Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking back on a WHIRLWIND 2011

At the end of the year I like to sit and reflect on the previous year (don't we all) but instead I'm too busy packing to think about it. If anything falls through with this house at the end I'm going to be like @#&%!!!! We've probably already packed a quarter of the house. I kind of have to because of my editorial letter on the way! No time for dilly dallying!

This year everything worked out exactly as I hoped and planned in my wildest dreams. I started writing Dark Metropolis in January, finished it in May, my agent sold it in June, I got paid in October and in November I made an offer on a house in Maryland.

I'm not really sure what to say except, thank you universe, I prostrate myself at your feet, if you have feet. This year has been amazing.

Last year was the year of travel and friends, lots of conferences and school visits and the like. This year was considerably more low-key, as I expected, but I still managed to fit some fun in. Well, sort of. There was:
--Branson retreat in Feb. Loads of cool people, but then I got the flu and we were almost trapped in the snow eating each other. We shall never speak of this again.
--Key Largo retreat in Feb. Unfortunately still in Florida, but otherwise lovely. Awesome people, food, manatees. Although I learned that staying in a house and quietly writing is NOT for me. The exhausting insanity of BEA is really my ideal vacation...
--Library visit in Dallas. Delicious laid-back meal with the librarian who invited me!!
--Summer visit with my friend Amanda (who also organized Key Largo), including inspiring trip to Flagler Museum.
--December trip to Asheville where I saw my parents in their new house, and hung out with super-rad Stephanie Perkins and Beth Revis.

I still felt a bit lonely and stir crazy this year. I've been too busy to hang out much or keep up with friendships, so I'm looking forward to the social festivities of the mid-Atlantic in 2012, although I might remain too house poor to do much for some time. Thank goodness Dade and I enjoy each other's company a lot.

It was a very productive writing year. Besides writing Dark Metropolis I wrote half of three other novels. And some other tinkering, as per usual.

My dream goal for 2012: Finish Dark Metropolis sequel as well as a middle grade and sell the middle grade!

Also, enjoy my new house and spend a lot more time in the sunshine and fresh air!

I'm excited for it, either way. This year saw the loss of Lisa Madigan and the first of my grandparents to pass on, and as I haven't experienced too much death in my life so far, it all hit hard, but also spurred me on to live boldly and not just stick with what is safe and dull.

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Odd Christmas

I hope you all had a lovely holiday. Thank you to all my friends who sent gifts and cards!

I have to say it was a pretty underwhelming Christmas on my end. The weather was so warm and muggy it was hard to feel festive, it was my first Christmas without my parents after their move to North Carolina, and being house-poor and moving I didn't want any presents, nor did I give any. I still got a few of course. And I really didn't want many presents. But it still feels a little odd. I also didn't buy a tree, nor did I bother to get out any decorations while I'm trying to PACK. But who wants to decorate when we've barely had a day all year that wasn't warm to hot? Apparently no one because the whole neighborhood is curiously lacking in lights and wreaths compared to prior years.

Oh, well. There were still some bright spots. The Science Channel ran an Oddities marathon. It's one of my favorite recent discoveries in TV, centering around the buying and selling of everything from taxidermy and pickled two-headed animals in jars to baby coffins and Victorian mourning jewelry in a small shop in NYC. I am not much of a fan of dead animals PERSONALLY, but the customers are so eccentric, artistic, and fascinating and the shop owners often go into their apartments and homes, crammed full with amazing collections. Also, the woman who works at the shop, Evan, seems like someone I would know and go junking with, and I'm totally crushing on the dapperly dressed employee Ryan Matthew Cohn.

Dade and I have been debating which of my characters he most reminds us of.

Besides watching DVRed episodes of Oddities throughout the holiday, I got "Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings" by Mary Henley Rubio, which has been utterly gripping. I've read all of L. M. Montgomery's journals except the final volume but Mary Rubio conducted many interviews and did a lot of research to show some different sides of her life as well as providing a terribly engaging summary of the events in her journals. I find LMM to be an endlessly fascinating personality. Proving that professional success doesn't necessarily bring much happiness, she had to deal with a lengthy lawsuit with her original publisher, a trouble marriage, bouts of depression, and many personal losses. Poor Maud. I read her when I need comfort. But I can hardly tear away from this book!

