Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Come Write With Me

So. The hubs is out of town. With the son. They left this morning. I have never been away from him (son, not hubs) for such a long stretch before (almost 2 whole weeks!) and he could not understand why I totally got choked up saying goodbye to him. I loves my boy! I am so going to miss him!

That said, I have deemed this: THE WEEK OF AMAZING PRODUCTIVITY. I am currently working on three projects. One of them is Book 3, which is getting the lion's share of my attention. The other two. . .well, I can't tell you about those right now. But they are super exciting and I hope you'll get to read them someday.

Three projects. I know. I am officially insane. But one thing I am definitely liking about this multiple projects thing is that if I get burned out on something, then I can just switch and work on something else for a day or so. Which is great. There is no real sense of inertia. I am always moving forward on SOMETHING.

Can I just say, my job is awesome! I was channel surfing earlier this afternoon and hit on Millionaire Matchmaker, where I caught Patti saying something like: "if I made millions of dollars and didn't need money, I would totally be hooking all these people up for FREE." That got a chuckle out of me. Way to love your job, Patti. Now go tell a girl she dresses badly, needs to get her hair straightened (since guys only really like straight hair), and lose ten pounds by the mixer on Saturday.

I clearly do not watch that show.

ANYWAY, the point: I love my job so much, even if I made millions of dollars I would totally be hooking up all you people with new stories for FREE. But for now, it pays the bills, so I just get to feel extremely lucky that I have this awesome job. Writing rocks.

And this is THE WEEK OF AMAZING PRODUCTIVITY! I am going to work every day this week! A lot! Oh yes, I am. I am going to get my dear sweet little daughter into a regular napping schedule this week. Sometime around 10ish to 12ish and 3ish to 5ish. God willing.

I don't know if y'all know this, but I wrote a lot of Unearthly while logged into Second Life. I am revealing my inner geek, I know. At the time I was stuck home without means of transportation, so Second Life was my way of getting out of the house and interacting with people, and it also has a thriving writers community, which was great. There I met my amazing and talented friend Alas Zerbino (Joan Kremer in real life) and we bought this little scrap of land in Second Life (for those of you unfamiliar with Second Life, yes, you can buy land there, yes that is crazycakes, yes, I know) and we set up a writing center there called Story Mountain, where I would occasionally teach some introductory fiction courses. And we set up a writing time during my son's naptime, and we both logged into Second Life, parked our avatars at our virtual offices, and worked for 2-3 hours a day, then shared what we wrote. It was like we were able to meet up and write together, even though we were 2000 miles apart.

Yep folks, that's me, as a virtual person, writing my virtual book, which became a REAL book. . .

 Accountability is a wonderful thing. Alas was the very first person to read the very first pages of Unearthly, and I was so grateful for her shrewd comments and cheerful encouragement! (Thanks, Joan--HUGS!)

So, this week, wanna come write with me? If so, I'll be in my office in Story Mountain, sometime around 10ish to 12ish and 3ish to 5ish, PST. You call pull yourself up a virtual chair and write like a mad-person, and I will be right there with you. My avatar is Clarissa Tolsen, and a search of either me or Story Mountain will get you where you need to be. If you are not into Second Life (teens, please see my disclaimor below), send me a Tweet (CynthiaHand) or post on my Facebook wall and I will check in at the beginning and ending of my writing times to cheer you on!

(Clarissa Tolsen, the slightly blonder, slightly skinnier, WAY better dressed version of myself)

****Disclaimor. Second Life can be entertaining, and there are cool things to see there (the Sistine Chapel! The Emerald City! Mars!) and awesome ways to connect with other writers, but it is also a place where (like the real world) some pretty messed up stuff can go down. I don't recommend Second Life to teens, as I think there is a higher-than-usual proportion of really creepy creeps in Second Life, and people there are often not who they seem. Which sucks, but there it is.

So if you're a teen writer (yay you, I love teen writers! I used to be one, not so long ago!), from Wednesday to Saturday (and possibly next week, we'll see how it goes)touch base with me on Facebook or Twitter! Tell me your word count today! Tweet to me about what you worked on! But please don't create a Second Life account for my benefit. (shakes head)

We'll write together, you and me. Writing. Making the magic happen. Following our characters. Woohoo, I am stoked already!

Also, before I forget, today is the launch of two sequels I have been waiting for: Andrea Cremer's Wolfsbane and Kiersten White's Supernaturally! I am so excited to find out what happens to both Calla and Evie!

