Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mama Curmudgeon and 3-D Movies

I'm sort of a curmudgeon when it comes to 3-D movies. If I don't think it's going to really add a lot to the movie, we see the regular version rather than the 3-D version. I mean, come on, going to the movies as a family is expensive enough, and then to add $5.00 extra per person for the 3-D experience? Examples of movies we could have seen in 3-D but DIDN'T include Despicable Me, Toy Story 3, and How to Train Your Dragon. In those movies, seeing how the story played out was far more important than the visuals, in my humble opinion.

My boys were big fans of Kathryn Lasky's Guardians of Ga'Hoole series. My oldest read at least ten of the books in middle school (he read as far as the series went at the time). My youngest read to about book seven, and then lost interest. Anyway, they were excited to see the film adaptation, Legend of the Guardian. I looked up reviews, as I usually do, and most of them said the the 3-D affects for this movie were fantastic, and some said the visuals were far more entertaining than the story. I sighed and said, "Okay. 3-D it is."

And I have to say - the visuals were stunning. They definitely kept me entertained when the story didn't. My boys really enjoyed the movie, so much so that my oldest son came home and immediately started rereading book 1. I'm glad we saw it in 3-D.

So yesterday, we hear about
the next latest and greatest 3-D films coming to the screen.

In our house, I'm pretty sure we have more Star Wars Legos/toys/games/action figures/bed sheets/stuffed animals than we do family photos. George Lucas probably has a vacation home funded completely by the Schroeder family. So you can imagine how excited my boys were to hear about ALL SIX STAR WARS MOVIES BEING RELEASED IN 3-D!!

Mama Curmudgeon doesn't have a fighting chance with this one, folks.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Scene by Scene

"E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard." — Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

When I began writing novels years ago, it was daunting. Every page felt so big and with every one I wondered, how can I possibly fill up 200+ of them and string along a story that makes sense? I was constantly thinking and WORRYING about the WHOLE BOOK.

Somehow, I managed to finish that novel. But that was really just me seeing a story through beginning to end. It wasn't a particularly interesting story, and if you asked me what the plot was, I'm sure I couldn't tell you.

Now, I understand the importance of plot. Weaving plots and subplots together is important, and takes time figuring out how to do it well. I still feel like I have a lot to learn with this.

But how I write a novel is different now. I take it scene by scene. With each scene, I ask, what do I want to accomplish in this scene - character development, plot development, or a little of both? I don't think about the rest of the book, I just try and write that scene to the best of my ability. I go along, scene by scene, until pretty soon, there is a part of a book there. And eventually, a whole book.

Isn't it true that usually when we remember a book we loved or a movie, there is a certain scene or two that sticks out in our head? We don't recall chapters or pages or how far into the movie we were. We say - I loved that scene...

Last week, I wrote a bunch of words trying to find my way into a story. Finally, Friday, I found it. Since then, I've written three scenes. I'm excited about writing more this week, each time, just focusing on the scene in front of me.

I'm curious - does E.L. Doctorow's quote resonate with you and your writing like it does with mine?

Friday, September 24, 2010


Thanks to EVERYONE who entered the contest.

Sarah S. - you are the winner!!

I'll get in touch with you to get your address and send the ARC off to you.

Thanks again everyone - make sure you pick up THE MOCKINGBIRDS when it comes out in November!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The season of finding the next story

Last week I joined JoNoWriMo+1.5 (a variation of nanowrimo hosted by author Jo Knowles) with a goal of 50,000 words on a new manuscript.

Yet this week I have:

watched a lot of music videos.

tweeted more often than usual.

read a lot.

caught up on my recorded TV shows (almost).

went for long walks in the sunny afternoons.

scribbled in my idea journal a little bit.

wrote some character ideas in a scrivener file.


not written one single word toward that 50K word goal.

In church, we are studying the book of Ecclesiastes. In our monthly newsletter, our pastor said, "Ecclesiastes isn't designed to inspire and warm the heart. It is a book that sees emptiness in almost everything, all the deeds that are done under the sun are vanity and chasing after the wind. (1:14)"

"But within the darkness of Ecclesiastes view of the world, there are two brief glimmers of light. First is the one made famous in popular music by The Birds song in Everything. Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes invites us to both the continuity and the changes at work in the world and to trust there is purpose and design."

