Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yes, Virginia

I try not to confuse my child too much. However, he asks questions like, "How do the witches in Shrek fly?" and I tell him, "Magic, but don't worry there is no such thing as witches or magic." Then he asks how Santa Clause flies and I say, "Magic." That might be very confusing to a four year-old brain.

I'd really like to keep this Santa Clause thing going for as long as possible. I explained to my son that there is good and happy magic...Christmas magic, and then there is scary magic. There is no such thing as scary magic. There is such thing as Christmas magic.

(I did give him a very practical answer when he asked how Santa Clause puts out fires when he goes down the chimney, and how he turns the fire back on. In case you want to know, Santa pours water down the chimney when he arrives, and throws a match down the chimney when he leaves. He doesn't even need magic, just a lot of matches.)

I believed in Santa Clause until I was about ten or eleven. My family was driving home from my grandparents' house, and all my siblings were sleeping except for me. I, of course, was reading. Yes, it was a book that thrust the truth upon me whether I wanted to know or not. (I can't remember which book it was now, but I'm sure it was evil and wanted to shatter all the dreams of ten and eleven year-old girls.) I turned to my mom and asked her the question, and she confirmed that they had been making up stories about the fat man in the red suit. (I think the truth about the Easter Bunny came soon after that.)

So how did you find out the truth about Santa Clause??

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vomit on the Brain

Following a week of ear infections and vomit, and thereby little sleep, my brain is feeling somewhat zombified. And since I have nothing original to share with you this week, I thought I'd share two things that are definitely not my own.

First-News! My friend, Renee Collins, is agented! Renee was one of my first blogger friends, and is also one of my favorite. She's worked hard for this, and although I've never read her work, I can attest from knowing her that she is brilliant and funny (and gorgeous)(which isn't necessary as a writer, but now she can have a nice picture on her jacket flap when she is published). Plus, I imagine that good talent keeps company. Anyway, go congratulate her!

Second-Read Matched by Ally Condie. I just finished it today, and I loved it! You can see the trailer here (which I think is one of the best book trailers I've seen). It's kind of like Hunger Games and The Giver and Uglies, but in the end it is its own book and more of a love story than the others. It's also a very clean teen read which I'm always ready to recommend. Christmas present anyone?

Now to go eat leftover cake and ice cream. Oh did I tell you? My baby turned one yesterday. Now there is something that definitely is my own.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When Our Christmas Tree Said, "Bah Humbug"

The day after Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas decorations. (No Black Friday for me, thank you very much.) After I put up our 6 ft tree that I purchased six years ago from Walmart for $15, my husband told me we needed a new tree because our current tree was horrible. (We had the same conversation last year.)

I told him a new tree was expensive and proceeded to decorate it with our son. (But not WITH our son. I didn't hang him up on the Christmas case you were wondering.) I noticed it sort of LEANED after I decorated it. And my son placing many heavy ornaments in one spot may have contributed to the LEANING.

A few hours later, I heard something fall in the living room. One of the cheap plastic legs supporting the tree had broken, and the tree had fallen...luckily NOT onto our children. I thought I could save it with books, yes books, but as I went to prop it up, another cheap plastic leg broke. Then the top fell off the tree. In the end we had this heap of Christmas, still bedecked in white glowing lights, on our living room floor.

And in the end, we found a five year-old 7 ft pre-lit for sale for $15.

A great start to Christmas...not being sarcastic. I love my new-old Christmas tree, which we wouldn't have found had the last one not broken. (Writing analogy? Oh yes, I think it is there.)

(As a follow-up to last week's blog post, I DID at one point during high school try out the toothpaste remedy. Luckily, I had only one pimple which I treated with a younger sibling's bright blue cartoon-endorsed tooth gel. I had a blue spot on my face the next morning that would not come off. My mom let me stay home. (She was a cool mom.) (And I got good grades.))

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Life Mixed with Fiction

Did you think I disappeared? I've gone almost two weeks without blogging. I've never gone so long without posting something. But the thing is, I've racked my brain for something and come up with nothing. And who wants to read about nothing? Not me.

Tonight I rewrote the beginning of a book that existed for 9,000 words before my current WIP won. Really, I wrote both books side-by-side to give both an equal chance, but Pieces of Moon won. Some days I ask why.

I'm posting my new beginning so we can play a game called Name That Real-Life Event. We all know that our own lives influence our fiction. So what is fiction?

And what is fact?

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Every teenage girl has an ugly-face day once in awhile. So said Claryse my first day of high school--after I woke up with my nose too long and my eyes too close together. "No matter how pretty you are, Emmaline, some mornings you will wake up, look in the mirror, and not like your face. And that's as sure as meatloaf on Friday nights."

But this morning was more than an ugly-face day. I stumbled into the wood-paneled bathroom my sister and I shared with a five year-old tornado, took one look in our streaky mirror, and screamed.

And since I was the first one up, I screamed again,

The door whipped open, and Claryse stood in the hall with one bunny slipper raised over her head. Her little rosebud mouth dropped open as the slipper plopped to the floor. "Why is your face blue, Emmaline?"

I picked up our little brother's Very Berry Toothpaste and turned on my sister. "Why do you think my face is blue?"

Claryse snatched the tube from my hand and groaned. "You were supposed to use regular old, dye-free toothpaste."

I snatched it back and hard, but I really wanted to fling it at her perfect dye-free face. "You forgot that detail when you shared your pimple cure-all with me last night."

Claryse pinched her lips together, leaned over, and gingerly lifted her slipper off the ground. "Well," she said, turning back to her bedroom. "Your pimples are gone so it looks like it worked."

I held back another scream because three screams in one morning might be too many. My pimples were gone, but Freshman Council elections were that day. And nobody was going to elect a Smurf.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Post in Which You Realize You Aren't THAT Slow

That is, the post in which you realize you aren't as slow as ME.

I've been very private about the progress (or lack of) of my rewrite. And so, without further adieu, I give you (and why? I'm not sure other than this compulsion for absolute honesty right now)...MY WORD COUNT.


(Funny that this comes in the month of NOVEMBER. Ironic even. Like rain on your wedding day or like a free ride when you are already late.)

As a smattering of you may recall, I finished my rough draft in a record (for me) two months. I finished that rough draft one year ago.

And it has been a big year. Shortly after finishing my first draft, I had a baby.

I mean, I Had A Baby!

This beautiful piece of humanity may or may not have changed my writing routine a little. And for that I kiss her snotty, teething face every day and she bites my lip with her three-and-a-half teeth.

But the TRUTH is, having a baby didn't really SLOW my writing down. Yes, there were the first few months of adjusting to new life, but normal did return.

And I got back to that rewrite, which is only half done after a year...with many plans to rewrite what I already rewrote.

Okay, you've heard many finish-the-darn-book goals from me, but here is my latest (and I hope, most realistic)...

Here's to one more year and finishing my rewrite once and for all. (Me toasting you with root beer because I'm Mormon and because I like it (root beer and being Mormon and parentheticals.))

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sippy Cups and Sunglasses

There are a few things in my life that I buy cheap and often: chapstick, pens, sunglasses, and sippy cups--because they always disappear. I don't lose them. I'm much more responsible than that. They really do just disappear.

(Okay, I'm going to have to blame my children for the Case of the Missing Sippy Cups. I think I've purchased ten for my daughter in the last two months. And then there is my son, who although four, has decided he now likes sippy cups too.)

More frustrating that chapped lips when I just bought strawberry flavored chapstick or squint lines on my face which wouldn't be there if they would just stop selling me vanishing sunglasses! IS...

...the missing perfect idea or scene or plot arc or dialogue...

These first come to me in one of three places: just before I fall asleep, while driving, or in the shower. (You know-the unburdened and emptied mind equals inspiration.)

Sometimes, in fear of forgetfulness, I'll start stringing together unrelated (but oh so related) words. Which means I'll come home chanting "park bench, motorcycle, Jean Valjean" or "blue toothpaste, cheerleader, Indian."

Then, if I write it down...even if I manage to write it down moments after it still goes missing somehow. It never exists as beautifully as it did in my mind. Or sometimes I'll just leave it there-in my mind. File it away for later, and hope it will just show its face again when my manuscript is ready for it.

What about you? How do you salvage that perfect moment in your story which plays oh so nicely in your head? How do you help yourself remember?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Which Jane Austen Would Say, "Badly Done"

I'm sure you have heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Then came Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters

And now there is a tidal wave of classic literature meets the paranormal:

Mansfield Park and Mummies by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian
Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson
Emma and the Werewolves by Jane Austen and Adam Rann
Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin
Little Vampire Women by Louisa May Alcott and Lynn Messina
Little Women and Werewolves by Louisa May Alcott and Porter Grand
Romeo and Juliet and Vampires by William Shakespeare and Claudia Gabel

I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a couple years ago. I bought it because my husband loves zombies and I love Jane Austen, and I believed it was the perfect union of our obsessions. It made me laugh.

But then I read it. The title and cover were more clever than the execution. It was 75% Jane Austen's book and 25% zombies woven throughout. Really, the zombie mayhem became redundant because the only plot driving it forward was the plot that we all know and love.

