Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Writing Process: First Drafts

Writing a brand new novel (my first after finishing the Glitch trilogy) is a totally weird experience. I started and stopped three other books as I tried to settle on the one I want to write. Fourth idea was the winner! I really believe it can be a great book, the book I’ve been wanting to write for years.

For me, drafting is always fraught with equal parts anxiety and excitement. On one hand, when I get in a crazy groove like I’m in now, I’m a totally happy person – cheery with my husband, laughing with my son. And on the other hand, I’m a neurotic mess because of this weighty pressure or anxiety—the best metaphor for how it makes me feel is like I can’t take a deep breath till I’ve gotten the story in my head all out on paper. Like if I don’t get it down NOW it will all evaporate. It’s so intangible just sitting up there in my brain. I’m jittery and restless until I can get it solid on paper, something I can hold in my hand. So all throughout the day I feel this nagging desire tugging at the back of my brain to get back to the book, like worrying about whether you turned the coffeemaker off or something else important you’ve left undone but can’t quite put your finger on. I'm almost constantly thinking about the book, scheming for when I can next steal some time and energy to work on it.

A lot of the time, when I’m not actually writing, I’m still just lost in the world of it. Planning out my next scene, thinking about the character arc of my MC. But also now I hear other voices in my head—wondering if it’s good enough, if we’ll be able to sell it, if my agent will like it. If I let myself think about those things, they can totally derail the creative process.

Part of the issue is I’m an ugly first drafter. My characters are too reactive, the melodrama goes way over the edge from captivating to schlocky, and I generally figure out how the plot should be told as I’m in the latter 3/4 of the book. I listen to the fabulous Writing Excuses podcast on a regular basis and one writer on there keeps talking about how he’s a one drafter. As in, his first draft is his last draft. I cannot wrap my brain around that. It’s how I so WISH I could write. All the saved words and pages and time! I’ve tried outlining, revising as I go, and a number of other trick but I think it’s time I accept the fact that it’s not how I work.

Second drafts are where the magic happens for me. I need the clay lump of the book and then I can see it all at once and see where I need to shave and where I need to plump. Doing this long enough, I’ve started to learn about myself through my writing process—see the unique and strange ways my mind works. I’ve learned I’m almost a better editor than writer, or that for me, the two tasks are equally at work in producing a book. I write a bad first draft, then the editor in me takes over and sees how it needs to be shaped for character, story, and themes to really be clear. Then I rewrite half the book (or the whole book) and go back in with editor-self again, wash, rinse, repeat until I have a book I’m satisfied with. I wish there was another way that didn’t involve so much work! But alas. This brain is all I’ve got, and I hope I’m learning to embrace my process rather than fight against it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

YA Scavenger Hunt!


Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours.

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are TWO contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM--but there is also a red team for a chance to win a whole different set of twenty-five signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by December 2nd, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

COURTNEY ALLISON MOULTON
 
I am hosting the fabulous Courtney Allison Moulton for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Courtney lives in Michigan, where she is a photographer and spends all her free time riding and showing horses. She has always loved reading about ancient mythologies, studying dead languages, and telling scary, romantic stories. ANGELFIRE is her debut novel.
Find out more information by checking out her website or find more about her book here:



About A Dance With Darkness:
At the end of the fourteenth century, angelic reapers struggle to defend London against a legion of the demonic who have their sights set on claiming human souls and ancient relics for a dark purpose. Madeleine, a young but powerful warrior, is duty-bound to fight the demonic, and she lives for this pursuit above all else. Then, on a routine night of tracking, she is ambushed by a cadre of reapers and, though she defeats them all, she is left wounded and at the mercy of their lord, the notorious Bastian.
 
Madeleine is astonished when Bastian lets her live. She goes deeper into the world of the demonic and is shocked to meet him again-this powerful reaper whose touch makes her restless and gives her a thrill unlike anything else. When they fall into a dangerous clandestine affair, her head and her heart must wage their war: can their love overcome his demonic nature? Will her dance with darkness burn her or bring Bastian into the light?
 
With scorching romance and fantastic action, this original novella is a prequel to Courtney Allison Moulton's gripping and epic Angelfire series.
 
