The magic of words.

We all know by now that I’m on this writing journey with my pre-teen daughter, and I can confirm to you all that it’s been one of the best things I’ve done in my life. My girl turns 13 this year, and we’ve just spent the summer together doing a variety of things (which, I’ll admit, includes a fair amount of time spent re-viewing Gilmore Girls on Netflix), but most importantly, we’ve sat together and finished our first draft of the second book in our American Dream series. It took us a year to get that done (those are the realities of working with a hormonal adolescent who would sometimes rather watch Barbie furniture building how-to videos on YouTube than read through a section of a manuscript again to get it just right), but last night, as we sat in her bed under the Christmas lights that she has draped around her room, we emailed the edited draft out to our beta-readers, and it felt AMAZING to say we’d completed this project.

And by “completed” I mean we’ve written it and taken turns reading the chapters out loud, making our changes and haggling over word choice and description (the final editing will be mine to do once we get feedback). But that’s the magic, really: the words. The ones we wrote together, the ones I listen to her read, and the ones we debate over. They’ve kept us working together, side-by-side, like glue. They’ve kept us from drifting into a land where she holes up alone in her room like a typical teen, keeping her words to herself or only sharing them with friends. Instead, she shares them with me. As we write, we talk about other “stuff”–boys, mean girls, fashion, music. I mean, we talk a lot anyway, but this gives us a safe place to make silly jokes and to apply the situations we write about to real life. This book we’ve just finished gives us the chance to talk about what mean girls are like in middle school in 2016, and lets us ponder what sort of messages we want each book to impart. (For the record, she talked it through as I listened, and we ultimately decided that this book is about believing in yourself and overcoming whatever obstacles or limitations life throws in your path.)

Writing also gave us something to talk about on our road trips this summer. We sat next to pools in Buffalo, Wyoming and talked about our next book: who will our main character be? Where should she be from? (Russia, we’ve decided.) What state will she move to in America? (While driving to an abandoned gold-mining town outside of Bozeman, Montana, we determined that she’d definitely be moving to a horse ranch in the “Treasure State”.) And as we power-walked through a pool in Spokane, Washington like a couple of middle-aged retirees on a water aerobics mission, we even got to daydream about a time when we had enough books published that we could go on an indie bookstore tour, setting up tables and autographing books for our rabid fans. (Hey, a girl can dream, right?)

I know there are a few more weeks of summer and I shouldn’t be mourning its end just yet, but teachers go back to work three weeks from today, so…the end is near. I have some final editing to do on my own book, and I’m hoping to have both of our books out in early September (it always takes longer than you think it will!) The covers are done, the drafts are written and in their final stages, and–as always–I’m eternally grateful for the magic of words.

When a head-pounding summer cold leads to creativity.

After two weeks of fun travel (first a road trip to eastern Washington and Idaho, then a 5-day adventure in Austin), we’ve come home to more hot, dry weather, and lots of Kleenex, cough drops, and stuffy noses. Our front room is Barbie Central right now, and my butt has started to mold into the chair with my laptop glued to my lap. I just want to breathe again! Yesterday, out of sheer boredom, Holly discovered iMovie on my phone, so she’s been hard at work piecing together silly videos with sound effects, and then–just this morning–she made a book trailer for Iris.

Now, I know book trailers are controversial in the indie pub biz, as people either go all-out and pay for amazing introductions to their books, or they make semi-crappy ones that aren’t really worth the time and effort. Making a book trailer for Iris was definitely not something I’d considered sinking time or money into, so I’m putting this out there strictly for fun, and because I admire creativity (especially in my own child!) Holly did an amusing job of finding Barbies to represent the various family members in our book, and she tried to bring to life some of her favorite scenes (like Peanut Butter chasing Skelly over the top of the fully-loaded Thanksgiving dinner table, and Iris with her camera), and–as always–I was amazed at how quickly a young mind adapts to and absorbs technology; I’ve had iMovie on my phone for a couple of years, and I had no idea I could make movie or book trailers (not that there’s a lot of call for that in my daily life!)

Anyhow, here’s to (hopefully) our last day of being sickos confined to the house, and to the fruits of a boredom-creativity-technology combination. Cheers!


Hello? Is anyone out there?

