Thursday, December 30, 2010

But I hope 2011 is even better. :)

I read 106 books. I'll spare you the list, but you can see it on my Reads page. Not nearly enough of those were read in the tub, and too many were read in airports waiting for business trips, but hey.

One of those - Alexandra Bullen's Wish - was even read on my new Christmas kindle. :)

I've been thinking about what books I remember best, that I read earlier this year.
  • Best romance: It's hard to pick one, but I will. Emily Horner's A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend. Emily Horner's debut novel covers heavy topics like bullying, homosexuality, death and grief, but without pulling any punches she manages to weave in some real humor and a beautiful story of friendship and romance. 
  • Runner up:  Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols. This is one of the first books I read this year and not only do I remember it well, but I'm dying to re-read it. Snarky, strong MC, hot bad-boy cop love interest, handcuffs. It's everything I need in a romance.
  • Best fairy tale: Nancy Werlin's Impossible. Beautifully written take-off on the song Scarborough Fair in a contemporary setting, with a strong MC, involved parents (such a rarity to see in YA!) and a compelling love story. It really stood out as unique this year.
  • Best male love interest: Jace in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. I love these books, but I'll probably re-read just for Jace. How does Cassandra Clare make someone on the written page so HOT?
  • Best female love interest: John Green's Looking For Alaska. John Green writes bigger-than-life, funny, awesome, deeply troubled female love interests, and I adore him for it.
  • Best humor: Debut novelist Chelsea M. Campbell in The Rise of Renegade X. I often sit next to my husband on the couch and laugh out loud in a distracting, sometimes alarming, fashion while I'm reading, but this book was the most distracting, alarming thing all year. I even sent Chelsea Campbell a fan-girl email, that's how much I loved it (and she was nice enough to send me an email back, which I thought was pretty awesome).
  • Most disturbing: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. OMG. This story - of a girl kidnapped and held by a pedophile for years - was the most heartbreaking, emotionally devastating novel I've read. But Elizabeth Scott finds a believable way to end it, while tragically, on a note of hope and courage.
  • Most thought-provoking: I'm going to go with Suzzane Collins' Mockingjay,. This is the book that launched a hundred discussions, about everything from how Collins portrayed war to whether Mockingjay's conclusion was really satisfying - from philosophy to craft.
I read a lot of awesome books in 2010, these were just especially memorable. Also, I have to give a nod to my favorite cookbooks of the year, Artisinal Bread In Five Minutes A Day and Glorious One Pot Meals, for helping me stay fed while I read obssesively.  Fresh-baked bread and easy, nommy food.

And in terms of my books ever seeing print themselves - well.  I finished the rough draft of The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes and started work on revisions. I learned to think of revisions in a whole new way - as an important part of the creative process instead of just being clean-up. I took a fantastic writing class, sponsored by the National Endowment For the Arts. I sent out 20 submissions for short stories and poetry to lit journals (no love yet).

In some ways, I feel like I didn't make any forward progress this year. No agent. No new publication credits. I don't even have anything done that I'm ready to query yet, although I hope to be there soon.

But I learned a lot. And I read a lot. I think I'm growing as a writer every day, and I'm excited about the craft. So maybe that's enough forward motion for me, for this year.

We'll see what 2011 holds.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The other night I dreamed that someone gave me a puppy.

Now, I would love to have a puppy. If MJ gave me a puppy, I would love him forever and ever (I know he thinks he is entitled to Forever and Ever anyway, but all I promised in our wedding vows was Til Death Do We Part. Forever and Ever is the kind of crazy romantic love that leads to, like, Wuthering Heights and YA paranormals).

But in my dream, I was a little distressed. You see, I've been volunteering for pet rescues for years. I am a firm believer that Adoption Should Be Your First Option.

And I grew up with big dogs - labs, golden retrievers, huskies, rottweilers.  I like to have 90 lbs of dog on my side if a passing burgular decides he wants my TV, soda maker and seal-shaped lamp (I have a sense of style like no other). I like to have 90 lbs of dog climbing onto my lap when I'm trying to watch Bridezillas on the couch and disrupting my breathing with a big blocky head on my chest.  I like big dogs.

But while I had been dreaming of an older, less "adoptable", big dog from a rescue - the wiggling puppy in my arms was a pet-store small dog. Not what I'd expected at all! And in my dream, I debated giving him back for a dog who needed me.

