Thursday, March 6, 2014

Writing by Music - Adrian von Ziegler

So, I discovered a composer awhile back by the name of Adrian von Ziegler, and I have pretty much fallen in love with his music. His pieces range from soothing to epic to haunting to just plain gorgeous. A couple of his CDs, in particular, have been a huge source of inspiration and great mood-setters for the manuscript I am currently editing. This manuscript has a definite dark and mysterious tone to it, so the flavor of the CDs has been perfect for helping me to get into that "zone."

Adrian uploaded the following song to his YouTube channel, and it is just one of my many favorites by him:



I have linked to Adrian's YouTube channel below. His CDs are available for purchase through the iTunes store, and I would definitely recommend a visit. :)

Adrian von Ziegler's YouTube Channel

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm Back!

Hello, all my lovely blog peeps!

I am finally returning to you after a rather…  *ahem*…  lengthy period of blog silence.

Seriously, it has been way too long.

But I am back now, and happy to be blogging again. I have missed it. And I have missed all of you!

So, what have I been up to over the past couple of months?

Well…

1. I learned how to knit! (Technically I’m still learning, as it’s an ongoing process, but STILL!)

I have a friend who knits, and I guess I never realized how many cool things you can create using nothing more than a pair of needles and a pile of colorful yarn. Upon noting my growing interest, she offered to teach me (which is pretty amazing, considering the time investment and the fact that you normally have to pay for knitting classes). At first, I wasn't sure. But seeing her awesome projects kept pulling me back. So when she offered again, I gave in. :)

I learned what these are:



And I learned how to make the yarn on the left look like the yarn on the right (and why the latter is much easier to work with):



Then came the actual knitting. And I think I fell in love…

The knitting high took over, and I got ambitious.

Since it was still four weeks until Christmas, I thought, “Hey. If I pick this up fast enough, I could make Christmas gifts!”

Thus, in addition to learning to knit, I immediately put myself on a deadline. I kept my newfound passion for knitting a secret (which was hard, I assure you!) and began secretly knitting a scarf for my mom and a hat for my sister.

My friend was nearby for any potential knitting calamities, and somehow I managed to finish both the scarf and the hat in time for Christmas. :)

And thus began a new hobby that has spawned much coveting of ALL THE YARN and obsessive saving of patterns to make everything from T-shirts, sweaters, and blankets to cute, little knitted animals. 

2. I wrestled the Cough of Doom, and it won. Big time…

Literally, guys.

I don’t think I’ve coughed that hard or that long in my life. EVER. And I know I’ve never had such a high fever for so many days.

After a particularly bad night that involved non-stop coughing for hours on end, I succeeded in tearing (shredding? mangling?) the muscles over one side of my ribs. It was at that point that every cough felt like a knife dragging along the bone.

The doctor said the only way the muscles would heal would be to stop coughing.

Ehhhh…?

Hahahaha. Ha. Ha…

So, I set another record for myself: I’ve never eaten so many cough drops in my life.

Thankfully, the Cough of Doom is mostly gone, and the muscles are healing nicely.

But I know a *lot* of other people who’ve had to deal with this nasty cough over the last couple of months. If you are one of them, I am unspeakably sorry… :(

3. I (nearly) finished a book… Or two.

Somehow, amidst the knitting frenzy and coughing attacks, I have managed to nearly complete my next MS, and I am almost ready for revisions on a second one. I’ve reached that exciting place in both of these projects where all I’m feeling is giddy anticipation. Since I’m very much a night writer, I expect many late nights over the next days and weeks, as I delve deep into revision world.

So what is everyone else up to? Have you picked up a new hobby? Finished a project? Wrestled the Cough of Doom (or any of his nasty companions)? Read a good book? Discovered a new tea? Anything fun or exciting happening?

I want to know! :)

I hope you all are having a wonderful week!

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNo-Revise-Mo?


I thought that this year I might be able to actually (finally!) participate in NaNoWriMo.

Hahahahaha… ha… ha…

*clears throat*

Instead, yet again, I find that my personal writing timeline is a bit off, and I am in the midst of revising instead of drafting.

Awkward.

But since I love challenges and enjoy nothing more than setting deadlines for myself, I thought I might as well embrace the awkward and declare November my own personal NaNoReviseMo.

My end-of-month goal is to complete and fine-tune these revisions so that I can get my latest novel off to my readers. In this way, I’ll be ready to draft once more just in time for NaNoWriMo to be…

Well…

Over…

Heh.

