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Sunday, July 15, 2012

This Blog is Moving!

Hello, readers!

I have an announcement: this blog is moving, but only because I wanted a website with my name on it. :-) You can now find it at:


Thanks to all for reading and visiting! :-)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's always nice when someone is unexpectedly nice. And by someone, I mean Kirkus Reviews.

There comes a time in every author's life when she knows her book is out there, in galley form, and any minute, reviews will start pouring in. Just thinking about it makes this author want to curl up and hide under the covers.

Scariest of the scary is Kirkus Reviews, which the New York Times described as "reliably cantankerous." I have often read their reviews, cringed for the author, and then fretted over my own books. On the other hand, if a book gets a starred review from Kirkus, I automatically have a little more respect for it. Actually, if the review doesn't completely slaughter the book, I mentally give the title a pat on the back and congratulate it on escaping a scathing diatribe.

(I won't lie. I wrote that last sentence, because I wanted to use the word diatribe in a sentence. Then I double-checked at dictionary.com to make sure I used the word correctly. I did.)

But guess what? Kirkus gave OF GIANTS AND ICE a pretty nice review!!

I'm going to post it below. It has a few spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Only child of divorced celebrities, Rory is not your ordinary sixth-grader. She’s had plenty of experience with after-school programs in the many different places she’s lived. Nor is Ever After School your ordinary day care center. The children and grandchildren of fairy-tale characters, EASers are Characters-in-training, likely to be part of each other’s tales and certain to be sent on one or more quests of their own. Here, for the first time in years, Rory makes friends who don’t care about her famous parents. Here, she fights a dragon, with a real sword. And when her friend Lena’s first tale turns out to require beanstalk-climbing, Rory’s thrilled to be one of her Companions, even though she’s afraid of heights and even though her least favorite person, Chase Turnleaf, is coming along. Their accidental visit to the Snow Queen in her Glass Mountain prison changes their relationship and sets the stage for a promised sequel. Rory recalls her adventures in a first-person chronological narration that includes plenty of dialogue. 
This fast-paced combination of middle school realism and fairy-tale fantasy will appeal particularly to imaginative readers already familiar with traditional tales. (Fantasy. 9-13)
--Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2012
ETA (7.3.2012): Kirkus also put OF GIANTS AND ICE on its 30 Top July Children's Books list! WOOHOO!!! Check out the other titles on the list here

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Five - the One Month Out Edition, or LOTS of Update-y Things

This post is full of boring. I've just returned from visiting my family and friends in Charlotte, where I had a marvelous and busy time (I had a deadline four days after I arrived and a bridal shower to organize). Meanwhile, stuff has been blowing up in my inbox, and my mind explodes a little more every day. But in a nice way. 


Basically, stuff has been happening faster than I can write updates on all the AWESOME. 


1.


Of Giants and Ice comes out in ONE MONTH. That is a crazy feeling. I don't know if y'all realized that I am full of ALL THE EMOTIONS about it, if these two posts didn't tip you off. :-P

But it's a good feeling. I'm trying to not let the scary aspects of it overwhelm the happy glow of knowing that with lots of help from my agent, my editors, my family, friends, and readers, I've created something I'll soon be able to hold in my hands.  


2.
By soon, I mean REALLY soon. Julia emailed me to say that she has finished copies!!!!  


The only reason I'm not waiting by my mailbox right now is that it's physically impossible for a package to travel from New York to Oregon the short hours since I gave her my address. 


3. 
She also emailed me the cover of The Ever Afters 2: Of Witches and Wind, and it's SO AWESOME! And PERFECT! Julia says, it's just as great as the first cover, but with more action, and that's the perfect way to describe it.


I would LOVE to show you right now, but sadly, I'm not allowed to post it until it's final. 


Just know: it resulted in epic amounts of SQUEE. 


4.
My agent, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, is starting her own company, New Leaf Literary! It's very similar to her old agency, Nancy Coffey Literary + Media Representation - except Jo is at the helm, rather than Nancy. Jo is awesome, by the way. I don't think I say this enough. She's brilliant, quick, and kind, and she works hard enough to be five people. I worry that she doesn't sleep. I'm actually proud to have such an awesome agent and honored to be on her list, and although NCLit was awesome, I'm thrilled that Jo's taking this leap. If you see her on Twitter, go congratulate her or digitally high-five her or something. 


PW's more official-sounding and grown-up version of this news can be found here.


5.
The second S&S revision of that same book went in to Julia about this time last week. I'm writing a series of blog posts about the Dreaded Book 2, and my experiences writing it (a.k.a. the last year and a half of my life).


So, stay turned...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

That was a lie.

What I said in my last post, I mean. Being sick does not keep you from worrying about your debut novel. I've been up the past two nights, up late with THOUGHTS. That post was a strong case of wishful thinking.

But that's okay. I have a philosophy about that. (I don't know if it's obvious yet. I have a philosophy about most things. I pronounce them in confident declarations, and then when they're proven wrong, I voice the revised version in the same fashion. That's a disclaimer, btw: take everything I say with a grain of salt.)

