Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanks For Playin'!

Thanks for hanging in there with me during NaBoPoMo! I sort of ran out of things to say toward the end there, so I'm glad I can go back to my schedule of only blogging when I have something of interest to share. It does feel nice to share in the feeling of accomplishment that comes at the end of November, even if I didn't get a draft finished.

I thought it would be fun to give away a book to say thanks for listening to me babble for the past 30 days, so I'm pulling out the Sekrit Bag O' Signed Books!

So, if you want to reach into my Sekrit Bag O' Signed Books and pick something out, just be a follower of the blog and comment on this post with your e-mail address. I'll use random.org to pick a winner when I get back from Big Sur on Monday, and the winner can reach into the Sekrit Bag O' Signed books and pick the signed book of his or her choice. Yay!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Suckage Free November

As November is drawing to a close, I'm faced with a surprising emotion.


Yeah, I'm jealous of the NaNoers. I'm jealous of all of you who now have a shiny new draft to play with. Because here I am, still tinkering with the same old thing. I'm a little sick of it, to tell you the truth, and I wish I had something new to work on.

However, I am glad I didn't do it. NaNo, that is. I'm glad I kept my focus on my WIP.

I wanted to NaNo. I sat down on November 1st and typed up about 1,000 words of the SNI that's been floating around in my head. I have the whole thing plotted and planned in the ol' noggin, but as soon as I sat down and tried to put it out there, it sucked.

And I know that's the spirit of NaNo...write whatever you want and don't worry about sucking! You can fix it later!

But I don't want this one to suck. I want it to be good. And even though I know I could have fixed it later, I looked at that first 1,000 words and thought this isn't my story.

(Because it sucked.)

So, even though I'm jealous of those of you with new stories to play with, I have to accept the fact that it's not my SNI's time yet. I still need to give my current ms all the love I can give it, so when it comes time for me to put finger to keys, I can make it as good as it needs to be.

(Because, let's be honest, I'm still cleaning up the suckage of NaNo '08 over here. I can't start off THAT crappy again...it will take years to fix!)

So, who did NaNo? Did you finish? (Or will you?) If you didn't, did you still accomplish something this month? I hope so.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big Sur

Next weekend I'm heading up to Big Sur to attend the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop hosted by the Andrea Brown Agency. 

I'm really looking forward to a weekend spent with authors, agents, editors, and other writers talking about writing! There's going to be a lot of critiquing and active writing going on, and I'm very excited about that. It's always good to some writing nerd time in. 

And I've actually never been to Big Sur before. The lodge where we'll be staying looks gorgeous, and I can't wait to get an eyeful of that famous Big Sur coastline. 

Has anyone been to the Big Sur workshop before? Is anyone going to be there next weekend? I don't know anyone who is going, so it would be nice to have some friends lined up in advance. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recent Reads

Here are some books I've picked up recently...

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Honestly, I had no intention of reading this book. I don't know...I'm not super wild about historical fiction for some reason. Well, that's not true. I enjoy it when I read it. But I don't ever find myself seeking it out or feeling like I want to read it. So when I started hearing about this book, I just zoned out a little bit. I never actually considered it.

I'm incapable of making a decision, so any time I go to Borders with a coupon I ask Twitter what I should buy. One trip a Twitter buddy told me to get Revolution. So I finally decided to read the description and I realized it isn't 100% historical. It looks like it switches back and forth between the past and the present. So, since I loved A Northern Light (also historical...see, I don't hate it), and there's no point in asking Twitter for recommendations if I just ignore them, I picked it up. Since then I've been hearing nothing but raves about it.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

I'll be honest. About 85% my decision to buy this book was because I love the girl on the cover's outfit. I know that's so ridiculous, because the cover has nothing to do with anything, but, hell, I just love that outfit. Okay, truthfully, I could kind of recreate it. I have a similar t-shirt, and my riding boots are grey, not black, but I could totally rock it.

So, yeah, the book. I really does sound good. And I want to read it. But I really love that cover.

Rich and Mad by William Nicholson

It's about love and sex and it's British. SOLD.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I already own this book, but I saw it at Borders in hardcover and I had to get it. I like paperbacks to read, but when it comes to books in my collection on my shelves, I really like hardcovers whenever I can get them. I rarely see hardcover copies of The Book Thief, so when I spotted one at my Borders I knew I had to scoop it up. It looks so pretty on my shelf! And now I have that brand new, unread paperback to give away as a gift or something.

Have you read any of these? What do you think about them? Did you get anything good recently?

Friday, November 26, 2010

When Real Life and WIP Collide

On Wednesday I was sitting in Borders, trying to kill time until I could get back into my house*, when a couple walked in, and I couldn't stop staring at them.

I couldn't stop staring because they looked exactly like the couple in my WIP! Brandon and Chelsea, right there in Borders!

The guy was tall and lanky with floppy blonde hair, a white t-shirt, and flip flops, and the girl was tiny and Asian with an adorable outfit and perfect hair. They weren't a perfect match to my characters - the guy didn't have glasses and the girl obviously wasn't Korean. But they were close enough...and they were there in the flesh.

I was very excited.

Thanks to the encouragement of Twitter, I turned off the shutter noise on my phone camera and snapped a quick picture of them.

Aren't they so adorable?

It's not the best picture, but I do think it captures their cuteness.

They eventually moved tables...probably to avoid my creepy staring. I'm not very subtle when I find something I want to look at.

Have you ever seen your characters out walking around? Were you a stalker like me who took a picture?

* My place was being fumigated for termites this week, so I was in a hotel for a couple of days. Then when I could get back in, they were doing construction outside, so there was so much banging I had to go into hiding at Borders. I can't handle the banging. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I have so much to be thankful for this year. Another year of being employed in a job I love, even when the economy is in the toilet. Another year of growing as a writer and working toward being the best I can be. Another year of reading amazing books and sharing them with the people in my life. Another year of having the most fun a thirty*something*-year-old can possibly have. Yeah, I have a kick-ass life, and I'm pretty darn thankful for it.

