Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing for the market, but not too much

I know one of the frustrating things about submitting a book to agents and editors is the whole, "We want something fresh and different we've never seen before! Except we also want something familiar and easy-to-market."

I was looking at writings from 4-5 years ago, when I was first taking professional writing seriously, and I'd forgotten how much I initially struggled with writing for the market. Throughout my teen years and early twenties, I think I found my writing voice working on various projects. 90% of them were about my fictional world Arestin, and could be best described as "fantasy slice-of-life family saga." If you're thinking it would be hard to market "fantasy slice-of-life family saga" ANYwhere, you are probably correct. It wouldn't have even fit in YA because the characters were all ages, not to mention that "fantasy slice-of-life" itself is hard to pull off. It would be as if J. K. Rowling announced a series about Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione raising their kids and their relationships with their friends and families in the peaceful years after they leave school. Except, you know, without even being J. K. Rowling.

And the other 10% was semi-historical fantasy rather like Magic Under Glass or Between the Sea and Sky except not nearly as cohesive.

Nevertheless, I don't think anyone would say I didn't have unique ideas, or that I couldn't write, or that my writing itself didn't have commercial appeal... I just couldn't get it all together.

The trouble, for me, was puzzling out a way to tell a unique story in a commercial way. I think that's really what people are asking for. I think everyone has a different path to figuring out how to do it. I had to learn how to give my characters something exciting to do, and a plot that put their magical abilities to use, without sacrificing my love of intimate, quiet moments and the grounding of everyday, relatable life.

There was some major turbulence along the way. I kept trying to write contemporary fantasy, sometimes an Arestin novel and sometimes not. Both were just turning out awful. I found out I can't write first-person present worth a damn, I hate my snarky narrators, and I don't want to write a humorous novel, although I can write a novel with humor IN IT. I was extremely prolific and experimental in '05-'06...and almost ALL of it was crap that makes me cringe worse than things I wrote in '02-'04 when I was just having fun with that fantasy slice-of-life fantasy saga. Some of it was very commercial and fun and who knows, it might have even sold...if I'd cared to finish it. It just. Wasn't. Me.

But I'm glad I took the time for both phases. I think my grasp of what is my OWN voice and how to make a story that is structured in a marketable way are both so much stronger for my years of writing for myself and my years of writing junk to try and fit a mold.

(Also, don't forget, I'm having a giveaway for an ARC of Everlasting! Only a handful of entrants right now, and all you need to do is comment on my last post! Yay!)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Interview with Angie Frazier on character creation + EVERLASTING giveaway!

Some months ago, I was talking to Angie Frazier within some blog comments about writing longterm about characters, and writing outside of the novel in which they appear. Angie told me that she had been writing about Oscar Kildare, the hero/love interest of Everlasting, going on 10 years, and has written side stories about Oscar and Camille outside of the novel.

I LOVE hearing that I'm not the only author who does this. The characters in Magic Under Glass are relatively new and don't "exist" outside the book, but I'm excited to see books on the shelf with some of my longterm characters. But also nervous. VERY nervous. They've been private to me for so many years, it feels like sending your children to college or hope they'll be okay when they leave the nest. I asked Angie if I could interview her about Oscar and Camille and her experience, so here she is.

--How did you first get the idea to write about Oscar and Camille, and how have they changed over the years?

I honestly don’t remember how Oscar and Camille came into my head. I’ve always been drawn to star-crossed love stories, so I am sure I just wanted to create one of my own. What I do remember though, was falling very quickly in love with Camille and Oscar’s story. They were so different from one another—raised differently, lived differently—and yet they fit together so well.
Over the years, Oscar has done the most changing (which I’ll talk about in response to your next question!) but Camille has also done a lot of growing up. I have read a few reviews saying Camille frustrated them with her stubbornness, but that’s actually a quality that I’d worked to layer into her character over the years. I can’t feel sorry for it! I needed to test her mettle in order to develop her and I discovered she could handle a lot more than I originally thought. In the first few drafts I remember her crying way too much, and being much too dependent on Oscar and Ira and “chance.”
I feel like Camille’s character has grown stronger as I’ve worked with her the last decade.

--Is there an aspect of Oscar you didn't get to convey within the book that you wished you could? (Maybe in the future?)