Here's the philosophy:

Being a debut author is a lot like starting a new school.

The weeks before the first day, you're a jumble of thoughts and hopes and wishes and fears and insecurity - one day, you let yourself fantasize: you walk into your first class, and admirers flock to you, telling you how funny and pretty you are, like you're the most awesome development in the school since personal-size pizzas in the cafeteria. The next day, you're totally sure you'll show up, and you'll be wearing the wrong clothes, and you'll be too much of a dork, and no one will talk to you, and you'll have to eat lunch all by yourself.

During the annual school supply shopping spree, you pick out your pencil holders and Lisa Frank-knock off folders carefully - the same way a debut author shapes her promotional bookmarks and website copy with obsessive care. You take comfort in the friend(s) who will start at the new school with you - the same way a debut author feels a lot better when she remembers the reader(s) who already liked the book.

But despite all the terror and the excitement, when the first day actually rolls around, the reality is somewhere in between the two extremes of Everybody Loves Me and Everybody Hates Me.

You arrive on the first day of school. You are intimidated by the newness of everything. The learning curve is steep - but you manage to quickly memorize how to find the bathroom and the library. You introduce yourself to a lot of people. Some people don't care. Maybe a couple are actually mean.

But some like you. They sit with you at the cafeteria/pick up your book. They become your friends/readers. Eventually, you find your place, and life goes on as before. School is school after all. Publishing is still publishing. You return to a routine of classes and homework and tests/drafting and revisions and blog posts.

(I also really love extended metaphors - have I mentioned that? I can't use them much in my actual books, so metaphors invade this place instead.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is - yes, debuting is scary. And it's scary primarily because I want the book to be liked. But the trick - at least, for me - is to keep it all in perspective - to remind myself that Of Giants and Ice's release is one moment in time, and the moment probably won't be as earth-shattering as it seems beforehand.

But the whole process can be really cool. I'm ordering these chapter samplers to do a mailing, and my (new) editor sent me a PDF of the first chapters. Clicking through them, I saw all these new little embellishments that we didn't see in the galley version. Like the vines on this one.


My heart was full of SQUEE. One step closer to the final book and all its prettiness - the moment when I hold a finished copy in my hands and think, I'm a really really real writer now.

In other news, I'm still a Sniffle-Monster. Still running fever every day, even with aspirin. It makes the revising kind of slow. BUT I have antibiotics in my system - and I should feel better soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Sniffle-Monster

So...I just realized that my book comes out in about a month and a half.

Suddenly, I'm almost glad I'm kind of sick (cold/flu/sniffles/sinus infection sort of thing - nothing to worry about). You know how you are when you don't feel awesome, and you have stuff to do, and your mental capacity completely focuses getting through the task ahead of you, mainly because you don't have the energy for anything else?

Yep. That's where I am.

And if I had more energy, I'd probably be wasting it on the most EPIC FREAK-OUT IN DEBUT AUTHOR HISTORY. The kind of freak-out that keeps you up in the middle of the night, wondering if anyone is out there reading an ARC of your book right at this second, and if they like it or if they hate it, or if they find it (horror of horrors) forgettable. The kind that lures you to scour the internet for reviews of your book, tempts you to sit at your computer refreshing your goodreads page over and over.

So, this sickness has strangely filled me with gratitude. Being low on energy has made me really buckle down and focus.

I honestly don't have time to freak out. I have a revision to tackle, a transcontinental flight back to Charlotte, a doctor's appointment to schedule and attend, a bridal shower to plan, author signings to set up, chapter samplers to design and order, mass mailings to conquer - and that's just by the end of next week.

I would rather be a Sniffle-Monster than a Vortex of Angst, Insecurity, and (Possibly) Despair - and to be perfectly honest, that's kind of where I was headed before I started feeling sickly.

Of course, I'm still going to try and get better. But by that time, I'll be too busy to bother freaking out. And after that, I'll hold my finished books in my hands and I'll be celebrating too much to freak out.

Really, this is a post about stress management.

Okay, I need to go back to revising. I left Lena in a workshop with a bunch of matches, and Rory needs to make sure no one accidentally lights their sleeves on fire.

This is the Sniffle-Monster, signing off....

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Basically, dear readers, I'm still alive and so is the book. :-)

The top one is the big changes; the bottom one is the line-edit that makes sure the big changes make sense.
Looking at it this way makes me wonder why I write such long books.
1.
The revision is in.

It went in Friday afternoon actually, and I crashed the way you crash after finals - sleep-deprived, mentally exhausted, and more pleased at completing the work than at the final product of your labors. This revision was tougher than usual. With that one big change I mentioned earlier, I think I ended up rewriting about 25% of the manuscript. Sometimes, I ripped out the best bits from the old scene and threaded new material around it to make it fit. Sometimes, it was completely new.

It was worth it, though. I really believe the book flows about a thousand times better this way. I'll know for sure after my new editor takes a look.

