Sunday, September 29, 2013

A New Change

Like Emma, I have had the hardest time choosing something to write about with this ‘new’ theme for the month, which is actually a very broad topic. In fact, I started two different posts, one about new ideas and being easily distracted by them, and the other about new music to inspire my writing. However, I was unable to finish either post, and being that my designated post date has arrived, I’m opting instead to write about a new change in my life: we’re moving into a new house.

We've lived in the same house for over three years now and due to unexpected circumstances, we are making a local move in just a few short weeks. And you know what? I’m excited! Yes, it’s stressful and crazy and time consuming, but all in a good way in the long run. It will be a new house, a new town, and a new setting. We can all use a good change once in a while, right?

This new house is country living, which is a stark contrast to our current house in a busy neighborhood only a mile and a half out of the city’s center. It’s a two-story farmhouse set on a beautiful piece of property that looks out over a large field behind the house. We can have chickens. In fact, the people who previously resided there had chickens and sheep. We can breathe in that fresh country air without having to worry about a neighbor’s smoking interfering with our outdoor plans. And we can sit in our living room and admire the way the old wooden ceiling beams give it that extra rustic feel. It’s perfect for us and I couldn't be happier with our choice in a new house, the setting, or the town.

But you know what I’m really looking forward to? Having that peacefulness of living in the middle of nowhere and what that can do for my writing. I revel in that peacefulness. It’s calming and refreshing. It has a way of clearing my mind, which can only help when all those characters are chattering away and plot twists are making me dizzy.

These last couple weeks I've been pretty stressed about the idea of moving and the seemingly endless amount of packing and cleaning that must be done. But the more I really think about it, the more I cannot wait. When all is said and done, I’m looking forward to sitting on the back deck while my kiddos and dogs chase each other around the backyard and I can just let my mind wander until it stumbles upon something marvelous and I just have to write about it. Maybe a new house, a new setting, a new change will be the perfect thing for me--and my writing--right now.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Adult Fiction!

The theme this month is ‘new’, a fairly broad theme…and I still managed to get stuck. New ideas, new projects…they’ve already been written about. I racked my brains and came up with something that had been staring at me in the face the whole time – New Adult fiction!

It’s funny, I’d never heard of the term “New Adult” until after I’d already finished the first draft of Darkness Watching, and I couldn’t believe that I’d unknowingly been writing it all along! I always intended to set the book at a university, although I did worry – often - that no agents would accept it as young adult fiction due to the protagonists being aged 18 and over. But then I read a blog post that said New Adult was ‘in’. Although most of the recent successes have been in the contemporary romance genre, the category could be applied to any novel with a young adult protagonist at the stage in their life where they’re legally an adult, but not necessarily ready for a completely adult life. Generally they’re studying at university or college, but this isn’t always necessarily the case.

I can kind of see where the contention is, because everyone matures differently. There are people who marry at eighteen and have kids by the time they’re in their twenties. There are people who start work immediately upon leaving school, which in the UK can be as young as sixteen. There are people who travel before starting a career, people who become permanent students and do Masters courses and PHDs and become lecturers…etc. There isn’t one path in life, which is why some people think of it as an attempt by publishers to lump everything and anything into categories –and after all, adults make up over 50% of the audience for young adult fiction. So is ‘New Adult’ necessary?

I personally think it’s a great idea – more than a marketing brand! It defines the period in your adult life where you don’t know what you’re doing with your life – true enough, not everyone experiences it the same way, but very few people know their set path in life at eighteen. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by people suffering from life crises right now – two months after graduating from university! College or university has been compared to an extended childhood, where you’re an adult without the responsibilities that come with having a full time job, or a house, or a family. It’s about finding yourself. For many, it’s the time of their first meaningful relationship, which is perhaps why contemporary romances such as Losing It by Cora Carmack and Easy by Tammara Webber are proving such a hit in the category. But I think there’s definitely scope for other genres in there, too. For instance, Strength by Carrie Butler is a new adult paranormal romance set at college, whilst Stitch by Samantha Durante at first seems to be a college-set paranormal story about a ghost – until a jaw-dropping twist propels it into the world of sci-fi dystopia!

