#WriterRecharge Update One

Writer Recharge FB

It’s February, which means it’s time for Writer Recharge!

Once again hosted by Alison Miller, Liz Parker, Elodie Nowodazkij Sara Biren, and myself, Writer Recharge is your chance for a four-week jump start in the middle of a cold, dreary winter. Set goals for yourself, check in once a week, and connect with other recharging writers. Find all the details HERE.

#WriterRecharge Update One

  • WRITE/REVISE – By the end of February I want to be done drafting my WiP, Stars Like Dust, and I’d like to have started addressing the revision to-do list I’ve made for it. –> I spent the week doing a read-thru of what I’ve got so far. And… I wrote new words for Stars Like Dust! It’s been awhile so it was a struggle, but I’m finally starting to reclaim my momentum. Just for fun, I started a short story, too. 
  • READ/REREAD – I’d like to read at least four books this month, at least one non-contemporary, and at least one a non-YA. –> I read two books last week: Gayle Forman’s I Was Here and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (checking my non-YA goal block). Now I’m reading The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (and crossing off my non-contemporary goal).
  • STRETCH – One of my Thirty Before 35 goals is to write something that’s not contemporary YA, so I hope to start brainstorming what that something might be. I have some vague ideas, but writing anything outside the realm of Real Life is a big stretch for me, which means this project is going to require a lot of musing. –> Still brainstorming…
  • SELF – I’d like to pick up yoga again. I’ve been slacking over the last several months, and I hope to practice at least twice a week. –> Success! I practiced yoga two times over the last week. Hoping to do three or four session in the coming week.
  • CONNECT – Ooh, this one’s easy! I’m headed to West Virginia for a weekend-long writing retreat this Thursday. I’ve never done one, and some of my favorite writing buddies are coming! –> Success! We had an amazing weekend. Perfect location, awesome company, inspiring conversation, and lots of productivity. Can’t wait to do another! 

  • FUN – My daughter and I are going to start a quilt this month. Even if we only make it to the store to choose fabrics… it’s happening. Baby steps. 🙂 –> We haven’t started yet, but we plan to in the coming weeks.

Participating in Writer Recharge? 
Head over to Sara’s blog to link your update post. 

2014 in Review…

Happy New Year!

2014 has been full of changes, hard work, and lots of fun.

This Year’s Highlights

JANUARY

Over the holidays, we moved across the country, from central California to the Florida Panhandle. I kind of love it here.

We welcomed a kitten, Daphne, into our family. ❤

Also, I began revising the manuscript I wrote in 2013, Good Girls, a story inspired by the Tim McGraw song of the same name. I blogged about Goal SettingGateway Books, and the Books I Read in January.

FEBRUARY

I made a Thirty Before 35 list (thirty things I want to accomplish before I turn 35 in 2016). I’ve crossed ten items off so far!

I made one of my *best* life decisions and started binge watching Friday Night Lights. I finished a month later.

I continued plugging away at my Good Girls revision, participated in #WriterRecharge, and blogged about the Books I Read in February. And… The Seahawks won the freaking Superbowl!

MARCH

We visited Disney World with some of our best buddies.

And saw a few Tallahassee highlights with my brother.

I blogged about How I’ve Found CPs, shared bits of Good Girls in a the Next Big Thing post, and talked about the Books I Read in March.

APRIL

We made our first trip to the Destin beaches. Florida is lovely in the spring.

I Rocked the Drop!

Good Girls was approved by my agent and went out on its first round of editor submissions. Honestly, I felt very good about it — high hopes. Additionally, I blogged about My Process, and talked about Books I Read in April.

MAY

We hit up a few minor league baseball games in Pensacola.

My husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary –sort of. He was deployed, but still… It was a celebration. 🙂

I started a new manuscript, The Road So Far, which has since become my favorite of all the stories I’ve ever written.

I shared the Love List I made for The Road So Far, participated in the Writers On Writing blog hop, and chatted about the Books I Read in May.

JUNE

My sweet girl finished 1st grade. ❤

We spent a week in Phoenix with my parents.

