Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WriteOnCon + Vlogging + Dancing = AWESOME!

For those who don't know--and really, how could you not?--WriteOnCon registration starts tomorrow!!!!! 

Yes--that's right. Tomorrow, July 1, 2010, the epicness officially begins. Which of course meant we needed to make another vlog to commemorate the momentous occasion. And this time, we pulled out all the stops!

Sadly, I was assigned a much bigger role, so you'll have to endure my limited acting skills. But the other girls? 

O
M
G
!!!

I almost peed my pants when I saw it. So yeah...enjoy--and don't forget to go to writeoncon.com tomorrow to register for the amazing conference we're planning. It's going to be LEGENDARY!


(Oh, and if you want to understand why we're all so afraid of the dancing, I suggest you check this out--though it's not for the feint of heart. *giggles* *waves to Karsten to thank him for being SUCH a good sport*)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No Writer Should be an Island

The concept of the reclusive writer is a long held-stereotype--and personally, I think it's outdated. Obviously I can't speak for everyone, but I can honestly say that I could not do this journey alone.

No, really--I mean it.

When I write, I log into a special chat--just me and my CP(s) (depending on who's writing that night). We do regular check-ins to stay motivated. If I have any questions, or need a quick brainstorming session, they're there for instant feedback. And I'm there to do the same for them.

It's AMAZING what a difference this has made. I went from having to revise a scene 5 or 6 times, to nailing it in 2 to 3--tops. And I can't tell you how many times I've been stumped on naming something, or ways of wording things--and they've helped me find the answer in a matter of minutes. I really don't know how I made it through a whole draft without them.

And then there's the wealth of knowledge and wisdom at my disposal. Thanks to blogging and Twitter, I've been able to connect with writers at all different stages in their careers. So when I have a question about how the industry works,  or marketing, or writing, I have any number of people I can turn to for advice.

Even better? Sometimes people turn to me. I'm still a newbie--and more than a little wet behind the ears--but amazingly enough, sometimes I have the answers to their questions. And I'm happy to help them the same way so many others have helped me.

Not to mention that the writing community is one of the kindest, most supportive places I've ever found. Sure, its not perfect--and we can't all get along perfectly all the time--but the friends I've made are absolutely amazing. They'll call me at 1:30 in the morning--their time--because they read an email I sent and knew I needed a pep talk. They let me text them on their vacation because they knew I was going through a stressful process and they wanted me to keep them updated. It's actually a little overwhelming  when I think about how much I gain from people, and how little I'm sometimes able to give back.

So thank you. Thank you to my friends and CPs, to anyone who follows my blog or follows me on Twitter or lets me hassle them with emails and questions. Thank you all so much. I really would be lost without you, and I'm so very glad I don't have to navigate this sometimes scary and confusing industry alone.

How about you guys--do you let people help you on your journey, or are you one of those rare islands unto yourself?

Monday, June 28, 2010

What do you put in your jars?

In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott shares many brilliant pieces of advice for writers. But one of my favorites is when she talks about putting mice in mason jars.

She describes a coping mechanism she's developed to silence the voices that hinder her writing--the things that fill her with doubt and insecurity and guilt and keep her from getting any words on paper. She imagines them as a tiny, squeaking mouse, and pretends that she's locked them away in mason jars, so they can't hassle her anymore. By picturing it as something silly and harmless, she's able to ignore it and move past it. And I've decided that I'm going to give it a try.

Fear.
Self doubt.
Drama.
Stress.
Worry.
Insecurity.

You are nothing more than a silly little mouse, and I'm going to lock you away in a jar and ignore you. I have much more important things to do with my time than let you control me. I'm shoving you aside so I can do what I really need: write. 

No fear. No doubt. No drama. I'm putting everything else away and leaving just the the reason I do this: my love of telling stories. The rest is just a trapped, squeaking mouse. And you know what? I actually feel a little better, and I feel like doing something I haven't done in way too long: 

Writing for FUN! 

What about you guys--anything you want to lock away in a mason jar? 

*holds out empty jar in the comments section*

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Review: Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev

First of all--in the most bizarre/ironic twist of fate EVER--my Pirate-Duck Cupcake vlog landed me a spot on a Cupcake blog (and my favorite part is that they posted it to encourage their followers who've had cupcake fails). So Shannon Shame has officially spread across the internets! #awesome. (And if you missed it, you can see what I'm talking about here)

Okay, enough about Shannon Shame (seriously, I've had enough to last a lifetime). This is still Lisa Mantchev Week, and it wouldn't be complete without a review of her fabulous new book, Perchance to Dream. 


(Ooo...pretty!)

But before we get to that, you have to watch the awesome book trailer, which--I'll confess--I've watched at LEAST a dozen times. It gives me goosebumps, and I kinda want to buy that song.


(and yes, I just watched it again--<3!)

Now, I'll admit right up front, this is not really going to be much of a review. It's much more of a GUSH FEST, because OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!! 

Let me put it this way. I got my ARC (yes FTC, I did get a free ARC--but that has absolutely zero influence on my review) when I was under the heaviest deadline of my life. I barely had time to eat or sleep. I'd even cut television out completely, and had vowed not to pick up another book until I'd met my deadline. But when Perchance To Dream showed up with that beautiful cover I had to take a tiny peek. And from the very first page I knew I would MAKE time to read it. 

I don't want to give any spoilers about the plot, so I will just say it's the kind of book you can't put down. And Lisa's use of language? Well...it basically makes me want to delete my draft and give up now because I will never be that good of a writer. She has the most unique, eloquent voice, and tells her stories like nothing else I've ever read. Which is why, when I finished PTD, I immediately wanted to read it again, because there's absolutely nothing else that will satisfy the craving her books create (well, that and I really can't get enough of Ariel. *swoons*)

Obviously I can't speak for everyone--and taste varies from person to person. But I know that I personally adore both of Lisa's books, and highly recommend them to anyone who loves love triangles, the theatre, and knock your socks off writing.  Basically, they are teh awesome--and anyone who doesn't at least give them a chance is seriously missing out.

