Friday, January 25, 2013

25 Things You Don't Know About Me

Tag! I'm it. I've been asked to write a "25 Things You Don't Know About Me" blog a'la old-school Facebook or new-school US Weekly. In my Liebster Award blog, I shared 11 Random Facts - but they came with a mini "story" behind each fact. Not here. Rules say, no. So, here's a quick and dirty list of 25 things you may not know about me (unless you really, really know me!):
  1. I'm a Scorpio through and through. 
  2. I'm a nail bitter when extremely stressed. I have nails right now.
  3. I went to 9 different schools from k-12.
  4. I had a 4.0 college GPA.
  5. My favorite food of all time is a red delicious apple.
  6. I ran away once in 3rd grade. My brother helped me pack. I came home that day.
  7. I have mental illness in my family tree and it has had tragic impacts.
  8. I also come from a long line of alcoholics, so I don't really drink much anymore. High school was kind of a blur.
  9. I sprained my back on a friend's trampoline in 8th grade doing a 1 1/2 back flip. It hasn't been the same since. 
  10. I'm not a fan of needles, but have had to act like they are no biggie for my son's sake. 
  11. I used to love Michael Jackson while growing up. I still love his music, but am just pretty queased out overall and disowned him in his later years.
  12. I want a small tattoo on the inside of my wrist but I'm afraid of needles and no one but me really seems to like the idea. 
  13. I'm a total writing paper SNOB and I own it. I have a desk dedicated to my stationery collection.
  14. I write letters weekly to my Aunt Joyce and I love that she writes back. She's my best pen pal. 
  15. Of my five bridesmaids, I only talk to one on a regular basis. Two I've lost forever, and the other two are still dear to me but a little MIA at the moment.
  16. My favorite pre-baby body part was my back.
  17. I secretly read Bertrice Small and rarely admit it to anyone. She's the only historical romance writer I read. She's the Queen.
  18. I once had a hair cut that was a mix between 80's Sheena Easton and a bird's nest and if anyone ever posts a picture, their body will be discovered floating in the Hudson. Just sayin'.
  19. I'm originally from a town that is rumored to have been in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most churches and bars per capita. I've yet to see this record, but it would not surprise me.
  20. I used to walk to school, in major snow drifts, up hill, both ways. True story.
  21. I have a new Twitter bestie. Nerdy? Know who you are?
  22. I have a Green Belt in TKD and was taught how to kill someone with a Bic pen. Seriously, my favorite life lesson.
  23. I actively write in journals for myself, my son, my daughter, and my grandmother (who passed away almost 3 years ago).
  24. I'm still mad about the mole I had removed from my quad almost 8 years ago. I'd had it since birth and it was non-cancerous. Still chaps my ass that I let her remove it.
  25. My favorite quote is by Winston Churchill who said, "We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow worm." It explains a lot about me.
Well, dear readers, I hope you stuck by me and finished my list of 25. Don't make me stand here naked alone! Please drop me a comment below and share just one thing I don't know about you. I showed you mine.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Welcome to my pity party!

Can I just take five minutes, please, to have a pity party for myself? Thank you for attending. Here are your balloons =====================>>> 

For those of you who don't know me well yet: 
"Hi! I'm Colleen. And I'm an insomniac."

I'm a stay at home mom by day, and while I love my "day job," it doesn't always provide me with the intense creative outlet I need for all of these ideas bouncing around inside of my head. They usually get squashed down during the day and then rear their ugly heads at night. 

So last night, while I couldn't sleep, I got a burst of inspiration for my trilogy covers. Let me premise this with a few things:
  • I'm an editor and writer by heart, not a graphic designer.
  • These are very rough mock-ups to illustrate a concept I had, not what I hope they would really look like in the end. (There are inconsistencies that I would want to correct.)
  • There were several common YA book cover themes that emerged in 2012 and are emerging in 2013 that, while cool, seem to have been "done" before. I want something truly unique, that really stands out. Don't we all?
  • Each of my characters has an element attached to their magic: Guardian of Fire, Guardian of Earth, Guardian of Wind.

