Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Words of Hope

About publishing: The fabulous Janet Reid's May You Live in Interesting Times

About Santa: DaMomma's How I Came to Believe in Santa

I am feeling hopeful this morning. It is almost Christmas, all my family is well and happy, and though all may not be "right" with the world, it never truly is. We must enjoy all that we are so very lucky to have.

I do. I am incredibly blessed--with family, friends, work that I enjoy, and this crazy fun obsessive thing called writing. And I know it. You can't get much better than that.

In case I don't manage to post again for a while, Happy Holidays, whichever ones you celebrate. May your holiday, and the coming year, be filled with love.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Am head down finishing up this work report before vacation. So for now, just a note:

Last night I watched Sense and Sensibility on BBC, while drinking Bailey's and eating tortilla chips and cheese dip.

That's pretty much girl porn at its finest.

That is all.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

And the winner is...


Congratulations, Whitney! Send me an email to susan dot adrian @ yahoo.com with your snail mail address, and we'll send your copy off!

Thanks for playing, everybody!

Contest closed!

Thanks for all your entries! The winner will be announced momentarily... Child is making the slips and will draw the winner!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Superstar Courtney Summers Interview and CONTEST!

As promised! Live! Straight from Canada! An interview with the fabulous, the effervescent, the magical COURTNEY SUMMERS!

Courtney Summers' debut YA novel, Cracked up to Be, is coming out from St. Martin's Press on TUESDAY. Blurbage:
When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?
Parker doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d really rather not be feeling anything at all.
Nobody would have guessed she’s turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.
Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

I have been waiting for it for years...okay, maybe A year, but I am very excited about this book. (Plus I lurve Courtney--she makes me laugh all day on Twitter--but that is beside the point.) After you've read the interview and entered the contest, you can go read the first two chapters here, and you'll need it like I do.

I know, I've given you all these links and you want to click them. But no. Be patient. First, the interview! We did get a leetle bit crazy. But just enough to entice, really.

1. Your imminent and utterly fabulous book CRACKED UP TO BE, being YA, has some nasty high school scenes. What was your most embarrassing experience in high school?

Is there a person out there who has gotten over their most embarrassing high school experience enough to actually admit ON THE INTERNET what it was? But I don't want to cop out and let you down because you are so ~*sparkly*~, so here is one of my most embarrassing experiences: I had really short hair during my (brief) time in Catholic high school. REALLY short hair. Like, Winona Ryder at her Shortest Short Hair. I dunno why. It was likely to save myself the trouble of brushing it. I still remember wanting to die when I heard the following words spake in my direction: "Why is that boy wearing a kilt?"
And that is all I will say about that.

2. Though I have not yet read all of CUTB (I will pounce on it the very first second it appears in a retail establishment), I sneak-previewed your first two chapters online. What struck me the most was how very real the voice was: I was immediately sucked into Parker's head, and her perspective. Did you work to achieve that, or did the voice come fairly easily?

Aw, thank you so much! Parker is pretty sarcastic and bitchy. I don't know how bad it sounds to say I never have to work too hard to get into the headspace required to write someone who is like that, but there it is (now who wants to be my BFF?). I have to say, writing a book is always tough, though... I think if one part of telling a story comes easily, your novel will inevitably be difficult in different ways to make up for it. Parker's voice came to me very clearly, but figuring out the reveal of her Big Secret did not. I kept giving it away too soon and then having to go back and edit it like, fifty bajillion times.

3. What part of the writing beats you up the most? Which comes most easily to you? (or should I say which do you pwn?)

All of it. I mean, all of writing totally beats me up, from start to finish. There are brief moments of reprieve, but I have a feeling I'm just so concussed by my own words at those points that they're all in my imagination. Pwnation comes when the book is done and done. And that can take... a while. *sob*

4. How have things changed since you got The Call? How has it affected your writing?

One of the biggest things that has changed is the way I manage my time. I have more things to keep up with than I did before (social networking, promo stuffs, replying to people in a timely fashion), and I have to be able to stay on top of them while finding the time to write. I don't always succeed. So finding a balance, I think, is going to be an ongoing adventure for me. As a result of Cracked Up to Be's sale, my writing process has become slightly more organized. Like, I OUTLINE now. I used to HAATEEE outlining. What is up with that.