Both novels are great examples of how university or college settings can increase the scope of your story dramatically. For instance, the common YA disappearing-parents dilemma disappears entirely if the main character is already living independently! They can travel, work, and make their own decisions. But at the same time, there’s still that uncertainty, and sometimes innocence. Living like an adult and feeling like one are two different things entirely!

Mainly, I think I wanted to write about this age because university has been the best time of my life, the one in which I feel I’ve found a sense of my own identity. I went to university a na├»ve eighteen-year-old who had no clue how to cook, operate a washer, or generally how to look after myself. I’m graduating with a vague life plan in mind – and three years of unforgettable experiences. I’ve skydived in Australia, climbed mountains in the Lake District, and visited the home of the Bronte sisters in Haworth. I’ve ridden rollercoasters in Blackpool, volunteered abroad, and gone on a student protest. I’ve LIVED more in the past three years than in my entire life up until now – and I finally achieved my dream and secured a publishing contract. I'm not going to lie, I’m still sad to have left university behind. But reliving it through writing this book series – even though none of the characters are based on real people – has been a great way to see the whole experience in perspective. Writing the Darkworld series – a university-set paranormal/urban fantasy series - has been an adventure in itself, and I’m excited to share the first part of Ash’s adventure, Darkness Watching, on the 10th October (shameless bit of self-promotion there!).

I think New Adult fiction is important because it’s a reminder of these pivotal years in which you discover your own identity and forge your own path in life. Not everything is set in stone. You can change your life plan every other week, or settle down. You can travel, learn, work and dream. It’s frightening, but also exhilarating. As publishers are swiftly learning, this category resonates with a lot of readers and has a swiftly-growing audience – the possibilities are endless, and I’m excited to be a part of it!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

A few weeks ago, the old Staples commercial from 1996 was making the rounds on Facebook. You know the one -- where Dad gleefully rolls down the aisles of Staples, gliding along with his shopping cart, throwing in school supplies with wild abandon while his school-aged kids sulk behind him -- to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." That one. It's just another reason why the 90s were so awesome, but I digress. Anyway, fast-forward to 2013 and I could be that happy parent because my nearly four-year-old is in full-day preschool! That's right, Mama's got time to write!

Technically, he only goes three days a week and full-time is only 5.5 hours a day and I still have another child at home....but, with one kid out the door, I have discovered a new writing routine where I actually get stuff done. Granted, this occurs only if my 18-month-old naps (today, he did a 2-hour stint). But for the most part, I'm being productive! And this is important because I don't want writing to be a 'side thing I do' -- I want it to be my career and that can't happen unless I do it everyday and make time for it everyday.

This new routine is alleviating some of the anxiety I'm feeling about my book going into content edits next week. With several hours a week to myself to concentrate, I should be able to make consistent progress on improving the book. (While I love my 3.5-year-old son dearly, he is not the kind of kid to let mommy sit at the computer and do her thing. He will stand next to me while I work and demand my attention.)

Young Adult author Shannon Hale wrote a wonderful blog post about how she balances motherhood and her writing career. At the end, she suggests trying an experiment in which you turn off the internet to examine the amount of free time you are wasting. Now, while that is never going to happen for me, I can say that while I'm writing, I'm writing. I don't check my email or Twitter or Facebook because I never know when my toddler is going to wake up from his nap. Will he give me an hour or two? So I have to make every moment count. Every extra minute of uninterrupted time is a minute toward finishing my book or edits or outline. It's one step closer to earning some money from my writing and then maybe I can hire a babysitter once in awhile.

So, thank you September. Thank you for the start of school and for the start of a new routine that will enable me to get the writerly things done. I promise not to take this time for granted.

As for you lovely writers (those with kids and those without), are you utilizing any new writing routines to help you make progress? Resolutions don't have to begin in January. September is as much a start to the year as any.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Battle Between The Old, The New, and The Right Now

I love to build my life in The New.

I strive for it, in fact, because The New is where I'm most comfortable. All of it. I want it all from new pants to new zip codes to new story ideas. It's weird, I guess, that I like new more than old. But I think it's all part of my wanderlust. I like new places, new people, new adventures, new horizons to pursue. (I'll chase them anywhere! There's time to spare!) I need it.

When things feel old, used, experienced, I get bored. I run.

And then there are other times, like right now in my life, where I've been running toward The New for years and now I have it all (new agent, new books coming out, new projects to edit, new jobs, new people and place to live and new responsibilities and new much new.) And you know what I'm learning?

