Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Year in Review: Publishing Highs and Lows, and How Much I owe to the Booby Jar

2010 in Review and by the numbers

Number of separate hits on my blog: 23,928

From: 120 Countries

Most hits: USA

Most surprising hits: Yemen (?)
(My goal to target Yemeni readers: check!)

Strangest search entries that actually led to serious time on my blog:

"Brodi Ashton Walmart Marshmallow Peeps"
"Brodi Ashton Booby Jar"
"Jacob's Abs"
"Bodyguards in Pakistan"
"Naked Mondays"
"Saggy Bladder"

Some of these make total sense. I did spend a fair amount of time blogging about Jacob's abs. (Specifically the left one, third from the top. It was beautiful.)

And I did blog once about a saggy bladder. And Naked Mondays. And I blogged extensively about my bodyguard in Pakistan.

Okay, sadly each of these makes sense. 

Number of times I posted on a Tuesday: 1 (Today!)

Publishing highs:
Signing with my new agent. (Hi Michael!)
(Michael "You Could Sell his Smile on the Internet for Money" Bourret and me)

Selling my book. (Hi Kristin!)

Number of Book Launches I attended: a plethora

Authors at those book launches:
Bree Despain (The Lost Saint- party tonight!)
Ally Condie (Matched)
James Dashner (The Scorch Trials)
Matt Kirby (The Clockwork Three)
Kiersten White (Paranormalcy)
Sarah Williams (Palace Beautiful)
Kami Garcia and Margie Stohl (Beautiful Darkness)

Number of quarters I owe to the booby jar (as a penalty for using the word "booby"): 486

Number of posts about my secret lover Rafa: 10
He's not impressed.

Number of conferences I attended:3
(Emily, Bree, Brodi and Sydney Salter at the SCBWI conference in L.A.)

Number of times I danced the Love Shack with M.T. Anderson: once (I'm sure he'll be blogging about it too, in his own "year in review")

Number of rejections I received throughout the year: 486 (at least, it felt like that)

Number of times I thought getting published was just a pipe dream: loads

Number of times I wondered what, exactly, is a pipe dream: once (like right now. What does that mean? anyone? Does it mean my dream was stuck in a pipe, right next to a hairball?)

Number of days my book was on submission to editors before we got an offer: 2 

Number of times I was pretending to take notes in church, when really I was writing my book: 52.  (There are 52 Sundays in a year, right?)

Number of Thursdays spent writing at Borders with Bree Despain and Emily Wing Smith: 40

Number of times in any given day Sam and I just look at each other and say, "I can't believe the book is going to be an actual book.": at least 3

Number of times in any given day I declare my undying love for my agent: at least 3

Number of times Sam rolls his eyes at me: countless

Number of times I'm grateful for blog readers who've stuck with me for another year: let me count the ways.

I'm taking the rest of the week off. See you next year!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Poem... a.k.a. Rhyming is, like, really really hard

Twas the day before Christmas,
and all through the night,
Sam asked me what I wanted
to make my holidays bright

I wandered aimlessly,
all around the house
I wasn't watching where I was going
and I stepped on a mouse

I looked at the dead mouse carcass
with a happy, content face,
As I started counting my blessings.
To ask for anything else would seem out of place.

I have:

An agent who negotiates
like the lost son of Hoffa
Then turns around and cheers with me
For Andy Roddick and my main squeeze Rafa

An editor who helps me
dot the i's and cross the t's
And when I'm going in circles, 
she talks me down from the trees

A husband who works a job
then at home pulls double duty
when it comes to our kids
who like to run down the street nudie

Two sons who constantly
keep me in stitches
and still need their mommy
when they fall down on their britches

A dad who's still with me,
Despite the knock at death's door
Cuz when cancer came calling,
He karate-chopped it in the groin

Sorry the above
didn't hold a rhyme
Cancer doesn't deserve it
Because cancer is stupid

A family who supports me,
always showing that they care,
Even offering gentile reminders,
Like: Isn't it time I actually do my hair?

