Thursday, December 19, 2013

I'm Published!

THE ART OF FALLING is officially available at eBook retailers everywhere!

I meant to write this post last night and have it posted first thing this morning, but kids had other plans and I spent most of the night tucking them back into bed.

It was almost exactly one year ago when I sent an email to two of my critique parters with the subject "The Scenes that might make me write a straight contemp..." A few weeks later, I did. I wrote a book about the kind of kids I was friends with in high school - the art nerds, theater geeks, and wanna-be rock gods. I wrote about a girl who is proud that she's different, even if it is a cover sometimes. I wrote about love and longing and figuring out who we want to be. I wrote a book I'm very proud to release into the world.

There's so much I have to say, so much gratitude spilling out of my heart, and I'm not even sure how to express it all but to say THANK YOU. I've dreamed of publication since I was 11 or 12 and wrote a story called Tea with the Bunnies for my baby sister. I've worked hard and I've been blessed now to see the reward for that work. My book is a book!

This story is so close to my heart. I know there are kids out there struggling with the kinds of things Bria and Ben struggle with - expectations and social pressures and conflicting visions for their own futures. I wrote this book for them and I hope it can encourage them. Let them know it's okay to question things. It's okay to like art and math. It's okay to not live up to your reputation and it's okay to hurt. It's okay to be whoever you are.

I think I might be rambling now, so I'll wrap up with the song that has become Bria's theme in my head: Hurricanes by Ms Mr. I hope you enjoy :)

Hurricane by Ms Mr on Grooveshark

Lots of love & gratitude,


available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iBookstore, Kobo
& eBook retailers everywhere.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Here We Go Again... On Drafting Book 2

I kind of stumbled into writing contemporary. I've always enjoyed writing YA and basically everything I've ever written has some romance. But for many years, I was so deeply entrenched in fantasy that I couldn't imagine writing a straight, contemporary romance. For me, it's a lot harder to create conflict and tension when there isn't some crazy, supernatural, outside force to terrorize my characters.

When I sat down to write THE ART OF FALLING, it was with a great deal of trepidation. I worried I wouldn't be able to do the story - or the genre - justice. But once I started writing, the story came so effortlessly. That isn't to say it wasn't work, but rather that it didn't feel like work. I wrote hard, but it never seemed hard.

Then in June, just a couple weeks before I received my offer from Bloomsbury for FALLING, I decided to start on a follow up. I had a working title (SUMMER STORY) and a rough concept (a surfer girl and a hemophiliac fall in love). I thought that the opposites attract set up would be another easy story.


I had a rough 50k draft of FALLING written in 30 days. It's been, oh, about 172 days since I started SUMMER and I just passed 40k on Friday. I've written and rewritten the same 15 or so chapters three times. I've changed characters (the other girl is now the BFF) and plot (my surfer is now a skater) and just about every detail I can just to get myself unstuck.

I could make excuses about FALLING taking up my time with edits, but that wasn't until the fall. I could blame the kids for not sleeping, but they've never slept. I could give you a hundred different, valid excuses. But the reality is that this is a different story and it needs to be written a different way.

National Novel Writing Month is just over a week behind us and I know a lot of writers who won NaNo, writing at least 50,000 words in the month of November, and at least as many who started and didn't win. There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth as those who didn't win try to figure out where they went wrong - and I'm right there with them.

How can I write one book in a month and the very next one I tackle takes six? I love these characters. Their romance is adorable. The few bits I've shared with others have been very well received. These characters have so many issues to sort through, more than enough to fill up a book, and yet I keep getting stuck.

I think the biggest struggle for me has been the weight of expectation. I love FALLING. I'm proud of how it turned out. It's a story people connect to and enjoy. What if my next book isn't as good? What if the tone and characters are so different that I lose my readers? What if it's an utter failure, fit only for kindling in a virtual fire? (These sorts of illustrations were easier before eBooks computers...)

Well, if it sucks, I'll write another one. And another. Because I'm a writer and that's what I do. Some of my stories will be better than others. Some will be better received than others. Some will mean more to me than others. But all of them will be worth writing, because all of them help me grow.

So while I plow ahead, trying to finish my rough draft before THE ART OF FALLING is released on December 19, I'll try to let go of the expectations and just enjoy the process. Because book two is just like book one, only I've done this before and I know I can do it. I just have to silence the voices in my head first.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bleep: Swearing in YA

I wouldn't be a writer if I believed words were just words. I believe words have power, that they can affect hearts and minds. That words can change reality and create new worlds.

It should come as no surprise that I have many thoughts on the subject of swearing, especially in books intended for teens. Language continues to be one of the reasons books are banned or challenged by parent groups. We rate movies and slap stickers on CDs to warn about the use of certain words that we feel are inappropriate for children. Swearing is offensive. It's supposed to be.

Bria, the protagonist in THE ART OF FALLING, is 17. As I wrote her, as I dove into her head and examined how she would think and feel and react, I had in mind a 15-year-old reader. I wrote this story for that 15-year-old. And I don't believe there is a 15-year-old left in America who doesn't know a few swear words. Does that mean I threw them around without thought? No. I carefully considered every single word in this story - the mundane and the profane. Every word choice was made for a very specific reason. 

In real life, I don't swear. I never picked up the habit. I like to surround myself with beauty and find curse words and their meaning ugly. There are times of extreme distress or pain when I pull them out (like during labor with my second kid), but it's rare. When I swear, it makes the people around me pay attention. They work wonders as pain relief (It's scientific. Look up the Mythbusters episode on it!) and they have shock value.

In my writing, it's a different story. For one thing, my characters aren't me. If I wrote every character with my moral compass instead of their own, it would get old fast. It would create a barrier between my stories and my readers - a barrier I don't want. More importantly, when I do use swearing in my writing, it's for a purpose. It is meant to elicit a reaction from the reader. 

When writing for teens, my characters deal with things that are beyond their emotional and mental maturity. They're faced with situations that they are ill-equiped to handle. That's not a criticism because the fact is that they do handle their circumstances and learn and grow through them. However, they don't always have the ability to process like an adult would and sometimes shit or fuck is the best way to express something too big or too hard or too much to deal with. 

There are exactly two instances of the f-word in FALLING and I agonized over both. I could have replaced them with lesser swear words. I could have used effing. But even through my last round of edits, I couldn't change either one. It's a harsh sounding word with a harsh meaning, but in those two moments, I honestly believe it was the best way to express the complexity of what my characters were feeling. Given the infrequency of swearing in this story, that word is a signal to the reader to pay attention - something monumental is happening. 

I've said before that I feel no desire to write inspirational fiction, despite the way my faith shapes my life. Part of that is because it feels restrictive. I do want to write stories parents will feel comfortable giving to their children, but not to the point of censoring the story. I don't write explicit sex. I don't glorify violence. I think very carefully about the language I use. But to leave all reference to sex, violence or swearing out of books for teens does them a disservice. That is their reality. 

