August 3, 2014

Life, Lately

{I found this quite hilarious. And true.}

Lately, my life has felt ... 

Well, stretched. 

You know how sometimes you eat a gigantic plate of pasta drenched in alfredo sauce, and it is so delicious and creamy that you can't stop eating it—and oh, what's that? garlic bread? why, yes please!—and basically you keep devouring everything by the plate full ... until the carb coma sets in and you face-plant on your couch, worried that your stomach might burst from pasta-itis. 

That's sort of how my brain feels right now. Stretched

Ever since the baby's arrival, I've felt like I'm juggling three big bowling balls: mothering, writing, and everything else in between-ing. But this last week it seems like a wrecking ball was added into the mix between Justin's overseas work trips and a nasty pox that befell our house. Okay, it wasn't a pox. It was a terrible, no-good cold. But it felt like a pox so I shall call it that! 

I was venting (ie, crying) about all of this to Justin yesterday, and he tried to be very supportive and as always. And after my cry fest, I was reminded that all of these stressors in my life are indeed good things at the end of the day. Writing deadlines? I'm grateful to even have a deadline! Baby fussiness? But she's so cute too! Messy house? Eh, we'll live. (In squalor maybe.) The only bad thing, really, is the nasty pox but we're all on the mend now. Begone, vile pox!

All in all, I'm okay. We'll all be okay. And Justin and I have weathered much, much worse in our marriage. But I still sort of wish that I could escape to Hawaii for two weeks where I can order fancy drinks with pineapple wedges perched on the rim of each glass. Sounds heavenly, right? There'd be a full-time babysitter too, of course, and lots and lots of books. 

Ah, if only ...

So now I'm wondering: how do all of you balance everything? How do you juggle your life duties and responsibilities and shower at some point? Would love to hear your stories and advice!

Now if you'll excuse me, the Baby Overlord is VERY unhappy! Better get her some butter...

July 11, 2014

I Am an Awful, Terrible, No Good Blogger!

Blergh. Poor neglected blog! Here, let mama give you a big hug. *Hugs blog*

Um, I've totally dropped the ball on blogging as of late! My life for the past few weeks has been a blur of relative visits, friend visits, baby wrangling, dog wrangling, ant killing (die, kitchen ants!), and writing until my fingers hurt. I've also been thinking a lot about blogging but feeling too tired at the end of the day to do anything except for eating Rocky Road ice cream and watching reruns of 30 Rock and ... zzzzz.

I'll say it once and I'll say it again: BLERGH!

In fun news, however, my little sister has come home after spending 18 months in Taiwan! So much fun! She's older and wiser and speaks Chinese amazingly well, but she's still the same ol' Kristy in so many ways and I'm super excited to have a few giggle fests with her before she heads back to college. Until then I plan on taking her out to eat at delicious American establishments (Taco Bell! Don't hate!) and hanging out with our 91-year-old grandma. We had lunch with her yesterday and I snapped this picture of my Nainai with the Baby Overlord!


Hopefully I'll get more time to blog next week! 

June 16, 2014

Ready, Set, Write: Update #1

It's time for my first update in the Ready, Set, Write challenge!

In short, RSW is a summer writing intensive that encourages writers to set goals, account for those goals, and to cheer each other on as we strive to meet those goals. The RSW hosts this year are Alison Miller, Jaime Morrow, Erin Funk, and Katy Upperman; and details about the intensive can be found HERE.

Gulp. Here we go then ...

... How did I on last week’s goals? ...

Le sigh. I wanted to write two chapters of my WIP but I only got 1.25 done. The Baby Overlord had a slight fever all weekend so I had my hands full with a rather grumpy and cranky babe who embraced the philosophy of "Never put me down, Mama! Never ever." Haha. Fortunately, my poor girl seems to be in better spirits today! 


... What are my goal(s) for this week? ...

Same as last week! I need to crank out two chapters per week to (hopefully) have a first draft finished by the end of the summer.

... A favorite line from my project? ...

I'll cheat a little and post the first two lines from this book, which I wrote before the baby was born. But I think it captures my protagonist Lucie's voice quite well! Here they are: 

My good Catholic mother taught me to never lie, cheat, or steal.
I hope she can forgive me then for what I’ve agreed to do—for it will be far, far worse.


