Things I’m Loving Lately.

“All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.”
~Clay Jannon, via Robin Sloane in Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

Hi, friends! I’m popping in from Revision Land – started the third round of edits on Watercolors this week and am somehow still enjoying the process immensely! – to say hello and see what everyone’s up to. Can we talk about the fact that it’s already mid-August? I seriously don’t understand how that’s possible. Where has the summer gone? It always seems to fly by, but this year … I don’t know, I feel like it should still be June. I wish we could slow down time, but since that’s not a possibility, I hope you all are taking a moment to enjoy these hazy, lazy (or often not-so-lazy) days and the warm sunshine. Here are a few things I’ve been loving lately:

– A weekend getaway to Lancaster, PA. We went to see the show Ballroom With a Twist, which featured performances from Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and American Idol finalists. It was such a great combination – featuring one of my favorite SYTYCDers from all the seasons! – and was so fun to see the routines in person.

Ballroom With a Twist

– The duck pond at the hotel where we stayed. There were dozens of ducks in and around the water. How adorable are these babies?

Baby ducks

– The summer scents from Bath & Body Works. Honolulu Sun, Cool Coconut Surf, and Hello Sunshine are my new favorites and will have me dreaming of the beach even when the weather turns cool.

– The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I don’t watch regularly – I’m usually asleep by the time it comes on – but I had the chance to go to a taping of the show last week and had a blast. It was so cool to see all the behind-the-scenes details and to experience such a unique kind of energy. Helen Mirren was my favorite of the guests. Added bonus: we got off the subway directly below the Simon & Schuster building and got to walk through the lobby on our way outside. This writing and reading fanatic was most excited.

Jimmy Fallon tickets

– Wawa’s banana cream smoothie. They have so many good flavors, but this one just might be the most delicious. It’s fruity and sweet, the perfect summer treat.

– Winning at miniature golf not once, but twice, and getting two holes-in-one in the same game. For someone who almost always loses, this was a pretty awesome triumph. I may or may not have done a victory dance.

Mini golf

– Animal rescue and adoption centers. I’ve been thinking about adopting a bunny for awhile now and have fallen in love with some on the centers’ websites. Hopefully I’ll get to make a furry friend part of the family soon.

– Flowers like this. The world is so pretty when its colors are bold and bright.

Flowers

– Unique, original stories. I just finished MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE and really enjoyed it. It’s different from the kinds of books I normally read, but different is good sometimes.

– Working on this book baby of mine. I so love seeing it grow with each round of revisions – and shrink, too! The final draft of this will end up being my shortest ever, and for anyone who knows the way I write, you’ll understand why I’m so proud of that.

What are you all loving lately?

What’s Up?


“I will not fall
I will stand tall through it all
Just so you can see
The strongest parts of me.”
~Elise Testone, “I Will Not Break”

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, so I figured I’d pop in with another.

What I’m listening to: Elise Testone released her debut album, In This Life, last week, and I’m so enjoying it. She was my pick from American Idol in 2012 – there’s something very textured and unique to her voice, like it’s telling a story – and I’ve been looking forward to hearing new music from her ever since. Favorite songs include: Still We Try, Never Gave Me Butterflies, Save Me, and I Will Not Break. Also: Kristin Chenoweth’s Taylor the Latte Boy. She sang it at her concert on the fifth and I seriously have not been able to get it out of my head for the past twelve days. So fun and catchy.

What I’m watching: Olympics, Olympics, OLYMPICS. If there’s coverage airing, my television is on. I love everything about the games: the spirit, the dedication, the joy, the diligence, the hope, the faith, the pride. There’s just nothing like getting to watch someone’s dream come true. And how inspiring is it to know that, with years of determination and hard work, the training can pay off? Obviously writing is a far cry from figure skating or skiing, but seeing those athletes achieve their goals makes me want to jump into my desk chair and keep working on my own.

What I’m reading: Sarah Beard’s PORCELAIN KEYS. I’ll have a full review (and giveaway!) up on the 28th, so I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll just say this: it’s a book that stays with you. When I’m not hanging out with the characters, I want to be. They resonate like the music that runs through their souls, and I can’t wait to see what happens next in their story. If only I could just sit and read all day …

What I’m writing: Still hard at work on WATERCOLORS! I’m 64,000(ish) words in and enjoying it more and more with every day. Eden’s life is starting to turn around in wonderful ways, and even though I want to shake her for making choices that will bring it all to a screeching halt down the line, I must admit, it’s such fun to write this part of the book. I really feel like I’m getting to know her well now, and the supporting cast, too. Today’s writing session featured a diary entry from Eden’s mother Mariah and it made me super excited to flesh out her part of the story more. It’s amazing how characters’ lives, how all of our lives, are so interconnected like sentences on a page. Getting to weave their threads together is such an exhilarating process.

