Thursday, December 8, 2016

December Days are Here Again

Happy December, everyone!

So sorry (again) for my scant posts this year. Let's see if I can catch you up!

As of yesterday, I finished the rough draft of my weird little WIP. I totally rushed through the ending just to have something down on paper, and as a whole, the manuscript is *probably* the worst thing I've ever written 😒, but at least now I'll have something to work with when I eventually revise! I was juggling a lot in this book—a huge cast of characters, landscapes/settings that I didn't totally work out/have clear in my head, and an unwieldy plot that doesn't really make sense as it stands. But. You can't revise a blank page, as they say, and for now I am quite happy to have completed my eighth novel!

At least it looks good! I ran out of white paper, so the last quarter is green, haha

And now, as I like to do, here's some stats for Novel No. 8:

Word Count: 66,110
Begun: August 3rd
Finished: December 7th (I was only working on it off and on)
Number of Dangling Plot Threads: At least twelve
Number of Badly Handled Plot Twists: Two
Number of Badly Developed Characters: All of them!! 😐
Number of Times I forgot I had a Whole Army Stashed in a Cave: Too many to count!!

We finally got to bring Cleo home on Saturday, and are currently in trying-to-convince-her-and-Bertie-to-be-friends mode. So far Bertie seems into it, and Cleo just wants to kill him……… they're in separate living quarters right now, but we're trying our best to introduce them slowly! Cleo is THE SWEETEST cat around people, but we think she had some baaaaad encounters with other cats when she was a stray, so we gotta convince her that Bertie is a friend!

Hubs and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary in October! We went to San Diego, and one of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Maritime Museum—we got to wander about on a bunch of old sailing ships, which was super awesome!!

That's the HMS Surprise behind us!
So anyhoo, that's a bit of what's been going on in my neck of the woods lately! Currently gearing up for Christmas, and enjoying the lovely cool weather I waited sooooooooo long for.

Until next time!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

WIP Love—Halfway Home!

Earlier in the year, I had a weird novel idea sparked by—I kid you not—watching that show Little Big Shots hosted by Steve Harvey (super great show!!).

Things sorta spiraled out of control from there, and whilst waiting on other things, I decided to plot and outline this weird (WEIRD) story. I officially started writing it on August 4th, and have been working on it off and on since then, time permitting. As of this evening, I am OFFICIALLY halfway to my projected word count of 75,000!! *confetti*

Look, I made a mini white board out of a picture-frame shaped like a whale! :-D
Anyway, I'm having a lot of fun with it, even though I'm definitely remembering why revising is SO, SO, SO necessary once you hit that final period on your rough draft…

I'm also getting to the point in the story that excites me the most, which is pretty awesome. But holy cow, I don't think I've ever juggled this many characters before, I'm writing in first-person present, and I'm doing my darnedest to keep SEKRETZ from the reader, which is a super interesting plot device I've never attempted before.

I don't know if this acrobat-turned-assassin-magical-boy-army-of-bears thing will ever see the light of day, but at least it's keeping me out of trouble (sort of) for now, right??

Happy writing, all!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Writing & Reading & Minecraft (oh my!)

Hey everyone!

Just another little quick update… Apologies for the dearth of posts lately! Sometimes it's easier to say nothing at all than to come up with random things to write that aren't what you *really* want to write about but can't yet for whatever reason. (Okay, that was cryptic!!)

But let's see, here's some of the things I've been up to lately:

  • I wrote Part One of Weird New Novel and got up to 26,046 words! It's strange and not well-written yet and confusing and there is literally zero character development, and most of it is spent wandering in a cave, but I think there might be something there anyway…… maybe?? In other words, it's an UNCOMPLETED ROUGH DRAFT. Hoping to get back to it soon! :-)
  • I hit my 30 books reading challenge on GoodReads and am still going strong, which is good, because I have a lot more I want to read before the year is over!! I just finished THE CROWN'S GAME, by Evelyn Skye and I loooooooooooved it.
  • On a related note, my three favorite books of the year so far are:
    • THE WINNER'S KISS, by Marie Rutkoski
    • MY LADY JANE, by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows
    • THE CROWN'S GAME, by Evelyn Skye
  • I got to meet up with some lovely Arizona-based YA writers a few weeks ago, and it was a blast. I had no idea there were so many of us stranded out here in the desert! :-)
  • Hubs and I have been playing a lot of Minecraft lately. It's awesome. The other night we wandered away from our base and almost got hopelessly lost forever, but made it back in the end. I tamed a couple of cows and some sheep and am gonna try for chickens next!! :-D
  • Am currently obsessed with this song, and also this band in general:
And hmmm, I think that's about it! Happy reading and writing and living your life-ing. Until next time!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer Sun + Writing Update

