Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why I Run

Years ago I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. At the time I wasn’t a runner, but Murakami is undoubtedly one of my favorite authors, and so there was no question about whether I would read his running memoir. From what I can remember it was pretty good, but it didn’t have much of an impact on me otherwise.

I was a smoker. Super, duper overweight. Terrified of all things exercise.

Now, I get to call myself a runner. I’m in training for my first half-marathon and it seems like it’s a good time to pull Murakami’s running memoir back out and give it a second go.

But this also got me thinking about my own reasons for running. Health and weight-related issues are the reasons I started, but now they’re only part of why I keep going. Unlike other forms of exercise, like strength training or swimming laps or even yoga (the latter two of which I actually really enjoy), there’s a definitive freedom to running.

There are headphones in my ears. An audio book or maybe a podcast going. Myself. And sometimes this crazy kid:

For me, this is pure, beautiful freedom. Especially coming from my *ahem* very non-athletic background in which running was absolutely never an option. Sometimes I forego the headphones when I really feel as if I need to clear my head or I’m trying to work out a story idea, but for the most part, those earbuds are plunked firmly in there.

My love of running parallels my love of writing. At its most basic there is freedom. All this talk of freedom makes it sound like I’m trying to run away from something, but it’s more than that. Different. It’s freedom to expand my world and push up against its edges, to swallow up everything I see and reincorporate it back into something real and tangible.

Even if sometimes naps sound more fun.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my blogger friends in the U.S., and happy regular Thursday to everyone else.

I'm enjoying spending time with my parents whom I haven't seen for TWO YEARS. My dear, wonderful daughter decided to seize upon the opportunity to display my parenting skills, and leaned over to my dad on the ride home from the airport to tell him, "This song has 'mother fucker' in it."

Also, here's a reminder of how ugly these mother fuckers are before we cook them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Release & Giveaway: Piper Morgan to the Rescue

My daughter recently hit the exciting stage of *dun dun duunnnn* chapter books!

I worried over whether my kids would take after my love of reading, especially with my husband’s deep love of gaming and the easy access to consoles and computers in our house (OK, I like gaming too). So after my daughter was born I did what any parent would do: I read and read and read to her.

Bedtime stories started when she was still an infant, and her brother joined in on the nightly ritual when he was born. When she headed off to kindergarten I started reading chapter books during bedtime, going through one or two chapters a night or even more when the book was especially good. And now?

Now she reads some of those chapters to me. I cling to this nightly ritual, even as she sets off to finish certain chapter books by herself. We’ve read a lot of a Junie B. Jones (who my daughter thinks is extremely naughty), Roald Dahl, and many of the Dragon Master books by Tracey West. There have also been the Monster High and Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books that have taken us in. It’s these nightly chapter books that got me so excited to discover Stephanie Faris’ Piper Morgan books.

As we’re about to start the Piper Morgan series, a new one is hitting the shelves! Piper Morgan to the Rescue is the third book in the series and I already can’t wait to get to it.

Piper Morgan to the Rescue

Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!

The author is a pretty cool person, too.
Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

Still want to know more about this lovely lady? Find her pretty much everywhere on the Internet.

(Fun story, Stephanie, I used to live just a couple hours away in Memphis!)

Stephanie is also giving a way a free copy of Piper Morgan to the Rescue. What could be better than that? A free copy that also happens to be signed. Don't miss out on the chance to get your hands on this book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 11, 2016

With Great Querying Comes Great Rejections

If there’s any single aspect of being a writer that takes up more time than writing and reading, that aspect is probably querying.

Oh, querying. How optimistic you make me feel before you bangarang back around with a swift defeat. Writing requires resiliency, though. Rather, writing then attempting to be published requires resiliency.

Mostly because you’ll get plenty of non-writer friends saying things like, “JK Rowling was rejected, like, a million times,” or “Doesn’t Stephen King still get rejected? I read that somewhere.” Just pet them on the heads and say, “Shhhh, shush your beautiful mouth."

Rejections used to take a pretty hard toll on me. I’d need a drink, a nap, and then more drinks while I pouted and re-watched Parks & Rec for the hundredth time. How can you not be inspired to keep going when watching Leslie Knope? That woman gets shit done. If Leslie Knope can keep going after being recalled from the Pawnee City Council, I can keep sending out queries after rejections.

