Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Follow Up

Happy Friday! How's your week been? Here's my follow up

On WRITING/REVISING: I revised about fifty pages this week—still two parts that don’t sit well with me that I’m currently (what I call) chunking (more on my whack revision process some day) and will, must, need to send off to CPs soon. If only Alison could stop TWEAKING.

Anyway, those fifty-ish pages did not take me through to my Black Moment, BUT I’m okay with that because just about every spare minute I had, I revised: early in the mornings, twenty minutes at lunch, sitting in my son’s door way waiting for him to fall asleep. And…AND I WANTED to revise. I had no problem “springing” out of bed between four and four-thirty, powering up the laptop and getting to work. I actually got a little (a lot) miffed when I had to shut down and do something—ya know—responsible. That has not happened in a while.

So, I got a little “drunk on writing.” Did YOU meet your writing goals for the week?

Also, I think I shall use this post to set a few goals for the next week and report back the following Friday on my progress. So, here goes: by next Friday, I DEFINITELY want to be through to the Black Moment; in fact, I want to be working on it (I read through it the other day—still makes my heart hurt).

How about YOU? What do you want to accomplish next week?

On READING: Since I’ve been REVISING just about every spare minute, I really haven’t progressed as far as I like in the reading realm. While my revising experience has been rewarding in itself (and very enjoyable…LOVE revising), I did use reading as a reward for my revising efforts. After I edited a set number of pages or spent a certain amount of time revising, I rewarded myself with a few chapters. The problem: I’m currently reading this

Have you read it? Yeah. This is one I DON’T want to put down! Kristin Cashore is a writing GENIUS. I think I’ll take a day this weekend and just READ.

What have YOU been reading?

On TRENDS: I’m blogging about my teens over at YA Confidential today. A few trends. Some new wordage. A little on what’s hip. You can check it out here.

On FAMILY: A full week of school has left my family WIPED. Between soccer practices and tutoring and a fundraiser event mid-week, there were a few nights we could’ve all crashed around seven. I usually go to bed around eleven during the school week. I had trouble making it past nine.

BUT we have a three-day weekend. And it’s supposed to be SUNNY. And the husband and I are having a date night to celebrate our birthdays (his was last week, mine is um…soon).

What are YOUR plans this weekend?

On OTHER STUFF: My Explorer is sick and in need of major car surgery. L We are a one-car family for the next week until I can get it repaired. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but the SILVER LINING: No soccer games this weekend. Actually, nowhere I HAVE to be. I have awesome friends who can take me to and from work every day. Heck, the parents of one of the kids I tutor offered me a car to use for as long as I need it. I can walk most places I have to be. And I just got paid. Things could be a lot worse.

I’m counting my blessings. What are YOU thankful for?

Happy Friday! And have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RTW: Best Book in August

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's the best book you read in August?

Off the August TBR…

Zero by Tom Leveen

Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

Nevermore by James Patterson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (a reread) by Stephen Chbosky

11th Hour by James Patterson

Bitterblue (currently reading) by Kristin Cashore

And the best book I read in August…

Before I get into my thoughts on the story, here are some little known facts: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an MTV publication written by Stephen Chbosky. He also wrote the screenplay for Rent. Oh, and this was a very welcomed reread for me. Most of you I know I don’t reread books. Practically ever.

Also, the first time I read it, I borrowed a copy from a student (the perks of being a teacher). I returned it, then bought myself a copy, ya know, in case I wanted to read it again (and again and again).

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolic tale, told by the main character Charlie through a series of letters he writes to an unnamed “friend.” The letters chronicle his freshman year of high school—new friends, his first crush, his relationship with his family, and his experimentation with sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Gotcha hooked yet?