 
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
 
A DANCE WITH DARKNESS Preview
I felt a sharp, agonizing rip in my body and looked down to see a blade plunged through my gut. The final reaper had recovered more quickly than I anticipated. Fiery pain rolled through my belly like a billowing inferno and I almost fell to the ground. If my knees buckled, then I was dead. I was not ready to die yet. I’d come too far to accept death now. I stepped forward, pulling off his blade, and the pain reignited full force. I turned to him and my eyes took him in. He was bigger than I was, stronger, and older by a century at least.
He kicked me, driving his boot right into my healing belly wound and cracking deeper things, and I doubled over with a gasp of pain. He raised his heavy sword high over his head and brought it down, but I caught it with one of mine. There was no way I would win a battle of brute strength against him like I had against the last reaper. I pushed my sword into his as he forced all of his might into mine. I wouldn’t last more than a heartbeat, but that was all the time I needed. I let up, and he lost his balance as his body carried him forward. My second sword buried itself into his chest with precision, giving me an inch between metal and heart. Skill trumped brute strength any day. I tossed the sword I’d claimed from one of my fallen foes to the wooden floor with a clatter. The reaper I skewered lowered himself to his knees, gritting his teeth in pain; he had accepted death. Pathetic. I leaned over him and grabbed a fistful of his tunic.
“Who are you working for?” I growled into his face. “Why are you in London?”
“I will tell you nothing,” he spat. “Take my fingers, my eyes, whatever you wish. I will not betray my mission.”
My lip curled. If I tortured him, I was certain I could get something useful out of him, but I knew I didn’t have that in me. I may have been built for violence, but I wasn’t built for cruelty. “Then you have no purpose.”
I released his tunic only to twist my sword right into his heart. His head lifted in agony and he opened his mouth to let out a low whine. He fell, crumpling to the ground, and his body shuddered for several long moments as he slowly turned to stone. Six.
I slumped, exhaling and then wincing. One of my ribs was broken. Possibly two. I looked down to examine the wound through my belly. My dress was shredded and I could see the wound struggling to heal. I needed to eat in order for my body to regain the energy it needed to heal my wounds.
“You killed six of my best men,” came a voice behind me, and I spun around. Another reaper stood in the doorway to the chandler’s workshop and I wondered how long he’d been standing there. He was demonic, without a doubt. With the other reapers gone, I could feel the pressure of his dark power shoved into every inch of my body like I was sinking through deep water.
Though my breathing was ragged and I couldn’t quite stand straight, I prepared myself to continue fighting. I lifted my sword and poised it at the final reaper. “I have a seventh heart left to take tonight.”
His smile was slow and wide. He was beautiful—that I had to give him. His eyes were blue like poison, brighter than any jewel—like blue diamonds that did not reflect light, but generated their own from tiny stars burning within. “Very bold,” he said, those eyes flashing. “Very bold, indeed.”
My smile matched his as I hid my pain. “I did just kill six of your best men, did I not?”
He laughed and put his hands on his hips. “Now what? You’re wounded, exhausted, and you still have the master of your fallen opponents to contend with. Still bold?”
I did not falter. “Always.”
He vanished suddenly and reappeared directly in front of me. His hand grabbed my sword wrist and twisted, forcing me to cry out, but I didn’t drop my blade. His other hand grabbed my free arm and held it tight. His strength was unfathomable. Fighting him was hopeless and suffocating, like being buried alive. I ground my teeth together, breathing rapidly.
“Who are you, little angelic reaper?” he crooned, his face close to mine.
I lifted my chin to look right into his poison-blue eyes. “The wolf does not tell the stag her name before she takes his throat.”
He dipped his face closer to mine. “If the wolf asked for the stag’s name, he would gladly give it. Especially when entranced by such an exquisite she-wolf with emerald eyes.”
I would not take his bait and ask him his name, but deep inside, I wanted to know who he was. He was powerful and he had to be important if he was master to others. I knew nothing about him other than that he was demonic and he was older than all of the reapers I’d put down tonight combined. He had both my hands trapped and I was in a vulnerable position, yet I felt no threat. I had survived many battles, defeated many enemies, and I knew what it felt like to face someone who wanted to taste my blood. This demonic reaper had no interest in killing me. I had to know why.
“I am Bastian,” the blue-eyed demon said. “I hope we meet again.”
Then his hands were off of me, and he was gone. I stood there, breathless and alone, and shocked that I was still alive. I had not felt even a shiver of fear lick up my spine until I heard that name, a name feared by every angelic reaper who valued his life, and I realized the full extent of my luck. He couldn’t be the Bastian, one of the most powerful reapers in the known world. He was rumored to be in the Far East and far, far away from England. His presence here could mean nothing good for any of us.
But why had he let me live?
 ___________________________________________________________________

And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Courtney Moulton, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 10. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

BONUS CONTEST
Also, while you're here don't forget to enter my bonus contest for a signed copy of GLITCH I am running exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt. Click here to go to my Rafflecopter giveaway on Facebook!
 
CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click HERE!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grace

Last year I was at my most expansive in every way. I had health, a circle of friends, energy, and a vitality of personality that seems as foreign to me now as a country across the deep wide sea.
 
During my time of vitality, I was also making some horrible choices. Instead of being grateful for all the good things that I had, I kept grasping for more, like useless shiny objects in shop window I thought would make me happy. Doing things that hurt the people closest to me and pretending it was free of charge.
 
And then this year happened. It’s been a very quiet year. From January onward, my health got worse and worse due to my chronic illness and a new condition that cropped up which gives me intense vertigo, until all I could do was lay on a couch with the TV off, the lights off, not moving at all except to drag myself to the bathroom a few times a day. I could manage 2-3 hours of work on my laptop, and the rest was spent just waiting for night to come so I could sleep and get to the next day when I could do my work again. For weeks on end. For months.
 