There aren't really any kids in my family right now, and that has really changed the nature of our family holidays. Last year Thanksgiving was spent on a cruise with my parents. This year husband and I were supposed to be in the Dominican Republic, but that fell through, so we don't really have any plans. It's going to be a game-time decision. Hang with his mom, his brother, and his brother's fiance at his mom's friend's house? Go to dinner with my parents and my aunt and uncle? Go it alone and hit up the Claim Jumper turkey dinner? Who knows.

I hope you all have much to be thankful for this year, and I hope that you are spending this day doing exactly what you want to be doing.

Much love. <3

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Congratulations to Shana!

A big congratulations to my friend and writing buddy Shana Silver for signing with the awesome agent Sarah LaPolla with Curtis Brown!


I couldn't be happier for you! Go read her story of turing an idea into an agent over on her blog and give her some love.

This is the first in what will hopefully be many exciting things for our writing group.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankful Tuesday - Giving Thanks To The Writing Community

Today is the final day in Christine Fonseca's Giving Thanks series. I have given thanks to my writing group and agents, and today I want to give thanks to the writing community.

You guys...in case you haven't noticed, the writing community is awesome.

I am so happy to be a part of a group of people who are just so NICE and HELPFUL. Every day I go through my Google Reader and it is just full of posts that people wrote to help encourage me and make me better. Every day!

Editors are nice and helpful, agents are nice and helpful, established authors are nice and helpful, debut authors are nice and helpful, and people like me, who are trying to do it, are nice and helpful toward each other. I love it.

I've learned so much in the past year by being part of this community. I've learned what it means to be a good writer, but I've also learned what it means to just be a cool person thanks to all of the amazing people I have met both online and in person through this awesome community.

So everyone out there...thank you! Thanks for being so encouraging and helping me succeed. Thanks for helping each other and letting me witness it. It makes me glad to be part of a group of such incredible individuals.

::group hug::

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hello From The Writing Cave

It's Monday, I have the entire week off, and I'm settled into my Writing Cave, aka the back corner chair at my local Panera.

Yeah, you gotta love Hazelnut coffee and the lovely bread-themed tapestry on the wall.

I'm displaced from my home until Wednesday because we are getting fumigated, so I'm looking at this as a little writing vacation. When I'm not here at Panera, I'll be at a local hotel with free wi-fi, so the plan is to get a LOT done.

We'll see.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One Day

Today was my book club. We wet at my friend Wan's gorgeous house and had so many delicious treats that I can hardly handle it.

We read this book:

I really enjoyed the book. It was British and had angsty romance, so you knew I was all about it. If you aren't familiar with the story, it's about these two people, Emma and Dexter, who meet on the day of their college graduation. Then it follows them on that same day every year for the next 20 years or so. Each chapter is that day the next year. Sometimes Emma and Dexter are together, sometimes they are apart. Sometimes they call each other, sometimes they thing about each other, sometimes they don't. But it's all about how they grow and learn and how their lives intersect.

It's a very cool concept, and I liked watching them grow up. The writing was great, and there were many times I wish I would have thought to start underlining lines that I loved. It's going to come out as a movie in 2011 starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess (yum), and I think it will be just the kind of movie that I love.
OMG, I want to sop him up with a biscuit!
(If you haven't noticed by now, I am very boy crazy.)

As much as I enjoyed it, though, I sort of want to just put it on the shelf and never think about it again. Have you ever read a book that just hits too close to home? I read as an escape from my life, so I really don't want to spend my free time reading a book like this...a book that felt like I was reading ABOUT my life. I don't need to read about my life...I live it every day.

Aside from the obvious, Emma is a high school English teacher who works toward becoming a MG/YA author*, there were so many ways in which I related to Emma's struggles in life. At the beginning of the book I felt like I didn't like her very much, but eventually I realized that it was because we were so similar, and in some way reading Emma's sections of the book felt like being inside of my own head. (I'm in my own head all the time, and, trust, it's an emo place with skinny jeans and hair in your face and eyeliner.) And while I should think this is cool (isn't that a great thing in a book? To be able to relate to it so well?), I just found it depressing, and I closed the book feeling sad and defeated about my own life.

I guess it's a good thing that a book made me FEEL so much, but it made me feel stuff I didn't want to feel. And it left me feeling eh about I book I think I would have truly loved otherwise.

And I think this has a lot to do with why I love to read and write YA. For me, YA truly is an escape. It's an escape to a time in life that I both loved and hated, but, no matter what, it never feels like what I'm going through right now, and I love that.

Have you ever had a weird experience with a book like this?

*It did bug me at one point in the book that she talks about wanting to finish up her MG/YA series so she can write something "real" and she constantly downplays her MG/YA series by saying "oh, it's just a silly thing for teenagers." Grr. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Way To Camp, Harry!

I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 today, and I loved it!

However, I was sitting there watching my husband (who has never read the books) watching the movie and I couldn't help but think How does he have any idea what is happening in this movie?

Seriously. How do people who have never read the books have any idea what is going on?

Anyway, HOW AWESOME IS MY BOY RON? I may be revealing too much about myself here, but I kind of wanted to lick him in this movie. And the Ron/Hermione love. Grrr. Such angst and tension and hot looks back and forth. I was in heaven.

I want to go see it again!

This really has prompted me to speed up my re-read of the series. I've been listening to the audiobooks, but really only when I go to the gym. And I haven't been to the gym in, um, awhile. So it's taking a long time. I think I'm going to have to crack open the actual books. Maybe that can be a project for my 3-week winter break.

