Monday, May 31, 2010

Mini Writing/Editing Workshop

I like to give back to other writers. I love helping when I can, since I've gotten so much help from the writing community myself. I often wish I could help more. This week I want to try a little writing/editing workshop, and I hope you'll be interested in participating.

I think seeing the process and evolution of a piece can be extremely educational, so this week I'd like to invite a few participants to have their work publicly critiqued on my blog.

If you are willing, please submit the first 500 words of your WIP to natalie(at)nataliewhipple(dot)com. I will take the first three submissions, and on Friday I will post my own for you guys to gut. It's only fair, right?

For those whose pieces are chosen, I will inform you today when your piece will be going up. That way you can be prepared:) I will gladly post new versions as we work through your piece as well as comment on those.

I'm excited—I hope you are!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Answers: Dragons, Picard, and My Drinking Habits

Answers! They are all posted today for your reading pleasure. Hope you all have a lovely long weekend. Nick works Monday, so no fun for me. Hmph.

Morgan Ives: What's your favorite book on writing?
Uhhh, I don’t have one? Sorry. I probably should read a few books on writing, but I’ve kind of lived my whole life seat-of-the-pants. Reading about how to do something sucks the fun right out of it for me.

I mean, I couldn’t even follow the lego instructions as a kid because it felt like they were stifling my creativity.

Everything I’ve learned about writing, I’ve learned by screwing up. A lot. Though I can tell you one thing, everything started to improve once I read this blog:)

Emily White: What is your favorite color pen?
I like blue if I can have it.

Josin L. McQuein: Quick, what's the square root of 672? Just kidding, put down the X-Acto knife.
*puts down knife*

Color's already covered, so gel pen or rollerball?
Gel! Maybe it’s my left-handedness, but the rollerball always gives me trouble.

Erinn: What's the most overrated TV show on TV now? What's the most underrated?
Hmmm, I don’t watch much TV, so I haven’t seen enough shows to really know what’s overrated. Maybe I would say TV in general is overrated? But I will say you HAVE to watch Deadliest Warrior on Spike if you like weapons, history, and talking smack.

Which Manga was better as a manga instead of an anime?
I couldn’t get my hands on manga as a kid. I’m only 26, but just a decade ago you couldn’t just walk into Barnes & Noble and pick up a translated manga. Every time I go there now my teenage self fumes with jealousy.

No, if you wanted manga it was likely in Japanese, and I didn’t know enough to justify shipping it from Japan. Also, I didn’t have the cash.

So I lived on what I could get, and that was mostly anime though not as much as I’d have liked. The internet was still pretty new back then too, so I had to shell out 25 bucks for one VHS tape at the one store that carried it.

Oh, the days.

Thus I haven’t read enough manga to actually know the differences. I hope someday to rectify this. I just bought a couple of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Fruits Basket, so maybe I’ll be getting to know the differences soon:)

C. Michael Fontes: Here is a simple one. Do you use any styled guides, and if so, which one(s)?
I lived on The Chicago Manual of Style when I was doing my editing minor. I haven’t looked it up lately, but that’s what I go to if I have questions.

Jennifer: Do you listen to music when writing?
Yes. I usually have certain Pandora stations for different books. Currently, I’m listening to a lot of Paramore for Transparent. A little Linkin Park, Evanescence, Fallout Boy, Cartel, etc. The ninjas were a combo of Hellogoodbye and Evanescence for the battle scenes. I also listened to a ton of Owl City while editing that one. When editing, I usually opt for “calmer” music.

Talli Roland: Er... do you drink wine? If so: white or red?
I’m, uh, Mormon. For reals. I’ve never had wine. When I lived in CA, I ordered a virgin pina colada and took a sip. It tasted funny. My dad checked it (he’s a convert)—not virgin. That is about the extent of my interaction with alcohol.

Oh, and Nyquil.

salarsen: Ugh, Talli took mine. What make of laptop/computer do you use??
I have a MacBook. I love it. I’ve always been a Mac fan. Not a fanatic, but a fan. It’s not like I have an iPhone or iPod, even. But I would love an iPad—I think it’s the first e-readerish device I’ve seen that I’d actually like to have. I won’t go there, though, that’s a full post waiting to happen.

Matthew Rush: Do you drink beer and if so Lager or Ale?
See Talli’s answer above. Basically, I don’t even know the difference between the two.

And do you and Nick ever game together?
We played World of Warcraft for almost five years together. He started before me, when we were dating. Actually, he got it midnight release. I’d watch him play and it looked so fun, though I’d never played an mmo before. I was a playstation/Nintendo baby. I grew up on Final Fantasy and all that.

Then I stole my brother’s WoW account when he left on his mission, maybe four months after the game released. I was hooked.

We just recently stopped playing, but I’d like to play something else if I had time and the game is cool. We also play DDR together, and we jumped around from a few mmorpgs here and there.

Abby Stevens: What is your favorite mythological creature?
Do ninjas count? If not, I really like dragons. All kinds of dragons—eastern and western versions. That’s one book I often think about going back to, my dragon book.

Nick: Kirk or Picard?
Picard. But if you mean romantically then neither. I like Picard because he looks like my dad. That, and I’ve never actually seen a full old school Kirk episode. And of course there's this video:

(new) Kirk or Spock?
Don’t make me choose! They’re both hot. And funny. And smart. Which is a fatal combination for me. You should know that;P

Neurotic Workaholic: How do you decide what to cut out of your drafts and what to keep?
Simple answer: I cut the stuff that sucks.

Longer answer: It depends on the book. Some books I overwrite, so there are scenes that don’t contribute or can be smashed together into one stronger scene. Other times it’s an issue of taking a wrong plot direction, so I have to cut that out and rewrite it better. Or I introduce a character that doesn’t pull their weight, so I have to kick them out and use another character that’s more important to the story.

Recently I, uh, cut the whole book and started from blank document. I chose this route because there were so many changes that it would be easier to do that than go through every chapter and edit, tweak, cut, etc.

It was a scary choice, but I’m very pleased with the results. The old stuff isn’t in the way—I’ve been able to look past it and create the story I believe was supposed to be there in the first place.

Liz: Do you have a critique group? If so, how did you find them?
Yup. I found them through blogging. You might even know Kiersten, Renee, Kasie, Sara, Carrie, and Steph. I hope you do, because they’re way cooler than I am.

There are lots of places to find crit groups, I’ve written a long post about what to consider here.

Myrna Foster: What's the last thing one of your kids did that totally cracked you up?
Dino Boy sings the Imperial March everyday. At one point he’d wake up singing it and come into our room singing it. Talk about an awesome way to start the day. It’s like living with a mini Darth Vader.

Now the Ninja Girl is singing it too, and it’s pretty silly hearing a 2-year-old do that. It kind of sucks out all the menace. I can’t help but laugh.