This is the first time I’ve ever talked about this online, but there is an Alter Oscar. The very first Oscar I created had a TOTALLY different history than the Oscar that is in the final version on bookshelves. For one thing, he was much older—about 30 years old. He had been married to a girl in Ireland who had died, and feeling he had nothing left in Ireland, Oscar and his brother had immigrated to Boston. Only, on the way to Boston his brother had died. Oscar arrived in Boston alone, and soon became a thug for an Irish mob boss. When he ended up killing this mob boss (for reasons that would take too long to explain) he set out across the country. He stopped in California where he met Camille and her father, and then the rest took off from there.
I really love this past Oscar. Even though I edited him to be younger and without the dark and stormy past while doing revisions with my agent, this is still the Oscar I live with in my head.

--Ooh. I understand why you had to change it, but I like that Oscar backstory a LOT... Can you give us an idea of some of their side adventures that aren't in Everlasting?

There are some that are like little vignettes and others that could be a whole book if I wanted to take the time to write them. Let’s see…one of the best ones for exploring Oscar’s dedication to Camille and her father, and Camille’s own strength, was the one that involved a mutiny at sea. Who doesn’t like a dangerous mutiny at sea? ☺ Some take place on land, back in San Francisco, and work in Camille’s fiancé, Randall, more than what I was able to write in the first book. (There is a lot of Randall in the second book!) I really like those San Francisco stories, seeing Oscar and Randall at odds and Camille trapped in the middle. Yes, I do love a dramatic love triangle!
I kind of hope one day to have the time to write a few of these “episodic” stories, even if they are just for myself.

--Sounds like good website extras... By reading your guest post at Tempting Persephone, it sounds like you started imagining these side stories as a character development exercise that got out of control (well, or just turned out really awesome). Have you, or do you plan to, use this technique for future stories, or is it sort of special to the characters in Everlasting?

I haven’t used this method for any other story yet. In my middle grade novel out next March, Suzanna Snow is the main character and I clicked and connected with her right away. I didn’t really need to explore her and her relationships this way.
However, with a YA that I wrote last year, and plan to get back to soon and hopefully sell at some point (**crosses fingers**) I can definitely see myself creating side stories for the characters. They are very complex characters with a lot of personal demons. I can tell I’m going to need to handle them with care ☺

--Good luck with your new YA. Who doesn't love characters with lots of personal demons! Do you think getting to know the characters so well and think about them in different situations made revisions easier? Or harder?

I think it definitely made it more difficult to make massive changes, especially to Oscar’s character. By the time I was doing revisions with my agent, these characters were so close to me. They felt like my babies, really, and then needing to change Oscar’s backstory so drastically felt like I was betraying his character a little! But once I settled in with his new story, I was definitely happy with it.
Camille didn’t require a whole lot of change, but she did need to come to life a little more on the page. Hands down, she has been the most difficult character to write. But I also think she’s the most rewarding character for me, too.

Awesome answers, Angie. Thanks so much!

Also, when I asked Angie if she would do this interview months ago, it was in a picture post I'd put up on Livejournal of my own characters. I promised Angie I'd draw Oscar for her, so here it is! Of course, now that I've scanned it, somehow I can see that his head is too big and the lower half of his torso seems to be missing, but I hope she enjoys it anyway. ;)

Finally, I'm doing a giveaway for my Everlasting ARC! I will warn you, all the pages with physical descriptions of Oscar are dogeared for the purpose of doing the above fan art... But if you'd like to win, just comment on this post for an entry, and for an additional entry, follow me (@jackiedolamore) and Angie (@angie_frazier) on Twitter and let me know you did in your comment. Make sure you give me a way to contact you. This giveaway is US/Canada onlyl, I'm so sorry! I've been spending too much money lately. It will end 8/7.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quitting your day job...y/n?

So here's a popular topic. Should a debut author quit their day job? Common sense generally says NO, and yet, I know quite a few debut authors who did. I'm one of them. I have now been a full-time author for 16 months, and I'm not sorry, but I've also made some mistakes, so I thought I'd talk a bit about the lessons I've learned.

Lesson #1: Be prepared for delaaaaaaaaaaaaaays.For one thing, a brief rundown of the past 2 years:
Aug '08: Sold book.
Feb '09: Saw first advance check, 1/2 each of two books in a two book deal.
June '09: Saw second half of Magic Under Glass advance for turning in final edits.
Mar '10: Sold Magic Under Stone.
July '10: Saw first half of Magic Under Stone advance.

Note that I went for over a year with absolutely no new income. And that I still haven't seen the entirety of the advance from my original deal, almost two years later. And that it took six months to get my original advance check. And this is with my books coming out in a timely fashion. Not everyone's do. And I sold another book in a timely fashion. Not everyone does. The hardest part about being a full-time author who does not yet receive royalties is, you have almost no clue when your next check is coming. Your editor might indicate some loose time frame and it will turn out TOTALLY WRONG. It is wise to try and behave as if you'll never get a check again and you need to stretch what you have out as long as possible. But, that's hard sometimes, because...

