Here’s to you, November!

I began this month with a blog post that examined the humbug state of November in years past, and how this November I would break that trend. As I’ve traveled the days of this month, barreling through the hard parts or staring bewilderingly at the shiny moments, I’ve not had a chance to ask myself if those declarations were realized.

Until now.

leslie knope

This month I decided to do NaNoWriMo with every intention of winning, and after 30,000 words, I discovered winning isn’t everything. It’s something, and don’t get me wrong, I’d never kick her out of bed, but in the end playing the game with friends was better than getting hung up in the battle for words I will still be able to write in December.

This month I turned 29 and the world didn’t end. I was Freshly Pressed. I was accepted to a writing retreat and workshop with an author I respect and admire. I flew to Montana and drove to the boundary of Glacier National Park where I visited the Blackfeet Native Americans. On the frozen plain, something in me thawed.

I met the Eleventh Doctor, the Ponds, and River Song (if only virtually). I watched Catching Fire and wasn’t disappointed (an event worth noting as I am accustomed to being underwhelmed.)

I finished shooting a short film that had lived in my imagination so long I was certain it could never become real. This month I decided that sometimes real is better.

This month my husband was so sick he became useless for days, and I confirmed my disinterest in doing any parts of life on my own. This month we had a cement truck, a Bobcat and some very skilled workers outside our house shutting off water and transforming our space.

It’s also the month I fell down the stairs, smacking my head and splitting it open, realizing the fear of a thing is often much more powerful than the thing itself. This month I didn’t die from something senseless, and therefore I became less afraid of dying senselessly.

How do you gage the value of a month, a season, an event? Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and for the first time in my adult life I was the host. To pull off any event with my family where no one brawls, bickers, or breaks the law is considered an achievement. Swept up in the chaos, that joyful unrest, that upheaval of all things routine and ordinary, the day came and was gone before I could even breathe in the blessing of a holiday where no one threatened violence. But that doesn’t mean the blessing wasn’t absorbed, and it doesn’t mean I stop being thankful because yesterday has passed.

One day can’t possibly hold all of our thankfulness for the moment, or contain all of our hope for the future, or heal every blemish from the year behind. To ask a single meal, or moment, or season of tinsel and twinkle lights to work that hard is to assure certain defeat.

November ebbs. I walk away from it with a few war scars, some accolades, promises, and the knowledge that I am woefully inadequate and unfathomably ambitious.

The war over this month is won in small victories and concessions, in turkey dressing and whiskey pudding, in days of showing strength and nights of sobbing into a glass of wine with a time-traveling Madman. It’s found in admitting when you are beat, and letting someone else shoulder your burden. It’s in valuing the joy of losing. It’s in snuggles instead of struggles.

I set out with a plan to keep November from stabbing me in the back, and discovered what I already knew. November will always fight me dirty, biting and scratching and hypothetically hitting me in the crotch. She certainly has a mean right hook. But in the twilight of the month, with much unfinished or given up — as the barmaid wipes the tables down and the piano man plays in the corner — I raise my glass to her, and to her credit, she buys me another round.

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWAutumnWhat’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 blog.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t been reading as much as I normally do, but I finished The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle last week. It’s not a book I could comfortably recommend to very many people because of the content, though I did have a fun conversation about it with some fellow writers and readers over wine. It’s that kind of book.

I started The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas over the weekend. It has all the elements I love: magic, romance, secrets, danger, a girl dressed up as a boy, a Prince with a mission, etc. I bought this book at Austin Teen Book Fest due to the fabulous book trailer playing in the auditorium before Maggie Stiefvater’s speech. My sister-in-law, Stephanie and I are very susceptible to persuasion involving a Harry Potter reference and fire.

What I’m Writing

My NaNoWriMo project tried to devour my brain last week. My husband was sick and the world around me conspired to keep me from writing. Still, I have cracked the 25,000 mark in total word count…which means I’m still behind. One of my POV characters has taken the reigns of the story and refuses to give them back. I have made notes at points where I might alternate POV again, but right now it feels more important to follow him rather than stifle him.

I have a lot of writing to do this week. I still believe I will “WIN”.

What Inspires Me

Pretty boy pictures. Before you scoff, don’t because at this point in NaNo I need all the help I can get. My sister-in-law has taken it upon herself to send me NaNo inspirations as she discovers them. Yesterday’s picture of Loki, God of Mischief was not only pretty looking but super appropriate for what I was writing at the time.

loki

Writer friends. Receiving presents from my CPs also doing NaNo. Emailing with them about all the crazy. Having Twitter writing parties with them, and many of you clever What’s Up Wednesday bloggers. Writing is a solitary act, which sometimes means the writer gets lost, abandons the work, and feels hopelessly obscure. Being in it together (even virtually) can make all the difference.