Nikkilooch: Do you write in chapters or one long story? If it's one long story, how do you divide it up later? If in chapters, do the breaks feel natural or do you just say "Ok, time to stop here."?
I write in chapters. When I think about a story, it naturally comes in these little chunks, almost like episodes for an anime or something, complete with commercial breaks, hehe.

I’m one of those people who gets easily overwhelmed. Chapters for me are something small to focus on. I’d get so turned around and stressed out without them.

Also, I believe there’s an art to chaptering. Kiersten does it amazingly well—I can’t wait for more people to know just how well. Chapter pacing needs to propel a reader forward. Chapters need to be their own complete stories almost, like short stories. They need to have their own rising action and mini climax. I like to have that planned out some.

I also prefer shorter chapters, since as a reader I need lots of small stops with my kids bugging me. So it needs to be tight, compelling, and able to keep me thinking about it when I have to run and get juice.

Pen: What is your favourite weapon of choice in your writing? (assuming you have one)
Ummm, words? Either that, or nunchaku.

I’m not exactly sure what you mean, but if you mean like a story device, I suppose I love the Big Surprise/Twist. I almost always have one in my stories, and I love love love when my readers say, “Wow! I didn’t see that coming!”

Ruth: How do you find the time? For writing, for family, for...everything?
It’s more of that old adage—I don’t find time I make time. I sacrifice things like TV and sleep and sanity. I try to put my family first at all times, but I’ll be honest and say that doesn’t always happen.

It’s a balancing act. I used to have a lot more time to write than I do now, but I don’t beat myself up because of that. I do what I can with the time I have. Sometimes that’s a sentence, sometimes it’s a couple thousand words.

The most important thing is to do something and don’t beat yourself up for all the things you can’t do. We’re human. Even me, despite the rumors:)

Unboundscribe: How do you get inspired when you feel burned out...for months?
I stop trying to be inspired and I just get to work. As I’m working, I often find the spark of inspiration again. Because here’s the hard truth—if you want to write as a career, it’s not about inspiration all the time.

It’s your job to write. Imagine if an accountant woke up and was like, “I don’t feel inspired to do taxes today. I’ll just not work.”

If you write as a hobby, then you shouldn’t feel bad about long breaks or not writing when you’re inspired. But if you want this for a job, you have to treat it like a job. Sadly, the work doesn’t get easier when you’re published—it gets harder. You have deadlines and expectations and people hoping to feed their families off your creative work.

So when I feel burned out (and I talked about one of my worst burn outs here), I give myself a little break to find my center again. Then I get back to work, at which point I discover that I do love what I do even when its hard.

Mary Aalgaard: What's your favorite snack to nibble on while writing?
I’m not a snacker while I write, but I do like to drink something. Usually diet Code Red or water.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ask Me Something

I planned to finish off my little series with a post on originality. Then last night my brain melted.

This always happens when I get about half way through a WIP. All the major elements for the ending begin to come together in my head, and then it's like this huge information download. I couldn't even write last night because there was just so much story swimming around in my brain.

I got a massive headache.

Then I crashed at like 9:30PM.


I probably sound like a freak right now, but that's just how I work. My head still hurts, and so instead of rambling on about how much I value originality (which should be obvious if you've spent more than a day here), I'm asking you to ask me questions! Yay!

It's been a while since I've done a Q&A, so I figured maybe there was someone out there who might want to know something about me or my writing or how to pronounce Middle English. You know, important stuff. Now's your chance, guys.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Things I Strive For As A Writer: Perfection

I want to write the perfect book.

There. I said it.

I'm not so crazy to think that's actually possible—especially on the first go around—but I strive for it nonetheless. Why? Because even when I reach for perfection I fall seriously short. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but hopefully I can clarify.

For a time in my life, seeking perfection made me discouraged. Through my teen years I realized that perfection wasn't really attainable, and that got me thinking, "If I can't be perfect, then why try?"

And more than that, what's perfect to one person is flawed to another. My ideal isn't my best friend's ideal, and so on and so forth.

So I stopped trying to be perfect. Not that I went out and did anything horrible, but I stopped reaching, if that makes sense. If I couldn't be The Best, then I didn't try at all. If it wasn't easy for me, I didn't push myself. I told myself I was fine the way I was.

Which is a strangely slippery slope. Because in many ways that is true—we are all fine the way we are. On the other hand, humans have this uncanny ability to be so much more than they are. Not just fine—but great, amazing, inspiring, etc.

When I stopped reaching for this unattainable perfection, I sold myself short.

I stopped writing. I stopped drawing. I stopped being the person I wanted to be but wasn't yet.

I lost years of progress because I chose to stand still instead.

Of course, at the time I didn't know how much I'd lost, how much I'd given up on myself. It wasn't until I picked up a bookmark at the store that things changed. You might recognize the quote from my sidebar:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
—Henry David Thoreau

That day, I wrote creatively for the first time in five years. I decided to reach for the impossible again, and now almost five years after that I'm happy I did. I may still be far, far from perfection, but I'm somewhere instead of nowhere. And not only am I somewhere, but I'm going places.

I've learned that reaching for perfection isn't necessarily bad. Sure, there are unhealthy examples, but I don't mean going for the crazy extremes. I mean going after your ideals, whatever they may be. I mean seeking to improve daily, picking yourself up when you fail, and moving in the direction of your dreams.

I want to write the perfect book—according to me. I want it to be my best possible effort, the best possible manifestation of the story. I've learned that I have to reach for perfection to get even close to that. If I set my sights any lower, my work sucks and I don't improve.

As much as pushing myself hurts at times, I've learned that I really like the results.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things I Strive For As A Writer: Patience

(Part 2 of a series about what attributes I try to develop as a writer)

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker crash lands on a swampy planet and proceeds to have a whine fest about how this crazy little alien is wasting his time.

Luke: Stop being annoying, little alien! I don't have time for this! I'm looking for a great warrior.

Little Alien: Ohhh, you're looking for Yoda.

Luke: You know him? Take me to him!

Of course, we all know the little alien is Yoda, and Luke just looks silly because he's all in a huff and whiny and impatient when his answer's right smack in front of him. And then when he finds out, he still hasn't learned his lesson.

Yoda: I can't teach him.

Luke: Teach me! Now! Ben, tell him! *wahhhhh*

Yoda: He has no patience, always looking to the future instead of what's right in front of him. Just like his father, he is.

Luke: Teach me! *wahhhh*

I like to make fun of Luke, but in reality I see a lot of myself in him when it comes to patience. There are things I want and I want them NOW and why in the world should I have to wait? Doesn't Yoda see how important I am? Duh.

I'm not proud of my tendency to impatience, and it's something I've been trying to mend since I started seriously writing. You know, five years ago.

Most of the time, I've failed miserably at it, if I'm being honest. Only recently do I feel like I've gotten any firm grip on patience, and it's really come down to one thing:

Living in the present.

I'm not saying you shouldn't have goals for the future or a general life direction; I'm just saying the only time you have true control over is now. This very second. Do the things you can do now to reach your goals and don't worry about the rest.