Lesson #2: If your writing income is a decent improvement over your non-writing income, don't expect to stick to your old budget. When I first got my advance check, I had sensible plans for it. 1/3 would go into savings. I would stretch it out over the next two years. I had spent my entire adult life until that point working part-time in retail and my earnings were pathetic. I was the budgeting QUEEN. So, needless to say, there were a lot of things I couldn't resist buying when I had more money. I spent more in one year than I had in three years updating my TV and couch and going to the dentist and taking vacations and all sorts of things.

Lesson #3: If you're going to quit, have either relatives you can borrow from, a job you can return to, or hopefully both. I had both when I quit. And I did have to borrow from my mom, briefly, before the Magic Under Stone check came, although I still had a little stash of stocks I could cash if I had to.

Lesson #4: It may be hard to get used to working from home. This was my biggest surprise. I was homeschooled. I love being home! Yet, when I first left work, I was accustomed to being at work 3 or 4 days a week, and for some months I wanted to be out in the world a lot. But it was hard to think of things to do for free all the time. So I spent a lot of money being out. Eventually this wore off and I'm content being home a lot again. If you can, commit yourself to social activities sometimes even when you're not in the mood, so you won't end up stir-crazy.

Lesson #5: Don't forget taxes! As soon as I got paid, I went to TurboTax and plugged in my income. It wasn't the right year's TurboTax, and I didn't know what my deductions would be, but it gave me an idea, so I put aside a LARGE chunk of money for taxes. Save your receipts and don't feel bad about indulging in a little writerly travel and some books... (Maybe I should call this "Potential Lesson #5" because thank goodness, I didn't screw this one up.)

That's what I've learned. This year I'm back to a strict budget. (Of course, I also have a new couch now. It doesn't feel as dire.) It's kind of an uncertain place, being a full-time writer. But I'm not one bit sorry I left work. Somehow, when I follow the path of my heart, things manage to work out somehow, cheesy as it may sound.

Of course, everyone who leaves work to write has different considerations and challenges. If other full-time writers, debut or otherwise, want to share what they've learned, comment away!

My upcoming projects

This has been a busy summer, as far as writing goes. Which is good! I realized I have not properly updated this blog on Between the Sea and Sky, so I thought I'd do a general Update of Projects.

Between the Sea and Sky is my next book! I feel a little bad for it sometimes because of course everyone wants Magic Under Stone. All in good time! I hope you'll love Between the Sea and Sky anyway. It's a love story, much moreso than Magic Under Glass. A love story between smart people with shared interests and mutual respect. Who also happen to be a mermaid and a winged guy. So if you like that kind of story, hopefully you will enjoy this.

I've been wanting to write about a mermaid since I was a wee thing who loved the movie Splash, and a winged guy almost as long. I first attempted the mermaid/winged guy pair up in a big messy novel I tried writing in my early twenties, against a backdrop of war and a zillion things going on. In Magic Under Glass, mermaids and winged folk are briefly alluded to, so in this book I had a chance to flesh out their culture.

I hope Alan doesn't feel too bad, being a skinny lightweight bat dude among all these winged angel/demon hunks that are coming out. ;)

Anyway, Between the Sea and Sky will be released in April or May 2011.

Then there is my story for Corsets and Clockwork, an anthology which should also be a Spring 2011 release. (I am SO EXCITED for Spring 2011.) I wrote half a story and then found out it needed to be more steampunk-y, so I'm back to the start again, with a story I am currently calling The Airship Gemini. If you're curious what it's about, here's a clue...I've been reading about Violet and Daisy Hilton for research... The Airship Gemini = conjoined twins + magic + love!

Finally, Magic Under Stone is coming right along. It will be released presumably in 2012. If Magic Under Glass was all whirlwind starcrossed lovers, Magic Under Glass is about the emotional repercussions. It's too early to tell exactly what will happen because I might change things and then my editor will suggest other changes, but I do think everyone who felt the villains in Magic Under Glass were underdeveloped and the romance too rushed will be pleased. Unless you just don't really like my writing, in which case, you will not be pleased. ^_~

Monday, July 19, 2010

The winner of Beautiful Darkness is...


I hope you enjoy!

