Currently…

I’m participating in this blog hop thing my friend and fellow 2017 debut Katy Upperman has been doing for a while, which originated here. Check it out if you’re interested and join in whenever you like. And if you do, feel free to leave the link in my comments. I’ll pop over to your blog to see what you’re currently into!

Loving

I started working out again, and while I haven’t cut out wine completely, it feels really good to be back at it. I started using PiYo this week, thanks to an awesome friend who is a trainer, and my whole body is pissed off about it. Good times, you guys. Exercise is hard, but I feel like as a rule health is an important thing to invest in.

Reading

I’m reading the amazing YA debut The Island by Olivia Levez, about a young criminal girl marooned on a desert island. And it’s bold and stunning, but a bit of a nail biter. It’s a UK release, so right now we here in the States can only get it in ebook, but it releases in the US in September! Add it to your TBR, like, now! I’m also beta reading the YA WiP by my bestie Lindsay Cummings and holy moly you guyzzzz! I have all the heart eyes.

Watching

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If you ever wonder what benefits there are to having children— besides, you know, tax breaks and someone to look after you when you’re old— getting to introduce them to your favorite childhood films is high up there. We watched The Sandlot with my son this week. He giggled and howled, nervously asked questions, grabbed my hand with anticipation, and we shared a story that greatly influenced my childhood and has become legend in American pop culture. At least, to me. And now, to him.

Listening To

I’ve been listening to a lot of Pokemon theme music with my son. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I throughly enjoy it. I know, you’re totally thinking, why, Rebekah, why would you share this with us? If you ever take the time to listen to the lyrics of the seasons one and three (Pokemon: Indigo League and Pokemon: The Johto Journeys) theme songs, and you can set aside the fact that these songs are about the pokemon life and not real life then you might find you’re like me. You might find you occasionally tear up because you too want to be the very best

 

Thinking About

My time away at Djerassi with Nova Ren Suma and eight other brilliant YA writers. I love my home, and my family, and I had work to come back to and life to submerge in, but it was hard to let go of the world we created there with each other, the quiet I found in my own head, and the words that flowed from it. Djerassi is a place where your creative spirit can roam free, and mine did. That freedom brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings, and when I had to harness myself again in the real world, I struggled. Still am, almost a week later. Djerassi is not the real world, it is a cocoon and so it makes sense that it hurt me to leave it. I am grateful for that time, and I think it was just what I needed.

Anticipating

The North Texas Teen Book Festival April 23rd!! I get to moderate two (two!!!) panels featuring AMAZING authors and that is all I can say about it right now so don’t ask. Subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter or Facebook for updates! *nervous jitters commence*

Wishing 

You guys would pop over to Goodreads and add my swoony, murdery upcoming YA fantasy novel set in a magical world inspired by Hawaii, Of Blood and Promises, to your to-be read list. It would make me feel things if you did.

Making Me Happy

Remembering our trip to LA with my son for Spring Break. I went from LA to Djerassi. From one beautiful series of days to another. I made memories with these humans that will stay with me forever. I got to introduce my son to Chewie and Space Mountain, to Santa Monica Pier, and my brilliant friend Alex’s cats Gatsby and Daisy, and every moment was joy making.

 

 

That Time I Signed With A Literary Agent

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I’m going to tell you a story about a girl.

Two years ago, she had a dream she was moving to London. She woke up from the dream the next morning in Texas. She had coffee. She told her husband the dream. She always forced him to listen to her dreams in case he could make any sense of them. Yes, she was one of those people. In the dream she had been nervous to go, she had been aware it was a big deal, and a part of something even bigger. Her husband played her the Third Eye Blind song “London” to irritate her. They daydreamed for a while about a reality in which they could move to London— what that would feel like, how that would ever happen.

The girl also decided to research London literary agents because she was a writer in search of a champion, and partner, for her books.

Two years ago that girl reached out to one of them.

I am telling you that story so you understand the rest. Two years ago, I — the girl — came downstairs again and told my husband the literary agent I’d queried wanted to read my book.

Today, that agent announced she’d signed me.

What happened in between?

I grew as a writer, to start. I worked hard. I learned more about craft and story. I wrote another book. I revised and revised, and then when I was done revising, I waited. I studied screenwriting and learned skills I needed to become a better writer still. I was angry, and then I was nothing for a long time, but still I believed it was worth it to keep trying.

