Monthly Archives: October 2014

Floodgates and NaNoWriMo

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As yet another NaNoWriMo approaches I’ve had a few people comment on the fact that I’m writing two books at the moment. It got me thinking (mostly because I for some bizzaro reason ended up feeling guilty, like I shouldn’t be working as hard or as little as I can) about why I’m working on so many projects between now and the end of the year.

A big reason is that the floodgates have been opened. I have a lot (a lot!) of stories stored up inside me. Stories I’ve been meaning to write for years. Stories I’ve been pondering my whole life. But I was on a fast track and didn’t have time to stop and put those stories down. I had a master’s degree to earn. A marriage. Kids to have. Mountains to climb. Places to see. I was in such a rush to get to all these places and it felt like writing was stopping. You know the phrase “stop to write”? Yeah, that’s all I kept thinking: I can’t stop to write! I gotta keep moving!

And you know, it takes  a long time to get a story down on paper. It takes even longer to build a career in this industry (for normal people who do not become instant successes). I didn’t have time to stop and write. Except that writing isn’t stopping, it’s just a different way of moving through the world. And while I was so busy ignoring the stories in my head, they kept right on growing and changing. So that once I did finally sit down to write, it was like I opened the floodgates and story after story was released. It feels like my body is constantly saying, “Thank god! I couldn’t hold this in much longer!” and the words tumble out of my brain faster than my fingers can type most days. (My CP’s can vouch for the frequent and bizarre missing words).

I’m writing so much because I have to. Now that I’ve started putting the stories down it feels like they all have to come out at once. Some days I feel a little crazy, to be honest. I constantly feel like I have this urgent need to get somewhere quickly (like I used to feel when I was on the fast track), but really, it’s just the words screaming to get written. Quicker. Faster. More.

Last year for NaNoWriMo I sat down to work out a story that wasn’t ready to come out. I tried to force it onto the page and it didn’t work (at all!) because I wasn’t ready to tell that story yet. I’m glad I tried because I learned a valuable lesson. Writing is a job, but it is also a creative calling. And like all creative callings, it isn’t always fed by word counts. It is a process that involves reading, thinking, dreaming, watching television, and getting out and living life. When the words aren’t working it is good to keep practicing, but it is wrong to expect magic to happen every time you sit down to write.

NaNo is great for teaching you to learn to be consistent, to set goals, and learn that you can achieve them. But it can also teach you how important it is to feed the process from multiple angels, to accept defeat, and keep on working. It’s not really about winning NaNo, it’s about learning that you can be a writer, how to be a better writer, and to find a support network of other writers who can help you grow on your journey.

If you’re setting off on the journey this November, then I wish you the best of luck! If you are still considering it from the sidelines, watch NaNo this year and plan (really plan!) on doing it next year. I have my profile up and going on the NaNo website, so please send me a buddy request and we’ll all cheer each other on! Good luck NaNoWriMo contestants!

***First Draught will be talking about NaNoWriMo this month! Watch our chat live or on YouTube the first Tuesday of every month!

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Guest Post from Mr. Anne

If you read my previous post, you already know that I’m away on a writer’s retreat weekend with Julia Kelly and Mary Chris Escobar. While I was away, I got an email in my inbox from Mr. Anne with a surprisingly passionate post about what I want to call, “Manning Up”, but he calls it “Being a Feminist”. He wanted me to share it with all of you, and so I am (with a couple of edits to tone down his enthusiasm (he got a bit heavy on the expletives at the end). I should note that when we first started dating Mr. Anne thought “feminist” was a dirty word that only crazy women bent on hating men and ruling the world used. He now understands that feminism is actually about equality in opportunity in rights for men and women, but I think his post also points out that there should be equality in recognition and appreciation as well. So, here you go, a guest post from Mr. Anne:


 

Why my husband is a Feminist and yours should be too.

This is Mr. Anne and I have been called a feminist by my wonderful wife more than once.  I feel compelled to write this post as I lay here in a partial exhaustion coma, which was onset by solo parenting our two amazing boys today.

Let me start by setting the scene of today.  My wife does so much for us, and has for so long, that I decided to surprise her with a weekend away.  I flew her to Richmond to hang with her two amazing CP’s who helped me set this up.  Today was nothing special, an ordinary Friday of school and soccer practice.

So, back to the reason I came here.  I am amazed every time I am in this position; the solo parenting thing.  I’ve done it before, will do it again, and honestly I am capable and love doing it.  Our two boys are a blessing, and watching them grow every day is a treat.  Unfortunately, they both seem to be at a stage where they just soak up attention like a dry sponge, pulling it towards them with unseen, but amazingly strong force.  I am in the last two semesters of school for Engineering and I work a fulltime job as well.  That means my sexy Mrs. Anne does a LOT of solo parenting.  Not only does she pull that off LIKE A BOSS, she also writes those amazing stories you all love so much.  Every day she is writing, editing, marketing, mailing, planning, and pushing to be a successful self-published author.  A task at which she is absolutely succeeding.  She is my hero.  Period.  Not only that, but she deserves the recognition for those things.

