Friday, December 2, 2011

Coming Out of the NaNo Shell


Whoa. *blink blink* Is it December already?

Because I still have the November Turkey/NaNo hangover, this post will be short and sweet. And most likely include bullet points. Because I like them (those cute little black circles).

November Update
  • I did participate and succeed in NaNoWriMo, and here's my shiny new blog swag to prove it. (Ooooh, Aaaaah.) But some of my writing buddies pwned NaNo with vengeance! Way to go NaNo gurus!


  •  Words written on brand spanking new book: 50088
  • Number of those words that are not total garbage: I'm going to say roughly 50%
  • Also in November, I worked on revising another project. About halfway through the month it got shoved to the side, but I dusted it off today and am back at it.
  • I am continuing to query. For those who are curious, have I gotten rejections? Yes. Have I gotten partial requests? Yes. Have I gotten full requests? YES!!!!!!!! (Exclamation points just don't do justice to the happiness in that one word.)
  • Have I sent out a query to one of my top agents with the wrong name even though DUH I know her name? And then had to send out another query immediately after, which said, "Ha ha *weak laugh* I really do know your name. Honest." (subtext = I'm really not an idiot, really, so please believe that I have more intelligence than a rock and give my book a chance, PLEASE). Unfortunately, yes, I did this too. *headdesk*
  • I also managed, with a fantastic committee on my side, to get registration up and running for THE most awesome writers conference on the planet. (If I do say so myself, and I do.) Registration for the 2012 LDStorymakers Writers Conference opened yesterday and it is going to be EPIC! (Check it out here.)
So, how was your November?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Self-publishing: Why I'm Not Doing It

If you dabble in the writing and publishing industry, unless you've gone blackout the last two years, then you've heard about the surge of self-publishing (or Indie publishing) as things go more digital. And since you've likely heard all the pros and cons and predictions from a whole bunch of people with more credentials than me, I'm not even going to get into that discussion. What I do want to say is that I've decided not to pursue that direction right now.

Before I share my reasons, I want to first make it very clear that I have many good friends and acquaintances who have chosen to go this route. And I truly wish them all the best. I hope they become wildly successful and their books get a gazillion fans, because the more good books we have, the more readers are looking for good books to read. And that's fantastic news for every book lover and author out there. Yes, there will be some good Indie titles, some that could have used some more editing, some that make people who like the written word go all twitchy, and some that will blow traditional books away. It's called a bell curve and it's apparent in just about every group of anything in life (yes, I took statistics in college).

So, now that I've established I am in no way anti-Indie, there are two big reasons I'm not doing it.

1) I want my butt kicked by an editor/agent
2) The work involved

The first reason, because it's the biggest one, is that I want to be edited. I want to go through the process of a professional revision letter. I know it might sound masochistic, but I want to be a better writer than I am now and though I'm doing everything I can to improve, I want that experience.

The second reason is that unless you already have a solid reader base, making self-publishing work for you is a lot of work. You have to format your book, design your cover and make sure it isn't shudderingly horrible, upload your book to Amazon/Smashwords/whatever other places there are, and then do the initial marketing push -- all by yourself. You could hire professionals to help you with these different aspects, of course, but then you are the one footing the entire bill.


I found a fantastic guest blog post by Tracy Marchini on Nathan Bransford's blog called "The Real Skinny About Indie Publishing." To quote her, Indie authors have to be:

-- excellent writers and moderately good marketers
-- moderately good writers and excellent marketers
-- zombies who don’t ever sleep, and are both excellent writers and marketers


(Image from "Plants vs. Zombies" game.)

And I'm not ready to do that. In fact, just writing about it makes me feel tired. So hats off to all you indomitable spirits tackling that monumental challenge.

And hey, zombies are "in" right now you know.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Concept vs. Character Death Match

Yes, the kidlets have been watching a lot of Homestarruner lately and I've been inundated with Strongbad, hence the DEATH MATCH. *cue cheesy dun dun dun..* What started this was a review I saw the other day of Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.


I just finished this book a couple weeks ago, and it is sort of a sci-fi, dystopian, fantasy, quasi-historical.It has two POV characters, and the story alternates between the two. It took me a little time to get into the groove of the book, but once I did I enjoyed it. The person's review that got me thinking was that she didn't like it because she couldn't become really invested in the characters. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Awesome Quote

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
 Winston Churchill

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Everyday Courage


I've been thinking about courage lately. What we often consider "courage" is really the sum total of a series of little steps that someone takes, even if sometimes they don't want to.

Today I read this in Holly Lisle's "Mugging the Muse" e-book, which eloquently explains the nebulous musings wandering around in my brain:

My definition of courage is nothing more than taking one step more than you think you can. It has nothing to do with feeling or not feeling fear, with doing great deeds (though sometimes courage accomplishes great deeds), or with conquering life-and-death situations (though in such situations it is certainly helpful.)

