What’s up Wednesday July 31


whats up wednesday
What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s

What I’m Reading 

I finished The Bitter Kingdom ARC. It’s phenomenal. I will probably be putting a post together soon about the whole series. I have thoroughly enjoyed each Fire and Thorns book.

I am about halfway through OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu. This book is a hard one for me. I’ve had to take it in small, manageable bites. It may not be this way for everyone, but for someone with OCD tendencies — leanings that were much more dominate in the throws of adolescent hormones —I relate to Bea in a way that makes me ache, for her and for the part of myself that could be this way and isn’t, that it becomes difficult to stay with her. However, as a read it’s equally funny, romantic and deeply quirky, all things I enjoy in contemporary YA. There will likely be a full blog post about this book as well. I have a feeling it’s one I’ll need to talk about.

What I’m Writing

Many things. I have been so productive lately that I’m actually in very real danger of patting myself on the back and bragging. That being said, a lot of my night time productivity is due to the Twitter support from other Ready. Set. Write ladies.

This week I have written 5000 words on the manuscript for my sequel. At this point it is just for me, and still who knows what is going to happen with this series, but I am firmly in love with it. I may be more in love with it after my break from it. I am in danger of loving it so much now that I began the sequel that everything else will be boring.

I also wrote about 500 words on a new story. I tend to have very specific, overwhelming dreams, and this new idea was spawned by one of them. It comes complete with some plot twists and world building. Writing about this new world, in this very different narrative voice, is completely fascinating. It is still in the discovery stage, but the spark is there to explore.

What Inspires Me

As I said, the Ready. Set. Write ladies on Twitter. My first night back working I spent also dialoging with some of them on Twitter. I was surprised by how it truly motivated me to stay focused, knowing they were all writing and knew I was supposed to be writing instead of shittin’ around on the internet. Odd how accountability can add to your discipline. I have never had a hard time staying motivated during my writing days, but the evening, when I’m drowsy and there’s House Hunters International marathons on (perfect TV to check out to), have never been my most productive time.

Trees. As a girl, trees were sanctuaries. I grew up on acreage surrounded by old, massive oaks that I lived in and named and told secrets to. My home now is nestled into a hill with a thick tree fence of protection. From my office, I look out over the tops. Trees are all I see. I’m reminded of a particular quote from Anne of Green Gables, said to Matthew:

I had made up my mind that if you didn’t come for me tonight I’d go down the track to that big wild cherry-tree at the bend, and climb up into it to stay all night. I wouldn’t be a bit afraid, and it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don’t you think? You could imagine you were dwelling in marble halls, couldn’t you?

Trees are also a thing in this new story I’m working on.

What Else I’m Up To

Today I begin filming on the web series I’ve written with the teens from my acting/writing workshop. We have been rehearsing and planning and throwing things together, and now we shoot. I am thrilled with their enthusiasm and creativity. Their talent and energy. Very exciting day.

I finally got a reading chair for my office. It’s whimsical and quirky. I feel like Snow White or Beatrix Potter or someone equally feminine and nature-loving.

Pictures of empty furniture are odd.

Pictures of empty furniture are odd.

Working out. I have been getting back in the swing of working out. I unintentionally took a break after Hawaii, but started back last Monday. This Monday, my brother trained his new wife (who is a Hawaiian dancer) and me. Walking is a challenge now. Stairs make me want to cry. My thighs will be gorgeous.

So…what’s up with you?

 

Writing Again

Advice-from-the-Worlds-Best-Writers-Quotes-on-Writing

I want to take a few minutes out of my Friday to talk about writing…again. Over the past two months, I have been taking a much needed break from writing. Well, I should rephrase, a break from writing a novel. I did plenty of blogging, and brainstorming, and worked on scripts for the webseries I’m doing with a group of teen writers and actors, but not a word was written in a manuscript.

My first novel took a lot out of me. One friend compared the experience of finishing a book (and by finishing, I mean being done with revision) to post-partum or baby blues. I loved this comparison, because it gave a rhyme and reason to the utter sense of emptiness I was left with when it was over.

