Monday, October 13, 2014

Plot Twists

I love unexpected twists in books. There's something very satisfying about being taken by surprise. At least in the story world.

In life - not so much.

Back in the spring, I had been toying with the idea of taking a blog break - something decadent, like, a couple of weeks to make some headway on my latest WIP. But things didn't play out as expected. My last post was five months ago. Five. Months. I blame it on a string of real life plot twists, including taking in my niece's three children at the same time my mother was in the ICU with congestive heart failure. All summer long - and even still today -I feel like I'm living a whole new life. During those first few months, I honestly didn't see how I would ever find time to write again. Which was excruciating. Each day that passed without my being able to write, I felt like something inside of me died. Then I received a rejection on a requested revision that had been out for nearly six months. And I thought: that's it. It's a sign. I have to give this up.

But the next day I woke up with renewed determination. I have been working at this for too long. I have come too close. I am not giving up. I sent out a new round of queries and had another full request within days. I participated in Pitmad and garnered six interested agents. I still don't know where things will lead, but I do know that I'm back in the writing life. It's not the same life I had last spring. It's busier, messier, more complicated. But it's also fuller, and richer, and full of unexpected surprises. It may have taken me a while to find my way back, and I definitely have more to juggle, by I'm still a writer, and I'm in this writing life for good.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Binge Reading, Part II

Yes, I am still aggressively avoiding my WIP. Although my preferred form of distraction is reading, I have branched out into de-cluttering various closets, cabinets, and even a portion of attic space. The results on that front is substantial, but less interesting than the books I've read, so, let's chat about those. . .

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has a hidden stash of letters that she's written to all the boy's she's ever crushed on. They were never meant to be mailed, but when somehow, they are, the consequences are unexpected. This book made me happy inside. I loved the strong family bonds between Lara Jean, her father and two sisters, the strong personalities of each of the characters, and that even though Lara Jean isn't part of the in crowd, she's completely comfortable being who she is - staying in to bake homemade cupcakes for her sister's class bake sale when her classmates are out partying. I loved that I wasn't sure what I was hoping for until halfway through the book.  And I love that there's a sequel in the works so I can experience more of Lara Jean and her story.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson 

When Lennie Walker's older sister dies unexpectedly, Lennie finds that grief changes everything -- the way she can't seem to talk to her grandmother anymore, the way her clarinet playing isn't what it used to be, the way she has to write down her memories, and the way she looks at her sister's boyfriend, Toby, who seems to share her grief in a way no one else does. And then there's Joe, the new boy in town whose smiles make Lennie want to experience life in whole new ways. This story is full of strong emotions, a mix of sheer joy and utter loss and writing that is lyrical, full of imagery, and makes me think I would read anything by this author.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Okay, the beginning of this book was confusing.There are these territory wars between the cadets, the townies, and the boarders of the Jellicoe School. I wasn't sure what to make of all of it for a long while (maybe 100 pages?) but I had been told by numerous people that it was worth sticking with and that everything would come together and it would be worth it. IT WAS! I usually don't read the full blurb of a book. I like to be surprised by a story, and often the blurbs just give too much away, IMO. But in this case, I wish I had read the blurb. I think it would have saved me undue confusion. A lot of characters are introduced at the outset and I had trouble keeping them straight. Plus there are flashbacks introduced by way of a manuscript from one of the characters, that I just wasn't sure how they connected with the main story line for a while. But when everything comes together, every last piece falls into place. As a writer, I'm in awe of Ms. Marchetta and her ability to pull it off so beautifully. When I finished the last page, I immediately went back and re-read all of the flashbacks to make sure I fully appreciated every intricacy.

The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski

When you're in junior high, scrubbing toilets with your mother for extra cash is not the kind of job you brag about to your friends. It also makes encountering your classmates, and even your enemies even more uncomfortable when you're picking up their dirty underwear and dusting off their crazy zombie figurine collection. But, when Rachel's parents split up, her plan to get them back together involves paying off a plane ticket to Florida, so she puts on a smile, grabs a toilet brush and gets to work. This was a fast, fun, lighthearted read full of lively writing and mouth-watering talk of sweets. (Rachel is also a baker looking for the perfect recipe for the school bake-off.). I found it shelved as YA, although it had more of a MG feel to it.

