Monday, October 29, 2012

The Plan and Nano and beyond!

So I came up with a plan. It's a good plan. A brilliant plan even.

So brilliant and sensible in fact I have to wonder if I have a second personality I'm not aware of. To quote Tin Cup, "Me and Normal don't often collide in the same sentence."

But here it is.

October (the whole three last days of it) - finish historical romance. The first draft at least. I need about 7000 more words.

Then NaNoWriMo. (For those of you who read this that aren't writing nerds, NaNo is National Novel Writing Month and you put up at least 50K in words in a month)
Which makes you do this:

But then at the end you're all:

So I'll be writing a New Adult mystery thriller about...I'll save that for another post :)

So here's where The Plan comes in.

I write a lot. No. I mean a lot. And I've been doing this, and trying to make something of it, for a year. I've been writing my whole life. Diaries, notebooks upon notebooks full of things, on napkins, anywhere I could find surface and a writing utensil. But now that I've decided to add not just "writer" but "author" to my roster, I have been putting down ALL the words.

And sometimes I think, it's too many words. (Like June for instance, I wrote well over 100K. That's a lot, friends.)

Honestly, I thought I was slacking in that department. I thought I was barely keeping up. So i wrote more, worked harder. Turns out, true to form, I'm a freak of nature.

Since November first last year I have finished, polished, revised, polished, slightly revised and queried an Adult contemporary. I wrote it's sequel which is out with my crit partners. I wrote a NA Novella. I wrote a Paranormal romance, dissected it, revised it, threw 80K words in the trash and started revising again. I'm finishing a historical romance right now. And I have about 20-25K each on four other projects, plus a list of ideas as long as my arm.

Which makes me wanna do this:

But here's the thing. I think I'm writing because I'm scared. I keep writing new stuff because then I don't have to polish, listen to critiques, revise, query, face rejection, or any of the non-fun parts of writing.

I just keep writing new, saying as soon as I finish this! But no more!

So here's the plan:

October: finish current WIP (work in progress)

November: NaNo (write new shiny)

December: NO words! Just Critting, beta reading, real reading, NO writing!

And then the plan really commences. IN the new year, I'm going to revise, polish, finish things I have started and revise and polish them too. I will be diligent and not scared of querying. I will get my books out there. I want an agent, but I'm not going to get one if I keep sending out the one thing I have done and nothing else!

So that's plan. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, (Like how I make you think you have a choice?) is to keep me on track. Keep to the code. No wait, that's something different.

When I start to divert, please shove me back in this direction. Remind me of this moment of clarity. Because that's about how long this idea will sound good to me. One single moment.

Hey look - a new shiny idea!

NO! Stick to the plan. And I'll be like this!
Like a boss!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ever by Jessa Russo. Or The book you'll want today.

                                     Hey friends! This is my friend, Jessa Russo.
An unashamed super fan of all things paranormal romance, Jessa Russo reads, writes and breathes paranormal YA, rarely straying from her comfort zone. When not writing or reading, Jessa enjoys making memories with her awesome family and amazingly supportive friends, while secretly planning her next trip to New Orleans. She’s won a few flash fiction contests and had a short story published, but feels her greatest accomplishment is raising the coolest kid ever – a little girl with a Tim Burton obsession and a desire to save every animal she sees.

Jessa will always call Southern California home, where she lives with her husband Jon, their daughter Faith, Bronco the Great Dane and Lola the Chihuahua.

         Isn't she pretty? And brains too!She wrote this fabulous book.

  Seventeen-year-old Ever’s love life has been on hold for the past two years. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he’s completely oblivious.

Of course, it doesn't help that he’s dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible.

Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever’s life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer.

Some girls lose their hearts to love.

Some girls lose their minds.

                                                        Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.

But just like so many of us writerly types we need more than a keyboard to write our story. We need music. So for today's blog stop, Jessa has shared the songs that inspired her while she wrote Ever. Here's a chance to get inside the mind of a writer. Enjoy! 

 Though I don’t listen to music while I write – except for the occasional need for classical when I’m feeling particularly chaotic – I do have a short playlist for EVER. There are a few songs that really spoke to me while writing Ever, Frankie and Toby’s stories, and I have added notes to them below. The other songs are part of the timeline of the story (I can see where they’d be in the movie – lol) or are just particularly haunting.

Lana del Rey – Dark Paradise – This is Ever’s song. I think this song is dark and hopeful all at the same time, which is somewhat like Ever.

Black Keys – These Days  This is Toby’s song. I listen to it when I need to get inside his head. His soundtrack is pretty much all Black Keys, all the time, but this song especially. The pain in this song is so Toby to me. He’s got a wall up around him and a chip on his shoulder, but not because he’s a bad guy. He just knows he’s the only person he can depend on.

J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers – Last Kiss – Frankie’s story wrote (re-wrote) itself because of this song. Originally, way back in first draft mode, Frankie had been a ghost who had been eighteen-years-old when he died in the 1950’s, and for whatever reason, was one of many ghosts stuck in Ever’s home. But one day this song came on – one of my all-time favorites, by the way – and the story rewrote itself. I could see Frankie and Ever in their last moments together after the car accident – both deeply in love with the other and unwilling to speak the words, even when facing death. I revised and rewrote, and Frankie’s story was told. So this will forever be Frankie’s song. 