Courage is a form of tenaciousness, a refusal to quit when you want to quit because you're tired or humiliated or broken, and it is as necessary in everyday life as it is in moments of great upheaval. In fact, I could easily say that everyday courage is more important than the "great deeds" sort because every one of us will be in everyday situations, while not all of us will be called upon in our lifetimes to perform great deeds.

Courage is as essential to the writer as oxygen, no more and no less. The writer who lacks courage will never succeed.


Courage is working on your goals, step by dogged step, even if you don't feel like it.  Courage is venturing out of that "safe" zone, where you put a little bit of your soul on the page. Courage is pushing through the "my writing is total crap" stage. Courage is handing your writing over to a critique partner. Courage is clicking "Send" on that query letter email. Courage is looking at a hill ahead, cringing, and running up it anyway, because sometimes the harder you work for something, the more it's worth it.

(Aside: I love Holly Lisle's workshops, and even though she has an affiliate program, I do not participate in it. I simply share the good stuff I find.)

So, now that we've looked a little closer at courage, I have a question for you. Where do you find your courage?

Friday, September 30, 2011

On the Nightstand

Since I'm a writer and addicted to books, I figured that once in a while I should not talk about running and actually discuss what I have read/am reading.


Recent reads I really enjoyed:

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult

This woman is a master. I only dream of one day being able to write characters like her. I have enjoyed a number of her books, and have had to stop reading a couple because the subject matter was too disturbing. She gets into her characters' heads so well that in a few cases I just couldn't take my heart being ripped apart.

Synopsis:  

HOUSE RULES is about Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject – in his case, forensic analysis.

He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do…and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect – can look a heck of a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel -- and suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder. HOUSE RULES looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way – but lousy for those who don’t.

My opinion: Phenomenal.



Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, by Richard Paul Evans

I have a confession. I don't do sappy stuff. So I usually try to stay as far away from Richard Paul Evans books as I can, but when kidlets 1 & 2 completely devoured the book  I just had to read it. I almost hate to admit that it was pretty good. This ain't no Christmas Box.

Synopsis:

To everyone at Meridian High School, fourteen-year-old Michael Vey is nothing special, just the kid who has Tourette’s syndrome. But in truth, Michael is extremely special—he has electric powers. Michael thinks he is unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor has the same mysterious powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up with their abilities, and their investigation soon brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric teens—and through them, the world.

My opinion: Very good.



Blood Ninja, by Nick Lake

It's vampires. And ninjas. And not a single one sparkles.

I couldn't resist. I can't give you my opinion yet, though, because it's place on my nightstand got bumped by the next book.












 Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

I was hooked from the start and right now this book is buried under my bed so I will stop reading it and get some other things done. So far, it's pretty awesome and fast, fun ride - a perfect escape.













So, what's on your nightstand and should I add it to my huge TBR pile?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Boston, Here I Come

Email today: "This is to notify you that your entry into the 116th Boston Marathon has been accepted."

Ohmygosh.

**For those of you who are not insane-runner-types, the Boston marathon is freaking hard to get into, and you get serious bragging rights.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't Be a Bumble Bee

The other day I was taking a break from brain-melting revisions and eating my lunch outside on my front porch. I left the front door open to get some fresh air inside and was enjoying the sun when a loud, buzzing noise came from around the corner of the house. A monster bumble bee flew toward me. (How do those things fly, anyway? You'd think they'd drop out of the air.) I ducked (they aren't that fast) and the bee took a turn and headed right into my house.

Well, we immediately had a problem. I didn't want the bee in my house, and since there is a dearth of pollen-rich plants in my living room, the bee didn't want to be in there either. So I ran inside, intending to keep an eye on the bee from a safe distance--i.e. cowering around a corner. I figured the bee would just fly back out the front door. Well, the front door kept drifting closed, and the bee kept buzzing around like a very confused, fuzzy, Godzilla insect with a stinger that would feel like a crochet needle puncturing my skin if it decided to sting me.

I dashed toward the door and propped it open, then retreated to cower once more around the corner. After five minutes the stubborn bee decided it would go check out this large rectangle of sunlight, but it must have gotten turned around because it kept bumping against the open door, rather than making a 90 degree turn and heading outside. I crept forward and oh-so-slowly closed the door, gently guiding the bee to the great outdoors in the most humane manner.

Well, just before the door closed, the bumble bee darted back inside. I ran away. I might have even squealed, but since no one else was here, you can't prove it. Perhaps the squeal that may or may not have happened startled the bee, because this time it flew up . . . and found the large window above my front door. Eureka!! Sunlight!

The bee then proceeded to fly at the window, bounce off, land on the window ledge for a second, shake off the collision, and give it another go. Hit the window, bounce off, land on ledge. Repeat.

