Week in Review 12/22/17

Currently Listening:
This week I discovered the band Transviolet, and have been jamming to Night Vision, Bruises, and The Hamptons. Night Vision gives me all the Death Becoming vibes and is a great song to write to.

when the night gets heavy / lay your heaven on me / sparks illuminate us / i’ll find you in the dark // when the sky is falling / i’ll be your atlas holding / the world on my shoulders / i’ll find you in the dark

Currently Drinking:
To be honest, this weekly segment makes me feel like an alcoholic. But in my defense, I do this for a living, okay?! This week I got into the Christmas spirit with some help from Ayala Brut Majeur, which I lovingly refer to as Bollinger’s baby sister. 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier, Ayala is considered the “sleeping beauty of champagne”. It’s minerally and chalky with honey and biscuit notes, and one of my favorite bubbles to sip. Go getcha some.

[CLU] christmas

#TBT to Basil and Paprika’s first Christmas in 2015 💕

Current Life Update:
Things are ramping up for Christmas! This week I finally broke out my Christmas decorations. We didn’t do a tree this year. Instead, we decorated our seven foot tall rubber plant. I pulled out a few sentimental ornaments and scattered them around the house, and I’m definitely getting into the Christmas spirit. I spent three hours on Sunday writing Christmas cards while drinking tea and listening to the Yule Log on tv. (Yeah, I’m that person. No shame in my Christmas game.) I’ve also had Christmas cards and packages arriving in the mail for the past two weeks, which is super exciting. As per usual, I have disguised all of Lucas’s gifts in mysteriously sized and shaped boxes to keep him from guessing. My mother taught me the art of Christmas deception from an early age. She used to write my name on all my brother’s gifts and vice versa to keep us guessing.
PS: If you’ve sent me a gift or letter, I’m saving them all for Christmas day.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? What are you most looking forward to as 2017 comes to a close?

Cheers,
Erin

2017 In Review

2017 was a hot mess, I think we can all agree. But when I look back on it, I don’t want to think about all the ways 2017 was a dumpster fire. I want to look back on all the great things that happened. So here’s my highlights:

The Top 10 of 2017:

