Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Quit of Not to Quit, That is the Question

     Ok. I'm about to admit it. Here it comes. Cue the face-scrunching...

     I'm thinking about giving up.

     Well, ok, not really. I'm not going to give up writing- no way! And I'm not giving up querying Daze and Knights... yet (although I'm on a temporary hiatus while I wait for a query critique).
     What I'm thinking of giving up is the sequel to Daze and Knights- as yet untitled. Here's the thing. I'm almost done. I know I can push through to get it finished. So why quit? Well, I have the ending planned out. I know what I want to happen. But while doing my research I've realized that I have a couple of weeks before this event can take place. So I had an idea to put Jessica right into the war, but that means a lot more research and a lot more writing- more to the story than I had planned in the first place. A part of me wonders, why bother? Because if Daze and Knights never goes anywhere then it doesn't really matter if I get the ending written. But then my controlling obsessive side argues that I can't leave it unfinished.
      Here's the other problem: I've got a completely different story idea stirring in the back of my head, just waiting for me to get it started. I'm practically itching to start writing it. It would be so much easier for me to quit the hard research/ending writing, to start something brand new.
     So what do I do? Take the easy route? Quit what I've almost finished and start something that I could actually query when it's done? Or should I take the harder, less-rewarding route. Finish Jessica book 2 just for the fact of finishing it, even though I won't be able to do anything at all with it?
     Any advice? 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Music Tidbits

     Have you ever listened to a song and thought, meh. Or you hated it. Or maybe you just didn't even notice it at all. Well, duh- of course you have. Nobody likes EVERY song. But I'm getting somewhere, I promise.
    Anyway, then you hear that song somewhere else- maybe live. Maybe you see the singer actually perform it on TV. Maybe a friend points out how much they like it so you really listen to it and find out its a great song.
     For me, it's usually seeing the song in context. For example, I didn't think much of Secrets by One Republic until I saw it on The Sorcerer's Apprentice (you know when dorky but charming Jay Baruchel makes the song out of his Tesla coils). I loved it after that. I probably wouldn't have liked Jar of Hearts but seeing it danced on So You Think You Can Dance totally changed it for me. Actually there's lots of songs that once I've seen danced on that show, I fall in love with them (Your Guardian Angel, No Air, Bleeding Love). Also a lot of songs I've come to love were on The Vampire Diaries. I think it's seeing the emotions the actors are portraying while the song plays in the background.
     I've recently come to love Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" after I saw it on DWTS and then on Gossip Girl. I'd heard the song on the radio before but never payed it any attention. Now I can't get enough. If you've never heard it, you can listen to it on my playlist (at right). Forgive the cheesy rhyme, but it's an awesome song and I wanted to pass it along!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing Bliss

     I have this problem. When I know I have to do something hard, or unenjoyable, or just plain something I don't want to do, I stress about it beforehand like crazy. Or I imagine just how awful it will be. Or I imagine that I just won't be able to do it. Basically I totally psyche myself out. I do it with random things like exercising, with scary things like giving a talk in church, and with hard things like writing.
     I'm near the end of Jessica Book 2, and I'm going through this same problem. Because I'm writing it during a very specific time in History (Sept/Oct 1781), I have to strictly adhere to what was going on at the time. Up until now it hasn't been too hard. Sure I've tried to be accurate with clothing, food, daily life and speech, but I could pretty much make the characters do what I wanted them to with very little restrictions.
     Now though... yikes! I'm freaking myself out! Because very specific historical things are happening and Jessica is a part of them. They are things that are standing in her way, making life more difficult for her.
     Let's just say it makes me nervous. So yesterday I sat at the computer wondering where I was going to go, how I was possibly going to work it all out. I was at one of those times when a week has passed in the book but nothing much has happened so you describe it in a few paragraphs. After I got that done, I stared at my word count hoping that I could somehow come up with a measly 300 more words to make it an even 65,000 words. Instead I found myself doing those things I do when I'm not getting those wonderful strokes of genius: staring blankly at the computer screen, messing around with my iTunes list, or getting distracted by Gnomeo and Juliet (see below).

Old lady Red Gnome: "You're illiterate!"
Old Man Blue Gnome: "I'm not illiterate. My parents were married!"

