Tuesday, January 31, 2012


So here's something if you don't know about me, you should know: I freaking LOVE epic stories, especially epic trilogies. I think this began in childhood (which was, I admit, in the late 80's) when I saw an assorted number of movies indelibly etched upon my brain space, especially the original Star Wars. Star Wars has always been my hallmark for Awesome Trilogy Storytelling. Which, you know, comes in handy since I myself am writing a trilogy.

I thought of Star Wars as I was plotting out my trilogy, writing those outlines for books 2 and 3 that I attached when fabulous agent man and I were submitting to publishers. I wanted big. I wanted epic. I wanted One Girl Who Can Maybe Save The World Like Luke Skywalker Did kind of epic. Although, technically I suppose, he saved the galaxy, but I digress.

So I'm writing Book 3 now, and as I'm tossing around plot ideas in my head (because as all writers know, outlines were made to be broken), I come back to the original, to the penultimate. I come back to Star Wars. I had to go out and buy the BlueRay version because last time I watched it was on VHS and I no longer have a VCR. And because I'm more concerned about the middle and end of my trilogy, I started out of order and watched The Empire Strikes Back.

Which is my favorite of the trilogy. My heart goes all racy just thinking about it. This is great story-telling. This is great melodrama. Specific things I noted as I was watching this time through:
  • There's lots of little mini-mysteries. Luke goes searching for Yoda, meets a funny little obnoxious creature who turns out to BE Yoda, and meanwhile, it highlights the very thing Luke needs to work on in his Jedi-training, his youth and impatience. Han and Leia drive IN to an asteroid field to hide, drive straight into a hole in the asteroid, only to find out later there's a secret we didn't know about this particular asteroid they've chosen.
  • A lot of story-telling weight can hinge on something as simple as a mechanical malfunction. All of Han's story-arc in this movie depends on the fact that his dang hyper-drive keeps not working!! He would have been out at the beginning of the movie paying Jabba the Hut off if it had worked! They wouldn't have had to go in the asteroid field at all if it had yet again been working. And at the end, when you hear that now familiar: waa, waa, waaaaaa noise of the hyper-drive again, NOT working after they've all escaped Vader, you're like, noooooo!
  • Big mysteries with Big Reveals. Then there are the bigger mysteries. We have a feeling we know why the Emperor and Vader are interested in Luke, but we don't know just how deep it goes. At first it seems ludicrous that Luke would be tempted by the dark side of the force, but then with the giant, emotional reveal that Vader IS his father, omg, I still get goosebumps thinking about it!!!!
  • But back to Han Solo. Seriously, Han is what makes this movie work, thirty years later. He's got so much charm, he's the cowboy/pirate character among the bunch. Luke can be a little whiny at times, but you always love Han, even when he's being a scoundrel. As he so aptly points out: "you like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life."
  • Chemistry between Han and Leia. Whether she's hurling insults: "You stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder!" or he's trying to corner her in a hallway somewhere, it always sizzles between them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review of Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

I've been on YA contemporary reading binge lately, and my most recent favorite read is Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. This book was so much fun. I wasn’t sure at first if I’d connect with it because I’m not very much into football, but this book is all about the characters, and I was hooked from page one. My favorite thing was how real all the characters felt. When Jordan is laughing and joking with her guy teammates, it feels so natural, like you’re getting an insider look of guys hanging out, being a mixture of raunchy and rude, funny and sweet. In some YA contemporary novels from a girl’s perspective, it’s like the guys in the novel are from another planet. So it was refreshing to watch Jordan be so at home with the guys and then super awkward with other girls her age.

So many other things I liked about this book: Jordan’s a girl player in a very guy-centered game, and the book manages to be subtly girl-power! without ever getting over-the-top about it. Jordan’s character growth is natural and engaging. And then there are some seriously swoon-worthy boys!

This book was just so real. Dramatic things happened without the writing getting all drama-y about it. Places where other authors would have been tempted to get preachy, Kenneally always keeps it real. This was an excellent, super satisfying read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writing Book 3 in a Trilogy

So I'm in this delightful lull between finishing copyedits on book 1 and receiving an edit letter on book 2. Where you guessed it, I'm working on book 3 again. Writing life is funny when you're working on a trilogy set to come out at six month intervals. Rarely a dull week!

So I haven't written, as in full on drafting, since November, when I started book 3 in NaNoWriMo. Thankfully I got a good 20k into it before other edits intervened, and I stare at those 70 pages I have already written on it gratefully. It's a good feeling to have a head-start, but I still want to make more of a dent on it while I have a bit of time here before it's due in May. I'm no good with the stress of deadlines. I like to have a first draft WELL beforehand so I can avoid stress-writing, which is generally passion-less writing.