Heading off to read now.

Tomorrow: WE WRITE!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unearthly deleted scene

I thought it might be time to reveal one of UNEARTHLY's many deleted scenes. Most of these scenes were cut because of a single big change in the story: originally I had Clara and her family move to Jackson in August, just before the school year began. So I wrote about Homecoming week--and I based what they did on JHHS' actual homecoming week activities, culminating with the Powderpuff game and the Homecoming dance. Clara sets Wendy up for a date with King Brady from her history class. Clara herself gets asked to the dance by Jason Lovett.

My editor thought, and rightly so, that August to the next August was just too long a time to pass between when Clara arrives in Jackson and when the fire actually takes place. So she suggested that I have the Gardners move to Jackson in January. She also thought (and again, totally right!) that there shouldn't be two formal dances in the book.

So I rewrote the entire beginning of my book to take place in winter. And I cut Homecoming Week and the dance, and ended up cutting an entire side-story where Wendy starts dating the captain of the football team and ends up breaking up with him. Poor Wendy. In my editor's words, "Wendy always gets shafted." Her scenes so often get cut.

So, without further ado, here is the Powderpuff game, two entire scenes with Wendy that ended up on the cutting room floor. Enjoy.

UNEARTHLY, first draft, Powderpuff game

Wednesday after school, Wendy hunted me down in the girl’s locker room to tell me the shocking news: she’d been asked to the Homecoming dance by Brady Hunt!

“Wow,” I said, watching her face carefully.  “I guess you’re going to need my dress.”
“Yes, please,” she said.  Her smile was genuinely happy.

 So Tucker hadn’t narced on me.
“I still have the potato and the needle, if you change your mind about the earrings,” I teased.

“I’ll think about it.”
“Whoa, I was only kidding,” I said.

“It’s just, I didn’t even know that he’d noticed me,” she said.  “It’s weird.”

“Never look a gift date in the mouth,” I said.  I pulled a bright orange football jersey over my head.  “I can’t believe I let you talk me into playing football.”
“The Powderpuff game is only once a year,” she said.  “It’s fun.  Wait until you see the boys dressed up like cheerleaders.”

I had to admit that sounded funny.
“But don’t expect me to do much,” I said.  “I don’t know anything about football.”

“It’s not hard,” she said, as if she hadn’t grown up watching football.  I’d watched exactly one football game in my life, one of Jeffrey’s back in California.  Mom and I had both been hopelessly confused about when to cheer.  Being strong and fast wouldn’t help me play this game if I didn’t understand the rules. 
“Tucker’s not a cheerleader, is he?” I asked.

Wendy snorted.
“No way.  He’s out of town with the rodeo team.”

That, at least, was good news.
“Come here,” she said, grinning.  She smeared two black lines across my cheeks, then laughed.

“You’re one mean running back,” she said, dragging me over to the mirror.  My hair chose that moment to slip out of its ponytail.  I blew a strand out of my face.
“Kay Patterson’s knees will be quaking with fear when she sees us,” said Wendy.

“We’re playing against Kay?”
“Yep,” she said.  “She’s on the black team.”

I grinned at Wendy, reached for the black face paint to mark her cheeks.
“Bring it on,” I said.

Christian was a cheerleader.  When he came out onto the football field with the other boys he was wearing a tiny white tank top with a makeshift JHHS written on the front in marker, and an orange and black cheer skirt, unzipped in the back because it obviously didn’t fit.  Someone had pinned the front of his hair to the side like bangs, and I’m pretty sure he was wearing lipstick.

Somehow, he still managed to look hot.
In spite of the fact that I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, I had fun.  I took the ball when it was passed to me, threw it to my teammates when I saw an opening, jogged around where they seemed to want me to go, tried to tag the other side when they had the ball.  I didn’t run too fast, or try too hard.  My mom was watching, after all.  I could hear her cheers from the sidelines.

It was all going well until the fourth quarter, when we started to lose the game.  I wouldn’t have really cared about that except that Kay was so happily winning.  She always seemed to have the ball, always seemed to be doing exactly the right thing.  She looked amazing, cheeks flushed, hair dangling in one long, looped curl from her ponytail, eyes bright with victory.  Not to mention that every time she made the tiniest little move, I could hear Christian cheering like she’d won the World Series or something. 

It shouldn’t be legal, I thought, for anyone to be that perfect.

It would get on any girl’s nerves.
Then she actually tackled Wendy during a pass.

Whistles blew, and one of the coaches yelled a warning to Kay.