For the next 10 minutes.

It completely ignored the wide open front door just 2 inches below it, and kept hitting its head against the window. I watched - in my safe cowering spot - and expected the bee to figure things out after a couple minutes and head out the door. After several minutes passed and the bee kept flying into the glass, I wondered if the bee had sustained brain damage. I finally got sick of waiting, got a cup, captured the monster bug, and released it into the wild. Then I finished my now cold lunch.

I've thought about that experience a little, since I'm a writer-type who tends to analyze little things and file them away for future character development, and can see parallels to how people behave. How many times have you acted just like that bumble bee, butting your head against the same obstacle again and again and again, so focused on doing it this way that just doesn't work that you don't even see the easier path just inches away? How many times have I done it?

My husband often tells our kidlets, "If you keep doing what you're doing, you're going to keep getting what you're getting." Just like that bee kept flying right at the window.

I started looking at my own life and things that aren't working the way I'd like them too, and seeing if I'm acting like that bumble bee. And you know what, sometimes I'm more like a big, fuzzy insect than I'd like to admit. Sometimes I keep doing the same things, thinking that if I only did them faster or slower or more intensely they'd work this time, even though they haven't worked in the past. And sometimes I just need to slap out of my tunnel vision and change up what I'm doing.

I hope I'm not the only one who does this. Anyone else sometimes act like a bumble bee?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Warning: Too Stupid to Live

So I’ve been thinking a little about movies and some of the stuff writers can learn from them. Disclaimer: There is SO much that correlates between screenwriting and writing novels that I promise I will make barely a tiny scratch on the surface. For one thing, I’ve learned to make sure you don’t leave things in your stories that are “too stupid to live” (phrase stolen from Holly Lisle).

What do I mean by "too stupid to live?" Unfortunately for the Transformers franchise, those movies are front and center in my example.

My hubby has been working insane hours the last 8 months, but the last month in particular. That means we haven’t seen many of the newer movies. (Not even Harry Potter. Oh, the humanity!) One of the summer movies that my boy kidlets really want to see is “Transformers 3,” which, according to all their friends who have seen it, is “nothing but 2 ½ hours of action and blowing stuff up.” Yes, 11 and 13 year-old boys are real movie connoisseurs. The hubby and I missed “Transformers 2” when it came around (partly because we were busy and partly because we heard it was as bad – or worse – than “GI Joe,” which made me lose IQ points when I watched it) and we noticed it was back at Red Box, so we decided to give it a shot.

Let me clear something up before I lose your respect: I did not finish the movie. I figured I lost enough brain cells giving birth to three children to voluntarily give away IQ points.

“Transformers 2” was riddled with bad dialogue, overt and gratuitous innuendo that was in really bad taste, and a whole bunch of “too stupid to live” examples. It did have giant, kick-butt space robots, but even the cool factor couldn’t override the other stuff. Here’s just one example of “too stupid to live.”

Sam goes to his first astronomy class and pulls a “Beautiful Mind” stunt. He runs back to his dorm, freaking out, and calls his girlfriend (biting my tongue on the stupidity involved in that relationship/dialogue/casting) on the way. She says she’ll catch a plane and be there that afternoon. Sam starts writing symbols all over the walls of his dorm, and his roommate, who was in astronomy, shows up after class (classes last about an hour – I’ve been to college) to check on him. Also with roommate is psycho hot chick who is really a space robot in disguise. Hot robot chick throws herself at Sam (literally), and his girlfriend walks in on them kissing.

Now, the time frame from “Beautiful Mind” freak out to girlfriend catching Sam is probably around an hour. Heck, I’ll give it two hours just to be nice. Ummm… Last time I went to the airport it took me at least an hour to GET THROUGH SECURITY. There is no way in this day and age that the girlfriend could pack, buy a ticket, go through security (not to mention get a box with tiny space robot with an accent and street slang - hello, more stupid – through security in the first place), get on a plane, get off the plane, pick up baggage, catch a cab to the college, find the right dorm building and Sam’s room, and walk in on hot robot chick kissing Sam in TWO HOURS!

*beating head on wall*

This is not the reaction you want your readers to have when reading one of your books. This is the sort of thing that gets books thrown across the room at my house. (Or if you spend 4 books building up to a vampire smack-down and then having the two armies agree to disagree and walk off. The book gets thrown and yelled at if you do that. Name the series, anyone?)

Moral of this blog post: Avoid “too stupid to live” mistakes in your writing at all costs. Or make sure your books have really soft covers so they don’t hurt anyone when they are used as projectiles.


