Oct

30

2014

Drafting Series: Monkey Mind and Writing the Wrong Book

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Publishing, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

I didn’t consciously set out to do a series on drafting, but it’s where I am in my writing life right now. Obviously, it’s what I need to talk and think about. I’ve been working like a fiend on a project that’s been elusive for quite some time. In fact, this is a project I drafted for NaNoMriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last year. At that point it was the 2.0 version of my current 4.1 manuscript, meaning I also have dead end 1.0, 3.0 and 4.0 versions of the same project. Shoot me now.

In my last blog post–Drafting Series: Thought Splinters–I talked about the questions that dig into our subconscious and become the beginning of a first draft. They are the irritants that make us so uncomfortable we have to write about them to get them out. For today’s episode in my drafting series, I’m talking about writing the wrong book in order to find the right one.

Don’t be scared. It happens to everyone. And if it hasn’t happened to you…it will.  *Come here–I’ll hold you. Everything will be okay* Here’s the truth, at some point, you’re going to write a book that isn’t working. I’ll be honest, this can happen in any phase of a book embryo’s life, but today I’m going to talk about writing the wrong book in the early drafting stage. Ya know, because this is a drafting series and all.

What I’m about to say is a no brainer, but I’m going to announce it out loud anyway.

It sucks monkey balls to spend a huge amount of time and creative energy putting 50,000 words (give or take) on the page to only discover that you were writing the wrong book.

It’s a nightmare. A catastrophic event like this is the catalyst for some really awful things like binge chocolate eating or insane wine consumption. Pick your comfort vice and insert it here__________. I had to make myself a hot chocolate just to get through this post. *shudders* Once you realize everything has gone wrong–very, very wrong–and you’re ripping your hair out from the roots, there is literally a ticker tape of thoughts running through your head. That tape holds the list of things you could’ve been doing instead of writing the wrong book. My ticker tape was screaming that I could’ve read a hundred books while eating an epic ton of chocolate and then had time to go for a run so my butt wouldn’t get too big. Then it said there would have been time for a massage–that would’ve been nice after all that running. And everyone would’ve benefitted because I could’ve cooked real food instead of using my toes to hand out slices of pizza to my kids while trying to make my word count. And I easily could have done lots of laundry in my spare time and saved all that money I spent buying back-up underwear for a household of five. I know there would’ve been enough extra cash to go on a warm family vacation during the polar effing vortex.

All of that is true, slightly embellished, because after all I am a writer, but still kinda mostly true. *sigh* Almost makes you wonder about giving up writing in favor of chocolate, massages and warm vacations funded by underwear. Yet, here’s the thing you also need to know. I needed to write the wrong book in order to know what shouldn’t be in the book I do need to write. Which I have to write because I have this great Though Splinter that won’t go away. It’s there when I eat chocolate, get a massage or wash underwear. (Although I’m sure I could easily ditched it for a tropical vacation in the middle of the winter LOL!)  So, if I’m so compelled to write out this thought splinter, what went wrong? I was writing my monkey mind. If you don’t know what monkey mind is, you need to read WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg. But Elizabeth Gilbert explains it well…

 

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert   Eat, Pray, Love

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There is always a part of me that writes for publication. That is likely never going to change. I love having my stories on the shelves and in the hands of readers. But I’m beginning to learn that I don’t write the RIGHT books when the publishing-savvy part of me has it’s foot in my drafting process. I can not let my monkey mind cause interference with my inner compass. Once I write down the bones without a monkey on my back, there will be time to put my publishing hat on. Then I can see how to take my authentic draft and incorporate what I know about the publishing industry in order to show case my work to it’s best advantage. Chasing publication, writing with monkey mind during the drafting process, had me swinging from limb to limb. When you let the monkey get the best of you, all you’re likely to end up with for your effort is a bunch of words you think people want to read. But the best books come when we write what we feel compelled to say.

Writing the wrong book is never easy, but after you’ve had your completely legitimate and appropriate freak out, remember you didn’t write yourself into a dead end–you were just swinging past the wrong book to learn how to write the right one. Don’t give up. And get a cage to put your monkey in when you’re going bananas.

How often does monkey mind get the best of you? Have you written the wrong book before? Did it take you to the right one?

