Tuesday, December 30, 2008
(Side note: you know how at the end of a yoga class, you're supposed to just lay there on your mat and empty your mind of all thought? Yeah, that SO doesn't work for me. This is usually when I end up writing dialogue for romantic scenes in my head. Yes, I know, I'm weird.)
Anyway, the song for today is Spoon's The Way We Get By. Probably not everyone is going to love this song as much as I do, but I really feel like it reflects Daniel's life--or at least how Grace thinks Daniel feels about his life (at first). Kind of a flippant, "Yeah, my life is messed up. But this is how I get by."
Enjoy (or not) and try running on the elliptical to it
Note: Inserting the music player has been doing funky things with my text (single spacing or that giant quotation mark in yesterday's post) so from now on I'll put the song after its description.
Monday, December 29, 2008
NOTE: If you are scratching your head, thinking, "What the heck is The Dark Divine play-list/soundtrack?"--then you need to go back and read this post.
So anyway, today's song is One with the Freaks by The Notwist. Take a listen and tell me what you think.
In my opinion, not only is this a beautiful song, it just works with my book in so many ways. First, there's the question: "Have you ever been all messed up?" Because, frankly, Daniel is messed up. I also love the line: "Things look much bigger on your knees." I have no idea if I'm interpreting the line right at all, but to me it symbolizes when you sink so low, that getting on your knees is the only way you can even try to figure things out--and from there things look so big, you can't possibly do it on your own. This is Daniel. He needs help--and Grace is the only one who can help him.
But I mostly see this song as a warning to Grace. She is drawn to Daniel, but Jude (knowing a pretty dark secret about their former friend) tries to make Grace stay away from Daniel. But she doesn't--she can't. Grace sees herself as Daniel's "life-line" (or lifeguard as the song says), and her decision to help Daniel behind Jude's back is what propels the action of the story. But can Grace help Daniel find his way, without losing her own?
I love the lines in this song that go:
"Miss the signal
Miss the signpost
Miss the exits to it all
And all of a sudden
you were one with the freaks"
Okay, so future song descriptions probably won't be as detailed as this one. So far
I haven't given more away than you'd learn in the first chapter (or by reading the
back of the book while standing in B&N) but I don't want to spoil anything for
those who haven't read the book yet. . . So for now, enjoy the song and tell me
what you think. The next one will be posted tomorrow.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
16 of them, actually. That's right, for the next 16 days leading up to B-Day, I will leave you a little gift on my blog for your enjoyment. And what is this amazing gift that I've been working on for many days to make for y'all?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
It's the THE DARK DIVINE PLAY-LIST/SOUNDTRACK!!!!
Okay, so many of you are probably thinking, what the heck is The Dark Divine--and how can it have a soundtrack? And why is Bree so darn excited about it?
First off: The Dark Divine is the title of MY BOOK. Second: Yes, books CAN have soundtracks.
I know a lot of authors are posting play-lists of songs that inspired the writing of their novels--yeah, I'm not all that original or anything--but I am proud to say that my song-list is way super awesomer (I know, I know awesomer is not a real word) because not only is it a list of songs that inspired my writing, but I've also arranged them in a way to reflect the mood/characters' thoughts/progression of the novel. In other words: it's a book soundtrack!
How awesomer is that?! And it totally wasn't easy, either. I mean, some real painstaking work went into selecting these songs and arranging and rearranging them just right. Good thing I've got all this time and anxiety to kill . . . too bad for hubby I didn't channel any of it into doing the dishes . . .
Anyway, I was going to just post the whole thing at once, but then I realized that most people (other than myself) don't have the time to sit and listen to 16 songs in a row. So I decided that since there are 16 days until my birthday, I'll present one song a day for your listening pleasure. I'll also include a little description of the song and why it is part of the play-list. And then on the 17th day (January 13th--my B-Day) I'll post the entire play-list as a permanent resident on my blog so you can listen to any of the songs, anytime you want. (Because I'm hoping you'll all like the songs as much as I do--and it will put you in the mood to read my novel. :-))
To kick off our 16 Days of The Dark Divine Music Extravaganza, I present to you:
Pick up the Phone by The Notwist
I chose this song not only because it is a freaking great song and totally reflects the mood of my book, but also because of the line "Today, I will step out of your past"--which is exactly what happens in the first few pages of my novel when Daniel Kalbi (Grace's first love and Jude's former best friend) shows up out of the blue after a 3 year disappearance . . .
Oh, and don't forget to keep this image in your head while you listen to any of the songs:
Daniel Kalbi (aka Taylor Kitsch)
Because even though Grace is the main character, I found that most of the songs are from Daniel's point of view. Go figure . . .
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
But it is more than inevitable that the "dark side" of your child's personality will rear its ugly head during the holiday season, and your adorable, angelic, delightful child will transform into a spoiled, rotten, brat. After a good week of buildup, KidZ officially reached this point at 12:05 pm, yesterday. I was fit to be tied, but my genius husband set to work in order to remedy the problem. After a co-worker suggested that he send a "notice letter" to KidZ, informing him that he had been put on Santa's naughty list, my husband employed the creative services department at his work to help him create this:
Here's the text in case you don't have Clark Kent's eyesight.:
My Christmas helpers just told me that you were recently put on the naughty list. I am very sad about this, because you are a special boy, who is very smart and very kind.
My elves and I have been working hard to make you the presents you wanted this year. It would be really sad if I had to throw those toys away.
