Friday, February 24, 2012

A 3am At 6am

This was my Sunday morning tweet (soooo long that I had to go through tweetlonger):

"I was up until 6am reading ' Incarnate, to get through the masquerade scene. And then I lay in bed, wondering how I could POSSIBLY ever write anything when books like this and Die For Me and Dearly, Departed and so many others are so amazing beyond belief. I feel like Ana with music(esp Dossam's music...) and how she doesn't feel good enough around so much genius! #LeSigh"

Three a.m.s, those bleak, hellish moments of self-doubt, are a part of life.  Especially if you want to be a writer because so much of what you do hinges on the opinion of others...  There's nothing like laying in bed in the middle of the night after a long day of writer's block or empty inboxes, knowing:

"...she knew that there would be days when she would feel desparingly that she could not write and that it was of no use to try; days when the editorial phrase 'not necessarily a reflection on its merits,' would get on her nerves to such an extent that she would feel like imitating Marie Bashkirtseff and hurling the taunting, ticking, remorseless sitting room clock out the window; days when everything she'd done or would try to do would slump-- become mediocre and despicable; days when she would be tempted to bitter disbelief in her fundamental conviction that there was as much truth in the poetry of life as in the prose; days when the echo of that 'random word' of the gods, for which she so avidly listened, would only seem to taunt her with its suggestions of unattainable perfection and loveliness beyond the reach of mortal ear or pen." -L. M. Montgomery, Emily's Quest

And what else could send me over the edge of the great self-doubt pit but something incredibly beautiful, like this:

"He played my notes again, but instead of stopping after, he played the most amazing thing my ears had ever heard. Like waves on a lakeshore, and wind through trees. There were lightning strikes, thunder, and pattering rain. Heat and anger, and honey sweetness.

I'd never heard this music before. There seemed no room to breathe around my swollen heart as the music grew, made me ache inside.

It went on forever, and not long enough. Then my four notes came again, slow like before. I struggled to breathe as the sound echoed against my thoughts. And quiet blanketed the parlor." - Jodi Meadows, Incarnate


I love prose.  I love words and how they can magically string together to capture thoughts and feelings and pictures.  At the SCBWI roundtables, I just kept getting lost in the music of some of the 500 words samples that my fellow roundtable-ites were reading aloud (and I think everyone was starting to get tired of my "Oooooh, I LOVED this one line of yours.  SOOO PRETTY!" over and over again with the different reads.) 

Now, combine the ladies at the roundtables with some of my favorite authors.  All of these women write beautifully about topics ranging from history to revolutions and imprisonment.  They talk about love and death and life.  The paranormal in their stories (where applicable) have fantastic and creative premises.

Me, I write about cute boys and magic.  And sometimes cute magical boys. 


I could feel my heart breaking (in a good way) over the sentences in Incarnate.  Until I Die had me squealing in delight over Amy Plum's storyline and how her descriptions had become even more beautiful since her first book.  Dearly, Departed made me want to keep reading the book forever.  Those books were written by amazing authors.  And at that hour, I felt like a poseur, trying to break into the same profession.

"I could feel the tension in his arms and chest, trying to hold me, trying not to break me. I wanted to say something, reassure him that I trusted him, but if I spoke, the moment might shatter."- Jodi Meadows, Incarnate

But the sun always comes up in the morning, pushing back those cobwebs of fear. Doubt doesn't do too well in the daytime. (Not to mention, Jodi, Amy, and Lia have sequels a 'comin. They may break my heart, but I love them anyway.)

I  always have to remind myself that everyone's been there.  Everyone has had their own personal three a.m.s (or six a.m.s) filled with questioning and maybe even a tinge of despair.  I'm not going to write like Jodi Meadows or Amy Plum or Lia Habel or LM Montgomery-- I'm going to write like me.  I can't change who I am as a writer, I can only learn and grow.  And even if I never publish, I still have these MSs that are all mine, my babies filled with castles and sugar sand and cute magical boys.  Life is too short not to try and breathe life into these stories.

Thank you, authors and editors and agents for making me question myself while still inspiring me.  You are the reason why I stay up all night for just. one. more. chapter.

That same morning, I had a burst of creativity and productivity on my MG WIP (no cute boys, but plenty of magic!) Autumn and TRC seem to love my self-doubt!

Bloggy people-- how do you get past your 3ams?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I've Been Tagged!

The ladies at The Feather and The Rose have tagged me!  This means that all of you get six (6) more facts about me.


BUT, then I get to tag other people who are so much more awesome than I am.  And, if they play, you get to learn six facts about them!  Which may actually make up for what you're about to be subjected to:
Late 50s, early 60s fascinator-style headband
1930s hat, so jaunty!

