Monday, March 31, 2014

m/ARC/h Madness Week Five - AKA SPRING IS HERE!


 Jessica S. has won TABULA RASA!
Angela C. has won THE FALCONER!

And, oh, bless their hearts, it's time to bid farewell to the next two Fall Fourteeners.

Austin Aslan
Jaye Robin Brown
(previous weeks' below)
Kristine Asselin
Kitty Stapp
Sarah Schmitt
Kendal Kulper
Kate Boorman
Amy Finnegan
Stephen Duncan
Josh Bellin
Joy Hensley

Three remain standing - Kristen Lippert Martin, Lisa Maxwell, and Shallee McArthur. One will stand after the end of today! What will they win? Only THEIR cover as all of our profile pics on Twitter for a day! 

Okay, still here? Great! Because it's time to NAME THAT CHARACTER! AND WIN MORE ARCS!

This week we are playing for NO PLACE TO FALL by Jaye Robin Brown (our very own!!!!),  or Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens or Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins (US only please for the giveaways) 

Which names fit this quintet of characters best? This week we will be ELIMINATING ALL BUT ONE of our Fall Fourteeners. Whose book cover will be on fourteen profiles soon? Oh...the kills!

Top Left is 1st name, Top Right is 2nd, Bottom Left is 3rd, Bottom Right is 4th, Middle is this week's guy
Pepper Fortescue~Syren Vale~Axel Winters~Phineas Zeller~Dexy Wood
Ravenna (Ven) Harlowe~Raina Kalani~Marco Stevenson~Simon Larsen~Anton Carter
Kyla Denning~Tana James~Elias Martinez~Skylar Madson~Eben Maclean


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The First Time I Realized, “It Really is Just That Simple”

by Kristen Lippert-Martin

This is a completely mock-worthy anecdote I’m about to tell. Unless you’re a Star Trek fan, in which case it’s totally serious and inspirational.

Here we go.
Say what?
Five years ago two things happened: I started querying my first YA novel and the Star Trek reboot came out. I know these two things don't seem related, but, believe me, I'm gonna make it work.

A little back story here, which I’ve discussed on my blog and elsewhere: I quit writing for several years because of, well, the usual stuff. Rejection and heartache and I just couldn’t take it anymore. But I came back to it after a great deal of soul-searching, and I made this simple promise to myself: I’m not going to give up this time.

So, back to that Star Trek movie. Here’s the tie-in. Me and the kiddies stopped for lunch during some tiresome slog up the I-95 corridor, and we got lunch at McDonald’s or Burger King, and in the kid's meal, came one of these Star Trek action figures.

I still have this on my desk. Five years later.

Yes, that’s Scotty the Engineer. And when you push the little button on his back he shouts, “I’m givin’ it all she’s got, Captain!”

I saw the movie, and I loved the movie, even though I was prepared to be all grumpy about it because I’m a Star Trek purist from way back. 


May, 2009 is when I did the bulk of my querying on that first novel (that ultimately didn't sell), and I did that thing that people recommend. You know, I set up a dedicated email address just for queries and writing-related stuff. The upshot of this was that every time that I saw a (1) in my dedicated query/writing mailbox, I sort of pooped my pants a little. Actually, it went like this: see unread message, pants poop, hope, TERROR, more hope.

Naturally and predictably, I was like a hyperactive prairie dog, sticking my head up into my inbox every ten seconds all day, every day, sniffing for email. 

I’m sure you feel me here.   

It came to pass that by early June I luckily had several requests for my full manuscript plus a few requests for partials, and there were a slew of queries that were still hanging out there. 

It was a hopeful, hopeful time and thus, I was extremely hopeful. Like this.

Welp, I don’t know what happened but somehow—and I still don’t know how I did this—my dedicated query/writing email address wasn’t dumping into my “master” inbox. But I didn't know it at the time so weeks and weeks went by, and I heard nothing back but I thought, well, that's the way it goes, right? These things take time. I figured I just had to be patient.

So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And though I would have much preferred to DIE ... instead I waited.

