Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Road Trip and Some Progress

I'm doing my first ever post for Road Trip Wednesday this week! It's hosted by YA Highway, which I totally recommend if you haven't checked it out yet. The question for this week is: What is the best book you read in August?

Let me preface this answer by saying that the majority of August was spent rereading the Song of Ice and Fire series (think Game of Thrones) by George RR Martin, so that I could then read Dance with Dragons (which was my birthday present from my future in-laws). I was not too pleased with Dance, so I feel like I wasted a lot of time with it. That being said, I think my pick for my favorite book from August is:

The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)

When I first started Kody Keplinger's debut novel, I'll admit that I was lukewarm. I wasn't really a fan of the fact that every other word was a curse word, and after reading so much fantasy, it was a bit of a shock to plunge head-first into a completely contemporary novel. By the time I got to the end, I was completely in love. Bianca's struggle is one that a lot of young women go to. I can totally relate to feeling like the DUFF (designated ugly fat friend), since I was tall and stocky (and still am) and the majority of my friends are tiny and bird-like. Since high school, I've lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of confidence, but this was a book that I could relate to on several different levels.

I enjoyed the fact that not everything was as it seemed for the main characters. Wesley was a total jerk, but we got a peek into his life and realized that there was more to him than his womanizing exterior. Overall, I thought The Duff was a great read, and I look forward to reading Shut Out. As soon as it's in paperback and doesn't cost me twenty dollars. :P

As far as my own writing goes, I'm sad to say that I didn't get any done yesterday. We had quite a morning at the children's museum, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time we got home. I ended up taking a nap myself as soon as the kiddos had fallen asleep. I'm sure by now you're all staring at your computer screens, thinking "Well, what happened?" Scoot closer, and I'll tell you a story. :)

I take care of these two adorable munchkins:

The little girl is affectionately known as Bean, and her brother is Bug. Anyway, the three of us had a coupon to go to the children's museum. Yesterday was the last day to use it, so we met up with a friend and her two kids to tackle the place together. It was a MADHOUSE. There were children everywhere, and the parking lot ended up being completely full within 20 minutes of us arriving. I think parents pulled their children out of school to take advantage of this deal (free admission for a fmaily of 5, which is a $55 value at this place).

We were originally going to leave, but I decided that we should just do it, since it was the last day of the coupon and my friend's last playdate with us (she's moving to Washington DC tomorrow T_T). We stayed for an hour, but it quickly got to be too much and we decided to call it a day. I spent the whole time worrying I was going to lose one of the kids, and it was just horrendously busy. While we were waiting in line for the elevator, my friend's two-year-old ran into one of the elevators alone, and the doors started to close on him. We both flew forward to stop the door and wedged our way inside, since we couldn't get him out, and ended up in the car with a mom and her double stroller.

We were talking about getting separated from your kids, and the mom said, "Yeah, I know how you feel. My daughter's in the other elevator (there are two right next to each other). I hope she's ok." My friend and I gave each other horrified looks, and she said, "Wait, how old is your daughter?"

The mom replied, "She's 8, so she'll be fine. She knows we're leaving, so I'm sure she'll be waiting for us when we get to the lobby." But we arrived at the lobby, and the woman's daughter wasn't there. She went into full-on panic mode, and I volunteered to go look for this lost little girl. I was the only one who didn't have a stroller or a baby strapped to my chest, so it made the most sense for me to go. I dropped my diaper bag, told the kids to stay with my friend, and ran up the stairs to look. Luckily, she was just getting off the elevator on the second level, crying hysterically for her mom. I called her name and told her I knew where her mom was, then took her by the hand and led her down the stairs. Mom and daughter were reunited, but I was a complete mess by the time we got to our own car.

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose your child anywhere, much less a place that crowded. I was sobbing when I tried to tell my mom about it ten minutes afterward. It was such a scary feeling, and she wasn't even my child, or one of the children I take care of! Needless to say, even though the end result was a happy one, it was stressful for everyone involved.

I would have written last night, but I went to a book signing instead. Lisa McMann was in town (she lives in my city!) and was signing her new book, The Unwanteds, which I am super excited to read. Hopefully I'll be more productive today. I'll have to get back to you on to write!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Weddings

I don't have a writing post for you today. I wanted to have one, but it would probably be similar to yesterday's. That IS the problem I'm dealing with currently, after all, and I don't want to bore you with the repetition. If you check back later tonight, I'll update you on my word count for the day. :)

In the meantime, I hope you won't begrudge me a little bit of narcissism. As I've mentioned before, I'm marrying my best friend in November. We're not the wealthiest people alive (I'm a nanny/writer and he's an artist...draw your own conclusions :P), so we're taking on a lot of the work ourselves. In fact, the only outside vendor we've hired is our photographer. I handmade all the flowers for the bouquets and boutonnieres, as well as the centerpieces for the tables. I'll be making the escort cards myself too, and we'll be designing and printing our own invitations in the next week or two. But right now, I really want to show you all my flowers and centerpieces.

