Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WIPMarathon Report #6

Guys, this had to be my ROUGHEST month. As you know, I finished my book [almost] in time for last month's check in. So I should be on Cloud Nine, right? But let me tell you, the my-book-is-finished afterglow has worn off pretty fast--replaced with the being-pulled-into-a-bazillion-different-directions anti-glow. It turns out that writing the book is the fun part. Everything else is the stuff you're forced to swallow as a writer if you want to be published.

But I'm being overly-grim, I think, because honestly, there were some awesome milestones this month that I'm elated about. The biggest one is, I have my cover! I told my cover artist, Naj, that I wanted my cover to be "mysterious, dream-like, with a sense of tension and movement," and wow did she deliver. I gave her other parameters too, but I don't want to spoil it, so for now I'll just leave it at "I really love it."

Also, after months of agonizing over one, I finally have a title. For personal reasons I decided not to go with a series title, so the title for Book One will eventually be the series marker as well. Having my cover and the title for my book--and my series--feels huge. It's making this whole book-thing feel more real.

On to my report:

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 108,878 words - 36 chapters, plus epilogue, completed
Current report WC + CC/ SC: 109,049 words - 37 chapters, plus epilogue, completed. This is NOT GOOD. I'm trying to bring my word count DOWN through the revision process, not up. And how the hell did I grow a chapter? 
WIP Issues This Month: Oh heavens where ever do I start? My biggest issue this month was the fact that I spent the last several weeks trying so hard to make my story (in particular, my last chapter) fit the ideals of others, which would be fine if it weren't for the fact that those "ideals" completely contradicted each other. It would be like wearing a blue dress to an important event, and some people tell you "I really like your red one better." So you change into the red one, but then other people say, "I liked the blue one. Switch back to that." Except for in this scenario, everyone is VERY adamant that their preferences are the RIGHT ones, and everyone is sort of important to you, and you start to feel damn ugly no matter which way you go. So bringing this back to writing--this whole "never able to please everyone" phenomenon was actually making me feel like a bad writer. And for the most part, this "pressuring" was lighthearted. But when you're getting it from every direction at once, you start to feel helpless. In the end, I told myself that even though it can be stressful having so many opinions thrown at me, I'm really lucky to have people in my life who are taking valuable time from their lives to care about my little ole' book. So...I need to stop biting the hands that feed me so to speak, and grow some thicker skin, and...I'm starting to combine too many idioms here, I think.  
Four I learned this month in writing: 
  1. Use an eReader to Edit: Ifeoma suggested this technique a while back on her blog, and I finally decided to give it a go. I downloaded my entire manuscript onto my Kindle, and then proceeded to read the book from my Kindle while making edits on my laptop. This worked BEAUTIFULLY. I was able to read my book in two 5-6 hour sittings, doing initial edits along the way, and it didn't even feel like a chore. The Kindle gave me fresh eyes and made me feel like I was reading someone else's book rather than my own. 
  2. You Can Create Your Paperbacks on Amazon's Okay, this one is probably a "No duh, really?" But I swear I never knew. I wasn't sure HOW I was going to format my paperback for Amazon. So far, the program is very cool. It lets you download your cover, choose what kind of finish you want (glossy vs. matte), choose the color of your pages (white or cream--I chose cream), format your pre-pages, obtain a barcode, etc. 
  3. Look for Review Opportunities: My sister in-law shared this with me--self-published authors can submit their books for consideration for a review by Publishers Weekly (see for more information). Not every entry is accepted, but how cool would it be if yours was accepted, and now you get to add a sentence or two from their review onto the front or back of your cover? This makes me want to search out more review opportunities for indie authors. You never know when you might strike gold.
  4. Make Time for Family: There were times this month when I was so buried in brainstorming my cover, brainstorming titles, revisions, etc., that this became my world, from morning 'til bedtime. I noticed that on those days, I would go to bed feeling anxious/depressed. Yet every time I took a break for half a day to have some silly fun with my kids/family/in-laws, I would go to bed feeling content and rejuvenated. It made me realize how important it is to keep fostering your personal relationships. Yes, as writers we disappear into our fantasy worlds, and that's okay--necessary, even. But a fantasy world should never take the place of your real world. 
What distracted me this month while writing: Ohhh, I guess I'd say weekend events (such as Comic-Con) were distracting. This week I'm working in my classroom to prepare for the upcoming school year, so that, too, is stealing away precious revision-time. Also, I wasted hours and HOURS trying to come up with a title for my book, discussing the different possibilities with family/friends, etc. I also spent a lot of time brainstorming my cover with Naj. Basically, I got caught up in the pretty shiny elements of my book, instead of focusing on the part that matters the most (the story itself).

