd do a short, cheerful, dreamy-type post to cheer myself up.)

I saw "Breaking Dawn" yesterday on a rare and fabulous lady date. One moment out of that whole movie made me tear up.

When the baby was born? Nope. (That was appropriately disgusting.) When Edward thought Bella was dead? Nuh-uh. (Although that was pretty horrific as well.)

It was actually the appearance of one very special extra.

See her there? Row closest to you on the left?

There's Stephenie Meyer, the author of the TWILIGHT saga (I type as if any of you do not know this information,) attending the MOVIE WEDDING OF HER CHARACTERS.

All of you authors out there are probably nodding your heads along with me. You know what I'm all caps-locking about. We write stories. We fall in love with our characters. Exciting, dramatic, and sometimes even beautiful things happen to them. And they live in our heads, and our CPs' hearts (#cplove, what's up ladies,) but our wildest, craziest dreams usually stop at their names appearing in a hardcover on the bookstore shelf. Maybe - MAYBE - we get really nuts and dream of great reviews, or even being a bestseller.

Our books being made into movies is an admit-me-to-an-insane-asylum-because-I'm-probably-delusional type of writer's dream.

To appear in a major moment in your characters' lives on the big screen? Well, that's just head-spinningly, deliriously wonderful.

Way to live the dream, Ms. Meyer. I was so, so happy for you today. You're an inspiration to keep my head in the clouds, if only a little bit.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Obsessions: The Human Torch, "Heartbeat" by the Fray, and Oatmeal

Wheee! It's Friday again! Here we go...

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

1. Let's start this off right. Johnny Storm, AKA The Human Torch.

He's lovably cocky, has an awesome superpower, and is C-U-T-E.  Mmmm.

Mmm hmmm. Yes. Yepppp.

You guys. He lights on fire. And then he flies. FLIES. WHILE HE'S ON FIRE.
This probably also has something to do with how Elias tells someone to "Flame on." in ONE. Yes. Sure does.

Oh, man. Ohhhh geez.

2. "Heartbeat" by The Fray
You all know how much I love the Fray. This new-ish single release....whoa. I mean, the lyrics alone...

"When you love someone you love them all the same."

*sighs* *swoon* (On the soundtrack for sure.)

3. Oatmeal. It's just that kind of weather, and because I seem to not be able to get food into my mouth fast enough these days, hearty, sweet, belly-filling oatmeal is pretty much the best food. ever. EVER.

Okay, sweet readers! Your turn - what were you obsessed with this week?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Winner of the First Official Classy Author Giveaway!

Ho-Hum. I'm a little bored without a post today, so I thought I would do something perhaps even more awesome than post -

as I promised you I'd do in the First Official Classy Author Giveaway a week or so ago.

Wheee! Here we go!

Beth Revis winner

And the winner is...drumroll please...REBECCA!!!!

Who said,

I love Beth Revis! She is super-awesome and so very accessible and friendly to her readers. :o)

Yes, yes she is. Congratulations, Rebecca! I'm going to email you to get you your book ASAP.

As always, THANK YOU to everyone who commented and entered!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deliberately building self-confidence

I've written before about the split personality of a writer. We have to be simultaneously the most confident and the most humble people we know. It's a tough balance to strike, at some places on the road to publication more than others.

I realized I haven't felt self-confident about a single thing I've written since I've started querying THE TRAVELERS. Even my favorite favorite most beloved ever scene from ONE (the WiP)) - I look at it and think, "Eh, this is cliched." or "Urgh, what was I thinking with that WORD CHOICE GOD I AM THE STUPIDEST WRITER EVER."

You know. That kind of thing.

See, it's easy to get down. We can read posts by published authors telling us that no matter how ready we think we are to submit and publish - WE'RE NOT (awesome, thanks. SUPER helpful - ) and we can read twitter feeds of agents making fun of queriers all the live long day.
If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything outside of the entertainment industry.
Um...does that include publishing? We're screwed, aren't we?