My point is this: we can either sanitize the world and create an environment that makes it even harder for kids to express their experiences or we can acknowledge the realities of a broken world. I expect some response from readers about the language. When one of my favorite bands (The Classic Crime) used the phrase hurts like hell in a song, some of their more sensitive listeners felt betrayed. The band responded by saying that if hell does indeed exist, it would certainly hurt. When my future readers question why I chose to include swearing in my book, my answer is this: because it was the best way to tell the story I wanted to tell - a story I hope will mean something to that 15-year-old reader struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants and how to deal with a life that expects more from her than she can handle. It's as simple as that.

How do you feel about swearing in books for teens? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Other Children

Do you see Ben & Bria? Maybe? No? Oh well.

I do this weird thing when I'm in crowds. It's worst with crowds of teenagers. I look for people I know. But not real people. Fictional people. My fictional characters.

Yeah. It's weird.

When you write about the same characters for 500 or 50,000 or 150,000 words, they get into your head. In a really deep way. I know things about my characters - about their needs and desires and why they don't eat orange Skittles - things I don't even know about my husband after more than a decade together. Somewhere along the way, my characters become real. 
THE ART OF FALLING takes place in Southern California, where I live. When I find myself in places my characters inhabit, I can't help but scan the crowd, searching for a flash of purple hair or an OHS Athletics hoodie. I expect to see them. I want to see them. 
Being a storyteller is a special kind of madness. I know I've tuned out my real live children to listen to the voices in my head. That's crazy. I've chosen to stay home and write instead of spending time with actual human beings. I've spent days researching hobbies and health conditions and food to make sure I get the details of these lives right. 

And I regret nothing. 
I get to make these characters come alive! I get to watch them take root in my readers' heads and become more than words. Nothing gives me a greater thrill than when someone else talks about one of my characters. Because that's when I know I've done it. 
I've made a character live. 

Do you expect to bump into your characters or maybe the characters in a beloved book? Any words of wisdom for my poor children who have to share me with my imaginary friends?

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Intersection of Art & Faith

***The podcast for the arts & faith panel I spoke at is now up here***

I've meant to write this post for a long time, but there are few things as effective for losing friends and alienating people as discussing religion or politics on the Internet. I'll leave politics alone. Promise.

A few weeks ago, my pastor asked if I'd be part of a panel discussion on faith and the arts. Because I'm such an extrovert (not) and am so good at speaking (not), I agreed and it seems like the perfect timing to share some of my journey to reconcile my faith with my art. Since I'm much better at writing than I am at speaking, I want to organize some of my thoughts here before the panel next week.

I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a Christian. My faith is a huge part of my identity. I (try to) read my bible daily and am part of a great church I attend (almost) every Sunday. My faith is not perfect and I don't always walkout my convictions (hooray for grace!). I've known enough hypocrisy, my own included, that I want my actions, my behavior and the way I treat others, to speak louder than my words. So I don't talk about my faith unless I'm asked.

I am a Christian and I do not write Christian books. Sometimes my characters swear or make bad decisions or do things that violate my own moral sensibilities. Because I feel that an honest reflection on life has more value than presenting perfect characters who never struggle. I have no problem with inspirational fiction, but I have no desire to write it. I feel no calling to that arena. But oh, did I feel guilty about that for a long time.

For some reason, the Christian church has placed this extra burden on artists, a higher calling to produce Christian art, as if the very act of creating doesn't bring glory to God. We don't expect Christian accountants to produce Christian spreadsheets. We expect them to be ethical, to do good work, to treat coworkers with kindness and employers with respect. But we don't assume their output must include a gospel message or they are betraying their faith.

Yet the minute a musician or film maker or artist professes faith, the expectation arises that they will include X number of references to God/Jesus/prayer in order to keep up appearances. Write a straight-forward love song and WHOA! Sellout! Never mind the entire book of the bible celebrating love. Never mind that God designed us to seek out romantic connections. Never mind that true faith colors everything it touches, even when it isn't explicitly stated.

There is absolutely a place for Christian music, for worship (here's looking at you, Aaron Gillespie), but there's also a place for art for the sake of art. One of my favorite examples is Mumford & Sons. Their first single includes a pretty prominent f-bomb right in the chorus. Yet that album is a more honest, meaningful explorations of a faith journey than anything I've heard from a strictly Christian artist.

I write about teenagers kissing. I write about identity and friendship and the struggle to make sense of life. I write well - or at least as well as I can. I work hard and diligently at my craft. Because I believe that telling honest stories in a beautiful way is pleasing to God. I believe that the quality of my work is of equal importance as the content. That how I live out my talents has value.

"In the beginning, God created..." and I believe that every time we create, we join with him in a divine work . Have you ever seen pictures of the creatures living in the deepest reaches of the ocean? They're beautiful. And why? No one sees them most of the time. Their beauty serves no purpose. How about snowflakes? They're impossibly small, yet so incredibly detailed. Or the range of sounds and colors humans will never experience. Creation is filled with senseless beauty because beauty alone is worthwhile.

By Edith Widder from

What is beauty? Is a song with an f-bomb beautiful? Is a photograph of a hungry child beautiful? Is a book about teenagers falling in love beautiful? I think anything that reflects the human condition and helps someone understand some kind of truth is beautiful. Because sometimes we do eff things up. Sometimes a picture can deliver conviction words never could. Sometimes we need to hear our struggles - as frivolous as they sometimes are - are valid.

My faith is so ingrained in who I am, it informs every aspect of my life, even without conscious thought. As a Christian who creates art intended for more than just Christians, I've had to trust that this is enough. I believe that God is pleased when I use the gifts he gave me. That the extra burden placed on Christian artists is a human burden, not a divine one. That beauty is important because it's beautiful. Because for me, anything less is too narrow. It puts God in a box I don't believe he belongs inside.

I don't have all the answers. I don't even have a lot. I only have my own thoughts and experiences, gained from a life-long pursuit of truth. I'd love to open this discussion to anyone who would like to join in. I only ask that we all keep this respectful and encouraging. (And if you're around LA on Sept. 29, I'll be speaking around 11am in Santa Monica. Gulp.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Introverts' Guide to Social Media

My kind of writing space: devoid of people!

I didn't realize I was an introvert growing up. Sure, I knew I felt energized by time alone, while my siblings craved social interaction. I was much happier living in my own off-campus apartment in college than the year I spent in a quad dorm room. But it wasn't until I had kids that I realized how introverted I am truly am. Suddenly someone wanted my attention 24/7, wanted to touch me and talk to me and generally make me do something besides think my beautiful thoughts. That is a challenge for me. Getting up, leaving the house, interacting with people takes a lot of energy for me - energy I'd rather devote to my creative side.

That's why my writing time is so sacred. After spending all morning reacting to what's going on around me, I need the kids' nap time to turn inside and shut down to all that external stimuli. It's my head space.

Now, with my book deal announced (wheeee!), my quiet head space and social interactions are colliding. My number of twitter followers, Facebook likes and blog subscribers have all gone up over the last week. Real, live people know I write now and are asking me questions - questions I thought I was comfortable answering. It's all left me feeling kind Like my soul is laid bare.

