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?