Friday, August 28, 2009

Fed-Ex To the Rescue

The arrival of the delivery truck pushed me about of my bunny-loss funk. The very nice Fed-Ex man had a much anticipated package for me!

My very first editorial letter and scribbled upon manuscript. Wheeeeee!

Now some might think my reaction is a bit odd. While editing might make some writers queasy, editor's notes for me like are like spinach to Popeye. I'm a horrible self-editor but given a few pointers and nudges my writer's brain goes into overdrive and amazing things happen.

If I go missing for a while, you'll know where I'll be - attached to my laptop. I'll update when I come up for air.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On the Futility of Heroism

Sad news about Dandelion. We set our adolescent rabbit free as she was large enough to defend herself against cat attack and was about to be renamed Houdini for all her attempts to escape her cage.

I didn't see her for a little over a week, but sadly this morning I found her body in the middle of the sidewalk. She'd clearly been hit by a car and very recently, her body was still limp and warm. (Silver lining - at least the cat didn't get her, they hunt at night and hide their victims). I knew it was Dandelion because she had a unique white stripe on her face and a red ruff behind her ears.

I cried a lot and buried her under the ferns she found fascinating when I first set her free in our back yard.
My tears weren't only about Dandelion. When I stopped the cat from killing her a month ago, I felt like I'd done something important, like a hero. Now I feel like a fool. A fool for thinking I'd made a difference in the baby bunny's life, a fool for feeling so much grief that she's dead, for being full of hope that I'd see her with her own brood of kits in our back yard next spring.

Will I try to save baby rabbits from cats in the future? Yes, I think so. I can't bear the way cats toy with them. But the experience will be less sweet and lacking hope, more bitter and shadowed by ambivalence.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wondering About How A Book Can Happen For You?

If you want to understand the wily world of publishing, get thee to Kiersten White's blog. This lovely lady just rocked a major deal with Harper Teen and she's also full of sweetness and sharp wit to boot.

Her post today: How to get published. Check it out!

As for me, I'm in denial about the approaching school year. What could help, what could help, hmmmmm, maybe this?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Making Friends

All former (or current) Girl Scouts in the house raise your hands!

Remember this song? (Sung as a round)

Make new friends
But keep the old
One is silver
And the other's gold

I've always liked the message of this simple tune and my life of late reflects its sentiment very well.

I made some awesome new friends in the Tenners and I'm delighted to count myself amongst them. Let me tell you - next year will be a fantastic year for books! I can't wait to read the collective works of my fellow Tenners.

I'm indebted and thrilled to be working with a very old friend, the fabulous Lindsey. She is a creative, innovative graphic designer and she's building me a web site!

She sent me the page proofs yesterday and I went gaga over them. So beautiful! I can't wait to share the site with the the world, I'll let you know when it goes live.

Thanks to friends, old and new. Here's to a brilliant future for us all!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Something in the Air?

I guess my next move should be to buy a lottery ticket, since I just received the Kreativ blog award from Tricia over at Talespinning. Thanks, Tricia.

This award requires that I divulge some personal information. I'm going to leave you with one - I have a large freckle under my left eye that constantly causes people to stop and say, "You know you have a mascara smudge under your eye."

For more quirky Andrea see my post on quirks.

Now to share the love, here are some fellow Kreative folk:

Suzette Saxton, Shooting Stars
Wendy, Writes in the City
The Story Siren
The Wednesday Chronicles

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Won, I Won!

At what has become my favorite blog post of the week, the lovely Laura, weekly guest poster at Eric's fantastic Pimp My Novel has taken to challenging her readers to creative contests. The first contest: write the first line of an Amish vampire novel. Awesome and hilarious.

Last week's contest: invent a new fantasy weapon.

And my entry won!

The weapon: Blesions - blessings from fallen angels that strike victims down with apolcalyptic-style boils.

Thanks, Laura :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Music is My...

I'm all bubbles and sparklers because I'm about to put together a new playlist. I've mentioned in the past that I use music to write, but I haven't formally posted about the whys and wherefores of a novel's playlist.

Playlists serve three primary functions for me:
1) Create the mood of a scene
2) Define key traits of a character & his/her tastes
3) Get me to a better writing place if I get stuck

Regarding #3, while I wouldn't stay I've ever had writer's block I do experience writer's detour - wherein I find myself wandering away from the mental space I want to be in to write well. The best solution I've found for going off road involves literal driving. I do some of my best idea generating when behind the wheel, particularly if I'm listening to the playlist I've created for my current writing progress.

Up until this week I've had an informal playlist for my WIP, but I've heard a few songs recently that catapulted me into the novel and I knew it was time to put the REAL playlist together and get this baby rockin on the screen.

What about the playlist for my novel? That, my friends, will be posted in concert with the availability of ARCs. When I can share the book with readers, I'll share the music too!

