Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zoo Wee Mama

It's here - the last day of the A-Z challenge. And it was FUN!!! I feel a little like this guy.

I'll definitely be back for it next year. I love to write posts for each day, but my favorite part is seeing what other people choose to blog about.

Just a couple things before I sign out of the 2012 A-Z Challenge

1)Tomorrow I'll be back for this

Want to join in the fun?! Click here for all the cool details!

2) Pop over to YA Confidential later this morning. We have three new Operatives and I CAN'T WAIT for you to meet them!

3) One last thing

So, what's May hold in store for you? What was YOUR favorite part of the A-Z challenge.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y is for Y Chromosome

(and how to write with one when you don't actually have one)

Most of you know I’ve working on the beast my current WIP for about a year and a half now. And if you’ve been around my blog long enough, you know that my story is told from an eighteen year old guy’s POV.

Thinking like a guy, talking like a guy. Seeing like a guy. Some of it’s easy. I’m around teen guys most of my day, I eavesdrop on their conversations, observe (and am often entertained by) their behavior. The “research” has helped me nail the dialogue and action, but those inner thoughts? What really goes on inside a guy’s head? And writing towards that without letting my feminine side slip in?

Now, that’s been the challenge.

I’ve written posts on the guy mindset here and here. Even a little bit here. I’ve blogged about what a challenge it is, but also how fun it is too. I love getting inside a guy’s head (insert TWSS here) And I've had to do that with most of my male secondary characters in previous stories by writing scenes from their POVs or dedicating page long docs to their inner thoughts.

But nothing full scale like for this current project.

So how do I get into a guy’s head? I mean, I guess I could whack a few friends in their ouchful areas or inject “bro” into my sentences as often as my daughter uses “like” in hers, but I don’t know that actually acting like my teenagers will help me to think like one.

So, here are just a few things I do

1) Talk to guys. Not about surface stuff. And get more than just a caveman answer to sensitive questions.

2) Read Copil’s Ask a Dude posts at YA Confidential. REAL guy insight to why men are the way they are. Be prepared to laugh. A lot.

3) Creep some walls Read status updates.

4) Have a football team’s worth of male beta and critique partners—ones I know will give me honest feedback.

5) Watch movies like The Hangover and Varsity Blues. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Ferris Bueller. Rudy. SO many good ones.

6) Ask my husband questions. He’s about as BOY as they get.

And the BIGGIE

7) READ. Books from a guy’s POV. Here are just a few of my faves: Boy Toy, Swim the Fly, Where She Went, SPUD, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Disenchantments, and most recently, Variant.

Oh, PS—I LOVE writing like a guy. When I went through a shiny new ms craving last year, I wrote first chapters for two of the stories I have beat sheets for, both with female protags, both pretty exciting and not too shabby. I want to go back and change my whole story basis so that I can tell it from the guy’s POV. Or do dual narrators. Or something.

How about YOU? Ever write a story strictly from a guy’s POV? What’s been your strongest asset? Any male POV books I need to add to my TBR?

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for X Factor

I’ve been to several writing panels with various agents and editors and indubitably this question always gets asked:

What kind of manuscripts are you looking for?

And, indubitably, at least one answer goes something like this:

I’ll know it when I see it.

As frustrating as that answer is, it makes sense. There are so many talented people out there writing amazing stories, there has to be something that stands you out from the rest. Maybe it’s an unbelievable premise, maybe exceptional prose. Or maybe they’re looking for a story with that amorphous je ne sais quoi also known as

Here are various interpretations and definitions I found courtesy of the omniscient Google

a special quality, especially one that is essential for success and is difficult to describe

an unknown quantity which only becomes known after following a prescribed process

a certain indefinable quality which may promote one candidate over another in the eyes of his or her critics or examiners

Indefinable, unknown, difficult to describe? Great. How am I supposed to achieve that? I feel like my students when I ask them to solve for X.

And then I found this answer…

Those with the “X factor” have a way of pushing our buttons psychologically. They make us feel good or inspired. Pissed off or aggravated. Challenged or validated. Regardless of how they affect us, they engage us emotionally and the “X factor” that lives within them, speaks to something inside of us, often times, something that we are not even in touch with. (Music Biz


The great thing about writing, reading, all of it—it’s subjective. My belief is that the X factor is a little different for everyone. Books that hold that X factor for me may not do that for everyone else. Stories that linger for weeks, months, years for some people may have registered a meh on my X-traordinary meter. I’ve observed the same thing in publishing. What might not work for one agent might WOW another. Even if I don’t know exactly what they want, maybe my story will have that X factor for someone. And in a time where so many people are writing so many Xceptional stories, X factor is the hope that keeps me going.

