Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RTW: Summer Lovin' Take Three!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

What was the best book you read in August?

My August reads:

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford

Abandon by Meg Cabot

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

Sent by Margaret Peterson

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

Freefall by Mindi Scott

Monster High by Lisi Harrison

The Ghoul Next Door by Lisi Harrison

Favorite book in August? Don't they mean books? Look at that list! Shut Out is beyond amazing. Freefall has been added to my Best Boy Books Ever list. Thanks to Mandy Hubbard I want to read every siren book available. And then I Am Number Four...GAH! And Stolen? Double GAH!

Okayyeah, August reading was amazeballs. But even in that reading bucket of awesomesauce, one clearly stood out as Best August Read.

Here's the Good Reads blurb...

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

Why do I like this book so much? What made me choose it above Shut Out and geez, I didn’t even mention the awesomeness that is Abandon.

Maybe it’s Libba Bray’s snarkasm. Maybe it’s because I watch (and thoroughly enjoy) Miss Congeniality every time it’s on television. Maybe I just like bodacious pirates. But this book had me at hello. I mean, if the cover’s not enough to get you to read, the opening Word from Our Sponsor will. And then the crash where you meet the survivors. And then…okay trust me, the story starts out awesome and proceeds to superfabulicious.

Oh, and PS—I haven’t LOLed so much since will grayson, will grayson.

So here’s the real deal with our Teen Dream contestants. They crash on an island secretly and privately owned by The Corporation, the Teen Dream Pageant sponsor and maker of all things glamorous. The Corporation is responsible for every beautifying product, every hot reality TV show, everything any consumer could want. And, of course, they’re also responsible for a few shady things too.

But the surviving beauty contestants think they’ve just crashed onto a remote desert island and that they will be rescued very soon. After all, how can life possibly go on without Miss Teen Dream? They absolutely must keep up their pageant practice and eternal beautification. But very soon does not come soon enough, and the girls learn to survive, learn to lean on each other, and most importantly, they learn to embrace who they really are.

Yes, it’s billed as a satire, and it is a hilarious dig at modern society and its values, but it’s so, so much more than that.

To close out my review, I leave you with some of my favorite characters, footnotes, and Corporation hilarities (all courtesy of Beauty Queens):

Favorite characters (and their Fun Facts! Yay!)

The feral Mary Lou aka Miss Nebraska: “The most important quality in a friend is to be yourself. Unless you’re not a very nice person. Then you should try to be somebody else.”

The snarktastic Adina aka Miss New Hampshire: Her favorite Corporation show is the news. If you can call it that.

The ambiguous Petra aka Miss Rhode Island: Her favorite novel is Orlando, by Virginia Woolf (side note: Pageant official says she should change this to something more “relatable,” like I Love You So Much I Forgot To Have a Real Life.)

Miss New Mexico: because she has half of an airline serving tray lodged in her forehead, er…permanently

And I really have another fave, but I think it would spoil things for you. You’ll just have to read the book, and then see if you can read my mind.

Best Corporation Product (Courtesy of Commercial Breaks):

New Maxi-Pad Pets: Accessories for your period. Brought to you by The Corporation: In your home and in your pants.

Discomfort Wear: shapewear designed to eliminate rolls, ripples, and muffin tops. In some cases known to eliminate circulation and breathing. If you’re not uncomfortable, it’s not Discomfort Wear.

Favorite Quote:

“Do you think my new feminism makes me look fat?” Tiara aka Miss Mississippi (PS—don’t ask her to spell her home state. Or douche bag. Just sayin’).

Favorite math-y thought:

His bare chest was an advertisement for living shirtless. Oh God. She was objectifying him. Reducing the sum of him to the hotness of his parts.

Favorite Footnotes:

Babez Dolls: the most popular toy for girls ages 4-10. Known for their over-size heads and fabulous accessories, including the Babez Peacock-Feather Sports Bra and te Babez Rockin’ Doc Cubic Zirconia Stethoscope Microphone and Peel-away Lab Coat. Total sales annually: one billion.

UConnect: a social networking site perfect for wasting your time posting quizzes and party pics, until you discover that your mom and dad are on there reconnecting with old high school friends and leaving you hideously cutesy messages on your wall.