Helen Jane Long – Porcelain (Instrumental)

Blue Foundation – Eyes on Fire Without a doubt, this is Ariadne's Song. I know, I know, this is a song that everyone and their mother already know because of TWILIGHT. But it is so Ariadne to me. She’s conniving and confident and I just think this song fits her so well. And frankly, this song is badass.

Jewel – Foolish Games

Black Keys – Too Afraid to Love You

Lana Del Rey – Kinda Outta Luck

Peter Hollens – Sleepwalking 

Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait – This song always reminds me of Frankie’s unwavering love for Ever – even when she’s making choices that are not in his favor, he loves her still.

Bliss – A Last Meeting (Instrumental)

Jason Mraz – I Won’t Give Up

Elisa – Dancing –
 Frankie and Ever’s Song. My critique partner introduced me to this one and WOW. What a beautiful, haunting song. 

Here's where to find the goodness to hold in your hands. 

Here's where you can find out all you want to know about Jessa! 

Thanks so much for sharing with us Jessa!  Now, what are you waiting for? Go get your own copy!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In defense of girls - when they act like girls.

I'm a strong woman. That's no secret. I'm proud of it too, which I think most of us are. We all want to be strong and not perceived as weak. Sometimes we're so scared of being weak, we lash out against anything considered less than strong.

But there’s a dirty little secret no one gets about us. Part of our strength is allowing ourselves to cry, to mourn, to stay in sweats for days (not that I’ve ever done that. *looks away*), and basically be a non-functioning member of society for a bit until we get over or learn how to deal with our pain. You know, basically allowing ourselves to be human.

Most of us make really stupid decisions. We fuss over hair, make-up, nails, tight fitting pants, the number on the scale, and even if we claim we don’t, we hope on the day we see the horrible childhood nemesis or the ex that broke our heart that we look as fantastic on the outside as we know we are on the inside.

You might even blare Taylor Swift in your car and sing while driving, even if you’re a grown woman, because her words just say the perfect things about ALL THE FEELS. (Again, not that I’VE ever done this, but I’m sure someone has. *shifty eyes*)

But there is a huge trend right now bashing the human element in women, especially in books, and calling them weak. Several characters are always slammed and others are brought up as counterpoints. So I’d like to take a moment and defend the “girlie” moments and show you that even the hardest edged one have those moments too.

I mean, I believe you can be a strong, independent woman with a brain who stands up for herself and still enjoy a man opening a door for you. Or crying when he is an asshat. I don’t see that as weak. But I think there’s an all or nothing thing going on right now that wants to obliterate the complete need for a companion and I just think that’s very unrealistic.I also think it has more to do with fear of being weak, rather than an actual dislike or disconnection.

As I writer, something I often think about is how would my character handle this situation? Is their reaction cliché? Does that make it the wrong choice? Did it become a cliché because that’s the normal human response?

Sometimes what is now looked at as a weak response is the best choice for my characters and the story. So my question is, when did showing real emotion make you a weak, unworthy heroine?

There’s a lot of complaints right now that the heroine doesn’t find herself until she finds the boy. Everything in her world is about the boy. She can’t function without the boy. I’m not saying every girl needs someone, but I am saying that the majority of us, at some point, have been ‘all about the boy’. Especially in YA, this is a major complaint. But I work with teenage girls. Even the cool indie chicks with genius heads on their shoulders get nuts over the boy.And very few connect to everyone like love.

Let’s take a look:

First off, this is not a comparison, which is my biggest complaint in the world. Heroines are in different books in different worlds. They all have strengths and weaknesses and those are different to every person who reads them. But love them or hate them, I think they have value. Also - Want to compare characters from different books? Write a new book then.

1. Bella Swan. We’ll start with you. She’s the girl people love to hate. I’m not a huge Bella fan, I admit. (And it doesn’t even have to do with her real life counterpart only being able to make one facial expression) She’s got things that bug me from the “I’m a pretty girl and all boys like me but I still can’t believe this one guy does too” to “hey, I’m really smart and I will show that to you by reading Classics.” But I digress.

There are many technical things about the Twilight series that bug me, but I admit freely I ate them up when they came out. And the story does pull you along. And I have a huge soft spot for Edward.

But the point is, why does Bella have such a bad rep? I blame the movies. Book Bella is far more clever than Movie Bella. But let me ask you this…

-          Do you know at least one pretty girl who has crushing insecurity and doesn’t think she’s pretty or worth the fuss?
-          Ever been a teenager and had that first break up and thought you might die because you were sure you’d never love like that again?
-          Have you ever thought no one understood what you were going through and withdrawn to your room to listen to sappy love songs and mope around?

I bet you did. I did. And I moped and was overly dramatic and just knew I would never stop hurting because that’s what teenagers do. They feel things in the purest way because every single thing is new. That’s my point. Bella is 17. She’s supposed to feel that way.