I would tally up the number of times the following have been collectively rejected, but that’s depressing so I’ll spare us all that pain. We’ll just put it this way: Rejections. Rejections for days.

Right now I’m not super busy with querying, but it takes up about half as much time as a part-time job. A quarter-time job, if you will. These are what I’m actively querying and submitting right now:

This is Now – novel
[This is totally just a pared down version of my query letter.]
This is Now is an 80,000 word new adult novel that follows Ina Wickham as she grapples with shaving those stubborn inches off of her waist and struggles to find her place in the adult world. 

Twenty-one-year-old Ina has spent most of her life trying to blend into the background. However, saddled with what her mother calls the “perfect birthing hips” and a height that teeters at six feet, standing out is all she’s ever done. Trapped in a sexless relationship, a nearly deadly trip to the emergency room drains Ina’s savings account and tensions rapidly rise in her cramped apartment.

Strapped for cash, Ina finds herself entangled in the world of alternative modeling where hiding is no longer an option. Tattoos and piercings, bright red lipstick, and shady weight loss tricks begin to dominate her life. As the fabric of her old life begins to unravel around her, Ina discovers the true cost of changing her clothes and she begins to wonder, is it worth it?

The Brothers Browne Lost and Found – short story
A quirky museum full of lost items gets just what it wants on its opening night – a visitor testimonial. The story of a lost and found item turns out to be bigger than anyone could have imagined.

The Longest Three Minutes – short story
Three minutes isn't much time, unless a life is on the line. So what happens when those three minutes are over? Not much happens for Gwen, but nothing is ever the same for Keith.

Are you querying or submitting anything right now?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What I'm Writing + NaNoWriMo Update

It’d be great if someone just plopped down a contract, shelled out a huge advance, and then asked me to spend my time leisurely writing the most spectacular novel ever. You know, if we’re talking about dreams.

But dreams only get you so far. Listen, I’m not knocking dreams. I think that they’re important to have, even when they’re maybe not the most attainable. But when they are? Hello driving force, let’s get to work. For me, that work is writing. And writing. And writing some more. Even if I can’t sit down to work on my novel every day (sorry NaNoWriMo, I’m doing my best!), I still make it a point to journal daily.

This is me multitasking pretty much all of November.

Right now I’m working on my novel, The Articulate Boy, formerly-titled Forgetting Home. It was interesting to watch my WIP title evolve from what was a very fitting name in the beginning to something that turned out to be totally off-base. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do outline. Thoroughly. Also, I completely admit that it’s a procrastination tool. I eventually hurdle over the fear that keeps me in the planning stage, but I definitely chill there for a while.

Super Awesome Summary
The Articulate Boy follows a family dealing with one life change after another. First Norma, Heather’s mother, moves in with the family after her rapidly developing Alzheimer’s makes it impossible to continue living on her own. David is on the verge of losing his agent because he hasn’t managed to produce a bestseller (or even a mediocre seller) in years. He’s in the process of adopting Josiah, his stepson, and his rocky marriage to Heather has him especially eager to complete the process as quickly as possible. Josiah, still getting over the death of his father, is soon faced with a problem that his whole family must deal with – his girlfriend’s pregnancy and the tension of being biracial in a mostly white community. 
You know what sucks? Writing summaries. #WritingTruths
Back-of-the-book blurbs suck, too.
If I could make a great story that brief, I would just fucking do it.

My short stories have taken a backseat to NaNoWriMo and mynew business venture, but I do have a really fun flash fiction piece in mind for when November wraps up. It involves life and death, who haven’t had sex in a few centuries, but still share a bed and a coffee maker.

What are you writing? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how goes the word count?

Current NaNo Word Count: 10,115
Days Left to Pull the Rest of This Novel Out of My Ass: 23

Friday, November 4, 2016

DIY Thanksgiving Centerpiece -- Book-Style

Spending time with family is pretty much the hallmark of every commercial, TV show, and movie that involves the holidays. This reflected reality for my husband, who grew up surrounded by an enormous extended family that got together for not just the holidays, but for any reason to spend time together and eat food.

Me? I grew up in the military. Spending lots of time with extended relatives? That's adorable.

I don't know a single person who actually flies the planes.

My parents trucked us back to Alabama for a few holidays throughout the years, but we spent most Thanksgivings and Christmas’ at home. And you know what?

I still hate going home for the holidays.