But until then here's a key track from the playlist I'm buidling today:

What's even more neat-o? That girl looks like my protagonist.

I love reading about whether music works for other writers. Do you playlist?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I had a surprise left at my front door this morning. I looked at the package for awhile, shook it, and wondered what it could be. Who it was from. Or if I'd ordered something on and forgotten about it (wouldn't be the first time).

Inside the box was this:

My fluffy Penguinlet was sent by my best friend from age 5, Katie. What was really profound about this oh-so-joyful and perfect surprise is that Katie lives in Madison and so she hasn't been around to see my twirling and chirping "I'm a Penguin! I'm a Penguin!" up and down the streets of Minneapolis since I got the offer.

But she knew. She always knows.

Katie understands why I need to write. She was there for the earliest scribblings. And she always believed in me. She still does.

Being truly known by another person is one of life's greatest delights; to be believed in when you no longer believe in yourself is what makes the journey possible. From my brother's assurance when my book went on submission, "Your book will sell, I have no doubt. There is no question of whether or not it will sell," to the constant response I received when I admitted I wanted to become a novelist, "Well of course. You've always been a writer. That's what you do." (And this coming from folks who haven't had regular contact with me since I graduated from high school!)

When my dream came true of going from aspiring author to author with a two-book deal I was greeted by the hugs and screeches of happiness from my family and friends.

Their elation made my own shine even brighter.

Sharing the excitement has been the highlight of this crossroads because the people who have been supporting me from the beginning are those who truly know what a victory it is. How long it has been a dream and how much it means to begin living it.

Thank you to everyone for believing, for knowing, for celebrating. This is only the beginning!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Family Ties

My parents are here for a visit and they brought their dog, which brings us up to three dogs, one parakeet, and one wild rabbit in the house.

She made herself at home, living up to her namesake: Loki.

And Rocco learned about sharing.

And, yes, I am terrible about making the bed.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Round-Up

I'm doing a great job of procrastinating today. I need to reread the Twilight series to prep for the article I'm contributing to a forthcoming Blackwell anthology on the role of history in Twilight. My particular article focuses on Jasper, and I think it will be an interesting experiment to read a novel with an eye to a supporting rather than the main character.

Supporting characters often make or break a book for me. My own supporting characters are just as vital, if not more, than the MCs. I get frustrated by stories where friends or family appear only as back story or plot movers. I like severe entanglements, startling twists, and key events tied into the lives, hopes, and fears of supporting characters.

My investment in a novel, and particularly in a series, rests in how much I care about what happens to the other characters in the book and not just the protagonist.

Case in point: Harry Potter. My favorite characters in the Harry Potter series are probably Fred and George Weasley, with Hagrid coming in at a close second.

Supporting characters with that much dynamism fill out a world and draw the reader in.

Do you have favorite supporting characters? How do you treat supporting characters in your own writing?

On a final note, Joss Whedon finally made the comment I've been waiting for.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Get What You Give

There are some very interesting ongoing discussions by Authoress and Screaming Guppy about writing rule breakers. The points made by these two astute bloggers are informative and important, if unsettling.

And my naive little self can't help but be a bit shocked. Why are writers trying to skirt the protocol of querying/publishing?

I could understand if the "rules" asked you to hand over your first born a la Rumpelstiltskin, but Authoress gives aspiring authors wonderful venues to learn the craft AND the chance to show their stuff off to Secret Agents. She's doing the writing world a great service - so I had an eye-bulging episode when I heard she'd had entrants who cheated on the contest rules.

These sad, sobering tales of evil shortcuts is even more shocking to me because I've found the writing community to be such a cooperative and welcoming one. When I hear horror stories about authors forcing manuscripts on agents at conferences or submitting blanket queries addressed "Dear Agent" I wonder who these folks are. Certainly they aren't the wonderful writers I've met in the blogosphere and at conferences.

Real success in this endeavor isn't about cutting corners and getting ahead, it's how much we learn from each other and help our fellow writers traveling on the same road.

A few bad apples should not be allowed to taint our beautiful word orchard. At the end of the day writers, agents, publishers are all on the same team with the same goal.

Team: Book Love
Goal: Get more great books out into the world

Time for campfire songs! Or even better, Beaker doing torch.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Writing Exercises That Aren't

I played a great game on Saturday night. If you like Edward Gorey, or Edgar Allen Poe, you'll love this game.

It's called Gloom and the point of the game is to kill off all the members of your family (each player gets 5 family members) with the most total "pathos" points.
The dastardly means to do away with your miserable family are hilarious, but the best part of the game is that the rules encourage you to make up a story for the disasters that befall each character on the way to the grave. By the end of the game you've got yourself a short comic, horror tale on your hands.

I had so much fun with this game, which had the unexpected bonus of making me flex writerly muscles, that I began to wonder:

What types of activities tap into our writer identities but aren't actually writing?

