Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts in the daily life of Heather Anastasiu:
  •  [At the Old Navy Outlet]: Dear Lady, seriously, your child is caterwauling like a tortured animal, it's time to TAKE THEM HOME FOR A NAP! You are killing my Retail Therapy Buzz.
  •  [While editing WIP]: Dear F*&#ing piece of sh*@ scene: stop F*%&ing w/ me!!!!!!! I WILL CONQUER YOUZZZZ!
  • Dear SyFy Channel: I don't know why you think showing old Pierce Brosnan James Bond flicks counts as sci-fi, or "sy-fy" *rolls eyes*, but all right, I've got an hour to kill enjoying ridiculous 90's action sequences.
  • Dear Self: your snark factor is high today. I think it's time for a glass of wine, The Daily Show, and bedtime ;)
  • Oh look, I have almost blog 100 followers. Time for a GIVEAWAY!! Check back soon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Butt In Chair: My Sophisticated Approach to Writing Novels

A friend said to me today "You're a machine!" after I told him about my writing schedule and routine.

My immediate response: "Not at all! I'm an organic, spontaneous creative entity!" or you know, something a little less pretentious than that ;)

But really? I heard Jane Yolen's advice about writing that has been my guiding light since I started writing six years ago: BUTT IN CHAIR. So I figured I'd take a pic of my butt in the chair at my favorite coffee shop:
Sometimes I think the hardest part of being a writer isn't coming up with the plot or figuring out characterization--it's getting into the daily routine of actually writing! Especially after any kind of break from it, getting into it again can cause... let's call it resistance, shall we?

I hadn't written anything since about March because I was finishing a heavy semester of grad school. Then about three weeks ago, I finally found myself with the space and time to write... and I stared at the blinking icon in the Word document wondering, How the hell did I do this before?!? So I went back to the basics: Butt in chair, outlining, 500-1000 words a day, and go from there.

Then I'd meet my goal everyday and feel the most amazing satisfaction. I'd accomplished the fearsome duty for the day. Then the next day I push the word count a little higher. Maybe one day I only write 600 words. The next I try to make up for it by writing 1500. The thing is: I'm good at it. I've always been killer at self-discipline. I make goals, I meet goals. Hence the label by my friend: me as machine.

Some of this determination and routine comes from just being a mother, I think. The baby cries in the middle of the night, you HAVE to go pick them up. EVERY SINGLE MORNING they are up at 6, every single evening they are complaining about bedtime, and so needy of your attention every moment in between. And you JUST DO IT, there's no way out, no excuse, no one else to do it for you, no matter how tired or stressed out you are yourself. You warm up the bottle in the middle of the night. You just do it, end of story, and rarely does anyone thank you for it.

Thus with writing: you sit down and write your five hundred words. And a first draft starts to slowly be built up. People talk about writing like this poetic thing, or having a muse, or waiting to feel "in the moment" before they write. But for me, first drafts are often not very magical. They are rough and ugly and I'm getting plot out and dialogue drafts, but it's not going to be magical and moving until I get to Edit Land with this draft. But you can't edit what's not there to begin with! Poets might deal with a different can of worms, but we aim to be novelists. Many of us aim even to write a series of novels.

And it all circles back around to that oh so elegant advice I met and have stuck with for six years: Butt In Chair.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife & Loving Someone with a Chronic Illness

So, I was in the mood to re-watch The Time Traveler's Wife for some reason, so I rented it, and with the opening scenes I was reminded why watching this movie is a bad idea: it makes me cry THE ENTIRE TIME, even from the bright-eyed beginning where she meets him (at least according to his timeline).

This movie is a mix of tragedy and hope--sometimes you wonder if this man ruined her entire life. She wonders it aloud at one point, after the romanticism of loving someone so unique has worn away--when his "bit of a problem" becomes so consuming. Putting up with the uncertainty and missing out when his illness makes her all alone. Missing important moments because of his "condition". It's a constant consideration in every part of his wife's life. Knowing he was going to die before it came. Knowing it might endanger their children.

