12.31.2009

Greetings, from the Psychedelic Party Tunnel in Detroit!

None of these pictures were taken by me. I was too busy enjoying the JUNGLE MUSIC and the CANDY COLORS.


If you've ever been to the Detroit Metro Airport, you already know about the Psychedelic Party Tunnel. If you haven't, the only thing you need to know is that the Psychedelic Party Tunnel is THE GREATEST TUNNEL OF ALL TIME.

Seven hundred feet of strange music synchronized to sweeping color. Traveling on its moving walkways is something akin to accepting a boat ride from Willy Wonka.





It is more than enough to distract oneself from that whole Nigerian terrorist thing.

So here I am. In Detroit. With an eight hour layover. Doo dee doo.

Oh, by the way?

I AM ON MY WAY TO PARIS.

I'm renting a (teeny tiny) apartment on the Île Saint-Louis, one of two natural islands in the center of Paris. (The other is the Île de la Cité, home of my favorite Famous French Thing, Notre-Dame). Here's a description from About.com, because I'm too lazy to think of a better one:

"This small island is like an oasis from the rush of the city. It's almost as if someone dropped a small French village into the center of Paris, as it features markets, bakeries, fromageries and cafés. While much of Paris has modernized over the years, the ile remains romantically frozen in the 17th century."


Charming, non?

And I'll be living there for the ENTIRE MONTH of January.

Me. In Paris! Staying here:


Pictures of my new apartment are larger than real life.


After spending the last few years reading book after book on the subject, it's difficult to believe I'll actually BE there. Tomorrow. I'll walk where my characters walk, eat what they eat, see what they see.

I'm choking up — in this very public airport — just thinking about it.

My sister has graciously offered to accompany me the first week. This is because I am, in short, a Giant Weenie. And my sister is brave. So when I'm too terrified to leave the apartment in fear of offending someone with my heinous American ways (even when I know better than to think that!), my sister will kick my butt out the door. And when I'm too scared to say something in fear of butchering their beautiful language, my sister can botch the words for me. Ha!*

[NOTE TO MY SISTER: You did agree to this, right? Right??]

The second week, I'll be solo. Which will be . . . good for me. And the third and fourth weeks, my husband will be there.

So.

Yeah.

I'm going to Paris.

Weird, huh? I mean, it's not weird. It's perfectly natural. People go to Paris all the time. But . . . it still feels weird. France means something different to me. The only thing I can compare it to is if C.S. Lewis got to vacation in Narnia. Even though Paris is a real, tangible place — one I've even been to, albeit years ago — it doesn't feel that way anymore. I've created something there. I have inserted false memories into its monuments, restaurants, and parks.

And I'm about to see those places.

Freaky.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be blogging and tweeting my adventures. Expect tales of pastries, cemeteries, and Famous Stuff! I will try my best to be brave for you.** Please send happy, warm, fuzzy thoughts my way.***

And HAPPY NEW YEAR! Feel free to leave bogus resolutions in my comments.


I'M COMING FOR YOU, MACARONS.


* The handful of people who have already read
Anna will recognize something in this paragraph. Yeah. Those first few chapters? The similarities are most certainly intentional.

** Seriously, you guys. I am really nervous. Did you know they speak FRENCH in France? Did you know that I do NOT speak French?

*** I mean, it's awesome, right? The going to France thing? So why can't I breathe? Should I take another ride in the Psychedelic Party Tunnel? When is my sister getting here?? WHEN DOES SHE ARRIVE???

12.24.2009

Thank You, Dear Readers

Thank you, Paris. Our relationship has been as unexpected as it has been extraordinary.


To those who are new to my blog: Thank you for taking the time to say hello, and thank you for taking the time to say hello again. I love seeing you here. I hope we'll get to know each other better in the coming months, and I hope you'll stick around for the figgy pudding.

To those who have been reading my blog for some time now: Thank you for your continued support, your enthusiastic well-wishes, and your delightful comments. I love being a part of your life, even if it is this strange, tiny one. Next year will be big for me. I hope I'll make you proud.

12.18.2009

Twitter Linkage + Writing Advice + A Gift from James McAvoy

A few weeks ago, I posted a video of Australian comedian Tim Minchin singing a Very Amusing song called, "If I Didn't Have You."

Last night, literary superhunk Neil Gaiman tweeted a link to this Minchin Christmas song:





I was surprised by how . . . beautiful it was.

Quite different from the majority of his work, though it still has a touch of sly humor. Here's another favorite, a poem called "Angry (Feet)," the sort of thing I'd normally expect from Minchin (R-rated language, for those who care). LOVE this one, as it's weird and creepy, and I am fond of weird and creepy:





Also on Twitter last night, editor Cheryl Klein linked to this fantastic post by novelist Jennifer Crusie about plot structure. If you're a writer, check it out! I liked it so much that I printed out a copy.