But the worst of it - I felt like a friend had returned after a long vacation tatooed all over so that I could hardly recognize her under all that ink. Yes, Mr. Grahame-Smith, what did you do to my friend?! Those that do not read Jane Austen will pick this up and become acquainted with what isn't really her.

It makes me sad. If Pride and Prejudice was a religion, I'd call it irreverant. There is a difference between fanfiction and taking the actual text and warping it into something it was never meant to be.

Now, these books are very popular, so I probably don't share my opinion with too many. I am sure that in the end, the real classic will outlive these "fake" classics. However, if someone goes and gives Marilla a taste for blood or sticks a merman fin on Gilbert (DON'T get any ideas), they will pay. Yes, they will pay.

(Next day: Please be sure to read Vera Nazarian's kind response in the comment section.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time, will you PLEASE stand still??

You would think that writing a book about Time, especially the End-of-Time, would give me a little leverage. But no, my day is STILL only 24 hours long.

Actually, it's less than 24 hours long.

You see, I believe Time is reading my book, peering over my shoulder as I write. And he's ANGRY (Time is masculine in case you didn't know) because things do not look good for him so far. As far as he can tell, Time ends.

So in revenge, Time is stealing my day. I blink and my day is over. I turn around and my baby is almost one.

If Time would please be patient, Time will see that all ends well in my novel. I am not planning on giving Time an unTimely death. In fact, I think we need to work on a compromise: Give me more day and I will let you live.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I started reading Middle Grade again. I love Middle Grade because it was at this age I fell in love with reading. I haven't been disappointed.

This weekend I finished Countdown by Deborah Wiles. It is a semi-autobiographical book about an eleven year-old girl, Franny Chapman, living outside of Washington D.C. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Deborah Wiles also lived outside of Washington D.C. when she was eleven and during the Cuban Missile Crisis.) It is the first of three in the "Sixties Trilogy."

This book has a very unusual format. It's been called a "documentary novel" because interwoven throughout the story are little reports on the Presidents, popular culture, and issues of the time. And every so often the story will be interrupted by a series of media excerpts. It kind of felt like little commercial breaks with newscasts: quotes from political figures, pieces of songs, LOTS of pictures, reminders to "duck and cover."

I LOVED the concept, and I hope to see more historical fiction written this way. It was a very good way of giving the reader another view into the story's world. I felt like I was living the Cuban Missile Crisis right along with Franny.

The story could have stood alone without all of this, however. Deborah Wiles really painted life for an eleven year-old, and helped me remember what it felt like to be eleven...even if I didn't live in fear of a bomb being dropped on my world:

I remembered being SO ANGRY when I fought with friends. I remembered feeling shame and disgrace before a parent when I'd done wrong. I remembered vying for acceptance among my grade-school peers. I remembered wanting to please a teacher. I remembered wanting to be just like my older sister.

The story is full of all the ups and downs of the beginning of Franny's fifth-grade life. And you actually see the Cuban Missile Crisis through her eyes-not an adult's eyes. I think it is very real-to-life how a child would have perceived the threat.

I only blog book reviews if I REALLY liked the book, so this comes highly recommended. Go read it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The First 250-Words Blogfest

Elle Strauss is hosting a First 250-Words Blogfest, and I'm going to play. Now for my 678th attempt at a beginning:

Pieces of Moon

When my aunt Meg warned me about the drop-off, she didn’t know she was tempting me. Now, with the waves brushing against my chest and my feet bouncing over the ocean bottom I anticipated the moment it would all vanish from under me. Twenty feet ahead, the water went from clear to cerulean blue. Be it sharks, mermaids, or Davy Jones, I wanted to be in that place where the unknown lurked below. Anything to chase away the guilt I’d carried since arriving in Belize—that I’d run away from my mom, that I’d somehow abandoned her.

Of course, that was ridiculous. She had Michael now. She didn’t need me anymore.

A nearby kayaker glided through the water, the rhythmic swing of his oar matching the beat of the breakers behind me. I was happy to note the kayaker traveled away from me and toward the fringe reef that occasionally peeked above the water, lining the coast with offshore islands.

Meg’s voice suddenly pierced the quiet, but her words were lost by the distance from the beachhouse. She and David sat on its front terrace. Meg held a life-vest over her head. She probably thought I’d forgotten it, but I’d knowingly left it in the tangle of fishnets and snorkeling gear by the front door. A palette of green palms; blue waters and skies; and white sands surrounded me. The orange life-vest did not belong on this canvas.

Plus, it would complicate diving into the unknown.

In the comments section you may say one of the following:

a) Definitely hooked!
b) Maybe you should try for 679.
c) Is the kayaker in the distance a cute boy she meets on the next page? (Why yes, yes he is.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Am So Brandless

Ideas are wonderful and beautiful things, and many of us have this Incredible Idea Collection: so fragile and so perfect, made imperfect only by our actually writing them out. (In fact, it's probably best to leave the idea alone and just walk away.)(That was Evil Me speaking.)

For me, my ideas are all so different. I mean, REALLY different. If life were pretend and I somehow turned every idea into a book then I'd be totally and completely Brandless. I mean Middle Grade Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Contemporary/Retelling and all that and more for Young Adult. Oh and a few Adults and Picture Books...My brain is such a mess.

What about you? Do your ideas at least stay in the same genre, or are they all over the board?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Giveaway, Blogfest, and Other Things

First of all, there is a picture book edit giveaway over at Dear Editor. Since I now want to be a YA author and a PB author and a fireman (or maybe the fireman is what my son wants to be) I'm in love with the prize. So if you do picture books, you should take a look.

Last week I participated in Patti's blogfest, in which hours spent writing(/editing) were tallied. I clocked somewhere between five and six hours. (Okay sometimes I lost track of time, hence the "somewhere between.") It's not a lot, but I guess if I'm being honest with myself, lately I've probably averaged about an hour each night on the weeknights.

The purpose of Patti's blogfest was for us as writers to determine how our time was alotted to writing. Truth is, I don't watch TV. I watched a couple of movies with my husband. I cleaned. I blogged, but last week not a lot. I read. I ate chocolate/peanut-butter smoothies. It seems there were still so many lost minutes, and I want to know WHERE DID THEY GO? Because I still went to bed late most nights. And I still didn't do a lot of other things I wanted to do.

I write after the kids are in bed. I thought I'd write while my son was in preschool, but not much writing gets done because I still have a cute baby to watch.

Which brings me to...

An illustration of WHY it's difficult to be a mom and a novelist:

Sometimes we have that moment when we are doing NOTHING. Life just stands still. A perfect opportunity to WRITE. Or...the perfect opportunity to stare at your ten month-old daughter as she picks up your cell phone then sets it down. Then picks up a rag and shakes it then sets it down. Then picks up your cell phone and places it on the rag. Then takes it off. Then picks up the rag and shakes it. Then picks up your cell phone and smiles.


The best thing I saw all day.

And finally, thank you Melissa Gill for awarding me the Cherry on Top award. I hope that means my blog is like an ice cream sundae (with no nuts). You should go meet Melissa is you haven't already because she has good questions for your characters and she's from Kansas City and she tallied 14 hours last week writing.

And absolutely, for sure finally-my friend, Heidi Willis and author of Some Kind of Normal, was accepted into an MFA program for writing! You should go tell her how cool she is in case she doesn't already know.

Now I'm off to work on my pitch for another stab at one of Shelli's agent pitch contests!

The end of my longest-post-ever.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When You Are Four...

Four is a great age. It's an age of discovery and questions. Fortunately, when you're four, your mother knows EVERYTHING. She has all of the answers, and saying "I don't know" is like pulling the rug out from under those four year-old feet. (And usually results in some kind of emotional melt-down.)

When my son asked me where the hot water came from, I showed him our hot water heater. Easy, right? Then he asked me where the cold water comes from. Well, I don't know where the cold water comes from. I told him it came out of the pipes that way. Which, by the way he did not buy at all.

I'm a writer. I like to think I have a great imagination. But I also like to tell him how things are. So while I could have told him that the cold water came from the city under the house manned by small earthen creatures, I just endured the meltdown.

Has your child ever asked you a question you couldn't answer? And can somebody PLEASE tell me where cold water comes from? (Real and imaginary answers are welcome.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Kitchen Floor is Dirty

And it's your fault.

My friend, Patti, is having a blogfest starting September 27 in which we record how much time we spend writing. I don't really keep track, so I'm going to play. I unofficially started today.

I wrote 30 minutes while my son was in preschool.

I wrote 2 hours after my children went to bed.

2.5 hours! Over 1000 words, too! (Way more words than I typically write in 2.5 hours, by the way.)

I thought I'd calculate my blogging time, too...


Between preschool and after bedtime, I clocked ALMOST the same amount of time blogging as I did writing.

I like to blog, but it needs to me nipped in the you-know-what.

So. I like you. But I am going to try and like you fewer times per week.

