home for a rest excerpt II

To celebrate being in the revision stage (yes, revisions should be celebrated!), here's an excerpt from HOME FOR A REST, my adult contemporary romance.

"But Kate, you already shared an excerpt wth us here!!" 

First off, whoa, calm down, guys. The second exclamation mark really wasn't needed. And second, yes, I did already share an excerpt, but this book is new and exciting territory for me, so you get more! If you plan to read both excerpts in a row, read the one I've linked to above first, because the below selection is from later in that same chapter. Enjoy!

Jamie kicked off her boots and hung her coat on a hook by the door, the same one she’d been hanging it on since she first befriended Ryan back in high school. But a lot had changed since then. A lot had changed since earlier that evening.

Ryan flicked on a few lights as they moved through the house toward the kitchen.

“It’s been a while since I was last here,” Jamie commented. If she’d been nervous before, it was nothing compared to what she was feeling now.

Ryan glanced back at her as he flicked on the coffee maker. “Yeah, I suppose it has. BBQ?”

“Christmas party.”

Recognition washed over his face. “Ah yes, I remember. Josh brought that guy who openly complained about everything.”

Jamie nodded. “That was the one.” That guy had been a dick.

She suddenly found herself doubting all of it. Ryan's motivation for bringing her here, the possibility of what might happen, the fact that he’d said anything about kissing her in the first place. And even if she wasn’t misreading the situation, she wasn’t sure this was even something she wanted. Sure, there was a big part of her—a huge part of her—that really, really wanted it, had wanted it for years, but how did that fit in with the person she’d become over the past few months? Was this her moving on? Was she even ready for that? Because nothing about this felt like the casual fun her sister had insisted she needed. Besides, Ryan had said he was done with one night stands. And that was the last thing Jamie ever wanted to be to him anyway.

“You’ve got your pick of desserts.” Ryan turned around from the fridge, his strong arms loaded down with trays of squares, cookies, and entire pies.

“Holy crap,” Jamie said as he lay them out on the kitchen table. “You weren’t kidding about the food.”

He grabbed two plates and two forks. “I never kid about food.”

Her eyes roamed over the options, happy to focus on something other than their current situation for a moment. “Can I have a little bit of each?”

She hadn’t really meant it as a serious question, but Ryan smiled and nodded, his eyes locking with hers. “You’re welcome to have anything you want, James.”

And with that, it was game back on. God, the way he looked at her. So transfixed. He’d always managed to make her feel like she was the only girl in the room, even when she wasn’t. He excelled at focussing on people, addressing their needs. It was part of his undeniable charm—and probably why he was so good at his job. He’d probably made dozens and dozens of girls feel that way. But even knowing that, he still somehow made Jamie feel exceptional. Maybe it wasn’t real, but it still felt so damn good. And right now, that was what she wanted to focus on. Not what she should be feeling, but what she wanted to be feeling. And as Ryan stared at her from across the table with a wicked grin spread across his lips, she knew exactly what she wanted to be feeling. 



meet jamie and ryan

Finally (I normally do this earlier in the process), a WIP pitch for my current WIP, which is happily in revisions! Excerpt coming soon too--stay tuned!

HOME FOR A REST | adult contemporary romance

It’s been three months since Jamie Elmslie came home to the idyllic lakeside town of Port Ophelia, having lost her fiancé, Owen, in a tragic car accident. With no job and no direction, Jamie feels like she’s been sleepwalking for months, but the wake-up call she’s been waiting for finally arrives when long-time crush, Ryan Maher, returns home for his father’s funeral and the two reconnect over their grief. Jamie hasn’t seen Ryan for years, but the long-buried feelings he rouses are as welcome as they are swift. Simply being around him makes Jamie feel like herself again; he makes everything that’s broken inside her feel less damaged.

Ryan initially has no plans to stay in town despite his mother’s wish for him to take over the family business, but one look at Jamie, the only girl who ever got away—the only one who ever mattered—has him strongly reconsidering. Then Jamie discovers Owen had been cheating on her prior to his death, sending her slowly healing world into a tailspin. She can’t deny the feelings she has for Ryan are real, but how can they possibly have a future when she’s unable to escape the ghosts of her past?

home for a rest

Sorry for the radio silence folks. I've been working hard to finish my current WIP, but of course, life and freelance work keep getting in the way, as they tend to do (and no, I'm not complaining!). Regardless, the WIP is coming along, and while I don't have a synopsis to share with you just yet (which is unusual for me as I'll often write the blurb first), I just offered to share an excerpt when my FB page hit 100 likes, which it did, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! So as promised, I've posted a little snippet HERE from the rough draft of my current WIP, Home for a Rest, a contemporary romance set in fictional Port Ophelia, Ontario (Canada represent!) featuring Jamie and Ryan, two old friends whose lifelong flirtation is poised to erupt into something much, much more.

