Category Archives: Lani Woodland

SoCal, research, and the great cupcake overdose of 2012

Treasure Island Beach

When writing a book set in a place you’ve never been, it’s a good idea to get pictures and information from the locals. When writing seven you better get your behind on a plane.

Luckily for me, my co-author Lani not only lives near the area we’re writing in, she has birthdays. Every year in fact! Almost like clockwork or something. It’s weird. This year we combined a research trip and a birthday trip and got an epic weekend of awesome things! And I have pictures to prove it!

The weekend involved sightseeing, author pictures, visiting beaches and restaurants we want to use in the books, bonfires, and book events. And a whole hell of a lot of cupcakes. And really beautiful, cool weather, which was an added bonus. We plotted out an entire book we had nothing for before and spent time together in person instead of on Skype–another bonus!

Below the link are some pictures from the trip that I loved. I can’t wait until we meet up again. Maybe next time it’ll be on my side of the country!

Sunsets are gorgeous over the beach
Bonfires are better at the beach
Author signing in Encinitas

Sherman Library Gardens
Otters live in gardens!
Table Rock Beach

Table Rock Beach

Treasure Island Beach

Cupcakes! Sooo many cupcakes!

Best friends and birthdays!

Me and Lani at BEA in June

True friendship is rare. Finding someone who’s on the same wavelength feels impossible sometimes, but every once in a while you get lucky.

Years ago, Lani Woodland and I met on the internet and bonded over mutual book obsessions. Particularly Twilight. This was back when the Twilight fandom consisted of a few hundred people and the forums at the newly opened Twilight Lexicon. As the phenomenon gained speed, we found chances to meet in person and an internet friendship turned into a real one. Years later, she’s one of my best friends and my writing partner, my sounding board, and (sometimes) my therapist.

I just spent the weekend in California with her celebrating her birthday and taking a few hundred pictures of the landscape for book projects (yay fun research!). It was awesome because we had a blast. I mean, who wouldn’t when the weather was fantastic, we ate way too much, and spent time wandering around Laguna and San Diego? but at the same time it sucked because it just reminded us that in person visits are once, or maybe twice, a year events. Living on opposite coasts is a horrid thing, but I guess that makes me appreciate having a friend like Lani at all. Meeting her was chance, and a very lucky one at that.

So Happy Birthday, Lani! Here’s to another year and the many fantastic things to come! <3

Sometimes research is one of the best things about writing.

Air Travel (c) gimbok

In the name of research, I have crossed the country! Okay, also in the name of friendship and vacations and birthdays and cupcakes and just because, but research shall also happen!

Lani Woodland and I are working on multiple projects together and, somehow, they’ve all end up set in and around Los Angeles and Laguna. Now, this is okay for her because she lives within an hour of those locations but it’s not so easy for me to swing by and get a feel for the place considering I live about as far south in Florida as you can get before you hit the Keys. So what happens when you combine a birthday present with the need to research a place for a book? Apparently, you get a cross-country weekend trip! Or, I do anyway.

I flew out of Florida last night and today we head for Laguna! We’ll be scoping locations and scenery and lifestyle. We’ll be trying out the restaurants and talking to the people. All in the name of authenticity, you know. But also in the name of how-much-awesome-can-we-shove-into-one-weekend?

Look for pictures and updates next week! Hope you guys have an awesome weekend, too!

At this time last year I was…

Agenda 3 (c) Dragan Rusov

For some reason it hit me yesterday that a year has passed.

“Well, of course it has,” you say. “Technically a year has passed every single day.”

True, but it’s more significant this month, at least to me. This is National Novel Writing Month and this is the month where everything started changing for the better very quickly in my life.

Quickly is a relative word, especially when we’re talking about writing and the publication process, but looking back I have to admit that everything did happen very fast. “How so?” you ask. To illustrate, here’s a recap of my year from November 2011 to November 2012:

November 2011: Begin writing novel version of Sing, Sweet Nightingale for NaNoWriMo
December 2011: Go back through SSN and make significant changes because, you know, first drafts and all.
January 2012: Frantically try to polish first 30 pages to submit to writing contests; squeeze in under the deadline of said contests and then try to forget I entered them
February 2012: Begin planning trip to BEA in NYC
March 2012: Find out SSN is a finalist in one of the previously mentioned contests
April 2012: Finalize plans for BEA 2012
May 2012: My birthday! Also, I find out SSN won the Marlene Award!
June 2012: Attend BEA. Crash a party at Lani Woodland’s insistence. Meet Danielle and Patricia. Send Danielle and Patricia my book. Have first Skype call with Danielle and Patricia about possible revisions.
July 2012: SSN officially becomes a future publication from Spencer Hill Press!
August 2012: Get so-called preliminary edit instructions that somehow turn into a rewrite project. Spend month stressing.
September 2012: See August
October 2012: Send SSN revision off to betas and CPs. Breathe sigh of relief. Later this month, spend ten hours in one week on Skype with Lani plotting books 2 and 3. Even later this month, do more tweaks on SSN and send book plus new outlines plus notes plus other random goodies to Danielle and Patricia
November 2012: Send EVEN MORE goodies to Danielle and Patricia. Wait with barely concealed anticipation/eagerness/terror/etc. for scheduled editorial Skype chat. Also, begin NaNo, this time working on three projects at once including the as yet untitled Dream War Saga Book 2.