At fifteen, Charlie is incredibly thoughtful and observant—aka—a wallflower. He’s honest and sincere, just so genuinely frank about the people he sees and his thoughts about them. His family’s fairly put together. Mom doesn’t say much. Dad doesn’t show much emotion. Older brother plays football at Penn State. Older sister’s a senior at his new school. Their interactions remind me of my own family. Not perfect. But not reeking of dysfunction either. Yet Charlie suffers depression. Has for a while.

As Charlie enters high school, he’s dealing with the recent suicide of his best friend and a perpetual feeling of guilt regarding the death of his favorite aunt. This leaves him at times uncontrollably crying, other times violent, and yet other times experiencing periods of frightening stoicism—a boy many perceive as a depressed and emotional basket case—a freak. Within weeks he befriends seniors Patrick and Samantha (Sam), and they introduce him to their liberal and hard-core ways, a world in which he learns to do more than “sit on the sidelines.” He becomes what his English teacher encourages him to do—become a participant. Charlie makes friends, indulges a wild side, and falls in love. Yet at times, he still remains very much a wallflower.

Here’s just a little of Charlie’s wallflower observations and reflections…

It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.

I am very interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.

And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t.

Or my favorite

Maybe these days are my glory days and I’m not even realizing it because they don’t involve a ball.

Charlie observes people and feels very deeply for the experiences occurring around him. He reminds me of E.T. He almost takes on everyone else’s issues like they were his own. And through their experiences, Charlie wonders how things will end up. How that girl’s going to turn out after he watched her almost get raped by her boyfriend. He wonders if that four-year old who’s screaming at his mother about his French fries is going to end up abusing someone like his sister. And while appreciating and trying to understand those around him, he comes to appreciate who he is. And understand why he is the person he’s come to be.

I read the book with a wallflower experience that paralleled Charlie’s walk through his first year of high school. I laughed with his "highs," and cried when he hit the lows. Many times, I wanted to just reach through the pages of the book and give him a freaking hug. And just as Charlie learned a lot from his observations, I learned a lot from him too. Being a wallflower does have its perks. We can look at the people around us and appreciate them. We don’t know what their lives are like. We don’t know what pain they endure. And so we should not judge. But appreciate.

So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we came from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.

Live in the moment.

Observe. Feel. Particpate.

And in those moments, just like Charlie, we can be “infinite.”

So, that was my favorite book of the month. What was YOURS?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Have a Drink with Me?

Most of you know I’m a teacher. Most of you also know that the teaching gig provides a summer vacation. And summer vacation for many teachers and students means sleeping in.

Not for this chick.

With very few exceptions, Alison set her alarm clock every morning for 5 AM, and some mornings I literally sprung out of bed (not like this during the school year…AT ALL).

Why, you ask?

Well, I jumped out of bed every morning to get drunk.

On writing, that is.

I LOVE to be drunk on writing. When my mind is deliriously dizzy and I can’t spit out my words fast enough. Stories spin in my head. And my to-do list is a hazy fog I later sober up to. Writing stories is a high I never want to come down from. And when I do, a wonderful hangover lingers until I can jump off the reality wagon again.

But today, my friends, the teaching gig starts, and I take a trip to crazytown. The school day is busy. The afternoons are busy. The weekends are busy. And while most of that busy is GOOD busy, I’m a little nervous about the writing. And wondering when I’m going to be able to get thoroughly inebriated with it.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ll probably get a good buzz going here and there, but nothing, NOTHING like the welcomed delirium I had going on this summer.

I don’t want reality to destroy me. I yearn for writing intoxication. Bad.

So, I’m calling myself out on my blog. I’m going get “drunk on writing” and revise every second I can. My goal this week: revise through to the Black Moment. I won’t tell you how many words or how many pages (because I am seriously embarrassed by my current word count), but trust me…it’s a lot. I know...I know what you’re thinking. Set small goals, Alison. You’re busy. You should be realistic.

But that’s just it. I don’t want to get buzzed on writing. I want to get rip-roaring smashed.

