Friday, November 15, 2013

In Which I Talk Honestly About Postpartum Depression

Hello, all.

It's been a while since I last blogged. Most of you know I had a baby in August, and he kept my hands completely tied for a while. What many people don't know is that after he was born, I struggled with severe postpartum depression.

I wanted to write this post because I felt, much like infertility, PPD is something that not enough women speak openly about. Many people feel it's a weakness, something to be ashamed of. That it makes you less of a person, or worse, a bad mother. It's none of those things.

Let me start by saying I knew deep down that it would happen. I've always been prone to feeling down around a certain time of the month, and my mood is one of the first things to take a hit when my thyroid medication needs adjustment. And when you're pregnant, your medication needs almost monthly adjustment to compensate for the baby. I knew that once I had him, my hormones would be on a roller coaster with my thyroid in the front car screaming, "STOP THE RIDE!"

Still, nothing prepared me for the way the depression hit like a Mack truck.

I had a ton of stress surrounding my pregnancy. First, the four years of infertility and two miscarriages I endured before finally getting pregnant, which sounds so oversimplified when I say it in one sentence. Then, my husband and I decided to accept his company's offer to transfer to Georgia - where we knew approximately no one. My own job told me I could work from home if I was to move, and this was a big part of our decision to go - and then they went back on their word. But I'll get to that later.

Anyhow, trying to house hunt long distance was hard and extremely discouraging. Houses in the areas we wanted would come on the market and get snatched up in an instant. Neither of us felt comfortable buying something we hadn't seen in person. We wound up living in a fully furnished temporary apartment, with all our belongings in storage. It was a nice enough place, but it faced thick woods and was always so gloomy, even if it was bright and sunny outside. In a new state with no family, I longed to at least be surrounded by my own things.

When we found a house a couple weeks into our stay there, I was ecstatic. And then the inspection revealed it was a total money pit, we had to pull out of the deal, and my hopes crashed. I was convinced we'd be stuck in that apartment forever, that I'd never sleep in my own bed with my own comforter, never see sunlight stream through my windows ever again.

Meanwhile, I continued to work at my job from my apartment. I was exhausted and the baby's position caused me to have painful leg and back spasms at random intervals. My one saving grace was having my mom there. She took over all the cooking and cleaning, and I think I would've gone crazy a lot sooner if she hadn't.

My due date was August 8th, and since almost everyone in my family had their babies early, I assumed I would, too. The date I'd predicted for his birth was July 29th, and that was the date my sister and her husband flew down, expecting they'd be able to visit their new nephew.

Imagine my surprise when August 1st came and went, and I was still pregnant. And still working, and still miserably uncomfortable.

In the midst of all this, I'd been going for weekly ultrasounds because the measurements for the baby's abdomen were all over the place. One week it would be in the 13th percentile, one week the 29th, and then the next week it would measure small again. The doctors told me it could be because his position in my uterus made it too hard for them to get an accurate measurement, or it could be a sign of something more serious, like my placenta dying off and not supplying enough nutrients.

Because I really needed one more thing keeping me awake at night.

When my doctor offered to induce me two days before my due date, I agreed wholeheartedly. I was sick of worrying about weather or not the baby was still safe inside me, and terrified that my family would have to go back home without ever meeting my son.

So, on August 6th, 2013, at 4:41 p.m., Andrew Domenick was born.



Let me say this:

Yes, it was the most beautiful moment of my life when they put him on my chest and he looked right at my face and curled his tiny hand around my finger.

Yes, I thought he was the cutest baby in the universe.

No, I couldn't not cry when I tried to tell people about the way he turned his head and looked right at my husband the first time he heard his voice outside my belly.



Does that mean everything was wonderful? Absolutely not.

My problems started immediately. I had no idea how hard childbirth would be on my body, and was shocked to find that I could barely walk for the two days following. I kept wondering why no one told me that something as simple as going to the bathroom would be excruciating.

And then there was the exhaustion. Yes, every new parent is sleep deprived. But those of you who know what it's like to have a thyroid problem can vouch that you have never experienced exhaustion like that caused by a whacked-out thyroid ON TOP of sleep deprivation.

Andrew was fussy almost immediately. His cry was loud and strong and he was not afraid to use it. It seemed that no matter how much I breast fed, he would still scream from hunger. And scream if he was wet, and scream when we changed his diaper, and scream when he had gas, etc. etc. The only way to keep him happy was to keep my breast in his mouth, which only led to soreness, cracking, and bleeding.

Then there was my job. I worked right up until the day before I got induced, and made sure I'd wrapped up all my projects to the best of my ability. The weekend I came home from the hospital, I tried to log in and send everyone pictures. And couldn't. The next day, I tried again. Still, I couldn't access the system. So I emailed my boss from my personal account and asked what was going on. She replied that the IT department had been instructed to lock me out, because according to her boss, I couldn't work with a baby at home. The "three months notice" I'd been promised turned into a short note saying "Call us if and when you find daycare." Just like that, as if I hadn't spent the last EIGHT YEARS coming to work in good or bad health, weather, and regardless of family emergencies.

In the blink of an eye, I was jobless, essentially homeless, and a new mother to a child who screamed in almost every moment of consciousness that wasn't spent eating. He slept only 1-2 hours at a time, and fussed even then. My family went back to Connecticut, my husband went back to work. I was all alone.