Anyone else want to share in my rant? Other "too stupid to live" examples are welcome!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Childish Wanted

I remember reading certain books as a kid, like the Anne of Green Gables series (more particularly the later ones when Anne is a mother) and Little Men & Jo's Boys, and deciding I wanted to be like those characters when I grew up. I would have fun and play and see the joy in simple things. As a mother I would play with my kids, and listen to them, and come up with creative - and effective - ways of disciplining, and never make my kids feel like they are less important than other things and that they only ever get a fraction of my attention.

Fast forward several years and three kidlets of my own later, and I'm chagrined at how often I fall short of the type of grown up I wanted to be. I am now the mom my boys tease because she never gets her hair wet (my tomboy younger self shudders). I don't smile as often as I should and sometimes act downright boring. Yes, grown up responsibilities like paying bills and managing a household and working on a career can leave limited time to get in touch with my inner child, but I realized a while ago that I was becoming at times downright curmudgeony.

I needed a quick dose of childish, and I needed it STAT!

I'm not talking about the childish half that quarrels or whines or is selfish or procrastinates. (I seem to have little problem channeling that childish Jaime.) But have you noticed how often kids smile? How frequently they laugh? How they get so excited about something that they can't help but move because they can't keep it in? They use their imaginations (if video games haven't dumbed it out of them) all the time and can find the wonder in things around them. They haven't become so cynical that they immediately dismiss things as impossible - like I've caught myself doing. THOSE are the childish characteristics I need to work on, because they're atrophying under grown up crankiness.

In an effort to rejuvenate my childishness, the other day I took five minutes and sprawled in the grass under a tree and just stared at the sky. If there had been clouds I would have found shapes in them. (Next time.) And it was wonderful. Yesterday one of my kidlets was moving slower than molasses and had left his giant teddy bear in the living room. I checked my initial reaction to holler about him being responsible for his stuff, and instead made the teddy bear sneak up the stairs and pounce on my son, and in a goofy teddy bear voice I had the teddy bear shower him with hugs and kisses and tell him the things he needed to get busy doing. I have gotten more traction with him from that little bit of play than I ever imagined. He jumped up and got to work, and talked about it the rest of the day. He asked to have the teddy bear wake him up this morning.

So, if I can be more less grumpy old woman *and* have my home a happier place, you better believe I'm after a little more childishness. I love writing and reading children's & YA books, but I could love it even more if I peel back some of the adult layers. Today I think I might play hopscotch or basketball with the kidlets when they get home from school.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Querying and Flashbacks to High School

That's right, ladies and gents, I'm officially querying again.

*gulp*

When I hit "send" my heart was pounding like I was back to age 16 and asking a boy to a girl's choice dance. (And, for the record, I got turned down. So yeah, not a good heart pounding thing going.)

So not only am I catapulted back into high school - and not the best parts - I now must battle the compulsion to check my email every 5 minutes. Even though it's been only hours since I sent out my first few queries. It also means I suffer from bouts of temporary insanity where I actually think things like, "It's been almost six hours. They must hate my query, or my sample pages, or both. Because if they liked it I would have gotten a reply by now, right? RIGHT???"

I need to go pick weeds or clean something. Or.. or... or maybe work on something else. Yeah! That's it! I can channel this new neurosis. Get in touch with my teen self, even though I've worked oh, 15 years, to leave the teen me behind. The one whose first Homecoming date was forced by his dad to go...

STOP! Don't think like that! You are a capable, confident writer. And your book is good, gosh darnit! Just breathe... it's okay... you're not 16 again.


Thank goodness.


*breathing deep*


Sorry about that, everyone. I'm better now. Excuse me while I check email again. It's been 7 whole minutes...






Thursday, August 11, 2011

Words of Wisdom


It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.
Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit. - George Sheehan


I wish I'd seen this quote before I wrote the last blog post, since it sums it up my scatterbrained thoughts pretty good. And that little voice speaks up very often in writing, too. Down with the quitting voice!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blog Comeback - sputtering to a start

Question: Is it a comeback if you've had to come back 4 or 5 times?
Answer: Maybe the sixth time is the charm.

So, here's blog comeback number six-ish. It's good to be back. Hopefully it will stick this time. ;)

I've been up to a lot while I've been away, not the least of which is a moment of insanity that is spelled m-a-r-a-t-h-o-n. Many of you would follow that with a word spelled like this: c-r-a-z-y. And my husband would agree, even though he ran it with me.

It was an incredible experience, but I don't know if it was until recently I really figured out the core reason why it moved me so much. Yes, it was a goal, and I achieved it, and of course that feels good, but it meant more than that. I've started and stalled on several blog posts on how running a marathon is like writing a book, because I could feel connections, but I ended up not able to finish those posts, and it's because this was the one I needed to discover.