Goal for next month: To finish re-writing chapter 37 (the last chapter), and to have most revisions completed. I'm officially back to work next week, and I'm feeling almost frantic about that. I just know that writing will be shoved on the side burner while I'm going through the insanity that is our first month of school. 
Last 200 words: N/A.

Best wishes everyone for the month of August!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"It's Live! Go! Go! Go!"

Look where we're going!

We've had our tickets for so long--over two months, I think--that I keep forgetting to mention it. Plus, I'm only a geek by-proxy, so my excitement over Comic-Con is pretty temperate compared to pure-bred geeks (i.e. my husband and kids). Ever since Comic-Con 2013, when we missed out on meeting David Tenant (the tenth doctor in Doctor Who--my absolute favorite) and the cast from The Big Bang Theory, we were determined that we had to get tickets for this year's event. But anyone who has tried to buy Comic-Con tickets knows it is no easy feat. In fact, this little clip pretty much sums up the process:

Poor Trin had to go through this ordeal to score our tickets, with a few variations. The morning that tickets went on sale, I had to go to work, and Clint had to go to sleep (he had worked graveyard shift that night). Trin had a late-start day, so Clint set her up with all three of our laptops, logging us into the system and having all three of us wait in the virtual "waiting room." At this point, Trin spent about an hour monitoring all three of our screens. Thankfully you no longer have to refresh the page over and over again as depicted above; now, you wait in a virtual line of sorts, never knowing what number you are and hoping that tickets don't sell out before it's your turn. Finally, she heard my laptop bling. My account had made it to the front of the line! She bolted to wake up Clint and, using my account, he purchased all of our tickets. Tickets sold out shortly after he purchased ours, and the other two laptop accounts never made it.

Sort of ironic that the person who cares about Comic-Con the least was the one whose account made it to the front of the line.

What's awesome is we'll never have to go through this process again. Once you buy tickets the first time, you get to pre-register for all future years. It's an unfair, elitist type thing, but when you're on the receiving end of it, you're pretty thankful.

Sadly, I know I'm going to be a lame Comic-Con-er. I have no costume, and I'm ignorant to 90% of the stuff there. But Clint and the kids are going to have a blast, and I'm sure their enthusiasm will be contagious. Clint and Elijah aren't wearing costumes per say, but they are wearing Assassin Creed jackets and a few accessories. Trin is going full-blown cosplay with her TARDIS costume, blue wig, etc. I'm borrowing a little Dalek tank-dress, but again, it's not a costume. It's more "festive" than anything else.

One thing that sucks is we were planning to drive out to San Diego the night before and stay in a hotel room, but everything is either booked, or nearly $300. And I'm talking from San Diego to Oceanside to everything between. So now we have to drive out the day of the event, which means getting up at 5:00 a.m. Still...totally worth it.

In other summer-related news, the plaster finally cured in our pool last week, which means we can finally run the spa!

Night time is hands down my favorite time to use it. Nothing beats relaxing in the spa with some good tunes and a nice, ice cold cider. I was in the spa with Clint and the kids two nights ago when I was struck by how other-wordly they looked beneath the lighting, and had to snap a picture (Trin's hair isn't actually that short, by the way. She's wearing her Comic-Con wig).

Here's another shot, in which I was trying to capture Elijah's giant splash as he cannonballed from the spa into the pool:

I love how the spa is glowing with such a deep, creepy red, like a brick cauldron full of evil mystery juice. The LED lights only flash the red for a fraction of a second (but pause longer on other colors such as blue and purple), so it's hard to capture it on camera.

