Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year's Kiss

Sixteen years ago tonight I kissed a boy at the stroke of midnight, fell in love, and discovered The Beatles for the very first time. What strange worlds we construct for ourselves, and even stranger still are the choices we make about the people we invite inside. Most maddening and wonderful and magical of all are the ones we decide to keep, and who keep us in turn, even when the road turns rocky in this strange country where we are off the map and may never completely learn the other's language.
But still we try, and play some music, and shake it off, and try some more. And at the end of it all, I'll look forward to a seventeenth New Year's kiss.

A Playlist:

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Top 10 YA Books of 2011 (Indie)

Again, I don't think all of these were published in 2011, but most were, and that's when I finally got around to reading them. And therefore...
The Winners Are:

1. Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan

2. Red by Kait Nolan

3. Heart on a Chain by Cindy Bennett

4. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

5. Callum & Harper by Fisher Amelie

6. Compis by Kate Copeseeley

7. Glow by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

8. Ethereal by Addison Moore

9. The Mind Readers by Lori Brighton

10. The Second Ship by Richard Phillips

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Card from Me to You:

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Enjoy a selection from my Holiday Playlist:

Delorean, "Violence in the Snowy Fields"

The Year in Review: Final ROW80 Update

As I'm writing, I'm having my first cup of coffee from my brand-spanking new Kuerig coffee maker. I feel like I've died and gone to coffee heaven. My old one did die, actually, and I complained about it on Twitter. Within less than a minute a representative of the Kuerig company replied to my tweet with condolences and a number for a customer service rep who replaced it for free. No more slow-drip Folgers! Plus that's some hellacious customer service.

But I'm supposed to be writing about ROW80 as Round 4 closes. Like an idiot, I did not copy my overall goals into my little ROW80 tab up on my nav bar like I usually do, so I'm doing my best to remember what they once were. I think it was all centered around word count and specific texts I was working on. But midway through Round 4, my goals changed radically when I signed with Curiosity Quills Press for a four book deal. Suddenly I had deadlines that weren't self-imposed, and my goal became to keep up with those as best as possible.

Having a publisher really changes things. It became critical to meet deadlines, and to do that I had to establish a pretty set schedule. I pretty much work straight through the mornings now, and the early afternoons. My days before my kids get home from school are consumed with writing or editing. As a result, I'm farther ahead with the "big books" I contracted for, The Chronicles of Nowhere 1-3; one of them is set for press as I write this, and the other is over half finished. So I am over half way to my goal there. The serialized fiction I'm writing, Daughter of Glass, is also going well, but I do manage to run a little behind my goal of a chapter a week. It's more like  week and a half, to be truthful. My goal in between ROW80 rounds is to work on upping word count. Having never written serialized fiction, I've been unsure how to pace myself. Overall I seem to be averaging about 2,000-4,000 words per week.

That's not as much as I would like, but that's before I factor in all the editing I'm doing. This round I started doing editing as a side thing, and it's to the point that I do more of that than actual writing of my own. I really do enjoy it, and I think it helps me become a better writer. However it's the same juggling act the rest of us face: trying to fit it in the writing in the face of other responsibilities. This leads me to the one big fail of the round: that I don't have the third and final book of my trilogy out yet. It's in good shape, and ready for release soon, but it keeps getting pushed back because I have these publisher deadlines to meet. I can only hope the fans will understand, and know that it really won't be much more of a wait. January seems to be crunch time with CQ, and I hope to be able to get it out then.

So going forward, that's my big focus from here on out: getting Blood Redemption into the hands of readers. Additionally, I have some blog posts and a radio show coming up in January, a co-writing project with the fabulous Stacey Wallace Benefiel, and a new adult romance being released in conjunction with the IBC's Blog Tour de Force event. So all in all, a busy schedule. And I have the feeling things aren't going to get any easier- just busier, and if I'm lucky, more organized.

I can't thank the organizers and participants of ROW80 enough for being there for me when I needed it; for all the encouragement; and for helping provide and environment in which I was comfortable pushing myself. I've been a sponsor for three out of four rounds now, and I think I'll be sitting this next one out (as a sponsor, I'm definitely taking part) unless need arises. This will also be my last blog of substance before Christmas; I am letting my holiday from blogging officially start today. Don't be a stranger, though, because I'll be posting custom-made Christmas cards and playlists of Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck right here, just for you. So until the New Year, here's wishing you the best of holidays and a heartfelt thank you for all your roles in ROW80.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Ten Best YA Reads of 2011 (Mainstream Publisher)

Admittedly, not all of these were released in 2011, but this was the year when I finally got around to reading some of these fantastic books. In a lot of cases, I felt like smacking myself; I mean, who waits until now to read Evernight, or Blue Bloods? But in other cases, I simply didn't know they existed until now, as with the fantastic Willow by Julia Hoban. What puts something on my Top 10 list, besides fabulousness? These are the kind of books I will not only recommend, but read over again. For me, that's saying a lot, considering how huge my TBR pile has gotten. The Top 2 slots are so competitive, it was difficult to differentiate, but in both cases, I can honestly call the reading experience life-changing. Stay tuned for my Top 10 Indie Reads of 2011, and here they are, in descending order of favorite-ness:











Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Update: Nearing the End

As ROW80 round 4 draws to a close, it makes me think back to all that's happened since the beginning of the year. And wow, has that been a lot. Without ROW80, I don't think I could have done most of it. Here are just a few of the ways the community has helped me, some of them writing related and some of them life related.