When I put her on her flight today I decided one thing.  No shortcuts.  I am going to pull off this weekend with flying colors.  Laundry, cleaning, giant group project due Monday, “guys weekend” with my kids, keep the animals alive, keep the kids dressed, happy, and fed.  I am going to do it all.  All the things she does.  I refuse to have her amazing weekend away ruined by coming home to a mountain of work Sunday night.

So, here I am.  10:30pm on Friday night.  The kids finally are asleep after a monster night of soccer.  I just ate dinner.  I am exhausted.  I know you are asking yourself, “Why in God’s name are you writing this right now??”  Because it matters that much.

Every mother or caretaker out there needs recognition.  You ladies bust your ass, day in and day out, to make our houses run.  You deserve so much credit, so much appreciation, and truckloads of love.

I challenge every man out there to give the lady in your life a weekend off.  No shortcuts.  Everything that needs to get done, gets done.  Do the chores, feed the kids, reset for the next week of school, git ‘r done like she does.  Because on Monday we get to go back to the office, or at least most of us do anyway.  It’s hard to understand, but my wife looks at my job as a getaway, a warm inviting environment where I get to do my work without kids pulling me away from the one damned thing that I’ve been trying to get done for the last freaking two hours!!  It’s no wonder why I feel like she’s gone off the deep end when I get home on some of these days.  Those kiddos are intense!!!

There are a plethora of reasons why the world needs more feminists in it.  There are many things that my wife faces on a daily basis that enrage me–she can’t even go get groceries without being accosted in one way or another.  And I know she isn’t alone.  It’s an epidemic.

So ask yourself, why in the hell wouldn’t we hold women as equals?  Why wouldn’t we give them the credit for the work they put in day in and day out?  I will tell you one reason why…because you have no idea what they do.  Walk a mile or two.  Walk a weekend for goodness sake.  Its only two days.  Two days will change your perspective if you do it all the way.  NO SHORTCUTS.

So here it is.  I’m a feminist. You should be too.  Every one of you.

 


I should note that I actually don’t keep the kids clothed everyday. They get home from school and the clothes usually come off. So if Mr. Anne was able to keep them clothed the whole time I was gone, then I’m very impressed and need to learn his secrets! I’m on my layover on the way home to my family, exhausted but totally rejuvenated. I can’t wait to tackle the next step on my books, plunge back into the crazy and distracting schedule of working from home and solo parenting. I think what Mr. Anne is trying to say the loudest in this post is that we all do a heck of a lot of work and the last thing women, especially moms, need is a lack of respect for the work and effort we put in each day. Sometimes you need a break, and sometimes the loved ones in your life need to walk a mile in your shoes to properly understand the finer details of the daily struggle. So thank you Mr. Anne for my weekend to work with my partners in crime, and thank you to Julia and Mary Chris for helping him to arrange it. I appreciate you all so much! xoxo

Planes, Trains, and a Surprise Adventure!

I feel like I won the lottery. Right now I’m sitting in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport on my way to Richmond, Virginia. Because my sweet, sweet husband and two of my very best friends, Julia Kelly and Mary Chris Escobar did a sneaky, sneaky thing. They planned a weekend behind my back. My husband, in collusion with my First Draught partners in crime, set a date, booked flights, and ironed out all the details of a three day, two night stay with Mary Chris in her super hip town of Richmond. I found out about it Saturday night.

So I’m flying up the eastern seaboard, alone and without kids, while Julia is on a train, racing south. I am so excited I can’t stand it! Not only because I get to spend the weekend with my friends, talking about writing and publishing, but because I am so happy to be where I am.

Life hasn’t always been easy. There have been some very heart breaking things in my life. Two of those things are the very reason I asked my husband (a year ago) to plan something for me to do this week, to keep my mind off the memories and out of the shadows. And while it may seem a bit contradictory that the very event that is supposed to be distracting me is also making me think about it, it is for a much better reason than in the past.

I am so very grateful to be a working writer. I am even more grateful to have finally found so many women, near and far, who are so amazing and incredible. I’m also pretty grateful to have survived (and I mean that word specifically) marriage with my soul mate. Loving and living with someone as passionate as I am is sometimes challenging.

So right now, sitting in an airport alone, I have never felt less alone or more grateful to have the life that I have. It was so much work to get here, and I’m sure at some point some memories will make me cry, but I’m really very, very happy and so, so grateful.


Like to follow along? Instagram is my favorite place to hang out. It’s like telling stories without words (which is a nice change of pace for a writer!) You can follow me here: http://instagram.com/alexisanneauthor

 

 

 

Gilmore Girls is on Netflix and I’m doing a Ride Along!

