Friday, January 28, 2011

For the Record....

This sounds sort of strange, because I consider her to be a friend, and I hope she'll forgive me for being presumptuous (and oh-so-wierd)... but I want to BE Brodi Ashton. The girl isn't even officially published yet, but already I know great things are in store for her, and I want to go on the record by saying that I knew it first. Well, close to first. I think her husband and her writer's group must have suspected it before I even had a chance.

I'm dating my own fan-dom from April 16, 2010. I had been following her blog for months (I was among her first 100 followers, so nyah-nyah), and so was already in the habit of avidly stopping by three times a week. She'd given a few teaser lines of the book now called EVERNEATH back in November of 2009, but on April 16, 2010, she posted a longer teaser. I'm not at all ashamed to say that I was completely hooked. Not just hooked, but addicted. I literally read the teaser at least ten times and, every few months since, I stop back to get my fix. Go read it--but be warned: you'll want more, and you'll want it now, but you won't get it for another 18 months. CORRECTION: it turns out that "Winter of 2012" also encompasses January 2012. January 3rd, be exact. Which shall be known as The Frabjous Day.

Winter of 2012 can't come fast enough--I'm so SO eager to read the rest! It's not just the interesting premise or the skillful writing: in just that short clip, I could feel what it was like to go away for 100 years, come back 6 months later, be completely changed, and want nothing more than to not hurt (again) the guy I love... even knowing that hurting him was probably inevitable. Not a good feeling, friends--and that feeling has been festering, unresolved in my gut, for almost a year now. If I can achieve half that amount of emotion in twice the word count Brodi does it in, I'll know I'm doing well.

Brodi knows of my obsession and is handling it admirably. She and most of her awesome writer's group, The Six, allowed me and my college roomie, Susan Jensen, to go to dinner with them and hang out at the LDSSM conference last year, where Brodi very deservedly trounced me (and everyone else) in the First Chapter contest. (Had I known she had entered, I would have known I had no chance, rather than just suspecting it). She let me interview her writer's group for Authors' Advisory. She puts up with my not-at-all-infrequent attempts to trick her into sending me the unpublished-and-still-in-revisions manuscript, finally promising me an ARC, just to shut me up. (I'd say I won't hold her to that, but I haven't the strength.)

If you don't want to take my word for it, read what her agent wrote. Who wouldn't want an agent saying that about them?

Someday, when Brodi is widely known as the next Stephenie Meyer and is beating off legions of fans with a stick, I will be able to point out that I said it first. That should earn me a trip to the front of the signing line, methinks. Really, though, a little resolution would be awesome. Nikki and Jack need to figure out how to free her from the Everneath. They need to be free to love each other. Most importantly, I need to know how it all works out.

Hurry, 2012. Hurry, hurry.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My First Blogger Award!

Okay, so I normally only blog once a week, but I had to celebrate my first blogger award! Donna Weaver at Weaving a Tale or Two passed along the following:


