Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wordy Wednesday



Summer vacation is ovah 'round these parts, which means I'm getting back to writing. Don't get me wrong, I "dabbled" over the last few months, working on this and that. I also came up against a heady and unexpected deadline and somehow managed to meet it without sacrificing too much sleep, but now I'm rubbing my hands together, warming them up for the keyboard...and away I go! 

Oh, but first, I have to reflect on how super fast this summer flew by. I think I say that every year. Yep. And still, I'm amazed. Where does the time go? Seriously, if you figure out that matrix, let me know. Aside from making memories, laughing, smiling, surfing...It seems to slip through my fingers. All good stuff to be sure, but still, yew. There it was and there it went. 



A big, huggy thank you to everyone who's left Sugar a review! 

But SUGAR, has been going strong! In case you've wondered what you missed, because in the whirlwind I'm afraid I may have skipped a reading a blog post or two, here I am to catch us all up on the Sugar buzz! 

Live today, find an interview & giveaway on Book Worms & Night Owls. Don't you love the name of Lauren's blog?! 


Ooh, prizes!


And, um, a few more interviews, reviews, and the like that might be of interest.


Interview & review on Hypable.

Sugar, eating disorders & teens in the Denver Post.

An interview about Sugar, the novel, with one of my favorite authors and friends: Cheyenne Young.

An interview and more over at Icey Books.

A conversation with me on Two Women & a Book Review 

The delights & plights of writing on Land of Books.

Sweety High's choice stars cast for Sugar & Even.

10 Sweet things about Sugar on the Authorteers.

On getting Sugar with Fangirlish.

An interview with Sugar on GrownupFanGal.

Author Q&A at Book Stop Corner. 

Read about why Claudia from My Soul Called Life called Sugar a top 10 of 2015

The *blogcritics review of Sugar.

Yara from Once Upon a Twilight says, "This book is definitely a treat." Find out more here.

An interview over at Fiktshun.

The 6 things Czai over at the Blacksheep Project loved about Sugar.

5 Questions & 5 Answers over at Sassy & Dangerous. 

A day with Sugar over at Papercuts Podcast.



You can also find all these big and little, morsels of book awesomeness on the tab above labeled: Buzz & News. Huh? Huh? Did I miss any? Oh, and yeah, I'm hanging out on Marie Forleo's street by connecting, sharing, promoting proudly

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sugar Bonus Material


In early April, I was fortunate enough to participate in the YA Scavenger Hunt. It was loads of fun; I found a bunch of new authors and books, and was able to promote Sugar. Good times. I also shared a bonus scene from Sugar, which you'll find below. 

Now, I suddenly want ice cream (or in my case, thanks to multiple allergies, banana soft-serve—a non-dairy, sugar-free alternative. Wink, wink.) What's your favorite frosty treat? And bonus points, would you have chocolate or rainbow sprinkles aka jimmies on top?

~~~

I wipe my brow with a damp rag. Sweat pools in the crevice between my chest, and I'm sure the white shirt I wear as part of my uniform at The Scoop and Sprinkle sports pit stains, along with a smear of chocolate from the fudge ripple that refused to stay put on the cone. It's on my belly, like a punctuation mark: look at me, I'm Sugar's belly, in case you didn't notice! I notice. Every. Single. Day. Like a good co-worker, Gina laughed while I had to squat down and clean the gooey mess off the floor. The stain probably won't come out of the shirt.

Then, before her fifteen-minute break even started, she and some guy she's been flirting all week disappeared to the woods past the outhouses just out of view of the lake. Good riddance. But I can't help wonder what it would be like to inhabit her body: tall, thin, not a blemish, anywhere. Though, I suppose it would be exhausting to try to keep up with that kind of perfection. I'm about ten miles south of flawless and it's exhausting enough being me.

I tug my hair off my neck, wind it into a bun, and pin it on top my head. I fan myself, not in any hurry to wait on any more demanding customers, teasing kids, and families on vacation.

A shadow crosses over the register. I feel a pair of eyes on me, glance to the order window, and the person suddenly looks away. I push up the rickety wooden frame. "Can I help you?" I ask. The glare of the sun blinds me from a clear view of who's out there. I'm used to people staring at me. I should charge them by the minute, at least then I'd get something out of the deal.

The customer clears his throat. All I can see is how he scuffs his boots in the dusty parking lot. "Uh, yeah, I'd like, a uh, a scoop of strawberry and a scoop of chocolate."

"Size?" I ask, so ready for my shift to be over.

"Uh, um, medium."

"Sugar cone, waffle, cake cone, or in a bowl?" It irritates me that can't people be prepared with this information. The sign hung outside clearly says, 1. Pick your size, 2. Pick a container or cone, 3. Choose from 25 delicious flavors, Sprinkles are on us! All with the detailed options and prices below. Duh.

"A cone. Um, sugar, please," he says.

Even though Sugar isn't my given name, it's the one I answer to. When he says it, I squint through the undersized window, but still can't see him clearly. He stands near the napkin dispenser. The way he pronounced my name, like it's something sweet, but not to eat choruses in my ears. Before I can lose myself in the honey of his voice, Gina comes in laughing and rosy-cheeked. She pushes me out of the way, extends her arm out the window, and waves to the guy who she was just fooling around with in the woods. I doubt she even knows his name.

"I get off at eight. Don't be late," she calls, loudly, in my ear.

He mumbles something about getting off and just as loudly, I call out the window to my waiting customer. "Did you want complimentary sprinkles?" I ask, dunking the metal scoop in the water bath so the ice cream is easier to dig out of the vat in the cooler.

"Rainbow, please," he answers.

I'm not quick enough to figure out a way to get him to say sugar again and don't have a chance to get a good look at him as Gina barges through, poking her head out the window, ready to flirt with anyone with a Y-chromosome. She rattles on about her fifteen-minute break and the wonders of the woods. I pass the cone out the window, self-conscious of my flabby arm, and feeling hopeless about the big fat nothing that I'll be doing at eight tonight.

