Saturday, December 31, 2011

resolute.

2011 was incredible year for me, even if I don't know what a vuvuzela is and failed to occupy anything but my Ikea Poang chair.

Here, therefore, are my New Year's resolutions:

1. Be kinder.

2. Kick more ass.

3. Wear more things that are not jeans.

4. Sell another book.

5. Have as many adventures as possible/get out of the country at least once.

6. Obtain either a top hat or a bowler hat.

7. Get back on the slow carb train.

8. Sell as many copies of WICKED AS THEY COME as possible.

9. Make more of an effort to see friends instead of descending into a hermit cave of fleecy pants, laptops, and tumblr.

10. Read ALL THE BOOKS!


*

Anybody else making their resolutions tonight?

*

Thursday, December 29, 2011

on jeans

Sometimes, I think I would like to throw out my entire wardrobe and wear nothing but steampunkery and things that Penelope would wear in the movie Penelope that is about a pig-nosed girl who wears wonderful coats and loves James McAvoy.

And yet I never do.

I never even attempt either of these aesthetics.

And I finally figured out why.

JEANS.

I spend 99% of my out-of-the-house time in jeans. Comfortable, good-looking, go-with-everything, great-with-boots, do-not-require-ironing-or-dry-cleaning jeans.

So I just need to figure out a way to make jeans steampunk, and I'll be set.

(These are the things I think about in the night.)

*


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

on prying things apart

I read this article today, and it made me think. It's about an artist who composts dead horses and uses their skeletons to create beautiful sculptures. I understand that some people are squeamish, and as someone who once joined PETA and wrote a ten page paper instead of dissecting a frog, I suppose I can get that. But I embrace it, so long as no live creature is harmed in the process.

See, I wanted a horse all my life.

When I was little, I used to dream that on my birthday, I would wake up and find a black horse tied to a tree outside or snarfing oats in the unused half of our garage. That never happened.

When I was 17, I went to France with a student exchange program. One night, I told the waiter, "This is the best steak I've ever had!" In French, of course. He replied, again in French, and with a very French expression of disdain, "It's not steak. It's horse."

I kept chewing and said to myself, "I always wanted a horse."

I figured that, like that Monet I touched before they threw me out of the museum, at least the horse would be merging with my atoms, be part of me forever.

Years later, a friend invited me to her barn. Her husband taught vet science at a local college, and they ran an equine rescue organization, and they were going to euthanize a horse and dissect it for his vet students. The poor animal was toothless and blind and starving to death and could barely walk. I have never seen a more pathetic creature, and my heart just about broke, watching its legs wobble beneath it. They gave it a shot, and it went all dreamy and fell.

Part of me was scared and sad, thinking that something I had always wanted had just died at my feet. But as the process continued, I found myself transfixed. I had always liked animals so much that I would never do anything to hurt them. But with the cruelty removed from the process, I was free to see the beauty of what happens under the skin. I saw the inside of a cataract. I held a piece of trachea. I saw the inside of a stomach, the gleam of bone, how very tiny the parts of the ear are. I saw how very large a horse's heart is, what it takes to move blood through those giant, majestic bodies.

Because the horse was dead, I wasn't blinded by my lifelong wish for a horse. It was no longer my dream; it was an object, albeit one we tried to honor and learn from. Instead, I saw how very pretty and magical and breathtaking it was on the inside.

I think art and writing can be a little like that, too.

Sometimes, people are in so much awe of the artist or the artwork, the book or the author, that they're afraid to get their hands messy. I remember, years ago, wanting to be an artist so very badly and just sitting for hours in front of a canvas, wishing for a lightning bolt of inspiration. I used to listen to the soundtrack from the 1998 Great Expectations, thinking about this scene and wishing to hell that I could feel that mad fury, that passion for art. Wishing that I had that kind of inborn style and obsession.

But I never did.

And I was too afraid to try it and mess up. Too afraid to do the wrong thing.

Writing is the same way. You can't be too much in awe of great books, of a huge sheaf of papers. you can't get ten pages into a first draft and decide that it sucks, that you'll never be GRR Martin or JK Rowling or Jane Austen or Haruki Murakami or insert your favorite author here. You have to want it so badly that you're willing to get your hands around what you want, even if it's broken, and rip it wide open and lay its flaws and beauties bare, and then you've got to keep going and reach in your hands and fix it all.

I'm not saying that you should go dissect a horse. I'm saying that sometimes you have to watch your dreams die before you can figure out how to make them come true.

The way I always wished to feel about art is now the way I feel about writing. I finally have that passion, that obsession, that drive. And you know what? Every single one of my books includes a horse.

Some dreams never die.

*


Monday, December 26, 2011

a year's worth of nookie

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~Stephen King


Read this year on the Nook: (42)

MAKING WAVES by Tawna Fenske
SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi
HEART OF STEEL by Meljean Brook
THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morganstern
LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White
HOW TO BE BAD by E. Lockhart et al
FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater
THE DARK ENQUIRY by Deanna Raybourn
HEARTLESS by Gail Carriger
HOURGLASS by Myra McIntyre
THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher
THE GIRL IN THE STEEL CORSET by Kady Cross
GLIMMERGLASS by Jenna Black
DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
INVINCIBLE SUMMER by Hannah Moskowitz
CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS by Cassandra Clare
LAND OF THE PAINTED CAVES by Jean Auel
CRYER'S CROSS by Lisa McAnn
DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins
WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr
DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
MATCHED by Ally Condie
THE IRON QUEEN by Julie Kagawa
THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brook
SHADOWFEVER by Karen Marie Moning
DREAMFEVER by Karen Marie Moning
ASCEND by Amanda Hocking
TORN by Amanda Hocking
SWITCHED by Amanda Hocking
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
WHITE CAT by Holly Black
DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING by Deanna Raybourn
SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY by Deanna Raybourn
SILENT ON THE MOORS by Deanna Raybourn
SILENT AS THE GRAVE by Deanna Raybourn
BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS by Anna Godberson
HUSH MONEY by Susan Bischoff
WISDOM by Amanda Hocking
THE IRON DAUGHTER by Julie Kagawa
THE IRON KING by Julie Kagawa

