when we collide

My characters and I live in vastly different worlds.

My biggest problems are tests and papers and boys. I play volleyball at the beach, do homework in coffee shops, laugh with my friends until way too late.

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” my characters say.

They fight bad guys. They have secrets. They argue and push buttons and get in trouble. Although they struggle with the basic issues of humanity, just like I do, it’s on a completely different scale. Sometimes I’m jealous of them, sometimes they’re jealous of me, but mostly we’re just really different.


Sometimes I do feel like our worlds collide.

For example, when I see black trucks like these on the road, I feel like Ian (a main character from TIB) is inside — listening to rap and generally being a hot bad boy. So I love black trucks. They make me swoon.

Pianos, piano music, and concert halls remind me of Luke (also from TIB). Sophie’s little brother, he’s a master piano player who lives, breathes, and thinks music. I love listening to (and playing) piano music because no matter how annoying Luke can be, in all his little-brother-ness, he becomes something much bigger when he plays.

And lastly, if I ran, I would probably feel closer to Sophie (TIB’s main character), but I don’t run.

What kinds of things make you feel closer to your characters — like your world and theirs could collide?



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You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…

Now that I’ve gotten that song stuck in all your heads…

Creative A, a blogging pal from *Headdesk*, gave this blog the Sunshine Award!

Doesn’t that picture just make you smile? Check out Creative A’s blog — she reviews books, interviews writers (I’m looking forward to hearing Alexandra Bracken, who’s going to talk about her debut Brightly Woven on March 23rd) – and also writes her own YA fiction.

Here are the award rules:

  1. Put the logo on your blog or within the post.
  2. Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.
  3. Link the nominees within your post.
  4. Let the nominees know they have received the award by posting on their blogs.
  5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

Now… I know the rules say 12. But I’m going to change the rules because a) I’m not even sure I consistently read 12 blogs (don’t hate, I am a college student) and b) I would like to award the Sunshine Award to three blogs instead.


Kristin Briana Otts, a fellow college student, brings lots of sunshine to the blogosphere with her hilarious Twilight action-figure photos… and exciting excerpts from her work-in-progress that I REALLY want to read someday, SEVEN.

Kirsten Hubbard, my name-sister, shares adorable baby animal pictures, travel stories, and wise words that always make me smile.

And Amna, because she wrote the funniest remix of Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me that every aspiring author should read. It’s brilliant.

Thank you for bringing sunshine, you three!


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A survey!

It’s lovely and sunny outside, and I have about five million things to do since I didn’t touch a single stack of homework over the holiday weekend. Sounds like a perfect time to ramble through this survey, which the lovely Kristin Otts tagged me to complete. If I don’t get anything done, I blame her 🙂 although I do love surveys so much more than homework. Thanks, Kristin!

1) What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?

THE INBETWEEN was the last thing I completed, but if you want a more technical answer, the last thing I wrote was  about 2,000 words of FELL last night.

The first things I wrote were stories from first and second grade. Those two years, I had two lovely teachers, Ms. Mathis and Ms. Shields, who loved to write and loved to encourage their students to write. I wrote all sorts of stories about my cat Whimsey, and my family’s vacations, and horses (I was obsessed with horses). They’re all laminated and bound and certified by the words “Room 5/6 Publishing”… and in bookcases back home.

2) Write poetry?

Once upon a time, when I was an angsty high school student…

3) Angsty poetry?

Oh yes. Who hasn’t written angsty poetry? (If only for the sole purpose of later laughter…)

4) Favorite genre of writing?

I love mysteries. Love, love, love.

5) Most annoying character you’ve ever created?

Possibly this guy named Tad, who appeared in THE THRILL SEEKERS as a nerdy, annoying (ANNOYING!) and unwanted sidekick for the main characters.

6) Best plot you’ve ever created?

I suppose TIB…

7) Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?

If I told you, it would no longer be a twist.

8 ) How often do you get writer’s block?

I don’t think I believe in writer’s block — yes, I am one of those people. I don’t know what I believe, because sometimes my stories stop short, but I think that’s because of the internet and/or my own distracting life…

9) Write fan fiction?


10) Do you type or write by hand?


I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts; plus I’m one of those neat-freak people who has to make everything they hand-write, including lecture notes, look PERFECT. Too much pressure… so I revert to the computer, where all typed letters look perfect without effort.