It will come, if you keep doing what you can now.

It's a hard thing to do, especially when so many of my goals are still in the future. Sometimes I wish I could just skip all these little steps and get there. I want a shortcut. Sometimes I think I'm ready when I'm not. Then I end up running off to fight Vader and losing my hand.

I'm a slow learner.

I want to be Future Me so badly! But then I realize being me now is the only way to get there. Putting in the work. Taking the Journey. You know, all that junk you hope doesn't apply to you but actually does.

But here's the kicker—when I have patience it actually makes the journey easier. When I focus on my daily tasks, find peace in the idea that it's not now but it will be someday, I'm a much happier person. I don't feel that nagging restlessness, that dissatisfaction that comes from wanting things you can't have. I just do my thing, and somehow it all works out.

Now if only I could be patient more often. I guess I still need more Jedi training...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Things I Strive For As A Writer: Guts

(Part 1 in a series of "Things I Strive For As A Writer.")

First, watch this video:

When I first saw this, I had a few reactions.

1. These guys are batsh*t crazy.

2. This has to be some kind of joke.

3. "Sport"? Really?

4. That takes GUTS.

Whether it's real or not I don't know, but the principle is so fascinating to me. It's almost as crazy as someone finding the end of a rainbow, you know? But for the sake of this post, I'm pretending it's real.

More than anything, I admire their confidence, their belief in the impossible, and their determination to TRY. Even in the face of probably a lot of criticism and mocking. (I mean, c'mon, the jokes here are endless if you start thinking about it.)

Writing takes guts. It takes courage to sit down and create a story, a world, out of nothing. Especially when it feels like it'll never happen, that you're wasting your time, or that it's impossible. Especially when people are out there just waiting to criticize your work, your crazy dream. Sometimes the hardest part is simply believing that you can.

I want guts like these water running dudes. I want to wake up and think, "Hmm, today maybe I'll walk on water, or perhaps I'll find the end of a rainbow, or maybe I'll write the best scene of my life."

Sure, I'd sound crazy, but I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. When you reach for your dreams, you always end up a little better off than if you never reached at all. The world has enough cynics, I think, and not enough dreamers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Shh. I'm Working. For Once.

I have something to do today, guys. I need to get to 30k in my WIP. I'm a little over 2k away.

I'm not sure if it was my break last week, my looming mental deadline, or a new found confidence in the story, but I seem to be picking up steam on this rewrite. Maybe my cybernetic chip isn't all dead after all.

I want to get it done.

So I can start real edits on it.

And make it even better.

I can't believe I just said that. Yes, the cyborg programming must be kicking in.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Growing Things

I've been growing things lately. There's something inexplicably satisfying about watching these little plants sprout and flower each day. I love these violas. I usually see purple and yellow ones, but when I saw these with the orange? Well, let's just say I have a lot of them.

Of course, it's not all fun and instant payoff. I wish I had a picture of my back patio before I cleaned it up. It took about a month to pick the rocks out of the soil, remove the awful tanbark, weed, replenish the soil, and then plant. (Most of which I did myself, though I'm not complaining because Nick cleaned inside the house during all that. We're a team like that.)

When my peas started sprouting, you should have seen the smile on my face! It worked! All that stuff I did made things grow. Sure, I didn't have peas yet, but I had baby peas! The potential for peas. And they're even bigger now than in that picture.

I still have a couple months of watering and weeding ahead of me, but I will reap the benefits eventually. With lots of peas and peppers and tomatoes. Yum.

For me, growing things is yet another lesson in patience, consistency, and the value of delayed gratification. But the coolest thing is you can see your progress so much easier than in, say, writing.

I put in effort. I wait. Things grow. I get a reward. I like to think writing works the same way, but sometimes it's hard to see. Because in writing, I think, I'm more the plant than I am the gardener. Maybe a bit of both. My writing grows, but it doesn't grow unless I grow, you know? It's not a perfect analogy, but yeah. Something like that.

I'm kind of rambling, but I guess I'm feeling strangely grateful for the journey today. Writing has brought me some of the most challenging struggles of my life, but it's also given me quite a bit of fruit as well.

I'm not sure I'd be as grateful for the good things if I got them easily. It's the difference between buying peas at the store and waiting 70 days for them to grow. Sure, both are great, but there's something extra special about those peas you worked for. Every single one is more like a pearl, and you savor each bite.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Supernatural Boy

You'd be surprised how easy it is to convince me to do crazy things. Okay, maybe you're not surprised at all.


If you didn't know, Carrie and I have a fake band called Preliminary Merpire. And we've been challenged to a Battle of the Fake Bands by Tracey Marchini and Sarah Lapolla. I couldn't say no to that, since these ladies happen to work at Curtis Brown.

I'm a BIG FAN of Curtis Brown.

It's only natural that I'd want to pwn their faces with Preliminary Merpire's mad skillz, right? So Carrie wrote and sang a song, and I made a video I'm pretty sure will make you laugh and wince at the same time.

Without further ado, I present Supernatural Boy:

If you want the lyrics, hop on over to Carrie's.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How To Tweet/Blog Like A YA Author

Maybe you've noticed, maybe you haven't, but successful blogging/tweeting YA writers have a certain way of speaking (technically typing, but still a form of linguistic communication). Well, I've noticed—I didn't major in English linguistics for nothing you know. I find this stuff fascinating.

Yes, I'm a nerd.

This way of speaking is actually a social dialect—it defines members of this writer circle, shows who's in and who's not quite.

I'm dubbing this dialect the YA Writers Epic Social/Online Media English. YAWESOME for short. I know, that was my one genius moment of the day. You should feel special, because I used it on you and not my WIP.

So YAWESOME has many defining characteristics, most of which I'm sure you're familiar with. And if not, consider this the GUIDE TO YAWESOME.

YAWESOME Features:

This is a central feature to YAWESOME, particularly in tweets though some writers also utilize it in blogging. It is used most often to convey excitement, and may be accompanied by an excess of exclamation points.

An alternate use is to convey emphasis, especially in Twitter since there is no italicized feature.

Example: I went into THE HOUSE.

When capitalized, this has a different semantic meaning than just plain old "I went into the house." It might also be funnier or more entertaining, which is an important goal of YAWESOME. Usually context is needed to determine the deeper meaning of capitalization.

2. Stage Directions
YAWESOME also features a type of stage directing, as if the speakers are taking actions right in their tweet/post.

Example: *shifty eyes* I didn't take it.

Stage directions appear to be added for entertainment factor, and to convey action in a largely 2D community.

3. Hashtags/Parentheticals
On Twitter, the YAWESOME user will often employ long, rambling hashtags. While the hashtag is meant to allow other tweeters to find common topics, YAWESOME users do it as a way of adding parenthetical thoughts/opinions.

Example: I love chocolate. #whymypantsdontfitanymore

Again, the main purpose is likely to entertain in the shortest letters possible.