I'd better get back to writing now... Enjoy! 

maybe this year will be better than the last

And it's one more day up in the canyon
And it's one more night in Hollywood
It's been so long since I've seen the ocean
I guess I should

I've been humming this song on and off for over a month, especially that lyric up there in the header. Yeah, here we are in 2017, and maybe, just maybe, this year will be better than the last. I certainly hope so. But so far, it's been pretty bleak. Is it really February 1st? That song needs a follow-up called, A Super-Quick January. Maybe not as catchy. Or as sorrowful. But hey, you never know what's going to be popular these days.

This is really just an update post because I've been negligent in my blogging. Okay, not exactly negligent, more like way too busy with writing and editing and all things work-while-you-can-if-you-want-to-finish-this-book. It's coming along though. Really well, actually. And I'm excited to maybe share some of that with you soon--an excerpt from my first adult romance, and whoa, it's really adult! Okay, that makes is sound fifty shades of naughty, and it's not, though it's pretty sexy, and real, and raw, and fun, and full of all the things I personally love in a good romance. Sizzling attraction, long-burning friends to lovers, tough external conflict, and just enough darkness to make it feel not-too-sweet. I'm so happy with the characters, both main and secondary and I've already got ideas for three more books set in this town. This has definitely spun into the kind of thing where I'm noticing further stories that need to be told. Are practically screaming to be told. And I love it when that happens. 

I'm also psyched about some ideas I have for my next book, after this one is finished (and hopefully on submission somewhere it will be loved). I'm excited to keep chugging along, making 2017 count for something strong. For the first time ever, I've booked myself a little writing retreat, happening soon, a weekend away from interruptions, a chance to make some serious progress on this first draft as I push it toward the conclusion. I have a very good feeling about this, though I will be a little sad to be away from the kids. Of course, I'll also relish in the peace and quiet, the chance to fully lose myself in what I'm writing. I can't remember the last time I was able to do that. And I have a feeling that though this is the first time I'm doing a writing weekend like this, it almost definitely won't be the last. Sometimes we need that time, to breathe life into our creations in ways that require our full concentration. Also, a hotel bed all to myself and no alarm to wake me. Sounds pretty damn sweet. 

But until then, I have delightful freelance editing to attend to. And more plans with regards to that in 2017 as well. But that's for another post, another day. Happy February! As you clear snow of your car/face/whatever, just remember, we're slowly inching toward Spring! 


friday5 for November 11, 2016: 2016 nanowrimo edition

I just realized this is the first Friday5 I've done since the summer. That right there is a real measure of how busy I've been. But despite it being such a long time since I've done one, today's Friday5 is not going to be a return to the usual format because we're in the midst of National Novel Writing Month (when you write a 50k novel during the month of November), one of two reasons (the other being that December is crazypants) there's a good chance I may not do another Friday5 until January. Just kidding. Kind of. But probably not... Anyway, for this month at least, I'm making serious writing progress, and sorry, but that wins out over blog-writing. 

So in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, or NaNo as it's more briefly called, here are five things I've learned as a YA author writing her first adult romance for her NaNo project: 

1. I'm writing without thinking too hard about what I'm writing and it's actually working. 

This has always been my biggest challenge when it comes to NaNo, as I'm sure it is for many people. I tend to edit as I write, which means fussing over dialogue tags, finding just the right word, and worrying over whether there's enough stuff going on beyond the dialogue (setting, mood, tone, etc). It's very hard for me to not ruminate on these things as I write, but the first thing I've done every day that I've sat down to work on my NaNo project is to remind myself that when it comes to NaNo, quantity is more important than quality. And it's actually working. I'm not sure if you can call managing to keep up with the expected word count for NaNoWriMo "crushing it" but if you can, I'm totally crushing it. Which feels kind of amazing cause I haven't done that in a long time. I'm writing without worry because I've kept reminding myself that I can go back and fix things later. That's what editing is for and while I've always found it easier to edit as I go, I don't have to. I can crank out words without them being perfect. Things are rarely perfect in a first draft anyway. 