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Oct

28

2014

Drafting Series: Thought Splinters

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

For me, drafting a book always starts with a question or two or three? There are always a few unshakable things floating around in my mind that puzzle me. They are like splinters–thought splinters. They get beneath my skin and won’t leave me alone.

 

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All my books start with these sharp slivers and I love that. But thought splinters are not a plot. They are not a handful of developed characters with well rounded arcs. They are certainly not a book. No wonder drafting is not my favorite part of the process. It is very far away from the finish line and so undefined.

But at the same time, drafting is the most organic, uncensored part of my writing. If I’m doing it correctly, I get to create without a filter.

My thought splinters may be small, but they are relentless irritants that inflame deep thoughts. They are my beginning.

How do your drafts begin?

 

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Oct

23

2014

Kicking Puppies–We All Don’t Think Alike

Filed under: Check-it-out, In the Wild, Pondering, Reading

I’m going to point out the obvious. We all don’t think alike. And on most days, that’s a pretty good thing. Although, I’m completely on board with everyone taking a stand against people who kick puppies. Even though diverse thinking is great, I guess there are some “absolutes” in my world.  But, I will not list my absolutes here, because invariably, some of my non-negotiables will quickly be called into questions because…

WE ALL DON’T THINK ALIKE.

I tend to visualize our differences and similarities in a Venn Diagram…

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First, there’s the No Brainer Absolutes. (Not really completely absolute because we know there are people who DO kick puppies–shame on them.) And then on the other side of the Venn is the Live and Let Live group. Get a puppy. Get ten puppies. Get no puppies. Totally up to you. I don’t have an opinion at all…unless your ten puppies are pooping in my yard. But really that’s a blog post for another day. Back to the Venn. Clearly everyone has no brainer issues counterbalancing their live and let live philosophy on the other side.

BUT…

There is always an area of overlap in a Venn Diagram. It’s that dreary gray space where things aren’t so clear. Like your neighbors ten puppies (who you had no problem with) until they started puppy pooping in your yard. A serious middle-of-the-Venn mind field if you ask me. You’ve got to watch where you’re stepping with that one.  And of course, how the pooping scooping get resolved depends heavily on what both parties value the most. And a few other factors, like if the neighbor with the puppies is apologetic. Did they clean it up? Did they kick the puppies for misbehaving? Did you fling the poop back in their yard  and “accidentally” hit the side of their house? See, it’s complicated and ultimately must be resolved outside of absolutes. There’s that gray area again.

But even though I’ve been talking about puppies, there are other things on my mind. I’ve been recently wrestling with that same sort of sneaky gray area myself. But before I pull out my soap box, let me warm you up with another example of Venn Diagram grayness that really happened to me. I recently heard that Toys -r- Us has Breaking Bad action figures and parents are petitioning them to be removed. I was bouncing all over my Venn Diagram with this one…

1.  I loved the show and know that many adults collect action figures. So, this belongs in my Live and Let Live circle. But wait…

2.  I also strongly believe that in no way, shape or form are these toys meant for children. So, when I think of it that way, pulling those toys out of toy stores (aimed to sell to young kids) is a HUGE No brainer. Come on, there ARE people on that show that would kick puppies!

3.  But the reality is that after I thought about it very carefully, I realized, that while I prefer those action figures not be sold in toy stores my kids might shop at, my kids also don’t shop for toys that I don’t approve of. Those meth making figurines are not coming into my house. And passing a Breaking Bad action figure in the aisle of a toy store will mean nothing to my children because they haven’t watched the show and won’t any time soon. They want to buy things they’re interested in. So, we have now landed in that gray area again. I have opinions, but I know I can also work around the situation however it plays out. I am able to monitor my kids.

Have I lost you? Am I making sense? It’s the end of the day and sometimes I can never tell. But, even if you’re not so sure what I’m talking about, I think you know what’s coming. I try to do it in almost all my blogs. My goal is to make a connection to a seemingly unrelated topic I’m thinking about and reading/writing.

Here we go…

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Please stop telling me what my kids should or shouldn’t read. We all don’t think alike, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking. You can’t assume, just because I let my kids read things you wouldn’t let your kids read, that I’m negligent. I have a different opinion.  And it’s a responsible and intelligent one that is based on my kids and how I interact with them. My kids. My call. We don’t kick puppies and we won’t be buying Breaking Bad figures. But we will be reading all kinds of books.

