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Friday, January 29, 2010

What Will You Be Writing in 2010?

I'm baaaaaa-aaack!

Didja miss me?

No, my return to the blog doesn't mean that I'm writing for MTV Books again, but as Jenn has assured me time and again, once an MTV Books author, always an MTV Books author. So with that in mind, here I be. All happy and excited because I've just completed a dream of a move across the country from Florida to Seattle, Washington and it's as glorious as I expected it to be. I'm also happy and excited because on November 23rd, my novel, WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE is going to be released. The road for this novel has been long and twisty and fraught with more drama than any soap opera or family reunion you've ever attended, but it's finally happening and I'm so incredibly happy. (I just saw the early version of my cover and OMG, I can't wait until I can go public with it because it is sooooo amazingly beautiful. I cried like a baby when the email popped into my box.)

So first order of business will be finishing my revisions which are due very soon. However, after that, I get to turn to new writing, which brings me back to this month's question of what will I be writing this year. Well, first up on my list is finishing the women's fiction manuscript I've been pecking away at for the last couple of years. It's hard because it's set in the sixties which presents the challenge of it being somewhat historical but it's a time period for which we have a lot of documentation in forms that haven't existed for other historical eras. There aren't just books and newspapers, and scholarly texts but we have film and television and music and more magazines than you can shake a stick at. Plus, so many different angles to explore, the real trick is remaining very focused and not meandering.

But I'm actually in the homestretch of that manuscript, so hopefully, it'll be done relatively soon (she says very, very hopefully...). Which leaves me with starting a brand new project. For the first time in nearly two years. Oh... what to write? I have so many ideas, it's like a smorgasbord! There are a couple of YA projects I've had tickling the back of my brain, and a couple of really interesting women's fiction ideas, one of which just kicked me like a cranky donkey the other day. I was surfing my regular news feeds and saw an intriguing headline. Clicked on it and OMG, discovered an awesome story idea about letters and forbidden love and all that good stuff. Definitely one to keep on file.

So, I don't even know exactly which one I'm going to write yet, but I do know that in my new home, in the incredibly creative, inspiring surroundings in which I've found myself, I'm gonna have a great time figuring it out.

It's good to be home.

(And yes, that picture is the view from my backyard. See what I mean about inspiring?)

What Will You Be Writing in 2010?

The first thing I'll be writing is my July 2011 romantic drama for MTV Books. I can't tell you the title yet. I don't know whether it will be approved for one thing, and for another, I don't want anybody to steal it before it's final. The title is the best thing about this book right now. It's not as brilliant a title as I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, but it's close.

I'm really excited about this book, and I'm so grateful that my editor and I are on the same page. I turned in the proposal in December, but since then I've had some second thoughts about it. The whole plot seemed a little too Goody-Two Shoes and made me want to slap myself. So I called my editor about it, and the first thing she said was, "Can you make it a little less Saved by the Bell?" See? My editor Gets It.

The book is due on August 1. That may seem like a short time to write a novel--six months--but since I had two months to write my last novel for Simon Pulse (and they wanted to give me only six weeks!!!), I think this timeframe is luxurious.

A little too luxurious, maybe. I find myself putting off getting started. It's not that I usually procrastinate about writing. I don't. It's that I absolutely love writing a book that I have a contract for, and I want to savor the feeling as long as I can. Just as if I had only one cupcake, I would gaze at it longingly for a while before actually eating it. I hate writing myself out of a contract--turning in everything that's due, and then having to write on spec and hope that a publisher buys it. I have written eleven still-unpublished novels that way

and I think that is enough already. But I guess I will be writing #12 come August 2.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Will You Be Writing in 2010?

This year I’m plunging into the paranormal. As a lover of fantasies, ghost stories, and all manner of creepy tales, I've been longing to take a walk on the supernatural side of the street. Now that I've crossed over, I realize that playing with the creepies and crawlies is a lot of fun.