  1. After 4 years of annoying the crap out of each other, Lucas and I are engaged! I almost ruined my own proposal by being overzealous about how many miles we could hike in one day, and almost gave up before getting to the top of Lost Lake Butte, which overlooks the beautiful Mt. Hood. Thankfully, we persevered and it was absolutely worth it. (Pro Tip: don’t do two hikes in one day involving steep inclines and declines totaling over six miles the day after touring wineries.)
  2. Tying into #1, we went to Oregon this year! We’ve been wanting to go for the past two years, and with our lease being up for renewal next fall, we knew we had to go and scope it out before considering moving there. And we absolutely fell in love. We only had five days there, but we spent them wisely. We spent an afternoon in the city, where I was in heaven at Powell’s Books. We spent a day in wine country at Domaine Serene and Bethel Heights, where the winemaker, Ben Casteel, gave us a vineyard tour and way too many barrel samples and we loved every minute of it. We spent a day hiking Multnomah Falls and Lost Lake Butte (see #1), with a pitstop in Hood River at Pfriem Brewery (hello, kumquat saison). For our last day we recovered from all our adventuring at Cannon Beach. And it goes unsaid but we ate and drank our faces off while we were there. This Southern girl was in heaven with all the barbecue and chicken & biscuits offered everywhere. Oregon stole our hearts and we cannot contain our excitement to soon call it home.
  3. I’m fortunate to work for one of the best wine distributors in Illinois, and every three years they do a company trip out to California. We visited over 20 wineries in Napa & Sonoma in five days, and it was absolutely a trip of a lifetime. Verticals of Cabernet at Chateau Montelena, single vineyard soil comparisons at Diamond Creek, blending competitions at Hess, meeting Steve Kistler and his daughters at Occidental and drinking the Pinot Noirs named after his daughters and having his daughters pour it for you?? Having your mind blown by Jason Jardine from Hanzell and drinking mags of 1996 Chardonnay, meeting Randy Dunn and previewing the 2014 vintage before its release, the views at Chappellet?? This is something I would have never been able to experience as an average consumer, and I’ll never forget the hospitality shown to us by so many wineries.
  4. Any year I get to escape the dreary midwest weather and melt in the Florida heat for a week is a good year. This year, we dragged two of Lucas’s friends down to Key Largo, my home away from home. I’ve been going there my entire life, my parents investing in a timeshare there when they first got married. It’s one of the only vacations I go on where I actually feel relaxed after coming back. It’s like a second home, and I need the annual visit to keep my mermaid gills wet. The weather wasn’t the best this year for scuba diving, but we still managed to make six great dives. We ate tons of food, ate even more ice cream from Mr. C’s, and I’m already itching to go back.
  5. Have you noticed a trend yet? All my most important items involve travel, my parents instilling wanderlust into my brother and I from a young age. And this year, I got to take Lucas back to where it all started, my hometown: Albany, Georgia. It’s small, and the tour of the town takes less than fifteen minutes, but nonetheless, it holds a special place in my heart. The coordinates tattooed on my right forearm will lead you right to my parent’s house, which my father designed and built right before I was born. (The vision of my incredibly pregnant mother overseeing construction and bossing around all the workers while my father was traveling for work is one of my favorites.) It’s the only home I’ve ever lived in, and I was glad to get to share it with Lucas. We went kayaking on the Flint River–Lucas getting an up-close-and-personal experience with it by falling in–attended my father’s dive shop social, ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant which I haven’t had in four years, and got to see my grandfather, grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins who I haven’t seen since graduating college.
  6. I attended my first live hockey game this year! Being a Georgia native, hockey isn’t a big deal down south. But ever since moving north, I’ve been dying to go. And I’ve been spoiled silly by getting to go twice this year–for free. Once, with friends of Lucas’s who had two extra tickets with killer seats. Second, with Lucas’s cousin who is friends with the Blackhawks’ CEO and got us catered box seats after someone else cancelled last minute. Talk about luck. I’ll likely never attend a game in such style ever again but it was nice to see how the other half lives for a night.
  7. I got to see my best friend Alisa twice. She went on an epic cross-country road trip and stopped through Chicago twice, and I got to be a bum on the couch with my best friend and drink coffee and drink wine and margaritas and be obnoxious with her TWICE, you guys. That’s a big deal. Outside of that, we continued our tradition of (somewhat) weekly FaceTime DrinkTime dates, which is really just a weekly catchup on everything happening in our lives and sending each other stupid memes and laughing our asses off. And she listens to me ramble about writing. Good times.
  8. On that note, 2017 was a great year for friendships. I became friends with Kristine, who I’ve followed on tumblr for years now, and she introduced me her friends: Solange, Brenna, and Claire, and it’s been so great to have more fandom friends. I’m no stranger to internet friendships. In fact, I highly recommend them. I met Karrie via LiveJournal and we hit a milestone of eleven years of friendship this year! Sadly, we procrastinated too long and didn’t get to have an epic long weekend together this year, but we’ve already got trips on the books for next year. The #bifflesquad is still going strong, and the group chat is as strong as ever, if not stronger due to all of us getting on SnapChat this year, thus allowing us to rant verbally whilst using cute filters, which is much more effective and entertaining than texting angrily. So bless up for that.
  9. I also got to see my mom twice this year! In addition to seeing her when I went home (#5), she was kind enough to fly all the way up to Chicago to house sit for Lucas & I while we were in Oregon. With a large dog and two cats, it’s hard for us to find pet sitters and boarding is expensive, so she did us a major favor. But I also think she just wanted some good ole peace and quiet for a week. She spoiled Freya silly with morning walks and afternoon trips to the dog park, and put the cats on a much-needed diet, ha! But mostly, I was just happy to see her before and after our trip, which was especially sweet since I got to see her in person just days after getting engaged.
  10. And lastly, because I can’t go a whole post without talking about it: Death Becoming. This book has a piece of my soul in it. I finished writing it in early 2017, and immediately started writing the sequel because I was so excited. But I quickly realized I wasn’t done with DB, and went back and began editing. I’ve never undertaken such serious edits for one of my projects before, and I think that’s what makes DB so special to me. I knew I was onto something from the first dream I had about it that set me on the path to writing this story, but even with all the frustrations and writer’s block and countless edits and subplot tweaking, I’m still in love with it. This world is so real to me and the characters never cease to surprise me. But I also cannot wait to be done with it and begin my publishing journey. 2017 may have been a roller coaster, but it will always go down as a huge year for me as a writer. And for that, I’m so grateful.

Thank you to everyone who helped me make it through 2017, and to everyone who brought love and light into it. I’m incredibly lucky in this life, not in material possessions, but in the true wealth: the quality of the people who surround me and create priceless experiences and moments that cannot be bought. Thank you for being you, because you help make me a better me.

Also thanks for reading my blog.

UP NEXT: My goals for 2018.