I’m not going to go into the details of what I believe about reading. What I will tell you is there’s a difference between thinking you’re right and demanding other people only have the same thoughts as you. I may believe that you’d be better off if you thought about books the way I do. But that’s an unknown and I’m okay with that. Life choices result in different and varied responses, not absolutes.

Here’s the thing I’d like you to remember the next time you try to pull reading material off the shelf–when you pick and choose the books that are acceptable for YOUR kids, I don’t sneak into their bedrooms at night and read them stuff you wouldn’t approve of. So, please do not interfere with what my children are allowed to read. Classrooms, libraries, book stores and book fairs–in my humble opinion– are not dens of iniquity where puppies are kicked and souls must be saved. I believe they are the gray areas in the Venn Diagram of life. They are supposed to be one of the safe place where we can benefit from leaving the absolutes at home.

Those gray areas are the meeting places for all the people who don’t think alike.

The meeting of minds–that is a beautiful thing.

 

 

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Oct

21

2014

Thank Goodness Pope Francis is Acting Like a Child

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Pondering

Thank goodness Pope Francis is acting like a child…

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“Who am I to judge a gay person?”

 

Hopefully everyone starts acting like children soon. <3

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Oct

16

2014

My Laptop Got a Mini-Me

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Technology

Well, it was another one of those awesome three day weekends, but you know what that means–my schedule went kaput. I realized I never did my Tuesday blog at 8:23am on Wednesday. *head thunk* And to add to the weird week posting confusion *SQUEE* I got a new laptop!!!! It’s so light and small compared to my old, but very loved 17 inch Macbook Pro. I can’t remember exactly how many years I’ve had it now, but they don’t even make that size anymore. I’ve been very reluctant to give up my faithful writing buddy, but unfortunately it was acting like an ornery senior citizen. The old dodger was slow and sort of constipated. Perhaps all the new and improved operating systems were bogging it it down. It wasn’t unusual for me to get up and do “other things” while I was waiting for things to load. Grrrr And since I write in a variety of places, carrying that thick and heavy dinosaur around was helping to keep my chiropractor in business.

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Unfortunately, getting all my info to migrate from the old computer to the new one was a hair pulling experience in the beginning. Messing with a writer’s laptop is like dangling your kid over a cliff by one hand. *shakes, shivers and sweats* It’s just scary. EVERYTHING is on that device. And yes, I have multiple back ups, but I am not a technological guru, so it’s hard for me to feel confident when I feel I’m in a bit too deep. But with the help of my tech savvy hubby, we figured it out. *fist pump* And now I’m relaxed and in love. With the hubby and the laptop LOL!

And do you want to hear the really good news, above and beyond the speed of my brand, spanking new writing buddy? Even though the screen is two inches smaller–the font on everything is bigger and trust me–that is a fabulous thing. ((((hugs laptop))))

 

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And because I love this new device as much, if not a little bit more than my boy’s cute, little, sleepy hamster…

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I think I should actually name this laptop. Any suggestions?

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Oct

9

2014

Bookanistas Review-REUNITED (The Nogiku Series-3) by S.J. Pajonas

Filed under: Book Reviews, Bookanistas, Check-it-out, Reading

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The Bookanistas have been on a little bit of a hiatus, lots of members super busy with writing and revisions, but I’ve done several book reviews on The Nogiku Series by S.J. Pajonas and I wasn’t going to leave you hanging with book #3 REUNITED!

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Yūsei has surprises for Sanaa Itami. The long trip across the stars ends with Mark Sakai delivering bad news from orbit over their new home, and there’s no turning back or moving on. Despite all their misgivings, this is where they will have to stay.

Sanaa, Jiro, and the rest of Earth’s settlers move into a coastal town and stick to their plans to live the colonization life they dreamed of. But Sanaa’s existence won’t be kept secret from her enemies for long. Kazuo promised he would see her in another life, on another world, and he aims to keep his word. Now she will face those who want their revenge and make new enemies while dispensing with old ones on her journey across the fascinating and unfamiliar landscape of Yūsei.