What I’m smiling about: a countdown to spring (thirty days, thirty days, thirty days!), this video of a precious polar bear cub making his debut in Toronto, irises that fill the house with their sweet scent, and new nail polish that adds a splash of color to the day.

What are you listening to / watching / reading / writing / smiling about this week?

On My Mind.


“In summer, the song sings itself.”
~William Carlos Williams

1. Guess who is officially BELOW her target word count goal on this manuscript? Guess who is incredibly excited about it? With five days of edits left to go (not that I’m counting or anything …), the book should end up falling out several thousand words below the initial plan. I am super, super happy about this and super, super pumped about how the story has tightened up throughout this round of revisions. I am also super, super confused – was transferring all my edit notes to my writing journal yesterday (I tend to jot things down frenetically while revising and then recopy them towards the end, so I know what still needs to be changed) and cannot decipher one of my comments for anything. Normally my handwriting is neat, but this … this is what editing looks like.

notes

2. This summer is going way, way, way too quickly. Maybe that’s because the first half was cool and rainy, or maybe it’s because I’ve spent mostly every day indoors editing, but still, I don’t like it. Please slow down, time!

3. Kelly’s concerts will always make for some of my favorite days.

4. Really, really good – and important – lesson from Mark Twain: “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”

5. I may or may not have flipped out (AKA: I definitely flipped out) when I found this on Etsy. It’s my gift to myself for finishing edits, all the way from Ireland (came a week early and I’ve worn it every day since). A message in a bottle for my book about a message in a bottle, complete with a personalized passage from the story inside. I love it. Lots. <3

necklace

What’s on your mind today?

Five.


“Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.”
~W. Earl Hall

The always awesome Megan tagged me for the “five things that make you happy meme,” so I figured I’d take a break from the writewritewritewrite frenzy to share some of what’s currently putting a smile on my face.

1. My WIP: Okay, so maybe this isn’t much of a break from it after all. It’s certainly no secret how much I’ve adored writing this book. In fact, you’re all probably getting quite tired of hearing me blab on and on about it. Don’t worry. There’s only three chapters to go, so after next week you won’t be subjected to my incessant ramblings. It’s just … I can’t necessarily explain it, but there’s something about this project that has instilled a permanent ‘writer’s high’ in me. I work on it until my eyes scream and my head aches, and then I keep thinking about the characters even when I’ve left the computer behind. Something about this story is resonating with me in a way that transcends words. Will it do the same for anyone else? Who knows? Even if it doesn’t, this will forever be a writing experience filled with joy.

2. The prospect of sand, sea, boardwalk, and books: After spending the past four months writing about both Nantucket and Atlantic City, I can’t wait to escape to the shore for a few days later this month. It will forever be my happy place, and I’m counting down until the moment when I’m sitting on the beach with a book in hand and the sound of tumbling waves whispering in my ear.

3. The weather: After a cool and damp start to the season, followed by a spike in temperatures to something more reminiscent of August, springtime has finally set up shop here in Pennsylvania. Yesterday could not have been more beautiful: cloudless cornflower blue sky, temperatures in the mid-70s, and air that smelled sweet as honeysuckle. Today promises to be a repeat and I can’t wait to get outside for another long walk to the pond. This picture is from April, so the trees are much fuller now … and while the view of the water isn’t as clear, that makes it more special to see the spray arcing up into the air, soaring skywards like a beacon of hope.

Pond

4. ‘Jessie’s Girl’: Pretty sure this song has been stuck in my head ever since Rick Springfield sang it on General Hospital during April’s Nurses’ Ball. It has one of those melodies that just worms its way into your thoughts and refuses to leave. Give it a listen and you too will be tapping your feet to the beat.

5. Water ice: How better to celebrate the warmer weather? Icy foods have sometimes been challenging to eat since I began using Invisalign back in January, but I always make an exception for this. With a Rita’s just minutes away – offering flavors such as fudge brownie, red velvet cake, and s’mores – how can I not?

Your turn: what’s one thing making you happy this week?

It’s Nicer to be Nice.


“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
~James Matthew Barrie

That was one of my Pop Joe’s favorite phrases: it’s nicer to be nice. He used to say it all the time, a smile in both his eyes and his voice. It’s been over ten years since he passed away, but still, I can hear him as though he’s right next to me. It’s a piece of grandfatherly wisdom I carry with me always. It’s also one that I feel like shouting from the rooftops sometimes.

Like yesterday.