All that said, I got this fun concept in my head to zero in on each character's eyes and reflect the natural element inside of them that they will be discovering along the way. So, without further ado, here was my initial concept, showing all 3 covers side by side.


I know that whether I go with an agent and publisher, or the self-published route, I will want a hand in my cover concept. That said, there are many creative folks out there, and I will hire someone with mad design skills to take these covers in the right direction. It's way too early in the process for me to become married to a concept. But, I was having fun, and thought they were kinda cool. I'm curious to know what y'all honestly think of them, and whether I was on the right track. 

Not that it matters, I guess. Because, while piddling around on Twitter today, I saw a link to a writer whom Twitter thinks I should follow. Her name is Lisa McMann. Anyone a fan-girl or fan-guy? If so, you may have already seen the cover for her new book, Crash, which was published just 8 little days ago.  

*Insert pity party here*

Seriously? I created this concept just yesterday. I did, I really did. Dang it, Lisa McMann for having such a brilliant idea before me. Oh, snap.

I know I could still use the concept for my trilogy, but it just feels like I would look like a copy cat now, and that totally bums me out.

So, I'm just curious writer friends. Who has had something like this happen in their writing career and how did you handle it? What would you do if you were me? My husband's advice was basically, "If you could think of something this cool, you'll think of something else original and creative. Don't worry." Good, solid advice.

But, for now, I still have 3 minutes of my pity party left. Cheers!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Two

In my last blog post about the awesome L.E. Pate and my fantastically failsome faux-pas, I mentioned an old, old, short, short story I wrote back in 2002. I will probably live to regret this, but since I mentioned it, I'm going to post it here in its entirety.

Let me back up for just a moment, if I may.

My father, George McCarey, died of ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 2000. {Click here to learn more about ALS.} 

Let's just say, ALS sucks. You can read my journey with my father and his ALS story on my old personal blog.

After my father died, I made many changes in my life because of him: I became a vegetarian after listening to too many hunting tales (I'm a carnivore now, though I can barely handle raw meat); I started fundraising for ALS (their Walk to Defeat ALS is every spring); and I began running marathons with Team in Training. When your father dies of a neuromuscular disease that atrophies his muscles, it makes you want to use every muscle and move every tendon of your own, just to prove you're alive.

I wrote Two for a creative writing class I took in 2002. We were challenged to write a fiction short story, with personal influences, and to keep it around 500 words. Do you know how hard that is? This is what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy it. {Disclaimer: please keep in mind that this was 11 years ago. 11. And clearly, keeping anything short is not my thing.}


Two


5:02 am
Somewhere in the distance you hear it. The incessant hum of your alarm clock. Cocooned deeply within the warmth of your bed, you dread the long reach to the snooze button. Like a turtle’s tentative neck, you poke your long skinny arm from beneath the matted, moss colored blanket and begin your search. Like the turtle’s head, your hand looks left, then right before sensing the slick black surface beneath its touch. 


5:22 am
Hadn't you just shut off that intruding jangle? You stretch your hand back out of its warm shell to hit snooze again. This time, you sense something in the air. The window you had left open last night, to hear the pounding thunderstorm, now invites the cool morning air to wake you. Instead of hitting snooze, your hand betrays you and turns, silencing the disturbance. Your legs dangle off the side of the bed from beneath the blanket, slowly finding their footing. The turtle wakens from its sleep.

 
5:52 am
You stand in front of the bathroom mirror. The bags beneath your eyes are the only sign of the death that had crept into your life just two days before. You pick your favorite toothbrush, the one your father used to make fun of; the kid’s toothbrush with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on the handle. You always liked it because the turtle could kick ass.  
  

