Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Mysterious Element

I am a fan of the mysterious element in a novel.

A big fan! HUGE!!!

I think there's something to be said for having something in your story that isn't known to the reader, something your reader might WANT to know, so he/she keeps turning the pages.

Yes, we need to have a likable main character, yes we need to have an interesting plot that makes sense, and yes we must have all of those other important things that make a story good.

BUT, why not have a mysterious something-something too? It adds to the tension, which is a good thing. A very good thing, in my opinion.

Here's what I've done in my own books:

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME - How did Jackson die? Why does Ava feel guilty about it?

FAR FROM YOU - Is Victoria dead or alive?

CHASING BROOKLYN - Why is Gabe haunting Brooklyn?

THE DAY BEFORE - What is going on with Cade?

But we can look at other books too:

13 REASONS WHY by Jay Asher - Why is Clay one of the reasons Hannah decided to end her life?

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson - What exactly happened to Melinda?

LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green - What's going on with Alaska? And later, did she really ????? (in case you haven't read it, I won't be specific, but if you haven't read it, why the heck not!?)

My WIP has a few different mysterious elements. I don't know if I'm trying to do too much, but I'm hoping at the end, when it all comes together, it will be satisfying to the reader. Before that point, I realize I risk frustrating my reader. It's a fine line, I suppose.

What do you think? Do you think a mysterious element can add something special to a book? Do you think it's hard to pull off successfully?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Motivation - when it's hard to keep going

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."  ~James Michener

I hit 43,000 on the WIP yesterday. I'm thinking I have 10-15,000 words left until I reach the end. The hard part is that right now, I have all these threads I'm trying to weave as I write and it is very, very hard. Things are slow going.

But every time I get discouraged, I remind myself that this is a draft. If it feels messy and very far from being perfect, it's okay! That's how it's supposed to feel.

The important thing right now is to just keep going. Keep walking down the path. Trust that I'll get to the end eventually, and a warm house with fresh-baked cookies will be there to greet me. (Actually, I gain weight every time I write a book. Stress-eating anyone? So maybe I should envision a warm house with a tasty salad waiting for me).

We all know the importance of getting the draft down so the real work can begin, even if the draft is really bad. Because we also know it is impossible to a revise a blank page. And yet, that doesn't stop us from worrying, worrying and WORRYING about the mess that is the first draft.

Some scenes will have to go. New scenes will have to be imagined. Characters will need deepening, pacing will need to be tweaked, and on and on.

But now is not the time to think of any of that. Right now, the goal is to just keep going. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Scene by scene. There is nothing at this point that's going to make it happen other than sheer tenacity. Sitting down at my desk every day and writing as much as I can in the time slot I'm given on that particular day.

At times, the forest is dark. Cold. Scary!! But you know what they say. The only way out is through. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

"For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!"
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's Thanksgiving week!! Are you ready?

Whatever your writing goals this month, I hope you take time in the coming days to pause, take a breath, spend time with family and/or friends, and eat some pie!

I know that's what I'll be doing.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Friday Five

1. I wish I were in Orlando at NCTE! Have fun everyone!!

2. A Texas librarian broke the news this morning - the 2011 Texas Tayshas HS reading list is out and CHASING BROOKLYN is one of the fifty-some books to make the list. Wow, I'm thrilled! The list includes SO many great books, I'm really honored to be included among them. Here's the link to the entire list: http://www.txla.org/groups/tayshas

3. Thank you, Texas Librarians!! I think this calls for some cupcakes!

4. Look what I'm working on - the first pass pages of THE DAY BEFORE! My last chance to make any changes before it goes to the printer to become a book! Yay!!

5. I admit, I enjoy Susan Miller's monthly horoscopes at astrologyzone.com. Today, November 19th, is supposed to be a "dazzling day" for me! Okay... I'm ready to be dazzled! :)

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Letters

Dear HS Teacher,

My son is painfully shy. And so, when he gets the courage to ask a question, or say something in class, I wish you understood how HUGE that is for him. But obviously, you don't understand, because when he found the courage to ask you a question yesterday, you laughed. Maybe the question was funny to you, but my son is struggling to understand some things in your class and he asked the question in all seriousness. Shame on you for laughing at his question. This class is supposed to be for something fun, and I can tell you without a doubt you are making it anything but.



