Thursday, March 27, 2014

Heather's Got Her Mother Effing ZING Back

Babes, I've got the ZING back.
ZING, I tell you. Mother EFFING ZING.

Ahem. Let me tell you where the zing went. The zing went down the rabbit hole of crazy ass migraine associated vertigo-ville of foggy fogs-land where I lived for a couple years until, like Alice, I took some magic effing pills (in my case, migraine medicine), and suddenly, like mother EFFING MAGIC---

------MAGIC, I'm telling you my babies, MAGIC, I feel like my old self again.

See the thing I hadn't realized down in rabbit hole fogsville was that in addition to the crazy ass vertigo and then oh yeah the crazy ass migraines that were a new addition this year was that there was some side effects of cognitive funk going on that was fogging up me old brain space so that I was this foggy narrow ass shell of the cool punk chick I used to be.

I mean, sure, I was still occasionally hella cool, but the ZING, the sparky creative kick, the up all night dreamin' of wicked, wicked things I wanted to do to my characters, all the happy sparkly dreaming in the shower and THINKING about stuff and nothing in particular, the letting my mind day-dream and niggle over thoughts and catty-wompus over this and that and all the things in between and back and forth to my characters and their situations and then back again to the wicked, heart-breaking things I wanted to put them through---that had been gone. And it's back. Oh my God, it's back. I didn't even realize it was gone and now it's back! And it's not just the writing, kids. It's life I feel the ZING for again. Oh God, it's like a rush of fresh air breathing back into my lungs again. It's like I'm back in my own skin again.

Um, moral of this story? Praise the heavens for a good neurologist.

And look forward, my babies, because I've got one freaking good mother effin' book in the burners for ya'll!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Love Affair

I'm sorry YA lit, I've been cheating on you. It's been going on for awhile now. Almost six months. You know I love you, but then I spent a few nights with this book:

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
And it blew my socks off. I can think of few other books that have rocked me as much as this did--a book that's so unique you are immediately inspired to think and write in a new way, to tell new kinds of stories. It's historical fiction, but it's based around a heart-rending romance, without descending quite into the 'historical romance' genre of bodice ripping and so forth. It was a romance that felt real instead of idealized and the author let bad things happen to the characters and the ending feels fought for (it's a trilogy, so it takes awhile to get there, but it's there all the same!).

Which then led me to dally with another series I heard was awesome in similar ways and I'm shocked that I never read until now:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
More giantly epic romance, and horrible things happening to the characters, and intense struggles and love that both surprises and redeems. I'm so stoked to hear this is being made into a TV series, because, YES. Seeing Jaime Fraser for hours and hours on the small screen spells out a whole lot of YAY. Cannot wait. So then after I read a few of these books I was in the mood to just devour absolutely every amazing book like this I could find.
Which led me to the fabulous Jennifer Donnelly and the trilogy below. I'd read her YA books, but I really enjoyed these.


And then I couldn't find any more perfect books like these melding historical struggle, love stories (the kind that may involve tragedy but don't leave you there), and realism. I'm still looking. Please, if you know any, send them my way because I WANT MORE. Which of course leads to the next logical decision, well, if you're a writer anyway--to write my own epic historical saga. I'm about halfway through an ugly first draft right now

People ask me where inspiration for stories comes from, and here it is--the question that starts my process:

What am I currently absolutely obsessed with?

Sometimes it's been the storytelling of Doctor Who. Or Jane Eyre. Usually it's books or TV shows that I can't stop thinking about, that get me obsessive, that make me feel intensely. And then I take that buzzing bug of inspiration as a catalyst and start plot, plot, plotting away. Halfway through the draft, I'm still obsessed with the story, which is always a good sign. It takes over like a fever. I'm thinking about the story almost non-stop all throughout the day and it keeps me up a night. Sometimes I think the key to writing (at least the kind of writing you love) is obsession.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Year of Obsessive Reading

My son was reading some Guinness book world records to me from a book he got at the library (complete with showing disgusting pictures of the guy who can pull his eyelids out the furthest and the woman who has grown her nails so long they curl over and over).

