currently writing 04.19.18

!CW

Slowly but surely, DB’s sequel is now at 24,000 words! I had to rewrite a scene three times to finally get the right vibe and pacing, so hopefully, I can pick back up the pace again. The sequel has evolved a lot in this rewrite, and the subplots are much stronger for it, but I’m excited to get back to the core of the action in the coming scenes.

It’s Thursday, which means #ThursdayAesthetic!! aka my favorite writing twitter hashtag. This week’s theme was ‘antagonist’ to juxtapose last week’s theme of ‘protagonist’. I struggled with this one as I didn’t want to give away who my villain was, so I went with a broader theme, that of Alba vs. the gods. So, here’s an aesthetic for the gods, who are far too extravagant and very fond of golden decor, secrets, and getting away with murder.

[AES] TA VILLAIN CHALLENGE

!CW

DB’s sequel is currently at 20,000 words!! I actually had two full days off in a row and I wrote 12,500 words this past weekend, which is insane. I have a feeling this sequel is going to be a lot longer than anticipated, but it’s still the first draft. Either way, I’m excited! Anyways, #ThursdayAesthetic is now officially a *thing* on Twitter. This week’s theme was ‘Protagonist’, so here’s my Alba aesthetic.

[AES] TA MC CHALLENGE

!CW

I just hit 10,000 words on the sequel to Death Becoming! I had about 30,000 words written before deciding to scrap it all and start anew, given all the changes DB underwent in edits. I can’t begin to describe how good it feels to be writing new things again after nearly a year of edits. To celebrate, here’s a moodboard I made for the #ThursdayAesthetic challenge on Twitter.

[AES] CR

 

Week In Review 03/02/18 & 03/09/18

I would apologize for not being the best at updating every single week, but, in my own defense, the weeks where I don’t update are weeks where I’m traveling, have friends&family in town, or it’s a holiday. Plus it just makes for a more exciting post the next week! So without further ado:

!CLU

Last week my best friend Karrie came in town from Toronto, and stayed with Lucas and I for five days. It was probably the most laid back trip we’ve ever had. If you know us, you know all of our vacations have spreadsheets and color & icon coded google maps. It sounds like a lot, but when going somewhere you’ve never been, the pre-planning makes the trip itself a lot less stressful. (Perhaps I should do a post on trip planning?) This time, however, was Karrie’s fourth time to Chicago, so we didn’t need to do any of the usual sightseeing cliches.

We spent all day Thursday watching Lord of the Rings (yes, all three–extended versions) and eating our weight in guacamole. I introduced Karrie to the wonders of an espresso cured ribeye, and she helped me clear out my stash of small production, estate Rieslings. Friday, we went for a hike with Freya, took Karrie on her first “Target run”, and had dinner at Parkers. Parkers is one of my work accounts, and also one of my favorites, and they sent us way more food than we could eat. Cheese board with local goat, sheep, & cows milk cheeses, oysters, clam chowder, gumbo, lemon-butter whitefish, mushroom risotto, beef shank with chorizo potatoes, apricot & white chocolate bread pudding, and last but not least: three foot tall maple cotton candy.  After we rolled home, full-to-bursting, to burn calories, we played Mario Kart for a few hours.

[CLU] Soph

Saturday was the real reason for Karrie’s visit: the Chicago Heroes event. She has been a fan of Chicago Fire/PD/Med since the start. I only jumped on board to watch Chicago PD because of my love for Sophia Bush, who is much more than just the girl from One Tree Hill. She’s incredibly intelligent and very politically outspoken, and generally just a great role model of someone in Hollywood using their platform for good. Needless to say, we both jumped on the opportunity to meet her. Having attended conventions before, we expected it to be a similar experience: the handlers and photographers yelling at you to hurry you up and rush you in and out, giving you only roughly thirty seconds to interact. This was nothing like that, and it was so lovely. The whole event was incredibly relaxed, each actor took the time to speak with each person before their photo. They were engaged with each fan, down to do some ridiculous photo poses, and checked to make sure the photo was good before moving on to the next person. Karrie also purchased an autograph to go on her gallery wall, and asked Sophia to write a quote on cardstock for her frame. Sophia thought for a moment, and taking inspiration from Karrie’s “RESIST” shirt, wrote “Resist. Insist. Persist.” I’m always afraid that when I meet these people, they won’t be as lovely as I anticipated but she was very genuine and real as she munched on a pretzel, complaining about high heels, dancing to the music one of her co-stars had brought out for his neighboring autograph table. Karrie also purchased an autograph from LaRoyce, having always loved his “Be Powerful” motto, and he too was more than happy to oblige. He also had her message his brother so he could send her a Be Powerful hat, which was above and beyond. Everyone was so lovely and happy to chat. It was truly a special event.