But let’s ignore my horrible timing and focus on the positive.

By the end of November, my story will be SO CLOSE to being totally and completely finished! :)

So, good luck to all you NaNoWriMo-ers out there! And to all the rest of you with the same perfect timing as myself… happy revising! :D

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NAWS Update featuring Katie M. Stout!

I am so excited to have the opportunity to do another Newly Agented Writers Series update post!

As some of you probably know, Katie M. Stout has a BOOK DEAL!!! :D

Her novel, HELLO, I LOVE YOU, sold to Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's for publication in 2015!!

Here is the official announcement in Publishers Marketplace:


So awesome, right???

If you would like to know more about Katie, be sure to check out her blog, where she posts tons of fun and informative blog series including her newest one, "YA 'round the world" (the first one was Japan, and it pretty much made my day :) You can also read Katie's post announcing her book deal here and my NAWS interview with her here.

Also, Katie's book is up on goodreads! If you would like to add it to your "to-read" shelf, click here.

Congratulations again, Katie!! I can't wait to see your book on the shelves! :D

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Joys of Autumn


Guys! As of yesterday, it is officially autumn!

We are now entering one of my favorite times of the year. And, as an added bonus, I can now indulge in my love of hot teas without people saying things like, “It’s 96 degrees outside, are you sure you don’t want that chai iced?” (Though, honestly, it’s tea. Hot may be my favorite, but I will drink it at pretty much any temperature ;)

In addition, this is my favorite season for doing ALL THE THINGS OUTSIDE. There is nothing like hiking, biking, or taking long walks in the crisp autumn air. Or even just sitting out on the porch with my laptop and current WIP for company.

And the colors? Fiery leaves set against a rugged mountain backdrop is a view I could never get tired of. I mean, just look at the gold on these aspen trees:




And the mixture of gold, reds, and oranges tracing these hills:
  

(Yes, I took those pictures. No, I did not take them this year… But hopefully, I will have the chance to take some once the leaves have turned :)

So, are you looking forward to the wonders of autumn? What are your favorite things about the season?

Monday, July 29, 2013

NAWS: Interview with Katie M. Stout


I am so excited to have the fantastic Katie M. Stout on the blog today for another Newly Agented Writers Series interview! Katie is a YA writer represented by Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Literary Agency (Woot! We are agency-mates!!). Be sure to check out Katie’s blog, and if you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here. (Do it!)
Q and A:
First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you write? What kinds of things do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
Hello, Internet peeps!
*waves*
I'm Katie, and I currently live in Atlanta, Georgia, but I'm about to move to England in a few weeks for a new job.
*dances*



I write YA of the contemporary variety, though I also like to dabble in fantasy when I'm feeling self-indulgent. When I'm not living vicariously through my characters, I enjoy frequenting Starbucks, chilling with my book club ladies, exercising (no, really; I know, it's shocking), and stuffing my face with Thai food.

Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?
Not really. I tend to take a lot of Twitter breaks, which isn't really productive, but it keeps my brain from exploding.
I have to listen to music while I'm writing, but the playlists change all the time. For example, the MS I'm working on right now always has Hans Zimmer background music, but when I was drafting the MS that I queried, I listened to KPOP constantly. 

What would you say are the easiest and hardest aspects of writing?
Totally depends on the story. At least, for me it does. Sometimes, I like writing dialogue. Other times, I enjoy the narration. But I always like writing setting/description, and I have to edit a lot of that out in revisions, because I go a bit crazy during rough drafting.



The hardest part of writing is writing.
Sometimes, I wonder why the heck I do this crazy thing called "writing," because sometimes, the words don't come and my computer and all my characters hate me. 



But other days it's pretty awesome. :)

How do you find inspiration for your writing?
I know a lot of people don't like this advice, but I tend to be a supporter of the "write what you know" philosophy. I wrote the MS I queried my agent with after I went to China, and then the next MS I finished was inspired by an internship I had in Thailand and the wonderful people I met and the tasty food I ate there.



But I find that you can only take personal experiences so far. They're like a launching pad. For example, I traveled to the same country and had some of the same experiences as the MC in my MS that's set in China, but I, sadly, didn't meet a famous Korean pop star and fall in love with him like she does - that bit all came from my absurd imagination that not-so-secretly wants to write fanfiction about all my favorite KPOP stars.