~~~


Over to you... What are some of your favorite bonuses or surprise followups to a YA book? I'm totally stoked for Heather Demetrios' the Lexie Project, a Something Real spin-off! 


Also, if you haven't already, please add Sugar to your Goodreads TBR! Thanksies!





Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Writing Road Map


Last summer I took an epic road trip around the US: 21 states and 2 countries. It was amazing, exhausting, enlightening, and epic. Did I mention epic? 

While cruising through cities, along the countryside—roads that I don't think had seen another automobile in at least six months— through daring mountain passes, valleys, and rural outposts, I thought a lot. Did I mention a lot?

There's nothing like traveling, driving in particular, to get lost in winding ribbons of gray matter. And when I go there, I often don't try to parse out a number riddle my junior year math teacher gave me (still can't figure it out!) or home decor, or what I want to do when I grow up. I usually arrive in my imagination which consists of words and lands and dragons that can talk. In other words, story-telling, which for me, is almost, but not quite synonymous with writing. 

Over the many miles, I considered characters and plots, fantasy and contemporary, pacing and voice. I created worlds and left them in little, forgotten towns. I sketched characters and waved goodbye to them by bus stops. In other words, I thought about what works for me as a writer in terms of craft, the nuts and bolts of development, and technique. 

Here's the road-tripper's guide to writing a novel, in XXX parts. 

1. Anticipate. "Vorfreude" (n.) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures. 

I love gearing up for a big event, trip, party—you get the idea. I find the anticipation can sometimes be as exciting as the thing itself. 

But you also don't psyche yourself out. Last year, for the first time, I participated in NaNoWriMo and had some belly butterflies when I thought too much about how the heck I was going to pull off 50,000+ coherent words in a month. 

To really soak up the anticipation, talk about your writing endeavor with friends and family or other writers, join a beta or critique group. No worries that you don't have anything on paper yet. Observe how the others involved work dynamically and sensitively. 

Get stoked!

2. Points of Interest.

Similar to above, but this one involves a notebook, a pen, and possibly the internet or some guidebooks. If you're a first time writer it can be helpful to learn some of the finer points of the category/genre you're writing in. You don't have to hold fast to the "rules" but it can be helpful to have guidelines. It also doesn't hurt to brush up on grammar and such. (You don't want to end up watching the sun set over the Pacific, when you meant to watch it rise over the Atlantic.)

3 of my favorite books on writing are: 

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina L. Brooks

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

I jot down my first thoughts of the story as they come to me in a "good spiral notebook" that I make sure to keep next to my bed in case ideas keep me up at night. There are few things worse for a writer than striking gold at one a.m., telling yourself you'll remember, and then when you wake up in the morning, you're staring at a blank page. 