Though the storyteller in me is tempted to call this year ‘a severe mercy,’ and create an elaborate narrative about why it had to happen in some fake but satisfying cause-and-effect plotline—aka, I was squandering the good in my life, so then I was humbled by debilitating illness so that then I realized all the blessings surrounding me and could be grateful like Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol— the rest of me hopes that if there is a God, that’s not how he works.
 
But at the same time, I am grateful now for the many good things I still have, in spite of my ill health. Grateful in a deeply, profound way. I’ve been very alone but not lonely. I am married to the most wonderful, kind, and loving man who I'm not sure I deserve, and we have a beautiful, healthy child together. I have good work to do, a job I can do from home that I love. I’m grateful for what feel like moments of grace, where I expect the worst, and then something better happens instead. These moments have felt more and more frequent lately. I’m rarely mystical but the sense of peace, where in the past I would have felt only anger, seems to come from somewhere outside myself. If there is a God, this is how I hope he works.
 
After more than a decade of being sick, is this what acceptance really feels like? Finally being okay with tomorrow regardless of if it brings more sickness or more energy? Will writing this post shatter the peace I’ve felt, as if saying it out loud breaks the spell? Or does the wiser me bathed in grace realize that life isn’t so whimsical or dramatic as that, even if it sometimes feels like it.
 
I hope I’ve learned that fear of tomorrow has nothing to do with today, and that living today is all that matters.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anatomy of a Second Draft


I’m in the middle of a massive round of edits on SHUTDOWN, Bk 3 of the Glitch trilogy. This is always the biggest round of edits for me – the second draft. My first drafts usually clock in a little over 60 thousand words and are very rough. So the second draft means a lot of re-envisioning and lots of rewriting and lots of fitting together the puzzle pieces of both the plot and the emotional arc of the story . I’ve been working on this revision for a month now, it’s up to 90k words, and think I’ve got about two weeks to go.
 
So want to know my process on the all important second draft? Here we go!

The Edit Letter
I start out reading and rereading the edit letter from my editor. I print it out, then underline, highlight, write possible fixes in the margin, and generally scribble and mangle the seven pages until they are very well worn. Then for a couple of days I do a lot of sitting and staring off into space. I’ll bust out my pen and notebook and scratch out what I think are the biggest problems, then slowly problem-solve possible solutions. Then I sketch out the emotional map, and how each chapter is slowly building toward the climax at the end.

Because second drafts are so daunting and entail so much work for me, I always want to tackle the biggest and scariest problems first so I can get them out of the way. I break up the book into chunks (this latest book broke neatly into three organic pieces), and then I finally get to the actual writing.

Chunk #1. The Middle
For this draft, I worked on the middle first because it was where a lot of the heavy emotional story was, and I think that’s the heart of any novel. I’d been so focused on fitting together the larger story elements, that the emotional and romantic story had not come off AT ALL in my first draft. So I cut and rewrote my way all through the middle section. All the while, I kept checking each chapter against the map of the emotional arc, tweaking and making sure it had the perfect growing momentum. As daunting as this section was to rewrite, it was also the one I had the most fun with. The emotional and romantic center of any book is always my favorite, both as a reader and a writer. I’d put on moody emotional violin music and absolutely lose myself in the scenes and conversations. I love, that even in such a stressful time as doing intense revisions on a deadline, those magical writing moments can still happen.

Chunk #2. The Ending
Next I tackled the ending, which I was VERY afraid of. Because here’s the thing about this trilogy—I won’t say I bit off more than I could chew, but it has been very difficult dealing with the huge scope I set out for myself when I outlined the series. I thought, oh, by the end of the trilogy I’ll have the fate of the world standing in my MC’s hands. Uh. Yeah. That makes for a lot of moving parts, and throughout the trilogy I’ve learned my strengths and weaknesses. Writing action scenes can be a weakness for me. I have to work twice as hard on those scenes. And the last third of book 3 is action, action, action. But when I actually got to it, it went much quicker than I thought it would. After brainstorming all the fixes to the problems, it wasn’t that daunting at all.

Chunk #3. The Beginning
Then I jumped back to the beginning, and worked till I met up with the middle section. This meant lots more action scenes I had to fix, and lots of work making sure I was both setting up this book as it's own entity, and tying it to the two previous books.

Cohesion Read-through
At this point, I breathe a giant sigh of relief. I’ve done most of the heavy lifting and fixed all the scariest things. Next comes the read-throughs of hundred page chunks, working chronologically this time and smoothing out transitions, language issues, and making sure it’s a cohesive read. I also send out portions to my beta partners at this point to get outside eyes on it.