And to continue the randomness of this post — I am still not quite over the flu, so I'll blame it on that (but it's really just because I'm lazy) — here's a question from my friend Amber Nicole Brooks. Amber and I were in undergrad together, and she's a FABULOUS writer. She's also the first person I trusted to read my "professional" writing. [Which was really, really bad, you guys. So, a round of applause for Amber!]


Amber asked:

How do you stop yourself from re-reading, and re-reading stuff you've already written? (I mean stuff such as the prior chapters you've drafted for the book.) I like to do this, as some sort of punishment or procrastination.


Oh, man.

Um.

Hmm.

How to answer . . . how to answer . . .

Okay, the truth is this: I don't know. I honestly don't know. We're stepping into Achilles' heel territory here. I am pretty much one of the worst writers I know when it comes to re-reading work and not moving forward. I am a CHAMPION re-reader. WORLD-CLASS, A++ PROCRASTINATOR AND SELF-PUNISHER.


I loooooathe moving forward. Or, at least, I'm bad at it.

I enjoy tinkering. Tinker tinker tinker! I am an EXCELLENT tinker-er! If I could prettify and rewrite preexisting scenes all night long, I'd be a happy Stephanie. Unfortunately, scenes do not write themselves. And eventually it comes down to this:

Move forward or quit.

The only thing I hate more than moving forward? Quitting. So maybe you should post that above your desk: MOVE FORWARD OR QUIT! Unless you're prone to quitting things. Then it should read: MOVE FORWARD OR QUIT! Just so you know which option to pick.

Other ideas to try:


(A) A quick, ugly draft. Ask a friend to set a deadline for you. One that seems absolutely ridiculous. And then . . . power through it. Remind yourself again and again and again that beautiful writing comes LATER. It always comes later, because you don't know what you're writing about until you reach the end. You may think you know. But you don't. So it's best to let the early drafts be fast and ugly, because chances are high that you'll have to rewrite the entire thing anyway. Sorry.

(B) Bribe yourself. What do you want? Congratulations! Now you can't have it until you move forward. HA.


I find that a combination of (A) and (B) works best for me.

Anyone else have any advice to offer on this subject? My ears and blog comments are wide open!

Also . . . because I love him, and because several of you who read my blog also love him, and 'Tis the Season and all that, here's My Live-In Celebrity Boyfriend Chris Martin singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with
Conan O'Brien:





Oh, what the heck. I'm in a video-y mood. Here's another silly one, for Coldplay fans only. It was their 2006 Christmas message. The costumes make me so happy!





Oh. And Chris wants me to tell you that he's kicking Wee James McAvoy's butt in Clue right now. They've been very competitive with the board games this year.

And now he wants me to tell you — in case you ever find yourself playing Clue with him in the future — that he is always, always Professor Plum. And Wee James is Miss Scarlet.

OKAY, CHRIS! ENOUGH!

Now he wants me to tell you Happy Christmas. So "Happy Christmas" from Chris Martin.

And now, of course, Wee James is shouting at me to tell you Happy Christmas too, but to make it in a LARGER PRINT than Chris's message. So:

HAPPY CHRISTMAS from JAMES MCAVOY


He also wants me to include a picture of a pygmy goat. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it's Wee like him?




So there's your pygmy goat from James McAvoy.

And now I'm going to stop typing before Chris makes me post a picture of a juggling hamster or bicycle shaped like a pickle or something.

12.16.2009

Takk, Kate!

Takk is Icelandic for "thanks." Takk to Sigur Rós, I know what takk means.


Fellow Tenner (2010 debut author) Kody Keplinger (who is EIGHTEEN, you guys — I do not even want to think about what I was [not] doing when I was eighteen) declared last Friday the first Agent Appreciation Day. What a wonderful thing to do!

I've had some intense on and off flu action, so I haven't had the brains to post until now. But. It's important to me that I do. Because there's no way that 95% of you reading this would be here if it weren't for Kate Schafer Testerman, aka Super Agent Daphne Unfeasible.

I love my agent.

LOVE. My agent.

For those of you not in the industry, or relatively new to the industry, who don't understand the full role an agent plays, allow me to explain:

Agents do everything writers do not want to do.

Like . . . tell editors how wonderful you are. Ask those editors if they've read your manuscript yet. Ask them again. Ask them again. Ask those editors for money. Ask those editors for MORE money. Negotiate the unintelligible, horrifyingly lengthy mess that is a publishing contract. Make sure you sign the correct lines. Make sure everything is mailed on time. Make sure that it's a DONE DEAL.

Then they make sure you're paid. They wrestle with taxes. And they make sure you're paid again, later, when it's time to be paid again. And if there's a problem with your publishing house or your editor, guess what? Your agent handles it! So you, the writer, will still look like the good guy.

Then the agent tries to sell your book AGAIN. Foreign markets. Film rights. Television. And they call all of those people you wouldn't want to call — and wouldn't know how to call or where to get their numbers — and they KEEP calling them.

