777 Challenge!

I’ve been tagged by Robin Kirk in the 777 Challenge. Writers challenge writers to post the first full seven lines of the seventh page of his or her work in progress, starting seven lines down.

My work-in-progress is a stand alone, tentatively titled, A Season For Fireflies:

All hospitals smell the same.

            Bactine.

            Sickness.

            Cleaner.

We sat in muted orange chairs, waiting for them to tell us what I already knew. What I had to pretend I didn’t. We sat watching the tiny TV. Lila turned up the television as an image of Dad walked out of a restaurant followed by his official “team.”

To continue the challenge, I’m tagging Elizabeth May, Nicole Valentine, Amy Rose Capetta, and for the heck of it John Green. That’s right, Mr. Green, you are 4th on my list. Take that!

Can’t wait to read everyone’s seven lines!

PCOS and 81 POUNDS

Hey everyone,

**Warning: some of this post will include TMI about hormones and bodily functions. Given that this is a writing/authorial/book blog, I realize that this is slightly odd, but I have received a lot of e-mails asking me about the noticeable change in my appearance. I thought I would use this platform to inform you what happened and also as a place to educate those who might be curious or suffering from PCOS **

I’ve gotten some e-mails as of late asking a variety of questions. One in particular is: why do I look so different? As some of you know, I have lost 81 lbs in the last year. Wow, right? The story is a long one and I have debated telling it for some time in this forum as it isn’t about my books or my stories. I share this with you and it’s very hard and humbling to do so, but I really do hope it will be helpful for someone out there.

I have something called PCOS, which stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s a very complicated endocrine disorder. The endocrine system is a collection of glands that are in control of many systems within your body. Cell growth is one system that is influenced by the endocrine system, but another is your hormones. PCOS isn’t something you can just look in the mirror one day and say – “Oh, heavens! I think I have PCOS!” The symptoms for PCOS, for me anyway, were gradual. It is also not contagious.

Here is the technical definition of PCOS from the Mayo Clinic:

“Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. The name of the condition comes from the appearance of the ovaries in most, but not all, women with the disorder — enlarged and containing numerous small cysts located along the outer edge of each ovary (polycystic appearance).”

Here’s another definition from The University of Chicago of Medicine:

“PCOS develops when the ovaries overproduce androgens (e.g., testosterone). Androgen overproduction often results from overproduction of LH (luteinizing hormone), which is produced by the pituitary gland.

Research also suggests that when insulin levels in the blood are high enough, the ovary can be stimulated to produce more testosterone. That is, the combination of having ovaries that are responsive to insulin and high insulin levels in the blood,can result in the overproduction of testosterone.

Obesity, which itself can cause insulin levels to rise, may intensify PCOS. Yet, not all women who are overweight develop PCOS. Thus, there appears to be something unique about PCOS both in the excessively high insulin production and the increased sensitivity of the ovaries to the insulin that is produced.”

*******************

What does this mean? Well, it’s different for everyone. I didn’t see the symptoms of PCOS until I was 27 and many women get the symptoms at various times in their lives.

The number one symptom for me? Weight gain.

My whole life I was 130 lbs. Sure, I could gain 10 here and there but it wasn’t a huge deal and I was never obese.

It happened slow and steady.

I blamed my diet at first and cleaned up everything I ate, as I normally did if I gained a few pounds, but it didn’t seem to help. I chocked it up to age. After all, I was 28/29 and weight gain was expected. I couldn’t be a size 4 like I was all throughout my 20s. But no matter what I did – I gained and gained. I worked out just as hard as I ever did. One day, I was in a kickboxing class and I was working myself so physically hard, I got an optical migraine.

I gained until I was 208 pounds (that was in 2010).

Another symptom came around the same time as the stubborn weight gain. I got in the shower as I usually do (cleanliness=yay) and I noticed a lot of hair washing down the drain. It’s normal to see some hair in the shower. It’s also normal at various times in the month to see more hair than usual in your brush, those are healthy shedding cycles. (For more on shedding cycles go to: Shedding Cycles/WEBMD) or speak with your doctor.

My hair loss was significant. I also noticed the place my hair was particularly thin was at the front of my head. People used to stop me on the street and compliment my hair. Now, my hair was falling out. A lot of people in my immediate life said that they “couldn’t see anything” or “I was imagining it.” But I knew me. I knew my hair was thinning and I absolutely knew I looked different.