Let me be perfectly honest here. When you have a child who screams constantly, it is impossible to bond with him. There are no rewarding smiles, no indication that he even knows you're there except when he latches on to feed. I started to see him as this forever-crying THING, the thing that prevented me from sleeping even when I was so exhausted I felt like collapsing. In the rare times when Andrew did sleep, I had a choice - I could either try to sleep myself, or I could eat. I didn't have time for both. In most instances, sleep won, but by the time I drifted off, he'd start to fuss again.

Soon I was crying all the time. My thyroid, which had always been underactive, had swung in the opposite direction, and as a result I went down to 96 pounds within 6 weeks. I was starving all the time, but didn't have time to cook or grocery shop. The bags under my eyes dominated my entire face, and I looked like a skeleton. Every morning, I'd beg my husband to go to work late or call out sick so I could get some sleep. He'd tell me he couldn't, that he couldn't afford to lose his job since I'd already lost mine. On top of it, he'd work late, and I'd end up going days on end without showering because there was simply no time if I wanted any rest at all. And writing? Forget it. I didn't have time to respond to email, let alone write books. I felt like a shadow of my former self. I didn't even feel like a person.

It got to the point where, even when my husband would take "baby duty" for a couple of hours so I could go to bed, I couldn't sleep. I'd lie there, anticipating the next wail that would be my cue to get up, and crying so hard I could barely breathe. I missed my mother, I missed my home. I resented my husband for insisting we continue fertility treatments even when I had been ready to give up. I kept telling him I wanted my old life back, that I wasn't cut out for this and I didn't want my son.

I didn't want my son. That's the worst part of all of it.

At my lowest point, I remember sitting in the armchair of my dark, dreary apartment, rocking my wailing son. I sobbed right along with him, screaming, "What do you want? What do you want? I don't know what you want and I don't care!"

Let me also be honest in saying that while my husband was worried about me, he absolutely did not get what I was going through. He thought I was exaggerating, that I should be able to get a few hours sleep and not wake up dizzy and out of it and weepy. But I couldn't.

Meanwhile, I was afraid to let on how bad my condition had become. I thought I would disappoint everyone, myself included, if I admitted there was a problem. Luckily, my husband intervened in the nick of time. One morning, after yet another sleepless night, I whispered to the baby that I wanted to die.

I've never admitted this to anyone.

I didn't think my husband heard me, but he did. He emailed my mom that morning, and by that night, she was at my apartment. For the first time in weeks, I slept more than an hour. I also started a mild antidepressant that week.

I'm not going to say it was an instant turn around: it wasn't. In fact, it wasn't until recently that I've started to feel like myself again. But what I want people to take away from this is that IT IS OKAY TO SAY YOU'RE NOT OKAY.

There is nothing wrong with saying you're depressed, and taking medication is not an admission of defeat. The people who really care about you are NOT going to judge you for your imperfections. They're going to help you up and let you lean on them, and that's exactly what you need.

My mother stayed with me for a month while I got back on my feet, and it was the best thing I could have asked for. We would sleep in shifts, and while I was still tired and suffering with night sweats and dizziness while my hormones balanced out, it made all the difference in the world to have someone in the house with me who could take the baby off my hands for a bit when things got intense.

The other thing that made a big difference?


When this little guy finally started to see me - really see me. And I knew that he knew me, and not only that, he loved me. For no other reason than because I am me. Because I am Mommy.

Today I'm worlds better. Andrew is 3 months old, and nothing like the fussy, unresponsive newborn he used to be. I still have my moments where I wish I could sleep more, write more, eat more. It would be nice to go out without packing the diaper bag like I'm packing a suitcase.

But people told me that one day it would all seem worth it, and I can finally say they were right. I adore my little boy, and he adores me.


Getting there wasn't easy, but I'm not ashamed of it anymore. If reading this can help even one person, than everything I went through was entirely worth it.

For anyone who's suffered in silence, don't go through it alone. It WILL get better and YOU will get better, but you have to take those crucial first steps. It seems like the darkness will never recede, but take my word, brighter days are around the corner.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. And if anyone has a story they'd like to share, please do. Never settle for silence when you should be screaming out loud. Andrew certainly didn't. :)



Friday, October 11, 2013

Giveaway Over At The Misfits Blog!

Good Morning Peeps!

Just letting you know I'm interviewing my agency sister, fantastic writer, and all-around lovely person, Sharon Biggs Waller, over at the YA Misfits Blog today!

Not only that, she's giving away an ARC of her YA debut, A MAD, WICKED FOLLY!

Click here to head over right now and check it out!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Meet My Perpetual WiP!

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I've sort of had my hands full with this little guy:



That's my baby boy, Andrew Domenick, born August 6th at 4:41 p.m. and weighing in at 6 pounds, 11 ounces. His arrival was four years in the making, and now we get to spend the rest of our lives watching him grow and change and learn. It blows my mind every time I think about it.

He'll already be a month old at the end of this week!

My pregnancy was relatively easy, but boy am I getting the challenge of my life now. Andrew is not a fan of sleeping at night; some days, he's not a fan of sleeping at all. And unlike his eyes and chin, he does *not* get that trait from me. He's also showing signs of acid reflux, including choking while eating to the point where I'm afraid I'll need to give him CPR. He hates to have a wet diaper, but hates having his diaper changed even more. How do we know? Oh, the ear-piercing shrieks kind of give it away. Sometimes, he screams just to hear himself scream. And that trait is one I fully credit to his father!

I can honestly say that whatever exhaustion I thought I felt during pregnancy has paled in comparison to what I've felt the past 4 weeks. Add an existing thyroid problem to a raging storm of post-pregnancy hormone fluctuations, and you have a cocktail for several meltdowns a week.

