July 18, 2014

Casual Friday: 5 Things I Learned Writing a Novella

Recently I released Fortune's Risk, a novella set in the Star Thief universe with some of the same characters from the first book. I'd never written one before, but I wanted something to bridge the gap between books and I thought it might be a good way to do it. So I said what the hell!

Fortune’s Risk was a lot of fun to write, but it was also a much bigger challenge than I expected. I love writing novels, love having all the freedom to explore the themes, plot and characters in as many words as I like. You don’t necessarily have that in a shorter form story and there were some major lessons learned!

5 Things I learned writing a Novella

1. Less is more - You're working with a limited amount of space in a novella, and you need to choose your words and descriptions very carefully, to both paint a picture and convey personality. I thought about my word choice much more carefully in the novella than I usually do in my longer stories.

2. Plotting is key - because of the length, you need to make sure your writing and plot is as tight as it can be. No meandering dialogue, no extra scenes. Everything needs to serve a purpose.

3. Characterization is equally important – You have fewer words to help your reader get to know your characters, so you have to really focus on the words and scenes that will help readers understand their motivations and personality.

4. You can still slip in some romance – All of my books seem to have some romance in them, and Fortune’s Risk was no different. But with this novella, since the focus wasn’t the romance, it was more of a secondary plot twist. It wasn’t as fleshed out as it would be in my full length novels, but it was fun to sneak it in.

5. Novellas are good for commitment-phobes – Writing a novel is a huge commitment and can take several months (or years). A novella is a fun way to get a storya completed in a fairly short amount of time and a good way to play with different aspects of your writing. Fortune’s Risk focused on two characters who didn’t get much screen time in The Star Thief, but didn’t rate their own full length novel.

So there you have it. I will definitely consider writing more novellas in the future. I think it was a lot of fun and readers have been very excited to have that extra peek into the Star Thief world.

How about you guys? Does length of a story matter to you? Do you prefer to read novels or novellas?

July 17, 2014

Band Geek Thursday: Jenny's Playlist for THE RHYTHM OF BREATHING

Good Morning My Dears!

I'm back with a shiny new first draft and a shiny new playlist for you! I just finished my third Oceanside High novel, THE RHYTHM OF BREATHING. BREATHING follows Abby, Bria's best friend in FALLING, as she falls for a boy despite her best effort to keep things casual. I never really intended Abby to become a main character, but she was so much fun in the other two books that I had to write her story.

And then I started writing Jackie. He has maybe two scenes in FALLING and is mentioned in LANDING, so I knew I liked him. But I had no idea where his back story would take me, no idea how healing it would be to write about the kind of trauma he experienced before meeting Abby.

It's easy for me to writing kissing scenes - and there is plenty of that in BREATHING. Their entire relationship takes off from a kiss between strangers on New Year's Eve. The challenge in this book was delving into the deeper emotional landscape without making it too heavy. Abby isn't a heavy character, but she's deep and their story needed to reflect that. I hope I did their story - and the true stories that inspired it - justice.

A hastily written blurb, then the good stuff: the play list!

With six months until graduation, seventeen-year-old Abby Harris is so done with boys. Already accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, she should be on top of the world. There’s the tiny problem of her best friend, Bria, falling in love with her brother, Ben. And an ex boyfriend flaunting his new happiness around the school. And that big fat F in English that just might derail all her plans for escaping Oceanside.

While Bria and Ben prepare to go to college together, Abby is determined to solve her problems on her own. But with her old arch nemesis insomnia back to haunt her, it's harder than ever to keep up the charade that everything is fine.

When social-butterfly Abby finds herself alone on New Year's Eve, she's ready to give up on life. At least until Jackie, the dispassionate, tattooed drummer in a metal band, offers to kiss her at midnight. A no-strings-attached make out sessions may be just what Abby needs to shake her funk.

But when that no-strings-attached kiss snowballs into an entire hidden relationship that's deeper than anything Abby has experienced before, she'll have to accept that life doesn't always play by her rules. Sometimes a kiss isn't just a kiss and learning to pause is just as important as moving on.