1.  I have a small collection of vintage hats. A few from the '30s, a lovely platter hat from the '40s (scroll down to an earlier post for that one), a perfect 1920s cloche, and a few headband-fascinator-y type of hats from the 1950s/60s-- including one with a tag that reads "East Germany"(!!!)  I love those hats, even if I don't get many chances to wear them.
1920s cloche, custom made for the original owner, whose name is embroidered on the hatband

2.  Continuing on the whole "I believe that my life is a costume drama" theme, I have a lot of dresses, many of which could possibly pass for something out of the '40s or '50s.  I look good in full skirts and fitted bodices.
3.  I have a tiny, itty bitty obsession with glitter and shimmer.  My makeup collection is frighteningly sparkly.  And Urban Decay owns my first born.
4.  (SERIOUS ALERT) I was borderline anorexic and had a form of bulemia called "exercise bulemia" for a few years in college. A good day for me was when I ate under eight hundred calories and spent a few hours at the gym with my only goal in life to get down to 135 pounds (on a 5'7" frame that won't healthily go below 140.  The only time that I hit 135 was post surgery with no muscle in my left leg.)  I honestly didn't care if my actions shaved years off of my life because, though I had practically no fat on my body, I still thought that I was huge. It took a lot of encouragement from my friends over a year to get back to a normal eating pattern again. That's part of the reason why I'm so big on promoting a positive and realistic body image for girls.
5.  My favorite summer treat is "creme d'mint" (their name& spelling) water ice from a local ice/custard stand.  No other water ice can match this one!  I'm addicted to my weekly "hit."
6.Watching me try to do hip-hop or tap can be the most comical thing on the planet.  I'm a stiff bunhead who definitely can't pop and lock or "ball-heel-change."  But I can do a mean ballet run. And no, I'll never post video on here of me trying.  It was bad enough to see my jazz teacher giggling at me as I tried to keep up with the guest instructor.
Those are my six.  Now onto the linkies (Tag, you're it!):
Mia at Literary Jam and Toast - guys, she posts with CARTOONS.  Because she's awesome that way.
Julie at The Climb-- a fellow no-kiss blogfester whose blog is just fun to read
Marnee at her Marnee Bailey-- I met Marnee during a few #1k1hr blitzes on twitter.  Even though she's romance and not YA, her blog posts sooooo apply to any aspiring writer.  And she's just plain sweet and wonderful.
For my remaining three, I refer you to my versatile blogger post :-P Because I'm lazy and enjoy those blogs.
On a totally unrelated note, I've picked up a sense of cute-blog-name envy.  Using just my name was easy, but it's not as fun as... "Get your Tutus ON!" (obvs not that one!) or similar.  If you see a poll on here sometime in the near future to help me pick something adorable, you know why.

Thank you to the Feather and the Rose ladies for this tag!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Muddy Valentine

I have trouble writing "kissy" scenes.  Some people love writing great makeout scenes between their characters-- me, I feel like a complete and total goofball when I need to write anything romantic.  Still, after a few months of playing in a middle grade sandbox, I realized that I...well, kind-of miss the "kissy stuff."

In honor of St. Valentine's day, I've decided to play with two characters I've been toying with for a contemporary YA.  I get a little bit more kissy practice, you get a Valentine post (hmm, I think I get the better part of the bargain.)  Since I'll need some Valentine's entertainment, I'd love it if some of you also posted love-y blurbs on your own blogs.

Yes, I just begged for stories.  If you couldn't tell from my FDB (fictional dead boy) or Mini Sock Boy posts, I'm single. So, while all of the people around me are spending their Valentine's day eating out or whatever people who have significant others do, I'm icing my injured hamstring, eating chocolate, and probably doing some spa-y mask thing to my face while watching people making cupcakes on TV.  Entertainment is good!*

(*Note, I'm actually pretty happy about my circumstances. Totally did not have to buy a card or stuff today.  And I can eat and do whatever I want.  Whee!!)

Begging over, I'd like to introduce you to Phoebe and Dev, from a (barely) outlined YA contemporary and written (mostly) over my lunch hour today.

Feb 2 2014 update: Sooooooo... since this little excerpt actually made it into Bookishly Ever After *and* is so much better in its new form, I'm taking it off of the blog so you all can see it perfectly shiny and wonderful in 10 more months! <3 Issy

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

If I Had A Time Machine...

Another Friday Five from the people at Paper Hangover:

What are the FIVE novels you wish you had written?

When I first saw this question, I immediately thought of the books that had inspired me as a child and as a teen.  These are the books on my shelves with broken spines held together with tape and glue, pages threatening to fall out.  I've loved these books to death and still re-read them to this day.

1.  Emily of New Moon (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

From the EoNM Anime
When I was ten years old, a distant family member gave me a box set of the Emily series.  I had never read L.M. Montgomery's books before (even Anne), so these books were my first introduction to the magic of Prince Edward Island and Montgomery's beautiful prose. 

