In the Land of the Wild Things

Hello all! Quick update for you this week, as I have a book and a spot of scotch tea to get back to! And who said a cabin in the woods couldn’t be fun?

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Definitely not me in my wild free time at the cabin.

Life: Well, just in case you don’t follow me on other social media/haven’t read my last two posts… I’m in a cabin in the woods. Kinda. Mountains. Mountains with woods. Houselike cabin. Close enough! Suffice it to say – the mountain/forest/cabin air is clearing my head so much. And wow is that wonderful. I’ll write more on it next week, but I’ll leave you with a few pictures for now (sorry to anyone who’s already seen these). In summary – life is absolutely wonderful!

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Gorgeous hike today!
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…♫ then goes tromping around wearing boots like Gaston a ready hiker…

Books: Just the one, but it was so satisfying, I’m still digesting it with a purring smile. As I mentioned last week,  Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman came out September 1, so I brought it with me to the cabin…. and I was not disappointed.

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I didn’t think I liked westerns, but wow did Erin prove me wrong. The story hooked me so quickly, the world was so gritty, the characters so raw and real and captivating, I read it in a day. I put this on my goodreads review, but seriously –  books that make me fall in love with their setting so much I need to visit it tomorrow are some of my favorites. I finished Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and instantly wanted to visit Sweden, and I was hardly halfway through Vengeance Road before I developed this burning desire to go to Arizona and trek across the desert. Thanks for the awesome read, Erin – I highly recommend it!

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I was doubly excited to explore a mesa today with my writing buddy Amanda, because VR features a mesa and similar terrain 😀
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And then I might have gotten a little over excited by cacti…. def not having a desert craving right now or anything…

Writing: Oh man. Getting back in the grove is hard, but so worth it. I’ve rewritten this chapter one probably 20 times by now, but these two rewrites I’ve done in the past week… Guys, they feel SO CLOSE to where I want them to be! It is such an exciting feeling to finally feel a book you’ve put so much heart into coming together… and seriously, this book has my heart three times over. I’ll talk more about what has helped me get to this place of the book finally feeling right next week (hint – involves getting to know my main characters at an even deeper level than I ever have) but now the book, and my wonderful bladesmith and his complex, crazy family are calling me. Be well all!

❤ Maddy

And one last picture of this gorgeous mesa/state, because I'm still drooling. Can I do it again tomorrow??
And one last picture of this gorgeous mesa/state, because I’m still drooling. Can I do it again tomorrow??

All That Is Gold…

For All Those Who Wander – this blog is officially dedicated to you.

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And of course, to the original wanderer.

To explain this dedication and new blog title, here is a story:

A few weeks ago, I came home in a funk. As a writer, an occasional hermit, and a self proclaimed grandma (coincidentally I think my own grandmother is more in this century), I get into all sort of funks. But this funk was particular. I knew where it came from – I’ve had it many times before. In fact, it’s less of a funk and more of a yearning.

See, as far as cities go, I love Chicago. It’s a beautiful blend of cultures and distinct neighborhoods, and yet you always seem to have room to breath. I know so many people in this city, many of whom I love dearly. And yet… I am so not a city girl.

My heart is not buried between skyscrapers. It’s in the middle of mountains.

“…and then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book!” Sound familiar? 😉

So when my family asked me how my time in the city was, I answered, “A lot of fun, but… I’m also more sure than ever that this – Chicago – isn’t where I want to end up full-time. Because ultimately, I am so much happier when surrounded by nature, space, and mountains. So I think someday, a move may be in my future.”

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FYI that’s my future house, on the top of the far right peak. Even though my writing/mountain buddy Amanda may fight me for it.

My mom was sad then. She was quiet for a time, and finally she remarked, “Well, we all have to find our paths, honey.”

I thought about it for a minute. Finally I answered, “No, that’s not quite it. I know my path right now – it’s writing. I know what I want to be doing for the foreseeable future, and I’m doing it. I’m already on that path. It’s just… finding the best routes along the way.”

And I would choose the scenic route, no matter how long it takes me to find it.

In the meantime, I will enjoy borrowing this scenic route :-)
In the meantime, I will enjoy borrowing this scenic route!

And mom – once I’m there (with my own cabin the wood, wherever that is)…. which will probably take a while… you are SO welcome to come visit me in those mountains, and bring alllllll of your many books with you!

