In Which I Crash Into a Wall and Panic and Send Out Terrified Emails (aka, revisions update)

This was me (Thursday).

Remember how, like, ages ago, I was really really happy with my revisions? Well. Something changed.

On Wednesday night, the zombies attacked.

I was just sitting at my desk, la-la-la!, when suddenly I realized I was just sitting at my desk. Meaning, for the last several hours, I hadn't written anything of substance. At all. The brain-finger connection was LOST.

I had the strangest feeling a zombie was watching me.

I began to doubt every sentence. Tweak them. Delete the tweak. Rephrase the tweak, delete the rephrase, delete the whole thing, add it back, move it to the next paragraph, move it back.

Repeat. Repeat repeat REPEAT! ARGHH!!!

The scene sucked. The chapter sucked. The chapter BEFORE it sucked, and every single chapter after it sucked harder. Why would anyone want to read it? It was the worst thing I'd ever written! No, it was worst thing written in the history of human existence!! Australopithecus told better stories than me! What the heck was I doing awake at 3:00 am fixing the same things again and again? I was NEVER going to get past Chapter 11!!! Screw Chapter 11!!! I HATE YOU CHAPTER ELEVEN!!!!


I kicked and screamed and bashed them with cricket bats and old LPs, but because they were EVIL ZOMBIES, they kept coming back for more.

"Yooou suuucck. You'll neh-vurrrrr fi-nnniiisshh."

"No! No! That's not true!"

"You'll neh-vurrrrr quit yoour daaaaaaay joooobbbb."

But it wasn't Shaun of the Dead, because Shaun is a funny movie. It was 28 Days Later! Without Cillian Murphy! (AND WHAT IS THE POINT WITHOUT CILLIAN MURPHY???)

I know. The thought of a sequel without you made me sad too. That's why I never saw it.

I ran from my computer. It was a losing fight! And I crashed into bed and prayed that when I woke up in the morning, the zombies would be gone. That it had all been a dream -- just like Newhart! -- only this time I'd be happy and wouldn't wonder why the heck I had been watching a show for so many years if it DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAPPEN.

BUT. Never underestimate a zombie.

You can run but you can't hide.

When I woke up, not only had it NOT been a dream, but now I WAS A ZOMBIE TOO. They'd eaten my brains! And sure, perhaps it might have had something to do with the fact that I'd been running on the barest minimum of sleep for the last week and a half, but there was no mistaking it. I had become the living dead.

What to do, what to do??

Why, send out panicked emails, of course:

"OMG, I had the worst night ever. Chapter 11 attacked and ate my brains and I'll never be published and this will never be over and I hate life and I hate my book and by the way, I think I'm a zombie. We should probably cancel the pizza party."

Thankfully, a reply came back within the hour from my wise guru writer-friend, Paula: "Ah, a desperate cry for help. Right on schedule."


But of course she knew. I knew. I always know it's coming, but that never makes it easier when it actually arrives. The doubting. The self-loathing. The despair. But, as Paula pointed out in the rest of her kind, thoughtful, can't-live-without-her email, it will pass. One bad night (or bad week or month) will not equal the end of the world.

It will get finished. And it will be good.

Still. That didn't mean I didn't spend my afternoon thinking evil writing thoughts and hating my career and discussing the embarrassing-but-constant need for validation and praise with a different writer-friend (also having a nasty day).

Which was awesome, and quite therapeutic.

By the time evening rolled around, I was still scared to go back to my revisions but no longer terrified. Talking with my friends was the best reminder I could've had. You may not want to underestimate the zombies, but NEVER underestimate your friends.

I have said it before. Writing is a lonely business.


It's all up to you, that one person, to make sure the work gets completed. If you get sick or tired or beaten up by zombies, you can't call in a substitute to finish your work for you. You have no coworkers. (And often, no freaking paycheck, either.) Which is why it's crucial to your survival to talk to OTHER writers. Who can assure you that things WILL get better -- and remind you that they're also going to get worse again, but then better, and then worse, etc.

Thursday night I sat back down with my revisions. I told my novel I wasn't scared of it (a lie), and I was NOT going to give up (the truth). And you know what? The zombies vanished. I moved from chapter eleven to twelve, and then onto thirteen.

And I was happy again.

(And then, on Friday, they attacked again. But that's a story for another day.)