Reciept of this award requires that I:
1. Link back to the lovely person who gave me the award (check)
2. Tell you 7 things about myself
3. Pass the award on to 15 recently discovered bloggers ("recently" is not defined, and has been interpreted very loosely)
Okay, so 7 things about me:
  1. I majored in Theatre Arts at BYU. I wanted to do the acting track, but it turned out that I can't do a monologue to save my life, so instead I did an emphasis in directing. My minor was English, with an emphasis in creative writing. I had tons of fun, but when I graduated from college, I never really planned to use my degree....
  2. I served an LDS mission in Texas, San Antonio before graduating. I met my husband there (don't judge me) and we were engaged less than a month after his own missionary homecoming.
  3. After my undergrad I took my 4-month-old baby and went to law school (hubby helped).  While I was there, I served as the Managing Editor of the BYU Journal of Public Law. The JPL published my case note on the Juvenile Death Penalty, in which I correctly predicted that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon outlaw the practice. (Go me!) By the time I got my Juris Doctorate (and doesn't that sound prestigious?), I had a 3-year-old boy and an 8-month-old boy. 9 months after I was sworn in to the bar, I had another. All boys.
  4. In late 2006, my sister-in-law, Paula Morgan Weeks (who also took the photos on this site) mentioned that her first cousin Stephenie (get it? Paul-a and Stephen-ie?) had written a couple vampire books which were getting some pretty stellar reviews. Humoring Paula, I looked them up online... and the premise sounded pretty dang cool. I checked the first one out of the library and have never been so hooked so fast. I immediately obtained the second one and read them both twice. With so many good books in the world, that never happens. I'll never write anything as awesome as that series, but it started me thinking... "I can do (something like) that!" No, I have never met this author ... but Paula once used her super cousin powers to get her to personalize her adult sci-fi book for me at a huge signing in Colorado. Yes, I do dream that, someday, she'll acknowledge me as family....
  5. I can organize information like nobody's business. I love Excel spreadsheets and almost nothing makes me happier than whipping up a new one with complex calculations and conditional formatting. (This is strange, because I've never really liked math. I passed the AP Math test (barely) in high school and never took another math class.)
  6. My father was born and raised in England and my mother was an Army brat. I like to think that, though I was raised in a rather sheltered community in Sandy, Utah, I reaped the benefits of having two well-traveled and open-minded parents.
  7. My current (um, first) WIP combines theatre, creative writing (duh), San Antonio, law, juveniles, fantasy, and a bit of my English heritage. If I can just fit a spreadsheet in there somewhere, it will be perfect.
Okay, so now I'm supposed to give the award to 15 bloggers I've recently discovered. Here goes (alphabetical order):
  1. Bloggin' Bout' Books (Susan Kennedy Jensen)
  2. Bree Despain
  3. Brodi Ashton
  4. Danyelle Leafty
  5. Donna Weaver (that's legal, right?)
  6. Emily Wing Smith
  7. Gail Carriger (why not?)
  8. Jenn Johansson
  9. Karen Hoover
  10. Ken Cassell
  11. Meredith Mansfield
  12. Sara Bolton
  13. Shanna Blythe
  14. Shea Forrest
  15. Valynne E. Maetani
Okay, so now I have to get back to preparing the outline for tomorrow's Author's Advisory Conference Call with Robyn Carr--everyone make sure you show up with great questions to ask about Developing Strong Characters! I'll have plenty, but this is your chance to talk to one of the greatest women's fiction authors alive today. She's also my personal mentor. (She said I could call her that.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How Twitter is Cooler than High School

I have recently discovered the joys of Twitter. I know, I know, it's been around for a while, but I've always assumed it was more of a time-waster than an actual, like, tool and stuff.  Well, I was right and wrong. Twitter is a time-waster. I can sit for hours watching it... but that's because of all the cool writerly people who are tweeting.

The other night I was fascinated by an interchange between Dan Wells (@johncleaver) and Howard Tayler (@HowardTayler)--they were done writing for the day and needed to blow off some steam. Being LDS, they didn't head to the bar: they scheduled an evening of board games and popcorn. Through Twitter. (Like they don't have each other's direct phone numbers? Ever hear of texting? Or, well, talking on the phone?) Entertainment at its finest, folks. In the midst of this, Aprilynne Pike (@AprilynnePike) did what I really wanted to do and popped in to say she wished she lived closer so she could join in the fun. Me too, me too!!

Last week, Shannon Hale (@haleshannon) noticed that Logan, Utah's libraries are constantly checking out her books, so she blogged about it, promising to visit them--and to drag two other locally popular authors--James Dashner (@jamesdashner) and Jessica Day George (@JessDayGeorge) along with her. Then she called James and Jessica out on Twitter--and soon had replies from both, promising to go. Am I the only one with a sudden desire to visit Logan later this year?

I'm new, like I said, so I'm not following very many people yet (88 right now), and even fewer are following me (18), but #therearesomanycoolpeoplethere!!! I got the thrill of my Twitter experience when Gail Carriger (@gailcarriger) started following me this week. ME! Gail Carriger! And she was completely gracious when I went all fangirl on her and even agreed to do a conference call for Farland's Authors' Advisory!!! (June 1st--read her books now, if you haven't: they're awesome!)

Watching all this fun, I can't help but feel a little like I'm in high school again (where I was far from popular), watching the cool kids hang out, plan fun parties and road trips, and generally flaunt their coolness. Oh, how I wanted to be included! I had my own friends and we had a good time, but, well, that looked like fun, too. Now, rather than just sitting back and dreaming about inclusion, I have an actual goal to become one of the cool kids. I want Shannon Hale to invite me to go on road trips with her. I want Dan Wells to issue an open invitation to his house for popcorn and board games (and the scones they've been tweeting so much about) the next time I'm in town. I want these awesome writers to know my name and to think of me as #oneofus.

