Friday, July 29, 2011

How Bree and Brodi Saved the Writing Retreat

Last weekend, my critique group went up to Midway for a writing retreat.
The Six. Not at the retreat, but I just really like this picture.
When we got there, we realized the air conditioning wasn't working. If there's one thing I've learned about my writers' group, it's that we can put up with a lot of things... except a broken a/c. 

So, as the pioneers of yore would've done, we called all the local repair shops. But since it was a Saturday AND a holiday weekend, we struck out. Although there was one repairman who said he'd come out for $130 an hour. 

I'm sorry, I don't have $130 an hour. But it did make me rethink my career choice. 

So Bree Despain and I did some investigating. 

Did you know there are two parts to an air conditioner? An inside and an outside? Well, the outside part - the air condenser - was vewy vewy quiet. It was clearly not working.
Not the actual air condenser. I forgot to take pictures.

To make a long story short (too late) we ripped a chunk of the fusebox out and took it to the hardware store, where I asked the hardware guy to replace all the little parts.

When we got back, we drew straws as to who was going to put the new part in, upon risk of electric shock. I drew the short straw.

Thinking of my safety, I was all, "Do we have rubber gloves anywhere?"

And Bree was all, "Oh yes! I could use those in case I have to pull your charred remains away from the fuse box!"

And I was like, "I meant for me!"

There were no rubber gloves, but I did find a dish rag. And Bree was all, "Excellent! All the better to clean up the bits of Brodi that will surely be scattered about."

To make a long story short, I put the new fuse doohickee in the fuser-mah-thingee and... it worked! And I wasn't electrocuted! And Bree stood there with her towel at the ready, looking disappointed.

I was so excited, I shouted at the top of my lungs, "I am the GODDESS of AIR CONDITIONERS!" That might be the first time anyone has ever screamed that sentence.

The rest of the day was spent recounting the heroic story of "The Day we Saved Air Conditioning" to friends and family and basically anyone who would listen. 

We couldn't stop talking about it. It was as if we had actually given birth to the air condenser. We described each labor pain in detail, and every once in a while, one of us would spontaneously shout, "Girl Power!"
I told Sam the story over the phone, and when he didn't show the appropriate level of awe, I handed the phone over to Emily Wing Smith to give her version, and then to Sara Bolton for yet another perspective.

Trust me, the next time I tell Sam about my awesomeness, he will be appropriately amazed.

How about you? Have you ever had a moment of triumph like this? I felt like I could do anything. ANYTHING, I tell you!

Next, I'm going to build a car, using only a gum wrapper and belly button lint.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How You Can See some of my Pioneer Heritage in EVERNEATH... and The Dead Elvises have a Logo

Hey y'all. 

Sorry about the blog silence on Monday, but for those of you out of Utah, Monday was a state holiday where we celebrate the Pioneers...
This pic would be more accurate if it showed people dying. The plight of the pioneers was not a pleasant one.
... and the dude who looked over the Salt Lake Valley and said, in a large booming voice: "This here's the place. Let's put up some tents."
Brigham Young. And his sidekicks.
That guy in the middle is my great great great grandfather. Once a year, the Daughters of Brigham Young get together for lunch, and we divide ourselves up according to which wife we are descended from. 

I always sit with the other descendants of the "Third Wife from the Left"
If you've read EVERNEATH, you may notice a similarity between the Daughters of Brigham Young and another group in the book. There's some behind the scenes trivia for you!

To celebrate Pioneer Day, we set off firecrackers, just like the pioneers would wish us to do. Sometimes we dress as pioneers and walk down State Street.

Sometimes we dress as Bumble Bees.

You can almost hear the whispers of our ancestors saying, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."

So, these are just some interesting tidbits about me and where I come from. 

A couple of things to mention:

1. My first ever podcast is up! 

Robison Wells (VARIANT from HarperCollins) and his cohorts Sarah Eden and Marion Jensen invited me to record two of their weekly podcasts at The Appendix.

In the first one, we discuss perseverance, editing, and other funny stuff. Shenanigans ensue. So, take a listen!