Best personal motto: WWWWD (What Would Wonder Woman Do?)

Favorite Corporation sponsored reality shows:

Trollin’ on Delaware Beach (Trolls reveling and enticing college girls to their place under the bridge)

Girls Gone Rumspringa: reality show about Amish girls rooming with strippers

Favorite TV Title:

Your Blood is Like, So Hot: the premium cable TV series about small-town predatory hemophiliacs who lie around looking anemic and sexy while trying not to bruise. Based on the French drama Le Monde C’est La Mienne (rough translation: Life is pain. Here is some soft cheese.)

Favorite bad guy:

MoMo B. Chacha, ruler of the republic of ChaCha. Infatuated with Elvis and LadyBird Hope, the most famous Miss Teen Dream who ever lived. He has a stuffed lemur named General Good Times.


I love this book. I’m buying it for myself for my birthday.

PS—my fabulous writer friend Tracey Neithercott is hosting an online book club. I’m in! If you want to be a part of the fun, check it out here.

How about YOU? What was your favorite August read?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Hurricane Clean Up is a lot somewhat sort of a little like Revising a Novel

I’ve been in eastern NC for the past twenty years, so I’ve weathered my share of hurricanes—some pretty bad ones too. So when Irene threatened to storm the east coast this weekend, the Miller family battened down the hatches, stocked up on supplies and games, and prepared for Mother Nature to wind whip a few trees and knock out some power.

And that’s basically what happened. And fortunately not much more. My yard boasts fourteen gihugic trees, some way too close to the house. One of those could’ve possibly maybe pummeled my roof. My neighbor’s trampoline (that was tied down, PS) flew Frisbee-style into their neighbor’s fence. A tree across the street splintered into four pieces. And power is still out for at least a quarter of the city. My sustained damage? A blown out window pane, a handful of uplifted shingles. And a LOT of branches, pine cones, and tree debris all over my yard. We lost power for maybe twelve hours. And I spent my Saturday playing board and made-up games, read two books, and well, just spent mucho QT with the fam.

Yeah. It could’ve been so much worse.

But the debris. The yard.


Might as well get this over with.

Eight cups of coffee and three motivational (hair-pulling) cheers later, we (yes, the whole family) took to the yard Sunday morning. Here’s how hurricane clean-up looked at our house.

First round—the big sweep. Move all big branches to the side of the road, cut down any loose ones looking to spear the ground. Easy! I’m motivated. I’m energized! I’m getting the yard cleaned up. This shouldn’t takle long at all. And when I’ve efficiently herded all ginormo tree stalks to the curb, my eyes sweep the yard and

#$%* It’s still a big mess! The big limb absence reveals a gazillion twigs and sticks and branch residue. Ugh. This will take forever.

I suck in a breath, fill my brain with let’s do this chants, and dive in rake first. Twenty minutes later, I’ve picked up lots of limbs here, several prickly (ouch) gumballs there. I scan the grounds and realize I might have conquered an eighth of the front yard.


I take lots of breaks. And the breaks get longer every time. I snack—a LOT. I clean debris in the front yard for what seems like forever, and when I realize I’ve barely made a dent, I switch to the backyard. Then, I take the yard sections at a time. And when I get to a pine straw area, I skip it, vowing to come back to it later.

Finally, I think I might possibly maybe be done. I look out over my yard. And see nothing but tons of gumballs and pine cones.

#$%* again.

I enlist help. Friends help restore shingle loss. I pay my children a penny for every pine cone they pick up. Had they more fortitude, I would have probably owed them fifty dollars.

And then the yard is done. No, like immaculate. Like I can’t possibly do anything else to make it cleaner. And that’s when I see that small cluster of missed pine cones in the far recesses of my backyard. The ones no one will see. If I pick them up, will anyone really notice the difference? Will I?

Kind of how I am when I dive into revisions. Editing follows a big break, so I’m usually super motivated to get back to my novel and make the necessary revisions. I start with a big sweep—make big changes, cut scenes that don’t drive the plot, nip unnecessary dialogue, bury characters who end up having no significance whatsoever—aka, get rid of the obvious crap.