5. Tell me about the ~*sparkles*~ and the sparkle hos.

I was saving this chapter for my autobiography--IN SEARCH OF JEFF PROBST--but I will tell you and only you about The Origin of ~*sparkles*~ and ~*The Sparkle Hos*~ because you have a way of asking questions that makes me want to answer them, just like Barbara Walters. The ~*Sparkle Hos*~ are a vigilante group of Twilight fans who right all wrongs in this corrupt, justiceless society, sort of like your world's Batman. We inherited our ~*sparkles*~ from the ~*sparkliest of them all*~ (Edward Cullen) and cut bitches with our ~*sparkle knives*~. Sometimes we pair up with The Outsiders and save orphans from burning buildings, if we feel like it. In our free time, we like to search the world for Carmen Sandiego. Wednesday is our Twilight Book Club Day. We drink tea and eat crumpets and discuss the Meyerverse at length. Sometimes we beat up Jacob Black fans just for kicks. By the way, are you Jacob Black fan, Susan? I ask for for no particular reason.

6. You put together a book trailer for CUTB that made the rounds of the internets pretty successfully. Can you talk about trailers as promotion, and the best way to tackle putting one together?

I know lots of authors feel differently about how effective self-promotion is in the long-term but as M.J. Rose says,"No one will buy a book that they do not know exists." I think making a book trailer for your novel can go a long way into getting the word out. My editor was thrilled when I told her I wanted to do it. I was fortunate enough to have my friend Daisy Whitney (http://daisywhitney.com) feature it on her New Media Minute and her segment on NCB's KNTV (thank you, Daisy!) and these were great opportunities for exposure--neither of which would have occurred if there'd been no trailer there in the first place. You can't overstate the value of actively promoting yourself, really. As far as putting a trailer together--that was a more intuitive process. I experimented with Windows Movie Maker for months before the final trailer was released, just to get a sense of how the program worked and how to best take advantage of its features. I scanned in the hand drawn elements (the notes, the hangman, the broken heart) and the rockin' photographs and music were provided by talented artists who I got in contact with well before the trailer was released. They gave me permission to use their work. Everything was taken care of by the time the trailer went live, and I think choosing to releasing it prior to the book's release (I know some people make a trailer after the fact), allowed for some nice build.

7. What music did you listen to most while writing CUTB? What are you listening to now?

I listened to lots of melancholy, emo tunes or really angry rock/alternative songs while writing CUTB. Matthew Good's song, Anti-Pop really headed up the Cracked Up to Be playlist. The chorus is very Parker: "You're not my girl, you're just tired." Right now, I'm listening to a lot of mah girl, Britney. Cause she's FIERCE and I heart her. Circus, Womanizer--SO SATISFYING. And songs from Lily Allen's upcoming album (I can't wait for it!). Also the Twilight soundtrack/score because when I buy in, I buy in. And Matthew Good Band's The Audio of Being. Brad Sucks's latest release, Out of It, is in constant rotation. All good stuff.

8. Time for your own magical words of advice: one sentence of wisdom for wanna-be writers out there. Go!

Go straight at it.
Yay! Thank you so much, Courtney!

Now, the CONTEST. Simple as eating pie. Add a comment to this post with the word ~*sparkle*~ in it. (It doesn't have to have the fancies, but you get extra karmic bonus points for them.) Entries close at noon Montana time Saturday, December 20. Then we'll do a random draw for...

your very own copy of CRACKED UP TO BE!

I know. I would fight you for it, if I wasn't already buying my own copy and taking it away with me.

Ready? Go! Be ~*sparkly*~!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's your blind spot?

Do you ever watch What Not to Wear?

Basically it's a makeover show, with public humiliation added in. Evil friends and family nominate people who have fashion "issues", and Truly Stylish people secretly videotape them in awful-wear, confront them and make them throw away all their clothes, and then give them money to shop for new clothes. Inevitably the makeover-ees bumble about, completely clueless and angry, but in the end they breathe fabulousness and are sent off back home to wow everyone.

It's kind of mean and awful, but I like watching it now and then. It always amazes me how much better the people really do look (and profess to feel) at the end, with just a little outside tweaking. So this morning I was thinking about this, and I realized: I think everyone has a Blind Spot.

