My ten biggest fears... and yes, I'm totally neurotic

Like a lot of writers, I get a little crazy worrying about stuff.  I can't help it.  Here's a list of the WORST FEARS that have paralyzed me at one point or another on my journey (and some of them still do – I'll let you guess which ones):

10.  I am never going to finish this manuscript.

9.  My query letter is better than my book.  Great, so I'll just get rejected at the partial stage instead of the query stage.

8.  This isn't really a form rejection.  It's an "I Hate You And Your Work" rejection, but the agent or editor is too professional to say so.

7.  All of my writing friends think I suck, but they're too nice to say so.

6.  My agent only signed me because she had nothing better to do that day.

5.  My editor only bought the book because she had nothing better to do that day.

4.  My promotional efforts are being seen as narcissism, arrogance, and self-absorption.  Every time I post a link to my blog on my Facebook page, people sigh and hit the "Hide" button.

3.  Nobody's going to buy my book.  They'll see it on the shelf, pick up the one beside it, and buy that one instead.

2.  Those who do read the book will hate it and wonder how in the hell I got published.

1.  I can't write, and soon everybody will know that I am faking  got lucky   have a guardian angel don't really deserve anything good that's happening to me.

I don't feel like this every day, but some days... yes.  Some days I'm plagued with fears –
some are understandable, and some are totally ridiculous.

Tell me I'm not the only one!  What are YOUR fears?

Another Monday, another week...

I had intended to spend a good chunk of the weekend editing what I've got of the current WIP, but did I?  Nope.  Not unless I did it telepathically, while lying around on the sofa eating homemade nachos, watching UFC 118, and multiple episodes of Man v. Food.  My brain just went ahead and shut itself off, without even asking me.  The nerve!

But it's the beginning of a brand new week, and Mondays are always a good day to start fresh.  Lots to do this week, too.  I'll be rounding off the first "act" of my manuscript (and if I can do that well, it will set up acts two and three very nicely).  I also have a new project that will be kicking off right after Labor Day, which I'm pretty excited about, because for once, this won't be a solo effort.  More on that this coming Friday, so stay tuned.

Whatcha got on your plate this week?

Fried brains

I don't have the energy or the brain fuel to write an interesting post today, so I won't even try.  I'm mentally fried (and staying up till 3 am last night to read the first half of MOCKINGJAY certainly did not help).  So consider this post a status update.

The new WIP is moving along.  I'm just about to cross the 24k mark, and usually at 30k I hit the point of no return.  Problem is, I've been writing so fast that I haven't stopped to figure out if I'm going where I want to be going.  I've already spotted a couple of plot holes.  A subplot is beginning to bloom, and I'm not sure I want it to.  A character I didn't think would have much face time is turning into a main character.


I don't want to turn this into an outliners vs. pantsters debate.  Everybody has their own process, and getting confused and panicky during a first draft is part of mine.  I'd like to be an outliner  – in theory  – because I know it would prevent me from taking a wrong turn.  But outlining isn't fun for me.  I've tried it, and whenever I write according to an outline, the story loses its spark.  There's something about uncovering the story as I go, surprising myself, and getting excited when the characters get excited that I believe lends a certain authenticity to the work.

But it fucks me up, too.  Can't lie.

The ritual of writing

In keeping with yesterday's post about Goal Post Stickies (and thanks to all who shared their goal-keeping tricks), I thought I'd share my writing ritual.

A typical day, Monday through Friday (and sometimes weekends, though not always) goes like this:

  • Wake up, feed cats, eat breakfast, and start worrying about the manuscript.
  • Concoct a caffeinated beverage (usually coffee, sometimes green tea).
  • Turn on computer.  Sip caffeinated concoction while it boots up.
  • Resist the urge to check Facebook, Twitter, or other people's blogs.
  • Open up my Chapter Summary file (where I summarize each chapter after I write it).  
  • Figure out where I am in the book and what scene I need to write next. 
  • Open up main WIP file.
  • Check my goal post sticky.  Panic at the thought of adding 2,000 words to it.
  • Start writing.

On a really good day, I'll hit my word count goal in 90 minutes (this hardly ever happens.)  On a really bad day, it'll be 6 hours later and I'll be stuck somewhere around 1,300 words and trying not to panic (this hardly ever happens).

Most days, thankfully, I'm done in three hours.  After patting myself on the back (and I do physically pat myself on the back, because it just feels nice – if you don't believe me, try it), I reward myself by sifting and responding to emails, writing tomorrow's blog post, gallivanting through Facebook updates, catching up on other people's blogs, and killing my brain cells by reading

What's your writing ritual?  Or, if you're not a writer, what's your work ritual?