     And then somehow, I had it. I had something. And I was writing. And before I knew it, two hours had passed. And I'd written more than 2,000 words. I don't even know how it happened. One moment I was barely slogging through, and the next, I was a super-writer. A genius. I could scream out, "look Ma, I'm a writer!" (I didn't.)
    I just love those moments. I know, I know, I'm not really a genius. But it's such a great feeling to suddenly have something there in my brain, something I didn't even know was there before and suddenly it has appeared on the page. It's like magic. It's writing bliss. And it makes me so very, very happy. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday

     Over at YA Highway they do this thing every Wednesday called "Road Trip Wednesday". I've wanted to participate in the last few but didn't for... some reason. Who knows. So I decided to start because I love the questions they ask. This is what they do if you don't know. They ask a question and you answer on your own blog and leave a link to it in their comments section. For example- a few weeks ago they asked who would we want to narrate our book in CD format (Anne Hathaway- you available?).
     So this week the question is, Who in your life has most inspired your writing?
     And the answer to that would be, well, me. Okay, I know- haha! But still true. And it's not that I'm all that inspiring, honestly. But a lot of me came out in Jessica- totally unintentional I swear. It was different stories that I constantly daydreamed about that inspired me to come up with the whole idea behind Jessica and all the places she could go.
     I think this would be a good time to give a shout out to all those who encourage my writing. There are so many people who tell me to keep at it, don't give up, keep trying, don't stop writing. I appreciate that more than they know. On the days where I do just feel like the biggest crap writer ever, it's nice to know that people are rooting for me. So thanks all you people- you know who you are. This is my gift to you- a good laugh. Bazinga!


Monday, May 23, 2011

The WOW Factor

     I'm starting to get it. Really. I'm starting to understand just where agents are coming from and why authors receive so many rejections.
     I've read a lot of books lately. Like- ALOT. The main reason is because I'm reading mostly YA now and YA is just faster and easier to read than adult books. Also I've been reading a lot because I've simply lost patience for TV unless it's one of the few shows I watch. But that's a post for another day.
     With all this reading comes a loss of the WOW factor. Wait, did I sound like Simon Cowell just then? (Shudder). Most of the books I've read have been GOOD. There have been very few I haven't liked and most of those because they just weren't my thing. Example: I'm not into the whole zombie apocalypse thing for books (or movies or anything at all for that matter). I don't think I've read a really TERRIBLE book. But have I been WOWED lately? Ummm, welll... maybe. Sometimes. Not really.
     Ok, so I was wowed by Laurie Halse Anderson. But those weren't books that I'd read again. I want to read something that I just LOVE, like Harry Potter. I want to read about a world that I wish to lose myself in over and over again. I want a book that I have to force myself to wait to reread but all the while I can't wait to pick it up again. Holy Moley- I sound like an agent!
     Hence my inner glimpse into an agents job. They get piles and piles of books to read- books that haven't gone through the extensive editing that happens before a book is published. They probably spend countless hours reading and reading and reading, just waiting to be wowed. It's not wonder that with all that reading, the wow-ing doesn't happen that often. I mean, if it doesn't happen for me that often and I'm reading books that have already been published (and therefore wowed others before me), why would it happen that often for an agent?
     So I get it. I know I will never fully understand what it's like unless I was an agent myself, but I'm starting to understand. The thing is, I'm already TOTALLY WOWED by my own book. I mean, duh- it's awesome. So I guess I've gotta find someone else who is wowed by it as well!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random Thought Thursday

     1. I really love DWTS (hence the picture). Chelsea should win. And one day I'd like to dance the Argentine Tango.

     2. Speak the book is waaaay better than Speak the movie, although kudos to Kristen Stewart who does a great job with hardly any lines.

     3. My keyboard totally sucks. Sometimes it won't acknowledge certain letters and sometimes it will just randomly go in CAPS even though I never pressed the button. What the heck? (This is an exple ofwhat mysentences look like nrmally becaus the stupid keyboardwont do it properly- and I swear it's not JUS BAD TYPING.) ***My husband just informed me he ordered me a new keyboard. Hallelujah!***

     4. I really wish I could be one of those skinny girls who just eat and eat and eat and never get fat. That would really help with my supreme love of (almost) all food. No such luck though. Instead I'm back on weight watchers (solo) to try and lose those unwanted pounds I gained this last year. Sigh- goodbye Swedish berries. I will miss you.

     5. Laurie Halse Anderson is simply incredibly. I just read Wintergirls- it's about anorexia. I so couldn't write books about such heavy subjects.

     6. Writing a book around actual historical events is EXTREMELY difficult. Trust me.

     7. I have absolutely NO patience whatsoever. I hate waiting and I seem to be waiting for everything. The last Harry Potter movie, the next Boys Like Girls album, the last books of The Wheel of Time series and about a zillion other books. Oh and let's not forget those queries I've got out there.

     8. I have a disease my sister-in-law diagnosed as: Gettheheckawayfrommeitis. Luckily, it's not fatal for me. But it can be fatal for others- just a warning.