REUNITED, Book THREE of the Nogiku Series, is the third book in a captivating post-apocalyptic romance series that harnesses the cultures and traditions of Japan and sweeps them into the future between Earth and a faraway land.

Kimberly’s Review of REUNITED:

I know I say it too much (if there is ever such a thing when praising a book or series) but l really love Pajonas’ Nogiku series, particularly because it’s so different than anything else out there in New Adult. It has action, romance, amazing world building and it raises interesting questions that always keep me pondering my own world and it’s future.

What’s completely fascinating about book #3 is the world building. Even though this is Sanaa’s first time moving to a new planet, as readers we’ve already been dropped into Pajonas’ amazing world building in her earlier books. (We know how well she does it–happily she does it again.) But now Sanna and her friends and family have traveled across light years, to their future, their next adventure. I love how we see everything for the first time through the eyes of the inquisitive Sanaa. One of my favorite thing in the book is her “unique” relationship with animals–something she had no exposure to on her last home.

Additionally, I’ve always been a fan of Pajonas’ ability to seamlessly incorporate LGBT characters into her story. There is nothing preachy or pushed in her approach. There is just a cultural philosophy that includes these differences, while ironically and interestingly highlighting other prejudices.

And I’ve always loved the romance between Jiro and Sanaa. There are always obstacles in the way of their relationship, but never in their love for each other which is refreshing. It makes you want to work hard to ensure you only have one great love in your life. <3

If you haven’t had the chance to read the earlier books in The Nogiku Series, get on it so you can read REUNITED–you’re going to love it!

 

 

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You can order REUNITED or any available book from The Nogiku Series here…

*Amazon

*Barnes & Noble

*Additional Available Locations

 

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S. J. Pajonas loves all things Asian and has been in love with Japan and the East for as long as she can remember. Writing about Asia and Japan came naturally after studying the culture and language for over fifteen years. She studied film and screenwriting first and eventually segued into fiction once she was no longer working a full-time job.

Face Time is the first novel in the Love in the Digital Age series, and Pajonas’s first foray into Korean culture and families. Along with Removed and Released in the Nogiku Series, she continues to take the cultures of Asia and weave them into stories that appeal to people from around the world. Her writing is described as unique and unpredictable. Expect the unexpected.

Stephanie lives with her husband and two children just outside of New York City. She loves reading, writing, film, J- and K-dramas, knitting, and astrology. Her favorite author is Haruki Murakami and favorite book is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

 

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You can learn more about S.J. Pajonas and all of her books here…

*Website

*Blog

*Facebook

*Twitter

 

If you could write or read a post apocalyptic book that combines interesting cultures in a unique way, what would you pick? What other post apocalyptic books are your favorites and what makes you love them so much?

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Oct

7

2014

October’s Accountability Calendar-I’m a Star

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Drafting, NaNoWriMo, Reading, Running, Writing, Writing Style

When I kicked off September, I told you of my sticker/calendar plan for being more accountable in my writing. #writesticky The original goal was to shoot for a very reasonable, attainable daily word count. I started off working on two very different WIP’s so I split my goal to at least 200 word on each piece, but I also gave myself room for revising. Ultimately my first month using stickers was successful, but over the course of the last few weeks I’ve made a few changes. I’m going to tell you what they are and why I made them, but first a look at September.

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Woo hoo! I earned 20/30 of my adorable stickers. There were a few days were I got in some writing, but real world distractions kept me from getting my reward. So close… *sob* But there were also days where I wrote way more than my goal. As I mentioned earlier, I quickly started seeing ways in which I wanted to modify this accountability system to suit me better. The first thing I discovered was that I didn’t always want to work on both manuscripts. When everything is clicking with one WIP, it was counter productive to stop one project to hit my word count in another. So, shortly into the month, I gave myself the option of writing 400 words for the manuscript of my choice and I was really happy with that.

Next I decided that I didn’t want to count revision towards this goal. I have a tendency to let my inner editor have too much room in the drafting process (which isn’t always good) so I decided that I could revise all I wanted, but I still needed to hit my 400 word count. I was all set to do even better in October than September when outside forces really made me reevaluate how I wanted to use my calendar and stickers. I saw everyone abuzz on FB and Tumblr. Victoria Schwab started doing this neat little calendar with stars. You can check it out HERE! I LOVED it!