Here's another picture, with more normal lighting:

I swear it doesn't look this magical during the day. It's actually more...plain, and you can see all the dirt that we still have yet to cover with rock scape. Even with a pool, the desert is a very brown place. But at's become my favorite place to sneak off to. I turn on the lights and music and sit under that gazebo and work on my writing. It's so amazing that what used to be dirt and tumbleweeds is now my "escape."

Speaking of writing, I've finished initial revisions, and I'm at the point where my manuscript is clean enough to start getting feedback from beta readers. Shannon read through the book last week (that was SO awesome), and right now my editor/ twitter friend Steve is doing a read-through to make sure there aren't any big issues before I proceed to other beta-readers. I really want to say more about the process I've gone through this past week, but it will have to wait for a future post.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Title Madness - HELP!

Last week (or maybe it was the week before) I decided I'm changing the title of my book again. Again! Which is insane because I really love my current title. So why would I change it? AGAIN? (Other than the fact that I have serious commitment issues?)

I'm just going to take a risk and tell you my current title, and the title I'm considering switching over to, because I can't really explain where I'm coming from without disclosing those details. But feel free to skip this explanation and go straight to the highlighted questions below if you don't feel like reading my endless monologue here, because that's where I need help.

For the last couple of months I have called my book There Is No Dawn. I fell in love with this title for a number of reasons:

  1. There is No Dawn immediately makes you think, "Why? Why isn't there a dawn?" Titles that ignite questions are more likely to compel readers to pick up your book to learn more.
  2. Even though the title contains four words, each word is monosyllabic and easy to remember. Basically, the title is simple and to the point.
  3. In one tension-building scene of my manuscript, my male lead states "There will be no midnight. There is no dawn." I think it's pretty cool as a writer if you can manage to connect your title to a meaningful quote.
  4. I come from the world of classy, poetic titles, like "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Bridge to Terabithia," "A Wrinkle in Time," etc., so it's natural for me to gravitate to titles that evoke intriguing imagery and come complete with prepositions. 
  5. The title is a double entendre, given that the four sisters' biological mother, Dawnetta ("Dawn") is missing. They will search for her in Book 4. 
That's a pretty good list, and it's easy to think "Sounds like you have a winner!" But here are some problems I came across:
  1. Even though I might be growing weary of the YA trend toward one-word titles (i.e. "Delirium," "Selection," "Divergent," etc.), it's a trend for a reason. Today's YA readers prefer more straight-forward, direct, edgier titles over the flowery titles of yester-year. Not to say longer titles don't still exist (i.e. The Forest of Hands and Teeth), but these seem to be the exception to the rule. Casing point: Every family member or friend of mine in the 30+ age group who heard my title There Is No Dawn was all over it, with comments such as "Ooh, intriguing," and "I'd definitely pick up a book with that title." Yet when I suggested the title to teens, the feedback was ...well..."meh." They all liked it, but thought it sounded more like a title for an older adult novel. My own 14 year-old daughter said that she loved the title, but it sounded like the name of a book that her teacher would make her read in school. Ouch.
  2. While There Is No Dawn might work well for a stand-alone novel, I need a title that works for a book that is part of a series. This changes the dynamic of my titling process a LOT, because I have to be able to spin off the title of Book 1 to create the titles for Book 2 and beyond (think Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant, Ruby Red/Sapphire Blue/Emerald Green, and so on). If I name Book 1 There Is No Dawn, what do I call Book 2? There Is No Dusk? I can't think of any spin-offs that work for my sequels. 
  3. Yes, the title works well as a double-entendre, but the four sisters don't search for their mother until Book 4. Dawn--the person--is barely even alluded to in Book 1. Thus, There Is No Dawn, if I choose to use it, would be much more applicable to Book 4. 
The above issues were really starting to eat at me, and I finally came to the conclusion that, despite my love for There Is No Dawn, I need to change my title. Again. *long-suffering sigh* Then I was hit with an idea--a way to have my cake and eat it too. While teens aren't particularly drawn to flowery titles for books, they have no problem with flowery series-names. That's when I thought "I'll use There Is No Dawn as my series title! Brilliant!"

