What’s Up Wednesday

WUWAutumnWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I still have 100 pages on Allegiant. I know, I know, I’ve been reading it for a week now. But last week I used it as a writing incentive and it worked so well, that I have stretched it out much longer than anticipated. I am feeling many things about this book. I am not sure I am really ready to write about any of it yet.

What I’m Writing

Oh, yeah, so I’ve been writing a lot. Using Allegiant as incentive, plus getting to scenes I was eager to write, plus gearing up for NaNoWriMo resulted in me adding 5,635 words to my WiP.

cheering

I’ve chosen this gif which best illustrates my feelings on that subject.

What Inspires Me

NaNoing. I am thrilled to be participating in NaNo this year. I am psyched. For those of you who don’t know me well, it is important to understand a very core principle about me in order fully grasp the depths at which this event can motivate me:

I am a pathologically competitive person.

iwin

Don’t take that to mean I have to win everything. I do not. I have to win things I should win. Losing something I should win creates a black hole inside me that only cookies can fill. For example: Harry Potter Trivia game; lose that and I die inside. Fantasy Football; if you can get me to sit still and watch a football game any bet hedged will be based solely on costume color. (Right, I said costume.)

Ultimately, my favorite competitor is myself. I am the one I most want to challenge, to trash talk, to provoke. NaNo is a fabulous competition because it isn’t a competition at all —not with other writers anyway — but a competition against your own procrastination and laziness.

Which leads to the truly inspiring aspect of NaNo: the community of writers participating, or spurring NaNo’ers on. I wrote this blog post on Monday that touches more deeply on my feelings. Just know, if we are NaNo buddies, I will be there beside you and will not allow you to wuss out. See above reference to my pathological competitive spirit. In the game of NaNo, we are on a team. And I want to win, and that means I want you to win too.

What Else I’m Up To

This weekend was hectic and filming filled. We shot our biggest sequence of scenes, at our most challenging location, with our most extras (all of the canine variety) and it was overwhelmingly smooth. The final shot of the day saw most of the crew in tears. When you have had something in your head for a long time, it is very easy to build it up to impossible to reach standards, so that when you finally see it played out, the result is anticlimactic. The cast and crew somehow made it even better than it was in my head.

bloody

This weekend is my birthday and our final day of shooting, and I am filled with nervous excitement.

November, where is your sting?

nano

The internet — or the section populated by aspiring and established writers — is abuzz with preparations for NaNoWriMo. For those who are not writers, let me explain. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it is about just that: Writing a novel, however bare bones it may be, in one month. 30 days. 50,000 words.

Last November I was gearing up for another edit on my as-yet to be published novel, Redhunt. November of last year was also the beginning of the end of my family’s time living in NYC. We were grappling with some tough decisions, decisions not really made any easier by my own internal struggle with a novel that had become a major thing in me and my life. Add in our souring relationship with a city that still held our attention, but not our best-interests, along with a  heaping amount of homesickness and the realization that home was decidedly different, and, well…you catch my drift.

Plus, my birthday is November 3rd. I am a person who lives in conflict with the day of their birth. I want the fact of my existence to be celebrated, but I don’t want to be confronted with the things left undone at the end of another year. I wasn’t always this way. In my teens and early 20s, I was actually quite the ambitious birthday haver. There was my 17th birthday, when I had an Academy Award themed costume party. Or my 24th when I threw a joint Murder Mystery Dinner Party with my birthday buddy Sam. But as my 20s have gone on, a switch has been flipped that makes my insides writhe in panic as my birthday approaches.

So, consequently, I usually approach November fighting anxiety armed with liquor and snark. I hide out or argue. I grumble. And all of this tends to last until I start getting excited about Thanksgiving, and pie, and family interactions out of a movie that have no actual bearing on reality or the family I really have. That leads right into more grumbling and usually extended Gilmore Girls viewing sessions and coffee spiked with Baileys.

All that, and it’s not even Christmas yet.

But not this year. In the throws of romancing a new novel, and in the thick of filming a short film, my usual moody, broody ugliness has become something different.