“…the road goes ever on and on…”

So to all my wanderers, I leave you with the brilliant words of J.R.R. Tolkien – and a blog that I will aim to take in the direction of this poem. Let me know what you think.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Which is all to say that I will be king of the world!!!! Muhhahaha!
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Okay, maybe not that last part. But you get the picture. ❤

Cabin In The Woods

Life: Hello all! I have A normal(ish) update for you at last. The past few weeks have been packed for me “life”-wise, with a family friend’s wedding, family in town, hosting a slew of dinners/labor day bbqs, and generally everything piling up at once, as sometimes happens. But, it was wonderful to see family, and now I have a very clear week ahead…. more to come on that note ;).

Very serious pursuits of puzzle, Sherlock, and Friends
Very serious pursuits of puzzle, Sherlock, and Friends.
Cousin time at the wedding! Love these ladies :).
Cousin time at the wedding!

Reading: Gahh I’ve been so good all year about tracking my reading, and now I’ve fallen behind a bit! From what I remember I’ve recently read Percy Jackson and the Olympians (awesome book – Rick Riordan nails middle grade/the world/his own amazing style of storytelling) and… started a lot of other books :/. Next few weeks task – finish those half started books. Note: this may be made more difficult by the fact that I just started Queen of Shadows – and it’s a brick of my book that may occupy a good deal of my reading energies for a while. Andddd I started Venegence Road by Erin Bowman (they both came out last week, and both are already proving to be awesome. Lalalala, book-cave here I come!!!

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Only three chapters in and already love this book! #VRRoundup 😀

Writing: So. Good news, bad news. Bad news(ish) – I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that, despite having already rewritten my WIP (work in progress) once… It still has major plot problems, and it may not even be starting in the right place. In short, it is not the book I set out to write.

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Please, tell me I’m almost there.
Nope. Nope, not even close.
Nope. Nope, not even close.

But that’s not entirely bad news, because while it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to rewrite (and then revise) again, I know it will be worth it to have a better finished product – one I’m really, truly, wholeheartedly proud of.

I will climb this revisions mountain... with all the strength of a raging fire and the force of a great typhoon!!
I will climb this revisions mountain… with all the strength of a raging fire and the force of a great typhoon!!

Now, onto the really fun news. Some of you (*cough* anyone who has talked to me in the past year or five *cough*) may know that I have a burning ambition… to find a cabin in the woods and live there in peace/hermit-dom as I write away my days. Well, I’m not quite there yet… but I did have a wonderful family friend offer me up their family’s vacation home to visit so I can have a little quiet time and finish this book! And said house is kinda in the woods/mountains so…. basically I’ve died and gone to heaven.

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Small taste of cabin in the woods(ish) life!

😛 That’s all. Talk to you next week. I have woods to enjoy now!!! And I will hopefully have an sizzling update for you then! In the meantime, be well everyone, and enjoy those final days of summer (which is not technically over until September 22 and no one will tell me otherwise lalalalala!).

🌞🌞🌞

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Ahem: *We now interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you all some exciting news….*

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I have been nominated by my lovely writing buddy/fellow blogger Amanda for this award – thank you so much Amanda!! I will post a regular life/writing/reading update next week, but for now I am so excited to answer the questions Amanda has given me and pass on the nomination to other awesome bloggers I know!

Without further ado, the rules are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their site (Thank you Amanda! Check out her blog here – To Live a Thousand Lives).
  2. Put the award logo on your blog.
  3. Answer the ten questions you were given.
  4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. Nominate ten other blogs. (Note: I so do not have ten blogs to nominate – eek! Sorry!!)

Here are my answers:

What is the best book you’ve read this year?

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (second in her trilogy, The Lumatere Chronicles). I’ve talked about this one before, but seriously – go read. Go, right now. Complex, twisted, gorgeously written epic fantasy that will leave you thinking about it months after you put it down – I know I still am.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go first and why?

Paris. Wait, I know, sounds cliche, but here’s why – I love this city, and I am so at ease in it. So I would go there first, hole up in a beautiful little apartment with copious amounts of bread, jam, salted butter, cheese and wine, and plan out the rest of my travels in pure bliss (which would include places I hadn’t been before, namely most of Asia, all of Australia/New Zealand, and good parts of Africa/South America – not to mention Canada, which I’ve still never been to!) before setting out in earnest. Oh, and I have two great aunts in Paris who I need to visit as well, so… priorities!

When you write, do you outline first or just pants it?

A little of both. I do a version of an outline – usually scribbled descriptions of a few key scenes and characters, along with a table of contents that includes one sentence chapter descriptions – and I do some of the world building, but then… well, whatever I’ve planned as a plot usually undergoes a couple of major upheavals by the time I’m done. At some point, the original outline gets mostly tossed and I just go with where the story is taking me – in an ideal world, that works! Ha ha….

When you aren’t reading/writing what do you like to do?