Or so I thought, until I said the following out-loud: "I'm reading the There Is No Dawn series." Damn. Going from the word "the" to "there" is awkward and choppy, and there is no way around it. Even if I changed over to chronicles, or books, or whatever, I'm always stuck with the word "The."

So here is where I am. Right now I am tentatively calling my quadrilogy the Reaching for Dawn series to take care of that cumbersome the-there combo. The title works on two levels: 1. The girls are trying to reach a certain destination/point of time in each book, and 2. The search for their missing mother Dawn is the larger thread in books 3 and 4.

As far as individual book titles, I'm leaning toward Diminished for book 1, Revived for book 2, Chilled for book 3, and Seared for book 4. But...I just don't know. My daughter got all excited and bouncy when she heard the title "Diminished," and she IS an avid reader of my genre, so that did give me a little confidence boost about it. And I do like it better than Spiraling. I like how the title connects with my MC's power, and the story line itself, considering the characters are trapped in a diminishing time loop. Overall, I feel like I could be content/comfortable with that title, and I think it aptly represents my book. But...I still feel like I need the opinion(s) of someone other than my own family, and FAST. For better or worse, my title will be engraved in stone (aka: printed on a book cover) in the next 3 weeks. So, HELP! I will be eternally grateful to anyone willing to tell me what you think. I don't care about books 2 through 4...I have plenty of time (years, even) to worry about those titles. I'm just worried about book 1.

So here is my question, short and sweet: Do you like the title DIMINISHED for a YA paranormal romance? Feel free to be honest--it's not like I gave birth to this title and will feel offended if you tell me it's ugly and wrinkly.

And what about Reaching for Dawn as a series title? Yay? Nay? If yay, the book would be called DIMINISHED (A Reaching for Dawn Novel)...or something to that effect.

Please someone tell me that you've gone through this title-changing psychosis with your own books. Because I'm seriously feeling like a crazy person. And insanity loves company.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vegas Conference

I am finally home! *Huge happy sigh* The conference was a ton of fun, and a complete whirlwind. I carpooled with two of my teacher friends, Jen and Lainie, and we arrived in Vegas at about 2:00 on Monday. After getting checked in to the Treasure Island (pictured above), we enjoyed a couple of drinks and headed for the pool. Later a bunch of us met at Gilley's for dinner. My district gives teachers $80 a day for meals, so we're always sitting fat and happy during conferences. After dinner, some of my coworkers tried to talk me into going out, but I hadn't unpacked my luggage yet, and I was massively craving a bath and some alone time, so I opted out.

On Tuesday, I woke up early and four of us girls walked down to Starbucks for some wake-up juice. Then we walked over to the Venetian for our conference. Everyday we had four 75 minute sessions--two before lunch, and two after, with a half hour between each session. My Tuesday sessions were "okay." Three of my presenters were great, but they didn't teach me anything that I wasn't already doing in my classroom. The fourth presenter was nice enough, but the session was supposed to be on "project--based learning," and she never once talked about projects. Instead she discussed coming up with "key questions" for your lessons (a dead horse of a subject lately). It was frustrating, because I was excited for some more project ideas.

Once our sessions were over, I got together with my coworkers for drinks, and then got ready for dinner. This time we ate at the buffet at Planet Hollywood. I don't care for buffets, but the food was so good. I was so stuffed by the time I finished that I swear I looked like I was five months pregnant. Okay, thats a pretty big exaggeration, but I was seriously full. After the buffet, I had 15 minutes to get ready for a club I had agreed to go to with my friend/coworker Danielle--"Hyde" in Bellagio. I haven't clubbed in...well...probably ever, so I didn't even think to bring appropriate "club wear." I had packed a couple of my work dresses, and one of them was more curve-hugging and night-out-on-town looking (I thought), but apparently it wasn't slutty enough, because Danielle took one look at me when she walked into my room and was like, "Here." She handed me a short, slinky black dress. Danielle is shorter and heavier than me (I don't mean this as an insult--she is super cute), but she said the dress was "one size fits all," and as I held it up, I thought "Damn, this thing is actually going to fit." So I put it on and it fit like a glove. But I couldn't help but laugh because every single time Shannon and I go to Vegas, we make fun of all the girls wearing spike heels and little black dresses. It is SO CLICHE. Like, seriously girls, there are other lengths and other colors. If I ever go clubbing again, I'm going to wear a white lace dress or mint green or something just to break the mold.

