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Lists are My Answer to Everything … and Also Some Stuff About Revision

March 22, 2013

I make lists. A lot. My entire life is full of lists. Almost every notebook I own has a To Do list of some sort partially crossed off.

Because of this habit, people think I am terribly organized and productive. And I probably am but not as productive as I’d like to be. I think it is healthy to always want to improve, work harder and work smarter. Hence, the obsession with lists. As someone smart once said, even the dullest pencil is sharper than the sharpest mind. Paper doesn’t forget but your brain does.

Just to give you an idea, here are the titles of some of the lists I have right now:

  • The Neverending To Do
  • Mermaid Novel Revisions
  • Exercise Routine
  • Cleaning Like Cinderella
  • To Do Today

All my lists are currently stored and organized on my phone using ToDoist, a fantabulous app that keeps you on track of all your many goals and due dates. I have a just one frustration with it; once an item is checked as Complete, it disappears with no trace that it ever existed and I think being able to measure progress is super important. I’m going to try out Evernote sometime in the next few weeks. I’ve heard great things.

Writing a list is my go-to whenever I am feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead of me, whether it is cleaning the house, organizing my time at work or, in my current case, revising my novel.

I didn’t really announce it on this blog but I finished the first draft of my Japanese mermaid novel at the beginning of February. I even started writing a blog post but halfway through I froze. I have never revised any of my novels. I have written them, printed a copy on CreateSpace and proudly displayed them on my shelf. I haven’t actually read any of them after finishing. Quite frankly I’m too scared. My current self is a much better writer than my old self and my old self wrote those books. Shocker.
So as per usual when I don’t know where to start, I researched a bit and made a list. And here it is for all to see!

  •  Answer open ended questions for all main characters (used Jennifer Nielsen’s Character Questions list):
    • Kin
    • Eri
    • Daichi
    • Tomoyo
  • Plot our all character arc(s) for main characters (used Dan Well’s 7 Point Plot Structure for this):
    • Kin – 3 arc
    • Eri – 1 arc
    • Daichi – 1 arc
    • Tomoyo – 1 arc
  • Brainstorm mermaid culture
    • Write a few scenes from Eri’s past to flesh out
    • Brainstorm and write scenes to better explain Magical Breath
    • Brainstorm other sea creatures and how they interact with mermaids, dragon king, etc.
  •   Choose either Japan or made-up fantasy world (chose to make it up)
    • Research more every day things (houses, food, clothing, etc.)
    • Name the world, gods, towns, people, etc.
    • Map the world, places in next book, etc.
  • Re-Outline
    • Re-read the first draft (gulp!) and take notes of …
      • things to explain better
      • missing scenes
      • what is/isn’t working
      • consistency errors
    • Write outline and sort into complete scenes
      • Make sure each scene has an arc and works to move the plot forward
      • Sort scenes into chapters and write one paragraph description of each chapter
    • Create a scene map (see Rachel Aaron’s blog)
    • Create a timeline (see Rachel Aaron’s blog)
    • Draw a map
    • And finally … create a problem To Do list (again, see Rachel Aaron’s blog)
  • Start the rewrite (double gulp!)

*** After talking to my writing group I totally realized I forgot to do character development and plot development for the “bad guy.” Oops … my list just got longer***So my question to you dear reader is this. Does this list seem daunting to you or inspiring? What do you make lists of? And do you have any advice for the first-time re-drafter? I love hearing from you (yes you).

What’s on the needles: another GAP-tastic cowl in grey-white new wool
What’s new on the iPhone: ZZ Ward over and over and over again. I cannot get enough of this girl’s voice!
What color are my nails: Sinful Colors “Matte Savage”

Scarf Swapping or A Funny Thing Happened in Line at the Book Signing

March 6, 2013

I knit. A lot. I usually knit a majority of my Christmas presents and can be found knitting at almost every writing event I attend. I love to knit at writing conferences especially because then I remember the event every time I wear said knitted item. I remember the things I learned, the cool author(s) I met and my yarn is infused with invisible threads of inspiration and good feelings all around. I can wrap myself up in inspiration. How cool is that?