There are other things to do? 😉 Hmm… well, I like to cook random, usually spontaneously invented food concoctions… sometimes I chase the writer cat around until she lets me snuggle… I love exploring new restaurants in Chicago… did I mention I have a thing for food??

What TV show do you binge-watch?

Friends, always, and lately, Sherlock – I felt through all of it in a week and can’t wait for Season 4!

You can’t leave the house without ________?

A pen and paper. Not that I typically use them – I just have a chronic fear of needing to write something down and not being able to. It’s a writer thing, I’m told.

Books or e-reader?

Both. I used to be a strictly hard copy books girl, then I lived in Spain for a few months… and couldn’t possibly fit enough books in my suitcase to last me that long. So I relented, started using an e-reader, and wow that power to buy and read instantly is addicting. But, still love my hard books more than anything!

What is a cause/social issue you care deeply about?

Fair treatment of workers, both around the world and in this country. Everyone deserves dignity.

What magical/superpower would you pick?

I have always been fascinated by Mystique from X-Men and her ability to turn into anyone she wants, and to temporarily acquire their superpower when she does. But besides that (which feels a little like getting a wish and asking for a thousand more!) I would love the ability to fly. Or photographic memory. That’d be sweet too. Can you tell I’m bad at this whole sticking to the question thing?

What fun blogs have you found lately? (Maybe tag them in your post!) 🙂

Three very different blogs actually, but all well done! My blogging buddy Matt’s Scenes I Would See, featuring scenes he’s written, including some within the Sherlock world! And obviously, given my binging inclinations toward anything Sherlock, I’ve enjoyed reading. Another one is my good friend Kelsey’s new food blog, Kelsey’s Kuisine. While I can’t eat everything she creates (sorry Kels, vegetarian!) the recipes all look delicious, and not too time/labor intensive. And of course, My wonderful critique partner Janella always has great recommendations for books and TV, along with thoughts on the writing/creative process!

Okay, now onto my nominations (Amanda has already nominated most of my writing buddies, so please pardon the small list!!):

Katy Pool

Kelsey Hogan

Stacey Campbell

Here are your questions:

  1. Favorite Harry Potter book?
  2. Biggest fictional crush?
  3. Favorite food/drink to have while curled up with a book?
  4. If you created an alternate identity for yourself, what would your name be?
  5. City you’d most want to move to (besides your current one)?
  6. Dream job(s)?
  7. Favorite recent read?
  8. Favorite recent TV show (and how many episodes/seasons you binged – be honest)?
  9. Which character from a book would you most want to be friends with?
  10. What blogs inspire you (blogs of friends, blogs of authors, favorite food blogs, etc)?

Have fun!! And I’ll be back soon with updates, including awesome author events I have coming up – one in Boston in particular! 😀

Top 10 Book Challenge

Eeek! I am SO late in posting and I have yet to publish my top ten books as promised. So – very short update today, and then onto the top 10 book challenge – thanks Janella for nominating me!

Quick life/reading/writing update: Summer in Chicago is still glorious (if cooling down a little – which does NOT mean summer is over – denialdenialdenial no shame), I went to Ch1Con two weeks ago (which was amazing! lots of cool authors and young writers and readers, discussing being a young author of YA, and met some more local Chicago writers!), read some awesome Christina Lauren (NA romance about a dancer and a charming french boy), and am still in round 2 of revisions (haha, big surprise – but I have made some progress). And that, friends, is what we call a speed update, as well as a heck of a run on sentence. You’re welcome. Now onto some of my favorite books!

So the point of the challenge is to come up with the 10 books (or series) that have most influenced you. I will shamelessly steal Janella’s idea and add a few bonus books at the end, but keeping the more detailed explanations for top 10. Also shamelessly stealing Janella’s rules:

1. No two books by the same author!

2. But, you can count a series as one book!

3. Also, this isn’t really a rule, but we’re listing our books in chronologically order, which I think is super cool! 😀 <<< Sorry, I am definitely going to bend this rule! I read these series so spread out over years of childhood, I can’t even try to tell you which came first. Ah well.

Ready, set, GO!

1. Nancy Drew – I loved this series! I knew it was a bit dated even at the time… but the wit, the puzzle-solving, and the thrill of figuring out a mystery for yourself as you’re reading hooked me to this series at a young age. For a while, I thought mystery was my main genre, all because of Nancy Drew. Fierce females taking charge and taking dow bad guys? Thank you, early intro to strong heroines!

2. Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) – Intro to badass heroines, part 2. I loved these four books, and wish there had been more. They basically start as every classic fairytale turned on its head, thanks to a willful princess who wants no part of tedious court life and absconds to live with dragons, then her story takes on a life of its own. Magic, living within dragon politics, adventure, dry, witty humor… Patricia Wrede turned me on to the idea of making your own style and creating the new normal within a genre you already love.