Conclusions:
1. When I find an author I like, I'll devour everything in their series and all their future books.
2. I favor paranormal YA and paranormal romance. Normal bores me; I want an escape!
3. I buy a lot of books based on Twitter hype and liking the author on Twitter.
4. I am rarely disappointed in books found via Twitter.

My favorite Nook books this year: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins, DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, everything by Deanna Raybourn and Gail Carriger, everything by Meljean Brook.

My least favorite Nook books: LAND OF THE PAINTED CAVES. I've been a huge fan of Jean Auel since I first read CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR in middle school, but this book was painful to finish. A fantastic reminder that no matter how big you get and how many books you sell, you still need a sharp editor to remind you that NO ONE CARES HOW TO HARVEST CAT TAILS.

Note: This list does not include the MANY, MANY books I bought and read via hard copy, because there's an 8-foot tall Christmas tree blocking my studio and bookshelves. It also doesn't include books I borrowed or bought and didn't finish, of which there were about 5. I'll do a round-up of hard copy books next week.

Further note: Erin Morgenstern, author of NYT bestseller THE NIGHT CIRCUS, will be at Fox Tale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA on January 27. If you haven't read it, YOU MUST. Magical, lyrical, evocative, sweet, and otherworldly. Highly recommended, by me and by people whose taste is actually lauded.

*

Sunday, December 25, 2011

exploring gender differences through cultural celebrations involving trees


So there's girls.


Pink, zebra stripes, jewels, Rapunzel, a first dollhouse.

And then...

There are boys.



I foresee a lot of dead imaginary bad guys in our future.

*


Our Christmas morning was magical, and we hope yours was, too.

*


Saturday, December 24, 2011

happy hooligans!


It's Christmas Eve. You know what that means.

I've eaten nothing but frosted sugar cookies and pigs in blankets for two days and am almost done writing The Big Racy Scene for the steampunk Robin Hood book. We went to our local indie bookstore to see Santa, and the boy picked his nose in Santa's lap while the girl wore a cat ear headband and hid behind another kid. There's a lightsaber fight happening in the kitchen, and I'm threatening to bring Twinkies to a potluck tonight.

And, oh, yeah. I have, like, fifty bajillion gifts to wrap and 10 bags of denim to fill with deer corn and sew shut.

It's beginning to look a lot like outright panic.

That's pretty much how I roll.

Happy Holidays, everybody!

*

Thursday, December 22, 2011

regarding the blog redesign...

I've tried at least 10 banners today, and I'm pretty sure I'm going mad.

I'm finding it impossible to communicate "I'm a serious writer" while simultaneously admitting to being quirky, unruly, and impish. There's not a font for that, really.

I hope the clockwork dodo will do for a while.

ACK. Work is hard.

*

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

input needed. no bears needed.



Things are a little different around here.

A bit grayer.

I'm combining this blog and my stylish but utterly unused writing blog. I'm trying to merge my personality as a blogger and my personality as a writer, and I'd like to know if the new look *works*.

I mean, I love duck and I love cake, but they don't combine well.

Can you imagine a cake with webbed feet? Me neither.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and advice on the new color scheme and layout!

*

Monday, December 19, 2011

I think this explains it.


The next post down is all about things not to do on Twitter, but I decided an infographic might work better.

The only problem is that if you're the bear, you're not reading this. You're sending me auto-DMs to get a follow-back so I'll buy your bear book.

how to twit


1. Join up with a purpose.
It's not like Facebook, where you just show up and make fun of your high school friends and dead dictators. You need to be there to talk about something you like. For me, that's books and publishing. I know other people who are in there for marketing, for food blogs, for Disney, for hockey. But you need a reason to communicate, an ice breaker to start conversations.

2. Post an avatar.
When you join Twitter, your default avatar is an egg. No one follows eggs or talks to eggs. Everyone hates eggs. But your avatar is tiny, so choose something interesting, clear, and intriguing, preferably not something that looks like a porn star. Unless you are a porn star.

3. Choose an @ name that doesn't sound like a spammer.
Spam accounts on Twitter tend to have lots of numbers, lots of capital letters, or could possibly be the name of someone in a foreign country trying to trick you. Recent annoying people spamming my account include QriiOCpquom1 and FredericaHauz348Q2.

4. Don't follow a bunch of people but never post.
You will look like a spammer.

5. Don't post a bunch of links to your book/blog/website and nothing else.
People will think you *are* a spammer.

6. Don't follow people and immediately @ them with a link to your book/blog/website.
At that point, you *are* a spammer.

7. When someone follows you, don't send them a generic or automatic Direct Message.
If you'd like me to unfollow you, send me a DM along these lines: Thanks for the follow back LOL!:-) Check out my book HOW TO SPAM for Kindle LOL!

8. When you follow someone and they do not immediately follow you, NEVER send a DM demanding that they follow you immediately.
That's a recipe for being unfollowed/blocked, my friend.