Dear Son,

I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you for asking a question when you didn't want to, but knew you needed to. I'm also proud of you for that other thing you did yesterday that was hard, but you knew you needed to do it as well. I'm sorry people aren't always the way we want them to be. Please remember, when someone responds in a way that is hurtful, it doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. And it certainly doesn't mean you are stupid. You must remember that usually a person's response says more about him than it does about you. Hang in there and keep being awesome, okay?



Dear Donut Shop,

I think there is something wrong with your apple cider doughnuts. They are just way too delicious. Like, I don't think it's humanly possible to make something so completely perfect as these doughnuts. I dream about them day and night. See? There is something definitely wrong.



Dear 8-year-old S,

Your mother wrote to me yesterday to tell me your most favorite book in the world is IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. Wow. That means a LOT to me! She said she took you to the book store to get other books written by me and you were disappointed to find they're all for teens. I'm so sorry. SPRINKLES AND SECRETS will be out next September, but I know that's a long time to wait. I hope the list of books by other fabulous authors that I gave your mom to look for in the meantime is helpful, and that you enjoy them!



Dear Lisa,

Hurry up and finish the YA novel you are working on that might suck but oh well so you can write another middle-grade novel!! Come on. Hurry up!!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Motivation - on Happiness

"Happiness is a warm puppy." ~ Charles Schultz

It's the little things in life, isn't it? When I think of my grandma, I think of this extremely happy person because every day, she looked for and celebrated the little things. She told my husband, soon after we were married, that it's the little things that bring joy in a marriage. A walk together, an ice cream cone together, a laugh together. 

On their hunting trips, she had a special spot where she'd go to watch the sun set, in awe, time and time again, by the colors that would fill the sky.

Sometimes in life, we get all bogged down in waiting for the big things. Or we get discouraged because the big things we want don't happen. We tell ourselves, if only THIS would happen, life would be so much better. 

I went to a one-year-old's birthday party over the weekend. There is something almost magical about the way a one-year-old takes joy in every thing he touches. And while I spent time with him, he put me under his spell, and the worries I'd had earlier in the day faded away. 

And as I left, I vowed to worry less. To stop wondering and waiting for what comes next, and instead, enjoy the moment for what it is. Easier said than done some days, yes?

After Ingrid Betancourt was released from her captivity (she was kidnapped while campaigning for the Columbian presidency and spent six-and-half years in the jungle), one of the things she took the greatest joy in was going to the supermarket and buying whatever fruit she wanted. A little thing that most of us probably take for granted.

A sweet, Honeycrisp apple. A colorful sunset. The smile of a child. A warm puppy.

All a reminder to me that happiness is here, all around me, every day. Success that I wish for some days won't bring me happiness. It might bring other things that would be nice, but it won't bring me happiness. That is mostly what I wanted to tell myself today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Friday Five

1. 1,000 words on the WIP yesterday!! I'm hoping for another 1,000-1,500 today! I'm about halfway through the novel, I think, and this is where I have to dig deep and just keep plugging away.

2. In other writing news, I finished the line edits for SPRINKLES AND SECRETS on Monday and sent them to my editor. She e-mailed me on Wednesday and said everything looks great. I'm REALLY happy with how this book turned out. The journey from idea to finished book had a lot of twists and turns, so it feels especially good to be done! I talked about the journey of this book over on the Author2Author blog, if you're curious.

3. Did anyone watch the CMAs Wednesday night? I recorded most of it, and watched some of it yesterday, and I really loved a lot of the performances. I thought Taylor Swift's was incredible. And wow, didn't she look beautiful?  

I'm making myself wait to get Taylor's new CD for Christmas, and it's SO HARD. But I'm making my kids wait for some things they want, so it's only fair.

I also thought Lady Antebellum's performance was fabulous. I teared up, it moved me that much. I'm so glad "The House That Built Me" by Miranda Lambert won song of the year. I LOVE THAT SONG!!!

4. Okay - totally random thing, but I need a #4. Yesterday, I walked into my younger son's closet for the first time in a while. What did I find? Shirts all over the floor. I usually bring the laundry up to my room, dump it on my bed, and call the kids to come and put their clothes away. And they are too lazy to hang their shirts on the hangers. Please tell me my kids aren't the only ones who do this. Of course what do I do? I can't stand to see them on the floor like that, so *I* hang them on the hangers! I guess I'm going to have to start babysitting them as they put them away.

5. Finally - Thanksgiving is only 13 days away! Are you ready? Mmmm... can't wait!


Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's too early to be disappointed!