And when you have a new book? They do all of this for you . . . yes! . . . again.

Then there's the other half of their job, the writer hand-holding. Agents have to be good at giving bad news. They have to give a LOT of bad news, and they have to make it sound like it's not *really* that bad. And they have to mean it! Good agents are always optimistic about your future. Agents are TEAM YOU. They want you to succeed, and they guide you (as gently or as forcefully as necessary) towards the goal.

I am lucky.

Because not only does Kate do all of this for me — and with incredible gusto, enthusiasm, and style — but she's also really, really cool. Like, the kind of person I'd want to hang out with anyway. (Which is why I wanted her so badly for an agent!)

Kate loves Joss Whedon. Shoes. The Glee soundtracks and The Princess Bride. She bowls, MMORPGs, and agrees that Chuck's wardrobe on Pushing Daisies is, like, the best ever. She writes a great blog and is a fantastic tweeter. Kate once said in an interview that, "I love novels that get me (in all honesty) hot, horny, and laughing. That’s the trifecta."

YES. YES!! Me too, Kate.

She understands Anna — and she understands Anna's boy — and has done everything to ensure my novel is treated right. And she got me my not-even-in-my-dreams editor. (I am STILL not sure how you pulled that one off, Kate! You are truly magic.)

I am honored to be working with her.

And . . . I'm honored to be a part of her amazing client list. Because that's the other thing about Kate. Not only is SHE amazing, but her writers are too. The kt literary family is made up of incredibly kind, funny, and supportive people. I had no idea that when I signed with her, I would make so many instant friends.

Takk, Kate. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

And I wish everyone else a continued Happy Chanukah! I wanted to share my favorite Chanukah song, Beck's "Little Drum Machine Boy," but this non-embeddable clip was the best I could find. The song gets cooler after the clip ends. Of course. (At least you can still find it on iTunes!)


I forgot how cutie pie and well-dressed he is.


The song is from the Midnite Vultures era, perhaps my favorite of his. For those of you unfamiliar with Beck's music, that means nothing, so I will say this: IZ FUNKY.

12.08.2009

Five Things I Love: December Edition

(1) Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson's "Relator"

I'm digging this boppy little song, even though some of the lyrics are from The Beatles "All My Loving," and . . . is it on purpose? Not sure.

STILL. Cute and addictive!





(The comments on the video are not mine. Just so you know.)


(2) Ash in Fantastic Mr. Fox



SOOOOoooooOOOOOoooo ADORABLE.

(Marry me, Jason Schwartzman!!)

Ah hem.

If you haven't seen the delightful Fantastic Mr. Fox yet, please do so immediately. Wes Anderson's latest (Marry me, Wes Anderson!!) is the most fun I've had in a theater this year. It's not often one can say that every second of a film is charming.

But. Every second of this film is charming.

The voice acting is actually acting (unlike most celebrity animation work), the stop-motion is fascinating in a dollhouse-detailed kind of way, and the story . . . it's Roald Dahl! (Marry me, Roald Dahl!! Except don't, because despite your awesome talent and interesting life, you were not-so-nice to your wives.)

Also, it was kidlit nerd-thrilling to see the cover of my favorite edition at the beginning of the film. Because as much as I love Quentin Blake, THIS is the real cover:




(3) Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists




Reminiscent of Gushers fruit snacks, these puppies are FAR SUPERIOR to original Twizzlers. In fact, I've heard that the original Twizzlers are so distressed by the deliciousness of Sweet & Sour Filled Twists, that they've gone into hiding (somewhere in China) and are contemplating retirement.

Perhaps they will become tap dancers.

Sweet & Sour Filled Twists are the perfect treats to sneak into the theater when you see Fantastic Mr. Fox! Or to mail to me for Christmas. Either one, really.


(4) John Keats


Oh, hello. I write ravishing letters that ache with lust and longing. What do you do?


I am so thankful for cinema. If it weren't for Bright Star, I would have NO IDEA that John Keats was sexy. And I'm not talking about Ben Whishaw, the actor who played him. I'm talking about Keats himself.

(Marry me, John Keats!! I have a tuberculosis vaccine with your name on it!)

My high school English classes convinced me — via dull teaching methods — that John Keats was boring, so I did myself a favor and skipped Romantic poetry in college.

NO! NOT A FAVOR! BAD! BAD BAD BAD!


Because John Keats? Ohmystars, you guys. SIZZLING HOT. I've been reading his love letters to Fanny Brawne every night this week and positively swooning myself to sleep. My favorite letter is two gorgeous pages of aching obsession that ends with this:

"I will imagine you Venus tonight and pray, pray, pray to your star like a heathen."

The book I've been reading is this one, which was put together (I'm pretty sure) just for the movie. And now I am obsessed.