Well it's summer, ladies and gents—smack dab in the middle of, in fact. It's hot here. Feels like it's gonna continue to be hot forever (and it kind of is). But I DO live in a place nicknamed THE VALLEY OF THE SUN, so I guess that's to be expected. I super need to stop checking the weather forecast, as it's supposed to be 110+ until basically THE END OF TIME.

Um, I mean… I do super well in the heat and stuff.

But complaints about heat is not why you come to this blog (that's what my Twitter is for!!). How about some writing updates??

I had a lovely time at the mini writing retreat in June! I had more work to do on my fairy tale retelling than I thought, but I DID finish it a few weeks later. I'm super, super thrilled with how this novel came out—I'm falling more and more in love with it the more I work on it, which is the opposite of what usually happens………

It's so interesting to watch a novel grow and change and morph into something you couldn't have initially imagined it would ever be. This particular novel was sparked by a dream I had about a girl riding a reindeer across the ice being chased by wolves. I realized it needed to be a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and decided to write a short story, hoping to keep it under 10K and submit it to a contest. Long story short (hahaha—I should say SHORT STORY LONG), my "short story" is now an 89K word novel. I'm really bad at short stories, you guys. (Incidentally, that initial scene from my dream never made it into the book…)

But my, I'm rambling. All that to say, this novel has gone through several incarnations, and the latest one is my absolute favorite—I love it to bits!!

In other news, I'm slowly starting to outline a new novel that feels super plot-heavy and ambitious for me, but also intrigues me deeply (so I have to try it, right??). It has: lots of characters, betrayal, winter, an evil king, a prince who can control animals, a kick-butt female acrobat, secretsssss, and many other things!! We shall see how it comes out when I eventually start writing!

Okay, I think that's about it for now. Stay cool out there, everyone!

ETA: Here's a guest blog I wrote over on Adventures in YA Publishing about rejection, going easy on yourself, and how it's okay to take things personally! Hope you enjoy! :-)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mini Update

Gearing up for a mini writing retreat starting tomorrow, and I'm getting so excited! It'll be amazing to escape the heat for a bit (and my has it been HOT!!) and surround myself with forest and books and writing and tea!

I have yet to finish Draft #3 of my East of the Sun retelling, but I've made it through the tricksy middle part and the end is in sight!! I'll definitely be able to finish over the weekend and hopefully be able to start something else as well. Torn between starting a brand new novel and working on a revision for an older novel that won't quite leave me alone…… We shall see what happens!

I've been re-reading Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series over the last couple of weeks and those books are just SO BEAUTIFUL. Her skillful use of language and imagery and world building is mind-blowing. I adored re-reading The Tombs of Atuan especially, and kind of want to read it every day. It's so powerful and beautiful and pierced me deeply. I aspire to evoke that kind of emotion in my own writing. I'm also realizing why perhaps my characters have a penchant to philosophize on long journeys…… :-D

Okay. I must see to the laundry and peck away at my novel before popping off to teach six piano lessons… Until next time!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Phoenix Comic Con 2016!!

