Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guest post from Ben Barnes (no, really)

Dear readers of Stephanie's blog,

Hello, Ben Barnes here. No really, it's Benjamin Barnes. Yes that Ben Barnes.

(This is me as well, just so you know.)

(Oh, and here too.)

Stephanie is currently very busy editing and rewriting her book, so she isn't able to blog as much as she'd like. She feels bad about it, really, which is why I'm here. We're very good friends, Stephanie and I, we go way back. I noticed she seemed a little busy lately so I offered to make a few guest blog posts for her while she catches up. It took some convincing on my part, but she finally agreed. So here I am.

I thought I'd make this first post short and simple to get my feet wet, so I thought I'd open the floor up for questions. What? This isn't like a press conference? Stephanie's not that famous? Well, bollocks. Regardless, leave your questions for me in the comments below and I'll answer some of them in another guest post either this week or next.

Friday, March 25, 2011

SXSW Craziness

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, I've had a serious case of the cooties that I'm still dealing with. I think I've watched about 174 hours of HGTV. I'm now a licensed realtor, interior designer, and house-flipper in case anyone needs any expertise in either field. (Also there is a serious lack of gardening on the Home and GARDEN network.)

Last week was a busy week for me. SXSW was in full-swing. I'd never really done anything during SXSW but when Jen called and asked if I wanted to go see The Bangles with her I couldn't say no. We got to see them perform and meet them, it was amazing!

Once the show was over Jen and I were asked if we wanted to go to a VIP show and see Hanson. Yes, that Hanson. It was seriously a dream come true to see them perform. They were one of my favorite bands growing up (still are one of my favorites) and to see them perform in such an intimate setting was amazing.

They performed a new song and I recorded a bit of it. :)

After the show was over we went backstage to meet them. Yes I shook hands with Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson. Sadly I didn't get a picture with them before we got kicked out for not having a media pass, I was a little bummed I didn't get a picture, but just meeting them and shaking their hands was enough for me. Jen took this great picture of Taylor. Eek!

On the way to see Hanson we passed Michael Stipe (from R.E.M.) on the street! We asked if we could take a picture and his response was, "Hurry up, I'm walking here!" Ha ha! Hilarious!

The next day, believe it or not, was equally amazing. One of my other favorite bands, Blue October, was playing a free show later that evening and was expected to draw HUGE crowds. The Strokes had played a free show at the same venue the night before and drew a crowd of 20,000+. I wanted to see them, but didn't want to deal with that amount of crazy. I heard through the grapevine they were doing a radio interview with a radio station at a venue downtown, so I went to stalk them assess the situation. Sure enough, they walked through the door! Jen and I were ecstatic. We watched them do their interview and then got to meet with them and chat with them for a few minutes after. Another dream come true!

The band

Jeremy Furstenfeld, drummer

Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer

Since we met the bad, we decided to skip their show that evening in favor of going to a battle-of-the-bands type show hosted by Kid Rock. Yes, Kid Rock! Crazy!

He never actually performed and was only on stage for a hot second, which was a bit of a bummer, but we still had a good time. Toward the end of the evening we got into a VIP room with him and the performing bands but his "body guard" was all over him so we couldn't get a picture. ZZ Top even made a brief appearance! Insane!

I know I complain all the time about how homesick I am, but I am thankful that if I can't be in Mississippi that Austin is my home for now. So many awesome things happen here that I never would have experienced had we not moved here. Can't wait to see what happens next in my life!

PS- Thanks to Jen for letting me steal a few of her pics. :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just kidding...

I posted earlier this week about how I was finished with the first draft of my WIP. I spent Monday editing the first chapter and Tuesday editing chapters two and three. Late Tuesday afternoon I realized something was majorly wrong with my story. I put my thinking cap on and no matter how I spun it, something seemed off. My worst fear has come to fruition: I have a character who doesn't belong in my story.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry. I did. For a long, long time. I know I'm not the first writer that this has happened to and I know I won't be the last, but dang this hurts.

I spent the rest of the night last night trying to think of how to make it work, how to keep him in the story. It would be so much easier to just keep him and let it go, but I can't do that. I don't do anything halfway (or the easy way, apparently). The bad thing is, this kid wasn't just a minor character, he was a very influential character and is in most of the major scenes in the book. He was the main love interest.

I didn't set out to write a love interest into my WIP, it just kind of happened. I think I had read a book that was really romanc-y and I still had romance on the brain and this hot guy made an appearance and just kind of never left. The sad thing is I think subconsciously I've known for a while, but I liked his character so much I never dreamed I could get rid of him or the story could work without him, when in reality the story didn't work with him.

So after much crying and ice cream eating my decision was made to give him the ax. In making this decision I decided to simply start over. Yes I am starting from scratch. I have been working on this WIP for over four months, and this has shaken me to my core. I know I'm not the first person to ever toss a draft, but I am seriously hacked off at myself.

I wrote the ending and the beginning of draft 2.0 and you want to know something? It's so much better. That stupid boy was clouding my judgment so much it made me lose sight of the real story I was trying to tell. And while I'm still really upset with myself for letting it go on for so long, I think it may have been a little good for me to completely toss this first draft. I need to learn not to become so attached to characters or words or scenes that I can't simply chunk them and move on. This has been a tough lesson to learn, and I'm still learning it, but I'm becoming more and more okay with it. I think. I guess I learned the hard way that sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Late yesterday evening I finished the first draft of my WIP. I have started many projects in the past but never saw them through to completion, I always got distracted by new shiny ideas (ie- moving on to new things when the writing got hard). I expected this huge rush of emotions upon finishing my draft, but I really didn't feel that way. Sure, I'm glad and happy and excited, but I'm also scared and nervous.

My draft is finished at around 48,000 words. Yes I know that seems short, but I'm the type of writer who writes a skeletal first draft and then plumps it up during revisions and rewrites. There are probably still a couple of scenes/chapters that need to be written, but to be honest I could keep adding to this book for the rest of my life. At some point I had to call it and let it go.

Why am I scared and nervous, you ask? My writing is so personal to me. It's like putting this little piece of your soul, who you are, out there for the whole world to see (and criticize) and that scares me more than just about anything. I guess I'm afraid of the rejection, but I'm afraid to be accepted, too. What if people don't like it? What if people do like it? What if I'm expected to write something else just as good? (Not that it's good, it sucks right now!)

I read books by John Green and other contemporary writers and think, "I'll never be this good at story telling, why am I even writing when the market already has such amazing books in it?" At some point I have to start believing in myself, in the stories I tell and the characters I create. Yes, it may be bunk after the first draft, but I have never met an author who wrote a perfect, complete first draft.

All emo-ness aside, I really am excited to have this sucker finished. To say you're writing a book is one thing, but to say you've written a book is another matter entirely and I'm proud to say I've done the latter. Now it's time to put the petal to the metal and start with my revisions and rewrites. Can't wait to embark on this part of the journey and share it with all of you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Home, it's where the heart is

Every time I take a trip home I always have these crazy plans for things I want to take pictures of and blog about. As I stomped around my parent's back yard last week, camera in hand, I realized there are some things I can never share with you. Some images are too real to be shared through photographs or words. Some images are just that: images, memories that are yours and yours alone. No matter how badly you want to share them with someone, you can't. It's impossible to put into words or capture in a photo the memories I have.

Nothing can describe the love I have for home. I can't tell you how it felt to play Xena Warrior Princess in the back yard with my childhood best friend, or the excitement I felt when I played hide-and-seek on a rainy day with my sister. No amount of images can capture how fantastic of a cook my mother and grandmother are. It's unachievable to tell you how the magnolia blossoms smell in summer, the honey suckles in spring, the burning leaves in fall, and the pine trees that smell year-round. Memories are more powerful than words, more potent than pictures. Instead of trying (and failing) to share these with you, I instead decided to blog about things that remind me of home in the hopes that I'll never forget the lifetime of memories I have stored away.

I have such pride for my state and my heritage. I love this image I captured of the flags in my parent's yard.

My mother's dryer is over 30 years old, she bought it used in the early 1980s and it's been running ever sense.

This shadow box has been hanging in the same spot in the dining room for as long as I can remember. I love all the tiny little figurines, the little gumball machine was always my favorite.

You don't see many houses with clothes lines anymore, but my parents (and their neighbors) still use theirs. Nothing like fresh towels hung to dry!

I love this saltshaker, it's an oxen carrying the salt and pepper on his back. It sits on my parent's entertainment center.

This china cabinet belonged to Big Mama, my great-great grandmother. And yes that is a rifle leaning against it. When you life in the country you occasionally have to shoot away a 'possum or two.

Two of my lunchboxes from elementary school. (Thundercats... HO!!)

My dad's lunchbox from 1962.

The moon and star belonged to my great-grandmother, the owls to my mother. I guess we can see where I get my love for owls, hu?

This butter churn has been by the front door for as long as I can remember, it was my grandmother's.

This is my Pepaw's "pet rock." He found it when he was a boy at the creek. We're not sure what kind of rock it is, but see the way it's concave at the top? We think it was probably used by Indians to ground up corn meal.

My Pepaw's old truck. I went to my first day of Kindergarten in this truck, and I think pretty much everybody in my family has driven it at one point or another.

The woods behind my grandparent's house is mostly pine trees scattered with oak and magnolia trees. This picture alone makes me think of home.

Now we'll move on into town and I'll share some pictures I took of the downtown area.

Mural painted on a downtown building.

I spent many-a-hour at our library, particularly during the summer.

View of downtown. Can you imagine how amazing this place was during its hay-day? If walls could talk...

This is one of my favorite buildings downtown, the old JC Penney building. I recently found out it's for sale and I wish I had the money to buy it and fix it up!

The City Hall

The city's courthouse was built in 1907. I love the columns out front.

This is a monument in front of the court house honoring the Confederate soldiers lost during the war.

Magnolia Street is one of the main streets that runs through downtown.

St. John's Episcopal Church was founded in 1894. I think this is one of my other favorite pictures from the trip.

More than anything, home is family. Your family can be some of the few people in your life that share the same sharp, crisp memories that you do, the memories that can't be described for anyone else.