(I don't really blame you for my kitchen floor. I actually accept full responsibility, but I've been planning on scrubbing my kitchen floor for way too many days now. I keep blogging instead. It's sticky. Ewe gross.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

PB vs The Novel

For those of you who came looking for a post about peanut butter, I'm sorry to disappoint you. However, I've used the word "book" in the last two out of three post titles. And I do hate to be redundant because being redundant is something I hate. Now, because I think I'm soooooo smart...

1) PB's are a lot shorter than novels. Who would have known? Significantly shorter. I'm thinking my novel will end up with at least 75,000 words. My children's book...293 words.

2) PB's take less time to write than novels, but more time to write than novels. I spent a good three or four hours on 293 words. Less time than my novel, right? However, it's relative. If I invested that much time into each word of my novel, it would take me a total of 61,443 hours. Really, I did the math. That is seven years of nonstop writing (absolutely no breaks for eating and sleeping).

3) I can read my PB to my son. I can't read my novel to my son. No matter which way I spin it, he's not interested in my novel. "Once upon a time there lived a girl named Tess who suffered from feelings of intense loneliness..." Not exactly bedtime material.

4) Your character and plot arcs are infinitesimally smaller than in novels. Your problem needs to be resolved pretty quickly, and your character needs to figure him or herself out even faster. It's the reason a lot of my PB attempts have fizzled out. I've just shaken my head and asked, "Where is this GOING?"

5) EVERY WORD COUNTS. There is absolutely and under no condition never ever any extra superfluous word usage. Okay, technically there shouldn't be extra words in your novel either, but those can slip a little.

Now onto my secret: I did send out my PB to some dream agents. I want to play this awesome game called Query an Agent! that everyone keeps talking about. And a girl can hope, can't she?

Note to my critique group: I did remove the chicken eggs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Long Grasses

When we first moved to the house we live in now, I was very excited for the BACKYARD. My husband and I had never really had one before. See...

apartment: no backyard
House We Cannot Sell: has a backyard but is in the city and I never went in back because I thought I might get shot (probably not a selling point)
duplex: backyard but no backdoor
house: BACKYARD!

However, it is TOO much backyard we've discovered, and is A LOT to mow. Saturday we ran out of gasoline, so all week the back half of our yard has been longer than the rest.

Well, last week I was walking some trails in a park with my sister. In between the trails where the grass and wildflowers grew over our heads, there was a sign that read: PRAIRIE RESTORATION AREA.

Are you catching my drift? Why not stick like sign in my backyard? Then we can have a break AND be environmentally conscientious.

Maybe I can make a sign for my front yard, too. I don't know...would that be pushing it?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Picture Book

My son loves stories. Usually my stories are just made-up, strung-along, nonsense stories, but it is one of his favorite things.

Sometimes he'll jump in and finish. Unfortunately, they aren't always happy endings for me. The other day he turned me into a tree and flew all over the world by himself.

Every once in awhile I'll think, "That idea isn't so ridiculous." So I'll write it down. Then I will think, "Yes, that idea is so ridiculous."

However, the other day I wrote down one of our stories. And it worked. When I called my sister and said, "Listen to my book" (and she groaned and I said, "No, not that book-my 293-word book"), she laughed at almost all my words. Maybe I'll write another.

And another.

(Don't worry, Tess of Pieces. You are my first love.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Unwanted Book

Remember the Transformers my husband gave our son for his birthday? Well, I gave him a book, among other things. (Yes, he's spoiled rotten.)

I was with my sisters and parents at B&N where I purchased the book, and they thought it was a terrible idea. In fact, they laughed. Yes, it was a little gender specific, but how often are we guilty of buying something for our children because WE wanted it? Well, I wanted this book. (It's a BOOK, I tell you!)

And my husband? Well our conversation went something like this.

Him: "That's not a book."

Me: "Yes, it is."

Him: Take it back.

(But it IS a book! See?)

(For the record, my son liked it for a couple days. Maybe my daughter will appreciate it more.)

Monday, September 6, 2010


My crit partner, Patti, recently posted a list of goals for Fall. And so, I'm going to copy her and post her goals...I mean, my goals.

1) FINISH MY BOOK. Actually, I've been very happy with my progress lately. I just finished rewriting a couple of chapters, and I feel like I'm ready to move forward again in drafting (second drafting).

2) RIDE MY NEW OLD BIKE. I recently bought a bike at a garage sale, and I'm determined to ride it every Saturday morning. Freedom AND exercise. I started this past Saturday. It's been years since I've been on a bike, and I'm happy to report I did not fall off once.

3) READ TO MY SON DURING THE DAY. I read to him every night, but I want to read to him during the day. At night, when we read, I feel a little rushed. I'm trying to get him to bed then, so I don't linger over every page like he wants to. We started reading during the day, and he loves it.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

More than Meets the Eye

For my son's fourth birthday, my husband bought him Transformers. Yes, I did spend an inordinate amount of time trying to transform Optimus Prime into a truck. (When at first I told a horrified husband that I could not transform Octavius, he asked, "What is he? A Roman?") And yes, I still can't figure it out. And YES, there is a writer's analogy attached to this Autobot.

I think you all know what I mean when I use the terms "word tinkering." You know, when you sit in front of the same paragraph for two hours adding and mixing and taking away words until it sounds and looks just right? (If you don't know what I'm talking about you're not invited to my blog.) (I was just kidding. Come back. I only have 133 followers. I need you.)

And I was thinking about how before I started writing, I had no idea how much went into each sentence and paragraph and scene and chapter AND BOOK construction. I mean, you just don't know until you are sweating over the words yourself HOW HARD it is to transform them into something that comes off the page and paints a picture or inspires an emotion or makes you love a character.

I read once that once you start writing, you'll never read the same again. And it's true. There is so much more effort behind those words than I ever, ever knew. (Unless you are a genius, and the words just come out perfect the first time for you. In which case, YOU are not invited to my blog.)

(Okay, come back.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

My MC is Not Me!

This is something I've had to remind myself of lately. Mary Kole posted a recent vlog (also part of WriteOnCon)on characterization. She laid out a few questions for us writers to ask ourselves. One was:

Your character can't sleep. It's late at night, and everybody else in the house is wearing sleep masks and ear plugs and can't be woken up. In the very, very middle of the night, very privately, what does your character do?

The first thing that popped into my head was..."Leave the house and go for a run!"

Then I thought, "No! Too dangerous. What a stupid, stupid thing to do."

Then, "Wait, that's what I would think. Not what Tess would think."

Yes, let Tess run at midnight at her own peril, but she is bold and brazen and a teenager whereas I am cautious and thirty and a mom. Tess is not me. I am not Tess. We think differently. We do differently. I don't write my feelings and thoughts, but hers. Yes, she is a figment of my imagination, but one that I've created distinct from myself, and therefore she has her own distinct feelings and choices. And I must let her be...herself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Regarding Pieces

Good news: I think I finally discovered my MC's voice!

Bad news: I think I finally discovered my MC's voice. So, all that I've written so far needs some serious revision.

As I read over my book (my unfinished book), I feel like my writing is...nice. That's all. It's also stilted and drab and dry. I was trying so hard to write pretty that Tess came out sounding NOT like herself.

I've spent four hours the last couple of days revising a chapter and a half. And I think I fixed it, but that's it. Did I say my book would be done this fall?

I also have a couple of major scene revisions I'm working on. I want to move forward, but I feel like I can't right now. I don't want my new scenes to sit on scenes I know now are going to change significantly.

Also, I feel like fixing a particular section will help me understand my boy better. He confuses me, and I want to be unconfused.

How are your books going? Do you feel like you have to "fix" things sometimes before moving on?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Read Harry Potter Like Nobody's Watching

My husband and I met at a youth conference (called EFY for those who may know) in Texas. No, we were not youth, although that would have been very romantic. He was a counselor. I was the nurse. (Still romantic, right?)

Well, during the first week we mostly said a few words here and there, like "Hey, flirty flirty flirt flirt!" or "Flirt! Words are only coming out of my mouth so that I can flirt!" However, at the end of that first week we finally did TALK...over Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (Outside of the blogosphere this may be considered nerd-territory, but for the record: we are both very hip except when we're not.)

We were at one of the youth dances, chaperoning and saving lives. I was passing through the foyer outside the dance hall (it was really a university gym, but I'm telling my love story and 'dance hall' sounds much better) when I saw my husband-to-be (no those words did not go through my head...yet) lounging under the stairwell. He was reading the aforementioned HP novel. I think I said something really smart like, "Why aren't you dancing?" followed by a conversation about his reading choice.

A handsome young man secreted under the stairwell reading Harry Potter! How could I resist? Plus, he was reading a book I'd read and enjoyed. Had he chosen to dance that night, maybe things would have ended differently. I'm just glad he chose a book.

Friday, August 20, 2010

One Smart Cookie

Just before I met my husband, I sat in a Chinese restaurant with a couple married friends. I told them that I was SURE I wouldn't marry for a long time, that I had LOTS of plans before such an event took place. Then I opened my fortune cookie:

Confucius say: Top of ladder nice place. Can be very lonesome.