But it’s still in need of cleaning. So, I use round two for a second grammar check and word cutter. I replace adverbs with stronger verbs or meatier dialogue. I reduce my “that” count (again). I add those commas I ALWAYS forget with my independent clauses. I lose a few em-dashes and ellipses. And then I read through my story and realize I still have a long way to go.

So, I take a break. Sometimes many breaks. I edit scenes at a time, skip over ones I know will take a week to fix. I break my heart as I kill off darlins and scenes I thought I could never part with. I rewrite entire chapters. I rewrite the entire beginning.

And when I can’t do anymore, I call in my critique partners to help. They eliminate words and clean stuff I couldn’t see because I’d looked at the story one too many times.

Finally, after months years of revising, I know I’m finished when I read through my story and the only thing that bugs me is that one word or one bit of dialogue that won’t make a difference whether it’s in there or not.

In a few weeks, I’ll be revising my hot mess of a WIP. And here’s where revisions are not at all like hurricane clean-up. I’m totally STOKED about diving heart-first back into revisions. I had to clean up a couple of chapters for a conference I’m attending in October—so much fun! I love revisions! Yes, it’s a lot of hard work, painful at times, but I absopositively love digging deep into the roots of my story and layering it with richness, adding flavor to characters and to the plot that don’t always come in the rough draft. And even though I HATE killing off scenes I slaved over and characters I fell in love with—the end result is priceless. I love reading back over an almost nearly finished product and seeing all the blood, sweat, and tears come to (somewhat) immaculate fruition.

I don’t feel the same way about my yard. Personally, I probably would’ve just left its fate to the wind, but I don’t want my kids tripping over annoying gumballs.

I hate hurricane clean-up, but I really do love revisions. For me, revisions is where I can breathe life into my characters and into my manuscript. And poof. It transforms into a book. Like a magical fairy tale with a happily ever after.

What’s YOUR favorite part about writing? About revisions? Or (gasp) cleaning?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Fives! Must Reads

Happy Friday, peeps! I'm taking a short break between half-day at school and bracing for Irene (boo). What do my hurricane preparations look like? Um...stocking up on good reads for when the power goes out. And games to play with my children. And Twizzlers. LOTS of Twizzlers. Hopefully the storm will just veer a majorly sharp right, spare the east coast of damage, and well, I hope everyone weathers this storm mucho safely.

And speaking of stocking up on good reads, it's Friday Fives over at Paper Hangover! This week they want to know

Back to school books? Here are five six (and their Good Reads blurbs) that should be required reading in every high school.(yes, I know that will never happen, but wouldn't it be cool?)

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers

(and adult ones too)

When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.

Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more. In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

This last one will debut in September, but thanks to fabulous friends, I received an ARC on my doorstep and read it in two sittings. Two words: MUST READ

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.

Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

Inspired by Aristophanes' play Lysistrata, critically acclaimed author of The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Kody Keplinger adds her own trademark humor in this fresh take on modern teenage romance, rivalry and sexuality.

PS - why these books? Their authors just get it. They get teens. They write REAL books about REAL teen issues and totally capture the awkward essence of adolescence. And they do it EXTREMELY well.

So? If YOU could add some modern fabulosities to the Language Arts curriculum, what would YOU recommend?

Have a great wind and rain free weekend! Stay safe!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

RTW: The Cure

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

How do you beat writer's block?

One word. EXERCISE.

A while back I blogged about this particular topic so if I sound like I'm repeating myself, I am. But my remedy for writer's block hasn't changed. And some of you are new to my blog and haven't seen this. And well, I'm just lazy. (Me thinks I need some exercise!)

I'm a huge exercise fanatic. Why? Because exercise can be soooo mind-opening.


Check out a typical Saturday morning.

I down my morning cup cups of coffee sugar, staring at my laptop. I'd made great plans - get up before the kids - hash out that next chapter in whatever I’m working on. However, I've typed two sentences in twenty minutes. My 2000 word goal seems impossible. My butt's eating calories from the chair. I'm not making ANY progress. SO I shove my feet into worn Nikes, pop a bud in each ear, and ease on down the road. My legs are moving.

