Thursday, September 27, 2012

When Is My MS Beta Ready?

I am about twenty pages from the end of my first major edit. It has taken a lot longer than I thought it would, but doesn't it always? EVERYTHING always takes longer than I think it will (said I to myself last weekend when our beach vacation ran several hours behind schedule).

Since I finished my draft, I moved. And I had a baby. And added sixty-five pages to my book. So I have my reasons. Oh, and I'm slow. I guess that's reason #1.

As I've plugged through this edit, I've made even more notes that I want to address on a second edit. It will be more of a "clean-up" edit, tucking in ends and such. But, the truth is I could EDIT FOREVER. Which begs the question...how "nice" is your draft before you send it to your betas???

I realize there is a point at which my edits will just be me chasing my own tail (if I had a tail and I don't) because I won't see my MS clearly anymore. And I'm very excited to present it to my beta readers and step back from it for a little bit so I can start another, new project that has nothing to do with cruise ships, rogue iguanas, or charming pirates.

Tell me, I'd love to hear your experience with betas.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When My Husband Believes in My Book More Than I Do

It's true. And while he's read other writing of mine, I've only let him read the first chapter of my book. He seems to think it's only a matter of finishing the book before it's published. I've tried to explain to him that it may take years and many books before I get there. (Because I refuse to consider I'll "never" get there.) But I suppose that is what I need. Someone who believes in me that much.

If my book ever comes up in a conversation involving me, my husband, and Somebody Else he will always praise my writing. And even though he drafts contracts every day and is a stranger to middle-grade girl fiction--his praise means something. Plus, his optimism is catching. I mean, what IF?

What if this book really is good enough?

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Farewell to Charms Blog Tour, Lindsey Leavitt

I'm very excited to participate in Lindsey Leavitt's blog tour today. I've read and enjoyed all of her books, and I'm really looking forward to her next. If you haven't read my review for Lindsey Leavitt's final book in her Princess for Hire series, it's two blog posts before this one.

How long have you been writing? (Can we have a super-readers-digest version of your journey to publication?)

I’ve written for fun my whole life. Not whole novels, but silly poems or short stories. After my first daughter was born, I decided I needed to finally see if this is something I can really do. That was eight years ago. I wrote and submitted for three years before selling Princess for Hire, which was released in 2010. A Farewell to Charms is my fourth published book, and I have 2 more on the horizon. Actually, I have a lot more on the horizon. Writing has become such an essential part of who I am, I hope to do it for a very long time.

Is there anything in particular that gave you the idea for your Princess for Hire series?

Princess for Hire came to me while I was watching the old Audrey Hepburn movie, ROMAN HOLIDAY, where a princess takes a vacation for the day. I was substitute teaching at the time, and thought, What if she could get a sub? Boom.

Did you find the blogging community beneficial in your becoming-a-writer process?

YES YES and YES. I started my blog within months of starting novels—my archives go back to July 2005 if you have time on your hands. It was through blogging that I began to develop my voice, and it was in the livejournal community that I met my best writing friend, Lisa Schroeder. I shared my ups and downs along the way, and I had a group of people cheering me along who understood. Now, as a published writer, bloggers are champions for my books, people I love discussing literature with. I heart blogging and bloggers.

When you were unpublished, did you tell many of your family/friends about your writing dream?

Not really. I kind of told everyone when I first started, and the reaction was like, oh, that’s nice. Or I would get unsolicited advice, or some people even tried to talk me out of it. So I kind of just shut up about it and found writing friends online apart from the people in my everyday life.

I really like this division even now. Of course, I can talk to my friends about writing, and I do, but only snippets. My writing friends and I talk about life, but usually we talk more about writing. All of these people together make me feel more complete and balanced.

How do you balance family life with author life? When do you get most of your writing/editing done?

I get this question a lot, and two years later I don’t know how to answer it. I’m not always balanced. During deadlines, my work swallows me alive. But after I turn something in, I take a few weeks off. Right now, I’m in brainstorming stage, so I carry a journal around with me and jot down notes, but really I’m not working too much. I’m spending time with my kids, organizing my house. So I guess balance for me is that pendulum swinging back and forth between being a full time mom and writer, the two things I love most in life.

I used to do all my writing at night, but my kids are at an age now where I am exhausted come nine o’clock. So I have a babysitter 1-2 days a week, and then work about 1-2 nights a week. I think my best writing still happens at night, but only if I’ve consumed a lot of diet Pepsi. A lot.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Turn the internet off for awhile each day so it’s just you and your word processor. There is so much information on the internet, it’s wonderful for research on both writing and the industry, but you can’t get caught up in that. You have to silence the noise and plug into your story.