First, I'll summarize some of those tossed posts for you. ENTER BULLET LIST (Yea for lists!!)
  • I spent 4 months of hard training to get ready, showing the importance of proper preparation--and persistence.
  • There were many days I didn't want to run, but the race loomed ahead, so I got up and did it anyway, proving the importance of goals.
  • At mile 24 I was ready to stop, but I just kept going--put my head down and gutted it out, showing the grit your teeth and endure to the end moments of writing (and life in general).
  • The cheer I remember the most was a lady I'd never seen before and probably never will again who shouted from the sidelines a block from the finish, "Look how strong you are!" and I thought about how tempting it is to limp to the finish your story.
  • I thought I knew about nutrition, but I had to relearn what worked for me, and it wasn't what worked for my husband, who was following the exact same training regimen. That's an easy analogy for finding out the meat and drink of what keeps you going through the long haul as you write, and it's very individual.
  • The satisfaction of doing something hard is worth the pain and not being able to walk afterward, and the revised, finished book that finally lives up to the magical idea you had before you slaughtered it with a crappy rough draft is worth all the torment to get it there.

See, those are all good takeaway analogies, right? But here's the takeaway message I needed for me. In running this marathon I learned some things about what makes me tick and matters to me. And those are things that I need to tap into to make my writing mean something to me, no matter what genre, what characters, or what plot I am working on.

Through training for and running 26.2 miles, I learned that I push myself to touch the potential that is inside every person when things get hard and you do it anyway. I am amazed and awed by those who are up against a wall and through sheer will, determination, and digging deep (usually by leaning on faith in something) they overcome and often succeed brilliantly. I think that perhaps we can't truly understand our own potential - the potential that resides in every human being - until we are pinned right at the boundary of what we think are our limits, only to push past that boundary and discover we are capable of so much more than we thought. But stepping through the boundary is a personal choice, and not something you can make someone else do.

*moment of deep thought*

Hopefully that makes sense to some of you. It was an epiphany for me, and now I can see that "theme" in what I write. Not in a preachy way, mind you, and no one else may ever catch it, but I know it's there, and it matters to me that it is.

So, that's what running a marathon did for my growth as a writer.

And here's the obligatory picture. This is about mile 16, I think.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FINISHED!!!!!

That's right, ladies and gentleman, I have FINISHED my massive, almost-complete rewrite of my 2009 NaNo train wreck. My MG novel "Villainish" is now polished, pretty, and 7/8 brand-spanking new. I figured if I could revise THAT book, I could revise ANYTHING.

The manuscript is now going out to readers (including my toughest readers--my 11 year old and 13 year old). I'm polishing up my query letter to send off to the 3 agents who have expressed interest in the story, and I will now, once again, join the blogosphere.

Because I'm FINISHED!!!!

(And a few exclamation marks for good measure. )
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

10 Things I Learned While I Neglected My Blog

10. The Grand Canyon is really, really BIG. I know it's called the Grand Canyon for a reason, but it's mind-blowing how big it really is.

9. (Related to #10) Driving with three kidlets in a car for 12 straight hours will reveal your true character and patience right quick and in a hurry.

8. When you have kidlets tell others that their mom is *always* on the computer, then you know it's time to step back a little, since you're not raising a computer.

7. Change can be good, after all.

6. People who do what they say, when they say, and as well as they say they will, are worth their weight in gold.

5. You are not obligated to answer the phone. Especially when you're writing, because the universe will interrupt you. Oh yes, it will.

4. "Thank You" can help relieve headaches almost as well as ibuprofen. And those people who say it hold a special place in your heart.


3. Running 20 miles takes a loooong time. And it gives your hubby plenty of opportunities to remind you that signing up for the marathon (and doing 4 months of torturous training for it) was all your idea.

2. The writing community holds some of the nicest, most generous, and genuinely interesting people. That includes agents, editors, and authors. They are definitely my peeps.

1. You can get addicted to the shivery, giddy feeling inside when you are *that close* to finishing a story, and you know it's good. It's like Christmas Eve when you were a kid.


Have any of you learned anything while I was away?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

She Lives!

Yes, I know. It's been forever x2 since I've blogged. But this is why:


It was last weekend, and it was EPIC!

We're talking almost 500 attendees, 60 presenters, 3 agents, 3 editors, and an small army of volunteer staff epic. The 2011 LDStorymakers Writers Conference was 3 days of sheer awesome. And, frankly, as co-chair, it took all of my spare time to organize my fantastic committee to make the awesome happen.

I have experienced and learned all sorts of things since I started neglecting my poor wittle blog, and I will share it all with you, my dear, neglected readers. Today we'll just stick with some pics.

First, the best chair EVER!

My co-chair gave it to me because I agreed to co-chair the conference for a third year (temporary bout of insanity, I know). I joked around with my committee that I didn't want the title of Conference Queen. I wanted the title of Conference Empress. So now I have a throne. :)

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to use it. My children have commandeered it. You see, the wheels work reaaally well. I had to force kidlet #3 off the chair to take pics, but she required I take some with her first.