 Even if we delete our rejections like we're supposed to (I do! I swear! All, like, ten bajillion of them.) it's hard not to keep at least a rough tally living in your head. Soon, we can spot a rejection email in less than two seconds. Literally. (The tip-off: It has the word "subjective" in it.)

You'd think by now I might've turned around...YOU'D BE WRONG.
The thing is - the aspiring agented/published may come to believe these things so deeply - that we're never good enough to query, that first novels don't publish, that regular people can't be writers - that trying to build self confidence- yes, on purpose - might seem silly, indulgent, pointless.

That's what I thought, too.

But then, in a random email kvetch to my writing buddy Peggy, she told me to do something completely ridiculous - go back and read THE TRAVELERS. Fall in love with it again.

Now, Peggy one of the most humble writers I know. If she's telling me to purposefully hype myself up on my own writing, I sit up and listen.

I recently decided to do a last-ditch query flurry for THE TRAVELERS. My incredible, generous, genius CPs spent days reworking my query with me, and eventually everyone gave it a thumbs up. There was just one problem - I couldn't put together the emails. Couldn't click send. I realized after a few days that it was a problem of me losing faith in TT, even before I had officially given up on it.  It was then that I decided I owed it to TT to gather every strategy that I know of for building self confidence into one great big basket and throw every one straight at the query process.

Here are some things that help me build self-confidence and/or rekindle my love for my work:

  • Listen to the soundtrack
  • Read your book again. Especially the steamy scenes.
  • Talk to the CPs that you know will give you hugs, love, and support.
  • Before you whine to them any more, find a drill-sergeant CP who will force you to query through threats and shame.
  • death threat
  • Remember what you're awesome at (Peggy's post about that here and mine here)
  • Send out one of Those Scenes just for the fun of it. You know which kinds I'm talking about. Your CPs will squeal because of what happens in the Scene, but you'll feel like they're in love with your writing.
  • Seek out inspiration. My favorites herehere and here. (You might cry.)

Your turn! Do you deliberately build self-confidence to gear up for some part of the writing process? How?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Hotness

I read a lot of YA novels where the heroine is described as beautiful and body-perfect, and the hero is some combination of gorgeous and devastatingly handsome, with a big helping of rippling abs on the side.

Now, I like reading about beautiful people as much as the next person. (Hello, RORY. Mmm.) But I'm with Beth Revis here - it's not the physical descriptions that make characters hot. In fact, in my writing, I try to  describe the beauty and brawn only as much as necessary.Only I know exactly what my characters look like in my head. 

Why? Because what's attractive to me may not be attractive to someone else.  And, in most cases more importantly, the way a character acts speaks louder than how a character looks.

Remember your first love? Junior high crush, high school boyfriend, college sweetheart? Remember how AMAZING and PERFECT he was? Remember how it felt to hold his hand, to kiss him, to hear him say "I love you?" And, now that you think back on it, remember how maybe his skin wasn't perfect, or he had kind of a weird haircut, or he was a little too short for you to wear heels when you went out, or maybe his jaw and stomach weren't so chiseled? 

And, most of all, remember how he was the CUTEST GUY EVER?

(Yeah. Me too.)

I guess my point is this: Non-gorgeous, non-buff people fall in love every day. They enjoy making out and...other stuff...just as much as the hot people. And to them? The people they're in love with look absolutely, totally, wouldn't-change-a-thing perfect. 

Most importantly, I don't for a second want one of my sweet teen readers to think that because she's really tall, or has frizzy hair, or wears a size 18, or WHATEVER, that she's not every bit as desirable as the heroine in one of my books.

(And that, watching all the sweet Buckeye couples striding through campus hand-in-hand, way more of them look like this:

Than like this:
And that, no matter what they look like, their love story could be absolutely incredible.)

See, at the end of the day, jaws and muscles and tallness and jeans size are all pretty irrelevant - the only thing that I care about is that my readers know how the characters see one another. Are they attracted to each other? Does the hero think the heroine is beautiful? Does one character want to rip the other's clothes off?

If we agree on the answers to those questions? I've done my job. 

Now! For the fun part (for me at least...)
I want to introduce you to two characters in my WiP, ONE. 

