Monday, January 30, 2012

Meeting John Green

John Green and his brother Hank have turned themselves into rockstars. I'm sure most of that has to do with their vlogs (if you haven't heard of the vlogbrothers, check out their videos. They're insane, yet hilarious), but then there's John's actual books. I've only read Looking for Alaska, and while it's not necessarily a style I read often (or really want to write necessarily), the dude's so smart. His smartness just oozes off the pages of his books. It's really quite frustrating. It makes you want to quit writing. It makes you want to read everything he's written. It makes you want to get out your dictionary and write a list of all the awesome new words he's introducing you to so you can incorporate them in your own writing and appear, with intense effort, half as intelligent as he is without trying.

His book tour is just that: A TOUR. It has a program and everything. It's a SHOW. His brother Hank starts off with a sock puppet routine, informing us of the death of his sock brother by dog and then he marvels at how the audience could possibly think such a tragedy is humorous.

Then the sock introduces John, NYT #1 best-selling author, of course, and he reads the second chapter from his new book, The Fault in Our Stars. (I notice how many authors do readings from the second chapter of their stories.... interesting)

We laughed, we were touched, we were forced to contemplate LIFE. All in one chapter. The dude's that good. Then Hank came back out with his guitar and sang a few songs, one of which details his desire for JK Rowling to write an 8th Harry Potter book. In his chorus: "I wan't JK Rowling to say that the epilogue was crap, cause we all know it was crap." Now... personally I needed that epilogue. I wanted to know what happened 19 years later. You can't keep dragging out a perfect series just because you like it, because then it really will turn into crap. SUCK IT UP, HANK! ;)

They ended the show with a Q&A, and when the timer runs out, whichever of the brothers is caught talking gets SHOCKED as punishment. Yep, SHOCKED. John was the unlucky one this time, and he was angry about it. I managed to snap a picture just as he was in full pain, and when it was my turn to meet him, I told him about it. What else did I have to say? I was determined not to be a gushy fan girl and blabber on, and I also didn't want to just stand there and say nothing. So I said, "I caught a picture of your face just as you were shocked." John: "That sounds horrifying." Me: "Oh... it is." John: "I must see this. Send it to me."

So I tweeted it to him the next day, and he RETWEETED it. Now, for those of you on Twitter, you understand that this tweet of mine just went out to over a million followers, including Maureen Johnson, who also retweeted it and tweeted to me: "NEW SCREENSAVER!" My Saturday was full of retweets and funny responses and a handful of new followers. My 15 minutes of fame. *dies*

Did you make it out to see John and Hank Green on their tour? Do you read his books?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I'm only doing one reading challenge this year, hosted by Truly Bookish and One Page at a Time.

My first book for this challenge is Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles.

I'd heard chatter about this series for a while now, but hadn't picked it up... until now.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:
When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.  In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.
Holy schnikies this book was fantastic. I had no idea what I was missing. Why on EARTH did I wait so long to read it? The fast-paced writing had me flipping page after page. I liked how both Brittany and Alex were pretending to be someone they weren't, and managed to reveal this secret only to each other. I loved how Brittany was with her sister, and how Brittany felt such intense pressure from her mother. How Alex struggled with his place in the gang (yes an actual gang) and his devotion to his family. These characters all felt so real. I loved them and rooted for them the whole way. And the romance... hot. Sure, there's some cheesy dialogue, but it's worth it.

I snatched book two the other day and I can't wait to see what the next Fuentes brother is up to!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heightened Reality Trickery

A curious type of deception that presents symptoms when exposed to larger than life scenarios such as written works of fiction, television shows (see also Hallmark, Lifetime, ABC Family, Korean Dramas, Scripted Reality, et al.), movies and stage productions. Symptoms include: brighter colors, selective hearing, rapid pulse. Prolonged exposure may be hazardous.  

In books, we're perfectly okay with the flowery things the hot guy says because, well, he's hot and the whole story has set us up to root for him to say these flowery things so when he finally does we CHEER! We swoon! We melt! But if someone said similar things to us in person, we'd probably roll our eyes and walk swiftly the other direction, mumbling something that sounds like What a pansy.

Then there's TV. Take this season of The Bachelor, for example. Bachelor Ben, very normal looking to the eye, the California-wine-maker-next-door type. He's gone YEARS being a regular guy, grocery shopping and pumping gas in his car just like the rest of us. Suddenly he's on television and thousands of women who now think he's the most beautiful thing that ever walked the planet claw over each other just to get to him. Did that happen to him every time he went to the grocery store before he was on TV? No. The reality has been heightened and the minds of the people have been TRICKED. (I'm not speaking out against him as a person, just demonstrating what HRT does)

These things are all constructed to bring out our emotions, to get us addicted, to make us feel like it's love. The build up of tension and tingly words in the stories we read. The driving music during that scene where the forbidden lovers are shouting at each other in the pouring rain. The guy you wouldn't look at twice out in public that's now on stage with his guitar and suddenly your legs are jelly.