In a nut shell, she did this…

Basically, I get a calendar and a variety of colored stars, and make a key each month based on what I need to accomplish.

Usually it’s:

1) 500 words written

2) 100 pages read

3) exercise

4) school

I loved the idea immediately! But I also needed to individualize it for me. I didn’t want to keep track of my reading, because I do that on Goodreads and I’m happy with my reading output anyway. I also didn’t want to track my running on the calendar because I keep track of my miles religiously on Nike. It seemed like overkill. But I found I did want to give myself a bit of an incentive for writing more words above the baseline. So, my October calendar now looks like this…

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My key looks something like this…

*Blue Star-500 words

*Green Star-1,000 words

*Red Star-1,500 words

*Silver Star-2,000 words

*Gold Star-2,500+ words

And I’m also writing in the actual word count. Because let’s face it, 1,643 is different than 1,500 when you’re counting words. And I loved how Victoria was able to see what her total was at the end of the month. That’s motivational. So, that’s what I’m doing now and as you can see, I’m doing pretty good so far. *fist pump* Almost 5,000 words in 6 days and only one day I didn’t get to write at all. Although, I’m thinking of throwing a notebook in my bag when I’m on the move and seeing if I can get those mobile words in. Sometimes I forget I’m not surgically attached to my lap top LOL!

What’s also great about what I’ve been doing is I also feel like September and October are getting me prepared for NaNoWriMo. I really want to do this again. So…if I can get far enough in the draft of the book I’m working on, I might feel comfortable putting the MS away for a much needed break and starting a draft of something else that’s been brewing. Something I’ve been scratching out notes on. Something that’s been tugging at the corners of my brain when I run and when I’m dozing. I don’t know if it will make sense to drop what I’m doing. If I’ll be far enough along to switch gears. But we shall see. Part of me thinks it would be delicious–having two drafts to revise. Drafting is always the hardest part for me and the NaNo momentum is just amazing. I loved it last year. I learned so much about myself and my writing process. But I think my October calendar will tell me what I need to know as I get closer.

And what about you? Hope you’re having a lot of success with your calendar or whatever form of accountability you’ve chosen to get the words on the page. I’ve been re-listening to WRITING DOWN THE BONES and I just caught a segment today about how writing is like running, which you know made me smile. The gist of it was that people who want to be good at something train. They show up. They do the practice. Running is hard, but if you do it enough, you start to get into a rhythm that gets you back out on a regular basis. You learn to love the practice. And I believe that. In August I ran 7 miles, I don’t think I ran much more than that in the stretch of months before that. A long stretch. But in September I ran just over 75 miles and I’m sticking to around a 20 mile a week pace as I’m hitting October. It feels good to be showing up to my runs and my writing. Tell me what you’re practicing.

 

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Oct

2

2014

YA Scavenger Hunt

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Contests, Fun and Games, Reading, Touching the Surface, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

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Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX (yes, you heard me correctly!) contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GREEN TEAM–Go GREEN MACHINE!!!!

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But there is also RED, BLUE, GOLD, ORANGE and INDIE teams. Participate in all the hunts for a chance to win different sets of signed books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.

 

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SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Hidden somewhere below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number in GREEN. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the GREEN team, and then add them up and don’t worry if you have to take off your socks and use your toes to keep track. Or a calculator works too.

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by 10/5/14, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

 

SCAVENGER HUNT POST

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Today, I am hosting Cynthia Hand on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of the Unearthly trilogy with HarperTeen. A native of southeast Idaho, she has graduate degrees in creative writing from Boise State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For the past seven years she has taught writing at Pepperdine University in Southern California. She and her family have recently moved back to Idaho where they are enjoying the fresh air.

Find out more information by checking out Cynthia’s website or find more about THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE here! 

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

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There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.

This is the opening segment of THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE:

 

5 February

First I’d like to state for the record that the whole notion of writing this down was not my idea. It was Dave’s. My therapist’s. He thinks I’m having trouble expressing my feelings, which is why he suggested I write in a journal—to get it out, he said, like in the old days when physicians used to bleed their patients in order to drain the mysterious poisons. Which almost always ended up killing them in spite of the doctors’ good intentions, I might point out.

Our conversation went something like this:

He wanted me to start taking antidepressants.

