Category Archives: Tales from the Trenches

Currently…

(Thanks to summertime and RSW, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a “Currently”but I plan to get back into posting every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My new “Soho” jeans from New York & Company. I have a really hard time finding jeans that fit my long legs, and pants that get saggy throughout the day are a major pet peeve, which is why I’m obsessed with this brand and fit — they’re perfect! In other news, my 2016 InkWELL Press planner arrived! It’s so pretty (I chose the “Modern Mermaid” cover), and it’s full of awesome organizational tools printed on lovely paper. Can’t wait to start using it!

Reading

I’ve been horrible about reading lately. I’m drafting one project and editing another, and there doesn’t seem to be room left in my brain for someone else’s words. BUT. I recently started Tarryn Fisher‘s Marrow (because Riley Edgewood said I had to) and it’s keeping me engaged with it’s weirdness and sadness and beautiful, beautiful prose. If you’re curious about what I read last month, check out my September Reading Wrap-Up.

Watching

I’m nearly done with the final season of Gilmore Girls and, I’m not gonna lie, I really hate how things appear to be wrapping up. (Spoilers ahead…) I’m so disappointed by how Luke was written during most of season 6. The fact that he morphed into a liar and was totally blasé about ending his engagement with Lorelai was grossly out of character. It’s so obvious that the two of them belong together! I do enjoy Logan, though, so I’m sticking it out ’til the end to see what happens with him and Rory.

Over the weekend, we saw The Martian, which was quite good. I’m not a big space person (terrifying), but I was definitely not bored. My husband read the book and he said the movie was even better. So, recommend!

Listening To

My usual podcasts. Plus (and I’m not proud of this), I am ~obsessed~ with R5’s All Night. I listen to it on repeat. Often. So fun!

Thinking About

All the fun I had at the Baltimore Book Festival. Living in the DC area is not my preference, but I do love being close to so many fantastic bookish friends and events. I spent a long weekend with a few of my favorites, listening to panels, eating yummy food, drinking lots of coffee, and writing, writing, writing.

Anticipating

Halloween with my girlie. She wants to be a black cat (sort of like our Daphne) and we’re looking forward to going costume shopping. She’s going to be such a cute kitty! We’ve got a Saturday at the pumpkin patch planned, too. I’m not an autumn person, but I do love some of the fall traditions. 🍁🍂

(Oh, and I have some exciting writerly news to share in the next few weeks.
Stay tuned!)

Wishing

For some good news on the submission front. I’m due for some, right?

Making Me Happy

My new WiP! I’m about 18K in, and I’m feeling inspired, which is excellent. Also, I think I’ve mostly got an ending worked out, so this one just might be finish-able. And, it has a pretty, pretty mood board. ❤

PicMonkey Collage

 What’s currently making YOU happy?

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RSW Update 4

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and myself. Find the rest of the details HERE.

* How I did on last week’s goal(s).

1. Complete a revision of my contemporary YA, Where Poppies Bloom… IN PROGRESS. I’d been hoping to be done by now, but still… nope. I revised ten scenes this week, and I have twelve left to go.

2. Complete the first draft of my contemporary YA, The Road So Far, by the close of RSW… IN PROGRESS. I didn’t work on this project at all last week. Poppies has to be my priority now, but I can’t wait to get back to this one!

3. Read (on average) one YA/adult novel per week… YES! I read Amy Christine Parker’s Gated, a seriously creepy contemporary about life in a cult.

4. Read (on average) one MG novel with my daughter every two weeks… YES! We’re working on one of Sara Mylnowski’s Whatever After books, and my girl read a chapter book on her own, one from the Baby-Sitters Little Sisters series.

5. Maintain my tan… YES! My family and I went to the beach on Independence Day and spent all morning in the sun.

* My goal(s) for this week.

Finish my Where Poppies Bloom revision. Send it to Alison. 🙂

* A favorite line from my project OR a word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

The first line from Where Poppies Bloom

I never used to be the type of girl who hotboxes her bathroom.