And--to quote Forrest Gump--that's all I have to say about that. :)

As with the rest of the posts this week, leaving a comment today gets you an extra entry in my epic Lisa Mantchev contest, and if you haven't entered yet you better get on that. You only have until tomorrow night to enter. 

Happy Friday Everyone--and thanks for making Lisa Mantchev Week a huge success. You guys rock!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Pirate-Duck Cupcake Debacle

Okay, I know I've given you guys heaping helpings of Shannon Shame before--but I can say without a doubt that this is DEFINITELY the worst it's ever been.

No, really. You'll be agreeing with me in a few minutes--trust me. I fail. EPICALLY.

And for those of you who missed yesterday's post--here's a quick recap so you won't be confused. Basically, Sara, my CP, is evil. I asked her to do a guest post for Lisa Mantchev week (since she's a huge fan, and I'm insanely busy trying to plan an online writer's conference.) And what does Sara do?

Fill your head with lies and dare me to vlog!!!! Decorating a cupcake!!!!! Specifically a cupcake version of one of these lovely little rubber duckies that Lisa is giving away in my contest:


And she KNOWS I can't decorate cakes to save my life. She was there for the Were-Platypus cupcake fiasco. She saw this disaster:



So she knew I was going to have to humiliate myself live on camera. And, well, I hope she's happy--because this is BY FAR the most embarrassing vlog I've ever made. Even my husband agrees. *Sigh*



Um...yeah. 

I have no words.

And as if all of this weren't humiliating enough, the lovely Lisa Mantchev--who is a big part of the reason I'm in this mess--had to send me a link to THIS (like I needed more proof of my epic failure):



So yeah...if you need me, I really AM fleeing to Mexico this time. 

Ole!

(Oh, and, as with the previous posts, anyone who leaves a comment today will get an extra entry in the Lisa Mantchev contest. If you haven't entered yet, what's wrong with you?) :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Don't believe her lies!!!

When will I ever learn?


See...I asked Sara (my usually awesome CP) to help me with a guest post during Lisa Mantchev week--since we're both huge Lisa fans. And look what I get in return!!!!!! (You'll see my rebuttal in blue, btw.) :)


The Day Shannon and I Almost Stopped Being Friends—and How Lisa Mantchev Saved Us!

Yeah. So, um, Shannon definitely should have known better than to ask me to guest post during her week about Lisa. Seriously.

Because now that I’m hijacking her blog with FULL permission, I get to tell you the truth about the day Shannon almost ruined our friendship. And I mean the whole truth, which is something you wouldn’t get otherwise. (Dude, she is about to fill your head with lies, guys. LIES!) Here’s how it went down:

I was just hanging around, minding my own, when my dear friend Karen Amanda Hooper* told me about Lisa’s auction on Do the Write Thing for Nashville. Clearly, I was excited to bid—because I LOVE LISA MANTCHEV. Not only do I absolutely adore her books, but I always hear about how cool SHE is. Shannon raved and raved about her, and Derek Molata frequently tells me how made of awesome she is.

So, um, hello? Part of the auction was a phone call with her. One step closer to fulfill my goal of moving up from stalker to friend? Yes, please—sign me up! (Okay, and plus I loved donating to such an amazing cause.)

I was mucho excited—and thinking she’d be happy for me--I told Shannon about the auction and how cised I was to go bid. I told her I was gonna bid $200, to win both the phone call AND the flash fiction Lisa said she’d write starring the auction winner and her fairies!  But was Shannon happy for me? NO. She snuck over and bid before I had a chance to. And guess what she bid?

$201. Are you kidding me? (um, that was because the auction specifically said if the bidding goes OVER $200 you win both prizes--clearly only one of us could read! :P )

So I kindly reminded Shannon about how much I love Lisa—I mean, I made this vlog for her to win an ARC of Perchance to Dream (which is amazing btw), obviously nobody loves Mantchev’s books more than I do! (uh, hello--I do!)



I went on to bid $210, thinking easy peasy—the auction was MINE. Yeah, no.  I got a call from Shannon, who pulled out all the stops. Would you believe she actually threatened me? (Now, does that really sound like me? *bats eyelashes innocently* *straightens halo*) Yep. She told me that if I don’t let her win the auction, she wouldn’t let me continue reading her work before anyone else. Talk about a low blow. When she went back and outbid me, I cried myself to sleep—I vowed that although I would still read her work (I mean, I’d be an idiot not to take advantage of getting such an awesome preview) that we would no longer be friends. Shannon didn’t even care when I told her!

You’re probably feeling pretty sorry for me right now—and I don’t blame you. I woke up the next morning with my eyes basically swollen shut from all the sobbing. (um...Karen and I know the real reason they were swollen, and it had more to do with amaretto than the auction!)  But I was strong and I knew I needed to check twitter and see what my real friends were up to. And guess what I found????!!!! A message from Lisa saying we could BOTH be winners!! As if the girl could get any cooler—she singlehandedly saved my friendship with Shannon. (gotta admit, Lisa was sincerely awesome for that!)

(and btw, for those of you who are newer followers to this blog, we are totally kidding. Well...about most of this) ;-)

Shannon, dear, I’m not done with you though. I can’t believe you didn’t learn after this little experiment that I can’t post on your blog without daring you to do something. So, in retaliation for the whole “trying to steal the auction from me” debacle, you must: VLOG yourself baking a cupcake created to look like one of the pirate rubber ducks that Lisa’s giving away!




See, it’s like I’m forcing you to be Team Nate—so I get Ariel alllllll to myself =)

Happy Lisa Mantchev Week!

♥ Sara

*If anyone has the right to really be mad? It’s Karen—Shannon and I BOTH totally stole the auction from her… Sorry K! xoxo

You have GOT to be kidding me. No she is NOT daring me to vlog--on my own blog--again! 
*scrolls up to reread* 
Um...apparently she is. 
Crap!
And...I let her do it.