The Things To-Fix List
But also I end up finding tons of problems as I read that are added to my Things To Fix list, a separate document I always keep open in addition to my manuscript document. The Things to Fix document is vital. These will be weird things ranging from: oh, check the spelling of that name, to, make sure this emotional arc is clear from chapters 10-13, or, in that conversation with all the officials, have them bring up this particular point that is a plant for something that happens at the end.

After I finish the cohesion readthrough, then I start tackling the list. At this point I also sit down again with the edit letter and see if there are problems my editor brought up that I still haven’t sufficiently fixed. That’s where I’m at right now. I try to be brutal with myself and ask myself if I’ve really fixed the problem. My temptation, after straining at this for a month already, is to just burn through the list and slap on some quick fixes that I know will need to be fixed in the next draft.

I’ve done that in the past, but this time around I’m trying to shoulder most of the work in these early drafts. When you’re on a super quick production schedule like I am (books releasing every 5-6 months), I’ve realized there might not always be as much time later as I want to fix things. Now is when I should be taking the time to dig into the guts of this thing, set its broken bones, and make it as solid as I can before turning in the next draft.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Life Imitating Art?

In which I wax philosophical about story structure, TV tropes, and the question of whether my life imitates the stories I tell, or if it's the other way around.

For years and years I proclaimed that if I ever got high cholesterol when I was old, I’d cut meat out of my diet before I’d cut out salt. Salt and I have had a long love affair that began when I was but a wee thing and continued until four months ago. I salted everything. I licked the salt out of the bowl after I finished my popcorn. Then I developed Meniere’s disease even though I'm only thirty, and now can eat only 1/20th of the normal daily allowance now. This is very difficult to do.

But the funny thing is, so many thing seem to happen in my life this way. I’m not a superstitious person, but I’ve noticed this odd pattern. Whenever I declare something out loud or on twitter or facebook, it’s doomed to change the next day. Especially declarations like: I’m feeling better and finally have more energy, or: my writing habit is going great, I think I’ve really gotten the hang of the discipline of meeting a daily word count! Or: wow, my son hasn’t gotten into any trouble at school for two whole weeks!

Then inevitably, what feels like every single time, almost immediately the other shoe drops, and life barges in and negates the statements I so confidently made.

This is exactly what we writers love to do to our characters too. For example, there was this moment in last week’s episode of The Walking Dead where all the characters are standing around, smiling at one another, finally having a good day. The camera lingers as the characters’ eyes meet each other. You get the sense that rifts are being reconciled, that our hard-scrabble favorites are going to be okay after all. And then BOOM!  Zombie attack! The writers and tv crew intentionally gave you that golden moment before hand to make it all the more heart-wrenching when, a few seconds later, all hell breaks loose.

It’s how I build my narratives too. Writing is all about reversals. You know, where a character starts off the chapter stating that they will NEVER do something, then by the end of the chapter circumstances have forced them into doing the thing they swore they never would. For my books, I want a reversal at the end of almost every chapter. Well, either a reversal or a revelation. These are things that make you go OH MY GOD! And then of course you just have to read on to the next chapter to find out how it will resolve itself.

But it’s funny, because growing up, I was always annoyed by reversals in books and tv shows I watched. TV shows are the kings of reversals. Ex: Carrie starts one episode of Sex and the City feeling all happy and glowy about keeping her toothbrush at Big’s place, imagining that it is a sign of real growth in their relationship. And then by the end of the episode, they are broken up. Another perfect example of this is the season 6 Doctor Who episode called “A Good Man Goes To War.” River foretells: “This is the Battle of Demon's Run. The Doctor's darkest hour. He'll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further.” And then we get to watch exactly that happen.

When I was younger, I assumed these were all superficial, totally made-up conflicts. I thought: life doesn’t work like that. You don’t have some nice opening scene where you expect one thing (and say it out loud), then a hair-brained turn of events brings about it’s opposite. I thought they just did it because it was the expected framework for tv shows.

But now, as I watch the pattern repeat over and over and over in my life, I’m not so sure. Maybe that story structure isn’t just an artificially manufactured conflict for the sake of filling thirty minutes or an hour of tv. Really this structure has been around for a long time. I mean sheesh, take Oedipus. An oracle tells a king his son will kill him, so the king has the baby put out on the rocks to die, only for someone to rescue the child and the son grows up and unknowingly kills his father on the road one day anyway.

These are strange lessons—that the things we want to avoid will so often come to pass in spite of our best efforts. That moments of triumph are so often followed by moments of loss and despair. But even through the disappointments and despair, the fictional characters grow from such moments. They learn and change and hopefully become better and wiser for their hardship. It’s what I hope for my life as well.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The YAmazing Race & Giveaway!

The YAmazing Race is over, thanks to all who participated!!! I'll be contacting a winner in my personal giveaway soon :)
 

Welcome to my stop on the YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes, a blog hop featuring over 50 debut authors, and prize packs that include ARCs, gift certificates, swag, and more! Click here for the complete rules!
 
 
Synopsis of GLITCH:
In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.
 
When Zoe starts to malfunction (or "glitch"), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her the power of telekinesis
 
As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.
 

