Friday, February 25, 2011

On Emergency Rooms, Revisions, and Balance

In the last two months, my nearest-and-dearest have visited various emergency rooms (or the equivalent) 10 times:
  1. My 9-year-old son lacerated and compression-fractured his toe, requiring stitches and a walking boot.
  2. My 3-year old nephew broke his arm, requiring a cast.
  3. The same nephew broke the same arm again, this time in the growth plate, requiring surgery.
  4. The same nephew's brother fell during Nephew 1's doctor's appointment and broke his face, possibly requiring surgery on his nose.
  5. My husband's father's mother had heart issues and spent the night in the hospital, prompting family-wide panic.
  6. Same grandma back in hospital a few days later after putting too much energy into putting her affairs in order and not enough into resting.
  7. My mother-in-law tore her knee up skiing--ligaments traumatized.
  8. Nephew 1&2's mother tore her knee up, tearing ligaments.
  9. My sister had an ectopic pregnancy, requiring surgery.
  10. Same sister now has pneumonia, requiring an overnight hospital stay.
Apparently, bad things don't just come in threes.

Meanwhile, my own life seems charmed--I personally keep dodging disaster. (Yeah, got me some nice wood to knock on right here....) I did a 180 on the freeway in Salt Lake on my way home, ended up stopped in the fast lane, pointing the wrong way, and drove away moments later, completely unscathed. All the cars behind me managed to miss me--even the truck with the snow plow on the front. I got to moderate at LTUE, talk to more authors for Authors' Advisory, and I spend all my free time quite seflishly pounding away at my book, reading the books of those I'll interview soon, and getting to know the other wonderful writers of the World Wide Web.

And I feel guilty. My 9-year-old had to hang out with the DVD player at the ski lodge last weekend because mommy was at a conference while everyone else was skiing. When my MIL busted her knee on that trip, another driver would have been awfully handy. My husband and sons visited his grandma the same weekend... without me. When we got news of my sister, Jerry asked if we needed to head down to be with her. I looked up from the computer and assured him all would be well, no reason to fuss. I sent her a few texts and spoke to her husband on the phone. I've let my husband handle the health updates on his own family. I'm a total slacker, family-wise.

You'd think, with all I'm ignoring to revise this monster, that I'd be farther along. Instead, I didn't revise at all last week (traveling will do that, I hear) and I've spent all this week working on ONE CHAPTER! It's a mildly important chapter, sure, but really? One? I finally laid it to rest last night and I'm moving on tonight, but if next month goes at all like this month has, revision-wise, I still won't have my second draft done by the end of March.

Which is really depressing.

So anyone have advice? How long does your family tolerate your absence while you hide in your writer's cave? How do you balance the duties of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and granddaughter while still making forward progress on your writing career? Those of you who, like me, have a day-job as well--how do you balance the precious time you have left after you get home? How often does your bathroom get cleaned? (If you don't answer that, I won't either, deal?)

While writing the last paragraph above, my sons brought me their Shrek doll, which, untill recently, was stuffed with tiny white plastic beads. They want him fixed. I think I might take an hour to watch some TV, fix the doll before he completely bleeds out... and maybe even fold some laundry.

Then I'll feel guilty about not writing, instead. *sigh*

Sunday, February 20, 2011

LTUE Top Ten

Life, the Universe, and Everything was just as fun as I thought it would be. I'll never be able to summarize all the cool things I did, but here's the highlights:

1.      I got to fetch James Dashner his water, and helped him connect his Macintosh to the overhead projector (press and hold F7, apparently) so he could show us the cover of The Death Cure. Then I helped persuade him to read three chapters (instead of two--he swore us to secrecy, but you're gonna love it. I can't wait until it's out!!!). I invited him to do an Authors' Advisory conference call and he... was noncommittal. Didn't say yes, didn't say no. If you know James, tell him he should do it! He has my card….

2.      I moderated three panels and NO ONE asked why the heck I was there! Rather, I find that my voice is famous. A few attendees approached me afterward (which was really confusing—why were they talking to me?) and said they recognized my voice from the calls. So cool! I hadn’t even mentioned Authors’ Advisory (probably should have, though…).

3.      When I approached J. Scott Savage to give him my card and invite him to do a call, he already knew who I was! Neither of us was sure if we’d met before, but we shook hands and proclaimed our happiness to know each other. He said he’d be happy to do a call sometime. *Squee!*

4.      I got to see a certain book cover (it wasn’t authorized to be shown around, so I won’t say whose) that made me squeal and jump up and down. Literally. I want that cover as a poster to hang on my wall. It’s gorgeous. Breathtaking. The cover alone will sell the book, and the book itself needs no such help!