(5) Naga

In my last post, I said that if anyone could tell me what THIS was, I'd mail them a present:




Several hilarious mermaid-y guesses were left in the comments, but I think Falen nailed it when she identified it as a Nagin (a female Naga):

"The Naga is a race of semi-divine snake people and the nagin are said to be strikingly beautiful, but with the power to transform into a cobra, or to a half-snake, half-human figure. I believe that in the Chinese cosmology it is the Naga which creates mankind."

I kinda love how there's no way for me to check this, but it sure sounds right. And I learned something new, which I always love. So congratulations, Falen! Please email me your address at steph AT stephanieperkins.com, and I'll send you a present.

I have no idea what it will be. It will surprise us BOTH.


Tra la la! What are you guys loving this month?

11.30.2009

Oh, San Francisco! Don't ever change.

Let's talk about how much I love this city.


I've been scratching my head over this post for the last several days, because there's not much I can tell you about my trip to San Francisco. Despite the fact that I publicly announced it (oops), it was a SECRET trip. Filled with EXCITING THINGS that I CANNOT TALK ABOUT.

Just kidding.

It really, truly, honestly was a secret trip, but unless you count hanging out in hallways like this EXCITING:


Doo dee doo. Don't mind me. I'm just taking notes about this DOOR. Look! It has a handle!


Then you are not missing much.

I'm not even going to tell you about the time I got caught taking pictures in a public restroom. (I HAD A REASON.) Or tell you about the look on the woman's face who caught me. (I HAD A REASON, LADY!!)

The trip coincided with my ten year day-we-met anniversary with Jarrod. And since we still consider San Francisco our city — we met online while living in different cities, but we moved together to SF — it turned out to be a perfect celebration.

A perfect celebration of taking secret pictures of public restrooms.

Well. We also did a few non-secret things. For instance, WE ATE.




We couldn't afford the Fog City Diner when we lived there (Ramen Cup Noodles were more our budget), so it was wonderful to finally taste their famous gourmet diner food. Like this lemon meringue pie:


Hello, meringue! WE LOVE YOU.


And then there was this . . .


CONE O' MEAT.


My husband is seriously (seriously) addicted to the Food and Travel Networks, and Boccalone has been featured on multiple programs, so it was a must-visit. We especially loved their sign:




And to answer my family and longtime friends' question, NO. I did not partake in the tasty salted pig parts. (True story: I gave up pork when my mother read me Charlotte's Web as a little girl. I don't care how delicious he is, HOW COULD ANYONE EAT WILBUR??)

But there was still plenty for me to snack on. Like . . .


Jalapeño gelato!


And chocolate orange macarons from Miette!


Is there anything more heavenly than a macaron?

(NO.)

But enough foodage. How about . . .


Elvis Pinball!


This dastardly machine combines two of my husband's great loves, the King and pinball. Of course he couldn't resist.

And I always love the window displays in Chinatown:


Like these pretty shoes.


And these cool plastic insects.


And this, um, random crap.


And this . . . WHAT THE HECK IS THIS??


Seriously, you guys. If anyone can tell me what's up with that, I'll mail you a present.

Here's another reason I love Chinatown. While walking down the street, we found this Large Frog:




And then, only half a block later . . .


OMG. ANOTHER LARGE FROG.


Here are two more awesome non-secret things found in (non-Chinatown) window displays:


Heh.


Have I mentioned lately how much I love San Francisco?


But it was not all SECRETS and FOOD and WINDOW DISPLAYS. I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with fellow 2010 YA debut authors and Bay Area residents, Heidi R. Kling (author of Sea, coming out next June) and Daisy Whitney (The Mockingbirds, next fall).


Not the best quality picture, but it totally doesn't matter when we (L to R: Heidi, Steph, Daisy) look this cute!


I've said it before, but it's always worth saying again. Being a writer is a strange, lonely business. Any time I'm given the chance to spend time with other writers — writers who understand exactly what I'm going through — is the equivalent of a child's birthday party at an American Girl store.

IT'S THE BEST. THING. EV-ERRRRR!!

We met up at Bittersweet, a chocolate café. Okay. Maybe a *little* food was involved. But LOOK:


Spicy (pepper, cinnamon, & rose) drinking chocolate.


We talked non-stop for two hours, and it felt like two minutes, and I cannot wait to do it again. Daisy and Heidi were both amazingly kind, hilarious, and FUN. I'm excited to read their books next year!

[2010 . . . so close, but so far away.]

It's time to wrap up, so I'll leave you with one final picture. There are hundreds of reasons to love this city. But this? This is one of the best:


Thank you, San Francisco.

11.19.2009

Two Newsy Bits


THE FIRST BIT:

Challenge #2?

I did it.

Fifty thousand words, thirteen days early.

And the words are good, and I love these characters, and this draft is so much better than last year's. So I'm rethinking that whole, "I'm over NaNo" thing.

Maybe I'm not.