Finally, I heard from my editor for Dark Metropolis that my editorial letter is on the way soon. Despite some apprehension about juggling a 900 mile move and an editorial letter at once, I couldn't be more excited! I'm ready to dive back into this book!

(However, I don't think you'll be seeing much more of me for a WHILE.)

Also, it APPEARS that Junior Library Guild selected Magic Under Stone. Magic Under Glass was a JLG selection and I am terribly honored. I've also seen some Spanish bloggers report that Magic Under Stone was picked up by Magic Under Glass's Spanish publisher but I haven't had it confirmed yet. Foreign bloggers, we authors oftentimes depend on you to report the news, so keep on keepin' on.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I keep thinking I should blog more. But blogging makes you realize how boring your brain is. Or how...unshareable.

For instance, today I am busy thinking about the middle grade I'm writing. I love it! It's about witches and their familiars...well, okay, one unusual witch and one unusual familiar in an alternate witchy version of St. Augustine, Florida. Everything about it is tremendous fun. The idea started out as "Kiki's Delivery Service in a Gilded Age hotel" and then it turned into something else, but I've been writing it like a happy little writer bee. It took me a while to figure out how to write a middle grade I would enjoy. I love middle grade voice (and am often accused of having it even when I think I'm writing YA...) but I have always had trouble writing a book without romance.

Well, this time, no trouble at all.

But what else can I say about it besides that? I don't even know if anyone will want to buy it. I'll feel like I'm jinxing it if I talk too much.

My other thoughts: ZOMG NEW HOUSE NEW HOUSE.

BTW, I don't want to show you a picture of my house, because I have known writers who have been stalked, and that's creepy, but I did draw a ghetto picture of it for you with the computer mouse. I couldn't get the front part of the brick to color in right. But attempting to draw architecture with a mouse is fun, the same way Etch-A-Sketch is fun, like, "OMG, this is so frustrating that when I do get it look like SOMETHING I feel disproportionately accomplished!"

P. S. I do still have Magic Under Stone ARCs for giveaway. See my last post for details!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Magic Under Stone ARCs and moving!

First, I'd like to note that I signed copies of Between the Sea and Sky at the Casselberry Books-A-Million. They may still have some, if you're in the area and looking for one!

Second, EEEEK I think this moving this is really happening! My big beautiful Victorian house in Maryland! <3 Last February when I was on a writing retreat Jessica Spotswood and I were talking about our dreams for the future and she was like, "I'd like to sell a book and become a full-time writer" and I was like, "I'd like to move to Maryland, maybe somewhere around Frederick" and I think we both thought those were POSSIBLE dreams, but big ones. I am still flabbergasted that within a year of that conversation, her first novel will be OUT (she's already a fulltime writer now) and I will be IN MARYLAND. This was like, the year of dreams in hyperdrive.

It's been the strangest year, though, because my career has gone better than ever and yet because of the house thing, I am in super-belt-tightening budget mode. Despite reading a slew of real estate books beforehand, moving is way more expensive than I thought. I allotted money for closing, inspection, appraisal, blah blah, but then all these other things have popped up.

For one thing, it was precisely like an episode of House Hunters. The prospective buyer always says "Well, my budget is A, but I'd really like to spend less, more like B."

They always end up buying a house that costs A. And yep. So did I.

I was on a tight budget anyway, we saw over a dozen houses and the one I offered on was really the only one I could honestly see myself living in. It's hard to see yourself living in a new house. I tried to go in like "Just find something, be realistic, you can always change things over time, blah blah" but once you're looking, man, you want to fall in love. And you want the house you fell in love with to not have a huge crack in the foundation or something. Luckily, this one checked out pretty well even if it's killing my budget now.

SO, with that said, I have a lot of Magic Under Stone ARCs and I'm sending them to anyone (in the US) with reasonable credentials who can pay $4 for shipping, Paypal preferred. I'd rather not move with so many. If you've been yearning to find out what happens with Erris and Nimira, just email me at with a link to your blog, or tell me you're a YA librarian, whatever. Basically, it does cost my publisher money to make ARCs (more than it costs to make real books) so I don't want to abuse them by sending the books to people who are just going to read them, keep them, and not tell anyone. I reserve the right to turn down people with sloppy reviews or no followers, quantities are limited, blah di blah.