Not that I want to change anything. It's a growth opportunity. I remember the angst I felt the first time I posted to a pitch contest. The first blog post I published. The first time I tweeted a line from a work in progress. Every single step is terrifying. And every step is an opportunity for growth.

More and more, some kind of social media presence is expected from artists (writers, film makers, even bakers) and for many of us, it's hard to embrace a public image. I've been on twitter since 2008 and set up my blog and author Facebook page in 2011. It's been a slow, sometimes awkward journey but some days I swear I'm getting the hang of this thing.

So how does a confirmed introvert go about creating an online presence? I have a few tips. Some may work for you, others may not, but I hope these help someone, somewhere.

1.) Understand this is a persona. You are not your twitter profile or the number of hits on your blog or your Instagram followers. Who you are at home, with your real life friends and family is different from who you are online and that's okay. I am WAY more awkward in person. Here, I can collect my thoughts and delete things when I misspeak. I can be bolder and sillier than I am when I have to make eye contact and figure out what to do with my hands. Because I talk with my hands even when I'm on the phone. Seriously. I can be self-depricating and send hugs to everyone having a bad day because it's the internet and no one is actually seeing me blush or invading my personal space. My internet persona is me, wrapped in the anonymity and distance of the internet. It's me, but not me.

2.) It's okay to be inconsistent. Some days I'm on twitter from sun up to sun down, replying to everything and inserting myself into every conversation of interest. Others, I peek in, feel freaked out, and duck back out. This is okay. If you feel up to oversharing about that awkward attempt at a first kiss one day and can't imagine sharing a fictional kiss the next, it's okay. You don't have to share everything all the time. Or even anything ever. People will tell you to tweet X times a day, blog X times a week, always post on the same day or readers lose interest. I've tried it both ways. It's never made any difference in my stats (with the exception of when I went on maternity leave and didn't blog for like a month). Do you what you feel up to and nothing more.

3.) Be true to yourself. Confession: I hate the acronym LOL. It bugs me. I can't imagine saying it, so I don't use when posting online. Hahaha might look stupid, but it's more me. I'm okay with that. Don't feel like you need to do everything like everyone else does. You don't have to embrace ALL THE THINGS (an internet phrase I love). If gushing love and praise and this <33333333333 isn't your thing, you don't have to do it. If you want to tweet pictures of your dinner or can't stand the thought of posting a selfie (my husband is about to disown me for using that word in real life), it's okay. It's okay to have likes and dislikes online, just like in the real world.

4.) Friendly & polite wins the day. Let everyone else be true to themselves too. If you are a kind and caring person, it will come through. If you're constantly negative and criticizing others, that will come through too. Treat others as you would like to be treated. The anonymity of the internet is NOT an excuse to be a dipwad (although seriously, how gross is chewing tobacco?). Like it or not, you're building a reputation with everything you post online. When you are supportive and interested in other people, they will be interested in you. It's that easy - and it's that hard.

5.) Know your limits. Don't pursue a social media presence as the expense of your art. We all have limited time and energy. If you find yourself incapable of writing or painting or whatever you do creatively because you've put everything into this crazy virtual vacuum called the internet, pull back. When you're an artist, art comes first. Protecting yourself comes second (maybe it should come first, but come on. Who among us isn't at least a little bit self-descructive?) and building a platform comes last. Do not damage yourself or your creative output to gain a few more followers. It's not worth it.

There you go. A few tips, off the top of my head, to help online introverts trying to find some sanity between becoming a hermit and being a Kardashian. Anyone else have some tips to share? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Story of A Story

Last December, I left my laptop at home and traveled 2,500 to be with family. I'd shelved my beloved empath story in the fall and recently completed a dreadful draft of SIGNAL HILL. Disillusioned is a mild word for it. I think broken-hearted is a better description. I'd reached a point with writing where I'd lost any love for it. I knew I needed a break.

Of course that week is when inspiration decided to strike. I'd sent a couple scenes cut from SIGNAL HILL to two CPs one night and I couldn't forget them. The characters wormed their way into my head and my heart and I needed to tell their story.

It came in snippets at first. Bits on dialogue I typed out on my phone while hiding in the bathroom at my in-laws, scenes I sketched in my head while camped out beside the fire.

By the time we arrived home on January 1, I was ready to write.

And write I did. I finished the first draft of THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING, my first ever contemporary romance, in a single month. I wrote as much as possible while my kids napped and hacked out scenes on my phone while I nursed the baby (thank you Evernote). I don't think I read a single book or watched a movie or TV show during that time. But the words flowed and it was beautiful.

In mid February, I sent my draft to my first CP, Leigh Ann, and she loved it. I sent it to my second CP, Cait, in early March and she loved it.

I polished a little, then submitted to Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness. I didn't make it through, but had so much support from Brenda that I went ahead and tried the twitter pitch party, tossing out my simplified, 140-character pitch. I got a few hits and with the feedback I received, I polished again.

Come May, I entered the Writer's Voice contest and, by luck of the draw, made it to the coaching round. Krista Van Dolzer of Mother. Write. (Repeat). picked me for her team and I dove into polishing my query and first page with her guidance. I received two requests and sent them off into the wild blue yonder.

Then on May 28, I decided to try the twitter pitch party again, posting this pitch:

YA - Bria knows exactly who she is – the militant vegan, purple-haired Queen of the Art Room - until she kisses the HS quarterback.

To my great delight and surprise, it caught the interest of Meredith Rich, the editor for Bloombury Spark, a new digital first imprint launching this winter. I love my eBooks, so I'm really excited about what Bloomsbury Spark is doing. I sent off my materials with high hopes and low expectations.

Then on July 15, I got an email. I'd just finished a grocery run to Costco with both kids and loaded everything into the car. It had been a rough week for my writing and after wrangling two kids in a warehouse store alone, I was ready to curl up in a corner and cry. I decided to check my email on my phone before pulling out into traffic. I expected another kind rejection, so I didn't even bother to read Meredith's subject line. I think I was about halfway through the sentence when I realized this is what it said:

I am thrilled to be able to tell you that we would like to publish The Extraordinary Art of Falling with Bloomsbury Spark!

Pub. Lish. Publish. PUBLISH.

I was stuck in a parking lot with two crazy kids and two weeks of groceries and I had to drive. My hands shook and I cried and I did my best to not freak out the kids. I don't think they get happy tears yet. I called my husband and rambled at him. I texted my writing bestie with the news and after sufficiently freaking out, she called to calm me down. Somehow my 3yo ended up completely naked and the baby was chewing on something totally inappropriate, but I HAD AN OFFER!

And after following up with all the agents who had partials or fulls, I accepted.

THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING will be published this winter as part of the official launch of Bloomsbury Spark! 

I'm going to be a published author! My little manuscript is going to be a real, live eBook that people can  buy and read and take to the beach or read by the fire or stay up too late to finish. My beloved characters, Ben and Bria, are going to come to life in other people's heads.