Beyond emptiness was exhaustion. Beyond exhaustion was nagging, terrifying fear.

What if I had put all my writing talent into one book?

How did I do it?

Can I actually write an epic fantasy sequel?

Why did I decide to do a book that would require a sequel as my first novel?

Side question: Why the hell did I pick fantasy with extensive world building?

These are just a few of the questions that began to surface in my time off, leading me to a paralytic state whenever I sat down at my computer. The first few weeks off were bliss. I was in Hawaii. I was hanging with my son. I had long lunches and martinis.

It did not last. It wasn’t an issue of not being busy enough — please, I have a four-year-old son, an acre and a half of land, and plenty of extracurriculars to fill my day — it was the not writing. It was the fear of never really being able to do it again.

And it was this that finally forced me, beyond all other voices, to sit down (wine in hand, because, well, liquid courage) and write the opening pages to my sequel. Upon doing so, the whispers of inadequacy and trepidation ceased. I could only hear my main character talking to me, telling me she wasn’t done. Her voice reignited proved something very simple to me.

I can do it again, and it is very much just as it was the first time. I do have more in place to work from. I do know the general direction I’m going. I have a world already built and characters developed. I do know that it will be utter, hopeless shit for a long time. And that is OK, because somewhere in revision I learned to accept the shit for what it was: the first step in the creative process.

At dinner last night I was discussing this with my husband, and we got around to trying to figure out how many words I had written total. The first draft was 76,000 words. From that draft I either cut or revised close to 50,000 words. The next drafts went much the same, only with adding in characters and many world building elements, they grew to somewhere in the 90-96,000 word mark. My most recent revision, which also saw major reworking, is 104,000 words. For YA fantasy, this is about as big as you can get and not threaten turning people off to your MS. ( I would like it to be shorter, but can’t seem to get it there.) Just guessing, my word count total into this novel so far is somewhere around 500,000 words.

The encouraging thing in this comes from the fact that seeing all of that in print doesn’t make me less excited about doing it all again. In fact, last night I decided I am ridiculous with anticipation about the prospect of another book. I am so excited I may try writing two at the same time. (I may also just be a lunatic.)

What you should be taking from all of this is? Fear can be your friend, but it is never a reason not to do something. I would argue, it may even be a reason to do something. I am a writer, not because I want to publish a book. I want to publish a book because I am a writer. Writing is my way to balance and maintain all the other aspects of my person. It makes me solid in the world when I want to float away. I am writing again, which means I am me again.

What’s up Wednesday, July 24

whats up wednesdayWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

I have missed a couple weeks, but I’m back to tell you guys what’s up. It’s been a hectic and strained couple of weeks. Emotional. Exhilarating. Sleepy. I’m glad to be back.

What I’m Reading

Finished all my betaing. I loved reading my friends as-yet-to-be published books. Reading for critique is so different than reading for pleasure, though, because you know there is a need to be more thorough, more critical. My favorite moments while betaing were when I was so lost in there story that my writer brain shut off and my reader brain turned on. I am nearly finished with an ARC of The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. You GUYS! It’s amazingness. I want to kiss this book. ( *clears throat* Hector) Rae Carson can certainly write an epic ending. 

What I’m Writing

Scripts. I had a writing session with the teens from my workshop where we plotted out the three episodes in our web-series, which we begin filming next Wednesday. I had way too much fun. I took their plotting, which contained detailed dialog and description, and put scripts together for them to edit and tweak.

I’m also working on a new book that I just love, as well as the sequel to my novel, and my own short film idea that I hope to begin pre-production work on this fall. Lots of very intense writing projects happening right now, but I’m loving it. I’m breathing it.

What Inspires Me

Still hugely inspired by the teens in my workshop. These kids are brilliant. They also totally get my fixation with Power Rangers and fangirling. It’s good to be understood and appreciated.

My sister-in-laws. I have six (two on my husband’s side, four on mine), and they all bring something vibrant and different to our family. Those married to my brothers could almost be qualified as saints. And they love me, support me, make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts. This distinction is more important than you can understand if you have never been an ONLY.