I don't eat Chinese food often, but when I do crack open a fortune cookie, it seems it's somehow applicable to my life. (Maybe it's because I'm a writer and have a GREAT imagination.)

Here's the latest:

These fortune cookie writing people? Brilliant. Although, I'd change it just a little (if I'm allowed to do that, which I'm sure I'm not because much bad luck will follow me if I do) to say:

Write a novel--and learn more about life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Literary Memory

I have this memory...

I am a child, maybe nine years old. I am wearing an over-sized tee shirt. It was my dad's before he died. I am living in a narrow, two-story farmhouse, old with white siding. My family is in the backyard, lounging on lawn chairs one evening, and I am walking through the grass to join them. I can almost hear the crickets again, see the fireflies.

The funny thing is this memory isn't mine.

It's from a book I read a long time ago, and I don't even remember which book. But it was so real to me, it's stuck in my mind. A literary memory.

Do you have any "memories" from books you've read, so real you can almost believe they are your own??

(For the record, my dad is alive and well.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Silly Me

Silly me who thought that I'd actually get things DONE on vacation. I mean, what was I thinking? I brought my laptop and a stack of paperwork. I didn't even bring a book. So what did I do when I had spare moments at my in-laws' in Texas? I (re)read my mother-in-law's copy of Catching Fire.

So, between traveling and Suzanne Collins, I've been blog absent much longer than I anticipated. So much for my smashing return two weeks ago.

However, I am back to normal life. Summer-that-I-don't-care-much-for is almost over and autumn-that-I-love is around the corner. I think my muse works better in the autumn weather. Last autumn I wrote my rough draft. And this autumn...

I am going to finish my book.

This isn't a goal. It's just a fact. Am I being overly optimistic? See, my son is starting preschool this fall. That's three mornings a week to write...assuming my baby girl remains the easily appeased, tranquil, and content person she is. (Seriously, if she's an easy baby, does that mean she'll also be an easy teenager? Hmmmmm? Anyone?)

While I'm excited for the open mornings, I am a little anxious about sending my son off into the world. (A little over dramatic perhaps?) But I've always been there to explain things to him. How will he ever manage alone?!?

Okay, he'll manage. I know. He's a smart kid. He did just tell me that he had four speeches in his tummy, and he needed to talk them out.

I told him I had one book in my tummy that I needed to write out.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rough is Tuff

When I wrote my first draft of Pieces of Moon last fall, I finished it in two months. I thought I was pretty awesome. Thing is, I've barely looked back at that draft. All it really did for me was 1) increase my writer-esteem because I could say I finished a book 2) establish some sort of loose outline for my book.

Well, I tried to draft quickly again this last time. But I could not do it, and it fizzled out after about 7,000 words. Do you know why? When I started drafting Pieces of Moon, I really only thought it would need some editing. And that's all. (I did reach the acknowledged point of truly awful, and then it was all downhill from there, but I finished it because I was on this writer's high of cranking out words.)

I read over and over that writing a bad first draft is a good thing. Who writes a good first draft? Well, I learned something about myself last month (while drafting Book 2). I slowed down, and I wrote about 3,000 more words that weren't the greatest, but they weren't the ugliest either. (I say so now:) ) The only thing that kept me going last fall, when I cranked out so many words so fast was that I believed they were good.

I know everyone is different. In the end we all have a book, but to get there...well, it's just a unique journey for everyone. I have a book in my head, and when I write it's like building a wall. I need to make sure each brick is in place before adding the next layer. I need the scene to be strong and intact before moving on.

Don't get me wrong...I am all about revision. I've gone over what I've written in Pieces of Moon and made some pretty heavy notes on what needs to be changed (mostly based on reader feedback-invaluable). However, I don't want my wall to topple over because I threw it together too fast.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Very Clever Title

I'm back from my July break. I think taking a break from my book was just what I needed to jump start its completion. (This is me thinking optimistically because IT WILL BE FINISHED.) As I mentioned before, I've been playing with another idea, which I love and want to return to when MY CURRENT BOOK IS FINISHED. (I'm very determined. I don't want a bunch of unfinished books (and dreams) filling up my hard drive.)

As for my previous post in which I mention that my July book started as a book about magic and flowers and turned into a book about cancer and slavery. (What in the world?) Well, here it is in a few words.

(Idea redacted at a later date.)

(Yes, paranoid me was much more persuasive than rational me.)

(But it was a REALLY good idea, okay??)

(This might be one of those moments I feel like I'm talking to myself.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'm supposed to be on blogger and book break for the month of July, but I couldn't resist letting you know that I've re-discovered the joy of first drafting. I'm working on a new book to clear my mind before I get back to my rewrite. All I'll say about my newest project is that I wanted it to be about magic and flowers (which it is) but it is turning into a book about cancer and slavery...? I'll tell you more in August.

Disclaimer: No slaves in my book have cancer. I mean what a horrible blow...even for fiction.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I am here to confess that July has dulled me. That my spark of creativity sizzled out with the last of the fireworks. That I'm bored-my blog bores me AND my book bores me. I haven't breaked since the birth of my daughter, so I'm breaking now...from blogging and from my book (but not from writing, never from writing). Hopefully in August, I'll have something more interesting to say and you'll still want to be friends.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

Remember this? I must have the worst luck with laptops because Laptop #2 refused to work when I arrived home from Nondescript, Kansas (the best place to spend the Fourth of July). I believe my laptop was angry I'd left it behind. However, the Geek Squad believes it needs a new video card (which will cost more than the laptop is worth). Our rarely-used desktop is looking pretty good right now.

Rather than post anything more interesting than my Laptop Curse (because I have nothing more interesting than that), I'll direct you here where you can read the blog journal of Nurse Katie, who learned all her awesome-ness from me and who is also my sister, as she travels with a Navy ship around Indonesia.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bree Didn't Live Happily Ever After

Have you ever read a book knowing that the end only meant death?

In Stephenie Meyer's novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, Bree's second life is, in fact, very short. I read the book anticipating the demise of the protagonist, and my expectations were not disappointed. (Okay, I may have entertained the hope that Meyer had found a loophole that made it possible to save Bree in the end. She didn't.)

I suppose death works in this novel because of who the author is and what universe this story belongs to. But could this work in another novel? Would we typically invest our time reading a story that ends with the protagonist's death?

Bree wins in other ways (which I won't be so mean to spoil in this post, but you can read the novella by clicking on the link above). But in preserving her life (her second life...) she fails.

What drives us to read a book if it's not the idea that when we are through, the protagonist (whom we've grown to care about), will continue on thriving in the fictional world? I guess we have to ask if we read a story for the end or for the journey...or both.

Stephenie Meyer begins the novella with a lengthy intro, stating she'd like us to know Bree's perspective. I did come away knowing more about newborn vampires and the Twilight world, and so I won't say I'm disappointed in having read it. I did echo Meyer's wish when she stated...

The closer I got to the inevitable end, the more I wished I'd concluded Eclipse just slightly differently.

(I did consider that if Bree lived and joined the Cullen's coven, it may have spiced things up a little. I think she would have had a tragic crush on Edward, and maybe bit Bella herself.)

Can you think of another book in which the protagonist dies? Would you typically read a book that ended this way? Which is more important for you: the journey of reading the book or a happy ending?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I had 35 entries! (38 if you count the extra entries for those who spread the word.) The problem is that 33 people didn't win, but I hope you still like me...and my blog...even if I write cryptic analogies about garlic in your manuscript.

Winner of my first prize...


And Jackee, since you said you were dying of Oreo envy, I will give you the choice of having Gourmet Oreos AND a B&N gift card of lower value.

(Jackee's currently in the midst of Flagstaff forest fires, and we pray that she won't have to evacuate! I hope this prize cheers you up. (I promise that didn't know about the forest fires.))

Winner of my second prize...


You can email me at Jessica L Oliveros (at) gmail (dot) com!

And for the rest of you that are child-bearing women, I'd like to share something you may need to know. IF you are trying NOT to lose the last 8 to 10 pounds of baby weight, I have the perfect tested solution. Every night make a smoothie with ice, frozen bananas, LOTS of peanut butter, WHOLE milk, and Nestle Quick. Totally. Works. I haven't shed a pound since I started this nightly ritual.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strong Flavors

Writing is a lot like cooking. I write with specific ingredients that need to be mixed and diced just right so my story tastes good.

But sometimes as I write, BIG ideas will creep into my mind, ideas that reek of Garlic or Onion. And I feel I must decide NOW whether to add these ingredients or not.

Because although I can revise (unlike cooks), these BIG ideas, once added, flavor the entire manuscript. I know that if I change my mind, I don't have to throw the ruined dish away and start all over. However, if the idea is Lemon or Tarragon or Salt, it will take a lot of work to undo.

Do you have trouble revising out BIG ideas?

(Two more days to enter mine and Janet's 101 Followers Contest!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

101 Followers Contest

Having both hit 101 followers, Janet Johnson and I are running a 101 Follower Contest. (Actually, since Janet is more popular than me, she hit 101 fourteen people ago, but kindly waited for me to catch up.) must be a follower of BOTH our blogs to enter. Just comment on this post (and her post!), and we'll use to draw winners. We'll both be giving away prizes.