In blogging, this takes the form of long parenthetical statements, where a writer will ramble on about a strange thought or two vaguely related to the topic of their post (or maybe not).

Example: See almost every post on Kiersten's blog (I mostly did that because I know she'll laugh [I like making her laugh].)

4. Hyperbolic Slang
YAWESOME employs a set of morphemes that serves to convey extreme excitement and/or love of people, places, and things. Some of the most important (current) slang morphemes are:

word+fail (as in writerfail, editfail, vampirefail, etc.)

These words can also be combined to further emphasize the "awesomeness" or "not awesomeness" of something (Example: That was a win made of epically awesomeness). Other common online abbreviations are also used, as well as common "youthful" slang like "totally."

I theorize this feature was originally used in a kind of mocking tone, tongue in cheek. But now it has transformed into a way to express extreme like or dislike within the YAWESOME dialect.

5. One Liners
Only seen in blogging, the one line statement is yet another way to convey emphasis in YAWESOME. It is often done for comedic effect or even as a type of sidenote/parenthetical. (Note my example above: Yes, I'm a nerd.)

This concludes my initial study and identification of YAWESOME. Further research is needed to determine whether or not there is a difference between male and female speakers of YAWESOME. The definition of the dialect would also benefit from a deeper investigation of YAWESOME's lexicon. But as you can see, it is clear that YAWESOME is, indeed, a defined dialect, and I'm sure further study will bring out its particular nuances.

*closes notes*


*steps away from podium, basking in epic applause*

Monday, May 17, 2010

Legitimate Break Excuses

Last week icky feelings started to creep into my head again. The thought of writing, or rather rewriting, made me sick, so I took a week off.

I wouldn't always recommend taking breaks when you don't want to write. I mean, if I took a break every time I wasn't feeling it I'd never get anything done. But there are times when I think a planned break can be good:

1. Lost Faith in the Story
I don't know about you, but sometimes I lose sight of why I want to write a particular story in the first place. When that happens, I start to think the story is "the stupidest thing ever imagined" and "why in the world would anyone care about it" and "why am I wasting my time?"

Not exactly the best mentality for writing.

For me, this is a sign that I'm overwhelmed by my work. I'm getting burned out or bored. I've lost sight of the bigger picture and need to step back.

2. Something's "Not Right"
At times, I come to a point in a story where something...dies. The pacing wanes, the characters are flat, the scene is going nowhere. In my gut I just know that something's wrong. What I planned to write isn't what needs to be written, you know? There's something I missed.

I didn't used to, but I've learned these are important times to take a break and let things click into place. For me, just sitting and thinking is an important part of the process. It's true that first ideas aren't always the best ideas, and it takes time for the better options to appear.


And that's it. Yeah, sorry the list of legitimate break excuses isn't longer, but that's how it is. They usually go hand in hand, too. So if you ever feel like this, I don't think it would be horrible to give yourself a small break.


Don't think I'm giving you a free pass to slack off or something. When you decide to take a break, you need to set an exact length of time and stick to it—a day, a week, a month—then when your break is over you need to come back and work.

I'm back to the grind today, and I'm surprised how excited I am to get into to this WIP I hated last week. I've worked out the snags in my head, remembered why I love this book, and am ready to continue making it better. Yay for legitimate breaks!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Rundown

So, no sketch today. I'm sorry to say there probably won't be a sketch for the next few weeks. I'm working on a very special piece, and it's going to take a long time to finish.

BUT. I have other exciting things!

First off—run over to Julie Halpern's blog for ANOTHER chance to win Into The Wild Nerd Yonder OR Get Well Soon. I know there's still a ton of you around wanting this book, and all you have to do is follow and comment! Easy!

I got to meet Aprilynne Pike last night, and oh my goodness is she just the most wonderful person! She was soooo fun to listen to! I think I could listen to her all night, but then I got really hungry and had to leave. Stupid hypoglycemia.

Anyway, Aprilynne is another one of my personal heroes. I'm not sure if you're familiar with her publication story, but it was a long, tough journey. Though she worked so hard, things didn't just happen for her immediately. It was so comforting to remember that sometimes it doesn't work out exactly as you'd like, but it still works out. Sometimes better than you imagined.

I really, really needed to hear that this week. I totally teared up at the book signing. Yes, I'm a dork.

But it gets worse from there, because when I went up to have Aprilynne sign my books I started FREAKING OUT. Total fangirl moment. I'd brought this picture of her main character, Laurel, to give to her:

Laurel from Wings by ~nataliewhipple on deviantART

I shook. My heart pounded. I kept thinking, Oh my gosh, I'm acting like a DORK. But Aprilynne was so nice and she said she loved the picture. She signed my books and made me feel really special even though she's probably seen hundreds of people over the past couple weeks. Then she let me get a picture with her, in which I look entirely over-excited. Which I was.
I LOVE authors.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interview: Julie Halpern! (*involuntary squee*)

Guess what, guys. You remember how I gave away one of my most favorite books? Well, Julie Halpern, the author, contacted me to say thank you and offered to do an interview! I know! I've been bouncing off the walls, and of course I jumped at the chance to get to know her a little better.

She's just as awesome as I imagined.

So today you get to read my first author interview! Thank you so much, Julie, for being willing.

I'm always interested in other writer's "journey to publication" stories. Will you please share a short version of yours as if you were a DM recounting an awesome campaign?
Um, I’m not sure how to make it as exciting as a D&D adventure, unless I include some random traps and a Harpy. Instead, I’ll just give you the facts. My husband, children’s book author and illustrator Matthew Cordell, and I submitted a picture book proposal, written by me and illustrated by him, using contacts listed in the “Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.”

Out of nineteen submissions, we lucked out that our book was pulled from the slush pile and eventually turned into Toby and the Snowflakes (Now, sadly, out of print from Houghton Mifflin). From that, Matt started getting work as an illustrator. Eventually, I decided to try writing a novel about my experience with depression and hospitalization, and when it came time to submit it, I thought of this one editor that Matt had been working with, Liz Szabla, who always seemed super nice and friendly. She had just moved to a new imprint of Macmillan, Feiwel and Friends, so I sent her an email telling her I was Matt’s wife and I heard she was at a new imprint and here’s what my book was about in case they were looking for any YA fiction.

She wrote me back the next day and said the book sounded right up her alley. A couple of weeks later, she emailed me back that we should talk. I called her while at work, and she told me all of the things she liked about my book and all of the things that needed changing. I totally thought she would tell me that she’d be happy to look at the book again after I made those changes (which is what happened for six months before they finally said yes with Toby), but instead she said they wanted to acquire the book! It was incredibly exciting, and Liz has been the absolute best editor. A perfect match for me.

Like most writers, I'm sure you've had those moments. You know, the ones where it seems like things will never happen. What did you tell yourself to get through it? More importantly, what did you eat?
I didn’t include in my last answer that I had tried to submit GET WELL SOON to one other publisher, before the book had been completed. That publisher wanted me to change the format of the book from letters to a straight novel. I didn’t want to do that, especially because changing it didn’t guarantee having it published.

