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On the Subconscious

Anne Rie House selfie
Quick aside — me in front of Anne Rice’s house where she wrote The Witching Hour! October, 2016

Several months ago my mother and I were chatting about Anne Rice (whose series The Witching Hour we both adore), and she asked me this question: How, as a writer, do you possibly come up with such complicated worlds, characters, and plots?

I’m sure I gave some bland answer about working at it, or using character reference sheets, but I’ve been thinking more intensely lately about the creation process, especially as it comes to getting to know characters.

For context, at the time I started this blog post (the end of September) I was hard at work on Nameless drafting, after the last post’s announcement that I’d cut an unholy number of words from the manuscript. Many thousands of those words have made their way back in, so it’s not as drastic as I first thought, but the new chapters are filling me with all sorts of emotions. The over-arching one is wonder. I’m actually enjoying working on this book again, and creating new emotional plot beats that take this middle part to a new depth.

And yet I struggle. It’s an enjoyable struggle, and thus I’m fascinated by it. With each new chapter from the male character’s perspective, I end up outlining and ‘sketching’ about five different ways the scenes could go, trying to find the one plot line that feels the most exciting and true. I’ve found the abstract emotions; now I’m trying to translate them onto the page, and it’s just bloody difficult.

Why is that?

Why can one book, like The Cobworld, or Shotgun Girl, proceed at a lickety split pace, and if I need to tear it apart in edits afterward the pieces can mostly be reshuffled and re-stitched without significant damage to the overall emotional arc? But Nameless is definitely not a Team Shitty First Draft Novel. If I try to skip ahead, I lose the magic. Instead I have to build on what came before, molding emotions and editing scenes until they’re as right as I can make them for now. Then I can move on to the next thing.

It got me thinking about subconsciousness, and how it influences the building of a story.

We’ve all  heard some writers say they literally hear voices, or have a character show up and start speaking to them as if telepathically communicating. We all slip into this language, talking about our characters ‘complaining’ or saying how they want to go off in different directions than we planned.

How is this possible? How can what are entirely figments of our imagination get so far out of our control?

I think it comes down to this: Characters are a creation from our subconscious, but our conscious minds treat them like people we actually know. We know what they’d do or say about as well as we’d know the words or actions of a close friend or family member, in a given situation. You know what your best friend will find funny, what will make your significant other scrunch up their face, what gift will bring your parent the most joy. We don’t have telepathy, but we know them, by learning their patterns and habits over time. We can predict them.

Character creation works the same way. Our subconscious, trained to generate characters, plots, story emotions, etc., pushes forward someone for our conscious mind to meet. We get a sense of them, a vague sort of understanding of their energy, and we go from there. We pick names from baby books, we start fleshing out a family, and a mission, and a passion. We might try communing with our subconscious by filling out character interview questions. What’s your character’s favorite food? An automatic answer might pop up — blueberries!

Sometimes you can calculate a character, design them like building a house, and form them to the exact plot/theme you need. Perhaps some of the greats did that, but I don’t, and I think a lot of contemporary writers don’t either. We rely on our subconscious instead, teasing out details based on the mishmash stew of everything we’ve ever fed it, from real-life interactions, to the media we’ve consumed, to the thoughts we think.

When I struggle with a character’s actions, usually what I’m running up against is my conscious mind trying to make the character act in a way my subconscious says doesn’t ring true. This behavior doesn’t match the patterns I’ve been collecting and analyzing your whole life, is what my subconscious would say. So I’m gonna go ahead and make being creative really difficult for you until you figure out your mistake and listen to me.

So there you have it. Characters are amalgams of real people and their patterns of behavior, mixed up and repackaged. We both invented them and can increase our knowledge of them, conscious and subconscious minds passing information and instinct back and forth. Writers are both the creators and consumers of their media.