Newspapers, magazines, and other print media usually provide the sparks for my ideas. But this story glided into my head like smoke on the wind. Speaking of smoke, several friends who’ve heard the plot inquired if I was smoking anything when it came to me. I wasn’t, but I can see why they might wonder.

Without giving too much away, here's a peek at the plot:

Amber Raymond is a 17-year-old high school junior navigating the maze of friends, parents, teachers, and boys in the technological world of 2010. Amethyst is the 3,017-year-old ruler of an ancient civilization where magic is commonplace and sorcery can work for good or evil. Now Amethyst has one final chance to break the curse that has frozen her people in a living nightmare. If she succeeds, she and her consort Malachite will be reunited and her people will awaken. If Amethyst fails, they are condemned to an unspeakable fate. When Amethyst pops into Amber’s world, she challenges Amber’s beliefs about reality and spins her life in a whole new direction. With an art scholarship, clueless parents, and a cute boy to keep track of, the last person Amber needs in her life is a headstrong ruler on a mission. And that's before things get dangerous.

So, what do you think? I'd love to hear your impressions.

My goal is to complete the first draft by summer, so we’ll see how that goes. Whether or not I do, I’m having a blast on the wild, supernatural side of writing!

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Will You Be Writing in 2010?

Hopefully, a book! I've been a slug for over a year now. After writing 2 books in 7 months I was burnt out and took a break. But the break is over (or my agent will kill me).

I loved this question because it has forced me to do what I needed to do - come up with a way to describe the book I'm working on. So here goes:

Unlike her high school classmates, Haley doesn’t let herself look forward to graduation or make plans for the future. An unexpected diagnosis two years ago changed everything, and now without a heart transplant her illness has put her on a time clock. But then a tragic accident gives Haley what she’s been waiting for and the chance to go back to being the girl she was before, complete with friends and a boyfriend who expect her to pick up where she left off, like nothing's happened.

Only it’s not that simple. Because now Haley’s keeping a secret that threatens to turn her world upside down and keep her from ever going back to normal. And as she finds herself growing closer to the one person who poses the greatest risk to exposing the truth, Haley has to figure out if she's willing to take the risk of losing the normal life she's craved, or make a choice that will change who she is forever.

Does that make any sense? I sure hope so!!

In addition to this book, I also hope to finish a middle grade book I've been writing with my son - RYAN PICKLER: BORN TO BE RAD, about a skateboarding, cheese-fearing fourth grader who is trying anything and everything to get to see his skateboarding hero.

And that's my year ahead!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Will You be Writing in 2010?

I will be writing a lot in 2010 and am excited about it! I'm almost done with a partial of my latest novel, Graveyard Shift and hope to get it to my agent for review in the next couple of days. This story deals with spirits, love and humor and takes place in a small town outside of Boston. I'm really enjoying writing it! And the best part is that a great deal of the story takes place in a graveyard, ooo, scary.

After I'm done with Graveyard Shift I may revise one of my older manuscripts. I've grown a lot as a writer these past couple of years so I want to dust off an old manuscript or two and put my newly learned skills to the test.

Also, on my wish-list is a middle grade series idea. I got really pumped about this after I attended a workshop by author Michael Grant this past weekend at the SCBWI Miami conference. He is a force to be reckoned with!

I enjoyed writing from a boy's point of view in Indigo Blues and would love to write a whole novel through the eyes of a boy.

I would also like to blog more so stayed tuned for updates as the year progresses. I'm always game for whatever comes my way so you never know what I might be working on! Now I must sign off so I can finish the partial of Graveyard Shift. It's such a great feeling when you don't want to leave the world that you've created.

What would you like to accomplish in 2010?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sights from my Honeymoon

Last week my husband and I finally got to go on our honeymoon. (We got married in October, in case you missed the blogs that followed that.) We went to Miami Beach and Key Largo, hoping to escape chilly Chicago.... Of course we were there during the coldest weather South Florida has had in decades. Just my luck. And all I wanted to do was lay in the sun on the beach for one day and read a book. Oh well, we still had fun as you will see by this photo blog.