Does she make all the right choices? No.
Does she wallow? Yes.
Is it unrealistic that a teenager with hormones could resist a usually half clothed Jacob for that long? Probably.
But I think most teenage girls might make a lot of those same choices. And it obviously connected. So are they weaknesses? Or is it human?

Bella puts it all on the line for her family. She is honest with Jake about her feelings. And whether or not you have issue with the no sex before marriage thing, Edward is actually the one to make that decision. Bella wants to get it on.

So her exact weakness is she loves too much? Can’t get over it fast enough? Or do you just hate her because her story has a sparkly vampire in it?

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I love Buffy. And she is often called on to slay Edward and Bella because she’s a bad ass. Which she is. But let’s look closer.

First, she would never slay Edward because she knows what it’s like to love a vampire and wouldn’t do that to Bella. Second, Buffy has a boatload of weak moments.

Yes she does!
Don’t argue, I’ll show you!

If Buff were 100% slayer 24/7 no one would care about her. The reason she’s adored is because she is vulnerable, confused, and human.
She’s 16 and scared. She hates being the Slayer. She wants to fit in. She moons over boys, wants to hang out with her friends, loves shopping and always has on make-up and cute hair. She hurts when Cordelia makes fun of her. She makes bad choices and hurts her friends. She wants to rebel against the rules like any normal teen.

But here’s what people forget. She cries and withdraws when Angel goes darkside and leaves her. She cries again when he moves away. How does she cope? By dressing slouchy, not fixing hair or make-up, moping and laying in bed crying. For months. There is almost a whole season of this and she doesn’t really get over it for years!

Then she repeats most of this again after Riley.

And then she even dates Big Bad to prove she’s tough and over it, which clearly she is not.

All the normal things most girls do. And she’s probably the strongest of them all. Was that really any different from the example above?

3. Sookie Stackhouse (Holy Vampire Theme, Batman!)

She knows about all the Supes there are. She has to protect most of them with her super mind reading abilities. And she’s used to taking care of herself because most see her as a freak. So what does this independent woman do?

Fall in love and into bed with the first Vamp she meets due to his quiet mind. Is that rational or strong?

Hell no!

But the sex is good and he says “Sook-ay” in such a way she can’t help herself. And then she’s in peril. All. The. Time. Cue the entrance of Mr. Northman. This throws a wrench (and a love triangle) in the picture, and who can blame her? Hot, tall Viking? Yes, please.

But again, She goes all damsel in distress until I want to roll my eyes. But here’s the thing about Sookie. She’s strong when it counts. In the end, she saves the day and reminds us all that a mind-reading waitress that paints her nails, tans, has great shoes and the perfect pony tail can be ‘a girl’ sometimes because in the end, when she saves you, you’ll know why she was worth saving to begin with.

4. Katniss – Oh Miss Everdeen. Another one who can fend for herself. And she is compared to all of the above, but why?

Of course she can defend herself. She’s raised in a society that has televised death matches for children. She has no choice. She doesn’t live in a world comparable to any of the others.

But first, before you tell me all the ways she’s better than everyone else…are you Team Peeta or Team Gale?

Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. And I’m just as bad. I complain about girls not needing a man and blah, blah, blah but I was not alone in not really liking the ending of Mockingjay.

Prim still dies! Why is she whining? She got Peeta! She’s ungrateful she survived! She’s settling! It was all for nothing then I guess. You know except for that whole revolution/liberation thing.

We’re all hypocrites. Of course she feels that way. It’s called PTSD, people and no one who goes through all that is going to come out singin’ show tunes and living happily ever after.

I mean your heart has probably been broken by a couple people and you might already be bitter and ready to give love the boot. Katniss goes through hell – twice, loses her family and her best friend and we have the nerve to expect a happy ending? I know, I know. I was too. It’s an accurate ending, but is it because of weakness or strength?

5. Hermoine – The Braniac. Long live the Know-It-All! And her big brain is what saves Harry and Co. repeatedly. Even when she’s petrified (literally) she solves it for them.

But that’s not why we love her. We love her because she cries when Ron makes fun (Lev-ee-OOO-saw). When there’s a school dance, which is never complete without a pretty girl crying in the hall, it’s Hermione doing the crying. She aims her ire with Ron snogging another in the form of a spell coming right at him and splatting on the wall. She’s conflicted, worries over her hair, gets jealous, says dumb things all because she’s flustered over a boy.

Because brainiac or not, at the heart of it, she’s a girl.

So what have we learned? That girls acting like girls is why we connect. If they were only the rough edges, we wouldn’t care. Why should we?

Some may call it weakness and say it needs to go. I call it being human. And in my book, being a kick ass woman AND a heart broken or love struck girl all in one is the total package. And as long as my heroine can be both, with or without the guy, I’ll always be Team Girlie!

We all want strong, relatable female characters  but we have to stop acting like the bitchy girls we claim to hate and see each one for their strength and weakness. You don’t have to like every character, but do you really need to get other people to hate them to make your choice better? Anytime someone picks up a book, reads it, relates to it and has a new hero and it’s a girl, I call that true strength, even if the story makes you cry.