Nov 29, 2011


I did have a good writing day. At 1600 or so words.
I even paused to draw out a scene. Complete with stick figures:

I'm sure now you know exactly what's happening in WIP.

two things on a tuesday

1. November is almost over, as many of you Nano writers know. I always feel incredibly underachieving when I look at the stats of writers who are actually participating in the 50,000 words in a month blitz. With tweets like, "I just wrote 4000 words today" and "I'm 30,000 words in just ten days after I started," what non-Nano-er wouldn't feel lazy? Truth be told, I have no idea how these wordcounts come into being. For me, a really good writing afternoon will produce about 1500 words. And that's a good day. Some days when I'm distracted or wrestling with writer's block I can't even pass 500. Often time I'll make myself feel guilty about this, but then I realize that it's just the nature of things. If my brain doesn't want to write more than two pages. Then it won't.

So, Nano-ers, please explain to me the great mysteries of your several thousand word sprints! What is your pace when you aren't in Nano mode? (Or deadline mode, since I'm sure that's similar to the Nanowrimo adrenaline rush).

As this little blurb just showed, I'm still a word-count ho at heart. (And I think I always will be.)

2. I.... I don't have a second thing. Not today. This makes me a little sad, but I should go write my 1500 words now. Today's a good writing day. I declare it so! *knocks on wood*

Nov 27, 2011

food. and why it is important (besides keeping you alive).

I have a secret. Well, it's not really a secret as much as a previously undisclosed fact. Which I will now share with you.

I am a foodie.

I love food. Salty food, sweet food, fatty food, healthy food. I love it all. I don't discriminate. The holidays are some of my favorite times of the year because of this. Oh, I love family and presents and Christmas trees and fires. But I also, very much, love the food.
Husband and I are fortunate to have friends and family who love food as much as we do. Which is why I had not one, not two, but FOUR Thanksgiving meals this past week. They were all so, so delicious. Cranberry sauce, turkey, mashed potatoes, Thai butternut squash soup...

I was talking with someone recently about The Hunger Games. Person in question looked at me and said, "The book is really just all about food." I was very puzzled at this, since the book is actually about children slaughtering each other in a huge death-trap arena. This person went on to explain, "In the beginning of the books, Katniss has a very hard time finding food. And her trip to the Capitol was defined by lots of lavish descriptions of food. I mean, the author spends pages describing the different kinds of food. And the title of the book is The Hunger Games."

This statement got me thinking about the role of food in books, especially YA fantasy novels. If you look at most books that have a good, convincing fantastical world, you will probably find excessively detailed descriptions of food. The kind of descriptions that make your mouth water and send you running to the pantry to find a snack that is at least somewhat close to the recipe in question. It's my opinion that food, and the convincingly real, drool-worthy descriptions of it, is an essential world-building tool. Here's why.

1. Your characters have to eat (unless they are undead vampires or immortal fae). When you describe the foods they eat you are helping your reader see them as real people.

2. World's that are not like our own are also made more convincingly real by the foods that they eat. Especially if the foods are slightly different from what exists in the real world. Maggie Stiefvater just did a lovely post on imaginary foods and how she tried to create them in her own novel.

Think about it. The Harry Potter books have at least three feasts featured in each one, all of them describing delicious sweets and dishes we've never tasted. And who hasn't wanted to try butterbeer? (I have yet to go down to Orlando and try some for myself, but I'm of the firm conviction that it tastes like melted down butter rum Lifesavers (which I happened to be eating when I first read about butterbeer)).

Another books series I read a lot of when I was younger was the Redwall series. There are at least five pages out of every book dedicated solely to the description of food and drink. Wild mushroom flans.  Strawberry cordial. Dandelion fizz. Characters even instruct you on how to make these delicious treats: "See this apple? Stuff the corehole with candied chestnuts and a driblle of honey, bake it in the oven, then serve it piping hot with meadowcream." (Outcast of Redwall, 173). Um, yum?