So, what's YOUR definition of X factor? Who are your X factor authors?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in my ARC giveaway and for allowing me to share some AMAZING reads with you! I also really enjoyed reading about your dream trips! And the winners, chosen my friendly neighborhood random number generator:


Jessica Love

Jaime Morrow

Riv Re

Tiffany Drew

Katy Upperman

Marquita Hockaday

Congratulations! Please email me your dream book choice (from the list below) at alisonmiller20(at)gmail(dot)com.

First come, first served!

Stay tuned in May for another giveaway!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Variant and Other VERY Amazing April Reads

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

Also, I've prescheduled this post KNOWING that the last Wednesday of the month Roadtrip typically asks this question. *fingers crossed*

This Week's Topic:

What was the best book you read in April?

My April reads:

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Fall from Grace by Charles Benoit
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Variant by Robison Wells

Haha – and I’m expected to pick ONE of those? I really enjoyed all of them. Most of them received at least four if not five stars from me on Good Reads. And the one that received three? I just didn’t like that the main character didn’t, IMHO, grow throughout the story, but I’d still recommend it to friends. Sooo, I’ll share the Good Reads blurb on all five followed by my brief (super brief for the long-winded Alison) commentary.

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?

Morris Award–finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.

Music, love, heartbreak, betrayal, trust, HEART (as in the super awesome band from my era Heart), figuring it all out, not figuring it all out, friendship, heartACHE, forgiveness, and have YOU SEEN THAT COVER? Read it. You will LOVE IT.

Oh, and we know how Alison loves her boy books. This one is AMAZING.

BTW, if you want a more thorough super astounding review, check out my friend Katy’s Bookanista review. She says it’s probably the best book she’ll read all year.

Have you read it? Aside from Colby, my favorite character is Melinda? Who’s yours?

Grace always has a plan. There’s her plan to get famous, her plan to get rich, and—above all—her plan to have fun.

Sawyer has plenty of plans too. Plans made for him by his mother, his father, his girlfriend. Maybe they aren’t his plans, but they are plans.

When Sawyer meets Grace, he wonders if he should come up with a few plans himself. Plans about what he actually wants to be, plans to speak his own mind for a change, plans to maybe help Grace with a little art theft.

Wait a minute—plans to what?

Another authentic boy book. Guy trying to branch off from the control and expectations of his parents and of everyone else around him? Totally relatable. Very enjoyable.

Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art -- until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.

Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all -- with enough distance, maybe she'll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.

With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship.

This one still has my mind spinning, and if I really forced myself to choose, this one would probably win. I enjoyed the depth and relatability of Kendra and just felt and understood her plight. The perfect daughter, in an attempt to be perfect, makes mistakes, and takes what she rationalizes as the perfect way out. How many times did I feel like that? How many times do I still feel like that?! The story reminded me a little of Rainman and a lot of myself. Loved Kendra. LOVED Grayson. And completely LOVED the story.

PS—I’m a romance whore. There’s no romance (okay, maybe a teensy allude to one, but really…no romance) in this one. And I STILL loved it.

Also, I’m giving away my ARC of Perfect Escape. And today’s the last day to enter! Click here for details!

I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

 Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

This one made me HATE boys. And love them. And hate them. And LOVE them. We’ve all probably been in Min’s shoes. In fact, after I finished reading, I created a paper voodoo doll for every Ed Slaterton in my life and fed them to the shredder. Okay, I really didn't, but man, did I want to.

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he's trapped in a school that's surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school's real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape--his only real hope for survival--may be impossible.

If you’ve been around the blog enough, you know I’m a HUGE Maximum Ride fan. I love adventure and romance mixed with a little sci-fi that’s set in the here and now. Variant has all that. And…AND it’s told from a guy’s POV! I LOVED this story and since I can’t put into words exactly how much I did love this story, click here for my friend Copil’s review. You’ll laugh (as in pee-your-pants laughing). And you’ll want to read this book RIGHT NOW.

