Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don't Lose Yourself

A writer's life can take on many dimensions, both for the unpublished and published among us. Constant pulls and tugs drag in a myriad of directions, making the correct path all the more uncertain.

A slew of contests here. A couple queries there. Writing, reading, edits, rewriting, everywhere.

And the noisier it gets, the more difficult it becomes to maintain a sense of self. To be absolutely clear about what is most important.

 But here's what I know:

1. I have to figure out what I can drop.

This is a constant lesson that I somehow keep forgetting. The challenge is what to drop, and when? And who will be let down if I do? Perhaps I should make a list of priorities, but there doesn't even seem to be time to do that, anymore.

2. I have to remember what I want.

My least favorite phrase is "You should have." This not only implies that I've done something wrong, but it also indicates that it's too late to fix.

My second least favorite phrase is "You should." This is usually said when someone else thinks they know what's best for me. But I'm supposed to be the foremost expert on that. 

3. I have to remember what's best for me. 

This is really easy to forget amid all those "you should"s. This usually boils down to an argument between head and gut. Gut has to win, every time. And don't let your head convince you otherwise.

So I know all this. Doing it, however, is a different game. Dropping things is hardest, I think, because of the guilt that comes with letting people down. But letting myself down--that's even worse.

But the real trick is maintaining that which brings you back to your innate sense of self. An afternoon alone by a roaring fire. Your favorite book. Talking to your closest friend. Find what allows you to rejuvenate and recharge before the outside world tries to peel everything away again.

That is what I will be attempting to do this week. It also goes hand-in-hand with an excellent TED talk from Susan Cain, who talks about the power of introverts, and how important it is to have time and space for reflection and creativity:

What about you? How do you maintain your sense of self amid the noise?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


 I "met" Andrea Hannah through one of the contests I participated in, and her novel THE DESTRUCTION OF STARS AND LIES sounds awesome! Here's her bio:

Andrea Hannah is a YA writer represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. She writes stories about criminals, crazy people, and creatures that may or may not exist. When she's not writing, Andrea teaches special education, runs, spends time with her family, and tries to figure out a way to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (still unsuccessful). Oh, and she tweets a bajillion times a day, mostly about inappropriate things.

You can find her on Twitter @:
Drop her an email @:
And visit her website @:

How did you connect with your agent, Victoria Marini, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

I connected with Victoria the same way a lot of other writers find their agents--the good ol' slush pile. Slush really does work if you take the time to perfect your query and to make your manuscript the best you can possibly make it. And that's what I did. I'd been following her on Twitter for a little while and had seen her tweet about what she was looking for, so I had a pretty good idea that she'd like the tone of my writing. She was one of the first I queried, and I was THRILLED when she requested the first half. And even more thrilled when I saw her tweet about my manuscript a few weeks later and then asked for the second half. And even MORE THRILLED when she called and offered rep. 

In terms of my path to becoming a writer, I can't say I knew this is what I was always meant to do like so many of my author friends. It took some time. I always wrote, I always knew that I would write some type of book in the future, but I didn't now how or what or when. When I traveled through Europe and Africa, I thought that I would write a memoir. When I studied literature in college, I thought I'd write poetry. My idea of what I wanted to write always fluctuated with my experiences. It actually wasn't until I took a very long break from writing and focused on teaching that I fell in love with middle grade and young adult fiction, and it wasn't until after years of devouring those books that I decided to write my own. 

Very good advice--and an excellent reminder of why it's so important to get a query and a novel to the best place they can be. How did the idea for THE DESTRUCTION OF STARS AND LIES come about, and what would you like readers to take away when they’re finished reading it?

I wrote my YA thriller, THE DESTRUCTION OF STARS AND LIES, during NaNoWriMo 2012. Well, I wrote about 10K before NaNo (I know, I know, okay? But I still wrote 50K new words during NaNo, so it counts in my book) and 15K after NaNo. And honestly? I've done NaNo for three straight years and this one was by far the hardest, even with the running start. This is the most complex plot I've ever attempted, along with throwing together a bunch of clues about constellations and mysterious brain viruses and a town built on lies and poison (literally, about the poison part). It was a bunch of stuff that shouldn't go together and I had to make fit. And it was haaaard. The idea for this thing? I don't even know where it came from. It was one of those ideas that started off simple and grew into something crazy and unexpected. It bloomed in my mind while I was changing a dirty diaper, honestly, and listening to the TV show Breaking Bad playing in the living room. I remember thinking, "It would be pretty sweet to write a book about teenage criminals who steal things and carry guns." And that's what I thought it would mostly be about. But then a Psychology Today article brought about the idea of the virus and memories, and some online shopping for a telescope turned into clues based on constellations and a boy who makes astrology charts and drinks chamomile tea, and the rest is history. As for taking something about from this book, I just hope people enjoy it. I hope it surprises them, scares them a little, and I hope they find David and Wren's complicated relationship with each other and their memories as bittersweet as I intended it to be.

Good job pushing through NaNo! And you're right--as long as you get the 50,000 words, that's what counts. I even continued after NaNo was done, because I knew my book wasn't finished, and it ended up at around 66,000 words.

I loved your recent blog post about setting boundaries. How have you found this helpful, and what do you recommend to writers who find themselves with too much on their plate?