Anyway, Danielle and I, along with our coworker Alfred, took a taxi to the Bellagio. Once we arrived to the club, it was...just...holy cow. The location was so beautiful, because it had an entire wall of glass that overlooked the Bellagio fountain/light show. It was STUNNING, seeing the show from that angle, over and over again. But that's where the fascination ended. The club was SO crowded. I love to dance, but it's nearly impossible when you're squished on all sides like you're the unfortunate innards of a sandwich.

Also, I don't know club etiquette. I was getting approached by guys and I would let them know I was married in the friendliest way possible (usually by smiling apologetically and pointing at my ring, since you couldn't hear a damn thing in that place). I was never mean and all "get lost" or anything, because, hey, it takes guts to approach a woman, and I'm not going to squash someone for trying. But one guy (from the $1500 section) wouldn't get the message, and started putting his hands around my waist and kissing me on the cheek even though I had told him several times I wasn't interested. Danielle got pissed when he cornered me by the restrooms and WOULD NOT LEAVE. She told him very point-blank that he needed to leave me alone and started to lightly push him away from me, and he pushed back--not in an intention to push her, I don't think...more holding his hands up in the air to keep her away, but the bouncer wasn't having any of it, and he kicked the dude out. Later, when we left the club and were walking out of Bellagio, the guy appeared out of nowhere and started asking me where I was going, etc. When Danielle caught up, he started yelling at her for getting him kicked out of the club. Danielle called him an ass and we jumped in our cab. She told me in the cab that I am not bitchy enough for clubs, and I laughed, because it is so true.

But it's all good because I am pretty sure I am done with clubs. Not just because of the thing from above, but because I hate watching women act like they have no self-respect. Dresses tinier than lingerie, spiked heels, bending over so their ass-cheeks can gyrate against some stranger's groin...ugh. I am officially too old for this. I am glad I went with Danielle this one time though so I could get it out of my system, plus there were parts of the experience that were a lot of fun.

While I was at the club, Clint was making the drive to Vegas from his work. I got back to my room about 1:45ish, and he had just arrived about a half hour before. He stayed for the rest of the week, which was SO much fun. Clint meshes well with my coworkers, and I always feel more...well, I just feel like I can breathe easier when he's there.

Wednesday was sort of rinse and repeat, minus the clubbing. I woke up early, went to Starbucks with the girls, and then it was off to my sessions, lunch at the Outback, and more sessions. My sessions, again, were "okay" that day, or maybe I was too tired to fully appreciate them. All of us went to dinner that night at an Italian restaurant that served food family style. It was awesome. I think I went to bed at a decent hour that night, but it's hard to remember.

Thursday was the same as Wednesday, except for my sessions were wonderful. I was so thrilled by one of them on "warm-ups and sponge activities" that I was taking notes like a crazy person. The presenter was energetic, hilarious, and everything he suggested was ingenious. After my first two sessions ended, a group of us (along with the principal) enjoyed a drink around the pool. Later we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Canunita (or something like that). Once back in my room, I had an hour to relax before it was time for Chippendales. Yes, you heard that right--Chippendales! I have never in my life gone to a show where the MEN take off their clothes, and honestly, I've never had any interest. I've gone to Vegas showgirl performances, and I really enjoy those. The dancers are gorgeous with smooth skin and beautiful bodies and glittering costumes...why would I want to see a bunch of bumpy, greasy men?

But Clint kept telling me "Just go babe! You'll have fun," so I did, and he was right. The show was sheer entertainment from start to finish. The music and choreography was awesome, and the men weren't made to look like "pretty boys" like I was worried about. The producers did a great job of playing on women's fantasies by choosing settings and costumes that emphasized the mens' ruggedness, and by recognizing that teasing us with what we can't see can be so much more provocative and fun than baring everything.