5.      Howard Tayler’s wife Sandra says he’ll do a call, too, in a few months. I confess that I am a little intimidated by Howard—not sure why—but I still managed to approach him at dinner (he and Sandra obligingly sat down at the table right behind me). I was in the middle of my explanatory spiel when Sandra pipes in with “he’d love to do that.” :) Yes, Sandra is cool—it was great to meet her, too.

6.      Being a Gopher is cool. I got to carry a clipboard, flash a bright pink 5-minute warning sign, fetch and carry water, and march around importantly. I got to know the shortcuts to all the rooms. I had the perfect excuse to talk to the authors on each panel. We got to know the conference from back-stage, as it were—which has always been my favorite place in any production—and therefore had a much fuller experience than anyone else. (So there.) Donna Weaver and I were the only Gophers over 25, but I, for one, never felt the age gap. (I think I stopped maturing at 17, anyway.) I got to meet Toad the Gopher King, Jenna-of-The-Jenna-Award is now my Facebook friend, and we got to see four teenage girls fit inside one 5X t-shirt. Best moment? Someone said “and there was much rejoicing” and the whole room gave a half-hearted “yay.” Sigh. I’ve missed being in a group like that.

7.      Dinner with David Farland, his wife, his son, and a huge table of forum-mates. You know how, in situations like that, you always want to be the one sitting across from the super-duper cool people, but you never are? (Well, I never am, anyway.) Friday night, I was right across from Dave. He regaled us with some very scary predictions about the industry and some things we’ll want to watch out for about our digital rights, but it was still amazing. He also said he wants to do another call in a few weeks. Yay!

8.      Brodi Ashton, (who wore her red scarf and got teased by James Dashner for her popularity with the agents), Bree Despain (who was on too many awesome panels to count), Emily Wing Smith (why wasn’t she on panels?), Kimberly Reid (who I’d never met IRL before), and Sara Bolton (with her adorable brand-new baby) were there. All just as nice as ever.

9.      I discovered that Twitter is a great way to take notes in a conference—especially when you’ve forgotten to bring note paper and your laptop only has enough juice for two hours. Or when you've figured out that taking notes on Twitter is just plain cool. There were tons of people taking notes that way, BTW—check out the #LTUE hash tag on Twitter for a lot of great quotes.

10.  I got to live with and hang with Donna Weaver—who is a kindred spirit. She has children my age, but we found we agreed on almost everything. After reading her blog, I suspected that I’d like her—now I know. She’s awesome. She even let me read her copy of Anna and the French Kiss (in two very late nights--AMAZING book).

There were other highlights--and other authors who will be doing calls for Authors' Advisory, but I need to get back to the one thing I didn't do at all: WRITE! I'll never feel like I've earned a permanent place in this awesome community until I have the publication cred to back it up!

Who else was there? What was your favorite part?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LTUE (or, Why I Can't Figure Out if I'm Important)

Tomorrow I will drive to my home state of Utah to spend three days with Donna Weaver at my alma mater, BYU, attending the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium on science fiction and fantasy. Tons of my favorite authors will be there and, get this: I get to help! Not only help, but I get to moderate three of the panels. =D

What is this "moderate" thing, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.... I'm not sure (you'll see why)--but I'm excited to do it, anyway.

When I first decided to attend LTUE a couple months ago, I emailed the powers that be and volunteered to help--and not just because I'm addicted to volunteering, lately. Really. Think about it--what better way to actually get to talk to your favorite authors than if you are in charge of fetching their water bottles? "Here's your water, Mr. Dashner. No, no. My pleasure. What? You want to give me an ARC of The Death Cure? Well... okay. If you insist."

What was I talking about? Oh--the LTUE powers-that-be emailed back and asked if I wanted to be a panelist! Me! Well, when I stopped laughing (seriously--would you come to a panel with me on it? Maybe you shouldn't answer that), I had to confess that I'm not exactly cool enough to be a panelist. I mean, I'm no Brodi Ashton, right? (Not yet....) Still, I really like public speaking, I have a bit of experience with interviewing authors, and, well, combining the two is awesome, so I suggested that maybe I could help, like, moderate or something. And they said yes! Wahoo! I get to be one of the moderators! So. Cool.