I couldn't, though. Because that puppy was looking at me with big sad brown eyes like he did need me. Needed a home. And damn it he was my puppy.

I have the same thing lately with a story. I had a plan for December and January:
  2. Rough draft what is now imaginatively titled YA MYSTERY1.
Then, as I was painting my office, I had an idea for a short story. YA post-apocalyptic. Feminism and zombies. A teenage girl caught between two guys - who are willing to fight for her, but never ask her what she wants.

Quick and simple. After I finished (and washed the paint out of my hair) I sat down to write. I knew it would be a longer short story for me, probably around 5k. But I knew I could bang it out in a day or two.

Folks,  we're now around 15k. Things keep happening. Characters keep popping up.

"Oh, hai, I'm the brother, I'm going to do something interesting now!"

"I'm the dad. Did you seriously think you were going to write about the patriarchy without the patriarch getting a say?"

"I'm the random zombie who is supposed to stay off-screen, your MC's unspoken fear. But yeah. I want to eat her brains. So I'm in it to win it, beotch."

*Bangs head into keyboard*

This is not the story I wanted, not when I wanted it. But like the puppy in my dream, it's here, and I just can't give up on it.

So if I'm not around  much, it's because I'm experimenting with vegan gluten-free cookie baking (food allergies are a PITA), entertaining a motley collection of relatives, and writing my little heart out as fast as I can so I can get back to my plan!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How'd your 2010 resolutions go?

Yeah. Well, it's almost 2011. 2010 resolutions are gone. So yesterday.

In fact, resolutions themselves are just so 2010.

Now, the cool kids are all about action.

Check out my guest post about making it happen in 2011 on Life in the Pitts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm posting for the Be Jolly By Golly blogfest a bit early; tomorrow is going to be a bit crazy and I have another special post in the evening, too.  I can't wait for the virtual holiday party, anyway!

So come on in... it's our first year having Christmas in our own house (with both sides of the family visiting, which sounds like the start of a joke... "What happens when two atheists, two evangelicals, a tarot-card reading spiritualist and whatever my sister-in-law is get togther to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus?" We have our first big tree:
You probably can't see, but there is a lot of pink and orange in that tree. Thank you also, Baby Jesus, that my husband is color blind.

Here's our side board in the dining room with sparkling icicles and little purple-and-bronze Christmas trees:
Yeah, photography is not my day job. Also, I am pretty sure the Grinch snuck into my house and stole my camera just to up my Christmas Stress, so I took those with my iPhone.

Would you like some hot chocolate? It's my favorite drink during winter. This is my favorite recipe to use:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons HERSHEY'S unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
As the milk heats, combine dry ingredients. Add hot milk to the cocoa and sugar, then add a splash of vanilla. And some marshmallows. Maybe whipped cream. And sprinkles or chocolate shavings. Maybe a little chocolate syrup.

You know. However overboard you want to go. 'Tis the season, after all.

It's almost impossible to pick a favorite Christmas cookie, so I'm just going to go with the beloved and Most Traditional - the Spritz Christmas Tree. My grandmother made them, my mother made them, and now I don my little retro apron and make them. But not yet this year. I borrowed this image from IPB living:
Best eaten while hot and soft off the cookie sheet, in my opinion. Go ahead.

You need a cookie press for this one, of course, but the recipe itself is pretty simple:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few drops of green food coloring to desired color
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add vanilla and eggs and mix well. Add flour slowly until well mixed. Then add food coloring to get the desired Christmas-y green. Refrigerate at least two hours and then fill cookie press.  After pressing out the Christmas Trees, decorate with sprinkles and colored sugar (my favorite part when I was seven and still now that I'm twenty-seven). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

OMG, I was into my old journals this weekend looking for an excerpt from a letter to use in a story. I'm still searching for the excerpt.  But I've found lots of other comedic gold.  Dialogue has always been my favorite part of writing, and I faithfully recorded dialogue in my journal whenever I found it sufficiently entertaining. There's a YA novel in the making, right here...

Ex-boyfriend to me: "You're not a drama queen. Drama queens take small things  and turn them into huge things. You just... create huge things."
Me: "I've never been attracted to a guy who wasn't a shithead."
Nora (one of my best friends, on right in photo)): "Well, what guy isn't?"
Zach (Nora's boyfriend) has been attempting his usual mix of psychoanalysis and romantic fixing. You've got to give it to the boy, he's brave. He wanted to know why I'm not dating Jordan. He went through the list of positives, and then demanded, "Give me one reason why not?"