Here's how I describe Leni, short for "Helen":
She is beautiful, the sort of beautiful that knows it can stop anyone in his tracks. She’s tall, with strawberry blond hair so brassy-bright it almost glows, and curvy. Her skin is kissed with gold, then dotted with a spray of freckles.

She looks like the freaking sun itself blew kisses at her. She is the kind of girl that guys like Elias want to be with, always are with. She is a prize. 

And here's Daniel:
Daniel, nearly as tall as Elias, sits at the concrete table with pebbled legs, and looks up from his textbook, jerking his chin up in greeting again. His hair is jet black, and his skin is the color of cinnamon mixed with coffee. His eyes are black, too, but they flash fiercely when they look at me.

Those are pretty much the only physical descriptions of them in the book.

Now, here's part of a scene I wrote between them that does not appear in the book. (Let's just call it character study, okay?)

Slowly, Daniel turns his head to me, and I laugh out loud, then  throw my arms around his neck. His arms circle my body in response, and joy and excitement flood me all at once. I pull back just enough to look at him, and he whispers, "You did it. You really did it."

"We did it," I say, and the joy of it all propels me forward, and I crush my lips against his. I pull back after a second, cheeks flushing crimson, and look down.

I can't believe I did that.

I freeze, wait for him to stop, to push away, to finally tell me after all these years that he doesn’t feel the same way. But he deepens the kiss, takes a deep breath in through his nose, pulls my body closer to his.

Daniel's hands tremble against my waist. My breath shudders out of my chest. The space between us, or what's left of it, is so charged that I can hardly believe this is real.  It must be a dream.  It must,  it must,  and if I don't wake up now,  my heart will fly out of my chest and drag me out of sleep.   

But then his lips move to each of my eyes, then my jaw, then my neck, and I know that my heart couldn't possibly go faster than it is now. Yet he's still kissing me, and my body still aches to be even closer to his. 

Now. Do you have a picture of these two in your head? Yes? Good. So do I. One of the below pictures matches up with my idea of each of them, but any could work given the descriptions.

So, take a look.What do Leni and Daniel look like TO YOU?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Obsessions: Mylo Xyloto, Riding Boots, and Salty Caramel

Wheee! It's the end of another week and I could not be more psyched. Seriously.
(Big goals for this weekend, friends. Big. Freaking. Goals.) So here it is....

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

1. MYLO XYLOTO (OMG!!!)  Okay. So I know this album released, like, two weeks ago. I guess I had contented myself with one of the single tracks, "Paradise," enough that I didn't bother listening to the rest but oh my holy heck you guys, this album is EPIC!  And I think I think just maybe I may have found the title track for ONE right on it!!!!!  And I just heard it  for the first time this morning!!!! And I am FREAKING OUT!!!
Mylo Xyloto

2. Riding boots. Okay. So I work on a college campus (GO BUCKS!) and all the cute college girls are wearing these riding boots with their leggings and skinny jeans and looking absolutely freaking adorable. And I thought it was a body-type thing, with the skinny jeans, because I am not, well, SKINNY, so there is nary a skinny jean to be found in my wardrobe. But then some of my girls told me that skinny jeans and riding boots are flattering on "everyone, Rabbi Kopans, and you should totally get some IT WOULD BE SO CUTE!!!!" And then I saw some of the moms at the children's museum wearing the getup last weekend and looking very classy and "oh-I-just-threw-this-together" chic. Also, Katniss wears them, so you know they are badassed.

Katniss and Gale - Best Friends

Seeing as I haven't felt "so cute" or "classy" or "chic" or  "badassed" in a very long time (a verrrry long time,) and I had a very bad week (a verrry bad week) I thought I'd do a little retail therapy and pick up these beauties. And I've been screaming at the website to "just SHIP THEM ALREADY" all week long. Obsessed.

Naturalizer Arness Boot

3.  Salty Caramel Ice Cream
There are a lot of special things about living in Columbus, OH, but on the top five list is Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Gorgeous artisan ice cream with all organic, all natural, all local ingredients, with a robust roster of seasonal flavors combined with the regular flavors Jeni won't discontinue because she'd be afraid for her life. Seriously.