Now the only question remaining is where exactly ‘creativity’ comes from, but that’s a little out of my depth for now :-)

Since we last spoke I’ve switched back to working on Shotgun Girl, but it’s been slow going. I haven’t been feeling so great mentally here lately, probably due to the stress of working and going to school full time, plus writing, plus the other stresses and dramas of daily life. Today is the first day I feel like ‘myself’ in a few weeks, and I had a lovely session at the cafe this morning tearing apart and remaking the opening for Shotgun Girl. Wish me luck on continuing edits!

Here are some more pictures from when I took my sister to New Orleans at the end of October!

Miss Robicheaux's Academy where they filmed American Horror Story: Coven!
Miss Robicheaux’s Academy where they filmed American Horror Story: Coven!
Toms at Lafayette Cemetery. I highly recommend the Two Chicks Walking tour through the Garden District.
Toms at Lafayette Cemetery. I highly recommend the Two Chicks Walking tour through the Garden District.
Cemetery Wall
The inner wall of Lafayette Cemetery

PS: Got some cool media things happening in the next month or so that I can’t wait to share with you!

<3,

Savannah

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Nameless Check In

I have so many things to tell you after a blog silence of a few months (Las Vegas! Visiting Kat Zhang! Visiting Susan Dennard!) but today I want to talk about Nameless.

The last official update about Nameless was in January, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t end up working on it too long before switching over to Shotgun Girl. I finished the draft in June and completed my own edits in late July. I was supposed to turn my attention back to Nameless, but it was so hard.

I hated working on it. Like, hate-drove to the cafe, hate-set up my laptop, and hate-drafted for an hour each day. I assumed my problem was that I’d spent so long starting and stopping on this middle section that I was just bored of it. I decided to take up the rally cry of “Team Shitty First Draft!” once more and plow my way to the finish.

It did not go well.

You’re showing up, I told myself. You’ll start to feel better. Just finish the damn thing. And yeah, I was writing upwards of 1k per day, but the draft felt absolutely dead.

I was also re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, and encountered the story where she talks about a project she’d put to the side turning up dead when she went to work on it again. Liz feels that if you don’t dedicate to an idea, it has the right to leave you and seek out someone else to help midwife it into the world. I don’t know about the rights of ideas, but suddenly I got The Fear:

What if I’d let Nameless sit for too long? What if I’d spent too many years pushing it to the side when something easier (and often more exciting) came along, and now it had finally left me for good?

I didn’t want to give Nameless up. I owe too much to myself, the readers, and the story itself. But it was agony to work on it, and I knew if I was having this much trouble, any future readers were definitely going to hate it. I even got to the point where I was considering drastic plot rehauls (yes, even now that the middle plot is the most condensed and action-y that it’s ever been), up to the point of discarding the whole Rebellion idea entirely and turning the book into a general sort of romance with no bigger societal conflict.

sav-and-susanThen I visited Susan.

Susan and I used to be in LTWF, and then Pub Crawl together, and I hadn’t seen her since Summer, 2011. She graciously invited me out to spend the night with her at a cabin in the woods of Georgia.

We hiked, visited the adorable local town, and ate some amazing food. And the whole time, we were talking. It was an amazing experience hanging out with her. Susan helped me heal from an old wound and exorcise some emotional demons I’d been carrying around.

I didn’t say much about it online, but the previous week I’d experienced something I can only describe as depression, and the experience was terrifying. Out of nowhere as I was driving home my mood tanked, like I could physically feel my hormone levels drop, and they didn’t come back for several days. I’ve never felt anything like it before. It felt like something curled up in my chest and died. Nothing was interesting, I didn’t want to do anything, not even something mindless like watching TV. Chris could convince me to go out, and I kept going to work, kept doing homework, but in the back of my mind my thoughts were always racing: what if this doesn’t go away?