And I wish this announcement were exciting or funny, because it's a BIG DEAL. But I'm drained — of energy, of emotion. Of everything.

Thank you, EVERYONE, for your support, and an especially enormous, grateful, and overwhelmed thank you and I love you to Kiersten White. There are no words to describe the gift you have given me.

I am back.


THE SECOND BIT:

I'm off to San Francisco.

A little business, a little pleasure, and a lot of delicious food. San Francisco is my favorite city in America, and it's been far too long since I've hiked her hills.

Talk to you all next week!


Jarrod and I were engaged at the bottom of this hill. The Coldplay puppets were not in attendance that day.


In the meantime . . .

Keep writing, NaNo-ers! GO GO GO! RAH RAH RAH!!

11.15.2009

In Which I Am Challenged *THREE* Times

If you follow me on Twitter, perhaps you've heard the news. If not, please pardon me while I gloat my tail off:

I WROTE FOURTEEN THOUSAND WORDS ON FRIDAY.


Allow me to explain.


THE FIRST CHALLENGE

So I had an excellent Thursday. I like Thursdays. Good things happen to me on Thursdays. So I'd just had another happy Thursday, and it was midnight, and I was hanging out on Twitter, going "la-la-la, today was awesome," when I realized something.

My Thursday was SO awesome that there was no way Friday could live up to it. It was bound to be a terrible day in comparison, by default! (I have never claimed to be a rational thinker.)

Well. I was not about to lose my Friday.

I decided the only way Friday could possibly top Thursday was if I made another significant jump on my NaNoWriMo word count. Enter Kiersten White. Here's how it went down:


Me: I am happy, happy, happy. No idea how tomorrow will top today. A crazy-huge NaNo word jump? How many words should I aim for?

K:
Ten MILLION. And I would relish each and every one of them.

Me: Okay, that is not a REAL NUMBER.

K: Ten million is too a real number! Fine. Three thousand? But I'd prefer ten million.

Me: 3k? I am better than that number. Try again.

K: WOOT. In one night? Hello Confidence Woman! I like you! My record is 9k in one day. Beat that?

Me: Dudelio, last November I did 10k: http://tinyurl.com/yj3xfew (But we're talking about ALL DAY FRIDAY, not just tonight.)

K: In that case, I want 15k and not a word less! Some days I daydream about how much I could do with one day and no kids...

Me: Should I go for a repeat?

K: No, beat it! At least 13k.

Me: Split the difference? 14k? (CANNOT BELIEVE I AM SAYING THAT.)

K: YES! 14k! 14k!! You can do it!!! Thus the increasing exclamation marks!!!!

Me: IT'S ON!! I hereby accept the Kiersten White Challenge '09. Fourteen thousand words in the next 23 hours and 15 minutes.


And that is how I stupidly agreed to write fourteen thousand words in one day. In a public forum. Thus increasing the embarrassment factor were I to fail. Which was very, very possible.

BUT I DIDN'T.

With fifteen minutes to spare on Friday night, I hit the fourteen thousand word mark. And the amazing thing? They were GOOD words. Like, full sentences and scenes and such!

A few nice people have asked, "How did you do it?"

Er . . . I'm not sure. It feels a bit like a Christmas Miracle. Or like when you put the quarter in the gumball machine, and you get the cool blue gumball (and not the crummy white one). But these things certainly helped:


(A) The public humiliation factor. Not a big fan of it.

(B) I work much better with an impossible deadline. Not pretty, but true.

(C)
Amazing friends cheering me on (via Twitter, of course).

(D)
I ate full meals to keep up my energy and got a full night's rest. (I sleep at an odd time of day, but yes, I got in eight hours.)

(E)
During my waking hours, I aimed for a thousand words per fifty minutes. That way, I could add together my extra ten-minute chunks and use them for stretching and eating and showering. And Twittering, of course.

(F)
I just wrote. Whatever scene I thought of, that was the one that came out. Which meant (as Kiersten pointed out later) that of course it was the fun stuff — the kissing and the fighting! It's easier to write fourteen thousand FUN words.

(G)
I listened to the Glee soundtrack nonstop. (EMBARRASSING.)


So . . . yeah. I did it. I DID IT!


[And now Amber Lough is making me seal-shaped gingerbread cookies as a prize!
At least, I hope that was not a cheap ploy. Because cookies are the best.]



THE SECOND CHALLENGE

Can you guess what my problem was the next day? But of course. How could SATURDAY live up to FRIDAY?

I am lame.

And I needed a new challenge.

Re-enter Kiersten White. I'll spare you the Twitter conversation — because half of it took place over email — but it ended with me saying this: DEAL! I hereby accept @kierstenwhite’s NEW CHALLENGE: A complete NaNo draft by this Wednesday at 2:42 AM. (25k down, 25k to go)

Um, yeah.