I'm freaking tired.

That's something new for me right there: I don't really like to admit to being tired. To being run-down, or needing a break. And it's ironic that in the one moment where I can admit I do, I can't stop. I can't take a break. I have deadlines, crazy exciting ones, but deadlines nonetheless. And stress and normally, I'd run. I'd be gone in a second, but I have big ideas that make me stuck exactly where I am locationally for months more. And I can't run.

I. Can't. Run.

So there's no easy solution for me to seek out The New. No out. Except facing it, and not being sucked in to this trap of old and bored. And ultimately realizing that there's are lessons to learn from The Old. I may not want to see them, but I should if I ever want to learn balance, commitment and achieve comfort in The Right Now.

This feeling of The New being more exciting (or whatever) than all the rest. I want the new ideas, the new opportunities, the next step. I want them so much that sometimes it's hard to stop and really relish in The Right Now. Why?

Because The Right Now can be scary.

It is scary. Even in the midst of how amazing it's going to be later, it's hard Right Now.

I've been dealing with that in my writing life too. (A LOT.)

This month alone I have edited two books (not including my SHP/C projects) and am starting the third!

One is DAYS LIKE THIS, which I'm tweaking for my agent. I did that early in September and then just heard today that I have one more thing to flesh out. Something that I feel is a weak point of mine as writer, but that doesn't mean I can ignore it. It means facing it, and fixing it. That's hard for me. Especially because I don't like to admit when things are difficult. This is when, in other cases, I'd avoid or accept it as "good enough" because it's easier than admitting my weakness. (Yes, I know it's horrible but it's true.)

Then, I finished my third round of revisions for SALT -- and during that time, I felt like I was still fixing pieces that I'd been fixing since the very first draft. It wasn't new; it was frustrating. I understand the editing process, and I love it, but sometimes I hate it, too. Sometimes, I want to throw my hands up and declare that I'm done forever! But I know when I get notes back I'll apply them again. Because I want my book and my readers to have more than that.

After a one day break I got edits for FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS, and that book is certainly not new. That book has been with me forever. Longer than forever. And yet, I still have things to fix, and I will fix them. (This is editing, folks!) I have to do it -- and want to do it! And I have to do them while balancing New jobs and a New schedule and another edit!

See? This is when I'd dive into my glorious fall TV schedule and never come out.

I also have two more books due by the end of the year. Is that going to happen? It's hard to say. And I have one shiny new that I want to write but shouldn't. (and won't.)

In the midst of all that, two of my CPs have just had babies!! I'm so happy for them, I am, but the really selfish part of me misses them and needs them. I'm finding that I have to depend on other people, and even more on myself, which is something that I used to do a whole lot more before I had CPs or an agent or any of this amazing stuff I do now.

And it is amazing. I know it is. I'm beyond thrilled and sometimes I have to pinch myself because of all of it that's happening. That's the best part of trying to be in the Right Now: it's full of all these adventures that I'll never get to experience ever again. 

Basically, many aspects of where I am Right Now have been enlightening.

We (I) work hard to finish a book because "when this is done I will __" and we think that the revisions or the agent or the sale equals The End. It doesn't. It's just the beginning of a whole new process. One that is never easy and can feel unending, but one day, it does end. I can't wish it away because I will never get it back.

I guess that's the other thing that I'm learning (personally and professionally): I can build my life in The New as much as I want to, but if I don't accept The Old or The Right Now then I'll never enjoy The New. And I'll reach out for it, seek it, chase after it forever and never be happy.


Because there's only the Right Now.

And it's ours to do with as we please.

So I'm going to go do edits....

Where do you most comfortable: in The Old, The New, or The Right Now?

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making it Feel New

So this month's blog theme is "new." I've got a lot of new things going on--the new experience of editing a book under an editor's guidance, a new deadline, a new set of classes and students...the list goes on and on. But what I really want to talk about a bit is writing books for tweens and teens as a thirty-*cough-cough*-something-year-old.

The thing about YA is that it's either from or about the perspective of a character that is seeing so much from a new perspective or for the first time. And the thing about me writing this type of fiction (as opposed to say traditional, adult romance as I'd originally set out to write), is that not much of these experiences are new, and even when they were, I was not the best teen.