I don't really think of myself as a crafty person. That's more my mom than me. But over the past few months, I've discovered that I'm actually craftier than I thought, and that I genuinely enjoy sewing. Who knew? Anyway, on to the pictures! Please excuse the poor quality...they're cell phone photos. :/

These are the boutonnieres. The top row is: groom, man of honor, best man, groomsmen. Bottom row: FOB, FOG, groomsmen

This is my bouquet. :)

The green bouquet is for the toss. The others belong to the bridesmaids.

These are the centerpieces. They'll have cupcakes on them at the reception, since we opted for those instead of a giant cake. They're made from flower pots, if you can believe it. :)

There's your first sneak peek at our wedding! I'll be back later this evening to let you know how writing goes today, but for now, happy Tuesday! :)


Monday, August 29, 2011

Today's Progress

Just a quick note to let you all know how I did today (assuming you're interested, of course). I gave myself an hour of blog surfing, and then shut the computer down and handwrote for an hour while the kids napped. I cranked out 424 words in that time, which is a lot for me, so I was pretty pleased. But then, when I was driving home from work (which is when I get all my best ideas...that, or swimming in the pool), I thought of a way better way to write the scene. So I rewrote it. Or, most of it, until I got to a spot I needed to mull over a little more. I did get 711 words on my rewrite, though.

So, today's total is: 1135 words in an hour and a half! I managed a 1k day for the first time in months! This calls for more dancing, people...join me! *happy dances around the blogosphere* I'm going to try this again tomorrow, and see if it's something I can actually stick to. Here's hoping. :)


Like Walking a Tightrope

I think I've officially joined the circus. At least, that's what being a writer feels like at this stage. I feel like the tightrope walker who's demonstrating their skill for the first time. I'm clinging to that tiny parasol for dear life, struggling to maintain my balance and knowing that flimsy thing won't be nearly enough to save me if I fall. Or maybe I'm the plate spinner, and I have one too many plates twirling right now. All I can do is watch them and pray none of them topple over.

What does that have to do with writing? My biggest struggle as a writer is balance. I'm having the hardest time figuring out how to balance my family, friends, a full-time job, wedding planning, networking through my blog, exercising, reading, and writing all at once. I know things will calm down after November, and I'll be able to put my wedding planning plate back on the shelf. Or break it, since I won't need it again. :P But right now, it's difficult.

I never used to have this problem. When I was younger, I didn't have so many things to do, and it was easy to find time to write. Now, I'm squeezing it in while my charges are napping, amidst checking e-mails and my blog feed, making sure there's no laundry to do, and planning tomorrow's activities so that I'm not frazzled in the mornings. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when I write, so it takes me a while to think things over and feel like I'm ready to start. But maybe I need to find a way to change that... I mean, I don't really have time to be so particular.

I'm going to spend this week trying out different daily routines. I'm going to try writing for an hour every day, at different times of day, to see what works best for me. I'm going to write in the morning, during naptime, in the evening when I get home, and any other random times I can think of. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, when do you get your writing done? How have you achieved a balance?


Saturday, August 27, 2011

I...I Won? An Award? Really?!

  I won an award! Wheeeeeee! Apparently there are lots of reasons to happy dance today. Lots of shiny new followers, a beautiful new header created by my lovely fiance, and AN AWARD! *sniffles* I'm so happy! :D

So, here are the rules for this award of mine.
  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!
First and foremost, huge thanks to Brooke for giving me my first blog award. I appreciate it very much! I already pasted the award to my blog (see the beginning of this post, just in case you missed it :P), and I'm trusting you all to spread some love yourselves. And now I get to share some love myself! Here are my five award recipients:

1. Rachel Bean from Rachel Bean's Blog
2. Julie from Rosewood Pencilbox
3. Jeigh from Writer Brained
4. Jillian from Writing on a Limb
5. Mel from Adventure Writes

The blogs selected for this award all have less than 200 followers (which is part of the criteria). Go give them some love! :)


Freak Out With Me?

Guys. Guys! I've gone from 8 followers to 31 followers in 5 days! *happy dances around the room* Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and support!