One of the flavors in the latter category is Salty Caramel, and I may or may not have eaten an entire pint this week. *Ahem* (as an aside, I'm pretty much a fan of any flavor that involves alcohol - which is many of them - or the word "butter.")

(Not my image. But oh my, doesn't that make you think of Spring?)

Now it's your turn! What were you obsessed with this week???

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anti-Procrastination Live Blog

The last anti-procrastination liveblog I did TOTALLY RULED, so I'm doing it again today. I have a full day at home, and I have some BIG goals. On tap:

- drop off and pick up kids from school
- make chicken/matzo ball soup for dinner (it's just one of those days)
- clean the bathrooms and the kitchen
- wash the bedding
- color my hair and give myself a pedi
- edit 5 chapters edit 4 chapters/finish the "rising action" section!
- set up another query flurry for tomorrow
- look/be/feel fabulous

Yes. I am a nutcase.

Here we go!

5:30 - I awaken to a lovely conversation between my two boys about poop blasting through the baby monitors. Serious. You can't make this stuff up.

6:00 - Eggs and toast are on the table for breakfast, and Asher and Nesyah have an epic battle over who gets the Wolverine plate. Nesyah wins.

6:30 - Kids are dressed, second load of laundry going in. I scrub the downstairs toilet and disinfect the bathroom sink and wall (yes, WALL - two boys potty training = SO SO GROSS.) Slap on a bit of makeup so as not to scare the preschool teachers.

7:30 - We are out the door!

8:30 - Kids are finally installed in school, after I had to talk Rami down from the brink when I told him we're cutting his hair in a couple of weeks. (We wait till their third birthday for the first cut.) I left him with a mere trembling bottom lip after I got him to agree that long hair minus a tiny bit of hair from the end is still LONG HAIR.

8:45 - I stop at the grocery store for a head of garlic and egg noodles for the soup, and walk out with those things plus approximately ten million pounds of clearanced Halloween chocolate FTW.  Think how great this will be for my students and care packages to Chessie and Gina. Realize that I have never sent Maggie a care package and have a mild panic attack. For Christmas, ladies. Christmas.

9:00 - Throw a chicken, some water, some soup veggies, the garlic, and salt and pepper into the stock pot, set it on the burner, and wish it luck.

9:15 - Reply to twitter @s and obsess over one of Those Scenes I wrote late last night. Hm.

10:00 - Answer a couple of emails from CPs (FIRST PRIORITY LADIES.)

10:05 - Watch this badassed video on fire blankets. (It's research!) Mostly I like it because of the guy's accent.

10:45 - Have spent waaay to long replying to a couple of Those Scenes my CPs sent me last night. It is so much more fun to reply to emails during the day, when I am awake at all. I feel like I might actually make any sense.

Also obsessed with this whole wheat waffle. Is there ANY kind of syrup other than "butter flavored?" (Answer - NO.)

Okay. Time to edit.

11:40 - Uh, yeah. So I've done NO EDITING in the last hour. I filled up my water bottle. And...that's about it.

11:43 - Blue screen of death on my netbook. %$#*$&&(&#)_(_@

2:00 - HOW DID IT GET SO LATE!??!!?
My matzo ball soup, FTW.

Kitchen is sparkling clean. I'm going to color my hair, and scrub the other bathroom, put clean sheets on the kids' beds, and put in another load of laundry while it sets.

3:00 - Aforementioned tasks accomplished, and by now I'm having some pretty intense round ligament pain. I'm not budging for two hours.

3:40 - Okay. Just responded to a CP with a writing confidence crisis (FIRST PRIORITY) and spent about 20 minutes weeping over websites that tell the story of my deepest darkest fear happening to other people. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!?!  I have an hour to edit before I leave to pick the kids up. Guh.

4:00 - The first of two word wars with my amazing CPs Maggie and Chessie. For some reason, knowing someone else thinks I'm working on ONE for fifteen solid minutes forces me to ACTUALLY DO IT.  One and a half chapters edited in the first one, and the second word war yielded another chapter edited. I'm almost caught up now - on chapter 9! woot!