Instead, I just knew it would be better to move on and finish it the way I wanted to finish it. My brain doesn’t really work in the way that I think things will never happen. I am by no means an overly confident or presumptuous person, but I am very much one who believes that things will happen if you make them happen. I didn’t doubt that my book would get published (with revisions and hard work, of course); I just didn’t know when it would get published.

When I talk to groups of students, I tell them that finding the right editor is like finding a mate—it’s not easy, there is only one of them, and you have to fit together. This is the one person who decides to make or break your book, so if they don’t like the book initially, then you probably wouldn’t like working with them anyway! It’s just a matter of finding the right editor or agent to work with, and that can take time. Don’t give up if you really want it! (I love you for this answer, Julie, just so you know.)

And eating? Probably a lot of Swedish Fish and Peanut M&Ms.

What have been some of the most rewarding moments in your writing career so far?
One of the most rewarding things to happen was having a book published with my husband. I really hope that someday we can have other books together.

Something else that has been rewarding is having a book based on my real life experience with depression because I have had many of my own students (I am a school librarian by day) (Yay, librarians!), as well as people through email and letters, approach me about their depression. I get to tell them, “I know it sucks and it’s so hard, but it’s possible to make it through and become a successful human being.” I am the proof of that, and it seems to comfort or inspire people. With INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER, I just love people talking about gaming and not caring about being “cool.” I hope that resonates with kids, too.

What does your writing process look like? Planner? Fast writer? Or, like me, do you shoot arrows in the dark and hope some hit the bullseye?
I am not much of a planner, although when I get into writing a book, I like to make lists or schedules for the characters. Like, I want to include this, this and this, but this should happen before this. GET WELL SOON took place over a very specific number of days, so I created a sort of day planner for it so I could space out events and know what was coming up. With my third novel, which contains a road trip, I had to map it out as far as time and distance. I also need to keep lists of characters, since I never remember anyone’s names.

I think I write pretty quickly. My first three novels were written by hand. (Hardcore!) I may try writing directly into a computer this summer while I work on the sequel to GET WELL SOON, but I think I am more creative on paper first. I hate the next step, though, which is typing the entire thing. It takes forever and drives me insane. But it’s also another huge editing step, so it’s useful to me. It’s why I can’t have someone else do the typing.

I recently bought a moleskine notebook because I read John Hughes used them. I thought I’d start writing down my ideas. But I haven’t used it yet. I think I don’t like putting my ideas on paper until I’m ready to run with them. If I do write them down, they may start to look lame or boring after sitting there for a while. (Mmm Hmm. Oh, I feel you there.)

In terms of how I write, I think I sort of just become the character in my head and write, in first person, as that character. That in itself has a nice connection to D&D, since I also love to play D&D fully immersed in a character. My D&D characters are usually weird and stupid, so they can get away with making mistakes. My current one, an elf bard named Lulabelle, is always making oven mitts for people and playing recorder music at inappropriate times.

You've probably noticed I have a rather intense love for INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER. I know it's a cliché question, but what inspired the book? Did you have to do research? Or were you already well-versed in D&D, punk, etc?
Thank you so much for loving it as much as you do! I’m really happy to hear that.

The book began with the original first line “Being the sidekick sucks,” which was sort of my situation for a large portion of my teen years. My close friends were the punks and alternative kids, and I always felt like a poseur trying to be like that. But the book changed a lot as I wrote it, and I wanted there to be a reason the main character, Jessie, would want to leave her friends and move toward the D&D crowd, so I changed the “friends” into more of villains. A little too villainous sometimes, I’m afraid, but that was the motivation for the change.

As far as D&D, I played a tiny bit in high school and some more in college and loved it. When I started working in a middle school, I began the Dungeons and Dragons Club. (I can't tell you how truly AWESOME that is!) I see how much it changes these kids’ lives—how they make new and lasting friendships and gain a confidence they didn’t have. It’s wonderful. And my old club members still come back to visit.

And I always have to include some attachment to music in my books, since that played such a huge part in my adolescence.

What is your favorite thing about writing contemporary YA fiction?
I like that the world doesn’t have to be created, like in Science Fiction or Fantasy, but it is so familiar to so many people. Not everyone can relate to what I’m writing, but many people can and do. I learned that when I was publishing a zine called “cul-de-sac.” My friend, Liz, and I wrote stories about growing up in the Chicago suburbs, and it became quite popular. We got lots of mail with people telling us how funny we were and how they related to the pathetic and embarrassing stories. I even met my husband because he read the zine and thought I was funny. From that, I figured out that the same things that seemed mortifying or weird or romantic to me felt the same way to lots of other people. That’s when I knew I was meant to write.

What one piece of writing advice do you most often swear by?
If you like what you write, someone else will like it, too. Is that too basic? (Not too basic at all! In fact, that is exactly what I needed to hear right now.)

Again, thank you so much, Julie, for taking the time to answer my questions! Your answers have encouraged me to keep going, and I'm sure they'll do the same for many others. If you guys want to check out more of Julie's work, here's her fun website and blog.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Husband Is Old + A Guest Post

If you want my usual post on writing, please jump over to the WeBook blog where I guest posted today! It's about tough skin, something I've been meaning to blog about for a while.

If not, you can stay here and listen to me talk about how awesome my husband is.

Because I've been teasing Nick a lot about being old, so I have to make up for that with some nice words.

About six years and four days ago, I never thought about dating Nick. (I know, nice way to start. I swear it'll get good!) He was a good friend, and I honestly never thought about him being more or whatever. That, and one of my closest friends had a crush on him. He was off limits.

One Sunday night, this friend of mine was stressing out over what to get/make him for his birthday. I was so fed up with the "Do you think he'd like this" conversation that I said, "Dude, do you just want me to go over there and ask him?"

So I walked over to his house, since we were at a church get-together and right across the street. Nick answered the door, and I asked him what he wanted. I think he said he liked licorice and pie. I went and told my friend so she wouldn't have to stress anymore; Nick wondered if I like-liked him. Oops.

The next day we had yet another church thing (we Mormons have a lot of church things), and Nick was sitting on the couch. It was getting crowded in the living room, and out of nowhere he says, "I got room for two more here!"

It was really lame, but I worried he'd look even stupider if no one took him up on the offer. I went and sat down right next to him, since I had to cram myself in between two people. Then this weird thing happened.

It was like an energy current, pulling me to him. An awareness that both froze me in place and made me want to run.

Suddenly he wasn't just crazy Nick, the dude who brings a blow up whale to the pool for kicks. He was Nick. He was a guy I knew I needed in my life, even if I wasn't quite sure why.