And I think: I totally get weird personal obsessions like that. Other people look at you and go, dude, that’s weird to be so committed to something so random, and wow-ee, look at you getting recognition for your weird random sh**. But to the person with the weird random sh**, it feels very significant. For me this year, it’s been books. Okay, books and obsessive amounts of writing.

I’ve read over 200 books this year so far since January. This month, September, I’ve read a book every single day of the month. I realized I was doing it by about September 15th, and the I was like, well hell, why don’t I keep it up and read a book every day for the whole month. I chart it all on an excel spreadsheet. I get excited when I pass big barriers like 100, 150, 200. Nobody in the world could care less about my weird obsessive reading compulsion, but it brings me an inordinate amount of glee, on top of the usual book loving glee I get by reading the actual book ;)

It takes me about 4-5 hours to read a 300-400 page book. I've read NA, Christian Fiction, Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, research books about Romania, lol, basically everything except YA. And I’ve written about a thousand pages this year (on 7 different projects). Both of these weird obsessions this year are highly unusual (most years I read about 60-80 bks and write only one 300 pager). Basically, lately all I do is write, read books, and binge on Project Runway. Oh and eat dinner with my family. That’s it. I hear other people talk about, you know, the things they do in their lives, and I'm, I read this really good book and am learning how to better control narrative distance better in my own writing...

This probably all makes more sense if I put it in context—I’ve been basically couch-bound all year because of my chronic illness. Nobody does sedentary busy-body like me. I should hold the Guinness world record for best couch-bound overachiever ;) Mainly I just feel like this year has been weird, really, really weird. I've actually been really happy throughout it, but yeah. Weird! I doubt I'll ever read this many books in a year ever again, but since I'm in it, like the lady with the crazy unwieldly nails, I'm committed. Lets see how many books I can break before December 31st!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

LETTERS TO NOWHERE by Julie Cross - Review & Excerpt!

Author: Julie Cross
Title: Letters To Nowhere
Pages: 360
Publication Date: August 1st 2013
Publisher: Julie Cross
Genre: Mature Young Adult Contemporary
Her family may be shattered, but her dreams aren't...
From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest series
A Mature YA contemporary set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics. Grief, love and pursuing dreams are at the forefront of this emotionally powerful coming-of-age story.
Seventeen year old Karen Campbell has just lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Grief stricken and alone, her gymnastics coach opens his home to Karen, providing her a place to live while she continues to train, working toward a spot on the world championship team.
Coach Bentley’s only child, seventeen year old Jordan is good-looking and charming enough to scare away a girl like Karen—someone who has spent ten times more hours on balance beams and uneven bars than talking or even thinking about boys. But the two teens share a special connection almost immediately. It turns out Jordan has a tragic past of his own, grief buried for years.
As Karen’s gymnastics career soars, her nightmares and visions of the horrible accident grow in strength. She can only avoid facing her grief for so long before it begins to surface and ultimately spin out of control in a very dangerous way. Can discovering love and lust (simultaneously) help with the grieving process or will it only provide a temporary distraction while waiting for reality to hit full force.
Karen’s world has just collapsed with her parents’ sudden death in a car crash. Left reeling and attempting to pick up the pieces, Karen moves into her gymnastic coach’s house since, other than an absentee grandmother, he’s the closest thing to family Karen has left. Everything Karen though was important—training with complete discipline, competing as an elite gymnast, getting into the college she wants—suddenly all pales into comparison of the realities a fickle world where some people live and other people die.
And then Karen meets Jordan, Coach Bennet’s son. Jordan is the complete opposite of Karen—formerly an elite gymnast himself, he’s left the sport. He’s rebellious, gets into trouble, and shockingly, he understands Karen at this vulnerable point in her life in a way that no one else does.
Living under the same roof creates some hilarious situations as the two get to know each other and spend more and more time in each other’s company. In a world that no longer makes sense, suddenly something doesJordan, and what Karen feels when she’s with him.
The characters are all so perfectly drawn. Jordan feels like such a teenage guy. Karen’s path through the cycles of grief are pitch perfect. The backdrop of the world of gymnastics is absolutely fascinating, and I just loved everything about this book.
Sweepingly romantic, raw, and completely real, Letters to Nowhere is a must read of 2013.