Wanna get drunk with me? On writing, that is? Tell me what you’d like to accomplish this week, and report back on Friday. And then fire up that computer and


Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Follow Up

Happy Friday! How's your week been? Here's my follow up

On WRITING/REVISING: I revised forty pages this week. Forty pages in the second half of my story with one section that has been and continues to DRIVE ME INSANE. It’s a HUGE reveal section and I’ve been having issues about where to put the um…reveal. You see, Alison likes to add a little mystery element to her stories, but she doesn’t want her mystery to come off as manipulative, if that makes sense.

Anyhoo, I ended up creating two versions of the same forty pages (let the CPs have some input!): one with the reveal early on, the other contains the revelation toward the end of the section. And I thought they were ready to go until I printed off another set of hard copies (to check for flow) and couldn’t stop TWEAKING.

I’m not neurotic. Nope. Not in the least bit. Also, have you read my post about my critique partners? They. Are. AMAZING.

The silver lining on reading said pages twenty thousand times? This section also contains one of my favorite…FAVORITE scenes in the entire manuscript. I’ve read it, I don’t know, a bajillion times now, and my heart still hurts EVERY TIME I read it. And the writing is, in my leetle meek opinion, so, so good. I actually reread the scene anytime I need a little writing pick-me-up. Makes me wish I could write like that all the time.

Do YOU have a scene like that? Tell me about YOUR week in writing!

On READING: It’s been a bit of a slow reading week. I reread The Perks of Being a Wallflower, reminding myself why I love this book SO MUCH. I’ll gush about it more next Wednesday, but now I’m super stoked to go see this

Currently, I’m reading 11th Hour (James Patterson). It’s the Lindsay Boxer Women’s Murder Club series. I’m addicted. The one adult series I’ll never get enough of.

What have YOU been reading?

On INSPIRATION: Did any of you participate in Road Trip Wednesday this week? Holy Revision Motivation. I keep reading back over my love list and just fall in love with my story all over again. I’m so printing fifty copies of it and taping it EVERYWHERE.

And speaking of inspiring blogging, do you know Temre Beltz? She’s an MG writer repped by Mandy Hubbard and she wrote this most beautiful, amazing, and insightful post the other day called Writers are Super Human? She talked about stories as gifts and how it’s easy to feel our gifts are insufficient, but that we are all uniquely qualified to bring these gifts to the table.

Here’s just a little sample of the awesome:

So I think I've learned that the best writers are not super-human with superior intelligence, impeccable wit, and knock-out good looks (although surely some of them probably are!), but they are super-human.

And I think that's something I can do. I think that's something any of us can do.

I hope you visit Temre and read the rest of her post. And I hope you leave as touched and inspired as I did.

What’s inspired YOU this week?

On FAMILY: I took my daughter to see these guys on Wednesday.

And she and her friends had a BIG TIME. She saw Big Time Rush back in March (with One Direction!), but I caved and bought her tickets again. What can I say? I’m gunning for Mom of the Year.

And while McKenzie and I partied it up in Raleigh, the husband took Aidan on a shopping spree for more of these

But I’m indulging the Skylanders’ fixation. When school starts Monday, my poor kid won’t have a lot of time to play the Wii. Actually, he won’t have a whole lot of time to do anything.

In other news, my husband made me a playlist for my iPod when I wasn’t watching. Yes, it was super sweet, but hold your awwws for just a sec. While his playlist creation did contain many favorites, he also added several Zac Brown songs to the mix. Yeah. Zac Brown. Country music and Alison are about as compatible as a lion and a frog. But I forgive him. And am quietly plotting my revenge. :)

Oh, and tomorrow is the husband’s BIRTHDAY. How are we celebrating? At his soccer games all morning. :) But it’s cool. The kids and I will sport the red and black and then we’ll pool party it in the afternoon. Frankly, I just hope the man takes time to relax. He’s crazy busy these days.

What are YOUR weekend plans?