But lucky for Andrew (and for me), when he smiles, my heart melts into a giant puddle of goo. And even when he's being a demon, he has the face of an angel.





So there you have my reason for being gone from the internets. A pretty good one, I think. :) I'm still dreaming up ideas and scenes for my writing WiP's, but for now, this one is on the front burner!

Your turn - what are you working on, peeps? And how have you been?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's Good In The Hood?

Good morning, peeps! I've missed you all!

HOW THE HECK ARE YOU?

Things have been crazy around here, and I'm sure they'll only get crazier, but I'm determined to carve out a niche for my writing life. I kind of have to - it's my outlet, and I already learned the hard way that sacrificing your outlet for your obligations leads to all kinds of ugly.

It hasn't been easy, though. Aside from trying to plug away at a new contemporary YA, here's what I've been up to:

- Incubating A Human Who Is Suddenly Growing At Warp Speed


 

 
 -Spending Time With Family And Friends Before We Moved



- Making the Big Move From Connecticut to Georgia Via Car



- Seeing Some Crazy Things Along the Way, Like A Giant, Kind of Obscene-Looking Peach



- Getting Settled in Our Temporary Apartment. I Swear This Part Was Harder Than It Looks.


Working From Home



- Finally Taking a Cue From Dahlia and Getting My Hands on Some Macaron Cookies. And MY GOD, THEY ARE HEAVEN.


And last but definitely not least, with all that time in the car I was able to do some reading. So, I did something I've been meaning to do for a LONG time, which is to read a Sarah Dessen novel. I've heard she writes amazing contemporaries and had more than one person tell me my writing is reminiscent of hers, so I wanted to see for myself.

Since I love summer stories, I chose THAT SUMMER:

For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She's nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister—the always perfect Ashley—is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley's reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.

I haven't finished yet, but wow, this lady can write. Her characters are so relatable and so real, and if people see that in my writing, then I'm just gonna go ahead and say, Damn, I'm good. Kidding. Sort of ;)

The next bit of summer lovin' on my Kindle is THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by Jenny Han. Because I've always wanted one of those. And I'm still waiting.


Your turn, peeps! What are you doing these days? What are you reading? What are you writing? GIVE ME DETAILS!



Friday, June 14, 2013

Interview With Agent And Author John M. Cusick


Hey all!

Just a heads up that I'm interviewing my agent over at the YA Misfits blog today - AND we're giving away a signed ARC of his new book, CHERRY MONEY BABY! Click here to check it out!

http://www.yamisfits.com/2013/06/casual-friday-interview-and-arc.html

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Big Impact of the Smaller Things

I think this post has been brewing for a while, but it was actually a non-writing related meltdown that made me realize it.

I took the day off on Friday to get a few things done, namely my glucose tolerance test and a tune-up for my car to make sure it's safe to drive to Georgia.

Things have been stressful in recent months, but I've really been trying to take everything in stride. Sure there have been tears along the way, but on Friday I was honestly convinced I might never stop crying.



And it was basically over the stupidest thing ever.

In my defense, in addition to the things in the links above, I'd consumed enough sugar for 3 people, I'd worked late the past two weeks, gotten all kinds of aggravation from unaccommodating doctors offices in GA, and on top of it all, I had a wicked, can't-get-more-than-two-feet-from-a-box-of-tissues-or-you're-in-trouble cold.



All relatively small things, in and of themselves.

And then, to make a long story short, my doctor's office screwed up a prescription refill and I got stuck paying for a medication I'll never take, all because they didn't follow instructions.

We're only talking about a $25 copay here. But guys, between stress and not feeling well, I melted down like they'd just stripped me of my entire life's savings. The tears just kept on coming.

When I talked to my husband he said, "Babe, it's only a prescription, it's not a big deal." I knew he was right, but that didn't stop it from feeling like a very big deal. It felt like confirmation that nothing would ever go right in my life ever again, because it had been so long since anything had.

It sounds dramatic, because most of us (myself included) know better than to sweat the little things. But when the little things keep piling up, they get heavier and heavier. And eventually, something is going to buckle under the weight.



But the moral of all this? Is that these are the exact moments I try to capture in my YA stories.

When the average person thinks back on his or her high school years, it's usually not one specific event or memory that evokes the misery and perfection of being a teenager - it's a culmination of many moments. Looking back on my own high school years, there really weren't any major events.
    
     Does it mean that nothing I went through didn't FEEL like a major event?
    
     That nothing I experienced didn't shape my way of thinking and acting for years to come?  
    
     That I can't still recall those moments of joy or anger or hurt as if they just happened yesterday?
 
Absolutely Not.

And this, THIS, is the exact reason I wrote the contemporary romance that got me my agent. I wanted a book that captured those first-relationship moments you never forget, because of how they made you FEEL.

The smiles and laughs that start to take on a different meaning until your insides squirm when you realize your feelings for someone extend beyond friendship.

The way it feels like you've been punched right in the gut the first time you see that person look at someone else the way you wish they'd look at you.

The magnitude of a kiss you've waited eons for.

The letdown of knowing it can't be anything more.

The devastation of believing you're inferior and worthless.

The invincible feeling of knowing you most certainly are NOT inferior or worthless, and no one ever has the right to make you feel that way, thank you very much.

Having no real certainty of where do I go from here?

Those, to me, are the moments that stand out from my teenage years, and the things that have never left my mind, even though they're not momentous by anyone else's definition. Unfortunately, novels that flesh out these kinds of moments are often branded "quiet," almost like it's a bad word.