I can't wait to meet more readers in Maryland and its many neighboring states in years to come!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky Prequel Comic #6

Last one for now, although I have written some more scripts, I just need to find time (and the proper mood) to draw them!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky Prequel Comic #5

You need to read them in order for the full effect, so if you're just joining me, scroll down. And if you've read the book, the snotty mergirl here is Lalia Tembel.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky Comic #1

Ever wanted to see a little more of Esmerine and Alan's childhood? Well, I drew a series of comic strips about it, and here's the first one. This one is the worst, because I started out with a fine tipped pen and I didn't like the first panel at all. If I were truly an artist, I would have redrawn it. But I'm lazy. So I didn't. It gets better from here.

As always, click to enlarge.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky is out!

...and I am quite behind on the blogging I wanted to do. I've been in Maryland for almost two weeks to buy a house! Maybe. We found one we liked but tomorrow is the inspection, where ALL OUR DREAMS COULD SHATTER. Although buying a house is pretty scary, so in the dead of night sometimes I want my dreams to shatter. Except, like all proper dreams, one must proceed forward. Kind of like writing. A LOT like a writing career, actually. Tense waiting for phone calls. Elation followed by awareness of sudden responsibility...

It's a big, beautiful, Victorian house. The kind of house I always imagined ALL writers must live in when I was a kid. But I come from Florida where nearly all houses are new (and according to a recent article in Huffington Post, 58% or something are behind on their mortgages, whee!) so it has taken some getting used to being up here where almost all houses are old!

Anyway, while I was up here I signed copies of Between the Sea and Sky at the Barnes and Noble in Bel Air, MD. If you're looking for one. They only had three, I don't know how long they'll last.

Between the Sea and Sky has also been getting great reviews, and I am so happy that some readers really seem to be enjoying it. My publisher has set up a ton of blog interviews with me, so if you want to know more about it, you'll be able to find me just about everywhere in the next couple of weeks. Thanks to all reviewers, interviewers, and readers for your support!

Although if someone wants to be nice and give it a 5 star review on Amazon, I will give you a virtual hug. Right now it's almost all 4-star, which is a great review, but aww, the 5-star category looks so lonely... *pathetic moment*

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Launch Party in Orlando (not mine)

My friend Jessica Martinez, author of Virtuosity, is having her launch party this Tuesday! This book has been getting great buzz! It'll be at the Waterford Lakes Barnes & Noble at 6:30. It should be fun!

Also, I got Magic Under Stone ARCs. A TON of them. I've already spent hundreds of dollars mailing out Between the Sea and Sky ARCs, so I stared at these with a mixture of excitement and...horror. So, I will be toting them around everywhere I go. Well, at least everywhere book-related I go. I'll have a few at this launch party. Come say hi to me and buy Jessica's wonderful book, and I'll give you a Magic Under Stone ARC. (Quantities limited, because I don't expect anyone to really show up. I think maybe three central Floridians look at my blog every week...)

Stay tuned to this space for my Between the Sea and Sky prequel comic strips! Yessss.

Monday, October 10, 2011


My grandfather is dying. His mother is turning 100 next month. Only in the last couple of years, her memory started to go and was put in a nursing home. I was thinking about all of this last night, and how when someone lives to be 100 and their mind slips away, it's not the same kind of mourning.

I was talking to my dad about how I've been watching that Prohibition documentary on PBS, and while I watch, I feel like I can see my great-grandmother in the old footage. She would have been a teenager during the 20s. It occurred to me that because of her, the 1920s feels like as far back in time as I can really get a hold of. The 30s, 40s, and 50s, too, I wasn't alive of course, but I can imagine what they must have been like because I can close my eyes and see myself as a little kid at a family clambake, with all the old people around, I can hear their Ohio accents, and the sound of my grandfather playing the organ. I can see the decor in their houses, the bowl of soft mints, the offered bowl of cheap pretzels. I can imagine the joking around. And the alcohol. It might have been the 1980s, it might have been Florida instead of Ohio, but I think those dim memories probably had the same atmosphere as what I see in old pictures.

I remember it, but it's gone now. Gatherings aren't the same. They don't happen as often, and when they do, the mood isn't the same. The old people of my childhood have gone, and now my grandparents, who were not really that old when I was born, are now the old people. I was never that close to my dad's parents or my great-grandmother, really, not enough to have a ton of personal memories of them, but I do feel really sad for the whole atmosphere of their lives passing on.