The thing is, except for the dying part (thank god), some of this is too familiar. Though don't worry, my story has a happy ending:
When I was eighteen and had fallen in love with my first boyfriend, he sat me down about seven months after we'd met. We'd talked about marriage before this, but he hadn't proposed yet. We went out on a date, and I could tell something was on his mind. He told me there was something about him he'd never told me. He was afraid I wouldn't want to marry him if I knew, but he wanted to put it all out on the table before he proposed: his father had a debilitating genetic disease, and there was a 50/50 chance he would have it. Even if he didn't, any children he may have might still be in danger of getting it. It's an incurable degenerative genetic condition, onset as early as a person's 40s for some people.

I didn't bat an eye. Without pause I told him it didn't matter. I was so young then, but it was the absolute truth. I was eighteen, I was naive, and I absolutely believed he was my destiny. When I'd first met him during my freshman year of college, I was pretty sure I was going to marry him within a few weeks of knowing him. So I accepted without hesitation that whatever was in store for  his life, good or bad, was in store for mine as well. What was his fate was mine too, I believed it a 100%.

I didn't realize at the time how much my reaction meant to him--how scared he'd been that I would up and leave him. He'd read stories in the preparatory material about this happening to other's with this particular disease, how their loved ones had reacted.

He underwent genetic testing a month later (we'd gotten engaged in the meantime) and it turned out he was on winning end of that 50% chance--he was safe--and what was more, his numbers tested so low that none of our potential children would inherit the disease.
What was ironic was that, though he ended up being free of chronic illness, eight months later I fell ill with CFS. I was the one in a wheelchair a couple years later. He never batted an eye. I wondered later (after some very, very difficult years), why he hadn't just left me. He looked surprised when I asked him. He said: "You didn't leave me when you knew I might have Huntington's. In sickness and in health, right?"

After ten years I've finally found some relief from my chronic illness. For the first time in a very long time, I've been able to be a true partner to him, helping with all the physical things that needed to be done in getting our house ready to sell, in taking on more responsibilities with our son, more housekeeping.

But then I watch this goddamn movie and feel so bad for the time traveler's wife. Putting up w/ his condition even in spite of all the sacrifices it meant for her. It's what my husband has done for me. And that's what people who have loved ones do all the time. In the movie at one point, she says "I think it's magical."

And that's my takeaway--loving someone is worth the magical moments. Life and haps of fate can seem so cruel, but hopefully, in spite of the painful times, we can echo the time traveler's wife at the end of the story: we wouldn't have changed a moment of it.

Restless Sunday

I'm restless today, taking time off for me and bouncing around all my favorite spots in this little college town - the coffeeshop, my favorite cafe, my favorite used book store. The husband and I have been wrapping a bunch of things up, lots of endings in my life lately: we just finished all the hundred little projects on our house and it's finally on the market, my husband is turning in his thesis this weekend (which I proof-read, all 100 pages of computer science-y gobblty-goop-smarty-pants-algorithm-speak!). I got to 50k on book II of the Glitch trilogy, a dead-line I'd set for myself. Accomplishments, accomplishments abound, and I find myself suddenly very TIRED!

I think I would like to sleep for a week. Well, sleep and write. And eat desserts instead of meals. And watch Pride and Prejudice (both the Colin Firth version and then the Kiera Knightly version) about ten times each. And breathe in and then out again until I feel ever ounce of air expand in my lungs and then expel again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano - Review!

I got an arc of this last winter on Simon & Schuster galley grab, and during my crazy last semester of grad school, I just devoured it quickly but didn't have the brain space to review it properly. I had occasion to pick up a copy at a store recently and read through at a slower pace.

This book first drew me in by it's drop dead gorgeous cover (cover lust, cover lust!) and the insides didn't disappoint. The thing that remained in my mind long after I first read it was the SHOCKING first chapter! My mouth dropped open - thinking, OMG, did that just HAPPEN?!?