“So,” one of the girls said to me, “you must be a freshman, right? I thought you looked familiar.
I downed about two-thirds of my drink and placed it on a table. That would be just enough alcohol to loosen my tongue, but not enough to tip off Bentley when we got back home.
“How do you know Jordan?” the other girl asked.
“Well . . . we’re . . . uh,” I stammered.
They both nodded, looking impressed. “That’s so great you guys are together,” one girl said, holding her hand to her heart as if Jordan was a close relative or something. “I’ve been telling Jordan forever that he needed to get a girlfriend and quit messing around.”
I coughed loudly, nearly choking on the alcohol still burning my throat from thirty seconds ago.
“Right . . . well, it’s only been two dates. It’s not like we’re living together.”
“Two dates is progress for him,” the girl on my left said, rolling her eyes. “Trust me on that.”
“Thanks, guys,” I heard Jordan say. He moved right behind me, resting his hands lightly on my shoulders. “Why don’t you just tell Karen everything you know about me?”
“Whatever,” they said together.
Jordan steered me in the other direction, where Tony and a couple other guys were standing. “Sorry about that.”
“This is our second date, by the way.”
“So our first date was buying tampons? That kind
of sucks.”



I live in central Illinois with my wonderful husband and three kids currently between the ages of 7 and 12 (the kids not the husband). My writing journey began in May, 2009 with a short story in a notebook.
 Within a year, I had written seven (some good some God-awful) young adult novels. Not being a college graduate and having spent the previous fifteen years teaching gymnastics and working as a YMCA Program Director for Recreational Gymnastics, professional writing wasn't in my plans. Not even close. But ever since the day I started that short story, I haven't been able to stop. It was love at first sight.
 After about a year of writing, I had a three book deal with St. Martin's Press, and a film option with Summit Entertainment. Crazy, right? I know. It wasn't until August of 2011 that I quit working full time in order to be at home with my kids more and of course, write more. My young adult time travel debut novel, Tempest, released on January 17, 2012. The rest of my personal story remains unwritten.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Video Q&A From the Shutdown Release Party!

Want so see what I'm like IRL? Wish you could come to a signing but don't live in Minneapolis? Voila, problem solved: at my most recent signing, I had the hubby tape the Q&A session, for your viewing pleasure extraordinaire!

Monday, July 8, 2013

What Will You Do With This One Wild and Precious Life?

I just finished reading Golden by Jessi Kirby (which is holy crap amazing, everybody stop what you are doing and go get your hands on this book!) and a teacher writes this question on the board as a journal prompt for the seniors in his class from a poem by Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

It's a question that drives the characters in the novels to really reflect on what they want for their lives, and as the reader, you also can't help asking it of yourself. In the book, the teacher holds onto the senior's journals for ten years and then mails it to the people, kind of like a time capsule but better because you get to read the journal with all the straight up thoughts from your teenage self.

I just turned 31. I'm at the age where I'd be on the receiving end of the journal. So, curious, I pulled out my old journals that I've kept since high-school. They were not as revelatory as I’d hoped. Then again, I was a quiet kind of nerdy religious girl. There were no epic romances, or even making out in the back seats of cars. But I did feel things largely. I had epic moments, or at least they felt like it to me at the time, even if it was only because I snuck out of the library when I was supposed to be studying, but only so I could go walk alone in the park by the river. But I always had big plans for myself. I was going to travel all over the world and be a missionary and go sky-diving and climb mountains.

But then, part of the process of growing up is going through bitter disappointments, failure, and disillusionment. Those are kind of the things that actually force you to grow. There's good stuff too. Like finding a life partner and understand commitment and raising up little tiny humans to be full grown humans. But there is also illness and constraints and a need to pay the bills. There have been lean years where I couldn't manage more than getting by--physically, financially, and emotionally. And there have been fat years where my health was better and I would go tubing down the river and out for drinks with friends and got tattoos and drank gallons of coffee while I sat in chic coffeeshops writing books.