2. EVERNEATHY stuff:

In EVERNEATH, the immortals are part of a band, called THE DEAD ELVISES.  Well, my cousin's hubby drew me this:
I heart it so much, I think I'm in love. In love long time. I keep thinking of all the things I want to do with it! T-shirts? Stickers? Tattoos? Toilet Paper? 

The possibilities are endless. 

What do you think? Isn't it cool? And... which wife are you descended from? 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Guess what I got in the Mail? I'll give you Four Hints

I got something in the mail yesterday. 

It's skinny...

It's got shiny parts...

It's got pretty words...

It's got a high-tech doohickee...
I don't know what this means. Is it a map of the Underworld? Is it a hidden message from the Cybermen?
Can anyone guess what I got in the mail?

It's an actual jacket cover! 

I believe if you stare at the app bar code long enough, you might be transported to the Everneath. Or maybe I don't understand apps. Or bar codes.

So, what's everyone doing this weekend? Are you going out of town? Are you going to stare at the app bar code until you see a hidden image? If you do, tell me what it is!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Power of a Picture Book

It may look like just a book...
OH, DADDY! by Bob Shea

But it's not. It's really magic.

Because this kid...
Kid B. Pulling a "Bieb". 

...loves OH, DADDY! Loves it.

And every night, as Sam is tucking him in, Kid B reads some of the words in the book. 


"Is THIS how you eat carrots?"

"Oh, Daddy! No, THIS is how you eat carrots!"

I hide in the hallway outside his room and listen. Because if you're familiar with Kid B, you know how rare it is to hear him speak.

Often during the day, he is unsure of the right words, and even more unsure of how to put them together. And too soon, he becomes frustrated. Hopeless.

But at night, he is confident in these words. And he speaks them loudly.

It's heaven. 

Do any of your kids respond to a book like this?  

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Timeout from Kid C... A Break We Both Need

Happy Monday, yon Bloggerville.

Kid C has a Basketball camp this week, so I'm planning on getting a lot of work done. If I could just get out of bed.

Here he is on his first day:
Check out that form. He can make the ball hover at three-inches above the ground.
Truthfully, Kid C and I needed a break. We had a rough weekend that consisted of a grand total of 28 time outs, 26 of which were his. (Two were mine.) I got in such a groove that eventually I was putting everyone in time out: Kid B, Sam, the neighbors, the neighbors' dog, the lamppost... It was sad.

At one point, as he was emerging from one of the time outs, Sam and I felt the need to list our grievances against him, just to make sure he was clear on exactly why he was in time out.

After the first few accusations, he looked up at Sam with sad little eyes, and said, "Can we please just skip to the part where I say 'I'm sorry'?"

Both of us cracked up and he was off the hook. It was a needed moment of levity in a weekend of suck.

Do you ever have weekends like this? Where you're just dying for Monday to get here?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Five Things About Me This Week: Including the World's Tallest Weed

Hey y'all.

1. I forgot to post the sneak peek teaser quote on EVERNEATH's facebook page. 

I am sorry. Thursdays are hard for me, because they are the only other day of the week that starts with the same letter as another day of the week, and so sometimes when it's Thursday, I wonder if it's really Tuesday...

Never mind. I just suck. It's up now if you want to check it out. (It's time to meet Nikki's best friend Jules)

2. Kid C said his prayers last night. 

He prayed that, "Grandpa will feel better, Japan will be able to clean itself up, and that the world will have no more wars... because I really hate wars... and that the world will have a great day."

So, Japan, if you're listening, try to clean yourself up a bit. 
Kid C. He's a pirate. With a stick. Doing Yoga.

3. For those of you new to the blog, you may not know I have an intense fear of "Plants that grow fast". 

One day, a vine grew through my wall... through my wall.... and I thought I was gonna die.

Yesterday I walked out to my backyard and discovered weeds that were taller than me. Okay, I'm exaggerating... its smallness. 

It was as tall as Sam. 
I don't know why he's looking forlornly off in the distance.