"Because!" I said. "That's not how you decide to love someone. I can't see any reason not to date you, so what the hell..."

"Oh, and what do you base your decisions off?" Zach asked. "Physical chemistry? Pheremones?"

I explained that, as great as Jordan is, I just don't feel it. I like MJ, but that's because of who he is, not because I have a position to fill. Since Zach just kept pushing, eventually I admitted, "I like the drama."

"You enjoy the whole process," Zach said. "You know what you should do? You should exclusively date guys with girlfriends. In fact, you could do even better - you should exclusively date guys with BOYFRIENDS."
But, what's a blog post without photos? And on the subject of awkwardness...
 I'll just let you leave that up to your imagination.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

J.M. Tohline has a fantastic blog post up about the biggest mistakes writers make in queries. He asked, fifty agents answered.

It's definitely worth checking out if you're querying (or will be). Some of it is common sense, some of it specific to different agents, and it's all worth reading, just to be sure. We spend so long on the damn novels themselves, might as well take the time to write a perfect query since that novel only gets one shot in the front of any given agent!

Here's a teaser borrowed from J.M's post:
As for further thoughts on vagueness, Michelle Wolfson had this to say: I think the biggest mistake people make is not telling me what their book is about. They give an overview of the book in flowery writing that really doesn't say much, or they talk about the genre or the main characters etc., but they never tell me what the book is actually about and there's no way for me to judge whether or not I'm going to be interested in the story. Tell me who the main character is, what conflict s/he faces and what's at stake. You'd be surprised how many people don't do this.

Now, go read the whole thing!

Hope you guys are having an awesome weekend!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I saw this on Quinn's blog and thought it would make a fun blog post:

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.


• Copy this list.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety. 
• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible I've certainly read all the interesting parts - but there are geneaology bits in there that just are no fun for anyone.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte I actually just started this one!
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare Dude, ALL of them? Not yet. I've read all the romantic comedies, Romeo and Juliet, and a Midsummer Night's Dream. Maybe someday...
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger 
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma - Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini I just bought this book at the thrift store last week, am looking forward to reading it soon...
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez I have this one out from the library right now.
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

So, I've read more than a few of those. More than six, anyway. The list seems a bit random to me, though.  Some classics, some contemporary, a disproportionate amount of Shakespeare, lots of Austen, a little chick lit, one or two novels that I think are, in fact, really bad, and some wonderful children's books.  There are also quite a few books I'd still like to read!

How many of the books on the BBC list have you read? And what books do you think should be on there?  I'm going to update later with part two - my top 100 books - and I'd love to know what you think everyone should read. Feel free to do the same if you'd like. I think it's interesting to see what we all think the most (important? interesting? relevant?) something books are we think everyone should try. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I am such a grinch, y'all.

I saw It's A Wonderful Life this past weekend and I thought it was lame. No matter how many times I'm told it's the quintessential American Christmas story, I just want to grab George Bailey and tell him, "Stop being a martyr! Sell the Building & Loan and fix your life!"  As a result, it's painful for me to watch 90 minutes worth of him being miserable... especially since the tension he experiences, since it doesn't seem necessary, doesn't feel relevant to me.

Apparently, I'm one of a tiny percentage of people who feel that way, since everyone loves Jimmy Stewart. I guess I'm a Christmas Fail. :p But, I thought it was interesting to think about why the movie didn't work for me. As I'm hip-deep right now in revisions on The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes, I'm trying up the tension in a lot of scenes . But  I want it to feel natural and evolved, not forced on a character in order to create the story I have to tell.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go tell some kids there is no Santa Claus.

Are there any uber-hyped books or movies - new or classics - that just don't work for you? Why, if I may ask?

Friday, December 3, 2010

I recently dug up my old blog that I had in college.  And it just the gold mine I thought it would be - angsty poetry, awkward photos, and a bubbly take on underage drinking, over-scheduling and varsity sports. Basically, me now, only with spikes and Smirnoff Ice and never-ending boy drama.

I thought it might be a fun thing to recycle some of these old posts... like this one with an untitled poem:

Despite the things you say
your eyes always give you away
when I catch you watching me
and your gaze pulls away
sweeping across the room--
sweeping me with you.