Inside of these books was a ten year old girl like me-- someone who loved reading and wanted nothing more in the world than to be a writer.  Emily understood what it was like to have the thrill of words rush through you and, oh, God, her "Flash"... Montgomery gave description and voice to that magical moment of seeing something so amazing and beautiful just beyond our physical world.  I've seen and felt that, myself.

I lived with Emily through her 3ams of doubt, her rejections (haven't we all had that moment of disappointment when that first childish poem isn't published?), her growth as a writer, and finally, the publication of her first, wonderful book.

This book inspired me and still inspires me to keep striving, to keep trying to climb that "Alpine Path."  If I ever do get even near the top of that path, I'll partly have L.M. Montgomery to thank.

2. Blubber, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, & Deenie
This is the cover of the copy currently on my shelves
Been a tween and teen can be incredibly difficult.  You deal with bullies, body image issues, figuring out your faith and the "who" of who you are.  Judy Blume is like the incredibly cool aunt who completely understands you and hands you these books as manuals through your teen years.  I have her to thank for not panicking about some of our more stressful "rites of passage" and some of us ladies in the office still talk about Deenie when we have a discussion on non-operative scoliosis treatments (bracing, for example) and the effects on teen girls.  I want teens to read my books and feel like I've given them a little bit of a voice, too.  Maybe I won't be as cool as informative as Ms. Blume, but I want to be someone who supports and inspires them.

3. Emma (Jane Austen)

Emma is so sweet and clueless
And a genius adaptation
I love Jane Austen.  I especially love her snark and digs at the society of her time, something that doesn't always show itself to a first-time reader of her books.  Emma, to me, is the epitome of Austen's wonderful snarkishness (is that a word?)

Plus, it inspired possibly one of the best adaptations of a book-to-modern culture movies EVER:

I don't know about you, but I think Ms. Austen would have completely and totally approved of Amy Heckerling's adaptation.  *Hides from the literature snobs and Austen fanatics who start chasing after me with torches and knives*

4.  The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

MZB was one of the first women and feminist pioneers of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, paving the way for generations of writers.  I loved her Darkover books as a teen, but The Mists of Avalon was, by far, my favorite of all of her books.  Hearing the story from the traditional villain's side (Morgan le Fay, Arthur's half-sister) and watching her weave together a new version of the Arthurian legends still resonates with me and even affects my own thought process while writing.

Her novel, The Firebrand, is also high on my list of all-time favorites.

5.  Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Confession: I kind-of went through a vampire phase in high school.  The Fictional Dead Boy post touched on that a bit.  My vampires, however, did not sparkle.  Mine had that dangerous, sinister edge to them that many current vamp incarnations are, well, lacking.  And, during that phase, I stumbled on to the granddaddy of all vampire tales.

oooooooooohhhhhh... Classic cover without fangs!!!
Stoker's prose is beautiful (I'm a sucker for prose!), his descriptions so vivid that I get hungry when I read about Harker's meals in the first few chapters and my stomach churns when I read about Renfield's meals in later chapters.  I feel so sorry for beautiful Lucy, and I am brave Mina.  Everything that this book does, from drawing me into the action to making me feel a *little* bit sorry for the villain, is exactly what a book should do.  Stoker was a genius-- I hope that I can someday write a fraction as well as he did.

Those are my top five "wish I wrotes"-- what are yours?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What do YOU Live For?

During the SCBWI conference this past weekend, I attended a (fantastic, informative, and inspiring) breakout session on Revision with Cheryl Klein.  During her talk, she mentioned a project that she had heard about on NPR, where a reporter travelled around the country asking people a series of three questions:

What do you live for?
What would you kill for?
What would you die for?

And, oh, did my thoughts start churning!  Those three questions embody a person's passion, their drive, who they are and who they believe themselves to be.

This tomb was built by a man who lived for the woman he loved... (photo by me, 2009-- my first glimpse of the Taj)
I don't know if I can answer all three questions for myself-- at least not today, but for my characters?  I am their creator and they are teenagers... life is so much more black and white and passion is so much more powerful during your teen years.  That's one reason why I love writing for and about teens.

I'm sticking with Sara and Jer, since they've already made an appearance on this blog.  Kids, you're in the hot seat:

What do you live for?  I live for my photographs.  I live to capture the world so that others can see all of the amazing things in it.
What would you kill for? A scholarship to a really great photojournalism program.
What would you die for?  Wow.  Uhm, to protect my sister?

What do you live for?  My camera.  Is that a big surprise?
What would you kill for? I'd kill for a slice of pizza right now.  Or a hoagie.
What would you die for? I want to say that I'd die in some dramatic way for some amazing cause, but really...I'd die to keep Sara safe.

What about you and your characters?  How would you/they answer?