I started a rewrite of an old manuscript, Where Poppies Bloom.

Good Girls languished in Summer Submission Hell. I received lots of conflicting feedback (nothing I could apply to the manuscript) and decided to dive headlong into Where Poppies Bloom and The Road So Far. I co-hosted Ready.Set.Write with some other amazing writers, and raved about the Books I Read in June.

JULY

My mom and dad come all the way to the Panhandle to hang out with my girl and me (and, maybe, to enjoy our amazing beaches, too).

I finished my Where Poppies Bloom rewrite and sent it off to a few trusted readers for feedback before jumping back into The Road So Far.

I did more writing than blogging this month, but I did talk about the many fantastic Books I Read in July.

AUGUST

Such a busy month… My girlie turned SEVEN.

My husband FINALLY returned from Afghanistan.

I finished the first draft of The Road So Far, then dove into revisions of both it and Where Poppies Bloom. 

We traveled to Oregon and Washington to celebrate my brother-in-law Sam’s marriage to my new sister-in-law, Kacie.

I shared a bit about Where Poppies Bloom in a Wanna Beta? post, blogged about Mood Boards (and how much I love them), and talked about the awesome Books I Read in August.

SEPTEMBER

This girl started 2nd grade. How time flies!

I baked the most beautiful cake to ever come out of my kitchen.

After a long summer of being on submission with Good Girls, I accepted that it’s not going to be The One and, upon thoughtful reflection, decided that it might not be the right debut book for me anyway. While I’m very proud of it, it’s quite dark and perhaps not entirely reflective of my tone. So, I sent Where Poppies Bloom off to my agent. It was well-received (yay!), and is currently on its first round of submission. Cross your fingers! Furthermore, I blogged about Banned Books and the Books I Read in September.

OCTOBER

We had family photos taken for the first time since 2008.

I started a new manuscript, a contemporary YA called Stars Like Dust. I adore it, and hope to finish the last 10K or so in the coming months.

I also pushed through revisions of The Road So Far and sent it off to my CPs,  participated in the 777 Challenge, and shared the Books I Read in October.

NOVEMBER

My cutie pie wrapped up her first cheerleading season.

And I won National Novel Writing Month!

I shared the Love List I made for my NaNo project Stars Like Dust, and blogged about the Books I Read in November.

DECEMBER

I visited New Orleans with my husband — so fun!

And celebrated a lovely Christmas with my family.

In addition, I completed my revision of The Road So Far and sent it off to my agent for feedback. Here’s hoping she loves it! Also, for the 4th successive year, I co-hosted the YA Superlatives Blogfest, participated in the Terrible Titles blog hop, and blogged about the Books I Read in December.

What I Learned in 2014

1. I can work on more than one project at a time.

2. CPs who say “screw that person who didn’t get your story” are SO important.

3. CPs who say “nope, your story’s just not there yet” are even MORE important.

4. Procrastination is most often my head’s way of telling me a story needs more time to bake, and that’s okay.

5. With each and every manuscript, my writing really does improve.

6. Writing a story that inspires me is worth any risks involved (like the story I wrote this summer… the sequel of a book that hasn’t sold yet — yikes).

7. Having an agent I trust, an agent who believes in my work and says things like “it WILL happen” is golden.

8. Making my goals public is the best way to guarantee I’ll accomplish them.

9. Family is my go-to source for true happiness.

Goals For 2015

An aside: I know I shouldn’t make “sell a book” a goal because I have no real control over editors’ tastes and the current marketplace, but traditionally publishing my stories will forever be something I strive to accomplish. I will write my fingers to the bone to make it happen, so…
There it is.

Here’s to a wonderful 2014, and an even better 2015. ❤

October Reading Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween!

I’ve got an unintentional red-orange theme running through the covers I’m posting this month. They look pretty together, right? Lots of good stories, too!
(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)


17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma – Going in, I thought this book was merely a ghost story, but it turned out to be so much more. Nova Ren Suma’s writing is gorgeous and evocative. She handles this subject matter with nuance and sensitivity (where it could have easily careened into overwrought territory) and I was completely engrossed. I love how the mystery of the missing girls unfolds, and I love how layered and complicated MC Lauren is (a liar? mentally unhinged? truly seeing these ghostly girls?). I love, too, that I was surprised by every turn of the page. Recommended if you’re into eerie but literary novels.

