Tuesday, March 29, 2011
This edit-round is strange. Bigger than I've done w/ the previous shelved novels I wrote, and maybe that's because the stakes are raised in real life too? I know this will be published and on shelves and really representative of my first major effort as a writer and artist. And I want it to be GREAT, like the best of the best of what I read. Like John Steinbeck wrote in the Preface to East of Eden, this book is the box that I'm trying to put the most important bits of myself in--philosophical themes about what I think is most important in life, a heroic action story-line, and my fears and hopes about life could and should be. You know, not to put too much pressure on myself ;) I just feel like I have a chance to do something really great and stunning with this novel, and I want it to live up to its full potential.
Which equates: lots of hours spent in Edit Land. It's amazing what a few months away from a novel can do to your perspective. Raising stakes, erasing safe moments, making emotional arcs more seamless. I can't decide if it's exhilarating or exhausting, it's probably an equal mix of both.
Monday, March 28, 2011
[when writing about a writer experiencing a time of frustration]: he sits, late at night, outside the college gates in perfect piece, surrendering himself for the moment to where he is, knowing nothing is good or bad, just alive. To begin writing from our pain eventually engenders compassion for our small and groping lives. Out of this broken state there comes a tenderness for the cement below our feet, the dried grass cracking in a terrible wind. We can touch the things around us we once thought ugly and see their special detail, the peeling paint and gray of shadows as they are--simply what they are: not bad, just part of the life around us--and love this life because it is ours and in the moment there is nothing better.
-Writing Down the Bones, 107
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I've forced myself not to look at the manuscript for months. And when I came back to it, editorial suggestions from my fabulous editor in hand, I can suddenly SEE it with fresh eyes. And yeah, then go in with a hack saw to pages at a time. All this shit I thought was necessary for character building, sooooooooooo slow--hack out all the boring crap, keep the heart of the cinematic, emotional moment, get back to the moving action, the active tension. I love editing because in my mind it seems like sculpting.
The first few drafts have created a real living entity on the table, but it is blunt, awkward, and ugly (not to say that it wasn't hard as hell to get it that far, but still, it's not ready for the world to see). The edits are the crafting of the crescendos and diminuendos of action, all working toward a truly dynamic climax at the end. Each scene should have shape to make it cohesive, cause-and-effecting as it goes. The middle and second half are really where most of this work needs to be done.
After the plot gets shaped up, then I want to go through a pass at the language level--making sure the most potent moments of emotional impact are the most lyrical, and the language of dialogue is unique and distinctive. Here's to the Hermit Cave of Edit-land, kids. I raise my glass to toast, and I'll see you on the other side.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
- Spring Semester 2010: amorphous period where I start planning out Glitch. My last novel has just been rejected by enough agents, even ones who'd read the manuscript, that I figure it is time to move on with a new project. I'd always wanted to write a dystopia since I read and LOVED 1984 in high school, so I sit down and write out my favorite elements of dystopias and think about what my ultimate imaginary dystopic future might look like.
- Chatting with computer science-y husband, and he brings up this article he'd just read in Popular Science. Ideas about implanted computer bits in humans start germinating.
- Came up with the love interest hook and start falling in love with my characters and story For Serious.
- June 2010: exhaustion from previous semester and some life things prevent actual starting of book. Instead, complete scenes play out over and over in my head, mostly at night when I am trying to fall asleep!
- July 2010: FINALLY! Time and energy to write! I take after it like gang-busters and have a first draft by August 1st.
- First week of August: edit non-stop for a very intense week, and start querying, probably before I should have, but oh well, I have the patience of a gnat!
- August: get lots of requests from agents to read the manuscript! yay! and then:
- Sept. 15 2010: Charlie Olsen of Inkwell Management emails saying he'd read the first third of my book and was loving it and would like to set up a phone call with me!! An actual phone call! with an agent! just like I heard about with others authors but had never happened with the two other books I'd queried. I still remember the coffeeshop chair I was sitting in when I got that email. After trying for YEARS to be a writer, I had my first indication that the impossible dream might be actually possible!