But the fun didn’t stop there. I also got rosacea and started missing periods (this is the TMI part). While all of this was going on, I was completing a MFA at a low-residency program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I chocked up the missed periods to the fact that I was sharing a room with a roommate for the first time in 10 years! Maybe I was jumping onto her cycle? Maybe I was irregular from living with so many women in the same dorm?

By then, I had PCOS symptoms for a year and they didn’t all come at the same time (I didn’t know I had PCOS either). That’s part of the PCOS diagnosis; it can’t just be diagnosed through one symptom. Hormone levels and multiple symptoms have to be in a very specific symbiosis along with an ultra sound of your ovaries to make an accurate diagnosis. But more on that in a few.

Let me clarify that if you are worried you may have these symptoms and that you could have PCOS, please understand that what you may be interpreting as PCOS could in fact be something else entirely. Part of the purpose of the blood tests are to:

1. Assess where the symptoms are coming from as it might not be PCOS and

2. Confirm you have the necessary levels, etc, to confirm if you have PCOS.

ANYWAY – Here is a list of the symptoms I had at this point and the order they presented themselves to me.

Hair loss (particularly in the front. It mimics male pattern baldness)

Weight gain, particularly in the stomach area. 

Rosacea

Missed periods 

(After seeing my doctor and getting an ultrasound) – Cysts on my ovaries 

And the worst of them all?

I had bone crushing anxiety.

I don’t know if anxiety is clinically part of PCOS as I have read varying accounts of this, but it was absolutely a part of my experience. I had the worst anxiety of my life. I literally was a different person. It’s hard to describe that kind of anxiety but here are a few of the symptoms: shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, stomach sensitivity, adrenaline, circling thoughts, loss of concentration because you’re too busy obsessing about the issue of the moment. Need I go on? Not only did I feel like I was a stranger in my body, but I also felt like I couldn’t control my anxiety. I was out of control and had no way of knowing how to reign myself back in. So I just obsessively freaked out all the time for YEARS.

Here’s a couple examples of how “le crazy” I had become: I had travel anxiety, I didn’t want to go anywhere for fear my car would break down. I didn’t like to leave the state. So you can imagine my insanity when I had to drive 4 hours to Vermont for my residency program. Also, I had hypochondria and if I had any sliver of a medical issue, I was convinced I was moments from death.

I alienated people from me and I lost important friendships. As I said, I was at Vermont College’s MFA program meeting new people and I am quite confident I am not close friends with any of my classmates because of the behavior I exhibited because of my anxiety. I couldn’t communicate. I didn’t know how. I was living life in a body I didn’t know and my anxiety pushed me into a place I didn’t understand. This may seem like hyperbole, but no. At that time, if I had a cold, my thoughts could spiral. Within moments I would go from, “I think I have a cold,” to  “this is some kind of serious immune deficiency and I should go get checked out by a professional.”

It sounds funny, but it was exhausting.

There are other symptoms of PCOS, which I did not experience. Like I said, every person’s experience with PCOS is different. Here are some more symptoms which may indicate you have PCOS: excess facial and body hair, adult acne, infertility, and depression.

For a full list please consult your doctor.  

So, finally, almost two years later, I went for help. My specialist is at MGH in Boston and I would suggest you do some heavy research and work with your gyno before seeing a specialist. You want to make sure the person you are seeing absolutely understands this particular endocrine disease.

So all of this (what I mentioned above) COMBINED with physical symptoms (the cysts) is usually what confirms a PCOS diagnosis. It’s called a diagnosis of “exclusion” meaning that the doctors have to rule out everything else combined with many symptoms to get an accurate diagnosis.

Here is what is tested when you are being diagnosed for PCOS:

I got all of the medical descriptions of the hormones, etc, from OBGYN.NET. My words are italicized in this section. OBGYN.NET will be the regular type.

***IMPORTANT: Every single woman’s hormonal levels are different. What is considered normal to one person is NOT normal to another.***

You can also follow the link to OBGYN.NET here:

  • Ultrasound, to assess whether ovaries are enlarged and cystic (though not every woman has cysts to be diagnosed PCOS)

While this is not a blood test, a major indicator of PCOS is the presence of actual cysts on your ovaries. When your gyno does this ultrasound, she/he can see the cysts. You can go on the birth control pill (if appropriate) and that can make the cysts go away. At least that’s what happened to me. There are many other options but that was my choice of treatment option. 

  • LH Hormone and FSH Hormone

Lutenizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
LH and FSH are the hormones that encourage ovulation.

