Friday, June 29, 2012

UtopYA Con

Note: This is a guest blog post from UtopYACon! Get excited! Also, Blogger seems to be loathing bad. Don't be hatin'

Where all the cool kids go to meet their favorite female authors!

It’s time to get excited and to get to Nashville for the first ever UtopYA Con, which is the convention for female, paranormal/fantasy young adult authors and readers who love them.  It will be held at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, TN on July 6-8, 2012. Would you like to come? You’re already excited I know, but wait until I tell you who’s coming (and this is just a few)… Myra McEntire (Hourglass and Timepiece), Angeline Kace (Descended by Blood), Amy Bartol (The Premonition Series), Tammy Blackwell (Timber Wolves), Tiffany King (Saving Angels), Abbi Glines (The Vincent Boys), Ella James (Stained), Jessica Sorenson (Fallen Star), and so many more! You can find the full list at the UtopYA Con website.

Here’s what a few of them are saying about going to UtopYA Con:
Raine Thomas (Daughters of Saraquel)-  “"The world's been waiting for a conference like UtopYA. It's unique and in a class of its own. If you enjoy YA fantasy and paranormal stories, you can't miss this event!”
Chelsea Fine (Sophie and Carter)- “"Don't miss out on UtopYa Con 2012: Bringing your YA books to life!"
Brina Courtney (Cryptid Tales)- “If you’re a true YA fan, you’ll be there,  mixing it up with all of us.”
But it’s not just for fans, it’s for authors too. Learn the tricks of the trade from people who are there, doing it successfully already. There are sessions and panels for both readers and writers alike.
So how about it? You wanna go? Well obviously you do, but here’s the question… ARE YOU GOING?
Here’s where you can find out more about tickets.

Now, so maybe you’re awesome, but you can’t go, and you’re bummed obviously. Well you still want to participate right? Here’s your chance, from now until June 29th, 2012 you can vote for your favorite books to win UtopYA Con awards, hosted by CMT’s Katie Cook. Pretty sweet right? I know, I think so too.
Anyway because we had so many blogs help us to promote this unique event we decided to do some fun giveaways provided by some of our authors at UtopYA Con and some other authors.
Good luck and we’ll see you at UtopYA Con!
a Rafflecopter giveaway Want to visit other sites in this hop? Go to:

Monday, June 25, 2012

At Long Last: Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Sorry I'm late, there's been a lot of stuff going on. But without further slacking off, here is my blog for the Girls Just Want to have Fun Blog Hop! The rules are your heroine gets interviewed by another female counterpart. I'm supposed to post a picture of them, but I'm opting out of that, sorry. Instead, I'll repost a picture of real life Claire, who my character is named for. Yay!

I'm on the left. She's on the right :)
So today's interview will be done by Sarah, MC from My Sister's Memories. She'll be asking Claire Downs, from After Elizabeth questions.

Sarah: "So you're smoking?"

Claire, who lets out a steady stream: "No, I'm on the patch."

Sarah, uncomfortably: "Are you even old enough--"

Claire shoots a mean look, Sarah stops.

Sarah: "Alright then. So this question is brought to you by Jaycee DeLorenzo. How would you describe your hero?"

Claire, after a moment of shooting daggers through her eyes: "I don't know. Spiderman? Superman? No, no The Power Rangers. Yea. The Power Rangers."

Sarah: "Why?"

Claire: "Fuck if I know. They had different colors, I guess."

Sarah: "Like your hair? It's blue today Do you dye it regularly?"

Claire: "Only when I'm bored."

Sarah: "Alright, next question. What attracts you to a guy?"

Claire, inhaling a long puff: "Do you expect me to like, say I like long walks on the beach, and a guy who brings a fucking puppy home?"

Sarah: "Umm...."

Claire: "Seriously. That's a bullshit question."

Sarah, avoiding confrontation because Claire looks like she'll lunge over the table and strangle her: "Next question! Favorite thing to do--"

Claire, cutting me off: "Is this shit over yet?" She proceeds to die out her cigarette on the table.

Sarah: "I guess it can be. Thanks for your time...."

Claire: "Fuck off."

Yea, I'd say that's a pretty accurate representation of Claire :) What do you think?

Also, we were asked to post a theme-ish song, so I think this one covers Claire pretty well:

Sorry again that it's late, but I hope you enjoyed it! :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I know, I know, this post was supposed to go up, but things at work have been going poorly, and I've been coming home late and tired.

