Taking Hits, Losing Track, and Counting Blessings: #ROW80

I have been off-track for three weeks now! One week, I was diligently getting ready for church camp, writing curriculum, purchasing supplies, and preparing lessons. I did some writing, but I didn’t attack my ROW80 goals much.

The next week was camp. My summary is that I rarely had computer time and was on the internet for about two hours for the whole week. When I returned, I had 236 blog posts in my reading queue. *headdesk*

This past week has been a flurry of activity as well–very little of it writing. You see, my mother-in-law died last week. Moreover, as we were on our way out of town to see her as she lay dying, a lovely young lady slammed her vehicle into the back of ours and caused a five-car pile-up. This is our car.

Since it was 6 years old and the frame was very damaged throughout, it has been totalled. Although the insurance company has been wonderful (good customer service from State Farm), it has been another hassle to mess with.

Then a wonderful woman who co-taught at church camp with me a few years back finally died of breast cancer–much too young. My heart aches for this family.

And without too much detail, another friend received news that her husband has been behaving badly and is leaving.

In the wake of all that, I am asking What ROW80? It feels like I haven’t done anything on my goals in so long that I don’t even know where to start. I’m just trying to catch up on sleep, paperwork, laundry, etc. while managing the emotional stress of life.

All that said, I am grateful for the many blessings I have in my life. Let me count a few:

  • No one was hurt in the car accident.
  • The offending driver accepted responsibility and the insurance company claimed liability.
  • The offer for totalling our car was more than we expected to receive.
  • We still arrived in San Antonio with plenty of time to see my mother-in-law before she passed.
  • My mother-in-law passed peacefully.
  • My husband and his siblings are in agreement about arrangements, so there is no post-mortem family conflict.
  • My sons received a life lesson in saying goodbye to a loved one and grieving, and watching my husband walk them through that reminded me again how much I respect his wisdom and integrity.
  • My friends both have extensive support systems. The family of my friend who died and the woman whose husband has left have people to hold them up and care for them during their grief.

Somehow, no matter what you go through, having people who love you and whom you love back makes life manageable, hopeful, and even positive. Speaking of which, I do want to take a moment to feature two links from friends that you should know about.

First, romance author Roni Loren told her story about using photos on her blog and getting sued. Oh my! If you (somehow) haven’t seen her post, check it out HERE.

Love the cover!

And my fabulous blogger and real-life friend, Tiffany A. White, released her debut novel, a young adult mystery titled FOOTBALL SWEETHEART. Check it out HERE.

As for ROW80, forget goals. I’m not even listing them or any feigned progress. I’ll be back next week with checkmarks and happy faces!

Meanwhile, how’s your ROW80 going? Has life thrown you for a loop anywhere? Or let me live vicariously through you and tell me how wonderful your writing week was!

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What I Learned in DFW and #ROW80

NYT Bestseller James Rollins & Me

If you did not attend the DFW Writers’ Conference, you may be tired of hearing those of us who did talking about how AWESOME it was. Rather than go on and on about how everything is bigger and better in Texas, even writers’ conferences¬†ūüėČ , how about some general take-aways?

  • As long as you aren’t stalking or incredibly annoying, you can strike up conversations with agents because they are real people, at a conference to meet writers, and like talking about what they do (see Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference). At the 2011 conference, I spoke to one agent — the one I had a pitch appointment with. This time, I walked away with six different agent names to send my work to after personal contact at the pitch session and agent/writer reception. So chat it up! What have you got to lose?
  • When you attend a conference, you are paying for it. Don’t feel obligated to attend a workshop you don’t need or to stay in one that wasn’t at all what you expected. I attended a class that was titled one thing and ended up being something else. (That was not common, by the way.)¬†Ten minutes in, I gathered my stuff and left the room as quietly as possible. The teacher has no idea why someone leaves early — a pitch? a phone call from home? sickness? I wasn’t dissing her; the class simply wasn’t a topic I needed after all. I walked into a class next door and was SOOOO glad I did.
  • You can learn as much from chatting with other writers as you can get from the conference classes. I gleaned so much knowledge from conversations with Jenny Hansen, Donna Newton, Kristen Lamb, Tiffany A. White, Nigel Blackwell, David N. Walker, Jess Witkins, Kait Nolan, Jillian Dodd, Piper Bayard, and others that my brain was tingling with electricity by Saturday night. Asking others about their writing process, publishing plans, and life in general enlightened me in ways that made my trip to Big D well-worth all those hours and money.
  • No matter who you are, you can always learn more. It was marvelous to step into a workshop and see several published authors in the class as well. Taking notes. Learning more. Improving their craft.