I agreed to finish this draft early — thirteen days early. My stupidity knows no bounds. So, you know, that's what I'm working on. How about you?

By the way: I LOVE YOU, KIERSTEN!!!

If we were both not already married, and if I didn't have a house filled with Celebrity Boyfriends, I would totally ask you to marry me. We'd live on a remote island with lots and lots of books and a great internet connection, and we'd raise squirrel monkeys as children, until they got to that feces-throwing stage, and then we'd kick them out of our treehouse and get NEW squirrel monkey children. And we'd watch Penelope and Pride and Prejudice, like, every day.


Us, having just ditched a batch of poop-flinging monkey children.


THE THIRD CHALLENGE

But these were not my only challenges this weekend. Oh no! You'd think with writing fourteen thousand words in a day and agreeing to write twenty-five thousand more in the next four days would be enough.

BUT NO. The challenge gods refused to leave me be.

In my last post, I shared three magical videos with you. Two were funny (I hope), and the third was THE GREATEST VIDEO EVER, EVER, EVER CREATED EVER IN THE HISTORY OF TIME EVER. In case you missed it, here it is again:





That would be HBM Extraordinaire Jim Sturgess and . . . kissing.

I thought the ladies and gents who read my blog and just-so-happen to enjoy a little HBM (Hot British Men) in their lives would be happy, and that would be that.

Well.

Mr. Benjamin James Watson, formerly known as "Sir Ben," has been stripped of his title due to THIS offensive statement on his blog, later that same day:


"Stephanie is, admittedly, the HBM Connoisseur and Writer of Good Words [YES, I AM] but apparently expert on best video of all time she is not [LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE].

I am throwing down the children's book blog gauntlet right now. Certainly if ever such a GREATEST VIDEO EVER (etc, etc) existed it would have two components. FIRSTLY, it would have a timelessness to it (sorry Sturgey) and SECONDLY, it would have Christopher Walken in it. And THIRD, wait there was no third, THIRD, it would be THIS video. Which unfortunately I'm afraid you'll just have to click on through the link because the embedding feature has been disabled."


Now. To give The Writer Formerly Known As Sir Ben credit, he did link to an awesome video. It's Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice," directed by one of my all-time favorites, Spike Jonze. If you haven't watched it, you should, and I won't say why, because it would spoil the fun.

But.

BUT.

I'm sorry, Ben-Who-Is-No-Longer-Sir-Ben. Given the choice between Christopher Walken dancing and Jim Sturgess kissing, well . . . IT'S NOT A CHOICE.

Click! I am watching the Jim Sturgess video.

Click! I just hit "replay."

Click! Replay. AGAIN.


So here is my request, friends. To anyone reading this who happens to prefer:

(A) Hot British Men


Hello! I am so dreamy and well-dressed.


and (B) Hot Steamy Kissing


They're practically EATING each other, you guys.


over Christopher Walken dancing, please (politely, kindly, etc) copy and paste the following message into the comments section of this post:


Dear Mr. Watson,

Walken is cool, but Sturgess is HOT. Here's another vote for:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MvkoH6JlxM



And if you'd rather watch Christopher Walken dance, that's okay. Just don't tell Ben.

Happy third-week-of-November, everyone!

11.12.2009

Quick Update + Thank You Gifts

Friends, you never cease to amaze me.

Thank you for the out-of-this-world supportive, kind, encouraging, and wise comments in my last post. So many new names in there! Thank you for taking the time to say hello. (An especially huge thanks to the anonymous commenter. You made my week.)

Your words mean everything to me, and I'm SO PROUD to show you I've taken them to heart:




As of right now, 12:42 am, I am over ten thousand words.

It feels good.

Thanks, you guys. You're the BEST. And because you're the best, I'd like to give you this video of Tim Minchin singing "If I Didn't Have You." I don't think I've posted it here before:





The song, by the way, is not a message for YOU.

YOU are irreplaceable. It's just something to make you laugh. ("I think you're special, but you fall within a bell curve.")

And juuuust in case you don't think that's any good, how about a CAT VIDEO? I'm not traditionally a CAT VIDEO person, but even I found this pretty funny:





What's that? You aren't into CAT VIDEOS?

You're waiting for the hot British men??

I read you loud and clear, blogosphere. You have earned this.

It's only THE GREATEST VIDEO EVER, EVER, EVER CREATED EVER IN THE HISTORY OF TIME EVER:





That would be Jim Sturgess. And KISSING.*

And now you are welcome.


*Gigantoid hugs to Kiersten White for sending this to me. I knew we were friends for a reason.

11.07.2009

Frustration + Inspiration


From Michael Ian Black's blog yesterday (I love him):

"If all the birds died tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t even notice. At some point somebody would mention that there was no more birdsong. I would say, 'I didn’t notice because I’ve been inside.' Then I would go back to not doing whatever I was not doing."


I get this.