Goal post sticky

Sticky notes are one of the best inventions ever, right after cars, the internet, and movies in color.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit me in my writing space (which most of you won't, so don't get too excited) you will find multiple pads of sticky notes lying around in various sizes, shapes, and colors.

Stuck to the right side of my computer screen is always a Goal Post Sticky.  What is a Goal Post Sticky, you ask?  (Not out loud, of course, lest the people around you think you're weird.)  Well, allow me to explain.  A Goal Post Sticky is a sticky that contains valuable information with regards to my writing goals for the week.

If I'm working on a first draft (which I am right now), the sticky looks like this:

The top number is the word count of my manuscript as of Monday morning.  The number directly below that is the word count at the end of Monday's writing session.  From there, I note the word count at the end of every day.

My goal right now is to hit 2,000 words a day.  As you can see, this Goal Post Sticky from last week shows some pretty productive writing sessions.  I was able to hit my target every day. 

When I'm working on second or third drafts, the Goal Post Sticky will contain different information.  Though not too many numbers, usually.  I might writes notes like:

Start ch 12 re Knox interview cut add conv with Jerry del scene Monkey?

Which translates to:

This note won't make to sense to you, but rest assured I will accomplish whatever it says by the end of today's writing session.  And don't worry, no monkeys were harmed in this story.

So, how do you keep track of your goals?  Writing or otherwise?

Ten things I don't care about

Saw a great list on Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room last week, and thought I'd follow suit.

Here are 10 things I couldn't give a crap about:

10.  Tiger Woods (his game, or his personal life)

9.  Baseball (sorry, Steve)

8.  Snooki

7.  The lost sheep/pig/goat you found wandering in Farmville

6.  Who'll be the next judge on American Idol

5.  Pre-season football

4.  Whatever it is you're trying to sell me over the phone

3.  The Real Housewives of Any County

2.  Lindsay Lohan

1.  The re-release of Avatar with nine additional minutes of footage (the 47 million minutes of movie I watched the first time around was plenty, thank you)

What are some of the things YOU couldn't care less about?

I'm not a traitor

I swear I'm not.  I still love the smell, the feel, the weight, the crispness, the colors, and the fact that you can dog-ear the pages.  I love the way they look on my shelves.  I love collecting fancy and not-so-fancy bookmarks for the sole purpose of marking my place.

I still do, and always will, love books made of paper.

But it's time for me to admit that lugging a pile of books with me when I travel (which I do) is sort of a pain in the ass, especially when I have another option.  I admit, I'm slow to embrace technology.  A few years ago I had no interest in owning an iPod.  What for?  I had my trusty portable CD player, and burning mix CDs was fun.  Never mind that the thing was clunky and skipped if I knocked it around too much.  But then Steve got an iPod, and I tried his out a couple of times and thought, "Well, maybe..."

Now I can't live without my iPod classic.  My entire music library is on there, and it's never not in my purse.  I play it in the car, I listen to it when I work out, I certainly can't imagine traveling without it, and every week I'm downloading new music and making new playlists.

And so now we come to the era of the e-reader.

My birthday was Sunday, and since I'm still not too old to receive birthday money (thanks Mom!), I finally went ahead and ordered this beauty from Amazon:

The Kindle.  Latest generation.  Graphite gray.  It's not the sexiest piece of electronics I've ever seen, but I've decided that looks don't matter.  What matters is what it can do.  What matters is that I can bring my books with me everywhere I go.

Too bad it's on backorder!  It won't even ship until September 17th.  Rats.

I honestly don't believe that owning an e-reader will replace my desire to purchase paper books.  Will I buy less paper books?  Definitely.  But there are authors whose work I love so much that I can't imagine I won't be buying their books in hardcover or paperback like I always have.  Perhaps if I really love the books, I'll own them in both electronic and paper  (now tell me that isn't being super supportive of the author and the publishing industry as a whole!).  I still think my bookshelves will fill up... just more slowly.

The Kindle also supports Word and PDF documents, so you can bet that I'll be downloading my own stuff to be read and edited right on the e-reader.  Now that's cool.

Although, here's something to ponder:  wouldn't it be ironic if CREEP wasn't made into an e-book?

Hungry for more

I admit it, I don't read a lot of YA, but I am an unabashed fan of Suzanne Collins' HUNGER GAMES trilogy.  Count me in as one of the many fans eagerly awaiting the third book, MOCKINGJAY, which will be released on August 24th.  Yes, I've pre-ordered it.  And no, it can't get here soon enough.

If you haven't read this series, you are SO missing out.  Don't let the fact that you're a grown-up and this is a YA book deter you.  It's a page-turner, with a strong plot and great, fully fleshed-out characters.  Oh, and it's chock full of great writing.  My mother, who's a super picky reader, read the first two books in two days.  Steve, who's a huge fan of Lee Child, loved the books, too. 