What workshops did I attend? In case you’re interested, here’s a quick rundown: How to Pitch to an Agent (Rosemary Clement-Moore); The Changing Face of Publishing (an expert¬†panel); Writing Love Scenes¬†(Roni Loren – incredible); Anatomy of a Book Launch¬†(Laurie McLean-agent, Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan); Fast Draft (Candace Havens); Inside Publishing¬†(Jill Marsal-agent); Revision Hell (Candace Havens); Writing Emotion (Lori Wilde); Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction (Laurie McLean-agent).

Bayard/Lamb 2012: Foxie with (literal) Moxie

Links to some FABULOUS posts about the conference from fellow speakers/attendees:

Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb encourages writers to push themselves in The Comfort Zone is for Pets, Not Professionals.

Romance author Roni Loren summarizes what agents like and don’t like in queries and first pages with What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages.

Writer (and my awesome conference roommate!) Jess Witkins discusses lessons learned in Celebrating My Writing Slump.

Jenny Hansen reports progress on her conference goals and teases us about Fast Draft (thanks, Candace Havens) with Bestselling Authors, DFWcon, and the Flu…Oh My!

Donna Newton makes me kick myself in How to Hook an Agent…The ‘SOO’ Publishing Way. How has this Brit managed to shoot so much stuff when I (a born-and-bred Texan) have yet to meet my goal of firing a real gun?!!

Jess Witkins, Me & Donna Newton

I also posted on Friday about What’s Next? The Hybrid Author, which was partially culled from my conference experience.

(I guarantee I forgot someone else’s wonderful post; I may update this later.)

One last pic: Me & Tiffany White

Enough already. Here are my ROW80 goals and progress report!

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. DONE.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I started revising, using the notes from my class with editor Tiffany Lawson Inman and tips from Candace Havens’s Revision Hell workshop.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). Did it! Pitched. Need to send my queries.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. I can’t find the March/April issue, so I started working through the issue that just arrived in the mail.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Slowly catching up!
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read six books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; The Heart-Shaped Box; One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Keeping up.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Skipped Zumba. May I count the four hours of helping with our church youth’s group car wash on Saturday? I know I burned some calories there.

So how’s your ROW80 week? Be sure to cheer on fellow writers HERE.

And if you are interested in attending the DFW Writers’ Conference¬†in 2013, they are offering a super early-bird¬†registration price of $225 (early-bird is $295) until June 1. The conference will be held May 4-5, 2013 at the Hurst Conference Center. I will be there!

Howdy from Big D and #ROW80

Inspired by Kristen Lamb¬†and Jenny Hansen, I’m vlogging¬†from Dallas today, where I am attending the DFW Writers’ Conference. I have been blessed to meet some of the fabulous fellow writers who have been my cyberpals¬†and encouragers for over a year now. Here’s a quick hello:

And now for the weekly ROW80 update:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. I wrote 6,555 words on Monday and Tuesday and completed the first draft of SHARING HUNTER!
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I’m waiting until I return from the DFW Writers’ Conference this weekend. While it’s tempting to try to get through an edit, I’d rather hold off that pressure and use my time to prepare for the conference.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). I pitched this weekend. I give this experience a thumbs-up.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. Now I can’t even find the magazine. *facepalm*
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Working on the second assignment and plan to hit this hard next week, as it will help with edits for SHARING HUNTER.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read five books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; and The Heart-Shaped Box.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Here I am!
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. I went to Zumba twice this week, but one of those sessions was 1 1/2 hours instead of the usual 1 hour, so I feel pretty good about this.

I will check back with my fellow ROW80ers next week once the conference high dies down a bit. Y’all have a great week!

Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference

Within a couple of hours of this post going up, I’ll be driving up to Dallas to attend the DFW Writers’ Conference. Talk about a Deep-Fried Friday for me.¬†I expect this weekend to be better than a plate of beer-battered shrimp!

I attended last year and got my feet nice and wet at that conference. However, being the introvert I am, I approached the event as an information-gatherer and only talked to a few people. When I returned, I sent in my synopsis and chapters to the agent who requested them and received a lovely rejection letter.

But then I started this blog, began reading craft books, and connected with some fabulous writers. So this go-around, I am approaching the conference a little differently. Here are my Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference (in no particular order):

1. Turn cyberfriends into real-life friends. You know that person you’ve traded tweets and blog comments and even emails with — dishing about the writer’s life and life in general? You might actually get to meet¬†them! Thus far, you’ve imagined your friend as the 1×2-inch profile photo on their Twitter account. But your friend is not Flat Stanley: She is three-dimensional with a real-live voice! I for one am eager to finally meet in person great writer friends like Jenny Hansen, Tiffany A. White, Roni Loren, and many, many¬†more.