9. Don't be boring or complain constantly.
I mean, complaints are parts of social media, but your tweetstream should be a mixture of interesting updates, retweeted posts that you found amusing or helpful, and conversations with other tweeps. When someone follows me or joins a conversation and I'm considering following them, I look at the first 3 tweets in their stream. If those 3 tweets don't entice me, I don't follow. That's your first impression, right there.

10. Don't follow, then unfollow, then refollow someone hoping for a follow.
That's like walking up to someone and saying, "Hi, want to hang out?" And they look at you and say, "Sorry, I don't think we have a lot in common." And then you walk out the door, wait five minutes, and walk back in, then say, "Hi, want to hang out NOW?" No one falls for this gambit.

11. Remember that the whole point of Twitter is to have conversations.
On Twitter, the best advertising you can have for your book/product/brand is by being so interesting, helpful, or funny that people retweet you or recommend that others follow you. If you're annoying, repetitive, disrespectful, or whiny, no one will ever want to read what you're saying. People are pretty smart, and hitting them with 20 links a day to the same thing doesn't come across as socially savvy. It's spam, and we know it. Entice us. Intrigue us. Help us. Join us.

*

Sunday, December 18, 2011

geek stories: the worst New Years ever

Remember all that flap about Y2K?

I do. But mainly I remember it as The Worst New Year's Eve Ever.

I was at my first post-college job, and I hadn't yet grown savvy to certain social conversations. For example, when your boss asks if you have any New Years plans, you say YES, or else you will be babysitting.

I stopped at Publix for supper-- a sandwich, a Cherry Coke, and a box of cupcakes for the kids, because I hadn't yet connected sugar with insanity in those under the age of 20. Back in the car, I was depressed at being single and not knowing anyone and annoyed at myself for getting hornswaggled into babysitting. I was driving fast, singing along with Cowboy Mouth, drinking my Cherry Coke.

And that's when a German Shepherd ran out into the road, right into my car.

It was the most sickening crunch ever, and I squealed my brakes and ran off the road into a field. It was dusk, and it was cold, and I was covered in Cherry Coke, as was my brand new purple Honda Civic, Trigger. I walked up and down the field, venturing into the woods as far as I could see, calling, "Here, doggie! Here, boy! Please tell me I didn't kill you, because I'll never be able to live with myself!"

But I never found the dog, and I never found any blood. I even stopped in the same place the next morning, but there was no sign that anything had happened.

I spent Y2K near tears on my boss's couch, wishing that I had a boyfriend and just regular friends and the ability to lie so that I could have spent that night being depressed on my own terms in the basement apartment where I was living. I woke up in my boss's spare bedroom the next morning with a lion on my chest.

Okay, so it was really a ginger Persian cat *shaved* like a lion, but it was surprising nonetheless.

And what did I learn?

1. Always make plans for New Years or learn to lie about it.
2. Don't drink Cherry Coke.
3. The world didn't end on Y2K.
4. It's good to have friends.
5. Keep your dogs inside.
6. If you have a ginger Persian, you should shave it as a lion.

If you live on King Road and your German shepherd came home hurt almost twelve years ago, I'm so sorry. Please consider an electric fence.

*

Saturday, December 17, 2011

my otherwhere

So there are certain things that happen again and again in my dreams, so much so that I've started to think there's some strange, parallel universe. Like I have my own Neverwhere, but it's more of an Otherwhere.

In the Otherwhere, there are black tattoos up the inside of my left arm. There's a raven holding a key on a ribbon, a swirling line of forgotten punctuation like the pilcrow, and a series of red-winged blackbirds taking flight. There's a room I go to sometimes where the walls are made of parchment and are scrawled with all the words from poems and books I never finished. The doors are draped in red velvet with gold tassels, and the bed is a twin on the floor with sheets the deep purple of an emperor's robe.

In my dreams, there are bizarro versions of some of the places I've lived. There's a Dark Athens with twisting streets and the best bookstore in the world, not to mention a coffee bar where the espresso machine is shaped like a copper clockwork penguin and the barista wears a domino mask and is dressed like a mime. There's a bizarro mall where all the mannequins have been stripped down by strange mallrat people who believe zombies have taken over the outside world. And there's a tower-like college dormitory much like the one from Hogwarts where I keep all of my things stored in steamer trunks in case I need them. I often forget I'm in school, and when someone tells me I'm about to fail, I laugh and go to my dorm room to feed my goldfish.

I find pets that I've forgotten, skeletal snakes and dusty rats and dried-out fish tanks and my poor guinea pig who was bitten in half by my roommate's puppy. Sometimes he's been taped back together with duct tape and whistles for lettuce and monkey biscuits, and other times, he's just like I found him the day he died, in two easy pieces connected by intestines, like the slinky dog in Toy Story. One time, I put him on my head like earmuffs, and he whistled a song.

My least favorite dreams are about being chased by shadow things, things I can never escape. One time, Abraham Lincoln was chasing me around a baseball field with an axe, and I just ran around the bases again and again.

When I was little, my mom told me that dreams were the mind's playground.

Recently, I came to terms with the fact that I do some of my best work on the playground.

I'm listening, Otherwhere. Tell me more.

*

Thursday, December 15, 2011

build your own OMIGAH, IT'S CRIMINY PONY!


If the male lead in my book was a My Little Pony, he would look just like that.

Build your own My Little Pony right here.

But be careful-- it's seriously addictive.

*

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

steampunk beiber - bieber = STEAMPUNK



This is what I love about the world.

You can take something I seriously don't care about:

Justin Bieber's steampunk Christmas video.

You subtract the Bieber.

You add MOAR STEAMPUNK.

And then you get this amazing video, which I've watched twice now.

Joy to the world indeed, yo.