Conversations with Sam, my son:

Sam: Momma, I’m ready to go to the superpower store.

Me: (driving) Where is that?

Sam: Metropolis.

Me: How do you pay for things at the superpower store?

Sam: Your credit card.

Me: (shocked, mock disapproval) I’m not made of money.

Sam: You could be if we went to the superpower store.

Faced.

This picture from the lovely Sara Biren.

Sara's pic. Brainerd Lakes.

Sara’s pic. Brainerd Lakes.

What Else I’m Up To

couch

We finally got our furniture. I literally never want to move from that couch. Life in our home has digressed into the artful game of who gets the chaise.

Figuring out my next step in this publishing game. Things have shifted, and even though I can’t fully disclose all of it, know I am at a weird and exciting place. I am thankful to you lovely Ready. Set. Write. ladies and my blog readers. It’s good to know you’re not in this alone.

My brother and his wife, who live in Jerusalem, Israel, just welcomed a baby boy. Big sis Lily is proud, and they are all awesome. It’s such a blessing to all of us. So proud of them for doing what they do over there.

elijah

Happy Wednesday!

Thank you, Books. Love, Me

Last night I was on Twitter. When am I not on Twitter, or Tumblr, or adding books to my TBR? Only when I’m writing or caring for my son, or the occasional date night/ GOT marathon. Even then…Tweets happen.

Back to the story…last night I was on Twitter and I came across this by author and fellow Twitter fiend, Leigh Bardugo:

The link featured above takes you to Leigh’s tumblr page and the rest of the heart-wrenching ask. Visit it before reading on. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back? Crying? I was, and am threatening tears now, so don’t judge me. This little girl who lost her father, who is standing in the midst of chaos, chose to reach out to the author of a book with her grief because somehow Leigh’s books made her feel ok. Even if it can’t last. Even if when she closed the book there was all the loss and sadness staring right back at her. She had a few hours reprieve thanks to the Grisha world, and now she’ll always have Leigh’s words of encouragement to lean on when she forgets she’s going to make it.

This is the power of books. Why it’s never just telling a story for writers, and it’s never just a book for readers. More than any other creative medium, books have a way of adhering themselves to us, of living inside us and forcing everything else to quiet, of becoming part of us and never leaving.

Books are friends in the loneliness of youth. They are confidants. They are the transformative power of the imagination. The knowledge of being part of something more than you and your life. The certainty that somewhere out there someone else is reading the same words and feeling the same things, and that means you’re not alone. And when you are ready to face the world, books can help you start that conversation.

I remember when I first read Harry Potter. I was sixteen, skinny, wild-eyed, moving too fast, and somehow, briefly, Harry slowed me down. Harry took me outside myself and let me see others. Harry made me passionately, unashamedly fight for my friends, my dreams, and all that I believed in because he gave me a place to start. He gave me an open door.

What this moment between an author and her reader reminds me of is the absolute necessity for books — wherever you can get them, whatever genre, age group, subject — and the further power of them as a tool for healing. How many times have you been talking about a character and realized you’re talking about yourself, your pain, your needs? And what’s better, you’re being understood. You’re able to speak because it’s not just you. You’re able to let go because you’ve seen them do it. You’re able to talk when you feel awkward because they’re reading that same book too.

I know for me the answer is always, constantly, forever.

Irving Library Beneath the Surface Author Panel and site of utter fangirl overload

Nova and Me

It is hard to know where to begin this post because I am still mulling over my magical evening.

Last night, we assembled (we being a bunch of readers from North Texas) to soak in the glorious genius of: Nova Ren Suma —lovelier than I even thought possible and so filled with knowledge and incredible stories, Tessa Gratton — hilarious and witty and I’m glad she is not a politician, Ransom Riggs — very tall and not terrifying like his book but undeniably interesting, Tahereh Mafi — stunning and engaged to Ransom Riggs but is an elegantly normal sized wordsmith, Rae Carson — blows me away with her awesome and is a reformed beauty queen who loves Star Wars and the intersection between literary and commercial fiction so…good taste, and Aimee Carter — accessible and honest and dry, which are some of my favorite things. The panel was wonderfully moderated by local author, Jenny Martin, whose book Tracked debuts next year.