Looking back on my own projects I haven't focused on food quite as much as I should. Upon such reflection this will change. Of course, it helps to have main characters who eat. Maybe I should focus on that first.

Nov 21, 2011

monday musings: written? kitten!

One of the things I'm thankful for is.... Cats! The world would be a much different place without them. Overrun with rats. Overgrown with catnip. Although I do love dogs very much, cats will always hold a special place in my life (unfortunately husband does not share the same overlyfondness of cats). Ever since I was two years old I had at least one feline in my life.

Imagine how thrilled I was to have a friend show me this jewel: Written? Kitten!
Basically, all you have to do is type 100 words into the box and the website will provide you with a new picture of a kitten! How awesome is that? The only downside is that it doesn't save your work for you, so you have to make sure you're backing it up as you go along.

So cat-lovers and writers, you're welcome! Now get back to work!

Nov 18, 2011

3 years later...

Yesterday I got the really cool chance to go back to my college (College of Charleston) and talk to one of the classes I took when I was a student there. I was a creative writing major and during my senior year I took a class that was entitled: "Writing the Novel." The class lasted only a semester, and I only produced 60 or so pages of actual story, but the class was pretty instrumental in getting me started on writing projects outside of school. The professor, Bret Lott, has been very supportive of my writing endeavors and I've kept up with him for the past three years that I've been out of his class. When he heard about my news, he immediately invited me to come and talk to the class I'd once been a student in (which is, ironically, the class my brother happens to be taking at the moment. You can see him in the pink shirt and bow tie two seats down from me!)

It was a little more... I don't want to say intimidating because I really wasn't that nervous... but we'll use the word anyway... to talk to college age kids as opposed to high schoolers. This could also be because they were slightly closer to my age. But I did enjoy being able to share my journey with them. Three years seems like an eternity when you're in it, angsting on whether or not your book will be published. But sitting in that circle and staring into all of their faces, remembering when I too was going to this class every week to talk about writing... I realized that three years really isn't that long. I have been so, so blessed. And I can't forget it.

Nov 17, 2011

officially official!

So on Tuesday I was able to do something I've dreamed of for quite a long time.... sign my publishing contract!! It was strange, because as I was doing it, I didn't really appreciate the importance until the very end when dear husband and I looked at each other and said, "We need to celebrate!" I guess the news and crazy reality of it all is finally starting to sink in--even though it's only been 3.5 months since I found out. In any case, I am now officially bound to HarperCollins to give them two well-crafted books involved Fae, British royalty, assassins, paparazzi and kissing. Not such a bad thing to sign your life to!

Nov 16, 2011

yallfest recap

So, as promised, here is my YALLfest experience. In both picture and word form.
Where do I begin? It's strange to spend so many months preparing for something and then having it happen in one fell swoop. It's kind of like a wedding (in a very different way). The actual day of YALLfest was a flurry of activity and awesome moments... 

Jonathan Sanchez, writer and bookseller extraordinaire, welcomes all to YALLfest.

The American Theatre, where all the panels were held.

Most of the panels had a full house!
My morning was swallowed up with door duty. I got to guard the door to the green room (the place where all of the authors hang out when they aren't on stage or signing books). Don't I make an incredibly intimidating bouncer?

The day was full of really great panels. I got to attend one on Southern writers (Putting the Y'all in YALLfest) which featured Katie Crouch, Carrie Ryan, Michelle Hodkin and Saundra Mitchell. They talked all about their Southern roots and how they play into their novels. I found this panel interesting for very obvious reasons... even though LUMINANCE HOUR isn't set in the South (far from it!), my next project takes place in a very Southern landscape.

Southern panel talks grits and debutantes.

The other two panels I attended were HollyAwood (all about turning books into movies) and the Zombie Attack Panel. Best piece of advice I gleaned from these? Carrie Ryan told us that the best method of survival in a zombie apocalypse is to find someone who runs slower than you!