LH and FSH levels are tested because many women don’t ovulate who have PCOS. It makes conceiving a child much more difficult though with the right medical attention, it is completely possible! These hormones are responsible for many things and I didn’t include all of the information here. 

  • Testosterone Levels

All women have testosterone in their bodies. There are two methods to measure testosterone levels:

  • Total Testosterone
  • Free Testosterone

Total testosterone refers to the total amount of all testosterone, including the free testosterone, in your body.  The range for this is 6.0-86 ng/dl.  Free testosterone refers to the amount of testosterone that is unbound and actually active in your body.  This amount usually ranges from 0.7-3.6 pg/ml.  Women with PCOS often have an increased level of both total testosterone and free testosterone.  Furthermore, even a slight increase in testosterone in a woman’s body can suppress normal menstruation and ovulation.

  • Blood tests, to detect elevated levels of androgens.

I’m on a medication right now that functions as an “androgen blocker” to help me with my hair loss and rosacea that came along with PCOS. 

  • Test for levels of chloesterol, testosterone, sugar levels, etc. are also run because many people with PCOS are insulin resistant. This is part of the weight gain cycle. Their bodies tend to break down sugar and it’s nearly impossible to lose weight.
  • Cholesterol

Women with PCOS have a greater tendency to have high cholesterol, a major risk factor for developing heart disease. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance normally used by the body to form cell membranes and certain hormones.  A high cholesterol level is considered greater than 200. Also, since the levels of good (high-density lipoproteins or HDL) and bad (low-density lipoproteins or LDL) are sometimes more indicative of a woman’s risk for developing heart disease, these levels might also be assessed.

There are many other hormones/factors that are checked to verify a PCOS diagnosis. This list names some of the biggies. 

************

As I said, everyone’s road to diagnosis is different.

I went on a cocktail of meds, which I was very against at first. I already felt like a stranger in my own body and I didn’t want to add anything else foreign to the mix. I was wrong to think this way. They have given me my life back. My anxiety is back to normal (I was always neurotic, but what happened to me was NOT OK). I also try to run 20 miles a week and eat a mostly Mediterranean style diet. But it’s the knowledge of my syndrome and vigilance to an active lifestyle that has changed my life for the better. It’ll always be a struggle. At least I can share this story and maybe answer some questions for someone else who may think she has PCOS.

Here’s me at the height of my PCOS (deep breath, Rebecca):

This is me in 2010 at my book release party. This is very hard for me to share.

This is me in 2010 at my book release party. This is very hard for me to share.

 

 
Here is me 70 lbs lighter – running Ragnar! This was after my 7.6 mile run up and down HILLS OF TORMENT:

Me Running Ragnar - 75 lbs lighter!

Me Running Ragnar – 70 lbs lighter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s me from just a couple weeks ago. 81 lbs lighter:

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SO here’s what I would suggest:

1. Talk to your doctor.

2. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read everything you can from reputable sources, books, etc, and become your best advocate.

3. Hang out on PCOS message boards and chat rooms. Other people have great ideas and recipes for PCOS friendly food!

4. If you are insulin resistant – start to cook. If you’re on the run and don’t have time, start looking up restaurants and all of their ingredients so you can make PCOS healthy decisions on the fly. A PCOS bonus (sarcasm noted there, please) is the CONSTANT craving for carbs. FIGHT it. And eventually it will get easier.

4. If you are not a vegetarian, start loving fish!!

Feel free to e-mail me with any questions, though please save your medical questions for your doctor. I can’t help with that though I can point you to some books and websites I like!

BOOKS:

A Patient’s Guide to PCOS: Understanding–and Reversing–Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

PCOS DIET PLAN: A Natural Approach to Health for Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

WEBSITES:

Soul Cysters: http://soulcysters.com/

PCOS Diet Support – This website is AWESOME.

PCOS DIVA - http://www.pcosdiva.com/

Pinterest!

I just did a quick search for PCOS and all of this awesome stuff came up!

PCOS BOARDS

Be YOUR best advocate. Search for the answers you need for your life and you will find the path to health. Running is hard. I used the Couchto5k running app to begin and now am running 10 min miles! I literally ran myself back to health.

Best of luck to you!

 

New Books! Covers! Madness!

Well well – it’s been some time. How are you?

Here’s what’s new in the world of Maizel.

1. I sold two stand-alone books to the AMAZING Jocelyn Davies at HarperCollins Teen. She’s very cool (she has an impeccable sense of style – maybe she will take me shopping?) and I am really excited.

Some of you may have read the description of Between Us And The Moon but if not, here is the description of the book!