*

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

we interrupt this squeeing for a quick ? - betas?

If you acted as a beta reader or crit partner on WICKED AS THEY COME, nee BLUD, please let me know!

I have listed: Ericka, Carrie, Debbie, Austin, Charis, Kathy, and Janet.

Sybil? Beth? Krista? Were y'all in on it?

I can't find it all in my notes. ACK.

I... think we're pretty close to the deadline. Speak now or... forever... I'll feel like an ungrateful ass.

Back to my regularly scheduled, ultra-gummy squeefest down below.

GALLEYS!



I'd like you guys to think that this is what I looked like when I opened the package on my front porch and found five galleys of my book.

Calm. Collected. Professional. Unflappable.

But... I didn't look anything like that.

The first photo was screaming...




The second photo was gummy.

Like, seriously gummy.

Like, bouncing here and there and everywhere,
high adventure that's beyond compare gummy.


And then, after jumping up and down for twenty minutes,
I finally captured that first photo.

But inside, I'm screaming and gummy.

It's my first galley, y'all.

My book is a book.

The cover's not on yet. But the words are there.
And that's what's really important, right?

If you see me any time soon, expect that I will shove this light blue book in your face and yell, "OH MY GOD, SMELL IT. IT'S REAL," and then I'll grab it back and yell, "DON'T GET STAINS ON IT, YOU WALKING APE! I'VE ONLY GOT FIVE."


One step closer to my dreams.

*

Monday, December 12, 2011

snippets

Life moves pretty fast.

I take all these pictures, thinking,
"If I don't blog about that, I'll forget it, and I don't want to forget it, even if it's silly."

So here are a few of the random photos on my camera.

Things that make little sense and will never show up in the albums.

Snippets.

*

Elf on the Shelf?

No way.

That little voyeur can stay in the armoire.
We have a different sort of holiday vigilante.

Ginger.

This is the gingerbread man who's been amusingly terrorizing our house.
He swings from chandeliers, climbs trees, and lines up all the shoes.



My daughter is half in love with him. And half terrified.

Kind of like Twilight, but made of ginger.

*

These are my new fleece pants.

I have never worn fleece pants before.

Now... I may never wear anything else.

My other pair features polar bears in bobble caps.


If you haven't worn fleece pants before, do yourself a favor.

Go buy some. They're only, like, $10.

Buy the silliest ones you can.

You will fall in love with them. You will write sonnets to them.

Oh fleecy pants / thou art to me / the fuzziest thing / that I could see
Like clouds of love / upon my legs / the bastard child of marshmallows and L'Eggs.

They're that good.

*

This is my eyeball.

I'm getting Lasik in February.

I'm giddy. The thought of waking up in the middle of the night and being able to see the alarm clock is so exciting I just about can't stand it. Not to mention not having to juggle contacts and geek glasses on airplanes. And the ocean! I'll be able to swim *and* see!



When asked my eye color, I say, "Lake-ish."

Or hazel. Depending.

They have a surgery now that can turn your eyes blue. When I was younger, I used to think that if I prayed hard enough, I would wake up with blue eyes, and I would be the prettiest girl on earth. Then I read THE BLUEST EYE and decided I was a horrible person who really had things pretty good and could not complain.

Sometimes, I still dream that they're blue.

*


Sunday, December 11, 2011

please read.

Not this post.

I mean, yeah, do that. But you've already clicked on it, so in that big game of I GOTS MORE CLICKS!, I guess I would be winning a little more, if I ever checked on that sort of thing.

Honestly, I don't care what you read.

I just wish people would read more.

Our entire family went to our favorite movie theater this morning, the one where you push a button, and people bring you food. FOOD WHILE WATCHING MOVIES. IT IS BRILLIANCE.

I ran out to the restroom, and when I came back, I was utterly arrested by one of the many previews playing in the lobby. It was the longest, prettiest trailer for The Hunger Games, and I've only ever seen it at about 4 inches wide, and my computer went possessed in the middle and started chanting backwards.

So on a big flatscreen, it was riveting.

"Can I help you?" a teen worker asked.

"Nope. Just mesmerized by the preview."

She glanced at it. She looked perplexed.

"What's it for?" she asked, and I ignored her grammar to stare at her.

"The Hunger Games."

Blank look.

"Based on the bestselling books by Suzanne Collins. They're phenomenal."

Shrug. "I don't read."

"But it stars Jennifer Lawrence, some cute teen boys, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny freaking Kravitz, and the ever delightful Wes Bentley."

Blank look. "Is it a movie?"

And I swear to gosh, it took everything I had not to jump up and down and scream at her WHY DO YOU EVEN WORK AT A MOVIE THEATER? IS THERE EVEN ANYONE IN THERE? ARE YOU RUN BY MICE WITH LEVERS?

I mean, yeah, not all movies or all books apply to everyone. But how could you not know about The Hunger Games at this point? The book is an international bestseller that's crossed genre lines past teen girls to teen guys and adults of both genders. The movie has been splashed all over MTV, the Superbowl, Yahoo news, everywhere. You can't get on a subway or a bus or airplane without seeing someone reading it.

And, well... it's been playing right in front of you at your place of work ALL. DAMN. DAY.

So I guess this is my plea.

Read something.

I don't care what. I don't care if it's old or new. I don't care if it's on an e-reader, your smartphone, from the library, from the used bookstore, or fresh off the shelf at Barnes and Noble. I don't care if it's popular, little-known, or has the picture of a shirtless guy on the cover, because that's nothing to be ashamed of. Just read something that makes you feel more alive, that transports you to another world, that makes you remember that there's more to life than Angry Birds and the mall and watching football on TV.

