Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Revisions, Cutting a Character even if it's Painful, and the Art of the Delete Button

I turned in my latest round of revisions yesterday. 

To sum them up:

I cut 4,000 words. I can't remember the specific words. Maybe that's why I cut them. Because they were unmemorable. 

I also cut an entire character. 

Two revisions ago (yes, I mark time by past revision deadlines) I created a character named Ferron. She had dreadlocks, and she could really kick butt. However, despite her lithe appearance, she had a bad habit of bulking up the storyline. 

So I had to cut her. I started with her fingers, then I cut her toes.

Finally, my study was filled with severed limbs, but my story was leaner. 

Revising is a give and take between the writer and the editor. Getting rid of Ferron was my editor's idea at first. When I wrote Ferron in, my editor was all:

"I like her! But I think we should either flesh her out, or cut her."*

So I fleshed Ferron out. I gave her a backstory and a love interest. And for more fleshy addition, I added some flesh colored pants for her to wear. 

I sent it back to my editor, and I was all, "Fleshy enough for you?"

And she was all, "Not quite fleshy. More bloated." Then she gently said, "Let's either make her useful, or cut her."

And I came back with, "But she has dreadlocks! And she can kick so high!"

But here's the thing: no matter how cool she was (admittedly much cooler than I will ever be) she was dragging the storyline down. And my editor was smart enough to give me a chance to see it for myself. That takes an incredible amount of patience! 

So, let's lower our heads, and give a moment of silence for the loss of Ferron. She will be missed. Only by me. Readers, however, will be happy she's gone.

Before I actually finished my first book, I heard authors talk of "writing practice scenes" and then deleting them. I couldn't imagine deleting an entire scene, because it took me so long to write every word. But so far, on the EVERNEATH sequel, I've deleted nearly 40,000 words. 

That's a book's worth. It's getting much easier for me to delete words.

*conversation paraphrased

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DARK DAYS tour recap: AKA How I learned to stop worrying and love the Crawtators

Hey Y'all! 

So, I'm back from my DARK DAYS tour, and already I'm missing all the people I met, especially the other authors I toured with:

Cynthia Hand (the Unearthly series)
Courtney Allison Moulton (the Angelfire series)
Jodi Meadows (the INCARNATE series)

I'll give a quick recap, borrowing liberally from other people's pictures of the events. 

Here's me standing by the poster:

Here are all the authors together:
(top row: me, Jodi Meadows. Bottom row: Courtney Allison Moulton and Cynthia Hand)
Here are some interesting tidbits about the other authors:

Jodi Meadows: She makes her own yarn and knits. Constantly.
Cynthia Hand: She smells like citrus.
Courtney Allison Moulton: Things like to fall on her head.

Here are some donuts somebody brought us:
They were delicious

Strangest Echo Sensation: While speaking to the crowd, my phone would buzz with tweets about the things I was saying. Like when I said, "I imagine brains would taste like tofu"

And then my phone buzzed and showed the tweet: "@brodiashton says brains taste like tofu!"

Or the time someone asked when I first started writing, and I answered something like, "Well, I hated writing in high school. I was more into math and science. It wasn't until I was older that I really got into it."

and then my phone would buzz:

"@brodiashton hated writing! It made her puke!"

Okay, it wasn't quite like that. But I was suddenly very careful of the things I was saying. 

Strangest question from the audience: "If you could eat any other author's brains, whose would it be, and what would they taste like?"

(Hence the 'brains taste like tofu' remark). For the first time all night, I had to raise my hands in a helpless manner, and say, "I got nothin'." 

Strangest out-of-context comment during a car ride with four authors: "Ferrets are good for cleansing the palate."

Awesomest media escort: So, there were these media escorts who would take us around to all the places and get us water and stuff like that. Our media escort in Austin showered us with animal crackers, Diet Coke, and our new favorite snack, the "Crawtators". 

Best Part: The enthusiastic crowds!

