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Fun with Writing Processes

8 Apr

If you guys haven’t been able to tell, I’m the worst blogger ever.  No, seriously.  Between my real job, my volunteer jobs, and actually writing, the amount of time I spend on blogging is pretty much zero.

This led to me being berated gently admonished by my publicists at Spencer Hill to try to do better, and so I guess it was good timing that Danielle tagged me on one of those newfangled blog hop things all the kids are doing these days.  (Random Aside about Danielle – Rarely do I meet someone who doesn’t make me feel like an Amazon woman.  Seriously.  She’s pretty much my height of a million feet tall 5’11ish, and it makes me all giddy inside.  And she writes pretty things.  And edited my book.  And once we shared some terrible gluten free pizza, so I pretty much am a lifelong fan.)

Okay, so here’s a little bit about my writing process.

1.)  What am I working on?

So, currently, I’m working on three different projects.  I just finished up (hopefully) my last round of edits for Lifestyles of the Rich and (In)famous, which is coming out in August.

I’m also working on the sequel to Lifestyles, which WAS like 75% done, only then I decided to add a few more character POVs and basically set myself back to like 50%.  Sigh.  But it’ll be worth it in the end!

Lastly, I’m also like 50% on a book about a city torn apart by two rival crime families.  I’ve always been really obsessed with the Italian Mob–mainly the history, and how despite the fact that they have such strong sense of things like honor and family, they do a lot of not-so-nice things.  I pitched this as a Shakespeare meets Goodfellas–lots of family drama and star-crossed loves and pasta.

2.)  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

So, I originally wrote, pitched, and sold Lifestyles as a YA novel.  But, once I signed on with Spencer Hill, my lovely/gorgeous/smart editor Patrica felt that it’d be stronger as a NA (New Adult).  It made sense once she explained it.  My characters weren’t in high school, but not exactly full-fledged adults either.  But, the more research I did into the wide world of New Adult books revealed that things were…a lot more, ahem, scandalous than what I wrote.

I remember when Lifestyles was first announced as an NA acquisition for Spencer Hill, someone (on Twitter) commented that it was nice seeing a new NA book that wasn’t entirely devoted to sex.  I think “New Adults” are way more than these scintillating love affairs.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but not really my personal jam.)

I think as NA continues to be defined as a genre, all kinds of stories can find their place, from college-coming-of-age tales to…well, a girl who grew up in the Mafia trying to figure out her own morality.

3.)  Why do I write what I do?

I mean, I guess my answer is no different from any authors.  I write what I’m interested in.  I think no matter the setting, no matter the circumstances…at the end of the day, folks are folks.  Heartbreak is heartbreaking, even if you’re an a-list celebutante or a ruthless Mafia princess or a Southern beauty queen.

I think I really love discovering new cultures.  For the second Lifestyles book, I’ve been doing a ton of research about beauty queens, sororities, and the whole “Southern Belle” culture in general.  And, for the mafia book, I’ve been reading tons of biographies of guys who grew up in the mob and about their daily experiences.   It’s super important to me that the universe you write in feels authentic.  I’d hope that LiLo could pick up Lifestyles and relate to Nyx’s struggles with the media tearing apart her every move.

4.)  How does my writing process work?

Honestly, I’m a little ashamed of my process.  I have all these writing friends on Twitter who tweet their daily word counts, and I’m just like, I barely had time to eat dinner today before collapsing in bed.  The entrance into the writing world was a little bit of a shock for me.  I wrote my first book over like six years, and the fact that now people are expecting follow ups in way less time is really intimidating.

I also have really terrible ADHD.   I can’t even watch movies without getting antsy half-way through and wanting to get up and do something else.  All my books live so vividly in my mind, but the act of actually sitting down to get them out is something I don’t always enjoy.   Probably part of my problem is that I do a lot of technical writing for a living, so by the time I get home at night, the last thing I want to do is stare at the computer screen again.

Things that help me stay motivated?  Reading other books in my genre.  Sometimes I get these feelings like “I can do that too!” and it sends me running to my laptop to work.

And when I do actually get the motivation/concentration to work?  I work like a mad person.  I remember during one snow storm, I wrote for like twelve hours straight and finished half a book.  It’s like the words build up over a period of time, and then once I actually start, they just come out like a waterfall.

 

Okay, so here’s where I tag someone!  Again, I’m not super involved in the writing community (BAD LLAMA!) but one of my dear author friends is Rachel Robinson.  We became friends when we were both just regular people bloggers.  (I was style, and she was lifestyle.)

Rachel grew up in a small, quiet town full of loud talkers. Her words were always only loud on paper. She has been writing stories and creating characters for as long as she can remember. After living on the west coast for many years she recently moved to Virginia Beach, VA. Escaped is her first Paranormal Romance novel.

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The Love of Reading

17 Apr

On my first day of kindergarten, I woke up when it was still dark. I put on the dress my mother and I had picked out the night before, carefully packed my new Little Mermaid backpack with crayons, and crept into the living room.

My father had already left for work, and his worn green lounger was empty.  Beside it was a joke book that I loved reading to my brother.  I sat in my father’s green chair and read through the book until my mother woke up and found me.