1. I got so much encouragement and support when our house got hit by one of the tornadoes that plagued the South this past April, causing extensive damage and injuring my husband. This happened just days before I was scheduled to release the sequel to my first book, and I was already a bundle of nerves. People came together for me with words of encouragement, reminders not to panic, and stories of disasters of their own that they could finally laugh about.

2. As far as the actual writing process, I've never found a more supportive community than ROW80. There are no rules, no requirements, no "do this for us and we'll do something back." The laid back attitude goes well with my personality, and I've found a lot of like-minded compadres here. I've made friends and found beta readers; review partners and other writers to exchange excerpts with; Twitter sprint buddies; writers and the nearly-published who are now good friends. 

3. Encouragement and accountability. I get this for my most off the wall ideas- there's always someone who'll drop by my blog and listen to the weirdest plot twists, and then give me their honest opinion. And the SNI squad? I think I owe you my firstborn for the number of times you've kept me from starting four books at the same time when I need to stay focused on what's in front of me. 

These are just a few of the reasons I owe ROW80 a huge thank you. I'm sure I'll think of more between now and my next (and last- gulp) post. But as far as accountability this week, how did I measure up?

1. I'm establishing a regular schedule with my serialized fiction. Basically, I owe the publishers a chapter a week. Daughter of Glass hasn't started posting yet, but once it does, I'm going to have to be on top of my game. They have several chapters in reserve, but I'm managing to adhere )mostly) to a schedule to get this writing in to them every week. Basically, I've set the weekend as my cut-off time; if I don't have it finished, or significantly finished by Sunday, then I consider myself late. Today I have an almost 2,000 word rough draft of a DoG chapter finished. It needs some editing, but I'll get to that after this update and some Christmas shopping I have to do, or I'll finish it up in the morning and send it off. 

2. I have an official release date for the first book in my new series, The Chronicles of Nowhere. That's the placeholder cover, btw. (I've seen the galleys for the real cover and it's all colorful and prrrettty!) On January 14th, Worlds Burn Through will hit the world. Have I mentioned I think this is the best thing I've ever written? This baby has three years (yes, three. years.) of hard labor poured into it, and I'm really excited it's finding it's way out into the world. e-ARCS should be available as early as Wednesday. The publisher is giving out a limited number, but if anyone has a review blog, or is interested in doing an advanced review, please let me know and I'll see about getting you a copy. Since I'm not in charge of distribution this time, I can't promise I can get one for everyone, but I can do my best!

3. I have done so much editing I don't even know how to tell you about it. You might not believe me. Suffice to say, if your book is on my TBR pile, it might be there a while still. It's nothing personal, its just that I'm editing instead of reading for fun. And that's kind of only half-true, because most of the things I'm editing are really great books in their own right, and editing them is reading, after all. It's like I have an assignment sheet for reading time now instead of Free Choice Friday or something. So that's all good, just time-consuming. 

That's probably more than enough for now; as ROW80 Round 4 draws to a close, I'm feeling nostalgic and emotional, with the desire to account for every little thing. Thank goodness there will be more rounds to come in 2012 so I can keep the accountability and fellowship coming. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Short Sunday Update

Hello! Nearly-teenagers can eat a lot of Christmas cookies, so I'm going to make this quick so I can go restock. Strictly for them, mind you. I don't want any Christmas cookies. Of course not! :)
It's update time, so I'm here with a recap of the week's activities:
1. Working on publisher deadlines, I'm over halfway done with the second Chronicles of Nowhere book, Shadowed Ground. It feels weird to be working on a second book while waiting for the first one's publication, but I've been getting a whole lot of writing done, at least. This week clocks in at around 4,000 words.
2. Editing proceeds at a breakneck pace: not only my own, but for others. They seem pleased, though, and have requested to keep working with me.
3. Publicity/ book stuff: Make sure to check out the IBC's 12 Days of Christmas Blowout, where lots of ebooks are on sale for 99 cents. I helped make the banner!