* The biggest challenge I faced this week.

I had family in town all week which was awesome, and of course I wanted to spend my time doing fun things with them. Revisions took a backseat, but I’m back at them now. My girlie’s going to Zoo Camp this week (!), so I’ll have every day from 9-3 to work, work, work.

* Something I love about my WiP. 

I kind of want to strangle my WiP right now, so… I baked Danish Puff and Texas Chocolate Cake. I love these desserts more than anything I’ve written lately.

In other news… July is the month of RSW giveaways! 

For the next four weeks, ErinJaimeAlison, and I will be giving away some pretty spectacular Writer’s Care Packages. All you have to do to be eligible is participate in Ready. Set. Write! and enter via the Rafflecopter link below.

This week, Erin’s giving away an adorable package including a journal, to-do notepad, mug, 2 kinds of tea (in the gold bag: wild cherry & chai chilli pepper), tea filters, rainbow pens, sticky tabs, Post-its, paperclips, Tic Tacs, and gum.

Erin's Pic

Enter to win here: A Rafflecopter giveaway!

I can’t wait to read about how Ready. Set. Write! is going for you.
Don’t forget to share the link of your latest post below!

Writers On Writing

Last week Rebecca Behrens blogged about her writing process and tagged me with a request to post answers to the same questions. I had so much fun reading Rebecca’s answers, and I jumped at the chance to chat about my own writing…

1. What are you currently writing? 

I hesitate to talk too much about what I’m writing until I have a workable draft done (because so much ends up changing between that first paragraph and The End), but I can tell you that I’ve been playing with scenes for a sequel to a ghost story I wrote a few years ago. There’s a chance these little bits of a possible story will never see the light of day, but they’ve been super inspiring and I’ve loved every second of being back in my original story’s world. For now, I’m going with it. I’m also mentally musing something completely new, but I’m still hammering out a lot of the big picture. This one’s going to be set somewhere warm and sunny (I have cemented that detail), and it’s going to have a lot of guys who spend a lot of time in board shorts. So that’s fun.

2. What makes your work different?

My voice. It’s something I’ve never struggled with (plot’s a completely different story!), and voice is one aspect of my writing that readers almost always compliment. Also, I write romances with a lot of kissing, usually from the get-go. A lot of romance writers seem to hold off on that first kiss for as long as possible, but not me. My characters kiss early and often — because why not? 😉

3. Why do you write what you do?

I write stories with similarities to the novels I love to read. My stories always, always, always have strong romantic threads. I like characters that are rendered in shades of gray, so I try to make my fictional people complicated. I’m drawn to stories set in small-ish towns, so my settings are usually quaint. I prefer reading novels that have a more melancholy feeling, and the stories I write do as well. And I read YA almost exclusively (because it’s the best!), so that’s what I write. Teenagers are so complex. I remember that time in my life as being riddled with question marks and insecurities and uncertainties, and, surprisingly enough, I enjoy revisiting it through my writing.

4. What is your writing process?

Ha… I wish you could see the befuddlement on my face. I don’t know if I really have a set process? I can tell you that I spend a long time considering an idea before I sit down to write. I plot using a beat sheet, and then I plot again, scene by scene using Scrivener’s cork board. I use Pinterest to collect visuals and sites helpful for research. I set daily word count goals keep myself accountable. I start a writing sesh by rereading what I wrote the previous day (I read somewhere that Sarah Dessen does the same thing, so…), and I am not against editing as I go. I keep a running list of revision ideas to address when I’m done drafting, and I keep a list of story details — minor characters’ names, birthdays, dates of significant events, etc. When I get stuck, I take breaks. When I get frustrated, I email my CPs. When I get disenchanted, I read something by an author I love, which is always inspiring. I love to revise, so when drafting seems impossible, I think of the many days I’ll eventually get to spend making everything cohesive and pretty. So, I guess that’s sort of a process?

Thank you again for the tag, Rebecca! I’m tagging Tracey Neithercott and Liz Parker. Looking forward to hearing more about your process, girls!