To trust there is purpose and design.

"To every thing there is a season..."

As in life, so it is in writing. I am trusting that when it is time to write, I will know it.

In the meantime, in the course of my "work" this week, I discovered the Goo Goo Dolls have a new CD out! Johnny is JUST as cute as EVER!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brave writers, speak loudly and MOCKINGBIRDS ARC giveaway

By now most of you have probably heard of Wesley Scroggins and the opinion piece he wrote for the News Leader of Springfield, MO.

He calls the novel SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson "soft pornography," among other things, along with SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE and TWENTY BOY SUMMER.


He wants these books out of the school district.

He wants teens who might be struggling around issues of rape, which SPEAK is about, or around issues of grief, which TWENTY BOY SUMMER is about, to not have these incredible books to help them know they're not alone.

Why must people feel the need to go out and take away books from other people? I don't understand! No one has the right to decide what my kids shouldn't be reading except ME. No one has the right to decide what your kids shouldn't be reading except YOU. 

There are some incredible posts around the blogosphere about women who were victims of sexual assault, and the shame they felt even though they did NOTHING WRONG.

Check out this brave post by author Saundra Mitchell that made me cry.

Or this heartfelt and brave post by author C.J. Redwine.

Or this brave and sad post by author Cheryl Rainfield.

You can find a round-up of all the various posts that encourage everyone to speak loudly HERE.

SPEAK is one of the greatest books of our time. I'm so glad Laurie Halse Anderson had the courage to write it.

Another author, Daisy Whitney, faced the page with courage, and I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of her upcoming novel THE MOCKINGBIRDS, which also deals with date rape. It is SUCH a good book. And I know like SPEAK, it will help countless women as they struggle to come to terms with what has happened to them after being sexually violated.

I want to give the ARC away to someone because this is a book that I hope many, many people read. The more we read, the more we talk, and the more we let it be known that we will not sit by silently while the Wesley Scroggins of the world try to bully us into his irrational way of thinking.

Trust me, you want to read this book. I want you to read this book! So comment and you're entered. I'll draw a name Thursday, 9/23 at 5:00 pm PST. US Residents only please.

Now go and SPEAK LOUDLY!!!

Monday Motivation - On False Starts

"Failure is success if we learn from it." ~ Malcolm S. Forbes

I did a Skype visit with some teen writers yesterday at Boise Public Library. One of the things I told them is that the first draft should be your playground. Writing a book is hard work. You have to figure out what will make you go back to the story again and again, and for me, it's thinking of that first draft as a place to play and have fun. Hard work can be fun? With the right attitude and with the RIGHT STORY, yes, I think it can be.

Did you catch that? It's not just about the right attitude. It's also about the right story.

Last week I started a new book. This weekend, I spent hours reading books for research, because I had to set the story in a different place and a very different time period. The more I read and the more I thought about this story, the less excited I became. Not a good sign. But more than that, I thought - do I *care* about this story? Do I want to spend hours and weeks and months telling THIS story?

And when the answer was no, I knew I needed to go back to my idea journal and find something else to write about.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and my mind instantly went there. My heart sunk as I thought about it. Because the truth is, I felt a bit like a failure. I started something and didn't see it through. Isn't that failing?

So mostly I'm writing this to tell myself - no, it's not. False starts happen all the time with writers, don't they? (Please tell me they happen to you!) It doesn't mean I failed. It means I learned that this particular story wasn't THE ONE for me. Fortunately, I figured it out fairly early. 

I don't know what the next story will be. I probably won't talk about it when I figure it out. Sometimes I think the more I say about it, the more difficult it is to write it, for some weird reason. Keeping it close is often what's best for me. I hope I figure out what it is soon, though. Because I love the playground!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Friday Five in Pictures

1. I am doing a reading and signing tomorrow at the St. Helens Bookshop in St. Helens, Oregon. 10:00 AM! This is my first reading and signing for this book:

2. Tuesdays are shaping up to be an AWESOME night for TV. Next week Glee returns, which I love, love, LOVE. But this show also captured my heart last season, and the premiere episode this week kicking off the new season was really good. It's called Life Unexpected and can be found on the CW. I really like Luxe, the main character.