2. My small town somehow feels ready for the big leagues.  

I've been working in the romance industry for the past eight years. I know romance novels pretty well. But this is the first time I've ever attempted to write one and despite how much exposure I've had to the medium, I'm still learning things through this process. I've always known books that fall into a series, with continuity and connected characters, are very popular within the genre, but I always saw those series as something that were extended because they were popular and because they sold. And while that's definitely part of it, I don't think I ever truly appreciated the author's likely compulsion to tell more stories in the same world until now. I've written first books in a trilogy before. I've written books meant to be the first half of a duology. But this is different somehow. When I set out to write this book, I had an idea for a story set in a small lakeside town here in Ontario. It wasn't until I started writing that I realized there's definitely more than one story here. The secondary characters have taken on lives of their own. I almost feel like it's my duty to tell their stories one day too. And that makes me feel like I now get it in a way that I didn't before. Series romance authors aren't searching for stories to tell--the stories are begging to be told. And there's something kinda wonderful about that. 

3. Tone is so important, especially when your story has potentially dark elements.

Aspects of my plot are a bit dark. There's death. There's infidelity. There's family drama. But most importantly, there's love. A lot of love. I mean, it is a romance, right? And I'm finding a big part of my focus with regards to crafting the story is going toward maintaining that hopeful, romantic tone all good romance novels need. It would be very easy to take the plot I've mapped out and turn it into something darker. The same story could easily be a thriller if I tweaked a few things. But one thing I've learned about romance over the years is how important it is to pin down the tone of the genre. And writing my first adult romance has only reinforced that fact a dozen times over. 

4. My adult characters are adult versions of my teen characters.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about writing adult characters. Until now, all the novels I've written (short stories of the past aside) have been YA, with teen characters and teen issues. The adults in those books were parents, teachers, side characters. They were never the focus. And now I have this heroine who's 28 and at a serious crossroads in her life and I'm realizing, she's actually not that different from some of my YA characters. Sure, a lot of that has to do with my own voice while I'm writing, but I think it also has to do with the fact that both YA and adult romance have elements of self-discovery to them, of "figuring it out". And I love exploring those themes. One of the reasons I love writing YA is that I love the excitement of first loves and first experiences. Adult romance is less likely to dive into "first" territory, but it definitely explores experiencing something very other for the first time.  The first love to come along that changes you, that makes you see the world in a way you didn't before. I'm really enjoying the writing process so far, and while there are times that my adult characters feel like grown-up versions of my YA characters, I know the differences are what will make this book stand apart--the careers, the adult life problems, oh, and the sex. Not that my YA books don't go there, but this is the first time I'm writing a book that's going to go there. Good times :) 

5. I'm really enjoying writing something different.

It's been a rough road. I know I've written about this on the blog before, but publishing is a journey. For some authors, it's shorter than others, but mine, unfortunately, has been something of a long, winding path filled with very talented editors saying "thanks, but no thanks". It's definitely not easy, and as with all long journeys, you get tired after a while, you get discouraged, despite your best efforts not to. Sometimes it's nice to change things up a bit. YA is still my first novel-writing love, and I have a lot of great ideas for YA stories that I can't wait to explore, but for now, I'm really enjoying writing something different. I feel like it's giving me something of a recharge, one that I desperately needed. I still have high hopes that there's an editor out there who will love my YA novels enough to publish them, but now I have something else to focus on, to hope for. I'm doing the work. I'm always doing the work. And you've gotta do the work if you want to succeed. 

Are you working on a NaNo book of your own this month? If so, I've love to hear about it in the comments and/or friend me on the NaNo site! My username on there is earthcrosser. Happy writing and

Happy Weekend!

ready to rise from the ashes

Another crazy, busy year is hours away from ending (or has already ended, depending on where you are on the globe). In some ways, it feels like the past year has flown by, but in others, when I think back to some of the big decisions I made this year (like not returning to my full time position at Harlequin, or moving our family not only to a new house, but a new community), it feels as though they happened in another lifetime.