Any favorites you'd like to share?

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I'm floating, floating, floating to the moon!

My wonderful and fabulous agents, Richard Pine and Charlie Olsen of Inkwell, have landed me a two-book deal with Penguin.

Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy!!!! And thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to family, friends, and wonderful writer folk who helped me get here.

Keep dreaming big dreams!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Good of a Book

Like every other person on the planet I recently viewed the latest installment of Harry Potter films (in IMAX, woot!)
J.K. Rowling's series has doubtless had an incredible impact on the literary and pop culture worlds, but last night I learned of another, and I think rather astonishing, effect.

I give you the Harry Potter Alliance.

This organization uses the ideas and values of the Harry Potter series, and specifically the courage of Dumbledore's Army, to encourage youth toward social activism. From their website:

"Did you ever wish that Harry Potter was real? Well it kind of is. After all, both our worlds face "dark and difficult times":
  • Genocide, Poverty, AIDS, and Global Warming are ignored by our media and governments the way Voldemort's return is ignored by the Ministry and Daily Prophet.
  • People are still discriminated against based on sexuality, race, class, religion, gender, ethnicity, and religion just as the Wizarding World continues to discriminate against Centaurs, Giants, House Elves, Half-Bloods, Muggle borns, Squibs, and Muggles
  • Our governments continue to respond to terror by torturing prisoners (often without trial) just as Sirius Black was tortured by dementors with no trial
  • A Muggle Mindset pervades over our culture-a mindset that values being "perfectly normal, thank you very much" over being interesting, original, loving, and creative

So Harry's world is not very different than ours. And just as in his world, Dumbledore will remain here as long as there are those that are loyal to him. As long as there are those that are aware that the weapon we have is love and that more than ever, it's time to use that weapon.

And so the HP Alliance is dedicated to bringing together Harry Potter fans from everywhere to spread love and fight the Dark Arts in the real world and we need your help!

Help us replace the Dark Arts with love. Help us build the real Dumbledore's Army. Help us create an Alliance in the name of Harry Potter."

How awesome is that!

I'd guess all readers of this blog would agree that books can do a world of good - but I usually think of it in terms of creating more readers and educating young minds. The Harry Potter Alliance takes the value of imagination and literary energy to an entirely new, and wonderful, level.

Plus, they have Wizard Rock Bands:

Monday, August 3, 2009

How do you Quirk?

August 1 was my birthday, which astrologically puts me in the Leo camp. We leonine types are "impossible to miss, since they love being center stage." I won't deny that I enjoy attention, but I don't necessarily seek it, with one major exception: MY BIRTHDAY!

I am a total birthday narcissicist, unafraid to lord over the entire day like the Empress of Everything and expect all participants in the big "me" fete to just go along with it.

My family and friends have very kindly indulged me in this annual practice to the point where I now get calls not only to wish me "Happy Birthday," but to hear what sort of shenanigans I've gotten up to on the big day.

I consider Andrea's birthday hegemony to be one of my defining quirks.

Quirks are those traits that set us apart as individuals. Beyond personality, quirks are those inexplicable behaviors, desires, dreams that truly make each human unique. Quirks don't always show our best sides - they show us for who we really are: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Beyond birthday bliss, here are a few more of mine:

I love eating pickles right after chocolate. The contrast is taste-bud overload awesomeness!
I can't tolerate the Beatles or the Beach Boys. (I can already hear the moans of disbelief and objection. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I am who I am.)
I name all the cars in my family.
I find clutter comforting. (My husband hates this one.)
When I'm happy I make up little, tuneless songs about whatever I'm doing, (i.e. "dusting, dusting, this is the song for dancing and dusting").
I am horribly ticklish right behind my knees.
I think being offered vanilla ice cream for dessert is an insult. (And no, it doesn't matter if it's "real" vanilla with the little black specks. If it isn't slathered in hot fudge I'm not interested.)
I think morbidity involving children, ala Edward Gorey, is hilarious.

Why do I think quirks deserve close scrutiny?

Because the quirks that set us apart from other folks are also the best tools for building characters in your writing.

Knowing a character inside and outside means understanding their every tic, their own special quirks.

Advice on writing often discusses writing characters that aren't "too perfect," that even your protagonist must be flawed. I completely agree, but I think there's more to it than simply the absence of perfection.

To make your characters lovable, understandable, and empathetic they have to be like us: unique, strange, fascinating, fallible - in a word: Quirky.

Think about your characters - go beyond motivation to really discover who they are.

What is the song she hates having stuck in her head?
What color does he really wish his hair was?
Why does he refuse to make his bed in the morning?
What is her most frequent recurring dream?
Is he superstitious?

Quirkiness builds dimension in characters, makes them live and breathe. Have you discovered how your characters quirk?