bridgeI told Chris about it obviously, and my family, and my boss. If it continued or maintained I would have gone to a therapist for help. Thankfully it lifted on its own, and in hindsight might have been triggered by a stressful family situation, on top of working full time, on top of taking four classes this semester, on top of receiving a challenging edit letter from my agent concerning Shotgun Girl. I’m so relieved to return to my normal buoyant mood, but it really taught me something about the reality of folks fighting depression. I could easily see how a long-term existence like that could wring absolutely all enjoyment out of life. If you’re struggling with depression you have my every sympathy. Don’t be afraid to reach out — it’s really not your fault, and if all those traditional remedies like Eat Right! Exercise! Sleep! can’t help fight it off, please do go see a professional. *sympathy hug*

Anyway, thankfully this depressive episode lifted the day before I went to see Susan, but it was still good to talk it out with someone, and catch up on everything from the past few years. Our conversations were so healing I’m convinced they must have shaken loose a psychic cap on some part of my brain, because as soon as I got home some very interesting things started happening with Nameless.

soozPart of our conversations revolved around the latest discussions in the YA community (especially on Twitter) concerning diversity. I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that there have been many wonderful hashtags, groups, and blogs created to promote and support more diverse stories in publishing. This of course leads to discussions on privilege, tokenism, and inclusion. It’s been very educational, and it made me think more critically about how I’m representing people of different colors, races, sexualities, and physical abilities in my books.

Kat Zhang and I had had some similar discussions when I visited her in July (We went to the Zoo, took pictures in the botanical gardens, saw the new Ghostbusters which was hilarious, and spent several wonderful hours writing in cafes). One of the concerns I shared with Kat was my growing awareness that one of the minor characters in Nameless might unintentionally be seen as queerbaiting. Kat gave me the very wise advice that it’s still okay for the character to act the way he does as long as I include other queer characters, so we can see the diverse situations in which characters like this exist. Sorry about the vagueness, trying not to spoil too much!

kat-and-savKat was right–queer people exist in real life and I have ample opportunity in this story to represent this fact. In fact, I have the really cool opportunity to explore how the society in Nameless would see queer people, and how they would treat queer women different from queer men.

But after the supremely liberating conversations with Susan, I returned home and my characters started whispering. That’s a metaphor, of course–I don’t literally hear characters talking. But new ideas kept cropping up, new situations and new emotional reactions I’d never imagined before. I must admit at first I shied away from them–if this new scene I was picturing really went the way it was writing itself in my head, then it meant undoing so much of the book as it was already written.

Wouldn’t it be better, the lazy part of me asked, just to continue this hateful slog so at least the book is done? How many times have I ‘started over’ on this middle part? How many months have I been stuck on the same scenes, unable to move forward into the new territory I’m so excited and afraid to explore?

But I listened. It’s an experiment, I told myself. I can write this scene any way I feel, and no one says I have to include it in the book.

You can guess what happens next.

That scene plugged into an emotional resonance I hadn’t felt since the first part of the book (which is perfect and glorious and OMGGGG; it’s just the middle I can’t stand). Shit, I said to myself, realizing what I’d done when the scene was complete. I didn’t know they felt this way.

Once again, I’d been shoehorning these characters into the plot, a lesson I am ashamed to say I already learned three and a half years ago. Once again, my main male character has a mind of his own, and the emotional arc I thought he was on is not the one he really wants to be on.

So I cut 30,000 words.

They’re safe in a separate document, but that’s the total of what I extracted from the manuscript, backing it up to a point where the emotional resonance started to fade. This is probably the most extreme step I’ve ever taken with my writing, but I know in my bones it’s the right thing. I must admit I was also bolstered by the knowledge that my idol Maggie Stiefvater did something similar this past June:

The past few nights have been a mad dream of brainstorming, and I found myself praying out loud, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” yesterday as I sketched out a scene unlike anything that had ever existed in the draft. It allowed me to condense two chapters (always a good thing), explain more plot, and stay true to my character’s new emotional journey.

I’m still glad I wrote that 30k of crap because it did help me figure out the general order of events, and I can recycle some conversation rhythms or descriptions. There’s still tons more work to be done (and unfortunately I can’t put off homework any longer, or responsibly stay up far too late a third night in a row), but I don’t care. It’s coming fast and furious, and the best part of all…

Nameless is living again :-)

And so is my excitement for it.