Good friends who understand
the madness of a writer, 
and through their love and wisdom,
make any burden seem lighter

A critique group who's not afraid
to point out my manuscript's weak spot,
then work with me for hours,
in fleshing out my bleak plot

Blog readers who happily check in
Three times every week
and forgive me when I expose
My inner Battlestar Galactica geek

Here's to a new year filled with revisions,
and hopefully the design of a book cover,
and maybe if Sam's lucky,
I'll even take on a lover.

So, on this Christmas Eve
I hope you hear my call
Merry Christmas to you,
Peace on Earth one and all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Thoughts after Pressing Send on my Revisions

A list inspired by finally turning in my revisions:

1. Sometimes I can't get my characters to shut up! It's wonderful!

2. Sometimes my characters give me the silent treatment, even though they know I'm facing a deadline.

3. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is break my manuscript up into chapters.

4. Sometimes the only thing harder is numbering those chapters in the correct sequential order.

5. Sometimes my characters do things they know are out of character.

6. Sometimes, because of #5, I talk myself in circles.

7. Sometimes, after the twentieth reading, my book bores me.

8. Sometimes, after a break, there will be one little chapter that I think won't put people to sleep.

9. Sometimes, even after I turn in the revision, I spend the next few hours kicking myself.

10. Sometimes, because of #9, even the most patient husband gets a little... peeved.

11. Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself to believe my book is actually going to be a book.

12. Sometimes, I want to pinch the people around me. For no reason.

13. Always, I'm grateful for blog readers who put up with my lists!

So, what's on your list today?

Monday, December 20, 2010

How this round of Revisions is like Slaying Newborn Bunnies... and not in the good way

You ever have one of those so-desperate-you-scrape-the-bottom-of-the-deoderant-stick-and-apply-the-crumbs-with-your-fingers-cuz-you-know-you'll-never-make-it-to-the-store-and-now-your-fingers-are-sweat-resistant-all-over-your-keyboard?

Yeah, I'm having one of those days too. 

First off, my revisions are due in two days (48 hours) and I hit a snag this morning. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll use an example that will illustrate what I did.

(Btw, if your name is Kristin, and you're my editor, and you're reading my blog, disregard the above statement. Everything is fine. I'm embellishing the facts for the entertainment purposes of the blog. Nothing to see here. Don't you have something else to do? Hey! What's that over there?! Behind you!)

Okay, so imagine if my editor sent me a revision note saying:

"Hey! I think you should have some more scenes where your character drives a car!"

And so, I add a bunch of scenes toward the beginning of the book where my character drives a car. My editor was right. Brilliant suggestion.

But, then I'm reading through what I think will be the final version, and I reach the halfway point, to chapter 23, in which my character learns how to drive a car for the first time. And she's marvelling in the fact that she's never been able to drive a car before.

And I thought about all those scenes in chapters 6, 8, 12, 15, 22, where I had her driving a car, as if it was a totally normal thing to do. But apparently, she didn't have the ability to drive said car until chapter 23. 

Ack!! How stupid am I? (Don't answer that!) How did I forget that my character couldn't drive a car, and there was this pivotal scene where she finally is able to drive? 

That's like thinking your character is a boy, and then suddenly, halfway through the book, he looks down at his chest and exclaims, "I love this new bra!"

How could I not remember? 

For those writers out there, I know you'll understand it when I say adding a scene is an intricate process. Little details affect other little details, which then fall madly in love with other details, and those details make babies, and suddenly your book is littered with a million newborn bunnies you hadn't planned for.

Now, I have to go back and slay every little single bunny, so to speak. 

Okay, thanks for listening. And talking me down. I can do this. 

(Again, Kristin, the above is total fiction. It happened... to my... friend. It would suck to be her, wouldn't it?)

So, this ever happened to any of you?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do you Speak Pirate? Yes? Now my Book will be Available in Pirate!