Week In Review 12/15/17

[CD] whiskey hot chocolate

(image credit: my dish is bomb)

Currently Drinking:

Repeat after me: Whiskey, Hot Chocolate, Caramel, and Vanilla Bean. Hello, winter! I was craving both whiskey and chocolate the other night, but alas I don’t keep sweets in the house. (But we always keep whiskey stocked, never fear.) So naturally, I did a Google and discovered that whiskey hot chocolate was, indeed, a thing.  I found this lovely article which has 17 different boozy hot chocolate recipes no matter your booze base preference. In true Erin fashion, I never follow a recipe. I prefer to read 2-3 different recipes and then wing it. (I referenced these: [1] [2] [3]) I didn’t have marshmallows and was too lazy to make whipped cream, so I just made a caramel sauce, mixed in some whiskey and vanilla beans, frothed some milk, added cocoa powder and bam! whiskey hot chocolate deliciousness. Trust me, you gotta get in on this.

Current Life Update:

So, if you know me, you know I love Harry Potter. This week, a new chapter was making the rounds. A new chapter? What?! A new chapter called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash, written by a predictive keyboard taught all seven books. It’s utter nonsense and I haven’t stopped laughing for the past few days. And in true Potter fandom fashion, there is already fan art for it. Thank Merlin. You can read the chapter here, and then immediately go here to see all of Megan Nicole Dong’s comics for it. You’re welcome.

Currently Listening:

I’m super late to the game but I’ve been jamming to LANY lately, particularly ILYSB. Other than that I’ve been in a major music funk lately. I just can’t figure out what I’m in the mood for. I think all this end of the year craziness is driving me up the wall so much I can’t even focus on music right now. I also listened to recordings of Leviosa’s Harry Potter and Young Adult Literature Convention from July 2016 just to keep my brain in writing mode. There are interviews with agents and authors, and they tackle topics like researching, editing, querying, and world building.

Currently Editing:

Still in the editing trenches with Death Becoming. I’ve edited all the way through my Big Finale™️ and due to the immense amount of changes made thus far and in previous edits, the last three chapters have to be scrapped and rewritten, but I’m excited to tackle it over the weekend. Alas, I have a free weekend and I’m going to spend it writing DB and finishing up my Christmas cards!

Cheers,
Erin

Week In Review 12/08/17

Current Life Update:
Remember Claire Laminen, whose book I read & posted about a few weeks back? Well, she’s not only an amazing author, but a dear friend of mine. She lives in Ventura with her husband, and I’m sure you’ve all heard of the fires currently ravaging California. They had enough of a heads up to get out safely, but their house was lost to the fire. You may or may not know Claire, but if you have the means, we’ve set up a youcaring for donations to help them restart and rebuild their life. They’re absolutely wonderful people, and I’m completely devastated that this has happened to them, especially so close to the holidays, Claire’s favorite time of the year. Also, there is a gofundme for the town of Ventura and helping the citizens rebuild after the fires, if you’d feel more comfortable donating to that. If you aren’t able to donate, please keep the people of California in your thoughts and prayers. I know this is a heavy way to start off the post, but sometimes life is heavy and this is an issue very near and dear to my heart. Mother Nature has not been kind in 2017, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to make it through unscathed should give thanks and lend a helping hand to those in need in whatever capacity we can.

Currently Editing:
I’m still deep in the trenches with my DB edits, but I’m happy to say I’m two-thirds of the way through my edits. I’ve hit a snag on a bit of foreshadowing, but I think I’ve solved it. Work (and life in general) has been crazy busy so I haven’t had time to sit down and work on it, but I’m excited to get back to it.

Currently Listening:
Lucas was fortunate enough to get free tickets to the WKQX The Nights We Stole Christmas concert last Friday, where we got to see Sir Sly, Cold War Kids, and Foster The People. So I’ve been jamming to FtP’s new album Sacred Hearts Club. All three bands were fantastic live, and Sir Sly has a serious showman for a lead singer.

Currently Drinking:
Now that it’s cold at last, I’ve been sipping on my fave: Bourbon. More specifically, an Old Fashioned. I finally got my hands on a jar of Copper & Kings Cocktail Cherries and they are delicious. Copper & Kings are primarily known for their brandy, but what you need to know about them is their love of music, and how they use subwoofers in their cellars to age their spirits via pulses from the jams they jam down there. And if that’s not cool as hell, I don’t know what is. (“Ah, yes, this brandy has subtle notes of DaRude’s Sandstorm, do you get that on the mid-palate as well, good sir?”)