Valentine’s weekend was my usual trip to LTUE (see my guest post about it here) and I started to knit The GAP-tastic Cowl. I couldn’t find the yarn I wanted in stores so I had to order it online. I was waiting for that yarn for two weeks before I got it (beautiful silver grey). I also had to buy new needles to knit it on (size 13 circulars, something I thought I would never need). I was stoked to finish it and wear it before the weather got too warm.

I no longer have said scarf. I swapped it with Tahereh Mafi for her very yellow scarf. I love to give away my knitting. Usually I don’t get anything back so this was a bonus! And I think both of us are very pleased <3
I hadn’t even heard about the book signing until the day before. Not sure how that happened, as I’m usually the first to know. And I felt like such a fraud going to a book signing without having read any books by either author . Aware of them, yes but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. This happens all the time, as my To Read list is over 400 books now on (I am now reading Shatter Me and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and both are fab!)

But it is such a wonderful experience to fall in love with an author as a person before reading their work. That way you don’t have any pre-conceived image of them as a person. And I’m not yet intimidated by them because I haven’t read their books (again, reading them now and I would be so very intimidated if I met them again because they are both such great writers!)

Both Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs were completely charming and funny. At one point, Ransom asked me what I was knitting as I was sitting on the front row feverishly casting-off on my glorious scarf. I held it up for everyone to see which is a strange occurrence, even for me. And as I cast off the last stitch, I put my new scarf on so they both could see it in all its glory. Truth be told, anything you knit in the round looks better off the needles, trust me. Both were astounded that I had finished it before their very eyes. Really, it’s not that impressive one knitter to another but I enjoyed the spotlight anyway.

Tahereh loved it so I took it off and offered it to her. So she took off her scarf and gave it to me. Isn’t she the sweetest? We both get a new scarf, both infused with book lover energy. Enjoy it Tahereh. I have been enjoying your scarf very much. Speaking of which, I hope you don’t mind but I shortened it into an infinity scarf as well and made boot cuffs out of the left over yarn. Pictures to come <3 I’ve been known to buy sweaters at the local thrift store and tear them apart for the yarn so this doesn’t seem too sacrilegious to me

So I have decided this is my new thing. I will bring knitted items to book signings and offer them to authors, in hopes that they will remember me kindly when I get published (you know it’s gonna happen!). So far my knitting has been given to Libba Bray, Shannon Hale and now Tahereh Mafi. I wonder how widely I can distribute my knitted goods … I am going to need to knit more chunky items. They knit up quite a bit quicker :)

Guest Post for Breathing Fiction

February 23, 2013

My good friend Marisa Di Placido asked me to write a guest post for her about Life, the Universe and Everything, a local science fiction and fantasy convention I have been attending for years. I wasn’t sure exactly what to write but here is a snippet of what came out.

New Directions in Old Places

I’ve been going to LTUE (Life, the Universe and Everything) forever and this year I was not excited. Last year I vowed I would not attend again. I was critical and annoyed at the panels, many of which are repeated every year. I had heard it all before. Don’t write a love triangle. Write what you love, not what’s popular. Don’t stalk editors in the bathroom. What not to put in your query letter. Wait thirty days, ninety days, a year before you revise anything. Never give up.

… It is a truth universally acknowledged that whining drowns out sense.

Read the rest on her blog Breathing Fiction.

Paleo Banana Pancakes

February 19, 2013

Have you seen this e-card? It’s about to come true!pancake-eecard2

I was perusing Pinterest the other day and saw this recipe for paleo pancakes. Now, I am not on the paleo diet (I could never give up milk and bread products!) but I love regular pancakes with banana slices baked in. So I figured I’d give this a shot. I had to wait until I had a banana that was slightly brown as well. So behold! The recipe!
banana1 Two eggs and a banana. Look, they’re smiling at you. Super simple, right? I am skeptical but I persevere. After mushing things up for a bit I thought it was too runny (maybe I needed a bigger banana) so since I am not really on the paleo diet, I added about 2 tablespoons of flour, just to thicken it a bit. [Now that I have finished, I probably didn’t need the flour but it didn’t hurt either] Still a bit chunky but it’s never going to be perfectly smooth unless you put it through a food processor, which I don’t have.