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This is a sweet contemporary romance that starts out with a misdirected email and ends up with a real-life encounter between a teenage movie star and maybe the one girl on earth who doesn't swoon over him. It's hard for 17-year-old Ellie to think of THE Graham Larkin as the boy she's been corresponding with for the past few months, but when he shows up in her small town to shoot scenes for his latest movie, she has to decide if being part of his life is worth the risk, especially since there's a secret in her past that, if the paparazzi uncovers, could change her life forever.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Binge Reading

I've been on a bit of a reading binge lately. Some might say this is because I'm avoiding my WIP. Those people would be correct. I'm in that dreaded (but familiar) my writing is crap phase. I hate that phase. But until it passes, I'm making a sizable dent in my TBR list. Here are some of the books I've enjoyed lately:

The Living by Matt de la Pena

I got hooked on Matt de la Pena's books a few months back after reading I Will Save You and We Were Here. His characters just feel so real. I decided I better ration the remaining of his YA books, but then my daughter came home with The Living, and of course I had to read it, probably too soon, because now I have to wait along with everyone else for the next book in the series. On the upside he has two other YA titles I can read in the meantime ;)

Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

This was one I picked up at the library having never heard of it before, mostly because the cover and the book's small size caught my attention. This story was unlike anything I've read before, with a main character who cannot feel emotion, yet she sees them hovering around in human form as physical beings. I can't wait for the companion novel Where Silence Gathers, coming out in July from Flux.

Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair

From page one you can't help but feel for the main character, Faith, growing up with a drug addicted, prostituting mother who has recently let herself get pregnant so she can sell the baby. When Faith sees the drug dealing couple who are going to buy the child, she decides she's going to run off with the child to save it from the life she's had to suffer through for sixteen years; but also, to get back at her mother, because depriving her of that paycheck seems like the best way to make her suffer.

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

I fell completely head over heels for this book and carried the characters in my heart for weeks after I'd finished. I loved the before and after way the story unfolds. You get to discover Reena and Sawyer's past relationship alongside their current when Sawyer appears back in town after an almost three year absence during which Reena has had his baby. Aside from the age of the main character, this book didn't feel particularly YA. (I think it's marketed as a crossover.) But it didn't matter.  I'm sure I'll be reading this one again!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Blood of a Mermaid Cover Reveal

Today I'm participating in a cover reveal for the second book in Katie O'Sullivan's Mermaid trilogy set on Cape Cod. Blood of a Mermaid releases next month from Crescent Moon Press.  

About the Book:

Mermaid blood.
When Shea MacNamara fell into the ocean for the first time, he found he could breathe underwater. The son of a mermaid, the sea is in his blood. Literally. The best part of Shea’s new life? His girlfriend Kae, who also happens to be a beautiful mermaid.
But darkness lurks under the sea. When evil mermen kidnap Kae, the king reminds Shea that having royal blood means making tough choices. 
An Arctic dungeon, a fiery plane crash, the legendary halls of Atlantis…and narwhals?
Having mermaid blood just got a lot more complicated.

About the Author:

Katie O’Sullivan lives with her family and big dogs next to the ocean on Cape Cod, drinking way too much coffee and inventing new excuses not to dust. A recovering English major, she earned her degree at Colgate University and writes romance for young adults and the young at heart. Her editing column, “The Write Way,” appears in the Literary Women section of CapeWomenOnline magazine.

Living next to the Atlantic influences everything she writes. Her YA mermaid series begins in Nantucket Sound with SON OF A MERMAID, and continues the undersea adventures with BLOOD OF A MERMAID, coming from Crescent Moon Press in May 2014. Her latest contemporary romance from The Wild Rose Press is MY KIND OF CRAZY, a Cape Cod story of second chances and starting over.