Walking from the parking garage.
Already toasty!
So I had a FANTASTIC time at the Phoenix Comic Con on Saturday, despite the fact that Phoenix was breaking heat records!! Lemme see if I can properly recap (can you tell I’m avoiding working on my book right now??):

So the first thing we did was to wait in line to get our pic with Billie! Line was long but moved really quickly—they REALLY shove you through the photo line FAST! I was getting soooooo nervous but I needn’t have worried. It went SO fast that there wasn’t even time for nervousness! We stepped up when it was our turn, and Billie looked at my shirt and was all “Let me have a look at this” and then she moved my hair (BILLIE PIPER TOUCHED MY HAIR) so she could read it (!!!) and was all “I love that!” and then we took our picture and I HAD MY ARM AROUND BILLIE PIPER (!!) and then it was over! But she was so lovely and kind and I can’t even imagine smiling like that for so long!!
Our picture with Billie Piper!!!!
Moisturize Me!
After that we wandered around the autograph/pictures room, which had some cool stuff to look at (they had a whole Doctor Who area with a TARDIS and it was super awesome), and then we went out to try and catch Billie’s panel. We barreeeelllly made it in but we DID and it was SO NICE to sit down for a while!

The panel was a fan Q&A session and Billie was SO LOVELY all throughout even though she seemed a little uncomfortable to be up there by herself at first.

Billie's Panel
The fans asked all kinds of questions, like what was her favorite Doctor Who episode (she said TOOTH AND CLAW and FATHER’S DAY), that she remembers every moment of filming DOOMSDAY, that she and David Tennant perfected kissing (haha!!), that she wants to see what’s happening with Rose and the meta-crises doctor (she imagines they argue a lot and they eventually split up and Rose gets together with the real Doctor!!), that sometimes at cons she gets marriage proposals and doesn’t know what to say so she just says yes (she said she’d had one earlier in the day!), that of all the characters she’s played she’s most like/most connects with Rose. There were a few kids that asked her questions and she was always like “Bye darling” when they finished and it was SO SO CUTE.

Billie was definitely the main highlight of the day!! I’d wanted to go to a YA/MG panel but didn’t make it in time, and the exhibition hall was SO CROWDED I might’ve had my fill of people for the next several years. But BILLIE WAS WORTH IT!!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Revision Revision Revision (+ Comic Con Draweth Nigh!!!)

Happy very last day in May! I can't believe how fast 2016 has gone so far. 0_o Seriously, can someone slow it down a bit??

Just a brief update for today… I'm hard at work on the third draft of my East of the Sun retelling, and I **think** it's going pretty well. I had a CRAZY MAD AWESOME idea that I'm suuuupppper excited about incorporating into this draft. If I can pull it off, it could be pretty amazing. We shall see!!

I'm bouncing around in this revision, which is kind of unusual for me, but I want to make sure and hit all my problem spots/new sections whilst I'm bursting with ideas about them. It's definitely working so far! My plan is to add in all the new bits, untangle my middle (yes, AGAIN!!), and then do a pass from beginning to end where I look closer at things like word choice, pacing, and whether or not all the new parts make any sense.

This could be over-ambitious, but I'm planning to have a completed third draft DONE in a week or two. Some friends and I are heading north for a mini writing retreat in a week and a half and I'd LOVE to have it finished by then. I'm getting super antsy to start drafting a new novel (which I'm calling affectionately EVIL COLLECTOR KING in lieu of an actual working title), and it would be awesome to get a solid start on it during the retreat, but we shall see………

In other news, hubs and I are going to Phoenix Comic Con this weekend!!! I'm sooooooo excited because:

  1. I've never been to any kind of con before and I've always wanted to
THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!!!!!! I'm sure I'll be sweaty and awkward and nervous, but I don't even care because BILLIE PIPER AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I hope my nerdy t-shirt comes in time. :-) :-) :-)

P. S. It's supposed to be 117 on Saturday and I'M ONLY LEAVING MY HOUSE BECAUSE BILLIE PIPER.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Exploratory Drafts and Revising

Just got back from a lovely visit with my sister and her husband in Omaha. It was a beautiful trip, filled with lotsa caffeine and laughs and green growing things.  Back in the arid land that is home now, alas………

On the roster for me: I'm about to launch into another round of revision for my fairytale novel! Just got notes back from my fantastical CP Jen, and her insights and suggestions are brilliant, as always—I'm continually in awe at the perspective another set of eyes can give you. Ack she's just the best!! :) :)

Revising is so weird, you guys.

I outline fairly extensively before I start writing, and yet at the end of my first (or second or third) drafts, my story structure/character arcs(/and, let's face it, PLOTS) still need a lot of revising. Why is that?