3. Ella Enchanted – So I’m pretty sure this was one of the first books I read, and reread, and reread, probably at least five times. It’s also a twisted fairytale (loosely based on Cinderella) but also definitely takes its own life. The big twist – Ella’s fairy godmother is not all she’s cracked up to be, and ends up cursing her at birth. This story takes you so deep into Ella’s mind, her heart, her inner struggle against her curse of obedience, all woven into a fairytale, fantasy setting, filled with ogres and palaces and evil stepmothers. This book definitely helped turn me on to fantasy, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

4. Cry, the Beloved Country – Read this book in middle school, and it is still one of my favorites. Fun fact – my poor copy is falling apart, and I’ve taped the last 50 pages back into the book several times, probably because they contain one of my favorite/most reread passages of all time. It deals with apartheid in South Africa, and more particularly, two fathers who grapple with loss and the disparate poverty and racism that affects them on deeply personal levels, relating to their sons. This book challenged my perception of right and wrong, and even more so, forgiveness and healing – both relationships and an entire nation. Since I’m being incredibly vague here to not ruin the book for anyone who hasn’t read it (DO!) here’s a snippet of said favorite passage.

“For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emanciptation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.”

5. Inkheart – First of all, Cornelia Funke is an incredible writer, and I would probably read anything by her just for her prose that flows like a painting – and that’s after it’s been translated from her first language, German! But this book (and the Inkheart Trilogy) in particular had a big effect on me – sparking my imagination, my taste in books, and ultimately, my writing. The book is about a girl and her father who can read characters out of books – and read people of our world into them. For a book nerd, this book is paradise. Each chapter starts with a great book quote, we delve into the possibility of being thrown into our fantasy worlds, and we also visit an amazing castle (library castle) in northern Italy. Seriously, I come back to this book a lot – it has sparked many of my own ideas, and influenced my current WIP considerably.

6. The Outsiders – Another middle school read, and another long time favorite of mine. S.E. Hinton follows the story of a group of boys growing up on the fringes of society in a large city in the 60s. There was so much about this story that stuck with me, and a few images from the novel hit me so vividly, 10+ years later I still can’t get them out of my head. S.E. Hinton taught me poignancy and vivid, heart-achingly relatable characters are possible to achieve in very few words – and that they make a story stick with you, long after you put it down.

7. Dragon Riders of Pern – I also read these books in middle school, even though they definitely have adult elements (oops)… but I couldn’t put them down. So often I am writing, and I think of Anne McCaffrey and send a silent thank you for the example she gave me of incredible world-building and balancing a huge range of characters, storylines, and often multi-generational timelines. I won’t even try to explain the series here, it is so vast and complex, but suffice it to say she is regarded as the “Mother of Science Fiction” – and she really did create a society on an alternate planet, with dragons, in a believable, incredibly well-explained way. I love these characters, I love the series… and I know I have been so influenced by these books as well. I would pick up any of them for a reread any day (and probably lose the day to a whirlwind reading frenzy), and I regularly do – they never get old to me!

8. Lord of the Rings – Speaking of world-building… I’m not sure there’s much I can say about Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit that isn’t already known. World-building? Let’s talk about 10+ years of writing a series, using the history and language knowledge of one’s Oxford professor brain, and creating multiple languages, as well as additional books on myth and legend and background story to supplement your book. That level of dedication to one’s story, one’s world, inspires me daily to keep going deeper. Aside from that, I’m in love with so many parts of this story, and probably half of the characters. For my current WIP in particular, I’ve gone back to LOTR to study the masterful way Tolkien weaves many characters and their diverging storylines together, managing their separate paths and their ultimate convergence.

9. Circle of Magic – Tamora Pierce was a gateway for me in more than one way. First, she got me hooked on fantasy. Second, she got me started on dreaming up my own stories. I think I had vaguely inserted myself into books before reading Circle of Magic (a key trademark of early writers, I’ve come to learn), but I’d never created my own part and storyline within those books. Something about Circle of Magic sparked that story-creating urge within me, and I would literally spend hours dreaming up my own stories within her world – aka, my earlier fan-fiction! Also, I got to meet Tammy in person this May at the RT convention… and I think my heart stopped a little/I stammered something incoherent about how her books helped get me through middle school, and she was amazing and… fangirl moment to the extreme!! She is incredible. And a legend. Enough said.