6:22 am
You sink back onto your bed. Your hand searches the floor for your running shoes. The left one goes on first, then the right. Just like Dad had taught you when you were four. You still use the precision of a seamstress lacing a needle’s eye, running the head of your lace through each eyelet. You can hear its fibers as they scream across the metal. You wonder if the noise inside your head will ever stop. 


6:42 am
Your feet hit the pavement, first the left, then the right. You wanted to crawl back within your shell and mourn another day, but you needed the minutia and repetition to move on. If you didn’t run, you would lay down in the road, unable to move out of harm's way. Cars would drive by you. The speed of life whipping you around in circles until you were knocked to the shoulder of the road, broken and forgotten. Instead, you laced up your New Balance, and you ran. Just like you had done every day for the past two years, since you learned your father was dying.
 

7:02 am
The first two miles are always the hardest; your legs cramp and you feel unable to move. Then slowly, slowly you begin to run with intention. The air slices down your windpipe into your lungs, forcing you to breathe. To admit you’re alive. Your muscles burn, but they do not give. You know that your father’s muscles gave.  So you push yourself harder, afraid yours might give too. After the second mile, your muscles relax as they have had time to warm up. They are stretched now and begin to lengthen. Slowly, the turtle begins its run. Your legs kicking up traces of dirt, leaving marks of your existence.   


###

Liebster Part Deux, Meet L.E. Pate

So, I f-ed up, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I do it so infrequently that I know my readers will be shocked. But, it's true. I'm human.

Remember the prestigious Liebster Award I was given by author Dylan J. Morgan yesterday? I was on cloud 9 for having my blog recognized by another author and shared within the Twitter-verse and beyond. I spent three hours promoting our Liebster Awards, blogging my response, and crafting exceptional questions for the bloggers I gave the award to. 

Then, I got a Tweet from the beautiful and talented author, L.E. Pate, also known as Lindsay. It was simple enough, "Did you ever put up your Liebster Award?" I was thinking, "Why, yes. I just blogged about it! What great timing, thanks for asking." But something made me pause. Think, think, think. 

Ah, yes! Over the Christmas holiday, while I was in a flu-induced stupor, I vaguely remember a tweet about receiving a Liebster Award. When we got home from Asheville, I couldn't remember who sent it, where I saw it, or what it was. Then, as we took down Christmas and prepared to ring in the New Year, I promptly came down with strep throat. Then, I passed it onto my husband. And next, my son. Twitter was forgotten for a few days. My blog was set aside. Novel, who has time to work on a novel? Liebster Award? What's that?

But, then, I got Lindsay's sweet reminder today. She hadn't forgotten about me or my responses. But, I felt like a big ol' pile of poo. When someone takes the time to recognize you, in any way, it's a huge honor. Lindsay has over 1,100 followers on Twitter and took the time to look at my blog, nominate it for an award, and have the good grace to ask me nicely if I'd had time to post it yet; you know, instead of saying, "Hey bitch! I took the time to nominate yo ass. What's up with you not responding?!"

So, this blog is an ode to the sweet, talented, extremely creative, and amazingly forgiving, L.E. Pate. Please take the time to check out her blog and her Liebster Award answers so you can get to know her better. 

Because I just blogged about my second Liebster Award yesterday, I don't want to bore readers with another random 11 facts about myself. But, Lindsay took the time to think of 11 fun questions for her nominees, so I want to give them, and her, their due respect. Plus, I know you are curious!

1. What is your favorite thing to rant about? Without a doubt, it would have to be poor grammar.  

2. What is your favorite aspect of writing? The solitude. After having little ones up my ass all day (grabbing onto me, asking a zillion questions, and just needing things), I love sitting down at my computer, alone. I enjoy the absolute silence that surrounds me and allows me to go inside my mind and create something from nothing.

