Archive for December 2014

Changes in 2015

I’ve moved! Welcome to my new site,

I’m still messing around with the theme a little bit, and would love any suggestions for improvement you have, especially regarding colors.

I have some exciting plans in store for the new year, which I’ll dive into more in my 2015 Goals post.

welcome to 2015

stux / Pixabay

2014 — A Year in Review

Wow. I can’t believe 2014 is over, or that I’ve been blogging for a year, or that this time last year I was almost over morning sickness and still didn’t know what gender my baby was.

What a change the past (almost) 365 days have brought me. Let’s state the obvious first: this time last year, I didn’t have a daughter. The baby inside of me was still “Baby” or “It” or “Charlie.” (Ouch, Charlie! That hurt, Charlie!)

I had just started this blog, and I was still almost three weeks away from having a complete rough draft of Damaged (with the ending that still really sucked). I was just beginning to make writing friends outside of the Fanfiction world, and I had four dissertations for GFES that I was editing.

Now, as the year draws to the close, I have:

  • An active, healthy six-month-old
  • A (temporarily?) shelved manuscript (after three-plus rounds of revisions and 50 queries)
  • A new rough draft to play with that I’m completely in love with
  • Several new writing friends and critique partners
  • Seen these critique partners and writing friends find success
  • Started a freelance editing business
  • Edited novels for pay
  • Ten dissertations to edit for GFES (two down!!)
  • Published more than 50 blog posts
  • Gained a growing readership (hello, readers!)

All in all, 2014 has been a great year, though not without its setbacks. Labor isn’t anything incredible, and I’m going to miss my grandmother like crazy, especially this week, since New Year’s was her holiday.

But no year is complete without its sadness. And I think the lows help you appreciate the highs more.

Of my eight measurable 2014 goals, I have already completed six, and should complete the seventh before the end of the year. The last one, reading all the books on my official 2014 book list, won’t happen. Here is the list of books I intended to read in 2014:

Official 2014 Book List

  • One-Minute Prayers
  • The Prayer Matrix
  • Inside Story
  • Little Women*
  • Foundation and Earth
  • Emma 
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Mansfield Park
  • Persuasion
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary
  • Chocolat
  • The Island*
  • The Truth Teller
  • Eve*
  • Quinn*
  • Bonnie*
  • Delirium
  • Pandemonium
  • Requiem
  • Eragon
  • Harry Potter’s Bookshelf
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
  • Shakespeare’s Sonnets
  • The Adventures of Huck Finn
  • The Book Thief
  • Matilda
  • If You Could See What I See
  • The Last Song
  • Save Me
  • Deep Freeze
  • Les Miserables
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Blind Spot


Bold = Finished the book
Italics = Couldn’t finish… hated it.
Purple = Read it twice!
Orange = re-read for the year
Blue = Favorite new book of the year
* = Had to force myself to finish it.

What has 2014 brought to you? What is the most different in your life from one year ago today?

How to Use Word like Scrivener

I have Scrivener. I love Scrivener for writing my first draft. But invariably, I move into Word once I begin editing. Maybe because it’s more familiar to me, or because I like having a fully functioning dictionary. But it doesn’t matter. Today, I want to show you how to use Word as if it were Scrivener, from the very beginning. Read More →

The Art and Irony of Being Present

Today, a classmate I had at university posted a blog about taking time to dance, and being afraid of things and hiding behind your camera so you can remember the moment for later—remember a moment you never fully participated in.

It brought to mind so many things as I read. A lot of “Yes, absolutely!”s and then a few, “But wait”s. As I look forward to 2015, being present is one of my goals. I want to see my daughter. I want to be there, laughing at her, as she smashes in a cake on her first birthday. I want to get tears in my eyes over her first words. I want to play dolls with her, and hold her hands as she learns to walk. I want to stare at her when she sees Disneyland for the first time. I want to close the multiple Internet tabs I always keep open, turn off my WiFi, and write.