I stayed in touch with the literary agent from London because I liked her, maybe even a little because she was from the UK and I love the UK, and also because she’d seen promise in me early on and it had helped me through the struggle.

I revised the book again.

And Clare Wallace, the literary agent from London, gave my book another look. And when she offered me representation, I knew even if I wasn’t moving to London (just yet), my book hopefully was.

I am telling you this because many of you are in the trenches. Many feel hopeless, are hearing no, are wondering when, if, that yes will ever come. If my own journey taught me anything it is this: yes comes unexpectedly, it comes in waves and it comes in whispers, and it comes when you keep going no matter what.

This is a long game. We play it as long as we have the courage to keep getting back up after we’ve been knocked down. So keep your courage, don’t be afraid to try the unusual thing on your path, or to listen to the wish your heart made when you were fast asleep. It might be the very thing you need to break out.

To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird was the first book that was all mine.

I had always been a reader. As a little girl, I’d read Caddie Woodlawn, and Pollyanna, and had Charlotte’s Web and A Wrinkle in Time read aloud to me. And others, of course, and more than I will name here. When I was eleven years old, I found a VHS copy of the movie To Kill a Mockingbird in my parents movie closet. I wanted to watch it, and my mom said no. Not until I read the book. She went to the store and bought a purple trade paperback edition and presented it to me that night.

I was eleven, this was a big book. An undertaking. I set about conquering that mammoth, even so. I read in the car. I read at the park. I read at church and in the tree in front of my house. I finished it on my bed, late at night, with tears in my eyes. I sunk from the edge of the bed to the ground and wept, and hugged it close, and got the edges of the pages all messed up with my salty tears.

I would never be the same.

I reread it a handful of times over the next few years. I got in fights with people in my Texas town that still used the N word because now I understood where that word came from, what that word meant, and why it was wrong. To Kill a Mockingbird taught me that.

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I moved away from Texas at thirteen and started to eighth grade in a small town in Colorado nestled between the Rocky Mountains and an evergreen forest. The day before I started school — friendless, ill-equipped to navigate this new environment — I met my English teacher at the open house. Her name was Mrs. Collette. She was a tiny white woman with wisps of blonde hair and shiny blue eyes. She asked me if I was a reader. I told her my favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird, in fact I had it in my backpack to come with me to school. I felt safer with it. Like I had a friend.

Mrs. Collette, it turned out, was also friends with Scout and Jem. We had that in common. And until I was ready to make new friends, she let me sit in her classroom at lunch and grade papers, talk books, talk writing. Mrs. Collette saw potential in me, in the way I put words together, and even though I was terrified, she encouraged me to be brave.

To Kill a Mockingbird made that happen.

Harper Lee made that happen.

Today, Harper Lee left this world. She moved on to the next adventure, a greater adventure than this one. She changed my life with her words, and forever, I’m in debt to the bravery it took to write a book that was dangerous, but necessary. I’m thankful, forever, that she did.

 

Finding Why: in Life and in Fiction

There is nothing wrong with being an ambitious woman. No matter what sexism and misogyny tells you. No matter what other women might say to your face or behind your back. Your place is wherever you feel right — it may not be in the home, the kitchen, the office, the schools.

But I have to admit, even though I know this is true — I live and breathe this mindset – lately, I’m struggling to find the why of my ambition. And I need to explore that, because as a writer, knowing why is where you start. In story, WHY is better known as MOTIVE or GOAL. It is the driving force behind the protagonists struggle forward. It is what keeps the main character fighting when all the odds are stacked against them, when everything seems lost, when finally they have their big chance.

It’s no surprise to me that I am also struggling to find the why for my main character at the moment. That sounds about right, since life imitates art, art imitates life, and both myself and this shiny new character need to get to the true motive for our actions.

Earlier this year I started a YouTube channel(Books, Booze and Bitches, for anyone interested). At first it was very loose, free — just a thing my sister and I were doing to chronicle our adventure to Comic-Con. It was a release and escape from the pressing matter of what the hell am I doing in my life and career. And it was FUN. It was MINE. Anyone could watch and like or dislike, but they weren’t in control of it. And for someone trying to make it in both publishing and film, two highly-competitive, highly-controlled fields, having my own thing was like growing wings.

But then I got ambitious. I wanted it to grow wings, too. It was fine, I said, to want more from this thing than just an outlet. I could do well on YouTube. It could explode. But then it stopped being quite so fun. I started getting pissed if everyone didn’t watch, and then I started getting sick of it a little.