On OTHER STUFF: Monday, the husband and I went back to work. The school year doesn’t just hit us. It slams into us like a bus. A double-decker one. My son’s soccer practices started. My tutoring picked up. The husband had three soccer games this week. The onset of the school year means I set my life dial to INSANE. It’s crazy busy. But a GOOD crazy busy.

However, being at work means my tan is fading. Already. (I KNOW…Shut up, Alison!) Sunday might be the last day I get to see the beach for a while. The weather BETTER cooperate. ;)

Finally, tonight I will be on the sidelines, recording offensive stats (yay!), and watching some FOOTBALL. My school against my husband’s. There’s absolutely no rivalry and smack talk at our house. Nope. Not at all.

What are YOUR plans this weekend? I hope you have a wonderful one!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


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

Inspired by Stephanie Perkins' post on Natalie Whipple's blog, what is your novel's "Love List"?

When Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss) begins a new project, she generates a “What I Love about This Story” list—sometimes short, sometimes long –and she uses this “love-list as a touchstone to remind myself during the hard times why my story is worthwhile.” Also, by taking note of the things she loves, she has a guide during the revision process to build those things up.

I LOVE this idea! As I read Stephanie’s post, my brain cycle immediately set to churn. Five loves instantly grew to ten, then fifteen, then, well…I tried to stop, keep the list short, but come on, this is me we’re talking about!

Here’s what I love, love, love about my WIP:


Friday Night Football

ball-busting locker room antics

yellow roses

English classes that are hard to get through


Spanish Omelets

hero worship

naked exploits


long phone conversations

playing with heart

skee ball bets




Disney Princesses




hummingbirds on crack

shameless one-liners

UNC Chapel Hill

abstinence pacts

Vince Lombardi




Paradise Lost

At writeoncon last week, Jennifer A. Nielson (The False Prince) discussed identifying your voice and one way to do that is to “know your stuff.” And not so much writing what you know, but more “what you love.” “Because when you love a topic, you want to know all about it.”

Write what you love.

That's what I'm doing. Writing what I LOVE. And I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to get back to writing!

What’s on YOUR love list?

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Perks of Having Critique Partners (and Being One Too)

Just so you know, I have the most awesome CPs. Here are just a few reasons why...

1) Best feedback EVER. They send me the most insightful and incredibly helpful comments, things I would NEVER have thought about. They push me. When I’m being a lazy writer (and I KNOW I’m being a lazy writer), they call me on it. And they encourage me. Even in their most "brutal" feedback, they keep me going.

2) Brainstorming: Two hour phone chats. Non-stop back and forth texts. Documents and lists that rival the length of my manuscript. It is SO NICE to have people to bounce ideas off of.

3) They tolerate my neurotic-ness. I have a very crazy critique process with this particular project. One of my CPs gets two versions of my work: a clean version (with no neurotic comments) and a version with comments and questions scattered throughout. And she reads both of them—reactive comments on one, answers to my questions on the other. I hurl BRAIN SPEW at two of my CPs. In fact, I sent them one just the other week—four pages of my thoughts for fleshing out my main character’s “curse.” They must REALLY love me.

4) Reading their work strengthens my writing. I cannot even begin to tell you how TALENTED my critique partners are. One of my CPs is gifted in the art of dialogue and romance; another, in writing incredibly efficient and effective action sequences. One of my CPs writes Printz–worthy prose that would bring Laurie Halse Anderson to her knees. I learn from what they do well, and I learn from their mistakes too. Reading their work is not only an absolute joy, it helps me in my writing and revision process.

5) I get to read some of the BEST stories. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Paranormal—engaging stories with AMAZING premises, characters I want to brag to the world about. Romance that makes my mouth dry and my heart swoon.

6) Comments that keep me going. My current project has undergone two rewrites in the past two years. And to be honest, there have been so many times I just want to scrap the whole thing and start over or move onto something else. But when I get this kind of feedback…

I feel like every comment I’m making here is I LOVE THIS, but yeah… I really do.