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*head explodes from the awesome*

No seriously. I screamed with joy when I first heard it was coming. I screamed again on the day it actually was added to the lineup. This is one of my favorite shows ever. It’s smart, amazing, well-rounded and…one of my best friends has never watched it.

No seriously. Julia Kelly has never watched a single minute of the Gilmore Girls. This is surprising because GG is pretty much required watching for any girl, bookworm, or remotely academic-minded person under the age of seventy-five. (And that might be putting to many boundaries on it.)

So Julia is watching the first season. Two episodes a week, as a matter of fact, and reporting back on her thoughts. I’m very interested to watch her journey into the show because she will be coming at it from such a different perspective than I did. I started watching the show toward the end of the first season. That would be 2001. I was in college. Just meeting the man I would one day marry. Just becoming of legal age to drink. Whereas Julia is grownup and busy in her two careers. I wonder if the show will have the same magic for her as it did for me.

The show hit the airwaves at a delicate time in my life and I couldn’t be more thankful. I was suffering from a pretty intense case of PTSD and getting a heavy dose of reality that life in academia wasn’t as glorious and perfect as I dreamed it would be. I was disenchanted with everything–until I sat down and fell in love with Gilmore Girls. It was a perfect escape into the world I wished I lived in. It was comforting to know that there were thousands (?) of us across the country falling in love with the same show. It was fantastically awesome to see a beautiful bookworm with a sweet best friend, adorable boyfriend, living in an enchanting small town, navigating life. It made my own dreams for my life (that were currently in the process of being crushed by a harsh reality) seem less like a fantasy and more like a possibility. I just had to get through the crap and build my own little Star’s Hollow.

But there’s more! Aside from the personal reasons I loved the show, there is the fact that this show was so well done. I mine it constantly for inspiration when writing. If you write character-driven fiction about women, there are few places to go that will fill up your well like Gilmore Girls will.

One of the things I love most about the show was the way it played stereotypes. In the very first episode it proudly presents us with one stereotype after another. Characters that are almost as much caricature as they are anything else. But you can tell, even in those tentative first episodes, that they are being setup like this for a reason. And if you’ve watched the show, you know that these characters are so much more than their stereotypes.

Over the course of many episodes and seasons, Amy Sherman-Palladino peels back the layers of these stereotypes, exploring where they come from and what drives them. She provides us with backgrounds and stories for each of these characters. They transform from flat representations of people we all know in our lives, into well rounded characters with amazing depth. And we fall deeply in love with each of them.

Take Luke. OMG Luke. I teared up seeing the Willis Hardware store front in the pilot. He’s dark, brooding, and adorable. And over the course of the series we get a lesson in how complicated and compelling these quiet guys can be. I love referencing back to him when I’m developing a hero.

The Kims. I love, love, love Lane and her mother. I love even more that they are such important characters in the series. I love how they play Mrs. Kim off of Lorelei as two fiercely involved and loving mothers with completely different parenting styles, but the same goal. LOVE.

The grandparents. Ok, I love Emily and Richard. They set us up to kind of hate them in the pilot, but I think you can tell pretty quickly there is a huge story there. And there is. I love how their story is slowly told over the course of the series. I have a soft spot for them because they remind me so much of my own grandparents. Mine didn’t live in a mansion, but my grandfather had his quiet manner about him, he would have totally slipped me the newspaper while everyone else was babbling. They even look a lot like my grandparents. So, yeah. I love them, I always feel like I’m a short trip back into my own childhood during the scenes with them.

Sookie…the artist. The bumbling, clutzy, heart of gold, artist. She and Lorelei play off each other because they are both a little scattered. I miss Sookie, she was always one of my favorite characters, but I’m very happy she’s having great success in her post-Gilmore career! Gah, Sookie!

And there are the townspeople. Miss Patti, Michel, Kirk, the cast will grow and change, but they all remain the same: stereotypes that are so much more. They all add depth to the story of these two lovely ladies at the center of the show.

Which brings me to Lorelei and Rory. Lorelei starts off being presented as the “teenage mom”. Frustrated by things she couldn’t control, and overcompensating by over-controlling the things she can (like her relationship with her parents). She’s quirky and defensive, a little lost, and yet determined. I loved following the rambling development of her character. I love that she makes so many mistakes and is a mess. She isn’t perfect, but she’s amazing to watch along the way.

And Rory. The quiet, smart bookworm with a quiet ambition. I love her tenacity. She has it so much more together than her mother, but she stumbles in her own ways as she navigates the two worlds she inhabits.