2.
That's my other big news: I have a new editor!

Courtney Bongiolatti - the enthusiastic and astute editor, who acquired the books and ushered Of Giants and Ice into copy-editing and beyond - is leaving the industry. I was incredibly sad when I found out - Courtney loves the books SO much, and she just gets Rory; we've always been on the same page with revisions - it was hard to see her go. But at the same time, I'm absolutely delighted for her - glad she's starting this new phase of her life, and grateful she got Rory on the right track.

It also helps that my new editor - Julia Maguire - is similarly awesome. She worked with Courtney on Of Giants and Ice, and when I was too brain fried with my line edit to think of anything besides long lists of words, she and my agent Jo came up for a FANTASTIC title for The Ever Afters 2.

I'm actually not sure if I can share that title yet. Hmmmm. I'll need to check.

3.
Julia has promised to get notes to me by Monday, so revising resumes next week!

Which means two things: First, I'm hurrying to get my To-Do list done before then. Yesterday, I cleaned my apartment with the ferocity of a tornado armed with a broom and lysol bathroom spray. Today, I need to race around to printers to get some quotes on Ever Afters swag.

And secondly, I'm devouring books at an insane rate in order to recharge my creative battery.

My current TBR pile

I need the mysteries, because there's a mystery element in The Ever Afters 2 that I'm not sure I totally pulled off. I finished Janet Evanovich's One for the Money last night and enjoyed it like whoa.

I try not to read in my own genre while I'm revising, so I'm SUPER excited about the middle grade. I feel like there's been a hole in my life without it. *hugs library books*

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Very Quick Announcement

Crunch time has arrived.

Stress hives have broken out.

My bedroom has been converted into an office.

I know what you're thinking:
Why is all my bedding folded up on the side table?
- Because I had to lean my air mattress up against the wall to fit a desk-like table in here.
My friends, the blogging hiatus has been made official!

See you after this revision is in...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Five - the Brain-Hurricane Edition

1.
I don't believe I've mentioned this yet: my edit letter came! About a month ago, actually. It - and the one big revision it called for - have taken over half my life.

On her blog, Claire Legrand has expressed exactly what getting one's edit letter from one's editor feels like - give or take a little angst and one friendly unicorn. Seriously, if you haven't read this post yet, you NEED to. 

Go now. I'll wait. 

2. 
I'm moving one big piece in this manuscript. Doing that has caused a whole bunch of subplots to slide and conversations to collapse and chapters to require general untangling and/or rewriting. 

At this point, the initial panic has worn off. Brain-storming ensued, although word that doesn't quite capture the extent of all the thinking involved. It was more like a Brain-hurricane. My wonderful agent, her insightful assistant, and my fantastic editor have all weighed in on my plans. They also told me that I could handle this, and I remind myself of this frequently. 

I spent days crafting a glorious outline, which I refer to the same way I would refer to a road map on a long journey.  I'm still slowly working through it. 

3.
Because of said outline, I'm not lost in this revision. But pages and pages stretch before me. Many of them must be rewritten. 

I won't lie: It is hard not to feel overwhelmed. It's also hard not to feel like my creative battery is drained all the way to the danger zone.

4. 
So, today, I'm entering the edits I've already finished into my digital copy. 

(I revise every round by hand, btw. It takes longer, but I catch more things.) 

I tend to watch most of my video content (a.k.a. movies and TV shows) while I work, and this is the entertainment-du-jour:


I was led to Pushing Daisies by Stephanie Perkin's recommendation and by a mild infatuation with Lee Pace. (It also helped that my local library had the DVD's ready for checkout.) I stayed because of the quirky-funny Jim Dale narration, the rapidfire dialogue, and Kristen Chenoweth's portrayal of Olive Snook and how she breaks into random song every few episodes

If you get a chance, watch and enjoy. Disclaimer: It may make you hungry for pie. Or piemakers. ;-)

5. 
In other revision-related news, I've read a lot of YA recently. 

(Q: How is this revision-related? 
A: I try to avoid middle grade when I'm actively working on my manuscript. 

Q: Why am I reading when I should be revising? 
A: Read this post.)

I am, for instance, newly obsessed with John Green. I'm reading all of his books in the order they were published, because I'm weird like that. 


Looking for Alaska made me weep and break out my Kindle highlighter for the first time. An Abundance of Katherines made swoon and geek out over math. Paper Towns is on deck.


Where Things Come Back also made me FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS. 

But the book I rushed out to buy on release day? The one that kept me up till 3AM two nights in a row? 


I've been waiting for Bitterblue ever since I read a galley of Fire back in 2009. It does not disappoint. Kristen Cashore has said multiple times that it was an intense book to write. It's an intense book to read - and near impossible to put down (see comment re: 3AM). If Where Things Come Back made me feel all the feelings, Bitterblue dredges up emotions I didn't know I had and makes me re-examine my life. In a good way, I think. 