3. My 16 YO is taking ceramics and this morning he will be using the pottery wheel for the first time. He was very, very nervous before he left this morning. I have never used a pottery wheel, but my husband has and told him to use lots of water. I can't wait to see what he makes this semester.

4. I love happy making e-mails. I got one yesterday telling me my check is in the mail. Yay! I'd love more happy e-mails, please!!

5. Finally, The Contemps did this fun video I want to share. Watch and you can find out what day from my teenage years I'd do over if I could. It was a REALLY terrible day.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's about jumping - again and again and again

It's time to begin a new book.

And as I was thinking about this last night, I thought back to this past year.

In January, I quit my job. In that first month of my new career as full-time writer, I had a couple of different proposals rejected by my editor at the time, plus I received the last of the rejections on an entire YA novel I had spent a year writing. It was a dark time.

In February and March, I wrote THE DAY BEFORE. I didn't show anyone pages. I didn't talk about it with anyone. I just wrote it. I followed my heart, and I wrote. Risky? Yes. Necessary? Yes. I had to go back to the basics. I had to go back to why I do this work in the first place. I had to write for me, myself and I and get lost in a story. We went to the beach the end of March, and I made hearts in the sand, like my main characters. I felt good about the book. The darkness had disappeared.

The book went on to sell to Pulse, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

When I finished that up, I decided to try and tackle a major revision. Many of the rejections I had received on the YA I'd written the previous year said the subject matter seemed more middle grade to them. So I thought - I can write it as a MG. It will be a complete and total rewrite, but I can do it.

Well, 9 chapters into it, I was miserable. I didn't know what I was doing, where I was going, why I was writing about these characters and why I should care. I was sitting at my desk one day, feeling very uninspired, when I opened my idea journal.

I turned to a page I had written six months prior. There wasn't a lot on the page. But as I sat there, I thought, I want to write THIS book. And the "what ifs" started dancing around in my brain. I opened up a new document, started writing, and as I heard Laini Taylor say once, it was like I'd been released from jail.

I finished it fairly quickly (it's only 24,000 words or so), even though it's unlike anything I've ever written. There was something almost magical about the writing of this particular book. I feel like it was a gift, in a way. I can't describe it, but the result, a middle-grade novel called IMPOSSIBLY SMALL, is one I'm very, very proud of. And it's now going out into the world to see if it can find a home!!

In the meantime, there was other MG stuff happening. I wrote chapters and a proposal for a sequel to IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. But my publisher didn't want a sequel. How about a companion, they suggested? So I had to come up with a plot and chapters for that, and then I decided to write the whole thing to make sure we were on the same page.

It sold. I just finished revisions. Waiting on a title, and then I'll share more about this particular book.

So yes, that's three books written this year. Plus proposals and rewrites that never became anything. In summary - a lot of writing. What am I, crazy? Maybe a little bit, but mostly, I'm a full-time writer and when I can spend 5-6 hours a day writing (some days more), that's what happens. Pages get written!

And so why am I going to start in on a fourth?

Because it's what I do. Because I have an idea that scares me and excites me and I want to see where it takes me. Every time, every SINGLE time, I'm about to start in on a new book, it's like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, about to jump off. Will I land on my feet? Will I fall and break every bone in my body? Will a bird swoop down and catch me and take me for a ride I never imagined? Will a net appear, as it has, again and again and again?

I never know until I jump. And I'm feeling like I'm ready to jump again. Here I go...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Motivational Monday - on the journey

It was a beautiful day in Portland yesterday, so we headed to the Japanese Garden to get our fill of peace, calm and tranquility after a busy back-to-school week.

The photo above is from a plaque we found in the gift store. So often as writers, we are wishing things. Wishing to finish the book, wishing to find an agent, wishing to sell the book, wishing for big sales... always hoping and wishing.

Of course wishes and dreams are wonderful things. But not if they pull us down into a place that makes us unhappy. This week, I want to stop and enjoy the view from where I am on my journey.

There may be other places I want to go, but where I am right now is a good place. A satisfying place. A happy place.

I want to remember that all I have all I really need. And there is so much here to be thankful for.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Video Sunday

Oh Isabella, thank you for this delicious review of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES.