I want to cuddle close with a girl still small enough to cuddle, and I want to close my eyes and fall asleep with her while she’s still young enough to nap.

Sleeping Daughter


Read More →

Book Review: More than Music and More than Exes by Elizabeth Briggs

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth Briggs mentioned on Twitter that she had a post office mishap and some slightly beat-up books she was giving away for free. Since I’d been wanting to read More than Music anyway, I thought it was the perfect chance. I sent her a request for the book and got it in the mail on Saturday. I finished it Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, I saw that the prequel, More than Exes was free for the holidays. (Click the image below to buy!) I finished the sequel in a few hours.

Both books were excellent.

More than Music follows Maddie Taylor, a classical music guru/closet guitarist who gets thrown into the otherwise all-male band Villain Complex, with sexy lead singer Jared, for a reality show competition called The Sound, which is like The Voice, but for bands.

When their mentor on The Sound recommends Jared keeps his playboy image and stays single in order to gain votes, Maddie knows she’ll never get him. He can’t seem to leave her alone, though, and while she tries to ignore it, since he flirts with anything that breathes, they eventually give in to their feelings.

As the show continues, someone seems out to ruin their chances of winning, and Maddie must find out who it is before they expose her relationship with Jared to the other members in the band, and worse, the watching world.

(OK, so synopses are hard for books you didn’t write, too. Wow.)

More than Music was so easy to get into. I immediately connected with Maddie’s voice, and I loved the pop culture references throughout. I found myself singing along when a character would accidentally quote lyrics, and I loved the inside jokes that Maddie and Jared shared. Their chemistry was palpable from the first time they meet, and I was aching for their first kiss right along with Maddie.

I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at this (fictional) reality show, and thought the secondary characters were well fleshed out as well. Like anything on reality TV, no one was quite as they seemed.

There were a few times I wanted to smack Maddie over the head, and likewise Jared, but that’s necessary for a good story. The only thing I truly felt was missing was an exploration of Maddie’s relationship with Jared’s brother Kyle. At one point, Kyle yells at Jared, saying she’s the one girl he said was off limits. I really wanted to know his reasons for this. While they’re explored in a paragraph or two in More than Exes, I still wish I saw more of their buddy-buddy relationship.

Another thing: it was a romance novel. To that end, I knew the ending from the very beginning. I was nearly spot on for one of the plot twists regarding the TV show, too. Like all romance stories, the question that keeps you reading isn’t “are they going to end up together” — it’s how. Briggs does a great job keeping you wondering what all is going to go wrong next, and the tension and chemistry between Maddie and Jared is phenomenal.

4 stars.

More than Exes is a prequel to More than Music and it takes place all on the same night, the evening of the USC/UCLA battle of the bands. The story is told from Kyle’s perspective as he tries to keep his band together and avoid his ex-girlfriend who has suddenly shown up at the battle.

Obviously, this doesn’t work, and Alexis ends up helping him on his mission to find their strung-out bass player and convince her to play the show, despite a one-night stand with Jared that leaves her devastated.

I loved the look into Kyle’s head, and seeing what Jared was like before his determination to stick to one woman at a time. The hints at Kyle and Alexis’s relationship from high school were great, and their chemistry and ease with each other were apparent for the whole story. They had such a different dynamic than Maddie and Jared, which was refreshing and shows off Briggs’s talent.

I was a little frustrated by how much of a player Jared was–throughout More than Music I assumed the guys were exaggerating, or that when Jared said it was in the past, he meant by more than a few months. But that didn’t keep me from falling in love with Kyle’s good-boy image under his bad-boy exterior, and rooting for him and Alexis all the way.

3.5 stars.

The next book, More than Comics comes out in February, and I can’t wait!