So...yeah. I guess I have to vlog again. And display my cupcake decorating skills which--not gonna lie--leave MUCH to be desired. But it's Lisa Mantchev week and I will not back down on my own blog. So I will vlog. Again. And it will be posted either tomorrow or Friday--depending on how huge of a disaster it is. *sigh*

In the meantime, remember, all week I'm giving away extra entries in the contest to anyone who comments on the post. So feel free to leave a comment. And be sure to tell me how *I* was obviously the one in the right. I mean, clearly. ;)

**Update** If you want some writing related advice (instead of just this silliness) I have a new guest post up on the Query Tracker Blog, where I talk about pitching to agents. Feel free to check it out! :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Interview with YA Author Lisa Mantchev

She's here! She's here! Lisa Mantchev is here with us today!


*Squeals*

Eek--I'm blowing it. I promised myself I'd be cool this time!  

*switches to serious interview mode*

*looks at the lovely Lisa and giggles uncontrollably*

*clears throat*

Okay, I can do this! *straightens posture* 


S: Thank you so much for visiting us today Lisa--I've been looking forward to this day for months! And since I know you're very busy and important, I'm going to jump right into the questions. Had you always planned for Eyes Like Stars to be a Trilogy? What were the challenges of plotting the story to spread across three books? How did you decide where Perchance to Dream ends? And do you feel guilty at all for making your fans wait a whole year from now to finally read the conclusion? :)

L: I ~never~ planned on writing a trilogy... In fact, my beta-reader teased me without mercy about writing an epic fantasy that spanned countless volumes, and I repeatedly told him shut the heck up. In the beginning, I was just trying to make it through writing a single book, and then realized I had at least four more major story arcs to contend with (the identity of Bertie's father/trying to rescue Nate, reuniting the family/settling the love triangle.) So Perchance To Dream ended itself with the resolutions to the questions I'd asked myself: who is Bertie's father, and does she rescue Nate?

Other than having some idea in my head as to where the story needs to go, I don't really plot ahead. Instead, I try to pull things in from the previous book(s) so that bits I've already used suddenly have more meaning and resonance.

Right now, I am up to my eyeballs in revisions on So Silver Bright (Book 3) and while I am thrilled that everyone is so enthused to read it, part of my brain is panting and wheezing, just trying to get it done!


S: Aw, I know what it's like to be up to my eyeballs in revisions, so I feel your pain. But the selfish fangirl in me says get crackin--we need So Silver Bright stat!!! :) Although it won't be good for my waistline. Your books ALWAYS make me want to snack as I read them--particularly on buttered toast and cake. Do you have the same problem as you write them? What is your snack of choice, and why?

L: I am terrible about nibbling... I like little things (trail mix, crackers, dry cereal, candy) that I can munch as I go. The bad part is realizing I just nommed my way through an entire bag of whatever and all I have to show for it is crumbs and a sore jaw!

S: I'm sure there's also an amazing story to show for it! One of my favorite things about your books is how distinct each character is. I can always tell who's talking before I read the dialogue tag. Are some characters easier to write than others? Who are the easiest to write? Who are the hardest?

L: The fairies are, hands down, the easiest to write. Their dialogue almost writes itself, because it's the snarky, wise-mouth stuff I always think and try not to say. Ariel's voice is the hardest, because I don't always know what that boy is thinking or what he might do next.

S: Ah...Ariel. *sighs* *drools* I'll admit--I'm TOTALLY Team Ariel. *pauses to let Team Nate whine and roll their eyes* I mean, Nate is great (hey--that rhymes!) but...he's no sexy Air Elemental. Now, I WANT to ask you what team you're on--but I know you'll do the noble thing and say something like "both," so I won't bother. I am curious about the challenges of writing such a compelling love triangle though. Do you worry about how to keep fans on both teams satisfied, when clearly only one can win?


L: It _is_ hard... trying to give the guys equal time on stage, so to speak, trying to make them equally compelling in different ways. I think I've noticed that readers are more likely to align themselves with one of the boys less because of something I've done and more because they are drawn to a particular archetype (which, honestly, takes a bit of the pressure off!)

S: Hm...so I guess that means I'm drawn to hot guys with long silver hair who can control the wind. I wonder what my husband would say about that...

L: .........

S: *stares into space to daydream about Ariel*

L: *shifts in seat* *clears throat* 

S: *blinks* Right. Sorry. *blushes* Back to the interview! You're one of my favorite people on Twitter--not just because you're hilarious--but because you're so great about responding to @replies, even from slightly strange blonde girls who threaten you with creamy onion face (LONG story! *coughs*) Which makes me wonder...how do you balance social networking with a busy writing schedule, self promotion, your family, plans for world domination, etc.?

L: Honestly, I don't feel like I balance it very well at all, some days. Right now I am having to prioritize the To Do List heavily in favor of revisions and an Incoming Baby/Family Life, which automatically means less time on Facebook and Twitter and my blog. I try to duck in various sites for a few minutes each day, just to say hi to everyone, but right about now I could use a clone or four to get everything done.

S: Ooo, if you figure out where to get one please let me know. I could use a clone or four these days too. And since a lot of my followers are currently unpublished writers--including myself--do you have any secrets you'd like to share to help us on our path? Is there anything you've learned along your journey that you wish you'd known at the beginning? Are there any mistakes new writers make that we should try to avoid?

L: I started off in short stories, so I was attending conventions and submitting to editors a long time before I ever approached an agent or tried to write a query. I think the important bit is to always think of yourself as a writer (we were ALL unpublished writers at some point in our careers!) and to treat the writing as a job, putting in the hours and behaving professionally with others.


S. Aw, that is such great advice. This is the publishing business after all. It's always important to be professional, and not do things like fawn and slobber all over your favorite authors when they visit your blog.