About a self-proclaimed science nerd who, over the course of one transformative summer, falls for an older boy and learns that there’s more to life than what can be seen through a telescope, and more to herself than just equations and experiments — even as she grapples with a secret that could hurt him…

As you can see, Between Us and The Moon is not fantasy! It’s set in the good ol’ real world. I suppose, as an artist, the stories you want to tell and the settings that enrich your mind are character specific.My main character, Bean (nickname), had a real world problem that I wanted to explore.

I read this fantastic quote in a book called Art&Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland:

“If, indeed, for any given time only a certain sort of work resonates with life, then that is the work you need to be doing in that moment. If you try to do some other work, you will miss your moment. Indeed, our own work is so inextricably tied to time and place that we cannot recapture even our own aesthetic ground of past times. Try, if you can to reoccupy your own aesthetic space of a few years back, or even a few months. There is no way. You can only plunge ahead, even when that carries with it the bittersweet realization that you have already done your very best work.” (53-54)

I will probably come back to fantasy at some point, but for right now, this is my art.

When I get cover images and more details, etc, I will post!

2. But, Rebecca? What about the third book in the Infinite Days series? Doesn’t that have a cover? Well, funny you should ask. Here is the cover(UK)!

EternalDawnWIP (1)

Here is the book blurb as well!

Gorgeous, dangerous Rhode changed Lenah into a vampire. For hundreds of years, they lived a life of seduction, blood and destruction. Five centuries later, Rhode made Lenah human – and happy – again. The price was high: eternal separation of the two soulmates, with only Lenah remembering the intensity of their shared love. At first Lenah can just about cope with having Rhode nearby and him not recognizing her. But when a wounded creature from their past threatens the new life that Lenah has struggled to build, she realizes that only the ultimate love she and Rhode shared can conquer the creature’s ultimate evil. Yet Lenah knows too that revealing their past could destroy not only their lives, but Rhode’s very soul . . . The heart-racing finale to Infinite Days and Stolen Night.

Placeholders!! Part Deux

Oh placeholders, you tricky devils. I’ve been doing some deeper thinking about my newest “show don’t tell” revision technique. Maybe word-searching for placeholders isn’t just about overused words in my manuscript. As I revise, I think it might actually be bigger than just “my manuscripts aren’t visceral or immediate enough.” And bigger than “I need to show more instead of tell.”

(Sips coffee)

Words like, “looks,” “feels,” “walks to,” etc, are distancing, they take your reader out of the immediacy of the moment by not showing the reader what the character is experiencing directly. We’ve all heard that before: show don’t tell. You can actually read my first post on placeholders here: http://rebeccamaizel.com/placeholders-how-many-do-you-have/

It’s my sneaking suspicion that the placeholder doesn’t only distance your language and lengthen psychic distance (that’s just a fancy term for how close we feel as readers to the events and actions of the story) as Gardner coined in his book, The Art of Fiction. The placeholder might actually be standing in for an emotional moment within the manuscript.

Before I go on to an example, let me say this one caveat:

I recognize that when you are drafting, if you spend too much time refining language, you might turn on your inner censor. NO ONE wants that grouch to come to work with you. This inner editor can potentially stop you from writing from Robert Olen Butler’s “white-hot center,” or the unconscious where the truly great art is created. So I would say, maybe refrain from trying this tactic until a third draft. Try this when you’ve done enough drafts where you know the manuscript is almost submittable but something isn’t quite right with your work.

So let’s say, you’re at revision two or three. Let’s say your book is great but certain scenes lack emotional punch. Maybe you hear from your writer’s group or editor that he or she just can’t connect to the main character. Here’s where I think the placeholder can help you dig deep and find out what you really wanted to say in the moment.

Le Technique:

1. Make a list of placeholders.2. Go to the sentences. Go micro. What I am finding is that the sentences are really where the macro issues are hiding. To get to the big, you have to look at the small. Look to the construction of your sentences within key scenes.

3. Do you have some placeholders in one chunk of text? What is happening in that chunk of text? Could it be…a scene?

4. Now that you’ve identified a core scene, ask yourself: is the scene actually scene? Is it summary? If it’s summary and the emotional moment is not happening in real time, then ask yourself why, and consider if you’ve purposefully distanced yourself from the moment because you are protecting your characters.

If it’s summarization perhaps in the form of endless questions, backstory, or too much inner thought, this is a clue you are NOT connected to your main character and his or her conflict. My suggestion is to not only revise the placeholders to make the scene more immediate and to ensure you are showing and not telling, but to actually see if the placeholders are a clue that you’ve missed a major emotional moment in your scene.