11) Do you save everything you write?

Yes, even scribbled things on sticky notes. Check out my closet back home — it houses a *neat* stack of papers from as far back as the first novel I wrote.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?

I incorporate abandoned ideas into new ideas, but no, I’ve never completely gone back to an abandoned idea.

13) What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?


14) What’s everyone else’s favorite story you’ve written?


15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

TIB could classify as both…

16) What’s your favorite setting for your characters?

Morrow, the setting of TIB, is misty and woodsy and beachy — and (I think) quite creepy. It used to be my favorite until FELL came along. Now I love the Seattle of that world … full of traffic, sirens, and rainy nights and streetlights.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Only one — FELL.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Well… no.

OH just kidding, I totally did. I won the Creative Writing award my senior year of high school, and I will always remember what my teacher said as she presented the award: that I had “delicate genius”. I’ve never been quite sure what that meant, but I think it sounds cool.

19) What are your five favorite words?

Rain, tumble, green, squish, love.

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?

I think Chloe, Sophie’s sidekick and sometimes-best-friend from TIB, sounds the most like me, although we don’t share too many personal similarities. I guess I’d have to say Birch from FELL if only because she and I share the whole fire-nightmare connection.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

People around me.

(Yes, people around me, be afraid — but not too afraid, because you’ll only end up as a minor character with a changed name and changed hair color. Major characters just ARE the way they are.)

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?

Not usually. Most of the time I write based on reality — TIB has a few little conversations/interactions that my friends see and go, “hey, didn’t that happen to us?”

But FELL will have several of my fire nightmares.

23) Do you favor happy endings?

I’m not sure how to answer this question. I favor them in books I read, but not necessarily books I write. Books I write must end the right way (the way that grows, changes, and challenges its characters), and that is not always the happy way.

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yes, especially when my mistakes are underlined with red and green squiggles. I can’t stand red and green squiggles.

25) Does music help you write?

Sometimes. I have playlists for TIB and FELL (although FELL’s only has one song so far). But I like quiet, too — the kind in coffee shops, not libraries.

26) Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops in your head.

I see him again on the northbound 17 express: Rush hour traffic and nowhere to sit, rain spattering the windshield, and that boy standing in the aisle ahead of me, pretending to read Steinbeck like yesterday but never actually flipping the page.

And it scares me. The day before yesterday, he was just another passenger. Yesterday he was cute, and once I stared back when I caught him looking, fluttered my eyelashes and smiled like a fool. Today, he is terrifying. I don’t know why.

~ from FELL

Well, that was fun. Time to write a paper or two. I tag Laurie.


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Love at First Sight Blogfest

Happy Valentines Day! In honor of the day, the Love at First Sight Blogfest is celebrating those (to quote Courtney Reese), “steamy, sometimes awkward, first-meetings, the ones where your two characters meet for the first time. Or, if your characters didn’t have a love-at-first-sight kind of relationship (because mine sure didn’t!), the scene where they realized, “wow, I think I love this person”.” And I just love romance, especially on Valentine’s Day, so I couldn’t resist joining the party.

In THE INBETWEEN, Sophie and Ian don’t exactly fall in love at first sight. But this scene, in which Ian fixes Sophie’s flat tire, marks the beginning of flying sparks…

Ian shrugs off his jacket. He’s wearing a black button-up shirt and jeans that look designer. And I think I can see his abs through the shirt.

“Do you have a hot date tonight?” I ask, still staring. He tosses his jacket onto my car with the smirkiest smile.

“I plead the fifth.”


“I like making you wonder about me.” As he passes by, cologne touches the air. My nose twitches. Smells delicious: mint and old spice and the outdoors.

“Are you trying to impress me?” I ask.

“Do you think mysterious men are attractive?”

“Attractive and impressive mean different things.”

“The question stands,” he says.

“So does mine.”

He sticks his tongue out one side of his mouth as he positions the jack behind the tire. “I’ll answer if you do.”

“Okay.Are you trying to impress me?”

When he looks up at me, his eyes sweep over my hair and my shirt. He wipes the back of his hand across his forehead. “If I was trying to impress you, you’d be melting.”

I hope I’m not blushing too much. “Try.”