When you're a kid you take it for granted, you have no sense of history. You don't ask questions, so you only get family stories if someone volunteers them. I think I'll always wish I knew more about my relatives, as they go. But a part of me still knows a time and place I never lived through, because it swirled around me when I was just a little girl.

But, I miss it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The worst hot dog ever

There are some authors who always have hilariously awkward stories about their lives. I love stories like that! But I rarely have them because I rarely go anywhere.

Well, last weekend I went with my sister to an indie craft fair where she was selling her art. This craft fair had one food vendor (besides people selling the ubiquitous hipster food of the moment, cupcakes) and it was a hot dog cart. Being trapped at a table for about 8 hours as we were, we got hungry and needed food from said hot dog cart. There was always a huge line, but eventually we got so hungry I was willing to brave it.

I got down the stairs and forged through crowds of people to the cart only to be told it was closed for their lunch break and would reopen in 20 minutes. About 40 minutes later (we could see it out of a window behind us) it actually opened. People lined up. They'd been waiting for hot dogs. I watched the line, focusing on a man in a red shirt near the back for visual reference. 20 minutes later, THAT MAN HAD NOT MOVED.

What were these hot dogs, I wondered? Were they grinding the meat themselves? But we were SO HUNGRY. I got in line. I was about the 10th person and after a bit I calculated that it was taking them 5 minutes for each individual hot dog.

I still don't understand. Did they have one teeny tiny cooking apparatus that could only make one hot dog at once?

I waited 40+ minutes to near the front of the line. I was almost there when they said they were out of buns and were going to shut down.

"Can I just get a hot dog without the bun?" I cried, in anguish. If you've ever known me when I'm hungry, you'll know I'm good at crying things in anguish. The man in front of me, slated to have the last bun, refused his hot dog, said I could have it, and walked off. ! Who says chivalry is dead? But I had no bun for my sister, who was perhaps even hungrier than me. I had to bring her a (veggie) dog rolling around in some mustard and ketchup.

The hot dog itself was perplexing. The bun itself had been cooked, inside and out. Although one of the main points of a bun really should be to protect one's fingers from hot dog grease, no such luck here. The bun was greasy and toasty. It was a cheap, sickly sweet store brand hot dog bun with an equally bad hot dog inside.

Guys, I'd forgotten how bad hot dogs can taste. At home I always buy Maverick Ranch lean, low-sodium, flavor packed natural humanely raised beef hot dogs and heap them with Bubbie's fresh sauerkraut (or now, the yummy sweet-hot pickles I bought from a booth at the craft fair). My sister's smelled like it was probably a TofuPup. I can't believe I paid $5 for that.

If I could go back in time, I might've lived on the cupcakes after all.

In other news, Between the Sea and Sky is on NetGalley right now, so if that's your thing, you can find it there!

Friday, September 30, 2011

25 days until Between the Sea and Sky!

So here's a little news roundup.

For one thing, I've seen 2 sales for it on Amazon's BookScan feature. That means somewhere in the Philadelphia area, this book is (or was) ON THE SHELF. Where will it be next? Could you find a copy early? *waits with bated breath* Releasing a book is nerve-racking!!

Thing 2: Now you can preorder the Kindle edition, if that's your thing. I'm sure the Nook edition, etc., will follow shortly. Amazon is usually first to have ebooks posted.

Also, finished copies showed up at my doorstep! And I've got a Goodreads giveaway going on. It ends on the 20th so, if I am reasonably proactive about getting to the post office (no promises) you MIGHT get it by release date.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

Between the Sea and Sky

by Jaclyn Dolamore

Giveaway ends October 20, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Also, Magic Under Stone news! I finished the copyedits for Magic Under Stone. And you know what comes after copyedits? It goes to the printer for ARCs!!! It usually takes a little while, still, because everything in publishing takes a little while, but I should have an ARC or two for giveaways fairly soon. Ish.

I'm nervous. My first sequel. As a kid, reading sequels, I was usually disappointed by SOMETHING that happened, because I'd built up an expectation. So it's a little scary to write a sequel knowing that I'll disappoint a lot of people with expectations. Of course, that goes with anything, but I think sequels are worse. Still, I really like this sequel, and it's my longest book to date by a large chunk. I'm very excited for all of you to read it.