Doctor Who. While I was living in New York I watched Doctor’s Nine and Ten. David Tennants departure was more than I could handle. I did not move on to Matt Smith. I was unwilling to see someone else as the Doctor for a long time. When I finally decided I was ready, I couldn’t stream the show from Netflix because we live in the woods and have a bandwidth cap. Hopeless, (and cheap considering the seasons are for sale everywhere) I didn’t know how to carry on. Then I was given the first Matt Smith season for my birthday, and it was all the spark I needed. I have been using Doctor Who as a reward for daily writing. It is going incredibly well. I have fallen in love with Eleven and the Ponds. I want to be just like River Song when I grow up. Also, so far, every day I have used the Doctor as incentive, I have hit my word count goals.

mattsmith

What Else I’m Up To

My husband was sick and since he’s a male he was dying. It took up a lot of my time.

We have construction going on at our house, and have for the last week and a half. They are building a patio and arbor in the back using stamped concrete and beautiful cedar. They’ve built stairs up to the house as well as a sidewalk, in the front. I have mentioned I live in the forest, but to elaborate further, I live in the forest on a hill that is hard for some to get to. We have built stairs to help those with bad knees. I’ll post pictures when it’s finished. Hopefully just in time for Thanksgiving.

Speaking of…we are hosting Thanksgiving. This weekend I am getting together with my Mom and sisters-in-law to make placemats out of craft paper and calligraphy pens before we all watch (swooning epically) The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. (Insert mad fangirl giggles and blushing.) Life is certainly sweet.

doctor who

What’s up with you?

YA BOOK CLUB: ALLEGIANT

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YA Book Club is a product of Tracey Neithercott’s brain. This usually results in a lot of fun times and general shenanigans. For full details and instructions click the link.

The book of the month is…

allegiant-book-cover-high-res

Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

I will not even try to do a post without spoilers. At this point I can’t imagine what purpose that would serve any of us. Though, I will say, THIS POST CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS AND DRAMATIC EXCLAMATIONS. 

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SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!

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I have a lot of good things to say about the Divergent trilogy as a whole. I think the creation of Four (because when you can be called Four why would you ever go by anything else?) and his existence in our imaginary world is one blessing that cannot be taken from us. The story is absorbing. The world is compelling and largely believable as a functioning future version of our own world. The swoon and the feels present in all three books never disappointed me.

I am impressed by Veronica Roth’s storytelling ability. Her prose is clean, bold, sometimes stark, but always engaging. She created characters that were flawed, strong, weak, broken, beautiful, and deeply real.

I have a lot of good things to say about Allegiant individually.

For me, Tris was never my favorite narrator. I had a hard time connecting with her from the beginning of the series. It’s hard to explain. I loved Four, though, and while I don’t think the dual POV in Allegiant was distinct enough for me, I still very much enjoyed having his POV because it helped me see Tris in a new and kinder way. I found myself more attached to her and more aware of her beauty and goodness than when I was confined to her head.

I think this was genius on Veronica Roth’s part because…when Tris dies, it resonated with me for days. Tris became a woman capable of true sacrifice over the course of this series. She became solid but vulnerable in Allegiant, and losing her was truly devastating. However true to the character and the story as it may be, watching Tris die still didn’t sit well with me and it has taken me a a few weeks of intermittent mulling to discern why.

My reasons are three-fold:

1. I can see a way out. I can see how Tris could sacrifice herself for Caleb (which, yep, she had to do) and still survive. As writers we give ourselves outs in our prose, sometimes they are small and wobbly because you don’t ever intend to use them but feel safer with them there. Sometimes they are foreshadowy and red-inked because you need to know they won’t go away. It was written, in multiple places, that Tris could withstand serums. I believe she could have survived had David not shot her. I also think there was a way to redeem Caleb’s character and save Tris from David’s bullet. I think Caleb could have done something. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m reaching. Maybe she could have reached a little too. For us and for Four.

2. Four didn’t get to say goodbye. The death will never feel satisfying to me, and it will never feel worthwhile for this reason. It will always be a little incomplete and unfinished. I needed more than I was given. I can even understand the argument that the way in which she died — and all the unsaid and unfinished — was appropriate for this series and world. I am not sure I care though. As a reader, I felt a little let down. It hurt.