I thought it was funny how many of you practically ordered me to read Beautiful Creatures! Well, I will, but then I wouldn't be having this giveaway. ;)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My day with R. J. Anderson, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Karen Healey against a backdrop of Harry Potter fans!

I would title this "Infinitus 2010" except I spent virtually no time at the convention, except at my friends' panel. In fact, my most interaction was shelling out $50 to basically not attend. However, nothing against the convention, which seemed like a very lively event with tons going on and most excellent people-watching. I have never seen so many capes, a pleasure to my eyes. I like capes. I myself wore the green dress I obtained in NYC with a peach-colored capelet, black and white striped socks, and green men's 70's shoes which have an 18th century cut to them, heel and all. Well, if I was a witch, that's what I would wear.

I met Rebecca (R.J.), Sarah and Karen up in their hotel room. I must confess that for several minutes I had Sarah and Karen mixed up. I have no idea why because I've seen numerous pictures of Sarah and she looks exactly like said pictures. I think I was thrown by the fact that she didn't have an obvious Irish accent, but then, Karen's accent doesn't sound remotely Irish either, so none of this makes any sense. I blame it on the fact that I only got 3 hours of sleep, and luckily I didn't tell Karen I loved The Demon's Lexicon or anything.

(I will also note, I have twice before thought one writer was actually another writer, and in those cases I didn't realize until I got home. Even more luckily, this mistake has never been revealed. Unless I reveal it on my blog, like now, for your amusement.)

We talked for a bit, and then we had a panel to go to--me to watch the panel, the other three to be on it. The location of the panel had been moved, last minute, and we were led to a small hallway...for a moment I thought perhaps the panel would be held in a restroom, but it turned out to be more like a storage room for extra chairs and tables.

I don't really like to watch other writers be on panels because I WANT TO TALK, but it was a great panel. All three had very entertaining or interesting stories about how they get their ideas, and all three read excellent excerpts from their books, and all were good readers. I've seen some very bad readings, and I am always relieved to see good ones so I don't have to fight to nod off! The audience of ten or so people asked wonderful questions. Then we adjourned to the dealer room to sign, only the signing table was overwhelmed by some other event going on, so it never really happened as planned. I did sign the stock at the Books-A-Million booth and I heard some were sold. I thank you, whoever you are!!

We ate a hilariously small lunch at one of the hotel restaurants. My $5 miso soup had literally ten noodles in it, and about a teaspoon each of tofu and seaweed, with possibly half a cup of broth. Ohhh, Universal Studios.

Sarah, being from Ireland, wanted to get some Florida sunshine, so we went poolside to read. I was wearing the green dress, which I'm beginning to think is cursed, because I wore it on the hellishly hot day of BEA, and now was stuck sweating in it again. I might live in Florida but I'm not at ALL fond of the weather from May to October. Everyone else was reading but I really couldn't focus in the heat. After a little while, Rebecca also lost her tolerance for Florida in July and we went up to the hotel room and had a wonderful conversation about all those deep writerly topics--themes and representation and world-building and blah blah. Heaven!

Sarah wanted to go to the Books-A-Million rumored to be three blocks away, but it turned out to be closed. Forever. But Dade is always up for a bookstore trip and he needed to pick me up anyway, so I called him and procured us a ride to the Barnes & Noble. He's almost an hour away, so we had dinner first at the hotel, where we had more lovely writerly conversation. At one point, costumed Simpsons characters wandered over to our table and loomed over us. Sarah and I waved at them, but they didn't go away. They just STOOD THERE. Homer put his hand on Rebecca's back. All three of us waved, and finally they shuffled off. It was extremely creepy. Let me say it again: Ohhh, Universal Studios.

All in all, despite some ridiculous expenditures on Universal property, it was a lovely day with three wonderful writers, and a great reward for turning Between the Sea and Sky in to my editor on Friday, YAAY!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Chronology of Geekery

The other day I attended the #geektastic chat on Twitter to celebrate the paperback release of the Geektastic anthology, and it was a great chat--just tons of book people geeking out over geeky stuff together.

One of my tweets was, how many people trace their own life history based on what they were obsessed with at the time? I know I do. The stuff I loved is what shaped me as a writer and a person. (Even when, in hindsight, it's a bit embarrassing.)

So, here, with years approximate, is my life history via geekery.

Age 5-8: Scrooge McDuck. I loved Duck Tales so much because I identified with this wealthy, miserly, entrepreneurial good-at-heart duck. I even spent a huge chunk of my birthday money one year on an expensive collection of Carl Barks comics. Why, you may ask? I can only presume I had some past life as a railroad baron or something, and I wasn't quite over it.