Friday, August 26, 2011

And I Owe It All to a Boy Wizard

This has been a difficult post to write. I wanted my sparks to be inspirational while being books that not a lot of people had heard of. That way, they'd be inspired to try something new and moderately obscure. I didn't want to talk about Harry Potter, because at this point, everyone and their mother has read it and probably has something to say on the subject. But I really can't finish out Sparkfest without paying tribute to the Boy Who Lived. He was (and still is) such an integral part of my life, and I owe a lot of things to him and his universe.

I started reading Harry Potter with the first book. We got it out of a Scholastic book order for less than five bucks. I didn't think I was going to fall in love with it, since I was already 11 and beyond most of the middle grade stuff (read my earlier post on Dr. Seuss for info on how accelerated my reading was). Much to my own surprise, I was sucked into the magic of the story. Harry was 11 too, and he got a letter to Hogwarts. He got to experience all these things that I desperately wanted to experience: magic, adventure, and boarding school (yeah, I was weird). He also met some really funny kids, studied subjects that were way more interesting than pre-algebra and world history, and found a place where he belonged. I was desperate for more.

As Harry grew up, so did I, and I learned a lot of really important lessons from him. I learned that standing up to your friends is a lot harder than facing your enemies. I learned that the right thing to do is often the hardest. I learned that you choose your own family by surrounding yourself with people who matter, and that blood ties are not always the strongest. I learned a lot about self-discovery, and that being a teenager was hard, with a lot of complicated emotions. But through all the difficulty of adolescence, I always had Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

I learned a lot about writing from Harry as well. I learned that the best characters are real ones, with wants and needs and feelings. I learned that the best stories have lots of adventure and mystery and intrigue, but underneath it all they have love and relationships, because that's what makes the world go round. I learned that you don't have to go to a whole alternate universe to find magic. You can find it right in your backyard.

Last month, the Harry Potter franchise finally ended. It was bittersweet for me, as I sat there in the theater with tears streaming down my face. In the last thirty minutes of the final movie, all I could think about was the end. It was the end of 13 years of my youth, the end of one of the greatest book series of all time, the end of Harry. But really, it was only the beginning. Harry Potter gave me the tools I needed to not only be a successful writer, but a successful person. He taught me the value of good friendships, how to listen to my elders and be respectful, and the benefits of hard work.

I think of my books as close friends. They were the constants in a childhood filled with change. We moved every two to three years, and even though I lost touch with a lot of childhood friends, my books have always remained. I don't know the influence Harry Potter has had on all of you, but for me he's been one of the very best friends I've had. Even though there probably won't be any new material from Harry's universe, I fully plan on introducing my children to him at some point in the future. After all, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone else who can play Quidditch like a pro at the ripe old age of 11. ;)


Thursday, August 25, 2011

For the Love of Fantasy!

It's the second-to-last day of Sparkfest! You can still join in the fun by heading over to Christine's blog. :) Today, I'm paying homage to my favorite fantasy author in my childhood, and one of my favorites of all time: Tamora Pierce.

She's the first author that made me think, "Hey, I could do this!" Her Tortall books were constant fixtures in my backpack, regardless of what book I was reading at the time, and they influenced a lot of the short stories in my freshman creative writing class in high school. Alanna was the first female character I remember thinking was kick-ass (I didn't realize until researching for this post, but the Alanna books were published before I was even born! I thought they were new when I discovered them at the age of 12), and I had a monstrous crush on Prince Jonathan for a long time. Probably because he looked like Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid... *sigh*

Anyway, when I was 16 I decided that I was going to write Tamora Pierce an e-mail. I wanted to thank her for writing the books that defined a portion of my childhood, and ask if she'd be making an appearance in my hometown in the near future. And guess what, guys? She e-mailed me back! It was the first time I identified authors as real people and not as faceless beings that cranked out amazing works of literature in mythical caves (ok, I didn't really think that, but it's pretty close to what I thought...). She encouraged me to pursue my dream of being an author, and while she wasn't coming to my hometown any time soon, she did tell me how to research such events so that I could see other authors in my area. She sparked my interest in the publishing world, and made it all real for me.

If I ever get the chance to meet Tamora Pierce, I'll probably tear up a little. She's been a very influential part of my life, and even though it's been a mostly indirect influence (I don't know her personally, after all), I still owe a lot of my drive and passion for writing to her. She's one of my biggest sparks, and I hope someday I get to shake her hand and tell her so. :)

Which author was the biggest spark for you?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shapeshifters of the World, Unite!

It took me a long time to decide what to write about for my third Sparkfest entry (which, if you still don't have the information, started here). There are so many books that have been sparks for me and my writing, and a lot of my childhood memories involve the novels I was reading at the time. If there's one series that made a huge impact on my fifth-grade self, it was Animorphs.