So go ahead and say one more time
that you'd never want to be my boy
and push me away when I put my arms
around you and say that I missed you
and when I rest my chin on your shoulder
and when I put my hand on your cheek.

You can say everything you want to say
and you can try and stop me when I touch you
Try to save your precious masculine dignity
I know my affection is blatantly obvious
but yours is too, knowing where to look
which is why I always stare back.

I think I wrote that one for Unrequited Love That Made Me Act All Emo For A Season, but I might have written it for MJ in the tumultuous early days of our, erm, "courtship". And look how it turned out! Why so angsty, Young Me?  Stop worrying... you could put that time to better use in revisions!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.  Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end? 

I'm working on a review for this book that I should have posted later today or tomorrow, but in the meantime... go check out Talli's book!  

Anyone can read the release for Kindle by downloading the appropriate app for your phone or computer... so I want to give one of my readers a chance to read it on me. Just leave a comment on this post with your e-mail address. For another entry, post this on Twitter or your blog. 

I'll be back tonight at 9pm to pick a winner and hop on Amazon to send the winner THE HATING GAME as an elecronic gift! (Isn't this a much better use of the interwebs than Farmville?)
Update! Thanks to the random number generator (normally played by Randomizer, but today by my husband MJ) we have a winner for a free copy of The Hating Game (if you didn't already buy it!). Shelley!
Update #2: Shelley already has her copy! Let me try again... Old Kitty?

Monday, November 29, 2010

...because I hate the cold.

But yay for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Winter 2010 conference!

R.L. Stine is giving the keynote address, which makes me happy... I loved me some Goosebumps books as a kid. I haven't been to a conference before, so while I'm excited by some of the great classes (and agents!) there, I don't know much about what it will be like. Besides cold, of course. Brr.

Is anyone else going? And does anyone want to split a hotel room if so? The Hyatt where the conference is being held is $219 a night, and that's just a bit out of this aspiring writer's budget. If I don't find a roomie, I'll be staying with the family in the Jersey suburbs.

Jersey, guys. Is anyone out there?


And does anyone have any thoughts or insights on the conference experience?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MJ and I had a fantastic long weekend visiting family and friends. I think I ate my year's quota of pie and cheescake, and probably fulfilled the year's quota for talking politics too (something I will spare you all from on this blog ;)).

But an unexpectedly wonderful part? All the day dreaming on the nine-hour drive back home. I spent most of the trip letting MJ drive, with my feet up on the dash, listening to the radio and thinking about Stories I Would Like To Tell.  I think the next book is going to be a YA mystery novel. Concept, plot and characters all came to me during that painfully long car ride. Hey, I'll take some stiff muscles for a new storyline.

Here's my tentative hook:

Dia and Sam are best friends who share their secrets and support each other unquestioningly – but when Sam attempts suicide, Dia sets out to unravel the secrets her friend hasn’t told before Sam can try again.

More to come. :) I'm very excited and working on an in-depth outline and character sketches now, though I also have lots of work to do on The Goddess of Vengeance so that I can finish up revisions and start querying!

Now, I just wish I had a title...

Where do you guys get your best inspiration?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers (and happy Thursday to everyone else!).

(This super image from

What are you thankful for this year? I'm thankful for:
  • Our warm and happy home
  • Family & friends
  • The chance to know and love my adopted kitty, Buffy, and our two foster cats Buster and Bonzai from the SPCA - even though now that Buffy has died and Buster & Bonzai have moved onto their forever home, I miss them so much!
  • Ready access to books through libraries, book stores and the interwebs - so many people live in countries with strict control overs what they can and can't read. Reading Lolita In Tehran has really made me think about how lucky and blessed we are!
I hope you all have a fantastic holiday full of joy, family and appreciation! :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

When I was an incredibly obnoxious and slender twenty-year-old, I remember discussing weight with a friend of mine. We were both diving on the swim team then, which meant that we spent two hours each schoolday practicing our dives - which were videotaped - and then watching playback on the pool-side monitor of our dives (Read: of a side view of ourselves in our swim suits). For two hours a day. Imagine how much that leads to obsessing about your figure... especially when the lighter you are, the easier it is to whip your body around into various crazy positions and aerial cartwheels before smacking into the water.