The real empress of the house.

Second, the best hat EVER!

(the tiara part lights up)
T
his was given to me because at the conference I was the queen constantly on the run to put out all the fires behind the scenes. And I was on the run, that's for sure. I even wore my running shoes.

Third, the flowers another hotel sent us.

Oh, yeah. They got our attention. We put it on the registration desk.

If any of you attended, I hope you waved or stopped me as I ran by and said "Hi." I can't wait to get back to the blogosphere.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hysterical Baby Laughing

Today has been a little sober, with all the news out of Japan. I could use a little laugh, so I thought I'd share this great little video. I dare you not to laugh too.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm alright

My last blog post may have come across as a little down. Okay, it was a little down. But that's what blogs are for, to foist our thoughts, emotions, challenges on others, right? ;) I appreciate the kind thoughts and comments, and I want to let you know that I'm alright. I bounce back pretty quickly, but I didn't get around to blogging that I had bounced back.

So, as proof that I'm alright:

*I am oh-so-close to finishing my massive rewrite of the 2009 NaNo train wreck. *holding thumb and pointer finger 1/4 in. apart* I'm serious. So close. And I am really stoked about the result. (In a total self-serving aside: let me know if any of you are interested in reading a MG, slightly quirky fantasy involving twists on villains and heroes, let me know.)

*My check book is balanced, I'm working on saving for retirement, and I've even used a few coupons in the last week.

* My email inbox has been cleaned out to under 1000 emails.

* I have actually watched TV a couple times.

* I signed up for a marathon, so I'm back on the racing wagon. (Always a good thing.)

* My basement is still a disaster, but I'm much closer to actually organizing it. (That's progress!)

* I'm back to blogging with parentheses. :)

How about you? Who here is doing alright?

**Bonus points for those who can guess the movie and why I have this picture up today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When Things Change

Did anyone else blink and lose the entire month of February? I don't know why February seems to fly by so fast. Maybe it's because January always seems to take forever, and after that any month feels faster. It's one of those mysteries of the world, I guess.

You may or may not remember my epiphany that I'm addicted to productivity, and the realization that I don't relax very well. (Post is here.) Well, let me warn you that you might want to be careful what you put out to the Universe. The last month saw a few big changes for me and my family. My husband got a wonderful job opportunity, which in public education means that he gets to do double the work for the same pay. Two days later he was asked to take on another pretty hefty project. And now I no longer have one responsibility that used to be a good-sized time commitment.

So now our roles are somewhat reversed. My dear hubby, who jealously guards his free time, no longer has any, and me, the workaholic list addict, suddenly has my To-Do list cut in half.

I should be excited to have more time to write, more time to dedicate to the kidlets, and time to actually sit, but to be honest I'm feeling a little lost. You'd think I'd keep up the frenzied productivity that I love and just fill it with all those things that got put on the back burner. Instead, I check the email account that suddenly doesn't have anything coming in, look at the phone that isn't ringing off the hook, and continue to ignore the basement that I still have to organize.

My hubby insists I'll feel relief and enjoy less responsibility. I'll just go sit in the sun for a while and wait for it to happen.

Sometimes change stinks.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Word of the Week #122

eleemosynary \el-uh-MOS-uh-ner-ee\, adjective:

Definition:
1. Of or for charity; charitable; as, "an eleemosynary institution."
2. Given in charity; having the nature of alms; as, "eleemosynary assistance."
3. Supported by or dependent on charity; as, "the eleemosynary poor."

Usage:

**The definitions actually gave us examples, so I'm going to be lazy and not do another one.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

WIPpet

I thought I'd share a snippet of the book that's keeping me away from regular blogging. This was one of my favorite scenes. I hope you enjoy!


“Bradley Lewis Pendergast! What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

Bradley jumped. Vanessa stood over him, her hands on her hips. A muscle near her jaw twitched. How had she found him? He discovered the answer when he tried to stand up. His stupid cape—the one she had made him put on because it was tradition—was snagged on the bush, like a flag.

He was in for it now. Anyone that got in Vanessa’s way when she wanted to make a good impression saw the wicked side of the spokeswoman for the Wicked Stepmother Finishing School.

She ripped the cape free. “First you abandon your responsibilities, and then—“ Pounding sounds coming from the direction of the driveway interrupted her.

Horses galloped around both sides of the house and to the backyard. The riders waved swords and whooped as they bore down on the guests. Every rider was incredibly good-looking, with chiseled features, square jaws, glossy hair, white teeth, and model bodies.

Vanessa threw up her hands. “Heroes! How in the world did they get in?”

The Heroes raced around the yard. Chunks of the previously attractive lawn scattered as the horse hooves ripped up the ground. Some of the Heroes reined in their horses and struck poses, as if they expected a photographer to pop up and take their picture. When no one did, they went back to wreaking havoc, but not actually attacking anyone.