Just pausing to say that I love this story. It is so NOT a chore to read for you.

(On my main character’s best friend) Hahaha oh my god he’s shameless. And the weird thing is, he should totally disgust me and yet I find him severely endearing.

I REALLY enjoyed reading this. Your writing has so much energy, it’s so alive. I could just read and read and read.

I am beaming! This entire conversation is hilarious and awesome.

It's hard to be brutal with something this good. Reading your pages is an absolute joy. You have such a great voice, such compelling characters, I find myself drawn into them--even more than some published books I've read!

Or wake up to tweets like this...

@alisonmiller20 And now I want to read PARADISE LOST. Good grief, woman!

I can't give up.

I love my story. I love my characters. But I don’t know if I would’ve ever written THE END on this draft without that kind of inspiring, encouraging, and motivational feedback.

7) Friendship. Yes, these are my writing partners, people I trust to give me the good, bad, and the not-always-easy-to-hear when it comes to feedback. And they do. They deliver incredibly objective, helpful, and encouraging feedback. But these same people have also become my friends—some of them very close friends. I think part of that stems from trusting each other with a very intimate and vulnerable part of ourselves. And you can’t help but have something beautiful develop out of that.

In an interview I did with the Write-Brained Network in February, my writer friend Cristin said it best (about critique partners): I think the most important thing is to find someone who gets what you’re writing – because otherwise they won’t be helpful to you, even if they’re the most skilled critiquer on the planet – and who has a generous heart and genuinely wants you to succeed. If you have those two things, everything else pretty much falls into place.

I have that. Gosh, do I have that. My critique partners are invaluable to my growth as a writer. And they are beautiful friends. I hope everyone can find such incredible camaraderie and be as truly fortunate in the critiquing world as I am.

So, do you have someone you want to brag about? Brag away in the comments!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Followup

Happy Friday! How's your week been? Here's my follow-up

On WRITING: Anyone else participate in the awesomeness of this

New Leaf Literary started Writeoncon’s Back to Basics conference with probably what is now my new mantra: Just. Freaking. Write. With a wealth of information out there, it IS so easy to lose oneself in hours of blog reading and emailing and everything writing-related, but the ladies at New Leaf reminded us what brought us all here in the first place—writing.

And it just got better after that. SO many inspiring and rejuvenating “sessions,” amazing for writers at any stage. You can see a couple of my favorites here, here, and here. The posts are archived so you can access them at any time. If you haven’t “attended” yet, what are you waiting for?!

Oh, and I got all brave and stuff and put my query out there for *gasp* critique.

Some of the feedback:

Holy balls this is good! I adore the voice, from the first line.

I think you nailed his voice perfectly (really rare for any of us, but especially impressive for someone who hasn't been a teenage guy!)—this one came from…a GUY.

Tons of positive and constructive feedback, and I also received a nudge to query an agent and a request for a full. Guess I better get revising!

So, yeah…Writeoncon was pretty awesome. Were you there? What was YOUR favorite “session?”

On REVISING: I’ve spent the past week and a half in brainstorming and note-taking mode, gearing up for this round of revisions. I call it round one, but considering I revise SO MUCH as I go, I should probably call it round fifty. Anyway, can I just tell you how much I LOVE revising! I devoted last weekend to readying pages for my round two CPs (more on Alison’s wack process later) and then the better part of yesterday preparing pages for my round one CP and well…I am just in love. Don’t get me wrong, revising is not easy, but I love revising because

a) this is where the real craft of writing comes in—finding the most concise, voice-y, strongest way to say something, establishing flow and pacing, fleshing out story lines and character motivations

b) falling in love with my characters over and over again. More on story love next Wednesday.

What I don’t like? Cutting. Especially scenes I LOVE. I did manage to delete 700 words yesterday. I have a lot more to cut (I’m not an overwriter. Nope.), but 700 is definite progress.