So maybe, placeholders are the you inside the manuscript telling the you writing the damn thing that you haven’t done enough with these characters. You owe them more! This is where you can break out the toolbox you’ve built as a writer and employ: imagery, objective correlative, inner thought dialogue, etc, etc, to make the scenes reveal even more about your characters.

So how about a totally embarrassing example of crappy, telling, distanced language from my newest WIP!? Sure thing. This is a first draft and I probably shouldn’t even be thinking about placeholders, but I digress…

Here is an example in my current untitled WIP. So, my main character Penny has just gotten out of a car. The whole town has been taken over by lightning bugs.  The section that I have italicized is the section under scrutiny!!

I extended a hand and a few lightning bugs landed on my fingers. The rest protected the tree and there, where the car had hit weeks ago were two words carved into the blackened bark. Because the tree was healing, the fresh bark was lighter, a sandy color. The words stood out with the fresh bark underneath.

GIVE IN

I backed away and joined my parents and some neighbors on the street. The lightning bugs swarmed over the words, hiding them.

“It must be from the warm weather,” Dad reasoned.

“I’m calling the news,” a neighbor said and walked back to her house. I got back into the car without looking back at that tree. Give in. Give in to what? That he was dead? That Kyle wondered why he didn’t say I love you but that he said it to me every five minutes? What was I supposed to give in to? That my mother was a drunk and my father just ignored it so he could stay in his cocoon of false happiness? I crossed my arms . Mom and Dad joined me. We continued onto the End of Summer Gala.

REVISION TECHNIQUE:

1. Do a placeholder search. Once you find an overabundance of one or many placeholders in one particular scene, read through that scene. Does it lack energy or emotional punch?

Okay so I’ve identified that this scene. This moment doesn’t feel very emotional. It isn’t hitting the emotional note that I want.

2. So is this scene mostly scene or is it summary?

Geez, most of it is summary now that I really look at the emotional reaction. Wow, there are like 40 questions that the characters asks herself. Ack, why am I doing that? Where is the emotion? Where is the scene? Holy Baloney. All of those questions contain absolutely no subtext. Each one is so completely on the nose that my character is not experiencing anything emotional that my reader can feel. She is telling us how to feel.  EW!

3. Go to the sentences.

“I’m calling the news,” a neighbor said and walked back to her house. I got back into the car without looking back at that tree.

In those two sentences, I have “walk” and “look” back-to-back. Sure, you need those words sometimes and occasionally look and walk, when they are verbs, are necessary. But they have no relevance in a placeholder scene. So make sure what you are editing is indeed a placeholder scene.

4. Does my character have an emotional reaction in this moment? What is that emotional reaction?

 “I’m calling the news,” a neighbor said and walked back to her house. I got back into the car without looking back at that tree.

Not only does Penny not have an emotional reaction, she just gets into the car without looking at the tree. So what is actually in scene here, is the neighbor speaking and then my main character getting back into the car. Oh yes, Rebecca, that’s so emotional. I bet as she bent her leg to get back into the car, you reader just broke into hysterical cries and wept.

Or not (cheese sandwich, VCFA).

I need to get rid of “look” and “walk” and try to find out what my character is actually feeling here. Horror? Anger? She’s just seen a tree covered in lightning bugs and when she went up to touch the lightning bugs, THEY MOVED FOR HER.

What I need to do is remove those words, find the emotion I am looking for, and bring it into scene. I also need to delete all those heinous “on the nose” questions. This way, my character can experience true horror and disbelief simultaneously with my reader.

That revising part is the hard part.

I will revise this scene and post it on the blog in a day or two. My brain is on snooze at the moment.

I’m probably missing a whole mess of important things I should be talking about but this is at least helping me to identify the consistent and overuse of language in my manuscript. I can’t help but think there is a bigger reason why we keep using words like “looks” “feels,” etc, other than lazy writing. Sometimes we’re quite convinced we’ve written a very emotional scene and are surprised to find that it’s not. Maybe this will help you. I hope it does.