Because I want to BE one of them. I want to be a bestselling YA fantasy author. There: I said it. AND I want to be friends with all the other cool authors--because, let's face it, they're really, really cool. How do I know? I stalk them on Twitter, of course... which encourages me to read their blogs... which encourages me to read their books... which only makes me want to know them more. Lather, rinse, repeat. See? Twitter works.

Now I'm going to get going on my editing so I can someday invite them all to my book launch party....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Writer Scouts: Be Prepared

I've recently become the Cub Committee Chair for my local Cub Scout Pack. I get to help the den leaders the pack master, and the assistant pack master (aka My Husband) with... whatever they need help with. (Sill trying to figure out what my job is, frankly, but I know it involves designing spreadsheets, so I'm happy.) I also have to design  a pinewood derby car. Ideas, anyone?

As everyone knows, the Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared." (Turns out the Cub Scout motto is "Do Your Best." Who knew that?)

So I'm making a list of things a writer needs to have nearby all the time to be prepared. And to do their best.
  • Something to write on / with. For tech-lovers like me, that means a laptop, though a regular peice of paper and a pen should work fine. I just can't compose on paper: I need the clickity click of the keyboard to inspire me. Thursday night, when my nine-year-old son, BoyD, tried a highly scientific experiment to find out what would happen when a foot wearing a sock collided at high speeds with a foot wearing a shoe, necessitating a trip to the ER for stitches, I took the time to grab my laptop on the way out the door. Just in case we were there forever and I was going to have time to write. It stayed in the car, since we were only there a few hours... but my husband still mocked me. What? Just because he has two fractured toes doesn't mean he needs undivided attention.
  • A book. Sadly, this works a bit counter to the purpose of bringing along your writing materials, but what writer can survive without a book? If you only have five minutes of "down-time" you can read a page or two. It would take that long just to turn on the laptop. Thursday night, my husband and son ganged up on me and actually made me keep my book in my purse. Even during the long and boring period while we were waiting for the doctor to come and do the stitching. Even despite my repeated assurances that, as soon as I pulled the book out, the doctor would appear. (Books are magic like that.) It was torture, but I survived it. Harder to survive was that night when my husband forced me to bed at 11 pm by hiding said book before he went to the store. When BoyD woke up hurting at midnight and needed some mommy attention, I had no book to keep me occupied while I held his hand. Instead, BoyD helped me play a computer game. (Yes, the computer was already on--you try writing at midnight!) (No, I'm not addicted to reading. I can stop anytime. I just choose not to.)
  • Imagination. This is for those times when neither of the above are available. You can't write, you can't read. You are forced to just sit there and look bored like a "normal" person. Doing nothing, for the sake of... solidarity? Good parenting? (I refuse to believe my children are benefited by mommy looking bored, but whatever.) Anyway, during these periods, you can foil them all by using your imagination. Figure out what is supposed to happen next in your WIP. Play "what if" by rearranging elements to see what would happen. Run through the plot looking for obvious holes. Or, hey, think up ideas for your next WIP. The sky isn't even a limit, here. (Now if only there were a good way to record all your great ideas as you come up with them....)
BoyD is doing okay, by the way. He has a walking boot and won't be skiing for a while, but we have some lovely gross pictures (which I won't share here--you're welcome) of his toe in various stages of lacerated disrepair. After the fractures were discovered on Friday (after we finally grew a couple spines and figured out how to insist on x-rays--by visiting our favorite medical professional), he was prescribed some lovely drugs to stop infection and pain.

And I have another going-to-the-hospital memory to add to my arsenal for when something similar happens to one of my characters.

What about you? What things do you find essential to have on hand to support your writerly instincts? Chocolate? (Chocolate makes your book jacket picture look fat. So I hear.) MP3 player with your favorite tunes? (How can you write with that noise?) A quiet room all to yourself? (What? You haven't learned to tune your kids out? Need some tips?)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top 2010... 10

2010 was actually a bit of a banner year for me. (What does that mean, anyway? Banner year? Anyway, it was pretty cool.) It's hard to prioritize all the awesome things that have made this year one of the best ever, but here's the list anyway, in no particular order.