3. What makes you feel the best that you have ever felt? By far, when I am eating healthy and exercising. The best I have ever felt was when I was on a raw foods eating plan (lean protein, fresh fruits, and veggies) and was training for a half marathon. I felt alive! I was more confident. I had more energy. I slept better. Sex was at its most enjoyable and gymnastic (sorry, TMI?). I could run without getting winded. I just felt strong in mind, body, and spirit.  Sadly, that's not where I am at the moment. It's where I will be in three months though. So, please check back with me in April and hold me accountable!

4. How structured are you with your writing? Very unstructured. Writer Jes Young once described her writing process as very organic, and I think this describes mine perfectly as well. I have an idea about what I want to say. I have an idea of where I want to end. But I will never sit down and do an outline. I will never force myself to write x number of words a day, or beat myself up if I can't. I actually enjoy the process of writing and I like to be inspired as the creativity comes. I like getting manic bursts of genius and going on a writing binge for three days until I've used up all of my passion and am drained of every ounce of imagination. Then, I breathe. I run or walk or do yoga. I take time to read and to be inspired by others. Then, I start the process again. 

5. What has been the best book you have read in the last year? It is so, so hard to pick just one. Especially since several of my friends have had their books debut in 2012. But, I'd have to say my very favorite was Underneath, by Jes Young. Last year, I was introduced to Jes Young when I stumbled upon her book Tab Bennett and the Inbetween on Amazon. Jes's writing drew me in from the very beginning with her realistic voice and snarky, beautiful protagonist. Jes can deliver a funny, yet poignant, one-liner like few others. I found myself laughing, cheering, swooning, getting angry, and sitting on the edge of my chair in anticipation. It's everything a book is supposed to do, but not all can deliver. 


I immediately researched to find out when her next book in the Princess of Twilight and Dawn series was scheduled for publication. Upon doing so, I learned that Jes was an amazingly down-to-earth author who was very approachable and responsive, and who was just as interesting, quirky, and snarky as her protagonist. I then had an opportunity to work with Jes and help edit her second novel, Underneath. I love, love, love collaborating with creative, smart, funny women who inspire me. Not only was Underneath an amazing second novel in the series, but it was much darker, grittier, and sexier as Tab begins to grow into her new role as the Light Elvish queen and embrace her darker side when confronting her father, Daniel, the dark king. I must have read that book about eight times while editing it, and I loved it the eighth time as much as I did the first. Now that says something!     

6. What is your favorite genre of books to write? To read? To write, I'd have to say Young Adult Urban Fantasy, the genre I'm starting my career as a novelist in. It's so fun to be able to take liberties with characters that you just can't do in mainstream fiction. I have to say, as a reader, I love coming of age novels--when they are well done. I love The Age of Miracles, The Keeper of Dawn, The Razor's Edge, and The Fault in Our Stars.

7. What or who inspires you to write? I had a fairly tumultuous life growing up. I needed the escape that reading provided. It allowed me to tune out the pain and chaos, and lose myself in the sense of wonder, beauty, and adventure that's married in literature. I have been so deeply touched by so many books while growing up. They helped shape me, guide me, grow my imagination, encourage me, and save me. I want to do the same for a reader someday. If just one person says to me that they were touched or inspired or influenced by my writing, then I will consider my life as a writer a success.

8. How do you picture your writing career developing? I always thought I would go the traditional publishing route, but the more I read and research, the less I'm convinced that will be the case. (Though, to be honest, if an agent or publisher came knocking at my door, I sure as hell would answer!) I always thought I would start with children's books because I wrote a picture book years ago that I adore and know would be successful; but I have yet to submit it. I will publish it one day, but it will likely come after my YA trilogy because those characters are banging on the inside of my head, asking to come out and be heard. Ideally, I'd love to have my entire trilogy written, published, and successful within the next three years. (I, of course, see it being optioned for film as well!) From there, I think I'd stay in the YA/NA genre, but may try my hand at traditional fiction and see where it takes me.


9. Who is your favorite classic author? Why? Is Judy Blume considered a classic yet? No? Okay, then I'd have to go with Jane Austen. I mean come on: dry humor + female protagonist + love story + social disparity = what's not to love?