3. Taking those other thoughts into consideration, this next one is completely and utterly personal. I am writing a series (hopefully someone else will agree and want to publish it), in first person POV, so I know what it feels like to share headspace with a character. As attached as I am to my protagonist, and as much as she is a part of me, I try to believe that if I HAD to kill her to tell her story honestly then I would. I respect Veronica Roth for her willingness to do this with Tris, because I am sure it was very painful. Having said that and understanding why she felt this was the right ending, it bothered me that she (Veronica Roth) didn’t fight harder for Tris. This is not an attack on her writing ability, nor is it an attack on her person. I just feel this way, and it won’t go away.

Beyond my problems with the books (overall and Allegiant specifically) I still think the Divergent trilogy is a well-written, engaging and accessible series. Veronica Roth is a talented writer, and someone I expect, and hope, to be writing for years to come. I think the ending overshadowed some of the other big, fascinating aspects of the book. The world outside the fence is a broken but interesting place. The relationships feel real and vulnerable, which make the characters feel more human.

For Veronica Roth’s first series, at such a young age, Divergent is a powerful example of her talent. I am able to get past my own muddled feelings to still recommend this series to everyone and anyone, and that speaks volumes to its value.

NaNoWriMo Week Two at a Glance

So, the shiny, funny Tracey Neithercott posted this comment on my What’s Up Wednesday post yesterday:

Rebecca, here is how you finish:

1. Put on real-people clothes.
2. Leave the house.
3. Head to grocery store and/or back-alley sugar dealer.
4. Buy caramels.
5. Go home.
6. Write.

And it gave me an idea. Here, for you now — and because I’m avoiding my own NaNo project at the moment, hoping it will stop trying to eat my brain if I leave it alone for a minute— is what the end of the second week of NaNoWriMo looks like for some (me):

1. Wake up in the morning after tossing and turning most of the night because you should have written 4,237 words yesterday and you didn’t and you know you should have and so you couldn’t possibly let yourself feel OK about getting the sleep you need to actually write 4,237 words in a day since you didn’t. (Especially when you watched New Girl instead and drank too much non-celebratory champagne before bed. NOTE: In reality, this is probably why you couldn’t sleep.)

2. Make coffee. Check on young son, who is just waking up and looks cozy and miraculous. Lay down with him, thinking he’ll want to cuddle. He really just wants you to fix his Spiderman toy, make him breakfast, sing the ABC’s and explain why the seasons change. Glare at slow brewing coffee.

3. Once son is at school, have more coffee. Listen to inspirational music or watch LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, contemplating your life choices. You could have been a talk show host. You are a great talker. Why did you choose writing? Why do you torture yourself this way? Kelly Rippa probably never tried to write a novel in a month. Kelly Rippa has abs of steel and hair of silk. Make mental note to stop using food as a writing reward.

4. Drink more coffee, this time put in a shot of Bailey’s because it seems necessary and fitting.

5. Write panicky, manic email to CP about all the things in your WiP that scare you. Decide that you will never write another novel if you think it will have to be a series again, especially not another fantasy novel with tons of world building, a detailed plot, and murder. Realize after writing that sentence that sounds very boring indeed and that you want to write big, crazy novels that scare you.

6. Drink more coffee, with more Bailey’s, and then put on a coat and take a walk. (NOTE: You still haven’t written any words, but if you need to you can stay up all night. You can’t rush the muse.)

7. Read email response from CP who won’t let you jump off the ledge, who will hold your hand and guide you back, and who does know exactly what you are up against. She’s feeling the same thing. Every writer trying their hand at NaNo knows how you feel. You take to Twitter, where this is confirmed and together you all decide you will not be beaten, but prevail.

8. Play Eye of the Tiger or We are the Champions on Spotify at an earsplitting volume. Eat a caramel and drink some more coffee because who were you kidding that you weren’t going to use food as a reward?

9. Get down to work.

10. Look at clock — after getting less than 1000 words but being majorly in the groove — realize it’s time to get your son from school. The evening-time dance begins. The muse heads off to the bar, and you decide “Screw her, I’ll be back tonight, and we can share a pot of coffee while she sobers up to inspire again.”

11. Write forward, even when that means you don’t have a clue what the hieroglyphic symbols on your screen say, but the word count rises as does your formerly rock bottom self-esteem.