“Oh, I will.” It’s so low I can hardly hear it, but his grin gives him away. I suck in a breath. Um… With a few flicks of his wrist, he raises the car with the jack. “Your turn.”

“Yes, I think you’re attractive.” The words slip out with a boldness that leaves me breathless. But he’s quiet as he keeps raising the car. “You could…say something.”

So he says, “Thank you for the compliment.” I know he’s teasing me because laughter spices his voice and he can’t seem to concentrate hard enough to loosen one of the lug nuts. “Tell me about yourself,” he says after a minute, half out of breath.

I duck my head, smiling. “But I like making you wonder about me.”

“You’re evading my question.”

“You’re being persistent.”

The lug nut plinks into the gravel. “Maybe I’m interested in you,” he says.

“You’re not.”


I shift my feet. “We don’t like each other.”

“Do we?”

“You’re definitely not interested in me,” I say, coiling a strand of hair around my finger.

“I’m not?”

I pause for a minute. If he’s not uninterested in me, that means — “Do you think I’m attractive?” I ask.

Ian’s breath huffs out as he lifts the spare into position. “You play dirty.”

“You’re evading my question.”

He laughs. Then he leans over to adjust the tire. When he finally answers he says it quietly, with an almost-shyness that makes me blush. “Yeah.”

My head turns into a balloon and floats away. For once, I can’t think of a single thing to say until my cell phone rings. The balloon pops. The moment pops. Ian picks up the wrench and goes back to work. I desperately wish I could think of something to say to him, like thank you or does that mean you might ask me out, but all I can say is, “Hello?”


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AW Exposed: Parametric

Parametric, a member on Absolute Write, dropped by today to share about fantasy world-building, the process of revisions, and the differences (or lack of differences) between YA and adult fiction. Welcome, Parametric!

AW Identity:
Screen Name: Parametric
Post Count: 4000+. Homework done: 0.
Favorite Forum: I’m not particularly attached to any one forum. I do have favourite threads: the Purgatory thread in Rejection & Dejection, and the Teens Writing for Teens thread in Young Adult.
What’s the best lesson AW has taught you? How to tell a good agent from bad at a hundred paces. I lurked the Bewares & Background Checks forum in a seriously obsessive way — I read every post without exception for the longest time.

In real life, you are… A 21-year-old final-year law undergraduate aiming for a masters degree in publishing. I’m a major-league recluse: I only venture out for lectures and our once-a-week writing group, where we do absolutely no writing but plenty of indulging our inner geeks. I’ve written four novels of dubious quality.
Book title: IRONBANE
Genre: Fantasy
Blog: http://universityoffantasy.blogspot.com

Describe your most current work-in-progress in 50 words or less.

Notorious general Ironbane is in hiding when her new home village is threatened. So she decides to lead two hundred civilians in defence of their homes, while hanging onto her cover as an ordinary woman — because if her cover is blown she’ll be executed.

Also, zombies.

Talk about Holly Lisle’s One Pass Revision Method, which you’ve been using on your novel IRONBANE. What are the basic ideas behind this method, and how has it been helpful in shaping your novel?

I suspect my use of the One-Pass Method may not be anything like what Holly Lisle intended, so I apologise in advance if I lead anyone astray!

The One-Pass Method is a method for revising your manuscript in one pass. You do some preliminary work aimed at identifying the heart of the story, you read through and annotate the printed manuscript, you type up the corrections. Finish.

I love the first part of this process, the part Holly Lisle calls her “discovery stage”, so much that I don’t even wait until revisions. Before I start any novel I go through very similar questions. Themes. One-line summary. One-paragraph summary. When I get to revisions, I want to be able to nail down the key story without thinking twice. (I find it’s also helpful for query-writing.)

At the moment, I’m working on the second part, what Holly Lisle calls the “slog” — editing on paper. This is a first for me and I’m enjoying it. It’s kind of satisfying to see real, tangible progress as my scribbles eat up more and more of the paper. I’m also building up a notebook of big-picture problems.

I should wait until the end to start typing up corrections, but my critique partner is very demanding! Chapters, she says. Inbox. Now. Best just to do as she says.

As a fantasy writer, you’re constantly building new worlds. Where do you find inspiration for creating these worlds, and how do you make them feel as real as this one?