Week In Review 11/24/17 & 12/01/17

Okay, I have to come clean. I meant to update last week, honest! But in the excitement of the holiday I completely forgot to sit down and queue anything up, so I’m going to combine highlights from the last two weeks, and boy were they fun.

Currently Reading/Writing EDITING:

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Overhauling these two categories this week as I took the plunge and printed out the behemoth that is Death Becoming. I’m *loosely* following Susan Dennard’s editing process I mentioned in my earlier post, and I’m loving it. Color coordination galore which pleases my OCD tendencies, and forcing myself to sit down and read DB from front to back has made me feel more in control of the manuscript than I’ve felt in a long time. Feels good, guys, feels real good.

Currently Listening:

HP Symphony

Fangirl Time: I attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s production of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone and I’ve had the score stuck in my head since last Saturday. It was absolutely phenomenal. I knew John Willams (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the list goes on…) was an amazing composer, but hearing it live took my breath away and gave me chills on numerous occasions. Who knew quidditch could be so intense? Also, whoever plays the xylophone must have thought Christmas had come early when they announced this project. The amount of times the iconic Harry Potter jingle is interwoven throughout the film kept them very busy, haha.

[CD] JG Bluegray

Currently Drinking:

Juan Gil Estates Orowines, 2014 BlueGray: Named for the color of the slate soils, this Priorat is 45% Garnacha, 30% Carinena, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12mo in French Oak. Medium body, firm tannins, lots of bright red fruit on the front followed by ample amounts of yummy autumnal spice and chew. I recommend anything from the Juan Gil portfolio, always. Go to your local Spanish wine section and look for anything with “gfe: gil family estates” on the back label and you’re in for a treat that overdelivers for the price.

Current Life Update:

The past two weeks have been full of family & friends, editing, and LOTS of jasmine tea. My obsession with tea is making its yearly revival, and it’s safe to say I’m roughly 50% tea at all times. Except for on Thanksgiving, when I was 50% mashed potatoes. No shame.

Thanks to Cyber Monday, all my holiday shopping is complete, and I’m excited to sit down with a mug of tea and write out my cards. I have a tendency to get way too into it and make numerous terrible puns that I know will elicit groans from the recipients, but hey, it’s me: What do you expect?

What is your favorite holiday tradition? What are you looking forward to the most in the coming weeks?

Week In Review 11/17/17

ATFS2

Currently Reading: Across the Formidable Sea by Claire Laminen

The death of her beloved father changes Laura Elliott’s life irrevocably. The spirited young American has barely begun to recover from her loss when her mother remarries – to a British earl. The two of them are whisked across the Atlantic to the green expanses of Coventry, where Laura finds herself adrift in high society, unable to fit in and lonelier than she’s ever been. Then, two new people enter her life and turn her world on its ear. Her stepfather’s new accountant, the handsome and accomplished Graham, shows her the kindness she has been missing since arriving in England. But Sarah Byrne, a modern young woman from the toughest part of Birmingham and youngest sister of its notorious crime family, has intentions of pulling Laura in an entirely different direction. As Laura manages her new friendships, she finds herself faced with the questions that plague twenty-year-olds in every era: who she is, what home means to her, and what the consequences of her choices will be.

I’ve been a bit exhausted with fantasy and all of its tropes as of late, so I picked up Across the Formidable Sea and it has been wildly refreshing. It’s the perfect lazy Sunday or rainy day read (or any day, really). Laminen does a wonderful job of creating a vibrant 1920s backdrop that you can’t help but dive into as her beautifully flawed main character, Laura, navigates the waters of both high society and the dangerously inviting world of Birmingham’s underbelly. Highly recommend for fans of Peaky Blinders and Pride & Prejudice.

Untitled-2


Currently Writing:
Death Becoming

In the home stretch of round two of my edits. I did a full re-write of my “finale” scene, and am currently working on polishing that, which has led to a series of subplot edits in order to make sure everything ties together nicely in the end. But not too nice, because I can’t let my characters off too easy… I can’t say much more than that without spoiling anything, but if you were one of the few to read the original manuscript, say goodbye to your darlings and strap in for an even wilder ride the second time around.

 

ringCurrent Life Update:

I haven’t been on here in ages, so guess I should start with the Big Things™️ first: As of August 11th, we’re engaged! We’re super excited and can’t wait to party it up with friends and family at the wedding… in 2019, haha. We’ve got big plans for 2018, and we’re pretty excited about the future in general, and I’m so lucky to have my rock by my side through it all.

