Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Can Officially Die Happy

Why yes, that is DLS featured in our Scholastic Book Fair!!!!!!!!
(Dear Scholastic, I'm afraid the poster for Dirty Little Secrets was misplaced as we packed up the book fair....)

Putting My Word Count Where My Mouth Is

So I made a big deal a few weeks ago about writing 1k per day, every day in order to finish a book. In case you missed it, that post is here. People have been asking how I'm doing on the sequel to TRANSCENDENCE, and as someone famous once said, a picture is worth a bunch of words:

30,602 words to be exact (I added another thousand last night after I took this scan. Don't mind the coffee stain on the right side of my notebook. I blame the cat.) I'm happy to say I'm on track to finish this draft before Thanksgiving, unless it ends up a whole lot longer than I have planned. Are all of the words good? Nope. But they exist and for me, it's so much easier to fix stuff than create stuff.

Some of these words were REALLY hard to do. The words on 9/7 were written in a hotel room at a resort where we were celebrating my dad's birthday. The ones on both the 10th and the 17th were written in the car while my kid warmed up for his soccer game. More than a couple of thousand were technically written after midnight, but I counted them as I hadn't been to bed yet. More than once I thought about blowing it off for the day, because after all, this draft isn't actually due for quite a while. What's the harm? But I know that if I skip one day, it's going to be so easy to skip the day after that and I really want to keep on schedule. This weekend is going to be a blur of baseball and soccer tournaments (I don't know about you, but leaving the house at 5:30 on a Saturday morning is not my idea of fun) and it's going to be really hard to get the count in, but I'm going to do everything I can to get them done.

How about you? How's your draft going?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I have a confession to make - Susan Vaught is one of my literary heroes. Her novel TRIGGER was a huge inspiration when I started writing YA, and a seminar I took from her years ago still resonates every time I have to write a killer synopsis (which I can now do because of what I learned from Susan). Her books take hot topics and turn them into intensely personal stories (BIG FAT MANIFESTO, EXPOSED). When I found out she was writing a YA about sexting and the repercussions of laws that don't keep up with today's reality, I had to get an advance copy.

I don't cry easily. It seriously took most of Titanic before I shed a tear, but by the end of her new book GOING UNDERGROUND, I was sniffing and wiping away tears in a good way. I really fell for her main character and the difficult and ridiculous situation the all-knowing adults around him have put him in (I have to say, the parents got off pretty well in this book. The law and those who enforce it rightfully don't) and what it does to his psyche and his future.

Here is a snapshot of GOING UNDERGROUND:

Del is a good kid who's been caught in horrible circumstances. At seventeen, he's trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast-and a felon. As a result, he can't get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there's a sea of complications that threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again. But what has Del done? In flashbacks to Del's fourteenth year, we slowly learn the truth: his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo of herself, a teacher confiscated his phone, and soon the police were involved.
Basing her story on real-life cases of teens in trouble with the law for texting explicit photos, Susan Vaught has created a moving portrait of an immensely likable character caught in a highly controversial legal scenario.

These are the first lines of the new book:
Dead zones are places without life, without feeling, without air. I've seen them in pictures of polluted oceans and read about them in descriptions of the cold void of space. Sometimes I think parts of my body have turned silent and dark like those pictures and descriptions. Sometimes I think I've become a dead zone.

I told you her writing was amazing. I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan recently and asked her a few questions about the book.: As the parent of teen and pre-teen boys this was a topic that really hit home for me. How do you think having kids of your own changed the topics you write about or the way you write fiction?

My childrens' enjoyment of stories inspired me to start writing for children and young adults, and whenever I write fantasy, my son's tastes definitely weigh into the equation. My daughter is the contemporary literature fan, as is her best friend, who is now a high school teacher. I think about them as well. At times, I explore topics that were fears of mine when my kids were younger, or I imagine how I'd deal with newer-to-the-world issues now, if my children were still young. I believe I tune into injustice more quickly, because kids, teens, and young adults have a hard enough time surviving to adulthood without being strangled by the mistakes and shortcomings of adults.

I think my favorite lines of Del's are toward the end where he's explaining his situation in a letter to a college admissions officer; " personhood got revoked. I got kicked out of society. It felt like getting kicked off the world." My heart was just breaking for him and I was so angry at the outcome of such a ridiculous situation. Do you think things are getting better legally with Romeo and Juliet laws?