Thank you, Lindsey! I highly recommend going to the bookstore or library today and beginning her Princess for Hire series if you haven't already.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I Made a Human!

I love that moment right after birth. That moment the doctor hands you your newly born babe, just before she screams all that blue off her skin. And as she pinks up and the nurse rubs her dry, the miracle of what just happened really seeps into you. What you just did...created life. It's amazing.

My newest was born about ten days ago. Now we are home and this little person has turned everything upside down and inside out. But it's all worth it because she smiles when she sleeps and smells like newborn. She has big hands and big feet and long, long limbs, so I call her Monkey. Unlike a monkey, however, she doesn't throw poo. Yet.

Of course we are all exhausted, but my mom flew in two days ago so I'm beginning to remember what normal feels like. And I am also mastering one-handed typing. Like right now.

And on a non-baby note, I am participating in Lindsey Leavitt's blog tour for her newest release Farewell to Charms, which doesn't smell as nice as my baby but is very good. That's Friday. Now to go burp and change and other newborn things.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Farewell to Charms by Lindsey Leavitt

Today is the release day for Farewell to Charms.I'm not a series girl, but this is one of those exceptions to my strong anti-series opinions. Lindsey Leavitt's Princess for Hire books are just very funny and clean and flirty. If they were food, they would be pink frosted cupcakes. (I want my book to be pink frosted cupcakes, too, but right now it is still in the 4 quart Kitchen-Aid mixer bowl.) This is the third and last in the series, so if you start now you will be able to finish and not have to wait a year.

From Goodreads:

Desi Bascomb is a princess substitute prodigy--she's the fastest employee ever to advance to level three in the Facade Agency, and the youngest ever to be a full-time sub. But not with all eyes on Desi, the only thing she wants is a moment alone to talk to Reed, who's a Facade legacy and secretly a sub for princes. As Desi trains for her new role, she spies more than a few cracks in the Facade's perfect appearance. But uncovering the agency's dark past might require more than a princess sub can handle by herself. Desi is no damsel in distress, but sometimes a girl needs a knight in shining armor.

And by the way, Lindsey Leavitt has a YA book Sean Griswold's Head which is also very good, but not in a pink frosted cupcakes way. More of in a layered chocolate cake way.

Oh and I suppose I can't post today without mentioning that little bit of news that I HAD MY BABY. But I'm not going to compare her to dessert. More later...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I first heard about this book from an interview of one of my choice agents. (Do you like how I make it sound like I choose them, instead of they choose me?) She said it was one of her all-time favorite books. I also  read a good blog review on it recently. THEN, while sitting in the children's section of the library with my kids sifting through discarded books on the reading table, I came across this book. I figured it must be a sign and I should not put off reading it any longer.

So, I did. I read most of it in one night. It was much better than I anticipated.

The writing and voice were amazing. The friendship issues the mc had felt very real. But what I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED about this book--there was a small touch of the supernatural. Now, it feels very not-supernatural (1970's historical actually). However, there is enough of the not-realistic that makes it sort of magical, yet not too much that it has to delve into a lot of explanation of the "hows" and the "whys." You have to suspend your belief a little and just enough. And in the end you still have questions, but the good kind. Does that make sense? Well, you'll have to read it to find out.


From Goodreads:

Four mysterious letters change Miranda's world forever.By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.


The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When Google Taught Me More About Denmark Than Denmark Taught Me About Denmark

As some few may remember, I took a 10-day Baltic Sea cruise a few years ago. With a two year-old might I add, who oddly enough remembers details about the cruise that I don't remember. It's crazy, the memory that kid has. Or maybe it's crazy the memory I don't have.

But I digress.

My book is based on that Baltic Sea cruise. Liza visits all the same countries I did. When I drafted, I went mostly off memory and did a little Internet searching for details I had trouble remembering (really, I'm sure there is some correlation between having children and losing brain cells-especially the memory ones).

However, as I edit now, I've focused more on setting and fleshing out those details. Details like...the eastern view through the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. I didn't pay attention to that then, but it became important to my story. Now, I've been familiar with Google Earth for awhile, which is amazing. Usually, when I've used Google Earth, I've zoomed in far enough so that the well-known landmarks become computer generated, but all the other details are flat. Well, there is also a function where you can zoom into a street view, and basically take a "3D" walk through Cophenhagen. (Maybe this is news to no one but me, but I was excited.)