Ambition has tried to rob me of the fun of creative pursuit. YouTube is not the first near victim. Earlier this year I wrote about my anger toward the publishing industry, how it was killing my desire to write, ruining my stories, and giving me wrinkles. I wrote about how I was going to take a step back so I could rediscover the reason I loved writing books.

Hint: it’s not about a book deal. That is insignificant to the love of writing. The magic is in creation. If you ever think you do a thing for money or acclaim, that thing will end up souring before you can ever savor it.

Last night, after I posted my video to YouTube and Facebook, I didn’t feel happy to have it out in the world. I felt irritated. I felt like I was screaming in a room full of people and somehow no one could hear me. Because even though it always gets views, I can’t figure out how to WIN. I want to conquer the Internet. I want to crack the code to success.

But WHY? What am I hoping to achieve from YouTube? Or writing, really? What am I doing it for? I sat on my couch last night and I couldn’t even answer that question. What, existentially, the hell do I want?

On the surface, of course I want publication, or my screenplay made into a film, I want to entertain people through YouTube, and somewhere not too far below the surface, I want validation and acceptance of my creativity.

What do I have to prove? As competitive as I am (do not play me in a board game, I will crush you), I don’t care about being the best. I like to win, but my definition of winning has nothing to do with other people. I care about being the best version of me. I don’t compare myself to others often. I compare myself to the woman I think I should be by now. I look at how successful I believe myself capable, and I shoot for more. I’m not happy if I’m not winning against me.

But I will never begrudge another person’s success. I will never be jealous. I will always support someone I believe in. I’m a Gryffindor, Loyalty and Chivalry are kind of our thing.

When you’re writing a story, you always start on the surface. Getting to know a character is like getting to know another human being. You ask them questions, and they give you true but shallow answers. The reason your character MUST survive the Hunger Games cannot be just because she doesn’t want to die. That is primal, and truthful, but it is not deep. Now, winning so she can give her sister a better life, that sells. That is something we as feeling people empathize with.

You don’t reach your goal because of external wants. You reach your goal because inside you have something worth fighting for.

So…what is my WHY?

I am compelled to be more than I was yesterday. I am fighting for success, but I am also striving for excellence. I need to show my son he can WIN if he never gives up. I need to prove to my nieces that bravery is just as important as beauty. I need to prove to the little girl that had the dream to become something when she grew up that she is something already.

In the story of your life, you must be the hero. You must define for yourself what your goal is, and you must make a promise to fight through all the obstacles until you get there.

Find WHY and your character, yourself, can win it all.

Book-to-Film Adaptations

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Book-to-film adaptations are all the rage right now in Hollywood. Thanks in large part to the shaky economy, purchasing an already established brand and turning it into a film has become the go to. A few years ago, when I had a new baby and a new screenplay completed, I received some very valuable advice from a producer.

“You can’t sell this,” she said. “It’s wonderful, but impossible to sell on spec in this market. And it will only get worse.” She went on to suggest I produce the film myself, or adapt it into a novel and try to break into publishing. “It’s easier to secure financing that way.”

The amount of books to be adapted to films, or miniseries, or television shows, has sky rocketed. And so has the amount of horribly done adaptations. For every good film version of a beloved novel, there are three bad ones.

So, what is it that makes a book adaptation worthy? Many producers would say a massive audience and a high-concept. Let’s examine some great adaptations and see what made them so flippin’ fabulous beyond a huge readership and potential for merchandising and attempt to riddle out the answer.

 The Lord of the Rings – Author J.R.R. Tolkien, Director/Writer Peter Jackson

It is my personal opinion that high fantasy epics work well as big budget films. The world building in fantasy novels is a veritable playground for special effects masters, the clothing a joy for costume designers, and the sweeping plots and complex characters a banquet for actors. Lord of the Rings worked because the filmmaker made a movie based on the books, but didn’t try to transcribe what can only be achieved in prose onto the screen. Where some movie adaptations struggle is trying to stick too closely to the source material.

Unpopular opinion time — I like my adaptations to be an interpretation. No one can create the world from your imagination perfectly on screen, no actor can satisfy everyone’s image of an adored character. Great adaptations are one filmmaker’s impression of a work, not everyone’s.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Author Harper Lee, Director Robert Mulligan

What makes To Kill a Mockingbird a wonderful adaptation is the way they streamlined the plot lines. The film is condensed, as it must be, but manages to hold onto the big plot points without feeling awkward because they shifted the perspective.