South Beach:

This is creepy. I don't know how these fish all got stuck on this rock, but they must have somehow and then the tide went out and weird fishy corpses were left behind on this rock. Fish creep me out and dead fish even moreso (plus I feel bad for them), but this was a cool image. You can click on it to enlarge it:

Me and hubby on the glass bottom boat tour in John Pennekemp State Park in Key Largo. It was a rare moment where the sun felt warm enough to take off my hoodie:
On our way out to Molasses Reef to see fishies, we saw birds along the way:

The glass bottom. Wish we'd gotten better pictures because it was incredible, all the colorful fish and especially the huge sea turtles swimming by!
A Mexican restaurant gave us free cotton candy so naturally I put it on my nose:

We went to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, where they rehabilitate and rescue birds that were injured (mostly thanks to human carelessness) and saw lots of cool birds:

Admittedly, when this pelican crossed our path, it freaked me out. I was like, um, he won't hurt me, will he? The guy that worked there pointed out that I don't look like a fish...

This might be my new fave picture of me. A new author photo? (if I can sell another book!)
This is Pickles. A smart bird, scratching his head with a stick.
Our last sunset in the Keys:

This is Oscar, the best fed cat in the Keys. He was our BFF at dinner, especially since my husband was giving him steak!

Oscar taking a bath after enjoying Scott's generosity:

This little friend was outside the door to our villa in Key Largo:

It was so cold for most of our trip we heard about Iguanas falling out of trees! But on the last day it finally got warm enough and we met this guy out sunning himself:

And last but not least. Look who I got to have lunch with on my last day in Florida!!!!! It's MTV Books own Danielle Joseph. It was such a blast to finally get to meet her in person and get my Shrinking Violet signed!
So that was my honeymoon in photos. Wish we could have stayed another week and enjoyed truly warm weather, but now we are back in cold Chicago and I am back to work on my writing!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Don't look and it won't hurt

I finished a new manuscript on Wednesday. Here it is!

Yes, it’s in a laundry basket full of my late grandmother’s parfait glasses, next to a comforter set I bought for the guest room in November, which is piled with all the sweaters and coats and scarves I have worn this week, all of which is shoved against the wall next to a broken cable outlet I’ve been meaning to do something about. The rest of my office looks the same way. That’s because when I am making a push to finish a novel, my house starts to look like an episode of Hoarders. Happily, now that I am finished writing, I have the leisure to clean.

As soon as I read the book!

Thursday and Friday I had too much work to do for my “real” job. I couldn’t find a single spare minute to take a look at this pet project I’ve been working on between other manuscripts and proposals for more than a year. This morning I’m up at 5 a.m., raring to go...and yet I hesitate. I have a feeling this manuscript is fabulous, but I’m afraid I’m remembering it wrong, and when I read it I’ll be disappointed.

Worse, maybe it really IS fabulous (imho) and, heart-breakingly, it won’t sell to an editor. I’ve been down that road before (and posted about it on Jeri Smith-Ready’s blog here). As long as it stays in that laundry basket, it is still a best-selling novel. IN MY MIND.

On the other hand, if I never read it, I will never get around to cleaning, and if I never clean, I really will turn into an episode of Hoarders, and you will find me ten years from now buried under tons of manuscripts and Fritos bags and the body of my dead cat.

I guess I’d better read it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I received a Kindle from my husband for Christmas (because I asked for one, even though I then changed my mind but it was too late, he'd already ordered it). So I am officially a reader of e-books. I purchased my first e-book on New Year's Eve and finished it on New Year's Day. It was non-fiction and I enjoyed it. So I bought another book on New Year's Day and finished it on January 2. I enjoyed that, it was a teen book.

But then something weird happened after reading both of them. It was like I was hungry, ate a meal, and then, after eating, I still didn't feel full. It was like I'd consumed empty calories. And not because I didn't like the books, because I did. No, it had something to do with the way I read them.