10. Do you enjoy writing true to life events or creating your own world? True to life, with a twist. It's why I love Urban Fantasy. I'm not so much into creating my own world or going the historical route. I like to read and write books that are mainly current (+ or - 100 years) and "realistic," even in the fantasy and paranormal genre; I like fiction with a dark edge.

11. What is your favorite short story you have ever written? It was a very short, short called Two. It was an assignment for a creative writing class I took 11 years ago. I wrote it out of pain after my father died and I turned to running for comfort; while it is fiction, there are traces of me within it for sure. (I'll share it on my blog later this evening.) It may not be the best representation of my work, but it has so much raw emotion in it; it takes me back to a very difficult, but beautiful time in my life. 


Thank you so, so much for sticking around for my answers friends! Thanks again to the lovely, and amazingly patient L.E. Pate, to whom I publicly declare that, "I owe ya one!"

It's not every day I f-up; but when I do, I do so royally!
Peace out, friends.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Liebster Award, because it rocks!


Today I was honored with the prestigious Liebster Award by fellow writer, Dylan J Morgan. For those of you not on Twitter, you may not have heard of the Liebster Award for blogs, but let me tell you, you're not a *real* author until you get one. It's true. So, thank you, Dylan! It's a special honor, especially from such an established author.

As recipient of said award, I get to tell my inquiring readers 11 random facts about myself, answer 11 questions written by Dylan himself, and then pass along the torch to a few of my favorite bloggers. I have big shoes to fill after reading Dylan's funny and dark answers, but I'm going to be a good sport and give it a shot.

