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!