Can you tell us a bit about the novel that you queried your agent with? If you would be willing to share a copy of your query letter for learning purposes, that would be brilliant! 
Sure! My MS, titled FROM CHINA, WITH LOVE, is about the sister of a country music star who runs away to boarding school in China, following a family tragedy, where she falls in love with a Korean pop star.



Here's my query:

Dear Ms. Keyes,

Because of your interest in YA, I’m writing to you about my contemporary manuscript FROM CHINA, WITH LOVE, which I believe will appeal to fans of books with international settings like Kirsten Hubbard’s Wanderlove and romances that make you sigh like Stephanie Perkins’s Anna & the French Kiss.

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the drugged-out older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. After escaping her snooty private high school, she jets off to boarding school in China—the farthest place from home she could think of—hoping for a fresh start.

She expects the bicycles, rice, and smog, but what she doesn’t see coming is her roommate’s twin brother, the hottest Korean she’s ever met. After growing up in America for most of his life, Jason Bae is now the fresh face of Korean pop music, but for a reason unknown to his fans and friends alike, he opts to take a break from the music industry to finish high school in China. He and Grace have a lot in common, including their immediate aversion to each other.

But when Grace’s past begins to catch up with her, she realizes how alone she is in a foreign country. And how the only person who soothes her guilt over her brother’s problems and can make her smile again is Jason. When she writes home to her brother every week, she signs her letters “From China, with love,” but what if love is what she’s been running away from since the beginning?

FROM CHINA, WITH LOVE, complete at 75,000 words, is about moving past guilt and finding a home in unexpected places.

A native of Atlanta, I’m a recent graduate of North Georgia College & State University with a degree in Writing & Publication. My adult manuscript IN THE SHADOW OF ILIUM was a finalist in the historical category of the ACFW Genesis Contest, and my creative nonfiction story “Remember My Face” won Best in Literature for my university’s literary magazine. I’m a travel junkie and have traveled throughout Asia; FROM CHINA, WITH LOVE was inspired by my own trip to China, where I spent the summer teaching English. 

What is one unique thing that happened to you during the querying process?
I went to a writer's conference about a month after I'd started querying. About a week before it, one of the agents who was going to be there (not the one I was pitching), requested my full MS. I emailed her back and told her I hoped to see her at the conference, and she responded a few minutes later telling me to definitely introduce myself.



After I basically stalked her the entire conference, I finally scrounged up enough courage to approach her at the cocktail party (with the help of my critique partner buds, who kinda shoved me in her general direction), and I got to talk to her. She remembered my submission and said she'd read the first 12 chapters in 2 days and she wanted to give me a revise and resubmit. So for the next 20 minutes, I got my first ever R&R...verbally. She was able to articulate more of what she felt than she would have in an email, and she basically blew my mind wide open. It was amazing.



While I didn't end up signing with that agent, I feel like her revision notes made my MS a million times better, and she was just so kind and helpful that I think if I ever see her again, I want to give her a tackle hug.
...you know, if that wasn't totally creepy. 
What were your reactions when you received The Call, and what made you realize that Emily was the perfect fit for you and your novel?
I'd already received one offer from another agent, but I was overseas and didn't get to talk to her on the phone. I spent the entire plane ride home wondering if any of the other agents who had my MS would be interested, and then when Emily emailed me the day after I got home, saying she wanted to talk on the phone, I freaked. out. I tried insanely hard to sound at least semi-professional and not flail all over her while we talked, but I'm not sure I succeeded.



When Emily emailed me to set up the call, she told me she had some revision ideas she wanted to talk over, and once we got to chat about them, I realized she and I had matching visions for the story. I feel like this is a total writer-ly cliche, but I felt like she "got" me and my story.
Plus, I straight up asked her if she would be okay with me writing lots of Asian-inspired books, and she said yes, so I knew then and there we could work together. ;-)
 
So… kpop, huh? As you know, I love jpop/jrock (though, I now have a few kpop faves thanks to the influence of you and Kristin Rae… ;). How and when did you first discover your love of this awesome music?

I actually got interested in KPOP by watching Korean dramas (TV shows), which I first started watching back in 2011 after I went to China and bought a pirated DVD of the K-Drama 49 Days at a cheap video store because I thought it sounded hilarious. Come to find out it's horrendously sad and wonderful, and I cried my way through the entire series, then went on a mission to find more dramas, which led me to the wonderful world of KPOP, "flower boys," and the entire Korean Wave that, in my opinion, needs to spread across America a lot faster.