The Irving Public Library is sprawling book-haven. I’m accustomed to libraries being a normal size and I always find my way to the end of them before I’m ready. Irving impresses. The event featured tons of freely given swag, a tower of cupcakes and a candy bar. My phone was nearly dead because I used the voice prompts in google  maps to get to Irving, and earlier in the day I was compulsively checking email because…well, I do that…so I took almost no pics.

You can take my word for it, and also, Twitter has pics. I wanted to buy all the books, but alas money and responsibility prohibited. I did get a handful for signing, which was giving me social anxiety during the panel. I was determined to quell my urge to be nervous and weird.

Before the event, I planned to meet up with Nova, but her travel arrangements went haywire and she barely made it to Dallas in time for all the Library revelry. Timing was on my side, as well as nature, when I stopped into the bathroom and in came all the authors —including Nova — freezing me by the trashcan. We laughed and gabbed and talked about how sucky Delta Air is and how wonderful it was to meet, and she graciously introduced me around and exclaimed positives about my book.

It is almost too exciting to write about, that I really, just, can’t.

Author panels are always incredibly fascinating to me. As an aspiring author, I watch and learn from them. I glean knowledge about the business I want to be a part of as well as the task of writing books readers will love. But as a reader, I gush and laugh and want to jabber about the books they’ve written that I love and will love in the future.

One of my favorite moments during the panel was when they each told their unique “road to publishing” story. Some had always known novels would find them, some began in screenwriting, pursuing film, pursuing extensive education, pursuing politics and world-changing and wizardry. For most, it was a road littered with rejection and agony, as well as a road of self-discovery.

The panel ran long, but not a single person in the room cared. I was sad it was ending, actually. And then, even though it went late, the authors kindly chatted and listened to all of us thank them for their books and pose for a picture and tell them about our Twitter. (Me, I did that. Because I am hopeless.)

I got to hang with friend and 2014 debut author Lindsay Cummings and fellow bookworms — particularly Cherie, a girl almost as tall as Ransom Riggs who I’m nicknaming, ironically, Little Libba — and talk only books. My favorite kind of talking.

Support your local library by going to events such as this one wherever you live. A huge shout-out to Half-Price Books for selling me too many things, and all the clever booknerds I met last night in Irving!

What’s up Wednesday: July 10

whats up wednesdayWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

What I’m Reading

I finished the book I was beta reading, and wrote her lots of thoughts and comments. Don’t interpret that to mean it wasn’t brilliant. The reason I had so much to say was because it was phenomenal. I am now reading another MS for a friend. All I can say about it is that I feel very fortunate to be reading this before the world (other than her agent). Yes, I am bragging. Also, still reading Defiance, and I am liking it again. Reading moods are weird. That’s all.

What I’m Writing

Not a lot new on this front. Just thinking and plotting and planning. I feel a little like a master villain, tapping my fingers and maniacally laughing. Every time I sit down to write I think, “Hmm, how did I write all the words again?” I know it happens, and it comes in spurts and fits and sweat and bloody fingers. The innocence I went into my first novel with — which provided the abandon to write and not self-edit— is gone now. I think it’s a little like losing your virginity. I can’t un-know how it feels now, because the first time will never happen again. And that familiarity has to become my new starting point. I just can’t forget how good it feels to actually do it.

What Inspires Me

Twitter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on Twitter this last week and just felt utter joy. I have two things to say about this. One: Twitter is a distraction. Sometimes I am laughing about how I can get lost in it and then I’m thankful when my phone dies. Twitter is a vital writer lifeline to the world and other like-minded people, but it’s not actually real life. (Usually I realize this when my son is talking to me while spraying the dog with the water hose.) Two: I don’t care because I love it and it feels productive. This of course is the danger, but still, interacting with other awesome and motivated writers makes me feel unstoppable and legit. Plus, this Tweet:

Nerd.