We sat there the whole night, watched a movie after most everyone had left. We didn't do anything but talk and sit next to each other, but that was more than enough. I was pretty much freaking out as it was. I mean, my friend saw us, and she obviously knew something was up. I didn't know what to do—it's not like I expected it to happen. I still wasn't sure I wanted it to happen.

But it kept happening. And luckily my friend didn't hate me for it, because a week later Nick took my hand. We haven't spent more than a few days apart since.

I am so incredibly lucky. Nick is the exact guy I need in my life—my complement. He makes up for all my faults and makes me want to be a better person every day. I'm pretty sure my family likes me more because he's around, and he's the best father to our crazy ninjas. He's a voracious reader and believes in my writing more than I do. Basically, he's everything I never thought to ask for. I didn't even know guys like him existed.

Nick is walking proof that nice guys are hot.

Love you, hon. And happy birthday.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trusting The Good Opinions

When I was a lot greener, I'll admit to believing the good critiques. If I got bad ones, I could easily talk myself out of them or figure out an easy band-aid edit. But I'm not sure that's such a bad thing—I had to believe the good crits or I'd have given up before I even started.

Now that I've been around the block a few times, I'm more apt to believe the worst opinion out there. I've learned the hard way that those crits make my book better even though they hurt like crazy. I'm grateful for them. Mostly. Definitely not immediately grateful, but yeah. Overall grateful.

The only problem now is that I have a hard time believing someone when they say they like my work. I always think, "Sure you're just trying to be nice. There's got to be some kind of catch—some huge problem they're not telling me about."

It's a bit sad, isn't it? It seems like in every aspect of life, we are conditioned to accept the negative opinions and to suspect the positive ones. That one person who told me I'm ugly. That one guy who hates me because I was born. That one teacher who said I wasn't a very good writer. Why is it so easy for me to believe them, and so hard for me to believe all the people who love me and like what I do?

I don't know. I really don't. It's like the logic works in my head—but it doesn't feel like that. It feels like I suck. Like right now? I'm soooo not in love with my WIP. And it's not even that I hate it, it's just...nothing. Blah. A big puddle of mud. It feels like the whole thing is trash, even if in my head I know it's not.

But when I get in these moods, I've learned it's very important to trust the people who say my writing is worth something. I can't see it right now, but that doesn't make it untrue. It only means I can't see it, and so I will trust my dearest guides to lead the way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ten Words: Results!

Okay, so this kind of took me forever. It turns out incorporating 10 words into a story is much harder than 5 words. I need a nap, but I hope you like this installment of The Assistant. If you'd like to see earlier episodes, go here.

1.4 “Vacation”
Even before I broke up with Cal, he hated Geoff. The first time he tried to pick me up from Madame Beaumont’s place, Geoff answered the door and told him I’d already gone home. I spent the evening cleaning out the Jungle Room, thinking Cal ditched me. When we finally met up and figured it all out, Cal went off.

“Frippery doesn’t even begin to explain that guy, Kate,” he said. “It’s disturbing, how phlegmatic he is when he’s clearly duplicitous.”

This is how Cal swears. When he gets really worked up, every other word is some archaic thing that sounds like a disease.

“He’s really weird.” I’d only been bound by Madame for a week, and I wanted more than anything to explain and couldn’t. “Maybe he forgot I was there.”

“You’re defending him?” He paused, his lips pursed. “Is there something going on between you?”

“What?” I burst into laughter. “Cal, that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said. Geoff’s a freak.” I took his hand, the only hand I ever wanted to hold. “I have the best boyfriend in the world, and he shouldn’t be jealous of that suit-wearing fop.”

He squeezed my hand. “Fop. Nice. You have quite the talent for perspicacity, you know.”

“Thanks?” I wrapped my arms around his waist, sure that his worries were ridiculous.

I was wrong.

I watch the two of them stare at each other—the guy I love and the one who made me love him—wishing I could disappear.

Cal points at Geoff, all playfulness gone. “He’s going with you? Of course. Your boyfriend convinced Madame to take you along. That makes more sense.”

“It’s not like that! He’s not…” My mouth closes without my permission. I may have broken through some aspects of the potion, but talking about what happened is still infrangible.

Cal folds his arms. “Not what?”

“I’m not…” My lips won’t even mouth the rest.

Geoff sighs. “I think what Kitty is trying to say is that I’m not…romantically involved with her at this time, Calvin, my boy.”

Cal’s jaw drops. “You mean, you broke up with her?”

“She broke up with me four months ago, if we’re getting technical.”

My face goes warm. “Um, I gotta find my parents.”

“Your Dad’s in the north field,” Cal says. I don’t dare look at his face, hearing his softened voice is enough to make me weak.

I rush out the door and grab the first golf cart I can find. I don’t know what’s worse, Geoff actually being honest or Cal knowing I’m single. Geoff can’t possibly have said that out of the goodness of his heart; there’s a motive I don’t know about. And now Cal will wonder why I didn’t tell him, and I still can’t explain.

Dad likes to walk through the vineyard everyday, staring at the grapes and leaves and branches like he can control exactly how well they grow. I don’t understand it, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He also doesn’t mind me going to Hawaii. I don’t even have to beg, and here I had a whole speech prepared.

“I’ll tell your mother,” he says as he gives me a hug. “Have fun for once. Don’t let Madame boss you around too much.”

“I’ll try.”

By the time I get back to the house, Cal’s gone. Geoff’s in my room, and he doesn’t talk as I pack a small bag. I can feel his eyes on me. I know he wants me to ask why he told Cal the truth, but I’d rather not give him the pleasure.

“Not very loquacious today, are we, Kitty,” he finally says. “You must be curious.”

“Nope.” I zip up the bag, feigning as much disinterest as possible. “Let’s go.”

“As you wish.” He holds out his hand. I hate that I have to touch him to teleport, but I put my palm in his. After the spell turns me inside out and back again, we stand on a long stretch of abandoned beach. I put my hands to my knees for support as the numbness fades. “You used to handle teleportation much better. Seems you’re out of practice.”

“Shut up. You’re the one who almost landed us in the ocean.” I force myself to stand straight, unable to hold in the chuckle. “What I would give to see you ruin that suit.”

He straightens his lapel. “And after I told Calvin for you.”

I scoff. “How gracious of you, to partially get me out of the curse you put on me. Geoff, you sweetheart.”

He clenches his jaw. “The Old Crone lives just over that ridge. Try to find some manners before we greet her. She doesn’t take well to disrespect.”

I follow him in silence, trying to pay attention to the scenery. Hawaii is just as stunning as the pictures, but the green is different from Napa, deeper in some ways. It doesn’t scream of hard work like the grapevines, no, it’s a relaxing green. It’s paradise to me, though I wonder if the natives see it like I see my home.

Once we reach the ridge, I spot the small hut. I expected to see a mansion, since that’s what most sorcerers prefer from what I’ve seen. A small, skeletal woman stands out front, hunched over a stone table. She holds a cloth the color of hollandaise, wiping up water.