On Changing Small Things

On November 11th, I decided I was going to start two new habits:

  1. Drink three glasses of water every day.
  2. Stop drinking soda.

HabitBull, the app I use to track my progress

That was it. Those were my guidelines. After I’d made it to three glasses of water, I could have anything I wanted to drink, except soda. I am by no means addicted to soda. I never drank more than two cans a day, and that was rare to begin with. My problem with soda stems from one thing—my work provides free snacks and soda. All I have to do is walk down twenty stairs, and there it is. When we run out, the office manager buys more.

When I was tired, the call for caffeine would get to me (I don’t drink coffee). I would go downstairs, grab a cherry Coke, or a Mountain Dew, or a Pepsi, or a Dr. Pepper if supplies were getting low, and sometimes that would be the only liquid I drank until dinner.

Now I’m one month in to my no soda/extra water experiment. There have been a few days I didn’t meet my required water intake (every time I failed I only drank two glasses of water a day, and every time I failed I wasn’t at work), but I haven’t had soda since I started tracking it.

The thing is, now I don’t want soda. It doesn’t sound good. For dinner, my drink options are apple juice, orange juice, iced tea, raspberry lemonade, and various flavors of Powerade. Even though I could have any of them, recently I keep choosing water. I drank some Powerade last night, and my favorite flavor tasted gross and overly sugary.

I’ve changed just two habits, and in exchange, so much more has changed. I crave water. I keep my goal at three glasses a day (about 24 ounces) because it’s manageable even on hard days, but I often double that. I crave vegetables and want to start eating healthier so I keep feeling better.

Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist and other sites talk about it over and over again, and I’m finding it to be true: change one small thing, and everything else changes. I’m fairly certain this works for better or for worse.

It’s also true in writing. I recently finished a critique for one of my CPs. She was telling me about suggestions her agent made for revision, and how one sentence made her giddy. Why? Because in one sentence, she addressed two different plot holes. In one sentence, her characters became more fleshed out and connected to each other.

Sometimes, I think we as writers get scared during revision. Maybe we note that a character is acting completely out of sorts in one scene. Or the timeline is way off. Or a relationship needs justification. Or the goal/motivation/conflict in a scene isn’t clear enough. I know I personally get overwhelmed when I look at the long list of things I want to change in my NaNo WIP. And I’m not even a quarter of the way through deciding what needs changed.

However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You might not have to change every single word of your story in order to make something work. Sometimes the only thing you need to change to revamp your entire manuscript is a single sentence. And sometimes, changing a single sentence gives you the courage to change the next one. One word, one different nuance, can impact the entire MS, like it did for my CP. Like how drinking water and not soda unintentionally branched out to affect the rest of my life.

What scares you about revision? What small change can you make today? Let me know in the comments a way you’ve seen a small change impact your manuscript or your life for the better.

What the Fast Food Nation Gets Right

(adapted from a journal entry dated 7 March 2013)

The people who complain something takes too long to microwave are on to something. Really, they are. Something I think we’ve forgotten about in our busy world. They seem to be the only people who recognize the power of a single minute. When we wait for food to reheat, we’re aware of just how long 60 seconds can be in a way we aren’t most of the time.

Flickr Creative Commons. Image by Corie Howell

Flickr Creative Commons. Image by Corie Howell

I learned from the classy, reputable source of Rent, the musical, that there are 525,600 minutes in a year. When I heard that, it seemed too small of a number. Surely there are more minutes in a year than that. People making just over $100,000 a year get paid 20 cents a minute – every single minute of the year. They get $12 an hour for every single hour.

But I digress. What I mean is that I think we too often allow ourselves the privilege of “just a minute.” “I’ll be there in a minute.” “Just a minute, dear.” we say it all the time. Granted, we rarely mean a full 60 seconds. We usually mean much more or less. But what about the times we do mean one whole minute? Blitz games on Facebook. Checking the score. Sixty seconds on Pinterest at a time.

When I was in college, I calculated the number of Bejeweled Blitz games I played on Facebook and the total came to something like 35 hours. Hardcore gamers informed me that was nothing in terms of hours logged playing a game. But to me it was. That was 35 hours over the course of a year that I spent saying “Just a minute” and matching gems. Thirty-five hours of homework breaks, or delaying making dinner, or turning in late to bed. Thirty-five hours spent when I considered each instance a minuscule, insignificant amount of time.