We look at ourselves in the mirror and focus on particular things--our hair, or the way our shirt is pulling on the shoulder, and we fix it and go. But we don't really LOOK at ourselves as a whole very often, the image we present to other people. I don't think we can see it that way. We're stuck too far in ourselves to recognize it.

Do you know anyone who has one thing about them that's really OFF, that everyone else notices, but they seem blind to? I used to know someone who wore heavy pancake makeup, every day, that was clearly too pale for her skin. It didn't match; it looked fake and patchy and nasty. I could never understand how she could look in the mirror and not notice that. Or the lady I used to work with who dressed professionally, had nice makeup...and wore her straw-yellow-dyed hair in a poufed 60s hairstyle every day. It aged her 10 years, that hairstyle. I just wanted to put it in a ponytail for her.

Yes, there's perception: some people might like that look. But really, not most people. There are things that are just all wrong--that's what Go Fug Yourself is based on. And usually really easily "fixed". I suspect maybe everybody has a Blind Spot. Maybe something not obvious--MAYBE SOMETHING NOT PHYSICAL--but something everyone who encounters them notices, but they're not aware of.

Now before you go all thinking that I'm a shallow, judgmental, horrible person (it may be too late for that, right?), I do have a writing reason for talking about Blind Spots. They're a great thing to think about when you're fleshing out characters.

For instance. Jenna, one of my MCs, is an excellent actress. She knows that, everybody knows that. So she thinks she can hide stuff very well. She imagines that she can control everyone else's perception of her. What she doesn't realize--but everyone around her does--is that she's living behind a wall. She's closed herself off, and doesn't let anyone in. It's clear in her behavior, but she doesn't see it. Blind Spot, and more interesting than a physical one.

It's also useful when you're simply describing a character. MCs, being the perceptive creatures they are, will hone right on in other character's Blind Spots and point them out to us. Then you can play with that awareness--the reader knows, the MC knows, but the other character doesn't--which is always interesting. Subtle extra conflict to layer in on top of other more obvious drama.

So as a writer when you're developing characters, when you're writing a scene, it might be useful to think about everyone's Blind Spots. What do they not see about themselves? How can you use it?

What are your characters' Blind Spots?

Also, ***SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT***: Very, very soon, I will be posting an exclusive interview with the truly amazing Courtney Summers, whose debut novel CRACKED UP TO BE is due out next week (pause for squee). We'll be giving away a copy of CUTB, so you won't want to miss it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

and MUSIC!

Thanks so much for your lovely food comments yesterday. Let's all take a moment to think about holiday food.


Now let's turn to our next topic specific to the holiday season*: Holiday Music.

As soon as we hit the day after Thanksgiving, I allow myself to let the Christmas music in. We have a pile of old classics CDs at home: Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme. (Yes, I meant OLD classics!) Plus the Charlie Brown Christmas CD, which I understand many people hate. *shrug* For me, it's soothing. At work I also crank up Pandora, to "Christmas Rock" or "Green Christmas" by the Barenaked Ladies.

But none of that is what I crave, musically. All of it is nice background music, I sing along, and it's all good. But the music that feeds my soul during the short, dark days, the music that makes me overlook the bustle of shopping and remember what it all is FOR?

The Cambridge Singers.
(alternate link here)

If you haven't heard of them, The Cambridge Singers are a sublime British-based choir, with almost all the songs arranged by John Rutter. They sing medieval Christmas carols, hymns, and new (gorgeous) works created by John. We own many many of their CDs, and they're all loaded into ITunes.

For Christmas specifically, my favorites are Christmas Star, Christmas Night, and Christmas Day. Here, let me see if I can post a snippet.

This is in video form, but it's really just the music.

So, that's my favorite music. Your turn: what do you like to listen to at the holidays?

*You'll note I'm not talking about further publishing meltdowns, or panic because of same, or how books are going to go away. I think Janet Reid addressed that quite nicely yesterday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tis the season for EATING

First: I finished my final, and my term paper, and thus my class! Yay! One more semester + thesis, and I am DONE. Of course that's still a lot of work to go, but Iamthisclose!