I don't call them quiet. I call them "real."

It's a huge challenge to drum up major emotion from minor things, to create drama that's gripping and relatable without theatrics. To write something people will love just for the way it makes them feel. To create a story that's a collection of small things leaving a big impact.

Wasting 25 bucks on a botched prescription refill is not a big deal. Neither is developing a crush on someone. But they've FELT like big deals to all of us at one time or another, and when you can put that moment in context to make someone feel its significance all over again, that is no small feat as an author.

So no, I don't say "quiet" like it's a bad word when it comes to novels. I say it like it's something I'd love to see more of. I say it with respect.
 
I say it like it's an accomplishment. Because it is.

 
Your turn - what small moments in life have made the biggest impact on you and your writing? Which  novels have made a mark on you just for the way they made you feel (So I can go check them out RTFN)?


Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm Super, Thanks For Asking

Those of you who are still reading have probably noticed my blog posts becoming shorter and less frequent, except for the days I’m over at the YA Misfits blog – which I am today, BTW. Head on over if you’d like to talk about what makes you root for a literary couple!


Anyhow, I’m not blogging less because I love it any less, and I certainly haven’t abandoned my writerly ambitions – I’m actually fielding more ideas than I’ve ever had at once, as well as getting ready to revise a couple of finished WiP’s. The problem is that I’m also juggling more in my personal life than I ever have at once time, including the pending arrival of a baby and an out-of-state move.

Saying it that way makes it sound so simple. And guys, nothing has been simple about this process.

NOTHING.

Oh, and did I mention I’m still working full time, and am absolutely swamped? And that I’m almost NEVER swamped at this time of year, yet paperwork continues to breed on my desk?


Or that I’m currently homeless? Ok, so not really, because I am staying with family and they have gone out of their way to make me comfortable, but I have no place to call my own since closing on my house last month, and this has been way harder on me than I anticipated. I miss my cute little house. A lot. And I’m hormonal. ‘Nuff said.

Long story short, I’m looking for ways to save time wherever and however I can. And I’ve noticed one of the things taking up a lot of my time and energy is answering the same questions from family and friends over and over.

Apparently, when you’re on the brink of making a long distance move, people want to see you all the time, and they find the details of you life fascinating. Which is awesome, because I love my friends and family. Except at this particular point…



So I thought it might make sense, in order to avoid sounding and feeling like a broken record, to make a list of the questions I’m asked most frequently, answer them here, and then update accordingly every so often. So here goes:

When Are You Due?

August 8th. But do I think I’ll make it to that day? Hell to the no. Not with my family’s track record of going into labor early.

Do You Know What You’re Having?

Yes. A little boy.

Your Husband Must Be Thrilled!

Yes. As am I. And as we both would’ve been had Baby Boy been a Baby Girl instead. I am EXTREMELY touchy about this sexist and rather douchey comment, so let’s press on.

Do You Have A Name Picked?

Nope, we don’t. But even when we do, I will not be sharing until the day he’s born. With the fluctuations in my hormones, I can’t guarantee that the first person to make a comment or a face won’t get slapped.

How Are You Feeling?

I’m super, thanks for asking. Yes, this is a stock answer. I’m tired and stressed and, at times, totally overwhelmed. But I was fortunate enough to escape morning sickness, lucky enough to have a supportive family behind me, and so grateful to finally be on my way to mommyhood. So all things considered, I’m pretty darn good.

When Are You Moving Down To Georgia?

We don’t have a definitive date yet. Sometime in June.

What Areas Are You Looking In?

Roswell, Milton, Alpharetta, John’s Creek, etc. We’re looking in these areas to try and keep my husband’s commute under an hour. His office will be located in Buckhead.

HOW Are You Looking For Houses?

With the help of a great realtor in GA and some strategically timed trips. Plus lots and LOTS of time on the internet. Hold me.

What Will You Do If You Don’t Have a House by June?

Cry. A lot.

No, really, we’re looking into temporary housing in corporate apartments that seem nice and won’t break our bank. I promise I won’t be raising my son in airport terminal for the first month of his life.

Do You Have A Doctor? A Hospital?


Hospital, yes. Doctor, no. Apparently when you're more than 20 weeks pregnant, they need to see your records before they'll even let you make an appointment. This is not a fun policy for someone who is a big fan of instant gratification and only has another 6 weeks or so in the hands of doctors who've been seeing her for years now.

Are You Sure You Wouldn’t Rather Have the Baby In CT?

Since that option would involve an inevitable 14-hour road trip with a newborn, I’m gonna go with no on that one.

It’s Your Parents’ First Grandchild And You’re Leaving? They Must Be Devastated!

Yes. Thank you for reminding me. I didn’t feel complete without the horrific guilt that comes with thinking about that.

Are You Still Writing?

Abso-freaking-lutely. Books and words are my outlet. I may not always be able to get them from my head to the page quickly enough for my liking, but I won’t turn away from them.

Writing is a very loved, very welcome constant in my life right now. And just like everything else that’s currently up in the air, the best is yet to come.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Happy Cover Reveal Day to Sharon M. Johnston!


About the Book:


Title: Sleeper (Book I in the Toy Soldiers series)

Author: S. M. Johnston

Release Date: December 2, 2013

Publisher: Entranced Publishing

Genre: NA speculative fiction

After a life saving heart transplant, eighteen-year-old Mishca Richardson is plagued by nightmares and an urgent desire to find her birth parents, which she puts down to post-operation depression. But her new heart seems to bring more than a second chance at life in the form of speed, strength and love at first sight.

And now....


TA DA!!!!! Happy Cover Reveal Day, Sharon! It looks amazing!



About the Author:



Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review's Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.


Social Media Links:

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/authorsmjohnston
Twitter: https://twitter.com/S_M_Johnston
Website: www.smjohnston.com
Blog: www.downunderwonderings.blogspot.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4019418.S_M_Johnston

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Amazing Book News!!


You guys! Fantastic news! One of the best unpublished things I've ever read is going to be one of the best PUBLISHED things YOU'VE ever read!

That's right! My amazing friend and CP, Dahlia Adler, just sold her book BEHIND THE SCENES to Spencer Hill Contemporary!



HAPPY DANCE!!



To give you an idea of how excited you should be, and how you'll feel after you read this book, let me (and some kickass gifs) tell you the story of how I came to love it so much:

Once upon a time in the year 2012, I went to Mexico. I wasn't online much while I was there, because duh, it looked like this:



But when I was, I noticed of few of my friends and CP's chatting on Twitter with someone called @missdahlelama. She seemed like a cool chick, so I followed her. And she followed me back.

Eventually, we started emailing, and I realized I'd had no idea that she wrote Contemporary YA. I hadn't even read anything she'd written, and vice versa. So one of us, and I'm not sure which one, suggested trading ms's even though we were both already on sub. And even though I had some other things on my plate, I was all:


So then I started to read. And you guys. It gave me SO MANY FEELS.


At any given moment I was doing this



Or this



Or this



Or a combination of both


I went through so many emotions, I told Dahl I felt like a mental patient...


....But in a GOOD way. If that's possible. Because when I was done reading, I was like


And why, you ask? Because it was just that good. The characters were witty and real, the plot was both heartfelt and fun. And speaking of characters?
LIAM.
He's the male mc, he is SO HOT, and he is also my boyfriend. (Dahl admits he's  madly in love with me right here, so don't even bother hoping.) Oh, and he's an actor, so you know what that means? He has abs, guys. ABS.


The romance that developed between Liam and me - er, Ally, was sweet and sexy, and there were some freaking awesome kissing scenes


Yeah. Kinda like that.
 
You might find yourself saying
 

So then I basically told Dahl I wanted to read everything she ever writes, and even though we'd just "met," this was how I felt about her:


And then we lived happily ever after in our CP-ship...


.... and met for real :)

So the moral of the story is, I am SO EXCITED for Dahlia, and for this story to be published. I hope you're all adding it to your TBR piles, or your Goodreads shelves, because you will be SO happy you did. And I happen to know that Dahl has lots of great stories in the works, so be sure to head over to her blog and congratulate her, and follow along so you don't miss any of the awesome.


CONGRATS DAHLIA!!!!!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Come and Chat Contemporary YA...

.... over at the YA Misfits blog!

Today I posted some tips on keeping your contemporary novel relevant longer. Click here to check it out!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy Cover Reveal Day (and birthday!) To Brenda Drake!

Good Morning!

Does everyone know what day it is for Contest Goddess and all-around fabulous person Brenda Drake? If you said her birthday, you'd be right. But it's also the day when she gets to REVEAL THE COVER of her novel, LIBRARY JUMPERS, to the world!

Woohoo!

I'm super excited to share Brenda's news with all of you here at Writer's Blog as well. So now, without further ado....

BEHOLD!!

BEYOND THE HIDDEN GATEWAYS THAT CONNECT THE LIBRARIES OF OUR WORLD, LIES A DARK AND DANGEROUS WORLD JUST WAITING TO BE DISCOVERED.

Isn't it purty?? And as if libraries weren't already the best, she's gone and made them even more amazing. When can you get your hands on this book, you ask? It releases in February 2014 from Month9 Books. In the mean time, go ahead and hop over to Brenda's blog to say congrats and happy birthday! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Interview with Agent Peter Knapp!

Good Morning and TGIF, peeps!

Today I'm interviewing Park Literary Group's newest agent, Peter Knapp, over at the YA Misfits blog. If you've been thinking about querying, click here and check it out!

I'd also like to add that Peter is one of the judging agents for Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness Contest, which opens for submissions today. This contest was how I got my agent one year ago, so obviously I'm a huge advocate! Now go polish up those submissions, because I'd love to hear YOUR success story very soon!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Today You'll Find Me...

.... over at the YA Misfits blog sharing the soundtrack for my newest WiP, JESSE'S GIRL!

So if you love 80's music and stories with summer love, beach romance, and hot lead singers, swing by and check it out!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Internet Behaviors That Need To Die

I really do try to keep my online ranting to a minimum. I’m not big on calling others out on every little thing that bothers me, because I don’t want to sound preachy or come across like I think I’m better than anyone else. But I’ve noticed lately that I’m less and less inclined to even go online, and I think it’s because so many people have forgotten a very simple fact: social media is meant to be just that. SOCIAL.


Don’t get me wrong, I think sites like Facebook and Twitter are also very effective tools for promotion, networking, friendly competition, and venting – as long as these things are done in moderation and with discretion.

Lately I’m finding these things are exactly what’s missing. So let’s break my biggest gripes down:

1) Bullying for Likes

One of my biggest peeves recently is that I can’t go on Facebook without finding that my friends and relatives have spammed my feed with pictures of people or animals or babies I’ve never met, tagged with some passive-aggressive instructions telling me if I don’t press “Like” immediately, it means I think babies are ugly or I hope all dogs die of cancer.