Animal - Neon Trees
Oh oh, I want some more/Oh oh, What are you waiting for?/What are you waiting for?/Say goodbye to my heart tonight
This was the first song on this playlist. It's on the radio rather frequently and while it's not like I dislike it, I just don't love it. But once I started brainstorming Abby's story, I knew this would be her jam.

Broken Heart Still Beating - The Darlings
I cut away all this innocence/You can't bring me down/Buried emotion/Made myself a rock/Broken heart still beating
Abby and Jackie come from very different places, but this could be an anthem for either of them. I love the way their different kinds of brokenness work together to make them both stronger.

Everlong - The Foo Fighters
And I wonder/When I sing along with you/If everything could ever feel this real forever
I have wanted this song to work on a playlist forever! Abby and Jackie both desperately want love and yet push so hard against it. The sense of waiting and fufilment in this song perfectly fits with the emotional arc of this story.

Homesick - Sleeping At Last
All revelations come to us in recovery/Cry wolf, cry mercy, cry the name of the one you were raised to believe/Cry heart, cry yourself to sleep, cry a storm of tears if it helps you breathe
This one is definitely for Jackie. For me, it's about coming to grips with the person your past has lead you to become. Not that we're defined by our pasts so much as our past inform who we are.

Tonight You're Perfect - New Politics
Tonight you're perfect/I wanna fall in love with the stars in your eyes/Tonight you're perfect/I wanna fall in love but only for the night
After three heavy songs, you guys need a pick me up, right? This one is perfect for their New Year's Eve kiss.

Learning to Breathe - Switchfoot
I'm living again, awake and alive/I'm dying to breathe in these abundant skies
Are you noticing the breathing theme yet? This song captures the idea of finding release in giving up and letting go. Abby tries so hard to hold on to her control, but when she reaches the point of letting go and opening up to another person, that's where she finds freedom.

Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop - Landon Pigg
I never knew just what it was about this old coffee shop/I love so much/All of the while I never knew
Aside from how pretty this song is, it perfectly fits with the plot of this story. I hope you all love Cafe Volta as much as I do. If only it were a real coffee shop...

Foreign Language - Anberlin
Boys speak in rhythm and girls in code
This is the first Anberlin song I ever heard and I wasn't sure how I felt about it. But it's just so perfect for Abby and Jackie, a drama kid and a drummer. Lies and rhythm.

Alarm the Alarm - Write This Down
We've been caught up in the moment/And our beds are crowded where we sleep
This one is a little harder than I usually write to. I keep stuff like this for long car rides, but Jackie is the drummer in a metal band. I needed something more than sad indie and peppy radio tunes to get into his head.

Falling Out Theme - Boysetsfire
gravity forces us/back to where we started from/love and weapons kill much the same way/with shaking hands we start again
Risking love again after a breakup is always hard. After a bad breakup, it's even worse. Leave it to a post-hardcore band to express that so perfectly.

Swan Song - Brightwood
I wish I would have listened when I figured out/You knew me from the inside/Your eyes on mine, on mine, and I'm/I'm afraid and alone with your eternal love in my hands
More than falling in love, Abby is afraid of being loved. Her biggest struggle is that she knows her own weaknesses and doesn't want Jackie to open himself to the hurt she could inflict on him.

Sleep Alone - Two Door Cinema Club
Oh hold, hold, hold/Hold me close/I've never been this far from home/Hold, hold, hold me close
A playlist for a story about two insomniacs has to have an ide to sleep. I love the way this song feels. It has that kind of catchy melody and sing-a-long lyrics that make it perfect for me to write to.

Say Goodbye to Neverland - The Choir
Breath in, breath out/Heart don't fail/Embrace the moment
This is Abby's theme. Keep breathing, embrace the moment. Face life head on, even when it's hard.

Pagan Poetry - Further Seems Forever
This time/I'm gonna keep me all to myself/She loves him, she loves him/And he makes me want to hand myself over
This is a cover of a Bjork song and one that resonates with me on some level I don't quite get. But it fits so well with Abby's black moment. I kind of adore fatalistic love songs.