But it's my mind doing the most wandering.

My workouts don't just work my body. They work my mind. Scenes smack me in the head, sometimes the images so vivid I almost race back to the house to jump on my computer. A-ha moments emerge from the subconscious mid-elliptical stride. I have gotten more amazing ideas, answers to characterization or plot questions I drove myself nuts over, even drummed out profound thoughts for future blogs. All because I took thirty minutes to shut the rest of the world off and allow my mind to be free, open to possibilities.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of times I block out an afternoon for writing, inspiration hits, and I bang out 3000 words. But there's something about stepping away from the computer, ignoring my writer's block, and just allowing the subconscious to fix the problems, add nuances, or even open my mind to a new character that makes me stop mid-walk and go Huh.

Exercise - I loooove it. Most awesome cure for writer’s block. And I'm evil McGrumpy on the days I don't get any. (haha - that’s what she said.)

So how about YOU? What's your cure for writer's block?!

PS - reaching out thoughts and prayers to my fellow eastern seaboarders. Earthquakes and now Irene. I hope we all fare well.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Campaigns, Concerts, and The Awesome of Writeoncon

Earlier this year I participated in Rachael Harrie’s Writer’s Crusade. It was a platform building campaign, but also a super cool way for me to connect with other writers, many who write in my genre. Through this I met some pretty awesome people, participated in creativity-sparking writing challenges, and well, just had a lot of fun!

And now Rachael’s back with a third campaign! I signed up this morning, and you can too! Just head over to Rach Writes by August 31, and get ready to invest yourself in two months of total awesome!

And speaking of total awesome, Mr. Connections (aka the fabulous husband) scored free VIP ((yes, I did say FREE VIP!!!) tickets to a Journey concert last Saturday. So, one sitter scramble and a two-hour ride later, I found myself fourteen rows away from this

And this

And this

Just so you know – my last concert was a Jimmy Buffett OMG awesome fest when my daughter was three months old. She’s now twelve. Holy concert deprived nightmare, Batman! What was I waiting for?!

I don’t know, but Saturday I did not need a 1981 Delorean to go back in time. Journey, Night Ranger, and Foreigner totally took me there. It was fun. It was amazing. And my dear friend Renee has me convinced that concerts will keep us young. Yep…Forever Young. (Oh wait…that’s Rod Stewart – but well, you get it)

Finally, since we’re talking how to stay young, I achieve this on a daily basis—I’m around teenagers 24/7 and when I’m not reading YA, I’m writing it. And last week, the epic of epic conferences took place right here on my itty bitty laptop. Writeoncon, baby! I know a lot of you were there (I stalked your comments—just kidding), the “sessions” were informative, insightful, and incredible, and the opportunities for door prizes and critiques and…GAH! So awesome. So awesomely overwhelming that I’m still catching up. Yep. Being in meetings all day and having to work another is NOT conducive to conference participation, but that’s the cool thing about Writeoncon…it’s archived. I can go here and experience its fabulosity at my own pace.

And even though I haven’t been through EVERY post and live chat, I will share some of what I learned. In fact, I’m going to give out awards, like the ESPYs or the Tonys. I could call mine the Millies. Or the Connies (you know - for conferences). Or the MAFIAs (Miller Awards for Fabulous and Incredible Awesomeness). Or I could shut down my lame brain and just get on with it.

Here’s just a sample of the awesome…

Best REVISION advice: Author Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) answers the common question, “How do you know when you’ve revised enough and the story is ready to submit?” Her quick answer: When you find yourself changing minor details/words but the story and voice stay the same.

Best tips for connecting with schools and your audience: Author J.S. Lewis (Grey Griffins series). He has amazing suggestions for booking your own school tours and what to do before, during, and after presentations. You can check it out here.

Best metaphor: Author Jodi Meadows (Erin Incarnate) on writing synopses. She described her first draft of her synopsis as the verbal diarrhea draft. LOVE!!!

Best live chat: Agents Holly Root and Barbara Poelle—they’re both hilarious and informative. Of course, I may be a little biased because Barbara pimped one of her clients (also one of my fab CPs) during the chat.