Are YOU revising? What do you love about the process?

On READING: I finally sunk my talons into this

SO GOOD. I really tried to read it slow (since *sniff* it’s the last one!), but I couldn’t help but fly through it. A little weirded by the way James Patterson decided to end it, but VERY satisfied, on so many plot line fronts. Reminded me of my experience with MOCKINGJAY.

In other reading news, I FINALLY finished Fifty Shades Darker. It only took me two weeks. I won’t go into why. I will only leave you with this

Up next on the TBR: BITTERBLUE and 11th HOUR.

What have YOU been reading?

On FAMILY: Soccer started this week! And while my husband’s not sporting the red mohawk (yet), Alison donned the red and black for the first soccer game Wednesday night (which we won 5-0, btw). And my daughter’s playing in soccer tournaments this weekend. My husband’s coaching her team and I can’t wait to see them in action!

Also, it’s really HOT here in Eastern NC so to cool off we spend lots of time at the beach. Or cool off with this

My son’s new favorite movies. And they are really cute. And fifty shades of clever.

What are YOUR weekend plans?

On OTHER STUFF: Monday I go back to work for my 21st year of teaching.

Oh wait. You wanted HAPPY news.

Okay, so going back to work really isn’t the happiest news, but the beginning of school does mean the start of this

And we all know how this chick feels about football.

Also, this

Will YOU be watching?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


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

In honor of the end of the Olympics, share your favorite sports book!

I know I Olympic-blogged yesterday, but I cannot, CANNOT miss an opportunity to share one of my all time favorite sports reads:

Fifteen-year-old Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Coop and Sean, always set themselves a summertime goal. This year's? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time — quite a challenge, given that none of the guys has the nerve to even ask a girl out on a date. But catching a girl in the buff starts to look easy compared to Matt's other summertime aspiration: to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the hardest stroke known to God or man) as a way to impress Kelly West, the hot new girl on the swim team. So what if he can't manage a single lap, let alone four? He's got the whole summer to perfect his technique. What could possibly go wrong?

Three fifteen year old boys who spend their summer with the quest of seeing a naked girl for the first time? And two pages devoted to TWSS day? SWIM THE FLY is American Pie at Swim School. I have an affinity for boy books and have consequently read a lot of them, but this one is one of the most AMAZING and HILARIOUS books I've ever read.

What's YOUR favorite sports read?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going for Gold (A Writer's Inspirational and Pictorial Olympic Recap)

So, I’ve spent my past two weeks watching a lot of this

Gymnastics, swimming, soccer, diving, archery, riding….SO MUCH. I honestly haven’t watched this much Olympics, this much television, since I sported leg warmers and feathered hair. I think it has a little something with having a teen in the house (you can read my thoughts on that here), but I also think it has a little something to do with country pride, passion, and a whole lot of inspiration.

The interviews glued me too, and one in particular struck the writing chord, one after an American athlete tore apart the track and added to the growing USA gold stockpile (I think it was Aries Merritt, after he gold medaled in the hurdles, almost breaking a world record. Google fails to provide me a successful search). Anyway, in the follow-up interview, he was asked if he saw the time, if he knew he knew he almost broke a world record. He shook his head and said that he just had to run like a world-class athlete.

A world-class athlete.

I imagine being a world-class athlete involves a lifetime of training, years and years of blood, sweat, and many tears. A mixture of other ingredients that morphs the ordinary into someone incredibly extraordinary. And of course my immediate thoughts went to writing and what it takes to write like a World-Class-Writer. And I have a few thoughts to share. Lucky you. :)

How to write like a World-Class-Writer

1) Train, train, train—write every day, read craft books, read books in your genre, attend workshops (free one (writeoncon) this week!), have mad gab sessions about writing, participate in writing groups. Oh, and write. EVERY DAY. Did I mention that? Good. It’s kind of important.

2) Work through the pain.