Different Now - The Classic Crime
Oh I was as surprised to find the love inside your eyes/as you were, to see mine/And our friends all laughed and we were warned/It was the calm before the storm, that comes/like it always does, like it always does
Let's end on a hopeful note. Love doesn't prevent the storms - especially for these two - but it does provide a safe place amid the storms.

(And if all this leaves you wanting more, my Pinterest board is here)

July 16, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Is Your Writing Authentic?

Greetings, Misfiteers!
I hope you're all having a good week so far ;o) So. There's one thing that will get me to throw a book across the room more than anything else.

A voice or plot that's inauthentic.

I can hang with most characters through whatever battles, but if you put them in a situation where they make a decision that seems plot-based and not based on what this character is like, I will notice. As any reader will. This is also called contrived. You may have heard that word thrown around. It's a writer's nightmare. Every time I hear it I want to pull my hair out. Not because it's not necessarily warranted but because I let something slip through the cracks.

So how do you spot a contrived voice or characteristic in your story?

Well, you won't ever time. I won't either. It's not as easy to spot as you would think. In fact, most of us don't know something's contrived until someone else points it out. That's why getting readers for your story is SO important.

I've found the best way to avoid a contrived voice is by knowing your characters inside and out. And ALWAYS ask What would [insert character's name] do in this situation? For plotting, make sure the plot and the characters move along an organic and natural path together.

For example, if your character is someone who is deathly afraid of heights and they suddenly volunteer to climb to the top of a building (and not at the end where it makes sense for their arc) only because you NEED them to catch the antagonist in a compromising situation that will further the plot, that is something that will come across inauthentic or contrived. Their previous history and behavior should dictate how they respond to a situation, not the plot. Plot choices should be real to the character.

Spotting inauthenticity in your own writing is a learned skill and no matter what you do a contrived plot or voice can sneak up on you without you even noticing (it has to me many times!) So read carefully and get to know those characters so you can provide the reader with the most sincere portrayal of a story you can.

What do you do when you read something that feels contrived? Do you keep reading?

Have a great rest of the week!

July 14, 2014

Authors As Rock Stars

Since we've all gotten so used to getting our thoughts down in 140 characters - and it's fun to keep the conversation flowing - we've take the Pep Rally to twitter! Every Monday, we host a twitter chat and we'd love you to join in. Just keep an eye out for the #MisfitPepRally hashtag!

Happy Monday, All!

So let me start this pep rally with a story that's totally going to date me, but oh well. When I was a kid, I loved to watch the Mickey Mouse Club. You know, the one that featured pre-pubescent Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears, to name a few.

M-I-C.... See ya real soon. K-E-Y... Why? Because we're gonna
be SO FREAKING FAMOUS when we grow up.
Anyhow, they used to spotlight a segment where kids who'd written in, asking to meet their idols, would get the chance to spend the day with them. Week after week, I'd watch some lucky kid hang out with their favorite TV star, or singer, or what have you. And every time I saw that segment, I'd get out my pen and paper, and scrawl a letter asking the Mickey Mouse Club to please arrange for me to meet MY idol....

Ann M. Martin.

That's right. While those other kids were rubbing elbows with pop tarts and starlets, I was dying to meet my favorite author. (For those of you who don't know who Ann is, she wrote the bajillion-book series, THE BABYSITTERS CLUB. I read at least forty of them.)

The most I ever got out of my pleas to the Mickey Mouse Club was a thanks-for-watching postcard. And a lot of flack from anyone I told about my request. K-E-WHY?

Because - and this may come as a shock to you - AVID READERS AND WRITERS ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO SEE AUTHORS AS ROCK STARS. 

I know, right? I don't get it either. Back then I thought it was because I was a kid, and being a bookworm wasn't cool.

But the fact is, even as an adult, I still get plenty of blank stares when I go off on a bookish tangent. It makes me kind of stabby.