Can I make a confession? I do as little world-building as possible. As a reader and writer of epic fantasy, I’m working in a genre dominated by gigantically huge series set in vast worlds with dozens of countries and thousands of years of history. I’ve choked down so much world-building I’ve come to hate the taste. I speak as a bitter survivor — I once spent three hundred pages world-building before I ever started chapter one. (I was eleven. Don’t judge me.)

So my world-building process is streamlined. First, I pick a familiar setting to serve as a base, in this case the kind of generic fantasy world Diana Wynne Jones satirises in her TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND. Then I give it a twist or three. IRONBANE is set on the edge of human civilisation, among the bones of the titular protagonist’s war, in a tiny little village at risk of becoming just another ruin. It’s a world where God is reborn every spring and dies every autumn. It’s now midwinter, and God is dead, and humanity is fighting to survive.

Also, did I mention the zombies?

You write some adult urban fantasy, some YA urban fantasy. What do you think defines the YA genre and how do the voices of your YA protagonists differ from the voices of your adult protagonists?

I’m new to YA, so I hope I can navigate this minefield without blowing anything up.

I’m not sure I see YA as wildly different from other genres. What I love about adult fiction maps directly onto YA fiction. Compelling protagonist. Fascinating character interactions. Tons of conflict. Snappy dialogue. The only distinction I can confidently draw is that a YA protagonist needs to be a teenager, perhaps fifteen to eighteen years old, and it might be best to play up the romance angle. (I’m 20k into my YA novel and there are already three cute boys.)

To be honest, I’m scared of making the wrong assumptions about YA. I’m like a guest in the YA house, and I don’t want to stomp all over my hosts in big stompy boots telling them what they do and don’t like. So I’d rather err on the side of assuming common ground. I’d love to learn about this from more experienced YA writers and readers, so I hope they comment!

In my paranoid moments I worry that there’s a trick to writing YA, some earth-shattering secret I don’t know, and therefore my first YA novel is going to be a disaster on a scale not previously known to man. Should I be making dramatic changes to my writing? Is there a secret handshake? I don’t know. This is like sailing into the Arctic looking for the Northwest Passage. Pretty soon you’ll be sending out search parties.

My YA protagonist Fox is rather crazy, by the way. I fear I will entertain only crazy readers.

Imagine you can spend a day with one of your characters. Who would it be and why?

Most characters I love to write would not be fun to hang out with. They’re crazy, or they’re obsessive, or they’re borderline evil. Everything I find fascinating in a character makes for terrible company! If I had to pick, I’d take Kate Dean from my urban fantasy THE INFERNAL FAMILY. She’s sweet, she’s cuddly, she likes people. Plus she’s a super cute redhead and I’m shallow.


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Aaaand I am already way too excited. Already obsessing over the theme song (which makes me all shivery) and watching super cool videos about amazing athletes like Apolo Ohno (who has the best-shaped calves I have ever seen) and being jealous of skier Lindsey Vonn, who I secretly want to be.

So if you ever wonder where I am over these next two weeks, I’m probably glued to the NBC website cheering on the figure skaters, the bobsled team, and the insane Nordic ski jumpers — with a box of tissues by my side for the medal ceremonies.



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Writing rough drafts stinks. Part two.

Don’t be misled. The advent of MOD HOL has pretty much changed the world and almost destroyed all need for a part two of “Writing rough drafts stinks”.

Almost – but not quite.

Following the rules of Mind On Draft, Hands OffLine fixes all the problems BIC HOK lets slip through its holes: like sitting on your butt, in your chair, with your hands on the keyboard, while doing unproductive things like tweet, blog, Facebook, or generally do nothing on the internet.

But MOD HOL doesn’t solve the problem of this gripping thing called the inner editor. The inner editor, also known as self-doubt, wants to red-pen every single word you slap onto your WIP. See, my inner editor says that red-pen isn’t a verb, but I’m ignoring it. While writing rough drafts, you must do the same. Ignore the inner editor. Shut it down. Box it up. It might know a lot, but what it knows doesn’t matter until you start to edit.

For now, the inner editor has nothing to offer. It’ll not only destroy your self-esteem, but also try to convince you that every sentence you craft is crap. Which might be true, at least at this rough draft stage, but whatever. First get the words down.

In the end they’ll look like this — scribbled on, crossed out, added to — anyway, so don’t bother with perfection on the first draft.

Just write.


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