... The biggest challenge I faced this week ...

Sick Baby = No writing for mama!

... Something I love about my WiP ...

As weird as it sounds, I love weaving in little historical tidbits throughout this book. Since this novel is set in Occupied France, I've been doing a lot of research on what was life back then: the tight rations, the bombers overhead, the murmurs of resistance. It has been a fun challenge to weave in these details without sounding too much like a history book.

So how did RSW go for you this last week?

June 10, 2014

Ready. Set. Write!

I'm super excited to participate in "Ready. Set. Write!" this summer! I desperately need to draft my WWII spy thriller by early September and so RSW couldn't have come at a better time. Wanna join me?

In short, RSW is a summer writing intensive that encourages writers to set goals, account for those goals, and to cheer each other on as we strive to meet those goals. The RSW hosts this year are Alison Miller, Jaime Morrow, Erin Funk, and Katy Upperman; and details about the intensive can be found HERE.

This week we're setting our goals! Here are mine: 

1. Complete a first draft of my WIP, a spy thriller set in Occupied France. Think Grave Mercy but set in WWII.

2. Do not crumple in failure at this goal. For serious, Caroline. I am a slow-as-a-sloth drafter but I can do it! I think! Maybe!

3. To accomplish said goal (*whimpers*), strive to write two chapters a week. I can do it! I think! Maybe!

Haha. So basically I have One Big Goal. A really big one because, like I mentioned above, I'm terribly slow and I sort of hate drafting. Now, I love revising! I could do it forever. In fact, if given the chance, I'd probably re-write The Only Thing to Fear all over again—just because I can't seem to stop tinkering with a project if you let me. But my editor has already pried TOTtF from my cold, gnarled fingers so I need to start tinkering with a new project ... but I can't do that until I actually have a draft to work with.

So ... *Grumbles*

There you have it! My goal. Let's see if I can do it! I shall reward myself with mint chocolate ice cream and brownies!

June 6, 2014

Friday Five






















One
The picture above is one of my favorite photos of the Baby Overlord. *Sniffle* It melts my face to watch her smile whenever she sees Justin, how she'll giggle and talk and grab at his beard. Now, please excuse me for a moment while I turn into a puddle of goo.

Two
Alas, one of these days I'll start using my DSLR again but until that fated day my iPhone will have to do. Speaking of iPhones, I finally upgraded to a 5S! *Pets new phone* *My preciousssss* Funny story: when I brought my old one to the AT&T store, the guy behind the counter balked and actually said, "What kind of phone is that?" Um, an iPhone 4? Haha. I didn't think those were that old ...

Three
Switching gears, who has been watching this season of Game of Thrones? *Raises hand* And who now has a crush on Pedro Pascal AKA Oberyn Martell? *Raises all the hands* I mean, how can you not love him? Look at this picture of him with a baby!

Four
On a completely random note, if you happen to head to your farmer's market this weekend, keep an eye out for gold rush apples! They're not the prettiest of apples but they sure are tasty—sweet with that nice bite of tartness. And deliciously crisp! Justin and I are sort of obsessed with them.

Five
On the writing front, I'm trying really hard to draft my new project, a WWII spy thriller. *Cue whiny voice* But why is rough drafting so hard? Wahhhhh! Call me crazy, but I absolutely love the revision process. At least I have something to work with! A blank page on the other hand? Shudders.

Well, I'm signing off to work on my draft! Shudders again. What are you guys up to this weekend? 


May 28, 2014

After The Call: The Edit Letter ... Dun dun dun!













"After the Call" is a semi-regular feature on my blog. It chronicles what happens after an agent offers you representation: how to choose the right agent, what the submission process is like, working with your editor, etc. For previous posts, please click on the "After The Call" button at the top of the page.

After a super long hiatus, I thought it'd be fun to resurrect this series! Truth be told, I never meant to put a halt to "After The Call" but I sort of ran out of things to talk about since I hadn't yet pushed past the agented stage and then I got pregnant and could only thing about cookies. But now that the baby is born and I've eaten most of the world's supply of cookies, I decided that I needed to resurrect After The Call. So here we are!

