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?




HP Power

Saw the new trailer for HP7 the other night. Completely floored. This is going to be the best Harry Potter movie yet, as it should be. But as excited as I am, I'm also a little sad it's all going to come to an end, just as I was when the final book came out.

I imagine all HP fans share this sentiment, but I have a particular soft spot for HP. I was introduced to this amazing series at one of the lowest times in my life. It was the summer before my final year of college, and I was pretty sick (understatement). I had the misfortune of contracting Lyme disease, which probably doesn't mean much if you're not from Connecticut. I'll spare you the details but basically you feel so crappy that everything loses meaning. You don't have enough energy to email your friends and even watching TV is an effort. I couldn't walk or talk properly because my motor skills were all messed up. After I was released from the hospital I mainly laid in bed half-hoping that the next day I'd have enough energy to get out of it, and half-scared that even if I could get up, I still wouldn't be able to walk and it would all be pointless.

And then one night my sister came into my room carrying Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and pressed it into my hand. She thought I'd like it, she said. Now I hadn't been reading middle grade or YA at the time--I was an English Lit major in college so most of my time was spent reading the classics. I'd heard about Harry Potter--they'd already made the first couple of movies at this point--but it never occurred to me that the books would be something I'd like. But I guess there's something about being sick that takes us back to a childlike state, the need to feel like we're going to be taken care of an everything is going to be okay. So I gave it a try.

I didn't think I'd be able to get through more than a few pages at a time, but I did! I totally got sucked into the world of Hogwarts and for a little while forgot about the crap going on in my own world. And at a time when nothing seemed worth exerting the energy for, I managed to get through that first book in a matter of days.

I wasn't the only person going through a terrible time then. Every American and a bunch of people around the world were, too. Because I was so sick, I had to delay going back to school. And that meant I was still in bed that September in 2001, barely able to process what my father was telling me when he called from work that morning to tell us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

I write because I believe in the power of books, their ability to transport us when our own world is falling down around us. Whether it's a blockbuster series that brings together millions of fans, or a singular story that touches us on a personal level. I'll never replicate J.K. Rowling's success, and that's okay. All I hope is that one day I'll have a book out there, and some girl who just broke up with her boyfriend, or lost a tough basketball game, or was bullied at school, will pick it up and for a few hours she'll get sucked into the world I created and her day will be a little bit better for it.

So tell me, are you an HP fan? If not, is there a particular book out there that got you through a rough time?


Girls with Guns

Last week I posted a rant about my disappointment with one of CW11's new shows this season, Hellcats. I started to worry they'd never be able to duplicate the awesomeness that is Vampire Diaries. I was so disheartened that I let the first 2 episodes of Nikita languish, unwatched, on my DVR. Until this week--and now I'm completely hooked!

I have to say I'm impressed with the quality of the show--the acting is much better than I expected, there are some great action scenes, and they couldn't have picked a better actress to play Nikita. She's not some silly girl tripping around in high heels, she is a w-o-m-a-n with a mission and she kicks ass. I especially love the relationship between Nikita and her younger protege, because it reminds me of my main character in The Revengeful and her relationship with her sensei. Total tough love. Also, I never thought I'd take Shane West seriously (A Walk to Remember=gag me), but he's doing a pretty good job pulling it off.

The best part? My hubby is into it, too! Or he might just be into Nikita's super-hot tattoo. But whether you're interested in the premise, or in girls with guns, or tattoos, you should definitely give this new show a shot.


Once Upon a Time...

...there was a princess.

And she was lost.

As she wandered around the forest, weeks stretched into months, and months into years. And even though she kept trying, the princess began to doubt there was a way out of her wooded prison.

One day, when she was gathering roots for a stew, she came upon a part of the forest she didn't recognize. The trees were thicker here--they blocked out the light so that it no longer looked like daytime. But squinting just so, she could see a path ahead of her.

Putting down her basket, she drew the knife she used to cut the roots and pushed farther into the forest. It's just another path, she told herself. Just one of the hundreds of paths she'd followed before, only to find herself more lost than when she'd begun. But as sunlight began to creep through the branches around her, she allowed herself to hope. Maybe this is the one, the way out. Just as she thought this, the branches gave way completely, and she found herself in a clearing. In the middle of the clearing stood a single tree.  Tied to the tree was a man.

No, not just a man. A prince.

The princess wasted no time running to his aid. "Who did this to you?" she asked, as she took her blade to his bindings.

"Dragons," the prince said. "You have to leave--now! It isn't safe for you." But even as he said it, his eyes widened, and the princess knew it was too late. She whirled to face the creature, its snarl turning up the ends of its mouth. It was laughing at her.

Well, the joke was on it. Back in her kingdom, the princess was a Level 5 Dragon Slayer. As the giant lizard opened its mouth to deliver a fiery geyser, the princess chucked her knife at its soft underside, piercing its heart. The dragon fell over, life pouring out of it in an oily, black river.

"The beast is dead!" The prince said. "Come, we must get out of these woods before his brethren return."

"You know the way out?" For the first time that day, she felt faint.

In answer, the prince grabbed her by the hand and led her away from the clearing. They didn't stop running until they reached they edge of the forest, where the princess fell to her knees and wept at the sight of her kingdom in the distance.

...Long after the pair were married, the prince liked to retell the story of the time his wife slayed the dragon and saved him. And the princess would always smile to herself as she recalled her favorite part of the story, the part he never remembered. That he'd saved her, too.

Happy anniversary, babe. Love you.



I have to admit, I had hopes for the new CW11 series, Hellcats. I'm a fan of Vampire Diaries and I liked the idea that 'Cats features college-age characters rather than another high school drama. Unfortunately, the premiere episode came off as...well, desperate.

In the span of one episode, the following plot points were established:
  • A poor girl backstory (Marti loses scholarship and needs to find a way to replace it)
  • 3 romances
  • A token non-romantic male friend character
  • A rivalry
  • An unexpected friendship
  • An unhealthy parental relationship (alcoholic, soul-sucking mother)
  • High stakes for the cheer squad (danger of the competitive program getting cut)
  • A 180-degree shift in Marti's perception of cheerleading (goes from "edgy" pre-law student to belly-baring cheerleader)

It was too much, too fast. I felt like the guy in a relationship trying to fend off a Stage 5 Clinger. Slow things down, honey--we've been on two dates. Probably a little too soon to start talking about moving in together.

The problem with this approach, for me, is that it accomplishes the exact opposite of what was intended. Marti's story is shoved down our throats and we're automatically supposed to sympathize with her. Instead, I found myself thinking: Who gives a crap? I haven't known this character enough to care about her or feel invested. So I end up feeling resentful that the writers are trying so hard to make me like her, instead of just putting the characters out there and letting me develop my own opinions of them. It feels false, and it's a huge turnoff.

The creative advantage of TV shows is that they can take on a narrative format. Unlike movies, where a story arc must be completed within 2 hours, in a TV show you can really delve into character development and weave multiple storylines. When you do it right, you get a show like Mad Men. Episodes don't get wrapped in a tidy bow. The consequences of someone's actions in episode 3 may not surface until episode 8. Or even the following season.

TV shows are like books, in this respect. Agent Kristin Nelson did a post on openings that kill manuscripts, and I would like to add to add this one to it: Don't give it all up right away. The more desperate you are, the faster they'll run in the other direction.


False Start

I love the week following Labor Day, always have. It's always "back to school," even long after I've had to step foot in a classroom. Time to refocus, attack things with renewed energy. I think that burst of energy started as early as last night, because at 9pm I was scrubbing down our master bath, instead of parked on the couch.

And then...this morning I woke up with pinkeye. So much for starting off the new "school year" strong. Today I'm benched, at home starting antibiotics so I don't infect the entire office. But I guess if you have to be home sick, it beats a lot of other reasons. Guess I'll take advantage of the bonus writing time.