I am so thrilled to be a part of Spark! I love what they are doing and Meredith is fantastic. I know my book is in great hands and I CAN NOT WAIT to share it with all of you.

There are so many people who've helped me get here that it would take a whole other post to fit them in, so thank you. Yes, you. Everyone who cheered me through drafting, who like a line I quoted, who read my manuscript, synopsis, query or pitch. For everyone who believed in me and my writing. Thank you. Thank you.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Writing Novels: Storytelling vs Craft

I read a book the other day. The whole 370 some pages. On a day I had the kids by myself, had four hours of sleep and barely had time to shower. It's the second in a series, in a genre I don't particularly care for. There are things about the writing that drive me CRAZY. Like throw my Kindle across the room crazy. The writer must have repeated the same two (stupid) observations about the mental states of the two main characters half a dozen times each. I GET their inner conflicts. You don't need to keep TELLING me, especially using the EXACT same phrasing.

So. Given my very limited free time and the fact that I kind of hate this book, why did I plow through it, devouring words like I just ended a hunger strike?

The characters. Gah, the characters. I BELIEVE in them. I believe in their romance. I desperately need them to end up together and resolve all the tension. I spent days after finishing in the kind of grief haze you experience when you realize a story is finished and you can't go back to the world it pulled you into.

Novels are a strange thing. There are two (at least) very unique elements that go into writing a novel: storytelling and craft. Someone like Stefanie Meyer is a master storyteller. Whatever your feelings about the Twilight series, chances are you have feelings. The relationships she created get under your skin. I read through at an embarrassing clip, with my inner 15-year-old dying of happiness. The rational part of myself sat back in horror, questioning why I could delight in something so obviously flawed.

The reverse of that is someone who is a master at craft, but the story fails to grab me. I KNOW Moby Dick is a classic for a reason, but I loathed reading it. I relish Tolkien's writing, but I finding reading his books a slog. Mind you, it's all subjective. My mom and brother reread The Lord of the Rings trilogy a couple times a year. They'd probably hate Twilight. But the fact remains, novels can be successful even if they only have one of these two elements.

When it comes to writing, I think craft comes easier to me. It can be learned. It can be improved. But storytelling, at least on some level, is innate. While you can memorize story arcs and fit your story into a perfect beat sheet, but without that thing, that intangible quality that makes a story REAL, it's just words.

And then there are those perfect books that somehow hit both aspects and everything is wonderful and there are angelic choirs and you race to Twitter to fangirl all over the poor unsuspecting writers. Those books? Those books are magic.

So I will continue to perfect my craft and search my heart for stories in hope that one day I will write that magic book that makes my readers rush to finish then ache because it's over. Because that's what I dream of as a writer.

What about you, dear readers? Do can you forgive craft for a killer story? Or tolerate a lackluster story for flawless craft?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Falling in Love with YA All Over Again

I haven't blogged in forever. Ooops. I've been traveling, writing and READING! Oh, reading. I think I forgot how much I love reading. It's not like I ever stopped, but I'd slowed. With kids and work and writing, my habit dropped from a book a day to probably two a month. Enter my library's e-book catalog and I am DEVOURING books again.

I feel like I'm playing catch up for the greatest YA hits of the last five years, but oh, is it fun. The wonder, the self-doubt, the heady romance. I've lived a dozen lifetimes between digital pages, falling in love over and over.

And you know what? It's completely reaffirmed everything I love about YA literature. Rationally, I'd never want to be a teen again (would I?), but how I wish I could go to boarding school in Paris or fall in love with my best friend all over again. To be young and having nothing but promise.

With the rise of New Adult, I know a lot of writers that are successfully transitioning to books about college and finding oneself as a grown up (yay for my NA writer friends!). Maybe it's because college was NOT the best years of my life or that I'm not into reading about other people having sex or that actual grown up problems don't captivate me, but NA just doesn't resonate with me the way the angst and drama and intensity of YA does.

As part of my travels this summer, I visited my hometown and that always brings my adolescence (let's pretend I spelled that right the first time) into sharp focus. I never moved back after starting college (because I was silly enough to take summer classes), so all my memories of that place are seen through the hazy lens of teenage idealism. There is a lot of pain there, a lot of disappointment. Broken friendships and failed romance. But how beautiful it looks, how simple, through these grown up eyes.

When I curl up with a book, I want to escape. I want to make the problems of my grown-up, responsibility-saddled life disappear. I want the problems I read about to be real and strong and conquerable (hey! That's a real word!).

YA has a way of making the ordinary MATTER in a way I love. I remember the point in my senior year of high school when I decided I was done pretending I enjoyed reading adult books and went back to the YA section of my library with glee. Sitting in front of that small shelf, surrounded by kids 4-6 years younger than me, I knew I was home.

So give me instalove and characters that skip homework to save the world and best friends and arguments about curfew. Give me bad choices and inconsequential choices that seem like the end of the world. Give me gym class hatred and sneaking into bedrooms for sexless sleepovers. Because those are the fantasies that make this woman's inner 15-year-old swoon.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I am a first kiss to write and the cute, sweet, funny boy with glasses needs to break through my main character's walls before they can get there. Yay YA!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Guess You're Just What I Needed

I'm reading a YA sci fi, my analytical mind clicking away, and my eyes roll of their own volition the moment the love interest is introduced. Of course. He's EXACTLY what our heroine needs. Her other half. The thing that makes her complete. It's overdone. It's predictable. It creates unrealistic expectations. 

Somewhere in the back if my head, I start plotting a different kind of love story. One where the love interest isn't gorgeous and doesn't have half the school pursuing him and hasn't hooked up with every girl who is prettier and more popular than the main character. A love story about choice instead of need. A story about two whole, valuable people who...

That's where it started falling apart. Because we all NEED relationships. Romantic or otherwise. Humans (even introverts who shun social interaction, like me) need other humans. Babies who have their physical needs met but aren't touched still fail to thrive. We NEED people like we need food and water and sleep. 

And we need some people more than we need others. 

This trope - the idea of finding a perfect match to make you whole - is singled out as particularly insulting and dangerous. We want our children to grow up to feel like they are perfect and complete on their own. That's a good thing. There is definitely value in making peace with yourself, with rescuing yourself, but to say any relationship based on need is bad is selling us short. 

I think back to the great friendships in my life and without fail, they each fulfilled a genuine need in my life, aspects of my personality and character that were missing or incomplete. My brutally honest friend who balanced my need to spare feelings at any cost. My wild-at-heart, impulsive friend who pulled me out of anxiety-induced paralysis. My stoic, unflappable guy friend who some how remained my friend through my angst-ridden, hormone-fueled years as a teenage girl. I needed them. They needed me. They were healthy, enriching relationships. They made me better. 

When I met my husband, he fulfilled needs too. He fulfilled an empty ache I didn't know I had. When we were together, I felt more alive. He was gorgeous. I felt like every other boy around him paled in comparison. 