Then, today, I get the official email telling everyone which panels they'll be on. (I'm in an email list with, well, everybody!) I'll be moderating the following:

Thursday, February 17, 2011
11:00 am: Poetic license vs. Authorial Obligation, with Clint Johnson, Eric Swedin, and Julie Wright.
5:00 pm: Pay it Forward with Paul Genesse, Elana Johnson, and Tristi Pinkston

Friday, February 18, 2011
Noon: What is an Agent, and What can they do for you? with Tyler Whitsides, James Dashner, and Lesli Muir Lytle

Looks like a really fun time, hey? I'm really excited to meet such great people and to spend time chatting with them about writing-related stuff. Just being at the front of the same room with them will be awesome!

So here's the kicker. At the top of today's official schedule email is this explanatory line:
Except for Robin, all moderators are also panelists.  Robin is our designated moderator.
 Check me, huh? I'm not only A moderator, I'm THE moderator. I'll Be Back er, There

Only... the other panels (three or four every hour, 9-9 for three days) still have assigned moderators (who aren't me)--they just have one of the authors assume the task of keeping everyone in line.

So, basically, I'm the only person LTUE is letting on a panel who doesn't have the necessary credentials to actually instruct the symposium attendees.

Which makes me very important. (I'm pretty sure.)

Either way, I'm showing up, accepting my Moderator nametag, wearing it with pride, and having the time of my life.

Maybe they'll even let me fetch some water bottles....

Friday, February 11, 2011

That's YAmore Blogfest

Yay! My first blogfest! Over at Oasis for YA, they're hosting a Valentines' day blogfest. I was invited to participate by Jessie Harell, who I've recently "met" and like already. Blogfest participants post "250 romantic, swoon-worthy words from your YA WIP" in honor of the most romantic day of the year. Well, who can resist that?

Therefore, for your (hopeful) reading pleasure, I now present the very first excerpt from my WIP. Enjoy!

“Why don’t we catch a movie?”

Brina’s wings drooped a bit. “I get kicked out of human theatres. Too much glow. It’s why my parents caved and got Netflix.”

“Really? Wow.” Ethan thought a moment. “Do you get kicked out of ice cream parlors?

“Not that I can recall.”

“There’s this great place near the Riverwalk. What if we go there, and then watch a movie at your house?”

Brina smiled. “You want to watch a movie with my family?”

Ethan’s eyes twinkled in the streetlights. “They’ll love me. Plus, I figure if you’re home early, I’ll get a longer date. Make up for the awful party I took you to.”

Brina fought back a giggle, but couldn’t tone down her permagrin. “Sounds good.”

“First, though,” he said, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to do all night that I won’t get a chance to do at your parents’ house.”

“What?” Brina ruthlessly stomped on a rising thread of hope. He couldn’t mean….

Ethan stepped closer, pressed her lightly against the car, and cupped her jaw in his hand. “This,” he said, as he lowered his mouth to hers.

Ethan’s kiss was utterly different from Louie's. Instead of just resting against hers, his lips moved, rocking first one way and then the other. Every nerve ending in Brina’s body buzzed, and she held onto his arms with hands gone numb. Kissing Ethan was like taking a direct jolt of Yellow dust with a chaser of White. It was better than flying.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Paying It Forward (I can't resist a good contest!)

Shelly over at Market My Words is running a Pay it Forward contest. If you want to join in, tomorrow is the last day. (Yes, I deliberately delayed my entry so I'd have less competition.) The winner will get her (okay, or his) personal referral to Shelly's own agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Trident Media Group).

To enter, I have to reveal the person who has helped me in my writing or in my personal life. That's easy: Robyn Carr. I told the story of how I "met" Robyn on her recent Authors' Advisory conference call, but I didn't mention what a wonderful inspiration she is.

I don't write the same kind of fiction that Robyn writes, though I'm a huge fan of her work. Nevertheless, Robyn has taught me more about writing and the publishing industry in the years we've been exchanging emails than anyone else I can think of. I've asked her hundreds of questions and she has responded to each one--sometimes more than once! She's explained in detail the publication process, why you should get a publicist, how you get paid, and what it feels like to finally make the NYT Bestseller list.

She protests that she doesn't do enough for me to be labled my mentor but even though she can't critique my writing (she has no spare time for that, even if it wasn't unwise), she has constantly encouraged me for years now. She suggested that I look into writing YA, then told me my story idea sounded rather juvenile... and, after I explained it more, agreed that it just might work. Without her prodding, support, and approval, I'm not sure if I would have ever had the gumption to finish the thing. I can't wait for the day I can mail her her own signed copy. She'll have to read it then. :)