You have this. I have this. And even when you don’t and I don’t, somewhere out there is someone just like you who is on their seventh hour of staring at their computer screen hopelessly waiting for the muse to get back from her drinking binge.

Write anyway. Write often. Just keep writing.

For inspiration and giggles:

Onward, NaNoWarriors!

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWRocketWhat’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 blog.

What I’m Reading

I finished reading Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis on the airplane home from Montana. I was really impressed with the emotional response this book was able to elicit, especially considering that Lynn, the narrator, is emotionally closed off. The book is about survival, and how people can become isolated in the quest to stay alive when faced with extreme circumstances. It is also about what happens when forced to connect. I recommend this book because of the unique narrator and the total dedication Mindy McGinnis has to telling her story honestly.

Now I’m reading The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. I definitely have mixed feelings about this book, but I also can’t seem to put it down.

What I’m Writing

As a NaNoWriMo participant I am writing one thing and one thing only: my WiP. I have hit the second week. The slump week. The week where I am bribing myself with whatever means I have at my disposal to get the words out. Right now it is Doctor Who episodes and caramels from my CP Susan Crispell. I only have one caramel left. This does not bode well. I have written 8,224 words since last wednesday, so…the bribes seem to be working.

Also, this picture:

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What Inspires Me

The land, the Blackfeet Nation, and knowing I was in the right place at the right time. The time I spent in Montana was brief, but I am still thinking about how unique and valuable that experience was.

Montana Sky

This article on The Rise of Young Adult Literature (As seen through Austin Teen Book Fest) by Jennifer Mathieu featured in The Texas Observer. I met Jennifer at Austin Teen Book Fest, and she was a pleasure to chat with. The article is fabulous, plus Jennifer used a quote from me! (!!!!!!!!) Jennifer’s debut YA novel The Truth About Alice hits shelves next year!

What Else I’m Up To

Taking walks around my neighborhood with my husband and son. The weather has turned chilly, but crisp and bright and beautiful. Our neighborhood is set on a bluff covered in oaks. The leaves on some of the trees have begun to change and fall, changing the face of the trees and the way I see them.

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Planning for Thanksgiving. My husband and I are hosting this year. The tally of family that will be attending keeps rising, and with it so does my anxiety. I’m pushing past it.

So…What’s up with all of you?

LOVE & CUPCAKES Cover Reveal

To say I am excited about participating in the COVER REVEAL blog tour for my friend and CP Susan Bishop Crispell would be an understatement, a habit which I am not really known for.

I am bewilderingly elated that Susan found a place for her book Love and Cupcakes, with a publisher that is as enthusiastic and accessible as Swoon Romance. I am flabbergasted by my own enthusiasm on this subject.

Plus, the cover is delicious and the book is dreamy. Yes, Susan is one of my CPs, I can absolutely vouch for her writing ability. (Here I am being very mundane in my word choice. I am relaying the facts, Mack. Hyperbole about her ability is impossible because she is that fabulous.)

I know you want to see the cover, but you should know something about the book first, guys. It is only sensible.

For Jaclyn “Jack” Pace, sensing what sweets people crave is as easy as breathing. But it’s not enough to keep her cupcake bakery in the black.

So, when her estranged sister Harper comes back to town with an affinity for making art out of icing—and a past full of secrets—she reluctantly gives Harper a job and a place to crash.

As their sisterly relationship begins to thaw, the one with her business partner Graham starts to heat up. Given the legend that says Hollingsworth men will recognize their soul mates at first touch, Jack’s always been resigned to the fact that she’s not his.

But when she starts sensing desires that are decidedly not dessert-related, it’ll take all of her magic to set things right with customers and make her own desires come true.

 Love and Cupcakes is a delightfully sweet and sensual romance from Susan Bishop Crispell

You want to read this book.

And you want to see the cover.

…….

Did I mention Susan has a blog, a Twitter, a Pinterest, a Facebook, a Tumblr?

Visit the Blog

Follow on Twitter

LIKE on Facebook

Be Inspired on Pinterest

Get Distracted on Tumblr 

OK, all that stuff is out of the way and taken care of. Phew. I feel better, don’t you? On to the Cover Reveal….!

Oh, a bit about Susan before we do.

susanSusan Bishop Crispell is not one of those writers who’s been scribbling down stories since she could hold a pencil. She didn’t read constantly growing up (blasphemy!), and she can still be found in public without a book tucked into her purse (again with the blasphemy!).