Then there are details that I just never learned while visiting there because, to be honest, our off-the-boat country jaunts were kind of random and unplanned. I've found things through Internet searching (travel blogs are great) to fill in those gaps. It makes me wish I had paid more attention while I was there, but I had that two-year old who was only interested in slides and throwing rocks.

Traveling gave me a good foundation for how the story unfolds in those countries, but my story wouldn't be the same without the Internet. And the Internet is cheaper than a plane ticket. And I don't have to move off this couch. Which reminds me...about 5 weeks until baby. Which is forever in end-of-pregnancy time.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Honor of Alice Demske Hansen on Mother's Day

Last week Alice gave birth to her third child, her first daughter. During delivery she contracted "childbed fever"--a disease that once claimed a lot of lives but is extremely rare now. She died not long after her daughter was born. And it's left a widow with two small boys and a newborn.

I went to church with Alice while my husband was in graduate school. I didn't know her well, but I have friends that did. She's been on my facebook page and in my mind since I found out. It's just so sad...such a rare and happenstance infection. She was strong and healthy, and now her family doesn't have her anymore-at least in this life. And it's Mother's Day. Can you keep her family in your prayers?

Here is a link to a post and family fund set up by her sister-in-law. See how beautiful and full-of-life?

Happy Mother's Day, Alice. You are still beautiful and full-of-life and only awaiting the day when you will be reunited with your family again.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Am I Having a Fall Out With Blogging?

It's funny that when my writing REALLY picks up, my blog posts do the opposite. Or maybe there is a direct correlation? Anyway, there have been so many times I open my blog, read my last post, and think..."I have nothing to say." Then I read other people's blogs (I read them! I really do!) and when I consider commenting, I think..."I have nothing to say." Why so boring? I have a lot to say while writing and editing my book. But maybe that's because I'm a ten year-old girl obsessed with pirates in my book. Not a 31 year-old pregnant woman.

So yes, I suppose my real-life self is much more boring. When I'm not working on my book I'm focusing on this gestating business, which usually involves naps, food, and thinking about naps and food. Who wants to hear about that? You do? Okay. Today I ate... Um, just kidding. But I want to be a blogging person again. I've just lost my blogging groove. What about you? Have you ever been at odds with blogging? Did you ever get your groove back?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Me in a Big Plastic Bin

You know those big plastic bins you store holiday decorations and baby clothes in? Well, I have three dedicated to journals and pictures and letters and odds and ends from basically my whole life before I married. I'd say two of them are pretty much teenage Jessie. I made a goal when I moved that I'd get rid of some stuff so I'd have more room in our storage closet. So I started going through Bins of Teenage Jessie, and mostly I just got lost in who I once was. (I think I threw away a rock. That is me getting rid of some stuff.)

As a teenager, I think I'm not alone in saying that I was insecure and didn't love myself like I love myself now. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, but I was always examining myself and wishing I was something more. I think I was still happy, but I struggled with self-esteem. Looking back at myself then...reading my letters, my journals, random notes from friends, seeing pictures...I have a better idea of who I was. And I realize I love Teenage Me. I was pretty cool. I had my faults (like this one for instance) but I wish I could have seen myself as I really was.

So to teenagers out there, I ask you to fast forward to 31 year-old you (you can be married and pregnant with your third child, too, unless you are a boy because then you can't be pregnant) and listen to what that person has to say.

(By the way, my mission was pretty much unsuccessful. And all three Bins of the Past went into the closet under the stairs. Next to that magic boy who wears glasses.) (Maybe that joke wasn't funny.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ploganably

Has it really been a month since my last post? I've been distracted. I finished reading through my novel and making note of everything that must be changed, which is a lot...too much to think about. Then I put it aside so I could pack up and move for the third time in thirteen months. Fortunately this move is semi-permanent...that is, longer than 6 months...and a good move because cohabitation is not my favorite. Unless you are my husband or my children and then cohabitation is my favorite.

We moved last Monday and I've been trying to get my house in order, but unpacking while pregnant and with small children is no easy feat. Actually, bending over and picking something up is no small feat right now. So here I am again in my somewhat-less-chaotic-than-yesterday house. I did make a plan to start my edits officially halfway through March. My goal is to have them done in a couple months and ready to send out to my betas so I can have a little time to nest before my baby comes. Or so I can have a little time to sit and do nothing, especially if that nothing includes not bending over. It's just so hard.