Here are the pancakes cooking. I’m not sure if it was just me having trouble with the stove (I have yet to cook pancakes in this apartment), but the center of the pancake was still runny when the outsides were cooked perfectly. So they splashed a bit when I flipped them. Oh well. And my pan was a bit hot so the butter burned a little. They still turned out fine. And my batter made three pancakes exactly, which is perfect for the single cooking girl.

The finished product! Complete with maple syrup and a dollop of butter, just like in the cartoons.banana4

Hesitant first bite: YUM! I ate the entire stack in about one minute flat. Given, I already liked banana slices in my regular pancakes so I was bound to like these. The texture is more like German Pancakes, not surprising with eggs as the main ingredientConclusion? I will always make pancakes this way from now on! Bananas all the way!

2013: The Brave New Year

January 8, 2013

Happy New YearAnyone who knows me at all knows that I love New Year Resolutions. Generally, I make a detailed road map, split into categories, specific goals and their substeps, ranging up to three pages of bullet points and enthusiasm. And most years, I get about a third of those goals met. Which hasn’t bothered me until this last year. I met hardly any of my goals. Especially the writing goals.

2012 was a rough year. I moved three times in a five month period. I’ve had to make new friends and come to terms with old friendships that actually died long ago only no one told me. I got a new job and two new roommates. I wrote less than I ever have in a single year since taking writing seriously. Not all of these things are inherently awful but it was just a long, tiresome year and I found myself snacking and watching various series on Netflix from beginning to end rather than working on anything worthwhile.

This bothered me. A lot. I learned long ago that the road to happiness is hard work. So this year, rather than make a huge list I will never live up to, I am going to make a very few simple goals that I will reevaluate, modify or recharge at the beginning of each month. Right now, I have four goals: read the entire Book of Mormon, write 750 words daily, figure out my sleep problems, and wake up at 6:30 every morning.

As of now, I have yet to ever get up at 6:30 or read The Book of Mormon. I began my sleep quest yesterday. And I have written on six out of eight days so far (which is not bad for me).

As far as the writing is concerned, I have a new favorite website: I can’t remember where I first heard about this website but I liked it because it gives you points and bird-related badges depending on how much you write. Basically, the more days you write consecutively, the more points you get, the more badges you get. If you write for 500 days in a row (I can’t even imagine doing this) you get the Space Bird Badge!

Being the nerd that I am, points and badges remind me of video games and I find it very encouraging, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t-Break-The-Chain idea. Also, it keeps statistics for you of how long it took you to write, how many minutes of that time you were actually writing, how many words you wrote, etc. It even saves a .txt file of your words (which means yet another place to get your work back from when your computer crashes) and saves what you’ve written every ten seconds or so. Well worth a try as it’s free.

I also have a theme this year. I didn’t intend to have one but quite a few things stuck out to me all at once:

  • I recieved a copy of Pixar’s Brave for Christmas
  • I listened to Josh Groban’s new song, Brave
  • Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s Eve wish “… in the new world to come, let us be brave”
  • “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” A.A. Milne   among other numerous quotes about being brave that seemed to pop up out of nowhere (i.e. Pinterest)

Do you see the theme? Apparently the universe and my heart are telling me I need to be brave this year. Which makes me want to whimper under my bed because if I need to be brave this year, not last year, what on earth is going to happen this year?

Perhaps nothing at all extraordinary will occur. But a girl can hope. Bring it on world.

Meeting Shannon Hale Makes You Feel Like A Princess

August 22, 2012

It really does. She is the most funny, charming, personable author. She really wants to get to know you. And she cries in public, just like I do! I’ve been lucky enough to meet her on multiple occasions since we live in the same state. In fact, she was the first author I ever met in person. She came to my local library when she was first starting out and had just published The Goose Girl. I remember being completely charmed, inspired and encouraged by this red-headed woman with her one book. And now she has so many more.