!CW

I should probably make a separate post for writing/editing/publishing updates, shouldn’t I? Maybe next week. These past two weeks were full of firsts. I wrote my first synopsis, and I think it’s decent, just taking a little break before diving back in. Yet again, Susan Dennard has the best advice on how to tackle this. It’s based on The Hero’s Journey, and helps keep you on task with only hitting the major points of your novel without drowning in subplots.

This week, I participated in #PitMad on Twitter, which is a one day pitching contest where querying writers can pitch their novel in 280 characters or less. Agents can request a query by “liking” your tweet. You have to use the appropriate hashtags for your genre, age group, and #PitMad, all of which detracts from your already limited number of characters. I didn’t get any likes from agents, but it was a good learning experience. Skimming through the pitches, it’s very much a popularity contest, as more popular pitches skyrocket to the top. I definitely need to delve further into the writing community on Twitter and make more writing friends. I got quite a few hits from fellow writers who enjoyed my pitch, which was very heartening. By perusing the popular tweets, I found a lot of agents who were currently requesting YA Fantasy, which is invaluable information. So, now, back to the querying trenches I go!

!CD

[CD] disciplesIf you’re a wine aficionado, and perhaps even if you’re not, you’ve heard of The Prisoner, a Zinfandel based red blend out of Napa. But this post isn’t about that wine. The Prisoner was started by the visionary Dave Phinney, and also sold by him, so it’s not even the same wine anymore. But before I get on my soapbox… Back then, Phinney was sourcing grapes from growers throughout Napa, but his true vision and passion was to have a vineyard of his own. So when the GB Crane vineyard was available, he jumped on it. A mere 8 acres, it is the oldest vineyard in Napa, planted in 1885 to what was then called “mixed blacks”: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignan, and a wee bit of Alicante Bouschet, Mourvedre and Valdiguie. Of those eight acres, four are the original plantings. The “new” four acres were replanted in the 1930s, which isn’t anything to turn up your nose at either. So, if you’re looking for the real Prisoner wine, from it’s winemaker, look no further than The Crane Assembly, specifically Disciples Red Blend: 76% Zinfandel, 13% Charbono, 6% Grenache, 5% Petite Sirah. And in true Phinney style, it’s big, bold, and jammy, complete with an obscure, artistic label. If you’re a true Phinney-fan, also check out El Coco Red Blend (with the boogeyman on the label) and the Cabernet.

Week in Review 2/23/18

!CW

Y’all, I think my brain is broken. After getting my WDU Query Critique back last week, I compiled a MASSIVE spreadsheet with the list of all the agents I want to query, with sub-sheets for each agency and their submission guidelines, and sub sheets for those sheets with each agent’s #MSWL. (cue me pulling my hair out) But I guess if it was easy, everyone would do it, right?