I still do - because I love him and my view of him is always filtered through that lens. Wouldn't it be weird to fall for someone you DON'T find attractive? Isn't that feeling that the sun rises and sets on someone part of what marks romantic love as different from friendship? It is less objective because by nature is says this person is different. How I feel about him is different. How he feels about me is different. If there isn't a spark when we touch, if my stomach doesn't flip-flop just a little, that's kind of sad, isn't it? That's what romance, in real life, is made of.

I get that the trope can feel tired and unrealistic. But I'm starting to think it's not because it's wrong. Maybe we should teach our kids to find someone who compliments them, who challenges their weak spots and encourages their strong ones. Don't find your identity in someone else, but know it's okay for someone to make you feel more like yourself. Maybe it's okay to hold out for the fairy tale. I still don't believe there's only one person in the universe for you, but there are friends who click faster, easier and stronger than others. Why wouldn't romantic relationships work out the same way?

I'm not sure my (still cynical) mind is made up, so tell me: What do you think about the halves-of-a-whole trope in young adult romance? Healthy? Unhealthy? Boring? Dangerous? Maybe just overused? 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Into the Void

Writing is this odd push and pull of the solitary and the communal. We write alone (usually) but for others to read. We create, while the imaginations of readers breathe life into our creations. The words we put on paper are only the start of the story. In is in the minds of others where our worlds grow and our characters bloom.

I'm at a strange place in my journey as a writer. Many of my writing partners have launched careers in the last year - signing with agents, making book deals, self-publishing. I'm thrilled for them. I cheer their successes and fill up my TBR list on Goodreads with their upcoming releases. But for me, it also means I'm kind of, sort of, left behind. NOT THAT THIS IS BAD. I'm not complaining. It's just that with success comes obligations and responsibilities I don't have. For the moment, we're in different places. My list of writers who will read for me at the drop of a hat has shrunk. I've found some new ones, but there's a perception that because I have this group of writer friends, I have readers, critique partners, editors in abundance.

A year ago, that was true. A year ago, I was still toiling away on my beloved empath story. I believed in that story enough to keep trying, even when I should have let go. For whatever reasons, I had more readers than I knew what to do with for that story. The feedback was great. I'd write a new scene and have five people asking to see it by nightfall. I got spoiled.

Now, as I'm tip-toeing into querying for my YA contemporary romance, I feel woefully unprepared. Three people have read this story other than me. I've had in-line edits for the first 50 pages only. And it terrifies me. What if it sucks? What if I'm sending it out too early? What if those three readers, whom I admire and respect and appreciate, were sparing my feelings and it needs a complete overhaul?

With each rejection (there's been a couple already), I doubt more. I analyze and reanalyze every word of every email. Agents always state personal preference, but what if I need to take every piece of criticism and rewrite the whole thing?

That's what happened with my last manuscript and I'm not willing to let it happen again. I LOVE this story. I'm happy with it's shape, it's arc, it's resolution. Is it perfect? No, but I don't think it needs major rewrites (unless I rewrite it in first person, but that's a whole different post).

The problem is that I feel like I'm shouting into a void. With limited feedback, I have no external validation. The self-doubt is creeping in, not because there's cause for it, but because there's so little to combat it. If a tree falls in a forest but no one hears, does it make a sound? Does my fluffy little love story matter if no one ever reads it?

This is one of the angstiest posts I've ever written. Again, I don't mean to complain. But perhaps one of you, my readers, feel like you're yelling into the void. You're not alone. I'm standing there next to you. Maybe we're all there next to you. Maybe JK Rowling still feels like she's throwing word out into the world with nothing coming back. Maybe this is one of pesky artistic temperament things. We crave validation, we fear criticism, we are our own worst enemies.

Whatever the reason, it's not enough to keep me from yelling, even if an echo never comes back. I'll keep writing because I have stories to tell. Some may be terrible. Some may be wonderful. Some may rot on my hard drive (here's looking at you, high fantasy). But I will keep writing. And you should too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Snippet

I started playing with a new story this week that's actually coming to me in FIRST PERSON PRESENT. I've never written in first! With my first MS, I tried first for about ten pages before I started going crazy. All the YA books I'd read recently were in first, so I wanted to try. That story was so much about atmosphere and scope. It didn't work in first.

But this story kind of seems to be working. I'm not really trying to finish it, just kind of poking at it as things come. It's a YA mystery with a small supernatural element. The main character, Addy, knows when someone is going to die but can't do anything to prevent it. This is a rough, unfinished scene between her and her best guy friend, Josiah (Josie). Shawn is her ex. I think that's all you need to know. Enjoy!


Josie looks at me and it’s the look I always wanted from Shawn. It’s a gaze that sees me, drinks me in like I am the only water he’ll ever need. Like I’m a treasure.
His thumb sweeps across my bottom lip on it’s way to my cheek. The fire and ice it leaves in its wake scares me, but not nearly as much as whatever in boiling inside me.
“I don’t understand,” is all I can get out.
A smile creeps across his lips and I can’t look away. I can’t tear my eyes away from his mouth.
“Don’t you?” His long fingers work their way through my hair, coming to rest at the back of my Neck. He tips my head back to face him.
I do understand. “How long...?”
He bends until his forehead grazes mine. “I don’t know.”
“How can you not know? This is huge and life changing and...” I’m panicking because if he doesn’t kiss me, I’ll die,  and if he does kiss me, I’m ruining that special thing I’ve only ever had with Josie and why does he smell so freaking good?
He moves to speak into my ear. Not a whisper, but a hushed, reverent church voice. “I don't think you wake up one day in love,” he saysI think you wake up and realize that thing you've felt for a long time is called love.”
The panic burst into a zillion butterflies, all scrambling to escape my stomach and soar, taking my heart with them.
Because now I know.
I press up on my toes, gathering Josie’s shirt into my fists.
I sigh the moment our lips meet. This is what a kiss is, this feeling of our lips and tongues and bodies anticipating and dancing and leading and following.It’s a fencing bout, a waltz, a synchronized swim. For every movement, ever subtle shift I make, he matches with his own.
I’m lost.
His hand slip from my hair, down my back, pressing me against him. As if I could be any closer. As if he could press us together and we’d never have to inhabit our own, solitary bodies again.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Importance of Fairytales

Never do I feel as impotent as I do on days like today, when tragedy erupted in Boston. I'm not a doctor or a nurse or a bomb technician. I can't even give blood. Instead, I write pretty words. It feels foolish, frivolous, irreverent. How, in a world where people deliberately inflict pain on each other, can I justify devoting my time, creativity and energy to making up stories? How unimportant my work feels some days. But -




Art might not save lives in the way surgery does, but it does indeed save life. Wrapping our souls and hearts and minds in beauty binds broken spirits like casts bind broken bones. Music and paintings and stories tell us we are not alone, that we matter. They tell us there is evil and darkness and hatred in this world, that at times the darkness win. But they also tell us life and light and love can defeat evil.