One Hero tore through the string quartet, sword waving. The musicians dove out of the way, but the Hero’s sword caught in the strings of a violin. He swiveled to chase more people with his violin-tipped weapon. Another Hero steered his horse right into the pool. Dishes went flying as minions dodged horses and their crazy riders.

Bradley felt sick to his stomach. The Heroes shouldn’t have made it through the security system. Had he accidentally turned off the whole thing?

A horse struggled around the house, and it was clear why it got left behind. Its rider wore a full suit of medieval armor. It had to weigh a ton. The lowering sun hit the metal just right to shine in Bradley’s eyes.

“Evil villains,” the hero shouted through his visor, “we have come to vanquish you, once and for all!” He brandished his sword. “Surrender now and we shall spare your lives.”

No one paid attention. The Heroes were too busy galloping around making heroic poses. Those on the ground were too busy getting out of the way.

The knight’s horse finally decided it had had enough and stopped, its sides heaving. It plopped its backside to the ground. The knight yelled and flailed his arms, but it didn’t keep him from sliding backwards off the horse. With a sound like pots and pans hitting the floor, he crashed into a tent pole. The pole snapped. In slow motion, the tent shuddered, listed to the side, and toppled, burying villains and heroes alike.

Vanessa screamed as her perfect event descended into total pandemonium.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Houston, I Have a Problem

So I've been working on my New Year's Resolutions. Yes, I realize we're over a month into the new year, but it's taken me this long to wrap up 2010. As I've been writing my really looooong list of all I want to accomplish/improve on this year, I had one of those self-epiphanies.

I'm addicted to being productive.

I like to accomplish things. I usually have a long list of things to get to. I feel fulfilled when I am productive. I work hard. I like being competent and dependable.

That doesn't sound so bad, does it? In fact, it sounds like something you'd say to your kids when they would rather play video games than clean their rooms.

But as I've thought about it, I realized that it can be one of those things that pulls me out of balance. And balance is good. Balance helps us do lots of cool things, like walk without falling over and ride a bike. Without balance we run into walls, stumble, and look like my kidlet after spinning around and around and around for 5 minutes.

When you're addicted to productivity, you don't relax very well. (At least according to my husband, who informed me I don't relax very well.) You also sometimes get busy juggling so many balls that you might neglect your blogs for a few months. You might have lists upon lists scattered throughout your house. You might neglect your writer friends' blogs for months on end. You might even start a New Year's Resolutions blog in January and not finish it until February.

Hello, my name is Jaime, a.k.a. Bookmom, and I'm an addict.

I might just need an intervention.

I can fit it in two weeks from Thursday, at 10:00, but I'll have to double check my schedule...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Warning: Hilarity Ahead

Confession: The Science Fair is in 2 days, so it is taking up a lot of my spare time. So yes, that's why you're getting a video. But it's a good one, esp. for writer-types who love a good story. I suggest you not drink anything while watching, unless you want to shoot it out your nose.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Word of the Week #121 - scurf

I just realized that this Word of the Week never got posted. So we're back-posting to make sure we have a Word of the Week #121.

scurf
- [SKURF] - noun

Definition:
1. The scales or small shreds of epidermis that are continually exfoliated from the skin.
2. Any scaly matter or incrustation on a surface.

Usage:
A desperate vacuum cleaner salesman tried to scare me into buying his freakishly expensive product with tales of the horrible amount of scurf mounding up in our mattresses. I told him that I grew up in a farming community, and there were a whole lot worse things to be sleeping on. Trust me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Favorite Reads of 2010

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit I am shamelessly copying this post idea from Jolene Perry. I'm not going to give you plot summaries or long reviews. You can find those all over the internet. I'm just sharing some my favorite reads from 2010. (Not all, or else it would be the never-ending blog post.)



Matched, by Ally Condie


This book has romance (without Harlequin-style gushing), drama, and characters that worm their way into your heart. In a YA book world where characters are often in your face and their dilemmas are larger than life, Matched is much more subtle, but perhaps more effective for that subtlety. And Ally Condie does a *fantastic* job of worldbuilding through a character's mind and eyes.

The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley

After embarrassing myself by gushing on Twitter that I was now following Robin McKinley and how much I loved The Blue Sword trilogy only to have her reply that there were only two books, not three (yeah, I make a great first impression *facepalm*), I decided to reread these favorites from too-many-years-than-I'll-admit-ago. I still loved them, although I do like The Blue Sword better. It's good to revisit old favorites from time to time.






The Lost Hero
by Rick Riordan

This was a definite favorite of 2010. It builds on the Percy Jackson series, but better, with constant doses of mythology and the "coolness factor." This is a book for those who love a plot that keeps moving. My boys each read it in a day or two.