- The next Monday: we talk on the phone, and I am a lot less nervous than I thought I'd be, even though Charlie is less excited about the second half of the book, parts where it dragged. We talk potential edits, he mentions what he'd like to see, maybe some scenes to add, and I am super stoked, because not only was I talking to an ACTUAL AGENT, but he really GETS the feel of the book, and all of his ideas are totally in sync with what I want the book to be.
- Rest of September: Heather goes into Crazy Edit & Rewrite Mode.
- Mid-October: I send in the edited manuscript, and Charlie asks for Outlines of Book II and III in the intended trilogy. I say 'sure!' then sit down and try to figure out how the hell to write an outline ;)
- October 27th: Another phone call! Offer of representation! Giddy jumping up and down! I have an agent!!!
- November: More edits. We decide to wait to submit to editors till after the holidays.
- January 15, 2011: Book goes on submission!!!!
- January 15th-26th: Absolute worst ten days of my life. A few editors pass. I am sure I am DOOMED TO ABYSMAL FAILURE, HOW COULD I HAVE DELUDED MYSELF INTO BELIEVING I COULD BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR? OH GOD, WHAT DO I WRITE NEXT? I THOUGHT MY BOOK WAS GOOD BUT NOW I'M SURE IT'S A STEAMING PILE OF SH---- then I get a call from my agent. We have an offer!
- January 26th: Omg, an offer! From a super awesome publishing house, a 3-book deal! And not just any house, but St. Martin's Press! A publishing house that I have not only heard of, but one that publishes some books I've loved, that are sitting on my shelves RIGHT NOW! Squeeeee!
- Feb 1st: Deal is official. Holy shit, I'm going to be a published author, slated for Sp/Su 2012. I walk around in a daze smiling so much my mouth hurts by the end of the day.
- 2nd week of February: Magical foreign rights agent at Inkwell, Lyndsey Blessing, solidifies deals for Glitch trilogy in Germany and France!! OMG!
- Feb. 10th: first call with my editor from St. Martin's, Terra Layton. She is AWESOME and so excited about my book! We talk for an hour about the edits and the process and I feel so lucky to have gotten such a rocking editor!
Monday, March 21, 2011
This book was crazy good. The writing is just stunning at times. BUMPED is the story of twins-separated at birth, Melody and Harmony, in a near-future where a sterility virus makes it impossible to get pregnant past 18 years of age. Most of the novel hinges on a single day of mistaken identity, a day that changes both twins' lives. A premise like that sounds unmanageable. But everything was so well-written, so perfectly plotted and paced that I just found myself saying YES! That is exactly what would happen there, and, of course! The transformation of each of the girls is believable and the reader is along for the ride at each momentous point on the journey leading to each of the girls’ varying revelations and final destinations. There’s this luminescence to Harmony’s voice as she experiences things in the world for the first time, especially after the reader has seen her so on-script for her religion at the start of the book.
On a side note: this book made me ache. While Harmony, the super-Jesus sister at the beginning probably sounds like a humorous stereotype to many not familiar with religious subculture, she rang all too true for me with my fundamentalist Christian background. Being in her head as she spouts verses at her sister was almost painful to read, painful to embody in my head for the space of the book. At the same time, it also made her transition all the more believable. Let me tell you (and I went to a Super Holy Bible College), Christians are thinking the most about sex. The thing which we were commanded NOT to have (though most found secret ways to get it anyway) becomes the thing we were most obsessed with.
It’s why I got married at 19 years old to my first ever boyfriend, why the first kiss of my entire life was on my wedding day, up there at the altar in front of everyone after saying our vows. So yes, the scriptures that come to Harmony’s mind throughout the book, even as circumstances change and she begins to see those scriptures in new light, felt very, very real. Because of this bias probably, I was far more moved by her story than Melody’s, which was interesting enough in its own right—-the girls just have such different things at stake, at least in this first book. I can't wait to see what comes next for each of the sisters. This book was everything I’d hoped it would be, and that's rare, usually I get anticipation-itis and then the book disappoints. Not so here. Five stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Balzer + Bray for this ARC for review!