How to Revise a Novel (starring James McAvoy)

Greetings from Week Two of my revision push. I am tired and braindead. How are you today? Fine thanks. Please set your butter knife on the edge of my table. Katydids are not native to Sudan. Eat my shorts!

(Okay. Perhaps things aren't quite this bad. Not really. Not yet.)

But I am still working my fingers off at all hours of the night, and I am still desirous of a long nap. A long nap that lasts 2 - 3 days (minimum). On the plus side, I'm getting so much done! Yippee! Pages and pages and pages and . . . what was that, Stephanie? Don't get too carried away?


Okay. So maybe the pages I've revised are the ones that don't need as much work. Maybe this week will be tougher. Maybe next week will be even worse. Then again...

Maybe not.

I mean really. I'm on a delirious writing high right now. WHEEEE!!! I AM AWESOME!!!

Too bad we all know what follows a high. No. Not a trip to the supermarket for eighteen boxes of Lucky Charms and a gallon of Sunny D. I'm talking about THE CRASH. So before the inevitable (THE CRASH), I want to talk about what's been getting me through revisions. In hopes that they'll keep helping me. And, perhaps maybe kinda sorta, they might help you too.

I know, I know. You are wondering when JAMES MCAVOY will show up again. How JAMES MCAVOY ties into all this.

He doesn't.

But this is the genius of the Internet. I can post pictures of whatever I like, even if they have NOTHING TO DO with what I'm talking about. Isn't that great? It's pretty much the best thing about having a blog. The pictures.

A picture!

Isn't that nice? Would you like another one? Okay, but don't say I never did anything for you.

Another picture! In color!

Jeez, I need some sleep, right? Or how about . . . COFFEE??? Hey look! I've got one that actually works for this!


Revisions. Focus, Stephanie, focus.

So in addition to the many, many mocha lattes Jarrod has served me (bless him), I have a few new tricks up my sleeves. I mean, Jarrod and his glorious mocha lattes are obviously my BEST tricks, but some other things are helping right now too. Here goes:


Are you still reading this?

1) Discover Bookmarks

No, not the cardboard things that hold your place in large Russian novels. Bookmarks! In Microsoft Word! HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT BOOKMARKS? (Seriously, people. Why didn't you give me the memo?)

Now, I realize Microsoft Word isn't the greatest of writing programs. In fact, it sort of blows. But as it's the industry standard, I prefer to use it. Saves me the hassle of transferring the files later, right? Right.

I discovered the bookmark function a few days ago on Writer Unboxed. The link explains them better than I can, but basically, they save me a LOT of time.

I've marked all of my chapters, so that I can flip easily from scene to scene. This means NO MORE SCROLLING! (Word doesn't have the friendliest of scrolling tools, does it? Try to move the bar down a page or two, and suddenly, the text is seventy pages later.) That saves me a hundred hours a week right there. Practically.

I also use the bookmark function to mark places that still need work, so I can move forward with a peace of mind, knowing I won't accidentally forget about them. Because how mortifying would it be to print up your pages and hand them to a friend, only to have them run into a passage like this?

"[Very witty comment about cucumbers]," said Tanya Rastermuffin.

[ACTION]. He couldn't believe her nerve! [Something about bellybutton smelling like carrots? turnips? cabbage? Or NOT??]

"[Reply]," said Tony. "But what about Ms. von Piddington? You didn't think
she forgot about [cucumber thing], did you?"


(And, yes, brackets. I love brackets! I use them all of the time as place holders.)

I am impressed you are still reading.

2) (Re)Break Out the Books

Remember those writing books you LOVED and scribbled on and highlighted? (And I HOPE you're taking notes in those books! Now is not the time to be delicate.) Yeah. Time to look at them again. No need to read the whole thing, but I've found a quick breeze-through is healthy. My current reference is Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. He has the elements of a novel broken down in such a handy way, and with such excellent examples, that I can easily flip to something helpful. So dig out your favorite book, and remind yourself why it inspired you in the first place.

Also, if you're like me, you probably take a lot of notes. Research, research, research. But -- if you're like me -- you also have a tendency to take these notes, and then promptly leave them in a drawer or binder or notebook somewhere, never to be opened again. OPEN IT! You'll be amazed at what you already know. I don't know how many times I've opened up my notes to find the answer to my problem staring me back in the face.