And my post title? Well, I've had a thing with names in this book. I just changed my MC's name for the third time. Who does that? Usually not me. I also changed a minor character "Rob" to "Logan." Thing is, when you do the "replace all" function in Word, it isn't just the proper "Rob" that is changed but all the little mini "robs" that are crowded into other words. Hence, her lucky "robe" becomes her lucky "logane" and a "problem" becomes a "ploganlem." But mostly I just realized after reading "ploganably" too many times how much I use the qualifier "probably."

Do you do many name changes after you write your first draft? Do you think moving three times in thirteen months sounds crazy, too? Any advice for getting through the next few months without having to bend over?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Love

Heidi passed on the Kreativ Blogger award to me, and so I must list 10 interesting thing about myself. And since it is Valentine's Day...

Ten Things I Love That Are Interesting

1. I love my husband. We do not celebrate Valentine's Day on Valentine's Day as a rule, however. The restaurants are much less crowded a few days later. We are going out Friday night, and I'm going to order DESSERT! (I mean, how often do you really order dessert when you go out to eat? Me? Never.) (And since I'm pregnant, maybe I'll order two.)

2. I love my son. He always asks long and intricate questions that require long and intricate answers...and sometimes at night, after tuck-ins and lights-out. So I sit down at his bedside and explain life to him in a smooth and loving voice....Okay, last night I said, "Let's have this conversation tomorrow." (The other day, I had to explain the nervous system to him.)

3. I love my daughter. My daughter is finally figuring out the talking thing. (Both my kids are late walkers, talkers, potty-trainers, etc. But both are extraordinarily intelligent.) Her new favorite words are "No" and "Go" which she uses in a loud screech like this: "No, Mama. Go. Go. Go, Mama. No." Usually when she is doing something naughty. Which is 27 times a day.

4. I love Jane Austen. I got sick a couple weekends ago and read Sense and Sensibility for the fifth-ish time. And then Jane Austen started narrating my life to me in my head. My life in her witty, elegant British voice sounds much more interesting than I could make it. Oh, Jane.

5. I love beautiful weather. We've had a few cold days in South Texas lately, but today was seventies and breezy and nice. Funny how spoiled I get. I used to live in Kansas where a forty or fifty degree day in February was a treat. Here, I hunker down inside and scowl at the Evil, Cold Outside World.

6. I love my book. I've been taking a break, but have been rewriting sections as they come to me. I intend to start a big read-through any day now and start taking notes on what needs changing. This book has been kind of a joy to write. We'll see if I can say the same thing about editing.

7. I love libraries and bookstores and checking blogs and New Ideas and Words and all the things that make us who we are as writers and book-lovers.

8. I love the Cooking Channel and Food Network. It's my happy place on TV. And there is something about the chopping of vegetables perfectly with a sharp knife that is just so...relaxing. Not when I chop vegetables. That's not relaxing. And then sometimes I cut myself. That's not relaxing either.

9. I love checking things off in my planner. Then at the end of the day I can look back at all my check marks. Sometimes I add things that I already did and then check them off...just so I can have more check marks. This is normal behavior, I'm sure.

10. I love a clean house. And the dream of one day being able to afford to pay somebody that is not me to come in and clean my house. In fact, whoever that person, is...I love that person, too.

Happy Valentine's Day


Thursday, February 2, 2012

The End of Pirates and Pickles

First I said I'd finish my book by the end of the summer. Then by Halloween. Then by the end of the year. Then by the end of January. Okay, so my goal was...modified several times. Anyway, I finally finished my book yesterday.

Yesterday morning, Jummers was whining about how he wanted to do something FUN. And since I only exist so that my children can have FUN, I made him a deal. "If you let Mommy finish her book, we can go get something yummy at the bakery."

I had a few small scenes left so I thought it was completely reasonable. I don't get much writing done with my kids awake, but I. was. so. close. And Jummers was agreeable. However, his little sister was not. And really, those last few scenes took much longer than I thought they would...so on the very cusp of finishing we went and "celebrated" early because my son's patience was wearing very thin and Little had permanently hung herself on my arm.

So when Jummers had a football cupcake and about 200 grams of sugar inside of him and during Little's nap, I finished in the afternoon, and even though my book still needs a lot of work...I'm proud of it. This first draft is much better than my first book's first draft. It was more planned and plotted and therefore is more cohesive, yet it felt very spontaneous. I never really knew for sure what my main character would say (who has had a name change from Bonnie to Annie by the way...long story). And I like her.