Still not convinced?  Here are even more reasons why the HUNGER GAMES trilogy should be added to your Must Read List:

  • The hook:  Battle Royale meets The Running Man... but with KIDS!
  • Kick-ass female protagonist
  • Post-apocalyptic dystopian setting
  • A love triangle!
  • Plenty of blood, gore, and violence

Read it read it read it.  Then tell me what you think.

The stages of life according to my 10-year-old niece

Kayla:  Just so you know, I'm not a kid anymore.

Me:  Really?  Then what are you?

Kayla:  I'm a pre-teen.

Me:  Cool.  So then in three years you'll be a teen.

Kayla:  Yes.  And then four years after that I'll be a pre-adult.

Me:  Wow.  Pre-adult.  And then when do you become an adult?

Kayla:  Eighteen.  Or twenty-one.  Depends how mature I am.

Grandmother, piping in:  What comes after adult?  Or is that it?

Kayla:  After adult, there's pre-senior.  Then senior, like you.

Grandmother:  Then what's after senior?  Dead?

Kayla:  No.  There's senior, then there's pre-dead.  And then there's dead.

Me:  And then that's it.

Kayla, annoyed:  No.  There's pre-dead, then there's dead, and then there's BURIED.

Rock 'n Roll

I watched the movie THE RUNAWAYS last night and I can now say, without embarrassment or shame, that I am fan of Kristen Stewart.  No trace of Bella existed in her portrayal of young Joan Jett, and Dakota Fanning made a pretty kick-ass Cherie Currie.

The movie chronicled the creation and early years of the all-girl band fronted by Joan and Cherie, and it was interesting watching them struggle for respect and recognition at a time (1975) when girls weren't exactly known for playing electric guitar and rockin' out.

I also loved the epilogue at the end that told us how Joan Jett, going solo post-Runaways, was rejected by 23 record labels before finally deciding to release her album herself.  I'm sure we all remember how I Love Rock 'n Roll blew up the charts.

I don't pretend to be a movie critic, but I do love stories like this.  And I've always loved Joan Jett.  Her version of this oldie but goodie is one of my all-time faves:

Rock on!

Top ten movies I liked just as much as the books

Holy crap, there are movies I liked JUST AS MUCH as the books?  A rare statement from a writer, to be sure, but sometimes Hollywood gets it right.


Here are my top 10 picks (and before you think mean thoughts, this does not mean I liked the movies better.  It just means I enjoyed the movies, too):

10.  The Firm (1993).  John Grisham's The Firm was one of the first thriller novels I ever read.  The movie echoes the pacing of the novel – fast, furious, and full of tension.  Tom Cruise is perfectly believable as a lawyer who gets in with the wrong law firm.

9.  Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).  I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of the original novel.  The diary-style narrative and the old-fashioned prose didn't do a whole lot for me.  But I love the cinematography of this movie, and Gary Oldman was wonderfully creepy as Dracula.

8.  The Bone Collector (1999).  It's no secret that I love Jeffery Deaver and the whole Lincoln Rhyme series, and what's not to like about Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie? 

7.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001).  Potter fans, please don’t hurt me, but I was captivated by the film.  If I was J.K. Rowling, I'd have been thrilled with this movie.

6.  Fight Club (1999).  This is dangerous territory, because nobody has fans quite like Chuck Palahniuk has fans.  But I thought the movie captured the narrative voice of the novel perfectly, and the casting was brilliant.

5.  Anne of Green Gables (1985).  Megan Follows is the perfect Anne!  This was a huge movie when I was growing up, since it was filmed in Canada and starred Canadian actors.  If you haven't seen it and are a fan of the books, rent the whole trilogy and settle in.  You won't be disappointed.

4.  Misery (1990).  Annie Wilkes has made a lot of my Top Ten lists, but with good reason.  She's sort of hard to forget.  And Kathy Bates totally did her justice.

3.  Interview with a Vampire (1994).  I'm a fan of Anne Rice's novels (specifically the Vampire Chronicles), and was prepared to dislike the film.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes a soundtrack makes all the difference.

2.  The Silence of the Lambs (1991).  This movie also keeps popping up on my Top Ten lists, but I can't help it.  It's just that good.  Nobody could have played Hannibal Lecter better than Sir Anthony Hopkins, and I actually thought the movie was much scarier than the book.