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend! Now get back to work :)



This morning I saw a toddler young enough to be in a stroller, listening to an iPod.

That is all.


The Dog Ate My Homework

I believe I've mentioned on this blog that I'm a bit of a procrastinator. This habit was ingrained quite thoroughly, when I learned at an early age that homework did not, in fact, have to be completed at home. That was what homeroom period was invented for. Or if I really wanted to cut it close to the wire, lunchtime.

Of course when you show up to Spanish class 6th period and your five sentences are something along the lines of Tengo hambre or Me gusta comida deliciosa, it shows. Especially when the kid next to you is translating lines from Tolstoy. (Possible exaggeration here.)

I should have put in more effort. But I didn't. Because I was making honor roll in my sleep. Because none of it really mattered--it was just high school. Except, I found out later, it did matter.

A decade older and wiser, I have become a firm believer that hard work counts just as much as talent. More so, actually. But old habits die hard, and sometimes I still find myself getting frustrated if things don't come easily. If I don't nail things on the first try.

Case in point: last week I had a creative review, which is basically where the team gets together and shares what they came up with during a brainstorm. I'm a copywriter, so for me that means taglines and the concepts behind them. For all of you who don't watch Mad Men and aren't versed in adspeak, let me provide an example of what this means: L'Oreal's "Because I'm Worth It" is a tagline. The concept behind this line is: Hey, we women work hard, dammit. Why not indulge our narcissistic selves every now and again? Because all the hard work is worth it when your hair looks fabulous (obvs).

So I show up (in my defense, this was my first creative review) with a paper of all my jumbled thoughts. Some completed taglines, some half-thoughts, some just random ideas that I thought were interesting. In the end I probably only had 2 solid lines. What does everyone else show up with? A neatly typed page of at least half a dozen taglines.

I was unprepared, and I looked unprofessional. I wrote down a bunch of ideas that I thought were cool without fully thinking them through or considering the audience they were directed at. In short, I stopped at Step 1.

So for Round 2, I buckled down. I picked my 2 strongest ideas and sweated it out over them (literally--I was laying in a lounge chair in 90-degree weather dripping sweat all over my paper). And guess what? I nailed it. Not the first time, but that's not what matters.

I think it's been about 2 years since I started getting serious about pursuing publication. And I've learned a lot. That rewriting is just as crucial as writing. That the first draft is just one tiny step in a long and involved process. That a great idea can only take you so far. And when I'm stressing about things not happening as quickly as I like or worrying that I'm progressing at a snail's pace, I just have to look back to my high school self, or to the first manuscript I completed, to see just how far I've come. And for the time being, that satisfies me.

What about you guys? Any personal goals/milestones you've achieved lately that keep you plugging away at it?


Summer Saturday

We're running low on them, considering Labor Day is just around the corner! I've been saving my copy of Mockingjay all week for today; and after a morning of errands and time on the treadmill, I'm looking forward to spending the afternoon in the sun, devouring the final book in this amazing trilogy.

Hope you all are enjoying the last bit of summer, too!


7 Reasons Why: Books vs Bikram

This week is shaping up to be a good one. The past week or 2 have been a little stressful, some personal stuff, some work stuff. But this week I'm back on track with The Revengeful, with Bloggy, and something else I've been neglecting--Bikram yoga.

I'm a huge proponent of Bikram, also known as "hot yoga." But it's been a while since I've practiced regularly. I finally got back in the studio this week, and was struck by some of the similarities between practicing Bikram and writing a book. So kids, it's time for another installment of 7 Reasons Why: If you're a writer, you might also enjoy Bikram yoga.

1. You dig the love/hate relationship

I can't say enough good things about Bikram. No other workout matches up to it. In 90 minutes you will detox, de-stress, and de-flab. A month of practicing it regularly and you're guaranteed to go up a few notches on the hot bod scale. Pretty much a no-brainer. So why don't I go more consistently? Well, because all of those benefits don't come without a degree of sacrifice. Just like writing. Which leads me to my next reason...

2. You're possibly a masochist

When it's a hundred degrees and you're in a posture designed to cut off the blood flow to your legs, you will likely ask yourself "What the hell did I get myself into?" This is a question you may also ask yourself as you sort through a hundred pages of manuscript, trying to figure out how Danny makes an appearance in chapter 14 when you already killed him off in the first 30 pages. Bikram is torture. Writing a book is torture. But you know you love it.

3. You don't believe in half-assing it

If you want to be successful at Bikram or writing, you have to push yourself, even when you really, really don't want to. Sure, I procrastinate. But when I'm in, I'm all in. There's no point in walking into the yoga studio or putting pen to paper if you're just going through the motions.

4. The smallest amount of progress makes you giddy

There's this one posture that I have particular difficulty with. Salabhasana, or Half Locust Pose. It's supposed to look like this:

But I look nothing like those two lovely ladies. I've always had a weak lower back, and it's a miracle if I can get my feet more than a couple inches off the ground. After my hiatus, I could barely get the tops of my feet from touching the mat. So as pathetic as a couple inches sound, I'll be doing cartwheels when I get back to that level of progress.

Kind of like when I sit at my computer for hours but only come up with 500 words that are worth using. But hey, that's 2 pages I didn't have the day before. Yippee!

5. Getting back on the horse scares the crap out of you

Wanna know why I went half a year without stepping into the yoga studio? Because I went a few weeks without stepping into the yoga studio. Once you lose momentum, it can be daunting, facing that idea of diving back in. And the more time that passes, the harder it gets.

The past 2 weeks I haven't been able to work on my WIP due to aforementioned personal and work stresses. I was terrified to open it back up, felt like it had been 2 years. But once I did, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. And now I can get back into it with renewed energy.

Lesson: Setbacks are inevitable, but they are only as big as you let them be.

6. You are a master of procrastination

If you're a master of procrastination when it comes to opening the Word doc, you'll be an expert in coming up with excuses to avoid going to yoga.

There's a great quote from Mad Men in which Don Draper stands up for his creative team when a tight-wad exec complains about wasted hours/dollars. "Let them be unproductive until they are." You can't always force productivity, not if you want quality results. Just don't get stuck on the unproductive part. I think being a successful writer is being able to balance discipline without completely overriding the creative flow. Sometimes your brain has to work things out on its own before you can get it down on paper. At least this is what I like to tell myself whenever I feel guilty about SCUMPing.

7. You know you've got the goods.

Okay, so it rarely feels like this. Most of the time we're questioning our own sanity, wondering why we're pursuing this goal when 90% of the time we think we suck suck suck. But no matter how much you want to scream at the instructor Openthewindowareyoutryingtosuffocateusyoupsycho?? or how many times you have to hit the delete button only to rewrite the same scene 3 times over, you keep plugging away because, deep down, you know you have it in you. Otherwise you wouldn't keep trying.


Acronyms: Jersey Shore Edition

I'm just going to get this out of the way: I watch Jersey Shore. Not only do I watch it, but I'm mildly addicted to it. Although not as much as Hubby is. His love for JS is rather inexplicable given his usual distaste for reality show television, although I can hazard a guess why he might be so interested. Actually, make that 2 guesses:

True, JWOWW's girls may defy gravity, but one of my favorite parts of the show is the creative use of acronyms. In case you haven't noticed on this blog, I'm a fan of acronyms, the sillier the better. There was a point in my life where email chains between my best friend and I read like some kind of UNIX code. And Jersey Shore is like an acronym buffet. From the IFF (I'm F&%$ Foundation) to MVP (Mike, Vinnie & Pauly), and of course the quintessential GTL. For those of you non-JS watchers, this stands for Gym, Tanning & Laundry: and apparently it's standard protocol that any self-proclaimed Guido must adhere to before heading out for a night of fist-pumping.