If you live anywhere from Virginia to Massachusetts, you were probably expecting a snowstorm. Many got a winter wonderland. Others did not, swapping out the swirling flakes for heavy rain and strong winds. And, evidently, it made some people angry. I’m the first to admit that the forecast and the actual blast from Mother Nature didn’t line up. Philadelphia and the surrounding towns saw nothing more than an isolated flurry. Was that a surprise, given the predictions? Maybe. Did it warrant the backlash received by the poor meteorologists who, to be fair, said from the get-go that this storm would be tricky? Not in my opinion. Now, granted, I may be biased, seeing as how I worked at our ABC affiliate several years ago and had the chance to see firsthand how kind-hearted the weather team is, how truly passionate about their careers. But still … I was shocked at some of the comments they (and meteorologists from other media outlets) received last night. I’m not talking about the Facebook and Twitter posts that joked about the lack of snow or even teasingly gave the forecasters a hard time. It’s the hateful ones that were so horrible, these words filled with vitriol for professionals who were only doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Computer models are wonderful, but weather is capricious. It’s unreliable. Sometimes tracks change at the last minute. To verbally attack the meteorologists over it? No matter what you believe about hype, or sensationalism in the media, or news coverage … why is it ever okay to be so mean?

I don’t know, perhaps I’m just too nice for my own good. It’s certainly gotten me burned before. With the prevalence of social media today, though, it just seems like there are more and more examples of people speaking (erm … typing) before they think. And it makes me sad. No matter what sort of anonymity the online world brings about, there are still real people reading those words. Can we not have a conversation instead of spewing negativity? Can we not agree to disagree instead of putting others down? I know this is an idealistic view. I know there will always be divisiveness and I know that, though diversity is wonderful, there will always be different ways of expressing it.

It’s always been like this, I suppose, but one thing that stuck out as I was researching the 1950s for my current WIP is how much kinder people (as a whole) seemed then. I hope we can follow that example. I hope we can remember that it’s always nicer to be nice. I hope we can offer a smile instead of an accusation. I hope we can debate respectfully and build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I hope all the generous, genuine people who populate the online sphere can spread their presence even further.

(And, now that this snowstorm fizzled out, I hope we can leap forward into spring. Pretty sure that’s a forecast everyone will love.)

All in the Numbers.


“Originality exists in every individual because each of us differs from the others. We are all primary numbers divisible only by ourselves.”
~Jean Guitton

10,458: the number of words currently in my WIP, which becomes more of a joy to write with every single day. I’m already discovering so many twists and turns to my characters’ personalities, already following their lead as they dictate where the story will spin. It’s an inspiring road to travel and an exciting journey to take.

24: the number of days until I’m in Washington DC for this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival. I’ve wanted to go for so long and can’t wait to see those beautiful umbrellas of pink petals in person. Fingers crossed that the trees will all be in bloom.

3: the number of times I’ve now had the chance to talk with General Hospital and Dancing with the Stars superstar Kelly Monaco. Her fan event on Sunday was one of my favorites I’ve ever attended, and I was, once again, totally impressed by her genuinely kind and gracious nature. From telling me that my eyes are the bluest she’s ever seen, to reminiscing about the 2005 Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade and saying how sweet it was that I remembered our visit there, to sitting and chatting with me – and everyone else – as though we were friends, she was nothing but a complete class act.

DSC02941 - Version 2

54: the number of choice on today’s weather forecast. Perhaps spring is around the corner?

570: the number of words I wrote in twenty minutes this morning. Wednesday are my query days, my days to focus solely on sending MINE TO LOVE out to agents, but I woke up with a scene in my head and simply had to get it down before doing anything else. There is something so special about that flurry of furious typing, that whirlwind where your fingers can’t type quickly enough to keep up with your thoughts, and it completely made my day, all before 8:00AM. Writer’s high? For real, it’s the best ever.

What numbers are defining your day?

Snowy Snapshots.


“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.”
~Vista M. Kelly

“Plowable snow.”

There are two general reactions to those words, each a polar opposite of the other: you either feel a snap of excited energy at the approaching storm, or you wish for a winning lottery ticket so a vacation to the Bahamas is possible. I fall into the first category (not that I wouldn’t love to see the Bahamas one day … ). When the meteorologists began to mention a Nor’easter, I eagerly anticipated the snowfall predictions. When the flakes began to fly last evening, I stood at the window to watch them swirl through the air. When the snow began to intensify, tumbling down to the ground like salt from the sky’s shaker, I was nothing but happy. We didn’t get nearly as much as Massachusetts or the other states blanketed by two or three feet – only five or six inches here – but still, I couldn’t resist going outside to snap some picture of the fluffy crystals stretching across the landscape. There’s nothing like the magic of a winter wonderland.

snow1

snow2

snow3

snow4

snow5

snow6

snow7

snow8

snow9

snow10

Anyone else a snow lover? Or would you rather live somewhere warm year-round?