So a couple weeks off then I'm going to edit this beast before I send it to my betas. My first book needed a completely-from-scratch rewrite, and this book does not. Which is a relief. A don't-look-back-at-your-first-draft-because-it's-too-awful-while-rewriting is a daunting task.

Now, I was thinking I've never really set out to edit my own book. I've edited other's books, I've done continual editing of pieces of my work, but not my own book in one whole chunk. I have some ideas how I'm going to proceed, but I'd love to know your editing methods:)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When the Villain Monologues

I realize January is over and that was my latest finish-my-book deadline. However, I am down to the last few chapters. Writing comes in tides and waves. On Sunday night I wrote for three hours straight. It was the longest I think I've ever written at one time without getting up. Not once. And I'm pregnant! Now that I think of it, I'm not sure how I never got up once to use the bathroom. The only explanation is that writing and my kidneys have a direct relationship with one other. So, Sunday night I wrote over 3,000 words and I thought "Surely, I will finish this book by the end of this month!" (However, I didn't really think the word 'surely.' And there was no exclaiming in my head.)

But the last few days I've been working on the villain-captures-the-heroine-then-meets-his-demise-scene. It's been rough. And now that I'm finished, I see that it needs to be completely rewritten and is already littered with notes for change. (But that can wait until later.) However, I resorted to the whole villain-tells-his-evil-schemes-to-heroine-so-that-reader-can-know-how-he-managed-to-get-this-far device. Remember the scene in The Incredibles when Syndrome starts telling Mr. Incredible about his evil plot, then says, "You got me monologuing! I can't believe it!"

Well, I have my villain monologuing, and I need another device.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Awkward Stages of Growing Babies and Books

I'm 17 weeks pregnant today, and in spite of my efforts to eat healthy and not exercise (but it's sooooo hard and sitting is so much fun!) I am bigger at this point than I have been in my previous pregnancies. It's that in-between stage where it's not quite clear if I am fat or pregnant. Also my clothes are too tight, but my maternity clothes are too big-so I can wear my barely buttoned (or not buttoned) jeans OR keep pulling my maternity pants up. And if I pick my daughter up and carry her, she has this way of wedging her ankle into the back of my maternity pants like a stirrup. Only my pants don't hold up as well as a stirrup.

Smooth-transition-into-talking-about-my-book-in-which-I-liken-writing-the-end-of-my-book-to-having-my-daughter-push-my-pants-down.

I've been less than 10,000 words away from the end of my pirate book for much too long. I even have the end completely plotted out, which is nothing like writing the end of my last book in which I just wrote it blindly and hoped it turned out okay. (It didn't.) However, there was the whole pregnancy sickness thing that pushed me back. Then Christmas. Then I started working on another book, a book I started awhile ago while I was still writing Pieces of Moon. I felt like the characters in my book were passing me by on their cruise ship waving at me to notice them. And I was ignoring them. Well, okay, I started noticing them again a couple of days ago. So we're back on board. (Back on board...heh heh...clever.)

I'm so close I can taste it. Can I finish before the end of January? I know I can. Plus, next month we are moving again. We've been living with my in-laws since the end of the summer, and I'm excited to get into our own house. It's been a good temporary living situation, but I've never appreciated the independence of running my own household until recently. Also, my in-law's house is too big for a two year-old, and my daughter keeps running away from me and getting lost. So I have to keep finding her. Hopefully I'll find her before we move.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Sequel Soapbox

I recently read a YA book which was just okay. However, I finished it because there were so many loose ends and I wanted to see how they were going to be all tied up. And they weren't. I have to wait a year for the sequel. But the thing is, I'm not going to read the sequel. I don't care enough about the story to immerse myself into the world again in a year.

The truth is, even if it is a book that is more than just okay, I still don't always read the sequel. I've found lately that I'm really not a sequel girl. In fact, I'm becoming a little annoyed with books with sequels because I feel like so many books should not have sequels...that the sequels just drag out a story that should be wrapped up in one book, not three. I've read sequels that are honestly a little painful because the story just seems too forced...like the author is dragging it out just to make it to the last book.

There are exceptions of course. Sometimes sequels work very well. And I think some multiple-book series work well, especially with children's books such as The Boxcar Children, where each book is a separate adventure almost independent of the other books in the series. I'm also a fan of companion novels where you can enter the world of the novel again, but each book completes its own story. A good example of this is Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern.

And as a writer, I like to wrap up my story in one book. I don't like to have loose ends. And when I finish the story...well, I think I'm done with it.

What are your feelings about sequels?