3. Mix-Tapes. 

I realized, the other day, that some people might not know what this means. AKA playlists. I grew up compiling mix-tapes for every mood and event, and gave them away as gifts. I was also a happy recipient of mix tapes and still have the one my husband made me long before we were a we...except I have no way to play it. Good thing if called upon, I could karaoke, each song from the mix.

For our purposes here, I find creating a mix helpful to get me vibing on my story. I usually add a range of music for the various moods and scenes. Here's a playlist I made a while back for On the Mountain

I usually write in silence so I have full access to all the words in my brain. This works for me. Others like a backing track. Different strokes and all that. I'll listen to the playlist before I start or whenever I want to brainstorm/daydream about the project. I'll occasionally listen to a music while I write. In this case, I have to know the songs so well they're like background noise, which makes them kind of like a soundtrack, otherwise I'm distracted.

Some tunes that work well for me are:

Vampire Weekend

Fiona Apple

The Strokes


4. Get Behind the Wheel. 

I'll leave this one to the prolific, Neil Gaiman:


 "This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy and it's that hard."

So get your butt in the chair and write. Don't stop until you're done. I mean, stop for the regular functions of life, but don't let six months pass with a paragraph or two. Unless of course writing that book isn't your spirit's calling right now. If so, that's okay, when the time is right, you'll do it, but also realize, there is never a "right time." Oh sweet paradox.


5. Refuel. 

So you did it. You're bleary eyed, road weary, ready to turn off the ignition and rest a while. Or walk, that's always helpful after sitting for ages whether at a desk or in a car. When you've reached what you think is the end of the road, so to speak, and the first draft is complete, it's time to step away and shift gears, do something fun, reconnect with friends and family. This is when we writers let the manuscript settle.

When you return for revisions you'll be recharged and better able to have perspective on what works in the story, what moves it forward, what stalls it, and how to polish the chrome to gleaming. 

When you're ready, you'll set out on revisions and editing, but that is another road trip all together, for now, enjoy the ride!




P.S. As an alternative to any amount of planning, be spontaneous: grab a backpack, stuff it with a few changes of clothes, a book, some granola bars and bottles of water, a book, or two, and a mix tape. Leave the map behind and set forth on your writing journey!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Would You Rather...The Writer Edition



In my world, summer is for lazy, let's get bored and be silly days. One of my favorite games is Would you rather. Have you played it? When with kids it quickly devolves into farts and boogers territory, but I thought it would be fun to sophisticate-it-up with a writer edition. Yes, this speaks to my infinite dorkiness. I never said I wasn't a total nerd. In fact, I wear the badge proudly. 

Okay, so back to the game. I did a reader would you rather not too long ago. You'll find it here. The agony of this game is in you can only pick one or, well or nothing, but the fun is in playing along. 

1. Would you rather write when the mood strikes or binge write, NaNoWriMo style?

2. Would you rather have written the collective works of J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling?

3. Would you rather type or write long hand? (Or on a typewriter?)

4. Would you rather write in first person or third?

5. Would you rather write for pleasure or for money for the rest of your life?

6. Would you rather only write fiction or non-fiction?

7. Would you rather write a series or stand-alone?

8. Would you rather plot or pants?

9. Would you rather write a blockbuster that gets opted for film, branding your writing with the franchise or publish numerous, quietly received consistently over time?

10. Would you rather read or write?


So? Was that like biting into a piece of bittersweet chocolate? (Uh, yeah.) 

Tell me your answers in the comments below and if you have any good writerly would you rathers, please share them!






Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sugar Pinterest Board & Shape



Creating a visual board—whether collage cut outs from magazines or online with Pinterest—to accompany a fictional project—is always fun. (Or I might add to a board for ideas for how to update my nest, wardrobe, holidays, and recipes—can I be stopped? Nope. I can lose hours in Pinterest-land, I tell ya, it's a tough job.)

I remember cutting images out of magazines when I was younger, getting my hands covered in glue, and tacking a fabulously disorienting melange of glossy pictures on my wall. Usually there were a few unhealthy representations of the purported female ideal, but after watching Jean Kilbourne's Killing us Softly, I started on a journey toward learning to love my body and not chase a physique that wasn't the one I was born with. It took me more than a decade to fully embody this idea—my mental and rational understanding of body acceptance trailed the little voice in my head that bullied me and said hurtful things. 

Most days, when I look in the mirror, I love my reflection. But I have days when I don't... And it is then that I forgive myself, am gentle, and remind myself of how strong I am, about all the amazing things my body does each day, and how fortunate I am to inhabit this amazing being for the last thirty-something years. 