Authors aren't like movie or TV stars, whom most people hear about at least tangentially. They're not stalked by paparazzi or featured on E News just because they tried a new hairdo. They're not sought after - their work is. And that's only if they're one of the lucky ones. 

Because there are actually people out there who don't read. They don't enjoy it. They. DON'T. READ. I have to restrain myself from being all:

Because let me tell you something. Authors *ARE* rock stars. They creates worlds and people that didn't exist before they sat down and poured them into a document on their computer. They make you want to be part of that world, make you envy and identify with and sympathize with and fall in love with those people. And that takes some serious skill. Not to mention time, effort, tears, and occasionally, tearing out your own hair.

Which is why if I HAD met Ann M. Martin, and if I ever meet some of my newer all-time faves, you can pretty much guarantee it will look something like this:

So tell me, Misfiteers - which authors are YOUR favorite rock stars? Who would/have you totally fangirl/boy(ed) over if you met in person? Tell us on Twitter with the hashtag #MisfitPepRally!

July 10, 2014

Band Geek Thursday: DREAM BOY by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg

Happy Band Geek Thursday! Today's playlist comes from Madelyn Rosenberg, one half of the duo (along with Mary Crockett) responsible for Dream Boy. Come check it out!

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class. 

One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.


* "Dream a Highway" by Gillian Welch ~ I’m leading with this because I can’t do enough preaching about Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and because this hits the right mood for a certain chapter that I’m not going to describe any further because, you know, spoilers. 

* "I Have Always Been Here Before" by Roky Erickson ~ Roky had a lot of nightmares so there are a thousand songs by him I could have used, but I love the haunting beauty of this one. In truth, between vampires and two-headed dogs I could have done a whole playlist of just Roky songs, which also would feature You Don't Love Me Yet, I Think of Demons & Goodbye Sweet Dreams.

* "I’m Only Sleeping" by The Beatles ~ I couldn’t find the Beatles version on Spotify but Rosanne Cash does a great cover. Anyway, I feel like this describes Annabelle’s every day life when we first meet her. 

* "I’ve Got Dreams to Remember" by Otis Redding ~ Because: Otis.

* "Dream Lover" by Big Star ~ One of my favorite bands of all time, though I suppose by bringing this song in I’m just thinking literally.

* "Enter Sandman" by Metallica ~ Billy Stubbs would like this one. Nice and heavy.

* "Welcome to My Nightmare" by Alice Cooper ~ This one’s for Billy, too.

* "In Perfect Dreams" by KD Lang ~ Here’s one with a classic sound that’s pitch perfect for Annabelle’s mom.

* "Dream On" by Aerosmith ~ Because how could I not?

* "Space Oddity" by David Bowie ~ Here’s one with a shoutout to Martin Zirkle, our resident alien.

* "Keeper of the Mountain" by The Flatlander ~  This one captures the spirit of Virginia, even if it was written by a bunch of Texas boys.

* "Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes ~ I know, right? But there was actually a scene in the book (that we ended up cutting) where we had Will and Annabelle dancing to this song at Annabelle’s cousin’s wedding. Had to include it.

* "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" by Bob Dylan ~ Love.

* "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics ~ I’m showing my age with this one, I know. This was the dream song when I was in high school.

* "Virginia Moon" by the Foo Fighters ~ This one’s for you, Virginia

* "Camera" by REM ~ And one for Will. Achy.

* "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" from Book of Mormon ~ Okay, Annabelle isn’t Mormon but I think she’d recognize a great production number if she saw it.

* "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac ~ Because it all comes back to the crystal visions of Fleetwood Mac.
As a bonus, com check out Dream Boy's brand-new trailer!

July 9, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Staying Sane While Writing on Deadline by Lori M. Lee

Happy Wednesday! As always, for the second Wednesday of the month, we've got a special guest today. Please give a warm Misfit welcome to Lori M. Lee, author of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE, debuting August 5, 2014!

Before we get to Lori's fab post, here's a little about her upcoming book and where you can get it:

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

And now, on to the post!
Staying Sane While Writing on Deadline

I struggled to plot out the sequel to GATES OF THREAD AND STONE for over a year. I’m not sure what it was: lack of inspiration, performance anxiety, fear of failure, my editor deciding I was a one trick pony. Whatever the reasons, I found myself in January of this year going: Hm. I should really write this book. Commence panicking.