MY prizes are...

Prize #1


Just kidding...



Prize #2

In the flavor of Kansas City, you have a choice of...


(life-size picture not intentional but according to Blogger unavoidable)


(I couldn't upload a picture, but looks like BBQ sauce.)

Just follow and comment. Easy as that. The contest will run for a week, closing Tuesday, June 22, at midnight.

(I'll give you an extra entry for spreading the word (and letting me know) and one more entry for solving world hunger.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cases of Disappearing THINGS

As it takes me days to draft one scene, I often find myself forgetting THINGS. I try to be mindful of character and place consistency, but THINGS are harder to remember. As I've read (and re-read (and re-read)) my manuscript, I find that THINGS have a tendency to disappear...

The mango and croissant Tess was eating? I definitely did not give her enough time to finish breakfast before she ran into the beach house to change. (Unless she ate it very fast.)

That water bottle she carried as she crossed through the rainforest with Quinn? Well, it ceased to exist when she grabbed a hold of the rope to climb a ruin. (Did she litter? Bad, bad Tess.)

What about the oars they used to beat a path through the island jungle? They really do need them to kayak back to shore, but suddenly Quinn finds his hands conveniently unburdened when he pulls out his camera.

Now the spear. (Oh the spear.) When I chose a fifteenth-century Spanish soldier as one of my heroes, I didn't consider that he'd be toting a spear half the time. He just rescued a small boy, and the spear happily vanished when he needed to lift the child off the ground.

Do you have trouble keeping tabs on all your literary props?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scriptococcus Publius

This is a highly contagious bacteria that, if you are reading this blog, you've most likely contracted yourself.

Scriptococcus publius-the unsatiable desire to write with an eye toward one day being published

(You should be aware of a mutated strain of this bacteria called Publiococcus scriptus, which is the unsatiable desire to be published with an eye toward one day writing a book.)

If you are infected, please be careful.

The mode of transmission is still under much debate. An infected person needs only speak of their current writing ambition, and the symptoms (sleeplessness, daydreaming, hearing voices) begin occurring among friends and family. This has led many to believe it is airborne.

However, it's also been discovered that those who consume abnormally high amounts of chocolate are infected, persuading others that it is a foodborne illness. (This may only be a confounding variable.)

If you believe that you or a loved one has contracted this illness...

There Is No Cure.

Prognosis? You (and those you have infected) are doomed to live out the rest of your days obsessed with ink and ideas.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ants in my Rants

They have invaded my home, my peace of mind, and even my COMPUTER.

Those nastly little bugs. I feel them crawling on me even when they are not. (And just as I wrote that sentence, a FLYING ant landed on my arm. They've sprouted wings. Wings are cute on faeries, NOT ANTS.)

Today I sprayed the entire perimeter of my house. I have planted poison bait along their trails. Yet, they still found my pantry. So, I sealed all the loose items in my pantry and wiped down all my shelves. This is war. Seriously.

The worse part. Remember this? Well, apparently there are still traces of that Italian Ice in my computer (lemon-flavored (very important that you know that)) because they won't leave my computer alone. Ewe gross. I have so much ant-anger in my heart right now. I can't even write without ANTS.

If I was not so mad right now, I'd think of a very clever analogy about ants and writing. But I'm mad and drained of wit. You must think of one for me.

What? Three posts in four days? Very unlike me, I know.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

FIL-ial affection

This weekend, my visiting father-in-law wanted the Internet, and I gladly let him use my computer. However, I did not consider the two open word documents, one being my book.

(suspenseful blogging moment)

No, he did not accidently erase my book. He did something much worse.

He read the other open word document, thinking it was my book.

This little document was, however, a mess of word vomit I wrote while attempting to get my backstory out. It uses phrases such as:

there lived...
it was as if...
in the meantime...
actually quite...
as it was...

He told me it was very good. Oh dear.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Small post, Small goal

I have a new fool-proof word goal: One word per day.

I'm really going for a no pressure goal here. Of course, at one word per day a 70,000 word novel will take approximately 192 years. The good news is that this will free up LOTS of time to discover extreme longevity.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Spell in Kansas

Tonight I met Aprilynne Pike, young adult author of Wings and Spells. If any of you read her blog, I assure you she is even more adorable in person. (But much taller than she is on her blog, which is only about one inch.)

Aprilynne stressed how success in writing is about the work, not the luck. She said when she set out to write a book, she had no idea how much work it would take. She reported many years of work, 3 1/2 books, and over 100 rejections before she landed a publishing contract. This, I think, is hopeful.

I finished Spells just a couple hours before I met Aprilynne. (I have to finish a book before an author signs it because it's cheating if I don't.) Aprilynne writes beautifully, and her ideas are so creative. What I really love is the stress on family in her novels. There is boy-love, but then there is family-love. And that I love.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Do you want to win $250? I thought so.

My friend, Bethany, is running her Sports Princess photo contest for 3 more days. Did I mention that since my last Sports Princess post, she went to the London Book Fair (made it there BEFORE the Icelandic volcano) and signed with Irish literary agents?

Her book, The Soccer Princess: Josephina and the Crustacean King, is being re-illustrated by an agented illustrator, and won't be available in June as originally planned (but still in 2010 she promises!). In the meantime, she is still running the contest and handing out 2 fantastic grand prizes. What are you waiting for?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Think and Drive

Just a warning to CLEAR YOUR MIND while driving, and absolutely NEVER think about your novel then. It may be prime creativity time. Your brain may start to unreel and ideas may begin to fly.

However, your speedometer may slowly creep up. You may not see all the signs you pass. And you MAY miss the exit to the airport when you are on your way to pick up your husband.

It's VERY dangerous. Please, NEVER think about your novel while driving.

By the way, I've decided to be much more regular about my blogging. From now on I will post every Monday. Unless I decide to post on Tuesday. But if Tuesday doesn't happen, I may wait until Wednesday.

And if it works out, I'd like to post a second time on Thursday. Or I'll wait until Friday. I'd like to be much more predictable.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Unfettered Writer

Sometimes I want to pause my life, take my laptop, and head to the nearest beach. But there are a few problems: Life doesn't come with a pause button; my laptop has a very short battery life; and I live in Kansas.

But the bigger problem? (Or is it a problem?...) If life wasn't coming at me ALL THE TIME, I think my writing would suffer.

A crazy thought? (How many rhetorical questions can I ask?) The thing is, I believe that the distractions and pulls of life make me a better writer in the end.

I've heard a few people say that once they had open time to write, they found it more difficult to meet their goals.

When we are bombarded with the demands of our day, we might seize the last hour before bed to write. And maybe that hour is more productive than eight fat hours of daytime writing.

Is the unfettered writer really more productive in the end?

What about creativity? It's life and living that feed our muses. Place me on my beach, and I think I'd be lulled to sleep by the waves. Maybe instead of writing I'd drink one too many pina coladas (sin alcohol) (sin means without in case you didn't know).

Give me a day with my two children, and I'll have a breakthrough idea for my book while folding laundry or making grilled cheese. (I was going to say...while changing a poopy diaper. But no, I never have breakthroughs while changing poopy diapers.)

Have any of you ever been so lucky to have large blocks of unfettered writing time? Did you find yourself more or less productive? Did your muse run and hide or stay and play?

Disclaimer: I am still excited for the day when my time is less full, and I can fill it with writing...and not be TOO distracted by the waves and the frozen drinks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The 30's with a Good Chance of Sunshine

When I was a child, my parents watched a show called Thirtysomething. It sounded very boring because it was about a lot of old people. You know, those old people in their 30's.

Today I turn 30. Not so old as I used to think ;) I say good-bye to my 20's forever, which were huge. A LOT happened in my 20's-college, career, marriage, children.

However I'm not looking back today. I am very excited for my 30's.

I'm excited to raise my children and hopefully have more babies.

I'm excited to one day move my family to a house we actually OWN. (There is this thing in our life called House We Cannot Sell and Renting Somebody Else's House They Cannot Sell.)

I'm excited to WRITE MORE BOOKS...and...(fingers crossed)...get published! (Hey, that's a ten year time window. Not completely unrealistic.)

I'm excited to learn more, make new friends, and have new interests.

I'm excited to spend ten more years with him.

Yes, the 30's are going to be great.

(After I wrote this, I decided that if I were a novel, this would be the last thing I wrote before I died a tragic death. It would be a very, very sad novel. But now since I pointed this out, it can't actually happen because that would be too much of a coincidence for real life.)


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Calling All Music Lovers

As some of you may remember, I don't listen to music much. I even drive and write in silence. My life is noisy, and when I can have Quiet, I invite it in.

However, as I was reading a blogpost by Stephanie Perkins this morning, she said:

When I've decided on the tone of the scene I'm writing, I seek out music that reflects that tone, and I listen to those songs for hours, days, weeks on end.

Since she is about to be published, I figure it must work. I thought I'd give it a try because my manuscript needs some serious momentum.