[CW] New Yorker Comic

A Foolproof Guide to Achieving Literary Success
By

Thankfully, my coworker sent me this comic, which was some much-needed levity as I enter the query slush piles of doom. Which I can now say: I have entered the slush piles. I sent out five queries today. (cue internal screaming) But never fear, the endless stress is not over. Besides having what I believe to be a fairly solid query, there was one thing I did not prepare for: Writing a synopsis. Most of the agents I researched previously didn’t request one, so I hadn’t really thought much of it. But during my Query Attack Plan Excel Spreadsheet-Making™️, I discovered a few of my favorite agents that do require them. So, now I get to overanalyze and stress over writing that before sending out the next round of queries. Pray for me y’all. #amquerying

!CD

This week I had the pleasure of working with our representative from Wayfarer, the Burgundy-inspired Fort Ross Sea View project of Jason Pahlmeyer. Which, if you’re not familiar with Pahlmeyer, here’s the coolest wine story ever. In order to grow the best wines in Napa, Pahlmeyer and his partner knew they needed cuttings from Bordeaux. However, importing clones from Bordeaux was illegal. So, naturally, they stole them, smuggling them in through Canada. And they almost got away with it, too. Until their last truckload, the fifth one, was caught. And Jason’s partner? Told them everything. The government demanded they turn over the other four truck’s cuttings. But they didn’t do all that smuggling for nothing! So they went on down to UC Davis and bought some vine cuttings from them and sent those back to the government instead of their smuggled cuttings, aka the “suitcase clones”. But wait! That’s just the story of Pahlmeyer! We’re talking about Wayfarer. This project was a long time dream of Jason’s, and when Helen Turley saw the property come up for sale in Fort Ross Seaview, she called up Jason and Wayfarer was born. Planted exclusively to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (including some of those “suitcase clones”), they waited ten years to release their first vintage in 2012, wanting to make sure the wines lived up to their standards and the Pahlmeyer name. This week I worked with the 2014, and holy moly are they delicious. I can’t even put into words, other than: go getcha some. It’s worth every penny. Especially their Golden Mean, which is named for the mathematical rule of perfect proportions, this is a clonal study.

Our Golden Mean Pinot Noir celebrates a union between the Swan clone, with its elegance and enticing perfume, and the Pommard clone, with its earthy aromatics and powerful structure. This ruby-hued wine begins with delicate floral notes that lead into bright red fruit aromas with hints of powdered cocoa and the suggestion of an ocean breeze. On the palate, fresh strawberry and cherry characters are supported by soft tannins and well-structured slate minerality.

Cheers,
Erin Connor

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Week In Review 2/16/18

!CLU

This past weekend, Lucas and I escaped the Chicago blizzard and headed to Minneapolis. Which sounds so backwards that they would have better weather, but never fear, the temps were in the negatives the whole time, just not snowing, thank goodness. We brought our sweet wolfpup Freya with us and she had tons of fun socializing with our friends’ dogs, and she slept for two days straight after we got back.

I got to meet my internet friend, Brenna, in person for the first time (!!!), which was super awesome. We also got to visit Lucas’s brother and our friends Tom & Toni, who we convinced to move to Oregon with us. It’s hard having friends and family that live so far away, so it was nice having a whole weekend of being with my people. And also a major win by recruiting them to pack up and head to the PNW with us so we don’t have to be so far apart. 🙂

!CW

I got my WDU query critique back this week! I won’t lie, I have been anxiously checking my email for the past three weeks. I felt like everything was riding on this critique–which is a silly notion, I know. Either (A) my query + first five were horrible and I’d have to start from scratch and be right back where I started or (B) it would be good and I could finally (and confidently) begin querying agents.

I’m so relieved to say it was the latter. I have a few minor things to tweak, but other than that, the query + first five were good. My assigned agent said she would have requested the full manuscript if she didn’t already have a few similar projects lined up. This gives me hope, because if I can interest her, surely others will be interested, right?! I’m allowing myself a day to celebrate (and breathe a sigh of relief) and then I’m sitting down tomorrow with an excel spreadsheet and mapping out my query attack.

All in all the webinar was definitely worth it. A lot of the information on the query process I had heard before through researching, but if you’re just beginning to research, it’s a great resource to learn a lot all in one go. And the one-on-one agent feedback is invaluable. You can see all the upcoming WDU workshops here.

I’m thinking about writing a whole post on what I’ve learned after I’ve sent out queries, if anyone would be interested. I feel pretty confident about my understanding of the “how to”, but I want to wait until I’ve sent my queries into the slush piles and see how I fare. Request for fulls? Silent rejections? Offers of rep? Who knows, but I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for coming on this journey with me.