I basically told him to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

So we were at a bit of an impasse.

“Let’s take a new approach,” he said finally, and reached behind him and produced a small black book. He held it out to me. I took it, thumbed it open, then looked up at him, confused.

The book was blank.

“I thought you might try writing, as an alternative,” he said.

“That’s a mole-skin notebook,” he elaborated when all I did was stare at him. “Hemingway used to write in those.”

“An alternative to what?” I asked. “To Xanax?”

“I want you to try it for a week,” he said. “Writing, I mean.”

I tried to hand the journal back to him. “I’m not a writer.”

“I’ve found that you can be quite eloquent, Alexis, when you choose to be.”

“Why? What’s the point?”

“You need an outlet,” he said. “You’re keeping everything inside, and it’s not good for you.”

Nice, I thought. Next he’d be telling me to eat my vegetables and take my vitamins and be sure to get 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep every night.

“Right. And you would be reading it?” I asked, because there’s not even a remote possibility that I’m going to be doing that. Talking about my unexpectedly tragic life for an hour every week is bad enough. No way I’m going to pour my thoughts out into a book so that he can take it home and scrutinize my grammar.

“No,” Dave answered. “But hopefully you might feel comfortable enough someday to talk with me about what you’ve written.”

Not incredibly likely, I thought, but what I said was, “Okay. But don’t expect Hemingway.”

I don’t know why I agreed to it. I try to be a good little patient, I guess.

Dave looked supremely pleased with himself. “I don’t want you to be Hemingway. Hemingway was an ass. I want you to write whatever strikes you. Your daily life. Your thoughts. Your feelings.”

I don’t have feelings, I wanted to tell him, but instead I nodded, because he seemed so expectant, like the status of my mental health entirely depended on my cooperation with writing in the stupid journal.

But then he said, “And I think for this to be truly effective, you should also write about Tyler.”

Which made all the muscles in my jaw involuntarily tighten.

“I can’t,” I managed to get out from between my teeth.

“Don’t write about the end,” Dave said. “Try to write about a time when he was happy. When you were happy, together.”

I shook my head. “I can’t remember.” And this is true. Even after almost 7 weeks, a mere 47 days of not interacting with my brother every day, not hurling peas at him across the kitchen table, not seeing him in the halls at school and acting, as any dutiful older sister would, for the sake of appearances, like he bugged me, Ty’s image has grown hazy in my mind. I can’t visualize the Ty that isn’t dead. My brain gravitates toward the end. The body. The coffin. The grave.

I can’t even begin to pull up happy.

“Focus on the firsts and the lasts,” Dave instructed. “It will help you remember. For example: About twenty years ago I owned an ‘83 Mustang. I put a lot of work into that car, and I loved it more than I should probably admit, but now, all these years later, I can’t fully picture it. But if I think about the firsts and the lasts with that car, I could tell you about the first time I drove it, or the last time I took it on a long road trip, or the first time I spent an hour in the backseat with the woman who would become my wife, and then I see it so clearly.” He cleared his throat. “It’s those key moments that burn bright in our minds.”

This is not a car, I thought. This is my brother.

Plus I thought Dave might have just been telling me about having sex with his wife. Which was the last thing I wanted to picture.

“So that’s your official assignment,” he said, sitting back as if that settled it. “Write about the last time you remember Tyler being happy.”

Which brings me to now.

Writing in a journal about how I don’t want to be writing in a journal.

I’m aware of the irony.

Seriously, though, I’m not a writer. I got a 720 on the writing section of the SAT, which is decent enough, but nobody ever pays any attention to that score next to my perfect 800 in math. I’ve never kept a diary. Dad got me one for my 13th birthday, a pink one with a horse on it. It ended up on the back of my bookshelf with a copy of the NIV Teen Study Bible and the Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Beauty and all the other stuff that was supposed to prepare me for life from ages 13-19—as if I could ever be prepared for that. Which is all still there, 5 years later, gathering dust.

That’s not me. I was born with numbers on the brain. I think in equations. What I would do, if I could really put this pen to paper and produce something useful, is take my memories, these fleeting, painful moments of my life, and find some way to add and subtract and divide them, insert variables and move them, try to isolate them, to discover their elusive meanings, to translate them from possibilities to certainties.