My WiP is Making Me Fat (& Other Writerly Truths)

My WiP is making me fat. Jelly Bellies are not calorie-free, and when I’m drafting, I eat them like it’s my job.

I am currently working on my fourth young adult manuscript. At no point has the process become any easier.

If my house caught fire, I’d save my laptop before my wedding album. (I’d save my husband before my laptop, though, so I’m not entirely heartless.)

I feel intensely proud when my daughter says she wants to be a writer when she grows up.

I feel intensely uncomfortable when an acquaintance asks  if I’ve sold my manuscript yet.

In the name of research, I Google things that should probably have me committed. Or arrested.

I am most motivated by kissing scenes. If I know there’s one coming up, it’s easy to push through to that point.

One of the best parts of my writerly life is reading the work of my CPs. I’ve lucked into relationships with some of the most talented and amazing writers around.

My WiP scares the shit out of me. Daily. (I think that means I’m doing it right?)

My agent is so savvy. She makes me laugh and she makes me think and she makes me a stronger writer. I feel  fortunate to be able to work with her.

If I don’t eventually land a book deal, I will be heartbroken. I’m not one of those people who writes solely for the joy of it. I want to produce quality, sellable stories. I want a profession.

More often than not, the Dorothy Parker quote I hate writing, I love having written, sums of my process perfectly.

What are your writerly truths?

On Insanity…

(This is one of those posts in which I attempt to make myself feel more normal by commiserating with all of you. Thanks in advance for humoring me. ♥♥♥)

By “the same thing over and over again,” I’m referring to revising and/or rewriting repeatedly with the goal of one day launching a publishing career.

So. I understand that with each completed draft I become a stronger writer. And that makes me SO happy. And I understand that publishing can be slow and frustrating and that there are no guarantees. I understand that not every writer becomes a published author, and I get that all writers experience moments of doubt and defeat. I have a well-researched, realistic view on the industry, and I realize that no matter how glamorous an author’s life may seem, no one has had an easy go of it. Writing is hard. Rejection is hard. Publishing is hard.

That being said, I  have a determined (stubborn?) streak that will not let me give up. I will continue to march toward my goal for as long as I am mentally capable of imagining and physically capable of typing. But…

Lately, when  family and friends (who are very sweet and well-meaning) ask me the dreaded, “Hey, when’s your book going to be published?” question, I have to suppress cringe. Because… I don’t know. I don’t know when my book’s going to be published. I don’t even know if this particular book will  see the light of day, ever. It’s kind of out of my hands at this point.

So, when asked that dreaded question, I end up answering with mumbles about an umpteenth revision, and then the family member or friend ends up giving me The Look. You probably know the one: It’s kind of confused and kind of piteous. Like, Oh, you cute girl (or bored housewife or crazy person). You must have such fun with your imaginary friends. Another revision, huh? How many revisions have you done on that book, anyway? When will the madness end? 

Yes. Yes, I am revising again. Yes, I know that probably sounds insane. Yes, sometimes I feel insane, and that sucks. But my story is better for it. And when my first book sells, trust that I will shout about it from the rooftops. In fact, you’ll probably be sick to death of hearing about it by the time the book ever sits on a bookstore shelf.

Until then, I’m going to embrace the insanity and continue to plug away, honing my craft, reading everything I can get my hands on, and just… writing.

Want to get in on my brand of crazy?

What’s Up Wednesday

Today I’m jumping in on “What’s Up Wednesday,” 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.

Fantastic, right? So, here’s what’s up with me…

What I’m Reading: I just finished Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster. I’ll share more about my thoughts tomorrow, but I have to say… I was entertained by all the angst. Trav and Abby’s dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship kept me captivated. Yesterday I started Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which is predictably awesome so far.