The Hollywood Panel.

I got to introduce them.

Of course, the best part of the whole festival for me was being able to meet and actually hang out with these amazingly creative minds! It's strange when you spend so long following someone online--when you meet them in real life you can't help but feel awkwardly stalkerish because you know so much about them. Every single one of the authors was so nice and welcoming!

Can you see the nervous eagerness in my eyes as I talk to Andrea Cremer (Nightshade), Beth Revis (Across the Universe) and Saundra Mitchell (The Vespertine)?

Me and Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures)
Me and the lovely Katie Crouch (The Magnolia League)

I also got to meet my lovely critique partner Kate Armstrong. She flew down for the weekend and slept on our futon. I had such a wonderful time showing her around the city (we spent a lot of time at Kudu, my favorite coffee shop). I also got to meet Kiera Cass, a fellow HarperTeen author who I connected with on Twitter. Her book, THE SELECTION, comes out in 2012 and sounds pretty amazing (the ARC is gorgeous, I got a sneak peek before Kaleb Nation snatched it away for his own!).
Me and Kate (phenomenal critique partner!)

The whole weekend was capped off with a YA smackdown, where all 29 (or so) authors gathered onstage to compete with each other in storytelling games on the spot. Most of it ended in hilarity.

All the authors gathered together.

Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands and Teeth) killing people.

Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures) and Eliot Schrefer (The School for Dangerous Girls): Victors of the YALLfest smackdown!

You know something is really good if, when it finishes, you're already looking forward to next year. (Just like Christmas!) I hope to see all of you at YALLfest 2012!

Nov 15, 2011

two things on a tuesday

1. As of yesterday I am now a member of The Lucky 13s, a group of authors scheduled to debut in 2013. Go over and check out their blog. There's a lot of cool books coming up. Also, my friend Mindy who interviewed me a few weeks ago on her blog  just got some awesome news of her own. She's going to be a fellow HarperCollins-onian (Yes, I just made that up.)

2. Look what just came today! Can you guess what it is?

Music: Sufjan Stevens
Fueled by: A delicious peanut-butter-brownie-cookie my critique partner brought me all the way from Maryland!
Working on: This stubbornly ridiculous WIP. Funny how writing never gets easier...

Nov 14, 2011

yallfest weekend in five words.





Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (yes, really)

Rest assured, an actual full length post about Yallfest is coming. With pictures. Once my energy meter is back up from the negatives.

Nov 9, 2011

the book that started it all.

Over on her blog Beth Revis is holding a contest where people talk about the books they are most thankful for. I've been planning to write this post for a while. I don't know if this is how it works with every writer, but for me, there is a single book I can point back to a "blame" for setting off my desire to write and tell stories of my own. This book, which I am very thankful for, is Ella Enchanted.

I don't remember when I first put my hands on Ella Enchanted. I was young, as in, grade school young. If it's like most of the books I read as a child, then my mother probably picked it up at the library and placed it in my eager hands.
From the very first page I was enamored. Gail Carson Levine creates a very real, very fascinating fantasy world. The main character is cursed by her fairy godmother with the gift of obendience. Anything she is told she must do. The love story and adventure that springs from this is lovely. One that I can read over and over again without getting tired.
After I finally closed the cover, I realized that I wanted more. Unfortunately, Ms. Levine had no sequels in the works for this story. My desire for more pushed me into the idea that I could write my own fairy-tale love story. So I did. The result was a 60 page, thinly-veiled Cinderella-esque love story. It was the beginning of my love affair with writing. I loved Ella's world so much that I decided to create world's of my own. And so I am so, so thankful for this book. It set me on the path that I am today. (Funny that my own novel involves Faery Godmothers and a dashing prince!)

Since that first fateful reading, I've read through Ella Enchanted more times than I can remember. It's binding is bent and it's gone everywhere with me. To college. To South Korea. And back. I know that one day I'll be reading it to my kids. I will keep it until it falls apart, and probably after.