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

With nary a supernatural creature or magic battle, this book still haunts me. I read it based on the recommendation from the author's agent. She gushed about this book and I had to see for myself why. And now I'm gushing. The concept: two weeks after a girl commits suicide, the boy who had a crush on her receives a box of tapes from her in the mail. In the tapes she reveals the 13 people who drove her to kill herself and why. And the fact that the main character got the tapes means that he's one of the 13. Great concept, right? It didn't hurt that the book was also masterfully written.


The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson


Another excellent YA SciFi, I would recommend this book to anyone. It's through books like this one that I am learning how to really tell a story through a character, not inserting a character into a story I want to tell.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett



One of these books is not like the other,
One of these books just isn't the same...

Forgive the flashback to Sesame Street, but this book isn't like the rest on my list because: 1) it isn't YA/MG, and 2) it's women's fiction, which is not my normal reading fare. However, my sister-in-law handed me a copy and insisted I had to read it. So I did. And I really enjoyed it.

Blackbringer by Laini Taylor


I'd seen this book at the library and around the web, but hesitated to pick it up because of the bird on the cover. (Stupid and shallow, I know, but I didn't want to read about talking birds.) Then I picked it up for my oldest son, who reads like he breathes oxygen, and he inhaled it in one day and begged me to get the next in the series. I was curious, so I started reading it and was totally hooked. This book does a great job of introducing language that transports you to a different world. I'm not talking Tolkein with a whole new language, but the way the characters talk and the slang they use is perfect for the setting, and was different than anything I'd read before.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

This book is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It's also haunting. The inside look into a polygamous cult is tastefully done without whitewashing some of the horrible things that tend to happen in these cults.


Soulless by Gail Carriger

I think this cover takes the cake for the most uncomfortable character pose. (I mean, can a woman actually stand with her back like that? ) I read this book because somewhere I saw that the author talked about how she got the idea for the series. She said it was almost crazy that a tiny little island country (Great Britain) could become a superpower, and what if the reason it happened was because GB was using supernatural beings to help them stay in power. And voila, this concept was born. It is very, very fun.

I'm going to stop now because I could keep going. What were some of your favorite books of last year? I might as well add more to my leaning tower of Piza to-be-read stack.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Word of the Week #122 - autoschediastical

I picked this word just because it drips awesome. I dare you to use this in conversation today. Do it!

autoschediastical
- [aw-toh-SKEE-dee-az-tik-uhl] - adjective

Definition:
Something improvised or extemporized.

Usage:
I can't listen to "Bring It On" by Seal without being transported back to my college Modern Dance final, when I ran out of time to prepare and had to dance an autoschediastical final to that song, and just about died from stage fright while doing it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Capturing the Magic: 2 Questions You Must Answer About Your WIP


As some of you may know (since you commit all Jaime trivia to your long-term memory, right?) I took a kick-butt, 5 month writing course which has taken me over a year to complete. It's Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel" and it has been eye-opening in about a hundred ways.

In the course you take a completed book (like my 2009 NaNo train wreck) and go through a grueling, step-by-step revision process where you spend the first 8 lessons (in theory, one lesson a week) dissecting your book so you know exactly what doesn't work and why. This was excruciatingly difficult, because by the end you are ready to burn the thing because it obviously is complete trash. BUT, it is one of the best things I've ever done with my writing. And it's also not the subject of today's post. (Soon, my young padowans, soon.)

The very first thing this course had you do, before you rip your own work to shreds, is to answer some questions. The two I want to focus on are:

1) What was the idea that made you want to write your story in the first place?
What was that magical, shiny idea that struck you while you were driving/eating/showering/chasing kids/watching TV/etc. that made you stop and go, "Oooo! I want to write that!"

My answer: The idea of a boy in a family of villains who wasn't any good at being bad. A villain coming-of-age story.

2) What was the story you originally wanted to tell?
Not your plot outline, but what made you start and keep going on this particular story? How did you envision it before you hit the sagging middle and got sidetracked by that one walk on character that hijacked your story?

My answer: I wanted it to be funny, but have some resonating truth in it because all kids (and even adults) struggle to live up to expectations. I was going for a "Shrek," spoof-y feel with characters you really like. I wanted to take classic villains kids could identify and twist them in entertaining ways.

My answers may not seem that earth-shattering to you, but by writing this down, I was able to recapture the magic that made me start writing this book. Now as I get close to finishing an almost total rewrite, it is exciting to know exactly what I wanted and see how I'm finally getting it. (And yes, I'm a little misty-eyed even right now thinking about it.)

I will now do this at the beginning of every book, so that I make sure I stay faithful to the magic that first motivated me.

Something magical made you start working on a particular story--a nebulous combination of character, concept, and emotion that ached for the words to live and breathe and share with others. Remember it. Find it again. Write it down so you don't lose it.

Then go make it happen.