It made me think about those routines we writers have, the processes we go through before we finally get our butt in the chair and actually write. Shameful confession #2 of this blog post: I am the Queen of Procrastination, and there's a few things I simply must do before I feel ready to face that ever-looming Word document. So I thought I'd come up with an acronym for it, Jersey Shore-style.


Snack: It doesn't matter if I had a 5-course meal 30 minutes ago. Once I sit down at the computer, all I can think about is how long I have to wait before breaking out the popcorn.

Clean: I hate cleaning. HATE it. Yet when the time to write rolls around, I suddenly turn into Mary Poppins.

Unpaid bills: I like to pay them online while fantasizing about a 6-figure advance and the day our electric bill won't scare the crap out of me.

Mail: Without fail there will be a week's worth of mail taunting me on the counter, and somehow I'll get sucked into catching up on issues of OK magazine that mysteriously started appearing in my mailbox 2 months ago. I don't even like OK magazine. The stories are so far-fetched I can't even bring myself to buy into the rumors. Yet I feel compelled to page through them before tossing them into the recycle bin.

Playing with my dog: Okay this is legitimate, I swear. She requires lots of attention. She's actually jealous of the laptop. I'm surprised she hasn't tried to pee on it yet.

So yeah, it's a wonder that between the Day Job, this blog, and all my SCUMPing I get any writing done. Speaking of, I guess I'll go get cracking on that. After I cook dinner...


Why, Hello There

Just popping in to say, no, unfortunately I am not somewhere tropical and exotic sunning myself this week. It seems that, although the publishing industry sleeps during August, the advertising industry does not. So I've been busy with the Day Job and poor bloggy has been suffering. But don't fret, I will return this weekend with the usual nonsense. Now get out and enjoy the weather! Don't forget the SPF.


The Mom Test

Are all my fellow writers taking advantage of WriteOnCon? I'm trying to catch up during snippets of downtime here at the office, but they are few and far between.

Did any of you see the post on giving yourself permission by Molly O'Neill, an associate editor with Katherine Tegan Books? Many of the "permissions" resonated with me, but one in particular made me giggle a little:

Permission to write a scene or story that might make certain people who love you shocked and surprised.

I don't believe in squeaky-clean writing as an absolute, but I also don't write anything for shock factor. If a curse word or a reference to sex is appropriate, it goes in. So far my YA projects have hovered in the PG-13 category.

However, a few months back I was working on gothic horror for adults. Man, I loved that piece. It was dark and it was twisted. A depraved, soul-sucking (literally) woman and an obsessed man. A few deaths, and a few....ehrm...intimate scenes.

And then I was chit chatting on the phone with my mom. She asked how the writing was going, I shared a few vague details of my current projects at the time, to which she followed up with something along the lines of "well, I can't wait to read it." Cringe.

Well, that did it. The thought of my poor mother reading that piece and wondering when and how her daughter's mind became so warped was enough to make me shelve the project and go back to focusing on my YA.

That manuscript still tugs at me once and a while, though. And if I'm being honest with myself, it contains some of the best prose I've written to date. Someday, I expect, I'll dust it off and finish it. Maybe when I'm not such a noob writer and can actually do the story justice. Maybe just for myself. Or maybe I'll actually put it out there for the world--and my mother--to see. Maybe I'll give myself permission. :)


Absolut-ly Refreshing

Love this new ad for Absolut Lemon Drop.

Ali Larter's never looked so good. It almost makes me forget she is the whipped cream bikini girl from Varsity Blues.

Almost, but not quite.


Query Contest with Joanna Volpe

For my fellow writers, have you entered Agent Joanna Volpe's query contest at WriteOnCon? If not, you have ummm...approximately 4 hours left.

I really shouldn't have entered, since I don't have a complete manuscript, let alone a working query. But considering the fab prizes, how could I resist? So I whipped up a draft, below. The first line, of course, is inspired by this post. A little too campy, perhaps? :)

* * * 

Dear Ms. Volpe,

Some bad boys really are bad...

As the daughter of international ghost hunters, Sofia Magnus’ upbringing has been unconventional. So when her parents insist that she finish high school in her New England hometown while they work a gig in Brazil, she expects it to be the least exciting two years of her life.

Then she meets Oz, and suddenly the typical teen lifestyle is a lot more appealing. He’s spontaneous, he’s charming, he’s sexy. There’s just one problem.

He’s a freakin’ demon.

Sof knows a little something about demons. Right before her 16th birthday, one nearly succeeded in possessing her, leaving her with some peculiar abilities. When Sofia learns Oz is responsible for the murders cropping up in town, she must concede that their relationship isn’t just toxic, it’s deadly. It’s time to end their romance—and possibly end him.

Either way, it’s going to be one Hell of a break-up.

THE REVENGEFUL is YA urban fantasy (60,000 words). Thank you for your time and consideration.

* * * 

That fifth paragraph could definitely use a little TLC. Luckily I have plenty of time to work on it before I start querying agents for real.

Good luck to anyone who's entered! I'm hoping tomorrow is a slow workday so I can read through the other entries. :P


Rumor Has It

My friend told me she received an email from Amazon informing her that they're shipping Mockingjay 11 days earlier than the original release date. (Aug 13 vs Aug 24) Since Hubsy was thoughtful enough to preorder it for me months ago, I asked if he received the same email.


So, either:
A) Hubsy is fibbing to surprise me
B) There is some cruel rumor going around to taunt rabid Hunger Games fans

Speaking of taunting...

So I ask, any HG readers out there who preordered on Amazon and who also heard about an earlier release date? It's time to either confirm or squash this rumor, Access Hollywood-style.


Do-Overs, AKA Lauren Oliver Is My New Author Crush

I'm in the middle of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall. It's a book I kept hearing about, but since I don't read a ton of contemporary YA (I usually favor dystopian, paranormal in the YA category), I didn't hurry out to buy it upon release. What a mistake. This book is beyond what I expected. Beautifully written with a fresh and honest voice, I'm falling in love with this novel as a reader and a writer. And although the reader in me is berating myself for not purchasing it earlier, from a writer's perspective, I couldn't have picked it up at a better time.

A few months back, agent Mary Kole at kidlit.com posted about Giving Yourself License to Try, in which she encourages writers not to get so locked into their original outline/first draft that they close themselves off to the possibility of something better. Wrote a novel in first person POV and not working? Go ahead and rewrite the first few chapters in third person, and see if that works better. Daunting much?

I don't outline, so adhering to one is not a priority for me, but at nearly 25K words in, I figured I at least had firmed up all of the main characters that would be making an appearance. Well, I was wrong. Sometime earlier this week, a new character popped into my head. And she added a completely new dimension to the story. But the idea of adding a new character, carrying through yet another story thread, at this point, was pretty daunting. What if I completely ruined everything I'd already built? What if she changed the story so much I didn't recognize it anymore? What if what if what if?

Before I Fall drove home the point that it's the What Ifs that can elevate a good book to a great one. Oliver's novel is basically a 500-page exercise in What If.

For those of you who haven't read it, the novel is about the day that high school senior Samantha Kingston dies--only she gets to re-live the day 7 times. 7 times! The same day! I know what you're thinking--how could Oliver possibly keep your attention for nearly 500 pages when the story is about the same thing happening 7 times over? Well, she does--and it's not.

Before I Fall is about that game we play with ourselves. What if I didn't go to that bar with my friends that night? I never would have met my future husband. (Totally hypothetical, as I did not meet Hubsy in a bar) What if I majored in Engineering instead of International Studies?  Oliver successfully rewrites the same basic idea in a number of unique and engaging ways. She demonstrates how the smallest of decisions set Sam's life on a completely different course from one do-over to the next. And as Sam goes back and puts together the pieces of events leading to her death, her character evolves. She goes from being this one-dimensional Mean Girl to someone you can identify with, even have sympathy for. Basically, she goes from being a caricature to being human.