  1. Finished writing my first full novel. Yes, I can write over 102,000 words on the same story—and most of those words were written this year. It’s still really bad and needs major surgery to make it really live, but it sure is cool to see all the bones, blood, and guts lying there, waiting to be stitched together.
  2. Went to my first writer’s conference (LDS Story Makers) in April, where I met a ton of really cool authors, including Dan Wells, James Dashner, and Aprilynne Pike. Jessica Day George was also there, and, though I’d met her before, it was still awesome to see her.
  3. Reunited with Susan Kennedy Jensen, my college roommate. Susan, who now runs a mean book blog, flew to Utah from Arizona to attend LDSSM with me. It was cool to hang out with her there, since every aspiring author wants to talk to the book blogger in the room!
  4. Met The Six. I’d been following Brodi Ashton’s blog religiously for a while and was thrilled when Brodi and four of her writer’s group agreed to meet Susan and me for dinner the evening before the LDSSM conference started. A funnier group of girls you’ll never meet. Then, in December, I also got to interview them for the Farland Authors’ Advisory.  I’m feeling a bit like the little sister that follows her older, cooler sisters around, but none of them have told me to get lost yet….
  5. Lost the LDSSM First Chapter contest—which would normally be a low point, except Brodi so completely deserved to win and I loved, loved, loved the comments from my judges. Especially the judge that scored me the lowest: he/she said that I was a “very, very, good” writer, encouraged me to keep writing, and said my story was as good as Aprilynne Pike’s Wings.  How can I feel bad about that? Wings is an NYT Bestseller! I’ll take criticism like that any day.
  6. Finally got a writer’s group. When David Farland announced on the Daily Kick that he was starting an online writer’s forum, I was thrilled! I immediately asked his brother, Jim Wolverton if I could help, wrote the Critique Guide, got to be Jim’s own group leader, and have been basking in the perfection that is the Pied Pipers ever since. They actually encouraged me to write crazy elaborate rules! I promise, many of them will be bestsellers soon, and everyone will be reading their books. Meanwhile, they’re willing to help me figure out and hone all the writing skills I’ve forgotten since I left college. I have no idea how anyone writes without a group. If you are not in a group yet, do yourself a favor and check out David Farland’s Writer’s Groups.
  7. Got to host Farland’s Authors’ Advisory. When Jim announced they were getting bestselling authors to give us free writing advice in conference calls, I resisted raising my hand for, oh, a week? Then I oh-so-casually mentioned that I’d be happy to help out and Jim was nice enough to let me. My co-host, Mike Shaffer, is a talented hoot and a half and our minds work just opposite enough to make sure things should never be boring. I’m still a bit starry-eyed that I get to interview such great authors, even if it’s just by phone. So much fun!
  8. I’ve read 138 books. Not counting the 5 full-length novels I critiqued or the books I started and didn’t quite finish. (Like the last half of my re-read of Breaking Dawn.) I’ve revisited old favorite authors, like Stephenie Meyer, Patricia Briggs, Robyn Carr, and Brandon Sanderson, and found new favorites like Gail Carriger, Dan Wells, and Janette Rallison. (I have too many favorites to list them all, truly.) If you ever need a book recommendation, I’m your girl.
  9. I started a blog. This is more of a time commitment than a cause for celebration, but it becomes more wonderful when you consider that the design comes courtesy of my friend Devoney Wolf, who sent out a very timely email asking if anyone needed a web page designed, since she had to do a school project for her web design class. Um, yeah! I love her design. Isn’t it great? Then, of course, my awesome sister-in-law, Paula Weeks, took some pictures that make me look amazing. (If I do say so myself--and you would, too, if you could compare them to my normal appearance.)
  10. My family is well. My brother John got married to a wonderful girl this summer, my sister Vanessa survived the wildfires in Utah with her house intact, and all my nieces and nephews are growing up—albeit too quickly—to be wonderful young men and women. My own children are growing and are such awesome kids. My husband continues to support me despite having no idea why I like books, and loves me even though he has to regularly turn my light out at night and take my book (or computer, as the case may be) away so I can get some sleep. He’ll never read what I write, but I couldn’t write anything if he didn’t make it possible. This year was our ten year anniversary and we still behave like newlyweds. My husband is always on my top ten list.
Oh, and I also lost 20 pounds! It can be done! Now I'll look so much better on my eventual book tours.... :) (See the last blog post about delusions....)

How was 2010 for you? Think 2011 can top it?