But the point of this post is not to reminisce, it's to look ahead--and there's so much great stuff to look forward to in 2016! I'm excited to announce this blog/website is on the move! In the coming weeks, I'll be migrating everything over to a brand new, sleeker, redesigned site, which will mark the beginning of a new era in what I want this space to be. As Baby H gets older, and I find myself in a position to give my writing career more of myself than ever before, I'm ready to jump back into this blog with some new features and some old favourites (admit it--you know you've missed my Friday5 posts). I have an idea for an interactive writing feature that I'm really hoping some of you will help me out with, whether you consider yourself a writer or not. We're all storytellers by nature and I'd love to see that side of anyone who's willing to go on a little adventure with me. I want this site to take on more of a community vibe if possible, but I need your help to do that. Yes, you in the back wearing the gorgeous ugly Christmas sweater! More details to come on that--and a few other features I have in mind. I can't wait to launch the new site and dive in!

As for my current WIP, which I kickstarted in November during NaNoWriMo, I'm also really looking forward to diving back into it after an extended break for the holidays. Hopefully I'll be in a position to share some bits and pieces of that with you as well. It's straight-up YA contemporary romance, and it's pretty swoon-worthy if I do say so myself ;)

I don't want this post to ramble on, so I'll keep it at that for now, but I wanted to write and say hi!, happy near year!, and let you know about the exciting things I have brewing for 2016. More details to come very soon!

Wishing each and every one of you all a peaceful, healthy, and truly joyful new year!

the dog's breakfast

Where did all these cookies come from? Photo credit: Zorik07
This post has gone through several incarnations--actually, I shouldn't even say it was a single post because at one point it was going to be three different posts, but as the title suggests, I've decided to throw up my hands and cobble them together into some sort of Frankenpost.

It's been about three months since my last update, and though most of the people reading this will probably have some idea of what's been going on with me because of Facebook, I figured I might as well post a rundown here for posterity's sake. And it being Friday and all, let's do this Friday5 style, shall we?

But only kinda.
1. I'm moving to the country (gonna eat a lot of peaches...does anybody even remember that song?) Yep. Let's get the biggie out of the way first. We all know how stressful and time consuming moving can be. Throw on top of that the fact that we weren't exactly planning on moving (until we suddenly fell in love with a house) and, well, let's just say everything is a bit chaotic at the moment. If I'm not chasing my children around (my actual full time job), I'm making lists and checking them twice--wait, that's not right--it's more like making spreadsheets and cross-referencing everything eight thousand times. And packing, and scheduling, and packing, and painting, and packing. I won't bore you with all the details, but on top of the usual moving stuff (and our family has doubled in size since we last moved), there's also all the getting our current house ready to sell in a timely manner stuff, because again, we weren't exactly planning on this happening...

2. Which brings me to update #2: because of the sudden decision to move out of the city, I've also made the extremely difficult decision to not return to my position as an assistant editor at Harlequin. I have A LOT of thoughts and feeling about this decision, but rather than wade too far into the deep end, I'll sum them up as best I can by saying this whole moving/not returning to work thing has been very bittersweet. I'm definitely excited about our new home and the opportunities it presents (see #3 below), but Harlequin (specifically MIRA, and then HQN) has been my home away from home for seven years and there aren't enough positive words in the dictionary to describe the amazing, talented people I'll no longer be working alongside. I'm going to miss them tremendously. So yeah, BITTERSWEET. 

3. The decision to make the above life changes has left me with the occasional sinking feeling this might end up being a huge mistake, but for the most part, something about it just feels right. Call it a gut feeling. Part of that has to do with us settling in a nice little community just as my daughter is about to start kindergarten, but it also has to do with the opportunity it presents regarding my ambition to build a career as an author. Writing has always been something I've dreamed I'd one day get to devote my primary (work) focus on, and now I have the chance to explore that. Is it a huge gamble? Definitely. But sometimes you have to take a chance, and bet on yourself. This next phase of our lives feels like the right time for me to do that and if it doesn't work out, it certainly won't be for lack of effort or drive. Please keep your fingers crossed for me :)

4. Speaking of writing, that brings me to my next update: my WIP, THIS HIDEOUS HEART is finished, and while I don't usually like to talk about the submission process on this blog, I'll just say that it's out in the world, looking for a home. I'm really happy with how this one turned out (not that I'm not happy with how all of them turned out) and I really, really hope I'll get the opportunity to share it with you some day soon! My next project is the one I'd been working on before the lightbulb that was THH went off, stealing all my attention away. It's a summer camp story--I was a HUGE fan of summer camp style stories as a kid (Baby-Sitters Club Super Specials anyone?) and I can't wait until the bulk of this moving stuff is out of the way so that I can dive in. It's a contemporary YA romance, with hints of mystery, humour and a lot of heart. The working title is, SUMMER CAMP SUCKS WHEN YOU'RE FAT, and it fits the tone of the story so well I don't plan on changing it anytime soon :) More updates on that to come. And in fact, more everything to come. Once this move is over, I'll be in the position to actually, truly, once and for all, get back to a regular blog schedule--another benefit of all these life changes.