     9. Why do my kids always insist on jumping on me? I'm sitting on the couch- they jump on me. I'm standing- they run and jump on me. I'm laying down in bed- they jump on the bed and then jump on me. If I'm on the floor in any position- they take a flying leap at me. What is the deal? It's like I am the quarterback and they are the tacklers determined to get the sack.

     10. Success comes from CAN's not CAN'Ts. Thank you Hines Ward for that one.

     11. Fantasy is my first love. It feels great to be reading it again and so far Ranger's Apprentice isn't disappointing.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


     There are some books that really make an impact. They are powerful, unforgettable, incredible. These books are usually the kind that I only want to read once. I'm glad I read the book, I'd recommend it to EVERYONE, but I would never read it again because it deals with subject matter that is difficult to read about, sometimes disturbing. The Kite Runner is one of these books. Another, which I read last night, is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

     The book completely caught me in its iron grasp and I couldn't let it go, even though I told myself I needed to get to bed and could finish it tomorrow. I couldn't do it. I read until it was done and then I laid in bed thinking of it, unable to fall asleep. This is the kind of book I will never forget. It taught me things. I hope my girls will read it when they are old enough so that they will learn from it as well. If you haven't read it- do. Now. Trust me. It's just one of the books you MUST read.

Monday, May 16, 2011

YA Time-Travel Books

     Since I've written a YA time-travel novel, I figured I should research and read the other YA time-travel novels out there. Surprisingly, the Internet revealed very few. Now, I know that the lists I found are missing some. None of them mentioned Mandy Hubbard's Prada and Prejudice- a book I loved and definitely a time-travel book. So I'm thinking there's more out there to discover.
     There were two that I did manage to get my hands on and I read them both this past weekend. The first one: Emily The Strange: Dark Times by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner.

     I'm guessing that this book is kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I've only flipped through that one but they are both diary form instead of novel-like. This one though deals with a girl who is, well, strange. But not just strange- almost paranormal strange. You don't really know why at first but you get the sense of her throughout the book. Especially since her voice is just so THERE. If you want a book with voice- this is it. There are illustrations throughout, which are fun, and I especially loved Emily's made up swear words like, Balgfarx! and What the glamkins? and flamdrab it! All in all it was a great book- my only struggle was that I just wasn't used to diary form.

     The other book I read, last night in a couple of hours, was The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky. Obviously I enjoyed the book since I couldn't put it down and finished it quickly. It's YA, except the MC is only 12, which made it seem more MG to me, but whatever. There were similarities between my book and this one so it was easy for me to connect with it, but it was different enough that I didn't feel worried about my own book looking like a knock-off. Louise, the MC, is obsessed with vintage fashion and when she tries on a vintage dress she goes back in time. What I found interesting was that the book blurb doesn't mention the fact that she ends up on the Titanic. To me that would be a huge selling point so why not put it on the cover flap? Is it a big secret? Maybe it's supposed to be since it takes Louise forever to figure out what boat she's on. I knew from the moment she got there and read April 12,1912 on the newspaper so I kept waiting for the moment when she'd finally figure it out.
    I loved the history, the mention of famous names who were on the boat, the descriptions of the rooms and the food. I really loved the descriptions and the illustrations throughout of the clothes. And the Titanic story really gets to me so I loved that about the book. I only wished she would have done more with the actual sinking. And made the MC a little older. But other than that, I loved the book.
     I'm looking out for other YA time-travel books. Does anyone know any that I could add to my reading list?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Slogging Through

     So I haven't blogged much this week- which is good because I didn't get caught up in that whole blogger fiasco, whatever it was. I've been doing more writing, working on my query (still), reading back a couple of critiques, and critiquing someone else's work. And the weather has actually been nice around here for once so I've spent some time outdoors with the kids- yay summer!
     One thing I've noticed this week as I'm getting closer to the end of my book 2, is that the scenes I'm writing are hard. I've found myself really struggling to get the words out, to make the scenes appear on paper the way they are in my head. Maybe I just haven't been on my game this week, maybe I've been distracted, or maybe it's just because I'm reaching the end. Who knows. What I do know is that I hate it when I'm slogging through my writing. I hate when I sit here trying to come up with the right words. I wish that every time I sit down to write my fingers could fly across the keys trying their best to keep up with my overflowing thoughts and ideas. (While I'm at my pointless wishing, I might as well wish to be one of those girls who can eat and eat and eat but never gain any weight- a girl can dream.)
    This is the point where I get all profound and compare slogging through writing scenes to slogging through the muck and how it's worth it or it changes us or something when we finally make it through to the end.
    What. Ever. I don't know about you, but I like it when I can whip out 2000 words in an hour or two. It makes me feel like a genius. Like a superstar. Like maybe I was meant to do this and that I'll succeed.
     But as I'm writing this I'm learning my lesson: writing isn't always easy. There will always be times where I have to slog through. But the writer who can slog through, who doesn't give up when it just isn't coming- that writer WILL succeed. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dumped By My New Best Friend