And one more book I can't live without these days: my thesaurus. And not the quickie Internet one, but an actual physical drop-it-on-your-foot and you'd-say-ouch thesaurus. Because the genius of a BOOK thesaurus is that when you look up a word, you are inevitably led to pages of other fantastic words, words which you had never even CONSIDERED before. Whereas when you use a thesaurus online, you look up your one word, you get your eight synonyms, and you're done. The flipping is often where I find my juiciest words, not to mention the marvelous "CONCEPT" indexes in the back. So if you haven't held your thesaurus in a while, time to pick it up.

You mean you're skipping the reading?

3) "Find" "these crappy words"

This isn't new for me, but as I use it 500 times per sitting, it's worth mentioning. The "Find" feature on Word. I have a tendency to repeat myself, so I took the suggestion from Justine Larbalestier's excellent rewriting advice and created a list of dangerous words. Words I COMPLETELY abuse.

Words such as:


And so on. You'd think my characters were popping happy pills by how often I catch them with "wide grins." THIS MUST BE STOPPED! Enter the "Find" feature. Not only do I check my list frequently, but anytime I have any doubts as to whether I've used a word recently, I search for it.

(Today I worked on a scene that takes place at night, and realized I'd used the words "dark" and "darkness" four times! NOO!! This is unacceptable.)

Anyway. The "Find" feature + a dangerous words list. It'll be your best friend.

You're just looking at the pictures?

4) Delete! Delete! Delete!

If you are a writer (and if you aren't, that means you're probably just looking at James McAvoy, and I can say all sort of peculiar things right now, and you'll never know. Bubblegum! Tortoises! Hammer pants!), you'll have heard the -- rather annoying -- phrase "kill your darlings." Meaning, you have to cut the bits you love if they aren't necessary to your story.

But it's not JUST the darlings that must be killed. It's those other bits. Those in-between bits you keep fiddling with in stupid, time-consuming ways. Moving the dialogue tags. Changing the transitions. Adding and subtracting adjectives.

It's not working is it?

Yeah. If the passage jumps out at you, if you MUST fiddle with the phrasing every time you read through, then . . . it's gotta go. The whole thing.


The interesting thing is that usually when I run across these passages, once I hit the "delete" key, I don't even have to replace the text with something else. It's just something stupid and extra that my fingers added in when I wasn't looking!

Delete delete delete!

That's okay. I'm not actually writing this.

5) Avoid

In this case, I mean avoiding things you enjoy. Your hobbies. The ones that take up your free time. Sucks, doesn't it? But if you ever want to finish your novel (And I do! I so do!), you're going to have to cut a few things from your life, albeit on a temporary basis.

Things I have cut from my life:

Television -- Because I can't turn it off once I turn it on. I physically can't. I will watch six consecutive hours of VH1 pop culture countdown reruns if left unattended.

Books -- Normally, I read several a week. I'm down to ONE. I have a LOT more time now.

Movies -- No more movies at home, because that involves turning on the dreaded TV set. (But a trip to the theater, where you are forced out of your seat when the house lights come on, can be a nice, temporary break)

Internet -- I don't keep my laptop (what I write my novel on) hooked up online. If I did, you'd better believe I would not be talking about revisions right now. Instead I would be psyching myself up to finish Chapter Three. As much as we all love it, the Internet = Mindsuck. (Worse than TV, even.)

So what do you like to do in your free time? Stop doing it. Presto! Look at all of that time on your hands you suddenly have!

(Yeah. It sucks. But do it anyway.)

I am just looking at the pictures too. This is a nice one, isn't it?

In conclusion: Pancakes, twaddle, and beatniks. I am tired. I want to go to bed. But I have revisions to do, so I'll see you later (to beg you for more advice).

I'm going to write.


Death By Novel + First MTV Featurette

Do you watch Arrested Development?

(If the answer is "yes," than I love you. If the answer is "no" -- well, I still love you, but please run-don't-walk to your nearest video store/Netflix queue and pick up all three seasons. Immediately.)

Every morning this week, I have woken with a singular image etched into my brain. A banner a la Bluth that reads:

You're killing me, Novel


Why? Here is my current schedule:

7:45 -- Alarm goes off. Snooze.
7:55 -- Snooze.
8:05 -- Snooze.
8:15 -- Snooze.
8:25 -- Snooze.
8:35 -- Crawl out of bed. Basic, minimal hygiene.
9:05 -- Slog into work (five minutes late)

12:30 - 1:30 Lunch. Review novel notes. Plan that night's revisions.