Today I made dinner. As I cooked, I realized something. In the six minutes my chicken spent defrosting, I swept the kitchen floor and cleaned the counters. I had to melt butter, and first I ran the microwave for one minute. During that minute, I cleaned up all the dishes I’d used to make dinner. During a second minute in the microwave, I ripped off a paper towel to dry my wet counters. Then the butter only needed 40 more seconds. I debated staying to wait – after all, it was only 40 seconds – but I went outside, grabbed my new boots that had been drying off from waterproofing, put them away, and made it back to the microwave with time to spare.

So, yes, it’s just a minute. I could’ve watched the butter melt, or played Bejeweled Blitz, or checked my email. But those sixty seconds are useful. I type about 120 words per minute. If I waste 10 minutes when I’m meant to be writing, I could be wasting as much as 1,200 words. As I’m trying harder (and failing plenty) at living in the moment, being present, and choosing relationship, I think it’s really important for me to remember that those little sneaks to check my email add up, and take away value and valuable time from what I meant to do.


Flickr Creative Commons

In Praise of the Productivity Crawl

There are plenty of authors (full-time and otherwise) who write 50,000 words or more each month. What makes NaNo different is the community that comes with it, the camaraderie, and the forums. I’ve already mentioned the community and camaraderie that I received from participating in NaNo via Twitter. Today I want to talk about how the forum inspired me.

I didn’t use the forum much during November. I was receiving all the support I needed to keep writing from Twitter and emails from my CPs. However, I did poke around the word wars forum the week when I hit my writing block, and while I was there, I found this sub-group of word wars that really appealed to me. In them, you don’t race other people, and you don’t really race yourself, either. You go on an adventure.

This is the one I intended to do, but there were others, like this Egyptian Tomb one, that were amazing, too.

On Twitter, it was all about racing your friends and writing the most you could. The crawl I found was about more than that, and I adapted it for my personal use. While I didn’t talk about it in my Week 4 update, what got me through the week was a productivity crawl of my own making. It went something like this:

  1. Get a quick start on your session and write 200 words as quickly as you can.
  2. Excellent work! However, you aren’t just about writing today. Open freelance work and edit 10 pages.
  3. Time for a cleaning break! Set a timer for ten minutes and clean.
  4. You’re doing great, Rochelle! Set a timer for seven minutes. If you reach 350 words, you win. If you don’t, do twenty crunches.
  5. Good job! Look at you go! It’s time to get back to your freelance work. Edit another 10 pages. If you don’t get distracted, you win! If you do get distracted, you must either write 200 words or do five pushups.
  6. Whether you won or not, you need to write. Set a timer for thirty minutes and sprint to the finish!
  7. Great job! Time for a real break. Read for 10 minutes.

And that’s what I would do, over and over again while my daughter slept. I didn’t always make it through all of the steps in one sitting, but it worked. I got through 150 pages of freelance editing and kept up on my writing goal.

As December continues and my time is pulled three ways again, I’m going to make myself another, ripe with rewards and punishments. It’s a break from my usual way of working (which is just weekly to-do lists), but I find I’m a lot more consistent when I have a crawl to work through. It’s not like a race–it’s like a game.

The game of life

Anyone else have any tips on tricking yourself into being productive?

NaNoWriMo 2014 Update — Week 4

Well, NaNoWriMo is over. It’s December 1, 2014, and I have written 42,027 words that I had not written precisely 30 days ago. How crazy is that?

42,000 words. Less than one thousand fewer words than there are in The Giver. Four thousand words shy of Fahrenheit 451, five thousand words shy of The Great Gatsby. More words than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

That’s insane.