5. Okay, this has nothing to do with me specifically beyond the fact that I'm totally hooked. Can we please talk about iZombie? Because I'm in love. I knew I would totally dig this show because, hello, Rob Thomas is a supercrazyawesome genius, but he has somehow surpassed my expectations, meshing the best elements of Veronica Mars with Warm Bodies. In true Rob Thomas style, season one ended with a bang, and I can not wait for season two. So good, you guys. SO GOOD.

Bonus TV-related bullet point: Yes, I'm loving PLL's #summerofanswers. The drama is at an all time high, and my Haleb shipper heart is giving Hot Caleb all the awards for best boyfriend ever. If I can manage it, I'll try to do a Pretty Little Recap or two in the coming weeks, especially if something truly explosive happens. But no guarantees. Seriously, you guys should see all the boxes and moving crap surrounding my desk right now....

So, that's all for now. I'll be back with more in the coming weeks/months/etc, hopefully with an update about SUMMER CAMP SUCKS's progress, and maybe a taste of THIS HIDEOUS HEART since I'm proud and want to share. Until then, I'll just shamelessly sign your yearbook with, "Have a great summer!" ;)

i'm not dead

I'm not. I swear. If I were dead, would I be able to type this? Probably not, but then again, do we even have a definitive answer on zombies retaining the typing skills they had in life? Maybe tackle that one next, Robert Kirkman.

Anyway, yeah, not dead, just busy.

With this:

Baby H is keeping me plenty busy as he develops fun, new skills!

And this:

It's hard to get things done when a doll has been put to bed and is snoring on the ottoman. And no, I can't move her. The daughter will know/throw a fit if I move her. 

And this:

New WIP: This Hideous Heart, a YA re-telling of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart

So yeah, that's what I've been up to. And as a result of being busy with all that, I haven't had free time to blog, not even to do a Pretty Little Recap, though yes, I have been keeping up with the show and will probably make time to recap the finale. (Mini recap time! Hot Caleb was missing for too many episodes, but was awesome when he returned; wow, Spencer was really spicing things up in the UK; the scene with the guy suddenly rising up in the burn ward was freaky as hell and I'll have nightmares for weeks; Ali with no makeup in prison is refreshing and awesome; and holy crap, Hanna is in jail, and Hot Caleb is basically the fourth liar now. Whew!)

All of this is to say that I'm on a mini blog-hiatus while I get a few things sorted out. Primarily the first draft of my WIP, because the two kids? Not much to be sorted there. That's just life. But I'm very excited about the new book, THIS HIDEOUS HEART. It's coming along really well, and so far I'm mostly on track to meet my self-imposed first draft deadline of the end of March. But I need to neglect other things to stay the course, and yeah, blogs and recaps are part of that neglect because again, the kids can't be ;)

I will definitely share more about the new book once I have a synopsis to post, and in the meantime, I'll leave you with a bit of good news about another book of mine, Skin Deep, has been shortlisted for the the 2014 Dante Rossetti Awards! In an industry as challenging to break into as publishing is, it really is very exciting and such an honour to be recognized this way :)

S'all for now! xo

the writer's arsenal: shiny new idea syndrome

One question people like to ask authors is, "where do you get your ideas from?", and the answer, as it should be, is usually some variation of, "where does anybody get any of their thoughts from?" Because really, ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes they're directly inspired by something we observe, and sometimes, they just form in our brains, either while we're asleep (the "I had this crazy dream..." starting point) or they just appear out of the blue. I personally find that ideas often come to me while I'm already working on another book; something I write, or some plot twist I decide not to use, ends up inspiring a whole new story. The only problem with that is, when the new idea appears, it's suddenly all I can think about (and they always seem to come to me when I hit a creative lull and my brain is looking for something flashy and easy to divert to). When that happens, I usually force myself to jot down everything about the new idea and file it away in my idea folder before returning to my WIP. The new idea can wait its turn. (Sidebar: the word "idea" is starting to lose all meaning as a result of this first paragraph.)