10. Harry Potter – There’s a reason I saved this for last. It probably had something to do with hoping I’d have talked myself silly by now and wouldn’t have enough energy left to embarrassingly sobfest/fangirl myself all over the screen about what Harry Potter meant to me. Ha. Ha. #wishfulthinking. So here we go (note: skip the following if you’re happier under the delusion that I’m not a total nerd/Potterhead/gushing fan over HP. Otherwise, sob along with me).

Harry Potter really did get me through the precarious, painful ages of 8-15. In fact it got me through a lot of bumps long after that, and still gets me through life. Shameless confessions time: I was, and still am, that kid. The one who waited at midnight every year for the new one and ignored the world until she’d finished reading the book, no matter what vacation/camp/life tried to get in the way (1-3 days of nose-to-book, usually). The one who read each book at least seven times, because each time a new one came out, she read them all once or twice (usually twice) in the months preceding the new release. The one who could tell you the latest theories about the initials R.A.B. (post book 6 release and speed read) and discuss the significance of anyone from Harry to Dumbledore to Arabella Fig.

I was the kid who wrote Harry Potter fan-fiction (literally before I knew fan fiction existed, it’s apparently just a gut reaction for certain nerd type, writing inclined, kids to do this as soon as they read Harry Potter 17 times and still need more). And years later, when I was dreaming of careers/future life plans (read: desperately searching for a life calling as my graduation date crept closer and closer), I turned to my oldest source of center. I reread all seven books, and then reread my fan fiction. And you know what? I remembered. I remembered why I’d fallen in love with writing all those years ago, and I realized that fire had never died. It was just waiting, a glowing ember, for me to come back and rekindle it. I did. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for all you’ve given me, and dreamers everywhere. You’ve made all the difference for me.

Now, onto tags! I nominate my wonderful fellow writer friends/log buddies Anna Leighton and Stacey Campbell! Good luck 🙂 .

On Blocks and Bumps

Life/books: Hello all! Happy Tuesday. My life update will be partially a book update this week, thanks to some wonderful book events happening in Chicago. On Sunday, I went to the fabulous Erica O’Rourke’s book launch party for Resonance, which recently released. It’s the second in a duology about a girl who can walk between worlds – all the parallel worlds that result from what might have happened if you’d gone right instead of left down that road, if you hadn’t spilled coffee and left a few minutes late that morning, missing the traffic accident you’ll never know you avoided, etc.

Erica's event - and a good crowd! Photo stolen from The Bookstall's twitter.
Erica’s event – and a good crowd! Photo stolen from The Bookstall’s twitter.

So I’m now in the middle of Dissonance, the first book, and am really enjoying it. I love that concept of many worlds to reflect our tiny choices and what they might have led to. It reminds me of this scene from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, about all the tiny coincidences that led to a character’s accident (spoiler alert):

It that was awesome Erica at The Bookstall, which is my wonderful, local independent bookstore in Winnetka. She introduced me to some awesome ladies of the RWA, Chicago North chapter (RWA is a great organization that runs online writing courses and connects writer through events, conferences and local groups) and I may even join them for a meeting soon – YAY more writer friends close by!

And as I write this, I am in Naperville awaiting another fabulous event/signing of an author I love (Susan Dennard) at another awesome independent bookstore (Anderson’s is amazing, and if you’re every in Naperville or Downer’s Grove or now La Grange, go check them out!). So… good week for writing events all around. And on a completely un-writing related note, I also got to go to an awesome beer tasting with my dear friend Kelsey (fellow Chicago suburb inhibitor and writer of this awesome new food blog Kelsey’s Kuisine) which was a lot of fun. Sometimes leaving the cave is necessary… which leads to the next part of this post!

Bells Brewery beer tasting with Kelsey!
Bells Brewery beer tasting with Kelsey!

Writing: UGHHHHH. Ohhh how I wish I’d actually looked at my papers again in high school/college after I threw them together at 6AM the day they were due learned to revise sooner. I mean… But really. Okay, here’s a quick, unabashedly melodramatic look into the brain of a writer who has loved drafting her whole life, never revising, now trying to revise:

Okay. Revising. Cool. I got this.

*Shakes shoulders and does dance to Nicki Minaj/Monster a few pushups to get ready.*

Woo, okay, ready to go! Revisions, you got nothing on me. I will tear you to the ground and swallow you whole and –

Okay, let’s get going with this. Alright. Okay. Okay, got this. Nothing scary, just opening the document… Ok, ok, title page, no worries, I got this. Chapter titles, ok, we’re cool. Na, no big deal, nothing to it.

*Reads first line. Eyebrows draw closer together.*

No, it’s fine. I’ll worry about that later. Sure it’s not ideal, but that’s what next round is for, right?