Seriously??

Who started this extra-annoying form of reverse psychology mixed with cyberbullying? And why does ANYONE fall for it, and worse, let it continue by sharing it?

And don’t even get me started on the “Hey everybody, if I get x amount of “likes,” someone, possibly myself, has promised me some fabulous reward!”

I saw one recently that said “If I get 10,000 Likes, I’ll quit smoking.” I’m sorry, but no. There are a thousand reasons someone should be motivated to quit smoking, and a gimmick isn’t one of them. If you really want to quit, do it. Don’t justify the continuation of a gross and harmful habit by saying that not enough Facebookers cared about you quitting. YOU need to care, and you need to do the work. If your goal of achieving an arbitrary number of likes ranks above your goal to quit, you’re not ready yet. End of story.


Now these kids have the right idea!
And the adorable kids who needed a million likes so their dad would buy them a puppy? Your dad is either attention-starved and using you, or setting unrealistic goals so he never has to buy you a puppy. Probably both. My sympathies.

Speaking of attention-starved, that leads me to:

2) Constant Fishing for Compliments with “Selfie” Pictures

Don’t get me wrong, everyone should be comfortable in their own skin and damn proud of it.

If you feel fabulous enough every so often that you feel like the whole word should see it, rock on with your bad self.

However, there is a very fine line between confidence and conceit.

When I see the same people posting pictures of themselves day in and day out on Instagram or Twitter, that’s when my finger starts itching to hit “unfollow.” Yes, you’re lovely, or in fabulous shape, or have a super amazing whatever – and you obviously know it. So why do you need constant affirmation from other people?

Let’s face it, no one posts a selfie in the hopes that people will respond with, “Your hair is a hot mess in this picture,” or “Damn girl, that’s your idea of a cute outfit?” People post them hoping for compliments. And why not? Compliments are wonderful and make you FEEL wonderful.

But the best kind? Are the ones that are sincere and unsolicited.

So let me tell you right now, you’re fabulous. But there *is* such a thing as too much of a good thing. Don’t believe me? Scroll through Kim Kardashian’s Twitter pics and tell me there’s not a certain point where you don’t want to scream, “Holy crap, get over yourself!” (And no, I do not follow her.)

3) Inappropriate Political Spouting

This is one of the biggest misuses of social media, at least in my opinion. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone is entitled to express said opinion. It *is* a free country.

Too often, however, people get preachy, demeaning, and insulting when arguing their political stance. One of my own family members is a huge offender. Every. Single. Day, he posts political memes on Facebook that blatantly blast a certain political party. People get offended. They feel the need to defend their own political beliefs. Comments go back and forth.

Spare me.

Social media is not the place for this. If you have a particular hot-button issue that you’re passionate about, there are most likely forums and chats where you can obsess with like-minded people. Create your own politics page if you want. Or, start a blog – that’s what they’re for. But you’re not going to change anyone’s beliefs with sarcasm or downright rudeness or daily repetition of either.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that I don’t appreciate feeling beat over the head, with anything. If I go online to catch up with friends or authors or CP’s, I don’t want to see a constant stream of Me-Me-Me, I-I-I, Want-Want-Want. But that’s what I feel like I’m getting lately.

So, for the love, can we please keep social media social?

Does anyone else have similar frustrations? Or am I being overly sensitive here?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chatting Up The YA Misfits: An Interview With Jenny Kaczorowski!

So I had so much fun interviewing Dahlia Adler a few weeks ago that I've decided to make interviews a semi-regular feature here at Writer's Blog.

Today we're chatting with YA author and fellow YA Misfit, Jenny Kaczorowski!


Jenny paints some seriously beautiful (and sometimes truly creepy) pictures with her words (you can read more about them by clicking her name up above), is a mom to two of the most adorable mini-Misfits on the planet, and is currently seeking her dream agent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JennyKacz. She's also a fantastic cheerleader and a super sweet person, and I'm very glad she agreed to chat with us about her brand spankin' new draft, THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING!

G: You just finished your newest ms, THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING. Congrats! *Applause Applause* Tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it.


J: Thank you! I’m so excited about this story! It taught me a lot about myself and how I write. Definitely a project that made me grow. THE ART OF FALLING is my first attempt at a straight YA contemporary romance. It grew out of a fantasy MS I’m working on (SIGNAL HILL). I wrote several scenes for a secondary plot, but the relationship between the two characters quickly overshadowed the main story arc and I knew I needed to cut it. I had about 10k that I knew wouldn’t work for SIGNAL HILL, but I didn’t know what to do with those scenes. I don’t write contemp, so I set them aside. Then in December, I had a late night Twitter chat with two of my fellow YA Misfits that led to me sending two of the cut (kissing) scenes. I hadn’t thought about those characters in months, but I couldn’t get them out of my head. I left my laptop at home while we visited family over the holidays and of course that’s when the muse struck!

THE ART OF FALLING is the story of Bria, a high school senior who wears combat boots, dyes her hair purple and is getting ready for art school. But when she falls for her best friend’s brother, Ben, she starts questioning the path everyone assumes she’ll take. Ben is the high school quarterback, Mr. Popularity, the crush of every girl in the school. The kind of boy girls like Bria are too cool to like. With application deadlines looming, she has to decide if she’s brave enough to defy everyone’s expectations to blaze her own trail in life and in love.

G: Okay then. I'm sold.  You normally write dark (and gorgeous) YA. Was it difficult to step outside your comfort zone for this story?

