A few weeks ago at my company, we took staff photos. Not the lame kind you find next to professional bios in the "About Us" section of a website. This is advertising, after all--we get paid to be creative! So the mandate was for each of us to plan out a photo that we felt best represented who we are. After much whining and dragging of heels, I finally came up with an idea for mine. And thanks to the Photoshop skills of my dear coworker and friend, it came out way cuter than I expected.

I present to you: Jill as Teen Book Nerd.

 And no, I don't usually wear my hair like that. :)


Forces of Nature

As most of you have probably read on CNN by now, Japan got completely rocked by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake late last night (our time) and the devastating tsunami that ensued.

Not sure I've ever mentioned on this blog that my sister lives in Tokyo. Well, she does; so when our father called me this morning at 8 am to let me know they had received word she was okay (albeit stranded an hour away from her apartment), let's just say the word "relief" doesn't quite cover what I felt.

Last night I had trouble sleeping because of all the stuff I was stressed about. Work, money, etc. But after this morning, it seems a little ridiculous that I could get so worked up about things that, at the end of the day, aren't that important.

I guess sometimes it takes the earth shifting underneath you, to get your feet planted back on the ground.

Thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan, and anyone else who has loved ones in that region of the world.


Inspiration in Unexpected Places

I'm home sick today. Bronchitis.

So this morning I'm coughing up a lung (among other stuff--gross, I know) and thinking to myself that this must be similar to an exorcism, and BAM!!--new idea for my book.

This hasn't happened in a while. I've been in a bit of a creative rut lately. Maybe it's the day away from the office, maybe it's the hint of spring in the air. Or maybe it's the phlegm.

Either way, it's back on!


Lady GaGa, Florence + The Machine, and Emotional Truth

If you are a fan of Florence + The Machine, you know that her lyrics rival even her earth-shattering voice. Which is why, when I was reading a blurb about her upcoming concert at Central Park Summer Stage, I had to laugh at her oversimplication of the themes in her songs: although much has been read into her lyrics, Florence says it’s usually simple. “Everything is about boys!” she laughs.

But wait a minute, Lady GaGa songs are about boys. She even has one titled "Boys, Boys, Boys." (In case the lyrics weren't obvious enough.)

Well, they both sing about boys. So what makes one art versus...not?

Emotional truth. In short, Flo uses it, GaGa not so much. GaGa is more of a "say exactly what I mean" kind of girl, which is what makes her so enjoyable when you're 2 glasses of champagne into the evening and dancing is more appealing than interpreting metaphors.

But from a writer-worship standpoint, Flo rules. Let's look at an example:

Florence says: A kiss with a fist is better than none
Florence means: Even though this relationship is destructive to me, it's better than not being in the relationship at all

GaGa says: I like you a lot, lot, think you're really hot, hot
GaGa means: I like you a lot, lot, think you're really hot, hot

GaGa just goes ahead and says the simple, literal truth. She thinks the boy is hot and she likes him. No interpretation necessary.

Florence gets to the emotional truth; meaning, instead of coming out and saying the relationship is hurting her, she uses a visceral metaphor of the fist to demonstrate it.

The lesson here? Say what you mean without actually saying it. Now if I can only find a way to artfully apply that to my own writing...



I've been thinking a lot about beginnings lately, mainly because I've recently found myself in a situation in my personal life I didn't ever expect to be in. (On a related note, I apologize for the blog silence--and happy to be back)

The first 5 pages of your manuscript are the most important. They're what the agent/editor is going to read right after your query letter. But beginnings are something that we've all struggled with as writers.

There's nothing quite like writing the opening pages of a new project. (Except maybe finishing it!) The idea is just a seed a first, something that's lodged in your brain. You let it sit there for a while, until sure enough it starts to take root. Now you have to get it down on paper, and the words can't come fast enough. You don't know the meaning of writer's block--you just wrote your first 5 pages in as many minutes. Piece of cake.

Now the real work begins. It's one thing to have a ton of ideas, but now you have to structure them, weave them into a masterpiece. Things can happen during this process. New ideas pop up that may require rewriting entire chapters or adding entirely new story threads. Characters that were intended as supporting cast may insist on taking center stage. There are all kinds of wonderful, unexpected turns that happen during the novel-writing process.

But now you have a problem. Those first few pages that launched this whole project--the beginning you'd scribbled down so fervently months before--just doesn't seem to work anymore. The tone seems off now that you have a different ending, and doesn't the dialogue seem a little stiff now that you've had 200 pages to nail your characters' voices? 

But this was THE beginning. The one that set you on this whole crazy undertaking that is writing a novel. It was love at first "write" and you've read those words over to yourself so many times that you could probably recite it from memory. Why mess with a good thing?

Sometimes we become blind to whether something we wrote actually works, or if we are so used to seeing it on the page month after month that it never occurs to us that there may be a need for improvement. And when there are months of brainstorming, writing, rewriting, and rewriting again between page 1 and page 200, the answer is almost always that there is room for improvement. The question is whether the problems can be fixed with some mere retooling, or if we have to let go completely and start from scratch. That's when we need to take a step back and look at it with a fresh and objective eye.

