Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Birthday Weekend is OVER. Now the work begins!

Handy likes to say I have a "birthday month," but I definitely at least have a "birthday weekend." For the past three birthdays, Handy and I have gone to Canyon Lake for a 2.5 day weekend. The towns nearby are ADORABLE and have great little shops with antiques and chic little boutiques. I'm telling you, these shops make me want to redecorate, reorganize, and dress better. It's like the high after an author event... but geared toward the home. I sure hope this urge sticks around and doesn't get lost in my WIP revision nightmare (chapter one and I are taking a break from each other), because I have all SORTS of grand ideas.

On Saturday, we realized that Handy had NEVER seen the ALAMO. How could this be?! What Houstonian hasn't seen the Alamo?! So we drove the 30 minutes farther south (after a pit stop at the MASSIVE Bass Pro Outdoor World store where we left with a new fishing rod and reel as if it was HIS birthday weekend ;) and WHAMO! There we were in front of THIS:

I didn't have my good camera with me, but the point and shoot did pretty good with this one, methinks.

We didn't go in. Handy doesn't have the patience for museums so we just looked around the grounds and watched a little of the reenactment that was happening out front (complete with CANONS).

The point and shoot did not do as well with this one....

Then we hung out at the River Walk and even rode the little boat thing (which was surprisingly cheap and informative--I had no idea that most of it is a real river).

Or this one...

We also hit up the big outlet mall in San Marcos, as per Birthday Weekend tradition, where I snagged me a new pair of Converse! RED!!! And now it's back to work! Revisions, photography, revisions, back to the office, revisions, work from home, revisions, redecorate, revisions, decoupage!, revisions revisions revisions.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

After I devoured Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, I ran out to get book two, Rules of Attraction. And! It's also another for my Multi-Cultural Book Challenge hosted by Truly Bookish and One Page at a Time!

From Goodreads:
When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado . Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.
I'd heard that book two in this series was possibly even better than book one, and I've got to say, I was skeptical going into it. Alex was a bad boy that stole my heart, but Carlos... he's the real bad boy! His story is surprisingly fresh and different than that of his brother's, and I couldn't put it down.
Kiara's family is close (I was shocked at everything Kiara shared with her parents!) and they all eagerly take Carlos in as one of their own, no questions asked. Of course Carlos resists, but his walls slowly break down by the hand of this loving family and the journey is addictive. It's the characters, it's the writing, it's the will they or won't they already!
I can't wait for book three!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Twenty-nine years ago today...

I was born! Today is the first day of the last year in my twenties. Crazy!!

I've had a good feeling about this year since the start of it, so aside from the fact that my next birthday will put me in my thirties, I'm optimistic this year is going to be memorable.

A year ago today I picked up Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins at my local Borders (*sniffles*) and read it in two days. This book sparked my love for contemporary YA, and ultimately urged me to write a contemporary myself (the one I just finished the first draft of!). Sort of puts high expectations on whatever book I start reading today, doesn't it? :)

Now that I'm in lurve with contemporaries, what are some of your favorite titles??

Some that I've enjoyed recently are:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Past Perfect by Leila Sales
Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

And so it begins... the first revision.

REVISIONS REVISIONS REVISIONS. How intimidating are you? You make me anxious. You make me sick to my stomach. You steal my brain from me when I'm supposed to be working (you know, the kind that actually pays me for my time). You make my leg bounce up and down any time I'm seated. You draw me to the computer only to sit and stare at the screen without accomplishing anything because you. scare. the. mess. out. of. me.

I will say that changing two characters names throughout the entire manuscript in three seconds by the click of a button was a REALLY cool feeling! Wish I'd thought of these names sooner though because I adore them. :)

I have a few things I want to clean up toward the end of the book before looking at the beginning and finding the real place it's supposed to start. So I've been trying to repair a scene that's been determined to be ridiculous, but then it made me think of a scene a few chapters later and I hopped to that one instead thinking it would be a quick fix... it's not. So now I have two scenes torn apart and bleeding. How do you keep yourself focused on one thing at a time? Are you systematic in your revisions, or do you hop around until it all gets done?

I think I need a game plan. I'm just not sure what it is yet. But there will be chocolate.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The first draft is FINISHED!

My long-time followers may remember when I started my WIP back in April of last year. I was fresh off of a Teen Book Conference high having just met my hero, Stephanie Perkins, and I'd finally been struck with an idea for a story set here:

Taken from the Roman Forum

and here:

View of Manarola from the ferry - Cinque Terre, Italy

with a window view like this:

View from the apartment we stayed at in Riomaggiore - Cinque Terre, Italy

which I had been dying to do since my trip to Italy in 2009.

In June, I finally came up with the title If Only You Were Italian, and I'm happy to say that I still love it. 