Howdy, yo. 

First off, thank you to everyone who tuned in to our authors conference call last night! A special shout out to F.O.B. (Friend of the Blog) Robin, whose MC-ing skills were unmatched (we're still looking for that elusive match). 

Another special shoutout to F.O.B. Kristin, who had the guts to raise her hand (metaphorically) and ask a question. It made me so happy!

If you have an hour or more to kill, you can listen to the conference here: (maybe, if I figure out how to work the doohickee, and finagle it up to the tech-a-ma-gadget). 

An update on the international front...

My book has sold in the U.K./Australia and Brazil! Every time I try to imitate a British or Aussie accent, it ends up coming out like a pirate. (Sam's no better. His comes out "German-with-a-lisp")

I'm so excited, especially because the publishers have such enthusiasm for the books, and they bought the entire trilogy. 

Some of you may ask, "What-the-what is an American English to British translation like? Why translate at all?"

Mostly, it just means every time I say the following sentence:

They made out in the trunk of the car

The Brits change it to:

They snogged in the boot.

Surprisingly, my book as 864 incidents where the characters snog in the boot, so it will be a lot of work. 
There are also quite a few words that are relatively harmless in the U.S., but mean something quite cheeky for the Brits. I'd name them here, but I don't want to offend any Brits reading this. 

So, Tally-ho, Sally forth, grab a pint and mind the gap! (Which, loosely translated, means "Come celebrate with me, and try not to fall in a hole!)

What are your favorite British words?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Call me! (I'm talking to you... Yes, you!) Writers, join us for a conference call to learn about Breaking into the Business, and other stuff

Hey y'all.
Would you like to have a conference call with me? One where you don't even have to do the talking?

If yes, read further.

If no, then please don't tell me.*

*because I don't think my fragile ego could take the rejection right now. Then I have to wonder why you're reading my blog if you don't want to have a conference call with me... is it my voice? My frizzy hair? My big butt? Tell me!

Those of you who answered,Yes...

...have I got some news for you! Mark your calendars for December 16th at 9:00 EST. (That's tomorrow, for those of you less calendarically inclined).

Many of you are familiar with my critique group The SIX (we are ranked in order of most to least crazy in the sidebar, although there's been some discussion as to a revote to usurp the current number one. Which is me). 

We've been asked to participate in a conference call for writers, where we will be discussing things like:

How we got our agents
Stories of our roads to publication
Query tips
Getting the most out of our critique groups
Which conferences are worth attending

All you have to do is call in, and you can listen to our group (along with F.O.B. Robin Weeks as moderator) which includes authors: 

whose new book Back When You Were Easier to Love comes out in April with Dutton (Penguin).

whose book The Lost Saint (the sequel to The Dark Divine) comes out December 28th.

And me!
(Okay, so apparently I have a little bit of cover envy)
Also, Kimberly Webb Reid, whose agent is submitting her book to editors...

and Valynne Nagamatsu and Sara Bolton, both of whom are excellent writers, crit partners, and played integral parts in my own (and everybody's) road to publication.

This is your chance to hear just how high and nasally my voice can be! (I always have nightmares that HarperCollins cancels the contract when they hear my voice for the first time). 

The instructions on how to participate can be found on author David Farland's Author Advisory site.  (Really, it involves dialing a number. You can even raise your hand and ask a question by pressing 5*).

I'm very excited because this is the first time anyone's asked me to do anything! So please listen in, and ask a question, because I don't want to look like a total dork sitting on the phone, talking about the super-weird piece of bellybutton lint I recently found. Which is what I will talk about if there are no questions.

Because, if a conference call takes place in a forest, will the tree even fall down?

Something to think about today.

So, who will be there? And if you're not going to be there, what's everyone up to this week? What can I buy an 8-year-old boy for Christmas? 

I'm just going to post the instructions here, because they're so easy. Call tomorrow night at 9 pm EST.