Last week I was running in shorts and a t-shirt.

This week, I just want to stay curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good book. It's cold! Autumn is definitely here.

Aren't these cupcakes with trees and brightly covered leaves cute?

Although I have a lot of books that I've bought recently as well as ones I reserved that have come in from the library (why do they always have to come in at the same time?), I don't have time to cuddle up and read. I need to keep moving forward on the WIP! I hit 28,000 yesterday. Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep...

The WIP is straight contemporary. And not in verse. I feel like it has the potential to be really good and I want SO BADLY for it to be really, really good! Do you ever struggle with that in a first draft? Wanting so desperately for it to be good and disappointed with every word that it's not as good as you want it to be?

I revise as I go - I have to. It's what works best for me. But even doing that, this time, I feel like it's falling flat and disappointment is there at every turn.

I know, revision is my friend, and it's too soon to feel disappointed! That's what I keep telling myself, anyway. That and - just keep writing! :)

Have a great day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Motivation - on characters

"The characters in your story will not engross readers unless they are out of the ordinary. How can it be otherwise? In life, ordinary folk do ordinary things every day. How much of that do we remember? Precious little. In life and in fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequences, and are irreversible, we remember them and we talk about them for years." ~ Donald Maass, from his awesome book Writing the Breakout Novel

Why do we love Charlotte so much? Because she's extraordinary. In her special, quiet ways, Charlotte does extraordinary things to help her friend Wilbur. And Wilbur, like us, is changed as a result of watching the kind and selfless actions of his friend. Extraordinary people (or spiders as the case may be) do that to a person, don't they? They make us want to be better humans (or pigs as the case may be).

These characters are why Charlotte's Web has been and continues to be one of the greatest children's books of all time.

This week, as I write, I'll ask myself, how can I make my main character more like Charlotte? Not literally, of course. After all, there can only be one Charlotte.



That's what I want my main character to be.

Do you have a certain character you think of sometimes, that makes you want to dig deep and write an extraordinary character?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cover, cover, COVER!

Whenever the cover jpg arrives in an author's inbox, it's like getting a package you've waited a REALLY long time to open. Last week, I got to open the package! I will admit, it wasn't quite what I expected. Like when you ask your husband for a certain handbag you've had your eye on and he picks out a beautiful cashmere sweater instead. Once you put it on, you're really glad he got you the beautiful cashmere sweater, and are incredibly grateful for it!

Want to see the beautiful cover my publisher gave me, and a description of what the book is about? Pop on over to my Books for Teens page, and you can see it for yourself!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Contest: You could be the one to reveal my new cover!

I'm so excited!!

I have the cover to share of my next YA novel, THE DAY BEFORE!! But instead of me revealing it, I thought it would be fun to let someone else do it! So I'm having a contest and will pick one person to reveal the cover on his/her blog tomorrow (Friday, 11/5)

If you're on twitter, tweet the following by 9 pm PST, midnight EST today (Thursday), for a chance to enter:

I want to read #TheDayBefore by @Lisa_Schroeder coming 6/11

Yay, can't wait for you all to see it tomorrow!!!

Thankful Thursday and Take Your Vitamin D!

Today, I am thankful for my health!

It's a big one. One we take for granted until something happens. I've made huge improvements in the area of exercise in the past six months. Next up, I have to tackle my diet, and be more mindful of what I put in my body. I really, really want to, and that's the first step, isn't it? Wanting to make the change. So we'll see...

And now, I want to point readers to this article about Vitamin D, and if you want more information, this book, THE VITAMIN D SOLUTION by Dr. Michael Holick.

We as a society are not getting enough Vitamin D! I think a lot of it is because, compared to our ancestors, we aren't in the sun as much, and when we are, we're slathering on the sun screen. The effects of that deficiency is HUGE. According to the book above, low levels of Vitamin D are linked to heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, depression, and more. High levels are linked to greater resistance to viruses, less cancer, higher cancer survival rate, and reduced risk of Parkinson's.

At my doctor's appointment yesterday, she asked if I was being good about taking my calcium and Vitamin D. I admitted I ran out in June and hadn't gotten anymore, but I had just read a couple of articles about the importance of Vitamin D and how most of us aren't getting enough and ordered bottles for everyone in our household. In fact, they arrived yesterday.