It has been a long time since I have been able to face November with more than a scowl and some empty threats. But as I, and the rest of the writing community gear up for NaNo, and November reminds me how I hate it and love it, threatening another Thanksgiving where I want to hide in the kids playroom with a bottle of whiskey and a puzzle, reminding me there is still no word on my novel, there is still no certainty that this year I will be braver, or smarter, or skinnier; I don’t flinch.

I make fake blood. I sew a coffin cover. I write 5,000 words in a week. I let anxiety settle around me, driving me forward not holding me back.

I realize I’m not alone. Not in wanting to be further along in my writing journey than I am. Not in dreading the last birthday in my 20s. Not in any of it.

Right now, writers all around the world are sitting at their computers, or are working at their day jobs, or are chasing their toddlers, and they are all feeling as wondrously uncertain and filled with anticipation as I. What NaNo reminds me of is that at the core of everything we do we nurture a simple, visceral need to connect. To know that this game is played by others. That we move along the road, not alone in our misery, not separate in our celebration, but as a part of the larger, the greater, the wider. That what we want is also what someone else wants. That what we see and feel, is felt by others.

Knowing we aren’t really alone in the struggle against sagging boobs and underachievement allows us to stop fighting the losing battle, and get to the one we can win. And so this year, November taunts, but I can’t hear her jeers over the sound of my writing playlist and encouragement from fellow writers huddled in the trenches beside me.

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWRocketWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

My Maggie Stiefvater induced book hangover lasted longer than I would have liked. To be honest, thoughts about The Dream Thieves still distract me from my normal routine. However, if anything could tempt me to move on from my revelry, it would be the hotly anticipated and massively popular (for good reason) Allegiant.

Reading Allegiant
Reading Allegiant

I don’t think I have to tell you guys who wrote it, or what I’m most looking forward to about reading it (Four/Tobias POV chapters), or why I am nervous about accidental spoiler reveals and not wanting it to be ruined for myself. I am not too far into the text, but it is already oddly bittersweet to know this book ends a trilogy that, in some very specific ways, was what made me certain I should be writing YA. I am nervous. Someone hold me.

What I’m Writing

When I finally reclaimed my week from Ravens, I was able to write, and I actually wrote quite steadily and with urgency, racking up a little over 3105 words. I am now anbit antsy to get to the coming scenes, which I have been looking forward to writing since I started. The tricky thing is deciding how exactly to layer the scenes in order to get the best possible result from what I have planned. As my CPs know, I enjoy inflicting pain, bewilderment, and swoons on my reader; the best scenes include all three.

(Insert Maniacal Laugh)

I have also been thinking about the sequel to my novel (hopefully someone else will see it’s a novel and be willing to rep it) Redhunt. That has brought up some emotional conflicts within myself that I am mulling. I have to take it slowly. I have to stop arguing with my MC, which goes something like this:

Me: You’re being withholding.

Her: You would be too.

Me: Not to my own brain.

Her: Agree to disagree.

Me: Don’t be cheeky, it’s not a good color on you.

Her: It’s better than the other option, which involves a screwdriver to your eye.

Me: That’s it, you are no longer allowed to speak. I’ll do the talking for you.

(I start typing. She fidgets, gets a snack, and begins chewing loudly in my ear.)

Me: This is hopeless.

Her: Finally, you see things my way. Lets burn the mother down.

(I begin to wonder if that thought came from me or her.)

What Inspires Me

Mumford & Sons created the soundtrack to Redhunt, they just aren’t aware. As I mull things and bicker with my MC, this song plays over and over in my head.

Take from that what you will.

Pics from my brother’s wedding because they remind me of Hawaii, and thanks to Hawaii I was inspired to write a new story. And finding this picture of me and my husband dancing was a happy surprise. Sometimes, when reading and writing other peoples love stories you can forget that you are telling a pretty fabulous one with your own life.

dancing

Talking to friends on Twitter. Jaime, host of this blog hop, and I had a particularly awesome chat about The Dream Thieves which confirmed our utter genius (or Maggie Stiefvater’s), and it helped me cope with my own lingering fears and concerns about that series. My CPs, who are all brilliant and funny, make me a better writer, and chatting with them gives me a happy Monday night. That God for Twitter, guys.