1: At the appointed time, dial
(long distance charges may apply, depending on your phone plan)

2: Enter the Conference Code: 245657

3: To raise your hand and ask a question, dial 5*

4: To Mute yourself, dial 4*

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Monday Top Five: Including an Agent with Superpowers, and the answer to Which Jane Austen Character am I?

Hey y'all. Here are the top five things going on in my noggin:

1. From Old/old/new to old/new/new to new/new/new.

So, I think it was pretty obvious that although people liked the clean lines of the old/new blog, it left them with a cold, sterile, lemon-juice-in-a-papercut-ish kind of feeling. 

Although that's how I feel about the writing life in general, I would hate for people to think they needed a bandaid after reading my blog.

Blogs should be harmless. Not jagged. It's sort of a general rule.

So, I present to you, the warmer, gentler new/new blog. What do you think?

2. I also worked on a Frequently Asked Questions tab. Let me know what questions I'm missing! I'd like to get a big-ole long list about anything to do with me, publishing, queries, agents, shoe sizes etc.

3. I took the "Which Jane Austen Character are You?" quiz over at fellow Apocalypsie Gretchen McNeil's blog. 

I came up with Elinor Dashwood. 

Strangely, she's the only Jane Austen character I never really identified with. I know everyone wants to be Elizabeth Bennett, but I really wanted to be Anne Elliot. 

She is my favorite Austen heroine- serene and dependable. Which, I guess, answers the question of why I didn't score her.

4. Did you notice how I used a strange word "Apocalypsie" in that last one? The apocalypsies are a group of children's authors who are debuting in the year 2012. Get it? 

I think our slogan is "Read 'em like there's no tomorrow". The problem is, when I used to dream of being published, I was sure the world would end before my book came out. 

Now this all sounds a little too ominous. When people ask me, "When's your book coming out?" I have a habit of answering, "Winter 2012. If... we make it that far. [crossing fingers] Here's hoping!"

5. Speaking of ominous, my deadline is 9 short days away, and I'll admit I'm a little stressed. I try not to show it, but the other day I responded to an email my agent sent me with this:

"Okay. Great."

One minute later, my phone rang. It was my agent. He told me my email arrived in his inbox practically bleeding stress. It made a mess of his computer, and shorted out a few wires. They had to call hazmat crews over to deal with the toxic disaster.

To him, my email looked like this:

S.O.S. If I don't get this stupid scene written, I'm going to commit suicide by friction, because I think that would be the absolute worst way to go, even worse than freezing to death, or being burned alive. Send help. Send chocolate.

Thank the heavens for an agent who can read between the lines, and talk me down from the edge.

So, what's everyone up to? Who is your favorite Jane Austen heroine? Can you think of anything worse than death by friction?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Latest Conclusions about Revising, and Proof that the Revisions have gone to my Brain

Howdy y'all.

I'm neck-deep in working through my revision letter, or as I like to call it, my H-E-L-L. (Help Edit and Learn Letter).

The major conclusions I've reached from this round of revisions are as follows:

1. My high school boyfriend was right. I am a cold, frigid beeyatch who doesn't know how to express her (or her character's) feelings.

2. No matter how many "flinch"s you think you've deleted, your editor is sure to find 84 more.

3. I've tried, but there really is no appropriate time to insert a scene about loss of sphincter control. Looks like I'll have to wait for the next book.

So, before I dive back in, here is this week's Thing #1 and Thing #1

Thing #1
The other morning, as I'm still sleeping, Kid C comes rushing into my room.

Kid C: "Brodi, if you need me, I'll be brushing my teeth."

me (thinking I'm asleep, why would i need him?): "Okay great."

A few minutes later, he says, "If you need me, I'll be washing my hands."

me: "Fine."

A few minutes later: "If you need me, I'll be doing my hair."