This says a couple of very disturbing things about me:

1. I am lazy.
2. I let an egregious amount of time pass between visits to my backyard.

So I did something I never do: I weeded. With a shovel. 
First dig of the day, I dug up a sprinkler line. It was a stubborn line too. I had to put the full force of my weight on the shovel before it came loose. I looked left, then right, and then - confident Sam didn't see me - nonchalantly shoved it back in place.

And that, my friends, is why I don't weed.

4. For Mother's Day, Sam bought me an iPad.
For Father's Day, I bought Sam a University of Utah t-shirt. 

Best. Wife. Ever. Am I right? 

High fives! Who's with me? *waits patiently*

*waits some more*

... Self Five!

5. The other day, I personalized an ARC of EVERNEATH for the winner of the contest (Lesli Lytle). 

I wrote in cursive, and apparently it's not like riding a bike, because I messed up quite a few times. And I had to subsequently scribble out a few mistakes.

Even on my Betsy Ross, I still flubbed up on the "o".
So, I will not be trying cursive in the future. And I'd love to have a tag line I can use for the signings. Here are some I'm considering:

1. Enjoy reading! Try not to end up in the Underworld!
-Brodi Ashton

2. Remember, there is no such thing as redemption, and there are no heroes!
-Brodi Ashton

3. Even if you're getting the life-force sucked out of you, try to see the cup as half full! 
-Brodi Ashton

4. Remember, it's never too late! But sometimes it is.
-Brodi Ashton

I don't know. Which one gets your vote? If any of you have read the book, feel free to help a girl out. 

*added: I forgot to mention this great "mini-review" of EVERNEATH

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shouldn't the Art of Shoe-Tying be a Natural Instinct?

I know we shouldn't have bought him all those velcro shoes. 

I know I shouldn't have given up on trying to teach him the "rabbit in the tree" technique.

But seriously, he's eight years old. And this is the best he can do?

Kid C demonstrates the Gordian knot, which is often used to tie aircraft carriers to the dock.
My pediatrician used to tell me - in reference to a pacifier addiction - "Don't worry about it! He'll lose it. How many first graders have you seen with a binkie?"

Does the same hold true with tying his shoes? 

Will my kid be the only sixteen-year-old on the basketball court with a 3-D representation of String Theory on his foot?

Will the ref have to pause the game so Kid C's mom can rush down the stand to tie his shoes? 

When is someone going to get on the ball and teach my kid how to tie his shoes? 

I'm sorry... Did you just say I'm supposed to teach him?

I did not sign up for this. The thing is, I know how to tie my own shoes, but I don't know how to explain the technique except to say, "I know it when I see it."

That whole rabbit and the tree thing? I've never understood it. Bunny ears? I've never had the dexterity. 

But something must be done. And it will be. When Sam gets home.

Isn't there a shoe-tying day-camp we can send him to? Why can't shoe-tying be learned from osmosis? Or just be a natural instinct? 

Like they show on the nature channel. 

"The baby seal is only a few hours old, and yet he slides over the ice like his elder siblings. Sensing he is not alone in this world, he instinctively knows to stay near his protective mother. By tomorrow, he will be hunting alongside her. And by Thursday, he will tie his shoe."

Is my kid alone on this?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Awesomeness that is the First Draft: The Top Three Crappy Things I do in First Drafts

EVERNEATH got an awesome review over at the fiction fairy.

But don't worry. I haven't let it go to my head. Because right after I read that review, I went through a first draft of my sequel, and that was enough to squash my ego, and make me think, "Ohmyheck, I'm too stupid to live."

One of the worst things about writing/reading through a first draft is the gigantic amount of "telling, not showing" instead of "showing, not telling". 

Bree Despain and I were at our weekly writing session, and we were talking about the biggest culprits in our first drafts.

1.  My personal favorite is the "Able to tell in a person's face what he or she is thinking".

Now, sometimes it's okay to say "I could tell from his expression that he had no idea what I was talking about."
But other times, the offense is egregious. 