I think it’s great that, for some people, writing is a hobby, and they write when inspired. But I can’t do that. If I want to be a World-Class-Writer, I have to write EVERY DAY. Most days I LOVE this idea, but I'll admit, there are days when I absolutely dread opening a document, when I know the writing will be mentally exhausting, but I make myself do it anyway.

3) Set goals—long range. Short range. Daily goals work well for me. Find what works for you.

4) Celebrate—small victories. Big ones.

Last second miracle finishes.

If you’ve achieved word count for the day, if you roughed out a query, if you tweaked that one paragraph that’s been the thorn in your pecking finger—reward yourself. Celebration is important too.

5) Surround yourself with support

Family, friends, amazing critique partners and beta readers, blogging buddies, twitter peeps—people who will encourage you and push and pull you. Make you BETTER.

6) Support others. Encourage and push them, celebrate their achievements, relentlessly brag about their accomplishments, encourage them when they’re down.

Be this guy...

7) Have patience—it’s a process, often times a long and arduous one. Allow yourself time to write, to revise, to polish. To experience several rejections before one request. To fail before you succeed.

8) Learn what advice to take, what to ignore. There are a lot of people out there dishing out writing advice and *gasp* they don’t all know what they’re talking about. Learn to weed out the helpful from the ignorant, and above all else, IGNORE THE NAYSAYERS

They thought these guys wouldn’t medal

And they thought these ladies would drop their batons. HA!

Better yet—don’t just ignore the naysayers, PROVE THEM WRONG.

9) Allow grief, realize that disappointment is a part of the process—it’s going to happen, people. A rejection on a query. On a full from your dream agent. A not-so-uplifting critique. Allow yourself to be sad about it. Frustrated even.

10) But move on.

11) Enjoy the ride.

Write for yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah…I KNOW. You have an audience to consider, people who expect a certain level of performance from you, but you know what? If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, fix that. Write because you love to write. Write what you love to write. Yes, consider your audience, your fans. Your mother’s ethical and moral child-rearing. But ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you. And for your story.

12) Finally, GO FOR GOLD.

Last week, after this

debates on whether or not athletes should be "satisfied with silver" or if they consider it "settling" sparked interesting discussion between my daughter and me. She felt the athletes should be ecstatic to just be at the Olympics, and while I definitely agree, yes, there is something unique and special about performing in London (heck, just BEING in London), I explained to her that a “settling for silver” mindset is not what got them there. These athletes are where they are today because they HUNGER for gold. Silver is a close second, an almost there, an I came up short. I can completely sympathize with McKayla Maroney, and I don’t ever want to feel like I "almost made it."

So, going for gold means I have to make every word count, tie up every loose plot thread, kill scenes and darlings that are extra fat in my manuscript. I have to type until my fingers blister, train until my mind is stuffed with knowledge, and write my heart out.

I’m all about training for a writing gold. You with me?

Side note: Alison does, like, half those things on the list. This was another one of her inspirational inner pep talks. Hope you enjoyed the side benefits.

 Anything else you think I should add to my list? What was YOUR favorite part of the Olympics?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

THE END is Here! (And I'm Celebrating!)

So, here’s my past three weeks…

Yes—you read correctly. Alison FINALLY typed THE END on her WIP. It’s been two years and just as many rewrites, but I finally have a version I love, characters I want to share with the world, and a story that still makes me laugh and cry.

And while I’m still doing some serious happy dancing (writing THE END NEVER gets old), I am ready to jump back in. And I have. Currently I’m attacking a revision notes doc that might just rival the length of my manuscript (kidding—but I seriously typed out five pages of notes to myself just on my boy’s special, um…skill), and then revisions. A few additions. And then lots of this.

I’m a revise-as-I-go kind of girl, so not a terrible amount of grammar or tightening cleaning. My biggest challenge over the next few weeks will be my lowering the word count and the inevitable, painful, heart-wrenching scene-chopping. Wish me luck, folks. There are some scenes I already know have to go that I just don’t want to part with.