And, Dark Metropolis!

Okay, no news about Dark Metropolis, it still doesn't come out for almost two years, but I'm excited, so I just wanted to EXCLAIM the TITLE.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Characters I Wish I'd Created

Man, I suck at coming up with topics to blog about, so today I decided, you know what? Why not just draw inspiration from my old blog? I blogged at Livejournal for 10 years, and some of those posts are worth resurrecting. In one of my first posts, I asked myself what characters I wish I'd created. Here was my list, back in 2002:

Nightcrawler from the X-Men.
Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas.
Setzer Gabbiani from Final Fantasy VI.
Jonathan the Zombie Master from the Xanth books.
Saitou Hajime from the anime Rurouni Kenshin.
Tyldak from the Elfquest comics.
Wolf from the 10th Kingdom.
Chaucer from A Knight's Tale.
Auntie Mame from the classic film of the same name starring Rosalind Russell.

I still like all these characters, but, my list would look somewhat different nowadays! I think I'd still take Jonathan the Zombie Master and Wolf. I could see fitting them into a story somewhere. (Of course, Freddy in Dark Metropolis is totally my own Jonathan if I'm being honest.) Usually when I love a character, I end up co-opting the parts of them I like and changing them into something that's mine instead.

Some characters I'd add to the list nowadays:

--Pretty much everyone from Avatar: The Last Airbender, but especially Prince Zuko. Who doesn't love Prince Zuko? And Uncle Iroh because, well, the best characters often come in groups that play off each other, and I can't imagine Zuko without Iroh. But seriously I love that entire cast so much.
--Damon from Vampire Diaries. No need to explain! He steals the show!
--Yasu from NANA. He's a lawyer, also in a rock band, and he's the fallback "protective guy" for everybody, which I love. And he's bald and everyone teases him about it. But he's also really hot. I would never have been able to create him, though, because I can't draw a hot bald guy like Ai Yazawa can. I also love George from her Paradise Kiss manga, but he reminded me of a character I already had at the time, so it's not quite the same.
--Emily of New Moon. It's not like anyone but L. M. Montgomery COULD have written Emily, but now that I'm writing middle grade, I'd kill to have created this character.
--Harold from Harold and Maude. I'm not sure I could pull off the "falling in love with an old lady" part, but I love Harold... Well, I love Maude, too, just...well, the ending of this movie was so depressing.
--Char Aznable from Gundam. Sexy, of the most well-known anime characters of all time for a reason...
--Quinton and Sally from the Thieves and Kings comics. The whole cast of this comic is great, but I particularly love how complicated Quinton and Sally are.

I'm sure I could think of a lot more if I wanted to spend all day at this...

Have you ever encountered a character in someone else's story and wished they were yours? (I know plenty of people do, hence, fan fic! Which I did write, myself, as a teenager.) Tell me who!

Friday, September 9, 2011

On Retellings, Reworkings, Homages, Rip-offs

No story exists in a vacuum. There is, as they say, nothing new under the sun. But some stories draw a bit more heavily on predecessors than others. Meanwhile, many authors bite their nails while reading new deal announcements because they think, "OH NO THAT IS WHAT I'M WRITING!" Cassandra Clare sold the Infernal Devices books not longer before Magic Under Glass sold and I thought, "Oh noes! Clockwork Prince? My book has a clockwork prince in it!!!" It doesn't take much for us to freak out.

What about when the borrowing is conscious? What's the difference between a retelling, a reworking, an homage, or...PLAGIARISM!?

Ultimately? The author will intend one thing, the reader will get another. I've seen reviews about Magic Under Glass that felt it was just a flat-out rip-off of Jane Eyre, other reviews that appreciated the nod but noted that the book goes in a completely different direction. But I'm going to attempt some definitions.


A retelling sticks to the basic structure of the original story at heart. Retellings are usually of fairy tales, myths, or classics. If it is no longer under copyright, it's up for grabs. If character and setting is your strength as a writer and plot is not, then retellings might be a great option for you. The story is already there! The trouble, of course, is putting a new twist on it, like changing a character's gender, telling the story from an unusual POV (like the villain's perspective...perhaps we see they aren't as villainous as we thought), or picking a quirky setting.


A reworking, in my mind, is when you take a pre-existing story and start twisting it enough that it no longer resembles the original enough to be a straight-out retelling, but the reader can still recognize the source material in there somewhere.