And so is a new way of being more inclusive, and doing greater justice for these characters and their complicated relationship.

I had to be old enough, and educated on diversity enough to let myself go to that place. Once again I find myself so grateful Nameless isn’t under contract (and neither am I!) because I have the time and space to do it justice, even if my growth, and thus its own, has taken place over twelve years.

(Holy crap. I’ve been working on this book twelve years this month).

I’ve also fallen in love with a new band, Cigarettes After Sex, and actually listening to their songs while writing, which is something I absolutely do not normally do. Nameless is really difficult to find songs for, so this is thrilling news!

Thinking of you with love,

Savannah

PS: In regards to the two predictions the psychic made about my family in the last post — one came true! The other is supposed to happen this month. I’ll let you know!

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The Psychic

“Let me just tune in here,” she said, and I waited for one silent second on the phone. “You have stomach pain,” she said.

“Yes,” I affirmed.

“You really need to give up caffeine.”

I gave an exaggerated sigh. “I knowwww. Ugh. Fine. I will.”

For my birthday, I bought myself a session with the same psychic I visited in Seattle in 2013. Obviously, as I am in Alabama and Darleen is many hundreds of miles away, we did the reading over the phone. The first thing she did (after a lovely prayer) was a body check in, where she highlighted areas on my body that were hurting, or that I was ignoring were hurting. The biggest takeaway was a truth I knew, and just needed someone to definitively say: My espresso habit is giving me more trouble than it’s worth.

cafeAnd the tough part is that it’s worth a lot. Espresso is a magic potion, y’all. Look, I work full time and I’m taking four classes. I exercise after work and cook and want to spend time with my husband (still weird to say). This means my lunch breaks are sacred writing time. I go to the cafe, I order espresso mixed with green tea and cream (if I drink regular coffee my stomach will hurt, but somehow ‘hiding’ the espresso in the tea won’t give me full on stomach cramps), and it supercharges me to get work done.

But I knew it wasn’t good for me. I’m happy to report in the last month I’ve managed to give up caffeine except for an occasional cup if I run out of decaffeinated green tea.

After the body check, Darleen moved on to astrology. I was very excited for this part because the last time I visited her she brought up some recent friend-trauma I’d experienced, and gave me some tools that quite literally changed my life. I was able to let go of the hurt and resentment by learning to ‘send love’ to people instead of wishing them ill.

affirmations

Forgiveness is not for the other person. It’s for ourselves. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that hatred is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. It only affects us, so why should we subject ourselves to that?

Thankfully my life is in a really great place right now, and I didn’t come to the table with any seeping wounds or self-delusional behavior (except for the espresso!) As a result there weren’t any huge life lessons or new tools to receive, but that wasn’t really the point of this call.

I wanted affirmation. Sure, I enjoyed the thrill of someone telling me things about my life they couldn’t possibly know, but I also wanted to hear I’m on the right path. Whether psychics are frauds or not, whether movements of distant stars can influence our lives at all, I wanted someone to tell me things are going to work out.

And they are.

Chris and I were married on a day and time that speaks well of longevity (not that I had any doubts). A project I’d launched recently left my hands under a bad moon, and wouldn’t be successful, but from my own Tarot card readings I knew that already. Darleen advised I’d be entering ‘the cave’ soon — a place of intense focus and dedication to working.

She was absolutely right. On Saturday 6/18 I wrote 11k and finished my latest book, code named Shotgun Girl.

Yes, you read that right.

Eleven.

THOUSAND.

Words.

And because I’m a sucker for charts and statistics, I tracked the entire process and have these nerdily wonderful charts to show you:

SG stats

As you can see, it was an absolute whirlwind. The project was conceived at the end of April in 2013. I planned and plotted for THREE YEARS, sometimes regurgitating fully-formed chapters in the middle of the book, sometimes spending weeks just brainstorming and fleshing out characters or plot. After all that time the story and characters were so real in my head.