Also, I didn’t want that awkward moment when my editor finally asked about the sequel and I went: Hahahaha sequel yes of course it’s right—OMG WHAT’S THAT? *points over her shoulder and runs*

So I began weaving together all the random story threads I’d been compiling over the last year and somehow, I ended up with a plot that wasn’t horribly disappointing! (Note: a plot that “isn’t horribly disappointing” probably is not what you should aim for.) But after a year of frustration, I was pretty happy to have something resembling a somewhat fully realized plot.

Then, because the Universe has a sense of humor, my editor emailed to ask about the sequel. I happily told her I was working on it. She asked to have it in two months. My brain went OSIMJEKNVIEKSE!!!! I told her: Okay!

You should know that I’m an incredibly organized mess. Or a messy organizer. By that I mean at any time I can have a dozen detailed lists of things I need to do and still flail like I have no idea what to do next or how to go about it.

When it comes to writing, unless I have an outline, I’m useless. And because I was now working on an extremely tight deadline for a book I had yet to even fully outline, I needed to be as organized as possible. This book had to be outlined before I got down to the nitty gritty of writing it because if I’ve learned anything in the last couple years, it’s that if I have a detailed outline, I can bust out a first draft in a few weeks.

Now, for someone notorious for obscenely long outlines (50 pages is my record, and that’s not counting the various other documents devoted to world building and character profiles), I knew I had to hold back. I somehow kept my outline to 13 pages.

Yes, this is me holding back:

I color coordinated my characters’ individual story arcs and the various plotlines. Then, at a pace of 2k words a day, I gave myself 3 weeks to write the first draft (I approximated 40k – 50k words based on my previous first drafts), and 5 – 6 weeks to make it presentable for my editor. Because no one is allowed to read my first drafts. They’re a mess. (Note: my CP Mindee Arnett writes AMAZING first drafts. She’s crazy.)

On January 20, I started writing the book. I hit 40k words a few weeks later and was distressed to find I was only halfway through my outline. So I kept going. Another 3 weeks later, on March 4, I finished my first draft at 74k words. I was horribly behind schedule, but on the bright side, the story was considerably more fleshed out than my previous first drafts.

I had to ask my editor for an additional two weeks, but I managed to wrangle the first draft into something presentable in 4.5 weeks. I was exhausted. My husband complained about how he hadn’t seen me for 2 months. I was so ready to pass the manuscript on and let my editor rip it apart. BOOK BE GONE.

At the end of it, I told myself I would never do that again. Next time, I’ll outline early. Give myself more time to really nitpick the details and the word choices.

Yeah, I doubt I’ll listen to myself either.
Lori is the author of young adult fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone, coming August 5, 2014 from Skyscape. She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.

July 7, 2014

Monday Pep Rally: The Trend Strikes Back

Since we've all gotten so used to getting our thoughts down in 140 characters - and it's fun to keep the conversation flowing - we've take the Pep Rally to twitter! Every Monday, we host a twitter chat and we'd love you to join in. Just keep an eye out for the #MisfitPepRally hashtag! 

Do you ever go to the bookstore, stare at the shelves, and curse the publishing heavens that your favorite genre hasn't yet exploded in popularity? Or lament that your favorite genre has already passed the years of its popularity, and in all likelihood won't crop up in bulk again for quite a while?

Personally, I'm waiting for horror to strike it big in the YA genre. It's on the rise for sure--we get more YA horror stories every day, and I don't see it dying off soon. (If you haven't seen many around, go visit the YA Scream Queens--they'll point you in the right direction!)

What genre would you like to see get big? Or what genre are you sad has already passed through popularity? Let us know on Twitter with the #MisfitPepRally hashtag!

July 2, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Five Ways Travel Can Help You Research A Novel

As many of you know, I’ve been lucky enough to have been traveling the world for the past year. (I just got home, actually—hello, USA!) 