I love www.iherb.com, because everything there is reviewed, their shipping prices are reasonable, and let's face it - on-line ordering is SO much easier than going to the store and standing there staring at rows and rows and ROWS of bottles and trying to figure out what you should get. I bought calcium and Vitamin D for me and my husband, and some chewable Vitamin D tablets for my kids.

If you have kids, check out these chewable vitamin D tablets. They are raspberry-flavored, and after my kids took one last night, gave them two thumbs up.

If you decide to order at iherb.com, you can get $5.00 off your order if you're a first time customer. Use this code: WAY926

And here ends your Vitamin D PSA. Have a good, healthy day, friends!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It really wasn't a hard choice at all

Last week, I was put in a tough situation and had to make a choice, because the old checkbook told me it was one thing or the other. Not both.

Don't you love it when life hands us a platter and says, sorry, you can't have it all. "You MUST choose."

I think that's what my mom called character building.

So what were my choices, you ask?

Getting this cute little thing good and healthy, after I took her to the vet last week only to learn she had nasty bacterial infections in both ears. The only way to really clean them out without hurting her was to put her under anesthesia. She also needed her teeth cleaned, so they'd do that as well.

Or, renew my web hosting that expires November 10th and commit to a web designer who had JUST e-mailed me back with a quote for her services to get a new site going for next year, when I have two new releases. I was this close [ ] to moving forward. And then I got the news about Stormy.

So... I spent ALL day Saturday trying to figure out what I could do all by myself for a web site. Something that wouldn't cost me a cent. I looked into wordpress, but the learning curve was just too steep. I'm trying to finish a book - THAT'S where my spare time should be spent. Still, I need a web site of some kind. Currently, my site gets almost 2,000 hits a month - and I get notes every week from people who come to my site and then want to get in touch with me about something.

What's hard is that there are many, MANY authors who have amazing web sites. Like I look at them and turn green with envy. Such beautiful spots on the web that they call home. But just like in real life, if I can't afford the beautiful mansion on the hill, that's simply the way it is.

Anyway, after hours and hours of trying to figure out templates, playing around with layouts and colors and a hundred other things, I got to a point late Saturday afternoon where I went - Wow, I think I can make this work! Do you know how relieved I was? The money I was prepared to spend on host renewal and a new web site could now go to getting sweet little Stormy well. (Okay, this makes it sound like I was actually considering not taking Stormy in and doing what needed to be done, which wasn't the case. Maybe I should say - I was relieved I wouldn't have to start going around the house figuring out what I could sell on e-bay to pay for everything).

If you're here, reading this blog - you are at the NEW web site! What do you think?

As for Stormy, I took her in on Monday. While they were doing the procedure, they discovered both her ear drums were ruptured, which is sad, although she still hears somewhat, I know she does. Just not as well as she used to. She is on strong antibiotics plus a mild steroid to reduce swelling, and I have to put drops in her ears twice a day. We have her on a strict diet to see if food allergies were the root of her ear issues to begin with. In two weeks, they want to see her again to see how things look, so this whole thing isn't over yet.

New (FREE) web site. Healthier dog. Yay for happy endings!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Motivational Monday - On Expectations


"Have zero expectations. Don't dream about winning a Pulitzer, making a hundred thou on your first (or thirty-first) book. Don't write any acceptance speeches for the three N's: Nebula, Newbery, and National Book Award. Don't plan your outfit for the Oprah show or practice crossing your legs while talking to Katie Couric. Don't expect to find your books piled high at Borders or in the window at Barnes and Noble. Don't search Amazon.com for your numbers. Write the damn story. Nothing else matters." ~ Jane Yolen from TAKE JOY

Whenever we go to Disney, I always hope an opportunity will present itself where I can get a picture with a character without standing in line for an hour and a half. I LOVE the characters. But there is enough standing in line at Disney. So each day when we go, I don't think about characters or worry about them or expect to see them. I put it all in the back of my mind. So when I do find one without much of a line, or simply walking along so I can ask nicely, "Can I get a quick picture?" (as was the case above) it's always happy-making. It isn't my goal - it just happens as a result of being in the right place, at the right time.

With our writing too, as Jane says, we must not have high expectations. We must put everything in the back of our minds that might get in the way of the actual writing. If wonderful things happen, it will be because your story was in the right place at the right time. And it's certainly nothing to worry about or even think about NOW.

"Write the damn story. Nothing else matters."

I'm pretty sure truer words have never been spoken.