I have Monday and Tuesday off, where I'll actually post this, so if you're willing to come back then, I promise it'll be amusing! Otherwise, sorry!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meeting Claire

I met Claire Downs, the main character of After Elizabeth, in North Carolina, just before I went crazy (possibly while I was going crazy).

I've always been fascinated with smokers, especially because there are so many song lyrics about them. (On my iTunes, I actually have a cigarette playlist made up.) It's strange because I grew up loathing when my parents smoked, riding like a dog with my head out the window of the car, or leaving the room when they lit up in my presence. It's gotten to the point, when I visit Michigan, my mother knows better than to try to smoke with me in the car or in her house. Personally, I don't smoke...but I do have three unopened packs of cigarettes in the dashboard of my car in case I ever decide to take up the habit.

Yep, had these since North Carolina.
Smoking is gross.
Either way, one day I was sitting there, thinking about how strange it would be to see a girl in a neon pink sports bra running and smoking a cigarette. I started writing about Claire before she even had a name. Instead of being a girl as I wrote, I was a boy checking out a decently hot chick. I remember sitting on the couch and reading aloud to the people I considered friends (like I said, I went crazy), and they agreed that this girl sounded hardcore. I saved the document, and went to sleep with a massive erection. Wait, in real life I'm a girl...and I like boys. Okay, whew.

In the morning, when I checked my computer, the document was gone, and the page worth of stuff I'd written disappeared with it. But the memory of this girl never left me. I didn't care if what I'd written was saved. I just knew she existed, and I loved her, though now, she may never resurface.

Fast forward about six months. My Sister's Memories is on submission, and getting page and manuscript requests (cool! My query letter doesn't suck!). Sadly, each and every one gets rejected (sadface, my writing does). I tell myself that I'm not going to write another novel until My Sister's Memories, Character Defects, Igniting a Firestarter, and my memoir go through a hard round of editing. I only end up editing My Sister's Memories and receive more rejections, some with feedback, and for the first time, I start to hope...maybe...maybe...I have something worthwhile here.

In the meantime, I work my day job and get invited to a middle school to speak. One Wednesday morning, I drive to Fryeburg and talk to kids who ask me about cutting, depression, and coping mechanisms. I am humbled and awestruck with every single student I meet. We take pictures together, I offer candy, and I come back the next week. And the week after that.

They refuse to leave my head. The girl who smokes refuses to leave my head.

My sister and I
Her approval of my writing means a lot to me :)
On May 29, 2012, I sit down at my computer, and see a girl typing with a friend the way Kellie and I used to. I see a girl read a message that says something like, I'm sorry, I can't handle this, the same message I'd received when a good friend tried to kill himself a thousand miles away from me. And then, for the first time since I'd written about a girl smoking a cigarette and running, I saw Claire Downs emerge in the aftermath of her best friend killing herself.

And today (though I'm scheduling this post for tomorrow) on June 19, 2012, I am excited to tell you that After Elizabeth is complete. Even better? Armed with the critiques that I'd received from agents and Callie Kingston, though I wrote quickly, I wrote with showing in mind. When I read the ending to my sister, for the first time she said, "Yea, I can see everything you've just read, it was well written."

For the first time in my writing career, I'm proud of a rough draft, mainly because my sister didn't tell me that it sucked. Although she did tell me she had a beef with my ending. (Psshh, whatever.)

Now I step away for about a week, play, drink, and have fun.

Next week, the real work begins.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Show and Tell II

A million years ago, I posted about Showing vs. Telling. Consider this segment two.

In early February, Callie Kingston made a call for beta readers, and like a hungry lion, I latched on. Thus far, it has been the best writing step I've taken (aside from, you know, getting a Twitter account). When she sent me her first two chapters of critiques on My Sister's Memories, I sat there cringing. You should back down now, she's tearing your crap apart. As I looked at my computer screen, I realized that I needed to step up my game; not only with writing, but also with editing.

This is my "Oh crap, she might know more than I do face"
Worst. Picture. Ever. I hope you got a good laugh :)
While I had those You don't know what you're talking about, don't reject my writing moments (in private! Never to her e-mail face!), I took time away, came back to them, and found that most of the time, what she said was sadly correct. This gave me a profound respect for her, because she wasn't afraid of telling me what sounded weak, and it was what I needed to hear, even if I needed a shot of whiskey afterward.

One of the things she told me was the use of words like, "I saw," "I felt," "I wondered". She taught me ways to manipulate my sentences from telling you that I just saw my dog run across the street, to having my dog just run across the street. (Can you see the difference?)

Let me break it down for you a little more.

If you're writing in first person, you ARE the character. Which means (from my understanding) any time you're saying "I think, I feel, I see," it causes detachment. Try this instead:

Find the points where you use those statements. Delete them. Look at the sentence you have left. Does it still make sense? Chances are, it probably will, and now you're much closer to showing me something, rather than telling me.

I went through My Sister's Memories today and used the FIND tool to search the word "feel". Each sentence I deleted that stupid word (well, most sentences, not all), and replaced it with something better. "I feel his hand brush against my cheek," became, "His hand brushed against my cheek." It's an easy fix and you'd be amazed by how much stronger the writing sounds because you're just allowing things to flow  naturally. You're allowing the reader to be right there, getting goosebumps as his lips graze the soft spot on her shoulder...rather that just telling them what she's feeling.

Just thought I'd pass along some kick ass advice. Hope this helps.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Never Surrender

Here to celebrate Elena Johnson's book release, Surrender, is the Never Surrender Blog Hop.

 So, when was a time I didn't give up on something? Well, honestly, every day of my life. I've come to the conclusion recently that I've died several times. Sadly, I've also tried to kill myself more times than I've died and have scars all over my body from self injury. But my body, my mind, and my soul are still inhabiting this earth, so every day I breathe, I'm not giving up, I'm not surrendering.

Always up for what comes next :)
I owe my last year and half of survival to Baxter, and in reality, probably more than that. Life with him has been a roller coaster of trying to find apartments that allow 110-125lb dogs, or just pets in general. Usually when we find these places, they're run down, infested with something (cockroaches, bedbugs, ants, horrible people), and the standard of living is sub par (when I first got him, we stayed in a place with cockroaches and the roommate let her dog crap and pee all over the floor. Baxter got an infection, I got sick for two months).

We've also been in situations where we were financially struggling to make ends meet, so I had to give up beer, and cut back on food, and Baxter had to give up expensive food and new toys. But somehow, we've pushed through, and we've made it work.

When I went crazy in North Carolina, it was Baxter, laying next to me on the couch, in my bed, while I cried for days on end, who put me back in motion. He relied on me to be able to go to the bathroom, to eat, and I had an obligation to him to take care of him.

At one point, when I'd stopped answering my phone for about a week, my sister called and said (in a somewhat panicky voice), "Did something happen to Baxter?" It was then I knew that things really could get worse, and with that question, she offered me a ray of hope that I latched on to.

Rather than finding Baxter a home and diving into the ocean and letting the waves take me out (which had been my plan), Baxter and I packed up the car and went north. When we arrived in Maine, we didn't have anywhere to live because all of the ads on Craigslist didn't allow pets. Sneaking into UNE dorms and spending a night, we found a place in Woodstock, ME, that at the time seemed like a sanctuary (and ended up being another sketchy place with a funny/awkward/scarring story).

Our new place :)
Since then we've continued to have adventures (living in my friend's basement for a month and a half, etc), and I know we'll have plenty more. We're currently in our own apartment with awesome neighbors who run with me, feed me, and sit on the porch and chat all hours of the night.

I know things can get bad, and still push me to the point of throwing the towel in. But with Baxter around, I've found that I have to not only take care of him, but take care of me, too. And so no matter how hard life gets, chances are I've been through worse. So I won't surrender, I won't give up, and I'll find solutions to keep pushing on.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Checking In

It's dark, but there were no safety nets
Yes...this is kind of a regular thing here :)
Sorry I've been MIA again. Between work, losing wifi for like four days, getting pulled over by an officer who flirted with me (and turned out to be married, even AFTER he visited me at work. Grr! But hey, I got out of a $250 fine for not having my car registered and having an out of state license, so it's still a win) and writing my ass off, I've been trying to think of blog topics and falling short. I've also been doing significant amounts of "research" (see: playing with neighbors, auditioning for our version of Ninja Warrior, and playing in the road).

Because of all of this (those of you who are writers...or are friends with writers) you should check THIS out.

I find it to be extremely true. Only rum instead of whiskey...but I can change :)

Also, I'm at about 45,000 close to being done with After Elizabeth. Pretty excited. Anyone want to Beta?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

High School Graduation

Can you tell how awkward I was?

Six years ago (oh man, I can't believe it's been six years already! I'm old!!), I sat in a very different seat. I wore a bright yellow gown, a hideous cap that made my large face look even bigger, and an orange ribbon for my best friend Kellie. Though I was nervous and excited, there was a hint of best friend wouldn't be able to make it.

I sat through several graduations before my own. Usually they were my sisters', and sadly, they usually had a moment of silence, because the kids at Shepherd High School couldn't seem to make it out alive. Laura's graduation was especially gut wrenching as they showed four pictures behind the podium, and asked for a moment of silence for the graduates who weren't in attendance. Kellie, my best friend's picture was up there. Kara, Laura's best friend was up there. Two other graduates, guys I was less familiar with, were up there. In the silence, there was a collective cry through the auditorium because these were fresh wounds.

These were the types of graduations I was used to, the gut wrenching ones that played a slide show of happier times with Kenny Chesney singing, "Young," or Vitamin C, "Friends Forever (Graduation)". They got me, every time.

This winter, I had the honor of coaching what I'd dubbed my all star team. We met on Sundays for four weeks. There was a brilliant girl who was the valedictorian of her high school, and also established a dive team, pretty much single-handedly. There were other people, cheerleaders who placed in competitions, racers...etc. Overall, I was always impressed to hear about their accomplishments each week. On the last Sunday, the group asked if they could friend me on Facebook, and I said yes. One of them took me up on the offer. Her name was Emily.
My all star team and me (in red)

Since the winter, we've been chatting pretty regularly and keeping each other updated on our lives. She's an aspiring veterinarian, and overall awesome human being who started her own foundation. IN HIGH SCHOOL. She talked about her graduation speech, and knowing that I'm a writer asked if I could look it over and offer suggestions. Okay, so you guys thing querying is nerve wracking? This about leveled me. I didn't want to say something wrong, or impose too much because this was her address! Like, this was huge! So I offered what I could, making smart-ass remarks here and there, and in the end, she thanked me, and let me run through it one more time.

It was around then, that I asked if I could attend her graduation. I felt like an invasive species, moving in where I didn't belong, but dangit, I taught her over the winter, and we're friends. I wanted to be there for her because #1, the people at her school sucked (bullies) and #2, I remember how awesome it felt when not only my family showed up at my graduation, but my friends.

Her, walking in with Cherio, a service dog in training :)
She eagerly gave me the date, and I scheduled the day off from work. I drove the hour and ten minutes to her high school (a place I'd never been before) and parked my car with Baxter in the backseat. I walked in, following the mass of parents and siblings, not knowing anyone, or if I was even walking the right way, and found her mother in the through way of the building. I had a lip ring, two eyebrow rings, and an anxiety attack waiting to hit at any moment. But, I pretended to be outgoing (something I've been working on since I uprooted me and Bax and moved to Maine). I sat between Emily's sister and father, and in front of her mother and grandfather. We told stories, I offered memories of teaching her on the mountain, and some of the conversations we've had, and started the slow practice of relaxing.

When the band started playing Pomp and Circumstance, the people in attendance rose and greeted the graduates. Truth be told, I'm only used to seeing Emily in a helmet, goggles, and a pink jacket. I was terrified that I wouldn't recognize her. I sort of told her family this, and then laughed saying, "I'm really just looking for the fluffy hair," because that's what I remembered from the day I didn't have lunch money and she "tipped" me five bucks so I could eat. (Thanks again, Em).

I ended up sitting through the graduation with the chair digging into my back, listening to her speech (which rocked, by the way!) and cheering louder than I had on the mountains. It was also kind of cool because since I've redirected my life to focus more fully on writing, I hadn't attended a graduation since college, so this adventure doubled as research (as My Sister's Memories, and Character Defects have a graduation piece, and After Elizabeth may, too).

I am so proud of her!
After the ceremony, her family invited me over, fed me, and offered me beverages, which I accepted readily. When I left, I sort of anxiously looked down her driveway (it was long, I have a habit of hitting things with my car), and said "I should be able to back out of this." Two seconds later, I looked up, and Emily and her sister were waving their arms. Sure enough, I looked in my rear view mirror and was about to back into a tree. "Want me to back your car out?" she offered, and I stepped out of the way. It turns out, not only can she get stellar grades, but she can also drive pretty well, too :)

Long story short, Emily is one of many of my friends graduating this year. So here's to you; Eli, Annika, Emily, D.J., Matty, and anyone else who makes up the class of 2012 (even if some of you graduated college, not high school :) ). You're all amazing and thanks for being an awesome part of my life :)

(If I missed anyone, lemme know, and I'll add you to the list, too :) )

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Research II: Obtaining Sponsorship

You know that moment where you write about something really cool? Like, maybe your MC throws a disc in a game of disc golf, or takes off running in a cross country meet, or stands up in front of peers at prom to sing some karaoke? And then you realize...

Crap. I don't know what I'm talking about.

Me (black) and sister (tie-die) preparing to sing karaoke.
The dismayed, "What am I doing here?" face is why
this picture is here :)
There's a point where you can't just make something up because in fiction, things have to make sense, or at least, be plausible. For example, if you're at a soccer game, you're not going to start dribbling the ball with your hand. Some people may not know that, but a majority will.

This is the point where you have to do research and fully understand what you're writing. Sometimes it's as easy as going to a middle school/high school and chatting with some kids. Sometimes you can google, "What are tents made out of?" (Which I literally did yesterday.)

In My Sister's Memories, Allie and Mike were stellar disc golf players. I sided more with Sarah (the older sister) who ended up in the trees. I'd played a couple of times before, once at church camp when I was in like, 8th grade, and once in August when I'd evacuated for Hurricane Irene. This second time, I played with my friend Jake and his friend Greg, who were extremely good players.
An excellent place to play if you're ever in Burlington, NC

At the time I'd played, I didn't expect disc golf to appear in a novel, but in November, that's what Allie ended up playing. Because I'd taken pictures with Jake and Greg, I had a decent recollection of the day and the game, but it had still been awhile since I'd played.

Now, I lived in Maine and had no idea where disc golf courses were, and didn't own any of my own equipment. So, I contacted Innova Discs, sent a simple e-mail saying:

My name is Lynne Schmidt, and I'm an author doing researching on disc golf for my young adult novel. (I told them the premise of the story), and then said, I was wondering if you'd be willing to donate some discs for my research?

Sure enough, less than a week later, I had an Innova Disc box waiting for me on the kitchen table. It was April before I really got to play, but when I did, I took note of the surroundings, the way I threw (and still managed to end up in the trees). But I got to play, I got to do sponsored research, and it was fun. PLUS! I got to keep the discs for future playing!

So, what's my point? Sometimes we don't have money to fully research our projects (after all, we are writers). But sometimes, we can contact companies, and they'll be willing to help us out in exchange for a blog post. If they're not willing, trust me, the lack of response doesn't hurt nearly as much as getting rejected from agents :)

Here's to research and here's to sponsorship!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Sometimes, research is fun. Like that time Innova Discs sent me a starter kit to research Disc Golf for My Sister's Memories. Or, harassing companies to see if they'll sponsor me for other research, or bugging friends, or even just hanging out and people watching.

The fun kind of research: sibling dynamics :)
*I'm on the right*

But, sometimes, researching your's gut wrenching work.

I started a new project, potentially called After Elizabeth, a couple of days ago (which is why I've been MIA), and in three days managed to write 13,000 words (Woot! Victory dance!). And then I hit a point where I had to do something I've never done before. Write an obituary. For a girl who committed suicide.

This was hard for a couple of reasons:
1) Senior year of college, a friend killed herself. Her body was never found (to my knowledge, but that knowledge may be outdated now). I'd moved in 8th grade, and she and I had stopped talking. But, I like to live in this world where my friends stay alive forever, and are happy all the time, whether I'm near or far. It's not too much to ask, right? So Laura told me that she'd committed suicide, and I went to the porch and chain smoked until I stopped shaking.
2) I have a million other friends who died of things like; cancer, drunk driving accidents, bad driving accidents, etc
3) I've only read obituaries....Never actually written one
4) This obituary was almost written for me in October

Swallowing all of this, I tried to write around the obituary, but in the end, the story prevailed, and needed this written. I googled Suicide Obituaries, and found THIS website. From there, I literally took the step by step instructions and wrote. I called my mom, read the first couple of versions until she told me I needed to have life-accomplishments. This, then, is my first obituary:

Elizabeth Alexandra Travis, 16 years old, passed away unexpectedly on October 1, 2012. Born in Portland, Maine on April 8th, 1996, she is survived by her mother, Natalie Wright of Portland, her father, Marc Travis of Gilead, and her best friend, Claire Downs of Portland. The bright junior is remembered as a gifted and accomplished cross country runner, a smart student, a loving daughter, caring teammate, and amazing friend. She is preceded in death by her beloved dog, Baxter. Friends and family wishing to donate are asked to send the proceeds to Hope Hotline, or any other suicide prevention foundation.

I think I'm okay with how it turned out. I especially liked that the best friend was added on there (I definitely feel like the parents would have written that given the girl's relationship). Also, I feel like a dick for killing her dog, but that, too, needed to be done.

So, for you writers. What are some of the hard parts of research for you?

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