Writing a book follows a similar process. We start with a basic idea, a hook. And usually it's something obvious, something that's been done before. And that's nothing to get down on yourself about. After all, there's a finite number of basic plots out there, right? So then we write it, and our first draft is probably going to be full of cliches and stereotypes, things that come automatically to us because we've been conditioned to expect them.

The trick is to take it that next step. Start playing around with What If. What if the cheerleaders aren't your typical popular bunch? What if they are like the band geeks of the school, and the tuba players are the ones getting all the hot action on Saturday nights? Because chicks dig a guy with a giant instrument, right? Or maybe because tubas make awesome bongs. A must-have staple for any successful party.

Ok, I'm being silly, but you get my point. Take the basic idea, and flip it. And twist it. And give it a good shake. And don't be afraid it won't work out. So what?* It's not life, there aren't any permanent consequences. You've got unlimited do-overs. You can keep rewriting until it does work. Even if it takes 7 tries.

*Yeah, I wish I could really be this cavalier. But I'm getting there! I used to be minorly obsessed with word counts, and it's taken some time to accept that quality comes at a price, and that price is often quantity (ie, word counts creeping up instead of skyrocketing). But Before I Fall has been really inspiring from a craft standpoint and if you suffer from Impatient Writing Syndrome and haven't read it yet, you should!


Summer Saturday

Yesterday was one of those days where you check to make sure your fly is up 1000 times b/c people keep looking at you funny.

Today, however, is brilliant. 77 degrees, zero humidity, blue skies. I'm about to go lay in the picnic area of our apartment complex with my notebook and try to get another chapter on paper.

I leave you with one of my favorite summertime meals:

1 yellow squash
1 tsp rosemary
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 pkg baby spinach
1/4 cup raw walnut halves
Fresh feta, crumbled

Slice the yellow squash into thin circles (no peeling required). Put in a bowl with olive oil & rosemary and mix until squash is coated. Place in skillet at medium-to-high heat and turn over until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Mix baby spinach, raw walnut halves, and crumbled feta. When squash is cooled enough, add in. Mix it all up with a tasty, summery dressing like Annie's Naturals Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Best enjoyed with a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc :)

Enjoy your weekend!

P.S. My husband wondered aloud the other day during a commercial of Charlie St. Cloud if Zac Efron makes Vanessa Hudgens wear her costume from Sucker Punch whenever they hang out.

Frankly I think it's funny that my husband even knows those two are dating.


7 Reasons Why: Saying I Do

The topic of weddings came to mind recently after my best friend shared a story about attending a wedding as the date of a Boy Behaving Badly (BBB). How badly? For one, there was an attempt at motorboating the M.O.B. on the dance floor. (No, I'm not making this up, and it's just the tip of the iceberg, people. Tip. Of. The. Iceberg.)

So I got married last September. For those of you who are not married, planning a wedding kind of sucks. There are many details to sort out and people pulling you in different directions, and the whole time you kind of just want to hide out on your couch under a big blanket with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a superbly bad Lifetime movie featuring women in dysfunctional relationships who will never have to worry about planning a wedding. Which you can't. Because you have to worry about fitting into your wedding dress and B&J will definitely sabotage this.

In hindsight, I have realized that the process of planning a wedding is eerily similar to the process of writing a book. Don't believe me? Check out the 7 Reasons Why:

1. Stress isn't in the planning, it's in the procrastination.
The most stressful part of wedding planning is going over your checklist and looking at all the stuff you have left to do. Actually getting those tasks done really isn't stressful at all. Flowers? I pulled some photos online of what I was looking for, went to a florist by my office on a lunch break, and an hour later had something I was happy with and fit in my budget.

A lot of times I procrastinate instead of writing because I'm actually scared. Scared I'll never be able to fix that plot hole uglifying Chapter 6. Scared I'm going to open up my document and my brain will go completely blank. Basically scared of failure. But once I actually get my BIC on (butt-in-chair, for you non-writers), I'm always happy I did. Whether it takes me hours to get one conversation right, or I whip out ten pages, I always feel good about the fact I accomplished something.

2. There will be moments where you lose sight.
I was never one of those girls who daydreamed about their huge, Princess Diana wedding. But I also knew I wouldn't be satisfied doing one of those City Hall deals. A girl needs a little bit of romance. However, at times I found myself swinging wildly from one end of the spectrum (Would it really be that much more expensive if we bump up the guest list another 25 people?) to the other (I can't %$@*ing take it anymore--let's just elope already!). In the end I had to remember what was important: marrying the love of my life with the people we cared about around us.

We writers tend to undermine our goals in a variety of ways, from comparing our work to other, usually more experienced writers, to indulging in wild fantasies where we write our first novel, land an agent, and sell it in less than half a year. Sometimes we have to ground ourselves to remember what is important. Right now, for me, that includes improving my craft and writing a saleable book that will attract the attention of an agent. 

3. You start second-guessing your vision.
I didn't plan on getting married in a church. I haven't stepped foot in a church since my grandfather's funeral 5 years ago. Yet somewhere along the path of venue selection, I debated having my ceremony in an Episcopal church. (neither my husband nor I are Episcopalian) Maybe it was pressure from my mother to figure religion in there somewhere. Maybe it was just the general sense of crazy that wedding planning brings with it. I don't know.

I recently blogged about this problem in writing. 100 pages in and suddenly you're questioning everything, from the small details (why did I name her Zoey? she's not quirky enough to be named Zoey!) to the big-picture stuff (I don't think this character should get into that car accident in chapter 3, after all). The big-picture stuff can't be taken lightly, as they will have huge repercussions on story arcs, possibly changing what the books is about altogether. So you have to ask yourself: Am I changing this because it makes it a better story? Because it better helps me achieve my vision for this book? Or am I feeling the pressure to make this change because I'm afraid that agents/editors would like it better?

Ultimately any decision you make has to hold true to your vision and not allow yourself to be influenced by outside pressures. That doesn't mean completely ignoring your audience (eg, cursing is not appropriate for MG audiences). But first and foremost you're writing this story for yourself. And if you love it, someone else out there will probably love it, too.

For the record, we ended up having both our ceremony and reception on the rooftop of a cute little hotel on Park Ave. It was lovely and I couldn't picture having done it any differently.

4. Not all advice is good advice.
Thankfully I have extremely wonderful and helpful friends and family and did not encounter the problem of bad or unwelcome advice. However, I was approached at a wedding event by a man trying to sell me on the idea of makeup airbrushing everything from my shoulders up. Yeah, I could just see the look on Hubby's face if I stepped into the aisle and various freckles/tattoos were missing. Not to mention the salesman looked like he was made out of wax. Definitely some kind of Botox overload happening up in that piece.

Be open to criticism/critique feedback, but don't follow it blindly. Even industry professionals will have varying opinions on the same piece of work. Book publishing, just like book reading, is subjective. If it doesn't feel right in your gut, or you think it contradicts your above-mentioned vision, you don't have to follow it.

5. You're gonna have to dig deep.
In terms of weddings, I'm talking about using either your wallet or your creativity. If you can't afford nice flowers, you're better off going with something less traditional but understated and simple, like white tea lights. Giant bouquets of pink carnations scream cheap. You just can't fake elegance.

You can't fake anything in writing, either. Writing a book--correction, a good book--isn't easy. If you think it is, you're probably doing it wrong. The results you want won't just happen on their own. Put in the work.

6. Perfect isn't going to happen.
You WILL wake up with a giant zit on your face the morning of your wedding. Thank God for foundation!!

You should make every effort to clean and polish your manuscript before sending it out into the Big Wide World. But the great thing about writing is, there's always room to grow. With every sentence we write, we're improving (hopefully) our craft. So don't fall apart if your critique partners come back with feedback that is anything other than "don't change a thing!" If they do, they're probably not very constructive crit partners.