Rhine's story just keeps gathering force as the reader gets to know her through her first steps into the strange new dystopian high-society DeStefano has envisioned. I found myself feeling affection for the husband who, from one perspective, can be seen as Rhine's captor, but on the other hand, is just a victim of circumstance. All the players thrown into the situation are very human, but the question is raised, in this desperate situation--with everyone facing early death--20 to 25 years at most to live, just what degrees of "civilized soceity" would go to in order to continue thier way of life, who really is to blame, and can love still be a choice in such a world?

All in all, Wither is a beautifully written book that kept me thinking about it long after I'd closed the last page. I can't wait to see what comes next!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lookeeee! New Publication Forthcoming!

So we just got news of the cover for the critical anthology I have an essay in! My essay is from a psychoanalytical perspective, questioning why we are all secretly attracted to the sexy tug of war between restraint and desire in Twilight!!!

I'll post more updates when we get a publish date, though it's available for pre-order now :-)

Forthcoming from McFarlands Press!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Me and Lazarus, Baby

So, I don't talk about this much here, but I have a chronic illness--Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which as fellow sufferers know, is an annoyingly petty-sounding-name for a life-changing illness. I was in a wheelchair for a year because I didn't have the energy to walk. But after ten years and trying every possible random "cure" out there, I've finally stumbled upon a medication that helps. That really, REALLY helps. Like

I went swimming for an hour and a half today kind of awesome, using muscles I literally haven't in years. It's been a month and a half on the new med. And suddenly, my life is becoming so much LARGER! I can walk more, write more, do more around the house. I think I might actually start to be able to EXERCISE again! Calling it a resurrection might be a little dramatic (but hey, I'm a writer, dramatic is my wheelhouse!), but I really do like I'm coming alive again (especially compared to the wheelchair days). I can play with my son, go on walks with my husband!! If not a resurrection, surely a renaissance. The Amazing Second Life of Heather Anastasiu.

Fear not, I'm not getting my hopes too far up. I'm pushing out my energy feelers further and further everyday, waiting to see if the CFS pushes back. But so far, it's been amazing. I'm not sure I even know who I am as a  More Energy person. For so long, chronic illness has been part of my identity. It's a wild ride, but I'm enjoying the hell out of every new ounce of energy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cover Reveals!!!

Three stunning Apocalypsies (mg/ya authors debuting in 2012) covers were revealed this week and I have to share so you can all revel in thier gloriousness! Click on each to check out thier goodreads descriptions!


Also check out my blog post on our new group blog: BRAVE NEW WORDS about the writerly joys of putting characters in deadly peril!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out and About! & My Query Letter!

Hello my lovelies!! Sorry I haven't blogged lately, I've been busy moving and setting up a new group blog for 2012 YA Sci-Fi Debuts called BRAVE NEW WORDS! Check out the link for giveaways of two recent dystopian debuts that I absolutely loved: WITHER by Lauren DeStefano and POSSESSION by Elana Johnson. Also, in the most recent post I posted my query letter that snagged me my agent! Click on the link below!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hitting Word Count, Finally!

I was miserably sick all weekend and got nothing done. On the upside, I did have a Firefly watching marathon, and damn does that show hold up after time. I was shocked to realize it ran in 2002! Almost a decade ago! But Joss Wheadon is a master storyteller, even if he has a nasty habit of killing off beloved characters.

This morning, I still felt weak, but much MUCH better, so I hauled it over to the coffeeshop, half-laid on my favorite couch there, and wrote. And wrote and wrote. The word count was still painfully slow, but I made it to 2k today, what I used to average when I was deep in a book, but haven't been able to manage since I started writing full time again last week. It felt good to hit the milestone today. Like--breathe out, yes, my fingers and brain can remember how to do this, even if they were a little rusty at first. I'm not broken, just a little out of practice ;)

I was weary again this afternoon when I finished (probably pushed too hard after being ill), but it didn't matter how weak and shaky I felt. I'd written. There's no more satisfying and uplifting feeling in the world.