17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen – Another lovely surprise! I opened this book thinking I’d get a fluffy story about boy-chasing, but what I got was a complex contemporary about family, friendship, stereotypes, and (yes!) kisses. MC Claire’s voice is one of the most authentic I’ve read in a long time. She’s real and relatable and transparent (in a good way), and I totally would’ve wanted to be friends with her in high school. Speaking of friends — Claire’s are a complicated bunch. Initially, they seem like caricatures of the teenage stereotypes we’re all familiar with, but they’re not. Watching their connections with Claire change and evolve was fascinating, as were Claire’s relationships with her family members — her mom, especially. I highly recommend this one if you’re a (picky) fan of contemporary YA, like me.


The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan – Do not judge this book by its cover, y’all. The story is a bazillion times better. It’s a college-set (football!) NA, and it is hot, hot, hot. Honestly, it’s hard for me to objectively “review” this book because I was so onboard with MCs Anna and Drew, any flaws that may have fallen into the narrative flew right over my head. I will admit that I was skeptical through the first few chapters because there’s some pretty intense insta-lust going on, but as Anna and Drew spent more and more time together, their affection became palpable. They grew to adore each other, which made me adore both of them. There’s all kinds of drama going on in this story, but it wraps up realistically and satisfyingly. Can’t wait for the next book in this series!


Beautiful by Amy Reed – Ugh. This story was hard to get through — not because it isn’t excellent (it is), but because the MC, Cassie, is only 13 and she finds herself in some truly horrifying situations. Her life is just so, so sad, and my heart broke for her over and over. Beautiful is one of those books where you hope for more, more, more for the protagonist, but end up watching her crash into hurdle after hurdle. It’s agonizing, but unputdownable. Amy Reed’s prose is stark, frank, and arresting, and despite the gloominess of this novel, it concludes with a hint of promise. I look forward to reading more from this author.


11/22/63 by Stephen King – I read this book so I could cross another goal off my Thirty Before 35 list (read and review a Stephen King novel), and I ended up enjoying it even more than I’d anticipated. It’s the story of a modern man who’s introduced to a portal that leads to 1958 Maine. He uses it with the hope of changing the past, particularly the Kennedy assassination — he wants to stop it, rewriting history in the process.

This novel was a sloooow start, but I was expecting that because Jake (AKA George) has to wait several years beyond 1958 for the Kennedys to arrive in Dallas. He uses the time to research the assassination, hatch a plan to stop Oswald, and navigate life in an era without cell phones, the Internet, and GPS.

There’s a lot going on in this story, as Jake/George makes a life for himself in “The Land of Ago.” There are dozens of characters (Deke and Mike and Bobbi Jill and Miz Ellie — love them all!) and tons of tiny plot threads that (of course) make big splashes later.

Though 11/22/63 isn’t a horror story, it includes a nod to King’s It, as well as some graphic and brutal imagery. Conversely, there’s a romance involving a lovely woman named Sadie. Her relationship with Jake/George felt so sweet and genuine, despite the many necessary lies he was obligated to tell her. While I definitely liked the romance, there were a few references to sex that made me raise an eyebrow — hearing about “love making” from Stephen King is a lot like what I imagine hearing about it from my grandfather would be like.

All in all, 11/22/63 was fantastic. It scared me and it made me laugh and it made me think, a lot, about time and the butterfly effect and the consequences of our actions. I absolutely recommend it.

What’s the best book you read in October?

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Still working on 11/22/63 by Stephen King. This is one loooong book, friends. It’s super entertaining, though. Along with time travel and history and conspiracy theories, there’s a bit of romance. I’m moving right along, and hoping to finish before Halloween.