But there is hope! You can still make the nice list in time for Christmas since you’ve been a good boy most of the year. This is what I need you to do so I can still give you the presents we made for you:
- Be Grateful. Tell your mom and dad thank you when they do nice things for you. Tell them thank you for giving you a place to sleep that is warm. Tell them thank you for making sure you have food to eat. Tell them thank you for all the nice toys you have already.
- Be Happy. Make the choice to be happy. Don’t get mad or upset when something doesn’t go your way, but choose to be happy that you have a family that loves you and wants to help you.
- Be Kind. I know it’s hard to be nice all the time. Sometimes other people aren’t nice to you and it hurts your feelings. But if you are always nice back, you will feel happy and help others learn that being nice is much better than being mean or selfish.
- Be Smart. Sometimes it’s hard to make good choices. When you get really sad or upset, it’s hard to think about what you should do. But, you are a smart boy and I know you are really good at making good choices when you try. Don’t scream and yell when you don’t get what you want, but think about it and try to find a good way to fix it. Ask your mom and dad if you need help. I know they will want to help you if you ask nicely.
Remember KidZ, you are very blessed and you have a family that loves you very much. If you can remember to be grateful, happy, kind, and smart, you’ll make it back on my nice list before Christmas.
Zealand received this letter in the "mail" last night, and I dare say that he has never been so well-behaved in his life. . .Sigh, I just wish it would last all year round. I've got Santa envy.
P.S. Feel free to copy the letter for use with one of your own children. It works wonders!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
This post will also tell you why today is so important to me--and why I feel like my life is coming full circle.
Merry December 18th everybody! Hug someone you love. Say a prayer of thanks for the simple gift of being alive. And think about this, "If you died today, what would you regret the most not having done?"
Now go do it!
I love you all,
Monday, December 15, 2008
I know, I know, I'm getting way ahead of myself--after all, I haven't even sold the manuscript yet--but it's perfectly normal for a girl to cast a fictitious movie based on her unsold novel in her head, right? RIGHT?!
So for a while now, I've been on the lookout for actors to play my main characters should the day ever come that The Dark Divine be made into a movie. The only problem is that it's hard to find real people who resemble the made-up characters that exist only in my brain--and on 270+ pages of manuscript paper. Especially since most of my characters are "mix" of different people.
Take Jude (my main character's brother) for instance. He's kind of a Tom Welling (guy from Smallville) meets a young Tom Cruise (pre-crazy-couch-jumping-phase) sort of guy:
And then there's Daniel (Jude's ex-best-friend and the guy Grace has always been in love with). He's always been a kind-of, sort-of, almost but not quite, teen-age version of Spike (as played by James Marsters in Buffy) but with long, dark hair. (Oh, and Daniel's not a vampire. . .but he his a paranormal creature . . .I'm just not telling you what kind.)
So you can see my casting dilemma, right? Tom W+Tom C doesn't actually exist, so calling him in for an audition probably wouldn't go over all that well. And since James Marsters is now in his late 40s, and I really don't have the energy to invent a time machine (what with being so overwhelmed by the shopping trips with the hopped up monkeys) he's really not the right guy to play the part of my 18-year-old male lead. Plus, I have no idea what he even looked like as a teenager--so the time machine might be a total waist of time and money anyway.
So alas, the parts for my male leads were still un-cast . . .or at least they were until I was watching Friday Night Lights with hubby the other night and Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) looked out at me from the tv screen with his soulful yet troubled eyes, and I sat up and and shouted, "Holy Crap! It's him! He's Daniel!" Even hubby looked at him and said, "Whoa, I think you're right."
So what's the verdict, friends? I mean, what teen-aged girl wouldn't want to try to save this boy's soul?
I may even have to cast his co-star, Scott Porter in my movie.
He makes a pretty good replacement for "the Toms" don't you think?
Okay, so somebody had better make my book into a movie fast. I mean, these "teen" actors are probably already in their late twenties. Tick tock, tick tock. Perhaps I'll have to contact Ted with my brilliant casting choices so he can start putting out some feelers in the biz.
Okay, seriously, I'm just joking.
Hey does anyone have Taylor Kitsch's phone number?
Monday, December 8, 2008
The "no energy" part has been the real kicker--especially since the thought of dragging two hyper-active little boys to the grocery store was enough to make me crawl back into bed, fully clothed, Monday morning. The boys didn't mind much (it meant they got to have fruit loops for lunch) until their supply of Transformers fruit snacks and pretzel fish ran dry. I even resorted to eating the gluten free/dairy free cheeze pizza (notice the "z" in cheeze) that has been lurking in the back of the freezer for the last couple of months after I bought it on a "I'm so desperate I'll buy anything I'm not allergic to" kick. (And how was the cheeZe pizza, you ask? Um, let the fact that I only ate four bites of it answer your question.) By late evening, the boys were begging me to go shopping, so I left them with hubby and went to the grocery store for a little peace and quiet . . .oh, and a new supply of fish-shaped crackers and cereal bars made out of chickpeas (yeah, that's right, I did say chickpeas).
Little known fact about me: I love the grocery store. Ever since I was a little kid. It is my sanctuary.
At least it was before I ever had to take my two boys with me. Which is pretty much equivalent to hopping up a couple of Capuchin monkeys on meth and then shoving them into a car-shaped cart that isn't big enough to actually hold both of them in the cab (much scratching and biting and monkey fighting ensues), and then dashing through the store at top speed, trying to fill the cart with "nutritious" snacks without actually bringing the cart to full stop (because all parents know that if the car-cart stops for more than 1.5 seconds, the monkeys WILL get out--and then all hell breaks loose).