Some states are, some states aren't. I really wish it could be addressed at a federal level, and I believe we have to find some way to keep up with technology, and to focus more on real protection and safety issues for teens and young adults vs. trying to legally enforce morality. This last is the socially sensitive issue, I know, but it drives me insane when kids lose their futures because of ridiculous laws or legal decisions, or the over-legalization of the normal mistakes kids, teens, and young adults make. Sooner or later we have to face the fact that we have essentially criminalized consensual sexual activity between teens--something no society ever in time has been able to control--and we are ripping futures away from teens and young adults because we can't a) keep up with technology that they are mastering faster than we do, and b) get our act together on accepting the fact that teens think about and experiment with sex. I'm not saying don't have rules, don't educate them, don't attempt to dissuade them, don't have consequences (within the family group)--just, how about let's not send them to jail and prison and put them on sex offender registries for life for falling in love or doing the modern technological equivalent of "playing doctor."

I know you were inspired by some of the cases you worked with as a psychiatrist - what other research did you have to do to make the book ring true?

I researched age of consent laws in various states, researched cases where children have been convicted of sex offenses based on sexting, and spoke to a district attorney. I remember one question I asked the DA--what if two teens, one under the age of consent by one day and one over the age of consent by one day had sexual contact? Would you prosecute? The DA said, "I wouldn't in that situation, but if a parent chose to press charges, I wouldn't have a choice." I then asked her if she had seen cases like that, and she got tears in her eyes, nodded, and didn't answer out loud. That made quite an impression.

My favorite part of writing are the 'happy accidents' that come while you're writing when a character or situation just shows up. Did you have any 'accidents' that made it into the book?

The inclusion of Fred the parrot and the rescued animals happened by accident. That was nowhere in my outline when I started, but my own parrot was plucking my nerves (and my hair) while I was writing the first couple of chapters, and shortly thereafter, Fred the parrot stormed into the narrative.

In spite of having a difficult real world job, you write so many great books - what's up next for Susan Vaught?

I have one manuscript completed and in the editing process. My title for it is FREAK, but that may change. FREAK is told through the eyes of Jason, a young man with schizophrenia. When his best friend and maybe girlfriend Sunshine disappears, he knows he has to find her--even though the police and the FBI consider him the primary suspect. His voices and distorted perceptions confuse him and make him doubt himself, but he'll never give up, not if there's the tiniest chance of finding her alive--but Sunshine's time is fast running out.

I also have another manuscript still in the revision/writing process. It's a contemporary romance with some . . . unusual . . . fantasy elements. :)

Thanks Susan! Find out more about Susan and all of her books here. GOING UNDERGROUND is an important book for anyone to read, but I think it is particularly eye-opening for the parents of teen boys. And it's on sale TODAY!!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hoarding Resources

After writing DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, I made some amazing connections in the hoarding community. One of them is Geralin Thomas who is a wonderful organizer and one of the key players on A&E's show Hoarders. Today on her blog is a fabulous list of resources for books and DVDs on hoarding. Check it out with this link. Interestingly, there is only one fiction book on it (yeah, it's mine). Apparently more people should be writing about this subject for all age groups - get on it people.

Friday, September 2, 2011

...And Another Thing

I'm so glad that some people have found that last post helpful. One thing I forgot to mention that I think is key in the process of maintaining forward momentum - stop writing in the middle of something exciting. That tiny piece of advice has saved me countless hours of staring at a blank screen. Just when the scene really gets going, when you can't wait to write the next part because you know it's going to be awesome, when you've flown past your word count for the day and are on to a new personal best...hit Save and close the file. Sounds crazy I know, but it works and that excitement is what is going to carry you on to the next day's writing session.

I love the scene I wrote yesterday - a bunch of them go to a snooty party and I knew that Griffon and Cole were going to have a really heavy make-out scene up on the roof of the building looking over the lights of San Francisco (sorry to all of you who hate romancy stuff - these books are full of it). This is the point in the book where we see all of the good stuff happen before the shit hits the fan (Beat 4,: The Catalyst, for those of you SAVE THE CAT fans out there) and I was really looking forward to writing it. I wrote the beginning of the party, some cool stuff happens, and then just as Griffon was reaching for Cole's hand, I stopped. Closed it up and drove the kid to guitar lessons. I've been thinking about the next scene ever since - picturing it in my head and tweaking it here and there to make it even better - and now I get to sit down today and write it.

Just after that scene, there's a little bit of a cliffhanger where Cole bumps into another major character in the hallway and a big 'dum dum dum' is revealed. Yeah, you guessed it, I'm saving that scene for tomorrow. And am I writing on Labor Day? You betcha.

Have a great weekend everyone, but don't forget to squeeze in your 1k!