It’s not because I don’t want to see loved ones, or because my own family is now so spread out it’s impossible to get us all together at once, it’s because it’s fucking stressful. When you don’t live near family and then go back for a visit, you’re expected to join in on every activity, to stay throughout the entire event, and to generally run yourselves and your kids ragged to make everyone happy. I love our families, but please. Fuck that.

So we do our own military-style holidays at home. None of us have family nearby, so every Thanksgiving I cook up a Turkey and a side or two, then open our doors to friends and anyone else who doesn’t have a place to go. We celebrate potluck style and usually have more sides, desserts, and alcohol than we know what to do with. Christmas is the same. No one to chill with? Come over after we open presents! I’ll make you some fajitas because Jesus Christ, I just made a turkey last month and it’s not happening again.

This Thanksgiving is no exception to my open-door policy, but there’s an added bonus – my parents will be here! I haven’t seen my parents in two years and am counting down the days till their flight lands.

Since I’ll be hosting several of our friends, anyone else who might need a place to go, and my parents, I’m trying to make a bigger effort presentation-wise. OK, OK, it’s mostly for my parents. My dad was the kind of person who vacuumed the ceiling while I was growing up and this is a blatant attempt to impress them. Mom, if you’re reading this, I promise I’ll clean the bathrooms before you get here.

I decided I wanted a book-themed Thanksgiving centerpiece because, well, why not? Honestly I knew I could use it as an excuse to either buy a new book or notebook. It was also the perfect reason to go to Target, because I have a problem and am not ashamed to acknowledge it. I also have no interest in fixing it.

<-- These are the items I used to create my on-a-budget centerpiece, and the price came out to just about $20. I picked up a small basket, a wooden cutting board-style display, a matching notebook (the priciest item on the list), wooden leaves, a set of warm LED lights, and a new table runner. It was important that I went with a color scheme that matched a tablecloth I already owned, because I both yearn to impress my parents and am also cheap as hell.

Therapy let thy will be done. Or, you know, drinking coffee and having late night conversations with the husband. Same thing, right? Too bad insurance won't reimburse our costs for the latter.

Overall, I think it turned out pretty good. I'm clearly not winning any awards here, but it gives the table a focal point and bonus, I got a new notebook.

The LED lights are woven throughout the basket, which is artfully stuffed with white tissue paper,
because tulle was $3.

And before anyone gets the wrong idea and thinks that I'm way more into housework than I actually am, this is what my adjoining kitchen looked like during the process:

Dishes are the worst.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Do you have annual family traditions or are do you just go with the flow?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Wrap-Up + NaNoWriMo

We bid farewell to October with trick-or-treating, a candy-induced headache, and lots of non-food treats that we passed out as part of the Teal Pumpkin Project. The TPP is a way to help include kids with food allergies or disease-related dietary restrictions in the holiday. My son happens to fit both of those categories as he has food allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis.

Shout-out to the Target not-quite-dollar section for the goodies we passed out.

Most of the kids were super thrilled to grab some vampire teeth or a pencil, which my daughter and I handed out while she sat out trick-or-treating with a stomach ache. And then, that kid came.

“Why are you giving us this stuff?”

Because, you little shit, it’s Halloween. Now grab a pencil and get off my porch. Luckily my daughter has more tact than I do, and told him “Happy Halloween.”

Halloween is also more than just a fun holiday. For me, turning off the porch lights and sending the kids to bed marks the beginning of a month-long literary adventure. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, begins once the clock strikes midnight and the calendar flips over to November.

It’s kind of like a Disney fairytale, but with lots of coffee and telling the prince to fuck off because you need to write.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel in a single month, which averages out to about 1,667 words a day. I’ve lost track of how long I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, although I skipped last year due to a fun combination of school + work + husband’s deployment + son’s hospitalization.

I’m being a NaNo rebel this year, as I’m not actually starting a brand-new novel from scratch. Instead, I’m using the crazy motivation that is the month of November to add 50,000 words to an already in-progress novel that I’ve been struggling to finish. The Articulate Boy is sitting at 20,665 words, but I’m starting my word count at 0 for NaNoWriMo to ultimately land at 70,665 words by the beginning of December. On the bright side, it will give me plenty to cut during edits.

How was your Halloween? And are you participating in NaNo, or do you have other literary plans for November? Send me a buddy request if you're on the NaNoWriMo train!