L: ...........


S: *clears throat* Rumor has it So Silver Bright is almost put to rest. I'll be good and refrain from asking for info (*grumbles about being impatient*) but I am curious if you have any plans for different projects. Is it strange thinking about new characters and worlds beyond the Theater Illuminata? 

L: I actually have a not-quite-steampunk (I jokingly refer to it as "Retrofuturist NeoVictorian") novel that needs another set of revisions. I started writing it between the first drafts of the second and third theater books while hanging out waiting for contracts and revisions letters. I was very aware of not wanting to repeat myself, especially with the characterizations of my female protagonist, but I think I have a thing for spunky girls.

S. Aw, I don't think you can ever go wrong with spunky girls. Besides, what Retrofuturist NeoVictorian novel would be complete without one? *grins* Okay, I've taken up enough of your day, but I would be completely remiss if I didn't ask about your other exciting news this year. How is your pregnancy going? Any cravings that would put your fairies to shame? Any names or updates you feel comfortable sharing? And where should we look for the official announcement once the happy day arrives? (*desperately hopes you'll post a baby picture*)


L: *glows and beams like all expectant mothers do* We're due in mid-August, and according to the ultrasound tech, having a boy. No name picked for certain yet... we want to see his little face before saddling him with a name (though, left to my own devices, I'd pick something old-timey English, like Sebastian. *G*)

The weirdest food thing I've done is eat almost an entire head of celery one stalk at a time, dipped in a jar of organic peanut butter. NOT something the fairies would touch with a ten-foot pole, I think!

The nesting has turned the house upside-down, mostly because it required swapping several rooms of furniture and cleaning out every closet. The nursery, which we'll finally get to start assembling decorating soon, will have a pirate theme.

When he arrives, the official announcement will certainly be splattered all over my blog and the other usual announcements... I am really bad at keeping good news to myself.



You better not keep it to yourself--some of us can't wait to eat a cupcake in his honor! (And no, I'm not just looking for an excuse to eat a cupcake. Well...not completely) 

Thank you SO much for stopping by Lisa--it's been a blast having you here (if you can't tell by my overall giddiness). And to everyone reading this, I can't emphasize enough how much I love these books. I also highly recommend you cyberstalk Lisa at any and all of the following places:



Be sure to stop by tomorrow as Lisa Mantchev week continues, and remember, I'll be giving away extra entries in this week's contest to everyone who leaves a comment on the posts. Which means if you want one more chance to win those amazing Lisa Mantchev prizes, leave me a comment today. And make sure you let me know what name you entered the contest under, so I can find your entries in the spreadsheet.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you back tomorrow! :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Whew--what a week!!!

It has been a CRAZY week you guys. 

Crazy busy. Crazy awesome. Just totally and completely CRAZY!


But it's all good. WriteOnCon is going to be amazing, and reading all of your comments and seeing how excited everyone is makes the workload--and the neverending deluge of emails--so completely worth it. So thanks guys, you rock!

I actually don't have much else to say--but I'm being interviewed over at the blog of the fabulous Gina Leigh Maxwell, and I am begging you guys to go check it out.

Not only am I totally afraid that I'll be her least popular interview ever--but, see, she's only 12 followers away from hitting 100 followers, and I was like, dude, my followers are awesome. They'll totally hop over there and help you out. Especially since her blog rocks! So if you love me at all--or you feel bad for the crazy, chained-to-my-laptop-responding-to-emails week I've had--you'll head over there and see if we can get her to triple digits. Pretty please? *bats eyelashes*

Oh, but before you go--since I've got an exciting weekend of hard work ahead of me--I'd love to know: what are YOU doing this weekend? Tell me about all the fun, cool, exciting things you'll be doing, so I can live vicariously through you.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What are your characters hiding?

I'm still drowning in emails (I'm getting to them, I promise) but I figured if I did another email related post it might send you all rushing for the unfollow button--and I wouldn't blame you! So I thought I'd try a proper topic instead: writing. (Hey, I think that *might* even be what this blog is supposed to be about!)

For those of you who are new followers around here--*waves at the smiling faces in my sidebar*--you should know, I'm a very character driven writer. Basically I let them run the show, and I'm just along for the ride. And the only way I can do that is if I know my characters really well.

I have a lot of character development exercises I do to really dig deep into their personalities, but one of the most helpful--for me at least--is to ask myself what they're hiding from me. And I don't mean the, "I once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" kind of secrets. (Those are important too, of course. But lets face it, most of our characters only have one or two BIG secrets.) I mean the little secrets. The things that make them real.

The wife who lies to her husband about her lipwaxing appointments because she doesn't want him to know she has a mustache that could rival Tom Selleck (okay, that was the ONLY celebrity with a mustache that I could think of).

The teenage girl who never goes to the beach with her friends because she's self conscious of the way her outie belly button looks, and she doesn't want to be the only girl not in a bikini.

The decent looking guy who never smiles with his teeth showing so people won't see how crooked his teeth are.

The tiny flaws everyone has and tries to hide, to pretend we're all just a little more perfect than we really are.

They may seem insignificant, but they can make a big difference. For instance--thanks to my poor sleeping habits--I usually have wicked dark circles under my eyes, which means I don't dare leave the house without concealer. It may seem like a pointless detail, but put me in a situation where I'm around people and I don't have my concealer and you bet it's gonna change my behavior.

And it's the same thing with your characters. Knowing all the tiny things they hide adds depth to the character--even if the detail never comes out. If you were writing about the teenage girl mentioned above, you might never tell the reader she's self conscious about her belly button. But it will still shape your story. You won't have any scenes at the beach. She'll never be tempted to get a belly button ring, or to bare her midriff--even when there's a cute boy she wants to impress. Your readers won't need to know why. But you know.