I believe we each have a unique shape. We might be curvy, angular, voluptuous, athletic, fat, petite, and most often a gorgeous combination. It's subjective and a one-size-fits-all formula or mentality sets women up for a struggle. 

Some of the women I recognize as leaders in the body-love-acceptance revolution, each of them falling along the size, shape, and age spectrum, include:

Amanda Palmer

Maysoon Zayid

Kathryn Budig

Lillian Bustle 

Kayla Itsinies

Christianne Northrup

I draw from each of these strong, intelligent, and beautiful women to create a collage for how to embrace myself, inside and out. 

Long ago, one of my yoga teachers said something like, "If you don't like this class, leave, but don't give up on yoga. There's a teacher and a method that will provide for you what you're looking for, that will awaken your mind and body, and help you feel great." 

I think the same follows with the tidal change of how we approach the female form and how women regard themselves and each other. It's natural that different women, drawing from their experiences, habits, beliefs, etc. will have differing takes on how to approach body-image. As long as the bottom line is self-love, what works for one person might not for someone else and that's okay. Move onto the next if one gal's take doesn't resonate with you. In fact, that's the beauty of beauty, it's visually and philosophically unique and varies from person to person. There is no single ideal or image! Blam!

Back to Pinterest: it also provides readers inspiration and insight into my inner-workings while writing and editing. My Pinterest board for Sugar is especially sparkly and inspiring. I hope you like it! 

 Click the image above to see all my Sugar pins! Do you have one that's your favorite? Let me know in the comments below or pin it!



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On the Threshold


There have been times in my life when I feel the glimmer of change, like a wind ruffling my back, ready to shunt me forward in a great sweeping push. In those heart-racing moments of recognition, I look down and realize my toes are hanging over the precipice. It is a long, long, long way down, with jagged rocks and bristly cactus—the kind I'm not even tempted to touch to see how spiny it is; looking at it alone is like a laceration. Oxygen comes in gulps, sweat beads on the brow. This is legit stomach in knots, legs like spaghetti fear. 

But on the other side of fear is freedom. 


The horizon catches my eye and time does me a brief favor. In this moment I realize I have one of two choices: I can fly or fall. If the latter, the landing is going to hurt, bad. But after doing this thing called living for a while I realize I'd rather not have dirt in my mouth and prickers in my tuckus. I'll get up, brush off, and then keep going. In this instance there's the comforting thought that I tried and maybe I'm better suited for terrestrial life or the world aquatic. 

However, time resumes. I have to spread my arms and... leap. And I may flap and flail for a notch or two, but then I get the rhythm and the view... It is stunning. It was worth the risk and the feeling of the air moving across my skin, in my hair, drinking it in, it was so worth the risk. It is freedom. 

Don't get me wrong. The paragraphs above are metaphor. Do not actually jump off anything. I saw a documentary on base jumping the other day and oh-my-&*$#@^! that is some insanage. I'm talking about the threshold place when we've had enough of the 9-5, or the job we thought was the match for us ten years ago, or the relationship that will not jump start no matter how many times we try rescue breathes, or the bleak town that brings us down, down, down. 

I've been on the threshold, of varying degrees, multiple times now and it always requires courage. To paraphrase John Wayne, courage is being afraid and taking the leap anyway. 

In my late teens I took a huge risk, I've done the same as a parent and as a creative. There are times in our lives when courage is as quiet as a breeze or as strong as a storm. There are times when we don't think we can, but we do and we are affirmed by the liquid feeling of liberation. Or we miss the mark and the fun, the experience was in the attempt.

There are times when we try and fail. I don't take the standard definition of failure to mean, "being unsuccessful in achieving one's goal." To me, failure is not pursuing one's goal. Putting it off for another day, month, year, lifetime. Occasionally, the timing is off and we're asked to be patient, but other times the option is do it, try at least, or else be miserable. If you've been there, you know what I mean. But when in the place of patience, be assured the heart's desire is honest and clear, the threshold will appear. 




Although, it can happen, when we move past the threshold, the outcome, where we touch down might be harder or bleaker or not what we expected. That's when we pause, take an inventory of what we learned, and adjust our coordinates. 

When I set out in indie publishing, I figured the ship for traditional publishing had sailed, and I was okay with that. I set my sights on putting out my books my way. It was scary. It was risky. It was, white knuckles in my mouth, drawing blood. 