In addition to the signed copy of Glitch I'll be giving away on the race, I'm also hosting a giveaway here of a signed copy, keychain, and bookmarks! To enter, just leave your name and email address in the comments (+1 for entering). For bonus entries (just make a note of them in your comment):

+1 for Liking my page on Facebook
+1 for Following this blog


+1 for Following me on Twitter



Contest is open for US and Canadian residents, and ends on May 15th.

And last but not least,

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Writing OVERRIDE (#2 in Glitch Trilogy)

I finished the final, final readthrough of Override yesterday. All the tweaks are finished and the manuscript is back on its way to my publisher. There's this amazing feeling that comes with being TOTALLY finished with a book. At the stage where there are no more changes, no tweaks, no second-guessing. It's done. Finito. What I turned in is what will be printed.

Some authors get freaked out by this stage, but I'm mainly just excited. I'm excited because after all the ups and downs that were involved in writing and then rewriting and then, oh yeah, rewriting AGAIN, I finally have a book that I think is really good and that I'm proud of. I was getting giddy on my last read-through of it. If you thought book 1 was twisty and turny, I think I can confidently say you ain't seen nothing like what goes down in book 2 ;)

Part of the problem, among others, was the fact that it is so twisty. Note to self: never again have a character who can see the future. It will tie your plot up in knots that take a really long time to untangle and figure out!!!

And I cannot thank my amazing editor enough. She was encouraging and patient in spite of the really bad first draft (okay who are we kidding, and really bad second draft) I turned in. She didn't freak out over the fact that in the middle I wanted to trash it all and rewrite it from three alternating POVs (which, oh my gosh in hindsight I can see was a terrible idea, but when I was in the middle of it and trying to fix a broken book, seemed like a great one). She calmly and patiently read my furiously written chapters and then gently pointed out that this was not the best way for the book to go. She gave me ideas, questioned and prodded my plot throughout the next draft I turned in. She pushed me to smooth out the awkward or slow bits and to remember not to lose my characters. And all on a pretty insane timeline considering I only turned in the actually viable draft at the end of April!

Want to know the crazy timeline on this book?

  • June 2011: Turn in almost-finished 1st draft
  • August-December 2011: Rewrite major portions and turn in 2nd draft
  • February 2012: Realize that 2nd draft is total soulless crap, write 100 pgs from differing POV's to try to fix
  • March 2012: Fabulous editor helps me realize this is a really bad direction to take the book. Rethink plot and character problems.
  • April 2012: Start over from scratch. At first I thought I just needed to write a new first half of the book. And then I got to the second half, and realized it needed a total redo as well. Insane writing month commences, and the 3rd and finally solid draft is turned in by the end of the month.
  • ---Okay, this wasn't for Override, but it was still part of my crazy writing year. May 2012: Write most of book 3.
  • June-July 2012: Get edit letter and first line edits for Override. Do lots of rewrites and turn in again 6 weeks later.
  • August 2012: Book 1 releases! Yay! Get 2nd round of line edits for Override. Work feverishly on them and turn in 4 weeks later.
  • September 2012: Copyedits for Override.
  • October 2012: First Pass Pages for Override. And DONE! Soon arcs will release and my baby will be out in the world!
Phew! Just writing about it makes me feel tired. Standing on this end of it, I can't believe the insanity of this year. Reading through Override one last time over the past few days, I can't believe that it came together so well. But in the end, it really did. I think it's on par with Glitch and maybe is actually better.

And in the meantime, the fun never stops! On to edits for book 3!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Not Defined By Negative Space: My Thoughts on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

I’m a writer, but I still can’t figure out a way to write about CFS that doesn’t sound like your grandmother’s boring list of complaints about her latest ailments. You either have to be funny (which I can occasionally manage in social settings when I’m feeling well enough to get out, but am rubbish at when I write), or you have to weave a story that draws the reader in.

The trouble with that last bit is the kinds of stories you can tell about CFS. You see, the thing is, sick people don’t get to actually do much of anything. There’s no natural building tension that arcs up to a climax. Sick people are all dénouement. We live in the evening after all the exciting things have happened. We can recall back—remember when I was 19 and running around the city? Remember our first date where we walked to the beach by Navy Pier and ate Subway sandwiches, and I was embarrassed about having ordered a meatball sub because they are so messy to eat and I wanted to impress you? Remember when we walked back to the college and you held my hand because it was cold, but then you never let go the whole twenty minute walk home?

But now I watch movies about people who decide to change their lives—they go back to college, break out of old patterns, take up dancing or biking or reinvigorate their love life. And I feel like those people are aliens. The longer I’m ill (and it’s been over a decade now), the more separated from normal life I feel. It’s a foreign land populated by foreign people. I read about these people doing their exotic things like walking their dogs or driving to pick up their children from soccer. I watch movies where people fall in love and kiss in the rain. I get out of the house once a week and my husband drives me around and I see people jogging on the beautiful path by the river. And I stare at them thinking: I cannot even fathom what life is like for you.
 