She is, however, the kind of writer who lives for the imaginative spark that introduces her to a new character or story idea that pushes her to turn everyday life into something magical.

Truly, she is a kindred spirit. And, all joking and silliness aside, she is one of the most gifted writers I have had the pleasure of reading, and learning from, and being sharpened alongside. Come January 2014 you will all see what I mean, and you will all be nodding and sharing just how very right I was. (I will be incredibly humble at that time, as I am known for my humility and as the writing you will be commenting on will not be mine at all, but hers.)

Now, no more delays. Here it is…Love and Cupcakes from Swoon Romance coming January 21, 2014!

CoverFinalSM-LoveAndCupcakes

Thank you to

AToMRTours_mdmfor putting this whole tour together. Add this book to your TBR pronto and look for it in digital format this January! Congratulations Susan on making the dream a reality!

The Murder Complex Cover Reveal

Today marked the cover reveal for my beautiful and gifted friend Lindsay Cummings’s stunning 2014 debut The Murder Complex from Greenwillow Books. If you haven’t already seen it, behold…

Murder complex front jacketSo much to love about this cover. The color, the font, the image, and above all how perfectly it teases the content. I was lucky enough to read a draft of this book before it went into line edits, and even then it bled originality and depth. Lindsay is a truly unique talent, but she is also one of my favorite people in the world.

If you haven’t already added The Murder Complex to your Goodreads, follow this link to do so. It is up for pre-order on a handful of easy access sites as well. By following the link to Lindsay’s blog below, you can find all the handy pre-order info.

If you are interested in a signed ARC (and you really should be, because how much fun?) check out the contest going on over at Lindsay’s personal blog. I for one have already entered!

Lindsay Writes: Cover Reveal and Contest!

I am happy for Lindsay, but just as happy for all of us. Soon we’ll get to hold this fabulous book in our hands, which is all Lindsay has wanted for us since writing it over two years ago.

What’s Up in Montana

suitcaseThis Wednesday is an unusual one. I am sitting on an airplane — or maybe stepping off depending when you read this— on my way to the Blackfeet Native American Reservation in Northern Montana. This trip came up suddenly, and since I am a firm believer in biting off more than one can comfortably chew, I jumped at the chance.

I am writing this post from the future, where I am standing beside the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, soaking in whatever the Earth has to offer me, and hopefully giving something back to her, to them, to myself and the one who is greater than myself.

In this version of me in the future, I’m not concerned about how many less words I will write because of this trip, possibly putting me behind my NaNo goals, possibly sending me into a panicked tailspin when I arrive back home. Back to reality.

I am certain this experience will be one of value. Assigning value to this thing allows me to prioritize it above other things. I can afford to take this moment, however brief, to let it take root in me and later — when it is ready or willing — to let it influence the work I produce in a way that will likely surprise me.

So, for What’s Up with me this Wednesday, there you go.* The rest of my post below will hit the high points of the last week. (And some of the low.)

What I’m Reading: Finished Allegiant. I can’t talk about it. Don’t make me talk about it. Just read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, and I loved it. I will talk more about it later. Starting Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis.

What I’m Writing: My NaNo project is moving along well. My birthday (subsequent food poisoning and high fever) got me a bit off schedule. Making up for it the past couple days. 7570 words and counting!

What Inspires Me: This is going to seem very conceited…but me, this blog, and all you fresh knew followers. (Hello, how are you? You sure are lovely.) See the shiny button in the sidebar? My post about NaNoWriMo and fighting November malaise was featured on the WordPress Freshly Pressed Page. I have been blogging with WordPress for over three years, and always wondered how you get Freshly Pressed. I am still not sure I know, but it happened, and I was flattered and humbled by it. At the same time.

What Else I’m Up To: I’ve touched on this above. Birthday, NaNo, Travel, and discovering my writing is maybe not totally obscure. My son is cuddly and delicious. Yesterday was library day. Spending time focused on my son keeps me sane in the insane.

I also made it into Djerassi Artist Program for a five day YA Workshop and Retreat with the incomparable Nova Ren Suma. I am over the moon to have been selected.

copyright Frank Foreman

copyright Frank Foreman

The moral of this post: Keep Writing. Keep believing in your voice. These are small, but significant victories in my struggle with self-doubt, and my quest to be the hero of my own story. You are the hero of yours.

*What’s Up Wednesday is a meme for writers and blogger to keep in touch with their online blog friends. Created by the delightful Jaime Morrow and Erin. L. Funk. If you would care to join, check out the details on Jaime’s blog.