Updated Placeholder list:

  • Like
  • Just
  • Smiled
  • Sighed
  • As if
  • Remember (any time a character says, “I remember the time…” and it’s not in dialogue, almost always we’ve got telling instead of showing.
  • Feel
  • Hear
  • See
  • Glance
  • Think
  • Look
  • Watch
  • “I taste,” “I smell..”
  • Notice
  • Then
  • Suddenly
  • Adverbs in general
  • Double verb “starting to” “began to”

 

 

Guest Post by the fabulous Sarah Freeman

My friend Sarah is in Rome presently, which means I don’t like her very much right now. She has a fabulous blog in which she posts photos of beautiful architecture, decadent food, and beautiful Italian streets. Well, she also posted a photo of a scorpion but I blocked that out.

She went to a wine tasting class today. Yea, a class where she sat around and tasted Italian wine. You can feel free to secretly loathe Sarah too.

But we must commend Sarah for her commitment to the cause. The Rebecca Maizel Is Published in Italy cause. She went on an adventure in which she searched out the Italian version of Infinite Days and Stolen Nights.

Below is what transpired…oy vey.

Language Barriers, Accidental Adult, and Best Selling Author Rebecca Maizel

Here is the original post. You should probably follow her blog as it’s awesomesauce.

http://ciaoamericana.tumblr.com/

By the age range of the majority, a good 60%, of you followers, at least, I am going to go out on a limb here and say you are PRETTY familiar with author Rebecca Maizel and her trilogy starting with the book Infinite Days, and the second book Stolen Nights. Am I wrong? I know I’m not.

Well, SURPRISE FOR YOU she is actually a very dear friend of mine AND my mentor as a writer and also just a general human attempting adulthood. I know, I know, I roll with cool people, go ahead, be impressed, I still am every day.

Well, right along with all you little biddies at home, the Italians absolutely LOVE her work, here the first two books of the trilogy are called “Fragility” and “Eternity”.

So, before I left home to study abroad I told Rebecca that I would drop in a Roman book store at some point to see her books in Italian and take a couple pics. Surely, I thought, a simple task, as her books are best sellers here and therefore literally everywhere. Well, funny thing about finding something specific in a foreign city is that, if you do not speak the language, you really should take the time to figure out how to say EXACTLY what you are looking for BEFORE you go to find it…

One day during my first week here, I was walking through my neighborhood when I spotted what looked to me like an adorably quaint Roman book store. So without thinking twice about it I went in and began to casually browse for Rebecca’s books. As I strolled the aisles I did not recognize a single book name, though, as I previously mentioned about Rebecca’s books sometimes the name isn’t the same over here, so again, no second thought, I perused on.

As I took my sweet time, I noticed that the store clerk and the few other customers seemed somewhat humored by me. Maybe this was them being friendly, I thought to myself, or maybe they were just being stereotypical Italian men and preparing their flirtations in advance should I express an interest, or perhaps they were pleased and impressed to see me, an obvious American, shopping for Italian books. Oh how very, very wrong I was.

Having neglected to learn how to ASK for the books by Rebecca Maizel or simply even by name prior to this point, I maintained my determination to find them independently by pulling some books off of the shelves to look at them more closely, in hopes of recognizing the layout of genre categories throughout the store so that I might be able to narrow down my browsing parameters. It grew from a slight suspicion to an absolute realization quite rapidly. I had in fact misread the sign on the store door… this was not a book store… this was AN ADULT BOOK STORE. As in rhetorical porn. And actually, a couple picture books, I am sorry to say.

Naturally I left empty handed feeling, luckily, more amused than embarrassed. If nothing else, a story for you, my dears.

Soon enough after I did find Rebecca’s books in a NORMAL book store, though I have to admit I had learned and REHEARSED how to ask for them specifically in Italian before looking again (not that I actually had to because they were right up front!!!) and was able to send this picture to Rebecca.

GIVEAWAY #2! Why? Because I can!!!

Did you weep into your coffee because MANDY won the INFINITE DAYS and STOLEN NIGHTS giveaway? Did you go to Barnes and Noble with your head hanging and pay the 9 bucks? Did you sadly tap away on Amazon.com and purchase both books with your keyboard covered in your PAIN?

IF NOT (you should have) then you have a second chance to win a signed set of BOTH Infinite Days and Stolen Nights. They will have the faaannnncy new covers and will be signed by me. Whether or not my signature makes this a sweeter deal is up to you.

Enter…HERE!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

STOLEN NIGHTS RELEASE 1/29!! Oh and a giveaway!

Soooo. Stolen Nights comes out tomorrow. No big. OR IT TOTALLY IS.

Who thought this day would never come? PUT YOUR HANDS DOWN. Okay, okay…me too!