I hope to finish it tonight. Preferably before midnight, so I get a good night's sleep. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

In Honor of The Bard


I just learned from the SOURCES of ALL SOURCES - a.k.a. the Twitterverse - that it's Shakespeare's birthday (and deathday, actually). Obviously, this gives me an excuse to tell you ALL my thoughts on the Bard.


1.
I love Shakespeare with true passion. Not the kind of passion where you see all your friends reading Kerouac, and you grab a copy of On The Road from the used bookstore to fit in. The kind of love which had me toting around my uncle's Shakespeare textbook the summer before ninth grade. It inspired me to take two Shakespeare classes - once in high school and again in college. It even makes Twelfth Night comfort reading.

Yes, that makes me a dork. And an English major. I'm okay with that.

2.
Okay, to be perfectly honest, I love his comedies and a select few of his tragedies (not Romeo & Juliet, which I had to read multiple times for school). The histories always fail to hook me in the first Act. Also, they're histories. The word itself implies epic multiple choice tests and long essays on Queen Elizabeth I, not awesomeness.

3.
Now, a ton of people will tell you that middle grade readers can't read Shakespeare. And I don't recommend you passing your ten-year-old a fancy antique copy of King Lear and expecting them to wow you with memorizing the best parts.

But my parents did me a favor early in life. They gave me a copy of Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare.

My copy didn't look like this, but I wish it did.
Look! This is obviously for kids!! And JUDI DENCH wrote the intro!!!  

Now, you hear the Shakespeare purist screaming, "Nooooooooo, don't let them read it! Those Tales butcher the Bard's beautiful poetry! You must only read Shakespeare's plays in their original form!"

Ignore that dude. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

Shakespeare was a storyteller as much as he was a poet. Tales from Shakespeare boils the plays down to their stories.

For a kid, language is beside the point; stories are the good stuff: Viola dressing up like her brother and getting into all sorts of scrapes because people think she's a girl; two couples running into the forest and tangling with the King and Queen of Fairies; three witches popping into MacBeth's life and telling him he could be king; Hamlet's uncle murdering his dad to usurp all of Denmark and Hamlet running around trying to figure out what to do about it; Prospero shipwrecking his sneaky brother on his island and sending Ariel to mess with his head. This is not like George Eliot, writing about a bunch of people talking in a place in England called Middlemarch (love that book too, btw). These stories are EPIC. They're as accessible and riveting as fairy tales

When you're little, you see Shakespeare painted on the wall in Barnes & Noble, and you figure he must be a good writer. No one tells you that he writes about AWESOME STUFF. Tales from Shakespeare whets your appetite for more.

Reading Tales from Shakespeare does one other thing for you: when one of your teachers finally assigns you MacBeth in tenth grade, you know what it's about without having to go check wikipedia first. Knowing the plot makes it so much easier to understand what's going on in each scene. Which brings me to my next point.

4.
Reading Shakespeare's plays can feel like reading in another language. Why? Because it IS another language.

Elizabethan England was half a millenia ago!! The awesome thing about language is that it's always adapting, evolving to fulfill our needs. For example, two decades ago, email wasn't really in everyone's dictionaries. And nobody knew what Expelliarmus meant. And some words go out of style - I still don't fully understand what an 8-track is, for instance.

In the five centuries or so from Shakespeare's day, we've lost a lot of words and phrases. That's why any copy of a Shakespeare play worth its salt has a glossary.

Any kid in French class can tell you reading in another language is slow-going. You have to look up every other word, especially at the start. That's mainly why people give up on Shakespeare. It's hard to figure out what's going on.

But any good French student will tell you that it gets better with practice. You start understanding the rhythm of the sentences; words that looked foreign suddenly make sense: "Anon" starts to mean, Wait a sec! and "I prithee" starts to look like, Come on, pleeeeaaaasssseeeee in your head.

So, hang in there, young Shakespeare reader. Keep trying. It's totally worth it.

5.
I bet you're waiting for me to tell you what Shakespeare means to me as a writer. All writers end up here at some point, thanking the Bard for his awesomeness, and I'm no different. When I think of what Shakespeare taught me, I think of a few things:

The first is how to use dialogue properly. Dialogue in any story should either a) move the plot forward, or b) reveal character. Actually, it's better if you can do both at the same time.

Shakespeare's plays do both. In fact, they do that all the time, pretty much in every line. Why? Because in a play, words are basically the only things on stage. You don't have a close-up of the actor's face to reveal emotion like in a movie; you don't watch the character's thoughts unfold like you do in a short story; you can't learn his backstory like in a few leisurely pages like you do in a novel.

Shakespeare had to use his words, and he does it splendidly. You can learn from him, people.

Joss Whedon - creator of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Firefly - says this about Shakespeare's dialogue too, btw. Check out this interview.

Shakespeare in Love - awesome film.
But LOOK AT ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE THEATER!!!
Ground floor = cheap seats.
The box seats = the nobility and the wealthy.