But I don't know many songs, which is why I'm posting. Here are my upcoming "scene tones." Any suggestions on accompanying soundtrack would be very helpful.

Moonlight Mysterious

Fear, Darkness, and Shadows

Reluctantly Falling in Love

Discovery, Power, and post-apocolyptic Happiness

Bring on the music!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Being Mom

Feet padding across the floor
"Get up, Mom."
Is the sun up yet?
The morning pauses
Two bowls of cereal
His gummy vitamin
"Play with me."

Squeals from her crib
"Baby's awake!"
Feet padding to the nursery
Happy noises
She smiles
Her small body can't hold
All her joy

They teach me
How to love

All of those morning moments
The time you spent with me
The smiles we shared
The joy we felt

You taught me how
To be a mom

The little girl on the tricycle is my mom in Spain almost fifty years ago. (My grandfather was in the military, and the first home my mother remembers is a great rambling mansion run by servants. Very romantic. Now all that is left of that beautiful house -and we can actually see it on Google Earth- are stone ruins. The roof is gone. Trees are actually growing out of her brother's bedroom.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Scary Thing

Today, while visiting my sister, I heard a large boom-clatter-boom followed by the cries of three children. Thinking of toppled toys and disgruntled children, I went upstairs. My neice was standing outside her bedroom door crying. I attempted to open it, but could only crack it as it was blocked. Through the door I could see my son...crying. And my nephew...crying, with half his body under a fallen dresser. This is what blocked the door.

You never know how exactly you will react to something before it happens. You'd like to think that in the face of an emergency you would be very calm and collected. And maybe I would have if I could have entered the room immediately and raised the dresser. However, I couldn't get in. I imagined my nephews legs crushed, and it seemed the more I pushed the more pain I caused him.

So I screamed. A scream that put pictures of blood and impalation in my sister's head, and she ran up the stairs calling 911. Of course, this all took place in a matter of seconds. A moment later, I had my brain about me, and moved the other piece of furniture that blocked the door. I lifted the dresser, inspected my nephew's legs, and five minutes later he was running around in his dinosaur costume none the wiser. Sorry 911 dispatcher.

I'm not posting this just to tell you I'm a screamer, but to remind everyone with small, climbing children (and within the realm of my blog) to anchor their furniture to the wall...especially the tall and heavy kind. I didn't know it then, but the dresser in question was actually quite light* (cheers for cheap furniture). However, my other sister (also present at the scene of crime) knows of two children who died this way.

(Here is a how-to link. Works for evil dressers, too.)

On a much MUCH lighter note, I won a contest today. Well, okay...second place. The other two entries were pretty fabulous. Go see.

*later addendumm: While discussing the above incident in-depth with my sister just now, I made a comment about this 'light' dresser. She said she always considered it a very heavy dresser. Hmmmmm. Adrenaline-rush when I easily lifted it off his legs? A very lucky boy? Or maybe guardian angels? :)

Monday, May 3, 2010


If you give a writer mom alone time and some cash, she will NOT spend it on practical things like massages and clothes shopping. No, most likely she will waste it on conferences and workshops.

Saturday I attended a SCBWI workshop, which experience I highly recommend. I've been to one other workshop, as well as the 2009 conference. I enjoyed them all, but I enjoyed only spending $20 on the workshops. For a fraction of the conference-price you are still getting a WHOLE day of writing advice (which rhymes with price) from a real-life author.

There is also the bonus of meeting real-life writer friends, although whenever someone spoke I thought, "Why are you talking? I didn't click on you." I'm not quite as sociable with strangers as I am on my very own electronic stage. Yet we shouldn't underestimate the power of networking in the flesh. (Hence my title. You thought it was a zombie post, didn't you?)

And, having someone look at me and TELL me how plot and characterization works clicked in a different way than reading it...which I've done one million times. I didn't feel like the information I received was necessarily new information, but I learned it in a whole new way. I think it stuck this time.

If you haven't already, check out your SCBWI chapter online information. It seems mine has a workshop every quarter. Once I get permission from the author, I'll post a few tips that I found really helpful.

Now go and win some books or something.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wabi Sabi

This weekend I read an article about "wabi sabi" which is the Japanese philosophy of embracing imperfection (to sum it up imperfectly).

Beauty is transient and so we find peace in the worn, the wrinkled, and the not-so-perfect aspects of our lives.

The last two days, I've been trying to live this philosophy.

Toys on the floor? wabi sabi

Stack of paper collecting in my kitchen? wabi sabi

Buzz light-year shoes with his brand-new church suit? Scratches on my coffee table? Poop-stains on my cute baby clothes? Scuffs on the wall? WABI SABI!

(By the way, there needs to be a better balance between a wabi sabi home and a zen home, because after a weekend of saying "wabi sabi" to all messes, it's a huge disaster.)

What about the messes, the incongruencies, the scratches, and the poop-stains in my manuscript? Just like I need to learn to live in an imperfect house and live with an imperfect me, I need to learn to write in an imperfect manuscript.

When I edit, I can try and perfect it. But not now. I am writing my second draft, but it is still a draft and I've been striving too hard for perfect.

I don't want this draft to be quite the train wreck my first draft was. I find that as I write, I need a scene to be strong before I build on it with another scene. Strong, not perfect.

What about you? Do you need a little wabi sabi in your manuscript?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Character Thereby Complete

He is also handsome...which a young man ought likewise to be if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete.

I was perusing my Pride and Prejudice the other day and came upon this. Although Jane Austen meant sarcasm to drip from Elizabeth's lips and off the page, I think she hit on a young adult fiction truth.

Oh the handsome teenage hero!

I know there may be exceptions, but I'd say that most young adult heroes I've read rival Edward's granite abs. And I confess that my two heroes (how will she choose!?) are nice-looking.

Of course the hero has other attributes: He's smart. He's witty. He's caring. He is IN LOVE WITH THE HEROINE! However, these you often discover as you read. When the hero first enters the book, don't we want to know what he looks like?

Why? WHY? Because the teenage girls need to fall in love with the hero? Is this the quickest way to their heart? (So what are we telling them exactly?)

I'm not about to uglify my heroes, but it made me think and wonder after everyone else's take on this phenomenon of handsomeness.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Enter Olivia

I am pausing this week of viruses, fevers, and drips to post a piece from my book. Remember Olivia and how much trouble she gave me? Well, the words did finally wrap around her and pull her into the manuscript but not without a fight.

Cue Curtain

“That’s Olivia,” Quinn said, following my gaze. The girl stood to meet us, unfolding her pale legs and wiping her hands on her cut-offs. A mess of blonde curls burst from under a red bandana, and she studied me as we crossed the short distance between the grid and the pyramid. I thought her faded tee seemed a little tight for the jungle, and her legs a little long for archaeology.

“Olivia’s our glyph girl,” Quinn continued. “Did you remember the necklace?”

I placed my hand over my heart where the amulet hung, still tucked away under my shirt. “We don’t have to show her. She looks busy.”

“She’s not too busy.”

As we approached, Olivia stepped over the ropes and pegs that divided the grid. “I waited for you this morning,” she said to Quinn. “What took you so long?” Her voice was breathy and British and hinted of the peppermint she cracked between her teeth.

...About a page and a half more words that would not make sense to you out of context, would be way too long a stop for you on the blog highway, and frankly, I'm not sure I like enough to post...

“What are you thinking about?” Quinn asked as we stopped under the shade of the tent.

I hesitated, unwilling to share my real thoughts, and jerked my head towards Olivia. “I don’t think she likes me.”

“How would you know?” Quinn asked. “You barely spoke to each other.”

“It’s girl language,” I said, lowering my voice. “She looked right at me, and said ‘I don’t like you.’”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, she also said, ‘Hands off. I saw him first.’”

Quinn’s eyebrows knit together for an instant before comprehension lit his face. “You mean…You think she…” His words fell off as he looked at Olivia, who luckily seemed unaware of our discussion as she brushed away at the dirt.

“Yes,” I said, cringing when I saw a smile’s shadow play on his lips. “That makes you happy?”

“That makes me amused, Tess,” he said, his eyes searching mine. “I’m not interested in Olivia. I’m interested in somebody else.”

I hoped the subdued light under the tent masked my blush. “What did you want me to see?”

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I hate for a whole week to go by without posting. And so, because I'm short on time and inspiration, I'm going to make a short brag list. It is more exciting to me than you, I'm sure, but maybe you'll be a little bit jealous. Which is my goal. To make everyone jealous.

In May I am going to attend an SCBWI workshop on characterization. It is so much more than a workshop, however. It will be my first time alone and away from both children for more than two hours.

In June I am attending a Supernatural Summer event which is actually coming HERE, to Kansas of all places. And only twenty minutes from where I live. I'll get to meet Aprilynne Pike. Hers was one of the first blogs I came across when I started writing and blogging over a year ago, and she has been a great source of inspiration. Plus, she writes lovely books.

Last week I attended a fundraising event at church, and purchased five hours of website design for only $30. I'm not sure whether to redeem this now or later. It seems kind of early in my writer development for an actual website.