Then over the last couple months, you've all heard me whine about how close I've been to finishing the first draft, pushing my self-imposed deadline out again and again (because apparently I don't do self-imposed deadlines). Well, i'm proud to say, that Saturday morning at 2:30am on the dot, the last chapter was completed!! I tweeted my good news but all my cheerleaders had long been asleep for the night. I wasn't completely alone though--my Australian followers were very willing to throw streamers at me! *waves to Jade and the gang* 

Now that the celebrating has happened and one of my critique partners has now read everything I've written on this story, the reality of the revisions before me has set in. So many things need to change. So many things I thought were smart when I wrote them are, in fact, LAME. Sigh. But that's the fun of it right? Transforming the bare bones (that may or may not be 15-20k words too long) into a story with good flow, pacing, and character development so that everyone in the world (that likes YA Contemporary) will want to read it!

*rolls up sleeves*


How's YOUR story coming?? Any revision tips or methods to share?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Five - Downton, Author Signings and Love and First Sight

1. So I'm STILL not done with my first draft. That is all I have to say about that.

2. I'm back on track working out, and I finally have a virtual buddy doing the same program with me so we're actually being held accountable. Definitely motivating!

3. I'm rather upset this Sunday is the last episode of Downton Abbey for a while. But I suppose I should be glad for one less television show to distract me. I'm not there yet. #teammatthew

4. I got The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith and I can't wait to read it!!!

5. I'm going to two ROCKING author events this next week!!! Tomorrow is the Winter Dark Days tour featuring Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, and Courtney Allison Mouton. And Wednesday is the Breathless Reads tour with Beth Revis, Marie Lu, Jessica Spotswood and Andrea Cremer. PUMPED! I know I'll end up with more books than I can read any time soon, but I also know the writing high I'm going to have for weeks to come will be put to good use. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Downton Abbey Valentine Greeting

My mom sent these to me today. Fantastic for the Downton Abbey fan!

This artist is super talented, don't you think?

Check out the rest HERE.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The ORIGINS Blogfest!

This blogfest is hosted by DL from Cruising Altitude 2.0, Katie Mills from Creepy Query Girl, Alex J. Cavanaugh and Matthew MacNish from The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment.

ORIGINS: When my writing dreams began

I was homeschooled from grades 4-6, and one day a week (or two days a week... or maybe once a month, I don't remember) my "homeschool group" would get together for classes and special activities, organized crafts, competitions, you name it. It was super fun. One of these events, a woman involved in the publishing industry (I don't remember if she was an author, editor or what) came to help us with creative writing. Whatever story I came up with impressed her because after class, she pulled my mom and me aside and gave us some info, encouraging me to consider pursuing writing as a career one day. I thought that was pretty awesome, but I was like, nine or ten and my dad was still working on me to hold my pencil the right way (I still don't... sorry). 

I had fun with assigned creative writing exercises all through school, but never thought much about writing on my own until a few weeks before college graduation in 2005 when this group of friends started pestering me... in my head. I didn't know who they were or what their names were, but they were trying to tell me their story, so I began to write it down. I got so obsessed with this story, I even brought a notebook with me to my graduation ceremony and kept on writing while they announced everyone's names. But over the next four years, I would work on it, forget about it, work on it, research the publishing industry, get scared and abandon it again, work on it. I finally finished it, got involved in my local Writers Guild and a critique group, started blogging in 2009 in effort to network and learn more about the industry, met some online buddies *waves*, realized my story was crap, shelved it, and began work on some of my other ideas.

My current WIP (which I just might finish within the next couple days! EEEEK!) is probably the project I've been the most excited about. I shared it with my mom and grandmother once I had the first two chapters written, and ever since then they've cheered me on and begged for more. Their encouragement (along with that of my critique girls and writing buddies) has really pushed me forward and helped me believe that anything is possible if I put in the work. 

Walt Disney believed that the difference between winning and losing was not quitting. Sounds good to me :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Five - Book Hoarding and Swapping

1. I had one more B&N gift card left from Christmas, so I ordered My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Legend by Marie Lu, and A Million Suns by Beth Revis. I can't wait to read ALL of them.

2. Those of you that get the Alice Marvels newsletters every weekday know the awesome giveaways she hosts. I've won two books from Alice so far, the latest one being The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten.

3. Recently I met up with a group of Houston blogging friends for lunch and field trips to two of our Houston Half Price Books. I picked up Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by  Michelle Hodkin, and Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer. Like I should be adding more books to my pile, but I can't resist a good deal on a book I know I'm going to read!

4. Tomorrow I'm going to another local bookstore after lunch with with my blogging friend from Cari's Book Blog! The same bookstore I recently picked up Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.

5. My name is Kristin and I'm a book hoarder. Hi, Kristin!

Here's the current list of used books I have up for swap if anyone is interested!

-ARC of Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culberson
-Paperback of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
-Hardback of Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn't have) by Sarah Mlynowski
-Paperback of Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
-Paperback of Red Riding Hood by Blakley-Cartwright/Johnson

-Paperback of The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
-Paperback of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How do you celebrate your first draft?

I'm so close, y'all. SO. CLOSE. I finished another chapter yesterday and in my mind there are four or five left. I'd LOVE to be done by Monday when I go back to work three days a week in an office (got offered an old job I had as a geo-tech doing oil exploration), but I definitely hold myself back. For all that I'm excited about being done and diving into revisions (I really am excited about revisions, and I plan to implement the system Tera Lynn Childs uses with all the pretty highlighters and stickies. See her post HERE), I'm also very antsy and nervous that I won't be able to tie everything up as pretty as I see it in my head. It makes me hesitate when I sit down and write, which translates into the whole thing taking me WAY longer than it should (which is why I'm still working on this draft I started last APRIL).