So anyway, I love the grocery store--sans children. It is a great place to wander up and down the aisles, contemplating one's future, or plotting the next great paranormal romance in one's head.
Okay, enough with the digression. I'm pretty sure this post had a point . . .which is . . .oh yeah . . .
I haven't been feeling well lately, and, let's face it, neither has the economy. In fact, it's in the toilet. Unfortunately that also includes the book industry. Things are not looking good for both big and small publishers. As a result, some publishing houses are either implementing or considering book buying freezes, and others have gone the layoff route (right before Christmas too! Seriously-- ouch).
In short, publishers have less money to spend on acquiring and producing books, and are even less anxious to spend it on new authors such as myself. You can read more about the problem here. Or here (scroll down to the November 10th post). Or here.
So how do we solve this disturbing dilemma? Simple: buy more books.
Lucky for us, tis the season for spending cash! I know you are sitting there right now with a large number of people on your list, and you have no idea what to get them for Christmas. Well, now you know.
We all can't run out and buy a Ford to bolster the economy (and would we want to?), but almost everyone can buy a book. If everyone bought just one book, that would be great--but why not knock several names off your Christmas list with one fun-filled trip to B&N (or even better yet, The King's English--or your local indie bookstore wherever you are). So go ahead and have yourself a merry little bookmas--and while you're at it, support your favorite author, save an editor's job, and help out your friend who has wild aspirations of selling her manuscript :-)
Need a little help picking titles?
The School Library Journal put out this list today of "Books that Make the Best Presents" for teens and children
Moonrat compiled this list of "Best-Ever Suggestions for Books as Gifts." (Mostly suggestions for adults.)
My sister-author Brodi is compiling her own lists. Here and here.
And here are a few more recommendations from myself. (A * indicates a local Utah author.)
Picture Books and Easy Readers:
My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
Bertie was a Watchdog or basically anything else by Rick Walton* (especially great for boys.)
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (My friend Nicole gave this to KidA and my boys can't get enough of it.)
On the go with Pirate Pete and Pirate Joe by Ann Edwards Cannon* (easy reader series about a couple of quirky pirate brothers who are afraid of the water)
Raymond and Graham Rule the School by Mike Knudson* and Steve Wilkinson
The 13th Reality by James Dashner* (I haven't read this one but my nephew loves it)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (the first book is called The Lightning Thief)
The Goose Girl or Princess Academy by Shannon Hale*
Young Adult: 12-40+ (we just talked about how this is for everyone)
In addition to the titles I listed in this post, I would also like to add these other titles:
The Losers Guide to Life and Love by A. E. Cannon*
Avalon High by Meg Cabot
Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To Do List
How to Take the Ex out of Ex-Boyfriend by Janette Rallison
Adult: everyone else
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Um . . .look at those other lists because I don't really ever read adult fiction.
Care to share your suggestions so we can all have a Merry Bookmas? Fire away!
(Note: please buy books at your own discretion--I tried to only suggest books that I felt are "appropriate" for the intended age group, but we all have differing opinions on this matter. So do your research to find out if the book is suitable for the person you are buying for.)
(Additional Note: I've been informed that Graceling--suggested in my YA post from the other day--may have "racy" scene in it. I just started reading it, so I cannot substantiate this information, but so far I am enjoying the book. I also just started reading I'd Tell You I love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You . . .and so far, I LOVE IT!)
Monday, December 1, 2008
Person: Blank stare
Me: "You know. Books for teenagers."
Person: "Oh. Like Harry Potter?"
Me: "Um. Kind of. Though the first Harry Potter books are more for younger kids than YA."
Person: "So when are you going to be a millionaire?"
Me: "Um. Probably never.
Person: Blank stare
Person: Blank stare
Me: "You know. Books for teenagers."
Person: "Oooh. Like Twilight?"
Me: "Kind of. Same genre, but there are no vampires in my book."
Person: Blank stare
Me: "It does have paranormal elements in it."
Person: "Oh. So when are you going to be a millionaire?"
Me: "Ha ha. Um . . .probably never."
Person: Blank stare
Person: Blank stare
Me: "You know. Books for teenagers"
Person: Blank stare
Me: "You know. . .like. . . Harry Potter . . .or. . . Twilight"
Person: Blank stare shifts into a look like I just said that I make fruit loop necklaces all day long . . . and then try to sell them on ebay.
Me (Shouting after person as they walk away): "Hey, I might be a millionaire someday!"
All joking aside (oh wait, I wasn't joking) a lot of people don't understand WHY I write young adult fiction. Even within the adult writing field, there is a stigma against young adult writing. Kind of like, "Well wouldn't you rather write a REAL book?"
In my opinion, writing for young adults is just as REAL as writing for adults, and is arguably more difficult. As Sherman Alexie (National Book Award winner for his YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian) puts it, "Writing for teens involves a stripped-down technique. You tend to write more like Hemingway than Faulkner. More like Emily Dickinson than T.S. Eliot. It’s not a matter of more complex thoughts, but the number of adverbs and adjectives. In the adult world, the number of adverbs and adjectives can be confused with great writing.” NYC young adult librarian Jack Martin says it even better, "Teen books are like adult books, without all the bull%*$#.”