So in a couple months I will characterize better, own a signed copy of Spells, and possibly have a website. There is nothing more exciting...except maybe finishing a book. And finding an agent to represent the book. And selling the book. Hopefully you'll read that list someday.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What Husbands Are Good For

I've mentioned before that I am concerned about the expiration date on my novel.

See, my novel centers around the Mayan end-of-time prophecy. Which is 2012. Which is in two years.

1) Most agents are looking at novels now for publication in 2012.
2) My novel is not finished. (It's 2010!) Clock is ticking.
(Oh and 3) Most importantly, as the world will be ending in approximately two years, eight months, and eighteen days, who will be left to read my book?)

When I shared these thoughts with my husband he said I only had to change a few things in my novel, and it could be published later.

Like what?! I asked, irritation clouding the air between us like a foul odor intent on stinking up any marital communication that involved my masterpiece.

He suggested, between mouthfuls of underdone red meat, that as the world will in fact not REALLY end in 2012 (you had me fooled, Long Count Calendar), people may want to know exactly who saved them and how.

What a genius.

No more end-of-time pressure.

Monday, March 29, 2010

You Have An Ugly Baby

Three years ago, when my first-born was a baby, I asked important questions such as: Is it time to supplement with formula? Johnson's or store-brand? If my baby were ugly, would people tell me?

No. No one will EVER tell you if your baby is ugly. These thoughts naturally inspired a book idea:

You Have An Ugly Baby
The Art of Giving Compliments

If you have a baby, people will say something. They will go out of their way just to peek into your stroller or your carrier...because people like to look at babies. But once they've peeked, they must comment. I mean, they can't exactly just turn and walk away, can they?

So what if your baby has a big nose and squinty eyes and abnormally large jowls? You'll never know. You'll just never know. Because, to you, your baby is perfect. And the peeker is left to form a compliment based on some redeeming feature:

Hair-especially if the baby has a lot of it. If the baby is bald, you may have to try...

Chub rolls-but only if you are sure it is a boy. Moms like to hear they have a fat boy, but not so much a fat girl. If the baby is scrawny and bald, you'll have to refer to blanket statements.

"Your baby is precious" seems to sum it up pretty well.

Recently I've considered the art of receiving compliments. Now I have another perfect baby. (At least I think so...naturally.) And people tell me she is beautiful. Today I was chatting with a friend (I know, a real-life friend...crazy) and I mentioned that perhaps I'm not receiving the your-baby-is-beautiful compliment well.

Typically I agree and say, "I know." However, I realize this isn't going to encourage further baby admiration, and it sounds like I'm a little full of myself (or my baby). In order to conform to social norms I must start expressing gratitude or adding some self-depracating statement like, "I don't know where she gets it."

Okay, my compliment book concept hasn't exactly been developed beyond this. In fact, I was going to tweet this but decided to turn it into a blog post and now I've probably dragged the subject out past redemption.

I absolutely guarantee that the next post I compose will be related to writing, unless it is not.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Adorably Brilliant

This is my 100th blog post! I'm sure I'm supposed to do something to celebrate, but I'm all out of chocolate poo.

Instead, I'm going to refer you to an incredible book I just finished. I took a break from the paranormal and checked out Ally Carter's Heist Society last week. It is adorable, brilliant, adorably brilliant.

I put this one at the top of my list with Hunger Games. It has been optioned for a movie, and I'm very excited. This book was so refreshing after reading about six or seven stale books in a row. Ally Carter writes so well, the dialogue is amazing, and the plot is so together. No plot holes. None.

One thing that Ally Carter does so well is switch between the omniscient POV and third-person POV (Katarina). She wrote in her blog that she thought of it as a movie while she was writing it, and it does read a lot like a movie. It's very fast-paced. I stayed up finishing it last night, and I haven't done that for awhile.

Just a quick synopsis: Katarina Bishop was born a thief and raised a thief, but her thieving life wears on her. So she does what any thieving girl would do-she steals a normal life. This backfires, and she's thrown back into her "heist society" when her dad's life is on the line. You find this all out within the first few pages, and the rest of the book is a lot like Ocean's Eleven and Italian Job. But not. It's very original. I HIGHLY recommend it. READ IT.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's a Little Tough

I wrote my rough draft in two months this past fall. Somehow I had this idea that my rewrite would happen quickly, too. Now this rewrite is a COMPLETE rewrite. I am writing the book again from scratch...and being much less sloppy about it...and feeling discouraged at how slow the process is.

I did have a second child in between drafts one and two, but it's not so much the time I lack, although I wish I had more. I put in an hour or two of writing every night after my children are asleep, but I may get a page or a paragraph or a sentence. (Usually it's a REALLY good sentence.)

And after a few months of writing this way, I only have about a quarter of my book. Writing can be just little discouraging, as I'm sure you all know. I mean, you never really get how hard writing is until you are there. It's hard! And time consuming! If I worked as a nurse during all the hours I have put toward writing, I'd have much neater things.

So if you would please send me some of your productivity. Just enough that you won't miss. I'd be very grateful.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Normal

This post isn't about the unwritten, unconceived sequel to Heidi's Some Kind of Normal. It's about a husband's unexpected ten-day trip to Texas for back surgery, and the wife he left behind.

(Lest you think I'm selfish, we will first take a moment to consider the months and months of back pain felt by my husband and his stoic and peaceful way of dealing with it.)

(And I will also express gratitude that we know an amazing neurosurgeon in Texas that has now successfully performed two difficult surgeries on my husband's back.)

Now back to the wife left behind...

I packed my bags and my kids and stayed with my parents. I discovered that if you take away a three year-old's daddy and then transplant the three year-old in a place that's not his home and with less cool toys, he will turn into a creature you do not recognize.

It was like invasion of the body snatchers, the resultant mom-stress so intense that I managed to lose four pounds on a diet of brownies, chocolate-chip cookies, and ice cream.

I think the muse snatchers came as well. While I spent several hours screen-looking and word-tinkering after my children were in bed, I wrote very little.

Now we are home.

My husband is here.

And I'm starting to recognize my child again.

Things are back to normal. I LIKE normal.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sport Princesses

Yesterday I discovered that one of my girlhood friends, Bethany Hegerhorst, is writing a line of children's books.

The line is Sport Princesses, the idea inspired when her daughter wanted to be a princess and Bethany just wanted her daughter to like sports. :)

Her first book The Soccer Princess: Josephina and the Crustacean King is available in June this year, just in time for the World Cup.

Go check out her blog. She is running a photo contest and a free book giveaway for her first fifty followers.

Anyone who once convinced my little brother to wear a dress and sing "Happy Birthday" deserves your attention.

Update: I advertised incorrectly on the 'free for the first fifty followers' bit. If you are interested in receiving a free book, be one of the first fifty to advertise Bethany's books on your blog (and notify her by email). But you can follow her, too, because she's cool and you want to. :)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

*Writes a Blog Post*

We bloggers are funny people. For instance, because we can't actually see each other, we've taken to writing about ourselves in present tense while setting it apart with *asteriks* or -dashes- or < what the heck are these called anyway >

*scratches nose*

And what about the LOL's? Are you really laughing out loud? Are you REALLY rolling on the floor and laughing?

*pulls son off of baby*

I, for one, appreciate the validation that you think my post is funny. (Especially since my main companions still wet themselves, and I'm left to laugh at my own jokes all day.) However, if you are really ROTFLing, that's creepy.

*wipes baby's boogars*

And I'm going to have to ask what nobody else has asked...

*tweets something about my son that is funny but wouldn't flow with this blog post*

Can there be too many blog awards? I like them because somebody blog-loves me, and then I get to pass on the love. But I don't always.

*hides head in shame*
*but not really*
*just a hyperbolic statement, really*
*and honestly I'm not sure I used the word "hyperbolic" correctly*

And who creates these awards in the first place? And why can't I? So, I've invented an award for myself that is non-transferable.

*kisses baby*

I hereby award myself with the UNPREDICTABLE BLOGGER AWARD. To win this award, I must:

1) Have no rhyme or reason as to when or how often I blog.

2) Be very spotty and unfaithful to my fellow bloggers in visiting their blogs.

3) Have mostly unhelpful and sarcastic posts.

*re-reads post to check for grammatical errors*

*gives son extra love due to guilt felt while writing a post during his conscious hours*

Monday, March 1, 2010

Italian Ice meets Three Year-Old meets Toshiba

I saved my computer by immediately prying off the drenched keys and mopping up the Italian ice before it caused any damage. My son knows he is in disgrace. Have you ever tried typing on your keyboard without the keys? It feels like braille. Now to replace these keys. My fingers know where they go but my brain does not...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Get Over It and INTO My Manuscript

I've been stuck on the same little part in my book for the last couple of days. And it's all her fault. She is a minor character, but so far my most difficult to introduce. However, it's very much like her because she would like to be more important. But she's not.

Sorry, Olivia.

You don't even have a last name. Get over it. I just need you to add a little romantic tension between my main character and the boy.

But she's dug her heels in and is refusing to enter the door that is my manuscript. It's not fair.