Best advice on setting: Author Jessi Kirby (Moonglass). The setting you choose for your characters should be one that inspires you to write about it in a way that is real, detailed, and true to the characters who move around within it. Ultimately, that’s what matters most.

(I think this is why I always end up writing about beaches and football)

Best Insight into the Submissions World: Editor Annette Pollert on falling in love with a story: How/When I Know A Manuscript Is Right For Me. She analogizes it to dating and bringing home Mr. Right.

Most Validating post: Author Amy Dominy's (OyMG) post 10 Questions to See if You’ve Got it What it Takes. Cute, funny, and absolutely true. And I answered yes to almost every question, including the last one.

Coolest avatar: the Writeoncon Wascot in full on ninja gear.

And (for me) best overall post: Author Kiersten White (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally) on Respect: Respect your audience enough to trust their judgment and taste, enough to care deeply about the people you are giving stories to. Respect your craft enough to learn something no matter what you’re reading or writing. Respect your peers enough to evaluate their work without bias and figure out what they are doing right. And finally, respect yourself enough to become the best writer you possibly can.

So, did YOU do anything crazy this weekend?!

Have a great week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Fives! Writer Apps!

It's Friday Fives over at Paper Hangover, and this week they want to know

Hmm. I'll be honest. I use my phone for tweeting and texting. I don't own an iPad or a Kindle. Actually, the only apps I think I use involve a graphing calculator, and I don't think you stopped by my blog today to hear about those. Besides Google Docs and maybe online thesaruses and dictionaries, I don't know that I use any writing apps. Or maybe I am and I don't know they qualify for app status.

So, with that mind mush out of the way, I decided to share the five apps I have recently (some as of yesterday) discovered, have already bookmarked, and plan to use as often as I indulge in a pedicure (which is practically never, but like these apps, I sure could use one).

1) Archetype - a free idea generator for plots and characters. Here's an example:

Your character has problems with impatience, has nightmares about otters, and can't stand foreign affairs.

Also has been researching illegal drugs.

Huh. The site also has visual and writing prompts and a bunch of other cool stuff.

2) If I had an iPhone I would download Nameshake - it sounds like a Magic Eight Ball for character name inspiration.

3) And Writing Prompts. An endless supply of creative inspiration? But *sigh*, also for iPhone. I think I may have to trade in my Crackberry sooner than later.

4) Write or Die. And Edit Minion. They just look and sound awesome.

5) And finally, Scrivener. Helps you create order from chaos as you navigate through that first draft. It has a corkboard, an outliner, places to input target word counts - oh here, just look at this sample

and this one

*sigh* I want this. And it's not super expensive, but it's only available for Macs. Take that back. There is a beta version for Windows. I'm toying with the download. I'll let you know how that goes.

So, any writer apps YOU love? Or other apps that are just fun?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

RTW: Dreamy Places

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's question:

What is the most inspiring setting you've ever visited in real life?

With the exception of just inside the border visits to Canada, I've never been out of the country (fixing that), but I have visited some pretty amazing places stateside: San Fransisco, NYC, Niagra Falls (um...fabulous), State College, PA...I've even watched a Cubs game from the top of a building right outside Wrigley Field. And as awe-inspiring those places are, nothing quite inspires me like the ones right in my backyard (or maybe a short drive away from it).

If you're a blog faithful, you know this girl LOVES going to the beach. And while the sun zaps me with it's rays, the locale is zapping my mind with ideas, dialogue, character whatsiehoozits, and incredible insight and direction. Many times I leave and can't shut my mind down (which really sucks if I don't have time to write after). And my senses go totally WILD. I watch people, listen to crashing waves, breathe in salty air, shake off gritty sand between my toes. I know I've talked about this before, but fieldtripping to spots I write about is one of my best resources.

And it doesn't really matter where or when - EVERYTHING about the ocean and beach (for me) are breath-taking and so, so mind-opening.

Another place that inspires me - football stadiums. At night. Yeah, yeah I know. It's not the Taj Majal or the Louvre. Football stadiums can be loud and muddy and smoke-filled and I LOVE THEM! And since characters in all my stories spend time there, they're especially inspiring. And...AND high school football starts (officially) THIS FRIDAY NIGHT!!! Guess you know where I'll be. *sigh*

Finally, I know this is going to sound uber-cheesy, but I go to this place every year (as a chaperone for eighty some eighteen year olds), and I ALWAYS get inspired.