I don’t want to be one of those people who is defined by the things I’ve lost. I don’t want to be the piece of art where all the negative space tells the story. But then there are days like today, where I barely manage three hours of work from my couch, and the rest of the day I’m all but catatonic, laying down and closing my eyes to still the spinning vertigo and resting my exhausted limbs. Days where I just want to scream at the top of my lungs at how crappy it is that I can’t drive a car, or get out of the house, or cook a meal, or contribute to the housework at all, or even read a book.
 
But the kinds of stories I want to tell have to end on a hopeful note. Even the story of my own life. So instead I’ll try to focus on the fact that some meds have allowed me that three hours of work a day, that I’m getting through my copyedits and will be done by the due date, that I get to be a writer and have a wonderful career that I love with work I can do from my couch, that I have a beautiful son and an amazing husband. And I try to remind myself that no matter the bad crap, this life I have is very good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Copyedits for Override!

Got through 9 chapters (out of 29) on copyedits* for Override today!!! All I can say is thank goodness for vertigo meds, which calmed down the constant spinning to an acceptable level so I can at least get some work done.

As I do my read-through, I'm struck by what a strange thing it is to write a book like this--one that I've rewritten from scratch at least three times. I know the story so well that all the different permutations kind of overlap. Reading through it now, I was laughing - oh the story logic seems so simple now, but it was SUCH a struggle to figure it all out! Note to self: don't ever have someone who can see the future in my other books, it makes for some wicked plot knots. There's this one scene that I literally wrote more than ten times, and now it reads all smooth and simple. But when I read it, I see all the struggle that was behind it. I see all the failed plot-lines and mis-steps it took me to finally get here. Really, I hope that no book I write in the future is EVER this much struggle again. And yet, beyond all the difficulties, I think I (with the help of my amazing editor and some very helpful beta readers) have managed to produce a good book with some wicked twists that I think readers will really enjoy!

Strange world. I've learned SO much over the past two years. Stuff I hope I can integrate into future books, and lessons about life I will try my hardest never to forget. In short: Life is beautiful. Find good work you find satisfying. Hold tight to the ones you love. That is all.

* Copyedits are (theoretically) where you’re just fixing grammar mistakes, logic problems (like, wait, wasn’t she just sitting down, but now she’s walking around with no transition? or bigger world-building logic inconsistencies) and doing a last read-through to make sure everything sounds right and you aren’t repeating the same word three times in the same sentence.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finished Line Edits & Spastic Heather

Phew, the past couple weeks have been about extreme-editing (aka, editing which consumes ALL) and reading (for when the edit brain simply must shut down for a few hours). The edits went very well, I sent my editor the magical email with the new draft, and now I'm so exhausted I can barely type!

But because I'm spastic, all I can think about, 30 minutes after turning it in, is: what next, what next?!! Well, yes, there are all those emails I've been ignoring for the past two weeks, the manuscript I need to read for a friend, and the packages that are WAY overdue to get in the mail.

But really, I'm thinking about the fresh writing project I want to work on next. In a way, it's simultaneously the worst and best feeling in the world--going from putting on the finishing shiny touches on one manuscript back to starting from scratch with ugly first drafting on the next. Editing is hard, but you have such a pretty book-like manuscript at the end. First drafts are... messy. And I go in with the knowledge that I might as well call my first drafts 'extensive pre-writing,' because I usually end up rewriting it completely from scratch during edits. It can be a difficult pill to swallow. Then again, I try to remind myself how deadly satisfying it is to grow that word count everyday during drafting, building up the slow mountain of words that will eventually become a book. It's so tangible. At the start of the day I had ten pages, at the end, I have seventeen. Which soon becomes fifty and then a hundred. And by a hundred, I feel dang swell about the half a book I've written. That's a definite high.

But tonight, alas, I'll put all those delusions of grandeur aside and catch up on the episodes of The Colbert Report that I missed ;)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rediscovering A Lifelong Passion

I feel like a little kid rediscovering my love of reading lately. I've been devouring a book a day for the past week. I work on edits on my own book until I get too tired, then I read, read, read. I'd forgotten how this feels - to simply be so enamored with reading that I'd rather do it than anything else - more than watching tv or even pausing to eat. I haven't been able to lose myself like this in books for a long while now for a variety of reasons.

Being on the other side of the curtain as a writer has made it harder to simply enjoy books without either critiquing the material or my own writing. Reading for reading's sake, it's been this beautiful lifelong passion, and regaining it a little here makes me feel like myself again after a pretty intense year. Only downside is that having a Kindle just makes it so easy to click the 'Buy Now With One-Click,' but then I figure, to hell with it, I deserve a little splurging now and then, and soon enough I'll go back to being good and waiting for books on reserve at the library ;)

Also, I officially love listopia lists on Goodreads for pointing me towards some fabulous reads this week. And I've discovered some fabulous authors who started out self-published, and the freshness of the writing and unique storylines makes me appreciate the way e-books are re-shaping the way traditional publishing looks at what makes a good book, but that's probably a whole other blog post :-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blog Tour! See Interviews, Reviews, and More!