I would try to solve myself. Find out where it all went wrong. How I got here, from A to B, A being the Alexis Riggs who was so sure of herself, who was smart and solid and laughed a lot and cried occasionally and didn’t fail at the most important things.

To this.

But instead, the blank page yawns at me. The pen feels unnatural in my hand. It’s so much weightier than pencil. Permanent. There are no erasers, in life.

I would cross out everything and start again.

 

 

Thanks, Cynthia!!!!! And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Cynthia Hand, and at least 7 or maybe more than SEVEN fabulous authors! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is. Have you figured it out yet? Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

 

CONTINUE THE HUNT

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To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next GREEN Team author, Alyxandra Harvey!!!
Spread the word by Tweeting #YASH

And before you go…BONUS CONTEST!!!!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sep

30

2014

Guess What’s Coming? The YA Scavenger Hunt!!!!!

Filed under: Author Events, Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Contests, Fun and Games, Reading, Touching the Surface, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

scavenger hunt

 

What is the YA Scavenger Hunt???

The YA Scavenger Hunt is a biannual online event that promotes collaboration between YA authors from different publishing houses, offering fans an opportunity to see the latest and greatest in young adult literature. During the hunt, we showcase exclusive bonus material, give readers access to top secret insider information, and offer fabulous prizes and giveaways for zealous YA fans. I’m sharing never-been-seen information about TOUCHING THE SURFACE!

This year we have 125 authors participating. Yes, you read that right. One hundred and twenty-five! We’ve made six teams which has never happened before. Incredible! You’re going to want to set aside your whole weekend for this hunt.

Want to see who is participating and what team they are on? CLICK HERE

Not sure how the Hunt and these color coded teams work? Never fear. Everything you need to know is right HERE. But don’t be afraid of just jumping in and figuring it out. It’s not that hard and totally worth it. With 125 authors and 6 teams, you will have a very full 72 hours (October 2-5) to go through some or all of the teams. You might have so much fun reading all the content and learning about new authors and books you’ll have to cancel your weekend plans LOL! Never a bad thing for us book lovers.

And don’t forget to spread the word–To keep the hunt going, we need YOUR help. Start tweeting #YASH

Sample Tweets…

Like hunting for new reads? Join the @YAScavengerHunt to find 125 #YA books! http://bit.ly/1mE8uqC #YASH

Are you #TeamYA? With over 125 #YA books given away you don’t want to miss the @YAScavengerHunt! http://bit.ly/1mE8uqC #YASH

You can also follow…

The YA Scavenger Hunt on Twitter @YAScavengerHunt

And Like YA Scavenger Hunt on FB

See, not too bad. But now I’m curious. What team are you going to start with? What book would you beg, borrow, steal or scavenge to get your hands on? Any idea what the bonus information from TOUCHING THE SURFACE might be?

The contest kicks off on Thursday October 2nd at midnight Pacific time. That’s 3am on the East coast. I can’t wait!!!! See you on Thursday…

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Sep

25

2014

I Read for Ten Miles

Filed under: Check-it-out, In the Wild, Reading, Running

I read for 10 miles yesterday!!! Wait that sounds a little weird. Let me clarify–I ran my longest run ever and the whole time I was running I was listening to a really awesome audiobook!!!!!! There are not enough exclamation points for a sentence like that. LOL! And it gets even better because I’ve acclimated to having a brain where half my attention is completely absorbed in the awesomeness of the story, but the other half is studying writing technique. *fist pump*

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So, if I wasn’t clear about the awesomeness of what was going on, I spent about two hours of my busy day multitasking in the best of ways. I got to exercise while being simultaneously entertained and educated. And the bonus plan was that I didn’t have to feel bad about my Wednesday night bowl of ice cream because I burned 1,000 calories on that run. The only thing that was kinda tough was staying awake long enough to get my own writing done for the day–especially when everything (including my fingers) hurt LOL! I think today I’ll read the old fashioned way…snuggled up on the couch.

Anyone else reading for distance? Any audiobook lovers in the crowd? They are great in the car (can still be measured in miles) LOL! And they also make folding laundry a much better experience. Any guess about what book I finished on my run? I’ll give you a hint…it’s an adult apocalyptic novel getting a lot of well earned buzz. I really loved it.

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