That has been my writing-related year. I did other things too–finish first drafts of two different contemporary YA projects I really love, write a short story in TDWS universe, connect with the amazing Twitterverse of writerly people, and other things I can’t even think of right now–but the timeline above are my big moments and why realizing a year has passed since last November is a nostalgic moment for me. November is also the home of Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday!), so I wanted to take this time to have a gratefulness moment. Sometimes it may feel like the ultimate goal (holding a physical copy of my book) is so far away, but at least the end is finally in sight. I’m working with editors I adore and I have a support network who is amazing. All-in-all, this past year has been very good for me. I’m even on track to knock out most of my New Years Resolutions! 2012 was great, 2013 will be even better, and I have high hopes that 2014 will be a banner year!

Don’t forget to enjoy the moment you’re in. You never know when you’ll suddenly be standing a year in the future going, “Wow. Remember when…?”

You should usually try things more than once.

Lost1 by Sanja Gjenero
Lost 1 (c) Sanja Gjenero

As of last night, book 2 of The Dream War Saga has a plot! Well, it’s had a plot for a while, but it was more like a vague, “I know this stuff needs to happen somewhere in this book” kind of plot. Now it has chapters and everything! The gloriously wonderful Lani Woodland spent HOURS with me on Skype this week going through the story chapter by chapter to help me flesh out the ideas and figure out where I needed more meat on my skeleton of a novel. I’m kind of ridiculously excited by what we came up with! Things will probably change along the way, but in my humble opinion, my as yet unnamed book 2 will be freaking EPIC. πŸ˜‰

Some of the ideas that now play an integral part to this completely epic plot probably wouldn’t have been born without Lani or the order to provide an outline to my editresses by the middle of next month. While I have used outlines before, overall, I’m not an outliner. I think that’s mostly because I’ve never tried outlining while bouncing ideas off someone else. When I’m sitting there staring at a chapter by chapter outline, nothing comes. Seriously, nothing. It’s frustrating and annoying and makes me want to avoid writing completely because if I can’t even come up with ideas how the hell am I going to build a career as an author? And I don’t like feeling like that. When I have someone to talk to who asks questions and makes suggestions and gets my brain working, though, I end up with an entire plot in about eight hours.

So here’s my advice: Try things at least twice. Preferably three times. If you don’t like a method or idea the first time, fine. Go back to the way you’ve been doing things and let it rest for a while. Try it again, but change it up somehow. Approach it from a different direction. Still doesn’t work? That’s fine. If you can come up with a third alternative approach, try that before giving it up entirely. If not, maybe this idea/method/whatever isn’t for you. And that’s okay. Not everything is going to be. The important part is getting words down on paper that make your heart beat faster and tears well in your eyes. As long as you can do that, the how doesn’t matter so much.

Communication, miscommunication, and Flight of the Conchords.

Shadows (c) Alex Bruda

For writers, communication is kind of important. And by kind of I mean OMG SUPER DUPER CRAZY IMPORTANT. Not only do you have to be able to communicate with your readers, but all of your characters have to be able to communicate with each other. You want your message to come across as accurately as possible and so correctly relaying information is crucial.

But that’s the problem. Information isn’t always relayed correctly. And even when it is, that doesn’t mean the person receiving said information will interpret it correctly. And that’s okay. It happens. Which is my point.

Have you ever been having a long, in-depth conversation with someone only to realize half and hour later that the two of you are talking about two completely different things? How about a text message from someone you don’t know quite well enough to be able to tell if they’re being sarcastic or not? Misinterpretation, misinformation, and miscommunication happen a lot. A LOT. It’s part of life and something we all have to deal with. What I realized last night while plotting book 2 in The Dream War Saga with the wonderful Lani Woodland, is that, as writers, we have to remember that. Whether the miscommunication is accidental or purposeful, it can play a huge part in a story. It can lead someone down the wrong path for a while (to build tension) or push them down the right one (to get yourself out of a tight corner). Or it can just be really funny watching two characters realize neither of them has any idea what’s going on.

One of my favorite funny examples is a song by Flight of the Conchords called Jenny. If you’ve never seen it, watch it below or find it on YouTube. It’s awesome and worth the seven minutes it’ll take out of your day. So, watch it! And then go ruin a character’s day by putting the wrong words in their mouth. πŸ˜‰

Good times they are a’comin’!

Jumping Man (c) Asif Akbar

Yesterday, out of the blue, I heard from both of my editors! We’re finally getting close to the time when I have full permission to pelt them with questions and revisions and ideas and new plot points and anything else that pops into my head! I am so excited about this it’s kinda ridiculous. What’s even more exciting is that their texts perfectly coincided with my day-of-final-tweaks on SSN. Yesterday (excepting the three-hour break after a rodent electrocuted itself in my backyard and blew our transformer–yes, really), I went through SSN with my CP’s notes and made little changes per their suggestions. Now I just have to go back through it one last time before I can send it to Danielle and Patricia and start holding my breath in hopes they like the changes I’ve made. Cause they are numerous. And important. And OMG. O.O! Please, please, please like the changes!