Today's topic: THE EDIT LETTER! Dun dun dun!

First up, what exactly is the edit letter? Basically, it's a list—often quite a long list—of revisions that your editor suggests for your book. I only have experience with one edit letter, compiled by my lovely and wicked smart editor Jody Corbett, and it consisted of:
1. An email with both macro editorial suggestions, like character arcs and overall pacing, as well as smaller micro edits, like reworking a specific scene. 
2. In-line edits within my manuscripts, which hashed out world-building details, finessing dialogue, etc. 
In short, my book underwent a MAJOR overhaul! Even though I had rewritten it three times based on my beta readers' and agent's notes, Jody's revision letter forced me to dig really deep into this story, pulling it apart and putting it back together again until ANOMALY (the original title) turned into THE ONLY THING TO FEAR (the new and fresh title that Jody came up with. I owe her my second-born child basically!). 

A good editor can take a decent book and make it great, sort of like how a good house flipper can turn a tear-me-down into the neighborhood crown jewel. In my case, Jody took a manuscript that required a lot of work and helped me to make it stronger, more concise, more actionable. Simply put, she made it more. Any failings in the final product are mine and mine alone. 

But here's the thing, do all editorial letters look the same? Not really! Edit letters are a strange beast, and they come in all shapes and sizes. A friend of mine had an editor who gave only small notes, like a few line edits here and there before the manuscript was sent to copy edits. On the other end of the spectrum, another friend worked with an editor who liked to be very involved in the entire writing process. They would even brainstorm plot points over the phone before my friend tackled her rough draft. (They were contracted for multiple books.) 

So your own edit letter will be just that: yours. Every letter is different because every editor is different and every book is different. Some projects will require a lot of overhauling—I've heard of letters spanning over 30 pages!—while others will need only a polish, although this is usually rare from what I understand. And here's another thing: oftentimes you will receive more than one edit letter. Your manuscript might undergo two, three, or even more revisions under your editor's watch before you're green-lit to pass into the copyediting phase, which is a beast in it of itself. That's one thing I didn't quite grasp until I worked with Jody. I thought I'd tackle one revision letter and that would be that. Fin! But no ... we worked on my manuscript for four or five months—it's all a blur now! I was revising while pregnant!—until I graduated to copyedits. And that was quite the happy day for me, full of many, many cookies. What else?!

Well, the Baby Overlord is squawking so I need to run, but feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I'll answer them as soon as I can! Also, I'd love to hear about your own experiences with revision letters. How long do yours typically run? How do you and your editor work? And how did you survive?

May 11, 2014

All Hail Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day! It's the first Mother's Day in which I'm actually a mom (aside from last year when I first became a dog mama but I suppose that doesn't count unless you ask my dog and he may beg to differ). We're spending today relaxing and eating first-of-the-season strawberries, and the Baby Overlord was kind enough to grace me with a 2.5 hour nap. Which is why I get to blog! And watch HGTV! And stare off into space a little! All in all, the most wondrous gift.


I don't think there will be much structure to this post. Maybe more of a stream-of-consciousness thing since I'm not sure when the baby will wake up. But early this morning when I was playing with my little Aimee Rose and watching her smile, I just tried to soak all of it in---her little feet, her sweet coos, her plump fist wrapped around my finger---instead of focusing on the dirty dishes in the sink and the enormous word count I must tackle for my new book.

Live in the here and now. Breathe it all in. 'Cause it's all going to go so fast, isn't it?

And I couldn't help but think about my sister-in-law Aimee, my own baby's namesake. Aimee only had three and a half years with her daughter Rowan before she was killed in December 2011. The time the two of them had was so short ... so fleeting ... although Aimee made every second of it count. She was the very best mom I knew, patient and loving and oh so fun. I hope I can be half as good as a mom as she was. If I could manage just that, I'd consider myself a successful parent.

Well, the Baby Overlord is awake and demanding attention! I know today is Mother's Day, and I'm supposed to be off drinking mimosas and brunching or something; but I think I'll save all of that for another day. Right now I'm going to snuggle my little Overlord and hug her close even if she fusses and cries.