Don't forget to enter the giveaway at Itching For Books!

Aug. 7 Chocolate Coated Reviews *Interview
  Books and Beyond *Review & Author Bio
  A Reader of Fictions *Review & Blurb 
  Shelf Addiction *Review

Aug. 9 Rondo of a Possible World *Review & Author Bio
  Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm *Review & Excerpt
  Paperback Princess *Excerpt & Author Bio
  Nick's Book Blog *Excerpt

Aug. 10 Auntie Spinelli Reads *Interview
  Shortie Says *Review & Excerpt
  What's Hot! *Review & Author Bio
  Jelly Loves Books *Review

Aug. 11 Citrus Reads *Guest post
  The Library Mouse *Review & Excerpt
  Wintry Words *Review
  Rainy Day Ramblings *Review

Aug. 12 The Girl in a Cafe *Interview
Winged Reviews *Blurb & Author Bio
Two Chicks On Books *Blurb & Author Bio

Aug. 13 My Not So Real Life *Guest post
Maji Bookshelf *Review & Author Bio
  Vanessa Leigh Books *Review & Excerpt
  Little Red Reads *Review

Aug. 14 FireStarBooks *Review & Author Bio
  YA Book Season *Review & Excerpt
  Read-A-holicZ *Review

Aug. 15 Step Into Fiction *Interview
  Unforgettable Books *Review & Excerpt
  Blog of a Bookaholic *Review/Blurb
  The Dancing Reader *Review

Aug. 16 See It or Read It *Guest post
  Artsy Musings of a Bibliophile *Review & Author Bio
  Book Briefs *Review
  Rants~N~Scribbles *Review & Author Bio

Aug. 17 Beauty and the Bookshelf *Interview & Playlist
  We Fancy Books *Review & Excerpt
  Lili's Reflections *Review
  Chapter-by-Chapter *Review & Excerpt

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blog Tour Starts Tomorrow!


Hosted by Shane at the fabulous Itching For Books! Check back every day this week for links to interviews, guest posts, and reviews!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

YA Scavenger Hunt


Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours.

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are TWO contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM--but there is also a red team for a chance to win a whole different set of twenty-five signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by August 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

AMY PLUM

I am hosting the fabulous Amy Plum for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Amy Plum is the author of the DIE FOR ME series, a YA trilogy set in Paris. Amy grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before venturing further afield to Chicago, Paris, London and New York. An art historian by training, she can be found on most days either daydreaming or writing (or both) in a Parisian café.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author's book here!
Amy Plum's website


About Until I Die:
Kate has chosen to leave the comfort and safety of her human world in order to join Vincent in the dangerous supernatural universe he inhabits. For his part, he has sworn to go against his very nature and resist the repeated deaths that are his fate as a revenant—even though it will bring him immeasurable suffering. Heady with romance and rife with danger, the second book of the DIE FOR ME trilogy follows Vincent and Kate as they search—separately—for a solution to their plight, pursuing their quest from the glamorous streets of Paris to the city’s squalid underbelly.

It sounds amazing! I love the lush romance and drama of this series.
___________________________________________________________________

And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Amy Plum, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 87. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

BONUS CONTEST
Also, while you're here don't forget to enter the bonus contest for a signed copy of GLITCH I am running exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt. Click here to go to my Rafflecopter giveaway on Facebook!


CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click HERE!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Imaginary Casting for GLITCH

I always love it when authors put pictures of what their dream cast would be if their book was ever made into a movie. Not because we ever expect for it to get made into a movie, but just because it's fun to put real faces on these characters who have lived only in our imagination. So without further ado, my dream casting for Glitch:

Zoe would be Vanessa Marano from Switched at Birth:

Adrien would be a younger version of Gael García Bernal:

And Max would look something like Alexander Ludwig (most recently seen as Cato in The Hunger Games):

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Waking Up & Great Love Stories

These last few weeks I feel like I'm finally coming awake after a long, long sleep. This is both literal and metaphorical. I've finally weaned myself off of sleeping pills that I'd been taking for two years, and I hadn't realized how much they'd been affecting my waking life until I stopped taking them. I knew I hadn't really felt passionate about anything artistic for a long while, but I thought it was just creative and physical exhaustion. My CFS had been kicking my butt since May and I've spent most of the summer stuck on my couch or in bed. And then there was the vertigo that completely immobilized me for a few weeks there.

BUT! So as to not go on like your grandmother listing off all her weird health problems, suffice it to say, physical therapy has helped the vertigo, the CFS has finally chilled out a bit, and life without sleeping pills has become suddenly more vibrant and alive in a way I hadn't realized I was missing until it has returned.