I know you love to travel, particularly to Asian countries. Which ones have you visited so far? Would you say your love of Asian culture has influenced your writing in any way?
I do love to travel! As of now, the Asian countries I've visited (excluding airports, because that unfortunately doesn't count) are:


1. Thailand

2. Vietnam

3. Laos

4. Burma/Myanmar

5. China

6. South Korea



I definitely think my interest in Asian culture has influenced my writing. Besides the obvious, which is that one of my MS's is set in China and another is set in Thailand, I also tend to utilize themes and archetypes that are popular in Asian entertainment in my writing. For example, I'm obsessed with hand holding in a romance, and I totally blame Korean dramas for that. I also like that Asian dramas favor slow-developing romances that simmer for a long time before anything ever happens, and when something does happen, it isn't big, but you as the viewer are totally emotionally compromised anyway. I try really hard to mirror that type of emotional drama in my writing.
Based on personal experience, do you have any final writing advice for querying/soon-to-be-querying writers?
I read this somewhere before querying but didn't really take it to heart, though I wish I had: don't put agents up on pedestals as "my favorite agent" or "my top agent." When we're querying, we really don't know anything about agents besides what they put on their submission guidelines, their client lists, and maybe how they interact on Twitter. And when your "dream agent," rejects you, it's really easy to be disheartened, when another fabulous agent is waiting for you around the corner. And you can't know how you'll work with an agent until you actually work with them.



I definitely think it's a good idea to research and choose a group of "top agents," based on sales and what not, but I would also say to be open. There are so many fabulous agents out there; don't limit your options by querying only your "top agents."

Just for fun short answers:
Favorite book/s or series?
You're totally going to laugh at me, but my favoritest favorite book ever is actually Homer's The Iliad, followed closely by The Lord of the Rings and Beowulf.
...I have a thing for epics.
In terms of YA, The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, basically anything by Laini Taylor, and Holly Black's Curse Workers series. 

Favorite kpop group? Favorite non-kpop group?
What an evil question! I'm a total music whore, so I'll have to narrow it down to my top 3 for both.
KPOP:


1. CN Blue (Holy hotness, Jung Yong Hwa!)

2. BIGBANG (Every song of theirs is golden.)

3. Super Junior (Don't judge me.) 



Non-KPOP:


1. Florence + the Machine

2. Coldplay

3. The Black Keys

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Baha! Plotting? What IS that?! *laughs hysterically*
If you could have dessert with any fictional character, who would it be? What dessert?
I feel inclined to answer "Achilles," as he's my favorite fictional character of all time, but I'm not sure he would be a good dessert buddy, so I'll say "Gandalf."
And we would end our night of snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies with fireworks and him blowing pipe-weed smoke rings.
Can you tell us one quick story from your travels?
Well, I feel like a lot of my crazy stories have ended up in MS's I've written, but a recent one that I haven't found a place for in a WIP yet is from when I was traveling in Burma last fall. We were supposed to take a flight from Yangon, the capital, to a town called Kalaymyo, but our flight got canceled and we had to take a bus.
For 34 hours.
Nonstop.
On dirt roads through the jungle.
Besides my ankles swelling to cankles and my jeans stretching out to a full size larger than what it said on the tag, I didn't get to pee for 24 hours. The fact that my kidneys didn't shrivel up and die makes me a believer in miracles.

 
First draft or revisions?
Honestly, it depends on my mood. I'm inclined to say "revisions," because that's what I normally prefer, but sometimes, you just get on a roll and drafting is fun. 
Would you prefer to drink coffee or tea while writing?
Oh, goodness. Coffee. All the way. I used to be a huge green tea drinker, but I've recently decided coffee is secretly the nectar of the gods, gifted from Zeus and his cronies on Olympus to all us mortals.
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?

I feel like for anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Twitter, there's nothing surprising, as I tend to plaster my life all over both.

But I guess maybe the fact that I don't like animals. I don't even really like my cat, but he doesn't like me back, so we're in a mutually-tolerating-relationship. I change his cat litter, and he occasionally snuggles with me, but mostly we just ignore each other. ;-)
Thanks so much for being a part of the Newly Agented Writers Series, Katie! It was great having you on the blog! :D
Eeepppp!!! Thanks for interviewing me, Kristin! :D