Handy often (lovingly and jokingly) says, "You live your life in the movies, don't you?" or "You live inside your books." *snicker*giggle*snicker* I like to escape to my gushy heightened reality as much as the next person (okay, maybe more). It's not that I'm running from anything, but it's like having the best of a million worlds. In my heightened reality I've survived The Hunger Games! I've gone to school at Hogwarts! I've been a freaking PRINCESS! In my actual reality... I'm the wife to the sweetest guy in the world, I'm a daughter, a dog mom, daughter- and sister-in-law, aunt, friend, a writer who writes her own heightened realities, photographer, crafter, and pizza eater. Who says I can't have it all?  

How about you? Do you let yourself get swept away?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Have Confidence (not)

This has come up several times over the past week and I'm a bit surprised. I struggle with confidence. That's not the surprise. The surprise is that some people I know were surprised to learn that about me. Apparently I hide it well (I can only hope it doesn't come across as arrogance or something unsightly like that).

The truth is, I don't know if I've ever felt fully confident about anything. Even things I enjoy, or things I might do relatively well, I'm so hard on myself, I see the flaws and tear it to shreds (sometimes literally). With any job I've ever had, I get so nervous that they'll find out I actually don't know what I'm doing, that they'll give me duties that don't click in my brain. I'm not the only one that does this right?

I met with an old boss yesterday, and he asked me to come back. He kept talking me up, about how no one who came after me could compare, blah blah blah. I finally said, "You're making me nervous, because I feel like you got the wrong impression of the quality of my work..." Like I fooled him somehow. He laughed but I was serious.

Lately on my blog here, I've tried to have a positive outlook for this new year, and that's hidden my fear that I will fail, that I'm not good enough. It takes great effort to be positive, but I want to encourage all of you, and in the process, I need to keep talking myself into being more confident. Because I want to believe that I can do things I set my mind to. I want us all to believe it.

Anyone else struggle with confidence? What do you do to overcome doubts in your abilities?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Five

1. I'M MEETING JOHN GREEN TONIGHT!!! YES! THAT John Green! I've only read one of his books, but it was brilly and I'm anxious to hear what he has to say in person. Apparently his brother will be there too, and they're hilarious together as those of you that watch their vlogs know. Anyone else in Houston that's NOT going to ALA in Dallas going tonight??

2. I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning reading Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry. So what if some of it was total cheese, I was ADDICTED. SO GOOD!!

3. Tomorrow is the Montgomery County Teen Book Festival, which is pretty smallish, but it's maybe 5 minutes from my house at the local high school, so that's exciting! Gayle Forman will be there and the keynote speaker is Kristin Cast.

4. I was taking January off of photography, but I got sucked into a 1-year cake smash session this morning. I'm actually nervous about it. Total jitters. o_O

5. I'm getting SO close to finishing my first draft of my WIP it's making me even MORE nervous than photography. I'm so worried about tying up all the loose ends that I keep putting off writing. AHHHHH!!! It will get done by January 31, I'm just making myself sick over it even though I KNOW HOW GOOD IT WILL FEEL to be done!!

Happy Weekend!! Anything fun planned?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stranger Things Have Happened

I feel like I'm nervous all of the time now that I'm mere chapters away from finishing my first draft (and by first draft I mean first draft of the first book that I actually plan to do something with). I have trouble falling asleep because my brain won't shut up. I'm busy stitching together all the loose ends in my mind, making sure it's all going to actually WORK. And since I just registered for a conference this summer, complete with an agent meeting, I can't stop thinking about THAT.

Before I really started researching how to get published, I had NO idea how much went into it. How much love, stress, rejection. I didn't think about the YEARS that author spent on their baby getting it out to the world. The number of drafts, the querying, the sleepless nights waiting to hear back about submissions, this round of edits, that round of edits, etc. etc. ETC. For the consumer, it just shows up on the shelf at the store (or these days, online) and they either read it or don't, love it or meh.