7. It's totally worth it.
My wedding really was the happiest and one of the most emotional days of my life. I cried through like half the ceremony. All of the stress, the details, the planning--none if it mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was me and Hubby.

I can only hope that one day I will feel this way (or close to it haha) when I sell my first book. But even putting that aside, just completing a manuscript holds its own sense of accomplishment. The satisfaction that you somehow took 60,000 words and made a story out of them. Not everyone can do that, and even fewer can do it well. So give yourself a pat on the back! But don't take too long, because now it's time to get cranking on those rewrites... :)


Sucker Punch

Hubby played the trailer for Sucker Punch for me last night. Visually it looks like it's going to be amazing, and the more I think about the concept, the more intrigued I am to see Zack Snyder's latest creation. Hopefully it is more Watchmen and less 300. But I have a feeling it's going to rock. Because girls kick ass.

(p.s. did you ever think Vanessa Hudgens could pull off this outfit? yeah, me neither!)


Some "Bad Boys" Really Are Bad

Ahh, the Quintessential Bad Boy (QBB). Did he start with James Dean? Or have women always been infatuated with the guy who likes to straddle that line between light and dark?

Here's another question: what if he doesn't straddle that line? What if he is firmly planted on the dark side?

This is precisely the problem I've run into with The Revengeful.

I've got a QBB who's pretty bad. Okay, okay. He's straight-up evil. But he's also my MC's romantic interest--because she doesn't realize his um...darker tendencies. At first.

Of course my grand plan was to make her come to her senses by the end of the book. He's bad, right? He's gotta go! And at first this plan was going swimmingly. Up until recently, I've been concentrating on the back end of the book. When he's all evil and stuff. Suspense! Action! My MC kicking ass and taking names! (and getting her own ass kicked on occasion)

But recently, when I went back to work on the first half of the book, I ran into a problem. How was I going to make my MC fall in love with this guy when I knew he was bad? How could I avoid having every bit of his dialogue tinged with my negative feelings for him? I had to put myself in my MC's shoes. And it worked. A little too well, in fact.

My MC started to fall in love with him, but I started to fall in love with him, too. Suddenly he went from being this 1-dimensional bad guy to a character with real depth. It was like I was writing two separate books. And then I started to question--is this guy really so bad? Maybe I don't have to make him so evil...maybe just bump him down to standard QBB status.

Uh oh. I think as women/girls--or even human beings in general--we do this in real life a lot. We want to see the good in someone, we want to believe that even in the worst case, there is still something salvageable. That there is always a chance for redemption.

I think Becca Fitzpatrick did an incredible job of this in Hush, Hush. Patch is not what you'd call a stand-up guy. He's overtly sexual, almost aggressively so--I mean, he fell to Earth because of Lust, so no surprise there. And hello--his primary goal in the first part of the book is to kill Nora. Yet somehow, by the end of the book, you're rooting for their relationship. Or at the very least for some action that requires something higher than a PG-13 rating.

(side note: anyone else excited for Crescendo?)

So now I'm torn. I love the romance of redemption, but part of me also thinks that forgiveness comes a little too readily. And not everyone deserves it.

So what say you: is there always an opportunity for redemption? Or must some QBBs simply be kicked to the curb?

More importantly, how will The Revengeful end?

Even I don't know the answer to that. But time will tell.



I've settled on a name for my WIP! Actually, I've been warring between two different ones for some time. But ultimately I decided on The Revengeful.

This makes it "official" I am dropping Charm Bracelet. I stopped querying some time ago, was just holding out to hear back on a full request. But ultimately, I could have done better. I rushed the end. I didn't do enough rewrites. In short, it's not a piece I would want anyone to see. I'm simply not that proud of it.

This one feels...different. But I promised myself I would take my time with it, not screw up a good thing. Frustrating at times (like last weekend, when I had to rewrite a chapter--twice), but hopefully worth it.

An Open Letter to Tony Hayward, BP CEO

Dear Mr. Hayward,

Considering the $$$ it will take to clean up that disaster in the Gulf, I suggest you stop wasting it on TV commercials. They're not working--we still think you are a d-bag.




Birdz & the Beez Part Deux, or, 30 Is the New 13

I've always had what I would call an "athletic" body. Mother Nature definitely didn't bless me with any Christina Hendricks-type goods:


Maybe it has something to do with being a gymnast the first 18 years of my life.

Well, I turned 30 this year and suddenly I'm kicking a few curves. I know, I know--I thought I was pregnant at first, too. Nope. Then it hit me. I'm going through a second puberty.

It's the only way to explain it. The addiction to YA, the fact that the CW11 ranks in my top 3 favorite TV channels (this could also have something to do with the fact that network channels are clogged with crap like Minute to Win It and America's Got Talent--how is that compelling TV?). Also, inexplicably, the fact I still more-than occasionally break out (btw Mother Nature, enough with that joke already. It's getting old. Very old.)

Yeah, I've got your number, MN. You think you're playing some funny little trick on me, like showing up with a gift box in those Tampax ads? You think a little dose of teen angst is going to take me down? You're talking to someone who grew up in the Grunge Era--when it was cool to dress like you were homeless/a heroin addict, and we idolized musicians that let us down. Hell, my generation invented angst.

The joke's on you, because I get to avoid all the sucky parts this time, like having my Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret moment or dealing with pubescent boys who don't know how to channel their hormones. This time, if I'm having a particularly angsty day, I can eat all the ice cream I want without worrying if I'm going to snap the uneven bars in half at practice the next day. Or better yet, I can have a glass of wine. And instead of hanging out at the mall with my meager babysitting earnings, I can spend my 30-year-old salary down in SoHo. (ha! this makes my life sound way more glamorous than it actually is) And guess what? Somewhere between 13 and 30, I learned how to dance without looking like a robot. And I don't have to do it at a club that's hosting an all-ages night.

So bring it.


Why I Want a Book Deal

Doing what I love for a living? Personal achievement?


I want a book deal so I can one day score a cover like THIS:

How hot/creepy is this cover? Love the contrast of the hot pink vs the grays & blacks. And the spooky font type.

I have to say, I wasn't buying into the whole zombies thing, but steroids turning a high school football team into zombies? That's a plot made of awesome.

Why do I have to wait until next year to read this? :(


Vicky vs Cristina

I had a lot of topics I wanted to post on today, including why the word count on my current WIP didn't inflate as grandly as I'd hoped over the weekend (oh, I wrote more than 800 words this weekend. many, many more. unfortunately the majority of them became casualties of my delete button. more on this in a future post), but Friday evening I happened to watch Vicky Cristina Barcelona and there were aspects of it that reminded me of a particular pet peeve regarding writing, or more generally, creativity. And then I discovered that very day Mary Kole over at KidLit.com posted on the very topic that was on my mind. Ms. Kole entitled her post "Business vs Art," but after viewing the movie, I see this debate as Vicky vs Cristina.

Both characters fall victim to the annoying traits of their stereotypes (this is intentional, so I'm not criticizing the movie here. Just using these stereotypes to illustrate my point). Vicky is the more play-it-safe gal where every aspect of her life has to be perfectly planned out and fit into this grand vision of what she believes to be ideal. This by itself isn't so terrible--what's annoying is the fact she seems so judgmental of people who choose a different lifestyle than the one she values.

But even she didn't completely annoy the crap out of me like Cristina (Scarlett Johansson's character). The self-described yet ultimately ungifted "artiste," Cristina turns her nose up at convention and the typical lifestyle to the point where her life becomes its own cliche.

This kind of sh8t drives me nuts.

The snobbery, I mean. People who see the publishing world as "literary" vs "selling out." People who criticize authors like Justin Cronin because The Passage turned him from English professor to household name. Jealous of that 3.75 mil advance, much?