11 Random Facts:
  • I was a bit of a klepto when I was a very young girl. Not something I'm proud to admit, but it's true. You're probably wondering what I stole, right? I would be curious too. Let's see: make-up, candy, cassette tapes (yes, I'm that old). Basically, stuff little kids want but have no money to fund. Let's just say it was a phase and probably why I'm so hyper honest and philanthropic these days. Lessons, people. Lessons.
  • I'm a tad superstitious and a tad OCD, which creates for interesting habits. I won't sleep with black socks on or leave drawers or cabinet doors open because I think both are bad luck.
  • I am 100% sure that I have guardian angels. I've been through a lot in my life and there's no way I could have survived without some help. Plus, a psychic confirmed it for me once.  
  • One of my favorite authors when I was a kid was Shel Silverstein. I memorized his Boa Constrictor poem for school and was so happy to introduce his writing to my six year old son this year. I hope he doesn't read "Sister for Sale."
  • The original working title for my novel was Threesome and there were no supernatural elements. I also started with Isabella as my main character, but Grey became very pushy and forced me to tell her story first. Hence, my trilogy.
  • When I was little, my mother used to verbally edit the cards and notes I gave her, pointing out the mistakes I'd made. I'm not sure why I'm a perfectionist these days. Or an editor. To be fair, you really can't turn off an editing brain after you've been hard-wired that way; so I kind of get it.
  • Both of my kids were breech. That's not very common, but I'm exceptional so I wasn't surprised. I was also secretly okay with it because I'm a planner and knowing my due dates was pretty dope.
  • I'm a level one Reiki student under The Rev, Deb Benton and I hope one day to become a Reiki master (Reiki treatment, anyone?). Deb is one of the most unique and spiritually in-tune people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  
  • I have no tattoos, but I really want to get one (in my own handwriting) on my wrist that says, "I choose." However, I also have an aversion to needles, which makes this kind of a conundrum.  
  • I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Not many people know this about me because it doesn't define me. I'm a huge fan of RAINN and the work they do. So, when I'm a big and famous writer, I'm going to do more to support them financially and with my name (like the awesome Neil Gaimon and Christina Ricci). Coincidentally, one of my favorite Christina Ricci quotes is: "Nobody knows the real shit I did when I was a teenager. Only what I allowed them to know." Girl, I can relate. 
  • One of the things I am most proud of (other than my family and my 4.0 college GPA) and was hands down the funnest thing I have ever done, was my recent novel editing job for Jes Young. Others may dispute the "fun" part of this, but for me editing is pure bliss. I absolutely love working creatively with bright, snarky, talented people, and Jes is all of those things. (Insert shameless plug for Underneath here.)
So, after I've bared my soul and totally embarrassed myself, now I get to move onto the fun part: answering Dylan's questions. I hope I didn't lose y'all after kleptomaniac; I swear, it was a long time ago. 
  1. You have a basement in your house and a tornado is coming and you have to get there fast. Apart from your family (obviously) what is the one thing you absolutely must take down there with you? Is it too predictable and lame to say my laptop? Because, seriously, I'd go bat-shit crazy without having an ability to read or write for any length of time. But, if this is assuming I'd lose power or be trapped for some time with no electricity, then I think I'd have to say just a good, old-fashioned journal and a pen.
  2. What do you do to overcome writer’s block? Read. I get so inspired after reading someone else's really good writing. It fires up my brain cells and gets me pumped up, even better than music does when I need to work out. 
  3. I need music to write. What, if any, outside influence do you need to focus on your stories? Interestingly enough, I have several writer friends who really find inspiration in music while they write. I think they are amazing human beings because my brain is just not built that way. I need absolute peace and quiet when I write so that I can focus and get lost in my thoughts. I get way too distracted with music, television, or people talking in the background (as my poor husband can attest).
  4. Name the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the word Bacon. John Hilgers. I was considering not saying another damn word about this, but I think I'd lose readers. The father of one of my besties, Melissa Hickman, loves, and I mean loves, bacon. One year we were shopping for Christmas presents and she got her dad a really funny bacon gift. Now, I can't see a strip of bacon without thinking of Mr. Hilgers. For my guy followers, here is the best picture of bacon, ever!   
  5. Clowns . . . scary or just idiots in make-up? Scary. But not because I'm personally frightened of them, I'm just frightened that a grown human being would ever dress like that. And let's admit it, to a kid, they are pretty damn scary (some have even capitalized on this).
  6. If you could have the success and sales of any genre author other than Stephen King, who would it be? Two words: Nora Roberts. That lady can crank out some books (over 200 to date), landing her on the Forbes list. Think what you will about her, writer snobs, but you can't deny her lucrative career as an author, and she was also the first person inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. That's pretty cool in my book.  
  7. What did you do to prepare for the End Times on December 21st of last year, and were you expecting something a little more dramatic than “just an ordinary day”? Nothing. I had no real belief that this was anything worth worrying about, but I did find it fascinating what other people were doing to prepare. I'm not a survivalist by nature, so the hording and preparing for some unknown apocalyptic emergency is unfathomable to me. I did, however, ask my husband if I could put our 21-month old daughter to bed that night. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried while rocking her, just thinking what if.
  8. Are you disappointed if you don’t write every day? No. I can't afford to be or I'd constantly be disappointed in myself, and that's an extreme I just won't live with. I'm a full-time, stay-at-home mom first. I love my day job. I get to play with Legos, have tea parties, and run around outside with my kids. Every. Single. Day. So, how is that a disappointment? Does that mean it may take me longer than I want to become a published novelist? Probably. But I try to be present as much as I can with my children and just enjoy them at this wonderful and quickly-fleeting age. So, I write at night like most other writers of young kids do and simply enjoy the writing process as much as I can. I'm not even 40 yet, so I have dozens of years to crank out books, but I don't have dozens of toddler years left with my children.    
  9. Can you say anything about what book you’re writing at the moment? Absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, my book is nothing like I thought it would be. I always thought it was a cliche when authors said, "the characters tell me what's going to happen to them." But, it's true. Grey Terrintino quickly took over my novel and insisted that I write her story first. I don't want to give away any juicy plot points, but she decided who she was interested in, what she looked like, and what her "gifts" will be. They are as intrinsic to her as my genetic traits are to me. My working title is The Guardian Trilogy, and Grey's book is The Guardian of Fire: the Neverworld. Unfortunately, there are other "guardian" titled books, which I found out after naming mine, but most are about angel guardians and mine is not. I actually haven't written my "100 word summary" yet and don't want to disclose too much of the plot. But, in a nut shell, it's about best-friendship (a new word I just coined) because it's one of the most important relationships a teenager has. Grey, Isabella, and Chelsea have been inseparable since they were children, but the girls have been hiding a few important secrets from each other. After a night that spirals wildly out of control and lands the girls into a world of trouble, Grey's secrets quickly begin to unravel, leading them on a fast-paced adventure to rein in her new-found abilities while assuming her Guardianship over the Neverworld and the dangers it entails.
  10. Hamster, rabbit, or baby penguin . . . which is the cutest? Is this a trick question? Baby penguins, of course. I mean, look at these cuties!
  11. Writing wise, what can we expect from you in 2013? Hopefully, my published book! If not, I suck. Hold me accountable, peeps! 
Now the fun begins for a few of my new friends and fellow authors whose blogs I simply adore and must give a Liebster Award to (always lead with a compliment). Seriously, if they didn't have great blogs, I wouldn't give them an award. So, be flattered you four, very flattered.