What did you think of the movie?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The MFA Problem

So, I've been thinking about applying to an MFA program. Let me take you through my thought process. 
These are the reasons I am considering getting an MFA:
  • I'm a teacher and having a master's degree = a raise. Where I am right now it would be a raise of over $5k/year. Over my career it would grow to a raise of $30k/year
  • I could get an "easy" master's in education, but I hate education classes, and even though it would earn me my raise, it would be two years of torture
  • I would like to become a better writer
  • It would be nice to have the option of teaching college-level writing classes
The main thing keeping me from pursuing an MFA right now:
  • I really can't handle snobby literary types
  • I can't find a program that works for me
Ideally I'd like to do a program that focuses on writing for children and young adults. I feel like kidlit weeds out most of the snobby literary types, so that would be awesome.

I work full time (and part time), so if I was going to do a traditional full time MFA program, it would have to be local. Sadly, the closest kidlit program I can find is at SDSU and, while it looks awesome, it's not close enough to make it work. (I didn't even look at the class times, but I would only be able to go at night, which is another issue.)

So, there are online and low-residency programs. I've looked into some low-res programs for kidlit MFAs and they look amazing. BUT they are all on the other side of the dang country. Getting an MFA is going to be expensive enough, but adding in the cost of flying back and forth to the midwest or the east coast twice a year? Ugh. Why are none of these on the west coast?

Then I found what I thought was going to be a close enough to perfect program.

  • It's through a local state university, so it's close to me AND it's much cheaper than a private university
  • It's a low-residency program with its two yearly residencies at a gorgeous resort in Palm Springs
  • It's not a kidlit MFA, it's a general fiction MFA (ugh, snobs) (the director of the program did say there were a few YA writers in the program, so that's good, but ugh, snobs
  • The residencies are at the WORST TIMES for me as a teacher. Early December and early June. Two weeks before our winter break and two weeks before we get out at the end of the year. Other low-res programs seem to have them in early January and late June, both times when I am already off from teaching and it would work out perfectly. But this one, that I could make work in every other way, is a total disaster when it comes to residency times
I seriously can't imagine going to my principal and asking to not be here during those times of the year. I can't imagine not being with my students during those times. (Missing an entire week of our discussion of the end of The Great Gatsby? No way. I can't do it.)

So what do I do, blog friends?

Do I...
  • Apply to the local MFA program that is close and cheaper even though the dates are horrible and risk pissing off my administration and feeling like a horrible employee and teacher? (But it's only for two years. That wouldn't be that bad, would it? Four weeks spread out over two years?)
  • Apply to one of the far, far away kidlit low-res programs with the ideal schedules but terrible locations that will cost tons of money flying to every six months and paying in general?
  • Keep researching because there MUST be something out there that is perfect? (There must be, right? Right?)(Does anyone out there know of something that I'm missing?
  • Say f- it and just get an easy but mind-numbing education master's?
  • Cry in the corner because I hate running into problems like this?
I've been trying to decide what to do for my master's degree for about four years now. I almost applied to an American Studies program, but I didn't at the last minute. I've almost applied to an education program more times than I can count. Now this is floating along and I am frozen with indecision. Tough decisions are tough. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up To No Good (With Ron Weasley)

One thing you need to know about me...I have a ginger fetish. Guys with red hair? So hot. (This is super weird because my brother has red hair, but we won't really discuss that.)

Another thing I find super appealing? When a guy can bring the funny.

So throw those together, a funny redhead, and you pretty much have my kryptonite.

So is it any big surprise that one Mr. Ron Weasley is my favorite Harry Potter character? He has everything I'm looking for in a man. Red hair, a fantastic sense of humor, a kick-ass family, he's a little self-deprecating, he's good at sports, people listen to him, and he has awesome friends. What more could you ask for?

OH. And an English accent.

Now, I promise I wasn't thinking Ron was hot or anything when I started reading the books; I do realize he was only 11. I did think he was adorable, though, and he became my favorite character right away. Then as I went through the books and watched his struggle to find his own identity in the wake of his older brothers and his very famous best friend, well, my heart just ached for the kid. I've never really gone for the head quarterback / star of the show guy, I'm much more interested in the guy behind the guy, so my heat obviously lies with Ron.

And, of course, part of the reason Half-Blood Prince is my favorite book is because good ol' Ron finally starts to get some play. And let's not even talk about all of the sad angst and Ron cuteness in Deathly Hallows. I die.

Then there is the lovely Rupert Grint. I swear, could they have found anyone more adorable to play Ron in the movies? I swear, this kid is too much for me to handle.
(Wow...he really looks like my brother in this picture. :-/ )

So, who is your favorite Harry Potter character? Does anyone love Ron like I do? (Not in an I'll Fight You For Him kind of way...more like a Sister Wives kind of way, right? Right)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What House Are You?

Okay, let's talk houses at Hogwarts. We all know what they are, right? And you know that you have mentally sorted yourself and placed yourself in a house. 

Gryffindor values courage, bravery, loyalty, nerve, and chivalry.

Ravenclaw values intelligence, creativity, learning, and wit.

Hufflepuff values hard work, tolerance, loyalty, and fair play. 

Slytherin values ambition, cunning, leadership, and resourcefulness. 

Well, when I put the sorting hat on my head, this is what happens...

One of my former students drew this for me on my white board. I love it. 

Yeah, I've always considered myself a Ravenclaw.

In some groups I find that I am the smartest, wittiest, most creative person in the room. But those groups are usually made up of people who are playing beer pong and telling fart jokes. In company like the students of Hogwarts, I often wonder if my intelligence, wit, and creativity would stand up, and I sometimes think that I might actually get sorted into Hufflepuff if it really came down to it. But I'm counting on the fact that I value those things to be enough to get me in. (Although my riddle solving skills are horrible, so I would probably spend a lot of nights sleeping in the hall outside of the common room until someone came by to let me in.)

And Hufflepuff would be pretty cool too, I guess. 

I'd just be happy to be at Hogwarts, honestly. 

So, where do you think you would end up? 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tunes (4)

Today's Tuesday Tunes features a song that I just recently added to my WIP playlist. I was just listening to my general shuffle of music when it popped up and I realized it was perfect for a tense fight scene between my MC and her best friends.