Boundaries are such a tough thing, especially when you're an entrepreneur (and pretty much every writer is). I give a lot of advice in that post about scheduling blocks of time for everything, only checking email twice a day, etc., but when it comes down to it, it's about making yourself a priority. It's about allowing yourself to be a little selfish. And really, what's wrong with that? What's wrong with taking care of your own needs so that you can be the best, happiest version of yourself so that you have the inner resources to be able to help other people? It's about honoring your own goals and passions, and listening to yourself for what you need. Yeah, I schedule pretty much everything because I'm obsessed with crossing things off lists, but I also try really hard to listen to what I need. Sometimes I plan to beta read two novels in a week and I've blocked out time for them, but when I get to the second one I'm a bit burned out and I'm craving to get back to my own writing. So I listen to that, and that's what I do. I'm almost always better for listening to myself, and I still manage to get things done. It's a win-win.

So true--and it's so easy to forget how important it is to listen to yourself. Thanks for  reminding us all!

Your post also talked about editing—what is your editing process, and what have you found works best for you?

GUH EDITING. This is probably the best/worst time for me to talk about editing, as I am in the middle of a mess of it. My editing process looks a lot like I organize my life, haha. I plan for everything, I try to anticipate everything, but when I get there, I do as much as I can with what I've planned and roll with the things that come up that I can't control. Recently, I've made very detailed, chapter-by-chapter outlines for two separate manuscripts (after I've finished writing them) and then sent those to my agent. She goes through them and adds in revision notes in blue. And let me tell you, she is TOUGH. She finds things in those chapters that I forgot about, or that aren't as strong as they should be and I kind of thought I could get away with it. Nuh-uh. If it is semi-weak, she will find it and highlight it blue until there is more blue than black on that outline and it looks like a fat, painful bruise. Which, I mean, it kind of is a bruise…to my ego, haha. But really it's awesome and so, so helpful. So after she does that, I pick out the major plot threads that she has an issue with and I weave through new ideas for those into the outline in different colors. As you can imagine, this looks like rainbow vomit when it's all over. Then I start revisions/edits, chapter-by-chapter, and as I go along I almost always find interesting things I'd like to add in that I hadn't planned for. So I just do, I go with it, and it almost always makes the story better. After all this is said and done, I send it to a few readers to make sure it still makes sense before I send it back to Victoria.

Ha, rainbow vomit! That's probably the most accurate analogy to editing I've heard yet! What are some of your current projects?

Right now, I'm mostly working on revisions for two manuscripts, but I'm also starting to draft a new YA psychological thriller that's a retelling of the folk tale, CHICKEN LITTLE. Only this retelling involves dark comedy and teens in an alternative high school and objects falling from the sky that have bar codes on them. I'm also working on a few super secret projects that I can't talk about quite yet, but I hope I will be able to soon! 

Sounds exciting! Thanks so much for an awesome interview.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lessons Learned from Reading Aloud

A few weeks back, I was chosen to read the first chapter of my current WIP, ANDERSON'S CURSE, at a conference.

It wasn't the first time I'd read aloud--but it was the first time I was asked to do so outside the requirements of a class. Here are some things I learned:

1. Reading aloud is excellent practice.

This is an obvious one, so I thought I'd get it out of the way. Published writers read their books aloud all the time--which means if you have stage fright, or feel nervous getting up in front of other people, it's best to get acclimated now.

It also gives you a chance to hear how your words come across auditorily, as opposed to physically on the page--which can lead to some further, necessary edits. If you have a chance to answer questions about your book, even better--it can help prepare for those nerve-wracking agent appointments.

2. You're going to flub up--just make sure it doesn't break your flow.

I read the same line twice--because I'm cool like that. Luckily, it didn't register in my brain until after I was done.

An audience member said, "Wow, I really liked the impact of that. Was that on purpose?" I responded, "No, that was just me being a goober."

This also goes for stuttering over words or sounds. Mistakes happen. Roll with them.

3. Film yourself.

My husband caught the above flub on film--and I'm thankful for it--because now I can remember not to do that again.

It also allows me observe my unconscious mannerisms, tics, etc.--which makes them easier to curb. This goes all the way back to a speech class I took in college. In the footage, I noticed, in my nervousness, that I slapped my hands against the podium every few minutes. To this day, I'm glad my instructor required us to film ourselves--it helped me see how I really came across (all hail, podium thumper).

4. Use the opportunity well.

At this reading, I was able to find out about an open mic session the following week--where I read the first chapter from my other book, TRISKELEON. Find opportunities whenever you can. The more you read aloud, the more comfortable you'll be with it.

Your turn! Have you read your material aloud? What was your experience?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SHADOW HUNT by Erin Kellison

I should note that my posts will be a bit more sparse this month, as I'll be attempting to finish edits on my current WIP by the end of March. If all goes as planned, the WIP, as well as my already polished novel, and, God willing, a non-fiction proposal, will be ready for a conference I'm attending at the end of May.

In prep for said conference, I'm reading Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass, which explains the importance of not leaning on familiar formulas or imitations.

And if it's one thing Erin Kellison knows how to do, it's how to stand out. (I've mentioned Erin before, in this previous post.) The genre of paranormal romance may turn into a tired trope in someone else's hands, but Erin knows exactly how to make it her own, and does a beautiful job weaving together compelling stories that excite readers. Her latest novella, SHADOW HUNT offers further proof of this:


Dr. Cameron Kalamos and Eleanor Russo make an unbeatable team - science and magic, working hand in hand to confront the darkness besetting humankind.


At the center of that darkness stand the powerful mage Houses, but the brutal murderer Ellie and Cam are hunting seems to be affiliated with none of them.


When nothing is as it seems, and danger meets desire head on, sex can be an act of war. For Ellie, ensnared between the man she loves and the one she must destroy, the battle is about to begin...

SHADOW HUNT is now available for purchase, along with more of Erin's books. Click below to snag one of your own: