Friday, November 14, 2014

I've Been Tagged!

Kristin Rae and I became friends over the years through our love of FRINGE and figure skating. She's the author of WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN and her second book, WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED comes out in early 2016. She's been an exceptional mentor and friend, so when Kristin tagged me in a blog hop, I found it perfect for a mid NaNo November blog post.

What are you working on?

Last week I finished what I believe is the next to last round of revisions on a middle grade fantasy. After that I decided to give National Novel Writing Month a try and I'm working on a young adult fantasy. I'm using some world building concepts from something I wrote three novels ago, but drawing up a fresh new cast of characters and conflict. I'm really enjoying the project. Sad to say though, I'm not quite keeping up with the NaNoWriMo pace. According to the stat tracker on the website, if I keep writing like I am, I'll finish the novel February 17, 2015. And that'll just be the first draft!

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I love unique and strange stories like Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN CYCLE trilogy or THE SCORPIO RACES. I'm always aspiring to write that never-done-before story and I hope that shines through in my writing.

Why do you write what you do?

I love music because of the lyrics. And I love books because of the characters. If a story has real, fleshed out characters, then I fall hard. So for me, regardless of something being contemporary or fantasy (which are the two genres I write), it always comes down to writing characters that come off the page and that I can't live without.

What does your writing process look like?

My writing process has consistently evolved over the past ten years. But, I'll share what I did with my past two novels.

  • I make a beat sheet. If you don't know what a beat sheet is, check out SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. OR I fill in the blanks on a plot diagram sheet, planning out every high point and low point. OR I do both.
  • I write about 20-30k words of the manuscript.
  • I revise.
  • I put that 20k words through Natalie Parker's Crit Camp.
  • I revise again based on my Crit Camp notes.
  • Now, that my novel has a strong 20k foundation, I write the rest of the novel.
  • I let that novel marinade for about 6 weeks. I don't open the document. I don't think about it. And I usually catch up on my reading pile during this time.
  • I print out the manuscript, read through it, and edit with a red, purple, or green pen (has to be one of those colors).
  • It's been 6 to 8 weeks by now, and I'm finally opening the document on the computer to implement edits.
  • I send to three or four critique partners.
  • I receive critiques and decide which suggestions I want to use to make the story better.
  • I revise.
  • Send new version to different crit partners/beta readers.
  • Decide which suggestions I want to implement in story.
  • I revise again, and then will let my agent know I have something new to share with her.
For the past two novels, this entire process takes about a year. Around bullet point #12 I start thinking about and planning for the next novel.

Thank you Kristin for tagging me in the blog hop. It's alway fun to chat about writing! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

So I've Decided to Do the NaNo

Did you know November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month? It's when people buckle down and try to pump out a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. I tried to do this many years ago and epically failed for several reasons:
  • I hadn't given my story idea any thought prior to November. So there was no character sketching. No pre-plotting. Nothing. It's pretty daunting to come up with an idea and write it to completion in 30 days.
  • I had the misconception that 50,000 words was a full length novel. It isn't.
  • I didn't have enough time.
  • I was too tired.
  • I thought I wanted to do it, but it turns out I really didn't.
  • I thought my brain was incapable of churning out creativity in such mass quantities.
So when writer friends asked me if I was doing it this year. I was like, no. Nope. Definitely not. And I listed my reasons about how my writing method did not conform to NaNo. Or about this or about that. Blah, blah, blah.

But then I got caught up in all the NaNo pre-hype. 
And all my writer friends were doing it. 
And I already have an entire novel pre-plotted, characters all dreamt up, and worlds ready to be built. And I felt this itch to do NaNo. I didn't want to be left out of all the writing fun.

So I signed up for NaNo today and plan to join the drafting frenzy. My NaNo name is: AnitaSk8. If you're doing it, add me as your buddy, and we can cheer each other on.

Do I expect to complete an entire YA Fantasy novel this month?
Heck no, considering your average YA Fantasy can be almost 80,000 words.
Do I expect to write 50,000 words?
Probably not.
Do I plan to have fun and enjoy the camaraderie of writers striving to put words on a page?
Absolutely, yes!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Mega Book Gossip Time

I'm excited to gossip about the books and audiobooks I've been spending my time with.

I met the author of TALKER 25, Joshua McCune, on the interwebs a few years ago. He'd comment on my blog posts and I'd comment on his, and a writerly friendship developed. Not only is he a fantastic writer, but has an excellent editorial eye.
Goodreads has a summary of the novel here.
I love the concept and pacing of this novel. As I was reading I kept thinking it was kind of like PLANET OF THE APES crossed with ERAGON, but set in an alternate militarized reality of the contemporary midwest.
I also always get wrapped up in stories about humans vs animals. My heart ends up in my throat and my brain screams, why can't everyone just get along? Ok?
This story is intense. So much so, I had to put the book down when I reached the end of Part One. I just couldn't believe the predicament the characters and the dragons were in. Thankfully, I found the courage to jump back in and finish it. Can't wait for Book 2!

Mindy McGinnis, the author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK, happens to be an agency mate. And I'm so honored to be in her company. This is an amazing book.
In fact, on October 19th, NPR interviewed Mindy and some other authors about dystopian worlds in which water becomes the most valuable commodity.
I always gravitate towards character driven books. Every character in NOT A DROP TO DRINK is so fleshed out, and you can see how by the end of the book everyone irrevocably changes. It's a truly excellent read.

Goodreads has a summary of the novel here.

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is the sequel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK. And I am not going to put the link to the Goodreads summary here because it kind of gives away (in my opinion) what happens at the end of NOT A DROP TO DRINK.
IN A HANDFUL OF DUST released on September 23rd, which happened to be the day I was in NYC and met our agent, Adriann Ranta. And I remember Twitter was buzzing with the release, and rightly so.
My friend and I often talk about good books that fall flat in the end. How the endings just aren't satisfying. IN A HANDFUL OF DUST has one of the most satisfying endings I've read in a long time. And it was an absolute delight to go on another adventure with the characters from NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

I'm humbled to say the author of GIRL OF NIGHTMARES, Kendare Blake, is also an agency mate. This book is the sequel to ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD.
Not many people know this, but ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is responsible for me signing with Adriann. After I finished listening to the audiobook of ADIB, I was so blown away by this unique ghost story, I turned to the interwebs and read everything about Kendare. I discovered Adriann was her agent and the agent of another writer friend, Ron Smith. So ANNA played a hand in me sending out my query letter.
But, now let's talk about the book! I don't want to say too much because I don't want to give away anything from the first book. But let's say I found myself sitting in my car long after I reached my destination just to hear what happened next to Cass and the crew in this next installment.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Loving a Flooded Genre

So I'm searching for my next book idea. And they say you should write something that you're passionate about. Well, I LOVE fantasy books! I love dragons, vampires, wizards, werewolves, people with super powers, pigs that can mind read, cats that can predict the stock market.
I just eat it up!

So one would deduce that I should probably write that next big story about the house cat that took over Wall Street that falls in love with the vampire next door that has to hide his dragon in the basement to keep the werewolves from eating his exotic pet. Yes, that is what one would logically deduce I should write.

The problem is that there are sooo many stories about magicians and dragons and vampires. And I know that it is possible to take an over done concept like a vampire and to execute that story so uniquely (like the COLDEST GIRL IN COLD TOWN by Holly Black) that it becomes something hot and exciting. But to have that unique vision about something that has been written about so much is not an easy thing to do.

A writer that has a stupendous ability at doing this is Maggie Stievfvater. Have you ever hear her Ted Talks? Well, here it is.


Ok, I got a little off subject there. Because Maggie's talk actually doesn't have anything to do with what I'm talking about here. But, why I like to bow down to Maggie is she is so good at coming up with unique fantasy ideas. One of my all time favorite books that she wrote is THE SCORPIO RACES. It's about man eating horses that come out of the sea. And people race these dangerous creatures. Well, it's about more than that. But, still, what a cool concept.

So wish me luck as I search for that next amazing idea in a flooded genre that I love.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Met My Agent!!

It's hard to imagine as I type this from my kitchen island that last week, I was chilling here:

And I was sitting here:
Just enjoying the fall breeze, writing for fun, and playing with new novel ideas.

After playing at Washington Square Park, I met up with my agent, Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services, for a lovely lunch. I had spoken to Adriann on the phone and we had exchanged e-mails, but there was just something about meeting her in person that made everything seem so REAL.

She's exceptionally sweet, smart, professional, and just fun to be around. While she ate her falafel and I chowed down on a delicious chicken salad, we got to know each other better, and she answered my questions about publishing.

Here we are at lunch. (I'm thankful for the back light blurring my face because it hides my awful hair day in contrast to Adriann's amazing hair day. I lost a pony tail holder in a toilet at a cupcake's a long story.)

After our lunch I left feeling quite lucky to have Adriann representing my writing career.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Importance of Waiting Before You Revise

It has taken me years to actually do what the title of the blog post says.

Writer Anita of 10 years ago: OMG. I just finished writing a book. An ENTIRE book! Revise? Huh? Nah. My writing teacher said it's good. *as I print out copies and snail mail to every publisher on the planet*

Writer Anita of 5 years ago: I just finished writing a book! I have to fix it! NOW. There's no point in waiting four to six weeks before diving in revisions. What if the world runs out of agents because I took too long to revise my book?!? What? You say I need fresh eyes? Dude, my eyes are so fresh.

Writer Anita of the Present: I finished writing a book! Yay! Celebrate with cookies. Forget about manuscript for at least a month. Send it out to my trusty critique buddies. To keep my mind off of marinading novel, I read all those books I didn't have time to read while I was writing. Then after four to six weeks, I read a hard copy of my novel. Mark up my own edits. Then take a look at critique buddies' comments and see what's similar and what's different. And THEN I dive into revisions.

Why is it so important to wait before revising?

1. It's true. You need to look at your novel with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. Distancing yourself from the world and characters of your novel are only going to help you later truly figure out how to make everything shine. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?

2. What's the hurry? The publishing industry is SLOW. And it's seasonal. Even if you snag that super star agent, you might have to wait before you go on submissions because it's just not the right time to send your book out. And when you're book is on submission with a publisher, it may take weeks, or months. I have a writer friend who's book sold after being on submission for eighteen months!

3. Revision is a step wise process and can not be rushed. It's more than just checking for typos and making sure all your commas are in the right place. It's about making your characters and their motivations as real as you can make them. It's about making sure the world you've created doesn't have any holes in it and testing your plot. Do your settings have enough detail? Do they have too much detail? Does every scene move the story forward or do you have a lot of filler scenes? So many things to examine and think about.

So in closing, take a chill pill after you finish writing that novel you've poured your heart into for months, maybe years. You and the novel deserve not to rush the revision process.

Happy writing!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Writers Series: Interview with Dr. Barbara Darling Saxena

Today is a very special Writer's Series because I get to interview my amazing aunt, Dr. Barbara Darling Saxena. She has been a constant source of support as I pursued my writing career, and when she decided to write her own book I was deeply inspired. 

A couple years back Aunt Barbara created a bucket list and one of the items was to write a book. A lot of people say they want to write a book, but nothing actually happens. But she did it! And her novel SOUVIENS is full of history, suspense, science, love, and plot twisting deceit. I flew through the book! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to write?

I frequently share with others that writing this novel was on my bucket list. I also use this endeavor as an example to my patients of “stepping out of the box” and trying new things. Writing this book helped me get through the “empty nest” sadness of my daughter leaving for college and my husband being on the road a lot. Researching and writing SOUVIENS was a creative adventure that re-energized me again!  

I often hear people say they don’t have time to do something creative. Being a solo practice Family Doc, I work very long hours, seven days a week. Yet I was able to finish the book in two years.  SOUVIENS was a novel written in stolen moments. While doing housework, I imagined character dialogue. While eating my lunch at Subway, I jotted down notes on paper napkins.  I actually looked forward to standing in lines or waiting for appointments as precious creative time!

Before you created the Bucket List had you dabbled in writing before?

I have been making up stories in my head since I was a little girl in bed, afraid of insomnia. As long as I could watch “a movie” in my head, I would not dwell on being the only person in the world who was awake! Over the years, I came to enjoy  “the movies” so much that I would forget to sleep.

And here is SOUVIENS! I love the cover!

SOUVIENS is part medical mystery, part historical fiction, with a tincture of romance. The novel explores the heroine’s belief that she has inherited actual memories from her ancestor. The plot revolves around the 1934 Hotel Kerns fire, a real life tragedy that killed thirty-four people, including seven Legislators, in Lansing, Michigan. The novel alternates between the present day and the 1930’s,  weaving the two story lines together. SOUVIENS is a 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award winner.
You can find it available on Amazon here and here.

What inspired you to write SOUVIENS?

Several years ago, while researching my own genealogy, I had this strange sensation that my ancestors’ stories felt familiar. One night while in bed, a idea popped into my head—could actual memories from our ancestors be passed down through the generations? Soon, I began making up “movies” on this topic.

Also during my genealogy research, I ran across the story of the 1934 Hotel Kerns fire in Lansing, MI, that killed 34 people, including seven Michigan legislators. Five bodies were never identified.  I  wondered who were these poor souls who never returned home. Soon, “movies” about fictionalized identities began to form in my head.

Then, one night, these two ideas—ancestral memories and the unidentified victims—morphed together in my brain, and the genesis for SOUVIENS was created.

What does SOUVIENS mean?

The word souviens is French for memory. This is where our word souvenir comes from –memory of a trip. The book explores the idea of ancestral memories. The characters also grapple with whether families are united by common memories or genetic material. Souviens is also the name of a memory research facility which plays a central  part in  the book’s plot.

When I write a novel, sometimes it's smooth sailing and sometimes It's an emotional roller coaster. What was writing SOUVIENS like for you? And if you did hit any roadblocks during the drafting process, how did you over come them? Are you a plotter or a pantster (write by the seat of your pants)?

I knew the beginning and the end of the novel, along with major milestones, at the start of the project. But I ran into several road blocks along the way. The most challenging problem was trying to make an imaginary idea, “ancestral memories”, seem real. I tried to weave enough legitimate science into the plot to make the premise seem plausible. Another writing challenge was placing fictionalized characters into a real tragedy. Many people in my community still have memories of the fire.  I wanted to be respectful of those memories, as well as of the victims of the fire.

Any advice on how to write a compelling character (you've got a couple good ones in SOUVIENS)?

I talk to people all day long in my job, and I have discovered that everyone has interesting character traits and has an interesting story to tell. The characters in my novel are conglomerations of people I’ve met over the years.  I mixed in my own experiences as well. For instance, one of the characters in the book describes discovering his direct descendent in the 1600’s was hanged in England  for his religious convictions. This was also one of my own discoveries during my genealogy research that left an emotional impact on me.  

Are you working on any other projects?

I continue to make up “movies” in my head most nights.  But nothing yet has grabbed me enough to want to live day and night with these characters for two or three years.  I greatly miss writing, and I hope soon my next idea will take hold!  I have never enjoyed an endeavor as much as I enjoyed writing Souviens.

Thank you for spending time with us on the EDGE Aunt Barbara! And go check out SOUVIENS! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mega Book Gossip Time

I was so busy this summer that I didn't really get a chance to read much. So to end the summer with a bang I've been tearing through some awesome books.

I can not say enough how much I love Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series. I can't believe I'm saying this (gasp) I may have fallen in love with it more than the Mortal Instruments Series. I may have. Reading a story about Shadowhunters set in Victorian England was enchanting to say the least. I've always loved character driven novels, and the characters and their complex relationships are so rich and real in this series. Will, Jem, Tessa, Charlotte, Henry, Jessamine--they're all characters that stayed with me way after I finished reading. And the ending was absolutely beautiful.

I had actually started reading City of Heavenly Fire before I read Clockwork Princess. That was a bad idea. If you haven't started the Infernal Devices series, then go ahead and read the Mortal Instruments Series. But, if you're in the middle of reading the Infernal Devices Series, like I was, and then you read City of Heavenly Fire before finishing Clockwork Princess, well, in my opinion, it gives away what happens to some of the characters in Clockwork Princess. So I actually stopped reading City of Heavenly Fire, read Clockwork Princess, and then went back and finished reading CoHF.
But Brava on a fantastic, unpredictable ending to the series! I bow down to you Ms. Clare for tying up the everything like you did and placing my heart in my throat as many times as you did!

I had marked the release date for this book in my calendar almost a year in advance. I simply couldn't wait to see what had happened to Anna & Etienne and Lola & Cricket and return to Paris for another school year through the eyes of Isla. I devoured this book. If you haven't checked out these books by Stephanie Perkins, I HIGHLY recommend them. Start with Anna and the French Kiss, then proceed to Lola and the Boy Next Door, and then sit down with a box of tissues as you finish things off with Isla and the Happily Ever After. Sending cyber hugs to Stephanie Perkins for tugging on my heart strings like she did.

And last, but not least, I just finished reading Hexed, written by my agency mate, Michelle Krys. This book was hilarious and dark and is a completely fresh take on witches and sorcerers. I immediately fell in love with Indigo's voice and I loved the fact that the story took place in LA. Some of my besties live there and so as I was reading I could see all the places in my mind's eyes. Fabulous read and I can't wait for the sequel, Charmed, to come out!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Last Week in Review

So it started with me getting Jalapeno in my eye. I was making guacamole and rinsing a jalapeno under the kitchen sink. The jalapeno was so hot, the heat wafted off the pepper in waves and sent me into a coughing fit. And then later that night, even though I had washed my hands several times and taken a shower, the jalapeno oil was still on my fingers and soaked into my contacts. So not only did I burn my cornea Sunday night, but I was stupid Monday morning and burned my cornea again when I tried to put the same contacts back in. My vision was affected and my eye burned for three days! Not fun.

Last Monday I finished my first draft for my MG Fantasy, COLLIDE. I started working on this last fall during a Mediabistro online class with Emilia Rhodes last fall. Took a break with it for six months and picked it back up this past July. I'll probably wait six or eight weeks before I tackle revising the story.

Last Wednesday I must have eaten or touched something and my face blew up from an allergic reaction. It was not fun. I had to cancel work and conk myself out with a couple Benadryl. And when you have such a big allergic reaction, it kicks you in the butt. I was wiped out for three or four days after that--trudging through life like a zombie.

Friday through Sunday I went to an EIGHTEEN HOUR conference for work stuff! 18 hours is a very long time! My bottom was not happy. But there were two shining moments during the weekend. One, I finished reading CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE by Cassandra Clare. It was such an amazing ending to a six book series I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading. Two, I had an epiphany for a new book idea! The concept is so cool....and...I have no explanation for it....yet. This is the fun part of writing a book--developing the idea and the characters. Who is who? Where is this all taking place? Why? Why? and more Whys? What helps me out the most during this process is talking the concept out with Sarcastically Delicious (aka huzband) or friends.

Hope everyone has a fantastic week!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

In Memory of Billie Letts

Billie Letts, 'Where the Heart is' Novelist, Dies at 76

I was saddened to hear of the passing Ms. Letts today. She was one of the first people who encouraged me to pursue my writing dreams.

Rewind back to 2004. I was in grad school, unsure if I was pursuing a career that I was truly passionate about. It was a year that I did a lot of soul searching, and I came to the conclusion that I had abandoned something in college that I had truly loved--writing.

I met Ms. Letts when I was studying for an exam at Books A Million and she was doing a signing for her new novel, Shoot the Moon. I recognized who she was right away because I had read Where the Heart is earlier that year. I watched readers line up with copies of her books (instead of studying) and how she smiled and signed each one. After a few hours the crowd dwindled and I was itching to talk to her. I purchased a copy of her book for her to sign, but what I really wanted was to talk to her about how to become an author.

Let me tell you, I was soooo nervous. But, she was so warm, friendly, and helpful. We talked for a good bit and she told me about literary agents, and how it was important to complete a novel before trying to pursue representation. I was a happy sponge, just soaking up all the information she had to offer. And to top it off, she even offered, whenever I finished writing my novel, that she'd be happy to read it! And then she even told me how to send it to her! I was blown away by her generosity.

I hadn't even written a novel at this point, and yet she was so supportive and encouraging of pursuing my dreams.

We chatted a bit, and then I needed to get back to studying. So I handed her my book, she signed it, and I went back to my study table. I remember I couldn't stop grinning. She had lit a fire of hope inside me. Maybe my writing dreams weren't so crazy after all.

Instead of opening up my study notes, I opened up my copy of Shoot the Moon and saw what Ms. Letts had wrote:

I haven't opened up Shoot the Moon in many years, until I heard of Ms. Letts passing today. And I had totally forgotten that this is what she had signed inside my book.

On one of the blank pages of the novel I had also written notes about what Ms. Letts and I had discussed that day, and I had just happened to write the date that we had talked: July 22, 2004.

Adrian Ranta offered to be my literary agent on July 21, 2014--almost ten years to the day.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Don't Fixate on the Numbers

I announced last week that I signed with an agent.

For years I've read author's posts about How I Got An Agent--and I've always found them inspiring. I'd gobble up every useful piece of information, and try to implement it in my own writing and querying journey. And I couldn't wait until the day that I would get to write my own post about signing with an agent. 

But in most of these How I Got An Agent stories, there were the NUMBERS, and I'd fixate on those NUMBERS. So and so wrote this many books before they got their agent. Or it took so and so only ten queries before they got five offers. Or so and so queried eighty get my point. And even though I knew the numbers didn't really matter, that it really only takes finding one agent who is passionate about your writing--deep down I let the numbers eat at me.

I'd say I was pretty positive the first eight or so years of my journey. But then it got so bad, I couldn't even walk into a book store. I didn't like going to the library. I didn't like watching movies. I stopped tweeting. I wouldn't listen to any new audio books. I hung out with what I'd like to say my comfort books: Harry Potter, Anna and the French Kiss, etc....

Because in my mind, I had put in the numbers. I poured my heart and soul into producing numbers that should have gotten me some kind of step forward in my writing career...something. 

And, yet, nothing was happening for me. 

I can't say exactly how I got out of my funk. I think it was a combination of taking a Mediabistro YA Novel Writing Course with Emilia Rhodes last fall, learning how to knit, and sketching again, and just time....time to change my attitude. And, most importantly, talking to other writers who had been through it. 

Fast forward to July.
I'm reading up on Adriann Ranta's clients.
And then I get to Ron Smith's How I Got An Agent post. And I respected the fact that he didn't get into the numbers of queries, the number of full requests, the number of books he wrote that got him to where he was. We all love stats because we're all curious muffins. But Ron said it best: I have to say what everyone else has said and you’ve heard it a million times: It only takes one Yes.

I tried to make the signing video focus on different type of numbers--the numbers that make a journey worthwhile.

So I guess the purpose of this post is that if I can save just one aspiring writer from the misery I put myself through by fixating on the numbers--I'll consider writing this post a success.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

COVER REVEAL....Darkness by Elizabeth Arroyo

I am totally fan girling all over this cover. It's beautiful, spooky, with a dash of a thriller chill. My long time crit partner, Elizabeth Arroyo, will be releasing this bad ass book on August 12th!

That's thirteen days from today....even spookier.

Seventeen-year-old Carly Lopez suffers from post-traumatic stress, though the “post” part technically doesn’t apply…not when the killer’s still out there.

As the only survivor of the killing spree that left four dead girls in its wake, Carly fails to unearth her buried memories of that day and is consumed with guilt. After a year of silence, the killer's back, and Carly will stop at nothing to stop him.

With each new death, Carly’s reality shatters, propelling her deeper into the darkness where the dead haunt her and where the truth lies. Her only firm grasp of reality is Hunter Jackson, whose mysterious overprotectiveness of Carly forces her to doubt the reason behind her guilt.   

But Hunter has a secret.

And when she discovers a horrible truth, Carly questions her involvement in the murders. Was she directly responsible? Did she help the killer? Carly soon learns that finding answers may mean risking more than just her sanity.

AHHHH! It's too much too handle. I couldn't imagine what it'd be like to be the only survivor of a killing spree. Or the psychological damage one experiences from witnessing said killing spree. Poor Carly. Ghastly. 

Other than just being my loyal crit partner and friend, Liz is also a writing machine and has other books out too!

Elizabeth is the author of THE SECOND SIGN and THE SECOND SHADOW, a dark young adult paranormal romance series. Elizabeth currently teaches writing to teens at a local community center. You can find more information about Elizabeth at:

Monday, July 28, 2014

I've Signed with an Agent

Thrilled to announced that I've signed with Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services. Here's a little video about it =)

Signing Day from Saxena Video Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Writing Community

Sometimes I just sit back and think about how awesome the writing community truly is. The camaraderie. The willingness to donate time to help someone else. It's astounding really.

When I look back at my own journey, the list of people I'd have to thank would be quite long. The people who've critiqued my writing and allowed me to critique theirs. You can learn just as much from giving critique as you can from receiving it. The people who've commiserated. The people who pulled me out of the low points. The people who congratulated me during the small triumphs. The generous, such as Brenda Drake and Authoress, who try to create opportunities for writers to get noticed. The writer friends I've made through Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, and SCBWI conferences. Random tweets of encouragement. Writers who share their journey to publication and inevitably inspire others.

What a strong community we truly are. *happy sigh*

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Football Memories

Yesterday evening huzband and I needed a break from our Breaking Bad marathon and we decided to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather and throw the football around. It reminded me of some of my happiest times in college and graduate school: playing intramural flag football. Our team was called the Broke Jokes and we even had snazzy t-shirts.

I was #19 Ice Princess. Go figure (ahhhh....bad skating pun). Anyway, I loved the weekly practices and games, and I was always sad when the season was over. I think Broke Jokes was the first time in my life that I had really played in a team sport. Figure skating is very solitary and I loved the whole team dynamic. My friends taught me how to throw and catch a football. How to run passes. How to play defense. And I found myself loving a sport that I had never really paid much attention to in the past.

One year we even made it to the UAB co-ed flag football intramural championships! Sadly, we lost to Excitement, Inc. I still remember the name of the team--the loss was that hard.

So back to yesterday evening. Huzband and I are throwing the football around, and the skin of the football is sticky and was literally coating our hands in reddish brown goey rubber. The seams were coming apart and the football was in this permanently deflated state.

And so it is with a heavy heart that the official Broke Jokes football had to be laid to rest today. He suffered from a terminal skin disease and was no longer fit to play.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gossip Time...WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN by Kristin Rae

I recently got to spend a few glorious days at the beaches of Miami. During which I shared some of my time in the sun with Kristin Rae's debut WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN. I devoured the book!

WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN is the fun story of Pippa, who is sent off to Italy for the summer to study boring art so that one day she can work at her Mom's boring art gallery. But Pippa decides to get a little sneaky, and pretends to go to art school while she sets off on an Italian adventure of her own! I thoroughly enjoyed spending Pippa's Italian summer with her (and the cute boys!).

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Pippa has always wanted to go to Italy … but not by herself. And certainly not to sit in art school the entire summer learning about dead guys’ paintings. When she steps off the plane in Rome, she realizes that traveling solo gives her the freedom to do whatever she wants. So it’s arrivederci, boring art program and ciao, hot Italian guys!

Charming, daring, and romantic, Bruno is just the Italian Pippa’s looking for—except she keeps running into cute American archeology student Darren everywhere she goes. Pippa may be determined to fall in love with an Italian guy … but the electricity she feels with Darren says her heart might have other plans. Can Pippa figure out her feelings before her parents discover she left the program and—even worse—she loses her chance at love?

What's even more interesting than WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN is the author herself! She's a former figure skating coach, photographer, and is always making crafty art projects. Plus she's expecting a baby girl this August. Check out her website here. Congratulations Kristin on a fantabulous debut!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Never Under Estimate a Snail

I've always loved animated films, especially those by Disney and DreamWorks. I love the fantastical story lines and the cartoon characters and the songs. I don't think I've ever watched an animated movie that I didn't like.

But I tried watching TURBO a couple of months ago and I simply couldn't get into the movie. I've been going through what I'll call Anita's Jaded-Full-of-Adult-Stuff Phase of Life for most of 2014. And the reason I couldn't get into the movie wasn't because the snails weren't cute enough, or the animations didn't wow me enough, or the humor wasn't ha ha enough. It was nothing like that.

It was because the main character--a snail--wanted to become an Indy race car driver. My brain screamed: NOT POSSIBLE! NOT POSSIBLE! I mean, it's a snail. It's too small and too slow. It's just not plausible or possible. I couldn't even fathom how the writers were going to transform this run of the mill garden snail into a contender for the Indy 500. So, I remember I got up from the couch, turned my back on the movie, and proceeded to the dishes.

Seriously. The dishes.

In my mind there was no way the main character, a snail, could get what he wanted most, and I wasn't going to spend the next ninety minutes watching him flail about, only to accept in the end that he was never going to be fast, and he'd just have to accept his lot in life.

Fast forward a few months. Anita's still dealing with the Full-of-Adult-Stuff Phase of life, but I'm not as jaded. So I decided to give TURBO another chance. I was going to let DreamWorks prove to me that this snail would become the next Speedy Gonzalez. So still skeptical, I sat down to watch Turbo again with Sarcastically Delicious (aka huzband).

And I was blown away.

Literally, this snail raced past me and my narrow minded brain and left me choking on his exhaust fumes. I applaud DreamWorks for their ingenious creativity. And not only for that, but for teaching me a big lesson about keeping my mind open to possibilities.

Needless to say, if you're looking for a good movie to watch this Memorial weekend, I recommend TURBO.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


So I started listening to this fantastic audiobook called MEANT TO BE by Lauren Morrill. It's the story of a straight-A high school student named Julia and her educational class trip to London. I love stories that are set abroad, and so when I read the back cover of the audio book I was hooked.

But I've been having trouble staying in the story because the narrator of the audiobook is Shannon McManus. I love her voice. She's perfect for YA and has so much enthusiasm and emotion. But she's also the narrator for LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins and I've listened to that audio book at least a dozen times.

So it is embedded in my brain that the voice is of Shannon McManus IS Lola Nolan. And Lola and Julia (the main character of MEANT TO BE) couldn't be more different. Lola expresses herself by dressing in costume, she does decent in school, is super creative, talks to the moon, and is the exact opposite of straight-laced. At the beginning of the novel Lola's dating a hot twenty-something rockstar. Julia would never break a rule, prefers to spend her time with books, and is a disciplined athlete. Julia's school appointed travel buddy, calls her book licker and accuses her of not knowing how to fun--which is kind of true.

So while I'm listening to MEANT TO BE, I'm like what's wrong with Lola? Why doesn't she want to go the party? What happened to her wardrobe? And then, I'm like's Julia. Not Lola.

What's even worse is when Shannon McManus does the voice of a British Guy, it sounds exactly like Etienne St. Clair from ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Etienne plays a role in LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, as it is a companion novel to AATFK. So when Julia is at a party in MEANT TO BE and is talking to some British guy that's hitting her. I'm like, why is Etienne hitting on Lola? No, I mean Julia. Why is he hitting on Julia? Why is he in London without Anna? Why? Why?

So, unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be able to finish the audio book for MEANT TO BE. There's just too much character confusion going on in my head. This may be a story I'll just have to pick up in its book form.

Friday, March 7, 2014


I've been so moved by the honesty and bravery of people like Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, and Natalie Whipple out there on the internet, that it has moved me to do the same.

Confession: I haven't been blogging much lately because I'm afraid I won't say the right thing. I don't want to offend. I want to up lift.

I don't have clinical depression like Myra or Stephanie, but I have family and friends that do. And when people I care about are sad, then I'm sad. I'm like an emotional sponge. I wish I was more like a rubber bouncey ball sometimes. Bounce. Bounce. Just care about my trajectory, and don't let sad things soak into my core.

I'm scared to truly talk about my writing journey. If I talk about something good that happened. Then I'm worried that people will think I'm gloating. If I share the low times, when I'm compulsively stalking my writer e-mail, screaming in my head: somebody please e-mail me back, say something, anything--I'm afraid people will think I'm mental. I'm afraid that people judge me because I choose to write middle grade and young adult fiction, and that I'm not writing intellectual things.

I don't really talk about what's going on with skating. Because frankly, people don't get it. They'll ask things like, Are you going to the Olympics? No, I'm not freaking going to the Olympics. Did you see me in Sochi? Besides do the math. There are so many elite caliber figure skaters out there, and only two or three people get to represent our country in the Olympics once every four years. There's so much luck and timing involved. And hard word. And sacrifice. There are infinite amounts of both needed. And money. Lots of it.

People will say, oh is it your hobby? (People, btw, ask the same thing about writing).
Hobby. That's such a diminishing term for it. That puts it on the same level as stamp collecting and bird watching. My family and I have probably put more money into the sport equivalent to pay for a couple ivy league degrees. I've made social sacrifices. I've cherished every moment on the ice, every glycol and Zamboni exhaust fume I've inhaled. Every fall that's brought me closer to achieving my goals. Every student I've taught. Every show I've performed at. Every competition that I put it all out there for. I'm proud of every piece of music I've edited for every skater. That music and the skating program connected to it, is a tool to their dreams. I am the person I am today because of this sport.

I'm 34. I want to finish off my tests. People my age aren't usually training Junior and Senior Freestyle programs. With my back and neck that's withstood 23 years of a beating with the ice, and my knee, which frankly won't ever be the same after ACL reconstruction...sometimes it's just easier to not talk about how the odds seem stacked against you. I know I'm trying to do something that isn't usually done. But, it's important to me. I've given my life to figure skating. How many people can honestly say that? And now, because I'm 34, I'm expected to just give up my dreams? I. Just. Can't. Do. It. We're talking about six tests. Junior Freestyle. Senior Freestyle. And 4 gold dance test. And then I'll be a triple gold medalist. For me, to pass these things, will be the culmination of my skating career. I can't have invested 23 years and come up short. Some people get that. Some people don't. And I'm tired of hiding the fact, that this is what I do. I spend a majority of my day chasing a dream. I have a day job and I pay my bills. But I hate the fact that I can't share this journey and the importance of it with my family or my friends. When they ask, how'd your day go? I feel like it's socially mandated to give a standard answer like: Work was busy. OR Paid the mortgage today.

Why can't I say, I skated a clean program and wrote a chapter I'm proud of in my WIP? Why do I have to talk about the mundane as if that's the most important thing in my life. When it's not. Why can't I talk about a song that cleared my mind or moved me to tears or a spiritual passage that spoke to my soul? Why does a day have to be quantified by the money earned?

And I guess in the end, I should do as Idina Menzal sings, "Let it go."

I'm not going to lie. I listened to that song five times today and progressively balled my eyes out even more with each repeat. It was cathartic. Something that I needed.

This is my blog. And I'm going to talk about the good and the bad. I hope that through my writing and skating I can inspire others, be a role model (at least to those who think that those things matter). And I don't want my success to be judged by my pay stub, or what car I drive, or the number of children I don't have.

So I plan on being here a lot more and I hope you'll come join me. Peace.