*Reads first page. Eyebrows now a pencil’s width apart.*

Okay, okay I’ll just tweak a few words then move on. No big deal. See, that wasn’t so bad, right? It’s still not perfect, but I’ll just remember the rest of the changes for later. Not for now. Now I am moving on. I am moving –

*Reaches part to be revised. Eyebrows have now melded into one, overlapping entity. Possibly with its own consciousness and will to dominate.*

Oh nononono that’s not good. Okay, it’s fine, it’s fine, I’ll just play some music, and start writing where I need to and then I’ll move on to the next scene, and the next and –

NOOOOO THERE’S SO MUCH I WILL NEVER FINISH AND HOW CAN THIS ALL BE FIXED WHEN THERE’S SO MUCH WRONG IT’S TOOO MUCH!!! MAKE THE CRINGE WORTHY WORDS AND PLOT TURNS GO AWAY PLEASEEE!!!!!!!

No, it’s okay, mind, stay with me! Just stay in front of the screen, just keep writing…

BUT THE WORDS AREN’T COMING AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I’M GOING WITH THIS.

It’s okay! It’s okay, mind, calm down! Everything’s going to be okay. Just stay calm, and calm calm calm, okay and uhhh, if you’ve had enough time to calm down yet, how about some idea on what to write next?

…Anything? Pretty please…

LALALA I’M TRYING TO BE CALM.

Yes, but the story and the new words and –

DID YOU SAY WORDS???

No! No, I didn’t! Come back, it’s okay, please!!!

We’re sorry, Maddy’s mind is not available right now, but if you leave a message after the 

NOOOO!!!!

*Cue defeated exit from cave, sleep, read, stress about mind’s treacherous desertion, trudge back into cave with game face and battle gear on, repeat.*

So that’s a sum of my life at the moment. I’ll let you know when I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Until then please feel free to share your revisions stories or other thoughts with me! I am so down to commiserate, or even to stare in wondrous awe if you are one of those incredible individuals who excels at revisions (TEACH ME YOUR SECRETS). How do you deal with writer’s block and bumps in creativity/your story?

That’s all for now. Small note: I’ll be blogging at least once more this week with my top ten most influential books, thanks to a tag from my wonderful critique partner and friend Janella, so look out Thursday for that! And I’ve also come up with a new name for my blog… so be on the lookout for the change and a bonus blog explaining the title soon! Be well all,

❤ Maddy

Intro Freeze-Ups and #HermitLife Aspirations

Life: Hi! SO….. sadly (from #HermitLife point of view), life was once again full of social fun things this past week. I know, I know, the weird writer life of craving hermitness is odd, but true! So on the upside – spent some time downtown, spent time with awesome friends, and had barbecue/fireworks/brunch madness. But on the downside… Not quite as much time as I would have liked writing.

But WHYYY do I have to leave the cave?!??
But WHYYY do I have to leave the cave?!?? #totallynotmelodramatic

But (and I know this is going to sound terrible that I’m viewing this as a good thing, but bear with me) my mom’s car broke down last week (sorry mom, I know you’re still mourning!), so she needs mine to get to work, soooo I’m stuck at home, and now I have that awesome excuse to not be pulled out of the cave!!!! <<< Yes, you can laugh, but no shame ;-). Love excuses to live the #HermitLife!

Reading: Finished Erica O’Rourke’s Torn Trilogy, which culminated in Bound – I loved this series. Such well fleshed out characters who I totally felt invested in, a super real love triangle, and it was overall a superbly planned out trilogy. Can’t wait to read her next series – Dissonance and Resonance (which was just released). She’s also a local Chicago author so I get to see her at her launch party at The Bookstall on Sunday!!!

Best combo - double triscuit(!) with bruschetta and Bound :D.
Best combo – double triscuit(!) with bruschetta and Bound :D.

Writing: Oh dear. But really. So to attempt to not be overly melodramatic (haha ,not my normal style if you haven’t noticed)… this round of revisions is going better than last round. I read through my printed (still smiling about that :)) manuscript last week, took notes, totally tore the book apart and put it back together again. I ended up cutting more than ten scenes and adding a few as well.

Grand total – I now have 50 scenes, and 20 of those need to be written from scratch or heavily rewritten. So I have my work cut out for me. And while I was totally psyched to be jumping back in… attempting to write a new intro had been a mess of a five day disaster. I now have like… seven? ten? different versions of a first chapter, and I’m not happy with any of them.

My life, trying to write an intro like whyyyy (cue return to normal, melodramatic self).
Me trying to write an intro like whyyyy (cue return to normal, melodramatic self).