What Else I’m Up To

This weekend I had the immense honor and pleasure of being a bridesmaid in my author and close friend, Lindsay Cummings wedding. She is a joy. The wedding location was a rustic fairytale, nestled in the woods close to the barn where she boards her horse.

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Here’s to another fabulous, busy, busy bee of a week!

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWKiteWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Well. Let me paint you a little picture. Since last Wednesday I have finished A Game of Thrones (Triumph!), reread The Raven Boys (in about day and a half), and read The Dream Thieves (in less than a day). It was a stormy Monday and Tuesday in North Texas. I could, and maybe should, have written words of my own, but upon concluding A Game of Thrones (Hurrah! I loved it like a…everything coming to mind is offensive.) those roguish Raven boys started calling my name; their honeyed, moneyed Virginia twang tugging at my heartstrings like they were harp strings instead. While my son was in school, and storms crackled in the cloudy Texas sky, I just read. I read with abandon, my friends. I could hardly put the books down, and this after having previously read The Raven Boys earlier this year.

To say I enjoyed The Dream Thieves would be like saying I like whiskey. I savor whiskey. I tingle with whiskey. Whiskey and I are dear and long loyal friends. There is almost nothing I can do when reading any Maggie Stiefvater novel except feel completely and utterly other in my own life. Her book world is the real one, the laundry and dirty dishes that don’t do themselves, are the figment. I will at some point elaborate more eloquently about this book, for now I will say these statements:

1) This is Ronan’s book, and it is hard sometimes because of that, but as he is unflinching, so is the book, and in that something special happens.

2) It is hard to choose a Raven boy because they are a unit, though less of a unit in this book than the first.

3) If I had to choose, it would be Gansey. He is also the character I most identify with. Psychoanalysis unwelcome.

4) I want to read it again, but I want it to also be for the first time.

What I’m Writing

Wrote about 2,000 words on my WiP. I was sort of busy this weekend, and then, yeah, see above how two of my writing days were eaten by Ravens, so…but it’s OK. Today words will happen, and lots.

What Inspires Me

Maggie Stiefvater. Her brain is a complicated, magical, and probably very loud place— not unlike 300 Fox Way I think — and reading her books makes me jumpy with wanting. I am convinced she is the only person who can write the books she writes. I am also convinced she should teach me about cars. I also interacted with her on Twitter Tuesday, which was maybe the happiest I’ve ever been on Twitter and quite possibly the most deeply nerdy.

An interaction:

Words from an agent who passed on a partial. An agent who reps some pretty big deal authors. It was not a form rejection, which was made overwhelmingly evident, and so the compliment to both my writing talent and my storytelling ability were incredibly humbling. Passing on my MS was not yippee, but then, neither would be representation without certainty.

What Else I’m Up To

The usual:

Taking care of and spending quality time with my son.

My niece had her first birthday on Saturday, which was pumpkin themed and accompanied by delectable treats. There was this pumpkin mousse dip, and I just wanted to bathe in it.

The Cassie’s Cause crew filmed for eight hours (with lots of breaks and some major hiccups) on Sunday. But we got all the scenes, and these scenes are really some of the most crucial in the whole film. We are at our halfway mark. I may yet survive this.

My husband is in New York on business, my son goes to school, and I have decided I don’t think I should be left home alone. I get nothing accomplished.

To a productive, but not rigid, Wednesday!

The Garden Story

Can I have a bit of earth? To plant seeds in. To make things grow.

~Mary, The Secret Garden

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My mother is a gardener; not just for her own property, no, she manages a 2 acre garden she designed around the seven species of Israel, as well as runs a community garden, a newly planted vineyard, and consults in her increasingly sparse spare time.

But I remember her first as a storyteller.