What really got me thinking about this was going through the blog archives of Stephanie Perkins, way back to the beginning when she was painting her writing desk and working on the first draft of Anna and the French Kiss. Her posts were about normal things, things you and I blog about. Then as the years go by her posts get sprinkled with good news about this and that. DREAM AGENT LANDED, BOOK SOLD, BOOK RELEASE DATE, SEQUEL RELEASE DATE, etc, etc. She's friends with ladies like Laini Taylor, Kiersten White, Maureen Johnson and Beth Revis. She's got John Green vlogging about Anna and the French Kiss and telling everyone to buy it!

Go back to your favorite author's blog archives and speed through in minutes what they went through in years. It's extremely motivating to see proof that they were normal, unpublished writers once upon a time. We can do this. Stranger things have happened. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Calling anyone who's been to a writing conference!

I'm taking the plunge in 2012. I'm going to my first writing conference. Just the thought of meeting with an agent face to face while they listen to me blab on about my story makes me want to curl up in a ball.

The thing is, when I go on job interviews, I get so nervous I lose control of everything that comes out of my mouth. I'm not the best at thinking on my feet when they spring random questions on me. I panic. I don't exactly lie... but I do pretty much feel like I'm making things up just so I'm saying something instead of sitting there going UUUHHHHH..........

Meeting with an agent sounds like a job interview times a gazillion. I won't even be ready for one until this summer, but I'm already nervous about it (though I hope a lot of that is because I haven't even written my query yet, thus, I have NO CLUE what my pitch will be).

Have you been to a writing conference? Did you meet with an agent? Did they put you at ease right away or did you blabber on without much control?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Five (TV Show Edition)

1. I'm a newer fan of The Big Bang Theory. So far I've watched the first few seasons very slowly through Netflix (it hasn't been available instantly), and I've been keeping up with the new season. I haven't yet seen how Amy Farrah Fowler became part of the group but WOW is she funny. Last night's episode when Sheldon gave her the tiara... please someone else tell me they laughed as hard as I did.

2. Arrested Development, where have you been all my life?! I'm well into season two on Netflix instant and it's so golden. Tons of big name guest stars, lots of quirky humor, and Jason Bateman. That is all.

3. What was THAT on The Vampire Diaries last night??? Are they trying to pair Klaus and Caroline now?!?!?! I'm still loving this show. I never know where they're going with anything.

4. BONES came back on last night! I still have to look away when they show the dead bodies (MAN they look GROSS) but I love every single one of the characters on this show. I meant to record the spin off show, The Finder, but I forgot! I guess I'll have to catch up online before next week!

5. Downton Abbey is FINALLY back for a second season (you lucky UK residents have already seen it!!) and it's fabulous! Funny how they start you off disliking Mary and now we're rooting for her and Matthew (at least I am! ;). And Anna and Mr. Bates... sigh. This better work out for them or I'll be SUPER SAD!

Bonus - I'm still completely sucked into Revenge. What a wild ride this show is! Some of Emily's actions seem a little sloppy sometimes, but just when I'm sure she's going to get caught, she doesn't. And having "Amanda" around makes me nervous! I don't like Jack with her!! *bites nails*

Double bonus - Alcatraz starts on Monday!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How our Playlists are Built. Or What I'm Listening To and Why

Music is EVERYWHERE! Inside our cars, in stores, when we're on hold, in movies, on television... it's coming out of my computer right now! The other day, I was remembering how I came across my all-time favorite band, Switchfoot.

It's the most random of stories, but I'm thankful for it, as it's literally changed my life... and my shoes.

I was still in high school, watching a cheesy Disney movie called Model Behavior about a girl who ran into someone that looked just like her and they switched places. It had Justin Timberlake in it, so of course I watched it. Being the music nut that I am, this song came on in the movie and I fell for it. Forget Justin, forget everything but this song. I hopped online and researched the soundtrack (this was before iTunes) and found out the band's name was Switchfoot, the song: Let That Be Enough. Then I stumbled across their CD in a bookstore and I remembered that was the same band. I bought it and quickly became OBSESSED. I shared it with my parents, and they became equally obsessed. Together we've watched this band put out five MORE albums (seven altogether.. I think), loving each one even more. Their concerts are family bonding time, I tell you.

So, that's my big story about how I became an accidental Switchfoot fan. Here are some flash stories about why I'm listening to some other great artists you may love too!

Mindy Gledhill - Anchor
The song Anchor was on an episode of Bones and I fell in love with it. After previewing the album snippets on iTunes I knew I had to have the whole thing. It's such a great addition to my playlist!

Stacy Clark - Connect the Dots
I SHAZAM'd her song Touch & Go in a store at the outlet mall. The whole album is golden. Thank God for phone apps! :)

Erin McCarley - Love, Save the Empty
iTunes suggested this because I bought Stacy Clark's Connect the Dots. They were so right! I LOVE it!