Writing YA can also be more rewarding than writing for adults because (as Sherman Alexia says) "there's a lot more at stake for teen readers." They are forming who they are and their view of the world. Sherman Alexie loves that teens show up to his readings to ask him about how to deal with bullies and other issues in their lives. He says that readers of his adult books never ask questions like that. Author Margo Rabb was disappointed at first when she found out her book Cures for Heartbreak was going to be published as a YA rather than an adult title like she had intended. But when she got a letter from a 15 year old reader saying that the book had helped her deal with her mother's cancer diagnosis, Margo decided she was just fine with being a YA author.
I've been writing YA for 9 years. It's what I love to write, and what I love to read. I write YA because that is where my "voice" belongs. I once heard another author (I believe it was Carol Lynch Williams) say that you have to write the age that you are "stuck" at. I guess that means I'm "stuck" at 17 because I find that the easiest year of my life to tap into for my stories. No wonder--that was the year I toured Europe without parents and figured out who I really was, finally got my drivers license, made some of the best friends I've ever had, finally got the courage to start auditioning for plays, and started falling in love with the guy who many years later became my husband. I have had many (more than a decade's worth) of even better years since 17, but I often do have to remind myself that I am no longer a teenager (nor do I have the pants size of one--put those low-rider jeans down, Bree. Just put them down and nobody will get hurt.)
YA writing is not for everyone. But for now, it's exactly right for me.
Here are some of my most recent YA favs in case you feel like delving into the genre.
For a more "literary" read, check out:
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolfe
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
For "fun" reading:
Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
All American Girl by Meg Cabot (I'm not a huge fan of the sequel though)
Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe (this is one of my big favs, but it is definitely not for everyone)
My own personal to-read list:
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Hunger Games by Suzzane Collins
Just waiting for the UPS guy to get here so I can start reading.
Do you have any YA favorites I should put on the list?
(Btw, the quotes I used in this post were from "Think Future Panel Debates What Makes a YA a YA" By Diane Roback -- Publishers Weekly, 4/30/2008)
Monday, November 24, 2008
Brain malfunction #3: I realized around midnight that I had NO IDEA what time the SCBWI conference started in the morning.
I was so wrapped up in finishing my revisions and finding a fabulous outfit to wear to the dinner/reception, I failed to record the actual details of the conference in my brain--which I guess wouldn't have mattered since my brain was still sitting in a dressing room next to the indigo boot-cut jeans I'd tried on earlier in the day. I searched the house for my conference brochure (no dice), attempted to look it up on-line (modem still broken--and since the Internet is like my second brain, I was really running on zero thinking-power,) and finally hacked my neighbor's wireless again. Phew, a quick search through my emails confirmed that the conference started at 9:30 am.
I got up early in the morning and was actually ready to go about 45 minutes early--which turned out to be a good thing because Kid A woke up screaming in his crib because his diaper had literally disintegrated during the night. I carried him at arms length to the tub and started him on a bath. Apparently he wasn't too keen on this idea because he promptly screamed and splashed me right in the face--smearing the make-up on the left side of my face, and flattening a chunk of my hair. Just the look I was going for: Two Face from that Batman movie. Thanks Kid A, I love you too. So I set to work on a patch-up job of my appearance while hubby finished bath-time and wrangled the boys, and I ended up running out the door 5 minutes later than I'd planned.
I hate being late. I'm the kind of person who plans out her route the day before she has to be somewhere. Sometimes I get to places/events so early, I end up parking down the street for a few minutes until it's an "acceptably early" time to arrive. After the wrong-party disaster, I was really feeling stressed about not being late to the conference. Which is probably what led to . . .
Brain malfunction #4: After taking two wrong turns, and having to flip a U-ey, I finally pulled into the parking garage at the Discovery Gateway with only a few minutes to spare. By some miracle, there was a parking space open right next to the entrance--actually there were several. Counting myself lucky, I grabbed my coat, notebook, tote, sack lunch, 32 oz bottle of water, and dashed up the 3 flights of stairs just in time to find that the lobby was completely empty . . .
Did I have the wrong time? Did I get trapped in some kind of Mario-brothers-like time warp? I don't remember driving through any large green sewer pipes . . . I dug in my giant bag for my cell phone--I swear it took 5 minutes--dialed my hubby's number as my phone started beeping at me that it was almost out of battery. Argh! Luckily, hubby answered, and luckily strokey (as we lovingly call our modem) had a brief moment of wellness, so he was able to check my email and figure out that in my hazy brainlessness state the night before, I'd managed to confirm the time of the conference, but not the location. My trusty phone gave out just as hubby informed me that the conference was actually at the SLC library, and not the Discovery Gateway . . .
A fact that I had discussed more than once with more than one person.
Friend: Hey, isn't it great that the conf is at the library this year?
Me: Yeah. Those chairs at that Discovery museum place are made for people with much smaller bums.
Friend: You mean children?
Me: Um, yeah . . .or supermodels.
Friend: Right, cause a lot of supermodels frequent Utah's children's museum.
Me: Hey, it could happen. Don't they all go to to Park City for drug rehab anyway?
Friend: O-kay . . .So I'll see you at the LIBRARY next week. . .
Yeah, so anyway, after a frantic drive to 4th south, a wrestling match with my widow trying to reach that parking ticket thingy, and a wild dash through several floors of the library--I arrived just in time to walk into Ted's presentation 15 minutes late. Smooth. I'm all about good impressions.