A lot of people thought those books were hokey, and I moved on to bigger and better things before they went out of print, but I loved them fiercely when I first discovered them. Who doesn't love the idea of being able to change into any animal you want? Granted, they had to physically touch said animal and acquire it's DNA before they could morph into it, which was interesting when they needed to be more exotic animals, but still. It would be pretty awesome to try on a different animal's skin for a day, don't you think?

There were frequent trips to the bookstore when the Animorphs franchise was booming. When my parents had to make a trip to the store, I clamored for books the way other children beg for toys or candy. Luckily for me, I had parents who supported my book habit, and my mom was happy to supply me with every new Animorphs book as it hit the shelves.

About three years ago, I sold my extensive Animorphs collection to a woman with three boys. The books had been out of print for years (up until a few months ago...they're rereleasing them now, much to my delight), and her sons were unable to find more than the first three at their local library. Looking back on that decision, I sometimes worry that I made a huge mistake selling my books to this complete stranger. After all, those books hold a special place in my heart and it would be amazing to share them with my children someday. But when I really think about it, I helped those boys immensely. I supplied them with books that were otherwise unattainable, and who knows? Maybe I helped spark something in them. :)


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Eternal Sunshine of the Imaginative Mind

Wait, that's not the title of that movie...oh well. I like my title better. :P Today, we're continuing Sparkfest (which can be found at Christine's blog). As I mentioned before, my obssession with books began at a very young age. I was reading well above my grade level, so I encountered most books before my friends, a fact which was completely illustrated by my play.

I read a lot of adventure stories as a kid. My dad was in the military, so we moved around a lot and got to see lots of new places. I guess I always identified more with the adventurer types for that reason, even though I was incredibly shy and not particularly brave. My parents could always tell what I'd been reading by how I played.

The year that Island of the Blue Dolphins became my favorite, my brothers and I spent a lot of time climbing trees and hoarding the rocks from the little rock garden under our backyard hose (I didn't know what abalone looked like, but I thought the rocks were pretty close, and that was all we could eat when playing Island of the Blue Dolphins).

The year I read Treasure Island, we drew our own maps and hid "treasures" in the giant dirt pile in our backyard. I even insisted that we include a treasure hunt in the activities for my birthday party that year (much to the delight of all my friends).

As I got a little older, I started reading Harry Potter and Tamora Pierce's Tortall books. I still loved adventure, but fantasy was taking over my imagination. I started telling my brothers that I could do magic (which they believed in their little brother naivete), and spent a lot of time having conversations with myself in an English accent. Don't judge me. ;)

The moral of this story? Imagination is a very powerful thing, and the books we read as children have a huge impact on the kinds of stories we imagine. Most of the stories I write include a considerable amount of both magic and adventure, both of which I absorbed like a sponge in my formative years. Don't be afraid to play, even as an adult. Just look at it this way: you're building a life skill. :)

Happy writing!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Orange Belts, Sparks, and Campaigns, Oh My!

Lots of news today! First off, I'm officially part of a three-person critique group, which means...ORANGE BELT! That's probably the quickest I'll ever move up in this writing ninja thing, since I think I have to finish revising my current WIP to get my first stripe, which means finishing the first draft of my current WIP, which means...a long wait. Oh well, one step at a time, right?

In other news, SparkFest started today. I'm just going to share a little story with you about the books that got me into reading. Pull up your computer chair, throw pillow, couch cushion, etc! I started reading when I was two and a half. Yes, you read that right. My grandma was very encouraging when it came to reading, and explained the mechanics of it to my tiny 18-month-old self. I figured it out about a year later. My parents also encouraged this great love of reading, my mom being a bookworm herself, so it wasn't that surprising that I caught on quick.

The books that made the hugest difference in sparking my interest? Dr. Seuss of course. :) Hop on Pop was the first book I ever read on my own, and Green Eggs and Ham was the book that proved to my uncles that I wasn't just memorizing (I had never read it before they showed it to me). Those books taught me so many things, from The Lorax and his love of the environment, to Oh, The Places You'll Go and the value of hard work and big dreams. I loved every tongue-twisting story in the Fox in Socks, and giggled like a fool at the antics of Horton and Yertle the Turtle. I think a lot of people are forgetting those books now. They're always on the shelf at the library when I go with F and A (the kids I nanny), which is sad because they're amazing. I recently introduced F to Horton the Elephant, and nothing has made me happier than hearing him giggle, just like I did, at the very same story. I encourage everyone to keep a little love for good old Dr. Seuss in their hearts, and pass his messages on to your own children. :)

To wrap it up, Rachel over at Rach Writes is starting her third Writing Campaign, which allows you to network and make friends within this lovely blogosphere. I'm signing up today, so hopefully I'll see you all there! Happy writing!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Birthday Art

So for any of you who don't know, my fiance is an illustrator. And I mean that in a stating-a-fact way, not a rubbing-it-in-your-face way. My birthday was last week, and when asked what I wanted, I said, "A painting!" My birthday was kind of awful this year though, and we were so busy doing damage control that he didn't really get time to work on anything.'s finally done! The birthday painting we've all I've been waiting for!