What I’m Writing: *sigh* There’s the epic rewrite I’ve mostly sidelined but still think about often, and there’s the SNI WiP (the one that’s inspired by a Tim McGraw song), that I love, LoVe, LOVE, but has also put on the back burner. Mostly, I’m working on a requested revision of Cross My Heart that has mad potential thanks to notes from my amazingly brilliant and insightful agent. Motivation and inspiration and excitement are beautiful things.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Running. No surprise there. I ended up with 171 total miles for the month of April, putting me at 665 miles for 2013. Not too shabby. We’ve had gorgeous weather lately, so my girlie and I have been spending lots of time at the various parks in our neighborhood. Also, I’ve been watching Game of Thrones obsessively. I love that show SO MUCH. Daenerys is so compassionate, yet such a badass. I’m swooning over the recent romantic developments in Jon Snow’s storyline (though I wholeheartedly agree with Forever YA’s comment about the bath coming first). And King Slayer Jaime Lannister, once one of my most loathed characters, has turned out to be so very complex and fascinating (that final scene with Brienne on Sunday night… Whoa.). If you’re not watching this show, start now!

What Inspires Me Right Now: Last month I flaked on Fat Mum Slim‘s Photo a Day Challenge, but I think I’m going to jump back on the bandwagon this month. I’m finding these prompts quite inspiring…

And, since I’m doing lots of writing and revising these days, I’ve been listening to plenty of emotional country music. I’m particularly loving Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee, and Tim McGraw’s Southern Voice.

In Other, Far Sadder News: Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our sweet dog, Lucy. My husband and I adopted her when she was six weeks old, just after we were married nearly ten years ago. She’s been with us through several military moves, the adoption of an additional dog (Daisy, who is currently very sad), the birth and subsequent growing up of our daughter, and several deployments. Lucy was spunky and sassy and loved peanut butter with unrivaled passion. As much as I’ve complained about her shedding, her sneaky naps on the couch, and her shrill litte bark, I adored her. She was a loyal and wonderful pet. We will miss you very much, Lucy Goose. ♥♥♥

What have you been up to lately?

2012 in Review…

Last year I posted a 2011 Year in Review. Not only was it fun to share the highs and lows of my year with you all, it was also fun to look back on all that had happened over the previous twelve months.

So, of course I had to take some time to reflect on 2012. While I wasn’t successful in ALL of my goals, I did meet many. I had tons of fun with my family, I grew as a writer and reader, and I made some fantastic new friends along the way.  It’s been a busy year, full of changes, hard work, and lots of fun…

January

I blogged about goals, and decided on RESOLVE as my all-encompassing word for 2012. I also mused about the struggles of rewriting.

 I survived a winter storm that threatened my sanity.

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2) The Fault in Our Stars
I started the year off reading and reviewing a couple of awesome books: A Million Suns by Beth Revis and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

At the end of the month, my girlie and I welcomed my husband home from  Afghanistan (yay!).

The DisenchantmentsI raved about another favorite of 2012, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour.

February

I blogged about my preference for character-driven YA, and shared my Two-Minute Tension Test.

            
I celebrated Valentine’s Day with BOTH of my loves!

I turned thirty-one. No comment.

021I attended my husband’s Welcome Home Ball and had a *little* too much fun. 🙂

March

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)I read and reviewed another 2012 favorite: Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium.

I worked on a substantial revision of Where Poppies Bloom and resubmitted it to the agent I was working with at the time. (In case you’re wondering, I eventually came to the very difficult realization that Poppies isn’t going to sell the way it’s currently written. As of now, the story is “retired” and waiting for a rewrite that will hopefully come in 2013… Tough stuff.)

          
I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend in Vancouver BC with my husband. Such a fun, beautiful city!

Saw The Hunger Games. Awesome!

I blogged about my on-again-off-again struggles with procrastination (and why it’s not always a bad thing).

April

successfully completed the A-Z  Blogging Challenge, which was so fun! Thank you again to all of the hosts and organizers!

I Rocked the Drop!


I met a few of my favorite authors (Gayle Forman, Nina LaCour, and Stephanie Perkins) during the Seattle stop of the YA or Bust Tour.


I was invited to become an Operative over at YA Confidential. Love my fantastic new blogging buddies!