I find that my imagination is finally spinning again in a way that it hadn't for a long while. I've had three fully realized novel ideas this past month, wrote about twenty pages of each of them, and have settled on a project I feel so passionate about I wake up grinning I'm so excited to get started working on it.

I've also been watching a slew of movies that are full of the passionate ideals I'm trying to touch on in my writing. Most recently, Moulin Rouge, which is the perfect mix of ridiculous camp and stop-your-heart melodrama. I love me my melodrama. Those are the kinds of stories I love to devour as a reader and the kind of stories I want to create as a writer. As I was settling on the WIP idea I wanted most to work on, I was thinking about the kind of story I wanted to write.

First and foremost, I want to write a love story. And I want to write a love story about how the intersection of two people meeting and falling in love can change the entire course of their lives. This idea is near and dear to me: it's been my personal experience of love. I met the most amazing man on my first day of college, and our being together (through both good times and bad) has been the single most important factor in directing the paths my life has taken. I think about it sometimes--how very different our lives would have been if we hadn't met. I think about certain decisions and events that could have so easily happened a different way so that we'd never crossed each other's acquaintance. I've been married ten and a half years. A person is bound to change in that amount of time, and if you are very lucky, you learn how to change together in ways that continue to be compatible with one another. I've been incandescently happy in my marriage lately, but I think any great love, whether it ends happily or in tragedy, changes you, and those are the stories I want to read and write about.

Some of the movies I've been watching recently that highlight the kind of love that changes everything:


Friday, July 6, 2012

Last ARC Giveaway of GLITCH!



I'm doing a giveaway of three signed Advanced Reader's Copies of GLITCH. Giveaway is international! Click HERE to enter!

Monday, July 2, 2012

On Heather's Bookshelf

Wow, in a few days, it'll be just a month out from Glitch's release date on August 7th! This is insane and makes me teeter back and forth between being so excited I can barely sit still and feeling absolutely petrified. I'm trying to check off the things I need to do: get all my swag ordered in plenty of time for the release party, answer emails and interview questions, work on writing, deal with health problems, and occasionally flee from everything and lose myself in a good book ;)
Here are a few of the books I've read and really enjoyed this past month:

 Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini. I felt so lucky to get to read an ARC of this extradorinary and beautiful novel that explores some powerful themes of healing and forgiveness. And the swoonworthy boys don't hurt either ;)
 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. This is an older book, but it came up on a Goodreads lists about great fantasy novels, and when I saw it was a Newberry honor book, I knew I had to check it out. It was a bit different from my normal reads, but I loved Gen's voice and the clever plot-work.
What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen. This book was intense and powerful throughout. What do you do if right before your mom can enact her plan to leave your abusive father, she disappears? This psychological thriller had me flipping pages well into the night.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Painting

Painting of my kiddo I did a few years ago:


Friday, June 22, 2012

June Haze

Between a relapse in my chronic illness that's put me in bed for the last few weeks and another intense editing round on book 2, I was shocked to look down at my calendar today and see it was June 21st.

When the heck did we get into the month of June? And how is it almost over???

0_o

But the edit round is nearing the end and I'm finally starting to get some wind back in my sails health-wise. Not to mention that after months and months of struggle and rewrites, I feel that book 2 is finally evolving from a pile of dung into an actual book. With interesting plot and characters and everything! Shocker! I feel like I'm waking up from this haze I've been meandering around in. My schedule for the past month: sleep, wake-up, work on the book till exhaustion and mental fog take over, watch tv, spend some time with my family, sleep again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, the world has gone without me and somehow it's already summertime.

That's okay. I've had periods like this with my chronic illness before. It'll pass, and hopefully just in time to celebrate the summer sunshine. and come August 7th, going around to visit my book on shelves in bookstores around the city ;)

Monday, June 11, 2012

TV Series I've Loved

I've been ill these past few weeks, so I'm catching up on my tv watching. Except that, well, I've watched all the good tv, so I had to dig back into my archives and find old tv shows that I loved dearly to re-watch. What I came up with are two series that couldn't be more different. A mid-90's show about a girl missionary to the Appalacian mountains in the early 1900's called Christy. Coupled with watching through seasons of Sex and the City. The two are strange bedfellows nestled together on my dvd rack.

Rewatching them both back to back brought back lots of memories and nostalgia. I first watched Christy when I was in eighth grade and was passionate about saving the world. Sex and the City I watched in my early twenties as a young married woman. Neither of those roles fit me now. I've been married over a decade and am not especially religious anymore. But the storytelling in both these series still draws me in. Christy reminds me about being hopeful and exhuberant, and believing in the goodness possible in mankind. Meanwhile, I watch season three of S&TC where Carrie makes some huge, painful mistakes, but she's so human through it all, you can't help but sympathize with her. In both series, friendship is of paramount importance. This, in the end, I think is what I take away most. And really, I hope that there's both a Christy and a Carrie in all of us. We learn from our mistakes, learn how to love, and make it through this life as best as we can.