Another best part: Kayla brought me Diet Coke and my mocha-honey!
That was a good day, when Rafa gave me his soul. 
Here are some other tidbits:

Courtney Allison Moulton: She loves horses, and she gets locked out of hotel rooms easily.
Jodi Meadows: She owns ferrets, and she loves to take long showers in hotel rooms. 
Cynthia Hand: Her friends in high school wanted her to date a guy with the last name "Foot".

Courtney did a little video montage of the behind the scenes images. All I can say is... do I really look like that from behind? 

More interesting nuggets:

*Two authors write about angels, one writes about reincarnation, and yet during an interview for Voices of America, I'm the only one who got asked about "religion" in my book. Go figure. 

*When asking the audience whether they were Team Jack or Team Cole, they were about evenly divided. 

*If you sign your name enough times, eventually it doesn't look right. And then you forget how to get from the "r" to the "o", and you end up messing up on that part fifty times in a row. And then you look stupid because, duh, it's your name, and you should be able to spell it without hesitating in the middle. 

Okay, that's all for today. I have a deadline on Monday (again) and so I'll see all y'all later!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Perfect Valentine's Present, and I head to the Lone Star State

Happy Day After Valentine's Day!

So, Valentine's Day morning, I walked into the shower and saw a contraption hanging from the shower head. It was a waterproof radio. 

And It. Was. Beautiful. 

I can turn it on and off without fear of being electrocuted. I can listen to my favorite morning show without blasting the radio for the neighbors to hear. I can shower for two hours without fear of wasting our earth's natural resources by using the power cord for the traditional radio.

For me, it was the most romantic gift ever. 

And when Sam came home from work, and I was still in the shower, he knew he had done well. 

Now if they'd only invent a waterproof computer so I could blog in the shower. 

By the time I was done, my skin was hanging off of me in wrinkled splendor, so I knew I'd probably lost a lot of weight too. It's the gift that keeps on giving! 

Tomorrow, I'm leaving for the Dark Days Tour to Texas. 

Here's the schedule:

Thursday, Feb. 16th      Dallas       Southlake Barnes and Noble at 5pm
Friday, Feb. 17th          Austin       Barnes and Noble (on Research Blvd.) 7pm
Saturday, Feb. 18th      Houston    Blue Willow Bookshop (on Memorial Drive) 4pm

There's a driver coming to pick me up at my house to take me to the airport. This is an entirely unfamiliar concept for my family. 

My mom: "How are you getting to the airport?"

me: "A driver."

mom: "You mean Sam?"

me: "No, a driver. Like a driver for hire."

mom: "You mean you're paying Sam?"

me: "No, mom, I mean they're sending a car for me."

mom: "I do not compute. Do you need me to take you?"

me: "No, it's too early in the morning. I'll stick with the driver."

mom: "But where did they find this... driver? Does he have credentials?"

me: "His parol officer vouched for him completely."

mom: "That's not funny."

me: "There's nothing funny about the after-prison reform program. Especially for habitual offenders. But I want to support them."


Sometimes, I love messing with my mom. 

So, is anyone going to be in the Texas area? Will I meet any of you there?

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Weekend at LTUE, and My Shot at True Love

Hey y'all. 

So, last weekend I spoke on my first ever panel at the LTUE conference. The thing I said that got the best reaction was when I told the story about happening across a tweet that said, "And then there's EVERNEATH. It's like they're not even trying anymore."

What can I say? People like to revel in my pain. :)

I did meet these three boys, who just happened to be born with birthmarks on their cheeks that just happened to be in the image of my book cover. 

Jared, Jackson and Matt
Just kidding. Those are the temporary tattoos of my Everneath cover! Aren't those boys awesome? 

And since it was the LTUE conference - which is heavy on the sci-fi and high fantasy - these boys were still the most normal looking people there. Even with the tattoos on their cheeks. 

I had to stay overnight one night, but I knew my kids were in good hands at home with the hubby because he texted me this series of photos:
Kid B, wondering why he can't see better with his homemade glasses
Yep, those are donuts. And he's pulling a Princess Leia. 
All ready for school! And the possibility of a flash flood.
By the way, Malaysian Cupid says they can find me my perfect match by Valentine's Day. That means they have 24 hours.