Excerpt from BLOOD OF A MERMAID, by Katie O’Sullivan
Shea grimaced. He knew firsthand the damage wind could cause. He’d witnessed tornado destruction back in Oklahoma, when he’d lost his dad and their farm. Wind could be devastating. And deadly. He needed to focus on something else. Maybe curtains and wallpaper weren’t such a bad thing to talk about after all. “Tell me again about this lady who hired your mom to decorate? Why is it she can’t pick out her own curtains?”
Hailey laughed. “Decorating is about more than curtains, you troglodyte. It’s about creating a whole look and feel for a home.”
A deep male voice crackled through the overhead speakers in rapid Greek, followed by English. “Attention, passengers. This is your captain. Please keep seatbelts fastened as we try to steer clear of this turbulence and find a pocket of better air.”
“A pocket of better air?” Hailey shook her head. “What does that even mean?”
Chip leaned back across the aisle and grinned. “Maybe this air is broken?” The light streaming through Hailey’s window shifted as the plane changed direction and Chip’s grin faded. “It looks like he made a ninety degree turn. That seems kind of drastic.”
“I’m sure the pilot’s done this a million times,” Hailey snapped, looking out her window again. “Ooh, look at that lightning over there! It’s like a fireworks display!”
Shea resisted the temptation to look out the window. His stomach already felt queasy enough, and now a storm? A slow tingling sensation engulfed his toes. “How close?”
“Oh, look out there now,” Hailey interrupted. “Water spouts!”
Shea felt the blood drain from his face. “Water spouts? Like, tornadoes on the ocean?”
Hailey glanced back at him and gently patted his knee. “This isn’t Oklahoma. I’m sure everything’s going to be fine,” she said as she pulled the plane’s information card out of the seat pocket in front of her. “But I guess it never hurts to review a plane’s emergency procedures.”
As she removed her hand from his knee to point at the diagram, Shea felt the tingling course through his legs, zinging from his toes up into his stomach. It was as if some switch in his body had flipped into high gear. Sweat beaded on his forehead and dripped down his back. The air inside the airplane cabin suddenly felt like it was clinging heavily around him, as if it were charged with electricity and Shea was the only magnet on board. He’d felt this exact sensation before, back at Plainville High School.
On the day of the tornado.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Awesomeness and the Revision Process

Just over a month ago, I shared pictures, here, of the mural I've been working on at church. At that time, I mentioned that it was “mostly done.” I can’t tell you how many times we left the church after hours of painting saying, “One more day. It’ll be done tomorrow.” Then three days ago, it was actually done. Like, for real. We cleaned up our paints, our brushes, threw away roller naps, folded drop clothes and stowed ladders. But guess what – the following day we were back again, adding a few more finishing touches, because there’s always one more thing.

One of those afternoons while painting a bird perched over the mirror in the children’s bathroom, my daughter commented, “Things keep getting more and more complicated, but they keep getting more and more awesome too.”

 It’s the same way with our stories, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels like they’ll never be finished. I remember the first time I thought my novel was done. That was probably a couple of years and a half dozen revisions ago. But the same thing holds true, the more and more complicated it gets, the more and more awesome it gets as well. And I do love revising. I find it exciting to see a work evolve into more than I ever expected at the outset. 

How about you? Are you ever surprised by what your stories become throughout the process?

Monday, March 24, 2014

C is for Cape Cod Book Launch

Today I'd like to congratulate my friend, Christina Laurie, on the launch of her first children's book C is for Cape Cod, published by Islandport Press.

Add to Goodreads

About this Book:

This beautiful alphabet book combines playful verse, informative text, and stunning photographs to introduce children to the wonders of Cape Cod.
For each letter, a short four-line verse gives younger readers a fun introduction to the subject, and the main text provides information that will appeal to both older children and adults alike. The stunning photographs, by award-winning Cape Cod Times photographer Steve Heaslip, tell stories unto themselves – from the doleful eyes of seals to children whirling on carousels, from a frog peeping out of a cranberry bog to the engineering marvel of the Cape Cod Canal. This is Cape Cod, replete with natural beauty, rich history, tourist attractions, and much more.

Christina Laurie
An internationally best-selling poet, Christina Laurie presents workshops, poetry readings, and seminars throughout New England. Her poems and haiku have appeared in magazines, anthologies, and periodicals across the United States, England, Canada, and Japan. Christina Laurie’s first book, Seasons Rising: A Collection of Haiku, was published in 2011. She is the author of a memoir, two adult books on biblical characters, and a chapbook of inspirational insights, Inspiration Interludes (whose funds benefit the National League of American Pen Women). She lives, writes, swims, bikes, gardens, and kayaks on Cape Cod.