So, Alison reigns as the long-winded queen again. What was YOUR favorite April read?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Updates

Because I'm Unoriginal and Uninspiring, you're just getting a few Updates from me today. Maybe it will be a lot informative and a little Uplifting. Enjoy.


I participated in the A-Z blog challenge because I needed some rejuvenation. I got it! (see below) And I don't want it to stop. Soooo a bunch of my writer friends and I are going to do this

It's the brainchild of the genius and fabulous Sara McClung and I am so excited about it! 35 people have already signed up and I want you to as well. Click here for more details!


I’ve often compared my current project to a beast, even gave him a name—Franken-novel (click here for more scoopage on that). And this revision has turned into a major rewrite. Taking out a POV and writing in many new chapters will do that, I guess, and it’s taking a lot longer than I wanted it to. I hit major writing strides, get stuck, poke at the blob for a few days, hit another stride and keep writing. At times I feel overwhelmed, but I just can’t give up on it. And I’m getting there. I'm about midway through the second act and, fortunately, the third act was almost entirely told from my main character's point of view. I often joke that this project may take me two years. I don't think that's a joke anymore. But I'll get there. Eventually I’ll turn this beast into a real beauty.


I hit a major dry spell with reading in March - literally did not read ANYTHING. And it was depressing. But I'm on an upswing with reading again (yay!) and have read so many awesome books this month: The Disenchantments, Variant, Why We Broke Up,... Tomorrow I'll be back with my favorite April read.


One thing I wanted to be ready for was Cupid's Literary Connection's The Writer's Voice Contest. My manuscript's not ready, but maybe yours is? Click here for details.

My writer friend Jessica Love is participating in a blog tour where the hosts are giving away a copy of Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris. The book sounds phenomenally awesome. Want to win? Click here for more info.

And tomorrow is the last day to enter my ARC giveaway. I'm giving away ARCS of Perfect Escape, Falling From Grace, The Hunt, and more. Click here to enter.

Anything to update in YOUR writing/reading life? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Time

To say life is a little crazy is to say Annoying Orange is a little annoying. Between teaching, grading papers, prepping two kids for school, trying to be a somewhat good wife, cleaning (what's that?!), blogging, blog reading, writing, revising, querying, reading, critiquing, tutoring,... Yeah, alright - you get it. I'm busy. But who isn't these days?

Andbutso a while back I did this post on making time for EVERYTHING. And every year I feel the need to revisit. And tweak it. And I don’t write this just to remind myself how to squeeze in all those extra things in the day. I write this to remind myself to enjoy it.

Here ‘tis. How the Wonder Woman Wannabe manages her time.

To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose during the school year…

A time to play Legos and a time to put on SpongeBobICarlyJessie while I fix dinner breathe.

A time to drive fifteen minutes to work and a time to hash out that murky part of my novel while driving

A time to hang out with my husband and a time to praise Ducks (his hangout after a soccer game) when I need a night to write

A time to exercise and a time to take the kids to McDonalds

A time to drag my feet in from work onto a just recently cleaned floor and a time to praise God for my mother

A time for three hours of back and forth texting with CPs and a time to feel completely rejuvenated and confident about writing

A time to thank God for eve-ry-thing and a time to implore Him for an agent

A time to submerge myself in the Twitter-verse and the Blog-o-sphere and a time to turn off the Internet and play with my imaginary friends

A time for just one more school-oriented meeting and a time for me to edit a few several pages

A time to sit in my son’s doorway, waiting for him to go to sleep and a time to catch up with Facebook and blogging friends

A time to grade papers and a time to procrastinate them just one more day

A time to schedule roundtables and send emails and set up chat rooms and a time to talk with teens and remind myself over and over again why I love everything YA

A time to curse these crazy tests I have to administer and a time to watch my students test while outlining those three chapters I’ve needed to write for three weeks.

A time to do laundry and a time to ignore the dust-bunnies and let my house be condemned

A time to be a wallflower with my online writing friends and a time to feel I'm not going it alone

A time to write and write and write (even if the clock’s struck two-ish) and a time to hit the sheets before midnight because I have to teach complex fractions the next day

A time to fret about my daughter being in middle school and a time to play Legos with her and my son because if I blink she might just have graduated high school

A time to have a beer. Or two. Or eight.