Usually, I can get over the new idea hump, but sometimes, the new idea isn't just a distraction, there's something about it that really clicks, and even if my WIP isn't in a creative lull, the new idea embeds itself deep inside my brain and demands attention. That's what's happening to me right now.  It's hard because part of me is very focussed on a first this, then that mentality--I know the vital importance of staying on task while writing--but I can also look at the situation rationally and see that my WIP could wait (it is, after all, about summer camp, a topic perhaps best saved for when there isn't snow swirling outside my window). And this new idea? There's something timely about it. Unlike other new ideas I've had, I worry this one might fizzle too much if I don't breathe life into it now.

Shiny, new ideas can be dangerous. They're often the death of WIPs. A lot of writers struggle to finish writing anything because they can't stay focussed, and I'd say that 99% of the time, it's best to file new ideas away and stay on task. But the other 1% of the time, when you can't shake the shiny, new idea no matter how hard you try, it might be best to make an exception and let the new idea cut in line. I'm nervous to make the jump, because I don't want to put my WIP in jeopardy of never being finished, but I think the fact that I feel that way is a pretty good indicator that its time will come. With four novels under my belt, I'm at a point where I know I'm capable of reaching the finish line. I think I've earned a little side trip for book number five. Plus, this new idea? It's dark and devastating. Perfect for winter writing :)

Do you find you fall victim to shiny new idea syndrome? Does it keep you from finishing anything or can you set new ideas aside and stay on task?

the horizon

The back half of 2014 has been, well, a bit of a blur. The idea that 2015 is only a few short weeks away seems impossible, but yeah, there it is. The bad news is, I've been lost in a haze of sleepless nights (thanks to Baby H falling into a textbook four month sleep regression) and busy days (rocking baby, entertaining toddler, trying to keep the house from crumbling around us). The good news is, things are finally looking up a bit.

I feel like I spend a lot of time waiting. No, I know I spend a lot of time waiting. That's the nature of publishing. Being on submission means waiting. Being on submission with a new book means more waiting. Having a newborn means waiting. At least with that last one, I know all my waiting will pay off.

Over the past few months, I've often found myself wondering how I not only finished a novel during my first maternity leave, but also found enough time to research and query a slew of agents (a process that ultimately matched me with my stellar agent, Marlene). Where on earth did I find the time to manage that? But now I'm remembering. Because I've finally reached the point (I hope) when things start to shift from feeling like I never have enough time to do anything, to the baby being able to entertain himself for 20-30 minutes at a time, and take longer naps, and suddenly things seem possible again. I've even managed to get in a bit of work on my WIP--enough that I'm now rather anxious to spend even more time with it. I have my fingers crossed that early 2015 will allow me the time to really dive in.

So what does all this mean? Hopefully, it means this blog will be back in business soon. Hopefully, it means I'll have a fifth novel under my belt before long. Hopefully, it means I can hit the ground running when the new year begins. It's an excellent time for it, don't you think?

And now I hear the telltale wail of a baby waking... he slept for a full hour this time. Not fantastic, but not bad. Not bad at all.

one day at a time, with an eye on tomorrow

It's been hard to find time to blog lately. It's been hard to find time to do much of anything lately. My infant son turns one month old today. Need I say more?

I've been blessed with a baby who sleeps surprisingly well at night (so far--knock on wood) which means he occasionally doesn't sleep well during the day. I'm not complaining. But I am ambitious and I often end up feeling like I've accomplished nothing in a day. That's okay. I know the early weeks after giving birth should primarily be spent making sure both the baby and I eat and sleep and keep breathing. If that's all a new mother accomplishes in a day, she's doing her job. 

But I'm also close to finishing work on my fourth novel. Painfully close. So close I just want to finish revisions so that it isn't sitting nearly ready on my desk anymore. So I'm working on it when I can. I've learned it's possible to revise a book in small chunks. I've also learned it's possible to revise a book while nursing and with a baby sleeping on your chest. It's not ideal. But that's okay. Sometimes you have to step back and remind yourself to take things one day at a time. And if things don't go as planned, you can hope tomorrow will be better. The ability to do that is something worth valuing. Robin Williams' recent suicide was a painful reminder of the fact that not everyone is able to always see things that way. But, though cliche, it's true. Tomorrow is full of possibility. No bad day can't be conquered by that hope. But you have to remind yourself to hold onto it. It's what moves us forward. 