6.
I learned one important thing in my high school class. It came from an awesome short book on Shakespeare, the name of which eludes me right now, but Ms. Todd - my teacher - drove it home:

Shakespeare was popular in his own time, because he included something for everyone

He had the romance for the noble ladies betrothed to old dudes they'd never met; slapstick comedy for the working people who wanted a laugh before going back to their daily drudgery; intense power struggles for the politicians who tagged along to the theater after Queen Elizabeth I; flourishy language for the poets who kept trying to impress each other with their sonnets; dirty jokes for the teenage boys sneaking away from their apprenticeship duties; sword fights for the people who craved blood and action sequences; plus some fantasy, some ghost story, some family disputes.

In short, he didn't think of himself as an artist, who had to protect and nurture his pretty pretty words. He thought about his audience. He knew he had to entertain them, so they'd tell their friends and come back for more.

But he didn't stop there. He also worked from the big themes, tackled the big questions: how love can cause both jealousy and joy; the death of innocents and the rise of the greedy; the corrupting nature of power; the fantastic nature of life itself, etc.

Whenever critics dig their claws into popular literature for young people, I want to tell them this:

Like the Bard, you can do both at the same time. You can entertain, and you can capture the terrible wonder of being human. Stories like that transcend the telling. They step inside you and change the way you understand the world.

Shakespeare did that for generations.

Thanks, Will. You're my superhero.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Ever Afters go to...SERBIA!!!!

Once upon a time - by which, I mean yesterday - I was taking a long re-plotting walk through my new neighborhood. It was not very fruitful on the plotting front, but I made an executive decision not to let it bother me.

Why?

The sun was shining.

Because it was so darn pretty outside.

And all of Portland was in bloom.

Then, I got back and found an email from Kathleen that made EVERYTHING SPARKLE WITH AWESOME:

The Ever Afters sold in Serbia!! To Alnari Publishing!!!! In a two-book deal!

Hold on for a second - I need to squee my head off.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

Yes, this pleases me greatly. Rory, Chase, and Lena will be in such good company!! Alnari also publishes Peter and the Starcatchers, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and THE HUNGER GAMES - plus some assorted titles from Tamora Pierce, Stephen King, Salman Rushdie, Meg Cabot, and Nora Roberts.

(According to Alnari's website, author names get translated too. I mean, Stephen King and Nora Roberts are still Stephen King and Nora Roberts, but Philip Pullman becomes Filip Pulman, Suzanne Collins turns into Suzan Kolins. Cool, right?)

I can't wait to see what the Serbian cover will look like! According to Google Translate and Cruiser Dictionary, the title will look something like this:

Евер Афтерс | Ever Afters

Џинова и леда | Of Giants and Ice


Disclaimer: I don't actually speak Serbian. If you do and if you have a better translation, please comment on this post, and I'll change this!

Many thanks to Kathleen (a.k.a. the Queen of Foreign Rights), Jo, and the lovely people of Alnari Publishing!

I'm pretty sure y'all made my whole week. :-)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

March: The Month of In-Betweens

I spent March In-Between: in between Winter and Spring, in between long drives, in between revisions, in between visits, in between finishing one book and promoting its prequel, in between apartments, in between traveling and building a home, in between one chapter of my life and the next.

(Wow, you know when you write a word so many times that it starts to look foreign, like maybe you haven't spelled it right. That just happened to me and "between." :-P) 

It's not a bad place, but it's definitely busy - and not exactly full of interesting activities.

But today, because I was driving down from Seattle and my mind had a little mental free time, I thought about how many stories have In-Betweens, especially in fantasy and scifi. A place, a portal, or a passage, which is the dividing line between one thing and the other.

For example, Lucy and her siblings must go through the wardrobe to reach Narnia in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Found the image here,
but I think the illustration credit goes to Pauline Baynes.
But my favorite In-Between place from C. S. Lewis is the "Wood Between the Worlds" in The Magician's Nephew, an in-between place filled with trees and with small pond-like pools. Each pool took you to a different world; all you had to do was jump in it.

In The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland (In a Ship of Her Own Making), September passes through the Closet Between Worlds to reach Fairyland.

From "The Beast Below" -
a.k.a. one of my favorite episodes.
You could argue that the Doctor's Tardis is an In-Between (you could also argue that it's a vehicle, though; or if you've watched Series 6, she might also be a person). But it's there at the beginning and end of every adventure.


The In-Between in Spirited Away is the abandoned amusement park Chihiro and her parents stumble upon, and I love the way it felt magic even before any of the creatures appeared.

Alice has her rabbit hole, and her looking glass. Both In-Betweens take her to Wonderland.


Harry Potter's In-Between is the Platform 9 3/4.

Even The Ever Afters has In-Betweens - the first of them is an ordinary red door, which takes Rory to Ever After School for the first time and changes her life forever.

Storytellers love In-Between places. That's where the end of something familiar touches the beginning of something new. They mean change, and change almost always means conflict. Conflict means story.