It's almost impossible to read something and remain the same person. It's impossible to read and not think. Even if you hate the book or the character, you're thinking about it. And there's always another book out there, waiting for you.

You don't want to be that dead-eyed girl, sitting two feet from THE AWESOME and so dull that you're not even vaguely curious why there's a spaceship flying over a girl with a bow and arrow who's suddenly on fire.

Like The Hunger Games? Hate it? Think it's silly to read books written for teens? It doesn't matter.

Just read something.

But... I recommend The Hunger Games.

*


Saturday, December 10, 2011

the writer's toolbox: on having a compass

No, silly. Get your head out of the gutter!

I'm referring to the compass.

Criminy uses one in WICKED AS THEY COME,
albeit a somewhat magical version. You need one, too.

*

Have you ever tried walking in a straight line? Like in a big field, or a forest?

You think you're going in the right direction. But one of your legs is inevitably shorter than the other, or you have a hump, or you broke the heel on your fantastic shoe.

It is a simple fact that even if you start out walking straight, you end up walking in circles.

That's why we have maps. And compasses

Because wanting something isn't enough.

You have to have a plan. You have to keep checking back, looking at where you are and where you should be. You have to get back on track when you stray.

For this reason, I have a scale and an outline.

I don't live by either, though.

Sometimes, I do that mangy diet that no one likes. Sometimes, I skip dinner. Sometimes, I eat an entire pan of brownies or Rice Krispy Treats in one day.

Like today. Burp.

But every morning and every night, I step on the scale, and that number sits in my head, consciously and subconsciously. Sometimes, the scale makes me put down the cupcake and drink three cups of hot green tea. Sometimes, the scale makes me smugly pull a cupcake out of the freezer and jam it down my gullet at midnight while cackling madly. I don't hate myself or regret delicious meals or get on the treadmill, but I do make plans to do better.

And writing is like that, too.

Part of my process involves being open to possibility, dreams, half-asleep nudgings, scribbled notes, and bits of songs. But all the time, in the back of my head and the front of my manuscript, there's an outline.

Here are the characters. Here is where they'll go. Here are some scenes. Here is the ending.

Sure, there are surprises along the way. Sometimes, new characters pop up, and I'm completely delighted with my fickle muse. Sometimes, things go bad. Way bad. They get out of control, and people die, and I'm as surprised as I hope you'll be. But always, there's the outline, and when I come to a crossing point, I can figure out where things need to go next.

Without a compass, whether in writing or life, I get adrift. Without a goal, I don't know where I'm going, much less where I should be. With a GPS or Mapquest, someone is constantly telling you exactly what to do next, and while I need that sort of direction in driving, I don't want it anywhere else. Ever.

So that's my advice today: check your compass.

*

Thursday, December 8, 2011

(tumbleweeds) (space)

Yep. I'm quiet again.

That's because I'm writing.

When I'm revising or editing (which are entirely different things, by the way), I can get pretty chatty. But when I'm hammering out a first draft, I'm a silent as space. I'm constantly thinking, rolling ideas around, chewing on 'em like a cow's cud. When I'm driving or sitting or eating, I'm dreaming, and that doesn't leave a lot of room for blogging.

Take last night, for example. I turned on Joss Whedon's Firefly and zoned out. Since my main character is partially inspired by Mal, watching one of my all-time favorite shows is actually considered RESEARCH, so I was WORKING, and it was also considered work when I stole downstairs and opened Dr. Krog's World's Biggest Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and ate half of one.

Um... Merry Christmas, buddy.

In any case, I tend to watch my favorite episodes of Firefly the most often. Shindig, Serenity 1 & 2, Jaynestown. This time, I watched one of my least favorites, War Stories. And that's when it hit me-- the ending of the book. The twist. The perfect fait accompli. There's a long way to go before then, but now I can't wait to see that scene come to life.

If you're not a Firefly fan, then I ask in all honesty, WHY THE HELL NOT? It's the best show ever, even if it was canceled after one season. A unique twist, amazingly complex characters, interesting story lines, and a hell of a lot more humor than you get with a laugh track. I mean, SPACE crossed with COWBOYS and a little sprinkling of CHINA? Not to mention it's almost-- ALMOST-- steampunk in the mixing of technology and simplicity. Spacepunk, maybe.

The story is great. The writing is phenomenal.

But it's the characters that really create the magic.

If you're a writer, and you're having trouble fashioning complex, well-rounded, true-to-life characters, I can't think of a better exercise than just settling back with the Firefly DVDs and enjoying the hell out of yourself. The good, the bad, the tics, the costumes, the voices. It's all there, just like it was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So, in conclusion, watch that one, too. In fact, just buy yourself the complete Joss Whedon collection and settle in for a long Winter's nap. Just as art students go to museums to sketch masterworks, a writer could do a lot worse than to find a show that really speaks to them and watch it religiously. Fall asleep to it. Let it sink into the ol' subconscious and thrash around a little.

And maybe one day, you'll realize that watching Firefly has become part of your career.

And that, my friends, is shiny.

Back to the trenches.

*




Monday, December 5, 2011

on writing: focus on the positive


You know how sometimes, you decide to turn your negatives into positives?

Like when you're in a job interview, and they ask you your greatest weakness, and instead of saying SPIDERS, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SPIDERS, you say, "I'm just too much of a perfectionist" or some other load of complete bullsh*t?

I'm learning how to do that.

I have a short attention span, get bored easily, and chase shiny things like a cat with a penlight.

I'M BEING CREATIVE AND FOLLOWING MY MUSE.

I tend to get obsessed with things. And obsess over them. Obsessively.