Anyway, the rest of Ted's talk was fantastic. I kept turning to the people next to me and giddily exclaiming, "That's my agent!" Luckily, I was sitting next to a couple of writing BFFs (Valynne and Emily) so they didn't get annoyed until after the 102nd time I squealed about MY AGENT's awesomeness. Jill Dembowski also gave a great presentation on how to be an editor's favorite author. I wrote down many tidbits of info that I may have enough energy someday to share with you all. Emily Wing Smith participated in a panel for debut authors--she rocked the Q&A session and was the only (I think) author to sell out of her books during the lunch break.
After lunch, Valynne, Emily, and I decided to go on a little adventure . . .so we went across the street to check out the rally/protest/march that had been gathering outside the library during the conference. And no, they were not protesting writing for children . . . Emily collects pictures of unique signs for her blog, so we went on a quest to find the best sign in the bunch.
This guy won hands-down, in my opinion
When none of the shouting turned into fist fights, we decided to head back up to the conference to listen to a panel of book-sellers. Interesting, gloomy, bit depressing. Did you know that a lot of book-buyers for indie stores are kind of jaded? But don't worry, fabulous agent Ted came back to liven things up with his quips and charm. After the conference ended, Brodi, Sydney, and I snapped some picks with Ted since we are his only 3 clients from Utah.
We call this: Ted and his Utah client harem . . .or as Brodi dubbed it: Ted and the sister-authors. Brodi Ashton is on the far left, then Sydney Salter Husseman, Ted Malawer (of course), and me.
After the picture session, we went to dinner at the Red Rock Cafe. I sat at a table with Ted, Brodi, Sydney, and Jill. We had a great time discussing TV shows, books, and awkward Thanksgiving moments. It was a lot of fun, but of course my tired, tired, brain had to fit in one last meltdown . . .
Brain malfunction #5: Did I seriously just tell the story about the time I became infamous in the 9th grade because I "accidentally" beat up the neighborhood hot-shot--to MY AGENT? Yeah, I did. In full-color-blood-spurting-everywhere-from-the-guy's-nose-detail. Way to look normal, Bree, way to look normal. At least I didn't mention the fact that I punched the guy in the face AT CHURCH.
So that's all she wrote. . .for now. Do you have any brain malfunction moments to share? I'd sure love to hear them.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Last weekend, the wonderful Ted Malawer (my agent!) came into town for the Utah/Idaho regional SCBWI conference. I was privileged enough to be invited to attend a dinner with Ted, the other conference guests-of-honor, Sydney Salter Husseman (my SCBWI RA and agent sister), and a small number of conference volunteers. Unfortunately, I had just finished a rather intensive stint of revisions, was running on 3 hours of sleep, and had spent the day shopping with two very rambunctious little boys, so I think I left my brain somewhere between Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic long before the weekend began . . .
Brain malfunction #1: While sitting at the dinner table with Ted, he asked me, “So how did you find the latest round of revisions?” And all I could do in response was stare at him blankly and say, "Um. . ."
He laughed and said, "You don't sound very enthusiastic about it." The thing is, I was extremely happy with the work I'd done, but I'd been up all night with a broken modem (the one I told you about in this post) trying to email him the manuscript by my deadline. After a moment, I shook myself and said, "I'm just really tired." Luckily, I recovered quickly and we had a wonderful one-on-one conversation about my revisions, his plan for submissions, and my next project (that Ted was very, very excited about and exclaimed, "That's the book for me!")
Then Brodi Ashton (Ted's other brand new client from Utah) came in about thirty minutes late and sat at the empty seat at our end of the table--ending my personal conversation with Ted. But I have to say that Brodi is one of my new favorite people. She is absolutely hilarious, and even more pessimistically neurotic than I am. (You probably didn't think that was possible, did you?) You must check out her blog.
Anyway, Ted, Brodi, Jill Dembowski (editor from Little, Brown—they publish those Twilight books), and I went on to have a great conversation, and I was a little sad when Sydney announced that it was time to leave for the official SCBWI conference reception. Ted assured us we’d have plenty more time to talk there.
Brain malfunction #2: Brodi and I showed up to the location (a swank art gallery on 700 east) at the same time, checked in our coats, and walked around the corner to find a lavish spread of sushi and crudités, and attendees dressed to the nines (complete with little Yorkshire terriers poking out of their purses). "Wow," I thought, "SCBWI really went all out!"
Brodi said she didn't know anyone in the local writing community, and looking around, I realized that I must not know as many local authors as I thought, so we decided to stick together. We headed over to the OPEN BAR!, snagged a couple of bottled waters, and enjoyed California rolls from the buffet. We were having an entertaining conversation (did I mention Brodi is hilarious?), but I kept having this niggling feeling in the back of the place where my mind should have been that these other women in their stilettos and Gucci couture dresses were much too fashionable to be Utah children's writers. "Wow, these people must be really successful authors," I kept thinking. But after about 30 minutes I fully realized that I didn't know a single person in the room (especially that lady who was wearing a shitzu in a hip-pack) and said to Brodi, "I think we're at the wrong party."
We walked down the hall and discovered a partitioned room filled with people in jeans, sweaters, and loafers. I looked at the spread of Costco cakes on paper plates, and thought, "Now this is more like it!" Not to mention, I knew at least a third of the people in the room. Feeling much more at home, I had a great time talking to friends new and old. But unfortunately, because we were so late, Ted had already been swarmed with groupies and I barely got to say two sentences to him before Syndey ushered him out of the party.