Yesterday was my most recent encounter. Princess Academy: Palace of Stone was released yesterday and I was so excited as Princess Academy was one of my favorites. And Shannon brought her longtime editor Victoria Wells Arms with her. I had never met such a big editor before (at least not in real conversation) so I was determined to make this night happen for me.
And it did.




Shannon remembered me, to my complete shock, from a signing of hers I attended a few months ago. I assumed there must have been hundreds, no, thousands(!) who came to that signing. Apparently not. We chatted and smiled and laughed and I got my book signed. I nearly squeaked with happiness when I read the inscription:

For Heather, who is so lovely
& genuine
Shannon Hale


It only took me until about 1 am to fall asleep. No big deal. But I also got to speak with her editor for a few precious minutes, who was completely approachable and charming. I even got her business card. Maybe one day we will work together once I get my act together and finish writing my freaking novel. But that’s another story.

I’ve only read the first two chapters of Princess Academy: Palace of Stone but I’m already excited for what’s going to happen. I’m back on Mount Eskel. Don’t bother me. I’m reading.

The Great Garden Saturation: Days 10-22

June 27, 2012

Ugh. Double ugh. Triple ugh!

I may not be killing this garden but it is killing me. You’d think there would be no drama involved, what with the yard being nothing more than a few plants and rabbits. Think again!

A flower that wasn’t there before

Drama #1: The Dead Bunny Fiasco

We have two rabbits. The Big Bun and Nike. We let them out to run on a rotating schedule as they fight when they are out together. It was Nike’s turn to be put back in his cage. Only I couldn’t find him. I hadn’t seen him for two days. It had been in the high 90’s and his water had not been drunk.

I knew he was dead.

The problem with this is that they are my brother Spencer’s rabbits and he is coming home from his mission in two weeks. TWO WEEKS! And the rabbit died on my watch. I was completely distraught.

Per the advice of my parents, I let the Big Bun out to see if he could find the body for me. Low and behold! Nike was out on the lawn, happy as can be. I still have no idea where he was hiding. And they weren’t fighting at all so I decided to let them have a day out together. After all, we haven’t let them out together in years. Maybe they’re too old to fight.

I was right. They are too old to fight. When I got home that night, they were having boy bunny sex. Which is super awkward to watch. And I kept trying to pick up whichever one was on top and they would hop a few feet away and keep going! I was so embarrassed. Finally, I had to poke Big Bun with a stick so he hopped away. Nike was too exhausted from the day’s activities to fight and let me put him back in his cage.

Also, the Big Bun isn’t drinking from the water dish either now that he’s outside. Where are they getting water?? I doubt I’ll ever know.

Drama #2: The Carrot Conundrum


Carrots BEFORE murder


The carrots were growing and it was time to thin them out. I called my sister to ask for advice as I had no idea what to do. Basically, you want to cut off the stems rather than pull out the roots as this distrubs the few carrots you leave in the ground. You want to have one carrot every three inches.

So I murdered about two hundred carrot babies.

It was so sad! I pulled a few of the

stragglers out by the roots, just to look at them. They have a long white root that looks more like a bean sprout than a carrot. They weren’t even orange yet. And then I had to face that fact that this baby carrot will never reach it’s


potential. Who am I to decide which carrots live or die? How do you know which white carrot root has the most potential to be the best carrot? You can’t! That’s how!

Carrots AFTER Murder


Note: I’ve been told I’m being too dramatic about this but I can’t help likening it to judging a book by it’s cover or possibly how my tiny brain thinks the slush pile at a publishing house works. The horror! I don’t want to be judged the way I judged these carrots! How do you know a lovely, lush green top will yield a delicious carrot? Ugh!

So I just have to blindly pick and choose one carrot for every three inches of space and pray for forgiveness from the carrot guardians. The rabbits loved the murder though. They ate all the carrot tops in two minutes flat. Greedy buggers.

Drama #3: The Problem with Heat

So far out of the twenty-two days I’ve been watering said yard it has been in the mid 90’s. This meant that I had to reset the sprinkler system. Should be easy enough. My mom even left me a sheet of her water schedule for reference. So I go outside to the panel and read the handy and helpful instruction sheet next to the box.

I can’t find the very first button it references.

I begin to panic. Why doesn’t the START TIME button exist? It can’t have changed. This thing is ancient. Then I realize I don’t even need that button so I thankfully skip to the next step. Push the SET switch down to PROG. Turn on the days that were turned off (TUE, THUR, SAT). Woo hoo! I did it! I’m fairly sure I walked away with a confident swagger in my step.

And then the lawn starts to die. What did I do? It finally hit 100 degrees for the first time this summer so maybe I need to increase how long the sprinklers water every night? What? WHAT?

And then I remembered. I forgot to put the PROG switch back to SET. So the sprinklers weren’t ever set to go again. This is where I hit my forehead repeatedly.



Drama #4: The Flighty Bird Ejection

Home of the evil Bird

There is a bird. It lives in this bird house. Isn’t it cute?

This bird is evil.

When I’m watering the yard, I can’t heard much since water droplets hitting leaves makes a lot of noise. Inevitably, this bird will decide to “get spooked” by me watering and fly out of the birdhouse when I am least expecting it, thereby giving me a heart attack. He also shrieks very loudly when he does this.

Every time I come out in the yard now, I make sure to walk past the birdhouse a couple of times, very loudly, before I start watering. Does the bird get spooked and leave then? NO. He waits until I have decided that he must not be home before giving a cry of attack and shooting out of his home into the sky.

I’m about ready to buy a bebe gun and shoot the thing.

If there’s anything I learned from this experience, it is that a few silent plants can be more drama than high school girls* ever were.

*Your experience of high school girls may differ
from this blogger, making this statement either
ludicrous or naive. The writer of this blog is not
responsible for your experiences with high school
girls and states for the record that she hated high
school just as much as you did. Probably more.
Don't argue. She really won't listen.

The Great Garden Saturation: Days 4-9

June 14, 2012

So a few things have started to die. You will notice a lack of pictures.

There are two spots of daisies in the backyard. I’ve watered them the same amount yet one patch has beautiful daisies that taunt you to make daisy chains while the others are scraggly and without petals. What gives? I’m not convinced a certain purple flower in it’s own pot was ever alive. It is perpetually shriveled.

Half the roses seem to be dead or dying. All the blooms are yellow and brown around the edges and a lot have no petals left at all. I accidentally sprayed one of the more dead-looking blooms with the blast of water and all the petals fell off. I hope I didn’t break the circle of life. They’re supposed to fall off anyway. Maybe it’s just time for the roses to say goodbye to summer (que The Last Rose of Summer as sung by Celtic Women). And I forgot to water the indoor plants on day 7 and instead watered them on day 9 so they are rather yellow. :S

There are a few pots which are full of dirt that my mom told me had seeds in them. I’m beginning to wonder. Do seeds need time to incubate, like a caterpillar in a cocoon? How long does it take for a few sprouts to show? I don’t even know what’s in them. Maybe I washed away the seeds. I’m not very good at watering gently. I seem to move a good amount of top soil (vocab word from middle school finally came in handy) when I water.

And another thing. I feel so wasteful every time I water. I live in a desert. While I am grateful we have water, this seems like such a waste. Can’t we just fill the yard with tough, indigenous plants that don’t need so much water and attention? Or am I being selfish rather than green? The hobbit gene must have been given to my sister and passed me by entirely.

Day 4: Mowing Day. Picked up sticks from the windstorm in the back and mowed the front. Not as hard as I thought but why didn’t anyone warn me to wear gloves? I could hardly knit because my hands were so sore! I was so tired after mowing the front lawn that I decided to do the back later. Which I forgot to do.

Days 5-8: I think I only watered the yard twice. It’s really hard to motivate myself to do it when I get home late. I mean, isn’t a goodbye party with your writing group more important than some green stuff? And the yard isn’t crispy. Oh and on day 8 I mowed the back lawn for the first time. Much trickier since I have to mow around the trampoline and the tree house/swing set/slide thing. When I moved the trampoline I realized the grass underneath must not have been mowed in a long time as it was so, well, long.