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember loving anything.  I knew my letter before most kids were even talking.  Legend has it that my mother was in line at CVS, and I piped up from my stroller–“Mommy, what does P H A R M A C Y spell?”  She said all the people in line turned around with big eyes and looked at the child in the stroller.  She had no idea I even knew the alphabet.  Sesame Street had taught me well.

As I got older, we went to the library at least once a week.  I would check out fifteen to twenty books at a time, and I would have the first one finished by the time I went to bed that night.  My desk at school was filled with books, and I would fly through my work so that I could get back to reading.  Even when I had friends come over for play dates, I would give them the book I had picked out for them before retreating back in my corner.  I would get in trouble because I would read at the dinner table while trying to eat–my spoon hitting my chin because I was too absorbed in the world before me.

Pretty soon I was writing the stories I loved.  My imagination was huge, and I would cast the neighborhood kids in elaborate plots–giving them their characters and their motivations.  We would be mermaids/pirates/lions/orphans/mothers.

My love of reading carried into high school, but I was cool then, and I hid it well.  I read in my spare time, away from everyone.  I was the girl who’d finished reading all her textbooks in the first week of school…the first week of college classes.  I chose English as my major because I loved words, and I wanted to teach kids how to love words.  For four years, I got to read books and talk about books and critique books and dissect books and analyze books and write books.

#

I bought a Kindle the other day.  I thought it’d be easier to take it on vacation rather than allot ten pounds in my suitcase to lug all my beach reads with me. 

Then I watched this short film, and my heart broke.

The thought of my children (or my children’s children’s children) never experiencing the thrill of imagining what Narnia/Stoneybrooke/Sweet Valley/Hogwarts could be like is disheartening.  I watched a toddler unlock his dad’s iPhone and find his favorite game in seconds, but then saw a child the same age swiping an actual magazine and looking confused when it didn’t work.  I take kids I babysit on imagination walks and point out the dinosaurs hiding in the bushes, and they look at me like I’m nuts. 

I wanted to write books because I love books.  I used to sit in the aisles of Borders/Barnes & Noble/Books a Million and look at the spot where my book would be one day.  And now the trend is e-publishing, and I’m thankful for any opportunity I get, but where does it eventually end?  Is there any comparison to holding it in your hands and smelling the pages right against the spine and arranging them on your bookshelf in the perfect order and holding your child in your lap and letting them turn the pages as you read?

The Kindle I bought sits on my nightstand, and I look at it and feel a shiver of fear.  Is the convenience/ingenuity/portability worth a world of children who can’t see the dinosaurs in the bushes? 

 

Comfort

16 Apr

If you find yourself hurting this morning and in need of comfort, here are some of my favorite Bible verses that never fail to restore my peace.

Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalms 30:5 Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.
 
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Lamentations 3:31-32 For the Lord will not  cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.

My prayers are with those affected by the tragedy in Boston.

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

10 Apr

via Writer Leopard Advice

On Becoming a Writer

7 Apr

The movie Sister Act 2 has had a profound impact on my life.  When I was young, I wanted desperately to join a choir led by Whoopi Goldberg and practiced trying to hit that high note from O Happy Day.

When I got a little older, Sister Mary Clarence’s sassy words of wisdom were still impacting me.  Does anyone else remember this quote?

I went to my mother who gave me this book called Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. He’s a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say: I want to be a writer, please read my stuff. And Rilke says to this guy, don’t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer. I’m gonna say the same thing to you. If you wake up in the morning and you can’t think of anything but singing first, then you’re supposed to be a singer girl.

I wrote my first book when I was six.  It was a picture book about me and my best friend Squanto (of Pilgrim/Indian Thanksgiving fame).  Squanto and I ran through the forest and shot guns and were chased by “woofs”.  My parents thought it was the most brilliant book ever penned, and I felt encouraged to keep writing.  I wrote stories about solving mysteries (during my Boxcar Children and later Nancy Drew days).  I wrote stories about exploring ancient ruins in Egypt (during my The Egypt Game and Indiana Jones days).  I wrote fan-fiction (really, really terrible fan fiction), and later I wrote for a magazine…and a newspaper…and a blog.  Did all that make me a writer?  Or was I a waitress/retail associate/admin/Sunday School teacher who also wrote?’

My father is one of my heroes, and he was one of the people who really propelled me to want to become a writer writer (and not an analyst who also writers).  Funnily enough, he paraphrased the Sister Act 2 quote about writing, and told me if that’s what I thought about and did all the time, then that’s what I should do.

So, I did.  I dusted off a novel I’d been tinkering around with for years, and I started polishing.  And polishing.  And polishing.

In less than a year, I finished a novel, signed with an agent, and am about to sign with a publisher.   It’s surreal to say the least, but I also still hesitate to identify myself as a writer.

I think my personal definition of a writer is someone who can make a living by their words.  But, then this small part of me argues that even if I end up making zero money and have to refund my advance…I still wrote a novel.  (Or two or three…)  Am I still a writer then?

How would you guys define someone who is a writer?  Can anyone be a writer?  Or are there talent levels involved?