I love this book and the characters (Ellie with her dour sensibility, Jackson with his smirking craziness) and wanted it to be perfect, so I kept putting off writing it. I didn’t want to start too early and take a wrong path and stall out, as is very common in my process. I wanted to get it right.

And then things leaped entirely out of control:

I couldn’t stop writing. Just the first paragraphs, I told myself. Only since I came up with the perfect sentence to start it. Oh, and this description I just thought of is amazeballs, too. Wow, this is really working. How about I just introduce the first conflict, and then I’ll stop?

I did not stop. I averaged 900 words per day, not counting the outlier of the last day. As we speak I’m in recovery mode, taking the week off to relax and recharge, then diving into edits this Saturday. Holy cow was Darleen right about ‘the cave!’

Something else she told me has stuck with me, and I’ve been picking it over for the past few weeks. “You have a big perfectionist streak,” she said.

I was surprised.

I’m not a perfectionist, was my first thought. Aren’t perfectionists the people who can’t let stuff go if it’s not to their exact specifications? Isn’t perfectionism a symptom of anxiety, of low self-esteem, of OCD, of neurosis? I see so many writers online boldly and courageously speaking up about their mental struggles, particularly with anxiety and depression. I am so lucky that I have a lot of spoons now, and don’t suffer from those things. I know it makes my life easier, and I recognize that privilege.

So I didn’t want to claim the title of ‘perfectionist.’ I’m great at letting things go! My INTJ brain understands that ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect’ and I constantly compromise in my work and personal life, accepting that we’ve gotten close enough to vision to execute. Otherwise you just stay stuck in prep mode, too afraid to send something out into the world.

I still don’t think ‘perfectionist’ is the exact right word for me. It has too many connotations with a certain type of behavior or action that doesn’t really describe me. I’m fine with not being personally perfect. My house is frequently a mess, I don’t wash clothes as often as I should, I know where everything is but that doesn’t mean its organized, and sometimes I go to the store in my pajamas because I can’t be bothered to put on pants.

believe in this picture:

d54bd84afb99cedc6bb12ee2feb42575

I believe in imperfect selfies. In making goofy faces and posting them. In letting stuff go, and not worrying about it, and being yourself.

But with writing… It’s a little different.

Perfection isn’t the right word. Obsession is.

I am obsessed with creating amazing writing. I’m constantly reaching, trying to ascend the heights my favorite authors are at. I want to give someone the gift those books gave me. And I want to have the wisdom, the insight, the knowledge to get there. This year I’ve been studying books on craft, and studying my favorite books to see how they’re formed. I constantly compare my work to the work of my heroes, and that is where my perfectionism lies.

I fixate on my weak points. Sometimes I flounder. I get frustrated, I get terrified that I’m just repeating the same literary tricks over and over. I second-guess myself. I wonder what critics would say. Ultimately I can remember that ‘done is better than good’ and call something finished, but I don’t believe it’s good enough.

Because I want this, more than anything. I want a writing life, and to make amazing, heart-stopping, gut-punching, plot-obsessing books that people can’t put down. I don’t want you to see my seams. I want you to experience magic. My magic. To care about the characters and emotions that make themselves in my head, as much as I do.

“Yeahhh,” Darleen said in her breathy, excited way. “You have a lot of publishing in your chart.” Apparently my birth date and time is just chock full of creation and publishing. “Focus on staying positive,” she told me. “You have to believe in the work you send out into the world.”

I guess I’m a little prone to a defeatist attitude, as well. Telling people I look forward to my rejection letters, because they always say nice things, and at least it proves I’m out there, making it happen.

Well here’s an entirely new thought: I am done with rejection, Universe. Do you hear me? My projects are worthy, and I am worthy, and it’s going to happen for me. Soon.

“You have a big heart,” Darleen also told me. “You have so much potential to help people, especially families.”