I'M DRIVEN.

I really like to eat cupcakes and brownies.

I'M BEING KIND TO MYSELF WHILE I WRITE.

I hate cleaning. And laundry. And picking up after other people.

I'M FOCUSING ON MORE LUCRATIVE WORK. FOR THE GOOD OF THE FAMILY.

I love shopping online for boots and coats and hats.

I'M CULTIVATING MY BRAND.

I like talking to people on Twitter and Facebook.

I JUST TOLD YOU: I'M *CULTIVATING* MY *BRAND*.

I need excuses to take long, bubbly baths in the middle of the day.

I'M ENTERING A TRANCE STATE TO SOLVE PLOT PROBLEMS.

In short, pretty much everything I do that's horrid can be translated into a positive in my career as an author.

IT'S THE BEST THING EVER.

Only nine minutes until the brownies are ready.

*

Sunday, December 4, 2011

take me down to fangirl city



DIANA GABALDON TALKED TO ME.

She's the author of one of my all-time favorite books, OUTLANDER. The book that taught me that romance wasn't necessarily a bad word, when it came to literature. The book I recommend to *everyone*. The book I've read so many times the cover has fallen off. The book that, when I started writing, I thought, "I'll never be able to write anything that amazing, but I'm damned well going to try."

AND SHE TALKED TO ME ON TWITTER.

I'm just going to be over here, not blinking.

SQUEE.

*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

the big, bad, bloodthirsty Christmas tree



We may be unruly around here, but boy, do we love getting our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. And we don't take it down until the day after New Year's. We want to squeeze every bit of holiday cheer out of the next month as we can.

And apparently, I want an excuse not to go in my studio/library during December. That's the yawning black door behind the gorgeous tree. My books are in there. And my wrapping paper. And the thermostat.

Brrrr!

But wait, you say. What's that on top of the tree?

It's a star, I answer, but my eyes have a crazy gleam. So you look more closely.

This tree, you say. It's emanating hotness.

Lights do that, I say with an impish wink.

You edge closer. Drag in one of the dining room chairs. Climb on up.

And this is what you see.


That's right.

It's my book cover.

On the Christmas tree star.

Because, like I said, we keep celebrating long before and long after the rest of the world.

Happy Holidays, hot steampunk vampire.

You're getting extra blood and a magical pocket watch in your stocking this year, not to mention a lump of coal. For being naughty.

*

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

4-hour everything

(If you're one of the readers who complained about my proselytizing The 4-Hour Body, you'll want to skip this one. I recommend hanging out here, where things are guaranteed to be hilarious.)

I'm back on the slow carb train and already down 4 pounds in 4 days. Thanks to Tim Ferriss, I'm starting to like the number 4 even more. My synesthesia is okay with that, as it's 2+2, 2x2, and 2^2. But, more importantly, he has a new book coming out. It's all about cooking, learning, and kicking even more ass.

And we'll be buying it. You can pre-order it now for discounts wilder than wild horses.

(You can pre-order my book, too. It's currently 20% off at the Simon & Schuster website, but it probably won't help you lose any weight, unless you decide to go on an all-blood diet. Those Bludmen are rather svelte, I tell you.)

Ahem.

If you're into slow or no carb, here's one of my favorite recipes.

*

UNICORN BLOOD

Heat 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Add 1 packet of 100% stevia. Steep a Celestial Seasonings decaf Sweet Coconut Chai teabag for five minutes and squeeze all the chai goodness out of the bag.

You'll almost believe it's a real chai latte.

*

Back to your regularly scheduled unruliness.


Monday, November 28, 2011

the sleeper has awakened

A long, long time ago, I was immensely pregnant and preparing for motherhood.

But guess what? You can't prepare for that. For what it does to you. Huge, hormonal, sleepless, weepy, and, let's face it... kinda crazy. And not in a good way, at least for me.

I still remember buying two albums that summer: Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Plans by Deathcab for Cutie. I listened to Tell Me Baby so many times and so loudly that it was the only thing that would calm my daughter during her first, freaky weeks on earth.

Forget You Are My Sunshine, lady. Gimme Anthony Kiedis.

And then a magical thing happened.

After my daughter was born, I forgot about music.

Seriously. I listened to the radio in the car. I probably put in a CD here and there. But I didn't buy music until 2009, when my son was finally old enough to let me get more than five consecutive hours of sleep.

Until I woke back up.

I was in the car with both kids on a Sunday morning, and I heard this song.


It was unbelievable. Like nothing I've ever heard, except maybe Ravel's Bolero, but it was gritty and poetic and powerful and filled with longing and fury and things I hadn't felt in years. And I waited for the deejay to tell me who or what it was, but THEY DIDN'T, and so I was also infected with that same longing and fury. I went home and googled what little I could remember about the lyrics.

Midnight? Something about midnight? Standing near a streetlight?

CRAP.

I couldn't find it. I went crazy.

And then, oddly enough, Facebook crowdsourcing saved the day.

That song was Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event.

I bought that album. And then I bought Mumford and Sons. And the Civil Wars. And Iron & Wine. And The Veils.

That first Airborne Toxic Event Album? That's also when I started writing.

When I woke back up.

Last night, I saw The Airborne Toxic Event at the Buckhead Theater in Atlanta. It was everything I hoped it would be. They were more than incredible. They rocked every bone I have, and I screamed the words and thumped my feet and had little goosebump tingles just rippling all over my skin.