J: I was SO intimidated by the idea of writing contemp romance. I was scared I couldn’t make a story exciting without some kind of otherworldly element. It’s easy to create drama when you can just toss in another supernatural baddie. But once I started writing, this was the easiest story I’ve ever written. I KNOW these characters. I wrote the whole thing in a month. It took me 9 months to get a (ROUGH) rough draft of SIGNAL HILL finished!

Two things changed for me while writing FALLING. First, I realized that all fiction is fantasy. The idea that all contemp is sad or bland or ordinary is wrong. I’ve loved a lot of contemp stories so I don’t know why I had this hang up about writing it. This is story is just as much a fantasy as any other story I’ve written, just a different flavor. It’s an opportunity to step into another pair of shoes and lived in a world different from my own. Even if it looks like my world and behaves like my world, it’s still an escape from reality.

The second thing that changed is that I found this story. I don’t know if I have another contemp in me. My heart still belongs to fantasy. But this story needed to be told this way. It couldn’t be just a secondary storyline in something else. Writing was effortless because I love this story and these characters so much. It might happen again. It might not. But I can’t let genre dictate the stories I want to tell.

G: You also mentioned this was your first attempt at a “fast draft.” What was your timing/word count goal and did you meet it? (And more important, how did you pull it off being a working mom of a toddler and a newborn?!)

J: It was a crazy month! My son is 2 ½ (turning 3 in May) and my daughter was born in October. I basically wrote nothing while pregnant with her. It was a rough pregnancy and I slept as much as humanly possible with a toddler. After she was born, I felt so much better and couldn’t wait to get back to writing with a functional brain! I finished SIGNAL HILL in December and set it off to my CPs. I thought I’d take a break after that, but when I started jotting down ideas for FALLING, I knew I wanted to write it fast.

I started writing on January 2, the day after we flew back after the holidays. By the next day, I had over 5k written. I decided to attempt to write a 50k draft by February 1. I’m a slow writer. I research and edit as I go. I really only write when my kids are napping. On my best days I get 3 hours to write, but usually it’s more like 1-2. Plus, I started back at my day job in January (I work from home as a non-profit grant writer).

But I know I can write 1k in an hour IF I focus. I set of goal of 1,600 words a day. There were days I wrote more, days I wrote less, but I actually managed to get a decent rough draft finished by my deadline! It was completely exhausting. I typed at least 1/3 with my thumbs on my phone using Evernote (it syncs to my laptop). But I finished! And I don’t think it sucks. I’m still waiting to hear from my first CP ;)

I’ve talked a bit more about my process on my blog (http://jennykaczorowski.blogspot.com/2013/02/done.html and http://jennykaczorowski.blogspot.com/2013/01/time.html), so I won’t get into too much detail, but basically, if I can do it, anyone can! Not that you have to or should feel guilty if you don’t – remember I’d barely written in a year – but it is possible if you want it bad enough.

G: You seriously impress me, lady. How long have you been writing and what made you decide to pursue publication?

J: I’m one of those obnoxious “I’ve written since I could hold a pencil” people. I remember making up stories for my sister when we were young enough that our mom still washed our hair. But I’ve been attempting to write novels since I was about 16. My first two YA MSs (a high fantasy and a gritty contemp about homeless teens) were bad enough I knew not to query them. But then in the post-Twilight world, I shared my urban fantasy (originally titles GUARDIAN) with a friend. She loved it. I entered the pitch in a contest and got a full request. I edited, queried and contested it until finally shelving it last fall. I’ve always dreamed of being a writer, of seeing my name on the spines at bookstores, and I’d hoped that MS would be the one. It isn’t and that was hard, but I’ve kept writing. I got so much great feedback on my UF – it’s just a tough genre to sell right now. My hope is to sell something else and eventually be able to get that book out once the trends die down and publishers are willing to look at it again.

G: What do you think is the most important advice for fellow writers in the querying stage?

J: Keep writing. I wish I’d taken this to heart sooner. I spent a lot of time try to remake my UF despite several agents telling me they loved my writing, but couldn’t sell UF. It’s vey hard to see new books popping up on shelves while agents are telling you it’s a dead genre. But publishing is a very, very slow moving machine. There’s a huge lag between when an agent signs a writer and when that book, IF it sells, is released.

Someone once told me the best thing to do when you send your first query is to start your next book. There’s so much wisdom in that. It’ll keep your writing skills sharp. It’ll give you more to offer an agent should he or she ask for more. It’ll keep you from obsessing over your inbox.

KEEP WRITING. No matter how hard it is. No matter how much you believe in your MS. Keep writing, keep reading, keep growing.

G: What do you strive for when you write? In other words, what are the things you hope to hear from your readers?

J: Memorable characters. The kind that invade your mind and you can’t stop thinking about, even after you reach the end. Once I caught my baby sister sketching characters from my UF and that’s the most successful I’ve ever felt as a writer. I want to write things you don’t want to put down. The kind of books that keep you up past your bedtime.

G: Because I'm food-obsessed, I have to ask: Favorite flavor of ice cream? Favorite kind of cookie? Any food you absolutely positively can't live without?

J: I can only pick one? You’re killing me. Ice cream is one of my favorite things ever. I worked in a gourmet ice cream shop in college. It was awesome. If I HAD to pick, a really high quality French vanilla. You can tell a lot about a brand of ice cream by their vanilla.

Cookies... I make white chocolate chip cookies that are killer. But normally I go for brownies over cookies.