A time to hop from house to house on my tutoring route and a time to read a chapter of that book I can’t put down

A time to watch my husband’s soccer team play and a time to catch up with my long lost friend

A time to take my children to soccer or dance or whatever and a time to edit, edit, edit!

A time to read to my children and a time for us to all sit in the same room—engaged in our own silent reading

A time to wait in the orthodontist office and a time to plan lessons finish that one chapter

A time for IEPs and PEPs and NCLB and a time to say screw it and just let me teach

A time to have a date night with my husband—because he definitely deserves my time too

A time to struggle teaching my son to ride a bike and a time to just carry him and relish in the fact that he’s not totally grown

A time to review my critique partners' work and a time to fall in love with so many awesome characters

A time to indulge in monthly book club and a time to skip it because I just really want to crash on the couch with my kids

A time to write blogs and read blogs and a time to feel completely inspired

A time for teaching and meetings and tutoring and fundraisers and a time to just ignore everything and close the door on the tanning bed for ten mind-numbing minutes

And a time to write. I don’t care if I only write/revise two sentences, there NEEDS to be a time to write.

How do YOU manage your day? What do you make time for?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for Six MUST Reads

There are a lot of good books out there. There are also a lot of great ones. And then there are ones that keep your mind spinning for days months years after you read them. Here are six books I've read just this year that I'm still thinking about.

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door .

If you liked Anna and the French Kiss, you'll LOVE Lola.

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Just make sure you keep a box of tissues nearby. Yet be prepared for your stomach to cramp from laughter.

A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?
Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.

Have you read my Hourglass review? Timepiece is from Kaleb's POV *dies,* and is so, so good.

I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

Just so you know - I was not a huge Delirium fan. This one made up for Delirium, fifty times over.

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?
Morris Award–finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.

I love me a good book from a guy's point of view. And this is an AMAZING one.

Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art -- until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.

Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all -- with enough distance, maybe she'll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.

With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship.

  This one's not out until August, but I'm giving away my ARC! Click here for details!

BTW, here are six books I read last year that I STILL can't stop thinking about.

Okay, okay. That's TWELVE MUST reads. I can't help but get carried away about books.

Have YOU read any of these? Any books I should add to my MUST read TBR?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

R is for Rest

Anyone out there a classic Type A Personality? I think I have Type A on steroids. Rest and Relaxation are not typically part of my vocabulary. My typical day starts between 4:30 and 5 and after my morning caffeine injection, it's pretty much go, go, go until um...10:30 at night. I usually crash around 11:30. Then get up and do the same thing all over again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Sound familiar? And rest? HA! Who has time to rest? I can't rest!  Rest is for the weak!

WRONG. Rest is for the wise, sane, and healthy. And I've learned too many times the hard way that rest is just as important to the work day as work is.

As a writer I experience this same go, go, go mentality. Using spare minutes to edit pages, read a chapter, critique a first page, read a few blogs. I enjoy doing all of that, but I also think it's important to take a few of those minutes and just do NOTHING. Watch one of my many DVRed episodes, watch my kids play, or just crash on the couch and vegitate for five ten thirty minutes.

This weekend I'm retreating away for a little R&R. A chance to hang out with my husband. A chance to relax. A chance to breathe.

Otherwise I might end up like this guy

So, if I'm not around the next two days, I'm resting. Relaxing. Something we all need to do every now and again. (PS - I've prescheduled these posts and the new blogger is not my friend. If my posts seem particularly wonky, please forgive)

Oh, and if you're curious to see how I do manage my time, pop back in Monday.
How do YOU rest and relax? Go on any mini-retreats lately?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Q is for Quotes That Keep Me Going

The other day I posted my list of NEVER quotes. Here are some others I have permanently tattooed on the brain. Enjoy.

Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today. (James Dean)

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Psalm 37:7)

It’s all about the climb (Miley Cyrus)

Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams.
If you don't, who will?
(Jon Bon Jovi)

I go to seek a great perhaps (François Rabelais)

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. (Ray Bradbury)

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. (Sylvia Plath)

Don’t stop believing (Journey)

If I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me. (William Shakespeare)

When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place. (Anonymous)

Never tell me the odds! (Han Solo)

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will. (Vince Lombardi)

Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head. ( From the movie Finding Forrester)

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. (Henry David Thoreau)

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. (Wayne Gretzky)

If you can dream it, you can do it. (Walt Disney)

Keep away from people who try to belittle your dreams. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too, can become great. (Mark Twain)

Whether you think you can, or think you can't,
you're probably right.
(Henry Ford)

Never, never, never, never give up. (Winston Churchill)

So? Do YOU have any quotes that "keep you going?"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

P is for Playlist

My first two projects had theme songs. Every time I'd hear those songs - in the car, on a walk, wherever - I'd pump up the volume, belt the lyrics, get inspired. I'd be in the zone, be THERE with my characters, and while the music played, my mind would be writing new scenes, rewriting old ones, or the lyrics would just get me thinking and brainstorming and needing, yearning, wanting to WRITE.

My current project doesn't have A song to pump me up. It has seventeen. Yep. A Playlist, on my iPod, and whenever I want/need to get excited about writing or need to just be in the zone, I pop in a bud and press play. Here are some songs on my current playlist

Back in Black (AC/DC)

I Know You Want Me (Pitbull)

A Little Less Conversation (Elvis)

Firework (Katy Perry)

Animal (Def Leppard)

Another One Bites the Dust (Queen)

Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad (Def Leppard)

The One That Got Away (Katy Perry)

I actually have five Katy Perry songs on this playlist, another Def Leppard, some Police, other classic rock. And then last night in the car I heard this

And I thought, PERFECT.

Do YOU have a playlist for your WIP? What's your favorite song from it? And if you don't have a playlist, what song is currently stuck in YOUR head?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

O is for Octopus

I'm feeling a little Overwhelmed so I'm being resourceful lazy and reposting my O post from last year. If you've seen it before, humor me and read it again. If you've not seen it, you go.

I want to be an octopus. No, really I do. To have eight arms—eight! Imagine the possibilities. I could type four novels at the same time. I could pour milk, make breakfast, pack lunches, and tie up the garbage—all at once! I could write an example on the white board, type functions into the calculator, write up that kid texting in the corner—and sign two bathroom passes.

What would be even better—if they were Elasti-girl stretchy arms.

Eight arms would be great, right? Or eight legs. I’d even take eight eyes on the back of my head. Or eight clones—now THAT would be cool.

So, how about YOU? Feeling overwhelmed lately? What would you like eight of?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

N is for NEVER

I don’t know about you, but I am completely confident in my writing. When I finish my revisions (which, whatever, I don’t need to do, because my story is already full of awesome) I’m going to query and every agent will want my story. I know I’ll have the same response from the Big Six. My book will go to auction and I’ll sign a seven figure, seven book deal, and the movies based on my books will double The Hunger Games opening weekend. I am never insecure about my writing; in fact, I don’t even know what insecure means.

And if you believe all that, let me also tell you that everyone who stops by my blog today wins free airfare and a week’s vacation to Costa Rica, all expenses paid.


Just so you know—I rarely meet someone who belittles my writing or tries to tell me I’ll NEVER be a published author or that no matter what I do my writing will NEVER be good enough or that I’ll NEVER publish my particular story because that idea’s been done, redone, and overdone. Nope. Those NEVERs come from within. As writers, I think we are our own worst critics. And the NEVER voices permeate my mind daily. My writing will NEVER make sense. I NEVER have enough time to write. My characters will NEVER be layered enough. I will NEVER be able to write a query that encompasses my fifty plot lines. I will NEVER write a story people will want to read. I’ll NEVER sign with an agent. People will NEVER want to buy my book.


It’s hard to defeat those voices, especially when you’re stuck in the murky middle or you’re in the throes of revisions and your darlings are still not behaving themselves and sticking to the main storyline. Or when you feel like you’re too clichéd or you receive a rejection on the last full manuscript you have out there or someone else wrote a story that sounds exactly like yours.

To be honest, I’m there now. Revisions are kicking my butt, I’m overwhelmed and looking at a big blob of a manuscript that on some days only seems a little less blobby. I hit this really awesome stride with writing last week and then got STUCK and those NEVER voices (yes, I do have voices in my head) crept back in—those voices that threaten NEVER, NEVER, NEVER almost enough to make me want to give up.

When I get like this, I have to turn to a different set of NEVERs. NEVER statements that uplift me. Or at least temporarily delude my mind until my brain conjures up another round of self-defeat.

So, in the spirit of self-pep talks, an encouraging NEVER. For you. For me. Enjoy.