After about, oh, three weeks or a month, I finally thought, hmm, how strange. I hadn’t gotten any email at all at this query/writing address in awhile. Not even passes or whatever. It finally occurred to me that maybe something was up technologically so I went into the separate server where that mail was going, and there it all was. Two agents had passed on my full, another agent with my partial passed on that. All those queries -- passes. Everything that was outstanding was now instanding, and it was all bad news. 

Every single one of my hopes was thoroughly dashed, and I didn’t even get it in dribs and drabs. Nope, it was just BOOM. BADNESS EXPLOSION. 

Pretty much like this. 

I think that moment ranks up there with the lowest of all the low ebbs of my writing career, and what made it worse was that I had only just gotten back on the horse, so to speak. After quitting writing, I’d started up again even after all I’d been through (ie., previous, epic loads of crushing disappointment). I was so, so fragile and hopeful and I'd finally worked up the courage to get back out there and this happens.

(Approximation of my world view at that particular moment.)

So there I was, sitting at my desk, and after I forced my way through all those rejections, pretty much with the taste of vomit still in my mouth, I don’t know why, but I reached over and picked up that Scotty the Engineer action figure. As I did, I accidentally depressed the button on the back, and it shouted, “I’m givin’ it all she’s got, Captain!”

And I laughed in that bleak, "all is lost" kind of way, but somehow I knew that I was going to be OK. I wasn’t going to give up. Even though it hurt like hell. 

You get beat down. You get back up.




That’s the writing life. It’s never going to change so I knew I had to.

And I’m still givin’ it all she's got, Captain. Because there ain't no other way to write. It really is just that simple.

Monday, March 24, 2014

m/ARC/h Madness-Week Four ARC Giveaways!!!!


Fear of Lung has won DEAR KILLER!
Stephanie B. has won SEKRET!

And, oh, sweet Trekkie tears, it's time to bid farewell to the next two Fall Fourteeners (but don't feel sad, a few of these authors are secretly happy to be eliminated because, you know, deadlines...).

Kristine Asselin
Kitty Stapp
(previous weeks' below)
Sarah Schmitt
Kendal Kulper
Kate Boorman
Amy Finnegan
Stephen Duncan
Josh Bellin
Joy Hensley

Okay, still here? Great! Because it's time to NAME THAT CHARACTER! AND WIN MORE ARCS!

This week we are playing for TABULA RASA by Kristen Lippert-Martin (our very own!!!!),  or The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina or The Falconer by Elizabeth May (US only please) (Next week we will have another Fall Fourteener's ARC!!!)

You may remember our last week's characters on the left, now they have a new friend. You will now vote on your top 2 name quads! Which names fit this quad best? This week we will be ELIMINATING TWO MORE of our Fall Fourteeners. Whose book cover will be on fourteen profiles soon? Oh...the kills!

Max McNeely~Vanessa Thierry~Asa Sanchez~Jordan McNeely
Pepper Fortescue~Syren Vale~Axel Winters~Phineas Zeller
Nicole Rivera~Ember Mills Taylor~Sasha "Chevy" Chavez~Aaron Garfield
Ravenna (Ven) Harlowe~Raina Kalani~Marco Stevenson~Simon Larsen
Kyla Denning~Tana James~Elias Martinez~Skylar Madson

DECIDED? GOOD! DON'T FORGET, TWO NAME QUADS from above (the same line, you can use first names, ex: Max/Vanessa/Asa/Jordan) YOU'D READ MORE ABOUT AND POST BELOW (also your ARC preference)! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS COMMENT TODAY BEFORE MIDNIGHT PST AND YOU'LL BE THROWN INTO RANDOM GENERATOR AND MIGHT WIN ARCS! WE'LL ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS OF THIS WEEK, NEXT WEEK! SO SHARE, SEND YOUR FRIENDS, YOU'LL BE MAKING US LIKE RAGING GLADIATORS BEHIND THE SCENES! (and don't forget to leave a way to get in touch, twitter handle, email addy, something! You might win!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Stalking the Elusive Character

I just finished revising my first book last week. As you might expect, there was much cold-blooded murdering of darlings, which actually turned out to be the easy part. My editor and I both agreed they were entertaining guests who also dropped their dirty underwear on the bathroom floor, crashed on the couch, and didn't really do much to move the plot anywhere.