Saturday, March 19, 2011
- Bleach Blonde kit (I recommend Feria Extra Bleach Blonde)
- Hair Dye (I recommend Special Effects. It's pretty much the only one that really lasts. See their website for list of colors! [I order them online because it's too hard to find in stores]
- Plastic gloves
- Several plastic bags (to cover counter and head, see below for details)
- Ugly hair band and bobby-pins
The long-awaited post is here! I ask everyone I meet with funky hair colors what brand they use (I'm always trying to figure out new and better options), and every single person thus far has gotten their pink and blue hair done at salons! Which I understand, because it is a little bit of a pain in the butt to figure out on your own, but let my years of learning (and the occasional hair-frying) be to your benefit! I've tried almost every brand, tons of colors, different bleaching processes, and I finally, after six years, have it down to an art. And it's far cheaper than a $60+ salon appointment every couple months!
Step one: choose the section of hair you want colored. I have wicked thick hair and learned the hard way that it's too tiring and takes too much product to do the whole head, so I only dye the front portion. Pull the rest of the hair back so that only that portion is exposed. Then I just use the $10 extra bleach blonde hair dye kit from any store (seriously, all that specialty blend bleaching crap from like Sally's or a professional hair place is hard to use, and doesn't work as well!).
It's Heather the Hair Monster :) I'm just dyeing my roots, hence only that part is getting bleached.
IMPORTANT FINAL NOTE: this crap will dye everything in your life from your counter to your bathtub to your pillows. Be diligent in covering your counter w/ plastic bags! And wash out the hair dye in your kitchen STAINLESS STEEL SINK. They call it stainless for a reason, kids, and if you don't want a pink/blue bathtub, make sure to wash it out for a long time, go ahead and shampoo it once and maybe condition as well while you're at the sink. Also, you may want to use an old/ugly towel, because it will turn pink/blue too. BUT! I've found as long as I wash it out thoroughly, I don't end up with pink/blue pillows anymore. Ftw!
Hmm, let's see, what else. Oh, right! To keep the color lasting, it's important not to wash it with too-hot water. This is a small bummer for me, b/c I love my showers super-hot, but I just turn down the temperature when I wash and rinse my hair, then crank it back up again. It sucks a bit, but it really does affect the vibrancy--and for someone like me who wants to go through this process as rarely as possible, I'll do what it takes to make it last! And last but not least: conditioner. You need to embrace conditioner if you're going to have cool hair, and the occasional deep condition, but this is true of even regular hair dye colors. With all of these tips, I've managed to get long-lasting color, cheaply, and without frying the hell out of my hair! If you have any questions about anything I haven't covered, feel free to leave a question in the comments!!! Happy hair-dyeing everyone!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
So, my followers have passed beyond the single digits, which is exciting, but let's get this thing a little more respectable looking kids. While I don't think of the numbers of followers as a popularity contest (let's face it, I was a band nerd in high school, I have long embraced my status in the awesomeness that is Nerd-dom), but there is still a point of lameness I would like to escalate beyond. So let's all participate in this Project To Help Heather Stop Looking Quite So Lame :)
And on to the giveaway! For new and old followers! Four amazing books to be shipped free to one lucky winner:
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Advance Reader Copy)
- The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
- The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger (Advance Reader Copy)
- Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Follow this blog & click to enter and win on my website (links to my website form, all info safe, no spam):
This story reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, one of my all time favorite stories. A contract ties the initially unwilling Kate to the estate with the dark, brooding dude, and her love is the last chance to save him.
Carter was great about making Kate’s slowly changing feelings toward Henry (Hades) really believable, as well as demonstrating her free will in the situation so that it doesn’t get into weird Stockholm’s Syndrome territory. Kate does always want to save other people, but I think her compassion for others is what makes her unusual and unique, as well as logical for the role as a potential candidate for Queen of the Underworld. The reader sees why Kate is different from other girls, stemming from her long-term care of her ailing mother. Being a constant companion to someone you love who is suffering changes a person. The fact that Kate remains compassionate instead of becoming hardened made her very attractive to me. Not to mention, I’m a fan of non-whiny non-self-involved protagonists who are willing to make heroic sacrifices for others! I downed the book in one sitting and at the end wanted more.