Age 6-7: I actually had two different Scrooge McDuck phases that bookended my obsession with Zoobilee Zoo, particularly Bravo Fox, the arrogant homosexual theatrical fox. Okay, I mean, the show never said he was homosexual, but in hindsight... I was a bossy, hammy child, so it makes a little more sense I would identify with Bravo.
Age 9-10: For a little while I moved on to Back to the Future. In this case (yeah, I never wanted to be girls unless they were mermaids, I always wanted to be strange old men) all my pretend games were Back to the Future, and I was always Doc Brown. This is the obsession I'll admit that I least understand in my adult life.
Age 10-11: I loved the Xanth books by Piers Anthony like crazy, especially Jonathan the Zombie Master, who has an awesome bittersweet romance in Castle Roogna. It still holds up, if you ask me. I totally wrote fan fic about Jonathan, and even sent Piers a letter begging him to put Jonathan in more books. His response seemed a little confused as to why I cared so much.
Age 11-12: The Nightmare Before Christmas. This mingled nicely with my obsession with Jonathan the Zombie Master. At this point, I was mostly beyond fan fic and pretend games of other people's worlds, so I created my very OWN world, with a main character called Jonathan the Dungeon Master, and a skeleton dude who looked exactly like Jack. Because I was just that creative.

Age 11-14: Did I say I was over fan fic? Nevermind! I was still writing Final Fantasy IV fan fic. I also created three Final Fantasy IV board games (because for a while, I couldn't afford the game itself) and a Final Fantasy newspaper, comics, soundtracks taped off the game before I knew they really made them in Japan...I was like a little home-based DIY Final Fantasy industry. I say it left off at 14 because I think that's when the fan fic stopped, but I'll probably love the game to pieces forever.
Age 12-14: I can no longer remember when I first stumbled on Elfquest comics, but I went nuts for them, and abandoned Jonathan the Zombie...I mean, DUNGEON! Master and replaced him with some scantily clad elves with bad dialogue and strong cheekbones. Elfquest was wonderful and creative, but perhaps not the best thing to mimic.
Age 13-15: Elfquest love led me to some general comic book love, especially the X-Men, especially Nightcrawler...surprisingly, I don't think I ever ripped off his character. I mean, really, this is surprising.
Age 14-20: The first time I ever saw Sailor Moon was like, discovering a new religion or something, at the time. It was so different and amazing, and of course, I was soon sucked in to general anime fandom, my favorite series ultimately turning out to be Fushigi Yuugi. There was cosplay, my whole art style changed, I started studying Japanese and still haven't stopped, and I was helping to run Anime Festival Orlando for several years in my early twenties, but the really obsessive part had died down by then, so I won't count it.

Age 18-22: Before I got together with my partner Dade, almost all the music I listened to was video game and anime music. But Electric Light Orchestra turned out to be sort of like a gateway drug. For some reason--maybe because ELO is the music used for the Daicon animation from Japan--a lot of anime fans love ELO, including Dade. I started listening to ELO and Queen but what really turned me into a music geek was my discovery of David Bowie. And listening to Bowie led me to Bowie's contemporaries (Roxy Music!), the people who influenced Bowie (60s British mod groups!) and the people Bowie influenced. BTW, fashion obsession and music obsession went hand in hand.

Bowie and friends, btw, was really my last great obsession. At 23, I started following what became my career, and while I still find new stuff to love, I don't seem to need fandom like I used to. I guess because I've found a place in the world. I don't know if it's like this for everyone, but fandoms really helped me find out who I was, and filled gaps and needs in my life--for friends, for confidence, for permission to be or do certain things in my inner or outer life. It was amazing, fun, and sometimes deliciously painful to love something SO MUCH. I think we learn more from the things we geek out over than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. So...geek on! Or something.

Maybe later I'll post a few fan fic snippets. ;)

What is your geek chronology?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why I write pseudo historical fantasy

So, when I was young, most fantasy looked a certain way. The culture was pseudo-Medieval. There were kings, wizards, possibly knights, dragons. Women were supposed to settle down and get married but instead they were spunky... You know, things like that. The key word is PSEUDO-MEDIEVAL PLUS MAGIC a la Dungeons and Dragons or Tolkien novels, which were clearly some of the #1 influences on all fantasy that followed. If you wanted to mix it up, throw in a pseudo Middle Eastern bazaar with some thieves.