Day 9: Watered the indoor plants. Somehow the shamrocks are doing marvelously well. Maybe they don’t like to be overwatered? And the slug bait has finally disappeared so I let out Nike (the little rabbit). He did the happy hoppy dance as soon as he touched the ground then promptly hopped into the myrtle and out of site.

I’ve picked strawberries twice. The beans are shooting up by inches. I’m beginning to get nervous about thinning the carrots. I just don’t know when to do it. How do I know without pulling them up? What if I’m too early? This is why I support professional farmers by buying my fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market. They know the secrets and I don’t. And I’m fine keeping it that way.

As the British and pop-culture savvy would say, keep calm and carry on.

The Great Garden Saturation: Days 1-3

June 8, 2012

Nothing is dead!


Day 1: Watered at 10pm because that’s when I got home from the worst movie ever i.e. Snow White and the Huntsman. Blog post to follow.

Day 2: Got home at 10:30 pm and was too tired to water. Oops. I’m beginning to see a pattern here …

20120608-224319.jpgDay 3: I picked strawberries in the morning. It reminded me of when I was a kid and would put on a dress to pick the strawberries so I was like Sleeping Beauty. The ladies at work were very appreciative of the tiny berries. I’ve always had strawberries growing in the back yard so I think I take it for granted.

Watered at 8:30 pm. A normal time! The wind was blowing so hard that the water kept spraying back at me so I was nearly as wet as the plants when I finished.

I also watered all the indoor plants. I’m wondering if my mom remembered to water them before she left because they look super droopy. Two of the indoor plants are shamrocks and they are hard to keep alive so keep your finger’s crossed for me.

And finally, the rabbits are sad. Every time I feed them they look up at me, begging to be let out. Maybe tomorrow after I mow the lawn. The snail bait is almost gone so they won’t poison themselves. And I gave them each a frozen two-liter bottle to snuggle against since today was so hot. So maybe they don’t totally hate me.

And tomorrow is Saturday. My first time mowing the lawn ever. I’ll let you know how it goes if I have the energy to write.

The Great Garden Saturation: A Beginning

June 4, 2012

It’s ten-thirty at night as I write this and I am terrified of the next twenty five days. My family is going to Europe and I get the house to myself. With a catch. I will be taking care of my mother’s other child, the one she keeps underneath her green thumb. Her garden and her lawn. Her herbs and her vegetables. The strawberries and the rabbits.

I don’t remember how long my last fish lived but isn’t that the point? My fish died. I’ve never kept a plant alive except for a lima bean in a wet paper towel in the second grade. Tonight my mom walked me around, showing me how to reset the sprinkler system should the power go out or the weather remain in the high 90’s for more than 2 days. Which plants don’t get enough water from the sprinklers. How to keep the rabbits out of her plants that have slug bait sprinkled around them. How to start the lawn mower. The terrifying lawn mower.

Yes, it’s true. I have never mowed a lawn in my life. I was hoping to never have to. Isn’t it one of those unnecessary skills like how to program your VCR? It’s nice to know but not necessary. You see, there were always my parents and then my three brothers to do that. I appreciated that they did it. I guess my appreciation wasn’t wished at them hard enough because now it’s my turn.

I told my mom that I’m going to kill all her plants and she’s going to hate me when she gets back. She says I’ll be fine and maybe I’ll even learn to like it. And isn’t it fun, puttering around the yard, relaxing, taking care of things in the cool evening? My mother wishes she was a hobbit and often does the watering barefoot. And I really am terrified.

Because I don’t really want to sacrifice thirty minutes a day, plus an extra forty-five on Saturdays to water plants in a desert. I barely have time to exercise and write in the same day, let alone take care of the green stuff.

But my mom loves her yard and I love her so I am going to do my best to keep it green for her. The carrots will need to be thinned, the strawberries picked, the green beans wound, the lawn mowed (the dreaded lawn mowed!). And who knows? Maybe I will learn to enjoy it. I never pictured myself taking care of a garden until I was done with everything else I wanted to do. So I really wasn’t planning on this until I was eighty or eighty five. Give or take.

Wednesday June 6th marks the beginning of The Great Garden Saturation. Wish me luck.