No regrets. I'm lousy at goodbyes, so…

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The harder part was the new scenes she wanted. Because they mostly revolved around my main character, who I knew intimately, and her love interest, who I was starting to realize I didn't know at all.

That's quite something when your book is coming out in a few months, wouldn't you say?

Now, Will had already gone through a few incarnations at this point. In one draft, he was a complete wanker when they met and hated Jansin's guts at first sight. I later decided this was a bit much, not to mention kind of clich├ęd, so I did a full one-eighty and made him really nice and decent and kind etc. etc. etc.

Well, that wasn't working either.

I was having trouble writing dialogue for them, usually a sign of larger problems. Like the fact that I was having trouble getting a handle on the entire arc of their relationship.  

 photo lemon-badnews_zps83dc9287.gif

Yes. Yes, it does.

Especially when your final draft is due in three weeks.

I only started to figure Will out once I thought of him as a fully-fledged person separate from my MC and their attraction/friction for each other. He wasn't a wanker and he wasn't Mr. Perfect. He was somewhere in the middle. He'd been through some pretty bad things in his life, and he'd built up a whole arsenal of defense mechanisms to deal with it, like most of us do. He had one face that he showed to the world, and one face he kept to himself. And—also like most of us—he was neither and both.

Let me say right here, I'm not a pantser. I've tried, Lord knows. It's a wonderful way of writing because it allows the story to meander where it wants to go spontaneously. Stephen King, the archduke of pantsers, compares it to unearthing dinosaur bones with a tiny little brush. The problem is that in my case, two entirely separate parts of my brain do the plotting and the writing, and when I try to get them to work in harmony, at the same time, it's like an episode of Laverne & Shirley. One in which they herd cats. 

 photo herding-cats-o_zpscc075bfc.gif

Complete gridlock.

Which we all know ends only one way…

 photo johnstewart_zps3e31851c.gif

But in Will's case, I was desperate. So I gave the pantser route another try. And it actually worked. I started expanding on an early scene with Jansin, and she suddenly compares him to an actuary, which is the most boring, dry profession she can think of, and it was like…ahhhhh. Light. In brain. Clicks on.

Because Will can be horribly stuffy. He can be arrogant and…what's the exact opposite of fun? But he's also tough as nails, and he has a deep well of passion inside him that's almost scary. Still waters and all that.

Will the Actuary became a running joke and metaphor that I happily milked for every last drop. Including the ironic fact that actuaries (a fancy name for risk analysts) contracted by the military were the first to propose humanity go underground to escape the superstorms.

But I had to let that book sit and not look at it for nearly a year before my light went on. And then it felt like someone I'd been dying to meet my whole life—someone I knew in my heart already—was finally standing outside my front door.

Or in the, uh, nearest foggy, atmospheric field, at least.

Kat's debut dystopian sci-fi (with mutants!) Some Fine Day comes out July 1, 2014 from Strange Chemistry.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Manic/Zombie Ponderings VS Productivity (and how to avoid the former)

By Kate Boorman

I’ve had a headache for approximately ten days. I say approximately because although it was pretty consistently brain-in-blender for the first five, it has, in the last five, alternated between mostly-stabbing and barely there. But there. Definitely there.

So, I was pondering the cause and trying not to leap to the Worst Possible Scenario (yes, I’m talking about the zombie-virus) and I ran through the gamut of possibilities. Was it too much caffeine: should I cut out the morning Americano? Hydration: drink more water? (I can hear the resounding YES from the masses and won’t launch into my tirade against the 8-10 glasses/day hard–and-fast rule because BORING and you will throw rocks). Was it tannins: must I cut out red wine (please no)? Was it sleep position: should I change my pillow? Flip my mattress? Get a mouth guard for grinding my teeth at night?

My manic ponderings went on for some time but I am happy to report I finally traced the source, and I’m sharing it with you in the interests of WRITERLY HEALTH AND PRODUCTIVITY.

The source of my headache was my writing desk. Or, more specifically, my chair in relation to my desk.

To look at my lovely little writing space—even to sit at my writing space—all seems legit. It took me some time to come to this conclusion because I’ve been sitting at that desk for 2.5 months without noticing anything amiss. But when I realized my headache was musculature in origin, and when I figured out just which muscles were under duress, I’ve realized my chair is, like, a fraction of an inch too low in relation to my desk.