I couldn't figure out why I felt so unsatisfied, but then it came to me.

When you read a book you hold it, turn it over, see the cover sitting on your night stand, see a picture of the author - you live with it. The physical book itself becomes part of the experience. But that whole part of it is gone with an e-reader. Sure, you have a "Kindle" experience, but not a "book" experience. You read a story but you don't live with the story like you do when reading a book.

So you read and know you should be satisfied, but it doesn't stick to your ribs.

That said, I think I read faster precisely because of that very reason. I scarfed it down instead of savoring it like a good meal. It's also really easy to order a book so I've found I could buy a lot more books and instantly satisfy my craving for a particular title - which is a good thing for the industry. We need people buying more books. But I still wish they were books, and not e-books.

I've already ordered a bunch more e-books. Will be curious to see if I continue to feel the same way.

If you own an e-reader, what do you think of my analogy? Am I totally off base?

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Polar Bear in a Snowstorm

When I was trying to think of a topic for this month’s blog I felt like the little kid who showed his teacher the picture he drew of a polar bear in a snowstorm. Completely blank.

I blame my blankness on the weather—blizzards followed by subzero temperatures followed by wind chill warnings followed by more blizzards plus subzero temperatures. Every weather report includes a mention of our relentless winter nemesis, Bitter Lee Cold. Snow piles higher than my head line our driveway (The pictures were taken two snowstorms ago.). The piles of snow along the streets are twice my height. And when I choose to risk my life by running outdoors, which is more often than you’d think, icicles form on my eyelashes, my nose hairs freeze, and my toes go numb.

How do I retain my sanity? Here’s the short list:

1. Friends—Snowed in or not, we still connect. We forward lame e-mail jokes, chat on the phone to hear another human voice, and keep up to date with Facebook and Twitter. Once in a while, I even get to see them face-to-face!

2. Pets—My dogs and cats are ready and more than willing to snuggle up and comfort me when cabin fever makes me crazy. And Sassy and Gizmo are eager to take a walk in any kind of weather. Fresh air—even if it’s subzero—is energizing. And I get to congratulate myself on surviving another excursion into the frozen tundra!

3. Great books—My idea of heaven is being propped in bed in my flannel pajamas, buried under a mountain of covers, and transported to a different world by a magical book.

4. Writing—The YA fantasy I’m writing takes place during April and May, which requires me to conjure warm sunshine, springy green grass, shorts, and flip-flops. If I concentrate really, really hard and turn my space heater on high, I can almost feel my toes!

Think spring--please!!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ten things I'm looking forward to in 2010!

Like most people I am ready to dive into the new year! This past year I gave birth to a baby girl, followed by my book baby six weeks later. Needless to say it was a very busy and exciting year! The economy definitely sucked but I still managed to get to many festivials, book signings, school visits and conferences to talk about what I love: writing!

So in 2010:

1. I hope to sell a couple more novels and can't wait to get back to work on my latest manusctipt: Graveyard Shift.

2. My second novel Indigo Blues hits the shelves on July, 1 2010! So I'll definitely be doing some promoting for that over the summer and fall--yay!

3. Reclaiming my sleep, (baby is now in sleep boot camp) thus allowing me to write more and more.

4. Hoping that Shrinking Violet's second printing is gobbled up so there can be a third and so on....

5. I also look forward to spending more time with my family because it's amazing how time flies!

6. Finding time to exercise--big time.

7. Cooking more. I love trying new recipes. Hopefully my new crock pot will make things easier.

8. Blogging more. I have really learned a lot from this online community and hope to contribute even more.

9. Scrapbooking. Thought if I write it down I might do it. Son #1 will be eight next month and most of his baby photos are still in a box. Bad, I know.

10. I plan to read a lot more books this year since baby will be sleeping soundly through the night, right:)?

So what are you looking forward to in 2010??