6:30 - The children are home and - what else - eating? Asher and Nesyah eat a dozen matzo balls in about ten minutes. It's actually incredible to watch. Most grown adults can only eat two or three.

7:15 - Get an email from Gina that indicates that she is ACTUALLY POSSIBLY SERIOUS about writer's retreating with me. Stare at phone. Swoon. Start looking at flights.

8:23 - Children fed, pajamaed, in bed, husband fed. Back to work - I can get another two chapters in at least before I nod off, right? Right?

9:14 - Just finished the second chapter! (Cheating, kind of - I've been obsessing over Chapter 10 for three months, since it's the first scene I ever wrote for this book ever.) In case you're keeping track, I've come up short on my goals today, but only a little - one pedicure and one chapter. Oh, and looking/feeling fabulous. (Maggie told me I could cross off "be fabulous," and she knows what fabulous is.)

This is where I say that a good woman knows when to quit, and call it a night. Thank you so much for live-blogging with me, can't wait till the next time! You really helped me stay focused (yes, this is what 'focused' looks like.)

Sleep tight!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The First Official Classy Author Giveaway

Happy Monday morning, everyone! (did you see how I tried to get myself psyched for the week by being all chipper right there? I'll let you know how it worked.)

It's time to finally announce the winner of my giveaway of Lauren Myracle's SHINE. If you didn't hear the story behind this giveaway, please take a moment to hop over to the post and check it out.

There were twelve entries, so your chances were awesome. Here's the number I drew:

Fullscreen capture 1172011 51248 AM.bmp

And here's the comment that went with it:
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Congrats, Heidi! I'm so excited for you to read SHINE. Email me your address to I can get a copy to your Kindle or your doorstep, whichever you'd like.

Now, for a REAL post.

I got into an email discussion with some of my critique partners last week about some authors we "know" via their blogs and Twitter presence. Some authors act like normal people and sometimes normal celebrities (I'm allowed to use oxymorons at 5:30 AM!), and then some authors?

 Class. It. Up.

I mean, seriously. Can't you think of at least one or two authors that you admire not only for their mad writing skills, but also because of how utterly and completely CLASSY they are?

Well, I can. And I'm going to practice my one most important author skill right now and kick off a giveaway series that celebrates classy authors.

First up: Beth Revis!

Here's Ms. Revis. She looks up to you. Seriously. She says it on her blog.
(And I got this picture over there, so it's totally not creepy.)
Beth Revis is the New York Times Bestselling author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and its sequel A MILLION SUNS, out January.
Across the Universe
*Gasp* That cover gets me every time.

Ms. Revis gets Classy Author status in my book for a couple of huge reasons. First, because of her responsiveness to her fans - both via Twitter and Blog comments. If I tag her in a tweet, she always, always, ALWAYS responds.  She's stopped by this little old blog to comment when I've mentioned her or a topic she's passionate about ("Delighted to Be Devastated," go check out her comment!) She answers questions from regular fans on her Tumblr all the time.

And this brings me to mention her crazy-inspirational support of the writing community. 
On a personal note, when I started querying, I dropped her a line on Tumblr to ask for a one-line pep talk. She wrote me a SPEECH. And this was before I had a Tumblr account, so I was basically just some anonymous freak writing a Book Full of Crazy for all she knew, and she spent fifteen minutes of her busy famous life replying to me.

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Classy. Class-y.

As if stuff like that isn't awesome enough, she also provides inspiration for the writing masses. (And we are. Masses.) This summer's WriteOnCon featured Ms. Revis giving the most inspirational writing speech I've ever heard, in which she showed off all NINE of her "drawer novels" and told us to never, ever give up.

See, even though Ms. Revis is a New York Times Bestselling Author, and she doesn't really need to interact with the handful of random twitter or blog fans, and most certainly has already paid her dues to the writing community...she keeps going anyway. Keeps going with the "thank you"s and support.

 And if that doesn't make her a Classy Author? I don't know what does.