I like this song as a fight song because it talks about the art of holding your tongue when all you want to do is yell at someone. Understanding that you might say or do something you'll regret, so you're choosing to just walk away. My MC doesn't exactly do that, but she does recognize that she's in a bad situation and she gets the heck out of there. (While yelling a few choice phrases on the way out, of course...)

Is anyone out there as big a fan of Incubus as I am? Hands down, this is my very favorite band. I know I call other bands my favorite, but for me, all roads lead to Incubus. I've seen them live at least 12 times (I'm trying to list all of their shows and I'm only coming up with 12, even though I swear I've been to more. But maybe not. I should have kept better track of this stuff) and I will drop everything to see them whenever and wherever they play (except when they played at the Smokeout recently. Smokeout isn't exactly my scene.)

It's hard for me to find a favorite thing about Incubus, but I do think that Brandon Boyd has magical lyrics. There's something about the way he puts a line together, his turn of phrase, that I just love. Some of their songs are downright poetic, which isn't really a surprise when you find out what a reader and artist and poet Brandon is. This song is an excellent example of his lyricism (is that a word? It is, right?)...I just love the images he's able to create with this song.

I couldn't pick just one video. They are all the same song, but they all capture different awesome things about it.

Here's the album version with no video...

Here's an amazing live performance (if you like Incubus even a little bit, you have to see them live. They will amaze you)...

And here's a clip from the Morning View sessions of a hot, shirtless Brandon Boyd and an adorable Mike Einziger listening to a recording of the song...

Yeah, can you tell I love me some Brandon? So you can imagine how much it made my life when this happened:
The Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas at about 3am on a Sunday/Monday in 2002

Yeah, I was pretty happy. In fact, that's what sheer joy looks like. (And I know I look different...omg, that's almost 10 years ago. Yikes.) (And look how gigantor I look...I swear, I'm such a monster.)

Blood on the Ground - Incubus

I don't want to talk to you anymore;
I'm afraid of what I might say.
I bite my tongue everytime you come around,
cause blood in my mouth beats blood on the ground.

Hand over my heart; I swear I've tried everything I could within all my power.
Two weeks and one hour I slaved, and now I've got nothing to show.
Oh, if only you'd grow taller than a brick wall.

From now on I'm gonna start holding my breath when you come around
and you flex that fake grin, cause something inside me has said more than twice
that breathing less air beats breathing you in!

I don't want to talk to you anymore;
I'm afraid of what I might say.
I bite my tongue everytime you come around,
cause blood in my mouth beats blood on the ground.

Hand over my mouth; I'm earning the right to my silence.
In quiet, discerning between ego and timing.
Good judgement is once again proving to me
that it's still worth it's weight in gold.

So from now on I'm gonna be so much more wary when you start to speak
and my warm blood starts to boil,
that seeing you is like pulling teeth and hearing your voice is like
chewing tin foil.

I don't want to talk to you anymore;
I'm afraid of what I might say.
I bite my tongue everytime you come around,
cause blood in my mouth beats blood on the ground.

High fives to better judgement. By saying less, I will gain more.
Low twos to you my fickle friend, who brought the art of silent war.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On The Late Freight To Hogwarts

I didn't read the Harry Potter series until late 2008.

Can you believe that?

I always said, "Uh, I don't like MAGIC. I don't like FANTASY. I don't want to read a book about WIZARDS."

So I didn't.

Even though my dad loved the books. Even though my brother loved them. Even though plenty of people I knew were loving the heck out of them, I was just convinced that they weren't for me.

It wasn't until two years ago, when everyone on my online book club peer pressured me into it that I finally gave in and read the series.

Of course I devoured them all within a week, and I was irritated with myself for taking so long to read such an amazing series. Of course, I fell in love with the wizarding world, and now I'm (slowly) going through the books again on audio and really enjoying Jim Dale's narration. Oh, and I'm making my way through the movies.

That's right, the first part of Deathly Hallows comes out on Friday and I haven't even seen all of the movies yet! I finally watched the 5th movie this past weekend, but I really need to catch up so I can see DH in the theater. I wanted to go to the midnight showing, but I have no one to go with me, so I'll settle for an ASAP showing...but I need to get movie 6 in there somehow. I have it on DVR, I just need the time to watch it.

Did anyone else out there lag so much on reading Harry Potter? Or am I the only loser? And would you guys kill me if I did a Harry Potter post every day this week to pump us up for the movie? I know everyone else is doing it, but I'm excited!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Real People Are Awesome

I love the internet so much for many reasons, but one of them is because it has taken the solitary pursuit that is writing and turned it into a close-knit community. My amazing writing friends are from all over the country, and I have people who visit my blogs from all over the world.

But there is something to be said for having IRL writing friends. You know, someone you can sit at a table with and talk about revision or books with and have them understand what you mean. Someone who doesn't look at you blankly when you say up things like querying or plotting vs pantsing or "I read this great YA novel..."

I love my internet writing friends to death, but I also love having "real life" people to talk about these things with.

Today I had a fantastic lunch with two lovely YA writers. I met Amaris back in the summer at the SCBWI LA conference when we ended up eating at the same table. Then I ran into her again at a meeting of a local writing group. Sarah was also at that meeting, supporting her friend Mandy Hubbard who was speaking. We ended up having a great conversation at that meeting, so we decided to do it again.

Today was that day, and the three of us sat out in the beautiful LA sunshine (it was in the 80s in Southern California again today...have I mentioned that I love where I live?) and talked about books we've read, books we've been waiting for, Sarah's journey to publication and upcoming book, my querying goals, Amaris's roadblocks, and writing, books, and publishing in general.

It was wonderful.

I know my poor husband gets tired of me trying to have these conversations with him, and, honestly, I get tired of him just nodding at me while watching the Lakers game. It was so nice to have someone talk back to me. Thanks Sarah and Amaris for such a fun afternoon!