Steve Heaslip

Steve Heaslip is the chief photographer for the Cape Cod Times. He has been a National Press Photographers Association regional and national clip contest winner, and was named New England Newspaper and Press Association Photographer of the Year in 2001 and 2005. His photographs have been in two exhibitions, and have appeared in National GeographicLife,TimeNewsweekThe New York Times, and Yankee. Originally from Rochester, New York, he lives in Barnstable and has been photographing Cape Cod since the 1980s.
Don't you just love alphabet books?! Is there an alphabet book you remember being particularly fond of as a child? Or maybe one that was special to your children? My own children are grown, but The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin still has a special place on my bookshelf. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Art of Distraction

If there's one thing we have to get used to as writers, it's the waiting. Whether it's waiting to hear back from beta readers, agents, or editors, they say the best way to endure is to work on another project. So it was pretty much perfect timing when shortly after I sent my WIP to beta readers, I was asked  to work on a mural for the nursery area in our new church building. I got to play around with paints and be a part of a larger creative process with two very talented people. It was great fun.

Now that the mural is (mostly) finished , I've turned to a more familiar distraction: reading. These are a couple of YA titles that I highly recommend.

And now, I'm ready to get back to writing. What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy

Author Hugh Howey published an interesting blog post on happiness last week. Oh, wait. I guess it was on selling books, or not selling books. But really it was on our innate base level of happiness. Basically, he believes we choose our own happiness, which is only temporarily affected by outside factors. I believe that's true. For proof, we only need to look to our kids at Christmas when they get that toy, game, or gadget that they absolutely had to have. The initial happiness they experience upon opening that gift wanes quickly and their relative happiness goes back to base level before we parents have even paid the credit card bill. 

We do this in our writing lives, too, don't we? I'd be happy if only I were a better writer, could land an agent, get published, sell more books, win an award. . .  But the reality is that those things may bring a momentary surge of euphoria, but won't change our innate base level of happiness. Growing up, my mother always said that it was possible to be happy no matter what your circumstances. Mr. Howey says it this way: "How we feel should be up to us." Which is actually pretty empowering. I do not have to rely on anyone else for my state of mind. It is within my choosing to be happy and that starts, to quote Mr. Howey again, "by seeing the small good in the world."

I watched About Time last night. It's a romantic time travel movie with Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, that, in the end, reminds us to live every day deliberately, to find the extraordinary moments in an ordinary life, to savor the moment. This one. Right now. Without fretting over how it could be better if only...

Today, this music video is making me particularly happy. It may be a temporary high, but hey, I can hit play as many times as I want ;)  I dare you to watch it and not smile! 

 Do you have a favorite feel good movie, song, or book to recommend?

Monday, January 27, 2014

What Blizzards are Good For

I can't attribute all of my recent reads to the weather, but getting snowed in for a day does go a long way towards hours of guilt-free reading. And I've enjoyed a run of five-star reads.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
brought chills, tears, and goosebumps,
all in turn. An amazing love story!

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
takes you to the wilds of the Amazon.
My thoughts returned there to ponder
the story and characters long after I'd
finished the last page.

 I Will Save You by Matt De La Pena
 is chilling, shocking, and impossible to
put down. I finished it within two days
and couldn't request his next book (or
two, or three) soon enough.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.
Okay, I haven't finished this one yet, so I guess the rating is premature. I'm 75 % into it, but as I look at my schedule for the next few days, all I can think about is
finding time to read more of this book. I would possibly forego meals to continue reading this one. (My family may not be on board with that plan.)

I love book recommendations! What was your last five-star read?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Good Books, Good Music, Good Food & Good Feedback

I'm a creature of habit. I sit in the same seat at church every week, I have been known to eat the same thing for breakfast for years, and I read a lot of contemporary YA. It's easy to get stuck in ruts. So in the interest of breaking away from the norm, for my first read of the new year, I pulled out a Lisa Genova novel (not YA) that I got last Christmas. I devoured it in a day and a half.

 I'm thinking of reading a fantasy/sci fi novel next. I never read fantasy/sci fi, but I do have an ARC of The Bone Season kicking around here somewhere.

I usually write in silence, but I discovered The Lumineers album and I'm finding it impossible to turn off. Thankfully, I'm also finding it easy to write to. This song, Stubborn Love, is currently my favorite.

I'm totally enjoying revising one of my novels. This is the power of good feedback: when someone points you in the right direction and you can take off without looking back. That's where I'm at right now, and I'm so grateful.

For breakfast, I have given up my maple-flavored oatmeal for blueberry pancakes, fruit salads, Portuguese muffins and peanut butter/banana milkshakes (not all at once). But I confess, I still sat in the same seat at church this week.

Do you have new things on the horizon for 2014? What are you looking forward to most?