1:35 -- Back to work (five minutes late)
5:40 -- Sleepwalk home.
6:00 -- Crash on bed.
6:30 -- Jarrod (forcefully) removes from bed.
6:40 -- Jarrod (forcefully) pours caffeinated beverage down throat.
7:00 -- Revise novel.

3 am/4 am Bedtime.

I shouldn't even be here right now. This blog entry should not exist. I am cheating. I should be upstairs, revising revising revising. That means no book reading. No movie watching. And no blogging.


I am baffled and humbled by writers with full time jobs (whether at an office or at home with children) who FINISH novels. Because serious novel-writing IS a full time job, which means they have TWO. How do they do it?

By not sleeping. That's how.


It reminds me of a bit in Empire Records that I have always secretly loved. Early in the film, Renee Zellweger picks up Liv Tyler for work and discovers that Liv has baked treats the night before. When Renee asks how she found the time, Liv answers: "My dad always said there are 24 usable hours in every day."

I love that.

Of course, later we find out that she was awake because she's been popping pills. But still. Twenty-four usable hours!

I have a seee-cret.

Noooo! My secret is out!

I wish I had time for everyth
ing I love, but I don't. Which means I have to choose, and right now, I'm choosing my novel.

There are two and a half weeks left of revisions before my new (self-imposed) deadline, before I must turn it over to my writing pals for feedback. Two and a half weeks to turn this putrid rotting lump into something pretty and sparkly and comprehensible.

Thankfully -- although I'm running strictly on yerba mate fumes -- things are going well. Last night I tackled a scene which I'd been dreading for months and, amazingly, it just sort of fixed itself. It's like I had a visit from the magical writing gnomes.

(I love the magical writing gnomes. I leave cupcake crumbs on my keyboard, hoping to lure them into my Microsoft Word documents.)

Except, of course, I WAS there and I WAS working. So what made it easy this time? Help from my favorite writing advice website, Not for Robots. Basically, I opened a new document and worked on the scene in there, rather in my actual novel file.

So much less pressure to be perfect.

I re-visioned the scene completely -- rather than touching up what was already written -- and it wrote itself. Then, a quick copy and paste back into my novel document, and presto! Done!

(If only it was always that simple.)

Well, I'm off now. I have a turd to polish. But until we meet again:

AHHHHHHH!!! It's the first MTV featurette!

The nice thing is that it's a great clip, and they've treated the topic with respect.


The bummer thing is that none of his interview is in there yet (hopefully it'll be in the next one). Until then, you can see a quick clip of Jarrod in the very beginning, rocking out in his gray jacket, right before the clip of Harry and the Potters singing "Save Ginny Weasley."

You can also see him briefly in the background right before that ("We are The Remus Lupins!") stepping away from his kicked-over drum set, and then hear him later, wildly pounding on those same drums during "I Was A Teenage Werewolf."

So hurrah! It's official. Keep your fingers crossed for more.


In Which MTV Interviews My Husband and a (Semi-)Secret Is Revealed

Why, yes. That IS a picture of my husband being interviewed by MTV at the Chicago Hilton.


Oh. Holy. Monkeys.

This would be the "VERY exciting news" I mentioned last week. It's time to come clean. Ah-hem. As many of you know, my husband drums for a local band, Lewis (which is, er, on temporary leave as everyone is out of town for the summer & they're replacing a member).

Well. For the last year and a half, my husband has had an alternate musical career. A successful musical career. A (semi-)secret musical career.


That is to say, my husband writes and performs songs about Harry Potter. His band is called Gred and Forge, and he creates music from the perspective of the Weasley twins.

You read that right.

(Cough cough.) Perhaps now that you have the definition, you understand why I haven't mentioned it here before. I mean, it's kind of exhausting/irritating to defend yourself. But now that HE'S BEEN INTERVIEWED BY MTV (!!!), it's time to come out of the broom closet.

But before I get into this crazy-great week we just had, how about a Wizard Rock Primer for the Uninitiated?

In 2002, two brothers -- Joe and Paul DeGeorge -- created the band Harry and the Potters for a backyard summer cookout. Basically, they sang songs written from Harry's point of view. The response was a LOT bigger than they had anticipated and, encouraged, they made an album and took it on tour, playing at libraries across the country.