But it's going to happen. It will be finished, and SOON. I need to grab onto something else to look forward to, a reward. When you finish a first draft, how do you celebrate? Do you treat yourself to something new? Go eat a fancy dinner? Buy a pretty new pack of highlighters for your revisions? ;)

Give me some ideas, because this labor of love will definitely be celebrated when it's finished!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nurse Log Books - Gayle Forman Event

A couple weeks ago, Gayle Forman (If I Stay and Where She Went) came into town for a book festival. Her presentation was a little unconventional. She discussed three entire books she's written that will never see the light of day. They're living in the cemetery of her hard drive. She calls these Nurse Log Books.

nurse log - a large decomposing tree trunk that has fallen, usually in a forest; the decaying wood provides moisture and nutrients for a variety of insects and plants
The books she's written between the ones that have actually gotten published may not ever be loose in the wild, but they aren't without purpose. They led her to the books that have gotten published. She says as a writer, you always have to be working on something, and sometimes you have to write the wrong book in order to write the right book.

Do you have any nurse log books? I'd say the first "complete" novel I wrote was definitely one. It's mostly junk, but it was like one giant exercise in writing. I stretched my writer legs on it. It was my 5k leading up to the marathon.

Bullet Points of Interest from Gayle Forman's presentation:

-If I Stay was actually her third published book, but it's the first one anyone paid attention to.
-Never intended on a sequel for If I Stay, but the characters would wake her up at 3am saying, "What have you done with us?"
-If I Stay was inspired by a family of four that she knew that all died in a car crash. The 8 year old lived longer and was life-flighted. She was struck by that, wondering if he knew his family was gone and chose to go with them.
-She never thought If I Stay would have done so well. She's still shocked that this thing she wrote in the corner of her family room is read by people all over the world, and she gets emails from readers in places like Indonesia.
-If she had actually set out to write a book with a message to teens about how fleeting life is, it would have failed.
-As a writer/author, the only thing you can control is what you're writing now. You can't control who reads it, how it does, what happens with the movie, etc. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Five

1. I just dropped off my Tahoe to get looked at/worked on. She's been running funny for a while and the brakes are squeaky. I probably won't get her back until MONDAY which means I'll be wheel dependent all weekend. Odd feeling.

2. YA author Joy Preble interviewed me for her blog (along with some other fab Texas bloggers), so if you haven't seen it, check it out HERE!

3. My WIP is finally approaching the end of that tunnel... you know, where the light is coming from? I hit 72,000 words yesterday (EEEEK!!!) with at least five known chapters left to go, so it's safe to say I'm going to be quite scissor happy during revisions. Easier to cut than to add though!

4.  I was hoping for a winter this year, but it's been warm the past month and I'm sneezing like it's allergy season. The wildflowers are already popping up all over town too. It's FEBRUARY, WHAT THE WHAT?

5. I have The Hunger Games fever. The new trailer has reminded me I want to read the first book again before the movie comes out NEXT MONTH!! It's getting closer! Who's ready?! The first trailer had a ROCKING song which you can listen to HERE. It only took me forever to track it down. haha. Too bad those people aren't doing the music for the movie. I lurve it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fabulous in February

Hard to believe we've finished an entire month in 2012 already. It flew by quicker than expected for me, as evidenced by my still incomplete first draft of my WIP. BUT, it's getting super close!! It's safe to say it will definitely be done by the end of February. It's the research that's bogging me down the most. 

I've read some great books the past month. 
  • Finally dove into The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and finished the first book, City of Bones. It took me a little while to get into it, but once the action really got going, I couldn't put it down. I look forward to the next one, and her other series, The Infernal Devices. 
  • I've already gushed about Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. Can't wait to start book two! 
  • Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper was fantastic! If you're even remotely interested in mermaids, READ IT! You won't be disappointed. 
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson was quite different from anything else I've read. I can't even explain it to you. Just read it. It's remarkable. 
Lined up for February:
  • I'm currently reading Unearthly by Cynthia Hand and I'm completely sucked in. I'm skeptical where angel books are concerned, but I'm trying to treat it like any other paranormal story I'd read, and it's quite good. 
  • The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney for book club. I won this book over a year ago in a blog contest and have yet to read it! Looking forward to discussing it at the end of the month with the girls. 
  • Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles. Hola Fuentes nĂºmero dos! This counts toward my Multi-Cultural book challenge too!
  • I also plan to start Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner. It sounds great!
Besides reading fabulous books this February, I've decided to look more fabulous too. Most days, I dress like a slob in my yoga pants and sweatshirt, hair in a big knotted mess piled on top of my head. I want to make a better effort to look presentable, fix my hair more. Accessorize! My birthday is this month, so it's a reminder that I'm not getting any younger. The time to feel good about myself is NOW. 

How was your January? Read anything fab you'd like to gush about? Anything exciting planned for February?

***Be sure to stop by YA author Joy Preble's blog. I'm being interviewed!***