The Teens in my workshop. All the ideas and the thoughts. The support for one another, and the tolerance of my co-teacher and myself. The way they can carry on a conversation with me, text, and dance with their friend, all at once.

What Else I’m Up To

Trying to get motivated to exercise again. Using alcohol as a reward seems counterproductive, but so far…

Swimming. My son thinks he’s a fish out of water. Recently, he realized he could hold his breath and put his face under the water. The world has taken on a whole new light for him.

Thursday evening I’ll be visiting the Irving Public Library to see these awesome people (including my brilliant workshop teacher/heartbreakingly talented writer/super-nice chick Nova Ren Suma) for a sure to be mind-blowingly fantastic panel and signing.

Irving Summer Reading panels — Go see Nova! July 10 and 11Note: I am very awkward at signings. I get sweaty and  nauseous, and then when I finally get up there I sputter largely inappropriate things. Oh well, I’m going anyway.

Happy Wednesday to all! ‘Sup?

What’s Up Wednesday

whats up wednesdayWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

I am a little late today in posting, but there’s a reason…I didn’t have time this morning and I was sleepy last night. It was night, and I sometimes operate on the schedule of a three year old. I have a three year old, so this is valid.

What I’m Reading

Currently about halfway through Defiance by C.J. Redwine. I want to like this book more than I do. I’m beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with me, because books I would normally obsess over aren’t cutting it. I’m finishing the manuscript I’ve been beta reading and loving it, actually more than the published books I’ve been reading. This is a huge compliment to her, but also I think it speaks to the freshness of her idea. So…that’s exciting.

What I’m Writing

More blogging than normal. This week is the first week since sending my book to agents at the beginning of June that I have felt the itch to get back to work. Right now, my goal for writing revolves around plotting, but there is a story I think I’m going to begin working on — slowly as not to scare it away – that I will probably develop for a while. It’s a horse of a different color and will be a beast for me to write, I think. Also, I feel the sequel to my book has a beginning forming in my mind, and I’m kind of loving it —in theory. That will probably happen next week.

What Inspires Me

Taylor Swift songs. I am thoroughly embarrassed by this and turning an unflattering shade of pink right now. I can’t actually tell you why I began listening to her, but I would like to account for it with creative license. There is something deeply Young Adult about her music. Something that evokes the emotions of later adolescents so easily. Also —the catchiness. I mean, I’m not 22 but…sometimes I feel it.

Teens sitting on ratty carpet in a circle. There’s something about being cross legged on the floor surrounded by your friends that makes you forget you don’t want to talk. The acting/writing workshop today was all about the screen test and how you pull an idea out of your ass. When we opened the floor up for discussion, there was a noticeable sigh. But one kid started talking, and before we knew it, they had decided (almost unanimously) on a jumping off point for their miniseries. Plus, watching their faces, observing their mannerisms, the interactions they thought no one noticed, the excitement they poorly concealed, was fascinating and throughly educational.

What Else I’m Up To

My son is slightly high-maintenance. He’s smart as a whip, and that translates to him intensely and single-mindedly running the day. Right now, he is fascinated with math. Adding and subtracting on a basic level, counting from a random number until he can’t count any higher, puzzles.

I am not math person so much, this makes for interesting conversations. He gives me dirty looks. A LOT.

Trying to catch up with friends.

Painting walls in my house that looked like some dirty-palmed urchin came along and used the wall as a canvas for his filthy art.

So…what about you?

17 & Gone and Me

This is a post in two parts, wherein I examine both the brilliance (without giving away spoilers) that is Nova Ren Suma’s book 17 & Gone, and the treacherous time that is being seventeen going on eighteen.