May


I participated in Blog Me MAYbe, brainchild of writer/blogger/all-around-awesome-person Sara McClung.

blogged about The Page Sixty-Nine Test, a writer’s trick I learned from clever author Gayle Forman.

         
We moved from Washington to central California, and made a big ol’ road trip out of the ordeal.

After we settled in to our new house, I shared a little bit about how I plot stories and write first drafts.

My husband and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary!

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)I read and recommended Veronica Rossi’s stunning debut, Under the Never Sky.


shared my miracle cures for writer’s block, and started tackling a major rewrite of my YA contemporary manuscript, Cross My Heart.

June

Amelia Anne is Dead and GoneOh, look! Another outstanding 2012 book: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfeld.

Around this time, I scored a few amazing new critique partners. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for Temre, Taryn, and Alison!

          
My cutie pie got her very first library card, and had quite the Marilyn moment.

July

I posted about “gap books” and committed to reading a few of mine (including The Book Thief), and brought the “One Space or Two” debate to my blog.

I read and gushed about Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, my VERY FAVORITE book of 2012!

I completed my Cross My Heart rewrite! 

            
My girlie and I made the loooong trip to Phoenix to visit my parents, my brother, and my cutie pie nephew.

My husband and I saw Brad Paisley and The Band Perry… Incredible!

August

        
I helped my sweet girl celebrate her fifth birthday

and watched as she headed off to kindergarten. Very bittersweet!

September

I tackled a frustrating revision of Cross My Heart, one that came with some bad-but-unrelated writing news. I threw myself a pity party, but that pain in the ass revision eventually made Cross My Heart what it is today.

This Is Not a TestI posted about yet another phenomenal 2012 release: This is Not a Test by the infinitely brilliant Courtney Summers.

Took a trip to Washington to visit family and see Tim McGraw(!).

I posted about taking a break and why it’s important, jumped on the “Currently…” bandwagon, blogged about how running parallels revising, and shared my take on Banned Books Week.

October

I visited an apple orchard with my girlie, and blogged about method writing (which, for me, involves A LOT of baking and running).

I talked about Cross My Heart, my “Next Big Thing,” and scored some awesomely encouraging comments in the process!

I wrote six words of advice for Teen Katy, which Erin L. Schneider combined with the advice of many other YA bloggers/writers into this amazing video.

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Perfectly creepy-weird. I couldn’t help but sing its praises!

I indulged my girlie and “dressed up” for Halloween. Little Miss Merida just LOVES this holiday!

November

I took a risk and signed up for National Novel Writing Month for the first time. The WiP I worked on is an upper YA contemporary romance. What else? 😉

        
I ran (and finished!) the Big Sur Half Marathon, meeting a goal I’d set for myself ages ago. I was exhausted at the end, yet so proud!

I blogged about all the things I’m thankful for

Saving June…and raved about another amazing book, Hannah Harrington’s Saving June (not released in 2012, but one of the best books I read this year).

In slightly less positive news, I parted ways with my former agent and began querying new agents. I didn’t blog about the ordeal until later, but this experience put a bit of a damper on an otherwise extraordinary month.

I WON National Novel Writing Month! (No matter that I haven’t touched the manuscript since November — I still love it! And, I plan on finishing the first draft and making in CP-worthy during the month of January.)

December

I accepted super-agent Victoria Marini’s offer of representation. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Victoria, and I look forward to seeing what the New Year brings in the way of manuscript submissions!

I got to go to Disneyland! Seriously. The happiest place on Earth.

I read and recommended yet another amazing 2012 book: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNarama. Love, love, love!

I celebrated my husband’s birthday WITH him for once. It was a fantastic day full of The Hobbit, Buffalo Wild Wings, and homemade birthday cake.


I co-hosted the Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest with  Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, and Alison Miller. Such a great turn-out this year. My To-Read list grew about a mile!

And last but not least, I celebrated the holidays with my husband and this sweet girl, and took some time to reflect on the passing year.

Phew!

Tell Me: How was your 2012? What are your hopes for 2013?