One Word Wednesday

 
Spring
{We’re seeing signs of spring here in Central California and I couldn’t be happier! Warmer days, blooming flowers… Totally makes me smile.}


Pitiful
{Poor Daisy. She ended up with a aural hematoma (I’ll spare you the gory details of what, exactly, that is) and had to have surgery. Now she gets to wear The Cone of Shame for three weeks and finish a grueling course of antibiotics. I do feel horrible for her, but considering she was a stray we adopted for free, this dog has cost us a small fortune over the last nine years.}

Cheer
{Because she is awesome and amazing and incredibly thoughtful, my longtime friend Kari Bradley surprised me with the most wonderful package. She was lucky enough to attend YA Highway‘s Author Event in Shelton, WA last week, and I was super, super sad that I couldn’t go with her (because before I moved to California, we used to attend bookish events together). Anyway, Kari asked Veronica Roth to sign a copy of Divergent for me and sent it off with cookies and an adorable tea towel… I have the best friends!}

Peaceful
{We hit the bay in our kayaks on Sunday. While it was windy and the water was a little choppy, the view was too lovely not to appreciate. We saw tons of birds, as well as harbor seals and some huge sea lions. I love living on the coast.}

Effortless
{You might remember the video I shared last week on tenacity and my daughter’s trip down the monkey bars. Well, once she got it, she got it. Now she really is a little monkey, dangling and swing on calloused palms, and since it’s spring break, she wants to spend every waking moment at the park. Silly girl!}

Fantastic
{I’m reviewing The List over at YA Confidential today… Check it out!}

What have you been up to lately?

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*sad face*

Last week I read and fell head-over-heels in love with Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. Its themes of loss,  grief, and starting anew resonated deeply, and I’ve found myself thinking often about the story and its wonderfully flawed characters and how profoundly they’ve affected me over the last several days.

I’ve thought, too, about the other contemporaries I’ve read and adored over the last few months: Amy McNamara’s Lovely, Dark and Deep, Hannah Harrington’s Saving June, and Kristin Halbrook’s Nobody But Us. Just like How to Save a Life, these novels are centered around tragedy. Their protagonists deal with death and guilt and unimaginable sadness, and they must learn to find their way through whatever dark burdens life has thrown at them.

Turns out, almost all of my favorite young adult contemporaries are similar in this way: Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere, Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, John Green’s Looking For Alaska, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer.

I’m not sure what my penchant for literary sorrow says about me, but it’s a fairly safe bet that if a novel is steeped in heart-wrenching sadness, has a strong romantic element, a mature narrative voice, and a conclusion that rings with at least a hint of hopefulness, I’ll probably be a fan.

Tell Me: Do your favorite books have a consistent theme? 

{Oh, and a few links to share: First, today at YA Confidential we’re accepting first page submissions of YA manuscripts for critique by our teen spies. Click HERE for more information. And, via Rebecca Behrens, a fascinating essay by a former Sweet Valley High ghostwriter — how I adored those books growing up! Finally, there’s a March selection for YA Book Club (hosted by Tracey Neithercott). Click HERE to find out what we’re reading. You should most definitely join us!}

January Reads

Always!

Still, I did pretty well in January. Here’s what I read (and what I recommend!)…

Graffiti MoonGraffiti Moon by Cath Crowley – LOVED this one. Beautiful, beautiful prose and characters I wanted to both hug and hang out with. Ed was the perfect combination of complicated and adorable, and I loved Lucy’s audacity and wit. This is one of those rare books that’s both enviably amazing, yet totally inspirational in the writing department. How are Australian authors so consistently awesome? Highly recommend!

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – If you’re looking for a psychological thriller and are not easily offended, disturbed or freaked out, please do pick up Sharp Objects. I reviewed it in greater detail HERE.

Ask The Passengers
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King – So unique; it’s several different books rolled into one. A provocative issue book, a perfectly-voiced contemporary, a first-love romance, a family drama that feels alarmingly authentic, all with a sprinkle of unexplainable magic tossed in. Find my review for YA Confidential HERE.

Dark PlacesDark Places by Gillian Flynn – Probably my least favorite of her three, but that’s not to say it wasn’t excellent. True to Gillian-Flynn-form, this book’s characters were completely deplorable, yet totally compelling. Dark Places is structured like a fairly traditional murder mystery, but it’s twisty and chilling and definitely had me turning pages. The ending, like those of all of Flynn’s novels, was a beguiling surprise.

Shades of Earth (Across the Universe, #3)Shades of Earth by Beth Revis – (Damn it — I still wish this cover matched the other two in the trilogy. I like my shelves to look cohesive!) Shades of Earth is a worthy conclusion to a trilogy I’ve followed since it debuted. I had no idea what to expect going into this one (though I’d heard something about dinosaurs… whoa), and I’m glad for all the surprises. Beth Revis does not hesitate to throw the unexpected in your face, which made this novel a total page-turner. Also, Elder continues to be charming and endearing, so that doesn’t hurt. If you haven’t read the Across the Universe trilogy, I highly recommend it (even if, like me, you’re not a huge science fiction person).