I know they are legit, because here is their very professional email:

"Dear, Mr. Ashton, Here are the latest cupids to respond to your plea for love. Their names are Farah and Mira."

I responded to their obviously personalized email by saying "I'm all in. I have complete faith in your ability to match me. You have 24 hours to find me true love. But first, just for fun, let's aim for men."

They responded by saying, "Okay, Mr. Ashton. Whatever floats your boat."

I'm very excited about my prospects. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Answer to: "In EVERNEATH, why did you decide to to THIS??!!"

I have to get something off my chest. 

So I've been getting a lot of emails lately from readers who connected with EVERNEATH, and by far this is the best part of being an author so far. 

Some of these readers have questions about the story. The questions are about everything and anything, but they usually start out with, "Why did you decide to do --------- and not ----------?"

It's a difficult thing to answer, because the answer is usually the same, and therefore, it's kind of boring. But here it is:

"Because I felt the story called for it."

I can tell by reading some of the emails that some readers think there is a deeper agenda going on. A "deeper agenda" like:

It's a YA book, and I, as the author, think that YA books need to have certain standards, and so that's why I made the decision. 


Because, as the author, I have a deeper responsibility to spread a message to teenagers about x, y, or z. 


As the author, my own personal beliefs are x, y, and z, and therefore my characters' beliefs are the same

But I'm telling you if I tried to write a book based on any of these "deeper agendas", I would fail miserably, for several reasons.

1. It would feel more like work and less like a passion
2. I would never presume to set myself up as the voice of morality for teenagers
3. It would be a really boring book

This doesn't mean that when I write, I can shut off all the aspects of my life that make me me. First, that's impossible, and second, that would be a boring book as well. But it does mean that when I'm facing a turning point in the book, the question in my mind is:

"What would the character do?"


"What do I want the reader to learn?"

That way, any themes that do emerge come organically from the story, and not from a "to-do checklist" I made up before I wrote the book. Does this make sense? I'd love your thoughts too.

I'm off to LTUE for the day. Hope to see some of you there! If not, have a great weekend!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Housekeeping notes from the man

Brodi is at the LTUE conference today.  I believe that she will doing a post either later today or tomorrow, so please check back.

A couple of quick notes:
  • As mentioned, the LTUE conference is going on right now.  I believe that you can still sign up.  Its cheap and there are some fabulous authors going to be there.  So go there or be square (wait, that didn't rhyme).  Go to the conference, there is great ambiance (wait, still didn't rhyme...and thus my career as a poet was over before I realized it- yep, still can't rhyme).
  • If you are looking for great book deals.  If you want to buy another copy of Everneath to proudly display on the mantle of your fireplace, head on over to Kings English where they are having a 30% off hardcover books...and if you buy more than 3 books, you will get 40% off.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  You should buy 4 copies of Everneath and think of all of the money you will save!  Your husband or your wife or your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your friends, pets, neighbors and acquaintances will all be impressed by your thriftiness. 
  • If you live in Utah, but you live out South like in Sandy or Utah County...head on over to the Sandy Barnes and Noble...you can get already autographed copies of Everneath.  Yay for you!

I wish I had interesting stories to tell you all today.  We do have a clog in our drain line at our house.  Thats pretty exciting.  I would take pictures, but I know that NOT one of you cares about that (due to popular demand, I am posting one picture of the drain cleanout...sorry, no gross out pictures)   I could talk about the Bachelor, but Brodi already covered it last week.  So, with that, I bid adieu...check back later today or tomorrow for Brodi's return.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Do you want to be a Writer? Two Conferences that are the best Bangs for your Buck

It's time for Thing #1 and Thing #1

Thing #1

So, I was talking with a neighbor the other day, and he showered EVERNEATH with compliments, like, "It wasn't as cheesy as I was expecting it to me," and "It didn't make me puke." (Okay, the second one is how I interpreted his comments. 