So how about you guys? Do you know what your characters are hiding? Have you made them spill all their secrets?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Email on the Brain

I've had a bit of a learning curve (all right, fine, I've totally screwed things up a few times!) as I've waded through the elventy bazillion emails flooding my various email addresses this week. (And yes, you read that right--email ADDRESSES--as in plural. I'm now manning three separate email accounts, all equally inundated for different reasons.) And I've learned a few things along the way that I thought I'd share:

- When copying and pasting form replies, make sure you change the name before you hit send.

- Equally helpful--make sure you're using the right response in the first place.

- Sadly I have had to send a couple Emails of Shame, apologizing.

- It was not fun.

- Even though the people were nice about it.

- The faster I type, the more I suck at it.

- I also tend to say, "Thanks you very much."

- And misspell my own name. #awesome

- My fellow WriteOnCon planners could set a record for most emails sent in a single day.

- Most of our chains have 50 or more replies.

- At least a third of those are from me.

- I keep waiting for google to cancel our accounts. :)

- I'm jealous of our WriteOnCon Twitter account.

- It has the coolest. followers. ever.

- I'm thinking about hijacking it when the conference is over--Mwahahaha.

- Getting fanmail is surreal.

- It's also impossible to respond to.

- I keep wanting to ask them if they're sure they emailed the right place.

- But I realize how uncool that would be.

- So I'm stalling.

- I'm also catching up.

- I might reach an inbox of zero tomorrow.

- Which makes me feel like a superhero.

- A really lame one--but still.

- I may have also listened to Email My Heart at some point.

- All right, fine. I DID!

- Yes, that's a real song.

- By Britney Spears

- And yes, it's on my iPod.

- It's also the worst. song. ever. written.


- You're welcome. :)

What about you guys--anyone learn anything new this week? (It doesn't even have to be email related)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yikes!

*crawls out from under a mountain of emails*

Hey guys! Sorry, today's post is probably going to leave a little something to be desired, because, well--I don't know if you missed the EPIC announcement yesterday--but I'm helping plan this online writer's conference, and I volunteered to be the designated email checker/responder, and, um, holy never-ending string of emails Batman! (Wow, that was a REALLY long sentence--and I'm pretty sure it wasn't grammatically correct.)

I'm honestly a little amazed my poor computer didn't explode.

I now have deep, DEEP respect for agents open to queries--I don't know what I would do if my inbox was like this every day. (Well...actually, I do. My laptop would be heaved off a cliff and I'd run screaming into the forest to live a life free of technology.)

But it's okay. You guys are worth it. And WriteOnCon is going to be AMAZING, so I don't mind one bit. Plus, I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I'm sorry if I didn't reply to your blog comment yesterday, or read your blog posts--and if you emailed any of my email addresses (or sent one to the WriteOnCon address) and haven't heard back, bear with me. I'm getting to it. 


And thanks for suffering through this pitiful post. If you would like to read a proper post, my "How I Got My Agent" story went up yesterday on the Guide To Literary Agents Blog. I might just love you forever if you hop over there and take a look--especially if you leave a comment (I'm so worried my post will be a 'dud.') 

I'm also giving away two $25.00 Amazon.com gift cards to help promote WriteOnCon--check out all the contest details here (if you missed the post yesterday).

Okay, I think that's it for now. I promise, things will be back to normal tomorrow. But for now...*rolls up sleeves*...I have some inboxes to tackle!

*plows back into the mountain of emails*

Monday, June 14, 2010

Secret Project Revealed!!!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably heard some rumors about a secret project I’ve been working on with a few other bloggers (okay, maybe we’ve been teasing you a little—it was too tempting to resist.) :)

Well, today we are finally ready to reveal the secret—and since it’s an EPIC project we decided it needed an EPIC announcement. Which, of course, meant vlogging. *sigh* (At least this time I only have to be in about 15 seconds of the whole thing. But…I’m in pigtails! Um…yeah.)

Anyway, without further ado: our EPIC group vlog!







Okay, just to recap (or for those of you who couldn’t watch the vlog at work) here’s the deets:

The six of us: me, Jamie HarringtonElana JohnsonCasey McCormick, and Lisa and Laura Roecker--along with the amazing Jennifer Stayrook (a goddess of all things web design)--are organizing a free online writer’s conference for kidlit writers!!! 

We’d all heard our friends tell us how much they wish they could go to a writer’s conference, and since we’re all about paying it forward, we decided to build our own.  And so, WriteOnCon was born—rated MC-18 (main characters 18 and under).




When: August 10-12, 2010



Here’s a taste of some of the amazing agents/authors/editors who’ve already signed on: Catherine Drayton, Stephen Malk, Michelle Andelman, Suzie Townsend, PJ Hoover, Mark McVeigh, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, Kathleen Ortiz, Lindsay Eland, Dan Ehrenhaft, Mandy Hubbard, Lindsey Leavitt, Josh Berk, Anica Rissi, Jodi Meadows, Daisy Whitney—and there will be more to come.


Now, I could go on and on and ON about how incredible it’s going to be, but I really need to get back to planning. So instead I’ll just say do yourself a favor and check out the conference website. Better yet—bookmark it, so you won’t miss any of the updates we’ll be posting as the conference draws closer. 

But before you go—to help spread the word—I’ve put together another contest, and the rules are going to be a little different this time so make sure you check them carefully. (Oh, and be sure you check the blogs of my fellow WriteOnCon organizers. They're hosting giveaways too!)

I’m giving away two—yes TWO (because I always feel bad when there’s only one winner) $25.00 Amazon.com gift cards. Of course you can use them for anything, but I hope you’ll use them to buy books by some of the amazing authors already signed on for the conference. 

How to enter:
Follow my blog and fill out the contest form below by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, June 19th

For Extra Entries:
+2 for commenting on this post
+2 for tweeting about this contest
+2 for posting or linking this contest on your blog/website/facebook
+5 for posting the conference Countdown Widget on your blog or website
+1 for each of my co-organizer’s blogs that you follow

All entries will be made into a spreadsheet and I will let randomizer.org choose the winners. The gift cards will be emailed to you once I’ve confirmed that I have the correct email address. International entries are welcome.