Winners NEVER quit, and quitters NEVER win. (Vince Lombardi)

NEVER give in. NEVER give in. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. (Winston Churchill)

It is NEVER too late to be what you might have been. (George Eliot)

NEVER tell me the odds. (Han Solo)

NEVER give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about. (Winston Churchill)

We must accept finite disappointment, but NEVER lose infinite hope. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

NEVER give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. (Harriet Beecher Stowe)

I NEVER looked at the consequences of missing a big shot... when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result. (Michael Jordan)

NEVER lose a holy curiosity. (Albert Einstein)

The greatest accomplishment is not in NEVER falling, but in rising again after you fall. (Vince Lombardi)

Success is NEVER final, failure is NEVER fatal. It's courage that counts. (John Wooden)

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will NEVER forget how you made them feel. (Maya Angelou)

If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you NEVER will change the outcome. (Michael Jordan)

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up. (Winston Churchill)

Feel uplifted? Me too. I like these NEVER quotes SO MUCH better. Tune in Friday. I’ll have more quotes that keep me going.

Ever have those NEVER days? Do YOU have a favorite NEVER quote? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, April 16, 2012

M is for May Blogging

I originally jumped in on the A-Z blogging challenge because my blog (my writing, everything) desperately needed rejuvenating. And I've been having so much fun, even more than last year, that I don't want it to end. So, I won't. In May, Sara McClung, Katy Upperman, Tracey Neithercott, Jessica Love, Alexandra Shostak, Cambria Dillon, Lola Sharp and I will be hosting

And we'd LOVE for you to join us.

The purpose: To get back in the habit of blogging regularly by following a weekly format for the month of May. (Or if you already post regularly, to have an easy schedule to follow without having to struggle with what to blog about.) (But if posting every day sounds like too much, or if you miss a few days, or only do a couple posts a week, who cares, yanno?)

What you DON'T have to do: Follow every blog that participates and comment on everyone's posts every day. This isn't a blogfest to gain followers--although maybe that will happen! And of course if you WANT to follow everyone, feel free :)

The schedule:

Mondays: MAY I tell you something about writing?

This can be anything writing-related. A post on craft. A post on your process. A snippet of your WIP, if you like to share. A book on craft that you want to recommend. Things you struggle with. Things you rock at. ANYTHING at all!

Tuesdays: MAY I tell you something about myself?

Pretty self-explanatory :) Share something about yourself that your follows might not know. Or maybe they do. It doesn't matter--this is just so people who read your blog can get to know you a little better.

Wednesdays: MAY I ask something about you?

Ask your followers something about themselves.

Thursdays: MAY I tell you something about someone else?

Make this post about someone else. A writing friend. A critique partner. A person from history who's fascinating. A character from a book. Anyone you want :) Have a guest poster. Give an interview. Get creative! Just let the spotlight shine on someone else.

Fridays: MAY I share something funny?

Fridays = the starts of weekends! BOOYA. Reason to celebrate and laugh on it's own--plus, who doesn't want to see something amusing after a long week?

Sound like fun? I think YES! If you want to join in, click here for Sara's post (she has the linky!), get some posts ready (or not - I usually wing it), get ready for some fun and rejuvenation, and blog me, MAYbe. I'll be blogging for YOU.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

L is for Lucky Sevens

So there’s this Lucky Sevens meme circulating and I’ve been tagged twice. Once by the fabulous Jennifer Hoffine and then just the other day by my awesome writer friend Cambria (you should check out their snippets—AMAZING). Anyway, I decided to play along.

Here are the rules if you're tagged:

1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines/sentences as they are – no cheating
4. Tag 7 other authors

When I was tagged the first time I immediately thought FUN! I pulled up page 7 and page 77 of my current WIP, not really knowing if I could share, if I should share, but I was feeling kind of sharey (yes, Sara, it’s totally a word) so here goes.

As I walk into English, I keep my head low and head straight for my desk at the back of the room, get out my Lit book, and bury my nose in it. And I stay that way until David bounds through the door and yells my name like I’m a football field away.

“Yo, Marshall! Your freaking present worked wonders! Penny got two rides on this disco stick!”

He slaps me a high five before swiping the books off my desk. They crash to the floor like he crashes into his seat, obviously proud of himself. Half the class stares in our direction. And as I retrieve my books, I can’t help but laugh at my obnoxious and disgusting friend.