The difference is minute. But I have been hunching my shoulders just the tiniest amount in order to place my hands on my keyboard, which means I’ve been tensing the muscles under my shoulder blades for hours at a time. And my muscles were fatiguing the smallest amount over a long period of time. And finally, FINALLY, my brain is registering my muscles’ discontent. Shock and awe-styles.

If I can boss you around just a bit: take a minute, right now, to look at the way you’re sitting. Take a quick inventory of your neck, shoulders, arms. Think about your shoulder blades and then think down into the small of your back.

Are you relaxed? Are you holding tension anywhere? Chances are, OF COURSE. Nobody but 24 hr yogis make it through the day without tensing some part of the body subconsciously. This is particularly true when we are concentrating hard on something. (Hi WRITING!) We writers spend an unholy percentage of our lives sitting, engrossed in our own little worlds, and if we are sitting in positions that are not conducive to muscle health, then we are doing ourselves a serious disservice.

 So if I can boss you around just a bit more: be mindful of your writing posture, take time to ensure your writing space is comfortable and muscle-stress-free.

It might be the difference between tens days of kicking manuscript ass and ten days of fretting about going down in history as the host of the zombiepocalypse.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The First Time…I called myself an author

By Kristine Carlson Asselin
The first time. It’s hard, right? When are you more than a writer? When are you “allowed” to call yourself an author? The first time you blog? The first time you publish an article? The first freelance project?

My first published work was a short story that started as a picture book. It was selected for publication in an online e-zine. I was ecstatic. But was I an author? I had a hard time introducing myself that way.

A couple years later, I was offered my first freelance project. It was a nonfiction book for the school library market. It was an assignment, not something I’d created out of my own imagination—so in a lot of ways I felt like a poser. Was I an author? Could I claim the title then?

Then I signed with my first agent for my young adult novel. But the novel didn’t sell right away. Author?

At some point along the way, I realized (like we all do at some point) that the journey to publication is a winding road, not a straight shot. There are ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes out and out backward motion.

There’s no such thing as overnight success—everyone who is an “overnight” success has worked hard on their craft and has written tens of thousands of words. With each “stop” on the journey, it got easier to call myself an author.

Even now, with fourteen (yay to 14!) nonfiction books under my belt, I sometimes struggle with calling myself an author. Will that change when my novel comes out in the fall? Part of it stems from lack of confidence (“how dare I call myself an author when there are so many better than me!”). 

When do *you* call yourself an author? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

m/ARC/h Madness - Week 3 ARC Giveaways


My Bookworm Blog has won SURVIVAL COLONY NINE
Katie Stutz has won GUY IN REAL LIFE

And now, with sad teary eyes, we bid adieu to our next three Fall Fourteeners. Give them a nice smooth Elvis kiss (but don't feel sad, a few of these authors are secretly happy to be eliminated because, you know, deadlines...)

Sarah Schmitt
Kendal Kulper
Kate Boorman
(last week below)
Amy Finnegan
Stephen Duncan
Josh Bellin
Joy Hensley

Okay, still here? Great! Because it's time to NAME THAT CHARACTER! AND WIN MORE ARCS!

This week we are playing for Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell or The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno or Sekret by Lindsay Smith (US only please) (Next week we will have another Fall Fourteener's ARC!!!)

You may remember our last week's characters on the left, now they have a new friend. You will now vote on your top 2 name trios! Which names fit this trio best? This week we will be ELIMINATING TWO MORE of our Fall Fourteeners. Whose book cover will be on fourteen profiles soon? Oh...the kills!

Max McNeely~Vanessa Thierry~Asa Sanchez
Pepper Fortescue~Syren Vale~Axel Winters
Ally Valentine~Eddie Sayagues~Chet Moretti
Nicole Rivera~Ember Mills Taylor~Sasha "Chevy" Chavez
Ravenna (Ven) Harlowe~Raina Kalani~Marco Stevenson
Kyla Denning~Tana James~Elias Martinez
Shannon Absinthe~Karyn Flores~Baxter Brownson


Friday, March 14, 2014

March 14 Answers

Lots of writers have habits and rituals when they're writing. What are some of yours? Some writers get up at the crack of dawn to edit what they wrote the night before? Do you have to have a specific food or beverage near by to get them through a writing brain freeze. Still others write best in a coffee shop or in complete silence. 