BUT I’m ready. Turn on the coffee pot, bring on the Jolly Ranchers. Round one revisions? Let’s GO.

So, that’s the big news in my world. What’s new with YOU?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WINNERS! And Best July Reads!

Gihugic thank yous to everyone who participated in my Blogiversary Giveaway and for stopping by and just making me feel very loved. The winners, chosen by my friendly neighborhood random number generator:

$15 Amazon Gift Card

Colin Smith

Winners of ARCs of Suck it Up and Die or Between You and Me or hard cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone are


Kelly B

Jennifer Hoffine

Congratulations! Book winners, please email me your book choice (from the list above) at alisonmiller20(at)gmail(dot)com. First come, first served!

My next giveaway will be during Banned Books Week (September 30 – October 6). It’s the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week with the theme “30 years of Liberating Literature.” Last year I gave away a copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I may just have to do that again because


I cannot even begin to explain how much I LOVE this book (you can see my feeble attempts here). Yeah, I'll definitely be giving this away in September so be sure to pop in for that!

Also, I will probably be back to a slightly more normal MWF blogging routine in two weeks. This week I started rewriting my WIP’s finale and hopefully this chick will be able to finish the beast SOON. In the meantime, I can hardly resist sharing some of the awesome books I’ve read. My July reads...

Between You and Me by Marisa Calin

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Summer in the City by Candace Bushnell

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Fifty Shades of Cliché Grey by E. L. James

Party by Tom Leveen

Yes, I DID read three adult books and one MG this month...WEIRD. Anyway, the best one? Ugh. You guys know me. I can’t pick one. So I shall pick two because it’s my blog and I CAN. *sticks tongue out*

His eyes, Katsa had never seen such eyes. One was silver, and the other, gold. They glowed in his sun-darkened face, uneven, and strange. She was surprised that they hadn't shone in the darkness of their first meeting. They didn't seem human....

Then he raised his eyebrows a hair, and his mouth shifted into the hint of a smirk. He nodded at her, just barely, and it released her from her spell.

Cocky, she thought. Cocky and arrogant, this one, and that was all there was to make of him. Whatever game he was playing, if he expected her to join him he would be disappointed.

In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graces with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

I’m not much of a fantasy reader but I was completely awed by this story, by Katsa. By Po. Bitterblue. Katsa’s grace does not earn much love from many people, but she won me over in the first few pages. Her battles with Po, her compassion for others, her strength, her passion for her beliefs and her utter willingness to stand by them. Katsa redefines KICK-ASS female protagonists. And the other characters are almost equally amazing - all completely developed in a most beautiful and believable way. Oh, and the setting? I’m not usually blown away by setting (details often escape me), but that is a world that won’t escape my mind for a long time.

I now completely understand why I stood in a line of two hundred people for an ARC of Bitterblue and I can’t wait to tear into it.

It's saturday night in Santa Barbara and school is done for the year. Everyone is headed to the same party. Or at least it seems that way. The place is packed. The beer is flowing. Simple, right? But for 11 different people the motives are way more complicated. As each character takes a turn and tells his or her story, the eleven individuals intersect, and reconnect, collide, and combine in ways that none of them ever saw coming.

I just finished Party (in one sitting—I don’t usually do that, btw) and was floored by the voice. Big party going down in Santa Barbara, written in eleven chapters, each with a different point of view. I was a little wary, but Tom Leveen pulled it off masterfully. The characters were so distinct, not just in their own chapters, but also when you see them interacting with others. Yeah, there were a couple times I had to go back and refresh on characters and timing, but overall, the story was really, really good. And—bonus—it helped me with a little pesky question I fretted with my own WIP. I have an ARC of his latest (Zero) and it just jumped many spots up Alison’s lengthy TBR.

So, what’s YOUR favorite July read? Where are YOU with your writing? Any good news to share? Tell me in the comments!