Second: Like many areas of the country, it's freaking COLD. With wind chill it was -30F this weekend. Without wind chill this morning it was -20. Brrr.

I talked before about what that feels like, so I won't go over that again. Today, I wanna talk about one of writers' favorite subjects: food.

Cold weather makes us all want to increase our food intake, particularly carbs (it's scientific!) Plus it's the holidays, so we all have traditional foods that we make every year...or crave.

So. Here's a top ten list of the foods/drinks I crave at this time of year:

  • satsuma oranges
  • chocolate, particularly fudge
  • pasta
  • potatoes (any form, really)
  • chips and onion dip (this is straight from childhood)
  • peppermint mochas
  • eggnog
  • bread bread bread
  • Chinese food (?)
  • pot roast
See? It's all about the warm, the carbs, the protein. And the chocolate. :)

How about you? What are your top ten cold/holiday food cravings?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Where I am right now

I know, I have not been posting.

This is partly because I continue to be swamped. Today I'm working on my department's Biennial Report to the Legislature, which thankfully this year will not be as boring as that sounds, as we're completely revamping. Of course revamping means "me completely redoing from scratch", but hey. It sounded like a good idea when I volunteered for it. :) I'm also working on final projects for class, *trying* to work on the thesis, and juggling increasing levels of Holiday Stuff. None of which I mind--it's just that I'm busy.

The other reason I haven't been here is that the economy is continuing to suck, and as we all know the publishing industry took a ginormous hit this week. I don't like to talk about negative stuff like that, as I feel that continuing the negative "oh my god" patter just perpetuates the downward cycle. People panic, people cling to their dwindling wads of money, more people get laid off, more people don't have money, etc.

Let's just say that in reading the American Girl Kit Kittredge books with Child this week, the "About Kit's World: The Great Depression" informative bits in the back sounded disturbingly close to today's headlines. And it's soooo easy to let the panic bump up. I've got a book out there in this publishing craziness, trying to find a home. It's easy to *worry worry worry* over every headline of bad news.


I have to realize, control freak that I am, that the publishing industry's survival, and the whole nation's economy, are not in my hands. I can shop as I normally would (I am), I can keep putting money in the stock market (I am), I can give more to those who need it (I am), and I can support the book industry by buying more books (yep, that too). If I look around for ways to help, and I'm doing all those things...what more can I do?

I can keep doing my job, and do it well. All my jobs: the one I'm paid for, and the ones I'm not. Right now writing is one that I'm not yet paid for. That's not a change. I haven't been paid for it for 10 years. I'm not going to stop doing it because the economy's losing its mind. I'm not going to stop putting words on the page, or my butt in the chair, or my passion in the story. Or figuring out ways to do it *better*. Yes, I don't know what's going to happen to my stories on the other end, but right now, that's not my problem.

Panic is useless, and self-feeding. Action, even usual day-to-day "500 new words" or "grocery shopping" action, is positive.

It'll come back up eventually. It HAS to. In the meantime, I've got some work to do.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Contest bonanza!

And not mine. Obviously some giveaway spice is in the air, because all of a sudden everyone seems to be holding contests and giving away stuff.

You think I'm kidding, but no. Here are the contests I've seen in just the past two days. Go! Enter! Win free things! (Why not?)
Okay, I know there were more. Anyway, that's good for a start!

I'm fairly head down. Paper done and turned in, working on project, filling out forms to register for my last classes and to graduate (!). Also work work stuff. Plus, you know, CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!

Happy December 2!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Confession time!

All right, I admit it. I didn't make my writing goal over the 4-day weekend.

BUT I had a lovely, restful holiday. I ate turkey and stuffing and cranberry relish that Child had made at school. We introduced Child to the wonders of the Wizard of Oz--she and I cuddled together in the big chair in case the witch was a little too scary.

For me, of course. Child was fine with her. And after watching the original again, I think my flying monkeys are definitely scarier than those flying monkeys. Mine have spotlight eyes, for one. And they're not blue. And I don't know what those sardonic expressions were--mine never make you want to laugh. Cower, maybe.

Anyway, I may have to let up a teeny bit on SSP goals for a while. End of term is crunching hard and fast, and thesis deadlines with it. But I will NOT stop! December, I'm ready for you!*