And hopefully, things will become a little clearer.



I don't know how it happened, but it did.

Since I'm in the middle of a WIP, I fully intended to steer clear of NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month, for any non-writers. The goal is to begin and complete a 50,000 word novel within the month of November).

The plan was to finish my 1st draft before November hit so I could work on edits and rewrites all month, polish it up and send it out to agents before they got hit with a slew of NaNoWriMo-created slush.

And yet here we are on the cusp of November, and I'm still only halfway done with my manuscript.

So this November, I'll be participating in NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month). I'm trying to get my sister to participate for some extra motivation. (She's a fantastic writer but her dedication to it is negligible at best. If only we could combine forces--but that would probably be a disaster. More in a post on that later.) And of course, I'll be posting updates on bloggy to help motivate myself and anybody else out there who could use a kick in the pants.

So, any NaNoWriMo or NaNoFiMo participants out there geared up for the month of November?


7 Reasons Why: What Happens In Vegas...

...kind of reminds me of writing.

Yup, I was in Sin City last week. And like most everything else in my life, I was struck by some of the parallels in my Vegas adventures vs my writing adventures. So, it's time for another 7 Reasons Why!

1. It's a crapshoot.

When gambling, I like to feel like I have some control. Slots can be addictive, mindless fun, but games like blackjack and craps where I actually have to make decisions provide the illusion that I have some say in the matter.

In publishing, there are things you can control, and things you can't. You can practice and improve your craft. Go through rewrites and edits until your eyes bleed. Create the best, most polished manuscript you are capable of. But after that, it comes down to things like timing, luck, and subjective taste (why do I feel like the AA Serenity Prayer would be appropriate here?)

2. There's always that nagging feeling you should quit.

Gambling is like the law of gravity: what goes up must come down. The key is to walk away when you're up and before you go back down. More often than not, that doesn't happen. I enjoy gambling too much to walk away from a table if I've only been there 20 minutes, even if I'm up. So when I feel things starting to downswing before I'm ready, I'm always faced with the difficult decision of walking away or playing on to the bitter end.

I think any writer has wondered at some point if they should just walk away, give up. Cut their losses. It's definitely crossed my mind more than once. But I'm a bitter end kind of gal. That kind of persistence doesn't typically pay off in Vegas. I can only hope it pays off in publishing.

3. There are a lot of impostors.

Walking down the strip one afternoon, I passed a poster for a show called "American Superstars" featuring impersonators of Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, etc. Why anybody would pay to see the fake version is beyond me, but to each his own I guess.

The other day I was reading a book similar to another in the same genre, and I came across a scene that was eerily close to said book. Close enough that it annoyed me. I don't want to pick up a book by a completely different author and feel like I'm re-reading the same book twice. I do understand that coincidences happen, but judging from some agent blogs out there, there are a lot of wannabes out there in the slush who think they are the next fill in the blank.

4. Moderation is key.

I was in Vegas almost exactly 72 hours--3 full days. From my experience, almost a perfect length. I've done a 5-day Vegas trip before. It's exhausting. Overkill, really.

As you may have noted by my word count in the side bar, I haven't been going full steam with my WIP the past month. That doesn't mean I've lost interest in it, or in writing in general. Just needed some time to recharge. My last manuscript (Charm Bracelet) I wrote in a couple months (too fast). When I was querying that, I started immediately on The Revengeful. I didn't want to go and just write another hurried piece of crap. I'm making an effort to be patient and get it done right this time, even if that means letting it marinate a bit. Even if it killsssss me. :)

5. It ain't glamorous.

Did you guys see The Hangover? Yeah, it would be nice if we could all afford villa suites at Caesars and have hilarious, face-to-face encounters with Mike Tyson (actually, I have zero desire to meet Mike Tyson). But there is a seedy side to Las Vegas, where people are broke and homeless because of their gambling addictions, and men line the sidewalk hawking advertisements for call girls.

Similarly, publishing is not all about six-figure advances and country-wide book signings. Most published authors need a day job to sustain a viable income. And it's not about writing in a lofty ivory tower. I generally prefer on the couch, in my PJs, while my dog vies for attention vs the laptop.

6. We're never satisfied.

Winning money is addictive (duh). When I'm playing, I try to set myself a limit, eg, "If I'm up X amount of dollars, I will walk away then." And then I hit X, and I make a new deal with myself...just one more hand...

I remember a few years ago when I told myself I'd be happy just to finish writing a book, even if it didn't get published. Ummmm...allow me to roll on the ground in hysterics for a few minutes. I realize now that will never satisfy me. I won't be satisfied until I'm published. And even then, I probably won't be satisfied until I'm not only published, but making a living off of it. And even then...

7.   We never stop hoping.

No matter how much I lost on my last trip there, on the plane trip to Las Vegas I'm always feeling the same thing. I'm feeling lucky! Similar to the feeling of when we have a new, shiny manuscript and we hit send on that first query. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. This time, good things are going to happen. Right?