She looks up when Geoff stops, her eyes so light I’m sure she’s blind. “You can tell Millie I’m not interested in helping.”

“Now, Magda, you can’t still be upset about her raiding your alliaceous garden. You had plenty of magic onions, and that demon was right on her tail.”

“She had time to ask! It’s only proper to ask!”

“Quite right, please allow me to apologize for her. You must know our plight. It wouldn’t take but one little peek into Arielle’s intentions,” Geoff says softly.

“No.” She goes back to wiping the slick stone table, which seems to be producing the water on its own. The cloth never gets full, like the sorcerer version of a Shamwow.

Geoff sighs. “If not for Madame, won’t you please take a look for this poor girl? If you don’t, Madame’s bonding spell will strangle her.”

My eyes go wide. Madame’s leash hasn’t been tugging at all, which means Magda must intend to help. Strange. I wonder why she pretends to resist.

The Old Crone looks at me, and even though her eyes are blank I can feel her seeing straight into me. “What reason do I have to care if she dies?”

Geoff puts his hands in his pockets. “Let’s not play this game.”


He smirks. “You must know better than I do who she is, that there’s no reason Madame would bind an average mortal.”

I can barely breathe, let alone speak. What are they talking about?

The Old Crone doesn’t look up from her work, but a grin tugs at the side of her mouth. “I’ll need wild jacamars.”

“Of course, Magda.” Geoff bows. “Which colors?”

She lists them off. “Vamoose!”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sketch + WINNERS!

Quick sketch today, but I couldn't flake on that and Kitty, right? So what if I have contest winners to announce? This is just a quick black & white study I did this morning. I tried the calligraphy pen for the lines, that was fun.

But like you guys care—you want to know who won the Revenge of the Five Words Contest, huh.

It was so, so hard to pick! You guys got very creative with these words, and I applaud every person who entered. You took on a challenge! I always like more entries than I can award, but in the end I have to pick three. Sigh.

Huge, Obvious Disclaimer: I am the sole judge of this contest, and I picked purely based on my tastes/whims/opinions. My judgment reflects little on the merit of your writing, so please don't flog me if you don't like the results. In the words of many an agent, this business if very subjective. Sincerely, Natalie

Third Place: Dara Sorensen!
The Talking Sandal
“Why did I want to major in sociolinguistics again?” I said this to myself as I stared out of my window at Mt. Fuji in the distance. A lenticular cloud hovered over the peak of the mountain, giving it the appearance of an umbrella covering it.

I sighed and turned back to the blank document on my laptop. The proposal for my thesis was due the following afternoon and I had nothing but a blinking cursor.

“You mock me,” I said to the cursor.

“I haven’t started yet, Emma-san, but thanks for the invitation.”

The stranger’s voice startled me. “Who’s there?” I picked up my stapler and took a defensive stance. I was sure no one had ever been fustigated to death by a stapler, but the only other weapon I had was a souvenir katana stored away in my closet.

“Try looking down here, genius.”

A very old and moldy sandal with tiny arms and legs stared at me. It looked like an enlarged version of Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants.


“I’m a bakezori, idiot. A supernatural sandal.”

Whatever it was, I had to get it out of my apartment. “Supernatural or not, you’re leaving!”

The sandal laughed. “I’m afraid you’ll have to catch me if you want that to happen!” It darted underneath my table. I lunged forward, stapler still in hand, and reached for its leg but it wiggled out of my reach.

“You have to do better than that!” It stuck a long, purple tongue out at me.

“Enough!” I threw my stapler at it. It hit the bakezori right in its eye, knocking it flat. I picked it up by its tiny straw leg. “Time to leave.”

“No, don’t throw me out! I’ll lose my power!”


I defenestrated the squirming sandal, listening to it screech as it fell four stories to the sidewalk below.

“What next, a singing paper lantern?” I said.

“Emma-san…” High pitched warbling came from behind me.

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

Dara may not know that bakezori happen to be one of my favorite Japanese mythical creatures. How can you not love this?
Bakezori, the demon sandal of awesome.

I thought so. Besides that, Dara used the words well and created a quirky little piece I remember even a few days later. Also, it made me laugh, and I can't help loving something that makes me laugh.

Second Place: Jessie Oliveros!

I rub my arm, hoping to draw out the stiffness I feel all over.

Where am I? Light filters through a crack over my head. I’m in a tight space surrounded by objects. A few I can discern in the dim light: a plastic katana, large marbles, a giant teddy bear.

The last thing I remember is my grandfather peering through the lenticular lenses of his telescope. He calls it stargazing. I call it crazy. He spends all his time looking for one star, claiming only he knows it exists.

Last night’s memories pierce through the fuzziness.

“How do you know it exists if you’ve never seen it?!” I fustigate. “You’ve spent all my life looking for this star! It’s just sick.”

“Depends on what you mean by ‘sick’,” he growls, squinting at the night sky.

“Don’t talk sociolinguistics to me,” I say, kicking at Geppetto as he purrs at my ankles. “I mean sick. Not cool or awesome. Sick.”

Now more light finds its way through the crack, as if the sun is coming up. I shake away the cobwebbed thoughts and lift my hand toward the opening. It snaps back, and a sharp pain shoots through my arm.

What in the world? I hold my hand up, watching the way the light illuminates each finger. And the string attached to my wrist.

My heart races as I inspect the way it grows from my skin. I look at my other wrist. My feet. I reach back and feel the string at the nape of my neck.

Suddenly, the rest of the memories find their way in.

I hold the cat over the window sill, threatening defenestration if my grandfather continues this insanity.

He creeps towards me, his face flush with anger. “Be a good girl, Pin. Put the cat down.” Then his mouth falls open as he stares past me, his eyes glittering with starlight. “I found it.”

“What?” I take a step back.

“My wishing star."

I just thought this was so original and even a little bit scary. Jessie was the only person who opted to use the alternate (and easier) definition of "fustigate" (to beat with a club OR to criticize harshly). I really like the backwards version of Pinocchio, I'd totally read a longer version.

First Place: Chris Fontes!
I had never thought my interest in sociolinguistics would get me into so much trouble. All I had done was ask a simple question: “What do you mean, ‘bust a cap’?”

The young man squinted at me. “It mean I’m-a use a fresh clip to expan’ youze mind, cuz!” He removed a brush of sorts from his thick, lenticular hair.

Fascinating! Such an array of ethnolinguistics! The etymological obscurity must stem from social structures, but what did he mean? “Fresh clip” perhaps refers to a magazine from a rifle or sub machine gun. “Expand your mind”… to think outside of my ethnocentric view? No, that doesn’t fit the context… Open… to open… to make open… to make open your mind… to … Oh! To physically “open” the brain! So he means… oh. I see.

“I beg your pardon, but I meant no imprecation,” I said as I fumbled to put my notepad back in the front pocket of my corduroy sport coat.

“What, you think youze smart or sumptin’? You best step off, son!” The angry young man danced a little jig that I assume was a sort of “chest puffing.”