That's where I am right now. I'm in the middle of a lot of change. I'm sure I've passed through In-Between months before, but this time, I noticed it happening. I paid attention, took notes - I'll use it as book fodder someday.

Right now, here In Between, I'm too close to my story to be able to tell it properly.

Instead, I'll leave you with a quote:

“When in doubt, choose change.” -Lily Leung

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Red

Disclaimer: This may not be suitable for kids.

RED from RED on Vimeo.

Dan Haring tweeted a link to this video today, and I loved it so much I just had to share. The directors Jorge Jaramillo and Carlo Guillot evoke so much with music and color and pack so much story into just a few minutes - it drew me to the edge of my seat, and I teared up in a public place.

Note: It's definitely a Grimm sort of fairy tale, which means blood and violence in the darkest woods. Two minutes in, it gets rather gruesome. You've been warned...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Five - the Pacific Northwest Edition


My travels have been epic this month! So epic, in fact, that I haven't had enough time to sit down and handle email, let alone blog.

Today, that changes. Today, I update you on my life and travels. With pictures. :-)

1. At the end of February, I left Healdsburg and drove north to Eureka in Northern California. Why Eureka? a) it has an awesome name. (That was seriously and non-ironically a contributing factor.) b) Redwoods. There are parks with redwoods both north and south of the town, and I've wanted to see some redwoods since I was a kid.


And beaches!! You drive north, the highway curves, and suddenly the whole Pacific Oceans is spread out glittering below you. And you can stop and check out the pocket beaches like this.


2. Then, I drove north to Portland on March 2 on a wet and rainy night. I held out less than 24 hours before I drove downtown to visit Powell's and the main library. I doubt that surprises anyone.

This is the library. By sheer chance, I parked right across the street from it.

I also took advantage of a gloriously sunny Sunday and went to Washington Park.

3. A week later, my friend Arielle and her boyfriend Zack came out to visit me and see Portland.

She is the epic planner of all things vacation, and thus began the food tourism. It was too delicious for us to remember to take pictures, but I managed this one before I gobbled the rest of it down:

SO tasty. Totally worth the long line.

Wine tourism at Oregon Wines on Broadway.
I was the designated driver.

Arielle also wanted to go to the Grotto, which was extremely cool, but slightly creepy on a gloomy, rainy day. I cite this photo as evidence:

This is the elevator, btw.

But it was also very pretty.

We also left Portland and saw some cool stuff:

The Oregon wine country!

Multnomah Falls!

NOTE: Visiting the Pacific Northwest has taught me to recognize 50+ shades of GREEN.

Then they went home. I had an extra day between dropping Arielle off at the airport and my Seattle plans.

4. On Wednesday, I drove north again. (Basically, the last couple weeks have been a springtime migration North, like a bird.) It was a rainy day all the way from Portland to Seattle - giant trucks throwing up spray on my tiny MINI Cooper, like someone throwing buckets of water on my windshield. Honestly, it was some of the hardest driving I've done on this trip. And you know what? I can't imagine how the settlers did it!! When my car slid a bit, my thought was this: how did people do this with a covered wagon??

But now I'm here, staying with my friend Maria. We worked together in New York, and then she came out to Seattle to work for Amazon. Her apartment is full of books - four bookcases and stacked up on the edges of the spare room. Obviously, she's my kind of girl.

This is what Seattle looked like at dinner this evening.

5. Despite my multiple visits to Powell's, I've only gotten a chance to finish one book this past week:


I read a lot of Katherine Applegate's Animorphs series as a kid, but I usually don't like books with animal characters. I actively avoid them, to be honest. But I heard too many glowing reviews about The One and Only Ivan, and I had to pick it up.

It was SO good! I inhaled it in one day. It's one of those books that breaks most of the rules about plot and pacing, but it sears itself into your heart. I definitely, DEFINITELY recommend it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reading on A Dark Day

So, yesterday was kind of a bleak day. For no real reason.

The Japanese Garden in Washington Park,
which I explored on the gloriously sunny Sunday.

Sunday was awesome. Portland was warm. It was sunny. It was like spring. I walked around Washington Park and wrote ten pages of a fun, unpublishable project completely unrelated to The Ever Afters. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Then yesterday hit with a case of the Mondays. It was raining, like Portland has been known to do (I've been in denial about the amount of precipitation in the Pacific Northwest, but I think that cured it). I drove around and got lost and tried to visit a cafe I found on yelp, but it was mysteriously closed. I watched my phone for emails and didn't get any.

Like I said, no real reason.

But I was in such a funk. Kind of overwhelmed by life, and wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. Kind of wishing that I hadn't driven across the country for the adventure of it, I wanted to be home. Well, I wanted to be someplace where someone I know could give me a giant hug.

I have a point, I promise. I'm not just complaining.

And then, 9 o'clock rolls around. I shut down all my freelance work for the night, take a shower, and can't decide what to do. I decide to read a chapter of Shannon Hale's Midnight in Austenland, go to bed early, and hope tomorrow would be kinder.

I bet you know where this is going now.