So in honor of this fabulous day:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That’s right. There is already an awesome giveaway for this over at http://www.onceuponatwilight.com. Why not do BOTH!? If you don’t win there you MIGHT win here and I am all about many, many options for free books.

By the way, I need to take a lovey-dovey moment to say a HUGE thank you to the many bloggers who have reviewed Stolen Nights and have participated in the blog tour. I can’t imagine how I would get the word out about my books without the book blogging community. So, thanks. I hope we won’t have to wait too long for Book Three.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now go to Barnes and Noble and tell everyone about Stolen Nights!

Placeholders! How many do you have?

Hey everyone!

12 days until Stolen Nights is released! Hooray!!!

Now, onward! To the blog post, friends!

So, you might be wondering what I was blogging about on Miss Literati this week.Here’s a link in case you missed it or in case you weren’t thinking about it:

http://www.missliterati.com/blog/give-your-characters-a-reason-to-smile#.UPcefeim4sr

This blog post is a continuation of that discussion on gesture. Specifically, for Miss Literati, I blogged about the importance of smiles and the need for specificity when a character smiles.

I am finishing up revisions before I hand in the last and final book of the Vampire Queen series to my editor (*cries*). She hasn’t seen it yet so I am painstakingly trying to make it awesome before it goes onto her desk.

One of the ways that I drive myself bonkers before I pass in a draft to my editor is do “word searches” within my work in progress. Most of the time while doing this, I post on my personal Facebook page embarrassing facts like: I used the word “looked” 151 times in this draft of my manuscript. This is 100% true, I really did use “looked” 151 times in this draft of the third book. I am working on fixing these now.

When I draft I can’t worry all the time about the overuse of words, etc. I have to get through the scene. That’s what matters. I write through the scenes and then go back and look for places where not only the prose is lacking but the emotional impact of the scene is missing or convoluted. How do I find those places? Placeholders! More on what these are in a minute.

Here’s how I draft in order of what I think is most important:

1. Get your characters through the scene, get them where they need to go. Finish that damn scene, you!

2. Make sure the emotional reaction of your main character and her desire is clear in the moment.

3. Go back and make the writing as best as it can be.

We all wish we wrote perfect, lyrical prose every time we sat down and wrote a first draft. Hey, sometimes it happens. Not often, but sometimes. So, I have a list of words when I am revising that show me where the “placeholders” are in my manuscript. As I defined on Miss Literati, placeholders are moments within your manuscript that lack real emotional depth. They “hold the place” of the emotional moment so that we, the awesome writers, can revise later and deepen.

So let’s go back to the 150 instances of “looked” that I had in my current WIP. If a character is “looking at something” you spend half of the sentence imagining the main character looking at the object versus seeing what she is looking at directly. You step out of her body and in essence, out of the scene. I don’t think “looked” is bad all the time or even ineffective, sometimes you need it. When you have the opportunity you should show the reader exactly what it is the character is looking at instead of telling us that she is looking at something first.

Ah, the old adage. Show, my friend. Don’t tell.

Here’s an example of something I just changed that I found in my manuscript by doing the word search, “I looked.”

Oooh a sneak peek into Book Three!!

TELLING VERSION:

My hands trembled so I balled them into fists. I looked to the rows behind me, expecting something or someone to materialize.

SHOWING VERSION:

My hands trembled so I balled them into fists. Row by row, I expected something or someone to materialize between the gaps in the trees. A hand could curl around the bark followed by a body, and that person, whoever he was might want to hurt me. Or worse, kill me.

I got all of that from the expression “I looked.” It’s a big placeholder for me. I wonder if it might be for you too? I had to ask myself here, what is Lenah seeing? What is she feeling? How can I show this without telling? Maybe I’ll go back and revise this part some more but for now, this is a big step up, at least in my opinion.

So what are some words you can look for that might be clues to placeholders? Here’s my personal list. Really. It’s a list I have on a piece of owl paper that I keep next to my desk.

See?

In case you can’t see the words clearly, here is the list in NO particular order:

1. “I saw”

2. Gasp.

3. Looked – (I cry. 150 times!!!! Revise, revise, revise)

4. I felt – I would argue that you should never have this expression in your manuscript if you can help it. Seriously. It’s VERY VERY BAD for distancing your reader from your scene.

5. Start to

6. Turned

7. Adrenaline

8. Walked – In a draft of Stolen Nights, the copyeditor told me I had used the word “wallked” 200 times. 200!!!! See how important revision is!?