I’m not saying that my words are necessarily good. Many of them are not. A small number of them (less than 500) are parenthetical notes to myself that need to be removed. There are at least five scenes that need to go (not least because some are duplicates written in different tenses).

But I wrote almost 170 pages of a novel. In thirty days.

Did you catch that? Thirty days.

Eighteen of those days, I had my regular job to go to. Three of those days, I worked from home. Eight of those days, I had to pick up my daughter from daycare after work.  The remaining twelve days, I was not working but was primarily in charge of my daughter the entire day.

And I still wrote an average of more than five pages of text per day. One thousand four hundred words per day. Even though I had a life to live, and I lived it.

During that month, I also edited seventy-five pages of literary fiction and heavily edited 150 pages of a middle grade adventure novel. In addition to writing every single day. There wasn’t a single day in November that I didn’t write something, even though my low was 76 words. Those were 76 words I wouldn’t have written otherwise, and I hit my low after I reached 40,000 words, which was my goal for NaNo this year.

Some observations:

  • I met the 1,667-word goal on 10 days, a solid 1/3.
  • I had an abysmal writing day (less than 500 words) 4 times.
  • The other 16 days were somewhere in between.
  • Pantsing this novel worked really well for me, to my surprise.
  • Some of my best work came when I was in competition for something.
  • I will always find a way to distract myself from what really matters.
  • The work tends to get done anyway.

Some expansion on my observations:

Pantsing my novel only worked well because I spent months absorbing a plot and structure plan that would work for me. Like I mentioned before, I read and highlighted and re-read a book about how theme should inform the whole story. I used Scrivener to make notes of the plot points I wanted to hit, and put the scenes inside each area as subfolders (some, like “things get worse”, have a ton of scenes, while others, like “relational midpoint” have only one scene).

I knew when I would hit writer’s block, and didn’t let that stop me from writing. My worst days were at the 30k and 40k marks. I expected to hit a wall at 30k, so with some brainstorming help with a CP, I was able to get through it. And I only stopped writing at 40k because I could, and I was exhausted, and I wanted to enjoy Thanksgiving. (which I did. It was wonderful.)

I was wrong when I told myself I could only write by planning. And by forcing myself into word battles (with the lovely @seekellytse and @sarahrgleason, and with my wonderful husband as he did dishes, etc.), I forced my plot to move forward, one 30-minute segment at a time. I’m starting to understand what Stephen King meant when he called himself a pantser. He understands story structure, so he can know what he’s aiming for at certain word counts as far as emotions and upset are concerned. That style, surprisingly, worked for me this round. (at least I think so. We’ll see on revision if the structure holds up.)

It’s amazing what happens when you put your butt in a chair, your hands on a keyboard, and let the story unfold in thousand-word segments. (Thanks, Sooz!) You get somewhere. Slowly, but surely, you get somewhere. The characters came to life. Side characters showed up that I hadn’t planned on. I wrote some of my best work. I wrote some of my worst work. I banged my head against the wall for one weekend. But I wrote. (and watched too much TV. But I wrote!) Romances piece together. The bad guy gets his deeper motivation. The plot thickens.

All in all, I loved writing my novel, and I hope I don’t have to slow down too much in December while my freelance work picks up. Then, a break in January, and to work editing in February. I can’t wait. I’m already pleased as punch with this story, and with revision, it should only get better.

(Oh, and for an excerpt? You don’t get one this week. I’m too late in the MS and too far from my laptop to make it happen. Plus, I’m beginning to forget which words I wrote when. But know this: I’m very happy with it. Maybe not as happy as I am with the opening scene, but once again, all together this time: that’s what revision is for.)

How did NaNo go for everyone else? Was it better than you expected? Worse?

WIP Blog Hop

I was tagged by the wonderful Sarah Ahiers to participate in the Liebster Award Blog Hop about my WIP, Expiration Date. Love your questions, Sarah!

What is your WIP about?