Here it is:

Aren't they beautiful?! I've been a HUGE fan of Peter Pan my whole entire life. We're talking that's one of 10 books that made it into my suitcase when I studied in London for five months. I LOVE it. The faeries in the 2003 movie adaptation have always been my favorites. They have lots of glow and sparkle, and they're absolutely gorgeous. These ones, drawn for me for my birthday, are even better imho. They're clad in natural elements, as I think all faeries should be, and they have so much dust! I love dust...of the faerie variety, of course.

Anyway, if you get really excited about this picture and want to see more artwork by my talented counterpart, head on over to his blog, or check him out on DeviantArt. :)


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dream Movie: MC Casting Call

And now, a new feature I stole borrowed from Christine's blog (seriously, if you haven't checked it out yet, do it!): casting your dream movie. I'm casting my main characters today, since that seemed like a good place to start. I will say, before I get into my casting, I've never seen any of the following actors in the movies or on tv. I know what they've acted in, but I haven't actually seen them work, so I'm basing my casting purely on the look of my characters. Maybe someday I'll go back and do more research, but my characters all have a very specific look, so I'm focusing on that right now.

Onward! None of you know anything about my characters, and I'm not quite ready to share that with the masses yet, but you will learn their names in this post. :)

For Faron, the oldest of the MCs, I've gone with Chace Crawford (in all his gorgeous glory). He's got gorgeous brown hair, like Faron's, and blue eyes that could easily change to green with contacts. His build is similar, and from what I've heard, he's pretty tall. :)

For Orla, I chose Ariana Grande. She's beautiful, as befits a princess, and she has the gorgeous dark red hair I gave Orla in the story. She'd be perfect!

That hair!

Kai is the spunky character, with crazy/messy black hair and blue-green eyes. I chose Logan Lerman (of Percy Jackson fame).

And finally, for Wren (the youngest of the four), I chose Niamh Wilson. She was in the Saw movies, which I refuse to watch, but she's tiny and blonde like Wren. There aren't many photos of her, unfortunately.

So there you have it, the heroes in my imaginary movie! Who would you cast if your book was made into a movie? Leave your answer in the comments or, if you choose to respond with a blog post, leave a link!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Crit Partners and Sparkfest

Big news, people...I have a crit partner! We'll call her M. :) She's the same age as me, writes in the same genre, and is at a similar point in her writing process. You can find her blog here. All in all, I'd say we're a pretty good match. We're trying to set up a group of four or five, but I'll post more info on that as it comes.

Here's some even bigger news though. There's this really cool blogfest happening next week, and it's called Sparkfest. The idea behind it is to get people blogging about the books and authors that inspired them to write. It sounds like a great way to network as well as find some inspiration, so I'll be participating. You can find all the information at Christine Tyler's blog. I'm really looking forward to reading other people's responses to the questions, as well as sharing my own writing story. :) Did I mention there are prizes?

Hopefully I'll see you all there! Happy writing!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Writing Ninja!

Wow, this has been a much longer hiatus than I anticipated. I've been so busy, and I'm still not quite finished with Dance with Dragons! Ugh. I'm going to knuckle down and finish it by the weekend, I swear.

In other news, I've been attending WriteOnCon, which (for those of you who haven't heard of it) is an online writers' convention. It's pretty freaking awesome, and I'm looking quite a lot from it. One of the best parts about it has been the critique partner match forum. I'm hoping that I'll finish WriteOnCon with one (or more) critique partners. Fingers crossed!

One of my potential CPs is a writing ninja, and inspired me to become one too. Currently, I'm a yellow belt with two stripes...hopefully it won't take too long to get all the way to a black belt! I've realized in the last couple of days that I really want this life for myself, and the only way it's going to happen is if I make it happen. *sigh* Nothing awesome ever comes along without some seriously hard work.

So here we go! Dance will be finished by Monday, and hopefully I'll have some crit partners to gush about by then too. :) Happy writing!


PS If you'd like to join the ranks of writing ninjas, click here. :D