So what books are you all thankful for? I'd love to know! Plus you can enter this awesome contest for so many really good YA books.

Nov 7, 2011

monday musings: other worlds

Today I've decided to share a poem that really stood out to me in my college studies. When I first read it I had to do a double-take on Ezra Pound's name. The poem has a distinct Asian flavor-as well as a feeling on immense age- like it was written several hundreds of years ago. I love it because it is so different from its contemporaries. It reminds me of the fantasy novels I used to read when I was younger, which spoke so eloquently and convincingly of places that didn't exist. This is what I really aim for in my own writing, to paint pictures of worlds that feel both fantastical and completely comfortable to my readers.

Lament of the Frontier Guard
Ezra Pound

By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku’s name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

Nov 4, 2011

friday vlog: taking it back to high school

So on Wednesday I got to go back to my old high school and talk to the juniors and seniors of the Creative Writing major about my recent successes. This is how I felt afterward. (Note: The audio is out of sync. I have tried to fix it, but it spites me, even after four separate uploads. Just pretend my face isn't there.)

Nov 2, 2011

YALLfest interview #2: Katie Crouch

For my second YALLfest interview, I have the honor of welcoming Katie Crouch to the blog. Like me, Katie is a Charleston native (aka Charlestonian). She's also the author of the New York Times Bestselling Girls in Trucks, Men and Dogs and the young adult novel The Magnolia League. Come and meet her, along with a lot of other super cool authors, at YALLfest!

What were you like as a teen?

I was really hyper and boy crazy. I also read all of the time and kept a really embarrassing diary. I wasn't cool at all, but I knew it and embraced my complete dorkiness, which actually made me cooler than I ever would have been otherwise.

What were your favorite books as a kid?

 Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Are You There God It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume, Edisto by Padgett Powell (not really YA but about my beach), Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. 

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Fifth grade, when my teacher Dottie Rhett at Charleston Day School told me I should think about such prospects. (Much to the annoyance of my parents.) 

The South has played a large role in all of your books, especially The Magnolia League. Do you think you’ll ever write a book that leaves the South altogether?

Actually my next book is set in Italy. So yes! But the book after that is set in Beaufort. So... guess I'll always come back. 

What musicians have influenced your writing?

Awesome question. Patty Griffin, Tim Buckley, Gillian Welch, Jeff Tweedy, and -- though she's 20 years younger than me --Taylor Swift, who also embraces her inner dork. Love her!

What are you looking forward to about YALLfest?

Meeting the other amazing authors, talking to readers, eating pie, and seeing my family. Charleston is my hometown!

From your valuable native insight, what is one spot in Charleston that cannot be missed?

Personally, I never leave Charleston without a walk on the beach. I like Sullivan's Island, at the end by the lighthouse. If you don't have a car, a bike ride around the Battery is also pretty amazing. Make sure to rent one of those really comfy, ugly Earth Cruisers with fat tires. I think they have them at the Bicycle Shoppe on King.

If you could choose only one Southern dish to eat for the rest of your life (along with other, non-Southern foods), what would it be?

I love collards. It know it's weird, but it's true. Also, it's a superfood, so I'd probably live to be 126 years old.

Along the same vein, what is your favorite kind of pie?

Tomato pie from King's Market on Edisto Island.

Nov 1, 2011

two for tuesday: all about YALLfest

1. It's not just authors at YALLfest! This press release went out today spilling all of the juicy details. Kaleb Nation-- a prominent Youtuber as well as a YA author--is filming the first episode of his new reality TV show at the festival! And you didn't think it could get any better...

2. Check back here tomorrow for an exclusive interview with another YALLfest author!

Music: "The Wolf" by Fever Ray
Fueled by: Nothing...
Working on: Short story I was working on last week has indeed morphed into a novel-esque creature...