Friday, December 19, 2014

Talking to dogs...

Things you'll probably never say unless you have a puppy...

1. Stop trying to eat your foot!
(Poor guy got his nail stuck on his cage and ripped half of it off and it had to be bandaged, which he kept trying to get off!) 

2. No I don't want doggy kisses! 

3. Quick trying to eat my hair!

4. Stop biting the Christmas tree!

5. Toes are not chew toys!

6. Are you eating leaves? 

7. Can you please do your business without stepping in it immediately after?

8. Why are you shoving your face down the back of the couch?

9. Seriously? You just peed five seconds ago!

10. Don't eat rocks!

In all fairness...

I have said a few of these to my kids, too, but still. Puppies certainly are an adventure!

Friday, December 12, 2014

NextGen Readers

It seems like I hear comments about how readers are a dying breed fairly often. I don't know that I believe that. Maybe we just need to expand our definition of what makes a reader

During the school year, myself and two of my writing besties, Amanda Strong and Gail Wagner, do school presentations and we ask the kids how many of them like to read. 

The first round of hands is usually fairly small, unless we're in an advanced or accelerated reader class. Then we have to clarify. Reading isn't just novels. Reading can be comics, nonfiction, graphic novels, textbooks, news, magazines...

More hands pop up, and their interest piques when they realize we're not criticizing them for not necessarily loving to read Twilight or Hunger Games. Any form of reading is awesome. It expands your mind, teaches you, and helps you see more than just the world around you. That can be accomplished with pretty much any form or reading. 

I'd also like to add audiobooks to that list. 

Audiobooks are something my family likes to listen to on road trips. Usually it's nonfiction, like the amazing narrative nonfiction book, Unbroken, which is being made into a movie next year. If you haven't read/listened to it, please do. It's an amazing story. 

My eight-year-old daughter recently discovered that audiobooks aren't limited to long car rides. She asked if she could listen to an audiobook on my phone the other night, and she's hooked! Her first solo audiobook was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is only about 15 minutes and she didn't understand a lot of it, but I only had a few on my phone the moment she asked. 

Next try at audiobooks was Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Long Haul. She finished listening in two days and immediately wanted more. Now she's listening to Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. That one will take her a little while! 

Her discovery that audiobooks exist for young readers has interrupted our Anne of Green Gables nightly reading, but I'm okay with that. Not because I don't love Anne, because I do, but because this is the first time my daughter has really wanted to read on her own. It's always been something she only asked to do at night before bed, like it was weird to read any other time! 

Now, she wants to grab her audiobook whenever she has free time, and I want to encourage that as much as possible. 

Readers aren't a dying breed, we just need to accept the fact that reading comes in lots of different forms and encourage learning and exploring no matter what format piques young readers' minds. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Everything looks perfect from far away

I enjoy listening to music while I write, and I've been listening to my I Heart Radio station for Hozier lately. "Take Me To Church" is an amazing song, btw, but it was actually a different song that caught my attention recently. 

A line from and Iron & Wine song, Such Great Heights, had one line that really stuck with me and got me thinking. 

What was the line? 

"Everything looks perfect from far away."

Not only did I find this to be rather poetic in the overall concept of the song, it struck me how true it is, and how common of a theme this is in Young Adult literature. I think this is something pretty much everyone has experienced in life. On one side of the coin or the other. 

How many times have you looked at someone and thought their life seemed so perfect? It's not, of course. No one's is. But it looks perfect from where you're standing. Maybe that inspires you, maybe it makes you jealous, but either way it has an effect on you in most cases. 

But what about being on the other side? Things may be going well for you, or your life might just appear to be raining down gumdrops and lollipops. Other people see what they perceive your life to be and have those same reactions of jealousy, indifference, or inspiration to do better. 

Those reactions can have a lasting effect on a person no matter what side of this line you're on. Being judged, knowing you're being judged, can make you want to shout at people that things aren't what they seem. Maybe you're struggling with some serious issues and nobody knows. Perhaps your world is falling apart and there's no one there to help because everyone thinks you've got it all together. And if you're the one looking on and letting your perceptions run away from you, it can either get you moving on a better path or drag you down into bitterness. 

This happens with adults on a regular basis, but these types of perceptions are often dealt with in YA because not only are emotional reactions strongly reacted to with teens, YA characters are brash and make stupid decisions and fall apart over something that shouldn't have been that significant all the time. YA is all about figuring out your place in the world, and we try to puzzle it out by comparing ourselves to other way too much. 