Little did I know the threshold would appear again in the form of a publisher and a book I'd written years previous and all-but shelved. I'd already put myself out there in the writing world, but this was another animal, whereas being an indie author felt a little like the wild west, I felt like I was walking into a tea parlor in muddy cowgirl boots. And they weren't the kind where I could click the heels and land somewhere called home. 

Nope. 

Thresholds call us to expand, to sail to new shores, uncover and explore aspects of ourselves, treasures, and grow and grow and grow some more. It is not for the faint of heart. It is not a part-time, do-it-when-I-feel-like-it kind of thing. Thresholds are hardcore. So if you're in, you're in. You're on the edge, big leap, I don't know if I got this, but I gotta got this! 

Then when we're there, soaring, sometimes we come up against air currents, vectors disguised in "I don't deserve this goodness," or "I'm not worthy" or "when is the disaster going to strike/other foot going to drop?" Unfortunately, those myths of upper limits that we've learned or told ourselves aren't wrapped up in concise sentences that are easy to dispel. They come in the form of self-sabotage, in feeling inadequate, or telling ourselves it is too hard. And what do we do? How do we overcome or part the veil of a lack-mentality? More work. More courage. More of you. But the good news, we've got the juice, what it takes.



But even those of us in muddy cowgirl boots (mine have purple and gold feathers) deserve what we've worked for and even what we've been given. 


Why? 

Because it is an opportunity to do our best, to be our best, to shine in all our dusty, muddy glory, to share the gifts we have however big or small, or for now, just a smile. The threshold is a call to action. It is a test to see just how much guts we have. To strike out and live the best version of our lives because after we take the leap, there is no going back. 

And when we're flying, when we land, when we reach the other shore, we'd all do well to honor our journey, to stand tall with pride, to acknowledge our achievements. To give ourselves a pat on the back, a rah, rah, rah, and a round of applause. 

I am. 




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Asks & Answers #2

Photo: Sergey Zolkin
Checking in with another Q & A from readers to moi. See the first installment here. All of these asks and answers will be posted on a page here on the blog under a tab called, Favorites

Cool? Cool! 

As before, sometimes it's hard for me to choose just one best of the best and, as always, I reserve the right to change it up. Today I might adore French Bulldogs and next week it's Great Pyranees. Never mind, I can't resist any of them. I have a chronic case of puppy fever. It can't be stopped!

Onward!


My favorite...

Surfboard: Long, I usually ride an 8, sometimes 9.

Food: I have a variety of food allergies, so my version of the dishes below might not look like the kind your mom cooks, unless of course, I'm your mom or you share the "quirk" that prevents you from eating sugar and gluten. Pizza. Chips, guacamole, and salsa. Smoothies. Sometimes all at the same time. No, I don't mean a pizza smoothie, but a smoothie with a slice of pizza. Oh and my toppings vary from Margarita style to onions, sage, butternut squash, and arugula. The possibilities are extensive, despite the fact that my father thinks the only things left for me to eat is that "Stuff called hummus." He worries about my diet and health worse than my Italian Nana. Also, I'm a vegetarian so you can imagine I'm a real joy to dine with. 

Server: "Can I take your order, Ma'am?"
Me: "Sure, but first I have a few questions..."
Server: *Stiffens with fright/Or rolls eyes at me* "Okay...:"
Me: *Launches into 100-and-one Q's about ingredients...* 
Server: "Sorry I asked. I quit." *Tosses apron on table.*

Kidding. It isn't that bad, and I tip well. I've been on the other side of the four-top, so I know all about the "dread food-sensitive diner." 

Also, read an outstanding treatise by none other than the illustrious Maggie Stiefvater on owning/embracing our health, food sensitivities, and choices. (If the thought harvesters from the Unicorn planet Zorb have anything to do with this, I'll... I won't say it, I won't even think it! If that makes no sense to you, good ;-) 


What TV shows do you like?

I've watched all nine seasons of Seinfeld in their entirety, if that tells you anything. But to tell you the truth, I rarely veer from PBS; Downton Abbey is top notch and I really enjoy cooking and travel shows, which they do brilliantly. I also loved Freaks & Geeks during its run. So sad to see that one go. Other than that, I'm a books and movies kinda gal. 

Wondering about my writing? Life? That hummus stuff? Ask in the comments below and I'll see if I can come up with an honest answer.