My early attempts at fantasy followed along these lines. There were girls who lived in small villages who wanted to be witches, and groups of people including a swordsman and healer who came together to go on a quest, etc. At age 12, I created the world of Arestin, which started to develop its own sort of unique culture, but nevertheless was modeled on a more traditional fantasy mold.

I still remember the day when this changed. I was 16 years old. I had a book out from the library on the Renaissance. It was lush with pictures of all the wonderful paintings and ideas that were around then, and it got to the time when Europeans discovered the Americas. It struck me what a bizarre thing that must have been. I started wondering what would have happened in the people of the Americas had had more advanced technology than the Europeans. I never actually pursued THAT particular idea, but in the course of thinking about it, my brain went off in some other directions, and I started writing a story based on a vaguely Edwardian culture--they had electricity and nightclubs and newfangled automobiles--encountering a Renaissance era culture that had been isolated for some reason. There was also magic and a race of winged people.

I had a ton of fun writing it, although it was never finished. It kind of blew my mind, too. OMG, I thought, YOU CAN WRITE FANTASY BASED ON ANY TIME OR PLACE! Why is it always MEDIEVAL!? Why is it always ENGLAND!? Why did I never think of this BEFORE?

Fast forward to now. Magic Under Glass is pseudo historical fantasy. And it's certainly not the only book of its type. Far from it. However, the common thing still seems to be that if it isn't Medieval, you need to set in in an alternate version of this actual planet. You can have Victorian wizards, sure, but they have to live in London and chill with Queen Victoria at some point. Sometimes people ask me why Magic Under Glass isn't set in our actual 19th century if it's going to be just like it anyway.

Well, it's not just like it. I don't really want to play with real world politics or real world people. It's not just a fear of research--I do gobs of research for these books anyway--it's that I want my own players, my own societal structures, my own land masses. The time period is there to set a mood, but the politics are my own. Sometimes people then ask, if you just want to set a mood, why don't you make up something totally new? I have Arestin to play around with some new ideas, but the idea of creating a bunch of "totally new" worlds is pretty exhausting...culture takes thousands of years and millions of people to develop, I don't quite have the hubris to try and fabricate that, and I think few writers can really create many different genuine fantasy worlds that feel entirely fresh.

Plus, most so-called "unique" fantasy worlds are still based on something...maybe just a few different things instead of one thing. For now, I'm sticking to it to the plan pseudo Medieval fantasy worlds have used for decades. I am going to feel free to co-opt the buildings, fashions and technology of any era I feel like evoking, and if you want to see Queen Victoria and Napoleon chilling with the sorcerers (and sometimes, mind you, I quite enjoy it myself, but not in my work), I recommend you to the many fine writers of alternate world historical fantasy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Infinitus Orlando and Beautiful Darkness giveaway!

So, I will be at Infinitus, the Harry Potter convention held at Universal Studios Orlando (well, at one of their hotels anyway) on Saturday, July 17th. I sort of weaseled in last minute because my Magic Under Stone check is here! So they are trying to see if they can set me up with a signing. I would think it's still enough time, but it's not confirmed YET. Either way, though, I will be there wearing my witchy red and white striped socks so if any of you are going, please say hi.

ALSO, I got a copy of BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS at ALA. But I have yet to read BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. And I think it will be a long while before I get to it, with all the ARCs I have! I know some of you are DYING to get your hands on this book, so if you want it, the rules are:

--If you currently follow me on my blog and on Twitter, you get a point for each if you comment here
--If you add my blog and Twitter, you get a point each if you comment here.

It's international. Make sure you leave an email address or some way of contacting you. Ends on Sunday, 7/18 at midnight ET. I think that's it!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

For today's blog post, see elsewhere!

I guest blogged about unschooling over at Maggie's Bookshelf. I talk about why I didn't go to college. There's a lot more I could've said about my unschooling experience, but that'll do for now. So go hang out over there if you're curious about unschooling or homeschooling, there are some other posts too by other people.

Now, back to my writing cave... I'm revising Between the Sea and Sky, and getting nearish to the end. I love this book so much. I'll be happy to finish it again but also sad to see it go...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

ALA 2010, pt. 2

Okay, I better type this before I completely forget everything. I already realized things had slipped my mind, like talking to Nancy Werlin and her husband about why I skipped college, and meeting Tricia Springstubb, a librarian-turned-writer with an upcoming MG called What Happened on Fox Street that sounds adorable. I thought it was cool to meet a librarian-turned-writer because I met many young librarians who really wanted to be writers but can't find the time at this point. Take heart, busy young librarians! You can do it later!!