This is part of the reason I go to as many local writing events as possible. Obviously I love to learn as much as I can from conferences and workshops and writing retreats, but I also just love to meet new people, and having the opportunity to just talk about my writing life with like-minded souls is always so awesome.

So, as wonderful as the internet is, there's really something to be said about people you can talk to in real life.

Do you have any IRL writing friends? How did you find them?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bookish Encounters

I just came home from a shift at my second job (I'm a server at a restaurant part time...you know, in all of my free time. Hahahaha), and I am so exhausted I can hardly think. It was about 80 degrees in Orange County today, and I was working out on the patio in one of the busiest sections. I got quite a workout out there.

Since I can hardly make my brain do anything but go "muhhhhhh," I figure I'll share with you something that happened on my shift today.

I was running around like a crazy person, but out of the corner of my eye I saw something very, very familiar. I saw this:

Yes, an older gentleman was walking through the restaurant with a copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak under his arm.

You know I had to stop him.

"Oh, sir," I said, pointing at the book. "That book is one of my very favorites."

"Is it? Well that's nice to hear."

"Oh yes. I love it."

Then he leaned in toward me and said, "You know what the best part of getting older is? Soon your grandkids start giving you book recommendations. My grandson, he's twelve and a half, he tells me to pick up this book, so you know I have to."

"Well, he sounds like a smart kid! That's quite a read for a twelve year old!"

"Oh, he is. He's very smart."

I wished him well with his book, and I smiled for the rest of my shift, since he left the book sitting right on the corner of his table. This man and his grandson totally made my day. I love random bookish encounters.

Ok, now it's time to decompress on the couch. I think I see a glass of wine in my future. And maybe (hopefully) a book,

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm A Slacker

Last year I set a goal for myself. I was going to read 200 books in 2009. I started off strong, reading a book a month in January. (Yeah, seriously. It was insane.) But then around April '09 I had some Major Life Drama and my reading fell by the wayside a bit. I just couldn't concentrate on reading like I wanted to, and my months packed with books turned in to months with books here and there.

In the end, I read 139 books in 2009. Still a very worthy accomplishment, I'd say, but nowhere near what I was hoping.

For 2010 I decided I wasn't going to make a goal for myself when it came to reading. My goal was to grow my book blog and work on my writing, and fit reading in where I could find room for it. Obviously I would still read a lot because it was important to me, and it's hard to maintain a good book blog if you're not reading and talking about books. So I thought I would just read what I wanted and not put a number goal on it.

But you know I couldn't just do that.

I ended up saying things like, "Well, I don't have a goal or anything, but I'm hoping to read 100 books this year." And, let's be honest, that's a goal. Without all of the fanfare, I somehow set a goal of 100 books this year. I didn't mean to. I promise. These things just happen sometimes.

I thought for sure I could make it, but I've totally hit a reading rut. I don't know why...my house is full of amazing books that I'm dying to read. I have times when I need a break from my revision and nothing would fill that time better than just dicking around online or staring at whatever ridiculous reality show my husband is watching on TV. But I just...can't. I just...don't.

Here's my shameful confession, you guys. I haven't read a book yet in November.

I can't even believe it.

I don't know why I'm in such a rut! I'm honestly embarrassed about it, and I hesitated even posting this here because it's so shameful.

Do you guys ever get in reading ruts like this? How do you get out of them? I'd appreciate any tips you have. Getting to 100 isn't totally out of the question right now (I'm in the middle of books 82 and 83 right now...The House on Mango Street and To Kill a Mockingbird, both of which I am reading with my students), but I can't just keep letting time go by like this. I NEED TO SHAKE THIS OFF.

If you want to see what I've read so far this year, and what I read in 2009, check out my list here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My New Baby Makes Me Cry

So, I have come to realize that getting your first Mac is a lot like having your first kid*. You have this awesome thing that you have been excited about for so long, and now it's right here! Right in front of you!

And you have no idea what to do with it.

And instead of enjoying this thing that you've been wanting and waiting for, you just sit in the corner and cry because it is such a freaking mystery to you.

This is how I'm feeling about my Mac right now. It's super cool, and I'm way stoked on it, but I have no clue how to work it. I keep trying to do things and end up accidentally erasing what I've written. I hear about how people do things with their Macs, but I have no idea how to even get there. I just check my e-mail and then stare at it, hoping it will open its mouth and tell me all of its secrets.

It took me two entire days to realize I never got any kind of Word-type program on it**. Ooops. So much for using it to write, huh***? So I need to do that, I guess. Along with lord knows what else I need to do to figure out this mystery.

Do you guys have any website suggestions for new Mac users? I'm trying to feel like a cool Mac owner, but I'm such a poser right now****.

* Not that I would know anything about having a kid. This is all speculation here. 

** I'm totally planning on getting Scrivener, too, so no need to suggest it. 

*** Right now I'm at Panera trying to write and I'm on my Dell, which is trying to slowly drive me insane. 

**** This entire post also can be applied to my new HTC Evo, which is equally as mysterious as the Mac, if not more. I literally have no idea how to use that thing. So I am also taking suggestions for websites that can help me there, too. It makes noise and I just *stare* at it. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Three Concerts In Three Days - Day 3

By the time Saturday came around I was totally exhausted. Thank goodness I had nothing going on and I was able to rest my tired and weary bones before...FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE at the Wiltern in LA, one of my very favorite venues.

Claire got us tickets back in June, and I had been eagerly awaiting this show ever since. Let me tell you guys, it did not disappoint. Not for one second. I've beed addicted to the Lungs album for awhile now. I knew I loved Florence's voice and their music, but I had no idea she would be that amazing live. Such a voice. Such a stage presence. Such a show. I loved every second of it.

She opened with one of my very favorite songs from Lungs

This song is actually on my WIP playlist, and I LOVE it. It was the perfect opening to the set and really set the tone for this amazing performance.