She may be bitter because I put her beautiful curly hair in a humid climate and stuck it under a bandana. Or she may be upset because I gave her a wide mouth. But I gave her long legs and a British accent. What more can you want as a minor character?

The boy?

Sorry, you are NOT getting the boy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Opinions Please

Two posts two days in a row? So unlike my typical random and sporadic blogging ways. But I want your opinion. My old title Untelling the Maya has been tentatively replaced by a new title Pieces of Moon. See the sidebar and have a GREAT weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Get Your Lawyerin' Hands Off My Query!

I just wanted to show him my query letter, especially after I won a certain Query Contest. I explained to him it is a cover letter for my book meant to persuade agents to read my book.

He went to town on it, taking all the pretty out of it until it threatened to be naked and ugly. But I stopped him, and he said, "Sorry, I'm looking at this like I'd look at a brief."

A brief?

brief: a written legal document that is presented to a court arguing why the party to the case should prevail.

My Book vs. All The Other Books

Facts: Unpublished author seeks representation by devoted literary agent.

Issue: Will My Book engage and interest a wide audience?

Decision : YES

Reasons : Said unpublished author provides My Book is good.

Other Opinions: Husband, Sister, and Friend all concur.

Writing a query never was so easy.

Friday, February 12, 2010


While making a concerted effort to keep as many HADs out of my book as possible, sometimes it is unavoidable. Yet, as the scrutinizing reader/writer that I am, those HADS always jump out like blemishes on the page.

However, if I am writing my book in first person past-tense and I am referring to something IN THE PAST, what about those HADs? Is there a home for them there?

I want to know how everyone treats this wretched word. I am giving an ambiguous and probably boring excerpt to illustrate.

The first is littered with HADS.

My eyes fell on my duffle bag, almost hidden beneath the extra pillows I HAD thrown off my bed when I HAD arrived. I HAD used the bag as a carry-on during my flight but HAD spent the overnight hours on the plane sleeping rather than reading. I unzipped the bag and saw the shoes, tossed among my paperbacks with a piece of paper crammed under the toes and dried mud still clinging to the soles.

See? She is looking at her duffle bag NOW. She unzips her duffle bag NOW. The rest is in the past.

And maybe I can eliminate some of the hads and not put them in capitals :) There is always, "I'd."

What if I wrote it like this?

My eyes fell on my duffle bag, almost hidden beneath the extra pillow I threw off my bed when I arrived. I used the bag as a carry-on during the flight but spent the overnight hours on the plane sleeping rather than reading. Now, I unzipped the bag and saw the shoes, tossed among the paperbacks...and the rest of it.

I think then, "now" should be added to re-orient the reader to the present-ness of the situation.

Now tell me your opinion about that awful three-letter word.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Some Kind of Normal

I had a chance to read my blog-friend Heidi Willis's debut novel a few weeks ago, and it was a real (sugar-free) treat.

Babs Babcock never finished school past the tenth-grade, but when her daughter is diagnosed with diabetes and an incurable insulin-allergy, Babs immerses herself in cutting-edge scientific research to find a cure. Problem is, the cure she finds goes against everything she and her family, not to mention her town, stands for.

But I think her awesome book trailer sums it up best.

The whole book is written in Bab's unique southern voice, and even though the subject matter of the book was not light, Babs made me laugh throughout.

What touched me the most while reading this book was the family relationships. They were so REAL to me I wanted to reach out and touch them. Babs and her daughter Ashley, who is dying but worries whether Brian Lee will be at Saturday movie night. Babs and her son Logan, who have matching souls but don't understand one another. Babs and her husband Travis, who define married love by the end of the book.

You see this family come together during their crisis in a beautiful way.

My favorite character? Hands down was the deviant, pink-mohawk teenage son, Logan. If this was a young-adult novel, I think I would have fallen in love with him a little bit. He plays the troubled teen, but he is really brilliant and devoted to his sister.

This family must bear the pricks of their closest friends and neighbors when they seek a cure in stem cell research that goes against the grain of their small town values. Babs finds pillars of strength among her friends, and those she didn't know were her friends, in her Baptist church. (And she only joined because the Baptists always looked like they were having so much more fun than the Lutherans.)

Heidi really did her research because woven throughout his deeply-felt tale is contemporary science. In fact, I googled a few things about stem cell research after reading because it sparked a few questions. Heidi herself is a diabetic, only not allergic to insulin, which I'm glad because I like her alive. And now she can write more books.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

And Along Came Giant!

When we tell my son a story, he never fails to pipe in with, "And along came Giant!" We've gathered quite the assortment of stories, and whether they make sense or not, they all have Giant in common.

I've decided this is the tactic I have been missing when my story comes to a standstill. How much more interesting my book would read with Giant! How interesting would all stories read if they only employed Giant:

Edward, your granite abs and sparkly epidermis are nothing to Giant. You think Jacob is competition?! Giant may not have lightning-quick reflexes, but he has Bella's heart from the moment he enrolls at Forks High. Bella no longer dreams of the day she will also have a scrawny corpse-like body (oops, New Moon Movie spoiler), but rather, the day she will also have legs the size of tree trunks.

The Capitol will rue the day that Giant came to play. District 14 surfaces, and they too must be Reaped. Of course Cinna is hard-pressed to find a costume in Giant's size. Nevertheless, together Katniss and Giant rule the Games, and instead of collecting their prize, Giant squashes the Capitol (leaving no room for a sequel).

What better spy than the very obscure Giant? He can pose as a mountain or a tall, mishapen, ungainly building. During his off-time, he acts as mascot to the Gallagher Girls learning 57 languages and 84 ways to kill a man with a paperclip. When Cammie meets a town boy and tells him her secret, Giant kills him, like the title actually implies.

Giant thinks he can rule the Unconsecrated, but one bite is still all it takes for one of his proportions to become infected. However, whilst trampling through the Forest of Hangnails and Snaggle Tooths, he flattens most of the undead, and the living are saved. Unfortunately, the Sisterhood is now free to come out from Wherever They Hide and proceeds to take over the world (leaving room for a sequel).

How can Giant improve your story? What do you write when you run out of fodder for blog-posts?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Query Contest

A new agent blog everyone! Kathleen Ortiz, an Associate Agent and Foreign Rights Manager at Lowenstein Associates JUST started her blog, and she is hosting a query contest to garner followers. Go check it out.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time in a place far above the clouds and somewhere else, there played a little boy and girl.

When they did not play, they waited until it was their turn to join the world of bodies, marshmallows, and Santa Clause.

One day a special wind tickled the ears of the little boy and girl, and they heard a song about a thing called Mother.

"That's lovely," said the girl.

"Yes," said the boy, listening to the rest of the song. "And we shall have the same mother."

They looked down upon the dazzling world below and saw their mother, her eyes closed, and a smile on her lips.

"Oh dear," pouted the girl. "I'm afraid she is dead."

"No, she only sleeps!" said the boy, who was older and wiser by a trifling 200 years.

"A sleeping mother is a dreadful thing!" said the girl.

So they swore on the moon and starshine that once they reunited they would do everything in their power to be sure the mother never slept again.

And then my son was born.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Without watching the video, you may deduce that it is one of two people because:

1) I was wrong and not many people do have an end-of-the-world novel deep down inside of them.
2) People are offended by poo-shaped chocolate.
3) Candice's entry was so brilliant that only the very brave (Jessica) ventured to compete. (And btw, Jessica, your prose was beautiful and your ending so depressing. Loved it.)
4) Oops, I guess I just gave away the winner with #3.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Win a Cowpie!

If that title didn't get you here, I don't know what else will. Today is my one year blog-versary, and after the tradition of many others I blog with I am running a contest to celebrate.

But FIRST, I get to talk about my year. It was a BIG year for me. I did three things this year I have never done in my life! And many of you were on the journey with me. I...(in the order of awesomeness)


(Yes, writing a book is less awesome than having a baby, but actually more awesome than visiting Europe.)

Okay, they are not all writing related, but they were big things and I had to share. As for other (writing) milestones for this year...(not in order of awesomeness)

I started my blog.
I met all of you!
I joined my critique group.
I went to my first writer's conference.

Okay, enough about about this contest.

No random numbers for me. This is a contest purely dependent on my whims and opinions. As Untelling the Maya is about the end of the world, I have decided that is my theme for this contest. Everyone has an end-of-the-world novel somewhere deep inside of them.

I want you to write the last paragraph of your end-of-the-world novel, whether the world really does end and everyone with it or your characters end the victors or they are just barely hanging onto life, the only survivors. I'm running this contest until Sunday midnight.

The prize?

Well, what else does a girl from Kansas divvy out as prizes but cowpies? Since real cowpies don't mail well, I am going to have to settle for a fudge cowpie from Chips Chocolate Factory.

(Blogger only wants me to post huge cowpie pictures, but it is even bigger in real-life. Yum.)

Chips does not ship cowpies, real or fudge, over the ocean unless you live in the Federated States of Micronesia or Guam. Therefore, if you have the misfortune (yea right) of living in some exotic land far, far away...well, sorry.

Let the END of the END OF WORLD novel contest begin...