This month's question:
What are your writing habits?

Joshua David Bellin: Lots of people use soundtracks to inspire them while they write. Others like to curl up with their pets. Some can even manage six different social media platforms while writing and revising. Me, I require only one thing: AN ABSOLUTELY DISTRACTION-FREE ENVIRONMENT. I'm not kidding; my brain can't be creative when there's the slightest competition for its attention.

The only problem with this is that my "office," such as it is, is also my bedroom--which is just across the hall from my children's rooms, the hall also doubling as my 10-year-old son's indoor mini-basketball court. Plus I've got a very loud and mischievous cat (named, appropriately enough, Loki) and a very busy street just outside the bedroom window. So....

You might wonder how I get any writing done under these circumstances. The answer is simple: I teach at a college, so I have Fridays off, a month-long winter break, and four months over the summer. During those free times, I close the door (thus shutting out Loki the cat), pull the blinds (thus minimizing traffic noise), turn off my computer's volume, close my browser, and get down to business!

Ahhhh.... Peace, quiet, and creativity!

Joy N. Hensley: When I'm writing a first draft, I need music that fits the mood. For RITES OF PASSAGE I listened to lots of Metallica and Rammstein (hope I didn't scare any readers away with that little tidbit!). For my second book, I'm listening to a lot of heavy rap and metal. There's a youtube playlist of MMA entrance songs that really help me get into the mood. When I'm revising, though, I can't have any words at all. Classical, thunderstorm sounds, waves crashing, something like that is definitely what I need to focus on the intricate pieces of the story. For me, revision is where the magic happens. The drafting process is usually done in little bursts of speed, so the music helps me a ton with that.

My biggest crutch, I think, is having word wars with my writing friends. I find if I'm competing against someone else, the story flows much better and I can do a thousand words in thirty minutes. If I'm just writing against myself with no one there to motivate me, it can take me hours to get five hundred words

I usually bribe myself with television shows when I'm close to the end of a draft. Usually, I try to stay away from all television while drafting, though that hasn't worked so well with this book. When I finish a draft, though, I'll give myself a week off of anything writing-related and binge watch television shows. When I finish book two (IF I EVER FINISH) I'll be watching Fringe. I sit it next to my computer to look at as motivation.

My other quirky thing are the collages I like to make that are book related. Right now I have a HUGE collage on my wall of bloody MMA fighters. My boys don't even like coming into my writing room right now (which is a bonus, I think! I don't get disturbed as much) because they don't like to see the "bloody football players" on the wall. I don't know why they think they're football players, but if it keeps them from playing football and keeps them out of my room, I'd say that's a double win! :-)

Kristine Carlson Asselin: I wish I had a regular writing routine--I'm envious of those who do. With a full plate of parenting, "day job", and volunteering for various organizations, I have to write when I find time. I try to plan time -- Tuesday and Thursday nights my spouse is on kid duty -- but I'm not always good about putting aside time dedicated for just writing. I wrote ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT during a month of fast drafting at 5:30 a.m., and that worked really well. I would definitely encourage others who haven't tried that method to give it a shot. Turn off the internal editor and write!!

Kate Boorman: Now that I’m under contract and have deadlines, I’ve been reading about effective creative process quite a bit: what helps your brain prepare for being creative, what kinds of things impede creativity. I also recently heard about a study that showed that making your bed in the morning nets out in a more productive day. The logic is that starting the day with this small accomplishment inspires you to accomplish other things. So, yes, I make my bed in the morning, but I’ve also taken that logic and applied it to my creative process. A ritual I’ve adopted to start my day is a brief writing sprint, before anything else. This means writing, by hand, in my journal—usually a small scene I’m either currently working on in my WIP or know I will need to write eventually. If I open my laptop, I’m too tempted to check email or twitter first. If I start the day with words— even half a page—I’m more likely to feel inspired to continue during my writing window.