Cheers,
Erin Connor

Week In Review 1/26/18

!CW

aka Currently Bleeding Out Of My Eyes From Editing My Query Letter So Much. (insert forced smile here) This week was my WDU Query Letter Workshop with the lovely agents from New Leaf Literary. But because I must Hermione everything I do (and yes, Hermione is now a verb), I already had a year’s worth of query research under my belt and a few rough drafts of my query that I obsessed over for four days leading up to the actual workshop. And then proceeded to stare at my query and nitpick every. single. word. for the past three days. Thankfully, my query is due tomorrow and then it’s done! I can’t touch it anymore until I get my feedback. All this to say: it’s a lot easier to write a 94,000 word novel than it is to write a 250 word query. Also, DB got about 9,000 words longer during my edits. Ha!

!CL

I’ve been on a real throwback kick lately, jamming out to 90’s and 00’s hits, from DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” to Real McCoy’s “Another Night, Another Dream” to Vengaboys’ “Boom Boom Boom Boom, I Want You In My Room”. I don’t know where this binge came from but they’re just so upbeat and happy. They have really carried me through this strange week of stressful writing and helped me keep my head above water.

!CLU

I wish I had something cool to update you guys on but my whole week has literally been staring at my query letter and the first five pages of DB. I’ve been spending a lot of time on QueryShark reading other queries and their critiques and trying to absorb and learn as much as I can. Anyone else in the query trenches? Any tips, tricks, useful resources?

OH! I almost forgot: The #bifflesquad #NashVegas2k18 trip is officially HAPPENING! My four best friends from high school are still my four best friends, but we all shot off to different parts of the country after graduating. Getting all of us together is difficult, and has only happened twice since high school. We managed a Friendsgiving two years ago, and of course made it to Lizz’s wedding in 2016. But we couldn’t wait until my Fall 2019 wedding to get the gang back together, thus: Nashville. The flights and the AirB&B are booked, and I. Cannot. WAIT. Moving away from home is cool and all, but also incredibly lonely sometimes and I miss cuddle puddles on the couch with my biffs. Never underestimate the importance of female friendships. That bond is invaluable.  Alright, I’m done being sappy.

!CD

Currently, as I write: Not drinking. But I’m about to be. Forcing myself to take a night off of query obsessing and going to one of my favorite restaurants that also happens to be an account both myself and the fiancé call on for work. They just put my favorite stout on tap, so we’re headed out to “thank them for their business”, aka drink all their beer. What stout you ask: New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk. It’s a bourbon barrel aged stout that’s super rich and dark, full of vanilla and dark chocolate notes. Dragon’s Milk and Ten Fidy (which I talked about in this post) are easily my two go-to stouts. Happy Friday, y’all!
Cheers,
Erin Connor

Week In Review 1/12/18

!CLU

This is totally random but I’ve been burning a lot of candles lately. I’ve always owned them from people who gave them to me as gifts, but I was never very good at actually using them. In the past month or so, I’ve burned through three giant candles while editing DB, and I’m in the market for more. Any recommendations on cool small businesses on Etsy (or anything similar)? I’m down for Harry Potter or fandom themed candles. As a disclaimer: I really prefer clean smells or woodsy smells as opposed to overly floral scents. But as I type, I’m really liking the idea of fandom-themed candles, so throw those rec’s my way please!

!CD

With the weather being all over the place lately, I’ve been fighting to not get sick. For the past two years, my friends have been telling me to try “fire cider”, which is basically an old school cure-all. The recipes vary from person to person, but you can find them all over google. I didn’t have time for it to ferment a month in the fridge, so I just boiled fresh ginger, turmeric, jalapeño, garlic, onion and lemon together and then added the apple cider vinegar and honey. I really do think it’s saving my ass from a cold. I will say I recommend buying fresh of everything possible, versus powdered turmeric/ginger. (How Ina Garten of me.) Just do a small shot of it when you’re feeling under the weather and repeat as needed. It’s truly a lifesaver and if you’re like me and hate taking lots of meds, it’s great to have on hand.