Anyway, we were talking pounds in the locker room as we dressed after practice. I was 5 foot 7 and 122 lbs at the time; I said, "Man, I can't imagine weighing 140 lbs. I don't know what I'd do. I'd probably have to kill myself!"

Yes, I was a likable young thing. Yes, I want to go back and punch myself in the face, too.

Here's the funny thing. Now that I've gained twenty pounds (without a single suicidal thought) I can look back and see how perfect the body was that I hated then. But my motivation is low to lose those twenty pounds again, since I feel this is also a healthy weight - and since I've realized something odd.

When I was that skinny twenty-year-old, I thought:
  • I look pretty good, so close to perfect, I should stop being lazy and eating junk on occasion and just lose five or ten pounds...
  • My tummy is nice except for this little bump of fat I can't rid of.
  • My thighs are just too thick.
You know what I think twenty pounds (and, erm, a few years) later?
  • I look pretty good, so close to perfect, I should stop being lazy and eating junk on occasion and just lose five or ten pounds...
  • My tummy is nice except for this little bump of fat I can't rid of.
  • My thighs are just too thick.
Hmm. The same things that bothered me then, when I looked damn good, bother me now? Like I can't just glance into a full length mirror and see myself non-critically? If that was how I thought back then, then I probably look great now too and just don't see myself.

It's too bad that I couldn't appreciate the body I had when I was younger. But I can appreciate the one I have now.

I know this is not a writing related post, but I think and write a lot about finding the unique beauty in ourselves, and I wanted to share my thoughts.  It's hard to be a woman in this world, where we are constantly bombarded with images of airbrushed perfection that we are going to fall short of - but we can learn to be kind to ourselves anyway. And hopefully, we can even forgive ourselves for saying positively ludicrous things in locker rooms in our foolish youth! :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's giveaway time!

My first giveaway is this fantastic perfect-for-the-writer's-office art print, Unblocked from Citrus Tree:
Doesn't that just inspire you to sit down and write yourself?  And the winner is:

PerilousLYNDSEY of Dangerous With a Pen!

My second giveaway was a $10 gift certificate for Amazon for learning a little more about the fantastic Tamara Hart Heiner and her new novel, Perilous.

And my winner thanks to is... Rachelle!

Thanks to all who entered!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I seriously suck at blogging lately, you guys. Let me just tell you a little bit of what's up with me:
  • My foster kitties are being adopted! I am going to miss them so much (and I don't know how I'll deal with the loneliness of a catless house until we get new kitties to foster after the holidays), but I am so happy for them. Their new parents are wonderful. I'm just going to miss these sweet faces so much:

  • I am 5 days away from finishing this last class for my M.S. I still have my capstone project to do after this in the spring, and then I'm done!  Once the final exam is done on Tuesday, I'll return to the blogging world a bit more regularly (both posting and commenting! Sorry I haven't visited much lately!).
  • I really do miss you all terribly! Just let me get out of this class with an A (*crosses fingers*), and I'll be blogging and visiting much more regularly... until,  that is, the spring and my capstone.  Oh god. Have I mentioned that I'm booking a trip to Ireland, and maybe London too, to celebrate being done with my M.S.? Because some days, I don't think I'm going to make it.
  • The NaNo novel, Bodie's Men? The NaNo is a trainwreck. I'm so behind. I need to write something like 2800 words a day to finish. We have a lot of driving to do this month, though, so I think I'm going to make MJ drive and kick back with my laptop... and then I need to make a New Year's resolution for 2011 to stop overscheduling myself. Something is seriously wrong with me!
  • Blog contests are almost up! I'm giving away an awesome free art print from Citrus Tree! Enter here. Open to US and Canada. Ore enter to win $10 Amazon gift card AND support debut author Tamara Hart Heiner! Enter here.  But hurry, they both end tomorrow at midnight!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post! I am back after a long, long week...

My NaNo is a mess. Honestly, I spent  last weekend  laying on my couch watching Real Housewives of Orange County and missing my cat. There's a line in Shards of Glass where someone tells me MC that grief is something that you can multitask. But I found it pretty time consuming, despite having written that snarky little quote.