Not all writers' processes are the same, of course, but for me I think it has to do with my need to write through something before I know if it's working or not. It's like I have to explore THIS version of my world/story/characters first of all, even if it's not the correct/final version—maybe specifically BECAUSE it's not the correct/final version. You really do have to start somewhere!

I feel like each progressive draft you explore a little more—delving into this storyline or that storyline, following the threads of your characters and plots, trying to untangle them. You have to keep chipping away at the marble, circling closer and closer to what your story was meant to be in the first place. It's like getting your eyes checked for the first time—you have to reject a lot of blurry lenses before you find the ones that make everything clear.

Anyway, all that to say, I was struggling a lot in Draft 2 with the middle section of my novel. I got through it, but I knew it still wasn't working and I had no clue how to make it better. That's where a good critique partner comes in!! Jen pointed out a few things to do/try, and it's like a lightbulb clicked on in my head! Obviously it's going to take more work (and I'm sure hair-tearing and ice-cream eating and Netflix-bingeing) to iron out these wrinkles and make the material hang like it should (OMG I'm gonna get fired for using so many metaphors in this post). But it's so awesome to realize that it IS possible and you understand what steps you need to take to get there!

To sum up: critique partners are awesome. Revising is weird. :-D

Onward to Draft Three!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reading Update!

I thought it would be fun to do a brief update about what I've been reading lately! I set myself a GoodReads challenge of reading 30 books this year, secretly hoping to read a lot more than that if I have any hope of making a dent in my TBR pile!

Annnnnd I'm ahead of schedule! I've read 17 books so far this year, two of which were re-reads (THE WINNER'S CURSE and THE WINNER'S CRIME, which I re-read in the wrong order because I was like "I only need to read CRIME, I remember CURSE just fine" and I did, but when I finished CRIME I needed more and KISS still wasn't out yet, so………)

Here they are (most recent listed first:

Surprise, surprise, my fave read of the year so far is THE WINNER'S KISS, which I do mean to properly review if I can even remotely manage to wrestle my feelings into words (and there are SO MANY FEELINGS YOU GUYS), but I've been immensely privileged to read many, many wonderful books in 2016 and I just want to hug the whole stack of 'em!!

Currently I'm in the middle of THE FORBIDDEN WISH (Aladdin retelling from the POV of a female genie, which is just LOVELY). Arriving in my mailbox today are: THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER and THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN.

Brb I've got some reading to do!! :-)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Writing Themes

My critique partner Jen and I were discussing the other day themes we keep coming back to in our writing. I think it's very telling of our passions—the things we love spilling over into our books—and also concepts that we find continually interesting, maybe even without realizing it.

A few of mine are pretty obvious: I'm a pianist and a reader, and I can't keep libraries or music out of my books to save my life! I have an enchanted library, a locked library with a hidden magical room, a huge library that isn't magical but is filled with vital information, a palace library haunted by a sort-of ghost (long story). In one of my books, music turns out to be the key to everything; in another it's one of my characters' passions; in another it provides a growing bond between two characters. I just can't get away from it!

I also seem to be fascinated by putting characters in a claustrophobic/confined/remote setting and seeing what happens when they can't get away from each other. One of my books is set almost entirely in a creepy old mansion on the edge of the sea. Another is in a high-tech tower in the middle of a city. Another takes place in an enchanted underground house. Another in a palace. I think maybe I like finding drama in the ordinary: an awkward dinner conversation; an accidental encounter in the hall (I seem to be obsessed with important conversations happening in hallways!!); a shouting match in a garden. It also forces me to find creative ways to include variation within such a confined setting—which is where that enchanted library comes in in my fairytale retelling!

Other themes I keep coming back to: friendships, friendships that develop into romance, parent/child relationships, sibling relationships, stories/myths/fairytales that turn out to be true. I also suspect I'm developing a thing for people who shape shift into animals, but that's only happened in three books so far (okay yes, it's a thing).