You made my day.
My week.
My year!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Friday Five

1. It was back to school this week, and it went pretty smoothly. I told my husband, I feel like this is the calm year before the stormy one. Next year we'll have one entering HS and then a senior who needs to be doing all that college application stuff. Whenever I even think about it, I get a stomach ache. So, not going to think about it. La la la la la la la la.

2. I finished my revisions! Did you hear that? I FINISHED MY REVISIONS!!! Well, there will be another round of line-edits, but the big stuff is done!! Yay! I hope to have more to share about this book soon.

3. That means I get to clean my house today. And do laundry. And if I have time, go grocery shopping. All of those things that get um, a little neglected, when I'm at the computer 12 hours a day.

4. German rights for CHASING BROOKLYN have been sold to LOEWE VERLAG! Wunderbar!!

5. Vampire Diaries started up last night. But we were busy watching Big Brother, so I had to record it. My boys LOVE Big Brother. They are going to be so sad when it's over. Anyway, I'll watch Vampire Diaries today in between cleaning toilets and mopping the floor. Those of you watching Big Brother, who do you want to win? I have to say, I have a soft spot for Lane. He makes me laugh and he seems like a nice guy.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On characters and emotions

If you have never seen Friday Night Lights, you now have the chance!

They've started at the beginning of season 1 on ABC Family Channel at 6 pm and it will air M-F, taking us through the show. If that isn't enough awesomeness, Gilmore Girls, the first season, is playing right before it, at 5 pm. So, I've been watching GG while I make dinner, and then after dinner, I catch what I can of Friday Night Lights.

So this isn't really a post about Friday Night Lights. I mean, it is, but it isn't. It's about what I've learned from watching this show that I think is really important for us writers.

Last night I tuned in about halfway through the episode. Coach Taylor has lost his star QB and the town is expecting big things from this team. From this coach. And he's feeling the weight of that. People are looking at him, expecting him to pull out a miracle, and he has no idea what to do. He has a brand new QB who is going to have to step up and do big things. He's scared for himself, his team and his new QB.

His wife, Tami, comes in to his office with a six pack of beer, sits down, and he starts telling her he doesn't know what he's going to do.

And when Tami starts talking, I start crying.

My husband is like - you just turned it on a few minutes ago and you're already crying?

This got me thinking. What is it about certain scenes that go right to the heart and touch me like that? I want to know what that is. I want to understand it.

What does Tami tell her husband, as he's sitting there, the stress and worry eating him up? She says:

"I believe in you. This is what you DO. If anyone can do this, it's YOU."

It touched me because I have felt that fear and worry around letting someone down in my work. Maybe even recently I've felt that. And what do you most need to hear when you're feeling that way? You need to hear *exactly* what Tami said. But how often do people actually get that? Not often. So the emotions come up because it's not Coach Taylor sitting there, it's YOU. And Tami is talking to YOU.

That's what we have to do in our writing. We have to make people see themselves, somehow, in our characters. I'm about as different from Coach Taylor as you can get. And yet, last night, I felt his pain. Situations may be different, but EMOTIONS ARE THE SAME. We have to be able to bring that to the page. We can do the best job in the world bringing a character to life with all of his likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, etc. But in the end, we must show what's in his heart and get people to feel that too.

That's why those of us who love this show tell people - it's really not about football. It's about characters with issues we can relate to and even better, friends and spouses and family members who respond in a way that touch our hearts. It's real in the best possible way, if that makes any sense.

Clear minds. Full hearts. Can't lose. I hear you, Coach Taylor. I hear you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to school and book birthday!!

Today it's back to school for my two boys.

They aren't too happy about it. I have to say, I'm going to miss them. We had a great summer, and it went WAY too fast.

If that isn't enough excitement, the picture book I sold YEARS ago is officially released today!

Jama Rattigan did a DARLING post with cute monkeys, banana cream pie, and monkey cupcakes. SO FUN. No monkeying around - check it out!!

I hope my boys have a good first day!! As you know, it can be a jungle out there. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reading and Discussion Guide for IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES


I'm thrilled to announce that there is now a Reading and Discussion Guide available for my middle-grade novel, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES.

It was prepared by the fabulous Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, and I hope teachers and book clubs will check it out and consider reading my book and having some great discussions about it.

If you would like a copy of the reading guide, please send me an e-mail at lisaschroederbooks(at)gmail(dot)com.

Happy reading!!!