So my NaNo is about 10k behind. Oh, and I can’t pick what tense I’m writing in – which is not something that normally happens in my writing. So this rough draft is far more hideous than normal for me, but hey…  check out the first page:

    Despite all the drunken promises we’ve made to always be there for each other, it is days before I find out that Riley has lost his legs.
    I was on watch, in the early hours of the morning. I returned from midrats, the neither-breakfast-nor-dinner meal served from 11pm to 1am for those of us who worked overnight. The night sky over Fallujah had been strangely light, hung with a blood-red moon of the type I’d never seen stateside.  I punched in the combo on the door, went from the marble passageway to the cement floor of the converted kitchen that was our offices.
    Jacks was sitting in one of the chairs around the conference table, leaning back with his boots propped up on the pile of assault pack, flak and Kevlar.  He rocked forward when he saw me, his feet thudding into the floor.  There was a quick flicker of emotions across his face – happiness to see me, I thought, and surprise, and relief, and misery all at once.
    “Jacks,” I said. I looked at the assistant watch-o, the Gunny, then back at Jacks. “What are you doing here?”
    “I had to tell you in person,” he said. The emotions had settled. Jack’s mouth was turned down. There were dark smudges beneath his eyes to match the smudged look of his chin. It wasn’t like him not to shave, to be out of regs.
    Gunny Richard said, “You can go, ma’am. I’ve got this the rest of the night.”
    “Oh, no,” I said. “No.”
    Jacks slid an arm around my shoulders, pulled me into a hug. I should have hugged him when I saw him. “Riley is alive, Bodie.  I’m sorry. I should have gotten that out right away.”
    I wrapped my fingers around the edge of his desert-patterned sleeve and dragged him behind me from the room.  Back out into the marble hallway. “We’ll have privacy in here,” I said, opening up the door to the General’s conference room. It had spare plywood walls, but thickly leathered desk chairs and a very new VTC system.  I turn around once I’m in, and Jacks shuts the door behind him.
    “What brought you all the way to Fallujah?” I said.
    “Riley’s convoy was hit by a vehicle-born IED.” He spoke quickly. Ripping the band-aid off. “I don’t have a lot of details. But I know he has a concussion, and that his legs were pinned – they already got him back to the states. So he’s going to be okay.”
    I reach back and feel for the smooth arm of one of the desk chairs, sit carefully.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you will see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
 My precious kitty, Buffy, died in my arms today.  I came home from work early in the morning and found her sleeping; she was hard to rouse. I picked her up in my arms and she curled up into a fetal position, her little head down on her chest. As I carried her upstairs, she had a small seizure.  I knew she ws probably gone after that, but I placed her in the passenger seat of my car and tried to talk to her and pet her until we got to the emergency vet. They did CPR and tried everything they could, but she was gone. It looks like she had a stroke. She was only eleven, and I was not ready to say goodbye at all.

(The picture is from a few months ago - sleeping next to where I was usually work on the couch. Isn't she precious?).

Farewell, little cat, until we meet again. 

I'll be on hiatus for a little while, friends.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How's NaNo going for those of you who are doing it? I'm just over 5k but haven't started writing yet today... I'm about to get going, I promise!

I've been flip-flopping back and forth on whether I made the right decision on Bodie's Men.

Perspective 1: This book is HARD for me. It feels strange to write about the Marine Corps, and stranger still to write Bodie's perspective, which on her bad days really involves the uglier side of my emotions - a fair amount of jealousy, insecurity, and bitterness. So it's great that I'm just dumping this out on the page for NaNo, because otherwise, I'd probably never write the damn thing!

Perspective 2: I shouldn't have tackled this without a detailed outline. Especially not with the crazy dual plotline structure of the novel which I probably don't have the writing skizzles to pull off yet. Bound would have been a MUCH more straightforward story to write for NaNo, and straightfoward is probably good when you're trying to write 2k a day. OMG, this writing is terrible. TERRIBLE! Am I possessed? BY A DEMON THAT CAN'T EVEN SPELL?

Perspective 3: Well, I'm already 5k in, so terrible or not, I'm going to keep writing.


No, but really, I'm having fun.

On a side note, I didn't get a lot of responses to the two contests I'm running. :( So, I am blatantly cheating and extending their dates.  What? It's my blog, I can do that, right? My apologies to those of you who have already entered and are waiting on me, I just want to give lots of attention to Citrus Tree and Tamara Hart Heiner for participating on the blog, and I think maybe I didn't do enough promoting.

So, I'm giving away a $10 gift certificate to Amazon if you go here (before November 19!)

And I'm giving away an awesome free art print from Citrus Tree if you go here (also before November 19!)