An example of this is: 

"He gave me a look that said later tonight, when you're alone, I'm totally gonna sneak in your room and scare you."


"The way he salted his eggs told me he was thinking about that one time, at band camp, when it was more than our flutes making music..."

2.  Next, we have the "Inappropriate Metaphors or Similes to Explain a Point"
It's maybe okay to say:

"The air became hot, as if I was suddenly covered in a warm blanket."

But first drafts sometimes read like:
"The cool air washed over me like a donkey in heat, high on huffing glue."

It's okay to be unique, and not use cliches, but sometimes these can feel like a stretch.

3. Finally, we have the "There are only so many ways to describe a smile."

My characters smile. A lot. Despite all the destruction raining down on them, they smile.  Despite the fact that many lives are on the line, they smile.

Sometimes, both ends of their mouth pull up. 

Sometimes they grin, widely.

Sometimes one corner of their mouth quirks up. 

Sometimes they half-smile. 

Sometimes they "smile a smile that doesn't reach their eyes".

Sometimes their mouths resemble a "half-moon, on its side". 

Sometimes their lips quiver, on their way to a half smile, but then the sadness in their eyes extinguishes all evidence of said smile. 

My point is, it's okay for these things to exist. In a first draft. Use them to get to the end of your Work-In-Progress. That's what revising is for! What are some of your biggest culprits? Have you read any books lately that are guilty of these?

Friday, July 8, 2011

You tell me: Does it Bother You to Read about Puke?


1. The winner of the EVERNEATH arc is up on Debbie's and Windy's blogs. It's the first book I've ever signed, and I was a little nervous. Seriously, why would someone want my autograph? So, I embellished a little. 

Now, it's actually worth something.
2. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will be posting exclusive quotes from EVERNEATH on the EVERNEATH facebook page. The first two quotes (introducing you to Nikki and Jack) are up. Scroll down the wall to find them. (I just saw I have 199 "likes". Quick! Go be #200!)

On to the post:

More Evidence a Critique Group is Invaluable

The other evening, we had a critique group, and I submitted my first couple of chapters. In them, one of the characters pukes. 

Here's where an astute critique group comes in. Bree Despain was very concerned about the puking. 

Bree: "But... where did it land."

me: "Where did what land?"

Bree: "The puke. I mean, you said it was 'firehose proportions'. Did it... spray everywhere?"

me: "I don't know. It was just puke."

Bree: "But then... she... talks afterward."

me: "Yeah?"

Bree: "I mean, does she have little bits of... puke stuck in her teeth?"

me: "Fine, I'll give her a piece of gum."

Bree: "But... then won't the gum have little bits of puke in it?"

me: "Fine. She can rinse her mouth out, and then she can chew the gum."

Bree: "And then... what about her nose-"

me: "She'll blow her nose!"
Bree: "And then you say some of it lands on that guy's shoe."

me: "Yeah..."

Bree: "I mean, that is just disgusting. And the smell..."

me: "Okay, how about this? When she feels it coming on, she leans over the railing of the porch, and cleanly pukes in the bush. The wind is blowing in the opposite direction, so there's no smell. After she pukes, she takes the garden hose, washes her mouth out, farmer-blows her nose, and then unwraps a piece of gum."

Bree (considering): "That doesn't seem very realistic."


She's right though. The last thing I want people imagining when they read my book is the pungent smell of rancid puke. I mean, sure it's fine for the blog on a Friday morning. But in a book? Not so much. 

What do y'all think? 

I don't know about you, but when I'm at a movie, and I see the couple wake up in the morning... and kiss... in bed... all I can think is, "Hello! Disgusting morning breath!"  So I can totally see where she's coming from.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Five Things on my Mind... My Tiny Tiny Mind

Hey y'all.

So, if you're interested in who will win the EVERNEATH arc, the winner will be announced on Friday on Debbie and Windy's blogs. 

Five Things that are On My Mind:

1. Welcome to all the new blog visitors! I hope you enjoy your stay here. 
Here's the ten cent tour. 
This is that literary device known as a "Blog within a Blog"

Would you like to...