Harry and the Potters (with Gred and Forge, of course!)

Demand grew, a second album was recorded, tours were con
tinued and . . . two years later, The Whomping Willows and Draco and the Malfoys emerged. Shortly followed The Remus Lupins, and a movement had begun.*

Now there are 450+ bands. Yes. Over four hundred and fifty bands are writing music just about Harry Potter! That's a LOT of music being created.

The community is pretty incredible. Anyone can take part in it. Some bands are as complicated as full on drums-bass-guitar and others are as simple as one guy singing into his computer's microphone. And everyone supports everyone.

But WHAT'S THE POINT you might ask? Well, to steal from The Wizrocklopedia:

"At its most basic level, wizard rock celebrates and promotes literacy . . . but wizard rock fans and creators are involved in other socially conscious endeavors as well . . . The HP Alliance seeks to motivate fans to take a stand against tyranny, genocide, global warming, and more, using parallels to the book series . . . [bringing] light to the fact that the challenges and horrors Harry faces are similar (if not reflective) of those that we face in the real world. The music and the fandom celebrate standing up for what is right, making a difference in the lives of others, and putting a stop to the evils in the world."

Pretty sweet, huh?

My own wonderful husband donates 100% of the profits from his CD sales to Book Aid International, and last Christmas he took part in Jingle Spells, which raised over THIRTY THOUSAND dollars for the same charity! WOW!

So we Potter fans may be nerdy -- and quite aware that this is the equivalent of Trekkies with guitars -- but we're also Pretty Darn Good People.

Here are some of my favorite songs, all very very funny, which you can listen to in their entirety on MySpace:

"Save Ginny Weasley" -- Harry and the Potters (the song that started it all)
"My Dad Is Rich" and "Your Family Is Poor" -- Draco and the Malfoys
"Draco and Harry" -- The Whomping Willows (my VERY favorite)
"P is for Patil" -- Tom Riddle & Friends
"Teenage Werewolf" -- The Remus Lupins
"Krum" -- Justin Finch Fletchley and the Sugar Quills
"Cedric" -- The Moaning Myrtles (nice Twilight jokes in this one)

And, of course, Gred and Forge. My favorites online are "History of Magic" and "Our Fireworks Say Poo."

So when Jarrod started this a year and a half ago, we had NO IDEA what was coming. My husband signs autographs. Receives fan mail. Tours across the country. At shows, HUNDREDS of people sing along to his lyrics, and people approach him shaking with nervousness. One girl even got a tattoo of his album artwork! Talk about feeling humbled. He's been interviewed by this magazine and now . . . MTV.

So. MTV.

He was invited to play at Wrock Chicago, the 30-band festival that kicked off Terminus, a ginormous Harry Potter conference. Normally, he goes solo, but for this he recruited the hilarious dudes from Tom Riddle & Friends and Bryce of The Quaffle Kids to back him up. His set was awesome, and I've never been so proud!

Ty, Shawn, & Jarrod

Check out the crowd! There were at least 300 people jumping and singing along to his music! He had one of the largest (THE largest?) crowds of the afternoon.

It wasn't until after his set ende
d that I found out the GIANT CAMERA that had been blocking my view the whole time was freaking MTV! And they had taped his whole show! They took his phone number and asked to set up an interview the next day.

Giddily, we moved on to the big show, the six headliners. Jarrod had toured from Phoenix to Boston this summer with The Remus Lupins as their drummer, and was asked to drum again at the conference. Woo hoo!

While waiting for the show to start, I met Xaiver, my hair twin. And then I made this weird face.

YAY! The show begins. And they ROCKED!

I never heard the final numbers, but there were between 800 - 1000 people sharing the HP love that night.

And the next day? The phone call from MTV. I swear, I don't remember the last time I was so excited. They wanted to int
erview him! For music HE WROTE AND PERFORMED! And though MTV doesn't mean the same thing to us that it did when we were in middle school, it was a huge honor and dream come true.

I totally embarrassed him. I was like, "Can I take a picture of him holding the microphone?" I mean, COME ON! That's the microphone of my youth. They were quite polite and understanding, but Jarrod insisted on making a funny face.

Sorry, hon!