I saw Morphine in Athens in 1999. And then I didn't see another live show until this year. Now I'm hungry for it, for the pounding drums and the lights and the fury and the energy and the excitement and the poetry. I'm hungry to be there, live, watching people create something so powerful and moving. I have no music skills, but when I'm at a show, screaming the words to my favorite songs, it's as close as I'll ever come to being part of the magic.

And so I say to you, in the words of Paul Atreides,

THE SLEEPER HAS AWAKENED.

*

Saturday, November 26, 2011

the turkeys take on Savannah



I always wanted to take a carriage tour of Savannah.

Okay. To be more honest, I wanted to take a carriage tour and leap onto the back of the Percheron and cut the harness straps and take off at a gallop.

But I didn't want to get my amazing brother-in-law and fabulous niece in trouble, so I stayed in my seat.

Most of the time.

It was marvelous, you know. I highly recommend the fantastic tour guides, comfortable carriages, and gorgeous horses of Historic Savannah Carriage Tours, and especially with the Dread Pirate Robert or his daughter Becca as your guide.

He dresses in character, knows all the best stories, and even brings a sidekick.


That's Noah.

On Thanksgiving, I got to chew on the toes of his brother, Oliver.

Or at least that's what it looks like.


Um, why am I smoking that parrot?

Anyway, the entire family enjoyed our private tour with niece Becca at the reins, which included a trip to Starbucks, a stop at a gourmet cupcakery, a quick drive-by of Santa's carriage, a complete tour of the settings in the YA book I'm revising, and a meeting with a mummified squirrel named Isaiah.

Yes, that's right. I ate CUPCAKES on a CARRIAGE with a PIRATE and his PARROT.


Pistachio cupcake with almond buttercream icing. Not my best photo, but I had just spent two days in the car and a hotel room with my children, so you're lucky fire wasn't billowing out of my nostrils.

Also, the kids had a fabulous time.


The boy wore his pirate hat and proclaimed it the BEST DAY EVER.

Of course, the night before, he proclaimed the walk to the hotel carrying his backpack the BEST THING EVER, so I wouldn't really trust his taste.

The girl was also over the moon.


And the views were gorgeous.

It was the perfect day. Perfect weather, perfect temperature, perfect company.


Hello, Spanish moss. Hello, pretty buildings.

Hello, people who gawked at the carriage full of pirates and parrots and laughing girls.


I figure we were a pretty good advertisement. Anyone who saw us would think we were having THE TIME OF OUR LIVES.

Which we were.

I was an only child, unless you count the Boston Terrier we got when I was 11. But now, I have a brother and a niece, and it is FANTASTIC, because they are SO COOL.


Not only did I manage to marry my favorite person, but I also married into a family almost as strange as I am.

So that's a good Thanksgiving.

I have a lot to be thankful for. But especially pirates and fine adventures.

*

Friday, November 25, 2011

best. day. ever!


See that?


Why am I with a pirate on a carriage?

It's a good story. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Cupcakes, parrots, and zombie squirrels feature prominently. Promise.

*

Thursday, November 24, 2011

a tree of turkeys

For Thanksgiving, I found 3 turkeys in a tree:


Today, I'm grateful for loving family, great friends, and a wonderful life.

Here's to living the dream!

Happy Turkey Day, y'all!

*

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

now we are 3


At this exact moment in 2008, I was the only ponderously pregnant person sitting in the theater for the opening night of a little movie called Twilight. Surrounded by screaming fangirls and one tremendously embarrassed boy, I began having contractions.

Unfortunately, my water didn't break during the movie and send them all running away, screeching.

Fortunately, the next day, this happened.


"It's okay if he's kind of an uggo," we said. "He'll grow out of that, right?"

Um...


Maybe?

Fast forward to three years later.

He's about to be three.

THREE.


Looks like he's out of that awkward phase.

*

Happy Almost Birthday to my favorite goofball,
the guy who gives the best hugs ever,
and who is also very strong because of his muscles.

When you were nine months old, I came out of my mom-coma and started writing. I haven't stopped since. Now I have a book coming out next spring.
Something tells me it's going to be a lot easier to push out into the world than you were.

Thanks for stretching my mind, son.

But most of all, thanks for the hugs.

*


Monday, November 21, 2011

on character


The sass. The double leopard print. The stance. The stare.

My daughter already has more style at 5 than I do at 34, and I love it.

I've been thinking a lot about character lately. I think it's been missing in a few of my books. I fall in love with an idea, and I frantically bang out the book, and I revise, and I juggle drafts back and forth with beta readers and my agent. And one problem keeps coming up.

The characters aren't real enough.

It doesn't matter how much you like the story if you don't love the characters. It can be the best road trip in the world, but if the person driving is boring as hell, who wants to go?

So I've started really trying to think hard about making my characters real. It's not enough to have blond hair and brown eyes. I need to know if their fingernails are square or round, how they hold their fork, what they think about reality TV, when they learned that Santa wasn't real. They need to be as real as people.

Part of the struggle, I think, is that I have always been so scared about being liked. As a child, I found it hard to make friends. I didn't want to be too weird or too loud or too smart or too this or too that, because I was afraid someone wouldn't like that about me. Only recently have I been able to more fully accept my quirks... and my faults.

Characters have to be like that. An absence of traits doesn't make them more likable or inoffensive; it makes them bland, and the reader feels that lack, that place where the writer holds back. Characters have to have flaws, and they have to mess up. They have to be like us, like real people, a conglomeration of good and bad and strange and gross and annoying and funny. They have to have weird stories from when they were six and almost blinded themselves with a bullwhip.

There's a certain level of fearlessness involved, for the writer. You have to give up that fear that someone isn't going to like your character. Because guess what? No matter how great someone is, there's still someone out there that can't stand them. And the characters that I've loved best have been just as broken as the real people I love best.