I've not yet written Disney World into any of my stories, but Walt's magic and his movies and his quotes and his characters and EVERYTHING Disney always inspire me to keep dreaming.

All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true. (Cinderella)

I don't know about you people, but without dreams I shrivel up like a raisin. I have the strongest support system at home, but take away my dreams, remove my hope and I am NOTHING. If I don't believe I'm going to be an author one day, if I don't believe I can make my dreams come true, than no one else will believe I can either.

So, whenever I feel mucho unconfident, I turn to Disney. And if I can't go to the most magical place on earth, I pop in some Aladdin. Or Cinderella. Or Toy Story. Or - you get it. We watch A LOT of Disney at the Miller house.

So how about YOU? What's the most inspiring setting you've visited?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

I finished the first draft of my WIP last week.

*throws confetti*

Uh-huh. It's done. My story has an official beginning, middle, and end, with lots of crazy character arcs and way too many subplots. So, don’t get too excited for me, peeps. It’s rough. And by rough, I mean sandpaper, Brillo Pad ROUGH. Scraggy, craggy, and beyond jagged. I need to replot the darn thing (again), cut a, um…lot of words, and kill entire scenes. But, I see glints of a diamond in that rough somewhere. I do. I really do.

And I want to find it RIGHT NOW.

As soon as I finished last Tuesday, I wanted to dive right into revisions. Rewrite the four scenes leading up to the ending. Fix my beat sheet, kill off some darlin’s and add stuff I know needs to be in there.

But I resisted the temptation to boot up my netbook. Why?

Because I need a vacation from my baby.


It’s all I wanted, really. All I could think about for three weeks was how close I was to finishing. And how much I wanted to finish, just so it would be done. I saw a glimmer of light, then a profound ray, then WHAM—I was on the other side of the tunnel. I was done. And I could take a break.


But do I ever really separate myself from my work? Am I ever truly on vacation?

Physically, yes. Mentally, not so much.

Since I wrote The End and shut down the netbook, I've plotted the demise of a character, made life more heart-wrenching for another. I've been hit with new ideas for scenes I've not physically penned and mentally sing (trust me, you don't want me to do this aloud) every song from my WIP's playlist. Quotes and new bits of dialogue zap me while I'm driving. While I'm sleeping. And with the onset of football (a major plot point in my story), I don't know that my brain will ever really take a vacation.

But that's okay. Because it's not really me working.

It's my subconscious.

This is how I used to be with my day job. From the middle of August to the middle of June, I’m immersed in school—teaching math by day, tutoring in the afternoons. Sometimes it’s exhilarating; other times, frustrating. And in May, as close as the end is, those last few weeks are tortuous and tiring. I’m sick of the job. I’m sick of my kids. And June 10 can never get here fast enough. Vacation is all I ever wanted.

And then it happens. I try to relax, but I can’t stop thinking about school. I miss my colleagues. I want to sign up for a katrillion workshops. I wonder what my kids are up to. New ideas for activities, games and projects hit me at all hours of the day. And night. I even dream about my classroom. Several times.

But that’s my subconscious at work. It’s over the summer that some of my best ideas take form, I reflect on what worked and what didn't, and I get excited about seeing my babies again.

And for similar reasons, I need time away from my WIP so that Mr. Subconscious can kick into high gear.

Furloughs from the WIP are an essential part of the process—a chance to let your brain breathe. They're an opportunity for reflection, employment for your all too willing subconscious. And a way to get rejuvenated about your story and your babies.

So, I’m taking a vacation…for a little while. I’m reading (A LOT), catching up on critiques, playing with my blog, and attending a writer's conference. Maybe I’ll write a flash fiction or two. And when my subconscious has a zapifining moment, I’ll jot that little thought on a post-it and stick it in my handy-dandy WIP folder.

And when the vacation’s over, I’ll dive heart-first into my WIP, exhilarated, rejuvenated, ready to enrich my script. I’ll replot, connect the dots on character bubble maps, and cut cringe-worthy scenes. My diamond’s in that rough somewhere, and I'll find it. I will, I will.