The Liebster Award goes to:

Ksenia Anske

Jes Young 

Leigh Ann Kopans

Layla Messner

All of these bloggers are witty, beautiful, creative women whose work I admire and want to share with my readers too! Please don't kill me, but as recipients of this award, you four get to blog about 11 random facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions I pose below, give the Liebster Award to a few authors/bloggers whom you admire (other than me), and create 11 unique questions for them to answer. Easy-peasy with your schedules, right?

Your questions, should you choose to be really cool and accept this award:

1) How old were you when you first discovered your love of writing and what kind of writing did you do?
2) Old-fashioned letter writing: still in style or out of vogue? 
3) If you could write anywhere in the world other than a Starbucks or your home, where would it be and why?
4) Who was the first author who made you a fan-girl?
5) Who is your celebrity crush, boy and girl?  
6) Who is the one person you cannot live without during the writing process and how do you lean on them?  
7) What was the best piece you've ever written? The worse?
8) Sweet tea, coffee, or soda to fuel your caffeine fix while writing?
9) What keeps you up at night? 
10) What was the most helpful writing "tool" you discovered during your career?   
11) You are all authors, so what will we be reading by you this year? 

Okay, so that took entirely longer than I expected, but was a lot of fun! Thanks, Dylan, for the challenge. I'll get back to beta-reading your new book (The Dead Lands) tomorrow because somehow I got off-track tonight.

Can't wait to see the responses from Ksenia, Jes, Leigh Ann, and Layla (no pressure, ladies, really). Please post your links below so my readers can learn more about you too. 

Peace out!   

Thursday, January 3, 2013

With Great Review Power, Comes Great Responsibility

Over the holidays of 2012, I was sick. Really, ugly, flu-like sick. I didn't get much writing in, and I'm now a grumpy, frustrated, over-stimulated writer as a result.

Even though my writing took a beating this holiday, I learned a few things that taught me some valuable lessons as a writer, and I wanted to share this first one, about book reviews, with you.

Before buying a book, I always read the reviews. I don't always make my decision based on them, but I always glance a them, so I value the extreme influence they can have over other readers. As a budding novelist, and acting editor, I take my responsibilities as a reader and a lover of the craft of writing very seriously. So when I started my reading journey this past year (see My 100), I was determined to be honest, raw, and forthcoming in my book reviews. It's what I hope from other reviewers, and it helps me make informed buying choices. 