Later, a group of us snuck back into the other party to snag some more bottled water. Brodi took a pic of the fancy spread so you can see the difference in the two parties.
(That's me talking to Staci Whitman, former editor for Mirrorstone)
(Now this is my kind of party!-- though I DO like sushi . . .maybe I'll just sneak back over there . . .)
So apparently the lessons I learned on brevity while doing my revisions are not applying to this post . . . so I'll continue the story tomorrow. Because if you think my brain malfunctions stopped Friday night, oh how wrong you'd be . . .
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Last night, hubby and I went to the Body Worlds exhibit at the Leonardo (thanks Kersten!). The main focus of the exhibit was on the human heart, and one of the placards talked about the effects of pessimism on the heart. Apparently people who constantly see the glass as half empty are much more likely to die from cardiovascular complications than those who don't. So in addition to being an eternal pessimist, now I know it's probably going to kill me. How's that for irony?
So in an effort to give my heart a little jump start in a positive, more optimistic direction, I've decided to post a few tidbits of good news.
1. Kid Z (my 6 year old) made the Principal's honor roll for having perfect behavior every day. How's that for showing I've actually got some good mommy-ing skills? (Never mind the fact that I got a call from his teacher the VERY NEXT DAY because Kid Z got caught teasing someone at his table. Every kid is allowed an off day, right? I'm still a good mom, right?)
2. Kid A finally said the words to me I've been waiting the last 2 years and 7 months to hear: "I love you, Mommy." Never mind the fact that he kicked me in the nose this morning while I was attempting to change his diaper, those 4 little words make it all seem worth it. Most of the time.
3. My fabulous friend Emily Wing Smith got a starred review in Publisher's Weekly for her debut novel, THE WAY HE LIVED. In my opinion, PW is the authority on all things publishing related so getting reviewed by them in the first place is pretty big--but getting a starred review is FREAKING AWESOME. Most book-buyers for libraries and bookstores will only purchase books that get reviewed by one of the big name publications, and some buyers will only look at the starred reviews. Hopefully, this means big things are in store for Emily and her book. I can just hear the National Book Award committee dialing her number . . . Just remember that you heard about Emily from me first.
4. Emily also got this review from a School Library Journal teen reviewer. (So what are you waiting for--go buy Emily's book already :))
5. And last but not least: Ted gave my manuscript the green light this morning! Wish me luck!
P.S. I promise I'll post about my crazy weekend soon. I'm waiting on a few pictures first. Because you all want to know what fabulous agent Ted looks like, right? (Not to mention, prove that he really exists.)
Monday, November 17, 2008
(I'm not saying my manuscript is "perfect"--but I did succeed in cutting almost 9,000 words. Yay!)
4. You know that scene, the one everyone in your writers group has said, "Hey this is really great--but I think you should cut it because it doesn't add anything to the plot," but for three and a half years you've ignored them over and over again and thought, "I will only cut this scene if an editor/agent tells me too!"? Yeah, well, guess what?--you're going to have to cut it.
Kill those darlings, baby. Kill those darlings.
3. When marking pages to come back to, DO NOT absentmindedly stick Post-it-note tabs to your lips. They may actually STICK!
2. In the words of my high school drama teacher who used to stand in the back of the room shouting, "ST! ST! ST!" while we rehearsed girl+guy scenes: You must, and always can, add more sexual tension to scenes between the story's romantic leads.
(I'm NOT talking about adding sex to the story, I'm talking adding "tension"--lest anyone be confused ;)
1. If anything can go wrong--it will go wrong.
Like the laser printer will run out of ink right when you need to print your entire manuscript, and the ink cartridge you bought a few of months ago to have on hand in just such an emergency turns out to be the WRONG size. Oh and Dell refuses to let you return it for a refund because you bought it so long ago. So not only do you have to pay $120 for a new cartridge plus overnight shipping to get it asap, you also have to eat the $120 you shelled out in an effort to be prepared in the first place.
OR . . .at the very moment you finally finish the revisions for your agent and need to email them off so he can take your manuscript on a trip with him, your modem has a stroke and completely stops working. And no matter how long you are on the phone with tech support, or try to reset the $#@& modem, the thing is dead. But fortunately, on your 1000th try at hacking your neighbor's wireless all night long, it finally connects at 5:00 am and you thankfully get it off just in the nick of time. Woo Hoo! Oh btw, the modem has made a miraculous recovery and is working just fine and dandy now. I love technology.
That's enough for now. I'm anxiously waiting for the "green light" from Ted. We may actually be DONE with revisions and ready for SUBMISSIONS. Stay tuned--I'll let you know. Also, just as a teaser, I've got a great post coming soon. I'm thinking of calling it "The weekend I made a new friend, went to the wrong party, showed up at the wrong place for a conference, and had dinner with my fabulous agent--twice!" I even have pics.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Seriously, I can live without pizza, pastries, all baked goods, milk, omelets, ice cream, toast, sandwiches, soups, pretty much any and all prepackaged food etc, etc. . . (basically all I'm allowed to eat are fruits, veggies, meat, corn tortillas, and brown rice) But no chocolate?! That has been sheer torture. My hubby was watching a documentary on the history of chocolate the other day, and I almost had to go running from the room. I wasn't even able to celebrate landing an amazing agent with a big old bowl of Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice cream!