Hope rises from beauty, beauty from hope. My creative souls, what you do is vitally important. It matters. You matter. When evil destroys, don't allow it to keep you from creating, from reflecting the light of a loving Creator back into a dark and lonely world.

It is right and it is good to grieve. We, as humans, fail to live up to the bright promise of our potential. Violence and cruelty are all too real. But we cannot allow them to keep us from the work laid out before us, be it to run into fires to extinguish flames or to arrange 12 simple notes into endless, breathtaking arrangements.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Instead of retreating today, create something beautiful and share it. Take care of the people around you, even the ones you might not like. Let your life be a force for creation and not destruction. That is how evil is defeated.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Am Not What I Do

I've lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade. It's a city of jaded optimists, of waiters so run down by failed auditions they almost don't care about the script in their back pocket. Almost. It's a city of broken dreams, overnight successes and an ever-present feeling of if I just tried a little harder, a little longer.

It's exhausting. 

In ten years, my husband rose from lowly errand boy to editor in a career path he never really wanted. He got married, earned a degree, bought a home, had kids. Always, through everything else, he's pursued his real passions on weekends and after long days at his job. Almost everyone I know in Los Angeles is the same way - day shift, night shift. Pursue your dreams amid real life.

Last week, after a 14 hour day on set, he came home from his first big break. He'd left the house before the kids woke up and come home after they'd finally fell asleep. After pursuing this dream for so long, he questioned if the cost was worth it. Then he said:

I am not what I do

My husband is a lot wiser than me. I don't know why I'm shocked by his ability to stop me in my tracks with a single sentence. But that simple phrase rocked me. 

I am not what I do

A query rejection is not a rejection of me.

I am not what I do

Shelving a manuscript does not make me a failure.

I am not what I do

When I'm covered in spit up and toddler crafts, I still more than Mom.

I am not what I do

Who I am is comprised of so much more than the activities that fill my day and the passions I pursue by night. I am more  than my job and my relationships. What I do to pay bills or to relieve stress or to entertain my kids are not all there is to me. 

It's so hard to separate the things I do, especially creatively, from the person I know I am. It's so easy to lose my identity in the struggle for success. In a place where stars are made and destroyed overnight, it's almost impossible to know get caught up in the race for recognition.

But at the end of the day, what I do is just that. I am still me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Snippet

Saturday is one of my slowest days for blog traffic, so if I post something, you're all less likely to read. Which makes it perfect for sharing things like snippets of writing that have no story. I wrote this on my phone one night before bed. I have no idea who they are or what happened the night before, but I like it. Enjoy :)

She rolled the cuffs up once, twice, three times. The sleeves still came nearly to her wrists. She'd never seen him wear a button down, much less the crisp white cotton she was now wearing.

"You're up." Sleep roughened his voice, matching the scruff on his face.

"I took a shower. I hope that's okay."

A slow smile pulled up on corner of his mouth as his eyes raked over her.

Her fingers went to her damp hair, teasing it back into place.

"The shirt looks better on you than it does on me."

"I'm sorry. I didn't know what else to do and after..." The memory of the previous night still came back too sharp to verbalize.

"No, it's fine." He moved into the kitchen, wearing just a pair of plaid pajama pants. The angle of the early sunlight deepened the shadows surrounding the muscles carved into his chest and stomach.

"You didn't get those working out, did you?" She accepted the cup of coffee he offered, wrapping both her hands around the mug and taking a sip.

"Define working out."

She tilted her head to one side, watching him move through his day, preparing his breakfast and gathering his morning news.

"You're not vain."

He laughed and her heart damn near exploded. He looked like a different man. The way the corners of his eyes crinkled along familiar lines told her he used to laugh, but she'd never heard such a sound before.

She vowed to hear it again.

"I train hard," he said. "What about you?" He leaned against the counter, crossing one foot over the other. "I can't imagine you in yogalates or some spinning class surrounded by middle aged women in spandex."

She set down her coffee and moved into a fluid defensive position. "Jujitsu. Since I was twelve."

"So I didn't need to step in last night?"

A chill skittered across her shoulders. "I didn't say I was any good. Besides, I'm not sure jujitsu works against something like that."

"Is your camera okay?"

"About that..."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Tupperware Drawer

Life is chaos. The more people you love and the more things you go, the more chaotic it gets. My brain thrives on chaos at the same time it demands order and reason. I need background noise to focus (music, TV, etc), but I have to set the volume at an even number or a number that ends in five. I'm serious.

With each major change in my life (marriage, jobs, kids, hobbies), I'm learned to let go of more of my perfectionist tendencies. I used to iron my sheets. Who has time for that? Right now I'm fairly certain my sheets have had baby spit up, possible worse, on them for the last two night. I'll change them as soon as I have two free hands, no one sleeping on them and room in the washer. So basically never.
But even in the happy chaos of life, I crave method in the madness. You wouldn't know it looking in my closet or under the bathroom sink. But my Tuperware drawer? That is a thing of beauty.

Tupperware - or whatever you call the plastic stuff you store leftover meatloaf and the other half of the can of pineapple in - is inherently messy. Every couple years, someone one develops a new way to keep lids together or stack sizes in a rational fashion, but they're gimmicks and by the time your chicken soup is cool enough to put away, you're tearing apart the whole drawer because you can't find the right lid for the right size and forget it, no one eats the leftovers anyway.

Or at least that's been my experience.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered that no matter how disorganized and unpredictable my life is, I can remain calm if I know my Tupperware drawer is in order. I know it's crazy. But the state of that drawer has become a kind of bellwether for my sanity. When lids start to disappear and the kiddie cups spread, my grip on life becomes tenuous.

And I think this is okay. Having one spot, however hidden, I can keep together lets me be flexible with the rest of my life. I think we all need a Tupperware drawer, some small, simple thing that we can look at and say "THIS at least is in order." Because life is chaos and we all crave order.

What about you? Do you have a "Tupperware drawer" in your life? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Battle of Bedtime

We took our positions on the field as the clash of wills entered hour three, an epic battle to test the mettle of both sides.

A great war cry rose rose from the trenches, a harrowing sound that chilled the blood of all who heard it. Weakened and battle-weary, I forced myself to fight on against all odds.

My enemy grinned, a knowing gleam in her bleary eyes. I called for reinforcements but he soon succumbed to fatigue, too broken to fight on.

I gathered the last of my energy and pulled out my final weapon: food. Flailing like a berserker on PCP, she fought even that attempt until, at last, her tiny fists uncoiled, giving way to the inevitable. Her eyelids fluttered closed, leaving no trace of her fury behind.

Bruised and bloodied from her frantic clawing, I stared at her limp body, afraid to breath lest I wake the sleeping beast.

Monday, March 11, 2013


I normally devote this blog to talking about writing - my journey toward publication and the lessons I've learned along the way. But the funny thing about writing is that it spills over into every aspect of my life. It's something I never fully turn off or put down. I once heard the life of a writer described as having homework every night for the rest of your life and that's true, at least for me. So when something major happens in my real life, it affects my writing life because they really are one in the same.