So that's my news. The rumor is that it'll be used for a new segment, "Wizarding Wednesdays," after the success of their "Twilight Tuesdays" this summer. They taped a few different bands and are editing them into a small series.

Keep your fingers crossed that they don't cut his words to make him sound silly! (Or turn it into a "look at all of these dorks" kind of thing.) I'll let you know when they air. I don't know whether it will be online or on TV or both or what, but whatever happens...

I am SO PROUD of my Rock Star Husband.

* = Technically, The Switchblade Kittens were the first to write about HP with their song "Ode to Harry" in 2000, but Harry and the Potters are credited with creating the wizard rock genre. Which was proved when hundreds of people rocked out to the Potters at Terminus, compared to - oh - about 30 for The Switchblade Kittens. Yikes.


In Which I Visit Chicago and Enjoy Many Giant-Sized Things

We're back from Chicago! I know, I know. Two vacations in two weeks. What were we thinking? The timing was weird, but couldn't be helped. Jarrod was invited to play a show at a Big Mysterious Conference, and we took this as an excuse to explore the Windy City. Hurrah!

I'll talk more about his show in a few days. I have some VERY exciting news, but it'll take some time for me to decide how to share it. (You'll see.)


Chicago rocks! The first day, Jarrod had rehearsal so I popped on my iPod, and Rufus Wainwright and I took a tour of our surroundings. I walked for five hours around Grant Park and Michigan Avenue, as this is my favorite thing to do when visiting a new place. Explore by foot.

Rufus makes excellent company.

Right away, I noticed something peculiar.
Twilight shirts. LOTS and LOTS of Twilight shirts. At first, I thought there had been a release party. Belated, but you never know. Then I spotted an official Stephenie Meyer tour t-shirt. Huh??? I stopped the girl wearing the shirt, and she said Meyer was in town and had just signed books for over 1500 people.


Sigh. Stephenie Meyer was right there, and I didn't even know it! Oh well. At least I got to enjoy her fans.

My shirt would read: "Dear Edward Cullen, I am not afraid of marriage. Bite me."

It wasn't until I got home that I found out not only did I miss Meyer, but I also missed JOHN freaking GREEN!
My hero! He was only a block from my hotel, and once again, I had no clue. Gaaaaahhh.

He read from Paper Towns, and then his brother Hank played music in the park.

The park that was A BLOCK FROM MY HOTEL.

Sob sob sob! Normally, I'm pretty sharp about these things, so it kills me that I missed both of them.

Well. Now that you know what I didn't see, how about what I did?

These boys were chanting "Me-xi-co! Me-xi-co! Me-xi-co!" and dancing around in the fountains of Millennium Park. I watched them for about fifteen minutes, reveling in their joy. Totally awesome.

I loooove portraiture! The Art Institute is free on Thursday and Friday nights, so we were pleased for the opportunity to check it out. These two guys were my highlights, a haughty man painted by Ingres (one of my favorite artists), and the fabulously grotesque The Picture of Dorian Gray by Ivan Albright (created for the 1945 film).

We also stuffed our gullets with yummy food. Naturally, Chicago-style hot dogs were first on our list (Hi, Suzanna!), but we also had a ridiculously delicious veggie deep dish pizza from Pizano's and an incredible, inventive Chinese dinner from Opera (example: dessert was sweet corn - yes, corn - ice cream with mango and coconut sorbets, served atop black rice pudding).

Mmm. So much stuff you can hardly taste the creepy meat.

The best part of the trip was The Field Museum. I've wanted to go ever since I watched The Ghost and the Darkness twelve years ago and learned about the Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo. If you've never heard of them, t
hey were a pair of maneless lions who ate nearly 140 railroad workers in the late 1800s.

Considering my greatest fear is getting eaten alive by a wild animal, this is sort of a strange obsession, even for me.

Then again, lions rank only #5 on my list.


(1) Sharks
(2) Alligators & Crocodiles
(3) Tigers
(4) Grizzly Bears
(5) Lions

It was thrilling to see them in person. They were honest-to-goodness on my "Things To Do Before I Die" list. (I like lists.)

You can't imagine how blissfully happy I am.

And now, as promised, GIANT THINGS!

Sue, also at The Field Museum. The world's largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton. A GIANT! So cool to finally see her in person.

Check out this GIANT salamander. Ewww! For an idea on how huge this thing is, check out the teeny, regular-sized salamander in the upper right corner.

