Tropical Storms

It’s officially hurricane season in Florida. It starts at the beginning of June, and just five days later we had our first big tropical storm (Colin) make an appearance. We get ready for this time every year–buying water, making sure the house is in okay condition. Just in case. There are all the memes that show Floridians equating hurricanes to partying and, sure, some people may do that, but not all of us. Heck, not even in college.

I remember several years ago, about five, having a pretty bad tornado watch. We left work early, which we all cheered for but quickly regretted as we navigated the flooding streets back home. I think I drove 10 mph the entire time, and I lived a good 30 minutes away. The rain kept falling, hard, on my car and every now and then, on a quiet stretch of road, there’d be a clearing and I’d see the leaves start swirling together in a circular motion, and I’d get scared. Of course it wasn’t a tornado, but you never know when you’re in the midst of it.

S was already at home, with the news on. The weatherman had his sleeves rolled up, so you knew it was serious. We lost power not long after. I remember scraping together a dinner of peanut butter and bread because we didn’t want to open the refrigerator. I remember dining by the light of candles. One of my best friends lived across the street at the time, so we came over to share in our dinner. We joked about the end of the world, because it kind of felt like that. We played board games in the dying light of outside.

When the storm stopped, we walked outside to see the damage and our jokes felt real and strange all in one. We lived in apartments over popular shops and restaurants. There were always cars driving by, music play, people laughing. Tonight the streets were empty, with an eerie glow over everything. Rained on. Kind of green. Kind of off. Everything was fine, everything was the same, but it felt different. Everyone was fine, everything was okay.

We went back to my friend’s apartment where her neighbor was having a party now that the storm was over. Anyone could come! Anyone could drink! That’s how we celebrate here–when everyone is okay.

I learned a little later that a tornado did hit down, just not by us. In a neighboring city. And then, one hit down later that season in Tallahassee, near a restaurant we used to frequent.

It wasn’t a traumatic storm in the least. We didn’t have to run to shelter thank goodness. But for some reason every time hurricane season hits, I think of that one. And I can never figure out why. Why do we remember some moments over others? Why are some more present in our minds?

I don’t have the answers, but last night as I drove home from work in the calm before the storm, I thought back to it. As I took in all of L’s outdoor toys and hid them in our screened in porch, and secured down her sandbox, I remembered this feeling of calm after it all passed. As we walked the streets that were ours, but felt so distinctly different. I thought back to it.

And I probably will again, as storm after storm passes. So, no, we aren’t just partying every time a hurricane is predicted. We’re getting ready.

Progression

I originally wrote THE NIGHT WE SAID YES using Google Drive. This way it was always available, even when my laptop was not. During my lunch breaks at work, I’d edit on my work computer. It was an easy way to move a file around.

The other day, while saving my current work in progress in Drive, I found a few original versions of TNWSY. (I save EVERYTHING.) It was so weird and fun, looking at these works in progress that actually turned into something REAL. Anyway, I thought I’d share the original first paragraph, what it turned in to, and, of course, the finished product.

FIRST VERSION!

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Different, but not really! It’s still the none-too-happy Ella being dragged to a party. It’s still setting up her til-death-do-we-part friendship with Meg. But originally, I had a whole scene where she was getting ready for the party. I had her calling Meg for outfit advice. I had her fretting, but at the same time, not wanting to fret, about what the night would bring. And then Meg pulls up.

The first person to read TNWSY, my friend Katie, suggested I cut the first two pages. Hard to hear at first, but amazingly spot on. Why start before the action when I could start in the middle of it? It was a slow build up that really wasn’t necessary. So I deleted the entire beginning. It was a lot less painful than it sounds.

NEXT VERSION:

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This is the version I queried agents with. When querying, you send a letter about the book, and then the first few pages (depending on what the agent requests). This is what I hoped would peak their interest. (Surprise: it did!)

Now, here’s the final version:

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There was quite a bit that changed with TNWSY, from my first draft to my editor, to the final product. We added a lot, changed names, changed entire scenes. But the story itself stayed the same, the feeling stayed the same. And, as it turns out, quite a bit of that very first page. Strange how that happens, right?

It’s fun seeing how things change over time–how they grow and breathe and move into something new. Sure it’s scary when you’re deep in it–when you’re creating that first scene, when you’re editing that first scene–but it’s nice knowing that there’s an end point, a light at the end of the tunnel. And that, sometimes, your end might not be so different from your beginning.

 

The Story Behind Matt’s Story

I didn’t plan on writing a companion story for THE NIGHT WE SAID YES.

In fact, in between writing TNWSY and MATT’S STORY, I finished two other manuscripts. Seriously. But while editing the book with my editor, it just felt, I don’t know, lovely being back in that world. With my Ella and Matt and Jake and Meg. So I kind of wanted to dabble. For fun.

At first I started hanging out with Meg. I was writing her story, after TNWSY ended. What happens with her as she approaches college. But nothing felt right. I love Meg, and the story wasn’t doing her justice. And it wasn’t fun. So I scrapped it.

And then I woke up one morning with a vision – Matt in a classroom, alone. So while eating breakfast I started writing that scene. And I enjoyed being with him – and these other new characters he interacts with – so much that I brought my laptop to work and kept writing during breaks. And then I went home and kept writing. Even when S interrupted so we could talk to one of his friends in the UK via Skype, I had one eye on my laptop.

And by the end of the day I had nearly 8,000 words. It was INSANE. I had never written that much in one day. Ever.

The next day I read it over and didn’t hate it. I changed a few things here or there, elaborated, deleted,, but still felt good. So I sent it to my agent a bit later, asking if something was maybe, possibly there. To my utter delight, she saw it too, and told me to write about 10,000 words more. Okay.