No, seriously. I was a combination of old beyond my years and hopelessly sheltered by overbearing and overprotective parents. (Hi, mom! *waves*). I was an awful teenager. I wanted to get on to college as quickly as I could. I was ready--so very, very ready--to be grown already. I dreamt of turning thirty. (I still dream of turning 30, so somethings don't change.)

So you would think I would be awful at this. Maybe I am, who knows. Only time (and the reviews) will tell. But the thing that I really like about writing YA and MG is that you get to explore these moments of possibilities. That's what the teen years are, really--moments filled with the possibility of determining the new person that you'll become. Capturing the uncertainty of that is the real trick of writing YA.

Because that's the thing--new can be bright and shiny and exciting, but more often than not, it's fairy scary. It's really scary. And the wonderful thing about the age I write for and about is that these kids are smart. They know it's scary. They know they're on the cusp of something new, of being someone new. And they reach for it anyway.

Capturing that is hard, really hard, but if I focus on the idea of that moment of possibility. The moment that everything can change, and you become this person instead of that other person, and when I think about the absolute bravery that takes to plunge head-long's a little easier to make it all feel new.

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Friday, September 6, 2013


You'll have to forgive me for posting this a day early, but tomorrow is Saturday and I'm not usually home on the weekends... though I should remedy that and use the weekends to write. :)

On starting new projects.

Recently I decided to shelve my little dystopian story and start something new. I am not a planner. I had the first sentence in my mind and a vague idea of a storyline. My brain just doesn’t work well with outlines and organization… at least not in my writing. I like to sit down, listen to music, and just write. And, if inspiration still doesn’t want to come, I like to browse pictures online that remind me of my story. I have pinterest boards dedicated to each of my wips with pictures of people that remind me of my characters to photos that look like the general settings of my stories. It’s a great way for me to keep inspirations going, especially when the newness of the project begins to fade and (hopefully not, but sometimes) the excitement of that brand new.

Because I like to share, a picture from my pinterest board that shows the feel/setting of my current wip.


I also love when new ideas pop up because I’m convinced each time that it will be the LAST IDEA I EVER HAVE. Ever. I don’t know if people like this exist, but I’m not a person who has a file saved of a list of story ideas. Once again, I don’t work well with lists and organization. I wish I did. I feel like it would help keep me focused when my brain wanders in another direction. Though, I think it’s the wandering that actually helps my writing. I just get distracted easily because of it too. Darn internet.


Starting new projects is so fun to me. I like seeing where they end up. There’s all that potential a new idea and blank page have. I think that’s my favorite thing about starting a new wip. That and (I hope) seeing how my writing grows and stretches with each new project.


So, how do you go in when you start a new project? Excitement? Organization? Do you plot and outline or just sit down and write? Do you have a list of ideas waiting to become new projects or, like me, do they just hit you out of the blue one day? Does the internet inspire or distract you (or in my case, both)? What’s your favorite things about starting a new wip?

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Finding Old and Making New

Our theme for this month is "new"--a topic so broad and able to be interpreted in so man ways that it should be exciting to hear from all the girls and read what they've come up with. I decided to share a little anecdote to jumpstart us all off...

In prep for my recent move, I decided to go through my small room to get rid of all the unnecessary. I wanted a new start and that meant throwing away and donating some old things that I'd (for whatever reason) held onto. I came across this uninteresting, run-of-the-mill spiral green notebook. It had several empty sheets in the back, so I figured I could toss whatever was in the front and reuse the back. Opening the front to rifle through and tear out whatever no-longer-needed school notes I thought I was sure to find, I stumbled upon something wonderful. Here was a slightly crappy but quite usable beginning to a novel I'd been writing roughly two years ago before starting my now-finished masters degree. I couldn't remember writing it, let alone remember where I was going with the storyline--I'd left off mid-sentence right at a juicy part. What an opportunity!

Now in my new place, in a new borough (New Yorker that I am), living with new roommates, I find myself with obsessing over this old gem that I seem to have unearthed. Coming out of a summer of wanting to write but never really making the time to, I'm excited. I've found something old that has made itself new to me again.

Sometimes change is about newness, but sometimes it's about the old morphing into something better. It's refreshing to experience all of this newness while still feeling a connection to the old. I'm thrilled to take the time to write this new/old novel.

What about you? Experienced anything similar? I'd love to hear your story.

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