The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
I don't make a habit out of watching the country music video channel, but out at the lake, it's pretty much the only channel that works. When I was there almost a year ago, this amazing song called Barton Hollow came up, and I googled the band on my phone. Turns out, this duo is one half Joy Williams, and I was a fan of hers from WAY back. I'm an even bigger fan now. These two are amazing. Check out their Christmas songs too. WOW.

Jem - Finally Woken
When I worked in a cubicle a couple years ago, I often traded iPods with the guy that faced me (we used our OWN earbuds, don't worry!), and this album was on his. I still love it... even though it makes me picture sitting in a cubicle sometimes. hahaha. 


Riverside by Agnes Obel
This song was on an episode of Revenge. It's gorgeous.

Trouble is a Friend by Lenka
From the movie Easy A. Such a fun song.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun - Glee
Did anyone else fall in love with Finn's rendition of this song? It's the way Greg Laswell sings it, as heard in the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic. I don't know what it is... but I LOVE this version.

Last but not least, the song getting the most love on my playlist right now is:
It's such a sweet song, and it makes me think of the relationship between Katniss and Prim.

So that's it for this edition. I hope I've introduced you to some new music!
Have you randomly run across your favorite songs too? How? And what are they?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Turning Envy into Support (When Blogging Friends Become Authors)

Well, now that we all know how we really feel about those ahead of us in the publishing game (see other post), it's time to do more. SUPPORT. I'm making it one of my goals this year to lend better support to our blogging author friends. They made it! Now let's help spread the word for them. After all, isn't that what social networking is all about??

Books I've read:

The Role of a Lifetime by Jennifer Shirk
Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper

Books I've bought:

Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif
The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry

Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner
Untraceable by S.R. Johannes

Books I plan to buy soon:

The Circle of Friends by L. Diane Wolfe
Eternal Starling by Angela Corbett
My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski

This in no way exhausts the list of amazing blogger-turned-authors, but they're the ones that have been on my mind lately. Who else can we add to the list?!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Five

1. Now that I don't go into an office three days a week, life has been going a little slower, and I like it. I'm getting things done that I want/need to get done. Feels good. Looking back, I see how stressed out that little part time job made me, and it wasn't worth it. Blessing in disguise!

2. I'm just over 63,000 words on my WIP. For a contemporary YA it may be a bit high for a first draft, especially considering I'm not done yet, but the plan is to just write and write, get it ALL out, then revise revise revise. I'm sure some big chunks will end up going bye-bye *bites nails* but I'd rather whittle down than try to find more things to add later.

3. Handy got me a hammock for Christmas! We hung it up a couple days ago (but it might rain later today, so we'll have to take it down) and I've been loving it! The weather has been great (though the mosquitos came back out to play yesterday) so I've been able to read and write out there! Love being outside!

4. I got a 13" MacBook Pro!!! It's the cutest little thing, and it's FAST!! Since I named my iMac HoneyCrisp after my favorite apple (at the time), I've named the MacBook after my newer favorite apple that debuted down here in Texas for the first time this year: SweeTango! Sweetie or Tango for short, depending on my mood!

5. I'm sad the holiday season is over. I don't want to take my lights down.

Maybe I won't.... :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's not easy being green (with envy)

The publishing world is jam-packed with things to be jealous about.

Oh, they got an agent! How great
Translation: omg why don't i have an agent? oh yeah, i'm still on my first draft. i suck.

Oh, they sold their book to a publisher! I can't wait to read their book!
Translation: omg i'm so far from that. what am i doing? i suck!

Oh, that's such a pretty cover! It will look fab on my bookshelf!
Translation: omg they lucked out on that. there's no way my cover will end up that cool. i suck!

Oh, they're having a launch party! I can't wait to meet them!
Translation: omg am i ever going to have a launch party? i suck!!!

Oh, they got a movie deal! Can't wait for that to come out!
Translation: omg i suck so bad. 

Seriously, it's exhausting being excited for everyone ahead of you, isn't it? It really is exciting to hear people are making their dream come true, but when you have the same dream, that little envy worm curls itself up inside your ear and tells you lies. It tells you that you can't make your dreams come true. That you'll never get an agent, you'll never sell your book, and even if you do you'll get a crap cover and no one will want it!

This new year presents a clean slate, envy free and full of possibilities! It's up to us to put in the work to make our dreams come true. Let's not waste our energy being jealous of everyone else. Let's channel that into making it happen for ourselves. 

What are you going to make happen in 2012??