During part of this trip, I got to do some research for my upcoming book, THE CONSPIRACY OF US. It’s an international thriller, which means my characters spend a good deal of time running from country to country and landmark to landmark, following clues and evading bad guys. The two major international settings in this first book are Paris and Istanbul, and I was fortunate enough to have visited both cities before, and to spend even more time in Paris this time around, and also to spend some time in the settings for future books. (No spoilers!) 

Let me preface this by saying that YES! Of course you can research without traveling to each location in your book. Travel can be expensive and inconvenient and is just not in the cards for a lot of authors (and that’s if it’s even possible—as far as I know, GRRM has never been to Winterfell!). It’s great to read books that feature your setting. Or to watch documentaries. To listen to the music from the area. To Google the events going on there at the time your character will be visiting. Google maps, and especially street view, are incredible tools for writers--a little creepy, but incredible. There are tons of ways you can make a setting come alive that don't involve an airplane. 

But as much research as there is to be done from the comfort of your couch, there are some ways in which travel research just can’t be beat. Here are five of them. 

Looking out over Paris through the mesh around the Eiffel Tower. If I hadn't been there, I might not have realized this wire mesh existed!

1. Details. I could have seen from photos that there are tulips lining the walkway up to the Hagia Sophia, but I never could have grasped the heady combination of carpet vendors in their long robes hollering to be heard over modern music blaring from a car’s speakers as it cruised down Istanbul’s biggest thoroughfare. I might have realized it would be windy at the top of the Notre Dame bell towers, but I might not have understood quite the impact the crush of tourists has on your ability to move around. 

2. Senses. The smell of lamb roasting on a spit. The unique and disgusting feel of humid air when you walk by an open sewer. Not all of it is good, but all of it is useful to help your setting feel more well-rounded. Senses other than sight are especially easy to overlook in a setting you don’t know well, and there’s nothing quite like being there. 

3. Logistics. Is that staircase actually inaccessible to the public? Can the character not sit on the railing of that bridge, because it’s fenced off? No, you’ll never be able to get every detail exactly right, but the more logistically correct you can make a story, the easier it will be for a reader to imagine herself there. 

4. Inspiration. Though you might be able to approximate the rest of these things with research, it’s very hard to understand the feel of a place never having been there. I spent countless hours just being Avery in each city we visited. How would this specific character react to this place? What would she notice first? What would keep her attention? Not only did this make me pay attention to my surroundings, it helped me understand the character even better. 

5. New Ideas. This particular book might be set in Paris and Istanbul, but I so very much want to write a story with the backdrop of fish and brine that comes from being near the sea (and which somehow manages to be pleasant rather than gross). I want to have a character eat what she thinks might be chicken feet, but she’s not really sure. I want to have a character stand at the edge of a desert and look out as far as she can and see nothing but sand. Even when you’re not writing, travel is the best inspiration there is. 

Not that I’m biased or anything. 

June 30, 2014

Monday Pep Rally: Writing Fuel

Since we've all gotten so used to getting our thoughts down in 140 characters - and it's fun to keep the conversation flowing - we've take the Pep Rally to twitter! Every Monday, we host a twitter chat and we'd love you to join in. Just keep an eye out for the #MisfitPepRally hashtag! 

I'm up early here in the West Coast and waiting for my coffee to brew before squeezing in a little editing on my current manuscript. As a writer and mom of two, I basically have caffeine running through my veins. There's nothing I enjoy more than sitting down with my laptop, a hot cup of coffee with half & half, and something crunchy to snack on. Iced coffee? An abomination. Tea? Okay, if done right. Soda? Occationally. But hot coffee is my writing fuel, at home or out in the world. The heat calms my body while the caffeine wakes up my brain. The perfect combo to kick start my creativity and ease me into another world.

What about you guys? What is your perfect writing fuel? Does it change in the summer? Or with your surroundings? Am I missing something with my insistence on hot coffee?

June 27, 2014

Interview with a Misfit: Maggie

It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for Meet a Misfit! 