9. tiny

10. For a moment

11. Replied

12. Sashay (no idea why or how this is an overused word for me)

13. Beautiful – another word, which I believe needs tons of context. Calling something “beautiful” adds nothing specific to a scene. Beauty needs context much like smiles need context. What makes something beautiful is different to everyone.

14. Eyes met – (oy vey!)

15. Then

16. Smiles, hearts fluttering, pounding, etc.

17. Just

Hope this has been helpful to you. Oh, yea, and Infinite Days is 2.99 as an e-book right now. Sooooooo…yea. Buy it!

http://www.amazon.com/Infinite-Days-Vampire-Queen-ebook/dp/B004N635VI/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

Updates and Forever My Girl!

A few exciting things are happening! It’s January and you know what that means, don’t you? DON’T YOU? The horrendously long wait for Stolen Nights is over. Yes, I tell you. OVER! On January 29th Stolen Nights shall be available at bookstores near YOU. So far the response has been great but mostly I ignore all reviews as I am finishing last revisions on the final book in the trilogy. That and reviews tend to make me itchy.

But onto more awesome news. The wonderful Heidi Bennett, my friend and author has written a novel! And as you know, I have posted my query letter that ultimately led to a book deal on my blog before. I am a supporter of people getting their work out there no matter the cost so I asked Heidi to share her story. She wrote the fabulous (I read it in one night) Forever My Girl and e-published it herself. I went the more traditional route but sometimes, especially for readers who feel like that is Mt Everest and they want some other ideas, Heidi’s story is the reason for this blog. I hope you read her book. I hope her story inspires you to write your stories. Whether your publish the traditional route with queries or you e-pub yourself, your work is your art. That’s what you should be proud of every day you sit down at your desk, chair, stool, etc, etc.

Take it away, Heidi:

For as long as I remember, I’ve wanted to be an author. I always thought what a better way to spend a day than getting lost in your imagination. When I started writing my first manuscript, I had high hopes. Big dreams of what was to come. I went the “traditional” route. I queried and wait only to be rejected. Sadly, those didn’t pan out, but I didn’t want to give up.

What I did was surround myself with an outstanding team of beta readers and indie authors. I asked question after question and watched what other authors were doing. I lurked, stalked and took notes of how authors were promoting themselves. I learned so much in the matter of three months.

I approached author, Jillian Dodd, early in the conception of Forever My Girl, to get her take on publishing. I’ve worked with her on a few blog tours and became one of her pre-readers so I felt confident in asking her.

What I received in return has been so much more. Jillian has become a mentor and has guided, supported and helped me through this process, even putting her novel aside to help format mine.

The daily check-ins and reminders of what I’m supposed to be doing, what I should be signed up for and to just relax have literally been heaven sent.

Since Forever My Girl went live, I’ve been asked a lot of questions, which I gladly answer, but the one that keeps coming up is this if self-publishing for everyone? No, it’s not. It’s not easy as some would say. It’s a process. I recently told a marketing executive at one of the Big 6’s how much I envy the departments that surround her job. I had to do everything that ten or so other people would do for one author. I had to proof, email, copy, market, network, create – you name it, I did it, all while working a full-time job and raising two very busy daughters.

But at the end of the day when I loaded my final document into Amazon and Barnes & Noble and when I pressed publish on my paperback and saw that first sale, I realized it’s all been worth it.

A lot of people frowned when I said I was self-publishing. They reminded me that I won’t have a company to do all the work so I can write more, help me out in a bind, be there as a sounding board or have them to do all my marketing or create contests.

And they’re right, but what I do have is control. I own my work. I can promote myself any way I choose. I set my own deadlines. I have final say in my cover. And most importantly I have the team I created ready and willing to help me with my next novel.

Forever My Girl is available on Amazon Kindle and paperback, Nook and Kobo

Amazon links

US – http://www.amazon.com/Forever-My-Girl-Beaumont-ebook/dp/B00ATNJW3Y/ref=la_B00AV872O8_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356968164&sr=1-1

UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Forever-Girl-Beaumont-Series-ebook/dp/B00ATNJW3Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1356970235&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forever-my-girl-heidi-mclaughlin/1114035505?ean=2940016146850

Kobo – http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Forever-My-Girl/book-Srdv_kJSuUK5j_QVJMA8kA/page1.html?s=iJSdomXLg0WIIO8liYaYAg&r=1

Find Heidi online:

blog: http://heidimclaughlinauthor.blogspot.com/
goodreads:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6568302.Heidi_McLaughlin
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeidiJoVT
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/HeidiMcLaughlinAuthor