“I like your energy today, Mr. Savage.”

Oh, crap.

Susan Milton strides towards us, messy papers and grade book in hand. She stops by David’s desk and flashes him a warm smile. “We’ll be starting Act II of Romeo and Juliet. Why don’t you read for Mercuitio?”

David leans back into his seat, props his elbow on the desk next to him. “Anything for you, darlin’,” he says with a wink.

Okay, so it’s a leetle longer than seven lines, and I'm still a wee bit averse to cursing on my blog so I had to tweak a line, but whatever. I shared. Hope you enjoyed it.

I’m also supposed to tag seven authors, but I’m pretty sure all my friends have been tagged by now so if you haven’t and you want to participate, go for it! And let me know you did. I’d love to see what you’re working on.

So, what do YOU feel like sharing today?

Friday, April 13, 2012

K is for Kenzie

Today, K is for Kenzie, my super awesome fabulous daughter. She’s in seventh grade, facebooks way more than Mom, and loves to take pictures of herself. Wanna see?

Yes, she is taller than me. No, it's not right.

Kenzie (Kenz) is short for McKenzie which I don’t often call her unless it’s after I find countless juice boxes and goldfish bags in her room and then I’m screaming the classic never does any good except to summon a million eye rolls McKenzie Elyse Miller.

Her friends call her McKenzie. My brother calls her MacGyver, MacNamara, Macintosh. My son just calls her annoying.

Last year my A post was a shout out to my son Aidan so today, K day, my daughter gets one all to herself. And proud mama is just going to share a few thirteen reasons why she’s the best (don’t even try to say yours is better) thirteen year old daughter in the world.

1) She’s well-rounded. The thing I feel most blessed with is that my daughter enjoys doing so many things, and that she can do them, and do them well. And while she’s not a rock star, she’s a pretty good soccer player, a most graceful dancer, she loves to help others, brings home As and Bs on the report card, is a pretty talented artist, and just enjoys doing so many different things.

2) The child reads more than I do. LOVE her for that.

3) She plays with her brother and (SHHHH) sometimes often enjoys it.

4) She’s social, like her dad. Yet a little shy, like her mom. It’s kind of an awesome combination.

5) Her eye rolling rubs off on me. And then I give standard whatever look to my students when they’re being total boneheads.

6) She was almost as excited about The Hunger Games as I was. The bonding part of this (for me) was HUGE. I get to watch her shows with her and take her to Big Time Rush/One Direction concerts and pretend I’m all ho-hum about it when really I just want to get up and scream and dance too.

7) We laugh and sing and dance (like idiots) in the car until I swerve or miss my turn and then I have to go all crabby and parental on her.

8)I dyed my hair and it looks a little dark (black) and she’s been calling me Katy Perry (which I LOVE) and saying things like “Hey Katy Perry, where were you last Friday night?” or, pointing to her brother, “Hey Katy Perry, Aidan kissed a girl and he liked it.” And considering that Katy Perry is one of my favorite artists and a few a lot of her songs inspire my current WIP, this new term of endearment endears Kenz to me even more.

This pic is not evidence of the latest bottle job, but it's close enough.

9) We chat at night. She tells me about her day. I tell her about mine. Yeah, I know…awwwww.

PS - I could tell you other things and share pictures that would embarrass the snot out of her, but I’m saving the really good stuff for pages in her yearbook senior year.

10) She is so not perfect. And she’s sort of kind of okay with that. I was SUCH a perfectionist and was very afraid mortified that I would rub off on her. I worry those perfectionist tendencies could still creep in, but then I see her book bag with papers splayed everywhere and I feel a little better. A little.

11) She's good at math, even though (trying not to cry) she hates it.

12) Yesterday she helped me Rock the Drop, took pictures when my camera died, came up with the wicked cool idea to put the book at the Shark Attack Wings store in the mouth of this guy.

Yes, we did put Divergent on a shark's tooth!

13) And while I don’t always like having to be the “bad guy,” I thoroughly enjoy my thirteen year old because she keeps me young. Yes, I embarrass her. Yes, she embarrasses me (have I mentioned the car dancing?) But man, we have a lot of fun.

So, do YOU have someone you want to brag about today? Go for it, in the comments. Happy Friday the 13th!