Also, for years my “writing space” was my lap. It occurred to me a couple of years ago that an actual space—one that didn’t coexist with the unfolded laundry and primetime TV and sticky finger-smeared walls—might be slightly more conducive to productivity? I recently acquired a writing space OUTSIDE of my home and it is total bliss. No clutter, no other things that need doing— just my writing things, a cozy thinking chair, mint tea and an emergency chocolate stash.

Lisa Maxwell: I don’t know if I have any rituals, exactly, but I’ve discovered that I write better in the morning than in the evening. I hate getting up early, but there’s something about being in the dark, quiet house with just the glow of my computer screen that helps me focus, even when I’m not completely awake. I always make myself a half pot of coffee (half-cat so I can drink more!) and settle in on my office couch (I don’t use a desk) and start. I’m lucky enough to have a Tuesday/Thursday teaching schedule this semester, so Wednesdays and Fridays have been all-day writing days. I don’t stop for anything much until it’s time to pick up my kiddos from school.

In general, I’m not one for noise when I’m writing. My favorite Christmas gift this year was a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones. It makeseverything disappear, which is awesome. Occasionally, my book has a soundtrack. The one I wrote recently had Chris Cornell and Audioslave in the background, because his voice reminded me of how the hero sounded and acted, but often, I just like it quiet. Sometimes I just turn on the headphones and play nothing.

I usually write in long bursts, because it’s hard for me to piece things together or to write if I don’t know where something is going. It’s not unusual for me to put in 3-5k word days—but I mostly write on my days I work from home, so that’s not as much as it might sound.

Kat Ross:I wrote Some Fine Day in dribs and drabs, literally scribbling in a notebook for fifteen minutes while I waited for my kid to come out of math tutoring or on my train commute into the city--any free moment I could find. So about half was written in long-hand and half sitting at my laptop. I still find that the scenes often flow better and faster when I write on paper with a pen, probably because I'm not under pressure to edit or polish as I go so I don't lose my momentum reading and (obsessively) re-reading what I've just written, which is almost impossible for me when I'm typing the words on a screen. This works especially well for action scenes, and it has the added bonus of getting my juices flowing again later when I have to sit down at the computer. I know I don't have to stare at that blank screen (ugh); typing up my notes brings me back into the flow of the story and then I can just pick it up again and keep writing. I still love writing on trains. And I love writing at my local library, surrounded by thousands of wonderful books. But I'm glad I have some variety to the routine, it makes me more versatile and less prone to procrastination because everything isn't just so....

Austin Aslan: No rituals, here. There is certainly no one right way to write a book, and there’s no one way for each of us to write. I have written seven novels, now. I can honestly say that I haven’t written any two of them the same way. I’ve used colored note cards, no cards, written fast, and written slow. I’ve thought ahead, blazed ahead, written endings first, endings last. I’ve slogged forward when I didn’t want to write, and held back when I did want to write. I’ve rewritten in the middle of a draft, I’ve moved forward without ever looking back. I’ve shared first lines (for God’s sake) with anyone who will listen, and withheld entire completed manuscripts from my wife. I’ve outlined, I’ve kept a dream journal, I’ve forced daily quotas, I’ve rewarded myself for meeting milestones, or not. I’ve stuffed books in drawers for months, I’ve glued myself to a chair for weeks. I’ve used paper and pen, typewriters, computers. I’ve drank coffee, tea, beer, wine, whiskey while writing. I’ve written standing up, I’ve written in bed. I’ve killed my babies, I’ve carried golden calves to the hilltops. Passive voice has been used by me.

Once, I even handily used an adverb!

I’ve honestly used every strategy for writing that I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve broken every ‘rule’, and each method was correct at the time.

Kendal Kulper: I am a Spotify junkie. I have to have music on while I work. I’m not sure if it’s the music that’s inspiring to me or if it’s just the Pavlovian response I have to certain songs (“Best git writin’!”), but I always find that I work best with music on in the background.

For SALT & STORM I pretty much lived and breathed music by the Decemberists—they are the closest thing to a musical cousin to the tone and feeling I wanted the book to have—and the band Sea Wolf got me through countless rewrites and edits.

Right now I’m on a rotating playlist of what I like to call “pretty music with a folksy feel and a dark edge,” but I’m always on the lookout for the perfect song that will make me cry on my bedspread, teenager-style, and inspire my next torch-carrying, burning-love YA romance.