Maggie Hall has played with baby tigers in Thailand, learned to make homemade pasta in Italy, and taken thousands of miles of trains through India. When she’s not on the other side of the world, she lives with her husband and cats in Albuquerque, New Mexico, dabbles in design, and watches USC football. Her debut THE CONSPIRACY OF US releases January 2015 from Penguin. Find her at maggiehall.com or on Twitter at @MaggieEHall. 

Hi, Misfit Maggie! Tell us about you and what you're working on!
If you follow me on twitter, you probably know that I’ve spent the last year traveling around the world. My husband and I have seen the Great Wall, spent Christmas Eve at the Vatican, eaten all the falafel we can handle in Morocco, and floated in the Dead Sea, and right now we’re newly back in the US to attend fellow Misfit Dahlia’s book release party for BEHIND THE SCENES! (Oh yeah, and see our families and stuff, I guess.)

I’m currently working on book 2 of my thriller trilogy, and getting ready to start promoting book 1, THE CONSPIRACY OF US, which now has an official release date: January 13, 2015!

Your YA Misfits nickname is The Prep. What'd you do to earn that one?
I wouldn’t exactly say I was preppy in high school, but yeah, kind of. I was that girl who was in all the AP classes, all the clubs…and I might have been known to dress a little preppy. Maybe I'll eventually post a photo...

How do you find your pep on a Monday, or any other day when writing is tough?
I feel like half of us have talked about music, but it’s key for me, too. The perfect song can put me in the zone like nothing else can, and when I’m not feeling it with my writing, soundtracking is a great way to give myself a push.

But if the going is really tough, I find that the only way through is by force. I’ll put on a timer or ask somebody to word war with me, and for the next hour, I have to work straight through. That tough love approach tends to break through the blockage!

What's your favorite writing tip?
I find in writing that structure can be freeing, so I love having a framework. I’m a huge advocate of the Save the Cat Beat Sheet—it gives enough plot points to help you think through a story and make sure you’ve hit all the high notes without squeezing all the creativity out of the project.

What bands do you go geeky for, both when writing or just relaxing?
Florence and the Machine crosses over for me—I love writing to her stuff, and it’s great relaxing music, too. For writing, I love a band called After Midnight Project—they’re rock with the perfect amount of angst. Same with Digital Daggers, who soundtrack quite a few of my scenes. For hanging out music, I’ve just discovered a band called The Royal Concept, and am newly obsessed!

What's your ideal kind of casual Friday?
It’d start out at one of my favorite coffee shops, where I’d be so remarkably productive I’d be finished with my work by noon. Then I’d take a good book to the park and spend the whole afternoon reading (since the ideal casual Friday happens in the summer) and cap off the day with a nice glass of wine at happy hour with some friends, and maybe an episode of one of the cheesy-but-great TV shows I can’t seem to get enough of.

Who's your dream interview subject for YAMisfits?
Does JK Rowling count as YA? Since we wouldn’t refuse if she came calling, I’m going to say yes. I’m absolutely fascinated by her planning process. Keeping plot threads and reveals and worldbuilding and character ARCs in line feels like a game of Jenga even with just three books, and I’d die to pick her brain about how she managed it so deftly through seven. I loved seeing the plotting worksheet of hers that made the rounds on the internet a couple years ago, and I pretty much just want her to plot my books. Okay, Jo? Sound good?

What are some of the best books you've read recently, and which ones are you looking forward to?
Misfit Dahlia snagged a wealth of ARCs from BEA, and since I happened to be staying with her recently, I was able to borrow some. I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, by Jandy Nelson, was one of my favorite reads so far this year. (But it doesn’t come out until September! Sorry, guys! I don’t mean to brag! *brag*) And the other ARC that made me go grabby-hands was HEIR OF FIRE, by Sarah J. Maas, which I will be reading approximately 3.5 seconds from now. Also, RUIN AND RISING has been out for over a week and I haven’t read it yet! I know! So that’s high on my priority list, too.

Thanks for taking some time with me and the Misfit Bot! I'd love to chat with you any time. 

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