“My apologize young man. I will antagonize you no further. If you’ll pardon me—“ I attempted to evade the young man, but he was quite brash.

“I sayz no,” the young man insisted. He brandished a cudgel from behind his back, of which I supposed he intended fustigate me with.

“I warn you, I am a decorated Kenjutsu sportsman. Although presently lacking my katana, I am not to be trifled with. Now, please. Let me pass.”

The young man swung the cudgel, hideously, and I stepped aside. I grabbed the top of his hair in one hand, and his undergarments in the other. I was about to defenestrate him, then I thought better of it. I tossed him into a nearby table, bowed my head, and bid him “good day.”

What I love most about this, besides the humor, was that Chris really seemed to grasp "sociolinguistics" and used it not only properly, but to its fullest. It wasn't just a side word, but an integral part of the story. In fact, it was the catalyst for the action, which is awesome.

Winners, please contact me with your prize choice. Congrats!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mish Mash

First off, hi new followers! Holy bacon burger, there's a lot of you this week! (Note to self: Have Elana Johnson link to your blog as much as possible.) Pull up a chair, have some cookies. Also, if you stay for dinner, I make a fabulous lasagna.

Today I'd planned on writing the next installment of The Assistant with the 10 lovely words you offered. But then I had to go get weighed for my insurance (Yes. Weighed.). After that I was already out, so I decided to be a decent mom for once and take my kids out to the mall. Ninja Girl totally picked up her sesame chicken with chopsticks! She's two. And a ninja. *beams*

So I just got home and I'm pretty beat. I have enough creativity to either write about Kitty or work on my WIP, Transparent.

As much as I like to have fun, work comes first, dang it.

Not to say I'm always a good example—I can totally get my lazy on, don't worry—but I really like meeting my goals. I like how it feels when I've accomplished something. It's much easier to relax after I've reached my goals, no guilt attached.

And to be honest, it has been a bit of a battle getting words out these days. I'm doing a solid 1k a day, which is still awesome but far off my old pace of 3-4k a day. Like I've said, things have changed a bit around here. But that's okay. This is a good pace for me if I can just make myself sit down and do it.

So sorry, Kitty and her 10 words will have to be pushed back to Monday. I promise Monday—I'm good at keeping promises.

One good thing: This gives you more time to enter my contest, instead of reading fun stuff. You still have until midnight tonight, and I'll let you know right now there's not half as many entries as usual. It's like the five words I gave you were, well, horrible. (Mwahaha.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Five Words Times Two

Day 3 of The Week of Contests, Games, and PRIZES actually involves the game part of that title. It's time for Five Words!


Yes, in honor of the fifth installment of Five Words, I'm asking for TEN WORDS. I'm crazy like that. Please don't make me pay for it too badly.

The Rules: Give me a word—any PG word—and I will incorporate it into a short fiction piece, which will be posted at some point. Only one word per person, and I will take the FIRST TEN words offered. The story must continue where it left off.

Thanks so much for humoring me in this. It's been great practice for me, and I hope you've enjoyed the crazy story so far.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Into The Wild Nerd Yonder WINNER!

Email me, Claire Dawn, at, and we'll figure out how to get this book to Japan! Congrats!

Contest: Revenge of the Five Words!

Welcome to Day 2 of The Week of Contests, Games, and PRIZES!!!

Later today I will be announcing the winner of Into The Wild Nerd Yonder, but I wanted to get the next contest posted asap because it might take you some time (not to mention guts) to enter this baby.

So for the past couple months you have been inflicting me with five difficult words, words I've had to use while writing a continuing story.

It's time for revenge. *insert evil cackle here*

Use the following five words in a piece of short fiction. Word limit is 333 words, just because I like 3. The story can be about anything, so long as it's PG and within the limit. One entry per person.


(Yes, I'm evil. Mwahaha.)

First Place: Choice of a 30-page critique, query/synopsis critique, or full color drawing.
Second Place: Choice of a 20-page critique, query/synopsis critique, or full color drawing.
Third Place: Choice of a 10-page critique, query critique, or black and white drawing.

Contest is open until Thursday, May 6th, at Midnight, MST. Winners will be announced Friday. Please email entries to I will confirm receiving your entry.

I wish you luck. You'll probably need it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Awesomeness: Into The Wild Nerd Yonder

YAY!!! It's The Week of Contests, Games, and PRIZES!!!

Are you guys excited? I'm excited. I have some fun things in store for you this week, so stay tuned to win books, critiques, drawings, and...nope, that's pretty much it right there.

Today, The Elana Johnson has organized a massive spread-the-love for authors. She asked a ton of writers to recommend books that they absolutely 100% adored, and so you'll probably be seeing a bunch of posts like this one today. Or you can just go here to see them all.

I offer up Into The Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern. I've already talked about how much I love this book here, but it immediately came to mind again when Elana said to pick a book I'd give 10 stars to because I loved it so much.

Quick Summary: Jessie is in between social groups, what with her friends going punk while she'd prefer to sew skirts out of pikachu fabric. But when her supposed best friend does the unthinkable, the nerd crowd starts looking way more appealing than it should...especially that freakishly cute boy with the flooded pants and white sneakers.

It's hard for me to talk about this book without going, "I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!!" I get this fluttery feeling just thinking about it, which makes it hard to say anything intelligible. So this won't be much of a review, just a straight up love fest.

I loved this book because I felt like I could have been Jessie. No, I WAS Jessie at one point in my life. I wish wish wish I had this book to read as a nerdy teen girl. I want Jessie for a best friend for my 16-year-old self. We would have gotten along so very well.

I love that Julie Halpern got this reaction out of me. Her writing is so real and quirky and easy on the eyes. I loved that she addressed that awkward period between friendships. I loved the normal and yet awesome family Jessie had (Especially the relationship with her brother. [I was very close with my brother, too!]). I loved that she wrote a book about finding real friends no matter where they happen to be socially.


Into The Wild Nerd Yonder is also one of a few books that totally sucked me into contemporary YA fiction. It made me love a genre I didn't quite gel with before—it taught me that contemporary can be just as magical as fantasy. It made me want to try, to learn, more about it. It made me want to grow as a writer and experiment.

For that I want to thank Julie. Times ten.

AND I want to spread the love! So for this Day 1 of The Week of Contests, Games, and PRIZES, I'm giving away a copy of Into The Wild Nerd Yonder.

This is my first book giveaway, guys. I'm stingy with the monies, so you must know that I really love this book.

TO ENTER: I only ask two things—be a follower (on Twitter or the blog) and leave a comment. I know, you don't have to pimp me or anything! Easiest contest ever! (Especially on this blog, am I right?)

I will draw one winner TOMORROW AT NOON MST, and, uh, they'll win Into The Wild Nerd Yonder. Duh.

As part of this whole author love day thing-a-ma-jig, I have been asked to direct you to the fabulous Jamie Harrington for the next book recommendation. Enjoy.