As it turns out, the most fun part of writing (other than the act itself) is being a part of the writing community. I’m sure the niches and pockets of the larger community are nearly infinite, but we’ve wedged ourselves quite nicely into a little corner of the internet where lovely, book-minded, word-loving writers and artists dwell. It’s been amazing so far. And it would have been anyway, but I’ve found that with the heat wave we’re having here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been my lifeline to humanity. Because I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when Holly was an infant, I have a ridiculously hard time with the heat. In fact, we left Florida because for a good portion of the year, even living a totally air-conditioned life wasn’t enough to slice through the pain, numbness, tingling, and the OH MY GOD I FEEL LIKE TOTAL CRAP AND WANT TO VOMIT sensation. Yes, move back to the Northwest, my neurologist said. It’ll be mild–perfect for you, he said. And truly, for most of the year it is. But in this beautiful season of wild, green gardens; of sunlight flinging rainbows through sprinklers; of driving with the top down and baking in the sun; in this season I’ve become a bit of a prisoner. Loosed for summer from the bonds of a full-time job (as most teachers are, come mid-June), this heat has instead shackled me to my curtains-drawn, air-conditioned house. And I can’t lie: as lucky as I feel to be able to stay inside and manage the pain, it does get a little lonely. So this wonderful community of people has acted as a bridge to life outside of my house this summer. I’ve had so much fun talking on the phone with Shayla of Curiouser Editing, exchanging emails and Google docs with Shelly of Keystrokes & Closed Doors, collaborating with Natasha Snow on cover design, and joining the Women in Portland Publishing group. I also stumbled onto a site where people who love to read offer to review books if you send them a copy and it aligns with their interests, so I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some people that way, too. Because of this cool network of humans who support writers, in the near future we’ll also be featured on The Howling Turtle, and on an excellent blog called She’s Novel. When you decide to indie publish, everyone warns you that your chances of becoming a huge success are small. They tell you to manage your expectations, to prepare for a slow slog towards visibility (if you even get there at all). I’m okay with all of that, because we know that the bigger picture here for me is doing something fun and positive with my daughter as she enters those oh-so-prickly pre-teen years, but there’s still a part of you that feels like you’re shouting into the abyss when you only sell a few books a week. Writing (even with a partner) can be a pretty isolated affair. And all of this is really just to say that I’ve had a wonderful summer so far getting to know and collaborate with lots of interesting people. Their dialogue and the back-and-forth chatter about all things writing-related has given my days purpose (beyond sitting around in my pj’s, trying to meet word count goals), and has broadened my horizons to include new friends from around the country and around the world. Being able to reach out into cyberspace from my dark, cool cave and chat with people about something I’m passionate about has meant more to me than they even know.

Summer nights.

I have to be honest, getting into a summer writing routine has been harder than I thought. In the weeks leading up to the last day of school, I’d convinced myself that I’d get up early and write for hours before anyone else was up–no! I’d stay up late. That’s what I’d do: stay up as late as I wanted, then sleep in every morning. But then the last day of school came…and so did the tears. I took a new position next fall, teaching English at a different school than the one I’ve been at for the past three years. I think I’m ready for the new adventure and the challenge, but it was still really hard (I mean ridiculously hard) to say good-bye to my school, my friends there, and the young people who’ve filled my days for the past few years. So I needed a couple of days to recover from the school year and its ending, and I took them.

My next challenge was getting my co-writer on board. For all of the days during the school year that she wanted to cram some writing time into our already-full days, now that we have hour upon lazy hour to fill with creativity, all she wants to do is watch nonsense (I’m sorry, I meant “top-notch cinematography and drama”) like Teen Beach Movie 2. *eyeroll* With our goal of getting Book 2 out by the end of summer, we broke out our calendar and worked backwards from there: how long to get it formatted? One week. How long to have it in our hands with suggested edits and changes? A couple of weeks. How long can we expect our beta readers to spend reading and marking up our draft? Gotta give ’em a couple of weeks, at least. So when do we need a complete first draft to work with? By July 17th!!! And we’ve got about 11,000 words done right now. So…that’s a lot of writing. But we’ll get there. I know we will. It just takes a little time to settle into summer, to fully absorb the enormity of days on end with no schedule and no commitments. And then to get bored enough to crave routine.

In the meantime, I’ve gone hog-wild with my own story/series. I wrote a romance about six or seven years ago that I’ve always really loved (well, it was the characters and the setting that I loved, not the story necessarily), so I’ve been working for quite a while now at dismantling that and bringing the parts that I love to life in a way that works for me. Right now I’ve got that mapped out as a five-book series and I’m well into the first book, but as you can see above, my writing goals are sometimes a little lofty, so…

Right now we’re trying to find our groove. We’ve been sitting out on our deck together at night, letting the moon come out as we talk strategy for Book 2, and answering questions from the awesome bloggers we’ve met so far who have agreed to feature us and our writing adventure on their blogs. All in all, I think this is going to be a pretty awesome summer.