I read books. Some of those books are literary, some are mainstream. Some are adult, others are not. (Lately I've been reading a ton of YA because I really want to know the market I'm writing in, although the book currently on my nightstand is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.) But they're all just words on pages, and the genre they are dumped into just comes down to what kinds of words are used, the way they are grouped, the manner in which they are wielded. But when judging whether a book was good or not, it all comes down to the same questions for me, no matter what genre it fell into. Did it make me feel something? Did it inspire me? Did it make me want to tell everyone about it?

Hubby is kind of a book snob. He has his MA in literature (vs my BA) and our apartment is lined with bookshelves, as we are both avid readers. When I first moved in with him, the idea of tainting his pristine shelves of literary works with some of my plebeian ones was something he had trouble getting past.  BIG trouble. Now the J.K. Rowlings, the Suzanne Collinses, the Scott Westerfields all feature prominently at the top of some of those shelves. When Mockingjay became available for preorder on Amazon, he had ordered it for me before I could even say...well...mockingjay.

I don't think it has to be one or the other. I don't think there's anything weird about the fact I minored in Philosophy but watch shows like The Vampire Diaries with all the giddiness of a 15-year-old. I think it's ego-maniacal to take oneself too seriously. In fact, the point in Vicky Cristina Barcelona where I stopped hating the character of Cristina was the moment her confidence faltered, where she doubted if she had any real talent. Because that's human, and human is interesting. And flawed. And sympathetic. And we all have a different story, or as authors go, a different story to tell. And different ways to tell it.

In sum: nobody likes a hater.

As far as The Passage, I fully intend on reading it and will let you know what I think!


LeBron vs Edward

There's a lot of backlash out there about this thing called the Twilight Phenomenon--have you heard about it? Anyway, one of my girlfriends was re-reading Eclipse a couple weeks ago in preparation for the movie, and on more than one occasion a group of male individuals on the PATH train got up in arms about it:

"Why do you like those books? What's so great about Edward? Is it b/c of R Patz?" (yes, one of them actually said R Patz) Of course she couldn't answer these questions. There is no rational explanation for why a woman in her late 20s would like Twilight.

I could go into a variety of theories of where this backlash stems from, but that's not what this post is about.

This post is about the fact that ESPN had a 1-hour special last night for LeBron James to announce he'd be a member of the Miami Heat next season. A full HOUR of over-the-top hype for a man who doesn't even have a championship ring to announce his career move.

The special featured riveting content such as reaction shots from crowded bars in both Miami (bat sh9t crazy elation) and Cleveland (bleak horror), as well as my favorite segment, which I like to call WWLW? (What Will LeBron Wear?)

Oh yes, ESPN went ahead and Photoshopped LeBron in jerseys of each of the potential teams with an offer on the table. We got to see hypothetical LeBron in a Bulls jersey, a Nets jersey, a Knicks jersey....you get the point.

My immediate reaction was to groan loudly to my husband (the reason I was watching this in the first place) about sports fans and their favorite players/teams. And as I ranted about the ridiculous level of obsession, the rabid hanging-on to every insignificant detail, it all started to remind me of something else...

And then it hit me. The answer. The next time a guy asks what all the Twi hype is about, what is it with Team Edward vs Team Jake, I'll know what to say.

"Well, it's kind of like a LeBron-Kobe thing..."


Some Flowers Thrive on Walls

I've always been shy. Painfully so. I had trouble making friends when I was younger b/c the idea of making conversation with someone I didn't know well made my stomach go all wonky.

Not much has changed in that aspect. I've gotten better at hiding it, making myself appear sociable when the occasion calls for it. But inside--still wonky.

This handicap has probably held me back in many ways. I mean, it took me a few years to make the leap from being an editor to copywriting even though I'd been considering it for some time. The one thing stopping me was the fact that, as a copywriter, client interaction is necessary. As an editor, I could just sit at my desk and happily read all day without fear of a dreaded client call churning my stomach.

Except I wasn't happy. So with a lot of encouragement from some very supportive people, I finally got the guts to make the change. And I'm so glad I did.

Recently I realized that my little "problem" extends to my fiction writing aspirations. As in I haven't been putting myself out there in the writing community. I mean, I started this blog but I pretty much assume nobody is reading it so that's pretty low-pressure. So yesterday I made myself critique a writing sample on Nathan Bransford's blog. Usually I avoid this b/c who am I to be critiquing someone else's work? (Also I suffer from another malady closely linked to my shyness called "why would anybody care about anything I have to say?" Yes, I recognize the full irony of the fact I am trying to build a career on people PAYING to hear what I have to say. But really, it's my characters saying it, and they're so much cooler than me. Trust me.)

But guess what? Not only did I manage to say something that (I hope) was insightful to the writer, it was insightful to me. Picking out the flaws and coming up with solutions for someone else's work made me incredibly self-aware of the flaws in my own.

Anyway so now I'm hooked. Helping out your fellow writers by critiquing their work is officially an awesome, win-win situation. And from now on I plan to do much more of it, including here on this blog. So stay tuned!


Hail to the Red, Write, and Blue

Happy Independence Day everyone!

I was hoping to take advantage of the 3-day holiday weekend to hit 25K on my WIP. But the BBQs! The fireworks! The opening weekends for certain teen vampire movies! (Yes, I saw Eclipse. Don't judge.)

And friends--did I mention I actually have some of those? Yeah, for some reason there are people who want to hang out with me. Probably because I keep the crazy writer stuff to a minimum outside of my inner monologue. Although one of the girls did ask how the writing was coming along because (quote) "I want to go to the book launch party."

Sweet, sweet girl.

Good to know, however, that I can begin compiling a hypothetical guest list for my hypothetical launch party. For my hypothetical published book. Just another way to procrastinate!

So what are you up to this weekend? Celebrating, writing, or both? I managed to be somewhat productive and am closing in fast on 20K today...


Writing What You Don't Know

Characters are sneaky things. You're typing along happily, thinking you're heading in one direction, and then BAM--they totally throw you for a loop and suddenly your book becomes something else. We've all been there.

In my current WIP, my main character, Sofia, has a best girlfriend. Camilla. At some point I was writing a conversation between two of them, and it hit me that Cam was not interested in boys. In fact, she's kind of in love with Sof.

So suddenly my main supporting character is gay, and I'm a little lost.

At first I didn't think I was. I know what the obvious stereotypes are to avoid. I have gay friends. I used to live in Chelsea (a predominantly gay neighborhood in Manhattan, for those of you unfamiliar with the area). Even though I'm not gay, I was pretty certain I could do the character justice without offending anybody.

Then a friend of mine was kind enough to let me know that I shouldn't have the character die because that was a cliched and stereotypical literary convention--killing off lesbians because society views them as "bad." I'd never heard of this convention in reference to gay women specifically, although I believe this is a convention that goes beyond lesbians. In traditional literature, women who did not fall in line with society standards would often receive their comeuppance in some fashion by the novel's end. Hubsy pointed out a good example: in Last of the Mohicans, the character of Cora Munro perishes in the novel. (This plot point was rewritten in the Daniel Day-Lewis [yum] movie version for a modern audience). There are differing arguments about this, but one could read into the underlying sexuality written into the character, or the fact she was of mixed race.

So now I'm worried. What other, less-obvious stereotypes of gays in literature am I ignorant of? Guess it's time to do some research. Last week The Rejectionist linked to this 5-series post about LGBTQ stereotypes in literature, but I found the content to lean towards the blatantly obvious (and kind of sad that there are actually people/writers out there who still need to be educated on what I consider to be common human decency).

What about you guys? Do you find yourselves nervous about including a certain kind of character or content in your novel because you are afraid you can't do it justice? If so, how do you overcome that?