!CW

I’m done typing up all 27 of my edited DB chapters!! (cue hip hop horn) So I am officially back in the writing stage! All I have left is to rewrite the last two chapters and I am done with round three of edits. I can’t express how much I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I have my query class coming up at the end of the month which I should be getting invaluable feedback from, and then maybe (gasp) I can start working on DB2 again! Oh, happy day!

Cheers,
Erin

Week In Review 01/04/18

!CRAs I posted previously, to celebrate the end of the year and having a long weekend with no responsibilities, I bought The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I absolutely devoured them. Only took me four days to read all three books. I’m a huge fan of Bardugo’s writing and grey characterizations, but I’ll admit I was hesitant to pick them up. I’d heard mixed reviews about this series, particularly that it was “slow”. I must respectfully disagree. Granted, I read incredibly fast, but I never found myself bored.
My only critique would be that all three books begin and end with a “Before”/”After” prologue/epilogue that are told in Third Person Omniscient, and I found the switch to first person surprising when I delved into the first chapter, but I quickly got over it. I’ve noticed Bardugo tends to favor prologues told not from the main character’s point of view. And I’m not sure how I feel about it, to be honest.
The main character, Alina, is beautifully written and incredibly real. I hate the trope of fantasy characters that discover magical powers and immediately flourish, even though other characters spent lifetimes honing their abilities. This doesn’t happen in this book. So if that’s a pet peeve you share with me, you’re safe in this series.
This is probably one of the only series that I’ve ever read where I heard more fanfare about the villain than the main character. And boy oh boy was I excited to meet The Darkling. He absolutely lived up to the hype. He’s one of the best, most fleshed out villains I’ve ever read. So to everyone slighting this series because their ship didn’t sail: did we even read the same books? If you like fantasy and strong female protagonists, this is a Deathly Hallows-esque quest set in a world based upon 1800s Russia with well thought out political and magical systems. Please read it so we can discuss!!

!CLThis is a fun one this week. My fiancé played me this remix of Pure Imagination from Charlie & The Chocolate factory, which led me to remixes of Dancing in the Moonlight and Mr. Sandman. Put it on autoplay and allow yourself some time to discover some fun remixes and reimagining of old classics.

!CWI’m done with my handwritten edits of Death Becoming! Now, just to type them all up. More importantly, I signed up for Writer’s Digest University Query Workshop. It’s being hosted by two agents from New Leaf Literary, which is basically my numero uno. The course includes an online tutorial on query do’s and dont’s. Then, you get two two-hour sessions to chat with your assigned agent mentor and ask questions about your query. Last, you submit your query and first five paged to your assigned agent. Three weeks later, they reply with critiques on your query! I’m super nervous but also very excited to tackle this step in my publishing journey. If anyone else has signed up, let me know! I’d love to have a buddy during the process.

!CLUHappy New Year everyone! I rang in the new year with a very low key evening full of Mario Kart and Uno, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Weather has been in the single digits or the negatives the past few days, so we’ve been holed up inside, buried beneath multiple blankets wearing multiple pairs of socks and drinking lots of hot tea.

!CDNo booze recommendations from me this week. I don’t know about you but I need a break after all the holiday festivities. And with all this cold weather, I’ve been drinking Rare Tea Cellar‘s jasmine tea like my life depends on it. I absolutely love jasmine tea, and I discovered Rare Tea Cellar through my local grocery store and I haven’t been able to get enough of it lately. If you can’t find it in stores, you can order online through their website.
As a side note, one of my most favorite things in the world of tea is Bingley’s Teas, a series of teas inspired by Jane Austen characters. My mother and I have drunk quite a few of them, and they’re all delicious. I highly recommend. If you’re not in the market for tea, but you’re a fan of Austen, read through the descriptions for each tea and why they’re associated with each character. They did an awesome job and it’s highly entertaining.

Cheers,
Erin Connor

 

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