So that's my assignment: Spend more time crafting characters with depth.

When I was younger, I thought I knew everything.

Now I'm pretty sure I don't know squat.

But that's part of my character, too.

*

Saturday, November 19, 2011

twinge


Guess which movie we saw last night?

That's right. The very erudite one about a king with a stutter who falls for a mute woman battling cancer on the brink of war.

It was awesome.

*


Friday, November 18, 2011

looking at my day




I think that sums up my feelings about today. Here's a rundown:

* wake up at 6:11

* grumble

* drink coffee

* moar coffee

* drive to bus stop barefoot

* deliver other child to preschool, where his Native American name for the Thanksgiving Feast
will be "Indian Bear" and decide it's not worth fighting about

* enjoy a cinnamon roll and coffee at a haunted restaurant

* send an email to a lawyer acquaintance requesting book research help on proper wording for legally killing debtors

* learn they have blocked Facebook on their wireless for being "inappropriate"

* get all pissy over censorship and vow to complain loudly later, on Facebook

* get a haircut to cut off all the green but then don't actually cut it all off

* pick up Indian Bear and have lunch with Grandma Indian Bear

* pick up other child at the bus stop, where she honestly and without irony asks me WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? NO, REALLY? NO ONE WILL TELL ME.

* return home to complain about censorship and do 1000 things

* only accomplish 2 of those things

* sit anxiously in front of the computer until it's time to go see... an intellectual movie about... not vampires

* realize that I have 1 book to beta, 3 books to revise, 1/2 a book to write, and a really fantastic book to read

* it's by Meljean Brook, and it's called Heart of Steel, and it's the sequel to The Iron Duke, a steampunk romance so fantastic I actually named my car after it

* decide to ignore all the other stuff and just go read

* also, I'm hungry

* and I forgot what this list was about

* so I'm sure that's a big surprise

*


New haircut:
It's the same as the old haircut,
but with half an inch of teal on the bottom.

*


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ohmygodineedthat


Hell has frozen over, and monkeys are flying out of Wayne's butt.

I saw a perfume ad in a fashion magazine and said,

OHMYGOD; I NEED THAT.


For the love of all that's holy, not the actual perfume, as commercial fragrances tend to smell like burning plastic and drunk baby whores to me.

I want her necklaces.

I'm actually kind of obsessed with them, with that look. Like when I was in middle school and thought that if I just found the right t-shirt, I would be popular.

I never found that shirt, which is why I NEED THOSE NECKLACES, PEOPLE.

I think Ive found the nuggety one, but the tasseled one with the stars is utterly eluding me. I've been all over Etsy, Modcloth, eBay, Anthopologie, Polyvore, Shopstyle, Free People, and Urban Outfitters, and I can't find it.

Any other places I haven't looked?

*

Monday, November 14, 2011

tumbling

Serendipity.

In one of those amazing moments where the universe aligns just right, I fell in love with five photographs on tumblr this morning.
The story is already forming in my head.
The next seed arrived early.

The next book is a YA, codename TUMBLING.








*

Sunday, November 13, 2011

in which I get very blue. blueish.


The problem with being terribly vain about your long, dark hair is that you spend your life being too chicken to do anything drastic with it. No crazy colors. No wacky strips. Nothing that involves-- GASP!-- bleach.

Until today.


Today, I went to Sally's and bought a Manic Panic bleaching kit.

Man, oh metal man, does that stuff reek.

But now I have teal hair.

In the immortal words of Sterling Archer, JUST THE TIPS.



It's a little more teal/less green than it seems in the pictures.

I'm not sure what possessed me to do it. Much like the Great Nose Ring Debacle of 2009, I just decided it needed to be done and did it. That was green, too, now that I think about it.

I've always had an impulsive streak, and I very rarely regret the things I do... just the things I wanted to do and didn't.

Now, I wish I had played with odd hair colors years ago.

Now, I'm just thankful to be at a place in my life where I don't care all that much about being judged for wearing a silly hat or a dramatic cape or putting teal streaks in my hair.

Now, I'm going upstairs to read a steampunk YA book I've been waiting to enjoy.

Now, if you like blue hair, you should go read DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor and then head out to Sally's. What have you got to lose?

They have purple and pink, too.

*

Friday, November 11, 2011

author pic outtakes



So I thought I would share some of the outtakes of my author photo shoot. Not the really, seriously awful ones. But just the ones that crack me up. Like when I was rolling my eyes in a graveyard.

Like, OMG, GHOSTS. WHATEVER.



Or cracking up against a column.

That's what I look like in real life, most of the time.

Except for the column. It's not like I carry it with me for special occasions.



Or maybe I do. But where are my shoes?

WHERE ARE MY SHOES?


Whoa. Too much gum. Way too much gum.

But putting my elbows on top of freezing columns makes me SO HAPPY.

Seriously. It was about 30 degrees and windy, and that shirt was made of... um, fake silk. Like spiderwebs. Bright purple spider webs. Next time, I need to wear a cape.


More laughing. I mess up lots of shots by laughing.

I'm supposed to be serious and important, right?

Someone suggested I borrow a spaniel and a turtleneck for author photos.

But have you ever tried to get a spaniel into a turtleneck? IMPOSSIBLE.



I think that one's my favorite. Weird monkey toes. bad angle on the shirt that makes me look pregnant. Apparently giving a speech about something.

FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN THINGIES AGO, STUFF HAPPENED. WANT TO KNOW MORE? BUY MY BOOK. IT INVOLVES VAMPIRE RABBITS AND CARNIVAL FREAKS.

THE END.

*