Tilt! Flat spot. Carseat head-righting contraption. 30lbs of rice.

On Friday I took my baby girl in for a physical therapy evaluation for something called torticollis. I don't like to call it a condition because that sounds far more catastrophic than it is. Basically, the muscles on the right side of her neck are tight, which causes her head slump forward and tilt toward her right shoulder. Her case is somewhat unique because it's been present from birth and she has no risk factors. First borns, multiples, babies who have long or difficult deliveries and the use of forcepts are all known risk factors. Heavy use of car seats, swings and bouncers can cause torticollis when babies spend too much time in them. Torticollis can cause flat spots because tort babies favor one side while sleeping, most often on the back of the head. If it gets bad enough, a helmet can be required to allow the flat spots to round out. Most tort babies resist spending time on their bellies, making their condition worse.

But my baby girl hasn't been typical a day in her life.  She is my second, a single birth and I had a ridiculously short labor and delivery with no complications. She hates the carseat and only recently learned to tolerate the swing and bouncer for short times. And finally, she loves being on her belly. She'd never be on her back if she could help it. So when we got the initial paperwork from our pediatrician, I thought we were doing great and might be able to skip physical therapy.

Unfortunately, her love of tummy time has actually made her condition worse. She has flatish spots on the back of the right side if her head and another on the front of the left side, most likely from how she was positioned in the womb. The best way to fix this is to have her sleep on the back of her head. We've waited four and a half months for her to start rolling onto her belly so we can let her sleep like that, only to be told she has to sleep in her back even longer. 

No parent ever wants to hear their child is less than perfect. Torticollis is a minor thing, especially in her case, and usually resolves by the time a child is walking. Compared to what many parents face, it's nothing. But for us, it's the end of intuitive parenting. We have to think about how she sleeps, how she plays, how she's positioned at every moment. There are at home exercises and physical therapy twice a week starting tomorrow. I bought 30lbs of rice and spent last night sewing bags to hold her in place while sleeping. It's not a big deal, but it is life-changing. 

So while I will still be writing my usual attempts at inspiring creativity, I'll probably have some posts about her progress because it makes me feel better to talk about it, to lay my thoughts out in an orderly fashion. Perhaps someone else will find inspiration in this part of my journey too. After all, isn't that why we tell stories? So we feel less alone?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Writing Toolbox

One of the great things about writing is that I can do it anywhere, any time and without spending a fortune on tools (unlike my photography habit...) There are, however, some tools I've picked up along the way that make writing easier. For hardware, I love my MacBook for the backlit keyboard, my iPhone because I can do just about anything on it and my Kindle for reading/listening to MSs during editing. For software, I just use Word. But then there's a whole host of other tools I love thanks to the internet.

Evernote: Evernote syncs between my smartphone and my laptop, so I can jot down ideas for new stories, save bits of dialog for current WiPs and edit completed manuscripts. I save a "note" for each chapter of my MS, so I can work from anywhere. It's going to wear out my thumbs, but it lets me get a lot more writing done.

Dropbox: Every writer should have a dropbox. Everyone. It automatically backs up anything in your dropbox folder, so you never lose your work. It even saves versions, so if you do save over something, you can go back and find it. I'm a huge fan of my dictionary and thesaurus, but having them online is a lot simpler. is the best online version I've found.

Beat Sheet: I'm not a plotter by nature, but the beat sheet is a very useful tool for getting a rough idea of your major moments in a story and where they should land. It's also very helpful during revisions. Hit a slow spot? Check to see if you're missing a major beat or need to move one up. Evernote doesn't track word count, so if I'm working toward a specific goal, I use this site on my phone to see how I'm doing. I found this one while looking for the previous site! It gives you the most frequently used words in a block of text. Great for finding those crutch words we all have.

Wordle: A fun visual tool to see what words you're over using. It creates a word jumble from a block of text, so it's like a quick snapshot of your story.

Lulu Titlescorer: Find out the statistical probability of your title becoming a best seller! Based on actually scientific research, it rates your title.

Google: Everyone knows this one, but there are a lot of options that aren't as well known. I search the news section for info beyond the basic wikipedia entry - like how long it takes for a library to reopen after a fire or what happens when lightning strikes a power substation. I also use the photo search a lot. When I find an unsourced photo on Pinterest, I use the image URL to track back to the original source.

So those are a few of my favorite tools. Do you have any you want to share?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

You guys remember how I wrote a book in a month? Yeah, that was awesome.

I haven't written a word since.

Some of my excuses are good. I got to meet up with some of my fellow writers on Saturday and talk shop.

Aren't we adorable?

I updated the blog (hello, Beautiful!). Check out the projects tab for more info on what I'm working on, including links to queries and first pages.

Some of my excuses are valid. My kids have not been napping well and I came down with a vicious head cold over the weekend. I slept for a grand total of three hours last night. Three. I'm a zombie with less than seven.

Some of my excuses are lame. I don't know what to work on next. Revisions? Something new? I feel rudderless and that has led to paralysis.

But all these thing are excuses. I wrote a WHOLE BOOK under the same circumstances and I did it by not making excuses. Ever. I wrote every day, no matter what.

I'm okay with taking breaks. They're healthy and much needed. What I'm not okay with is making excuses and avoiding something because it's intimidating or overwhelming or uncomfortable. I suck at making decisions but at some point I have to just go.

It won't be today. Today I'm going to sleep when the kids nap. But tomorrow? So long as my head isn't floating away and my sinuses aren't about to explode and I have everything just right...

Actually, those are more excuses. I have to write today.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Confessions of a Valentine's Grinch

Despite my love of all things romantic, I hate Valentine's Day. Any day that says my husband needs to spend $50 on a dozen wilted roses or he's a failure sucks. For singles, it's a day to rub their status in their faces. Even when I was happily single, I felt that way. For those of us in relationships, there are layers of unrealistic expectations and disappointment. So there it is. I'm a Valentine's Day grinch.

I love love. I'm a huge fan of marriage. St. Valentine was awesome (if you don't know the legend, he married couples in secret after the government banned marriage under the belief that single men made better soldiers). But I don't like holidays that make so many people feel bad.

But, like some many things, having children has altered my view of even this day. The other day I heard Timeless by The Airborne Toxic Event and I choked up, thinking of my children in the backseat. Because those two bundles of sweetness are the living proof of the love my husband and I have for each other. After we're gone, (hopefully) our children and their children will live on, making our love, in it's way, timeless.

I came home that day with plans to make Valentine's with my toddler for his friends. Because even if I hate the modern, commercialized version of Valentine's Day, I love what it represents at it's core. That love should be celebrated and praised. That even when the candy is eaten and the flowers are dead, love lives on. Because I want my children to believe in love and in marriage.