I hope she means the family of my writing community and readers, because that’s where my heart is. Writing is so entwined with my journey through life as a person. I love sharing the lessons I learn, and hope the sharing can help others grow in their personal journeys, too.

So that’s where I’m at. Darleen made a few other cool predictions, which have come true. An influx in finances (Chris got a new job!), a big party in August (we’re going to Las Vegas for DefCon!), and two other predictions related to family I’ll have to wait and see about.

If you’re interested in a session with a psychic, I highly recommend her. Treat yourself to the full hour!

Wishing you all the joy your life can stand right now!

<3,

Savannah

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New York, Portugal the Man, and Writing Update

Whew, it’s been a busy month! Concert, trip to NYC, my birthday, and a flurry of writing. Here’s a small update with the highlights:

Portugal the Man

Portugal the Man concert‘Portugal. The Man’ has become one of my absolute favorite bands over the past few years. I discovered them when looking for songs to fit my project code named: Shotgun Girl, and fell instantly in love. Several of their songs were absolutely instrumental in shaping the Shotgun Girl plot (as you can tell from the playlist). They are actually the only band I’ve turned Chris on to, instead of the other way around.

When they came to Nashville, only a two hour drive away from us, I knew Chris and I had to go.

We ended up with tickets to the pit, which was my first time ever being so close. I had some concerns about the standing or the noise, especially after I forgot my earplugs, but there was absolutely no problem.

You know, I really didn’t get music when I was younger. I found it distracting when I was trying to focus on other things, and it had the ability to affect my moods strongly, which gave me a sense of lack of both helplessness and hopelessness. I never used to understand why people would want to go to a concert or stand there with speakers blasting away at them. However, the older I get the more I find there’s music out there I actually enjoy. It was incredible to stand right there in front of the speakers, looking directly at the creators of the music I love, as they gave an amazing performance. No mood modification, no sense of being out of control. I liked it.

New York

A few months ago my great-uncle passed away after an absolutely amazing life of 90+ years. He survived World War II, was married to the love of his life for almost 70 years, and left behind a big, happy family that adored him and his buoyant spirit and sense of humor. The memorial and funeral were set for the same weekend after the Portugal concert, so I ended up staying the night in Nashville and flying out to NYC the next morning.

My littlest sister and I shared a hotel in Times Square the first night before spending the rest of the time with family. She’d been begging me for a New York trip ever since our other sister and I went to NY in 2011. Because of the short time period we focused on just being in the city and people-watching, but we did get up to some cool stuff.

Pictures under the cut!

Continue reading “New York, Portugal the Man, and Writing Update”

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We Offer the Medicine We Most Need

Andrea Scher is one of my absolute favorite bloggers, and I’ve been following her for over ten years now. I love her little updates and insights in my inbox, and this thought she had recently really struck me, and has been lingering ever since.

We offer the medicine we most need.

I have this theory.

The more I grow my emotional intelligence the more I notice that people’s traumas come out through what they’re passionate about. We spend time trying to right the wrongs that were done to us, even if they’re not the same wrongs. We try to add to the world what we were lacking at one point in time. We call out to others to see if there’s anyone like us out there, because it’s the nature of humanity to heal through connection.

It’s made me very conscious of what I try to give and grow externally, and what that says about what I need, and how I’m communicating those needs to others. It’s made me recognize why I feel the need to add a little bit of wisdom, especially about writing, to my blog, because for so long I muddled blind through both myself and my work.

My father told me a story once, about a man who was rescued after nearly starving to death after shipwrecking on an abandoned island. Even once he returned to civilization and got his old life back, even though he lived in middle class America and there was a wealth of food available around him, he was always hungry. He would go to all-you-can-eat restaurants and eat and eat and eat, then throw up in the bathroom, and eat and eat some more.

Even though his body was sated, he was still starving.

Let me give you another example. Chris and I watch a lot of reality documentaries in the background while we work or play computer games, and some of our favorites are Hoarders, My Strange Addiction, and Intervention. Over time we noticed a pattern… every single person suffering from mental illness or addiction had a huge trauma in their lives. Their compulsions or addictions were the best way they knew to cope with the pain that had brought them to their knees.