That's really it for today, besides Christmas cookies and cold weather. Thanks, and happy writing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Christmas Mixes Vol. 4: The Naughty List

Songs guaranteed to get you on the Naughty List, if you aren't there already. It includes some of my all time favorites, including "Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects," which solves the age old question of just exactly how Santa squeezes his fat self down all those fireplaces, and "Baby It's Cold Outside," just because. Who can resist a swingin' song about getting your attractive female guest drunk so she can't go home? No one sings it like Zooey.


There Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects (Sharon Jones)
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) (The Ramones)
Police Stop My Car (Felice Navidad Parody) (Bob Rivers)
Baby It's Cold Outside (Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel)
Merry Little Christmas From The Family (Robert Earl Keen)
Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas (Staple Singers)
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis (Neko Case)
Merry Christmas From A Bar (The Starkweathers)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Update: Writing to The Christmas Mixes

Update time! I've had a good week as far as word count goes, hitting over 4,000 this week. I have numerous Twitter sprints to thank for this. If any of you ROW80 peeps ever want to sprint and you're around at about 9 am Central, or sometimes in the afternoons, give me a holla. I can't tell you the difference these 1k/1hr sprints have done for my word count.

I've made really good progress with the second Chronicles book, Shadowed Ground, and written another installment of the serialized Daughter of Glass. Saw the cover for the first part of Daughter of Glass and was totally blown away. The story deals with emotions so strong they manifest as actual beings, and so CQ had the idea of doing a different illustration for each emotional avatar. The one for Anger is really cool- lots of red and metal. I love the artist and hope I get to keep her for the other covers.

Other things in the writing world: I was on the radio this week, courtesy of the IBC's weekly radio show. Amber Scott and Rachel Thompson played hosts, while Kelli McCracken, Gayle Ann Williams and I fielded questions about everything from trends in publishing to our favorite writing music. It turns out Kelli McCracken also plays the same song on a loop when she's really into a scene! I thought I was alone!

Lots and lots of editing. I love doing this, because I'm getting to meet some neat new authors and read books outside my normal genre. This has had such an impact on me, in fact, that I'm trolling outside my usual YA horizon for SF thrillers and more adult-ish PNR. So yeah, it's a good, if demanding, role.

This brings me to my last item: The Christmas Mixes. I have three prior playlists under the umbrella title, "Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck" if anyone is looking for such a thing this holiday season. I know I usually hate Chrsitmas music, and that's why I take pains to assemble playlists thtat don't choke us with reindeer and the word "jolly." I've really enjoyed writing to them, so if you're looking for seasonal music to write to, feel free to take a peek. I hope everyone's having a great week, and will have an even better one coming up as we head into the end of ROW80, Round 4! (Can you believe it? That's a whole year of ROW80 for me!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Christmas Mixes, Vol. 3: Christmas Shopping Comedown

The malls are crowded, kids are screaming and Santa really needs a drink.
Yep. Sounds like a Christmas shopping day to me!
For those of you spending your weekend battling crowds and (heaven forbid) plotting your Coup de Last Tickle-Me-Elmo, here's a little something for when you get home. Grab your favorite beverage and chill.

'Cause Cheap is How I Feel (The Cowboy Junkies)
Violence in the Snowy Fields (Delorean)
The Fairest of the Seasons (Nico)
Cold Blue Halo (Jason Collett)
Snow Don't Fall (Townes Van Zandt)
Listening to Otis Redding at Home (Okkervil River)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Christmas Mixes, Vol. 2: Whether the Weather

The Weather That Won't Make Up Its Mind... So Neither Will I 

I like to think of this mix as background for one of those days during the holiday season when you're not quite stuck inside, but you decide to be, because the weather mostly sucks, but not debilitatingly so. (How's that for a run-on? And a made-up word?) It's time for coffee or cocktails- whichever you prefer- and warm blankets, eating just a bit too much, and (of course) a good book.

As for me, I'm reading Meg Cabot's Overbite, drinking a pumpkin spice latte (much like my protagonist, Caspia), and watching little plot bunnies scamper about the room. Also, I'm periodically shouting at the puppy to stay out of the Christmas tree, but that runs counter to the image I'm trying to paint. (Drop it, Shiloh. You cannot eat the ornaments!) Plus it highlights my weakness as a puppy owner. (Ok, whatever. Have a plastic one. Mommy's having a latte.)

1. Skating (Charlie Brown Christmas)
2. December (Teenage Fan Club)
3. Purple Snowflakes (Otis Redding)
4. Snow Day (Matt Pond)
5. The Winter is Coming (Guided By Voices)
6. Winter Wooskie (Belle and Sebastian)
7. Coats of Ice (Damien Jurado)
8. Hey Parker, It's Christmas (Ryan Adams)
9. Do You Realize? (The Flaming Lips)
10. Long As I Can See the Light (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

(Yes, I know they're misnumbered, hence the above list. Sorry.)