So I think I’m going to jump to another chapter and deal with my beginning later! And hopefully it’s just the pressure of writing a fabulous intro to pull in all future agents/publishers/readers that is giving me writer’s block, and not a me problem – but we’ll see how jumping around works tomorrow! Writer friends – have you had intro rewriting freeze-up before?? What do you do about it? Would love to hear your thoughts! Until next time,

❤ Maddy

Back from VT/Boston and a Printed Manuscript!

Hi all! So, I have a very life/picture heavy post for you this week, because travel and friends and did I mention a printed manuscript? Namely, my printed manuscript?? But I’m not hysterically excited about this or anything… not dancing around holding the brick of a thing above my head and singing LALALA I WROTE THIS BRICK!!!! Definitely not. Ahem… anyways!

Life:

So I just got back from a trip to Vermont and Boston, which was amazing. Here area a few quick snaps from the trip:

We climbed a mountain! :-) With my lovely cousin, Anna.
We climbed a mountain! 🙂 With my lovely cousin, Anna.
Only in Vermont.
Only in Vermont. Yes, that does say powered by veggie oil.

My awesome cousin, Anna made the long drive out east with me! We had a wonderful time visiting with our cousins, aunts and uncles, hiking, swimming in ponds, tromping through the cute shops of Burlington and Montpelier and eating great food. And of course smuggling some such food back with us! Then it was on to Boston for two days to see a few friends there!

Namely, my amazing critique partner, Janella. We reunited. And played with puppies. And marathon trained, in a manner of speaking…

Reunited over sangria! #marathontraining
Reunited over sangria! #marathontraining

And we obviously had to stock up fully for said puppy sitting and training with wine and cheeses, because come on.

And of course stocking up on wines! #marathontraining
Wine and cheese time. #marathontraining

Then Janella took me hiking through the Borderlands, an awesome state park in MA. It was beautiful, and gave me even more of that dose of green/fresh air/oxygen!

Hiking in the woods with Janella!!

And of course, brunch wins always.

Brunch is better with blueberries and bellinis. #marathontraining
Brunch is better with blueberries and bellinis. #marathontraining

But, at last, I had to say goodbye to my awesome friend and drive back to Chicago…. don’t feel too bad for us though, because as we speak, we’re skyping with Akshaya and enjoying some (definitely not smuggled across the states) cider from VT and pretending we don’t all live across the country. 🙂

Reading:

Short list this week, but just finished and LOVED Erica O’Rourke’s Tangled, the second in her Torn trilogy. SO good!! It’s… what would I call it? Young adult urban/paranormal/fantasy romance, set in Chicago??? Amazing?? Great love triangle, cool setting (especially as someone living in Chicago) involving an all girls high school on the south side, a hidden society of magic, and one girl’s quest for revenge on behalf of her best friend. And while I enjoyed the first one, I love the series as a whole – well planned, and gets more complex and in depth as it goes. I am almost done with the last book in the trilogy, so more updates to come on that front next week!

Writing:

Really only one, enormous (like 347 pages) update this week – I printed my manuscript!!! So now I have it in hard copy – my back may break under the extra weight – and I have finished reading it through this past week. Now on to 1) rewriting conclusion 2) fixing major plot changes/rewriting a few scenes as needed and 3) making the rest of my noted revisions, in order.

In print at last!
In all it’s backpack breaking, weighty glory!

And that’s all for now! More books and writing updates next week – hopefully fewer life updates *hides face in hands at shamefully un-hermit like last two weeks*. No, really though, if I can go be a cave creature for the next week or two, I think it will be best all around – for manuscript and sanity’s sake. Be well everyone, and good luck in your writing/reading/life endeavors in the meantime!!!

❤ Maddy

Quick Hello from Vermont and Revisions News!

I am sad to say there will be no book updates this week, but that is because last week was SUCH a crazy writing push for me – literally went from 7AM to 11PM (or 12AM, or 1AM, as the week went on) doing revisions work….Which led up this miraculous moment below, that for four months I wondered if I would ever reach, which I rolled into around 10AM on July 4th….

Lady Elizabeth, with me until the final hour!
Lady Elizabeth, with me until the final hour!

In case you can’t see it, those lovely, tiny, two words on the screen say – drumroll please – THE END. As in, I have officially made it to the end of this monstrous rewrite and finished round 1 of revisions of Palace of Moonlight!!! It has been a long ride, and I am so happy to have reached this milestone!

A huge thank you to all who have been amazing cheerleaders every step of the way – my family, my critique partners (looking at you and your perpetually inspiring text messages/tweets/care packages Akshaya and Janella!).