Celebrate Dad...and a Good Cause

We all know dads are tricky to buy gifts for. Normally I'd recommend giving books, of course. But in light of current environmental events, here's a great idea that Hubs and I are doing this year: giving Hip-Hip-Humane! donations in honor of each of our dads. With a donation of $10 or more, the Humane Society of the United States will send the old man a card with your personalized message letting him know about your donation on his behalf.

Because really, does he need another tie?


Not-So-Haunted Tales of Boston

Hubs and I did our kind-of-annual trip up to Beantown this past weekend. Which normally brings us immense enjoyment. Not so much this time.

First of all, it rained most of the trip. Including during the Saturday afternoon game at Fenway, which we had awesome seats for. But around the fifth inning when I was soaked to the bone and the score was 12-2 (not really a nail biter, no matter which team you're rooting for), we decided to call it quits.

Most disappointing, however, was the hotel.

We decided to switch it up this time. Normally we go for the modern luxury of the Westin Copley. This time I decided I wanted a more historical, New England feel. So we booked the Omni Parker House, the oldest running hotel in the country. And the Kennedys used to stay there!

A week before the trip, Hubs laughingly informs me the hotel is haunted, sending me a link. I think he thought this would upset me, because I'm a total weenie when it comes to horror movies and the idea of things lurking around in the dark.

To his surprise, I was psyched. Perfect! I thought. This will be great research for my WIP--the main character grew up in a family of ghost hunters. What better way to come up with material than to investigate the supernatural, first-hand?

Among factoids about the hotel were these promising nuggets:

  • Elevators are always called to the third floor (the floor Charles Dickens--CHARLES DICKENS OMG OMG!--occupied) without a button being pushed or a guest waiting for the elevator.
  • In a room on the 10th floor, guests have reported the sound of a rocking chair that kept them up all night. There are no rocking chairs in the hotel.
  • Bellman have reported bright "orbs" of light floating down the corridor on the 10th floor then disappearing

Alas--whether it's because we were put on the plebeian 5th floor, away from all the supernatural action, or the ghosts were simply feeling not up to snuff that evening, the only unlexplained mysteries we were faced with were:
  • How a 4-star hotel could have such tiny, dingy rooms.
  • How a hotel in BOSTON could not include NESN in their TV channel listings (that is the Boston Red Sox channel, for all of you non-New England folk. We were trying to catch Friday's night game on TV after we got back from a hearty, sleep-inducing pasta dinner in the North End)
  • And finally, if the lobby manager's name was actually Seamus for real, or if that was just another one of the hotel's tall tales they propagate to make visitors feel like they are getting the full Boston experience. And if he was really that jolly of an Irishman. Or even actually Irish.

So sorry, no ghostly insights to report. Although I did squeeze a few pages in, as you'll see in my updated word count on the sidebar.



I used to enjoy my day job, to a degree. Meaning I was satisfied with it. Somewhere during the past couple of years, that changed.

It took me a while to put my finger on it. It was a little over 2 years ago I was promoted to a Manager-level position as an editor. I was bright-eyed and enthusiastic, ready to throw myself into the position and learn everything I possibly could to be a great manager.

This winter, I resigned. I just didn't care anymore. I was tired of looking for errors in other people's writing, tired of always seeing the negative. I wanted to create. So they convinced me to stay by offering me a copywriting position. Perfect! I thought. I already write creatively, so now I can get paid to do it 45 hours/week.

Yeah, not so much. There was still something missing. And then I figured it out. This decline in job satisfaction began right around the same time I started to seriously pursue my creative writing and publication. If you were plotting my happiness on a graph, you would see 2 inverse lines veering away from each other: as my progress with my creative writing grows, my satisfaction with my current career plummets.

Yesterday I had one of those awful moments of self-doubt when I was talking to a friend who was going back to school to change careers. Do something she actually wanted to do. And then I was seized by a moment of panic. There isn't anything I actually want to do, except write novels. And be paid for them. Paid well. I don't have another back-up plan. My current job IS my back-up plan, and every day I grow more and more unhappy with it. And it's writing's fault. Because it makes me so happy that it makes every other option seem miserable in comparison.

So that leaves just one solution. I have to become published. It can't just be a dream or a goal anymore. It is a future reality that I just have to find a way to make happen.

I remember a while back I read about the drummer of Blink 182 saying he covered himself in tattoos b/c he wanted to make it impossible to get a normal job. That way he was ensuring that he had to find a way to be successful with his music.

I think he was onto something...


Two Parts Urban, One Part Fantasy

Last week I was discussing my new WIP over the phone with my mother (that
alone should give you an idea how excited I am about this project, b/c I
usually keep things pretty close to the chest when it comes to my writing),
and she commented that I seem to have a thing for paranormal themes.

Don't we all? Judging by YA book sale trends, I'm far from alone.

So what's so enrapturing about this idea of integrating the fantastical with
the ordinary? First of all, it may be a current trend, but it's hardly a new
idea. I've always loved the idea of magic lurking around the corner, the
idea that one moment you can be living an average life and then something
fantastical happens. This probably started for me when I was five years old,
and my sister and I decided to merge the world of My Little Ponies with
Barbie dolls. Who says that, somewhere in between Barbie going to work and
meeting Ken for a date, magical talking horses can't exist?

This theme was strengthened for me when 4 children discovered a wardrobe
that transported them to a world called Narnia. And when a clever spider
saved a pig from being turned into bacon. And when a girl named Meg went on
a journey through space and time to find her missing scientist father.

Life can be beautiful and joyful, or it can fill you with pain. It's full of
surprises, both good and bad. And for all of these reasons, it's rarely
dull. But it is ordinary. And sometimes we all need a little escape. And
maybe, deep down, we all still believe a little bit in magic.


Query Update

I apologize to the 1-2 readers (I'm being optimistic about my readership here) for absence for the past week or so. Unfortunately this is a blog about my life as a writer on top of having a demanding full-time job. I know, I know--so inconvenient! :) Believe me I know that better than anyone. It's cool that I spend all day writing and get paid for it, I just wish it was a very different type of writing I was getting paid for.

But just wanted to update to say I was picking back up on the query process for Charm Bracelet. I hit the pause button on that process a few weeks ago for a variety of reasons, and looking forward to getting a fresh batch out! In the meantime, still have an iron in the fire from my last round of queries, so hopefully good news will ensue.


Recycling: Good for the Environment, Bad for Your Manuscript

Once upon a time (a year ago) I wrote a book that I ended up shelving. It just wasn't coming out like I'd hoped. But there were still some great scenes in there, scenes I didn't want to let go of.

So I was working on my new WIP last weekend and thought, "hey, wouldn't that scene from [shelved book] work GREAT here?" And at first it seemed to. I dropped it in, rewrote bits to tailor it to my current WIP. The easiest 2K words ever. Woo hoo, I was on a roll.

Except that's where the roll stopped. For some reason, I couldn't figure out where I wanted to take the story next. All the momentum I'd been building up until that point was completely squashed. I went to bed that night trying to convince myself the story was moving in a good direction, but by the time I woke up the next morning, I knew I was kidding myself. That scene stuck out like a sore thumb. The characters' motives and personalities didn't quite align. Even though both characters are 16-year-old girls, where they were at in their heads at the time was very, very different for each of them. And it showed.

It's hard, letting go. Letting go of a scene you love dearly because the book it is written into didn't succeed. It seems like such a waste. But all of those hundreds of pages nobody will ever lay eyes on? There's a reason for it. It's called perfecting your craft. And there's nothing wasteful about that.



There has been some stuff going on in recent weeks in this country that I find troubling. Unless you live under a rock, you know what's going on in Arizona and you heard about the attempted car bomb in Times Square a couple weekends back.