She was the one who taught me that life is hard, often to a point of breaking you, but if you can tell a story with the pieces somehow you can again become whole. Her family was disassembled by alcoholism and ambition, and she won’t mind me telling you this, eventually suicide and incarceration. My father’s family had a similar tale, but set in the underbelly of East Texas, where gambling and White Lightening, loose women and horse races, lived side-by-side with Sunday school and church picnics.

For both of them, the journey to living their fullest life has been helped along by the telling of stories. The red in their ledger may always stand out, but by turning these marks into stories, they discovered that marks don’t have power at all.

I am not always one to look back, to be willing to say This is where I have been, and let me paint you the picture so you really understand. Sometimes this means I am also not always the best at staying in the moment. Some days, that merely is not acceptable.

I came to my mother’s Israel Prayer garden Thursday, today, or yesterday depending on when you read this — for lunch. I decided to sit in the same seat, with my fingers not typing at keys, and look around for a bit. I decided to listen closely to my mother, something I don’t always get to do now, because now is so full of planning for tomorrow.

I have this memory, and it is not from girlhood, but from young adulthood, which is why this memory is so sweet. When I was fourteen we lived in Colorado. On one side of our house soared Pikes Peak, on the other an evergreen forest that spread out for miles, the trees like little black spikes in the white earth and snow. Our house stood in the middle of nothing, and at night the winds would whip the wooden frame as if punishing it for doing something naughty.

Sometimes the winds were vicious when it wasn’t nighttime. This particular day was like that. I was supposed to be doing a book report, but the book I had chosen (adult literary fiction I picked for the pretty cover) was boring me to tears. I eased up from the couch to watch the trees sway with the onslaught of angry wind, and saw my mother, also reading, in a chair by the fireplace. I began to stare at her. She proceeded to ignore me. I eventually got up, crawled across the floor to her, and sat beside her feet.

“Tell me a story,” I said.

“Aren’t you reading?” she asked, not looking up from her book, which must have been much more interesting than mine.

“I’m done,” I lied. Her eyebrow shot up in disbelief. “For now. Tell me about your high school.”

My mother had many stories about her high school; a drafty old stone building in New England, built sometime after Jesus was born but before The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show. I knew the stories well. They involved a secret passage and her best friend Dickie — who I realize now, I totally shipped her with at the time — and troublemaking, because my mom was ever the redheaded troublemaker, and I loved them all.

She closed her book, leaving her finger pressed inside so I knew she was still halfway living in her book, and only partly entertaining my whimsy.

“Ok…”

And she did.

Not all of her stories were as happy as the high school ones. In fact, some were desperately dark. But I didn’t realize that when I was young. I didn’t see the sadness in her eyes when she told me how her older sister had to bake her birthday cake one year — creating a disaster that could only be remedied by chocolate and Coca-Cola— because her mom was too drunk to get out of bed. My mother and her sister eventually went to live with their aunt and uncle in New Hampshire after their father’s death, and their mother was deemed unfit.

My mother’s life changed forever that day, as life tends to do when you lose the one person you were supposed to have forever.

It took me years of listening to her stories to see the message hidden amongst the antics; the lessons she was teaching me about loyalty or honor, friendship or character. The lessons that I would later try to teach my own son by recounting my darkly colorful tales. Without much effort, my mother — or my father, or my uncle, who tells stories that will make you want to find Jesus— managed to form me into one who, not only seeks the stories herself, but places value on the intangible power words can have on molding ones character.

As I sat in the garden, inhaling the scent of fresh blossoming roses, lavender and rosemary mingling together in the cool autumn breeze, I watched my mother work, and I couldn’t help but observe the story she wove there with her shovel and wheelbarrow full of dirt. She pulled out dead plants, or the unruly grass. She turned the soil, pacing around it, rake in hand, plotting the most perfect way to fill the space. She planned, but she also attacked, knowing this task is as much about the known, as the unpredictable.

She doesn’t write like she used to, and now the telling of her stories are for the grandkids nestled on her lap, and not the daughter grown and writing her own. But the knowledge that the vulnerable is also the powerful, that the story appears almost anywhere and everywhere all at once, and with it comes a glimmer of mischief to attack it like a plot of untilled earth; that never goes away. It has evolved into earth filled days and nights laying awake pondering the perfect placement of a group of bushes and some ornamental grass.