Food I can’t live without would be cheese. I love cheese in just about any form. I was a vegan for a while in high school and I have NO idea how I lived without it.

G: And, last question. How would you fill in this blank? If I see _____ in one more YA novel, I will scream.

J: A girl who insists she never wants to fall in love or get married or have kids, then falls in love, gets married and has kids at the end of the series.

I’m happily married and I love my kids and while that wasn’t really on my radar in high school, I wasn’t vehemently opposed to the idea. Now it seems that’s the new way to make your character strong and independent. If that’s how she feels, fine. I’m good with that. But if you’re just going to have her change her mind at the end, just don’t. 

Thanks Jenny! Best of luck with your new projects and we hope you'll come back and share your success story when you bowl over your Dream Agent!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Update: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (But At Least Two Really Good Things, I Promise)

Hi Peeps!


So I have some good news – I finished the first draft of JESSE’S GIRL, a brand new contemporary romance yesterday! Woohoo!

No matter how many first drafts I finish in my life, I don’t think I’ll ever get over that Holy Crap I Just Wrote a Novel High (or novella, or short story, or what have you.) This one was especially sweet, though, because getting to those final words required me to hurdle over more than just the usual obstacles of balancing work and home.

The first half of this story pretty much fell onto the page. I was so into it and writing so quickly that I told John (my agent, for those of you who don’t know, whose patience and understanding I appreciate SO MUCH) I’d probably have a finished draft before the holidays.

Fast forward to November 29th. I take a home pregnancy test. AND IT’S POSITIVE!!!

I’ve blogged about my struggles with infertility before (including this one, where I likened it to seeking an agent), so many of you know that this has been a 4-year journey for me. I’ve had surgeries, procedures, tests, and bloodwork out the wazoo, not to mention two miscarriages. So when I saw those two pink lines, I felt a whole myriad of things in the moments and days that followed: disbelief, excitement, gratitude.

But most of all, I was nervous. Terrified, actually. I was so afraid to get my hopes up, only to be told once again that there’s no heartbeat, or worse, there’s nothing at all developing in the sac. My first ultrasound took place at 5 weeks, just to make sure the sac was growing in the right place (the uterus) and not in one of my fallopian tubes.

Well, it was in the right place all right. But it had nothing inside it.

The ultrasound technician assured me this was normal for a 5 week ultrasound. But I told her I’d heard that before, and I didn’t expect the next ultrasound to look any different. When she offered me a photo, I wouldn’t accept it. I was that convinced we were headed for disaster again, and I didn’t need another photo of a miscarriage-waiting-to-happen to add to my collection.

Eleven days later, I started to spot. I called out of work, spent the day crying on the sofa and torturing myself watching episodes of A Baby Story. I was scheduled for another ultrasound the next morning, and my husband I were hot messes when we walked into the doctor’s office.

Imagine my surprise when two seconds into the ultrasound, the technician announced, “There’s the yolk sac. And there’s the heartbeat.”


Peeps, I sobbed. I’m getting misty-eyed all over again just reliving it. But I wanted to share, because I know so many women go through similar struggles and think they have to do so in silence, or that there’s no hope. Not true at all.

Right now I’m 14 weeks along, and while I’m still a nervous wreck, I’m grateful for every single day that passes without event. I know there are still no guarantees, but I'm taking it one day at a time.



OH HI! Look at me waving my little hand at you!

The only bad thing:

That first trimester? Kicked. My. Ass.

I wasn’t nauseous or vomiting, thank God. But somewhere around the 6 week mark, my energy snuck out in the dead of night without so much as leaving a note.

And my brain? DEAD.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t sit down to write without falling asleep. When I did, I couldn’t concentrate. I’d had this great mental connection to my characters, and I couldn’t get it back. The words were bland and disjointed. It was like trying to eat without taste buds. My projected finish-by date came and went, and JESSE’S GIRL was only two-thirds done.

In the middle of all this, our possible move to Georgia became definite.

We put our house on the market. Within three days, we had an offer. They want us out by March 15th. I know – WHOA.

Since then, everything has been a whirlwind of preparations, trying to arrange for storage until we can find a place in GA, getting ready to live with my in-laws, signing paper after paper after paper, all while working full time, still trying to write, and also trying to maintain a healthy and stress-free (HA! HAHAHA!) pregnancy and figure out how I’m going to raise a baby with six or seven states separating me from my family, who has waited so long for me to have one.

So, you can see why the Holy Crap I Wrote A Novel High is a little sweeter this time around.

You can also see (I hope!) why I’ve been such a lousy CP/beta reader/human being in general lately. I want to extend a HUGE apology to anyone who gave me things to read before the onset of Brain Deaditis. You’ve been super understanding, and I appreciate it so much.

I also owe a gigantic thank you to my CP’s, Dahlia and Maggie, who never stopped cheering me on, even when I could only write 300 words at a clip, and when my brains resembled mashed potatoes and most of what I said was probably unintelligible anyway. A big thank you to Leigh Ann, too, for being among the select few who glimpsed my panic attacks long before I’d told anyone else about my pregnancy, and not only telling me I’d be fine, but meaning it. (Also, I love you guys for getting excited over the ultrasound pics, even if what you really wanted to do was kill me. For real. Thank you.)

So if I’ve been a bit absent, from the internet, from correspondence, from anything in general, this is why. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I apologize to anyone I’ve inconvenienced or upset.

The good news is, I’m slowly getting my energy back and regaining my focus. I can’t control the stress of the move to Georgia, but I’m plugging away and plan to keep doing so.

What’s new with all of you?