“Hey,” I protested, running up to help Wendy to her feet.  “I thought this was tag football, not tackle.”

“Sorry,” said Kay lightly.  “I forgot.”

“Don’t worry, I’m tough,” panted Wendy.  But Kay didn’t hear her.  She was already running down the field.  Wendy looked at me and shrugged and gave this pathetic little smile, and I kind of lost my head.  I’d show her a tackle.  On the next play, I made certain to knock Kay down just hard enough to knock the wind out of her for a minute.  Of course she was furious, but too breathless to make a fuss about it yet. 

Then something unexpected happened. 

Somebody shouted my name.  I turned.
Suddenly I had the ball in my hands.  I looked up, startled, right into Kay’s brown eyes.

Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I could just win this game right now?  Leave Kay in the dust, for once?

The clock was about to run out.  I glanced toward the end of the field.  It didn’t seem too far away.  There was a clear path, if I ran fast enough.

And I knew I could run fast enough.

I dodged Kay easily and then sprinted down the field.  It seemed like everyone from both teams was running toward me.  The crowd began to cheer wildly.  Even the girls on the other team were screaming.

I stretched my legs and ran, tucking the ball under my arm the way I had seen Jeffrey do it that one time.  The rest of the world slowed down.  I could feel the crisp fall air on my face.  My hair was out of its ponytail again and trailing behind me.  The grass under my feet smelled freshly cut.  The mountains in the background glowed a peachy gold, lit by the setting sun. 

I was over the goal line.  The noise from the crowd peaked in a big surge.  Everyone was standing on their feet, shouting.
So this is what it feels like when Jeffrey wins a game.  Not bad.  I was starting to understand why he did it, why he refused to be anything but spectacular.  It was a great, superior feeling.

Then I saw Kay’s face as she ran up the field toward me, and I knew immediately that something was wrong.  She was smiling.  Not just any smile, but a full, gloaty, victorious sort of smile.  I looked around for Wendy.  I spotted her much farther back, standing with her arms hanging limply by her sides, staring at me with an expression I didn’t understand.

I hadn’t run that fast, had I?  So fast that I was suddenly freaking everybody out?
I spun around, looking from face to face.  The girls in the orange shirts, my teammates, were looking at me in disbelief, shaking their heads.  The girls in the black shirts were laughing.

I looked to the bleachers where the crowd was still standing.  Jeffrey was laughing, clutching at his sides like some stupid cartoon character.  Mom’s mouth set in a thin, disapproving line.  I saw Christian, Christian in his cheerleader getup, running toward Kay on the field.  He reached her, shouted something, and then lifted her up and spun her around in the air. 
He was laughing too. 

In a flash I understood what I had done.

I had run in the wrong direction.  I had just scored, all right.  For the opposing team.  I’d lost the game.

I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.  I stared at the football in my hands, then let it drop from my fingertips.  It bounced away on the grass.  I looked again for Wendy but she was walking away, they all were, my entire team walking off the field toward the school. 

I couldn’t go back to the locker room now.  Maybe not ever.  I looked up into the stands and met Mom’s eyes.  She grabbed Jeffrey by the arm and started to tow him toward the parking lot.

I needed to get out of there.  I forced myself to walk slowly off the field, keeping my head down.  I didn’t know where Mom had parked so I just picked a row of cars and started to wander down it.  My vision blurred.
Mom pulled the car up next to me.  I got into the back seat.

“Seat belt,” she murmured.
I fumbled with the seatbelt, finally heard it click, then slumped down and turned my back to the window.

Jeffrey coughed to cover a laugh.
“A little sensitivity please, Jeffrey,” said Mom in a low voice.

“It’s okay,” I said.  “Let him laugh.”
Someone knocked on the car door from the outside, startling me.  It was Wendy, still in her orange jersey, a big grass stain on the front from when Kay had tackled her.  I hesitated for a few seconds.  Then I rolled the window down.  I wanted to tell her I was sorry, but the second I opened my mouth to speak a huge lump rose in my throat.  To my horror I started to cry.

“Hey,” she said, reaching through the window and touching me on the shoulder.
I shook my head.

“It’s all right,” she said.  “It’s just a game.”
I nodded miserably.

“I guess I’ll be the last one picked in P.E. from now on,” I tried to joke in a shaky voice.
She laughed.  Invisible or not, she was a true friend.