So! To celebrate Ms. Revis and the sheer awesomeness of her books (I devoured both ATU and the ARC of A MILLION SUNS Penguin so kindly sent me - they are beautifully written and completely emotionally captivating - )

 I am giving away a copy of either ACROSS THE UNIVERSE or a pre-order of A MILLION SUNS!!! 

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below. You get an extra entry for following the blog and for tweeting about it - if you tweet, please include this text:

I entered to win a book by @bethrevis in @LeighAnnKopans' Classy Author giveaway!

And let me know if you are a new follower and/or tweeted. Duh.

Even if you don't feel like entering, go tweet at @bethrevis and let her know how classy she is. Obviously, she deserves it.

Good luck everyone! And, as always, THANK YOU for reading!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Obsessions and Guest Vlogging at Gina's!

A couple of housekeeping notes AWESOME ANNOUNCEMENTS before we start with the obsessing:

1. I'm doing my first guest vlog ever about my history of literary crushes over at Gina's blog this morning! Please come visit and assure me that I don't sound like a man. Or a complete tool.

2. I'll be announcing the winner of the Lauren Myracle's SHINE giveaway on Monday (which means there's still time for you to enter!!!) and simultaneously kicking off my Classy Author Giveaway series. Get excited for this one, guys...

Okay. And now...

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

1. Once Upon A Time.  I blogged about the preview to this months back, and this show does not disappoint. It's beautiful. And incredible. But if I'm being honest, my real obsession is with Prince Charming:

If you watched the first episode, you know he's not only devastatingly handsome, but also totally kickass. He took down, like, five guys with a sword. With one hand. WHILE HOLDING A BABY IN THE OTHER HAND. 

Yes, it's true. I can't find the video clip because I think ABC is, like, patrolling YouTube for it or something, but if any of you has it, please please post the link so that everyone can enjoy. *grin*

2. Sweaters. And tea. And heavy blankets. It's that time of year and there's nothing more I want to do than hibernate and not come out till spring snuggle on the couch with the fam and a book.

3. Sushi. Maybe it's Halloween and all the candy that's been around, or maybe it's that I've been obsessed with tater tots and other fried, quasi-fried, and high-fat foods over the past few months. But suddenly all I want is sushi, in all its cold, whole-food, fresh gloriousness. (Yes, I got some on Wednesday. Yes, it was delicious.)

Your turn! What were your obsessions this week?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nailing the Soundtrack

Have you ever had a moment when you hear a song and think, "How did that singer know what my character was thinking?"

Or have you ever heard a song lyric that sparked an entire scene, subplot, or entire story idea?

I'm one of those writers that NEEDS music to write a story. Whether each song acts as inspiration, encouragement, or support for what the characters do and why they do it hardly matters. The songs and my scenes are so closely linked - whether by emotion or concept - that I can't remember, for most of them, whether I wrote the scene first, and then added the song, or heard one line of a song that sent me into a writing frenzy.

For me, the work of building a book's playlist is just as slow, thoughtful, and full of heart as the writing itself. I add a bunch of songs, take most away, listening over and over, feeling them out to see what rhythms, lyrics, melodies, and progressions make my heart soar or ache. I add songs and write according to what rings true.

It's not unusual for me to write a scene, song blasting in the background, with tears streaming down my face. Sometimes when I'm completely lacking inspiration, I get in the car and speed down a long stretch of highway (you can do that in Ohio,) soundtrack blasting, and then pull off an exit to pour scenes into my netbook.

The mood of the songs changes according to the part of the book I'm writing. Sunshiney happy love songs may be on endless repeat for weeks while I'm writing first kisses and joyful discoveries, but when the character's Black Moment comes up? You can bet the songs coming out of my computer speakers reflect her  fears and, at their core, her determination.

Now that I'm revising ONE, I've fallen in love with its soundtrack, in its entirety, all over again. Here it is:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

And just like there's one grand, sweeping theme for every novel, one song always comes to the fore of my head and heart as a book's "theme song." Here's that one:

What about you? Do you write to music? What does it do for you and your book?