(Um, confession: I'm a chocoholic in case you didn't figure that out on your own.)
Seriously, I've been dying. That is until Wednesday . . .
I was at home working on my latest round of revisions for Ted when the doorbell rang. Much to my surprise, there was a UPS truck idling in the street and large box from World Pantry on my doorstep. My first thought was, "Dang, I haven't started ordering stuff off the Internet in my sleep again, have I?" I also thought about the news story I'd seen that afternoon about hoodlums stealing your identification and ordering stuff online and then stealing the deliveries off your doorstep when you're not home. Maybe there was a gang of culinary minded thugs hiding in the bushes just outside my house! Or maybe the unibomber has a cousin who hates blogging YA writers. . .
After about thirty seconds of debating, I opened the package and found this note:
And this is what I found in the box:
Yep, your eyes do not deceive you. That is indeed dairy and gluten free chocolate!! After thanking Valynne profusely (you so totally rock!) I ate half a bag in one sitting. And how does it taste, you ask? Glorious. Wonderful. Divine. I can't even taste the difference--and I know chocolate. I'm a big fan of dark chocolate, so perhaps not everyone would love it as much as I do (and not everyone is as desperate as I am) but I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who suffers from chocolate deprivation caused by dairy or gluten allergies.
And don't worry, I'm learning to pace myself: only 2 tablespoons of chocolate a day for me. Have to look good for that author picture that will someday adorn the back of my book ;)
P.S. I'm hoping to find a dairy, egg, wheat free recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Got any ideas? Or would that just be too gross to even attempt?
Any other recipes would be appreciated too. I'm getting tired of corn tortilla tacos with no cheese.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
While on the topic of how awesome Emily Wing Smith is, I want to give a shout out for her book debuting November 1st. THE WAY HE LIVED is an amazing story told from the points of view of six teens dealing with the loss of their friend/sibling Joel Espin who died on a tragically ill-lead boy scout trip to the Grand Canyon. Each teen reveals different aspects of Joel's life, letting the reader piece together the reason why Joel may have chosen to sacrifice himself in order to save his fellow hikers. Em summarizes it better than me:
Six stories. Six voices. One reality.
Monday’s Child has just lost her brother, but that’s not why she’s crazy. Tuesday’s Child is a star and wishes she wasn’t. Wednesday’s Child is obsessed with getting revenge. Thursday’s Child is on a quest to find herself. Friday’s Child is in love with a dead guy, and Saturday’s Child is in love with a guy in gray sweats–who isn’t her boyfriend. And the child born on the Sabbath day is the one to set it all in motion.
(Sorry Em, I stole that from you blog, but since I'm promoting your book, I figured you wouldn't mind.)
The book was originally titled SUNDAY'S CHILD but her publisher thought teens would be reluctant to buy a book that had the word "child" in it. Personally, I prefer the original title, but hey, I'm not a marketing expert.
Anyway, Emily is amazingly talented and an extremely hard working author. I'm totally biased since she has been my wonderfully patient critique partner for the last 4 years, but I think her book is wonderful and everyone should read it. Our writing styles are quite different. Emily's writing is sparse, thoughtful, poetic, realistic, literary, and character-driven. I, on the other hand, write the plot-driven romance/thriller type stuff. Emily has always been patient with me, and because of her influence, I now have rich characters to populate my plots (at least I think so, but then again, I'm completely biased).
I have learned so much from Emily over the years, and I think she deserves to have a smashingly wonderful book debut. THE WAY HE LIVED hits book stores on November 1st, but you can preorder it now on amazon.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
(I'd go on with the exclamation points, but I think you get the point.) I have accepted representation with the fabulous Ted Malawer of Firebrand Literary. I can finally say those four wonderful words I've been waiting to say for the last NINE years: I have an agent! I can also say things like those writers in movies who are terribly busy and successful--things like, "I don't know, let me check with my agent," or "My agent just called," or "Run that by my agent." I'm giddy just thinking about it.
So for my friends who don't know what an agent does (and can't figure out why I'm so excited), an agent is someone who sells your book for you, brokers your publishing contracts, manages your career, and tells you that you are wonderful and talented when your crippling self-doubt gets out of hand. Since 80% of publishing houses won't even look at your manuscripts if you don't have an agent (I totally made up that figure, but it's close, if not on the low side), getting an agent is like getting the "golden ticket" and then eventually moving on to the final 3 on American Idol. It's not a guarantee you'll get published, but it ups your odds by about 95% (yet another made up statistic, but it's close, I swear). The biggest conundrum in the publishing industry is that it is nearly impossible to get published without an agent, but almost more impossible to get an agent without being published. Seriously, why would anyone wonder why writers are so neurotic?
So you can see why little old me is so darn excited.
For anyone who is wondering, this is how the process went (Warning, this goes on for a bit):
1. Wrote a book.
2. Revised, revised, revised, and revised book some more.
3. Realized 1st book was just for practice and started a second book
4. Repeated step 2 (plus a little more)
5. Sent queries (1 page letter describing yourself and your book) for the 2nd book to about a dozen agents. Half flat out rejected it. Half asked to read the first few chapters of the book. One or two asked to read the whole thing. In the end, all rejected it with positive feedback and well-wishes . . .they "liked" it, but weren't "in love" with it.
6. Being several months pregnant and void of all brain-power, I decided to put the book away for awhile and let it percolate.