Another thing I've learned is that I can blog from my phone with one hand. This entire post was written that way. Again, it's not ideal, but it's okay. I know it won't be like this forever :)

the end of the tunnel (<-- not meant to be a pregnancy pun)

Well, it's been a while, but I'm happy to say the below is a thing:

That's right. The first draft of You'll Never Know Me is finally complete. It's been a long haul--and an adventure taking on a new sub-genre of YA--but I'm happy to say that I hit the ground running when I stopped work two weeks ago and managed to get it finished before baby arrives.

Speaking of which, let's talk about the radio silence on this blog. Because it's been a while. I spent the bulk of May and the first half of June exhausted from pregnancy while I worked to wrap up my day job before officially going on mat leave. Since then I've been spending every day either preparing for baby or working intensely on YNKM. So now that all of that is out of the way, what's next?

Well for starters, I'm hoping to pop out this baby sometime in the next couple of days, and hoping I don't go overdue like I did with my daughter. Being this pregnant is the opposite of comfortable. And yes, I know I have sleep deprivation in my future. I know it better than I did the first time around. But still, I can't sit for more than 20 minutes without my spinal cord feeling numb, and above all, I can't wait to meet my son.

But baby stuff aside, I'm excited to dive in on revisions and hopefully, once the newborn insanity wears off, get this blog back in shape a bit too. In some ways, I feel like I've come full circle. Though it wasn't my first trip around the query track, it was back in 2012, during my first mat leave that I finished Unnatural and landed my amazing agent. Now here I am almost two years later, enduring a very tough market and still determined as ever to achieve my dream of being published. I've written two more books since finishing Unnatural. I've seen ups and downs and I feel like in some ways I can measure my agented publishing journey right alongside my journey as a parent, from mat leave to mat leave. It feels fitting to have finished the first draft of YNKM just as I'm about to give birth again. I feel full of hope and possibility (and baby. I feel full of baby too). Though, you might want to check in with me in a few weeks when I'm getting 2-3 hours of sleep a night and see how full of hope I feel then :)

So there's my update for now. I know the coming weeks are going to be hectic so I won't make any promises just yet about returning to a regular blog schedule, but my last mat leave was definitely more conducive to that than working full time was so I'm hopeful I can get back to something of a routine.

Until then, if you need me, I'll be in my newborn/revision cave. It involves a lot of coffee.

the writer's arsenal: pitch, query, back cover copy

Call it whatever you want--as a writer, at some point, you're going to have to sum up your story in a few short, hooky paragraphs. Starting out, you'll need this fine-tuned pitch or query blurb when you're approaching agents, then publishers (though once you have an agent, they will often help you position it to perfection!), and ultimately, if you land that elusive book deal, it will likely be the beginning of what copywriters will eventually turn into magical back cover copy a.k.a. those enticing lines on the back of book that make you decide to pop it in your cart instead of returning it to the shelf.

Many authors find it easier to write a multi-page synopsis than a shorter pitch (not to mention those one-liner loglines!), though I hear complaints about having to write all of the above. It's true that writing a pitch or synopsis requires a different skill set than writing a novel. A novel is pure creative whimsy while a pitch is a marketing piece. But that doesn't mean both aspiring and experienced authors don't need to know how to do it all. I know I don't have to tell you how important self-marketing is in today's publishing landscape. In fact, it really couldn't be more important. It's not enough to write your book, you need to be able to sell it--first to an agent, then to a publisher and then to a slew of readers, which might end up being the hardest sell of all.

Because so many authors find it so hard to writing a pitch, they often wait until a book is complete before they write it. Makes sense, right? Why write a blurb about a book when you don't even know how it's going to end? Well, my answer to that, being an outliner, is that you probably should have an idea as to how it's going to end, at least enough of one that you could write an enticing couple of paragraphs. For the first three novels that I wrote, I actually found it helpful to write the pitch first, with the primary focus on: what is the primary hook of this story? Were they perfect representations of the books I was about to write? No, but there was also nothing wrong with tweaking them as I went. The reason I found writing them first so helpful is because they helped me to stay focused. Outlines are great. I'm a big fan. But sometimes when you're writing, it's extremely helpful to read a succinct snapshot of what's at the heart of the story. It's always helped me to stay on track. In fact, the blurb I have posted here on the site for Skin Deep is extremely close to the original version I wrote before I dove in on chapter one of that book.