Shallee McArthur: I have a funny little obsession with owning jewelry that connects me to whatever story I'm working on at the moment. My husband teases me about it, but I troll Etsy until I find something that reminds me of some symbol, theme, or character in the book. Then I have to wear it every time I write! It doesn't HAVE to be jewelry-- currently I just have a rock (I KNOW, a rock! But it's a special, pretty rock.) on my desk that represents my two viewpoint characters. It's silly, but it gives me something to play with or look at and feel inspired while I write.

Also, I have an R2D2 bucket that is always filled with snacks. Because writing without chocolate is not happening.

Kristen Lippert-Martin: I have no perfect writing environment. No conditions that must be met in order for me to work. *Sigh* I wish! I mean, "ideally" I'd prefer to write in isolated silence, deep below the earth's crust, but with four kids, that's not possible. I've been forced by circumstances to learn to write in nearly any condition, at any time of day, for any length of time. I think I could probably write while hanging upside down if I had to. Fortunately it hasn't come to that yet but I can't rule it out for the future.

Jaye Robin Brown: I'm lucky because I have a designated office for my writer world. My desk is an antique mahogany number that belonged to my grandmother and the room is filled with not only my books but my childhood artifacts, like Breyer horses, the stuffed animals that made it through, an antique Remington typewriter, my grandparents' menorah, and lots of framed childhood photographs.

I write on a Macbook Pro with a stack of index cards and scratch paper handy for jotting notes and plotting plot points. During the school year, I write between 5-6:30 am, pretty much every day. Evenings I'm too tired to do much more than feed horses and cook dinner. On weekends, I write till noon or one if nothing's going on. But holidays, I've discovered I can write all through the day. Summers, I pretty much live and breath my writer office and the barn and back again. I love summers.

As for ritual, no music while I write, unfortunately. And I like a cup of hot beverage nearby, coffee with half-n-half if before noon. Herbal or green tea in the afternoon. No special snacks though I have a wicked sweet tooth!

Sarah J. Schmitt: I absolutely, 100% must have noise when I right. My first choice is a coffeeshop, but in lieu of that, or if I'm just to chicken to head out into the cold (Florida girl living in Indiana, you figure it out), I actually have an app on my phone called Coffitivity. (There's also a website you can use on your computer.) This app actually plays the sounds of a cafe. It totally tricks my brain into thinking that I'm surrounded by tons of people. (The one drawback is you can't make out many words so there's no line "borrowing" to be done. Still, for my wandering mind, it's helps me focus.

Then there's the drink. I must have a "cafe" style beverage at my side in order to complete that coffeeshop feel. I actually have several of the Starbucks syrups and have learned to replicate several of their drinks. (See reference to disdain for cold above.) That's about it. Of course, if I'm in for a marathon writing session, such as #writeclub (can't talk about it, though), then I need a bag of Twizzlers. It's like fuel for the creativity muses!

Amy Finnegan: I love revising while I’m on vacation—looking out over the ocean really relaxes me, and helps me feel like I’m reading a book someone else actually wrote, which I get to tweak to my heart’s content. But when it comes to a first draft of a scene . . . I don’t want a single distraction. I don’t even want a window in the room if I can help it. I need it to be just me and my laptop, and once in a while a little mood music to help me get a particular emotion running through me. But that’s all. And I always say my dialogue out loud, over and over again, to make sure it sounds like a real live person would say it the way I’ve written it. You would think I was a raving lunatic if you happened upon me in writing mode. But, hey, I like my imaginary friends. They do whatever I tell them to!

I wish I did have some habits. That would mean I'm able to find the time to write with some consistency. For the most part, I spend my day busy with the real world, looking for a minute to steal in between other tasks, where I can jot down a few pages. Sometimes, I’ll wake up early – like around 4 AM– and get a nice block of writing in. I can do this for a few weeks before the deficit of sleep kicks my butt. I guess if I have a habit it is that I don’t have a habit at all. Changing up the places and the hours I write makes it feel fresh for me, which helps me maintain the energy to do it, when most days I’d rather have a beer and melt in front of good, mindless soccer game.