I love my editor’s idea to have the entire series planned out before SSN releases. I’m also very happy they intend to help me do that because I am so not a plotter. Most of the time, I have an overview in my head and let things unfold from there. It’ll be an interesting experiment working with an outlined story. The closest I’ve come to this before is when I turned the short story version of SSN into a novel. But even then I had to expand it so much from the core idea it was almost like writing an entirely new story.

Updates on progress shall continue here throughout the publication process with as many details as possible. I really can’t wait until I can share real things like cover copy or, you know, a cover. Which I don’t have yet so don’t hold your breath for that one. The release date is still so far away it’ll be a while before any of that happens, but you can always check back here for updates and you should definitely consider adding Sing, Sweet Nightingale to read on Goodreads!

Okay, self-promotion over. The next six months will be full of amazing writerly things and I’m all atwitter to dive into it. I have new projects in the works and heavy edits to look forward to. All I have to figure out is how to fit it all in.

Wish me luck!

Why I’ve been MIA this week.

Rosebud (c) Petria Follett

I come bearing a flower to apologize for my absence this week! I knew going into it that October was going to be insanely busy, but now that I’m in the middle of the mess, I can see I underestimated the time crunch of my schedule. Just to give you an idea, October is the busiest month of the year at my day job and I’m also:

– editing a book for a friend that clocks in around 148,000 words (it’s a sci-fi epic).

– drafting a book with Lani.

– plotting books two and three of The Dream War Saga.

– costume shopping for the Hunger Games production I’m trying to put together.

– attending a baby shower and an out-of-town wedding.

I will definitely check in when brain power and time allow, but until the beginning of November the posts may be a little more sporadic than usual. On the plus side, it seems like summer is finally loosening it’s grip on South Florida! Today was the first time I drove with my windows down since about the middle of May. Here’s hoping it stays cool for the rest of the month! πŸ˜€

Enjoy October, lovelies!

The Story Of How Crashing A Party Changed My Life

Once upon a time there was a girl who absolutely loved Manhattan (aka, me). Manhattan had Broadway and amazing museums and an energy that made me happy every time I visited.Β Then, one day, I learned that one of the world’s largest book conventions was held in this city I loved and my friend Lani invited me to go. Plans were made and hotels were booked and I waited anxiously until I could finally fly to New York.

The convention was everything I imagined it would be and the people I met were just as obsessive about books as I was. I collected more books than I could carry, made some new friends, and generally had a fabulous time. On Wednesday night, after the final full day of the convention, Lani was invited to this incredible party on a rooftop in Tribeca. Lani tried to get me an invite as well, but alas the party was full. However, Lani didn’t know New York very well and wasn’t comfortable traveling the city by herself, so I tagged along anyway, planning to sit in a cafe and read while Lani attended the party and enjoyed views like this:

By the time we arrived at the party, Lani was convinced they could sneak me in. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending the night in a place where the fear of getting kicked out hung over my head, but I also really had to use the bathroom, so I let Lani talk me into it. We made it to the roof (and I was able to use the bathroom) but then I was so entranced by the views from this spot that I stayed to take some pictures. And then I kinda just never left.

This is NOT from the party, I just like this picture. πŸ™‚

Although I enjoyed taking pictures and talking to people (I even met a British girl who happened to be best friends with someone I went to middle school with in Florida! O.O!), I tried to stay under the radar and out of the way. Lani, however, wasn’t having that. Because she’s an amazing person (and should consider a second career in PR or marketing), Lani began raving about a book I wrote to an editor she’d met. The editor, whose name was Danielle, was intrigued and wanted to hear more, so Lani called me over from where I was admiring the city’s skyline and shoved me into a conversation where I probably said “Um…” about fifty-three times. Which is what happens when I’m in no way prepared to pitch my book to someone. But it still went well and Danielle dragged me across the roof to meet someone else, another editor at her press named Patricia.

“Tell Patricia about your book,” Danielle said.

So, I did. And then this happened:

Patricia (looking at Danielle): “Oh my God!”

Danielle (grinning): “I know, right?!”

At that moment, I was very glad it was dark outside because I swear I was blushing and grinning like an idiot. They gave me their cards and asked me to send them the full manuscript, which I did as soon as I had a stable internet connection.

It’s only been about six weeks from that night, but in that short amount of time they both read it, loved it, offered on it, sent me a contract, revised the contract, planned a marketing strategy for my entire series, and–now–officially announced the acquisition of Sing, Sweet Nightingale by Spencer Hill Press. πŸ˜€

I am thrilled to be working with Danielle and Patricia who both love my novel and my characters as much as I do and will help me make it the best it can be. Publication is currently slated for Spring of 2014, but you’ll be able to find new information here as it is released and, eventually, on a site solely dedicated to the series. Stick with me over the next year and a half! I can’t wait to share all the details with you!

Also, a huge thank you to Lani who honestly made this all possible. <3

Friends: The Ones Who Last

The best friends I have are the ones I can say this about: