Friday Five (10/4/2013)

1. It's the beginning of October somehow and I'm writing this blog post from a brand-new laptop. I woke up one morning, intending to print off an essay that was due and maybe write a bit before class... and my trusty old Betsy (yes, I named my Dell Betsy) wouldn't turn on. I rushed it to the computer doctor, and he told me that there would be no reviving the old girl. So here I am, with a fancy touch-screen contraption that I'm scared of and slightly excited about and more than a little resentful towards. This computer feels like a... Philip. I don't know why. Here's to a long and fruitful relationship, Philip.
2. NaNoWriMo. Come on, you know I had to bring it up. November is right around the corner and the time is coming when we all disregard inconsequential things like hygiene and food for the sake of pounding out 50,000 words in thirty days. I'm definitely going to try again, "try" being the key word as I've never actually succeeded at this. Anyone else planning on being crazy with me this year?
3. I've actually been reading lately, and I've stumbled across some great ones. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. So sweet and funny and painful. I loved it so much that I went out and bought Rainbow's next book, Fangirl. I also just consumed Poison Princess by Kresley Cole. This one made me nervous, because I couldn't get into it right away. But about halfway though, guys, the story picks up and it's just addicting. Last but not least, I finished Wild Awake by Hilary Smith. This book was, in a word, crazy. It truly felt like I was unraveling with the main character. It's so beautifully written and I loved it. What have you been reading?
4. There are so many good things on TV this fall. Someone should come and take my cable away so I actually get things done. Hello, New Girl and Scandal and Vampire Diaries and Nashville. I love-hate you all. Anyone else watching with me?
5. My great-grandfather passed away yesterday morning. He was 104 years old. It's strange to think of a world without him in it, and I know that this Thanksgiving I'll keep looking at his empty chair in the living room and feel that pang. I'll never forget Elmer Sutton and he will be so, so missed.
Hope you have a great week, guys.

When a Writer Doesn't Want to Write

I experienced something for the first time this year. 

After turning in my second book to my editor, I found that I didn't want to write. Oh, I get lazy once in a while. Choosing to watch an episode of The Vampire Diaries or stalking Ian Somerhalder on Twitter instead of opening that Word document. But something about this was different, and I knew it. I had finished a contracted manuscript, there was still some summer left, and there was all this time to start something new. And I didn't. Because when I thought about beginning a new project, I came up with a complete and blinding blank.

It was a sensation that was worrying and awful, because ever since I could pick up a pen - or, in my case, a marker - I have been writing. I have had ideas. I have had this almost overwhelming need to create stories and get words down into something palpable. This August, though, I closed Microsoft Word and it stayed closed. There was utterly no desire to try again. 

It led to sleepless nights and anxious messages to my fellow Lucky 13 members. Was I the only one dealing with this? Was it permanent? Had I finally run out of creative juices? Writing may not define me as a person, but up until that point it had been a huge part in who I was. Without it, I felt lost. Yet something kept me from actually doing it. Some part of me may have sought distractions, in new hobbies and spending time with friends and working.

Well, that's good, isn't it? someone might ask. Actually, yes, it was. Because I had been so consumed with finishing book two, these were things I hadn't done much of for weeks. Maybe months. I realize this makes writing sound like soul-sucking work. Honestly, some days, it can be. I've talked before about how grateful I am and how amazing it is to have a publisher. But with this comes the point where you don't get to write just when you feel like it or when inspiration hits, you write because your deadline is coming up and you have to make it.

So there I was, weeks of summer left. Normally I would seize this time and hurry to finish another manuscript before school started. Instead, I did everything but. After a while, the guilt and the fear got tiring, and I let it go.

Eventually I did figure it out. There wasn't an exact date or time that the answer occurred to me. It came gradually, in pieces and parts and feelings. I returned to the laptop and typed a few words. I did it again a few days later. And a few days after that. And now it's October and I'm so excited about a manuscript that I'm over halfway through. 

So why didn't I want to write? What was the big answer? Simple: I was tired.

That's it. There was no deeper meaning to my lack of desire to write. I had put everything I had into book two and I was a battery that needed recharging. Maybe writers are prone to panic, or maybe it's just a select few of us. Several other of my fellow Lucky 13 friends felt the same way. So if I learned anything in all this, one lesson over the summer, it's that writers need breaks. We feel like we should be constantly creating or striving for a word count or typing "the end". And most months out of the year, that's true. If we go a stretch of time where we just watch TV and binge with friends, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There should be no guilt. We are human, and though we are writers, it shouldn't be everything. It shouldn't suck us dry. It could be about balance, or it could be about taking that much-needed break.

And now I'm off to have lunch with some friends. Have a great week, everyone!

Friday Five (9/6/2013)

1. School is in full swing, which for me, means less time writing fun things like books and blog posts and more time writing essays. And strangely enough, I'm loving it. Which is probably why I'm going to keep putting myself through this madness for another two years and get a Master's degree. Although I don't know where I'll end up, part of me is thinking about staying right where I am, with this beautiful campus and quirky professors and fellow odd English majors. Even though I complain about the load a lot, I'm so grateful for all of it. How is school going for you guys?

2. I recently flew to Virginia to visit one of my best friends. It was an eye-opening experience for me, because I thought the people from my state were the nice ones. After all, there is the phrase "Minnesota nice", right? But during this visit, I came to realize that us Northerners are much more reserved than I thought. Strangers hugged me, and started up real conversations with me, and genuinely cared about who I was. Though I thought it was cool, I was unsettled. I wasn't used to so much touching and talking! Maybe this is just me, and my town, but I don't think so. We should take a page from the South's book. 

3. Something strange has been happening. There was a point - not too long ago - that all I wanted to read was young adult. I know the authors and titles and shelves better than I know the menu at Caribou Coffee, and if a customer asked me a question about another section in the bookstore, I had to research the answer rather than knowing it immediately. But now... I've been reading adult books. I know! Shocking. Of course, I had to read classics and non-fiction for school. It was just never something I read for fun. Lately I've drifted over to those books, though, and I have some new recommendations for you. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Both are extremely romantic and exciting and just addicting. After I'm done with this blog post I'm going to dive back into the latest, The Snow Child by  Eowyn Ivey. What are you reading?

4. The Some Quiet Place blog tour ended last month, and the dust has begun to settle from all the debut craziness. I'd like to once again thank all the blogs involved, posting and tweeting and reviewing the book. I'd also like to heap gratitude on the readers who picked it up in a bookstore and proceeded to express their enthusiasm for the world to see. It's been an incredible experience, and it wouldn't be without all of you.

5. If you're in the mood to laugh, and you're bored one night, you should probably go see We're the Millers. We laughed so hard we almost choked on the ice cream we'd snuck in. I mean... the popcorn we bought. 

Have a good week, you guys!

Trying to Do Everything

As a debut author, it's my first instinct to say yes. To every single interview, all the guest post requests, each and every giveaway. As a new writer with a new book, in a flood of well-established writers and books, I want to get SOME QUIET PLACE out there as much as possible. Which is why it was a hard-learned lesson, the fact that I can't do everything.

Sometimes we have to say no.

For a few weeks, it was chaos. I was attempting to respond to anyone mentioning me on Twitter, trying to say "yes" to all those e-mails, and all the while juggling school and work and having a life beyond my laptop. Then there was BEA and signings. Near the end of my trip, everything sort of buried me, and I cried. Actually cried. 

This may seem dramatic or, frankly, idiotic. "Why not just say no in the beginning, or when things got to be too much?" you might be asking. Honestly, I have been. It was hard and I hate disappointing anyone, but it's necessary. I came to the realization that - though it's important to be available and get exposure for the book - there needs to be a limit. There needs to be time for me to actually write the next book and maybe watch a Vampire Diaries rerun. There needs to be time for Kelsey the person, along with Kelsey the author. Don't get me wrong, I adore being both. At separate times, simultaneously, every day. It's when I forgot to pause and take a breath that things got gnarly.

So if you did send me a request, and I turned you down, I do apologize. It didn't feel good to say no. But it was right. Because when we try to do everything, we end up wanting to do nothing. And that's not fun for anyone. 

Cross-posted from The Secret Life of Writers.

Friday Five (8/2/2013)

1. In case you missed all the Twitter excitement, my next book has a title! WHERE SILENCE GATHERS. It took a very, very long time to come up with this one. I probably tried and tossed dozens of ideas. There were countless e-mails exchanged between me, my agent, my editor, and my critique partners in the relentless pursuit. The second-to-last suggestion had the words where and gathers in it, and Brian came up with silence. It just fit, and I'm so happy and relieved we finally found the dang thing. What do you think?

2. I turned twenty-one a few days ago. I didn't do anything too crazy - had a few drinks and laughs with some friends - but I did get this. It's for my cousin Jamie, who died of leukemia when she was twelve years old. As far as tattoos go, I think this is something I will never regret doing. 

3. In other news, SOME QUIET PLACE was nominated for a 2014 BFYA award. Like how I said that so casually? Because, uh, I'm kind of still freaking out about it. This is surreal and incredible and it's completely an honor to be nominated for something like this. And the company I'm keeping on the list has me in awe. I keep thinking, Did someone make a mistake? There's no way my name can be on the same list as Gayle Foreman, is there? But they haven't e-mailed me yet with a "Just kidding" so it must be legit! So, so amazing.

4. School starts in twenty-four days. How on earth did that happen? Where did the summer go? I know I say this every year, but somehow it keeps surprising me, how fast the months go by. It's kind of terrifying, actually. It was an incredible summer, all things considered. BEA and New York, my first book was officially released, I got a job at a book store, I turned twenty-one, got a tattoo, and I finished my next book. How was your summer? 

5. Out of all the exciting news and developments, this is probably one that is towards the top of the list. Ridiculous and frivolous, perhaps, but I haven't had a writing desk for over a year. But two days ago, a friend and me were walking past an antique shop, and this was sitting on the sidewalk. It's old, it's scuffed and tiny, and I loved it. They asked for $35.00, which I gladly paid. And I'm not the only one happy with this purchase, I think. 

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday Five (7/12/2013)

1. I have a signing tonight! If there are any fellow Minnesotans, come find me in St. Paul at 6:30 in the Red Balloon Bookshop. There will be goodies, and I'll be doing a reading. Which I'm not nervous for at all. Why, do I seem nervous? Because I'm not.

2. The official release date for SOME QUIET PLACE was this week. It has been an amazing experience so far. The responses to the book have been so overwhelming and touching. Tweets, e-mails, reviews, pictures, discussions. The blog tour is also going strong, and there is a giveaway on each post. If you haven't read the book yet, enter for a chance to win! And thank you, guys. For making all the work and the stress completely worth it. The dream wasn't publication... it was you.

3. I took a second job. This may seem insane, considering I already have one and I'm going to be taking eighteen credits in the fall, but I couldn't resist. It's at a bookstore. A bookstore. Enough said, right? And I'm learning so much about genres besides young adult. I'm also learning which books are selling the most. Inferno by Dan Brown, for example, is flying off the shelves. So is One Summer by David Baldacci. It's definitely been interesting to see what people want to read.

4. Today I was struck by how awesome critique partners are. One of mine is Stefanie Gaither, author of upcoming FALLS THE SHADOW from Simon & Schuster. Not only do they help you make your work better, but they also talk you off ledges when the time calls for it. If you have yet to find that special someone that makes your heart go pitter-patter and your manuscript quiver in anticipation, here's where Stef and I met a couple years ago. We've never looked back.

5. I have a secret goal I've never told anyone about. Someday, when I'm so independent I can take care of myself in every way, I'd like to move to the mountains and become one of those writers who doesn't venture into civilization or do anything but, well, write. But that's a long ways away yet, because for me, that independence requires being able to fix my own car, to kick an intruder's butt, to grow food, and do my own plumbing. The reason I bring this up is because I am one step closer, considering I fixed my own shower drain this week. Whoo-hoo!

Have a great week, everyone!

Happy Birthday, SOME QUIET PLACE

This is the day I've been working towards ever since I was, oh, maybe five years old. Even then, I was writing stories. Granted, the handwriting was horrible and the plot was pretty much nonexistent, but I kept at it. And now, all these years later, I can walk into a Barnes & Noble and find a story I actually wrote on the shelf. It's an overwhelming feeling, seeing that. Surreal and wonderful and terrifying all at once. I won't tell you guys about my path to publication - it's been told so many times before - so I'll just leave you with this:

Don't give up on your dreams. Even when it seems like it's never going to happen, it's just too far out of reach, keep going. Keep fighting and hoping and believing that something amazing will occur and the impossible is possible. Because something like this could come out of it.

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them in human form. Longing hovers around the shy, adoring boy at school. Courage materializes beside her dying friend. Fury and Resentment visit her abusive home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, except beautiful Fear, who sometimes torments her and other times plays her compassionate savior. He’s obsessed with finding the answer to one question: What happened to Elizabeth to make her this way?

They both sense that the key to Elizabeth’s condition is somehow connected to the paintings of her dreams, which show visions of death and grief that raise more questions than answers. But as a shadowy menace begins to stalk her, Elizabeth’s very survival depends on discovering the truth about herself. When it matters most, she may not be able to rely on Fear to save her.


Starred Review

“Haunting, chilling and achingly romantic.”—

Kirkus Reviews

 (starred review)

"An utterly original, compelling story—with maybe the most irresistible love interest of all."—

Claudia Gray, 

New York Times

bestselling author of the Evernight series

"...teens will find this a haunting and fresh psychological thriller."—

Publishers Weekly

Buy the book!

On Family Reading Your Work

I want to establish, before I get into this post, that the majority of my family is amazingly supportive. Questions they ask range from, "When can I buy my copy?" to "You're going to sign it, right?". They like all my posts on Facebook and give me I'm-so-happy-for-you hugs that almost hurt when we see each other. So I know what it's like to have an awesome family behind me in this venture.

I also know what it's like to have someone close to you decide they're not going to be so supportive. 

See, back when I wrote Some Quiet Place, I didn't make any official decision to write what I wanted to write. I just did. The words flowed onto the page, and there were no thoughts about what was right or wrong or what other people would think. The story was all that mattered. So when all was said and done, there were some passages among the pages that my conservative family might not approve of. There's some swearing, some steamy moments, some violence. And when I chose to warn someone of this, the response was not positive.

It was the first time someone had ever told me they would not read the book. It was the first time someone had ever expressed how disappointed they were in me for making this choice. And it was the first time I realized that something like this could happen to me. It may not end here. It could happen again. 

And that's something I need to prepare myself for. 

I could make things easier for myself. I could go back and remove those words, those kisses, those painful confrontations. It would definitely make conversations less awkward during Christmas. It would also make my signings even more special, looking up and seeing that person in the crowd. 

But I can't. I won't.

Because the point of writing a story is making it as real as we can. As raw, as poignant, as effective as we can so that not only have we done justice to these characters, but to the reader, as well. Granted, there are amazing stories out there without all those elements people may disapprove of. But they're not my stories. I may not have made a conscious choice when I was writing it, so I'll make one now. I love my family. I always will. 

I'm just not going to change my art or my beliefs for anyone.  

Three Ways to Create Tension in Your Story

This has been on my mind lately, since pretty much all of my writing is suspenseful. There's such a fine line between making a scene or a moment terrifying or just... cringe-worthy. So here are some methods we can all use to make our stories truly horrifying (note word choice here, hee-hee). 

1. Make sure your main character is running around in a skimpy nightshirt. 

Seriously, this is critical. I don't care where your main character is or what she's doing, whether she's bolting from bed or a busy restaurant. She's got to be wearing a near-transparent, so-short-we-can-see-pretty-much-everything t-shirt. She can't be wearing shoes, either. It's just a given. I don't care if this has been done a million times. It's the only way your chase scenes will be good. It's classic.

2. Don't allow your character to make any intelligent decisions. 

You  know the term, "T.S.T.L."? Too stupid to live? No such thing! So what if your main character decides to sneeze during that hushed instant the killer is listening for her? So what if she decides to run down the middle of the road, in plain sight? Who cares if she doesn't call the police, for some freaking reason? In horror books and movies, it's expected that our main characters will be in such a panic there's no chance for her to use her brain. Why don't you just throw her in front of a bus, for good measure? That will really throw your reader off.

3. The ending shouldn't make any sense at all.

Say you're writing a murder mystery. You've filled the plot with twists and turns, you've taken us on this merry chase and it's finally come down to the big moment. The huge reveal. And then... it turns out a unicorn has been killing everyone. How great is that ending? No, you can't make the villain some guy we've been eyeing, who's a logical choice. You can't even make it someone mildly unexpected. It has to be just stunning. Forget unicorns. It's Frankenstein, come alive from the pages of his book! No, it's a mummy. No, no. It's you.

Whoa. Now there's a twist. 

Friday Five (12/7/2012)

1. Finals week. Those two disgusting little words are the reason why I haven't posted anything new lately. 

2. My first-ever review appeared on Goodreads. It was an amazing experience, seeing and reading it. Nonetheless, I have made the vow to - when the book is actually out - avoid this website. Authors are always saying it's a bad idea to keep track of your reviews, good or bad. If you keep getting positive reviews you'll feel the pressure to write another book just as amazing (which we feel anyway) and if the reviews are consistently bad... well, we're a bunch with low self-esteem as it is. You get the idea. We'll see how my self-control does when July rolls around. After all, I made the vow last week to stop eating cheese, and I just went through an entire block of it. So... yeah.

3. Christmas is coming! Anyone got any big plans? Any cool gift ideas? I really, really wish I could cheat and just give my entire family an ARC of Some Quiet Place. Alas, they have not been printed yet. So I'll probably actually go out and get their presents. Something meaningful, like... shaving cream. I don't know. Leave me alone. I'm creative on paper, and that's about it.

4. Since the cover reveal, there have been a lot of new people stopping by the blog. I just want to say "hi" and warn you guys that this blog can be a bucket of crazy. I mean, there are occasional sort-of-helpful posts, but I mostly babble about cheese (as evidenced in this post). You have now been officially warned.

5. Isn't my dog just so silly?

Friday Five (11/23/12)

1. It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I am still reluctant to put on non-stretchy pants. Needless to say, it was a fantastic day. Lewis even got some turkey out of it, lucky dog. Clarke just gave it a disdainful sniff. He is a cat, after all. Anyway, I hope the rest of you had a fantastic 22nd. It's always a good reminder to remember the good things in our lives. Like family, and food. Those are the big ones, I think!

2. I'm sad to report that NaNoWriMo did not happen for me this year. Too much was going on with work and school. Not to mention that I had just finished a new manuscript at the end of October, so I was deep in revisions for that. Maybe next year. But I hope those of you who stayed strong are kicking writerly butt!

3. I went and saw Breaking Dawn this past weekend. Now, please don't hate me, but up until this point I really just found the movies cringe-worthy. There were good moments, of course. Don't get me wrong. I just had to giggle during some of the scenes that were supposed to be serious. So when I settled back in the chair for Part Two, I was expecting more of the same. Except... it didn't happen. People, this is a good movie. The best out of all of them, in my opinion. I laughed, I cried, I stared, and during one scene that I won't spoil for you, I think my mouth actually fell open. So go see it. That's my advice.

4. A few days ago I came home to find some surprise packages on my doorstep. All from different people and publishers, all containing beautiful ARCs that I've been lusting after. It was like they all conspired to send everything at once, so that horrible day would have no choice but to improve. Basically, I've been reading nonstop since then. If you guys are looking for books to add to your 2013 to-read list, I insist you check out Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter. It was so amazing I finished it in one day. My review is on that page, so if you really want to hear me fan-girl some more, you can have your fill.

5. Finally, I wanted to thank everyone who took part in the Some Quiet Place cover reveal. It was an incredible day full of supportive blog posts, tweets, and e-mails. Gabrielle (Mod Podge Bookshelf) and me were hoping for 500 entries in the giveaway, and now there are well over 1,800. Um, yeah. You guys are just amazing. As thanks, we're adding one more pre-order to the giveaway, so now there will be two winners! You can put your name in the form every day, so don't forget to stop by.

My TV Shows for 2012

1. The Vampire Diaries

I hope you've heard of this show. The fourth season has just started, and you know how shows  tend to lose their steam around this point? Uh, no. When I watch it I still hold my pillow like it's a freaking lifejacket and I'm drowning in the Pacific. Not to sound like one of those commercials selling soap - which I probably am - but it has everything. Romance, suspense, intrigue... If you have yet to discover the addiction that is TVD, here's a promo for the pilot. It does start off shaky, I think, but just push through those first few episodes. The amazingness kicks in around the fifth or sixth one. When me and Beth are having a bad day, we tend to e-mail each other pictures of a shirtless Damon. Yeah. I just shared that with you.

2. Revenge

This show reels you in from day one. Even if I set it to record and vow to do my homework on a Sunday night, I always end up staying up too late to watch it anyway. And usually I'm scrambling to do that dang math an hour before class. Sigh. Oh, Revenge. It's about a girl who moves to the Hampton's to - you guessed it - have her revenge. I never thought I would be rooting for a character that wants to do people harm. But it's sort of sickeningly delightful. Series promo. The second season just started, but if you hurry (which you know you want to) we can watch it together and freak out over Twitter. Just saying.

3. The Walking Dead

I have a confession to make when it comes to this show... sometimes I watch it on mute. Hey, it's intense! The writers don't hold back, even into its third season. One of their most well-known rules is that no one's safe. Just last week a character you never thought would die - ever - did. And they didn't give this character a gentle death. The Walking Dead is heart-wrenching and mind-blowing. Although if you don't like gore or violence... this one probably isn't for you. Even I still cringe. Series promo.

4. New Girl

New Girl delivers so many laughs in just twenty minutes. I tend to stick to the hour-long dramas for enjoyment, but for this one I make an exception. Each week I half-expect it to begin its journey to Suckville - when it comes to TV I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of person, for some reason - but New Girl has yet to disappoint two seasons in. Series promo. "Who's that girl? It's Jess!" Come on, now you know you're curious.

5. Arrow

It may seem a little premature to talk this one up, since we're only a few episodes into its first season. But guys, Arrow is addicting. I don't even know what I can say about it. No, that's a lie. I will say that every time an episode ends on an infuriating cliffhanger - which is to say, every single one - I want to jump up and be violent towards my TV. Oh... and the main character's eight-pack doesn't hurt the show's lure, either. What? I appreciate beauty of all forms! Series promo.

6. Nashville

This show just started its first season, and honestly, I had no plans of watching it. The trailer didn't look that great to me, and it just didn't seem like my kind of show. But one night I was being a good little student and doing my homework, with the TV on just for background noise, and Nashville came on. I kept glancing up. Again. And again. And again. Until finally I put my pencil down, turned the volume up, and sat back. It manages to draw me back every week. The music is fabulous and the drama is intriguing. Series promo.

What shows are you watching?

Friday Five (10/19/2012)

1. It's crazy, how fast time goes by. We're already halfway through October. I have no idea how that happened. Really. Then I realized that by this time next year I'll have a four-year degree and my book will be out in the world. Am I the only one who finds that thrilling and terrifying at the same time? Okay, I'll stop ranting about the insanity of it all. 

2. I finished another manuscript! Finally. Since writing Some Quiet Place, there have been a lot of failed attempts and scrapped beginnings. Nothing was clicking. But I am so, so excited about this one. When I have a story I'm truly passionate about - something that might actually go somewhere - I can't stop writing it. Seriously. I started the project on September 1st, and typed the last word yesterday (of the first draft, that is.) It's a great feeling... as long as I don't think about all the revisions in store. Gulp. No, no, I'm celebrating right now! 

3. Recently went and saw Pitch Perfect. You guys. Loved it. We were laughing so hard in the theater that I think we annoyed some people. If I weren't so poor, I would go back and see it three more times. I also recently saw The Breakfast Club for the first time. That one is... not so new. Haha. That movie has so many layers to it, I can see why it's still popular. It made me think of my own high school experience, and while I'm not sure I fell into any of those teen categories, the story still resonated with me. You guys should check both of those out. 

4. Vampire Diaries was last night! Season four. Oh my gosh. This is usually the point every show I've ever loved falls apart. But this one just keeps shocking me every week. I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who have yet to watch the episode or even the series, just know that it is my favorite. Over anything else on TV. How's that for a recommendation?

5. I love string cheese. This also might be why my pants are getting tighter. (I may or may not have had trouble thinking of a number five...)

How to Create the Perfect Guy for Your Story

1. Don't give him any unique qualities.

Ever. Especially not a cute crooked tooth or a loud laugh. He has to be tall and he has to be drop-dead (maybe literally) handsome. He needs to be brooding, he needs to be good at pretty much everything. Like playing the flute and counting to a hundred in Italian and standing on one foot for hours on end. Stuff like that. Hey, I didn't make these rules. This is what a perfect guy looks like.

2. Make him mysterious. 

Later reveal him to be some misunderstood creature, like a werewolf or a... mermaid. Hey, those are bad-ass creatures. They're all bubbly and... scaly. Anyway, he has to be ashamed of what he is. So much that he's doing everything he can to be human. He will try to eat your main character at least once. Just a nibble, though. It's unavoidable. He may be perfect but he is a wild, untamed creature of hotness!

3. Make him fall for your main character instantly, for no obvious reasons

Oh, and make him so intense that he won't even leave her side to let her pee. Yeah. That happened. And at some point he will make a long, romantic speech that requires no pauses for breath and will render your pretty main character unconscious with disbelief and joy. He's so perfect that he will of course have smelling salts on him. Oops. His fin just smacked her in the face. Oh, well. He's perfect, and this is empty love, what can you do?

How to Celebrate Signing Your Contract

Even though I announced the book deal a few months ago, I only recently got the contract in the mail. I had it signed and sent back the next day. It seemed like another cause for celebration, so I did the following (I may or may not have also done this on the day of the actual book deal...):

1. Eat food. The calories will magically not count for this one.

My cousin took me out to Green Mill. For those of you who are unlucky enough to live in a place where there is no such thing, you have my sympathies. Think pizza and yummy bread sticks. (Thanks, Megan!) I had an extremely delicious, extremely fattening fettuccine alfredo. And I didn't feel the tiniest bit guilty later, because everyone knows that a celebratory dinner like this will not go straight to your thighs! It will simply... vanish. Seriously. It's public knowledge.

2. Tell a stranger. Preferably a nice lady at the post office who will ask you all kinds of questions.

Okay, I may or may not have told more than one friendly stranger. I was practically exploding! I had to let it out somehow. Thus the result of blurting, "Hey, my book is getting published!" to random people who had the misfortune to cross my path. At the grocery store. The gas station. The library. Okay, maybe not as bad as all that, but you get the picture. It definitely made the celebration better, because I wasn't the only one freaking out!

3. Buy so many books the clerk gives you a funny look.

Hey, if there's ever an excuse to buy so many books you pretty much don't have anything left for rent, it's this. The cute guy at the counter didn't really say anything, but he did give me an amused smile. So of course I blurted, "Hey, my book is getting published!" In the process I discovered a new ice breaker. Albeit a bit loud and kind of boastful. He remembers me now, though!

4. Take a picture that you didn't have time to get pretty for, thus forever documenting your general grotesqueness.

A friend told me that if I didn't take a picture of this moment, I would regret it forever. So, without further ado, the signature that changed my life. Wait, is that a bit over dramatic, maybe? No. No, I don't think so. (We only had a cell phone camera on us, so the quality isn't showcase-worthy. Sorry about that. Also sorry about the severe, I'm-such-a-serious-writer expression.)

How would you celebrate? Have a great week, you guys!

Friday Five (9/28/12)

1. I realize there hasn't been much activity on the blog lately, but for once, I make no apologies! I've been busy writing my next book, earning money to pay rent, and getting through school. So the blogging schedule probably won't change much. However, I still read every comment, reply to e-mails, and Tweet, so I'm not completely abandoning the online world! 

2. It's never really hit me before just how far 1,000 words a day can get you. For instance, I started a manuscript on the 1st of this month. I now have a 27,000-word document sitting on my desktop. That's nearly halfway done, folks! In a month. That's pretty cool, right? So I think I'm going to make it a habit. That way, when NaNoWriMo 2012 begins, I'll be good and ready for some hard writing. (So excited...)

3. Somehow I've managed to get some reading done in these past couple weeks. A series I want to give a shout-out to is Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires - for those of you who think you're sick of vampires, just give it a try. So addicting. Plus there's a really cute boy. Can't go wrong there.

4. Goodreads. I have developed a passion for Goodreads lately. Rating books, reading reviews, finding friends, checking the page for my own book to see if anyone else has added it to their "to-read" list. Is that pathetic? Probably.  I talked to my friend about it, and I mentioned that I was nervous for the inevitable bad reviews. She was shocked. "Why are you assuming there will be bad reviews?" she asked. I sighed. "Because some people won't like it. That's how it is for every book. Some love, some hate, some will think it was just okay." After that conversation, I've decided that I'll avoid reading those reviews, like many authors do. But at the same time I'll be grateful for them, because those reviews will mean that someone decided to give the book a try. 

5. Jenna Marbles. Enough said.

Friday Five (8/31/2012)

1. I've made so many new friends this week. It's one of the reasons I love school so much. There are so many people on campus, so much potential. And one of these new friends gave me a moment, a feeling I'll never forget. We were sitting at the same desk on the first day of class, and we both got to talking about our writing. When she found out I have a book coming out next summer, she said, "I'm so glad I met you. You're proof that my dreams of being an author can come true, too." No one has ever said something like that to me, and it was just amazing.

2. Lately I've had to work extra hard to not succumb to the shiny new idea syndrome. Maybe it's a phase I'm going through, maybe it has something to do with summer ending, maybe this manuscript sucks, or maybe... I'm just a writer. The point is, I'm not going to do it. I will buckle down and finish this thing.

3. My sister was recently diagnosed with autism. She's a beautiful little girl who appreciates life more than anyone else I know. If someone out there also has a loved one who struggles with this - or if you yourself do - I want you to know you're not alone. There are so many resources out there to help and guide us. There are some people who don't understand it, and that's okay. All that matters is that we try and accept. My sister loves Dora just as much as the next girl, she sings just as loudly, laughs just as hard, and loves just as deeply. Autism isn't something to be feared... it's something to be embraced.

4. I absolutely cannot wait until I lay eyes on the cover for Some Quiet Place, you guys. My editor and I have been toying with a few ideas, and I think it's going to be fabulous. I don't mean to tease - because I honestly can't show you anything - but it'll be worth the wait. Promise.

5. This is my new favorite song.

The Intruder

This story is disgusting and embarassing in many ways, and I really shouldn't be posting it for the entire world to see. But then, these kinds of stories are the most fun, so why keep it to myself? It would just be selfish.

Anyway, the other night, I got home late. It was dark, and my pets were waiting for me. In order to get into my apartment, I have to go down a flight of stairs. Usually my dog is right by the door, prepared to spring himself at me to express his joy. On this night, however, he wasn't. Quickly I went down and opened the door... and the noise hit me. Clark was hissing, Lewis was yapping his little head off. Heart pounding, I rushed into the living room, thinking someone had to be breaking in.

And someone had.

A bat.

Yes, you read that right. A freaking bat was in my apartment. It was darting around the ceiling in a frenzy. Clark was leaping up into the air in a wild attempt to kill. Lewis was running in circles, as if that would accomplish something. I screamed and recoiled against the wall. For a minute I had absolutely no idea what to do. So of course the first solution that came to mind was... call a guy. I know. Pathetic. But the guy in my life who has handled these things in the past couldn't save me from the oh-so-deadly flying rodent. I hung up the phone, still panicking.

That's when I saw the couch pillows. I got an idea. I edged around the chaos, pressed to that wall like it was some kind of safe zone, and reached the couch. For a moment I continued shrieking like a little girl. Then I picked up my pretty flowered pillow, squeezed my eyes shut, and mustered the courage to chuck the thing at the bat.

Like an airplane hit by a meteor, the tiny creature crashed to the ground. While it was dazed and immobile, I grappled for something to throw over it. And all I could think of was... pants. So, logically, I unbuttoned and yanked my jeans off. The bat uttered a loud protest as I made its denim prison. I proceeded - still screaming, by the way - to scoop the squirming bundle up, thunder back up the stairs, and toss it outside. I slammed the door and tried not to hyperventilate. "You did it. You are a strong, independent woman," I kept chanting, some kind of weird mantra.

Lewis and Clark needed comforting, of course, and I needed to disinfect the ceiling, so I didn't let myself think about how the bat actually got in. I had to be strong.

But I still didn't go back for the pants until morning.

Instant Love

My very first boyfriend went by the name of Ramsey Welsh. I was eight years old. We were at summer camp, and apparently I caught his eye during the singing and clapping part of the evening. I still remember what I was wearing: a hideous purple t-shirt and some jeans. I hadn't bothered to brush my hair that day.

Even though he noticed me, his attention wasn't reciprocated. Not then, at least. However, the next morning he sent his friend over to my friend. The message was simple: "Will you go out with me?"

No boy had ever liked me before. Not that I can remember, at least. I still remember the way my heart leapt and my stomach fluttered. The messenger-boy pointed out Ramsey to me in the lunch room, and our eyes met. He was small - much shorter than me - with blonde hair and blue eyes. He had a cute smile. Without exchanging one word, I agreed to be his girlfriend.

So many stories begin in the middle, just like that week at camp. What I mean is, there's no build-up. No gradual getting-to-know-each-other, clammy palms and hesitations. Maybe it's part of being a teenager. Maybe slow love is part of growing up. In so many of the books I've read lately the characters spot each other across a crowded room and boom. They're willing to die for each other. All I know is, if I were thrown into a situation where I had to choose between myself and some hot guy I've just met, I might look and him and go, "Uh, who are you now? And why should I take a bullet in the chest instead of you?" Of course, that could be only me...

Is this just young adult? Is there anything wrong with it? I honestly don't know. In certain circumstances I know I've gotten a bit irritated, but usually I can just roll with it if the story and the writing is good. (Of course, I may end up eating these words later if I decided I need to incorporate some instant love in one of my own books.)

What are your thoughts on instant love?

Oh, and you might be wondering what happened with me and Ramsey. Did we ever speak? Did we dare to meet under the moonlight and sneak a kiss? Uh, no. What we did do was exchange gifts we bought in the camp gift shop: a bracelet for me, a hackey-sack for him. Yeah. I know. I think he smiled at me and said, "Thanks." I blushed and darted back to the safety of my friends. The week went by - a week of shy smiles and quick glances - and camp drew to an end.

I dumped Ramsey.

Why, you ask? Because the romance was gone. My little eight-year-old heart wanted more. I returned the bracelet, and Ramsey returned the oh-so-significant hackey-sack. But don't worry, I didn't break his heart. He immediately gave the bracelet to my friend Sara. And asked her to be his girlfriend.

So, instant love. Is it real?

You tell me. Is it? 

Friday Four (5/4/2012)

1. I write this in a very loud, very unsanitary McDonald's. Yesterday I got on a train set for North Dakota to see my family. There I was, watching Super 8 on my laptop, when a man sat next to me. I whipped my head around, and I knew my eyes were wide and nervous. I opened my mouth... and shrieked, "Grandpa?!" Somehow we ended up on the same train heading for the same place. To understand how bizarre this is, I have to tell you that neither of us live in North Dakota, we barely get to see each other because we're so far away, and there were tons of trains and tons of different times we could have each chosen. It was pretty amazing... until he tried to set me up with a poor, random Air Force man across the aisle from us.

2. I've discovered that not only is writing a pastime and a passion for me, it's also a distraction. I'm going through a time of transition right now, seeing as I have no idea where I'll be living in a couple months, a new semester is starting, and other things are ending and beginning. Some sad, some exciting. I'm not sure if this is healthy or not, losing myself in other heads and worlds, but it keeps me from rocking in a dark corner. I figure it has to be a little good.

3. For those of you who will be in college one day, or already are, let me give you some obvious advice: do not procrastinate. I know, as writers, this is what we do. But when it comes to school it just doesn't work. The other day I had to go up to the front of the room and give a speech. Being a very anxious person when it comes to public speaking, I really should have prepared more. I ended up going up there with shaking hands and a quivering voice. My topic was on setting up more regulations for homeschooling. At some point I heard myself say, "...and parents need more training when it comes to the subjects themselves. I remember when I was growing up my mom wasn't able to help me with my math at all. Because, uh, she was dumb." Yeah. I said that. I meant she wasn't good at math. So, long story short, prepare and do the work. (If you're reading this, Mom, you're not dumb. Well, just at math, but you're really good at other things!) Sigh. I am so getting bugs in my Thanksgiving stuffing this year...

4. Last but not least, Draw Something. I am addicted. I am in love. I am ignoring all my texts and phone calls because I am too busy drawing King Kong or a cupcake. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's an app. Kind of like Pictionary, actually. You go back and forth with another person who has it. If I'm not explaining it right, Google will tell you everything. Because Google is awesome. Just like Draw Something.

Have a great week!