2. Hang out with agents. Note that I didn’t say, “Convince an agent to rep my book.” Since my rookie experience, I have discovered that agents are real people.¬†Of course I knew that before, but I care less this year whether they want my book. I simply want to get to know them. They are an interesting bunch of people who get to read for living, have their fingers on the pulse of book sales, and come to conferences to hang out with us writers. Why not make a few friends of agents? If we get along great and they like my book idea, oh yeah, I’ll send them a manuscript, pronto. But if they don’t, we can still have a drink and chat.

3. Hand out business cards. You’ve got 250 cards in that box, and there are only so many restaurants with that fish bowl where you leave your business card and they draw for a free lunch. You have to hand them out somewhere! What better place than a writers’ conference, where people might look at your card later and connect with you?

4. Be an author groupie. Last year, Sandra Brown was the keynote speaker at the DFW Writers’ Conference. This year, it’s James Rollins. Um, hello! These¬†authors have a string of bestsellers and a truckload of wisdom about writing. Instead of spending their Saturday working on their next brilliant novel, bestselling authors often come to conferences to tell us what they’ve learned, sign books, pose for pictures, and converse with us future¬†bestsellers. While we must remember not to stalk them, it’s okay to be a groupie of a great author. Squeee a bit when you see them, get your book autographed, and have your friend snap a picture of you leaning in close like you and James are best friends.

5. Trade pitches. Of course, you may be pitching your book to agents, and that’s wonderful. However, this is also an opportunity to bounce story ideas off people who love to hear them — other writers. Ask “What’s your book about?” and then listen. You’ll hear¬†some amazing tales and get excited about what’s being written out there. You can also gauge interest in your own novel or in the way you’re pitching it based on others’ reactions, which can help you hone your story or presentation of it.

6. Get book recommendations. What to know what to read next? Ask writers what they¬†loved. Peruse the book tables. Check out the titles from the authors who teach a class.¬†After last year’s conference, I concluded that the much-touted Save the Cat by Blake Snyder had to be on my reading list, began reading Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Maggie Quinn, Girl vs. Evil¬†series, and downloaded Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

7. Show off your fashion sense. One of the most-often asked questions of conference planners is “What do I wear?” The answer is essentially “Whatever you want.” From my limited experience, it seems that writers run the gamut regarding personal presentation. You’ll find the business man in a suit; the pierced, tattooed biker girl with blue hair; and everything in between. Whatever brand is you, comb your closet and put together something that shows off your fashion sense. Then again, you might simply grab whatever’s comfortable and go with that.

8. Shop the tables. There will likely be product booths at the conference. See what goodies you can find. It might be a book, a t-shirt, a writing resource, or a trinket, but you might discover a treasure. Last year, I entered a contest to get a slogan put on a t-shirt. I was one of three winners, and my t-shirt idea was sold at the Penguin Promo table. That was kind of cool.

9. Make new friends. I started to write “make new connections,” but if you approach the conference as an opportunity to make friends, you will have more fun and be more fun. Of course, your friends are connections, so if you focus on engaging with people personally, they are likely to want to help you professionally.¬†That said, even if they never recommend you to their publisher or agent, this is a chance to make friends. Much of our writing lives are spent alone with our notebooks or laptops, and conference time is an opportunity to hob-nob with people who “get” us.

10. Fill in your knowledge gaps. Wherever you are in your writing career, there is more to know. Last year, I focused on querying and synopsis writing, since I knew how to write and just wanted some help landing my book deal. (Stop giggling.) This year, I have a broader focus because I know where my knowledge gaps truly are and plan to fill them by taking workshops that address those areas. You are at this conference to learn something! Go forth and learn it.

So are you planning to attend any writing conferences this year? What are your reasons for going? What goals do you have in mind as you attend?

And will you be at DFW Con? Be sure to look for me there! I look exactly like my 1×2-inch profile photo. ūüėČ

I Know I Should Follow Your Blog But…

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday, where my taste tends toward juicy and crispy thoughts. You’ll have to tell me whether today’s is more juicy or crispy to you.

Last week, I wrote two days on my young adult novel. There are three reasons why my work-in-progress got so little attention:

  1. I felt much better this week (after having mono for four weeks), so I was frantically trying to catch up with household to-do’s that had fallen so deep¬†in the cracks I needed a headlamp and a crowbar to find and¬†pull them out.
  2. One scene started to drag. I spent some time figuring out how to ditch that rabbit trail and get on the right path.
  3. I spent hours and hours catching up with blog reading and commenting!

