Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Five Stages of Receiving Feedback

Stage 1: Excitement

An email pops up in my inbox and my heart starts beating faster. Be it from an crit partner, a beta reader or an agent, the very presence of an email in that inbox is enough to make me dance with impatience as I wait for it to load.

Stage 2: Dread

Wait. This is an email relating to my writing. What if it's bad news? What if the sender HATED my work? Maybe I shouldn't read it. At least not until I'm in a better mood. What if my fragile, artistic ego can't take the rejection?

Stage 3: Despair

It was worse than I thought. Compliment, compliment, compliment, criticism, compliment, compliment. My writing must be terrible! What was I thinking, sending this out into the world? I'm a hack! I should never write again!

Stage 4: Exuberance

I'm going to change EVERYTHING! Every word of every critique must be right! How could I have been so blind? Let's rename characters and change major plot points and cut entire scenes! No need to rework anything. Let's just start over!

Stage 5: Acceptance

Okay, I see what they were REALLY saying and I see why. Sure, this part is a little slow, but I can fix it. And while this particular writer didn't like this line, I do and I'm the writer. This is my baby and I can take in all this feedback, use the parts that resonate with me and confidently stick to my guns on the rest. I love my story. I love feedback. Let's do this again! Who else can I send it to?

Monday, August 29, 2011


all this to say,
our future is a blank page
that we chose to pour ourselves into
when God pressed play.

and we'll drag our pens
into these parallel lines
to record and to articulate
everything we find.

as decades unlace,
we'll pause and carefully trace;
our shadows are puddles of ink
that our memory saves.

layer by layer, the framework was formed
on an epic of paper:
we breathe to explore.
fast-forward motion
will gracefully show
the flickering story
that all of our sketches unfold.

before we were born
God gently told us the truth,
but understanding is something that stops
as our bodies bruise.

so we'll concentrate,
constantly rewinding tapes.
was the ghost just a glare on the lens
that our minds create?
our minds create...
when God pressed play.

layer by layer, the framework was formed
on an epic of paper:
we breathe to explore.
and fast-forward motion
will gracefully show
the flickering story
that all of our sketches unfold

- All This to Say by Sleeping At Last

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Look!

Okay, only slightly different, but it goes better with the new cover design ;)

And a BIG thank you to all my new followers!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Search of a Title

An agent recently suggested that I find a more memorable title for GUARDIAN. When I started writing, single word titles were all the rage (Twilight, Shiver, etc.) and I've always liked simplicity. I found a cover image for inspiration and I was good to go.

In all honesty, I'm not all that attached to GUARDIAN. It is a very powerful title, for me at least, and, shockingly, it has not been used as a stand alone title (The Guardian has, as well as a few other variations, but alone, there's nothing on Amazon). I can see the agent's point. If I want my title to stand out, I think a single word, with a lot of connotations attached to it (maybe not all ones I like), isn't the best way to go.

RIVERS UNDERNEATH comes from a favorite song. For this book, it references the river flowing through the center of the town and the role it plays in the characters' live, but it also references the undercurrent of the paranormal running through the story. I like titles with a lot of meaning ;)

So what do you think? Is GUARDIAN a better title? Do you like my cover mockup? Would you pick it up based on the cover alone? All thoughts are welcome!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Brief Intermission

Sing it with me: "Let's all go to the lobby, let's all go to the lobby, let's all go to the lobby and get ourselves a snack!"

Okay, seriously, my apologies for the silence. When I started this blog, I had no followers, I wrote sporadically and didn't have much to say. But I stuck with it and I've come to really enjoy it. It has become a good way to clear my head and focus on actually writing.

The only problem is when life gets in the way! I was trying really hard to post at least once a week. Then there was WriteOnCon, a partial request, a trip to the pediatrician with the little guy, a weekend in the mountains and a visit from one of my oldest & dearest friends. Plus, my husband got called in for a couple weeks of work (Yay!! Freelance work sucks, btw), leaving me on 24/7 baby duty.

With all that craziness, there's been little time to write or blog or breathe. But! I promise, I will have more next weekend. My husband is driving across the country, leaving me alone for 6 days (3x the longest we've been apart since our wedding). Loneliness is a great motivator for me and I should get tons done. Or I'll just watch a lot of SyFy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ten Years! (Or a very cheesy post in which I gush about my husband)

We weren't dorks or anything 10 years ago. Right?

Today marks ten years since my husband and I officially started dating. Ten! I can't believe how fast it's gone!
I still remember the first time I saw him, standing in my friend Becca's driveway. My first thought? "Crap. He's cute." How romantic.

It was far too early in the morning. My sister had talked me into going with her to a music festival 9 hours away. She was 16 at the time and my parents would only let her go if I went too. We meet up with a few friends and friends of friends at Becca's. Her friend Joe had borrowed a van and we were all standing around, waiting for this Joe guy to arrive. I'd just ended my one and only relationship and was looking forward to starting college without a boyfriend or any kind of romantic complications.

The van pulls up and out steps tall, dark and handsome, sporting tattoos and a couple piercing. Becca's friends were all bookish types. They wore polos and khakis and played on their church worship teams. This guy? This guy was NOT what I pictured.

My mom leaned over to whisper in my ear, "can you introduce me to this Joe guy? I want to know who's driving."

"I've never met him," I mumbled, attempting to not look like I cared.
The LAST thing I wanted was to care.

We spent the next couple days attempting to ignore each other. While I was eighteen and had never been kissed, he had dated most of the other girls on the trip. Yeah. Awkward.