Anywho, he said he wants to write a book to. He proceeded to tell me about his plot, which involved words like "nanobots" and "alternate world" and "other beings" and "cows" then he asked me if I could take a look when it was finished.

me: "I'm not sure I'd be the best person to judge it."

him: "Why?"

me: "Because it's sci-fi, and I'm no expert on sci-fi stuff."

him: "It's not sci-fi!"

me (with one eyebrow raised, if I could raise just one eyebrow): "I distinctly heard the word 'nanobot' and if you have the prefix of nano-anything, it's sci-fi."

But then I realized there is something so absolutely perfect for him coming up this weekend. It's the LTUE Conference, and it is widely known throughout the writing circles of Utah that this conference is the best bang for your buck. 

If you are a writer who is short on money (which is every writer) this conference is the place to be. They have sci-fi panels, magical realism panels, first novelists panels, how to break out into the market panels, they talk about plotting, writing, publishing, everything you need. It's not just for geeks either. 

I'll be speaking on three of their panels, and I'll be signing on Friday night. And generally hanging out there. So if you want to catch up, or get your copy of EVERNEATH, join me! There will be big name authors there, like Brandon Mull and James Dashner and Brandon Sanderson and many others.

You can read about it here. You can see the schedule here. You can register here.

LTUE conference
Dates: Feb 9-11
Place: Utah Valley University
Fun Factor: 10

Thing #1

And... another can't-miss writing event in Utah in March. It's the Writing for Charity annual event. For a list of the authors attending, click here. It's a one-day conference, with amazing workshops, that are interactive and unique, and you can get your work critiqued by a published author! And the proceeds go to charity.

The really fun part is the silent auction. Bid on getting a character named after you in EVERNEATH 3, or you can bid to go to lunch with me, Bree Despain, Emily Wing Smith, Matthew Kirby, and Ally Condie. 

To register, click here

Date: March 17
Place: Provo Library
Fun Factor: 10

So, will I see any of you there? 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Updated Appearances... and Kid B Discusses Life with the Guy Upstairs

Hey y'all! 

A couple of notes:

1. I will be signing books at the Authorpalooza event at the Sandy Barnes&Noble this Saturday from 1-3 pm. So, if you didn't get a chance to get your copy of EVERNEATH signed, here's your opportunity! 

2. I will be on several panels at the upcoming LTUE Conference. If you are a writer, or other creative type, there really isn't a better value than this conference, because it's only $30, and it lasts for three days! 

The conference takes place Feb 9-11 at the UVU campus in Orem. 

3. I know today is Thursday, and I usually blog on Wednesday. And the last blog was Tuesday, and I usually blog on Monday. 

The reason for this is simple: There is a crack in the universe that has been following me around ever since I was a little girl, and sometimes it shifts my life one day to the right. 

Or... that might've been an episode of Dr. Who. And the real (and boring) reason is... I'm swamped. I have a deadline on Monday. And this is the first time I've been revising while simultaneously trying to launch a book. I'm flailing a little bit. 

Today, I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the things Kid B has been praying about lately. Many of you know Kid B has some delays, especially when it comes to language. But at night, he has been saying his own prayers. 
Kid C and Kid B

The prayers always start out with: 

"Heavenly father, thank you for this day."

And in the past week, that sentence has been followed by:

"... The babies are sleeping... so please be quiet..." (Yes, Heavenly Father, please keep it down)

"... I play Cut the Rope... Experience... I went next level..." (The big man will be so impressed)

"... I go to school today... Tuesday... January... 31st... two thousand twelve..." (because it's good to be specific)

"... please bless me to talk..." (I used to say this when I said the prayers)
"... Is it time for snack? Yes, you can have snack. I can have a snack? Yes! ..." (Sometimes he practices conversations he's heard that day)

I just imagine the guy on the receiving end of that prayer. I like to think he sets aside whatever amazing thing he is creating, sits back, and has a good chuckle.