It still teaches me, molding me somehow just by the act of her doing it. She’s still telling me her story, and it still helps me find mine.

What’s up Wednesday

WUW7What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I am tantalizingly close to the end of A Game of Thrones. I’m nearing all the craziness that made season one of the show mind-bendingly fabulous, and in book form, it’s even more gut-wrenching. Experiencing the events that surround and propel the shocking ending, again and this time up close and trapped in my brain, is amazing. I haven’t had much time to read this week, but when I have I am happy to say I’m zooming through pages. The first season of the show followed the book almost to the letter, which is really a triumph. I will be finished before the end of the week.

Next up, rereading The Raven Boys and then jumping into The Dream Thieves. So, I have a lot to look forward to over the next couple of weeks.

What I’m Writing

My WiP has made a play for my heart, and it is winning. Last week, even with exhaustion looming and laundry replicating as if supernaturally fueled, I wrote. A lot. 4,150 words. I was proud and pleased with this progress. The best part was, these scenes are stepping stones to the next big moment in the story, which I’m happy to say I stand in front of now. Making good progress on scenes that aren’t overwhelmingly exciting to write (read: no kissing, no fights, no deaths) gives me warm fuzzies. I think this book is going to be a winner.

What Inspires Me

This article about five Hawaiian words and their deep meanings. Hawaiian language is fascinating. With no root in Latin, like most language, the foundation for the language is much more about the emotion behind the word, how it is said, and how it is interpreted. Language is linked inextricably to the Hawaiian people, and is both firmly rooted, as well as fluid and moving. There is a lyrical, magical quality to the way they speak. 

Working with my CP’s on their books. I won’t say that I am fabulous at giving writing advice because mostly I give advice like I write: from the gut. Not traditional, but sometimes a different method of attack is just what you need. Plus, the more I get to know other writers, the better writer I become.

The cast and crew of Cassie’s Cause. We filmed Saturday for most of the day. At one point, the Editor, the PA’s and I verbally wrote a Middle Grade book we’ve tentatively titled Hawkland. I ran stop signs and proved why I’m not a role model, which seemed to only make me more exciting to the fourteen and sixteen year old actors in my car. I helped the Director uncover his true nature with the mysterious power of his star sign, and the footage from our first two weekends of shooting is fabulous. 

As with my CP’s, being surrounded by talented and creative people ready for anything, forces me to constantly up my game and never rest on my laurels.

What Else I’m Up To

Juicing. I stole my mom’s underused juicer a couple weeks ago, and Monday I finally got around to using it. My son is particularly fond of it as well, and enjoys coming up with “formulas” for mixing.

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Bachelorette Party. My gorgeous, author friend Lindsay Cummings is getting married in a couple of weeks. I have grown to love and respect her over the last six months of getting to know her, and I was excited to celebrate her impending doom.

(Most photographic evidence of this evening is not approved for general audiences.)

An approved photo.
An approved photo.

Happy Wednesday to all!

Conversations with my Husband

Daenerys-Targaryen-Jon-Snow-game-of-thrones-33910369-500-300

Me trying to justify my ridiculous crush on Jon Snow to my husband:

ME: So, I told them that my crush on Jon Snow was made exponentially more intense because he reminds me of you. (smiles unconvincingly) I mean, if there was ever a character that was like you, it would for real be Jon Snow.

HUSBAND: (eyeing me suspiciously) If I’m Jon Snow, are you Ygritte?

ME:(being thoughtful) Erm…not likely. I don’t fancy myself North of the Wall. I’m Dany.

(He laughs outright.)

ME: (scoffing in offense) Hear me out. She’s got a strong sense of justice, but not necessarily right and wrong. Totally me. She’ll do whatever is necessary to get where she needs to go. (Points to self) And…

HUSBAND: She’s got a dragon.

ME: (eyes widen) She’s got a dragon. (Pauses, thinks about Dragon babies) Plus, she’s hot.

(Husband questions, not for the first time in our marriage, why he puts up with me.)