There was this gorgeous song that some people may recognize from the Eclipse soundtrack

And holy cow, how adorable is she? And that dress! I die!

I actually first heard about Florence and the Machine through the amazing David Levithan. Last November I went to his signing for Love Is The Higher Law. On facebook he offered CDs he burned for the people who let them know that they would be there, so you know I jumped on that. Songs selected by one of my very favorite authors? Sign me up! Well one of my favorites on that killer CD from David Levithan was this one.

Of course now it's on commercials and movie trailers and the MTV VMAs, but for me it will always be David Levithan.

This show was breathtaking, and, for me, it was really what live music is all about. Talent and energy and love. I really hope I get to see her live again.

I can't believe I survived my three days in a row of concerts. Each one was so totally amazing in its own way, and even though I am an old grandmother who literally sat on the floor, leaned up against the wall, and actually fell asleep for a few minutes after the opening band on Saturday, I'm so glad I went to all of them. It actually felt weird that I just sat around at my house on Sunday. But it was nice that I got to sleep.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Giving Thanks to Agents

It's the second week in Christine Fonseca's Thankful Tuesdays and today we are GIVING THANKS to agents.

Now, I don't have an agent (yet), but that doesn't mean that I don't have a lot to thank them for. After all, agents do so much for us un-agented writers. They write awesome blogs that give us tips on how to write queries, which is so incredibly helpful for me. I'm a person who needs to see examples before I can try something on my own, so having all of these agent blogs in my Google Reader showing me good queries and bad queries and what works and what doesn't is so helpful to me.

It't not just the query-related blogs that are helpful...some agent blogs are packed full of awesome industry information. For example, Mary Kole's blog is one of my very favorites. She's always providing such helpful and relevant information (like this recent post about the state of contemporary realistic YA that made me die a little inside) and I truly appreciate how much effort she puts into keeping everyone in the loop.

Then there are all the agents on Twitter who participate in #askagent sessions and weekly #yalitchat discussions and, of course, the (new and improved) #queries tweets. All of these things are, of course, in addition to their actual job of representing clients and being agents.

So thank you, agents of the world. Thanks for making me feel like a publishing insider, even though I have nothing to do with the industry just yet. Thanks for helping me feel prepared for entering the query wars one of these days. Thanks for taking the time to keep us aspiring authors in the loop like you do. We really appreciate all of the extra work you do.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A General WIP Update

Remember my WIP? I sort of do. Vaguely.

I kid, I kid. I've been revising the darn thing, but it took me from October 22 through last night to go through reading the hard copy and make notes on what I need to change. This tells me I either a) lagged hard core or b) have a ridiculous amount of things I need to change.

The answer is somewhere in the middle there. I do have a lot of changes, but life has also been nuts the past few weeks. (Life tends to do that, doesn't it? Just be all nuts like that.) I was sick as a dog for the better part of three weeks*, my grades were due at work, and blah blah blah. But I was bringing my little hard copy with me everywhere I went and working on it whenever and wherever I could.

See? I even brought it to happy hour! Mmmm. Margaritas.

So now I'm starting another round of major revision. I have my story all set, now I just need to make it good. May the force be with me.

I will have to say that I am missing my regular support group. Most of the awesome ladies in my writing group are participating in NaNoWriMo and they have all crawled into their NaNo holes and left me feeling a little sad and lonely. Our e-mails have slowed, our weekly chats are getting skipped, and I'm feeling a bit needy and abandoned. But maybe it's better. I should be using all of this extra time to get my butt in gear on revising.

I still have a lot going on this week, and for the rest of the month, but my current goal is to have a substantial revision done by the time I head to Big Sur at the beginning of December. And I have some CPs ready to read it, so I'd love to actually put them to work and give them something to do.

So, there's my update. How are you doing with your current WIP? (Or NaNo, if you're doing that like all the cool kids.)

*There was an outbreak of Whooping Cough at my school. I'm convinced I have/had it. I went t the doctor, but he didn't test me and just gave me a ton of meds. They worked like a charm, and I'm feeling a lot better, finally, but I am still convinced I had the Whoop. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Three Concerts In Three Days - Day 2

Friday night was the second day of my three day concert extravaganza. Cold War Kids have been one of my favorites for awhile now, and since I am a follower of theirs on Twitter and a fan on Facebook, I feel like I'm generally pretty plugged in to their happenings. But this show came out of nowhere. I didn't hear about it until the week before, and it was mentioned on the venue Twitter totally in passing. I felt lucky that I happened to see it, otherwise I would have missed seeing them in a super small venue, and that would have made me sad!

Here's the thing. I'm no spring chicken. I'm thirty*something* and as much as I try to keep telling myself that I can hang with the pretty young things like I used to...I can't. This super small venue was general admission, of course, so there was no comfy seat for me like there was the night before at Club Nokia, and I was exhausted from getting to sleep late the night before and dealing with my ongoing cough/sickness. Instead of getting drinks, Erin and I got coffee and waters and spent the whole opening act wishing there was somewhere we could just sit. I don't think I can hang with the standing room only anymore.

The show was awesome, of course. Cold War Kids never disappoint, and I love literally every song of theirs, so I'm always fine with any set list. It turns out the reason that this show was so under the radar was that they just wanted to bounce some of their new stuff off of a live audience. On one hand, that was a bit of a bummer because when you go see a band you love, you like to hear your favorite songs. But on the other hand, it was cool being a guinea pig for the new stuff. Their new album is going to be awesome!

My camera is still broken, but luckily some other people at the show had working video capabilities! No one got my favorite new song on video (Louder Than Ever), but I also really like this one. (I really liked ALL of the new ones, really.) Sadly this isn't the entire song, but you get the idea. Awesome, huh?

This is one of my very favorite Cold War Kids songs, Dreams Old Men Dream. Hear those people singing along? I'm totally one of them.

And for those of you who aren't sure if you have even heard of Cold War Kids, you may recognize this song. It's probably their biggest hit.