Catching My Breath.


“Catch my breath
No one can hold me back
I ain’t got time for that
Catch my breath
Won’t let em get me down
It’s all so simple now.”
~Kelly Clarkson, “Catch My Breath.”

Sometimes I think Kelly Clarkson can actually see inside my brain. What other explanation is there for how ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY her new song coincided with my week off from work? Catching my breath, letting it go? Laughing hard with the windows down? Leaving footprints all over town? Keeping faith karma comes around? I mean, really … MINDREADER. And can we talk about how awesome this song is? Kelly wrote it about her journey since winning Idol – what she’s learned, who she’s become, where she’s going. It debuted last Wednesday and, no exaggeration, it has literally been stuck in my head ever since. Not that I’m complaining, because it’s one of my favorites of hers (yes, already). You should all do yourselves a favor and listen:

So, how have I been catching my breath during my break from edits?

There was a visit to the Franklin Institute.

Pendulum staircase!

Only I would take a picture “with” my heart murmur…

LOVE this quote.

Ancient bird in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit … they are STILL following me.

And a hot chocolate/pumpkin-buying spree.

Decorating my desk for the season!

A Sofie pumpkin and an Ellie pumpkin … it’s completely normal to name things after your characters, right? :)

And a lovely day spent at Arcadia for Alumni and Homecoming Weekend.

Mom and me.

Soccer field, library, and the new (beautiful!) building on campus.

I wish this had been there when I was a student!

Murphy Hall, Room 108 … AKA my home away from home for four years.

The castle will always be my favorite part!

So pretty inside.

Can you imagine living here?

Hangin’ out with a knight.

Fireworks over the castle!

It looked like Christmas lights were dancing in the sky!

And a great concert!

Graham Colton!

After the show!

Always enjoy Graham’s shows and his wonderful music!

There has also been lots (L-O-T-S) of cleaning and reading. And, now that I’ve had a week to rejuvenate and refuel, I am ready – and excited – to jump into the second round of revisions tomorrow. I’m looking forward to tightening up the story even more and getting to visit with my book-babies again. Because, as Kelly sings, it’s always important to make time for “the ones who count.”

In a New York Minute.


“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
~Thomas Wolfe

It’s been a picture perfect spring so far when it comes to the weather – mild temperatures, sunny skies the color of robin’s eggs, trees and flowers blossoming with a rainbow of pinks, reds, yellows, and purples. So naturally (because this is the way it always works, yes?), the one weekend we had tickets to a Broadway show in New York, there was a Nor’easter. I know, I know – Nor’easters are for the winter. They involve swirling snowflakes and frigid digits. Except when they storm up the coast in April, and then they involve sheets of rain and gusty winds that make using an umbrella a Herculean task (or maybe just a useless one).

So what do you do in NYC when Mother Nature refuses to cooperate?

-Take goofy pictures in your hotel room.

Marquis

-Adopt a cuddly friend (because everyone has to love stuffed polar bears, even those of us who are twenty-eight).

Polar

-Watch the sky’s leaky faucet drop over three inches of rain on a deserted, waterlogged Times Square (SO STRANGE to see it that desolate!).

Times Square

-Snap photos of the surrounding skyscrapers disappearing into a blanket of fog.

Fog

-Fly out of your hotel the next morning when you see that Kate Walsh is on Good Morning America, because really, how awesome would it be to catch a glimpse of an actress you love? When she’s jetted off for her next appearance on Live with Kelly, hang around outside the studio and watch the fabulous Robin Roberts celebrate her tenth anniversary with GMA.

Robin 1

Robin 2

Robin 3

-Walk for miles, despite the cold weather, because WHOOHOO IT’S NOT RAINING ANYMORE!

Broadway

Times Square

Rockefeller

Rockefeller 2

S&S

-Pose with Times Square in the background.

Window

-Go back to the theater the day after seeing the show so you can actually get a picture without rain splatters dotting the camera lens.

Newsies

We may have been rained upon, but we definitely didn’t allow ourselves to get rained out. Because NYC is always magical, always electrifying, always alive with energy. It is the kind of place you can belong to instantly. It’s the kind of place you can immerse yourself in, the kind of place you can travel to again and again (and again), the kind of place that makes you feel big and small at the same time. Have you ever been somewhere that evokes the same inspiration in you? Where was it?