And then, one fateful night, he mentioned he was in film school. I had managed to scare off every one of my film watching friends by my constant critiques of every movie we watched.
It wasn't exactly love at first sight, but by the end of the trip, we were inseparable. I kind of assumed it was one of those summer flings. You know, you meet at camp or something, spend every waking hour together, promise to write when you get home and you loose touch before school starts.

Instead, he called. And I emailed. He drove out to see me. I agreed to run sound for the musical he was stage managing. We went to concerts. We watched movies. We held hands. We kissed in the driveway of his ex-girlfriend's house. And at the beach. And in the lake. And at concerts. And at the movies.

(Hey, eighteen years without a kiss! I had a lot of making, er, up to do!)

The fact that we were dating aside, I wanted to wait on the whole relationship thing. I didn't want a label. I didn't want to start college with a boyfriend.

That lasted until August 11, 2001. Just about 40 days after we met. And four months after that, on December 17, 2001, he proposed. One the beach. With roses. It was amazing.

So here we are, ten years later. Is it cheesy if I say I love him more now than I did then? 'Cause I do. He's still gorgeous, he still makes me laugh, he still holds me when I cry. He's an awesome husband and an amazing father. He's grown up beside me and held on with me as life has thrown us up and down. He's my best friend, my partner, my playmate. I look back at the last ten years and I pray we have 50 or 60 or 70 years left. Because the last ten went way too fast. I want to slow down, hold on and savor every minute because life is precious and love is precious and I have no idea how I got so lucky.

Ok. Enough cheese. Marriage is awesome. Joe is awesome. The end. Here's to another ten!

Monday, August 8, 2011


In another lifetime, I live in an all white apartment. The carpet and the walls and the furniture are white. Everything is colorless except for the hundreds and thousands of books, arranged by the color of their spines.
I saw a picture of an apartment like this once and some part of me recognized it. I don't subscribe to M Theory or reincarnation or fate or destiny. I believe in freewill and all of the blessings and curses and consequences that go with that freedom. I think recognizing the choices we could have made confirms that belief.

I actually live a condo with hardwood floors and furniture designed to hide icky, sticky baby fingerprints. My bookcases contain more toys that books and the books I do have are stashed beyond the reach of a 15-month-old. At least until he learns to climb. I've made hundreds of little choices that have led me here - choices I never would have imagined making at 10 or 15 or even 20.

My senior year of high school, we were asked to write a paragraph about where we would be in ten years. I imagined myself single, living in a big city and working as a photographer for a magazine like Rolling Stone. I assumed my busy career would prevent me from forming meaningful relationships. I never expected to get married or have kids.

Instead, I got married at 21, found a job at a non-profit and settled into a sleepy beach community near Los Angeles. I spent several years focusing on photography, but found myself wanting to write more than shoot. This life is so much better than anything I could have planned, but I know how differently it could have turned out.

If I'd stayed home from the music festival where my husband and I met.

If I'd had a credit card in college and had racked up thousands of dollars of debt for camera equipment.

If I hadn't checked Monster looking for jobs.

If we'd never heard of Playa Vista.

If we'd decided we were too broke to start a family.

If, if, if. Choices. Freewill. Dozens of other lives I could have lived. Every now and then I catch glimpses of what might have been. And every time I'm grateful for what I have.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Life of Their Own

I grew up in a beautiful 1920s craftsmen bungalow with gorgeous woodwork, leaded glass bookcases framing the fireplace in the living room and the window seat in the dinning room, and a ridiculously small bathroom. Above the bathtub, several ceiling tiles had fallen, leaving designs in the remaining grout. My younger sister hated having her hair washed and I took to making up stories about the designs on the ceiling to distract her while my mom washed and rinsed her hair. With our heads tilted toward the ceiling, I told countless stories about The Roam, a magical land ruled by Glueshoe the Horse. Twenty years or more have passed and my sister still remembers those stories. Maybe not the details, but the characters still make her smile.

I think that's one of the most exciting things about writing for me. When my characters and my stories take root in someone else's mind, I get this incredible thrill. After I finished my first draft of Guardian, I gave it to my teenage sister (there five of us total, spanning 17 years - two boys and the three of us girls sandwiched in the middle). I knew I'd struck on something when I saw her sketching a boy with wings. 

Now that I have started to share my work with the larger world, I'm starting to experience that sensation more and more. Every time I hear someone mention one of my characters, I have this weird out of body thing and I feel like that person has tapped into my head. I mean, how can someone know a character I created?

I have so many stories, so many books, so many characters that have remained hidden in file cabinets or locked away in old notebooks, so sharing this story really is the first time I've had my characters take on a life of their own. I have a really horrible high fantasy novel I wrote something like ten years ago. I shared it with one friend. She loved it, but I think that was more because she loved me. Those characters are still incredibly real to me, but they've never made it beyond my head.

That's one of the reasons stories - and sharing them - are so important. They get ideas and characters and situations out of people's head and into the real world. They start discussions and open up awareness. They transmit information and inspire us to be better - or worse. They remind us that we're not alone and that there is more magic in the world than we can see. They teach us about love and life and loss. They allow us to escape and to confront. They tell us where we've been and show us where to go. They come alive every time someone reads them.

G.K. Chesterton once said (or at least Neil Gaiman once said that G.K. Chesterton once said. The actual quote is a bit longer and more complex) "Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." There is so much truth in that. I keep writing because I'd like to think that maybe someday, one of my stories or my characters will show someone that some dragon can be beaten. I think back to the stories and the characters that saved me as a teenager and I'm so grateful to the story-tellers who had the courage to let them out into the world and give them a life of their own.