Speaking of care packages…. here are the Filipino bracelet and mini monkey that came as part of our mid-revisions care packages from Janella!! Fun fact – my package was addressed to Jasmine and Raja. I’ll leave it to you to figure out who’s Jasmine, Raja and even Abu ;P

I think Raja likes Abu... kinda. She looks happy, right?
I think Raja likes Abu… kinda. She looks happy, right?

And a special thanks to one wonderful Susan Dennard for her roadmap to revisions which gave me a flashlight in the murky haze of muddling through my unwieldy MS! Link to the start of her guide below.

http://susandennard.com/2011/05/soozs-guide-to-revisions-lesson-1-what-the-heck-did-you-write/ <<< Highly recommended for any writers, ps that’s only the first of about 26 segments she wrote on revisions! She is amazing!!

Could not have done it without you all. Thank you, thank you. And of course, to the writer cat…. you might be annoying when you walk on my keyboard, but I love you anyways 🙂 and at least you put up with my gollumness! I am currently on a weeklong break from revisions (while convenient recovering from my gollum-like/cave-creature-inflictions in beautiful, nature rich Vermont) so more to come next week on round 2 of revisions and hopefully new books. In the meantime let me just finish on a slightly ridiculous note… namely, writer cat meets catnip. I call it the catniption fit. You’re welcome.

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Catniption fits ensue!

❤ Madeleine

Once More unto the Cave, Dear Friends…

Hello from a housekeeping morning in the cave! It was a morning for todos and long put off tasks, but I can proudly say I am now at inbox zero and ready for the week. I’ll explain why that’s essential in just a second!

Reading: Just finished two NA books by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Frigid and Scorched. I enjoyed them both, and really liked Scorched, which deals with mental health issues in a way I found felt incredibly authentic. Funny at times, heart-wrenching at others, I thought it was a powerful story.

Life: Life has been good – I may be the only person in Chicago drooling over the excess of rain and thunderstorms because I love rain, and can write a ton with that dark snd stormy atmosphere as inspiration. So storms (sorry fam/friends), bring it on! But there have been a few sunny days that allowed for summer fun – like grilling and eating outside on father’s day, and working outside when I have pages from my lovely CPs to read. Below is one of those said lovely days where I get to eat and work outside!IMG_8563

And of course,  Lady wants to explore the outside too – but always chickens out!

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But I’ve also been doing a lot on revisions, and since my deadline for finishing this round of Palace of Moonlight revisions (which is a full rewrite of the entire book) is July 3, as in Friday… a lot of life has been taken over by writing. In the best way possible. Really. I don’t need to see sunlight, do I?

Since the week coming up is my last, crunchtime week to finish this round… well, that brings us back to why I had to get my inbox to zero. I think I’ve talked about this before, but for me, writing is a lot like sprinting in bursts, or diving into a lake and holding your breath. Sometimes, you can’t come up for air or stop for a rest until you’ve seen yourself over the finish line/to the end of that book. So to fam/friends reading – what I’m saying is, don’t expect to hear much from me next week. And if I start to look like this come Friday: Gollum

then please send help :-). #cavecreature

Writing: Clearly writing has bled into life and vice versa. But let me take this segment of my blog to reflect once more on revisions. I’ve been revising for four months – granted, with a good amount of travel interrupting those months – but I’ve had weeks where I’ve been entirely at home, fully dedicated to writing, showing up everyday to my computer, and have ended up with little forward progress, and in some case backward process. I might write 6000 words in that week, but then throw out half of it or realize I need to go back and fix the last chapter (hence backwards progress). Then again, last week I had a breakthrough, writing over 10,000 words in a day and over 20,000 in the week – most of which I kept.

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Lady from where she stared at me through said breakthrough week.

What I’ve taken from this is what I’ve heard all along – no matter how slow, no matter how frustrating, you just. keep. writing. As Ray Bradbury said, “You only fail if you stop writing.” It’s been a year since I started writing full-time, and I’ve had my ups and downs, but the one thing I know I have going for me is that I kept writing, even when it was terrible writing and I had to put my fingers in my ears and sing lalala-I-don’t-care-I’m-going-to-write-anyways-even-though-I-don’t-know-how.
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Cat supports me in shaking my head and pretending a world of negativity doesn’t exist out there to crush my dreams. Lalala not listening!

And you know what? A year later, I’ve written almost 500,000 words or, to put it in terms of one of my favorite book series of all time, nearly two Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’s put together. That happened little by little, and was not always pretty, but in the end, it added up. And I’m going to keep writing until I find the good words out of that massive mess of drafts, and then, someday soon, end up with a book I’m proud of.

For now though, back to the cave! Real world, see you in a week or so. If I’m not already Gollum by then.

And on a last, gorgeous note to end on – I’ll leave you with a picture of my beautiful city of Chicago on a summer evening.

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