So, yes! Bring on the vacay. Let me bask in some R&R—Reflection and Rejuvenation.

And let me subconsciously dig for that diamond in the rough.

How about you? Anything YOU need to break from today?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fives! Authors I'm Dying to Meet

It's Friday Fives over at Paper Hangover, and today they want to know

Well, since I already met this guy,

I'll share the other authors/writers I would love, love, love to onedayhopefullysoon meet

James Patterson is, and will probably always be, my writing hero. For a long time, his books were all I read, and his Maximum Ride series kindled my interest in writing. And while, yes, his plots are at times all over the place ( are mine), he pens AMAZING stories, and he OWNS the title, King of the Page Turners. I may never be Queen of the Page Turners, but I would definitely settle for Little Miss Princess Page Turner. That'd be cool.

I turn extreme shades of green when I see all my writer friends in pics with this guy: John Green - the man behind such amazing books like Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. An Abundance of Katherines. And will grayson, will grayson. See, I listed them all because he's AMAZING. And one day I will meet him. And tell him what a literary genius he is. And take lots of pictures that will make all my friends swoon.

PS - he and his brother Hank head up the Nerdfighters, fighting to increase awesome and decrease suck. They tell cool nerd jokes and rip on Snooki and well, they're just awesome.

If I didn't declare my official reign over Nerdsville with that last one, I will now. So, Star Wars. As a kid I watched it so many times I can still recite most of the movies (the original three) verbatim. I played with the toys, collected the cards, and of course, had a fangirl crush on Han Solo. And when my son developed an interest two years ago, I relived my childhood vicariously through him.

George Lucas is a creative mastermind, and I would love to just stand in his presence and have him breathe his awesomeness on me.

If I had a 1981 plutonium-spiked Delorean, I would travel back in time to meet this guy. Why? Because I became a huge Will fan after reading King Lear my senior year of high school? Because I'm an actress at heart? Because I watch way too much Dead Poets Society?

My college major was math, but that didn't stop me from taking a score of English and Drama classes. And one of them was Shakespeare. My professor was actually a guest director at my college and he somewhat taught the class from an actor's POV. I don't remember everything from that class (it was over twenty years ago), but I do remember pouring over my twenty-ton classic compilation. I read and reread and reread again fabulosities like Winter's Tale and Coriolanus. I wrote an eighteen page research paper on The Tempest - and enjoyed it.

Yep. Aspiring author, accomplished nerd.

Finally, I would literally have to die to meet this Guy...

Author of the longest running best seller, The Bible. Yep. That Guy. God. And while I'm not ready to meet him just yet, I will one day.

So how about YOU? What authors are you dying to meet?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RTW: Racing With the Sun

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

What time do you prefer to do your writing? Early Worm? Night Owl ? Any five seconds you can grab?

Most of you know my 24/7 real job = high school math teacher, and that right now, I'm soaking up the last remnants of my summer break. Andbutso, this question has two answers.

Me. With more than one answer. Imagine that.

During the summer, my writing schedule varies, but I am a morning person through and through. And I have to be. While my children are completely fabulous, they test the limits of bed time during the summer. I've given up trying with my tween - she just goes to bed sometime before midnight. The seven year old ornery monster - maybe nine-thirty? Yeah. Can't wait to see how they operate on that first day of school in two weeks.

But the cool thing - they sleep until at least eight if not nine or ten. So I just get up by six seven and try to get a couple of hours of something in - usually writing, blogging, catching up on emails. Because the one thing I can't do? I can't write at night. I can critique. I can even read. Writing, not so much. For whatever reason, opening up a new document equals instant codeine. Knocks me right out. Guess my muse needs its sleep too.

Next Wednesday, I return to work. And my life is not my own. The whole family starts school before 7:30 (my husband's a teacher too!). After, I morph into mom mode. Or wife mode. Or tutor mode. Or chauffeur mode. Or - you get it. It's crazytown.

So when do I write?

Yep. I really don't mind. Because I know, armed with coffee and total solitude and quiet, my muse awakens. And I get some of my best work done.

