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...