Highly recommended on all fronts. :-)

Yeah, I stayed up reading until the wee hours of the morning. I finished the book. I was giddy with how much I enjoyed it. The pure, unexpected joy of reading something for pleasure, getting caught up in a story totally removed from my own.

Somewhere between Chapter 3 and the last page, my mood had totally reversed. I was no longer worried about finding a place to live, or finding another job, or when I'm going to find the time to get my website up, or what exactly my personal marketing plan for Of Giants and Ice should be. I wasn't even too concerned about what I was doing with my life. The future made me feel hopeful. I was glad to be where I am, life-wise, and locale-wise, and totally excited that my college roommate will fly over to visit me on Thursday.

Now, I'm not totally sure why this happened. Maybe it was just a cause of the Mondays; maybe they eased as soon as I read straight into the wee hours of Tuesday. But I also hadn't finished reading a book for fun for almost two weeks, which usually only happens when I'm under deadline.

Is it possible to be addicted to reading like some people are addicted to exercise? Like, did my body not get its weekly dose of book endorphins???

It's possible. After seeing how many books I read last year, I decided to read FEWER books this year. In 2012, I wanted to do more living than reading (mainly because I feel like the opposite happened in 2011). With my road-trip adventure in place, this turned out to a goal that was easy to achieve.

But I guess last night was a reminder - Don't lock yourself in stupid policies. Read if you freaking want to read. It's one of your favorite things.

In other news, it looks like this today:

Gorgeous, right?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Insane, but Necessary


I don't think I've mentioned this yet: I'm traveling up the West Coast, trying to find a place I want to live.

Disclaimer: these pics don't have much to do with this post, except for the journeying trope.

One of my favorite scenes in Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre is this one in the very beginning - where Jane is running away from Rochester.

Sounds very straightforward when I put it that way, doesn't it? It almost seems like I have a plan. This is not precisely true. It's a weird nomadic sort of life. I don't know precisely where I'll be sleeping a week and a half from now, and most people find that a very frightening thought. Actually, sometimes, I find that very frightening.

NOTE: Life is scary. And amazing. The trick is learning how to let it be both at the same time.

Living my life this way seems insane to most people. I'm fully aware of that, and I've just figured out why it makes perfect sense to me:

I've always justified my crazy-seeming actions. I'm used to it.

Jane finds herself at the crossroads, and she tries to figure out where to go. But she has a problem: she knows that Rochester will look for her and search these paths.

FOR EXAMPLE

Q: What? You want to go to a semester-long program in coastal Maine where you live in log cabins heated by wood stoves, work on an organic farm, and learn about the environment with thirty-some other high school juniors? [The Are you crazy? is implied in their tone.]

A: Yes, it'll look great on my college applications.

(Note to young readers: If you want to do unusual stuff, I highly recommend this excuse. But then you should actually use it in your college apps. I did, and I got into a great school.)

ANOTHER EXAMPLE

Q: What? You want to move to New York, without a job? And go to a summer post-grad program designed to train professionals in publishing? The same industry that everyone says is dying and short on jobs?

A: Yes. I've talked about becoming a writer since kindergarten. When else will I get a chance to learn the industry from the inside?

So, eventually Jane decides to ditch the roads and cut across the moors.

THE MOST RECENT EXAMPLE

Q: What? You want to give up your hardwon, well-placed job in New York and try to get published? In this terrible economy?

A: Yes. Unfortunately, the noise and energy of New York have given me insomnia, which has led to some unforeseen health problems. I need to move to recover.


Now, the answers I gave were not the whole answer. But what can we glean here?

#1. Where there is great risk, there will always be naysayers.

#2. I take risks. (But honestly, so do we all. I just didn't realize how many gambles I've taken with my whole life in the past ten years.)

#3. You can get naysayers off your backs by framing an answer around something most people value - education, career, and health.

Talk about the road less traveled. The moors are basically the wilderness. Nice, sheltered, educated young governesses just don't trot off into the wilderness on their own. It's just not done.

I love this scene in the book too, btw.

But I don't have a ready-made excuse this time.

My reasons are the same reasons I had for the above examples, the reasons that I didn't say outloud: I want to. It'll be a great experience. I've been talking about it for years.

And one more, which is even harder to define: It feels like the right thing to do.

Yes, it is probably insane. That doesn't make it unnecessary.

I am twenty-five. Both of my jobs can travel with me on my laptop. I know that I won't always have the opportunity to be so nomadic. I also know that if I don't do this, one day, decades from now, when I have children, a mortgage, and other responsibilities, I will wish I did.

The great and scary thing is, I'm not required to explain myself to anyone anymore. That's the benefit of being a grown-up.

Brace yourself for some cheese-tasticness, folks: I try to live my life the way my characters do. I try to be true to myself, and as cliche as it sounds, I am following my heart.

Those decisions? The ones that seemed nuts? They're the ones I appreciate the most.