You can

Or fill out the form below. And don’t forget to mark your calendars for August 10-12. WriteOnCon is going to be unbelievable! We hope to see you there!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Last Call

In case you missed it earlier in the week, today is the last day to enter my signed The Body Finder and Swag giveaway--and you don't want to miss your chance. I mean, LOOK at all this cool stuff you can win from my awesomesauce agent-in-law, Kimberly Derting:


Full contest details, and the contest entry form can be found here. The winner will be posted tomorrow, once I'm done tabulating all the entries. Good luck to everyone who entered, and have a great weekend!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Winging it

In the endless debate over plotters vs. pantsers, I definitely fall into the pantsers category--which always surprises anyone who knows me, because...well...I'm a little OCD. (Okay, fine, I'm a LOT OCD.) So people are always trying to figure out how someone as organized as me could fly by the seat of my pants when I write.

But, see, that's the thing. I'm TOO obsessively organized to be a plotter. I've tried it. I spent so much time over-thinking and over-organinizing my outline that I sucked all the life out of my story--big time.  I had to change my approach.

Now I work with what I call a 'loose outline,' meaning I know roughly where the story ends, a couple of major plot points along the way, and that's it. The rest comes to me as I go. And from the very first day I tried this method it was like a revelation. In fact, everyone's favorite character in my MS--the one that has turned more than one CP/Beta reader into a Cougar (they're already planning to make T-Shirts)--exists solely because I threw my outline out the window.

No, really. I was about 1/3 of the way through my rough draft. I had my plot completely outlined. My characters set. And...it wasn't working. So I decided to just write--just have my character go from Point A to Point B, no skipping to the next scene in the outline. Which meant my main character wandered down the wrong hallway and got completely lost. She needed to ask someone for help, so I decided to create a new character and BAM--a fan favorite was born.

I'd never had a character appear so complete. He had a voice. He had a backstory. He had...plans. My hand actually hurt as I tried to write it all down before I could forget it. He has not only wormed his way through the first book--he'll be in the whole series. And he never would have existed if I hadn't decided to fly by the seat of my pants.

So yeah, I'm definitely a pantser. Is it a more inefficient way to write? Probably. (I always cut more than I keep). Does it drive the OCD part of me crazy? Absolutely. But it works.

What about you guys? Plotters? Pantsers? Somewhere in between? What works best for you, and why?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Are You A Pusher?

Okay, I know Mean Girls isn't the kind of movie where you expect to find wisdom--but go with me for a second. If you've seen the movie, you know that Tina Fey's character--the hilarious Ms Norbury--gives the following speech to Cady about failing her math quizzes:

I'm a pusher.
I push people.
I pushed my husband into law school--that was a bust.
I pushed myself into working three jobs.
And now I'm gonna push you, because I know you're smarter than this


And no, she didn't mean a drug pusher. :) 
(That joke makes a WHOLE lot more sense if you've seen the movie)

Anyway I was thinking about what she says there and I realized something: I'm a pusher too.

I pushed myself into graduating High School at 16, and then into starting college the same year. I pushed myself to get into USC--even though the odds were horrible--and pushed even harder to survive their intense film program. Now, I push myself to be the best writer, blogger, and wife I can be. And I don't think that's a bad thing.

Sure, I probably need to learn how to give myself a break every now and then (wow, I can actually HEAR my CPs shouting their agreement from here). But at the same time, that drive is what keeps me going when things get hard. And let's face it--getting published is not an easy dream to follow. It's a long, slow, often frustrating path littered with criticism and rejection and heartbreak. But I'm pressing forward. Because I'm a pusher.

So what about you guys. Any other pushers out there? How do you keep yourself going when you feel like giving up? (And feel free to fill the comments section with Mean Girls quotes. I <3 them!)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Let the Nightmares Begin

Those of you who've been following this blog for a while probably know I have an...interesting writing process. Basically, my characters run the show. And I mean it.

They.
Run.
The.
Show.

It's not my story. It's their story. Sure, I still manipulate certain things and throw them into situations they don't want to be in (I can be an evil puppetmaster when I want to be--mwahahahahaha). But everything that happens after that is up to them. I let them into my head, let them talk to me, listen to their music, think like them, sometimes even talk to them (but only if I'm alone--wouldn't want my husband to worry). ;)

Which makes writing fun, and not so fun all at the same time. Because, see, I have a lot of very different characters. Some I love so much I wish they were real. Some crack me up. Some break my heart. And...unfortunately...one absolutely scares the crud out of me. My villain.

Scariest freaking character on the planet, and I avoid working on anything villain related as long as possible. But the time has come.

*shudders*

I'm to the point where I have to let my villain into my head and let them run the show so I can figure out what mayhem they want to cause. I have to switch to my "Villain Playlist" on my ipod (all screaming rock music with dark lyrics). I have to try to think like them and feel what they feel.

It's NOT going to be pleasant. There WILL be nightmares.

*shivers*

But it's all part of the process so I just have to suck it up and do it. I survived it before, I can survive it again. And at least no one can say I don't sacrifice for my art. :)

How about you guys? Any of your characters scare the snot out of you? Any suggestions for how to deal? Or am I the only crazy one out there?


**Update**
Apparently my "Pre-Famous Author Interview" is live. *blushes* (The name of the interview puts a lot of pressure on me to actually become famous now. *sighs*) If you want to learn some embarrassing/weird things about me hop on over to Anne Riley's blog to check it out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Harnessing My Inner Child

One of my favorite things about writing middle grade is that my characters are kids. So as I tell my stories, I get to channel that carefree innocence children are blessed with, and live in a world where everything seems magical and anything is possible.