Something else I seem to write often are introverted characters, which I'm sure is a natural extension of being introverted myself. There are a few exceptions of course, but many of my characters tend to be very introspective, which forces me to push them out of their comfort zones so that PLOT can happen! (Poor things!) This leads to pitfalls in rough drafts where there's a lot of staring out of windows and crying. A LOT. :-D Thank goodness no one ever sees those drafts, right??? *shudder*

One other thing I like to experiment with in writing is structure. It doesn't always work, but it's led to me doing things like writing from the first-person POV of a blind character, making myths an integral part of the story, writing part of a book in past tense and part in present (for a very specific reason).

So there you have it! The ongoing themes I tend to explore when writing. What are yours?

Friday, April 15, 2016

April Sunshine Brings Second Drafts!

Oh goodness, I'm not going to get the prolific blogging award for 2016, am I? :-D

Apologies for the long absence! Let's see if we can get you caught up:

At the beginning of March I had the immense pleasure of meeting Victoria Schwab and Rae Carson! It was a lovely and inspiring evening, and in the signing line my BFF made me pitch my novel to them… which was both terrifying and awesome! I managed to stutter out something resembling a sentence in English—I think!! :-D

My BFF Jenny, Victoria Schwab, and me!
I've had a bad case of project-hopping-itis since the end of January—working on this revision, working on that revision, brainstorming a brand new novel that freaks me out but also fascinates me and I'm not sure I'm at all qualified to write…

But a few weeks ago I finally settled on finishing the revision of my East of the Sun, West of the Moon retelling I drafted during NaNoWriMo 2014. I'd started Draft 2 early 2015, but was very pleasantly distracted by signing with my awesome agent and revising that book with her.

Anyway, I buckled down, unraveled the confusing threads of the muddled middle, and yesterday I FINISHED Draft 2!! It feels soooooooooooo amazing you guys! I know the novel still needs some work, but I accomplished what I wanted to for the second draft, and I'm super proud of it (and super in love with it—it's giving me serious FEELS you guys).

Not sure what I'm going to work on next… there's another weird idea slowly gnawing at my brain that I might pursue, but we'll see.


And I think that catches you up! Happy April, and I'll see you again soon (you know, maybe!).

Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day!

Hey all! I thought I'd better jot off a quick post for February before the month is over, and Leap Day seems like the perfect day to do it! :-)

Not too much been going on… tinkering at a few writing projects, clinging to the hope that these upper 80s/lower 90s temps aren't permanent (AUGH), and as usual, drinking lots of tea!!

Story time with Marissa Meyer!!
I had the extreme pleasure of attending Marissa Meyer's event at Changing Hands Bookstore and (briefly) meeting her at the beginning of the month! She was hilarious and lovely and inspiring, and we'll pretend I said something hilarious and lovely and inspiring to her whilst she was signing my stack of books instead of standing there exuding awkwardness. (oops)

Me and my BFF with Marissa, getting our books signed!!
My amazing husband bought me another bookshelf for Valentine's Day (that is true love right there!!) and it's all full already! I was double-stacking my other shelves like craaaaaaaaazy. It's so nice to see all my books' purty spines!!

Hubs and I also filed and got our tax return back early and came into some TREAT YO SELF money… Let's just say I've been buying A LOT of books lately! It's a beautiful thing……

My TBR pile is getting out of control… I might need to make myself a spreadsheet to get through it all! Currently reading A GATHERING OF SHADOWS and super excited to see Victoria Schwab this coming Thursday evening!!

So anyway, that's what's up with me! Until next time, my lovelies! Happy Leap Day, and see you in March! :-)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: The Dalemark Quartet

For some reason, I didn't discover the wonder that is Diana Wynne Jones until my twenties. My first book of hers was Howl's Moving Castle (which I adored, obviously), and I went on to devour the Chrestomanci novels, Fire and Hemlock, and a handful of others. (I fully intend to read all of her books—I haven't yet, though, as I enjoy discovering them in stages and because it will be super tragic when there aren't any left.)

On one of my DWJ kicks circa 2006 or so, I started reading the Dalemark Quartet, and partway through got distracted and had to return them to the library unfinished. This past fall in two different used bookshops I found matching versions of the Quartet broken up into two volumes, and took this as a sign it was time to read them for real!! And so I did!