And there's nothing I can add to that, that won't turn this into a depressing post. But yeah. I get this.

For the last several months, I've had trouble writing. There's been this strange . . . disconnect. I can't get new words down on the page. There are all of these beautiful sentences and ideas and scenes floating through my mind, but it's as if a switch were flipped. I can't grab a hold of them. I can't turn them into tangible words. I can't write down what's in my head.

It's frustrating and maddening and embarrassing. And it makes me feel like everything is over before it began. Which I know is untrue. But still.

The thought persists.

I'd hoped that NaNoWriMo would be a good kick, that it would FORCE me out of this hole. But let's take a look at my current graph, shall we?



That's me, not winning. My mustard-colored line is parked at 2,373 words. That's only 706 words more than the DAY ONE goal.

Right now, it would be easy for me to give up. To quit. To convince myself that there are better, more important things for me to do (or not do) this month. But you know what?

I'm not quitting.

I am going to win.

It will just take . . . a few adjustments.

In a recent blog-comment conversation, Corinne Bowen recommended Heather Seller's Chapter After Chapter. I'd never heard of it before, so I popped over to Amazon. I was expecting to find another basic how-to-write manual, but instead I discovered it's about a how to have a writing life.

A subtle difference, but an important one. It's also something I haven't encountered before — in book form, nor in my own life.




Staying motivated is tough.

Staying in your chair and writing every day is tough.

Staying in love with your idea is tough.

Heather's book is the first I've seen that hasn't just said, "It's tough for all of us." (A good thing to know, but something you'll read often. Like here on my blog.) She explains why it's hard, and how we can make it easier. No magic wands. No crazy diets. Just a solid understanding and consideration of the problems attached with living the LIFE of a writer, and how we can help ourselves overcome them.

The wretchedness of the Second Novel. The disbanding of critique groups. The feeling of failure after success.

This book would be good for beginners, but I think it's even better for writers like myself. Perhaps we're a little (a very little) further down the path, but now that it's actually our career . . . how do we keep this up? Now that something is expected of us — and, more importantly, now that we expect something of ourselves — how do we stay in love with the process? How can we keep it FUN?

This book has turned on light bulbs and flashlights and chandeliers. I have hope again.

[I wish I could take you out for coffee and vegan treats as a thank you, Corinne!]


Vegan Cupcakes for Corinne


So . . . it's an uncomfortable realization, but I'm growing out of NaNoWriMo. I don't need it for what I used to need it for (finishing a first draft), and it's difficult to give it the full attention it deserves with several other projects already underway. This might be my last year.

But I'm not quitting.

Remember how I mentioned adjustments would be required to finish? I've decided to use NaNo for what I DO need it for — to help me fall in love with writing again.

I've decided to stop writing this year's novel as a beginning/middle/end draft. I'm not happy with writing mind-blowingly terrible stories anymore. But I AM happy when I have the courage to squeeze out a new scene, or even a moment in a scene, that feels real.

So I'll write scenes. And when I can't write a scene, I'll write a paragraph. And when I can't write a paragraph, I'll interview my characters. Find out what they're thinking. And if they don't want to talk to me? I'll brainstorm.

Hopefully, when this is over, I will have found my confidence again. And when it's time to tackle Third Novel in a serious way next year, I will have a solid (50,000 word!) base to stand on.

Am I dreaming? Of course.

Do I think this is impossible? Of course not.

And because I'm feeling inspiration-happy, here are two more things that sparked my creative excitement this week:


Number One = Thom Yorke's recent Echoplex show









AhhHHHHHhhhhHHHHhhhhHHHHHHhhh.

What I wouldn't give to have been there! I want to crawl into Thom's brain and watch it buzz and pop. He is SO talented.

Thom Yorke makes me glad I'm not a professional musician, because if I were, I wouldn't be able to listen to him without experiencing excruciating bouts of jealousy. Instead, I get to enjoy.


Number Two = Glee

I'm a Glee newbie, and I'm happy — and surprised! — to report that it lives up to the hype. Here are a few reasons to consider tuning in, if you already don't:




(1) Fabulous ensemble cast. I love shows with a lot of characters — so many opportunities for great storytelling. And I appreciate how the teachers and students are equally interesting. Television is often guilty of having cool teens but flat adults, or vice versa. Definitely not the case here.

(2)
Jayma Mays' wardrobe. Not quite as fab as Anna Friel's on Pushing Daisies (NO ONE has a better wardrobe than Chuck), but cute in similar monochromatic sort of way.




(3) The music, of course. I'm generally not a fan of musicals (there are a few exceptions like Sweeney Todd, Moulin Rouge!, Dr. Horrible), but the exuberance and talent of the cast — ohmystars, how amazing is Amber Riley as Mercedes? — makes it impossible for me not to grin and hum along.




FUN. It's just FUN. (Even when it's making me cry.) Definitely the best show I've seen on television this year.

Oh! And . . .