Release date is April 26th! My thanks to Harlequin Teen for this ARC for review via NetGalley!
Monday, March 14, 2011
So for this tattoo, I'm really trying to get some beautiful coverage on my left arm. I imagine both arms will be full sleeves one day, but right now I'm stopping at half sleeves in case I have to get a grown-up job one day ;) It's a cover-up for an old badly done tattoo I'd gotten on a spontaneous impulse one day (you can still see the old tattoo through it, like on the purple flower, we'll get more coverage next time so it disappears). Note to all: spontaneous impulse tattoos are usually a bad idea (even though they can be exciting and fun!).
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Why I first elected to have pink hair is probably fodder for another long blog post [I have a chronic illness and was bedbound for about six months after my son was born, and I needed a little brightness in my life], but the basic reason I continue is: why not? So many people color their hair, why not brighter, more vibrantly fun, alive colors?!? There's too much brown in the world, too much gray. What pink hair means to me is: wake the hell up! live today alive and aware! don't go through life half-consciously, punching in time at a job and then mindlessly going about routine. Too bad negative associations along go with the hair and tattoos, but here I am, working to bust stereotypes one day at a time :)
And yeah, tattoos? It's gorgeous artwork that I get to wear around all the time. I look at it and it makes me smile. A little bit of pain for a lifetime of payoff is absolutely worth it to me. Besides, like giving birth, you forget the pain afterwards, until of course the next time you go under the needle and are like CRAAAAAAAP, why did I sign up for this again ;)
Also, coming soon: a step by step blog post on how I make my hair so pink and pretty without going to a salon, and on a budget.
Monday, March 7, 2011
When I started planning my dystopian sci-fi trilogy, my husband had just read this article in Popular Science about computer chips that mimicked brain function and could be used as brain implants to help memory loss in Alzheimer's patients and a variety of other illnesses. My interest was immediately sparked. Sure, brain implants might start out as hopeful solutions for medical problems, but what if widespread brain implants became the norm in society, to be used as a means of social control??? I immediately recognized this as the basis of a good sci-fi story.
There were also some articles I read at the time about the equivalent of Blackberry/Iphone implants, and this too made sense to me. Our cell phones are already our constant companions, attached to our hip or even our ear, like BlueTooth headsets. How far a stretch is it to imagine the advertising of the cell phone you never misplace, never lose, that is always as close as your own forearm? I'm on my computer probably an average of 8 hours a day, constantly glancing at my Twitter and Facebook status updates, multi-tasking with six or more windows open simultaneously, always wired in and connected. What if that wiring was moved from my fingertips, however, to inside my head?
Take for example, Michael Chorost's book World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet. I found this book after I'd already written Glitch, but it perfectly demonstrates the possibility of things that are now only fiction. He's a hearing-impaired writer who has computer chips implanted in his ears that feed information his brain has learned to interpret as the English language. Chorost writes, "A surgeon drilled an inch and a half into my skull, countersunk a ceramic-encased microchip behind my left ear, and threaded sixteen electrodes into my inner ear... it took me months to learn how to interpret the software's representations of vowels and consonants as English" (6).
His book is pretty much an optimistic thought experiment, grounded in current science and research, about how such "human machine integration" might increase exponentially (7). He likens the interaction of the human body and implanted chips to the hardware/software interaction on PCs, envisioning how "the systems [might] become increasingly mutually dependent on each other" (7). When talking about humans and the internet, he asks the question that is the stuff of sci-fi: "What if we built an electronic corpus callosum to bind us together? What if we eliminated the interface problem--the slow keyboards, the sore fingers, the tiny screens, the clumsiness of point-and-click--by directly linking the Internet to the human brain? It would become seamlessly part of us, as natural and simple to use as our own hands" (9-10). This is not simply a flight of fancy. While we might not have the present technology to make all of this a reality, it has foundations in things that already exist.
Tracking devices implanted in humans are already a reality (again, starting with people such as those with dementia) as a means of locating them if they wander off. It started with pets, it's moved to people. The idea of implanted computer chips in the human body doesn't seem that far-fetched anymore. While full cyborg transformations might be a little further off, what do these baby steps toward such a future mean?
Now, I don't actually think all of this is horrific or implicitly a doomsday scenario. I think some of this hardware-in-our-bodies stuff makes sense. I'm a realist. I see the benefits, I see how intertwined our lives have already become with technology, and I don't think it's actually bad. How could I? I love the internet, I can't imagine life without it anymore! In the end, technology is as good or evil as the use we put it to. The biggest example is, of course, nuclear technology. We have the technology to destroy our world a hundred times over. But we haven't used it. At some point, morality and the value of human life (or at least the value of self-preservation) prevents catastrophe.
That said, in my sci-fi trilogy GLITCH, I get to explore what would happen if we DID go too far, what shocking adaptations of the complex human organism might occur, and how the future of the entire earth might depend on humankind's ability to navigate such technology, for better or for worse.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Today started with a wonderful brunch with the fam (seriously, these Sunday brunches where the hubster makes omelets and toast with jam, then we all eat and chat, drink coffee while Joseph spazzes out or plays with toys around the kitchen--these are the f'ing memories that are gonna be with me forever). Then Joseph and I had a laundry folding party (it had become a mountain) and we changed his bad attitude by turning on the Wiggles station on Pandora (the sacrifices a mother makes!) and doing dance party/jumping on the bed sessions (he danced, I watched) in between folding things.
Then I went and met at the university library with a videographer who's doing a video piece to go along with the interview I did for the paper about my book deal. Okay, I know it's not a big thing, but it was so much fun! Having someone videotape me while I geek out excitedly about my book? Awesome. I don't think I've seen myself on film since the grainy back-of-the-auditorium taping of a play I did in eighth grade, so I'm dorkily excited about that. And it will be a YouTube piece that I can link to from my website so people can see what Heather looks like in real life. And no, apparently I cannot talk without extensive hand motions :) I'll post it here next week when it goes live.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I've also been thinking about my Kindle Love. This week, me and that cute little device have been spending a lot of time together. The thing about being a grad school student is that professors make you print out OODLES of scholarly articles for classes (and even more on your own when you are doing research). I went through an entire expensive ink cartridge on my laser printer my first semester. But since I got my Kindle for Christmas, all semester I've just been reading the PDFs on it, saving paper, saving hassle, and they're all in one place. This is infinitely cool. Then for one of my classes I had to read Pilgrim's Progress. No problemo, it's a free e-book on Amazon, downloaded and read it.
And then there's the other little feature the Kindle is for--you know, like reading books for fun :) Which, as part of my Procrastination Station mood, I've also been using it for a bunch this week. I'm finally getting around to reading Julie Kagawa's The Iron Fey series. Yep, it's as awesome as everyone says it is, don't know why I waited so long to dive in!!
Lastly, there's the main reason I bought the Kindle in the first place: reading ARCs of books. I hate reading on my computer screen, but I love reading advance copies of books through NetGalley. I had no idea the Kindle would be so freaking handy for school stuff too.
At the same time, I'm not a total Kindle Convert. If given the choice, I'd still rather read the paper kind of books. It's a different experience somehow. With actual books, I almost always sit down and read them in one sitting. They are an Event. For some reason w/ Kindle books, I read for awhile, then stop, read a few more chapters the next day, then stop. I don't know if it's because you can feel the pages pass and see your progress in the thickness of pages left. It's weird to see my reading habits change with the technology. I'm glad that I'm getting published now rather than later so I can hold my beloved book in my hands, stare for hours at the cover, caress the pages, and see it nestled on shelves at book stores :)