But the trick, as always when I've gone a few months without drafting, is getting back into the swing of it. I'd compare it to training for a marathon, but then, I hate sports metaphors :) So let's just say, it always takes a few days with slow-spurt starts. Like today, I managed 1,500 words. But I cheated a little. Usually I make myself go chronologically, but I let myself skip ahead and write the epic ending scene. Which, as you can imagine as the end of a trilogy, is VERY EPIC. When I'm getting back into drafting, it's all these little tricks that help. Tomorrow I'll go back to writing chronologically, and doing responsible grown-up things like plotting out scenes before I write them.

A very good and genius friend, Jodi Meadows, gave a piece of advice I've always kept in mind for when sequels are daunting: treat each book as a standalone. As if this was the first book in a trilogy, when you're super jacked up about the idea and the characters. Because here's a secret, blogosphere: I'm having a love affair with another book idea in my head. But to get to that one, of course, I have to write this one. So every morning lately when I wake up dreaming of that book, I try to slow down, and think of what I want to do with this book. I ask myself these questions:

-What do I love in great trilogy-ending books?
-What do I hate in trilogies I feel have let me down as a reader?
-What themes and big ideas have I set up in Book 1 and 2 that I really want to give satisfaction here in book 3?
-What new things can I introduce to make this book and the characters brand new again to me?

And for me folks, I won't lie, it's all about the romance and character growth. That's what I love, what draws me to books and trilogies. I've got all the events and action plotted out for book 3, but how do I give it heart? How do I make readers cringe and yearn with epic melodrama?

Friday, January 20, 2012

On Copyedits & Coming to the End

I'm almost done with copyedits. Which means, this book is finished. Like finished finished. It's another first, having brought a book through all these edits and getting it so completely polished. All that's left are First Pass Pages, and then it will be out in ARCs, and into reader's hands.

It's been quite a strange feeling, actually. I've made some bigger changes in the copyedits stage than just grammar things, but I know this is the last chance. As a writer, you can always keep perfecting, keep tweaking and changing things. But it doesn't matter, because the book will come out and it is final. So that's, you know, scary!

At the same time I'm excited to move on. I want to get back to drafting again, working on book 3. Editing can feel kind of non-productive, rehashing over the same words, cutting and re-writing small bits--but it's nothing compared to the adrenaline and pure creation stage of drafting.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Being a Writer with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This post was going to be about copyedits, but other things have intruded, namely my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I try not to talk about it much, but on days like today, where the exhaustion got so bad I could barely hold the pencil to mark up my copyedits, there's little else I can think about. I've been sick since I was a freshman in college, over ten years now. I try to spread awareness of what CFS is when I can. I know the name makes it sounds like I just get a little extra tired or take naps in the afternoon or something. I go to a support group sometimes and the best way I heard to explain it to people is this: it's like the last day of having the flu. You still have a fever, your body feels weighed down with lead, you're not very functional. Of all the things in my life--being a wife, mother, writer--it's the CFS that defines me the most. At one point I had to use a wheelchair because I was unable to walk.
Last year I was well enough to start going on short ten to twenty minute walks, but unfortunately I had to stop taking a medication that was helping and I've relapsed. This means lots of time on the couch, maybe venturing out of the house once a week for a couple hours. I go on lock-down and try to wait it out until the energy comes back little by little.

So. I try hard to keep a positive attitude. It's been this bad before. I know how to adjust my expectations and muddle through. There's so much in my life to be happy and grateful about. A wonderful family, healthy son, loving husband. Glitch is coming out this year, and people around the internet seem excited about it. I'm so lucky to be able to be a writer in the first place, a job I can do from my couch, which I know full well is a rare and precious thing.

And the copyedits are going well! I'm about a third of the way through and I have 8 days left to get done. Even if I take today off just to rest, I should be able to finish on time.

If you want to know more about CFS, here are some links:
- fellow author (Seabiscuit, Unbroken) Laura Hillenbrand talking about her debilitating CFS
- A quick overview here

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quick Reviews of Five Amazing Recent Reads!

One of my resolutions for the new year is to READ MORE BOOKS! It's crazy that as a writer, you can fall out of old reading habits, and I totally did last year. But I've been slowly getting back into it, and it's been especially exciting to read my fellow Apocalypsies books!!! I've been wanting to review them all, but figure I'll never get around to it, so here's my two cents on each one (in no particular order).