For my current WIP, tentatively titled You'll Never Know Me, I found myself at a complete loss trying to write a pitch before starting the story. It was the first time that had ever happened to me. I knew what I wanted the story to be about, but I had a difficult time coming up with the right words to describe it. You'll Never Know Me is my first real foray into writing straight-up contemporary YA and I think that had a lot to do with my inability to write the blurb up front. With both Unnatural and Skin Deep, I knew the hook. Each is a fantasy and the hook that drives each story is really clear. With YNKM, it's a far more character-driven story, and the hook seemed far more intangible at first. But now I find myself sitting close to the halfway mark and suddenly, everything seemed to fall into place. I just needed to hit the point in the first draft process where the big picture started to really come together.

Though my first dip into the contemporary YA pool has been more of a slow wade than a dive, having a blurb (which I can now reference) prepared gives me a lot more confidence in the direction I'm headed. I feel more steady about everything that's yet to be written. And if for no other reason (though it's just nice to have it nailed down), I think that's an excellent argument for forcing yourself to write that pitch/query/blurb/whatever you want to call it well before you finish writing the book. You might just find it pulling you up and over when that inevitible case of writer's block hits.

So without further ado, here is the (working draft) pitch for my first contemporary YA, You'll Never Know Me:
Louise Dunn hasn't recognized the world around her since the morning after her brother Neil’s senior prom, when she discovered his drowned body on the front lawn, with no explanation for how it got there. Buried beneath a grief she can’t seem to surface from, she stumbles through the ensuing summer, seeking solace in anything that can’t get inside her head. Then she discovers a hidden journal in Neil’s room, along with a stack of unfamiliar comic books, and everything changes.

It was no secret that Neil was gay. He’d come out the year before his death. But as Louise delves deeper into his pastimes and relationships, she discovers that maybe she didn’t know him as well as she thought, and what’s worse—things might’ve been different if she had. Between a series of unsettling encounters with Neil’s ex, and a sudden, unexpected connection with Matt, the fanboy clerk at the local comic shop, Louise finds she’s increasingly unable to ignore the tragedy that’s slowly suffocating her, and the walls she’ll have to tear down before she can start to live again.


two zero one four

Happy New Year! Okay, yeah, we're kinda at that point in the month where you're not really supposed to be saying that anymore, but hey, I want your new year to be happy so I'm saying it!

There's much to catch up on so this is going to be kind of a crazy mix of topics, but I wanted to get up to speed with the blog to get back into some good blogging habits :)

There are a lot of things I'm looking forward to in 2014 and as far as books and pop culture go, I will be doing a separate post sometime soon listing my top things to be excited about in 2014, but on a personal level, one of the biggest is that my family will be growing in July with the addition of another baby Studer. Yeah, anything else that's going on this year kinda can't compare to that news, but that's why it gets a mention here and everything else will get a separate post. I know it's no excuse, but this pregnancy has definitely contributed to my lack of posting. I've been pretty tired between work and chasing a toddler around, plus I've had a cold that materialized sometime in mid-December and still doesn't seem to want to leave completely. I blame the frigid weather. And the lowered immune system. It's kind of a perfect storm of badness. But I am trying to focus on the good things on the horizon. Like spring coming...eventually. Have winters always been this long? Or this cold? I miss the sun.

I've also been feeling like I'm in a huge holding pattern. Yes, I'm technically in a literal holding pattern as I wait for my internal tenant to be big enough to vacate the premises, but things on the submission front have been unsettlingly quiet. I think the entire publishing industry is going through a fairly slow phase right now where the rapid fire deals of the past are fewer and farther between than ever. But I remain optimistic and while I'm waiting for word on the books that are in the can, I'm settling into the first draft of my next book, a YA contemporary mystery. It's my first experience writing a contemporary novel so it's been a really interesting and educational experience so far. I hope to have something of that to share on the blog here soon. And maybe a bit more of the books I've finished, to give you guys a better taste of what they're all about too.

So that's almost all for now, except for one topic I want to touch on... my little PLLer heart is kinda broken right now, guys. With the new season of Pretty Little Liars already under way, I'm going to be doing a recap soon, but for now, I want to quickly address the fact that Hot Caleb is off in Ravenswood and the dreaded Haleb break-up has happened. I knew this was coming. But it still super sucks. I'll share my thoughts on Ravenswood in my recap too, but the topline is that this is like Angel and Buffy all over again. Except this time, I don't see the potential for the spin-off to get better. More on that soon.

I hope your January is off to a good start! I am hoping to incorporate a little more variety into this blog in 2014. Have you made any resolutions (unofficial or otherwise) for the new year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

Until next time, bloggies!