I'm not going to comment specifically on any of this, because I don't intend for this blog to be a political forum. But I will say this:

I can see the Statue of Liberty from our bedroom window. Every morning I get up and there she is, one of the most stunning and inspirational backdrops you could imagine. Today it's mostly cloudy, so she's raising her arm against the dull, gray sky--and that doesn't make it anything less than spectacular.

Maybe I'm luckier than most that I have this daily reminder. But it doesn't give anyone else the excuse to forget--even if they're halfway across the country--what she stands for.


Writer-Specific ADHD

I think I've discovered a new behavioral disorder. I'm calling it Writer-Specific ADHD. Do you suffer from this? Major symptoms include:
1) Desire to start a new project as soon as the old one is finished, if not before
2) Always coming up with a "better" idea, therefore eclipsing the excitement you had for your previous project.

And, if you have an extreme case, like I do:
3) Putting the query process on hold because you think your current project now pales in the light of bright, new shiny idea, even though your full manuscript has been requested and is floating around in the ether of literary agents.

I'm thinking about trying to get this included in the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It's about time they came out with an update.


On Days Like These...

...I really wish I didn't have to keep a full-time job. Because I have a new project I'm working on that I'm so excited about, I can't focus on anything else. I just want to stay home and write, write, write! But alas, I must have drinks with a client tonight. (That sounds like way more fun than it actually is.)

Client interaction gives me anxiety. Part of it is because I'm pretty introverted. That, and I feel like the more I write, the less interesting I become outwardly. Because so much of my brain gets eaten up by these ideas. (Especially this sparkly new idea!) And I can't exactly...uhh...talk about my aspirations for publication with a client who pays me to do another kind of writing altogether. I'm pretty sure that wouldn't go over too well...


I Can't Quit You

Did you ever have one of those exes (this applies to ex-boyfriends in particular; it could apply to ex-girlfriends, too--but I don't have any experience with that) that have break-up radar? Like, they're not really good for you but they're oh so hard to get over. And when you finally start to get over them and move on with your life--BLAM--they come back full force and suck you back in.

Writing can be like that, too. Just as a hypothetical example (ahem), say this weekend I came up with a brand new idea. And this idea was so shiny and sparkly, it made me question whether I should keep moving forward with any current project. And then, in the eleventh hour, my current project pulled ahead by a nose.

That's all I'm going to say on that topic, except that I'm a bundle of nerves today and every time I check my email (about every hour or so), I want to throw up. In a potentially good way.


Dedication...and Then Some

A friend of mine finally got to celebrate the launch party for his book's publication two weeks ago. I say finally because he's been working on the book for 10 years.

Let me say that again: 10 years.

He's a music writer--hip-hop, specifically--and it's a non-fiction book. So sure, he had to spend a lot of time doing research, collecting interviews. And yeah, even though his book had already been purchased by a publisher 5 years ago, he had to work a day job. We were lowly proofreaders together at the time. Meanwhile the guy is a freakin' genius with words. And all this time he was working on rewrites, edits.

So finally R-day has come. (That's Release day). 10 years of research, interviews, and taking crappy proofreading jobs in the meantime. And I'm so darn proud of him. This is the kind of book that is incredibly niche; who knows, maybe it will pick up a cult following. But I can tell you, none of that matters to him. He believed in it--you don't get through 10 years working on a project banking on what other people will think about it.

Once the Hubs is done reading our copy of, I'll be picking it up. You should, too. It is the byproduct of true dedication, and it shows.

And as an aside: yeah, waiting 6-8 weeks for a query response? Not so bad.


In the Meantime

So I bet you're wondering if I've heard any good news on the query front for Charm Bracelet.

Well, I'm right there with you. The other day I got one of those automatic "we received your query, please allow 6-8 weeks for our response."

Wow, it took me just about 6-8 weeks to write the first draft of CB. (Uhhh, I know that sounds pretty good, but let me stress the words FIRST DRAFT. It took much longer to do the rewrites, change a main story arc, and completely re-do the ending.) This time frame doesn't surprise me; I know agents have a lot on their plates, and more and more people are deciding they can write books so the slush pile is ever-growing.

But man, that's a lot of time.

So why am I not freaking out, checking my email every 5 minutes? (Okay, okay. I check it 2-3/day. I am slightly neurotic; I'm a writer, after all.) Because I've been BUSY. First of all, as I mentioned before, I'm transitioning to a writing position at my day job. Which has been pretty awesome. Not so awesome are the hours, or the fact I sometimes have to do work on weekends. Which by the way, I am not paid for. One of the downfalls of being on a set salary. Although having medical insurance is cool and all.

And then, I am making great progress on my gothic untitled novel. By "great" I don't mean crazy huge word counts, but I think it's really quality stuff. And I'm really enjoying the story. 

And then, tomorrow I'm volunteering at Liberty Humane Society, playing with some kitties and pups that could really use some love and affection.

So the moral of this story? When you're in the dreaded query process, keep so freakin' busy you don't have time to THINK about it. Oh, and also--make sure to spay or neuter your animal to help control the unwanted pet population. (not to go all Bob Barker on you. Does anyone even get that reference?)



Wow, I'm embarrassed to even look at when the last time I posted was.

So I'm officially a copywriter at my day job, and no longer an editor. For those of you just catching up, I work in advertising. And I was worried that doing writing 50 hours/week would steal some of my creative "juices" from my fiction pursuits.

Guess what? I think it's actually helping. Before I used to have trouble writing on weeknights and would be a weekend warrior. Now I actually find myself settling into bed with my notebook at night to jot down scenes. (This is normally my reading time, so needless to say I am quickly falling behind on my reading. I STILL haven't finished all of my Christmas books.)

And on a completely unrelated note--I caught myself staring unashamedly at people on the subway the other day. So wrapped up in observing/making up stories about them, I didn't even notice when they caught me out. Let's just hope I wasn't talking to myself without realizing it. Although I'm sure that will happen some day soon...


The Fun Stuff

Finally ready to start querying agents for CB! That's right, the manuscript is ready. I think. I hope.

As terrifying as the query process is, I actually think it's fun at the very beginning. You know, when you send it out, full of high hopes and dreams. Before the soul-crushing phase begins.

And I know that a truckload of soul-crushing is on it's way, so just let me have this one day. One day to enjoy the thrill of sending off my baby into the big wide world of literary agencies.


Query Time

I recently tinkered with my query for CHARM BRACELET. Since Marlowe's voice is kind of wryly funny, that's what I initially went for in my query. Except I think it was setting a skewed expectation for the tone of the book as largely comedic. And while there's definitely funny bits--well, people actually die in it. Unfortunately for them. So clearly some not-so-funny bits. I think the new version gets that across better. Have a looksie.

Marlowe Thomas is gifted, but not in the way most people think. Sure, her 4.0 grade average comes easily. And she’s one of the top gymnasts on the Devil’s Den High School varsity team. But Marley’s really special talents are ones she can’t put on her college application essays. Unless Georgetown is now offering courses in divination and telekinesis.

Marley’s halfway through her junior year, and she just found out she’s a witch.
So she’s going to tackle it like she does everything else—with hard work and diligence. Except there are the distractions…

Gabe Connelly is aloof and cautious, while his brother Fin thinks being a witch is all fun and games, no toil and trouble. Despite her overachieving personality, Marley gravitates toward fun-loving Fin after Gabe refuses to help her learn the Craft.

Until things get serious.

It began with the suicide that left the medical examiner scratching his head; and then the murders followed. All connected. All unexplained by modern medicine. Meanwhile, the entire cheerleading squad is acting like a bunch of brainwashed puppets. But who’s pulling the strings? Turns out, there’s another witch at school; one whose motivations are considerably darker than scoring beer underage. One by one she’s picking off the people she holds grudges against. And Marley is one of them.

CHARM BRACELET is contemporary YA—in the spirit of Mean Girls with a magical, murderous twist. The manuscript is complete at 55,000 words.