I still made sure my husband knows better than to spend money on flowers that will cost a third as much the next day, but perhaps my hatred is fading. And that's good because while there is always room for more love in this world, hate only wears me down.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Mean Times

My husband and I recently gave away our first set of dishes. Not our wedding dishes - the overprices, impractical things we received as gifts - but the $25 kitchen-in-a-box dishes that carried him from bachelorhood to marital bliss. We gave them to two motherless college boys who make you say "oh, honey," to just about everything they do. It's a good home and I'm happy to make room in my cupboards. Yet I admit that part of me is sad to see them go. Not because of the dishes, but because of what they carried us through.

In the space between when a dream is born and when it comes into being is what we call the Mean Times. We came up with this phrase in part because those times are cruel, but also because what you do in the mean time is important. The Mean Times come and go through out life. The summer between high school and college was a Mean Time for me, a space of expectation and waiting. The two years of our engagement, particularly the 15 months we spent on separate sides of the country, was perhaps the meanest of the Mean Times. They come in smaller stretches too. The time between an interview and a job offer. The time between when a query is sent and when an agent responds. The time between typing Chapter 1 and when a book appears on bookstore shelves.

The waiting hurts. The waiting teaches. The waiting tests our commitment to the dream. Those dishes, as simple as they are, fed us through our newly wed years, through buying our first home, the births of our children. They saw us through unemployment, sickness and celebration. Now, at 30 with a mortgage, two children and a beautiful set of service for 12, I no longer need the slightly chipped dishes that remain of the original set of four. Somehow I think I'm supposed to feel like I've arrived somewhere. Like I'm a grown up now.

Looking back at 21, at my newly wed dreams, I realize that the Mean Times will always be with me. There will always be another dream, another hope, another aspiration. I will always be waiting. And what I do with the space in between is vitally important to who I am and what I can accomplish. If I were to wait until everything is perfect and in place, until I've arrived, I'll reach my destination missing the luggage I need to stay or I'll never reach it at all.

As you move through life and search for meaning, value, purpose, don't neglect the lessons of the Mean Times. Never be in such a rush to meant a goal that you fail to prepare. Embrace the Mean Times and all they can teach you. You can't know the value of a chipped blue and white plate until you pass it along and realize that season in your life has passed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


This is kind of old news by now, but I finished! I wrote a 50,000 word book in one month! It was exhausting, but far less time consuming than I thought.

My goal was 1,600 words a day. Every. Single. Day. Of course some days I wrote far less. Some days far more. But I wrote EVER SINGLE DAY. This might be normal for some of you, but not for me. I have a husband, two kids, a day job and a house! Weekends and evenings are usually very full for me. But I made a commitment to write as much  as I could every day, without ignoring my other responsibilites. You'll have to ask my husband how well I did at that, but I don't think anything went TOO neglected.

Another part of the reason I was able to finish so fast is because this was a contemporary romance - it's set in the real world, in current time, in a real place (names changed to protect identities, etc). When I write speculative fiction, there's world building that takes a lot of time and energy. The hows and whys and whatfors take a lot of thought, even if most of it doesn't end up in a story. For this, I put on angsty teen music, reverted to my teenage self and had at it. These characters spoke to me loud and clear!

My family ate a lot of Crock Pot meals and I didn't blog or do photography stuff much. When my husband worked late, I stayed up and wrote. If something came to me while out, I typed it with my thumb on my phone. I skipped a few showers and barely watched TV. But I wrote a novel in a single month!

What happens next? I have no idea. I've passed it along to a trusted CP and I'm following up on some fact checking things (side note: I know NOTHING about high school football and would be utterly lost without the Twitter Hivemind). I think I'll query it, but since it's so far outside my normal genre, I'm a little unsure of how to proceed. I'm about 40% through reading it just to read and I love it. I'm really proud of how it turned out. I love these characters and this story, so I'd love to see it out in the world. Until then, I'm just excited I finished!

P.S. I'll have my playlist for this story on the YA Misfits blog tomorrow, along with more about the actual plot, so if you're curious, check that out!

Friday, January 18, 2013


My sweet baby girl joined our family on October 19, so we're just one day shy of her 3-month birthday. For those without much experience with newborns, those three months are often regarded as the fourth trimester. It's arguably with hardest three months of anyone's life (although tell that to a mom with a toddler...) and very trying for both mom and baby. In the midst of that chaos, I've written almost as much as I wrote in the previous year. I finished the first draft of SIGNAL HILL, a project I started last January, and I'm more than half through my first draft of my new story, THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING.  You know what I've learned? You have as much time as you make.

Here's the thing: I needed to take it slow last year. My pregnancy literally drained the life out of me. I fell asleep putting my toddler down for naps more often than not, then crashed the minute he went to bed at night. I had horrid morning (all-day) sickness, my pelvic bones separated too far too fast and Sweet Lump decided to settle on my sciatic nerve about halfway through. Fun stuff. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with needing 10 months to finish a 53k draft. It just got to me. I know I can write faster.

When the idea for FALLING came to me over the holidays, I knew I wanted to write it as fast as I could. When I sat down to write the first page, I wrote almost 3k in one day. Last fall, 500 words made for a good day. With that kind of jump on things, I decided to try to write the first draft by the end of January. Aiming for 50k, I'd need to write 1,613 words a day to finish. With the kids napping at the same time most afternoons, I get about two hours a day to right. That's a totally management goal.

But life is never so simple. We've had sickness and visitors and kids who refuse to nap.

That's where discipline comes in. I might not hit my word count goal every day, but I'm only about 500 words off from my goal for the month. If I write less one day, I make it up as soon as I can. If my husband works late, I write. If the kids nap long, I write. I type between 300-600 words each day on my smart phone utilizing an app called Evernote. It automatically syncs with my computer so I just have to copy it over to Word when I sit down to write on my laptop again. I keep writing, even if I don't have a whole lot of inspiration. It's almost a mania.

The fun part of writing like this is how immediate the story feels. The characters are clear and the story crisp because I'm working on it all the time. I don't need to reread old scenes to remind myself who these characters are or how they'll react. It's all so fresh.

It's exhausting. I have no idea what I'll do come February. But it's fun to try something new. I need a challenge right now (since parenting obviously isn't enough!) and getting this out so fast is definitely that!

Do goals work for you? Can you set - and meet - your own deadlines or do they just make you feel guilty when you miss them? I've been on both sides and I have to say, I like meeting them better ;)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Of Birds, Cows and Cats

I heard a story in church this morning:

One winter, a bird lay on the ground, nearly frozen to death. His icy wings were too heavy to lift it from the frozen ground. In the midst of his suffering, when he had nearly given up hope, a cow came along and crapped on him.

The bird's despair deepened. Not only was he frozen, he now also smelled like manure.

Then the warmth of the manure began to warm the little bird. No longer on the verge of death, he began to sing, his heart bubbling over with joy.

The bird's song drew the attention of a nearby cat. The cat hurried to the poor bird's side and began to dig, freeing the bird from its foul smelling trap.

Then the cat ate the bird.

There are two lessons to this story:

1.) Not everyone who drops manure on you means you harm

2.) Not everyone who digs you out means you well

Think about the people in your lives. Who are the cats? Who are the cows? Don't fight constructive crap and beware of cunning help.