News flash about the difference between a film and a novel: books can have a first-person POV, films cannot. The problem with many adaptations of YA novels, and main reason I believe a film can feel jarring when you’ve experienced the story through the protagonist’s internal monologue, is the shift from first to third person. To Kill a Mockingbird did a beautiful job giving the film a “voice” like Scout, by using music and perspective shifts — namely bringing Jem, her brother, more into the forefront — to tell the story in a broader way.

Pride and Prejudice — Author Jane Austen, Director Many British Guys

Pride and Prejudice has been reimagined not only in film, but as retellings in literary form as well. The reason this book is so popular to adapt is threefold:

First, the story is simple. On the page there are no big fight scenes or need for CGI — yes, I haven’t forgotten what I said about those things earlier — so the budget for these films can be small or huge depending on the production value desired.

Second, the story is so famous that no matter how many times they remake it we will still go see it. Seriously, remake it again, only this time with cyborgs. Money in the bag, friends.

Third, and most importantly, the narrative tone is easy to capture through dialog and expression; therefore, you don’t lose the quality of the novels prose when you translate the story to film.

Enjoy your favorite adaptation today, and please, share in comments what you think makes a book-to-film worth viewing.

The Terrible Titles Blog Hop

I’ve been tagged by the English Badass Liz Parker in the Terrible Titles Blog Hop. Here’s how it works:

Writers scroll through their MS and let their cursor fall on random places. Those words or phrases become the new, terrible title for their manuscript. I’m scrolling through my manuscript Of Blood and Promises.

Shall we begin?

1. We Dance Soon

2. Their Blood has Weakened Us

3. I Want to Keep My Mouth Shut

4. Blood Stains Her Skin

5. The Light From Their Flames

6. I Will Never Leave You

7. This Sea of Unknown Depths

8. She Will Never be Mine

Hahahaha! I think maybe the one I chose is best. What do you think? I’m going to tag my CPs Susan Crispell, Jess Fonseca and Courtney Howell.

A Glimpse at The Truth About Alice Book Launch

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The Truth About Alice is…you will have to read the book to find out. Here is the  description to wet your appetite.

Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.

~ Goodreads

On May 30th, 2014 a crowd of eager readers, writers, friends, colleagues and family members crowded into the Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX to buy a copy of this beautiful novel and congratulate Jennifer Mathieu on the singular achievement of debuting as an author.

I am not local to Houston, but after connecting with Jennifer last fall at Austin Teen Book Fest and becoming friends, I was thrilled to drive down for the book launch and do my part to promote her fabulous work. I received an ARC of the book from Macmillan back in March and devoured my copy in less than a day. The voices and subject matter gripped me from the first line, but it was the desire to uncover Alice’s truth, or to come to an agreement with her that the truth could never fully be ascertained, that pushed me forward at such a manic pace.

By the show of support at the bookstore that Friday night, I was not the only one rabid to get my hands on a copy. The store was packed to the brim.

A look at the crowd
A look at the crowd

Jennifer opened the evening by giving thanks to her husband for encouraging her on the long road to publication, for being her partner and her friend, and for taking care of their son when she needed “just a few hours to write.” She went on to talk about that journey, which was not short nor smooth — as the road to publication rarely is — and cheering others in pursuit to keep on.

She discussed the hot button issue that is the driving force in the plot, but said she didn’t set out to write the “slut-shaming” book. She wanted to write about a girl who was ostracized in a small town, and she wanted to work in multiple points of view. Jennifer closed by reading a small snippet from one of the four POVs — and my very favorite character — Kurt. During the reading, it was evident by glancing at the faces around me that I was not alone in being totally in love. In feeling and swooning and dying for more.

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Which is exactly why you should pick up your own copy as soon as possible. This book is wildly entertaining, but beyond its readability, it carries a weight and relevance that makes it a can’t miss read, no matter your age or walk of life.

Jennifer Mathieu 300dpi, credit George HixsonJennifer Mathieu started writing stories when she was in kindergarten and now teaches English to middle and high schoolers. She lives in Texas with her husband, her son, her dog, and two cats. Nothing bad has ever been written on the bathroom stall about Jennifer. At least she doesn’t think so. This is Jennifer’s debut novel.

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Check out the other stops on the tour if you haven’t already! And Macmillan has put together some fun Instagram videos you should definitely watch and share. They can be viewed here and here!