“See you tomorrow,” she said.  She stepped back, and Mom drove away from the school.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the way Christian had run to Kay and lifted her up like that, twirled her around and set her down again, smiled at her like he was about to kiss her.  Both of them still laughing at me.
That did it.  I was definitely never going back to school.

The next scene, I will mention, she was back at school. Hee hee.

Wow. Reading that over again today I am struck by a lot of things. Like wow, that was a long time ago. Unearthly has changed so much since then! I've changed so much as a writer since then that it reads a bit primitive to me now.

Cavewoman Cynthia writes football scene. *grunts.

But seriously. It amazes me how the simple act of writing and revising can change you from the inside out.

You might have noticed that the book was in past tense back then. About halfway through the revision process I decided to shift it all over to present tense (and you can't simply "shift" a book from one tense to another--you must, then, almost completely rewrite it, argh, but it was so worth it), because I liked the rhythm of the language better in present. It felt more immediate, and, because it was more immediate, I didn't have to worry about what Clara knew and didn't know at the time of the telling. (I could explain this more but it would wreck some stuff for Hallowed, sorry). I could simply be with Clara in the moment.

Another thing I'm struck by is how much Clara changed in that process. My editor and I were working, working, working to make Clara stronger as a character. Not that I think it makes Clara a real loser because she runs the wrong way during a football game (this idea stemmed from a particularly painful experience I had in fifth grade during a basketball game that pretty much squashed the idea of me ever playing competitive sports ever again. . .) but I don't see her strength in this scene. I only see her struggling.

All that aside, I still think it's a pretty cool scene. Wendy rocks. Poor, poor Wendy, always gets cut.

And there's Christian dressed as a cheerleader. Can't forget that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On the Fourth of July and how dirty rotten piraters stole my air conditioning. . .

July 4 is my favorite holiday of the year, for a number of reasons:

1) parades. I dig parades.

Me waiting for the parade, in my riduculous hat, which proves that you can take the hick out of Idaho, but you can't take Idaho out of the hick.

2) dressing up in fun-but-casual red, white and blue clothes

My DD is her 4th outfit, which even she thought was pretty fun. . .
3) good food, but not the kind where you have to slave all day in the kitchen to prepare

DS getting ready to chow down on corn. We also had BBQd ribs and homemade potato salad
4) summer--nice weather and crickets singing and cool breezes blowing and starry nights

5) fireworks. I REALLY dig fireworks, and I also love sparklers!

6) the movie 1776, which I endeavor to watch every year on the fouth of July. I always get a chill at the end where they are all signing the Declaration and then step into their place in the painting. . .

(this clip is not the signing part, but this really funny song about how the national bird was chosen).

And finally, reason 7) because it's an exciting day that you get to spend with family. Some years it's more exciting than others--just ask my Uncle Kim about the time my dad pointed one of those firecracker cannons at him. (On second thought, don't ask him--sorry about your pants, Uncle Kim. . .), some years somebody gets lit on fire or eats WAAAAAAY too much watermelon, but there's always togetherness, as a country and as a family. I like that. And there's always a moment of beauty.

This year my moment of beauty was sitting in my backyard in a lawn chair, my dear little baby snuggled up into my chest, seeing her wide, wide eyes as she watched her very first fireworks.

Le sigh. LOVE the 4th of July.

This year it was also slightly problematic that the 4th was on a Monday, and I had my very last round of revisions for Hallowed due on Tuesday at like 6am. So I had to fit all my parading and dressing up and cooking into much smaller time slots, and then ended up staying up until 2am revising like a madwoman, up again at 4:30 with the baby and right back to revising until 6. I had that "Idiot. I can't believe you did that" message from my body all the next day, but it was worth it. I got to have my Independence Day, and now HALLOWED IS OFFICIALLY IN PRODUCTION. Which means:

FREEEEEEEEEEDOMMMMMM!!!!  I am done (okay, there will be copy edits, but that's not real hard) with Book 2. Finally! And now I am free to work on Book 3. (doing the dance of joy!)

Ahem. Anyway. How lucky am I that I get to do what I love, which is to write new books. I love my job.

There's a roadblock to all my creativity, however. It's called July. In Southern California. In a house with no air conditioner. Yesterday it was 87 degrees in the house when I sat down to write. Under these conditions, what typically comes off my fingertips is: Wow. Hot. So unbelievably hot. I need a cool drink. I need a cool shower. I need to drive to the store to buy something bogus so I can be in the cool car and the cool store. Bleh. I'M MELTING, what a world, what a world. . .

Yeah, it's not that productive.

