Saturday, May 26, 2012

Digging Deeper

This was a week of digging deeper.

Two of my secondary characters were feeling dodgy, so I worked on some writing exercises to develop them further. To remind you about my current project, I'm rewriting one of my YA novels as MG. Both of the characters in need of development were in the original, but they're quite different in my new book--and not just because they're younger. I had to get a more complete picture of each one, digging deeper into their histories and hopes. I think it was time well spent.

Today I worked in our yard, literally digging deeper. My husband, Jim, enjoys gardening whereas I enjoy looking at a yard that's nicely groomed.  :)

I went outside, full of energy. I was asking all sorts of questions, as I always do on the rare days that I work on my sections. I realized how different it must have been for Jim with me there. Gone was his solitude.

I said, "When I'm helping, do you feel like you're working with a four-year-old?"

"Yeah," he said, "though I was thinking a three-year-old."

That's when I quieted down (a little).

Jim's sections (most of the yard) are pretty. Today he mowed the lawn, trimmed branches, weeded beds, and spread compost. The few areas I'm responsible for looked like they belonged outside a haunted house. I'd claimed them after rereading THE SECRET GARDEN a few years ago. I love that book.

It's dangerous for me, though. Whenever I read it, I crave spots of land where I can grow things. Mistake, mistake, mistake! I burn out on gardening faster than black widow spiders burn out on boyfriends. I should not be trusted with plants.

That said, I had a great time cleaning up one of my little sections. Years ago, I planted a strong, Dawn-resistant ground cover that has vines with pretty little leaves. (I'd tell you what it is, but I have no idea. Some smart person at the nursery picked it for me.) Over time, I watched it spread and noted it thrived under my negligence.

Today, I cut away the dead parts. First I worried I'd do it the wrong way, but I relaxed when Jim wasn't concerned. Besides, every time I cut away more dead leaves, the nicer it looked. Even when I snipped vines that had seemed dead but turned out to still have perfect leaves, I figured those were like the darlings we kill when we cut a less-than-fabulous scene that weighs down our work. My plant hacking reminded me of editing before I knew what I was doing as a writer. There's something to that "ignorance is bliss" cliché. Knowing I was playing instead of crafting brought joy. It reminded me to not take myself too seriously. I don't know about you, but my best writing happens when I'm having fun. I believe joy shows up on the page.

Joy showed up in my yard, too. I'd show you a picture, but without a "before" shot...well, very few people on the planet would find my gardening impressive. Just take my word for it: it looks better.

How is your writing going? How 'bout your gardening?

Just for fun, here's a song by Regina Spektor. My singing is even worse than my gardening, but if I could sing well...I think I'd like to sing like Regina Spektor.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Abandon Trilogy

Have any of you read Meg Cabot's UNDERWORLD?

Point, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
Release date: May 8, 2012

It's the second book in the Abandon Trilogy. I need to pick up a copy! Soon!

I've been a Meg Cabot fan for years. For a while there, I had an addiction to the Princess Diaries series. You know how certain books make you extra eager to work on your manuscript? Books by Meg Cabot and my friend Suzanne Selfors often have that effect on me. They fire me up and get me in the mood to write.

That's how it was with ABANDON, book #1 in Cabot's trilogy.

Point, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
Release date: April 26, 2011

I received the ARC from the publisher last year. Once I cracked it open, I couldn't put it down. I read it quickly, and--though our plots are very different--a few things I'd been contemplating in my own work-in-progress became clearer to me. Reading ABANDON fed something in me at a time when I needed energizing and to believe in my own gut instincts about my manuscript.

Here's the blurb:

Pierce knows what it's like to die, because she's done it before.

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone...because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away...especially since he always appears when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she fears: the Underworld.

The myth of Persephone...darkly reimagined.

Something I appreciate is the Meg Cabot-ness of the whole thing. She has such a great voice. A couple years ago, I heard an editor refer to a writer's voice as his or her "authorial fingerprint." Isn't that an awesome way to describe voice? To me, Meg Cabot's authorial fingerprint is golden. I mean, here we are, dealing with the Underworld--a dark, dangerous, seriously frightening place--and Meg Cabot manages to add humor. Even though there's growing tension keeping the reader flipping pages, the journey is fun. Totally my kind of read! I loved it! The characters, the setting...I enjoyed it all.

Now I'm dying to read UNDERWORLD--pun intended on the dying, of course.

How about you? Is there a series or trilogy you're currently reading? What authors get you in the mood to write?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Conference Bonus a la Kevan

As many of you already know, Kevan Atteberry rocks. He has illustrated award-winning books like

FRANKIE STEIN by Lola M. Schaefer


TICKLE MONSTER by Josie Bissett.

In addition to being an illustrator, he's a writer, a graphic designer, and a Flash animator. Best of all? He's a really nice person.

Kevan sometimes posts pictures of his art on Facebook, much to the delight of his friends. In February, he posted a piece I knew my teenage daughter would love. Knew. So I called her to the computer.

She was like, "Aaaah!! I want that for my wall!!"

I should probably tell you my daughter really likes pigeons. When we went to NYC a few years ago, she named the pigeons she came across. Kevan's picture has adorable pigeons in it, and they're eating candy hearts a man is feeding them. It's fabulous! It makes me want to know all about the man in the picture. I want to see the scenes that led up to that moment and where he'll go next. It's one of those pictures you feel in your heart. And my daughter loved it.

Fast forward a couple months to the SCBWI Western Washington Conference in April. My friend Barb and I were talking with Kevan, and I told him about my daughter's reaction to that picture.

Guess what!

Kevan said he had a copy of it with him at the conference, and my daughter could have it!! 

Super excited, I thanked him like crazy--and immediately asked if he'd sign it, too. (Note: I'm not normally a give-me-an-inch-and-I'll-take-a-mile kind of gal, but can you imagine what a cool gift that would be for the girl who wanted it on her wall? And to have it signed by Kevan?!)

When we bumped into each other the next day, he brought it to me! Looky, looky, looky!

© K.J. Atteberry, used with permission

The first thing I did when I got home from the conference was give the picture to my daughter. She was sooo excited! We're going to frame it and get it where it belongs: on her wall!

Thank you, Kevan!!

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You can learn more about Kevan and his many talents at his website! A little bird told me (maybe it was a pigeon!) he'll soon have a blog there as well!