In their aftermath, I grew the most.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ever Afters #1 - Of Giants and Ice


You've seen the cover before, but I don't believe that I've mentioned what happens in the book.

Do you know what that means???

It's time to share the flap copy!

Happily Ever After can seem a long way off when you're waiting for your life to really begin...

Rory Landon has been known her whole life as the daughter of a famous movie star and an award-winning Hollywood director. So it is a surprise and a relief when no one at her new after-school program seems to care or even know who her parents are.

That relief quickly turns to disbelief when Rory finds herself faced with a real live fire-breathing dragon on her first day and she realizes that at Ever After School, the kids look up to a different kind of celebrity. For example Jack (as in the Beanstalk) and Snow White (like with the Seven Dwarfs) are not only real, but teaching Rory and her friends how to prepare for when their own tale begins. Never in the spotlight before, Rory is about to discover just what it means to have the starring role.

But is her tale destined for a happy ending?
Woooot!!

It's interesting - what the editor/publishing house decides to focus on when introducing the book as opposed to what I focused on in my query letter to Joanna. For me, it was all about Rory's new best friend and new worst enemy, but I suppose it did have a few spoilers in it.

So, I won't post that query letter now, I guess. I'm tempted, but no, I'll be good. :-P

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Please take a moment, and CHECK OUT THE AWESOME!

Remember that vlog I mentioned last time???

Warning: contains geekiness and strange voices (all mine).



Wow, just realized that this is going up on Valentine's Day.

Well, that fits actually, because I'm in love with my galleys. :-)

(No, I could not resist being cheesy. Physically incapable.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Five - the Healdsburg Edition

No, this is not Healdsburg.
This is a field I saw on the drive over, outside St. Helena, forty minutes away.
I found out recently that the yellow flowers are wild mustard.
Feel free to drool over the pretty. :-P

  1. I did a vlog last week, to share two very important pieces of info with you. But I haven't edited it yet, so I can't post it. I will tell you the lesser of the two news bits: The Ever Afters 2 is in!

    I felt a little bereft after I sent it. After all, that book has been a major pillar in my life since July, and it feels strange to have it missing.

    But Courtney, my talented and savvy editor, has it now. My brain feels loose and free.

  2. This recent relaxation has been nice, but I'm afraid it has resulted in a Cold to End All Colds. Seriously, it's been a while since I've been reduced to a sniffly, coughing, tissue-laden mess. (This may explain why I haven't found the time to edit that vlog.)

    Don't worry, my friends. I'm combating it with chicken soup, rest, and my weight in honey-sweetened lemon tea.

  3. This month, I'm living in Healdsburg, CA - which is part of the Russian River wine country. You know Napa? Well, I'm kind of right above it. For cold reasons, I have not yet visited any of the wineries, but I have partaken of the awesome food.

    And I've visited the library. Because obviously, that's what I do. They have a cool wine library, full of books on grapes and vintages and history. And a case of old wine-making equipment.

  4. I've realized something recently: I really love books.

    You would think that this is obvious, considering that I spend the majority of my days with them, either the reading of books or the writing of books or the revising of books, but it struck me recently, hard and sharp like walking into a ladder you didn't notice (I know exactly what that feels like; I've done it). This love has structured the fabric of my life, enriched it, and comforted it. If I was bereft when I sent The Ever Afters 2 off to Courtney, then life without books would be so much different, so much emptier.
    Without books, with the words on the page that become stories in the brain and characters in the heart, my life would be hollow.

    Is that a terrifying thing? I suppose it is a terrifying thing, to look at it that way. It might even be hyperbolic to some people. But in a weird way, I'm grateful for it. Some people live their whole lives without a passion like mine for books. It's a gift to love something so much.

    (Illness and reading have clearly turned me into a contemplative, tissue-laden invalid. :-P)

  5. A couple books I have enjoyed recently (I'm on a YA kick):

Under the Never Sky,
by Veronica Rossi

This is the most hopeful dystopian I've read - ever, I think. It's kind of got that Romeo-and-Juliet/Savage and Sheltered Singer thing going on, but it's also about being alive. Being fully alive, and taking your own destiny back in your hands. The love story gave me tingles.



The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer,
by Michelle Hodkin

Paranormal + a teen with post-traumatic stress disorder = a page-turner that seriously keeps you guessing. ALL the clues are there, but you don't trust them. You don't trust them, because Mara doesn't trust her own mind. I was blown away. Like totally stunned, mouth hanging open, desperate for Book 2.


Why We Broke Up,
written by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket),

Reading this one now, but I just found out it was a Printz Honor book. That made me smiley.

Oh, to have your heart good and thoroughly broken. This is just so gorgeously done - one of the few that depict how the bad things sting after a relationship ends, but it's the good parts you remember that fracture your heart the most. I often come across a passage, and the writing is so good I want to cut it out and keep it forever.

If you've had your heart broken recently, I recommend reading it with tissues.

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Okay, my friends - I will get that vlog up soon. I'm aiming for Tuesday, but it really depends on my poor muddled head.