--Sunday was Maggie Stiefvater day! It was also a day I skipped breakfast for some reason! Maggie arrived around 11-something, and we exchanged a series of texts much like this (but not quite like this because my texts are much shorter):
Me: are you here yet?
Maggie: random house
Me: That's where I am too!
*looks all over crowded Random House booth and sees no Maggie*
Me: I'm standing at the entrance of Random House
*thinks maybe I should go stand at Bloomsbury so at least I can talk to people I know while I stand there like a dork*
Maggie: Now I'm at Flux
I did indeed find Maggie at Flux and there was some roaming, some chatting with a dapper Flux employee (publicist I think?), a hello to David Leviathan, and an encounter with the ever-delightful Natalie Standiford.
--Maggie left all too soon, so I walked her back to her car, which was a long hot walk into a neighborhood where people appeared to be going clubbing at 3 o' clock on a Sunday afternoon. They had a red carpet and club wear and everything. Maggie drove me back to the convention center, which took about 20 minutes despite being maybe 5 blocks because we couldn't find streets going the right way.

--Wandered the con floor a bit more, despite a state of starvation. At some point I was hanging out with Cynthea Liu and Tammi Sauer, but maybe that was Saturday. IT'S ALL A BLUR! I meant to go to Amy and Holly's signings but instead got caught up talking to Mette Ivie Harrison--I'm a big fan of her books and blog and was so happy I came across her!--Harmony of Harmony Book Reviews, and some other bloggers. Well, Amy and Holly both sold out so clearly they were all right without me. ;)
--Sat with Jessica Shea for awhile talking about our books and recurring themes and just the sort of conversation I love. It was nice to slip away from ALA with just one person and have a really good talk.
--Dinner at Busboys and Poets with Jessica, Jennifer Hubbard, Shari Maurer, Hannah Moskowitz and her dad. Nice time, once we got our drinks--we had to sit outside and it was both hot and threatening rain. Luckily the latter never happened.
--Newbery/Caldecott dinner. I didn't pay for the fancy dinner part of course, but I sat in the free seats to watch the speeches. Quite the shindig!! Laurie Halse Anderson walked by at one point and complimented my Converse. =D Rebecca Stead's speech was just lovely and the energy in the room as the night went on was so powerful and so GOOD I almost did cry.

--Monday was, I'll admit, a slog. I was totally tired and kept zoning out in the middle of a conversation. I vowed to eat lunch before I had to fly out, but I ended up only having time to scarf down some french fries with Jessica. I also vowed to stop picking up ARCs that day, but I still ended up grabbing three more. I loitered around the Chronicle booth talking to Melissa Manlove for awhile, who was still managing to give posters away in a chipper voice on Monday.
--I lugged my bags to Amy's car. I had three bags full of ARCs at this point and was not sure I could get them all home, but somehow they pretty much all fit in my suitcase. Wonder of wonders!! I didn't know if I could LIFT this bag, and was terrified of being caught on the plane with my too-heavy carryon, but I managed to heft it into the overhead compartment and make it look easy! (Okay, maybe not make it look easy. But it got up there.)
--The plane took off, and just as it went in the air, the plane made a big rollercoaster dip. I have never been on a plane that did this before...and while it probably only lasted for 10 seconds or something, I never relaxed again. I spent the whole flight white-knuckled, sweaty and close to tears, clutching Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl and sort of pretending to read it, accepting my pretzels more as an excuse for human contact with a calm flight attendant than because of any ability to eat.
--I really need to move somewhere where I can take more trains.

The end!

**Photos: Me and Harmony of Harmony Book Reviews, and me (in the back!) on Saturday with Holly Cupala (left), Nancy Werlin (right), and two other nice women whose names escape me in the middle.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

ALA 2010: And, somehow I got all those ARCs home...

I have been trying to think how I can write this post without it being full of obnoxious name-dropping, but I guess it's impossible. BEA was awesome in that I got major face-time with my agent and editor and ate a gob of incredible food, but ALA was awesome in that it was more mellow and ideal for picking up ARCs and meeting fellow writers and passionate book lovers. I mean, most of the attendees are librarians and librarians are pretty much amazing, so what do you expect?