Sixteen-year-old Treyton Staub has run out of days to live, according to the life certificate everyone receives at birth. With less than twenty-four hours before he’s sure to die, Hayleigh Hoffman, his deceased best friend’s twin sister, shows up at his door and takes him on a midnight road trip. He’s hoping to die quietly, quickly, and painlessly. She’s looking for a way to tell him a secret that might just keep him alive.

(blurbs are so much harder after you’ve already started writing the book.)

How long have you been working on your WIP?

Depends on how you define “working on.” I came up with the idea in October 2013, but didn’t start writing it until November 1, 2014.

Who is your MC?

Treyton Staub, social outcast because of his expiration date. Loves his sister, hates himself. Excellent photographer. Loner.

What are some of the themes you’re exploring?

Oh, goodness. I have too much fun with themes. The main ones are about valuing yourself and choosing your own future. I also have a lot to say about suicide and religion.

What song would represent your story or MC?

When I originally got the idea, the album “Vice Verses” by Switchfoot was my inspiration. For a bunch of reasons, I haven’t listened to the album at all since I started writing, but the title track still represents it best, I think.

Vice Verses

If you were casting your story as a movie, who would play your main character?

I don’t know. I don’t really look at celebs when I’m thinking about what they look like. I made a Sims character instead. But Cole (or Dylan) Sprouse as a teenager would work. 🙂

Cole Sprouse

What is your favorite line in your WIP so far?

Since I didn’t write my novel on the cloud and I’m not on my laptop right now, I don’t have the whole thing to browse through. However, as far as a single line goes, I know that one.

“For the love of God, don’t mention Jesus.”

For one thing, I love the irony. Treyton means the “for the love of God” part, rather than swearing by it. It also highlights some of the issues Treyton has with the really screwed-up version of Christianity that comes about (see my first excerpt, which this quote is from) when everyone already knows when they will die. Finally, I think it captures Treyton’s voice well, which I didn’t always succeed at as I was getting the plot down.

If your MC were to have a pet, what would it be?

A big dog, like a golden retriever.

When do you think your WIP will be “done?”

Ha! Everyone knows they’re never done. I’m not sure if you mean timing-wise or the amount of work left, so I’ll answer both.

For the amount of work left, I have between 8,000 and 18,000 words left in the first draft (probably 10 to 12 thousand), then two rounds of editing I’ll complete myself before sending it to my CPs. I want to have that finished before the end of March, so that my own story is off my plate when I go to Disneyland. (Which I am SO RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED ABOUT.) After I get it back from all my CPs, I’ll revise again, send out to a few Betas for a quick read, and hopefully that will be it.

I have a lot of faith in the story, and I think this one will go a lot quicker than my first novel did.

Who’s your favorite side character in your WIP and why?

Obviously I have a lot of love for Hayleigh, the romantic interest. But as far as minor characters go, I think Officer Alvarez (name likely changing because once again I have too many A names in the MS) is my favorite. He showed up randomly and took the plot in a whole new direction, and when I got stuck again, his character got a new dimension that un-stuck me. I like that about him, and the direction his character took is an interesting one I’m looking forward to exploring further as I revise.

What’s your MC’s favorite food?

I absolutely have a scene where Trey eats his last meal with his family, and it’s his favorite food. But I cannot remember for the life of me what it was. However, I do have an excellent scene involving an old bag of Cheetos.


Thanks, Sarah, for the excellent questions!

I would like to tag

Karyne Norton
Michael McDonagh
and anyone else who would like to.

And here are my questions:

  1. What is your WIP about?
  2. How is it different than anything else you’ve written before?
  3. If you were to use an epigraph in your book, what would you choose and why?
  4. Who is the hardest character for you to get right on the page?
  5. What was the most surprising (different from your outline/vague idea) that you’ve written so far?
  6. What makes this book easy to write?
  7. What themes does your WIP explore?
  8. Has anything that happened or is happening in your life inspired or changed your WIP somehow?
  9. If you could be transported into a world where your premise was real, would you want to go?
  10. Tell me about your antagonist.