     So everyone out there says "don't take rejections personally" or "it's just subjective" or "it's just one person's opinion".
     I agree. I do. BUT...
     This is what makes it hard, this to me is why authors- me included- do take rejections personally:
     If I'm a good little author, then I know that after writing, editing a kabillion times, making sure my ms is the best it can be and I'm ready to query it, that I have even more work to do. If I'm a good little author I will start compiling a list of possible agents who represent my genre of novel. If I'm a good little author then I will choose a few and start to research them individually. If I'm a good little author I will pick one. I will read his blog. I will follow her twitter. I will read every interview he gave. I will read every book I can get my hands on that she represents. I will read every book I can get my hands on that is on his favorites list. I will become so knowledgeable about her that I feel like I know her. That we are destined to be best friends. I mean- she loves some of the same books I do, we watch the same TV shows, we both love mint chocolate chip ice cream. So it's inevitable that he will love my book and want to represent me. Because we were made for each other.
    And then two weeks (or two hours) later, I get back an email from my new best friend (or his assistant) that says- um no. It says, we are not best friends. We are not destined to be together. It says, I care not one tiny bit for you or your writing.
     So after all that I'm supposed to just shake it off? Shrug my shoulders and move on to a new best friend?
     Well, of course I do. Because it is all just subjective. That person does not know one teeny thing about me, even though I know about them. They don't know that we have all these things in common. So who can blame them when it's all my own fault for building up an imaginary relationship in my head that doesn't exist for real.
     But can you blame me? I am a writer after all. Living in my head is what I do. Making up imaginary relationships is what I do. So even though I do move on, sometimes it still stings.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Writing A Killer Query Before The Query Kills You

     So I've been query stressing for the past two weeks. I keep changing it, reworking it, trying to find the best way to do it but without any real idea what is actually wrong with it.
     Anyway, I tried writing it in first person and I have to say- it totally rocked! I know it breaks all the rules to do that but it really helped Jessica's voice to come out. Then with the help of my sister-in-law Emily, I changed it into 3rd person, fixed it up some more and then... I sent it over to Query Goblin. Ever heard of her? She started up her blog in January, and while she's not an agent or publisher, she gives something I needed most- a query critique from someone who hadn't read the book. She did an awesome job too. Aside from mechanical problems, she pointed out things that I just wasn't seeing- flaws with how I presented Jessica, and the plot.
     So while I fix up those few things that need fixing, you should go check out Query Goblin: querygoblin.blogspot.com. Do it. Do it. (What movie is that from? The guy's got a really low voice... Must. Figure. It. Out.)


Thursday, May 5, 2011


     I finished City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare in a matter of a day (maybe two). I love her books. I love the world and the relationships. Sometimes certain things happen that are predictable, but that's not really a complaint since I myself am probably predictable in my writing, and she does have some plot twists that I don't see coming.
      After that, I vowed to myself- no paranormal. I needed a break. So I took one. About a month ago my kids school was having a "buy one get one free" book fair. Who can resist buy one get one free books?! It's amazing I only walked out with six! Anyway, while there, I picked up a book for myself. This book:

     I bought it because, first of all I'd heard of Laurie Halse Anderson and knew that she's a widely praised author. But what really sold me was the book takes place during 1776 and 1777- the American Revolution! A time I'm attempting to write about right now. And I need all the info on that time that I can get.
     The book didn't end up being what I thought it would be about. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the cover- dead giveaway. I think it was the first line that really threw me off though: "The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up."
     It's probably because I'm used to everything being paranormal these days. I naturally assumed that the MC- Isabel- could actually talk to ghosts. Yeah, she can't. But the book was amazing. Isabel is a young slave who is sold with her sister to new, harsher masters in New York City. She has to deal with not only the brutality of her treatment, but the opposing sides (patriots and loyalists) that were both in NYC at the time.
     What really made the book good was that she did such an amazing job describing the time that I felt like I was there. I felt like I knew what it was like to be a slave, a patriot, a member of the continental army, a loyalist.
     And she does such great descriptions. Like this one: "Her baby belly was so big she could have loaded it in a wheelbarrow and pushed it in front of her." Ha- I've been there! And I loved this line: "Momma said we had to fight the evil inside us by overcoming it with goodness. She said it was a hard thing to do, but it made us worthy." 
     It was nice to step away from imaginary worlds for a moment and read about history and truth and real hardships. I can't wait to pick up the sequel "Forge".
     And now I'm back to paranormal. I'm in the middle of so many series that I feel the need to finish them (or at least the ones that are out) before I start anything new. They've got a lot to live up to though after reading Chains.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Melanie Stanford's 13 Secrets

     Confession: I read tabloid magazines. Not the really tabloid-y ones like the National Enquirer or anything, I mean I have SOME pride. No, I regularly buy InTouch, my sister-in-law buys Life and Style, and we trade off. Maybe this was something I should have mentioned in my Guilty Pleasures post.