Monday, November 1, 2010

I love the idea of Summer's Share Your Workspace blogfest - go here to check it out! I wanted to participate, but I'm traveling for work again and while I was home, forgot to snap a photo of the space where I write at home. Which, is nothing fancy either - it's a TV tray with my laptop in front of the couch, with random textbooks, writing books and novels piled up on the coffee table in front of me. And usually, some form of dark chocolate and a few cups to round out the picture.

But then I thought - well, I do a lot of my writing not there anyway. I'm on travel 50% of the time for work. Most of the The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes was written in various Starbucks, Atlanta Bread Companies and indie coffee shops in Augusta, GA during the month I spent there. Today I wrote aboard a 747, sitting on the floor in the airport terminal waiting for my connecting flight, and in my hotel room. So here's a photo of one of today's workspaces:

MJ and I are remodeling a room in the basement to be our office, a place where we can be ourselves (read: where geekery can reign). I dream of Legos, framed comic books, an espresso station, orange paint, a giant whiteboard wall, and maybe an air hockey table (if it will fit). But that's just a nice to have. We make it work whatever we have in terms of our writing space, right?

Because we have to write.

Because we're nuts. :)

Go join Summer's blogfest and show us where you write!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post, guys!  I know I've been out of the loop lately. Three weeks left to the semester, and then I'll have a bit more of my life back. Grad school will be done FOREVER by the end of next spring, which will be helpful for my writing career, to say the least...

Tomorrow is the start of NaNo! Who's doing it? Anyone want to help me pick my story?  I haven't made a decision yet! I have some outlining and character sketches done for both of these...

Option 1: Bodie's Men. After disappointing her parents since birth, Rachael Bodie finds one more way to infuriate them: by becoming a Marine Corps officer. As she falls for - and loses - her first love, leads the men in her platoon, and serves in combat, Bodie discovers she's so much more than just the unsatisfactory youngest daughter - even to her parents. Commercial fiction, I'd say?

Option 2: Bound. When sexy bad boy Cody saves Deirdre's life, she finds out magic is real, that words are filled with magic, and that he can teach her to control them. But as her mother falls suddenly ill, a strangely prophetic homeless man tells her not to trust Cody. Deirdre must figure out who to trust - and how to protect her family - in a strange new world she doesn't understand. YA paranormal.

To be honest, I failed NaNo last year under the crush of school - I hope I can make it through this year, because I love NaNo - it's a fun way to mix things up and cover a LOT of rough draft in a quick inspired time!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When I was thirteen, I was sitting on the steps of a local pizzeria, reading a book in the sunshine.  A cute, lanky dark-eyed boy  and his friend rode their bikes up to the pizzeria and dropped them on the sidewalk. After ordering, they came back out and stood nearby, throwing the occasional glance in my direction. Finally, the cute boy introduced himself and asked my name. I put my book down and we started chatting.

The two of us had a lively conversation and, when they called my name, I went in and got the pizza. He said, "I'd like to talk to you some more."

"Yeah, I'd like that," I said, balancing the hot pizza box on my hip so I could carry it with my book on top. "You can call me."

"I will," he promised. We exchanged numbers.  Then, right before I could walk away grinning like a fool, his eyes caught the book I'd laid aside to talk with him. "What are you reading?" he asked.

I don't remember what the book was, although I do remember that it was a weighty adult tome. I told him the title, and he asked, "For school?"

"No, just for something to read," I said.

"Oh." He gave me another cute grin and a little wave and walked back to his friend.

When I walked away, I overheard him say to his friend, "Nah. Too smart for me."  I knew he wasn't going to call.

For some reason, getting yet another rejection letter for a short story today reminded me of being a skinny, freckled, red-headed thirteen year old girl carrying a stupid pizza home on a hot summer day. :p