My new favorite prehistoric animal -- the GIANT ground sloth! I had no idea these things existed. I am so, so happy they did.

At the Museum of Science and Industry, we saw the world's most GIGANTIC pinball machine. Neat-o!

And on the drive there, we stopped by a Big Boy at one in the morning so I could take a picture of the GIANT, tacky statue. (Because no vacation is complete without a tacky statue.) This one's for you, Jamey.


Revisions, revisions, revisions . . . oh, and a trip to the beach.

Nope, I haven't started writing Hallmark greeting cards. I just arrived home from a week at the beach. Woo hoo! It IS lovely, isn't it? My family has vacationed along the North Carolina coast since I was a wee little froggie in my mother's stomach.

Normally, I'm not a fan of large bodies of water due to my obsessive fear of:

(A) Sharks
(B) Tsunamis
(C) Sharks -- They have a LOT of teeth, you know. And they EAT PEOPLE.

But these beaches feel comfortable to me. Natural. And since I no longer live in the desert, I don't often see sunsets like this anymore:

Sigh. I LOVE sunsets. But who doesn't? It's like saying, "I love bubble baths and fuzzy animals and chocolate truffles and Mike Nesmith." (Wait. Not everyone loves Mike Nesmith? You're kidding me.)

As wonderful as Emerald Isle was, I spent most of my days inside, at my makeshift writing desk. Jarrod and I built it from part of a crib and chairs stolen from the ping pong room:


It was nice to have an opportunity to write during THE DAY for once (instead of 9 pm - 2 am, my regular hours), but also unbelievabl
y frustrating. I thought my revisions were under control and speeding along, but it turns out I have a lot more work than anticipated. Like, a LOT a lot. Which sort of breaks my heart.

I am so anxious to hand this novel over to my husband and my writer-friends for feedback (they've only seen bits of it), for it to not only be in MY head anymore, to share some of that agony . . . but it looks like I've still got another month or two.

I mean, if I had to show this draft to someone today, I would die of shame. I'd rather do a gymnastics routine in a string bikini in a room filled with eighth grade boys.


Oh well. At least I had an awesome view, right?

To help ease the building pressure/panic, Jarrod and I took many long evening walks, during which we discussed the different social implications between zombies, vampires, and werewolves (who doesn't?), and played with sand:

Awesome, right?

We are thinking about zombies.

And, of course, I sneaked in quite a bit of reading. Everything was good, but these were GREAT: Sara Zarr's Sweethearts and E. Lockh
art's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. So great, in fact, they left me feeling even more hopelessly inadequate as a writer. (Poor me, right? Ugh, sorry!)

Sweethearts is Zarr's second novel (her first, Story of a Girl, was one of my favorite books last year). Like Girl, I started this reeeally late at night thinking, "Oh, I'll just read a chapter or two before bed," and then COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN until it was over.

I'm still wrapping my head around how talented Zarr is. I mean, the book never gave me a second to pause -- no bathroom breaks, no snack breaks, and certainly no breaks for sleeping. I HAD to know what happened next. (What was the traumatic event when she was a child? Where did Cameron Quick go? Why is he back?)

Gah. Perfection. Can I cry now? I'm feeling so selfish and self-absorbed these days.

Frankie Landau-Banks has some serious summer buzz, and I was excited to read it. It's about a super-smart girl destined to "head the CIA, direct action movies, design rocket ships, or possibly (if she goes astray), preside over a unit of organized criminals." It's the very funny story -- with lots of clever word play -- about her sophomore year at a prestigious boarding school. I hope there's more coming with this fab female protagonist.

And . . . Breaking Dawn? Why, yes. I DID finish it.


Yes. It's good. It's really good.

No spoilers, but I'm happy with how things turned out. My quibbles are minor: the first two hundred pages were a wee painful (that same anguish Eclipse gave me), and the whole thing could have been edited down ('twas the Harry Potter syndrome where -- because everyone loves it so much -- the slower bits weren't cut).

BUT Edward is still yummy, and the ending made me swoon. What's not to love?

Sigh! Edward!

(Cough cough. I am so relieved, after stressing out for the last year about this.)

OOOOH! And speaking of fabulous books, I'm excited -- the trailer for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is out! HURRAH! It looks great. Check it out here.

Michael Cera + Yugo = Made of Awesome