Maybe that’s not a surprise to you. But in a society where we blame people for their mental illnesses, and act like addiction is a bad choice that can be easily undone, it might come as a surprise to some. For hoarders the hurt tended to be abandonment or a sudden fall into poverty. For strange addicts the causes really varied, but the additions were inevitably some sort of method of coping with stress. For hard drug addicts, sexual abuse features in 90% of their shared back stories.

We treat addiction like a crime instead of an illness, and a cause of problems instead of a side effect. But one thing I read from a drug-crimes law activist, is that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety.

It’s connection.

Addicts aren’t addicts because they can’t stay sober. They’re addicts because the addiction is a side effect to the pain. And we exorcise pain through connection.

Taking that down from the very intense level we’ve just gone to, I think that all pain at every level requires connection to heal it. And then it goes back to what Andrea said: we offer the medicine we most need.

We hold our hands out and give what we would have loved to be given, because the act of someone taking it creates that connection we need. Therefore, you can tell what someone needs by what they’re offering. What they’re trying to connect with you about.

I’m still trying to vocalize what I need out of this blog. I suppose it’s what I always needed, what I was always searching for in school and couldn’t find, what I loved about reading author’s notes in the backs of books, and what I loved about being part of Let The Words Flow:

To not be alone. To be understood, especially as a writer, but also as a person a little different from other people.

To connect.

What do you need?

Some  happenings of late:

Continue reading “We Offer the Medicine We Most Need”

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A Wedding, and New Zealand!

Life has been very good — and very busy! — over the last few months. First up — my sister got married this weekend!

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The ceremony took place at my family’s stables, with reception in my parents’ backyard. It was lovely and filled with light, but best of all it was filled with family!

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Here’s me with some of my cousins (and an aunt!) up in Nashville two days before the wedding. Most of the family flew into Nashville the first night so we went up and stayed with them, and partied on Broadway. Let’s just say much fun was had by all, and leave it at that.

My family is big, and loud, and full of love (and partying!). One of my favorite parts of the wedding reception was dancing down a line of clapping relatives and getting goofy with it. The photographer was snapping away like mad so I should have some delightfully ridiculous photographs to show you eventually.

New Zealand

Long story short, my sister (not the one who got married) has an opportunity to live with and learn from an amazing horsewoman in New Zealand who has stayed with our family before, so I agreed to accompany my sister over to New Zealand and get her settled in for her two-month-long stay. We leave in two weeks!

This will be my first real out of the country experience (I went to Canada once as a kid, before they required passports, so that doesn’t really count) and I’m thrilled nearly almost unto death!

Any followers in New Zealand, or Sydney for that matter? My sister and I have a 13-hour layover in Sydney and we’re doing a whirlwind tour!

Writing

Except for an interlude for the wedding, writing is going very well! I’m working on edits for Cobworld and still brainstorming on Shotgun Girl, but it’s all taking form. I was hoping to be able to work on Shotgun Girl for NaNoWarmUp, but unfortunately with the edits and the traveling (!!!!!) I don’t think that will take place. But here’s the current playlist for Shotgun Girl if you’re curious!

Talk to you soon!

<3, Savannah

PS: Here’s a ‘before and after’ on my wedding hair! The hairspray/teasing combo gave me hard little hair nuggets that took two shampoos, a hair mask, and brushing in the shower to get it all out! Worth it though :)

wedding hair

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Chicago, Edits, and a New Story

Friends, please forgive me. I’m just not in a chatty mood lately. I suspect it has to do with the new story I’m incubating. So here’s my monthly update, short and sweet, and even some info about said new story:

Writing

I finished my second round of edits with THE COBWORLD, did a whirlwind edit on A CURSE OF ROSE AND SNOW, and now I’ve moved on to a new project whose code name is Shotgun Girl. (I have a real title for it, but I’m more comfortable just calling it Shotgun Girl for right now.)