So part of me looks at this question about the one wild and precious life and thinks it's sentimental, unrealistic, and written by someone healthy. But the rest of me wants to sing and shout it from the rooftops. Because yes. Even with limitations, all we have is this one wild and precious life. It should be wild--unpredictable, spontaneous, changeable, not letting ourselves get caught in the rut of simply existing in the pattern of wake up, work, eat dinner with family, watch TV or read, then sleep. Where is the wildness? Even if I can't be wild in body by jumping out of planes like I wanted, I can still be wild in mind. Like those years I was in grad school where I could barely sleep at night because of all the ideas I was learning about in class. Like the times when a new story plot or characters take over my brain and all I want to do is write, write, write. And it should be precious, because oh Lord do not let us forget that this is all we have on this earth. This is life. Here, today. Like the rest of the poem says,

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

When we reach the end of our days we will lament giving up any single day to the mundane of simply 'getting by', marking the day off on the calendar with relief because all we want to do is sleep or get to the weekend or to that vacation. In the end, won't we want every precious day back that we wasted by sleep-walking through?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Open Letter To Christian Fiction

Dear Christian Fiction,

I really, really like you. In fact, after neglecting your genre for about a decade, I've been reading you like crazy, discovering all the books and authors I missed in the meantime. Seriously, I've read more than sixty books in your genre this year already. And tons more a decade ago when it was all I read. As someone who's been both inside and outside the Christian camp, let's chat.

First off, some of your books are really, really, like crazy good. Mainly any book by Laura Frantz (oh my gosh I'm obsessed with her books lately, pardon my fangirl) or Deeanne Gist, Tamera Alexander, Lisa Tawn Bergren, Melanie Dickerson, and Julie Klassen. Thoughtful books where the writer's aren't afraid to let bad things happen to their characters. Where there are good and bad people alike, and those lines aren't always determined by whether they are Christians or not. These writers are doing it right.

But here's my problem with you, Christian Fiction. When others writers among you paint the world as made up of THEM, ie, non-Christian heathens who are evil and immoral and driven only by darkness vs. US, the Christians who maybe make mistakes but always choose the right thing in the end, it makes me kind of sick to my stomach. It's not how the world works and oh my goodness I sure hope you know that.

And here's the other big thing that ticks me off: when you have God speaking to the characters all the time. Like literally a voice in their heads, in pretty italic letters on the page. Do you not get how painful it is to pretend that's the way the world, and God, work? Do you know how upset I was as a teenager because God never 'spoke' to me like he did in all the books I read and how I thought that meant I must be doing it wrong? And in such plots, God always steps in at the last moment so nothing bad ever happens to the characters. And I want to pull my hair out because BAD THINGS HAPPEN to people. And painting a world like this, where the Christians are always good and do the right thing and hear God's voice... it's just plain wrong and hurtful and destructive, to all parties. I mean it's not just you, it's Christian subculture too. Either way, I was so shocked and unprepared when real life hit in my early twenties. I was unprepared for life's squalls and storms because it didn't fit this picture I'd been fed of how the Christian life worked. I was shattered.

I get it, Christian Fiction, I do. You have your tropes the same way other genres like Romance or Mystery or even YA do. I don't even mind all the preachy bits because I understand, the point of this genre is you get to talk about God and have your characters talk about God. And I'm generally fine with a little wish-fulfillment fiction. I like happy endings as much as the next girl. I just have a problem when you ascribe it all to God and pretend this is how the real world works.

In the meantime, I'll keep on reading you, and just avoid the authors who trigger my gag reflex. Because I still enjoy you, Christian Fiction. I like that your characters have depth and go through big emotional character arcs, and I like the way you do your love stories in historical settings, and I like that I can read you without worrying about being assaulted by graphic sexy times every other chapter (which I still like on occasion, but not every single book where it seems like that's all the scenes are just wishy-washy character-wise, all driving toward the sexy times scenes!). And yeah. Like YA, I like that your books seem to have more time and attention spent editing them than a lot of mainstream genre books. Sometimes I even like it when you talk about God.

Still, please be on notice Christian Fiction. It's hard enough having faith in God in this world. Please don't muddy the waters with your wish-fulfillment on how you WANT God to act and give us a little more of how he DOES act, which more often than not, is silence, requiring faith.