(It was so difficult to pick the videos to post on here...I wanted to put all of them because I love their music so much, but that's way obnoxious.)

Even though Erin and I were EXHAUSTED and OLD, I'm so glad we went! But I was also glad that the next day was Saturday so I could sleep in. This old woman needs her rest.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Toys

I got all of my new toys yesterday!

Yes, it was Technology Christmas yesterday in my house as I was able to pick up my new MacBook and the iPad I got for the husband, and my new phone (HTC Evo) just happened to arrive on the same day! Wheee!

I'm typing this on the new Mac as I try to get everything set up and moved over from the Dell. I don't have the OS figured out yet (and I've had to type this several times now for various reasons), but it's sure a lot of fun trying!

(Like...why is this post in 3 different fonts when it all looked exactly the same in the editing window? And even when I try to set it all to default font, it's still 3 different fonts? Hm...the fun things I will get to discover.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Three Concerts in Three Days - Day 1

I am in the midst of a crazy weekend of three concerts in three days. You guys know that I love music, and I especially love live music. If one of my favorite bands is playing near me, I will pretty much move heaven and earth to get there and see them. I'm lucky that I live where I do, because my favorites usually pass through here pretty frequently, and I've seen pretty much every band or singer that I love live at one point in my life.

Well, last night was a different experience for me. I went to see a band I had never heard before. My good friend at work is a huge fan of Ghostland Observatory, and I'd heard her rave about them, but I had no idea what their music even sounded like. She kept trying to explain it to me, but I'll admit I tuned out a little bit when she said "electronic." I'm much more of an acoustic guitar kind of girl. Electronic? Not so much my thing. Besides that, all I knew was that there was some kind of light show involved, and that the singer looked a lot like one of our co-workers.

At the last minute her boyfriend had to work last night when they had tickets to their zillionth Ghostland show, so she asked me if I wanted to come along and check them out. I'm not really one to turn down a concert, even if it's someone I don't know (I even went to a Dixie Chicks show because it was free...and if you know me at all, that is really surprising. Country music is even less my thing than electronic music), so last night I found myself at Club Nokia in LA for Ghostland Observatory.

Can I just say...this show ROCKED MY FACE OFF. Ghostland is totally impossible to describe. It's two guys - one is dressed in a dracula cape who handles the DJ/electronic stuff and sometimes drums, and the other guy (who really does look identical to the guy we work with) sings, plays the guitar and gyrates. His voice is a hybrid of Prince and Axl Rose, their music is totally different from anything I listen to, and the laser light show just blew my mind. I've never seen, heard, or experienced anything like that show in my life.

I found a few videos to share, in case you are curious about their music. These are all from a show in Seattle in '09, not last night, but I liked that they were professional videos of a live performance and give you a good idea of the laser light show.

This song was probably the most popular of the night. The crowd was going NUTS for it...singing along, dancing, gyrating all over the place (lots of gyrating from both singer and crowd, I noticed). Then I watched this video and the crowd looks downright bored. So imagine this video with an insane, gyrating crowd and that's what I experienced last night.

Here's another song I really enjoyed that was also a crowd favorite. The light show in this video is awesome...and just imagine it through the entire show!

And then here is a video of their trippy cover of Darling Nikki by Prince

This band totally isn't for everyone, but man I liked it so much! I loved that I went in to something that was so out of my normal comfort zone with a totally open mind and ended up being so thoroughly entertained. It's fun to discover new stuff that you never would have found on your own.

(I don't know if I can come up with 30 writing-related posts to fill up every day of NaBloPoMo, and I did mention when I started this blog that it would also be about music that inspires me. So there you go.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mac Tonight

I'm getting a Mac!

I'm so excited. I work so much on my laptop (the chair in the back corner at my local Panera is my home away from home) that having one that is light and easy to use is key. I have his Dell laptop that I've had for a few years now, and while it works okay, it's so slow and cumbersome*. 

Really, when I think back on my experience at SCBWI LA, I think of Heather tossing her cute little MacBook in her purse, whipping it out during sessions and typing away on it, all adorable, then tossing it back in her purse. Easy breezy beautiful.

Then I remember me with my bulky Dell. It didn't fit in my (enormous) purse, so I ended up buying a messenger bag at the SCBWI store. So I'm schlepping around this big bag and knocking people and things over with it, trying to find somewhere to plug my computer in, because the battery on my Dell only lasts about 2 hours, and waiting FOREVER for it to turn on and off. I'm kind of a mess anyway (ask Heather about my dang coffee mug that spilled everywhere that weekend), so the burden of this computer just added to my cloud of disarray. And it was somewhat embarrassing to be the one person who had to go sit on the floor in the corner just so she could be by an outlet. 

That was when I decided I was getting a MacBook for sure. It's so small! It's so cute! It's so light! And the battery lasts longer than one SCBWI conference session! Oooh, oooh, and now I can get Scrivener! (I know they just released Scrivener for Windows, but that's still beta...I can get the real deal on my new Mac. Yay!)
And...and...since I was on some kind of Apple product high, I got one of these:

Yay iPad!
This is actually for my husband for his birthday/Christmas, but you know how those things go. I'm really excited to take it over play with it. 

I'm excited about this new technology ju-ju (I also have a new phone [not an iPhone, though, because I refuse to switch to AT&T] coming my way on Friday, which is amazing because mine freezes about 4x a day, at least)...I'm feeling like I'm finally catching up with the rest of the world. And I don't have to schlep around the huge bag anymore. Bye bye, disarray!

* Oh the irony that as I was trying to post this, my computer had a total tantrum. My browser would stop responding, I would type things and they would take a good minute to show up on my screen, my cursor was on one side of the screen, but when I clicked, something on the opposite side of the screen would open, etc. It's been like this for awhile now, but it went NUTS during the course of trying to post this. I think it knows it's going to be replaced. I had the whole post typed out already, I just needed to C&P, add images, and click publish, but the whole production ended up taking about 45 minutes. No joke. THIS is why I am so excited about getting a new computer. 