1.  Princess Bride (1987).  The book is s'wonderful, but the movie is s'marvelous.  Here are ten reasons why.

Honorable mention goes to:
True Blood, based on the Sookie Sackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris.  Okay, I'm totally cheating here, since True Blood is an HBO series and not a movie, but hey, it's my blog and I can do what I want.  I enjoyed Harris's books, but I love love love this show.  Maybe it's all the naked man-candy (Eric the Vampire!  Alcide the Werewolf!), but what can I say, I'm hopelessly addicted.  (And, gee, looking over this list now, it appears that I'm bigger fan of vampires than I originally thought.)

What movies did you like just as much as the books?

I want to crawl into a cave and never come out

If you're reading this, you obviously know I have a blog (duh!).  I also have a Twitter account (which I don't know how to use), and this past weekend I created a Facebook Author Page.  I believe that all this stuff is important, especially for a soon-to-be published unknown like me, so I'm making the effort to put myself out there.  All for the sake of my book, and for what I sincerely hope will be a long writing career.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't kinda sorta totally hate it feel just a little uneasy.  It's hard not feel exposed.

In my dream world, I've got a bestselling novel (or twenty) and nobody knows anything about me, except for the books I've written.  Unfortunately, that's not reality.  As a reader, I'm always disappointed when authors have no web presence, because when I'm moved by their work, I crave personal tidbits about them.  Where do they live?  Are they married?  Kids?  Pets?  Are they nice or are they assholes?  If I like their books, none of this should matter... but somehow, it does.

So I forge ahead with all this self-promotion stuff, feeling completely uncomfortable, a little bit naked, and wondering what the hell I've gotten myself into.

What would you be willing to do to promote your book?

The business side of writing

Had a great chat with my editor at Gallery today, and the marketing wheels are in motion! 

First, Kathy asked me to come up with some key selling points for the book.  I've been ruminating on it all evening, and while I've practically memorized my novel (thanks to seventeen billion revisions), it's totally different to think about the story from a marketing perspective.  I'm probably going to need some help with this.

Second, I need to submit a photo.  I'm the Queen of Self-Portraits, but I don't know that I have anything that would be suitable for a potential book jacket, or for my coming Author page at Simon & Schuster.  And Steve (no offense, honey) is really not very good at taking pictures.  Gee, should I be making an appointment at a Sears Portrait Studio this weekend?

But I did accomplish one thing.  Since I'm a member of International Thriller Writers Inc., I filled out their web form to let them know that my debut novel is coming out in July.  YAY!  A contributing editor is supposed to contact me for an interview, which will hopefully be featured on the website sometime before the book comes out.

And speaking of interviews, my editor also asked when I was planning to visit New York.  They want to record an author interview (video), to upload on the S&S page and also here on my blog.  Me, on video?  I'm planning on going to ThrillerFest in early July (who wants to meet me in NYC?), which might coincide nicely, since the book comes out the same month.

I also forgot to mention this:  a few weeks ago Kathy had asked me to put together a wish list of authors who I'd love to blurb my book.  Of course I named a bunch of great writers.  Okay, so some of them are super crazy long-shots (and I'll give you one guess as to who the WHALE is that tops my list), but one or two just might be tiny possibilities.  One of the writers on my wish list is with Gallery, and I found out today that Kathy shares an assistant with his editor.  I won't say who the author is because I don't want to jinx it (and it's still really hard for me to imagine one of my favorite authors reading MY book), but I have to say, it was pretty damned cool just to have the conversation.  I might be a minnow in this pond... but I'm IN THE POND!

It's all so exciting.  And scary.

I need a vacation from my vacation

Vacations in Toronto, my hometown, are not really vacations.  They're more like a bunch of social visits on steroids, strung together like beads on a very short necklace.  It never feels like there's enough to time to see everybody.  Those I do see feel like our time together was too short.  Those I didn't get to see feel neglected.  Then there are the goodbyes, which always suck. 

It always takes me a few days to get back into the groove of life in Seattle after a trip back to T.O.  I go from having a meticulously scheduled social calendar in Canada to a totally unscheduled life here in the USA.  I go from having no time to write to having all kinds of time to write – and strangely, both are anxiety-inducing.

The good news is that I got to spend time with immediate family and best friends.  It recharges my batteries to spend time with the people who are share my DNA, both physically and metaphorically.

The bad news is that I can't remember what the hell I was working on before I left.

I have a brand new look!

After several attempts at making over the blog myself, I finally got smart and hired a professional.  Many, many thanks to Zoe at Chic & Sassy Designs for custom-creating a blog template that finally feels like me.

I'm still on vacation until August 16 – I'm sitting on bed that's slightly too firm in a hotel room in Oakville, Ontario, Canada as I write this – so this isn't really an official post.  I'm sure I'll have lots to report when I get back. But I do have some big news to share in the meantime:

I received official word that my book will be out in July 2011!

I could not be more excited.  I know how fast time flies.  Woo hoo!