When I wrote my first novel, I sat alone in my house writing for 1-5 hours a day. I didn’t know what I was doing, other than I had an overall plot and had read enough books to have some idea of what worked and what didn’t. Within a few months, I had a completed first draft. Very few people had any idea that I was writing a book.

Fast forward two years plus, and I am now writing my third novel, and everybody and their cocker spaniel knows it.¬†I have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, two Triberr tribes, a Goodreads account, and more — with all of the fabulous friends that come with that.

I have learned so much in the past year from writer groups, conferences, craft books, and¬†blogs. I’ve discovered excellent tools and software for plotting and writing. Thankfully, this book won’t have 23 drafts to get it right. I know something about an author’s platform. I have researched publishing options and agents. My knowledge base is better now.

All good stuff.

But I am writing far fewer hours than when it was lonely me and my laptop.

I continue to meet wonderful writers through various channels, and I think to myself so often, “Maybe I should follow their blog.” This occurs to me also because of something romance author Roni Loren covered in a fabulous post titled Enough with the Quid Pro Quo Blogging Etiquette. We often feel a sense of tit-for-tat. There are some who follow my blog whom I have not followed back (thanks, sorry, love ya).¬†I know I’m missing some wonderful content, and I could learn even more from many authors out there.

But did I mention that I wrote on my young adult novel approximately two hours last week? That’s pitiful.

Stephen Covey’s wonderful book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People¬†has made me reconsider through the years how¬†I am using¬†my time. Am I setting my priorities well? In the book, he talked about how we spend our hours engaged in one of four quadrants based on whether an activity is important and urgent.

I’ve been contemplating where each of my time’s activities fit. In particular, where does blog reading fit? How important is it? How urgent is it?

Covey explains that we tend to spend little time with those things that are Important but not Urgent — for instance, going out on a date with our spouse, keeping up with discoveries in our field, visiting someone in the hospital, reading great literature, taking a class that stretches us.

When writing without a book contract or¬†a self-publishing deadline, working on your novel is Important but not Urgent — Quadrant II. But I want to be a writer. I know the way to do that is — hello, how many times have I heard it! — to write consistently.

As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t follow everyone’s blog. I can’t even follow all of the “You MUST follow this fabulous author!” blogs. There are too many quality writers out there with something to offer, from whom I could learn, and whom I’d love to get to know.

There is¬†one of me. Twenty-four hours in a day. One book to pitch, one book to edit, one book to finish, and about four other projects I’ve started which beg for my attention too. Not to mention family, spouse, house, etc.

I’ll keep reading blogs. I’ll click on titles that interest me when I see links flash up on my Twitter feed. I will visit the blogs of people I see on my site.¬†I will follow interesting links in blog mashups. But I can’t read blogs all day because I am a writer. I must write.

How do you balance your desire to read interesting, entertaining, or informative blog posts and your need to accomplish other tasks? Have you found a formula that works? Do you wish you could follow more blogs, but simply can’t find the time?

Truly Colorful Idioms

Idioms are one of my favorite things to look up and discover their origins. Idioms are phrases or sayings which have an underlying and generally understood meaning apart from the literal words themselves. For instance, “dead as a doornail” or “break a leg.”

Curiously, we have quite a few idioms which revolve around COLOR. For today’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, we’ll navigate a labyrinth of phrases that include colors.

Blackmail. The word “mail” here is the old Scottish word for rent (which actually comes from Old Norse “mal” meaning contract). In the 1600s tenants paid their rent in silver coins known as “white money.” However, the Highland clan chiefs began threatening tenants with violence if they didn’t pay for “protection.” This additional rent soon became known as “black rent” or “black mail” – the opposite of rent paid on the up-and-up. During the 1900s its meaning was extended to the act of demanding money to protect another’s secrets.

In the pink. The phrase did not originate from the color itself. Its first use is found in Romeo & Juliet¬†(1597), as Mercurio¬†states, “Why, I am the very pinke¬†of curtesie.” In this instance and several others, “pinke” meant tip-top, the highest, the peak. Perhaps using the word “pink” to indicate excellence derived from Queen Elizabeth I’s admiration of Dianthus flowers, commonly called Pinks. These flowers are both pink in hue and edged like pinking shears. So to be “in the pink” is to be in the most excellent condition possible.

Green with envy. According to The Phrase Finder, “the Greeks believed that jealousy was accompanied by an overproduction of bile, lending a pallid green cast to the victim.” I have yet to see anyone with an actual green complexion when envy strikes, but it is an effective saying.