The genius of these books is that the first three are set in the same world and reference the same landscapes and mythology, mostly centering around the god-like figures known as the Undying. CART AND CWIDDER and DROWNED AMMET are set in the same time but follow two completely different heroes. THE SPELLCOATS dips back into Dalemark's prehistory. THE CROWN OF DALEMARK brilliantly ties the threads of the previous three stories together, whilst adding the additional element of time travel. You guys, it's NUTS. Amazingly, marvelously, beautifully NUTS.

But I'll try and make more sense here.

CART AND CWIDDER follows Moril, the youngest son of a family of traveling Singers. He inherits his father's cwidder (a lute-like instrument), which is supposed to have belonged to one of the Undying, a famous ancestor who used the cwidder to move mountains (among other things). Moril finds himself caught up in the North/South conflict that plagues the country of Dalemark. Includes: siblings. music. tragedy. magic.

DROWNED AMMET follows a new character, Mitt, who lives in the South and throws his lot in with a bunch of misguided wannabe revolutionaries who are unhappy under the rule of the (admittedly extremely terrible) Earl Hadd. He winds up in a boat with two grandchildren of that very Earl, and the three have adventures at sea including encounters with two of the mysterious Undying: Old Ammet and Libby Beer.

THE SPELLCOATS, as previously mentioned, takes us into Dalemark's prehistory, and is told using a super interesting story-device: the protagonist, Tanaqui, is weaving the story into two rugcoats. This book follows a rambunctious and stunningly-characterized group of five siblings on their journey down an ancient river. It sheds more light on the mysterious Undying—even explaining a few of their origins—and introduces the evil, undead mage Krankredin. This is the only book written in first person and it definitely feels very different from the first two.

THE CROWN OF DALEMARK is the culmination of the first three books. It rejoins Mitt, who eventually meets up with Moril (hooray!!) as they journey with a group of people following Noreth, a young lady who claims to be the daughter of the oldest of the Undying, the One, and therefore the rightful heir to the long-absent crown. Flash-forward to two hundred years later, and we're introduced to Maewen, a lovely freckled and thoughtful heroine who gets sent back in time to take Noreth's place on the journey to find the crown. There's a twist near the end that for some reason I wasn't expecting but I dearly, dearly loved (and found was completely perfect when I thought back on the story). The way DWJ ties everything together is brilliant and satisfying. It makes you go oh!!!! and want to scramble back to the beginning of the series with your pencil so you can underline everything that you didn't know was important!

This series probably isn't for everyone. DWJ definitely doesn't spell everything out for you—it gets confusing at times, and you have to sit and ponder for a bit to reconcile all her threads you think at first she's left to dangle. As I've grown used to with her books, her endings are never quite ENOUGH. She seems to end two scenes too soon, which make her stories linger on in your mind in a way I don't think they would if she gave her readers just a little more. CROWN definitely had more of an ending than the first three, but it still left me desperate for a fifth volume that doesn't exist. The world she created in Dalemark is so rich and deep—so much only hinted at, so much life teeming under the surface. These books are brilliant and thought-provoking, tragic and deep and funny too. Highly recommended if you don't mind a bit of a think!

Which reminds me…… it's definitely time to reread the Chrestomanci series…

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 GOALS!

Hi all! A little late for a New Year post, but we're not quite halfway through January yet, so I think it should still count. :-)

Here are a few of my goals for 2016:

READ! I've set myself a 30-book reading challenge on GoodReads, which certainly doesn't seem like a lot compared to most people, but it should fit in with my READ ALL THE THINGS BINGE-FULLY THEN DON'T READ ANYTHING FOR WEEKS type of reading habits (anyone else like that?). 
WRITE. Hopefully I can finish my current project soon and move on to something new! Very excited about exploring lots of stories this year! 
MOVE. Aaron and I are saving up to buy a house this year!! 
TRAVEL. I don't have any trips planned so far, but hopefully one or two will emerge! 
GET A NEW BOOKSHELF. I have no roooooooooooom!

So there you have it! Nothing too earth-shattering, although I will admit I have a secret goal that I'm not sharing unless/until it actually happens. :-)

Happy 2016, everyone! Go forth and be WONDERFUL.