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

YA covers such a fascinatingly wide range, from paranormal romance to historical to sci-fi, but Tamara Hart Heiner's debut novel Perilous is something I haven't seen before: classic suspense for the YA crowd. Before I get into my review, here's the blurb for the back cover:
Jaci Rivera has plans for her sophomore year: go to regionals with the track team, make the honor roll, and eat too much pizza with her best friends, Callie and Sara. Her biggest concern is Amanda, the pushy girl who moved in a few months ago. What she doesn't plan for is catching a robber red-handed, or being kidnapped. The desperate thief drags her and her friends 2,000 miles across the Canadian border. They escape from his lair, only to find that he has spies and agents watching their path home, waiting to intercept them and take them back. Then Jaci finds something out about her family. Something which irrevocably connects her to their kidnapper, and makes her question their chances of escape.
Four girls go to the mall. They have a few little mishaps, and end up witnessing a robbery and being kidnapped - and Tamara Hart Heiner makes it believable. I was impressed with her ability to take somewhat crazy situations and convince you that a couple of fifteen- and fourteen-year-old girls can end up kidnapped, escaping, and trekking hundreds of miles through the woods to get home.  The characterization of Jaci and her friends was spot-on and convincing. 
What struck me most about this book, though, was the pace and tension. From the shocking first chapter on, it's hard to pull your head out of this book. For me, it was almost too much at times - I wanted the girls to find a safe place and trustworthy people, but their paranoia quickly becomes yours, and it was hard to breathe at times. I was definitely invested in these characters, especially Tamara quickly demonstrates she isn't so attached to her characters as to guarantee a perfectly happy ending! When the ending does come, though (and I finally got to breathe a little easier!) it's satisfying, while leaving some subplots open. Can we expect a sequel, Tamara? (I'll read it!)
Overall, this was a different read, but I really liked it. I thought it was interesting that there's actually an adult perspective in the book - the detective who is searching for the girls - but he and the girls never actually intersect. I thought that was an unusual and risky move for a YA novel. My minimal nitpicks? I thought there were a few HUGE coincidences that occured throughout the book, but Tamara laid the seeds for those so well that I was able to pretty much suspend my disbelief. The tone of the novel is a little formal (which I think is pretty common in debut novels) and serious (which is understandable, given the events and tension of the story) for my preferences, but Tamara's prose is clear and competent - I think her writing can only get better as time goes on.  And, since I have a few questions about what happens to the girls next, I'm hoping to see a follow-up ASAP!
Definitely recommended for all fans of YA and suspense. Be sure to check out Perilous on Amazon - and I'll even give you a $10 gift certificate for Amazon if you'll learn just a little more about Perilous and Tamara Hart Heiner.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PerilousTomorrow, I'm posting my review of Tamara Hart Heiner's debut novel, Perilous. But today? I have a giveaway. :)

I'm giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky reader.  The rules for entering are pretty simple:

1. Follow This Is Not My Day Job,
2. Answer three questions correctly to celebrate the debut of Tamara's new novel!
  • What grade was Tamara in when she started writing Perilous?
  • What state does Tamara live in now?
  • What are the names of the four girls in Perilous?
They'll be easy to answer, I promise, but you'll find out a little more about this debut novel on the way!

Be sure to check back tomorrow night for my review, and enter before midnight on the 19th!

 And if you haven't entered yet, be sure to enter the Citrus Tree art print giveaway!

Monday, October 18, 2010

(Advice from someone who knows more than me)

In my writing class, we recently got into the business side of things.  The teacher has published a few dozen pieces in various literary magazines, as well as a volume of poetry, so I thought his advice might be interesting to the rest of you. :)

  • Do simultaneous submissions, but do them within a tier.
  • This means you need a tier list with about 8-10 journals or magazines in each. The top tier is the journals you'd love to be published in... even if they're long shots. The odds of getting into The New Yorker with an unsolicited manuscript is low, but if you're going to submit, do it in your top tier. This might also include journals like the Atlantic or Glimmer Train, or Poetry or other big journals. Or whatever your dream publication credits would be.
  • Then a mid-tier, and a third tier. He only went to three tiers, but you know me. I have five.
  • It's important to do your simultaneous subs within each tier before bumping down to the next. You don't want to submit to Joe's Basement Literary Journal and, say, Narrative, and have Narrative accept after Joe's - you'll already be obligated to Joe's.  So stick with one tier, and once (if) you've gotten 5 or 6 rejections in that one, move to the next tier.
  • When a piece does get accepted, politely notify the other journals where your story or poem is still under consideration that you are withdrawing your piece. Most places don't mind simultaneous subs these days (or at least, grudgingly accept them, for writers' lives are short and reading periods are long), but we still need to be courteous.
This advice got me excited about querying more of my short fiction and poetry. That excitement lasted through the creation of my tier list and fizzled out when I started actually preparing more submissions. :p Oh, and then I got a rejection back from my last batch that I sent out.  Booya.