We weren't allowed to take pictures until the end of the show, and even then I didn't take any (I'm a lousy photo taker), but I had a few sent to me by Irma. The show featured Ian Ziering, who used to play Steve Sanders way-back-when on Beverly Hills, 90210. And remember Jaymes and James from The Amazing Race?

I remember how adorable and enthusiastic those boys were on the race...they were definitely amongst my top five favorite contestants.

The only thing I managed to take pictures of during the show was the bathroom (I know, here I have almost-naked men parading around, and I'm fascinated by the bathroom). I swear it was the size of an apartment, with different nooks and sections with vanities and various seating areas.

Here we are, after the show, groping giant poster men:

(From left to right: Katie, Amanda, Nikki, Me, and Irma)

I got back to my room sometime after 1:00 a.m., I think. The next morning (yesterday) was my last day of the conference, and finally time to drive home. Clint packed us up and we headed out, stopping for a late lunch in State Line. I was so excited to get home. I missed the kids and the animals (although sadly Trin is still in Utah at horsemanship camp until tomorrow). Plus nothing beats sleeping in your own bed.

Now I'm trying to motivate myself to clean this house and do some laundry. Tomorrow I'm hoping to get a few hours to fill out Najla's requirement form for my book cover. By Monday I hope to be back to revisions again. I have to plan another pool party soon too, because my coworkers are bugging me for one.

Oh, Krystal over at Narcissistic Rose tagged me for a Versatile Blogger award, so I'll scratch down my seven random facts in a near-future post. Shouldn't be too hard...LOTS of randomness to choose from.

*takes nap now to avoid cleaning*

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cover Art

I found my cover artist! Here are some of the covers you can find in her gallery:

Aren't these beautiful? The artist is Najla Qamber, and you can find her HERE. She was referred to me by my twitter pal @jmeyersbooks, who hasn't had the chance to use her services yet, but hopes to for a future contemporary romance. The questions on Najla's requirement form will likely take me a couple of hours to research in order to complete, and I'm leaving for Vegas for a teaching conference, so unfortunately I won't be able to start the process until I come back. Naija and I have talked to each other via e-mail, and we are going to start brainstorming my cover July 21st. By the 27th, she will have a preliminary design, and we'll go from there.

I will have a cover--or at least a cover concept--by July!!

So now I'll be able to do a cover reveal (however you do that) with a release date for my book (whenever that is) and all that fun stuff. I am so excited!

On a completely unrelated note (these are always my famous last words), Clint and I celebrated Independence Day by watching the fireworks over my parents' lake from my dad's boat. It was a lot of fun, though I don't remember the fireworks too well (my mom made Shannon and I Long Island iced-teas). I have a story about Shannon and I jumping straight from the boat into the pitch black lake TWICE, but in retrospect, I don't think it's a good story.

Okay, I'm officially gone until Friday now. Las Vegas is beckoning. Maybe I'll get another Royal Flush? *crosses fingers*

Have a great week!  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

#WIPMarathon Check-In #5 (The Real One)

I'm here for my slightly late check-in! But let me preface my report first with THIS.

That was me last night. My goal for last month was to finish my book. And by golly I finished it.

By golly I just said "by golly."

I typed out the very last line of my manuscript yesterday, June 30th, at 11:49 p.m. By 11:50, I had already blogged my big news. By 11:54, I was announcing it on twitter. Yeah, I might have been a little giddy. But I am a SLOW writer you guys. I'm not like some of these writers who put out entire manuscripts in a matter of months. It has taken me THREE YEARS to write this book.

Just to be sure, I dug through my blog until I found this excerpt.
I started a novel.  I know, big whoop--everyone does.  But this one's different...(insert long-winded explanation here). I can't explain it.  It just feels different.  This is the one.  The one that's going to get published, or the one I'll die trying on.  Either way, it feels good to feel this passionate about something.

This was from a post called Self-Imposed Challenges written on June 6, 2011. Three summers ago. Reading this made me feel a wee bit emotional. I guess I'm just happy that silly ole' past-me, for once in her life, dared to follow a dream through a period of three ridiculous years.

Okay, I guess this was sort of a long intro. Onto the stats.