Then I hear strange noises coming from the bathroom. I walk in and find he's plastered his hair with my conditioner that smells like apples. His entire head is covered in goo. And his carpool will be here any minute.

me: "What are you doing?!?!"

him: "Trying to make a mohawk. I have to look my best today."

So, I shoved his head under the sink, rinsed the gunk out, plastered his hair with hairspray and applied the blow dryer, and voila:
Kid C. Ready to impress his girl. Her name's Laurelyn, but he likes to call her "Love-a-lyn". 

Somebody help me.

Thing #1
I can tell revisions are getting to me, because Sam and I went to see a movie the other day, and as we walked out, we were checking the movie posters for upcoming shows we wanted to see.

I was all, "Ooooh. That one looks good." (pointing at one of the framed posters)

Sam: "Which one?"

me: "That one. With the zombie people. And the infection. That's so our type of show."

Sam gives me a really confused look. 

me: "Because we like zombie shows. And virus shows. And I think it's called Epidemic, but the title's hard to read... And... why are you looking at me like that?"

He points to the poster I was describing, and I take a closer look.
Whoops. Yeah, he didn't stop laughing for a long time. And then he took this picture, so I had to hurry and blog about it before he did a more embarrassing post on his own blog.

I know, I know. How could it be more embarrassing? 

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has moments like these.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Update on The War on Christmas... The Insurgents Strike Back

Happy December 8th everyone! Or should I say, Happy 8th day into America's War on Christmas!
(It may look peaceful, but trust me, the storm's brewing. 
And, oh yeah, there's a war going on outside, too.)

From what I gather watching the news reports, Christmas controls 60% of the territory, but "Holidays" is making a north-westerly assault on the Christmas stronghold of "Kids will never surrender Santa Claus, so bite me Holidays!" 

That skirmish began when Holidays used a name change from "The Christmas Parade" to "The Holiday Parade" as a diversion tactic so it could attack from behind using the "Don't you know the Christmas traditions of mistletoe and holly and yule logs have their origins in paganism? You're pagans! Zing!" strategy.

They momentarily considered a cease-fire for the month of December, but then they realized that would eat up all of their prime fighting time. Looks like no one's going home to their families this season.

The battle culminated when Holidays came up with a catchy little ditty: "Go Christmas, Go Hanukkah, Go Kwanzaa, Go solstice... go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go whatever holiday you Wannakuh"

To which Christmas replied "I'll go all Wannakuh on your butt!"

I do not make light of this war. My Uncle was wounded by a stray pinecone. He hasn't been the same since. He wanders around the house, muttering, "I wanna Wannakuh, I wanna Wannakuh."

The collateral damage of war.

So, how is all y'all's holiday/Christmas/Hannakuh/Kwanzaa/Solstice season going? Anyone have stories from the front?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Questions from the Question-Maker. Topic, Revisions

Remember a little over a month ago, when I decided to make Mondays official Question-Maker posts? And I was so proud of myself for making a weekly blog feature? And then I did it once, and promptly forgot?

Today is Redemption Day. 

Questions from the Question-Maker

QM: It's good to be back, finally. Of all the authors in all the bars in all the world, why'd I have to end up with this one?

me: Moving on.

QM: Okay, let's have a looksie. Hmmmm. Here we go. Topic is, revision letters. Do you really have your husband read the letter first?

me: Yes. Trust me, it softens the blow. Like jumping off a building and hitting a few branches on the way down to the ground... anything to lessen the impact with the cement. 

QM: Does your editor know you just likened her revision letters to having your bones shattered by diving head first into a slab of cement going at terminal velocity?

me: You're twisting my words.

QM: Hmmm... Do you ever think that your editor's revision letters mean she doesn't love your book?

me: It might be tempting to think that, but my editor sends me these letters because she loves the book. 

QM: Is that what you tell yourself?
me: Yes.

QM: What's the hardest part about this next round of revisions?

me: My editor wants me to up the romance factor, but I'm not very good at showing my character's true feelings. It all goes back to high school, where they guy I crushed on for three years never knew I existed, because the way I showed my feelings was to follow these two rules.