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That’s me, seventeen years old. I’d just chopped my hair short for the first time ever a week before my birthday. My skin was going through a fresh scrubbed, sun-kissed phase. Soon I would go on my first real date, with my first real boy, and we’d kiss for the first time on a swing set. Soon all of my hopes would be dashed, eroded by choices too hard to make for a seventeen year old girl. Soon, the bubbly, confident girl I’d always pretended to be would start to fade, into someone volatile and confused, ever-shrinking, ever-wandering. I’d get in fights I couldn’t win. I’d fail tests I should have aced. I’d wreck cars and friendships and store signs. I’d stand by while everything around me crashed and burned, leaving in the wreckage the shell of who I’d been before. And it all began after I turned seventeen.

17 & Gone is the story of Lauren, a seventeen year old girl who is having visions of missing girls. The common thread between the girls is that they are all seventeen, and all suddenly gone without a trace. Lauren launches headlong into investigations, seeking answers for both their stories, and her own. Why are they speaking to her? Will Lauren be the next seventeen year old girl to vanish? Is there anything she can do for herself or the others?

This book is layered with depth, and intrigue, and finely crafted plotting, but what makes 17 & Gone so utterly engrossing is the trepidation the reader carries with them through the pages. The need to put the book down, but keep it close. I actually, very nearly, had to put this one in the freezer to diffuse some of my anxiety.

It is hard to write about 17 & Gone because so much of the story must be experienced first hand. I would never take that away from you, but for the purposes of this post, I will share something that has nothing to do with the twists and turns in the plot. Speaking, here, about her mother, Lauren says:

I nodded and let her keep touching me, even though every finger on my scalp and every brush against my neck felt wrong all of a sudden, weird. It wasn’t so much her. Again, it was me. All me. My skin was tightening against intrusions. My body was pulling in on itself like a knot tied over a knot tied over a knot that would never come out.

This is seventeen. Much of my late teens were filled with this raw, hidden pain. Pain I couldn’t quite make sense of, or put words to, or recognize for what it truly was. But more, what Lauren’s words remind me of is feeling desperately and hopelessly misunderstood, because suddenly the girl I had been wasn’t fitting with the girl I was becoming. I wasn’t a woman, not by a long shot, but suddenly I was doing womanly things and being asked to just accept them. My future was growing complex.

At sixteen, I remember driving around with my brother and one of my friends, cranking Jimmy Eat World up in my beat up Jeep Cherokee, and talking about Harry Potter while we ate Frosties. Sixteen was the last time things were simple. Sixteen was filled with certainty. It had been about school and books. It had been me and music and giant drinks from Sonic.

Seventeen changed everything. Suddenly I was about to graduate, and I was supposed to pick a school and take the SAT’s, and plan a future. At seventeen, I was eyed. Boys looked at me more like meat and less like furniture. My cheekbones were sharper, my eyes caught on the curve of a guys muscle under his sleeve, and not the idea of his charm. Seventeen meant I had to act, not observe.

For Lauren, seventeen meant danger. It meant you could be stolen, and no one would care, because isn’t that just what happens if you’re not careful? 17 & Gone illustrates a universal truth about the perilous downward slope of the seventeenth year. The knowledge that you leave behind the girl you were, but you may never make it to the woman you should become. For Lauren, the fear manifests in waking nightmares of the lost girls before her. For me, the fear followed me into every decision I made.

Somehow I managed to survive seventeen, though I can’t tell you if Lauren does — you’ll have to read the book to find out! — and become the woman I was warring with back then. As a teenager, I don’t think I would have believed you if you’d told me I would. I think, like Lauren, I would have been sure my fate lay with the other vanished girls, trapped at seventeen, never getting to move on or see if they could hack it. That’s why 17 & Gone is such a valuable read, for a girl struggling to stay upright on the slope towards eighteen, or a woman who still remembers tripping along that same path.

Many things about my seventeenth year were magical, and everything I had ever wanted or more. Seventeen forms us, and in some ways, it is impossible to avoid the dangers that await on the other side of it. But you won’t be seventeen forever, I know I wasn’t, no matter what that ends up meaning for you now.

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17&gone

Buy 17 & Gone where books are sold, and follow Nova on Twitter by clicking here. If you live in the DFW area, Nova will also be at the Irving Public Library on July 11th for an author panel. Don’t miss it!