Enter the book Evermore, by Alyson Noël. I bought Evermore at the recommendation of an article I read suggesting some hot new books that may come "next" for those who loved Twilight, but are looking for something new now that the last movie has been released. I bought about seven books from the list, not only as an avid reader, but also as a way of doing research in my genre. (Sometimes I feel significantly under-read in my genre when I see book compilations by other authors.) What I had not done, was read reviews of the book first. But after getting about 10 chapters in I became curious about others' opinions of the book, so I dove into the online world of Amazon and Goodreads reviews.

What I discovered while reading Evermore was just how nasty, how outright vicious, some reviewers can be. There are very few books I have just out right hated. Hate is such a strong emotion, after all. In my life, there are only a hand-full of books I have stopped reading midway for lack of interest (Life of Pi; sorry, I just didn't fall in love with it) or movies I have walked out on or stopped watching part way through because they were just that bad (Romeo & Juliet, The Break-Up). 

But, I was never compelled to write a nasty review and trash these works, or make personal attacks on the writers, directors, or actors. As a writer, reading the reviews of Evermore really just threw me for a loop for a few days (so I can't even imagine how Noël felt after reading some of them). Here's a handful of 1-star review titles:
  • Will Meyer Sue for Copyright Infringement?
  • Brainless Protagonists Are Role Models Too, You Know.
  • How to Write Popular YA Supernatural Literature AND Defile Your Spirit!
  • Eversnore. 
  • A Smoldering Mess.
  • A Bland, Annoying, Putdownable YA Paranormal Romance. 
One reviewer even posted a You-Tube video of a person imparting "You Suck" while dancing. I don't highlight these titles (or reviewers) to jab the knife in further for Noël, but rather to impart the passion in which readers feel for their books - whether they are fantastically won over by them (Twi-hards/Team Edward/Team Jacob) or in this case, fantastically disappointed (no, no, no, no, no per one reviewer). That said, the book has gotten a 3 star rating, overall, on Amazon and Goodreads, so not everyone hated it (though those who did, REALLY hated on it). 

I know this sounds lame, but I've been so wrapped up in the love-affair of my story and the writing process, that this was one of the first times I actually stopped to think about how:
  • Other people, whom I don't even know, are one day going to be reading my book. (I hope. That's why I'm writing it, after all.)
  • They are entitled to their opinions whether I like them or not. And they are entitled to voice their opinions, whether I agree with them or not.
  • I pray they will love it and be kind, because even if they think it stinks, I put all of my heart and soul and love into this book, and it's not an easy process to put that out there to the world. It's easy to critique; it's not as easy to write a book.
  • My book may not get the reviews I hope it will, and I'll have to live with that if the day comes, but I hope I never have to read reviews like these for my book, because I'm not sure if my skin is that thick. As writers, we all pretend we can take it, but few of us really can.
  • My writing will personally affect readers. As readers, we get so emotionally invested in our books, in the characters, and in the outcomes we hope for. I hope I don't disappoint such a spirited group of readers in the YA supernatural market.  
  • I really, really need a great group of Beta readers who will be tough yet kind, and completely unbiased. Readers who are in my corner and who want me to succeed, so much so they will be honest in a respectful way when giving me feedback.

So, I went into the holiday a little shaky and physically ill after reading of all these reviews of Evermore. For those of you who know me, I'm a very confident person overall. This was the first time I even questioned whether I had the balls to publish my work and put my soul out there for such review and judgement. In the end, I know I will. I love my characters too much and I have too much invested in this story that I feel needs to be told. I just hope I can withstand the reviews and feedback and know that they will only make me that much stronger as a writer. 

In the end, I did end up reviewing Evermore for My 100 (it's part of my challenge). I tried to give it a fair review, but I didn't go into all of the pits and peaks of the story.  Some say it's a direct rip-off of Twilight. I didn't see that. Some say it's nothing like Twilight. I didn't see that either. It was a decent story that, while I normally wouldn't have remembered much of it after its ending, will now forever leave an imprint in my writing heart.