(I also had the pleasure of reading the final half of my CP Alison Miller‘s amazing YA contemporary/magical realism retelling, did a beta read of Jessica Love‘s fantastic YA contemporary, and I’m nearly done beta reading an action-packed time travel story by Meredith McCardle. I’m so lucky to have such a talented bunch of friends!)

Tell Me: What’s the best book you read in January?

One Word Wednesday

Hello, friends… Happy Wednesday!

NO
{Kidding. Sort of. I know Entertainment Weekly is infamous for uglifying would-be heartthrobs [Exhibit A], but that guy is just not my vision of Finnick. There’s nothing wrong with him, per se (he was fine in that Snow White movie), and I’ll try to reserve judgement until I see Catching Fire, but… I just… Boo.}

Lovely
{I love my town so much. Please, Army, don’t make me move away!}

Charming
{The girlie and the locale. On this particular afternoon she said, “It’s a beautiful day. Let’s go for a walk in Carmel!” So we did.}

Perfection
{After years of using the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to varying degrees of success, I have officially given it up. I’ve moved on to what I consider the BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe EVER. The secret? A little bit of corn starch. I’ve used this recipe several times now and have yet to produce a cookie that’s anything short of delectable. Recommend!}

Warm
{In case I haven’t made this clear… I love my town! The temperature has been hovering in the low seventies the last few days. It’s so nice to feel the heat of the sun during our walks by the bay.}

Awesome
{We have the *best* sunrises. A definite perk to getting up early!}

Thought-Provoking
{The other day I finished reading A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers. Now, anytime I see a plane in the sky, I think of Astrid sending her love. Such a fantastic book. I’m reviewing it in detail over at YA Confidential today. Please do check it out!}

Tell me: What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

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?

NaNo Update #4

Progress (word count or a general status update): 22,611

Current Mood: Eh. I didn’t write AT ALL on Sunday, and I payed for it yesterday. It was hard to get back into the mood, though I did manage to knock out 2,371 words. I’m approaching the dreaded “sagging middle” (am I the only writer who hates that term?) and I’m stressing about keeping the story’s momentum going. That said, I still like my story, and I still enjoy being immersed in its world. I referred to my daughter as Bree the other day, which is my MC’s name. So that’s fun.

Inspiration: Simple…

Goals as of Today: My girlie’s school has a week of half-days thanks to parent/teacher conferences, so my goal is to keep my head above water. That means, log at least 1,600 words a day. In my perfect world, I’ll hit 2K every day through Friday.

Recent Favorite NaNo WiP Bit:

Their two conversations, brief and random as they’d been, had somehow become the highlight of Bree’s week. Good weird, he’d written in his note. She couldn’t help but agree. 

After a relatively quiet breakfast with her parents, she got dressed for school. The little slip of paper on which Duncan had scribbled his note found its way into the small inner pocket of her bag. It gave the bag added weight, a pleasant solidity that kept Bree tethered to the ground as the day wore on. 

Non-NaNo News (because life DOES go on): Raise your hand if you’re tired of hearing about my runner’s injury… Wait — You too?! My sciatic nerve is still giving me grief. I ran a slow five miles on Saturday and suffered the consequences all day Sunday. The good news is that I now know that I’m capable of pushing through the pain. So, watch out Big Sur!

In other news, I got my match for Sip Swap 2012 hosted by  Kelsey and Jessica. Now I’m even more excited about the swap because my my match is someone I know through her blog and mine. If you’re reading this right now, you *might* be my match. Can’t wait to go mug shopping!

In my downtime (ha!) I’m reading: Starters by Lissa Price. I’m about 130 pages in and honestly, I thought I was going to be annoyed by this book. But I’m not — not even a little bit! The main character is turning out to be all kinds of likable.  Starters is a page turner, and it’s kept me guessing which, considering the dystopian-saturated YA world in which we live, is pretty impressive.

You should read this blog post: Your Style, Your Voice, and Why, Yes, You Are a Special Snowflake By: Writer Amanda Hannah (via YA HighwayBecause: The post defines the sometimes confusing term “voice,” which we hear so often in the writing world, and tells us how our own voice is like a fingerprint we leave on our readers.

You should also read this blog post: 12 Movies That Inspired My Love of YA (And Influenced the Way I Write It) By: Moi! (Over at YA ConfidentialBecause: Teen movies are the best, and I’d love to hear about your favorites.

Gratuitous Photograph (because I love ‘em!):

I hosted a baby shower for a lovely friend on Sunday, and this little guy helped set the mood. Directions for making one of your own are HERE.

Hangin’ out with my favorite girl.

Tell Me: What are you reading? How’s your writing coming along? How’s your week shaping up?