You might remember that story from this post, where it was briefly mentioned as an idea I hadn’t quite developed yet. Well a few months ago some more ideas came to me, and I’ve been slowly working out a plot for the book [series?] ever since. In fact, I feel pretty committed to this project, but I’m trying that thing where I keep the details pretty locked down, so though I have a pinterest board I don’t feel ready to debut it yet.

The secrecy is one of the new methods I’m excited and slightly nervous to try. Other methods include brainstorming by post it note, and writing in third person instead of first.

When I can, I spend my weekend mornings and my lunch hours at a local Cafe 153, where I order a dirty chai with 1 shot of espresso (highly recommend!) and brainstorm in a fabulous new colorful notebook. It’s great fun to fill such a lovely notebook with dark topics such as wizard bones and death magic and damaged girls wielding shotguns.

Usually I look to Laini Taylor as my role model in writing, but for this project I’m looking to Maggie Stiefvater and Holly Black. This will also be my first time delving into urban fantasy. Wish me luck!

Chicago

I was graciously, generously invited on a trip to Chicago, where I had All the Fun and did All the Things.

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Lunch at the top of the Hancock Tower. Best crab cakes I ever had. The bathrooms had floor to ceiling windows, too!

I lived in a suburb near Chicago for the year leading up to my high school graduation, and returning was… odd. I didn’t particularly care for my time in Illinois, and so unlike visiting my home state of Washington being in Chicago made me feel slightly paranoid, as if I was in danger of being stuck there again.

Returning to the green hills of Alabama was a relief :-) I had so many stereotypes of Alabama in my head when we first moved here, and it’s been a wonderful surprise to find that I love it here so much. I can’t even say what’s so great about it; it’s just pleasant in so many different little ways, including the weather, the people, the food, and the fact that they actually have hills!

A particular highlight from the Chicago trip was getting to eat some new foods, including real ramen!

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Ramen at The Slurping Turtle!

Chris and I watched the David Chang reality show (called The Mind of a Chef – I highly recommend!) on Netflix and were fascinated by the episode on ramen, so trying authentic ramen in Chicago was a must. If you can call ramen in America ‘authentic’, which according to David Chang, you can’t.

In other food brags, I drank Guiness at an Irish pub and ate Irish sausage and blood pudding for the first time, both of which were fantastic. I’m suffering terrible cravings now that I’m in Alabama where we don’t have any of that stuff :(

In other favorite moments, I learned how to use a heat wand to curl my hair!

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Selfie in the hotel to show off my hair.

I also spent the trip severely appreciative of the fact that I’ve now lost around FORTY POUNDS, and was able to rock some awesome new dresses and shirts in sizes smaller than I had to wear just a few months ago. I’m gearing up for a Color Run at the end of September. Excited/nervous!

Oh man, we did so much stuff… saw the Blue Man Group, went to a Cubs game and ate real hotdogs, visited the Field Museum and the Art Institute, but I think my favorite was the very hurried morning at Lincoln Park Zoo. I wish we’d had more time, because I would have loved to spend all day there. I can’t get over how wonderful it was, and this from someone who grew up going to the fabulous Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. But did I mention the Lincoln Park Zoo is FREE? It’s funded almost entirely on donations. Just amazing.

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For example, I would have liked to have spent an hour or so just watching these little guys run around!

Other Life

After twelve years, six of which he spent with me, my wonderful boyfriend Chris is finally graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree :D

The graduation party is this Saturday, and I’d just like to say publicly how proud I am of Chris for his hard work and sacrifice, particularly over these last 2 years where he worked full time and attended school full time. He did it to make our life together better, and I can’t wait to celebrate his accomplishment this weekend with our friends and family. We will hopefully have more exciting news to come after that!

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My sister, Chris, and I at the family stables on July 4th

I hope your summer is going as smoothly and productively as mine!

<3, Savannah

PS: I’m getting ready for Halloween! Guesses as to what this costume’s for?

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