(4)
Joss Whedon is directing an episode!


Phew! What's inspiring you right now?

And if you're doing NaNoWriMo, how's it going?

10.29.2009

More Self-Editing, NaNoWriMo Season, + Halloween Linkage

Wee James would like to thank everyone for their well-wishes. He's feeling much better! (Good enough to steal Jim Sturgess's sexy coat, obvs.)


Wowie zowie.

I had a lot of new visitors leave comments on my last post. Thank you, and welcome to my blog! I hope you all stick around for the pie. Big thanks to Kiersten White, Natalie Whipple, and Katie Anderson for linking to my post (and for being wonderful in general), and thank you to everyone who tweeted about it. I spent — ah hem — a LONG time writing it. It feels really, really nice to know the work was appreciated.

There were so many great comments, and I'd like to share with you the ones that held more self-editing tips.


Rachel Bateman said:

"One word I think all writers should have on their overused list is THAT. It seems to be one of the most overused words of all time. If I catch myself using it, I stop myself and think long and hard about whether or not I really need it. Then, at the end, I do a find to see how many I missed–most of these can be removed as well."



It's on my list, too! Though I must confess, the first time I became aware of THAT problem, I removed waaaaay too many, and the language became unnatural. So yeah. Watch out for "that" . . . but don't carried away, like I did.


Super Agent Daphne Unfeasible said:

"Regarding your advice to 'Keep a list of the words you overuse. (My list, among many things, includes: grin, smile, eyes, laugh, hand.) Every time you finish a new draft, do another "Find" search. Eliminate some of these.', Rexroth recommends creating a Wordle on your manuscript and using it to weed out the overused words. And I think Rexroth is very very wise."



Rexroth IS wise, because he married you, and you are fabulous! This is great advice. I've bookmarked Wordle so many times I've lost count, but I'll definitely hit it up on my next draft. Especially after seeing . . .


Valerie's follow-up comment:

"I second Daphne about Wordle but I think it works even better on a chapter by chapter basis. I find it's helpful to use on a chapter or scene sequence so that I can see if I'm using the same words over and over when focused on one topic or event. When you're doing your entire manuscript there might not be enough instances of a word for it to show up, but when checking out just that chapter you might find that you've used it way too much."



Excellent! Thank you!


Shelley said:

"I also think on your list of things to read and learn about writing a book is the Not For Robots site. Sooo much goodness there!"



YES. I credit Laini Taylor's Not for Robots site for helping me complete my first full, pretty draft. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Love love LOVE. If you've never read it, GO FORTH IMMEDIATELY.


Shelley also asked:

"You seem to be accumulating more boyfriends...is that allowed?"


Of course it's allowed.

As long as I keep my Only Full-Time Live-In Celebrity Boyfriend, Chris Martin, away from my brilliant-but-curmudgeonly boyfriend, Thom Yorke, everyone is just happy for the extra company.


The last time Chris and Thom were here at the same time, one of them enjoyed it more than the other.


Poor Chris. He's such a sweetheart.

Hmm, what's next? This whole post is a bit scattered, as things keep popping up, and I'm finding less and less time to address them.

Less time because . . . it's NaNoWriMo time!


♥♥♥ Huzzah! ♥♥♥


Which means this November, I'll be working on THREE novels — Anna, Lola, and the brand-new Third Novel.

It's a good thing I'm a professional. (Snert.)

Normally, I'd explain why I love National Novel Writing Month, and why you should try it, blah blah blah, but this year I'll just direct you to an interview I did about NaNo with Sarah at Bookduck. This interview was extra-special because not only was it Sarah's first interview, it was also mine!

[Sarah, I'm honored to have lost our interview virginity together. We're, like, legit now. BUT WHY HAVEN'T YOU CALLED? Didn't last weekend mean ANYTHING to you??]

And here's a link to last year's NaNo post. Good stuff there. Also, if you're interested in being my writing buddy, I'm naturallysteph in NaNo-land.

Okay. What's next?

[Steph consults actual, typed list.]

Oh, yeah! This has already been Link-O-Rama Central, but here are two more, if you'd like to get in the Halloween spirit, in a famous writerly way:




Neil Gaiman's 30-Second Scary Story, halfway down the page = Genius (And, yes, Neil. You can read me to sleep any night. Every night.)

Diana Gabaldon's Real-Life Ghost Story = Fascinating


[Steph consults list again.]


Myrna-Foster-Finally-Has-A-Blog gave me an award for Sheer Awesomeness! Thank you so much, Myrna! I find you incredibly awesome, too.




[Steph consults list again.]

[Steph sees remaining list is answering more questions.]

[Steph dies a little.]

[Steph decides to answer them in the next post.]


Buffy and Spike. WANT.


Happy Halloween, everyone!

Please eat forty-two Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and watch Sleepy Hollow. We'll talk again once we've calmed down from our sugar rush.