I miss those feelings as a grown-up. I miss loving a dress--not because it makes me feel thin or is a designer brand--but because the skirt flares when I twirl. And I miss being unselfconscious enough to twirl my dress in public. I miss being fascinated by the simple things in life, like rainbows and ladybugs and bubbles. I miss running just because it feels right, not because I'm worried about how much cardio I need to do. And I miss feeling like the world is a happy, safe place, and that anything that's wrong can be fixed by my parents.

That's not to say that kids don't still have problems--especially now-a-days. But even still, when you really watch kids (and I do. I always keep my eye on the kids I see, trying to learn their mannerisms and figure out what they're thinking) there's just this...youthful enthusiasm, this, zeal for life you don't see very often with adults. And when I write, I get to channel that enthusiasm on the page.

It isn't easy. I have a hard time turning off the cynical parts of my brain that have developed as I grew up. But fortunately I've found some ways to help me escape. I daydream. I listen to music. I surround myself with kid's stuff (my desk in the loft looks like Disneyland threw up all over it =D). And I feed off memories. I'm fortunate that my own memories are fairly vivid, especially from about age seven on. But I love hearing from others too.

So what about you guys. What do you remember about being a kid? Anything you miss? Anything you want to share? I'd love to read all about it in the comments.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ten Things That Make Me Happy

And so the tagging epidemic strikes me again. This time I've been tagged not once, but twice. The first by Mireyah Wolfe and the second by Crystal Posey, so I guess I have to list ten things that make me happy. Here goes.

(Oh--and these are in random order BTW)

#10) Music. I can't write without it. Can't go a day without it. Some songs can't help but put a smile on my face--even if I know they're terrible, like this one. Some songs can't help but move me, like this one. And some songs can't help but inspire me, like this one. 

#9) My cats. I know I have too many of them--and some of them shed all over my house. But they can crack me up--especially when they get frisky. And there's pretty much nothing that will get me out of a bad mood faster than rubbing a soft kitty tummy.

#8) Drawing. I so rarely have time to draw anymore, so I appreciate it even more when I have time to do it. And I'm always thrilled when my hands are still able to do it.
Right now I steal tiny blocks of time to work on concept art for my book (the one above is not one of them. This is just a house I liked) and it's so cool to see some of the things in my head on paper. Someday I'll share them with you, I promise.

#7) Cupcakes. Any flavor. Any time. They're just the happiest dessert.

#6) Writing. Yes, it's also a LOT of work. But when the words are flowing and I get in that zone when it's almost like the story is writing itself? Well, there's not a whole lot else that can compare to that.

#5) I know this is gonna sound lame, but...eyeshadow. I <3 it so much. And, not only is it fabulous in any color, but it's how I found one of my CPs. Sara and I bonded on Twitter over our mutual affection for Sephora. :)

#4) Books. All kinds. All styles. I love them. I love the feel of them. The sound of them. And of course, the stories inside. Sadly, I tend to buy too many of them, so my TBR pile is out of control. But I'll get to them. And I'll fall in love with all of the stories they contain.

#3) My family. They've been there for me through so many ups and downs. They've supported me as I've chased so many impossible dreams. I have the most awesome parents ever.

#2) Meeting other writers--at all different stages in their careers. I love meeting my favorite authors at signings. (I'm going to an AWESOME signing today. So excited!) But I also love getting to know you guys, either through your posts, or through your comments on my posts. And I especially love reading your comments. It makes me feel so special that you guys take the time to leave a comment to tell me what you think of what I've posted.

#1) My husband. Even though he makes me vlog, he really is the most caring, supportive, wonderful person ever, and not a day goes by that I'm not SUPER thankful he didn't give up on me (cause I...um...turned him down the first time he asked me out. And the second time. And the...well...let's just say it took me about six months to say yes. I am very lucky that he was persistent). I definitely would've given up on my draft without him.

*phew*

That took a lot longer than I thought it would

Now, I think I'm supposed to tag other people at this point, to keep the tagging war going. But I've been so behind on my blog hopping lately that I have no idea who has and hasn't been tagged. So I'm going to play it safe and say this: If you haven't been tagged (and want to post about ten things that make you happy) consider yourself officially tagged by me. :)

Hope everyone's having a great weekend!

Friday, June 4, 2010

More Ways to Support Authors

Okay, so, yesterday we talked about leaving reviews--specificially GOOD reviews--on places like Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads, and how they're surprisingly important to published Authors. (If you missed it you can read the post here)

But there are two other ways I've found to support authors that I hadn't thought of before, so I thought I'd pass them on.

The first I found thanks to a tweet from Cassandra Clare, linking me to this awesome initiative at Sharon Loves Books and Cats to get people to report any ARCs for unreleased books they see for sale on ebay.  I'd never thought to check ebay for an ARC, given the fact that they say "Not for sale" all over them in very clear lettering. But apparently it happens. A lot. Sometimes resulting in books selling for an exorbitant amount. And of course the author doesn't get to see a penny of that.

But it's not just about the money. ARC's say "Uncorrected Proof" on them for a reason. They have errors. Typos. I've seen ones with extra pages or missing pages. It's really not the way the author wants their work presented to the general public--and I think all of us as writers can understand why. So check out Sharon's post and see how you can help report this abuse if you see it.

And the other way to support writers seems obvious enough, yet its something I only recently started doing: you can go to their signings!

I've heard so many writers tell stories of signings where no one shows. It happens. But it seems wrong to let it happen at my local bookstores--not when I could so easily show my support, and meet some cool writers as a bonus. So I try to go to as many signings as I can, and I don't just mean the signings of my favorite authors--though they need people too. I even go to signings where I don't know the writer. And you know what? I've found some awesome books that way.

Now, I know, books cost money. And usually when you go to a signing you kinda feel like you should buy a book. So if buying a book isn't really in your budget, you might shy away from attending the signing. But you know what? I see people go to signings all the time without buying books.