7. Started a 3rd book and after several months, ideas for the 2nd book started conflicting with the third.
8. Put the 3rd book in a drawer and picked up the 2nd book again (almost 1 year after I put it away) and set to work completely rewriting 75% of the novel and adding 101 pages of new content.
9. Had the first chapter critiqued by an editor at a conference who said she loved the story and wanted to see the rest of it as soon as it was finished (May 2008). Joy. Self doubt. Stress. Panic.
10. Sent MS off to the editor at the end of August 2008
11. Decided to look for an agent instead of twiddling my thumbs
12. Did research and narrowed my list to about 8 agents who I thought would be the best fit for my manuscript.
13. Wrote query, showed it to writers groups, revised, revised, and revised it some more
14. Sent very first query to the top agent on my list with the first 2 pages (What was I thinking?! Who queries their top choice first?)
15. Sent out second query with client referral and first 5 pages. Got immediate response asking to see the full!
16. A couple of days later, #1 agent responded asking for the full asap because he's leaving on a trip and wants to take my MS with him!!!
17. Sent MS right away. Obsessively checked email for a few days. Convinced self that both agents were probably never going to respond even though it had been less than a week. Sent out 3 more queries without any pages of my MS. Got almost immediate rejections on all 3. One rejection came in less than 2 minutes from when I sent the email query (Was that a world record?) Major self doubt ensued.
18. Wait, exactly one week after sending full to agent #1, got email saying that he's almost done reading the manuscript and he LOVES it. Wants to show it to the other agents in his office on the following Tuesday. Do I have a synopsis I can send him for the other agents to look at? Sure, I have a synopsis. It's over here somewhere . . .
19. Hurried and wrote a synopsis. (Actually, I had a synopsis but I hadn't revised it since I sent out the manuscript the first time over two years before--and it stank!)
20. Sent synopsis Monday morning. Got one of the best emails of my life from agent #1 outlining all of the things he loved about my book and promising to get back to me after his meeting on Tuesday.
21. Tuesday came and went and no matter how many times I refreshed my email--no email from agent #1 appeared. Major self-doubt ensued. . .convinced self that the other agents must have hated the manuscript and convinced #1 that he must be on drugs if he liked it. They're staging an intervention right now . . .
22. Wednesday afternoon: received email saying he got great feedback from other agents and wants to call me on Friday so we can chat. Later that afternoon, received email from agent #2 with a very complimentary rejection of the manuscript with an invitation to send other materials. Couldn't care less--still doing the happy dance about #1.
23. Thursday: another email asking if we can postpone chat until Saturday. (Somebody just shoot me now. I can't take the anticipation anymore!) Used the meantime to do more research on #1, talked to a couple of his clients. Convinced self that he must just be calling to give me some revision notes or something. Husband said, "Why would he call you on a SATURDAY for that?"
24. Paced anxiously around the house for the next 48 hours and practically jumped out of my skin when the phone rang and then sat down and gave the fakest-calm, "Hello . . .this is she. Hi, Ted . . ." you've ever heard. And to make this very, very long story short: He offered representation and I accepted. The happy dance has yet to stop at our house!
So that's the story in a very large nutshell. And since Ted is an awesome agent, I will hopefully have more announcements to come in the next few months. So stay tuned . . .
P.S. Thank you to all of my friends, family, and teachers who have supported me, and helped me revise over all these years. You know who you are. XOXOXOXOXOXO
Here are some of my favorite "study materials." I tried to narrow it to ten, but alas, I could not. These are my TV favs, I'll list my favorite movies another day.
12. Smallville (The early years. This season... not so much.)
11. The O.C. (teen drama at its best)
10. Heroes ("normal people" with superpowers--'nough said.)
9. 30 Rock (That Tina Fey-- she cracks me up.)
8. 24 (This show seriously stresses me out . . .but I love it.)
7. Chuck (It's like the new Scarecrow and Mrs. King but with a dweeby/cute guy--what's not to love?)
6. X-Files (Oooo the chemistry between Fox and Dana.)
5. Flight of the Conchords (I don't have HBO, but I love these guys so much I had to buy the show on DVD.)
4. Freaks and Geeks (I can't hear you. Oh wait, let me switch to my bionic ear.)
3. Scarecrow and Mrs. King (Best show ever! ... at least I thought so when I was 13.)
2. Veronica Mars (Okay, so this is the best show ever.)
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (No wait, really, this is the best show ever.)
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I rediscovered my love for stories during college when I spent a summer writing and directing plays for at-risk kids from inner-city Philadelphia. Writing made me happy! When I got back to school, I filled my schedule with as many creative writing classes I could talk my way into, and started my very first real novel. But regular life kicked-in, and a couple of years later I was married with a new baby, working full-time as we struggled to make ends meet, and only had 80 pages of a manuscript. That's when the universe decided to throw a pick-up truck in my path. No, literally--a big, white, pick-up truck crossed the median on a stormy night just before Christmas of 2002 and hit us head-on. My baby and husband were okay (thank goodness!) but I was looking at surgery and months and months of learning how to walk again.
I realized at that moment life was too short to not be doing what you absolutely love. I knew that if I had died, the two things I would have regretted the most were not being with my family, and never becoming a real author. A few days later, my wonderful husband brought a refurbished laptop to my bedside and said, "You'd better start writing." My life hasn't been the same since. I'm now a full-time mom and writer, determined to become an author. And the most satisfying thing in the world is when my now six-year-old son asks, "Mom, can I tell you a story?"