But Cynthia, you say, weren't you complaining about this last year? Aren't you some hot-shot author now, with your book selling like hotcakes? Why haven't you bought an air conditioner?

Well, see. That's a funny story. Part of it is California's fault. That's right, CA, I'm looking at you. What it costs to buy a house in you is simply ludicrous. I could have 2 nice brand-new houses in Idaho for what we are paying for a almost-completely-unrenovated-since-1961 house in southern California. Pbbt, California. But I'm not complaining too much, since me selling Unearthly is what gave our family the ability to buy a home here. Otherwise, even though my husband has a great job, even though I teach to supplement our income, we simply could not have afforded to buy a house. And I love our house. But it doesn't have the frills. Like AC.

Shame on you, California. Shame. But I do love your beaches.

The other part of the blame lies with piraters.

Now, I say "piraters," as opposed to "pirates," because as the mother of a four-year-old boy I am obligated to think that pirates, the type with the eye patch and the shoulder parrot and the black flag with the skull and crossbones are awesome. I play the role of Captain Hook at least once a day, and my son is of course Mister Smee, and I've found that he listens to what I tell him to do way better if I phrase it like, "ARGHH, matey, methinks you should eat up all your waffle, otherwise I'll be forced to plunder it. . ."

Piraters are people who download free (illegal) copies of my book.

So not awesome.

Now, if you are one of those people who thinks it's okay to steal books, I will refer to you to Lilith Saintcrow's blog post on this subject. It has some spicy language, so be warned.

Right here.

I adore Lilith Saintcrow. Strange Angels kicks butt. And her blog is hi-larious. I am regularly stricken with writerly envy over her copious and amusing blog posts.

And on the subject of piracy, I agree with her one hundred percent.

I never thought so much about piracy until I became a published author. Sure, I'd heard of it. It wasn't something I'd ever dream of doing any more than I'd try to slip in the back door of a movie theater for a free movie or pocket a candy bar in a convenience store. My momma done taught me that's WRONG. But it really came to my attention when my own book started to be pirated.

The first time, it was a question on one of those question-and-answer websites, some girl asking where she could find my book for free. I felt obligated to respond. I said that I hoped that no one would help her to steal my book, but if she would provide the name of her local library, I would gladly send them a copy. She, of course, didn't reply.

Then I signed up for Google Alerts. Every morning I get a nice email from Google that tells me what Unearthly-related stuff has popped up on the web. Most of the time it comes up with reviews, and most of the time the reviews are nice (there's a blog post coming about why I should stop reading the reviews, and possibly why I should stop with the Google alerts--that's another day), but every now and then up pops a site that offers my book for free.

One such site, a few days ago, claimed that my book had been downloaded over 7,000 times.

7,000 times???!!! I thought. Holy crapzol.


Here's where the math comes in. I have had numerous estimates done on installing central air conditioning in our house. The lowest is 12,000 (yes, 12,000 US dollars, darn you California) and that was a rather seedy guy who, when I asked if that included the price for permits was like, "permits? you sure you want permits?" The highest was upwards of 20,000. Yes, 20,000 smackers. I know. Crazy.

I'm planning on 14,000-15,000.

You see where I'm going with this. On the hard copy of my book, I make about $2 for every book sold. If everyone who illegally downloaded a copy of my book actually bought a hard copy, I would make $14,000. (Of course, my agent gets 15% and I save about half of what I earn for taxes, but let's say for argument's sake that I just make that money.) That's 14,000 US dollars, people.

That's my air conditioner.

Pirating is not cool.

Now, before I get flooded with indignant emails/comments telling me how I've over-simplified this scenario on a massive scale, or how I shouldn't be writing for money but out of the sheer bliss of being a writer, or any of the other dumb-but-persistent things people say to justify themselves in this situation, I will simply say this: I don't write for the money. I write because I love it. But I also believe that I deserve to get paid for what I do, and I believe that pirating is STEALING. And my point in all of this is that, so often, people think that the little bad things they do, like slipping in the back of a movie theater or swiping a candy bar from a convenience store, don't really hurt anybody. It's not going to bring down Universal Pictures or Hershey, right?

Pirating my book is not going to bring down HarperCollins. But it does, in a very real way, hurt me.

I'll get my air conditioner someday. I'm thinking it will probably be next spring before I have enough money to fork over that much for an air conditioner. But for now, today, as I sit down to start work on Book 3, I will merely say, "curse those dirty rotten piraters!!!"

I need a popsicle.