For some, they realize the futility of constant comparison as they age. Some never do, and it shows. Take a page out of your favorite YA/coming of age novel and experience lives you'll likely never live. Learn from their experiences and failures, and then do your best not to repeat them. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, you get to experience a hundred lives outside your own. Science even backs up the idea that kids and teens who read are more well-rounded and empathetic. 

Don't fall into the trap of thinking everyone has it better than you. Most likely, they're struggling with the same things you are and being a source of support rather than someone else trying to tear a person down will make a difference in your life and theirs. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Surviving November... #nanowrimo

For anyone who participates in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), they know how crazy hectic November can be for a writer. This year was no different, of course!

This is where it all starts, signing up for NaNo, putting in all your info and telling yourself your going to spend the month working on ONE book until you hit 50,000 words. 

For me, sticking with one book for an entire thirty days is nearly impossible. I've yet to make it through NaNo without cheating and taking some time off to write something else. 

This year was no different! 

The official project I uploaded to NaNo was INVINCIBLE, because my poor Wattpad readers have been begging me to finish it. Yes, they think an author can produce a book in a week, and they are teenagers who tend to be a little impatient, but I still love them :) 

My goal was to have Invincible finished by November, 30th, which meant writing about 65,000 words in FOUR weeks. I'm a fast writer, so I figured this was doable. What I didn't count on was my usual writer's block-inspiring fear of finishing a series added in with family, work commitments, and a funeral this November. 

I get so anxious about wrapping up a series, hoping I didn't forget anything important, double checking to be sure I didn't leave anything out, making sure I wrapped up all the lingering questions, and just plain making sure the ending doesn't SUCK! As you can probably guess, feeling like this makes me not want to touch my manuscript with a ten-foot pole. Makes writing a little bit hard. 

So, what do I do normally? Work on something else until I mellow out and quit being a spaz. 


Yeah, I still did it. Completely unable to focus on Invincible, I switched to a new project I'm working on, my first New Adult novel, THE GHOST HOST. Before the start of NaNo I had maybe 10k words written on TGH, and had dutifully abandoned it for NaNo and my poor Wattpad readers. I got about three chapters written on Invincible before I just had to step away and work out my weird issues. 

I spent the first two weeks of NaNo writing TGH, and finally hit a wall where I needed to stop and think about things 55k words later. So, I had already hit my NaNo goal, but on the WRONG BOOK! 

Maybe that part doesn't really matter since I was writing, and that's the whole point of NaNo, but I still had my Wattpad readers to pacify since I had PROMISED to finish Invincible by the end of the month and have it ready for publishing by Christmas. 

So, back to work! 

I had already had Invincible planned out on a couple dozen sticky notes, so that wasn't the issue. It was making sure this series that has been read several million times on Wattpad (literally) wouldn't disappoint the dedicated fans who have stuck by me since last October when Invisible first popped up on everyone's news feeds on Wattpad. How could I let down all the Robin-haters and Olivason-ship fans who were dying to know what happened in the end and whether Mason and Olivia would be able to stay together? 

I had to get writing. 

As I do with housework and errands, I bribed myself. Seriously. It wasn't chocolate this time. Normally that does the trick. So long as it the good chocolate. No, this time, I told myself I wasn't allowed to watch even a single episode of Supernatural until Invincible was finished, and I couldn't read the Denise Grover Swank book all my friends have been telling me I HAVE to read. (Okay, I cheated on both of those toward the end, but shhhhh!) 

To really get myself moving, I posted it publicly that I'd be releasing Invincible by Christmas Eve. Facing angry teens from all over the world if I failed finally got me motivated and broke past my end-of-the-series anxiety. 

So long story not so short, I hit 50k words on Invincible by November 28th. I missed my self-imposed deadline of Nov 30th to finish the book by two days and Finished on Dec 2nd, but I was pretty close, so I'm calling it a win. As depicted below :) 

So...the plan...

Right now I'm working on editing Invincible and I plan to have it up for pre-order by December 12th, with the final release on Christmas Eve, because...that just seemed appropriate! 

Merry Christmas to all my "Invisible" fans. You guys are awesome and I'm so thankful for all your support with this series. The final chapter of Mason and Olivia's story will be arriving for Christmas this year. I hope you enjoy it!