Currently Listening:

I’ve been jamming to this Spotify playlist lately. It’s 16.5 hours of instrumental pop song covers, and it’s pure gold. I’ve always struggled to find a balance between orchestral playlists and modern music for writing playlists, and this is the perfect in-between.

Currently Drinking:

If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of cold weather. But I am a MASSIVE fan of the drinks that come with it. Whiskey? Hot toddies? Red wine? Stouts? Give me all the heavy sippers. Currently sipping: the stout that started it all for me, Oscar Blues Ten Fidy, so named because it’s 10.5%ABV, so sip slowly. But you’re not gonna want to rush through this chocolate, caramel, coffee goodness.

Currently Reading

ATFS

The death of her beloved father changes Laura Elliott’s life irrevocably. The spirited young American has barely begun to recover from her loss when her mother remarries – to a British earl. The two of them are whisked across the Atlantic to the green expanses of Coventry, where Laura finds herself adrift in high society, unable to fit in and lonelier than she’s ever been. Then, two new people enter her life and turn her world on its ear. Her stepfather’s new accountant, the handsome and accomplished Graham, shows her the kindness she has been missing since arriving in England. But Sarah Byrne, a modern young woman from the toughest part of Birmingham and youngest sister of its notorious crime family, has intentions of pulling Laura in an entirely different direction. As Laura manages her new friendships, she finds herself faced with the questions that plague twenty-year-olds in every era: who she is, what home means to her, and what the consequences of her choices will be.

Across the Formidable Sea by Claire Laminen

What In the World Did I Just Write

editing

It’s been 10 months since I wrote that elated post about completing Death Becoming. And boy, has it been an editing rollercoaster. Writing? I love. Editing? Not so much. I got about 30,000 words into writing my sequel before I forced myself to stop getting ahead of myself and get back to the nitty gritty of editing what will (hopefully) be my debut. (And without it, the sequel will be dead in the water.)

First, I secured myself a few betas readers via reddit. This has been one of hardest yet most rewarding parts of the editing process. I’ve always had friends read my writing, They’re the best cheerleaders you could ask for, and I couldn’t have gotten to the finish line without them. But… They’re completely biased. Which is where a good beta comes in. Nothing like having a complete stranger rip your baby to shreds, line by line, all while you smile and say thank you. The weirdest part is I enjoyed it. Brutal honesty that makes my story the best it can be? Yes, please!

After getting beta feedback, I went back and did almost a full rewrite of the manuscript. I allowed myself brief glances at scenes before settling in in front of the blank page once more and seeing what stuck and what superfluous storylines went by the wayside. Sounds like a lot of work (it was) but just making line edits felt like I was creating Frankenstein’s monster and somewhere along the way the heart of the story got lost. And in the end, I’m glad I did it.

Now, I didn’t go to school for this, so I’m basically flying by the seat of my pants at all times and hoping no one notices. Every book’s editing process is different, and every writer’s process is different, but I’d love to hear what others are doing. I’ve done JK Rowling’s plot point flow chart and I’ve made countless lists. For my next run through, I’m thinking about tackling Susan Dennard’s hefty, yet beautifully color coded, revision system. Has anyone tried it? Any other methods you find useful?

Four Novels, Four Years

Last night, February 6, 2017, at approximately 11:15PM, I finished my fourth novel, Death Becoming. I can’t fully describe the feeling that accompanies writing the final words of your novel, this digital amassing of letters and words that formed ideas that created characters and plots that often feel more real to you than the earth around you, all accumulating into this world that exists only inside your own brain, spilling out of you onto digital pages in sluggish sentences or unstoppable surges.

I’ve come to describe it as a “writer’s high”, where your hands are shaking with the words itching to burst forth from your fingertips, your vision going blurry at the edges as you tunnel vision into your fictional world. (Though perhaps that’s just my terrible eyesight.)

I had that high as I completely scrapped the final scene of my novel, one that had been sitting unfinished for nearly a month, haunting me like an old ghost. The road ahead is full of editing, rewriting, and the painful process of scrapping scenes near and dear to my heart, but not the plot. But it’s done. It’s all written down.

As “done” as I can feel, considering it’s only the first book in the series. But hey, baby steps. The dreaded final scene is done, and the stage is set for book two. Today, I celebrate.

What do you do when you find yourself stuck on a scene? How do you beat writer’s block? Do you scrap it and start over? Do you force yourself forward, one painstaking word at a time-half of which you delete as you go? Do you have a pre-writing ritual that gets the inspiration flowing? Let’s chat.

writers-block

Currently Reading

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“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories from your life–not someone else’s life–water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. That is the work. The only work.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estés