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 90,536 - 27 chapters completed
Current report WC + CC/ SC: 108,878 words - 36 chapters, plus epilogue, completed
WIP Issues This Month: My biggest issue this month was the fact that I left my manuscript notebook at work. I know--why don't I just drive to work and get it? But us teachers turn in our keys for summer, so my book is sitting in a locked classroom in a locked school. Plus I switched classrooms the last week of school, so it's buried somewhere in a box. The problem is my notebook contains a lot of stuff I really needed this month--and still do--including a calendar of major events (crucial when your story features a time loop), the class schedules of my characters, a log of the dates of each loop, a list of time quotes, etc. Now I am left with several "placeholders" and holes in my manuscript. For example, in one scene, when my MC loops back into school during 6th period, I was forced to place her in a history class with a teacher named Mrs. Shepard. Once I get my notebook back, I'll be able to see what class/teacher she is actually supposed to be with.

Another issue this month was the last-minute scramble to finish my manuscript. I take deadlines seriously, even self-inflicted ones, but that time crunch was like nothing I've ever experienced. Last night was the craziest. With only one hour and forty-five minutes left to meet my deadline and an entire chapter left to write, I decided to escape outside with my laptop to minimize any possible distractions. I sat there in the dark and typed faster than I have ever typed before. It was heart-pounding and...exhilarating. 
What I learned this month in writing: Rapid-fire writing WORKS. I was typing chapter 35 so fast last night that I didn't even have time to second-guess anything, or even see what exactly I was writing for that matter. I swear I thought it was all garbage. But this evening I went over that chapter, and yes, it was a little rough around the edges, but not nearly as bad as I thought. Letting that frantic, creative surge take over last night produced some decent ideas, and after about 45 minutes of smoothing things out and tweaking a few lines, I have one very workable chapter. 

I also learned that having a network of people in your world supporting your writing is EVERYTHING. A few pivotal people cheering me on this week gave me that final push to sprint to the finish line. You know who you are, so thank you!
What distracted me this month while writing: I didn't realize back when I set my June 30th deadline that Clint would be on vacation this week. I guess that sounds ideal for writing, but it wasn't. When Clint's off from work, we like to spend almost all our time together. I felt crummy having to ignore him for hours at a time to work on my MS. To his credit, he was awesome and supportive all week, and never complained. 

Another distraction was THE POOL. It's been triple digits all week, so of course having blue shiny water beckoning from your background is irresistible. Not just to us, but our extended family as well. Although in some ways, I think the pool helped. Being able to break the monotony of an all-day writing fest with the occasional dip in the pool was pretty awesome. 

Goal for next month: Wow. I know I'm pursuing self-publishing now, but I haven't actually looked at all the steps. I guess by next month, I hope to have tighter editing underway? Or have my beta reading in progress? Crap, I'm not sure. I'll have to research this and get back to you. I do know that my next step is to go through my last five chapters or so. I wrote those ones the quickest, so I know they are going to need the most revisions. And at some point I'm going to have to make some cuts, because my word count, as I suspected, ended up TOO HIGH.

Last 200 words (from Epilogue):
He could hear the topaz orb crack within his tight grip. He let the dusty remains of the necklace trickle through his fingers and fall to the ground.
Leaning back toward the bench, he stooped to pick up his cane. The four gems on the handle flashed in the moonlight, reminding him there were four sisters. Four. He had failed with one, but he had three more chances. He turned to walk away. Twelve melancholy chimes followed his heavy footsteps as the man slipped into the night. 
If he had stayed a second longer, he would have seen the one fragment of dust flicker with light. One tiny, insignificant spark, like a firefly clinging to life, flashing once, then twice, a small, stubborn ember refusing to give its twinkle away. A breeze stirred the dusty remains of the necklace, and the mostly-useless sand scuttled beneath the base of Maui. But this one uncertain spark glowed a fiery orange, its radiance trapped within the depths of the massive clock. 
Maui rumbled with a single off-key chime, and for a breath of a second her face glowed with the intensity of a fire opal before being reclaimed by shadows.

Yet the one unspent grain would never, ever stop glowing.