What I’m Writing: I’ve got more than 11K written in the new contemporary YA WiP I’m drafting. Its working title is Stars Like Dust, which is a line I borrowed from a Rumi poem, which is significant to the story for a lot of reasons. Plus, it’s pretty! This new story is challenging me in a lot of ways:

1. I haven’t plotted it. I am usually a very detailed plotter (my last WiP, The Road So Far, was plotted down to the gas station stops my characters made on their road trip) and it’s scary to just write, write, write without a set plan. That said, I know this story’s beginning-middle-end, and I’ve got a good handle on the main characters, so I’m hoping it’ll all work out.

2. One of my two main characters is from another country and while he speaks English well, he speaks it very formally and precisely. Still, he’s a teenage boy and I want his dialogue to flow naturally. It’s a fine line I’m walking.

3. I’m playing with writing small sections of the story in verse. I have never written in verse and it is super challenging. But… I’m kind of loving it. The bad thing? It takes me the same about of time to write 200 words of verse as it takes me to write 2000 words of good ol’ prose. Plus, the verse stuff is requiring TONS of tinkering. I’m still not 100% satisfied with any of it, but I hope I will be…

What Else I’ve Been Up To: On Saturday we went to the Pensacola Interstate Fair and it was so much fun! We rode rides, ate corn dogs and funnel cake, watched a rodeo, and saw Eli Young Band. One of their songs, Crazy Girl, is on my The Road So Far playlist, and seeing it performed live was awesome. And, it just so happens that go to a(nother) country music concert is one of my Thirty Before 35 goals, so I get to cross one more item off the list — yay!

  

What Works For Me: I recently read a post by Kat Zhang (for Pub(lishing) Crawl) about writing out of order, and I found it so helpful. Here’s an excerpt:

When I write out of order, I know “Okay, so I have Fun Scene A here and Fun Scene B here…now I just need to get my characters from Scene A to Scene B as quickly and efficiently as possible.” If the middle parts aren’t “Fun Scenes,” I should probably be either trying to get my readers through them as quickly as possible, or finding out some way to spice them up.

I’m jumping around while drafting Stars Like Dust, and even though my Type-A personality is unhappy about the chaos, it seems to be working. Kat shares some fantastic insight and awesome tips about why writing out of order is worth a try. Definitely check out her article! 

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Amy Reed’s Beautiful and loved it. It’s stark and gritty and disturbing, not to mention incredibly well written. I can’t wait to read more of her work! Now, I’m reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. One of my Thirty Before 35 goals is to read and review one of his novels (I’ve never picked up his fiction, if you can believe that) and I chose this one because there’s no movie adaptation to spoil the story, and because I like time travel and history. This book is dense, y’all, but so far, so good. Look for a review soon!

What I’m Writing: I made a mood board for my SNI and it’s now my computer’s desktop background. It’s so pretty! (Incidentally, I used the collage function in Pic Monkey to make this mood board because the site I’ve used in the past, Mood Share, appears to be no more. Lame.) I also did some title research and found (what I think is) the PERFECT title. And, I wrote a query-like pitch, which helped me focus all the ideas floating in my head into (what I hope will be) a compelling story. My agent gave the pitch a thumbs-up, so I’m getting busy with some serious plotting and a little bit of drafting.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I pulled something in my neck (sneezing, because I’m awesome) and I’ve been dealing with tightness and spasming muscles for the last week. I finally broke down and went to the doctor yesterday, and now I have some glorious muscles relaxers that are making movement slightly less than torturous. Yay medicine! Other than that…

  
Lots of cheerleading with my little lovely. I adore the above photo of my husband giving her a pep talk through the fence. ❤

  
We also visited Sweet Seasons Farm to make our way through their corn maze (my daughter: “I’m a maze runner!”) and pick out a few pumpkins. Fall is so much more tolerable when it’s 85 degrees ouside. 🙂

What Works For Me: Accountability. I have some awesome writing buddies who help me stay on track with drafting/revision goals. One of my CPs and I often exchange snippets of what we’ve recently worked via email. Not for critique, but for encouragement and inspitation. Knowing that I have to send a sample off to her at the end of the day really keeps me motivated. Plus, getting to read her samples is an excellent reward! I also have a trio of writer friends who I check in with on a shared spreadsheet. Seeing that they’ve written 1K+ or 2K+ or 3K+ words in a day makes me want to keep up with them. Nothing like a little peer pressure to fuel production!  