--Friendly man named Rob talked to me the entire flight, keeping me from paying attention to my fear of flying. I wish every airline had special "chatty" seating for people who fly better when they're talking to strangers. Except I guess you'd end up with weirdos sometimes.
--Took the Metro from the airport to the Smithsonian. The DC Metro seemed a lot more easygoing than the NYC subway. In fact, everything in DC seemed more easygoing than everything in NYC, which, along with Toronto, is the only other major city I've visited. In some ways, I missed the hustle and bustle of NYC, but I have to admit DC seems very livable. It made me yearn even more to move to the outskirts somewhere so I can come into town and see friends. The DC kidlit community is amazing. *sigh*
--Went to the American History museum. Paid what seemed like a million dollars for water. Saw the Star Spangled Banner (I'm fascinated with how fragile it is and all the trouble to restore it) and the First Ladies exhibit. Who knew Mary Lincoln was such a tiny little thing? I always think of her as looking kind of dumpy but the dress they have of hers is teeny, and adorably striped!
--Kidlit drinks night was insanely packed and noisy. Why was there a baseball game on in the background? You had to literally scream in people's ears to carry a conversation and my throat was hoarse halfway through. I had only eaten a Wendy's chicken sandwich all day so I was pretty starving and out of it, trying not to nibble too voraciously at the provided chicken wings. My hands became gross and barbecue sauce-y. Still, I saw loads of cool people, like Erin Murphy, agent to many people I like, Anne Marie Pace from the Blue Boards, adorable Jessica Lee Anderson and P. J. Hoover, and like...a lot of people. I don't even know anymore.
--I stayed at Amy Brecount White's house with Holly Cupala. Amy was a great hostess, and provided me with sustaining organic yogurt and berries so I wouldn't have to go to bed starving. Holly is sweet and adorable. Neither of us slept a wink because she was on west coast time and I was on "professional night owl writer" time. It was a Very Long Night.


--Holly and Amy had an early HarperCollins breakfast and I rode into town with them, so I was there very early. This day was awesome because I ate THREE meals. I had a leisurely breakfast of fruit, cheese and croissant at Starbucks, then went back to ALA. Somehow I managed to get utterly, stupidly lost on my way there and wandered with a full bladder for a good half hour, then got even more stupidly lost inside the building looking for a bathroom. I was there before the exhibit floor even opened, and as soon as I walked in, there were stacks of ARCs waiting to be grabbed. My bag was straining its straps within 10 minutes.
--I began a hunt for a tote bag, which ended happily at the Junior Library Guild booth. Magic Under Glass was a JLG selection so I said hi. "You're just a baby!" the woman there exclaimed.
--Tenners lunch at a tapas bar with Karen Kincy, Margie Gelbwasser, Lindsey Leavitt, Amy Brecount White, Holly Cupala (who was just having a drink), Holly Hoxter, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez, who could say all the tapas with a sexy accent. (I hope I didn't forget anyone.) They had unlimited tapas for $20 and I was in bottomless pit mode. Amazing heirloom tomatoes with honey-vinaigrette and goat cheese. Smoky tasting mushrooms, delicious snow peas, a skewer of grilled shrimp and scallops. Lousy half-melted ice cream. You win some, you lose some.
--At 4 we went to Georgetown for the Vermont College party. It was held at Tami Lewis Brown's house (which was GORGEOUS) and just felt so swank. There were so many people there that if you wanted to get to the drinks station for more water or iced tea you had to plan way in advance even if you were only about six feet away. I basically stood by the desserts and never tried moving because it was more trouble than it was worth. (I sampled all the desserts and none of the other food.) But no complaints because the people taking up the space were lovely people. All the Bloomsbury people were there and at one point my editor introduced me to M. T. Anderson and I had this brief but amazingly intelligent conversation that touched on composter Erik Satie, Montparnasse in the 20s, and historical research. (I don't mean it was amazing that M. T. Anderson was intelligent, I mean it was amazing that I was, and didn't just throw up compliments on his jacket.)
--After this I worked my way to the bathroom to pee and noticed I had a really unattractive zit on my chin. Of course.
--Had dinner with Carrie Jones, Kelly Fineman, and two other very nice women whose names I don't remember because I've pretty much determined I need to meet people at least twice--two different places, with two different outfits, and get their names both times--to remember names. And sometimes faces as well. I'm hopeless. -_- I was so glad to finally meet Carrie and Kelly, whom I've known online for so long.
--Carrie and I took a cab back to the convention area. Carrie got out first, then I talked to him about being in town for a library conference. The cab driver had a Bloomsbury book on the seat one of his kids had left behind!
--Hooked up with Amy and Holly, who were at dinner with some bloggers and such. Met Green Bean Teen Queen! She's so nice. Also met other people whose names I have more trouble with. I really wish I had a better memory. Seriously. It's embarrassing.

Okay, I better stop there. I've been typing this forever! I'll get around to the second part later.