1. Never talk to him.
2. Never be in the same room as him.

You can probably see it wouldn't work in a novel, for the main love interests to never actually interact. Any advice for me?

QM: I've upped my romance factor, so up yours.

me: Hilarious. 

QM: When are your revisions due?
me: December 22nd. 

QM: So, we can expect the quality of your blog posts to... um... hit the crapper.

me: Hey! Watch the language.

QM: Moving on to the other question you've been getting, Brrrrrr... What's that chill in here? Oh yeah. It's your blog. Could it be any more sterile and cold?

me: Yes, it could.

QM: I mean, at the top, you have a big block of - what is that, ice? 

me: No, it's broken glass.

QM: And then the rest of it... tsk tsk. Did you find your decorating ideas in the Hospital Equipment Catalog? Better Homes and O-R's?

me: Look, I'm not a blog designer. My last blog design was making me feel claustrophobic, and slightly allergic, considering all the flowers. I had to get out because it was making me itch. Any advice?

QM: I've upped my meds, so...

me: Bite me.

So, blog readers, do you have any questions for me? I'm going to make a FAQ section of the blog, and contributions would be appreciated! Or, you can just tell me about any holiday shopping deals you've seen. Or, what you did over the weekend. Or anything. Open mic.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Second Revision Letter, Shorter than the First... And my Blog has a new Dress

Hey y'all.

So, I got my second revision letter. As you may recall, I turned in my revisions the Friday before Thanksgiving. That's less than a two-week turnaround, during a major holiday.


The good thing is, my editor is really fast!


The bad thing is, my editor is really fast .

Break's over.

And apparently she's a speed-typer, because you'd think with such a quick turnaround, the revision letter would be only a couple sentences long.


The letter itself is brilliant. I haven't actually read it yet. (I usually need about 24 hours to work up the nerves to read these letters. The process involves dressing in my gray sweats and running up the steps to the state capitol, at the top of which I throw a couple of fist pumps, and then sacrifice a goat). But Sam read it, and he gave me a rundown of the major points, which were all insightful and necessary. Dangit.  

I love having an editor who gets the book and is so enthusiastic about it, in spite of the fact that she's Captain McSpeedy Typerpants.  

For those of you who thought, "Her book's not coming out until winter 2012? That's like forever away!", it turns out we are on an accelerated schedule, just to make all of our deadlines. 
And really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Because I hate the wait. I go a little nuts when I wait. Just look at what I did to my blog! 

*Ahem*... do you like it? My blog, I mean? 

I still have to flesh out the clicker tabs (I totally speak tech) and gussy up the top, but I'm happy to be rid of the flowers. Because, as Bree Despain pointed out to me yesterday, "Yeah, the flowers totally aren't you." I'm not sure how to take that.

Now, anyone know where I can purchase a goat?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Last thing I'm Thankful For... And Compiling a Holiday Book List

Hey y'all. Happy December.

Kid C had an assignment to write one thing he's thankful for, inside a drawing of a candy corn.  Here's what he turned in:
I'm kind of proud of him, because I've always told him to "Think outside the candy corn."

My favorites:
the unavers and space (the universe and space)
a home and corn and tirky and a god and chikin and food
and pincek (pancake)

And for the big finish in the lower right had corner....
the world and pets and peple and Ham

In that order. 

The thing I learned from this (besides someone needs to work on his spelling) is that even if a kid can't speak at age five, you may reach a point at age seven where you can't shut him up. For that, I'm grateful.

As the holiday season begins, may we all think outside the candy corn.

Before I go, (I'm at my computer, I'm not really going anywhere) let's think of good books for people to buy as presents this month.

I'll go first:
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. 

I just read this yesterday, for the first time, in two sittings. Loved it.

Now, your turn. (Or you can leave a comment and just say hi.)