UGH...and then I clicked on Preview and it PUBLISHED. It wasn't ready to publish. I didn't click publish! YOU GUYS...I am so glad that I have something coming because I'm ready to throw this computer through the window. Grrrr. I'm seriously nervous to even click anything again. 

Yesss I love technology. But not as much as you, you see...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaBloPoMo? Why Not!

I was bummed to not be able to commit to NaNoWriMo this month, since I hate not participating in things. So I thought I could try to participate in NaBloPoMo instead! See! I'm still involved! I'm still participating in something with you all!

Look! I even have a badge!

I realized I posted something two days in a row, so I guess I could try to keep it going all month. I can't always promise it will be interesting, but I'll try to at least get something up here.

But I will need some help.

If you have any ideas of things you'd like to hear me talk about, let me know. If you have any burning questions you have been on the edge of your seat waiting for the answer to, leave them in the comments. If you have any requests for silly pictures or zany antics, I may be able to indulge you. For the good of the cause, you know.

Oh, who knows...I may even give away a book or two at the end of the whole she-bang if I manage to make it.

So, let me know what you'd like to see around these parts over the next month. If I don't get suggestions, I'll be left to my own devices, and that can get a bit scary. Trust.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thankful Tuesday - Giving Thanks to Critique Partners

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the very lovely Christine Fonseca is hosting a series of Thankful Tuesday posts this month. Every Tuesday we are giving thanks to the important people in our writerly lives. Today is the first post, and we are giving thanks to our critique partners!

I'm really going to dedicate this post to my entire writing group because they are made of awesome.

I met my writing group on my online book club. After hogging up our book club message board with our writing posts, we eventually moved our writing talk to a google group, and now we talk all the time through e-mail and we have weekly chats where we brainstorm, help each other with plot issues, and basically encourage one another as much as possible. We came together as internet friends only, but we've slowly become "real" friends, and I've had the extreme pleasure of meeting several of these ladies in person. They didn't disappoint, of course, and they make me so happy to be a part of such a supportive and enthusiastic bunch of writers.

What I love about my little group is that we are all writing different things, and we are all at different stages in the writing process. Some of us are actively querying, while others are just working on projects that are more personal, or just starting new things. But that variety is what keeps things interesting (not 100 e-mails back and forth about query woes, or 100 e-mails back and forth about starting something new...there's a lot going on with us), and we are all so eager to help each other out.

Me with Shana Silver when she was here in LA for a wedding, and me with Heather Trese, my awesome roommate at SCBWI LA

I have a lot of plot issues; I frequently find myself stuck in some plot corner that I don't think I can possibly get out of. But one conversation with these awesome ladies and I always have my answer, and it's often better than I could have expected.

I have some dedicated critique partners, and, of course, they are brilliant. But when I need a quick idea or help working something out on the fly or just a little ego boost or pick me up, there's nothing like a quick chat (or long, long e-mail chain) with my girls.

Me, Jessica, Tameka, and Becca in Vegas. Nanna...you are totes missing from this picture!

So thank you to the lovely ladies of my writing group. You have helped me more than you'll ever know, and your constant enthusiasm for my project and encouragement when I'm feeling down have kept me going when I thought for sure I sucked more than any writer has ever sucked before.

(You can check out their individual blogs over there <----- Go give them some love! They don't all have blogs...and now I'm wondering if I'm forgetting anyone's blog. Ladies...do I have all of you bloggers over there?)

Do you have a writing group or a critique partner who needs some special recognition? Go ahead and participate in Thankful Tuesday today and give them some special recognition!

Monday, November 1, 2010

No NaNo For Me

If you recall, I had been hemming and hawing about participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I really, really wanted to, and every time I thought about it, I came up with a hundred ways I could make it work.

I went to bed last night thinking about my possible NaNo project, and I woke up thinking about getting started. I was working out schedules of how to balance the revisions on my current WIP and writing new words for NaNo, giving myself little pep talks, and even thinking things like, "I can easily manage 2,000 words a day...that's nothing." (Ha!)

In fact, I even locked myself into my classroom at lunch and got started. I typed up over 1,000 words, and I left work today feeling pretty darn proud of myself. (The words were crap, but isn't that the spirit of NaNo?)

But on my drive home from work, reality hit me.

There's no possible way I can do NaNo this year. WTF was I thinking?

I mean, let's pull out heads out of fantasy land for a second and be real about this. I have a full-time job as well as a part-time job. Even though I don't work the PT job very often, and I can kind of pick and choose my hours, it's still two jobs. Then there is the Thanksgiving vacation I'm taking. The three concerts I have tickets to this week alone. The fact that my bff is coming into town.

Oh, and the fact that I am still revising my WIP.

As much as I told myself, oh I can still get it revised, or, oh, it's good to get a little space from it, blah blah blah, the truth is that I really want to finish it. Sooner rather than later. And I got my confirmation e-mail for Big Sur today, and, well, wouldn't it be nice for it to be a little more polished when it's time to go up there? I think it would.

Add to all of this the fact that I'm sick. I've been fighting a mild cold for two weeks now...today marked week three of sickness. And today was the worst. My throat is so sore, it feels like someone scratched it up with sharp nails. I've kinda wanted to cry all day, and I've finally realized that I think week three is when you throw in the towel and finally go to the doctor to see what's wrong with you.

So between being sick, ridiculously busy, and already committed to another novel, I finally had to accept the fact that NaNo isn't in the cards for me this year. It makes me so sad. One ridiculous thing you need to know about me...I hate being left out of things. I'm lurking around the NaNo board on my online book club, I'm reading about all the local write-ins and wanting to participate, I hate the idea of people having fun without me. This is why I was trying so hard to talk myself into it...because standing by and not participating is killing me just a little inside.

But it's all for the best. And I'll be the best darn NaNo cheerleader there is.