Ask me a question?
If you want to ask me a question, check the FAQ section. If your question isn't there (and it probably isn't, because that section is skin and bones) then please ask away in the comments section or send me an email!

Email me?
Check the "Contact Me" tab for my email address.

Request an ARC?
Check the "Contact Me" tab, and you will find instructions on how to contact my rockin' publicist.

See a picture of me with a pickle on my face?
Check the "About Me" page.

Get a sneak peek at quotes from Everneath?
Check the Everneath Facebook page:

So, welcome y'all! Thanks for stopping by!

2. Ever since I got a box of ARCs in my mailbox, I've been ruined for the mailman. 
Pretty Mail
 He comes to my door, and I whip it open and tackle him, wrenching the bundle of envelopes out of his hands. 

Then I stand up and use my foot in his stomach to hold him down. I thumb through the stack, with a frantic look in my eye, and when I have determined the mail is not interesting, I scream, "THIS IS IT??!! When did the Postal System start hiring stupid people??!!"

3. It's a great day to be a criminal in America.

4. Happy Birthday America!
Sam (hubby, who is frugal) bought the $20 fireworks "Super-Pack" from Costco. He was very proud of himself. I wondered if 20 dollars could really buy anything worthwhile. 

I was wrong. 20 dollars can get you so many smoke bombs, you won't know what to do with them. Literally. You'll invite your extended family over for a "fireworks display" and they'll be sitting there, waiting to be entertained, and all you'll have is smoke bombs. 

We lit bomb after bomb, and forced the audience to enthusiastically shout out the color of the smoke. No one was allowed to complain, or say things like, "I drove all the way over her for this %&$#!" For the big finale, we lit two smoke bombs at once. 

It was amazing. A great dedication to our country.

5. Today we're going to Lagoon. 

No, no, not this Lagoon:

This Lagoon:

It's What Fun Is! If Fun is Throwing up! Which it is in our family!

So, what's on your mind today?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thing #1 and Thing #1: the Jacob and Esau of Tomato Plants, and the Hairy Beast I met

Hey y'all. 

Before we get to the post, I'd like you to know EVERNEATH has a Facebook page! It's here:

So, if you feel inclined, please stop on by and "like" the heck out of it. :)

And now, it's time for...

Thing #1 and Thing #1!

Thing #1

If tomato plants can ever be described as "crazy", this is the time.

Both of my tomato plants were planted at the same time, in similar pots, with similar soil, and equal water/sun exposure.

Yet look at them:
One of these plants is not like the other...
How does this happen?

Now, I could relate this to the publishing world (why does one story get published and another doesn't?) or the parenting world (why does one kid in the same gene pool and the same environment have issues and the other one doesn't?) but today, I'm thinking... they're just tomato plants.

Maybe there is no higher meaning.

Like any respectable ancient civilization, we took the weaker plant and sacrificed it to the gods by hurling it off a cliff, and yelling, "Only the strong survive! Viva la strong plants!"

Thing #1

This next one is indeed a THING. The other day, my cousins and I took our kids to the "This is the Place" Heritage Park.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the vernacular, "This is the Place" Heritage Park is so named because when Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with the pioneers, he said, "Let's make this a really long pit stop!"

The park is a mini-pioneer village, and it is filled with mini-pioneers. It is a place stuck in time, where traditional chores are valued...

Here you see two swarthy men performing the daily task of "Breaking Stick"
... Child Labor Laws are scarce...
"Mush, Tommy. MUSH!!"
... And the people are much larger than usual...
Here, we see giants riding an actual pioneer train.
We also caught a glimpse of one of the strangest animals I've ever seen:
It's kind of a mix of a cow and a horse. So, it's a "Corse", of course... or a "How". Either way, it's a hairy beast. 

What about y'all? Anyone doing anything fun for the holiday? Anyone know what this animal is? Anyone else worried that they've relaxed the restrictions on aerial fireworks, which basically means they've put surface-to-air missiles in the hands of thousands of 8-year-olds?

Have a great weekend!