Caught red-handed. The phrase “caught red-handed” is first seen in English novelist George Alfred Lawrence’s Guy Livingstone¬†in which the presence of stolen goods caused the character to say, “we were caught red-handed.” In fact, the word “redhand” or “red-handed” had been used since the 15th century and originated in Scotland. It simply refers to having blood on one’s hands, which was proof of involvement in¬†a killing.

Once in a blue moon. While there are a couple of other possible explanations, I’m going with a more commonly accepted one. In 1819, The Maine Farmers Almanac listed dates of “blue moons.” Various moon phrases were given names (e.g., “harvest moon”), and “blue moons” occurred in those years when there were 13 moon cycles rather than the typical 12. The extra moons were called blue. They don’t happen often, of course; thus, “once in a blue moon.”

Paint the town red. In our town, the D.A.R.E. drug awareness program for school is accompanied¬†by an encouragement to “paint the town red” with red ribbons everywhere. However, the theories on where this phrase came from are hardly as innocent. One suggestion is that in 1837 the Marquis of Weatherford and his friends went on a spree in the town of Melton Mowbray and, among other misdeeds, painted it red. Although the event itself took place, no references to red painting were recorded at that time.

Another option comes from The New York Times in 1883 when a reporter wrote: “Mr. James Hennessy offered a resolution that the entire body proceed forthwith to Newark and get drunk… Then the Democrats charged upon the street cars, and being wafted into Newark proceeded, to use their own metaphor, to ‘paint the town red’.” Perhaps the drunkenness is related to a red flush on one’s skin. This still¬†doesn’t explain the phrase’s origin.

A final suggestion was that the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan was painted pink in 1853 in honor of a visit from Prince Albert. But then, why paint the town red when the building was painted pink?

Red itself often refers to blood, so perhaps the original meaning was to have such a violent¬†spree that blood was spilled around the town. I think I’ll opt for the nice ribbons instead.

Red Herring. A red herring is a misleading clue, usually in a mystery. In the 18th and 19th centuries, herring was common in Britain. This fish was preserved by salting and smoking, which resulted in a deep brownish red color and a strong smell. Early animal-lovers in the 1800s wanting to preserve the fox could throw hounds off the hunt with red herrings.

Tickled pink. The word “tickled” here doesn’t mean to touch someone in a way that makes them laugh; it’s an older usage which means to give pleasure. “Tickled pink” is to be so pleased that you appear pink (as when blood rushes to the skin’s surface). Its earliest written reference was in 1910 in The Daily Review, an Illinois newspaper: “Grover Laudermilk¬†was tickled pink over Kinsella’s move in buying him from St. Louis.”

White Elephant. Perhaps you’ve participated in a White Elephant gift exchange, in which you pull out some useless, unwanted item from your home and¬†place it¬†in a pretty gift bag for some other sap. Back when Thailand was Siam, whenever a white elephant was discovered, the king automatically took ownership but not possession. One could not neglect, ride, or work a white elephant, so it was a huge burden to have one. In fact, the king was said to give a white elephant as a special royal gift to those who displeased him. You couldn’t refuse¬†the royal gift, but then you had to take care of said elephant without getting any use from it. Frankly, I’m happy that all of the white elephant gifts I’ve received required no feeding and shoveling.

White knight. In Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, Alice is rescued by the White Knight from the Red Knight. He represents the chess piece of the same name. In the tale he is clumsy, but helps Alice nonetheless. Indeed, the term now simply means “one who comes to the rescue of another” (Merriam-Webster).

Yellow-belly. What the color of one’s stomach has to do with one’s level of courage, I’m not certain. There are several theories. However, the most convincing one involved the Texas revolution. The Wisconsin Enquirer reported in 1842 that “We learn from Capt. Wright, of the N. York, that it is the intention of the Texans to ‘keep dark’ until the Mexicans cross the Colorado, and then give them a San Jacinto fight, with an army from 5000 to 7000 men. God send that they may bayonet every ‘yellow belly’ in the Mexican army.” Was that merely a reference to the skin color of Mexicans? I suspect so. Thankfully, such racist tones have not lingered with the use of the term (that I know of). A “yellow-belly” is simply a coward.

What other color idioms can you think of? Why do you think we use color in our common sayings?

Sources: Red Herrings & White Elephants by Albert Jack; The Phrase Finder; Merriam-Webster online; Wikipedia

One more thing: Roni Loren‘s erotic romance novel has debuted! Congrats on her release of Crash Into You.