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Yay, our first Apocalypsie to bust the NYT bestsellers list!! Huzzah! And yep, this one is deserving of any all and all hype. The world Marissa Meyer creates is so fully complex and thought out, but not in that overt way we do as authors sometimes. I'm a giant fan of good fairytale retellings, so I loved the Cinderella elements, that each part of the story was clearly present, but also clearly re-imagined in some seriously awesome ways. Cinderella in Meyer's story is, after all, a cyborg! This book felt giant in scope and delivers on every front.

Fracture by Megan Miranda.
Zomg, zomg, zomg, the writing in this book will blow you away. So well crafted and lyrical. The story carried for sure, but it was the writing that had my heart. I still find myself rereading sections and wondering from a writerly standpoint, hmm, just how did she DO that??? I bow down.

Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock - Loved this book, so freaking HARD. I got to read an ARC of this, it will be out in about 4 months. With this book, it's all about the characters. They are so well drawn, they immediately draw you into the personal entanglements of a smaller town, and the prejudices and loyalties that can lead to violence. And lots and lots of secrets. You cannot come away from this without a feeling of : damn, some huge sh** just went down! And: I cannot WAIT to find out what happens next!!

Under the Never Sky - Love, love, love this book! We're finally getting to this year's crop of dystopias, and Veronica's is another that lives up to its hype, and more. I really enjoyed the way the relationship between Aria and Peregrine slowly develops. At first they consider each other enemies and it was so much fun to watch antagonism slowly grow to a grudging friendship and... maybe more ;) You'll have to read to find out. Oh, and the action in this book!!!!!! Seriously killer, and perfectly executed.

Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer - First book I've read this year not by a fellow Apocalypsie, by an author who I'm sure needs no introduction. This book is just insane. It's the ending of the Nightshade trilogy, and if I had just two words to describe it, they'd be: passionate and epic. Seriously, the characters go all over the world facing all kinds of crazy dangers, but it's the passionate central story and the characters that keep you on the edge of your seat. One thing I love about Andrea is that she never writes safely. There is always Big Epic Sh** going down, every other chapter. You can't stop reading until the end, and that too will blow you away.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cover Reveal Week

Goodness gracious, life has been busy lately. If you didn't see, I got to officially reveal my beautiful cover! I'm so excited, I've been in love with it from the first moment I saw it. Waiting on your cover is always one of those anxiety-filled parts of being an author. But then when I got to see it, with my favorite colors (purple and black) featured, everything about the girl is perfect and the glowing input port on the back of her neck... it's seriously the cover of my dreams. And my trailer, if you haven't seen it, is here.

And so many other exciting things this week. Last Friday I got to meet my agent sister, Andrea Cremer, at the release of her last epic book on Friday. She is as awesome and delightful in person as I imagined her to be. I'm halfway through Bloodrose and loving it. It's so cool going to signings now, and not just because I know the people up there, but because I'm dreaming one day of my own release party. Because it's officially 2012 folks, and that means that my book is coming out THIS FREAKING YEAR!!!! In almost exactly eight months.

It's also strange to feel so close, and to be working feverishly through the very last rounds of edits before it's gone out of my hands. Soon it will be done and done, and before I know it, strangers will be reading it. Which is totally insane and I still can't wrap my head around it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to Be A Rockstar, Even When You Don't Feel Like it

I'll be honest, for as many amazing things that happened in 2011, it had its fair share of punch-me-in-the-face moments. So over the past month, I've been working to put things back together, personally and professionally. And I'm finally gettin' my mojo back :) So here are my personal steps to getting back the I-Can-Do-Anything-I-Put-My-Mind-To-Rockstar-Mojo.

Step 1) Dye your hair bright pink. This says: BAM, I am in your face! I am kick-ass! (if you don't feel it at first, that's all right. It's part of the point. Every time you look in the mirror you can be reminded of your kick-ass-osity).

Step 2) Get your sh*% together. Rockstars are productive. They make stuff happen. They are creative. So getting my sh#$ together comes with a few different sub-points:
  • Take care of emails more regularly so they don't get into the triple digits
  • Make sure to take time for daily inspiration. Rockstars aren't robots. They are creative and passionate. Take time for that everyday.
  • Do laundry. Because no one likes a rockstar without clean underwear.
  • Make check-lists and cross stuff off every day. Every little bit of productivity starts rebuilding confidence that screams hell yes! I can do this!
  • Do what you love, and foster that love in every way possible. This is what really makes rockstars. We do what we love, passionately, and catch other people up in the passion. As a writer, this means catching up my readers. But that's not going to happen if I've lost connection to that passionate place that made me want to tell stories in the first place.
Step 3) Love on your family. My family is my support, my stable center. Without them, none of the rest is possible.