Interestingly, those extra words weren’t that hard, either. I worried I’d hate it, would push it aside, but no – on the contrary, I loved elaborating on his time away. I loved creating this little world for him that his friends didn’t know about. And it was great timing, really, because it came as I was doing some final edits to TNWSY. I knew so much more about him. It added so much to the story.

After some back and forth edits between my agent and I, we gave it to my editor and, oh man, she saw potential in it, too. Which was so incredibly amazing to hear.

Because here’s the thing – I love writing, I do, but sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s absolutely brutal getting out 10 words. But Matt’s story was fun. It was different and weird and cool and I don’t know. There was no pressure, it was all for myself. And now it’s going to be something. And, yeah, it’s totally not necessary for people to read to fully get TNWSY. But to me, it’s important. To me, it makes Matt so much more whole. And it’s kind of cool knowing that writing doesn’t always have to be a struggle.

I’m so excited it’s going to be out there.

So if you decide to check out the ebook, I hope you like reading his story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Matt’s Story!

Exciting news – THE NIGHT WE SAID YES is getting a companion novella! Ahh!

TNWSY takes place two nights, exactly one year apart. In the THEN chapters, Ella meets Matt and they have a great night together with friends. In the NOW chapters, it’s a year later, and Ella is seeing Matt again, after several months apart. Well… MATT’S STORY: A NIGHT WE SAID YES NOVELLA will be the time in-between, as told by Matt.

Official description:

Seventeen-year-old Matt had the perfect life in Orlando. He met the girl of his dreams, rocked out on bass in an awesome band, and partied with the best group of friends he could ask for. But then his family gets a call and he has to move back to Texas—immediately. Now stuck with no possibility of ever seeing his friends in Orlando again, Matt is ready to give up. But can he open up his heart to new friends and a second chance?

I had so much fun going back into the Ella & Matt universe and giving Matt a chance to share his side of the story. I love Matt, and I’m so thrilled HarperCollins is publishing my novella! So much love to my agent and editor who agreed to do this with me.

MATT’S STORY will be published by Epic Reads Impulse, a HarperCollins digital imprint, on August 4, 2015. It’ll be available anywhere you buy eBooks (and it’s already up on iTunes and Amazon).

TNWSY Cover

So do you want to see the cover of THE NIGHT WE SAID YES?

DO YOU?

NOW YOU CAN! My cover and official description were revealed today on YA Highway! Go check it out! Let me know what you think! And enter to win an advanced copy!

Ahh, i’m so excited!!

Editing Process: Step Four

Since my book is coming out in a little over 10 months (it seems so far away, and yet so close…), I’m starting to actually DO things for promotion. Such as…create a Facebook page! Make little promotional cards to hand out at events (more on that later)! Talk about the book some more! I guess it’s starting to actually exist, and that’s both exciting and terrifying.

Editorial wise, copyedits came in. I was a bit nervous about these, as i’ve heard horror stories where copyeditors made writers change everything. Thankfully, my copyeditor was fantastic. She had little suggestions here or there, asked for my approval on anything she changed, and really mostly changed things to suit Harper’s style guide. (Shout out to my copyeditor – you’re the best!)

Now i’m working on the dedication and acknowledgements. It’s funny – I’ve imaged what i’d write since the book sold, and now when I can actually put words on paper, i’m drawing a blank. I want to thank everyone. Can I do that? Just…thank you to the world? (Okay, I should probably be more specific.)

TNWSY aside, I had my first public reading! I read for the book launch of FORGET HOW YOU FOUND US last week and it was so much fun. It was a great introductory event for me, because there was only so much pressure. There were four other writers reading, I only contributed one chapter, I did not represent the entire book. I loved meeting/hanging out with the other authors, and just being part of the entire experience. It was such a privilege to be able to contribute to the book, and even more so to read my chapter.

So one reading under my belt. A few more to go?

Forget How You Found Us

photo-3A bit ago I mentioned contributing to a book called FORGET HOW YOU FOUND US, part of Burrow Press’ 15 Views of Orlando series. Well, the book is out and I received my author copies yesterday! I’m in a book! So exciting!

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A bit about the project:

Burrow Press, an Orlando publisher, started a series called 15 Views of Orlando, where 15 writers each contribute their own chapter, with each chapter taking place in a different part of Orlando. The chapters, though separate, must somehow continue the story, whether by elaborating on a character, a location, a theme, etc. So, when writing, there’s no outline, no concrete plot. The first writer creates their chapter, then the second tacks his or hers on. The cool part is that writers have no idea where the plot is going once their chapter is contributed, and have no say in how the story – or even the character they create – concludes.

I had the privilege of writing the epilogue, so I was able to read the entire thing. It was weird, concluding a story that I didn’t create, and utilizing characters that started out as other people’s creations. But also extremely fun, because it was a challenge. It was something new and unique. And the plot? So different from the stuff I usually write.

And so, the book is out! It’s so neat seeing my name in print, and only adds to the bubbling thrill of TNWSY’s release next year. I’m so honored to be a part of the publication, with all the other talented authors, and can’t wait to hear what people think.

Here’s the synopsis for the book:

Forget How You Found Us is a loosely linked literary portrait of Orlando, FL as told by the city’s best writers. The stories within follow Olivia and Sabrina, two teenage sisters brand new to the “golf course community” of Lake Nona. Olivia is tired of living in the shadow of her older sister’s rebellion. Since the move, their only communication has been through notes and poems written in each other’s journals. But when Sabrina runs away from home, and Olivia’s only friend mysteriously disappears, a sequence of strange events follow both sisters, as well as a peripheral cast of characters that includes the distraught mother of the missing girl, the groundskeeper of the Kerouac House, a homeless bridge troll, and William S. Burroughs.

Read the first chapter here (which was written by a high school student, as part of the publisher’s literary outreach).