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma and whoa… It was a trip. The story turned out to be something completely different from what I was expecting and I am impressed. Such gorgeous writing! Now, I’m reading 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen, which is adorable. I recommend it for the utterly authentic voice alone. It’s so much fun being in Claire’s head!

What I’m Writing: I took some much needed time away from the first draft of my road trip book, The Road So Far, and now I’ve finished an initial round a revisions. This story is a follow-up (or a companion — whatever) so it was a challenge to weave in pertinent elements/information from the first story without dumping big chunks of backstory into the narrative. Hopefully I’ve struck a balance. If not, I’m sure my trusted and brilliant readers will let me know. 🙂

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Listening to This American’s Life‘s new program, Serial, and *loving* it. From the website: Serial is a podcast where we unfold one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season. We’ll stay with each story for as long as it takes to get to the bottom of it. This season’s story is a sort of high school murder mystery/possible wrongful conviction situation and it is fascinating. Highly recommend!


We finally, finally, FINALLY had professional family photos taken! It’s only been six years. 😉 This was one of my Thirty Before 35 goals, and I’m super excited to cross it off the list. I’m also super excited about this sneak peek our photographer, Andrea Faye Photography, shared with me.


I found Autumn-colored M&Ms at the store the other day and thought cookies would be the perfect way to use them. I tried this recipe for the first time and they turned out so yummy!

  
Over the weekend we visited the Gulf Breeze Zoo, which is quaint and really fun. My daughter got a kiss on the hand from a giraffe!

What Works For Me: Taking inspiration from successful writers. This conversation between Lena Dunham (creator/star of HBO’s Girls, a show I adore) and author Judy Blume (the voice of my childhood) for instance (click the link for an edited transcript). So inspiring! Plus, book birthdays this week for two amazing books from two delightful authors: Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir and Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah. I’ve read them both and they’re fab!

  

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Rainbow Rowell’s Landline, which was predictably glorious. Now I’m reading The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan by Atia Abawi. It’s a modern-day story about two teenagers of different Afghan ethnicities who fall in love, and it is brutal. So far, I’m captivated. Here’s hoping it finishes as strongly as it’s opened.

What I’m Writing: I finished another round of revisions for my story Where Poppies Bloom. It’s in the hands of a few betas now, and I’m hoping to have it off to my agent in the next few weeks — yay! Now, I’m mentally gearing up to revise the shitty first draft of my summertime WiP, The Road So Far.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Mama stuff: shuttling my daughter from school to guitar to cheerleading. I also started practicing yoga again after a long hiatus. I found a great class in my town and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the way my body’s fallen right back into the poses.


I finally got to see If I Stay! My expectations were admittedly low. The novel is one of my very favorites and I did not want to be disappointed. Luckily, I ended up blown away. I LOVED IT. Even my husband, who hasn’t read the book and had no idea what the story was about, admitted it was better than the “chick flick” he’d been expecting. I thought Mia and Adam were just perfect. I adored the music and Mia’s parents and the way the romance came alive onscreen. I’ve been reading lukewarm reviews, but I say… Go see it if you haven’t already!

  
I crossed a Thirty Before 35 goal off my list when I baked a Rainbow Cake for my daughter’s sleepover. Because I only have two 8 inch cake pans, I had to bake the layers in shifts; combined with frosting and decorating, this was a time-consuming project. Totally worth it, though! It was tons of fun to prepare from scratch, and it tasted very yummy!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Music. I bought the If I Stay soundtrack, plus I’ve been listening to a lot of Sugarland and Tom Petty and Tim McGraw (obviously). I’m letting my mind mull over a bunch of tiny new WiP nuggets and there’s no greater way for me to do that than to zone out to some well-loved songs. 

Tell me… What’s up with you today?