Losing my sister-in-law taught me that every day is indeed precious. So today, on my very first Mother's Day, I'm going to make each minute count.


May 1, 2014

How to Balance Writing and Mothering (Hahaha!)

Friends and countrymen, I have discovered the secret to writing novels and mothering Baby Overlords! Lean in closer now. The secret is ...

Cloning yourself! 

Or if you don't want to clone yourself, then clone Ernest Hemingway!

What? Stop looking at me like that. Are you telling me that you don't have an Ernest Hemingway clone chained inside your basement who writes books on your behalf in exchange for cigars and six-toed cats? Well, you better get on it 'cause you can't have mine!

{The Baby Overlord gave me permission to post this picture of her.}
All joking aside ... Yeah, this writing thing and this parenting thing can be tough. That's basically why I got very little done during the first ten weeks of Aimee Rose's short-yet-pampered life, but that's okay because I just wanted to cuddle with her and let her sleep on me and obey all of her overlording commands. This time is precious, after all! And I'm gonna savor it because these chubby baby cheeks aren't going to last forever.

*Pinch, pinch*

Okay, enough pinching for now. Let's talk about how I balance my work life with my mothering one! Or, to be more accurate, how I'm trying very, very hard to do just that but sort of stumbling along the way. But hey, I get an A for effort! That's what I tell myself anyway!

Since I'm operating on four hours of sleep (not the baby's fault! it's my insomnia, boo) I'm going to break this down into three main points.

1. Hire help if you can. Preferably Mary Poppins! But Nanny Ernest will do too. 

Currently I take the Baby Overlord to my babysitter's apartment every MWF from 1 to 5PM. That's only 12 hours a week, but I try my damnedest to make those hours count--no social media, no puttering around, no staring at pretty Anthropologie dresses. Just write, write, write! I probably will have to increase these hours when I have a deadline looming, but until then I try to squeeze as much work that I can within this time frame. Everything else, even showering, can wait.

2. Brainstorm whenever you can!

If you're like me, you spend a lot of your writing time not writing at all but brainstorming instead. So who exactly is my protagonist? What is the right tone for this novel? Why is Ernest Hemingway slacking on the job? And so on and so forth. I used to do my brainstorming with my laptop in my lap, whilst staring at the ceiling and eating bonbons. (Not really. More like Oreos.) But those staring days are over! The Baby Overlord simply does not allow for that, which is why I now do my brainstorming throughout the day. Like when I'm bouncing a baby around the house or cleaning out the crockpot or pushing the stroller around my neighborhood in an effort to lose the baby weight I gained.

Damn you, cookies!

So yeah, brainstorming may take up a good chunk of this I'm-writing-a-book thing, but the good news is that you can do it pretty much anywhere! I basically plotted out my new MG novel this way--and so can you!

3. Make every second count!

Oh gosh, this is tough for me to do because I like reading EW and watching 30 Rock reruns whenever I can catch some down time. But Liz Lemon is going to have to wait! Instead, whenever the baby naps or is happily hanging out on her play mat, I throw open my laptop and write as much as I can. Sure, sometimes I only get a fifteen-minute spurt before the Overlord starts overlording but at least I hammered out 100 words. That's 100 more than I started with!

Baby steps, folks. Baby steps. Also, I could probably write faster but--let's face it--I draft at the speed of an elderly sloth. That's just the way I am, I'm afraid!

4. Don't forget about you.
Okay, I'm going to give four points instead of three. 'Cause that's how I roll. Sometimes when I get a few minutes to myself I know I should pick up my laptop and write, but I sit down and read the newspaper instead. Or I check out those cute dresses on Anthro. Or I treat myself to a big bowl of cookies. And I tell my guilt complex to beat it because--you know what?--I need to take some time out for myself too! I'm a better mom when I do this, and a better writer too.

All righty then, it is about time for the baby to rouse from her nap and so I better run. But please let me know in the comments if you have any advice for me! Or if you have any questions! I will try to answer them as coherently as possible, or I may have Ernest Hemingway Clone do it for me. :)