The other thing I love about GG is the way the show is structured to constantly explore two opposing situations. It is really a show about opposites. The juxtaposition of things that are similar but completely different gives each episode a built-in structure to frame the story. Star’s Hollow vs Hartford. Rich vs middle class. Strict vs lenient. Tradition vs non-traditional. Quirky vs normal. The list really does go on and on. Sherman-Palladino really did a great job of presenting a situation and walking us through it in each episode. All while giving us two female leads in a show that is about more than falling in love.

So, as the graphic at the top of this post stated, I’m going to do a ride-along with Julia as she watches the first season. I’m going to do a few posts exploring the characters and topics tackled in the episodes. I have a feeling she is going to bring up some things I’ve never thought of, plus challenge some things I have. I’m sure she’ll bring up lots of topics for me to discuss! Plus, this show really is very near and dear to my heart and a total gold mine for writers. I think this will be a fantastic study for me as a writer. So, watch for future posts and ride along with me if you want! (The Gilmore Girls are on Netflix!)

Imagine Dragons and Old Manuscripts

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This weekend Nate and I went to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We go every year, stroll around the World Showcase, hand in hand, drinking and eating our way around the world. We try to go at least once without the kids, and once with. Since we were alone, we took the car. My old car (and Nate’s current car).

I say my car because I still love that thing. I bought the car for the engine. It is a fantastic engine. I giggled maniacally when I test drove that baby. And so, to this day, when we leave the house without the kids, we take the car.

And drive fast.

With the music up. Because what I didn’t fully realize back then, was that my car has a badass stereo. The kind that blows the clothes off women (to quote a movie we both love). So here we are, flying down the highway toward Epcot with the music blaring. If you couldn’t guess from the title above, that music was Imagine Dragons. One of our all-time favorite bands.

We yelled at each other over the music, suddenly reminiscing over what each song meant to us, and that reminded me of how we found Imagine Dragons in the first place: I was writing my first manuscript.

I’d given myself a thirty day challenge to actually finish a manuscript. My problem has never, ever been the writing, or even story ideas. If our recent move taught me anything about myself, it’s that when I say I’ve always been a writer, I mean I’ve always been a writer. I now have two shelves in my office dedicated to the seemingly endless stream of notebooks, journals, and printouts of books I’ve written throughout my entire life. I knew I’d always been writing, but until it was stacked in front of me, I don’t think I fully appreciated the concept that I have always had a notebook on my nightstand, and that I’ve always written stories in them.

So anyway, I gave myself this thirty day challenge. And all the while, I was sitting in bed each night (and each morning) with my laptop in my lap and Pandora playing on the television. I was obsessed with Alex Clare and had it tuned to that station every time I was writing. Thanks to Pandora’s super cool algorithms, it started playing me this hot, new up and coming band: Imagine Dragons. I loved Radioactive. I still remember the day Nate came sliding into our bedroom, “This song is the theme song for Butterfly Rebellion.” I smiled, “You bet your sweet ass it is!” I’d already written several chapters to the song.

But it was this other song, Demons, that kept coming on. It haunted me. This song was my song. That first, short manuscript suddenly blossomed into a massive, thoroughly overdone hunk of junk in revisions. Because this song was haunting me. Compelling me to write something deeper, something about that fear we all have about our inner demons, and how we want to love someone without hurting them.

I still put this song on every book soundtrack. In two-ish years I have interpreted the lyrics in a dozen different ways and found meaning in so many different ways. If you ever want to know what’s going on in my head when I write a romance, listen to Demons.

Another song on the album, On Top of the World, is also super meaningful to me. This chorus in particular is what has kept me going through months of zero sales, bad reviews, and doubts:

And I know it’s hard when you’re falling down
And it’s a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.

Needless to say, Imagine Dragons is kind of inextricably linked to my thoughts of my first manuscript and the beginning of my writing career. And so Nate and I are taking this long, lovely walk down memory lane to the music of Imagine Dragons when I realize everything that first, terrible manuscript has done for me. I eventually shoved it in a drawer and started from scratch a story called The Storm Inside. I used the bones of that first terrible manuscript, and everything I learned while writing it, to create the book that became my first novel. But most of the manuscript stayed locked away in that binder (I assumed never to be seen again).

But the thing is, all that extra stuff I wound up writing after falling in love with Demons, it was good stuff. Wrong, terribly written with a weak heroine, and an overstuffed plot line of too much drama, but good stuff, nonetheless. It kept tickling the back of my mind–I’d left too much behind.

I eventually pulled it out and rewrote that manuscript into Tease. I love the story it became in the end, but I wasn’t ready to write that story two years ago. It was something that needed time in a drawer to stew and remix into something better.

Tomorrow night, First Draught will be talking about old manuscripts. I will be remembering that first manuscript, Imagine Dragons, and everything that has come along because of them. Please join us at 8:30 pm (eastern) or on Youtube anytime afterward.

Also, the food and drink at the Food and Wine Festival was all fantastic and I can’t wait to go back with all my boys to watch Sister Hazel in two weeks!

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