     But anyway, Life and Style has a column- 13 Secrets- which is questions that different celebrities answer each week. And because I like to imagine that I'm a celebrity (I constantly imagine myself as the first ever author on Dancing With The Stars- haha! but really, I'd totally rock that show), I thought that today I would be the subject of the article and answer the questions.

Melanie Stanford's 13 Secrets

1. Something I love about myself is...
My imagination

2. Stylish stars I love are...
Jennifer Aniston and Kate Beckinsale

3. My biggest fear is...
Something or someone hurting my children

4. My ideal Saturday night is spent...
Going out to dinner then seeing a movie (or maybe dancing which I never do anymore)

5. The last item of clothing I bought was...
Hoodies from Aeropostale- totally on sale

6. When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be...
A writer, a dancer, a pianist, an actress, a singer... anyone famous really

7. My biggest guilty pleasures are...
The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl

8. My worst haircut was...
A few years ago I wanted a bob like everyone else had- it looked AWFUL on me

9. Fashion items I can't live without are...
My Louboutins and my Prada bag. Haha, just kidding. A really great pair of jeans. Speaking of which, I need to get me some since I've grown too fat for the ones I have now (sob sob)

10. My everyday skin products are...
Kirkland brand face wipes and Olay Total Effects moisturizer

11. Designers I love are...
Oh gosh, I would love having almost anything designer, although I wouldn't love paying for it. What I'd really like is one of Victoria Beckham's sheath dresses

12. My all-time favorite outfit is...
Jeans, a boho shirt, and wedges

13. My beauty must-haves are...
Mascara. I don't care what brand, I just have to have it or I look awful. And I love Bath and Body Works Country Apple anything

     So there you have it. Now I feel like a celebrity. Haha. On a side note, a really great blog I follow called Perfecting the Craft is having a contest to critique the first 1000 words of a manuscript. I hope I win- I could really use a critique from someone who won't be afraid to hurt my feelings!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

     Last week's Dancing With the Stars was "Guilty Pleasures" week. I sat there watching and wondering what my own guilty pleasures were. I couldn't really think of any. Or maybe I just don't get the concept. Isn't a guilty pleasure something you love, but feel guilty about loving? Something that you don't want other people to know you love?
     I know I like things that might be embarrassing or silly. But I have no problem admitting it. Thankfully I have long passed the time where I feel embarrassed for loving 'N Sync (like I did in my early twenties and still do if I get the hankering) or where I don't want people to know that I *gasp* read for pleasure. I'm not ashamed to admit the things that I love- it's who I am. I don't try to hide those things. The things I do strive to hide are my faults, those things about myself that I hate or wish I could change or am trying to change everyday.
     But I don't want to talk about those things (duh). Instead I decided to compile a list- a la Mia Thermopolis- of my guilty pleasures.

Melanie Stanford's Guilty Pleasures Admitted For All The World To Know

1. Gossip Girl. Ok, maybe this one is kind of a guilty pleasure since I know it's not the best show out there. But what can I say? I love the fashion and the drama!

2. The Vampire Diaries. Two hot vampire brothers- what's not to love?!

3. Big Time Rush- both the TV show and the music. All I will say is, "oh, oh, ohhh-oh-oh"

  4. Teen musicals of all kinds, but especially the ones of the Zac Efron variety. I know I mentioned this in a previous post but it bears mentioning again.

5. Teen books of all kinds but especially the ones where the average girl gets the hottest guy in school (or the hottest vampire in town)

6. Harry Potter everything- the books, the movies, the soundtracks, my Mischief Managed t-shirt, and the theme park I hope to one day visit.

7. Anything by Sophie Kinsella- her books are so funny!

8. Guitar Hero. Who says I can't spend time pretending to be a rock star?!

     Those are the only things I could think of that people might actually laugh at me for. While I don't feel especially guilty over any of them (except perhaps #1), I do want to take just a second to note that I don't spend all of my time doing those things. Because that would be bad. Just sayin'.