And I do try to squeeze in a few moments during the day - during my planning period (shhh), when the kids are at whatever practice, sometimes sitting in my son's doorway as he tries to fall asleep (at a much earlier bedtime).

So how about YOU? Early worm? Night owl? When do you squeeze the writing in?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Did You Know...

That you can purchase quilts displaying your own personal embroidered DNA sequence.

That Lafayette Square, a seven-acre park directly in front of the President’s mansion, was utilized as a battle encampment during the war of 1812.

That the spine of a cheetah is built somewhat like a spring. This gives longer strides due to a more free running motion as the spine bends. And that a cheetah’s tail is flattened at the end to act like a rudder when changing directions at top speed.

That this mural, Parade of Humanity, can be found off of Franklin Street. There are actually several of these murals all over downtown Chapel Hill.

That in 1854, Charles Babbage cracked the impossible Vigenère Cipher. My protag decodes one as well - when she’s eight.

That rumspringa is a time in an adolescent Amish boy’s or girl’s life in which they experiment with the ways of the world before making a permanent commitment of their faith through baptism. It ensures the commitment to the Amish faith is genuine.

That woolly bear caterpillars can freeze their insides to withstand Arctic temperatures of up to ninety below.

That there are 897 steps leading to the overlook in the Washington monument. And that when they constructed the Washington Monument, they used aluminum for the capstone. Why? Insta-lightning rod.

That there really is a Track 61 in NYC’s metro. And that it’s most notable user was FDR. He used the underground terminal as his secret access to the hotel when he was trying to keep his polio under wraps. He even had an oversized railcar that could carry his personal limo that fit right into a freight elevator. He never had to leave his car until he got into the elevator that would take him to his room.

That margay—spry petite cats from the leopard family—can leap six feet in the air and scale a tree faster than a squirrel.

That a drabble is a short piece of fiction that contains exactly one hundred words.

That treatment for victims of heat stroke includes fanning the victim to promote sweating and evaporation.

That the Bernoulli sprial has several different names: logartihmic, equiangular, spira mirablis… And that it can be found in several natural phenomena.

That if you turn a D on its side, it looks like a giant smile.

That in the Chinese cultural symbol yin yang, yin represents the female: darkness, passivity. Yang’s the male. Active, hot, aggressive in nature.

That in Japanese, there are two words for father: otosan and chichi.

That an avatar is a reincarnated spirit returning to earth to help mankind.

And, my favorite, that molten potassium chlorate is a strong oxidizing agent that reacts violently with sugar. Gummy bears have a lot of sugar in them.

Since I shared my inspirational pics Friday, I thought I'd reveal some interesting tidbits I've picked up in my research. Hope you liked.

Oooh - and in writing, publishing, and other bits of randomness...

Did you know...

that writeoncon is in a WEEK! If you're a kidlit writer, and you're not registered, click here please. Otherwise, you'll be missing out on an amazing (and FREE) three days

that YAtopia is hosting a micro synopsis contest with agent John Cusick.
A full request could be yours!

that Suzie Townsend will close herself to queries on September 1. If you've got an ms ready to go, you might want to query her now.

that Ellen Hopkins new novel Perfect comes out September 13! Can't wait.

that the Write-Brained Network's conference is in less than a month! September 10, peeps. It's in Virginia, mucho inexpensive - the agenda is splattered with awesomesauce.

that Speak author Laurie Halse Anderson is hosting a Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge

that Sara McClung posts the most hilarious Friday Funnies. You should check THIS one out. And she's hosting another amazing ARC giveaway on her blog. Linkage right here.

that my twelve year old spent fifteen minutes telling me a story about - crap, I forget what it was about - and that she used the word "like" 53 times. I counted.

that running on the treadmill and playing Black Ops do not mix. You might fall off, um...several times.

and finally, that I started the Epilogue for my WIP. Okay, so I just typed in Epilogue, but that's something, right?

Soooo...what do YOU know today?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Fives: Inspiring Pics!

It's time for Friday Fives over at Paper Hangover, and today they want to know...

Inspiration for current stories...

And future ones...

Okay, I'm done now. Obviously limit is not in my vocabulary.

Happy Friday!