It depends on the venue, of course. But most writers do some sort of presentation--often times a reading and some Q&A--and then follow it with a signing.  I've seen plenty of people come for the reading only, and not buy a book to have it signed. No one minds. And I guarantee you, while I'm sure the writer would of course love to sell another book--they're also pretty darn grateful that they got to speak to a bigger crowd. Wouldn't you be?

Not to mention, a lot of them have swag. I've seen people wait in line at a signing to get some signed bookmarks (usually best to be polite and wait at the end of the line for this). It's up to the author of course, but if you tell them you'd love to post about their books and their author presentation on your blog and give the signed bookmark away to your followers, they usually hand you a stack of those signed bookmarks and thank you for the thought. After all, you're doing them a favor: helping them spread the word about their books, which is why they're on tour in the first place.  :)

So these are two more ways that I'm personally applying to support other authors. Can you think of any more? Did I miss something crucial? If I did, I'd love to learn more about it in the comments.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Do you do all you can to support authors?

It's funny--if you'd asked me that question six months ago I would've definitely said, 'yes.' I mean, I buy a TON of books (so many that storing them is becoming a bit of an issue.) I read author's blogs. I follow them on Twitter. I do everything I can to promote the books I love on my blog. So I thought I was doing pretty much everything I could to help my fellow writers out.

But--as with so many things in my life--I've since learned that I could be doing SO much more.

For example: reviews--specifically reviews on places like BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon, and Goodreads.

I never read those reviews when I buy a book, so it never occurred to me to leave them for the books I love. But you know what? Those reviews matter to authors!

Apparently they help their sales rank. They also help link their books to other books (the 'you might also like' feature so many websites have). And they help counteract any negative reviews that might have been posted. In fact, they matter so much I've had a couple different authors email me to thank me for leaving the few reviews I've posted. Which only made me feel HORRIBLE for not doing that more.

So my new goal is to go back and leave reviews for all the books I love--especially the 'smaller' ones (pretty sure the Percy Jackson series doesn't need my help) :) It's a huge task, and I know I'll probably never get caught up--just like I'm not sure I'll ever completely tackle my TBR pile. But I am definitely going to try. It's the least I can do to thank the author for writing the amazing story I fell in love with.

And there's a couple other ways I could be better supporting authors, but I'll talk about those tomorrow. For today, I'm curious:

How many of you post reviews for the books you love on Amazon, Goodreads, or BarnesandNoble.com? Why or why not?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yep--I vlogged again. Ugh!

You all seemed very excited about this in the comments yesterday (you guys really love the Shannon Shame, don't you?). I REALLY don't want to post this--but has to be done. So, as promised, here is the horrible and humiliating vlog my husband forced me to make in order to avoid even greater humiliation.

All I can say is...I'm sorry. (And yes, I realize I'm a nerd.) :)

Feel free to laugh at me. I totally deserve it.

(Oh, and my husband totally picked the opening song--so it's HIS fault if Miley Cyrus is stuck in your head all day!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Husband is Evil (aka: Why I have to vlog!)

So, as most of you guys know, I've been a little stressed these last few months. Between finishing my ending re-write, prepping for the writer's conference I attended, querying, signing with an agent, and Laura's revisions, well, I've not been myself. Okay, I've been a bit of a nightmare. Whatever. It happens. :)

Enter my wonderful husband, who stood by my side, helped me with whatever I needed, and--most importantly--didn't leave me or kill me for being a giant walking ball of stress. He's helped around the house. Lived on a steady diet of take-in or Ramen. And mastered the art of knowing when it's time to disappear because I'm NOT in the mood for distractions. Basically, he's been a Prince.

Until this weekend.

See, a couple months ago I started to feel bad for everything I was putting him through, so I made him a deal. I would do the one thing I've been avoiding for years. I would go with him to Comic Con.

All
Four
Days

I don't think I can begin to describe my dread as I booked our four day passes (plus preview night--ugh!)  I mean...that's four-and-a-half days in a crowded, stuffy, auditorium with comic book fans--SO not my scene. Not to mention the havoc it wreaks on your feet and back (we did one day last year and I thought I was going to DIE by the end of it). But it was my sacrifice for him. He deserved it.

Then I started looking into it and well...Comic Con is actually going to be pretty stinking awesome. I mean, not only are TONS of celebrities going to be there, but tons of writers too--including a writer I've been hoping to meet for years. (I'm not going to say his name for fear it might jinx things) I'll be able to get tons of signed books, meet tons of cool people, pick up swag. Sure, it'll still be crowded and smelly and I'll still be exhausted. But I'm actually looking forward to it.

And I made the mistake of mentioning this to my wonderful husband, and he did something I wasn't expecting. He turned on me!

He wanted to know how can this be my big sacrifice for him if I'm looking forward to it? And, well, I didn't have an answer.

So he proposed an alternate punishment. Comic Con is pretty famous for the fact that lots of people go there in costume. He decided I should be one of them. And he decided these were my options:
(hehe--thanks to the magic of Photoshop)

Lara Croft

She-Ra

Wonderwoman

And of course--Princess Leia in slave gear.

Le Sigh.

Not only would I need to do about 10,000 lunges and sit-ups a day between now and July to be able to pull something like that off (and probably not eat either), but um, there's NO WAY I'm meeting fellow writers dressed in ANY of those outfits. Simply out of the question.

So he proposed another option--equally horrifying. I could vlog again. He would pick the topic. And he would make sure it was humiliating. 

You all know how much I HATE vlogging. But...

*scrolls up to examine the horror show of costumes*

Um...yeah, it's DEFINITELY the lesser of two evils. So get ready for it. I'm going to try to record it today and, barring any technical difficulties (or 'life happens' situations), it should be available for your viewing pleasure tomorrow. And he's already told me the topic. It's...bad.

So yeah. He's an evil genius. But he's also been pretty stinking wonderful so I guess I deserve it. And you guys never seem to mind a serving of Shannon Shame, so get ready for it. It's definitely coming your way. *Sigh*