An homage, or "nod" to a previous work, might be even farther from the original source. I also think it is different from a reworking in that you can nod to several things at once. It might not be terribly obvious except to readers who are big fans of the source material.

Still, the line between reworking and homage can be blurry indeed. I tend to feel that if your story BEGAN with the original material, it is a reworking. To me, Dark Metropolis is a reworking of the 1927 film Metropolis because it began with the premise of "What if the underground workers in Metropolis were dead?" Then I wondered what it would be like if I switched the genders of the characters in Metropolis. THEN things started getting off-track and less recognizable, but, it still began with Metropolis. Magic Under Glass, OTOH, came from the desire simply to write a book along the lines of classic novels about girls in reduced circumstances who fall in love in a house full of secrets, inspired by not just Jane Eyre, but A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Rebecca. So, to me, it is an homage.

Finally, we come to just plain ripping off someone else's work. This usually happens between two relatively modern works--if you write something about Lizzie Bennett, it's not longer a rip-off, it's acceptable fan fic, right? You can plagiarize anything--a character, a story, a phrase, even a style, although you can't be sued for borrowing a style!

The thing about ripping off stories is, it doesn't happen as much as readers seem to think it does. Strange coincidences happen between two books all the time. Apparently Tera Lynn Childs' mermaid books have a character named Dosinia and so does Between the Sea and Sky. It's the name of a mollusk, but I'm braced for someone to think I ripped it from Forgive My Fins. I promise you...I had nooo idea. Between the Sea and Sky was finished before Forgive My Fins came out, even though it's released much later. People seemed to come out of the woodwork to sue J. K. Rowling because they'd written a book about wizards, or had creatures named "Muggles" in their story, or whatever.

It goes without saying, obviously, published writers shouldn't plagiarize. Some writers avoid reading stories resembling their own while writing to avoid subconscious plagiarism. I, meanwhile, try to read everything that sounds like something I'm working on so that if I do find a similar element, I can change it. But no one can entirely defy the might of the collective unconscious!

If you're a beginning/intermediate writer not yet gunning for publication, however? I say, rip off characters, plot and style freely. Artists copy other artists, why shouldn't you? I was a shameless borrower in my youth, so my "original" stories often read like a fan-fic mashup with characters from a dozen different books or movies, perhaps thinly disguised by a name change. Stylewise, at different point in my life I tried to write like The Mists of Avalon, The Babysitter's Club, Francesca Lia Block, Marvel Comics, Piers Anthony, and L. M. Montgomery. Feel free to write fan fic, too, if that's your speed. My only advice for the young writer as far as borrowing goes is just to draw from incredibly disparate elements. That's how you'll end up with your own style. Look at all the writers who wrote as much like Tolkien as they could manage in the high fantasy genre for decades. Let's try and move away from that! If people praise my work for being original and creative now, trust me, it's because when I was about 13 I thought it would be a great idea to combine elements of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Seinfeld and Arthurian lore into one story...I still like to look for the quirky in my story choices, although I've gotten a bit wiser about it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bits of this and that

If you know me, you know I love reading non-fiction. Even though I'm a fiction writer, so perhaps it doesn't behoove me to tell everyone to read more non-fiction, I think it is very brain expanding. I recently read a charming little book that reminded me of Magic Under Glass a bit, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming. She also made a documentary of it, which is Canadian and unavailable in any convenient way, although I'd love to see it.

Long Tack Sam was a handsome Chinese acrobat and magician, born in 1885, who married an Austrian girl and had two lovely daughters. He performed on Vaudeville, traveled the world, and as time went on his daughters performed with him. He made loads of money and was quite a star attraction back in the day. He also had a son who barely saw his parents in his early life because they left him in Austria. When movies came along, he refused to appear in them, and so did his daughters, because of the racist portrayals of Asians in movies. The memoir itself is told in a sort of comic-book-esque style, with cartoons, collages, it's a quick and engaging read.

Of course I couldn't help but draw some parallels to Nimira and her "Trouser Girl" act. And I wished the author (who is Long Tack Sam's great-granddaughter) had been able to dig up more! I'd love to know more about the romance between Sam and his wife, which must have been quite shocking back in the day, especially since it was a quick courtship, although her family reportedly loved him. I'd love to know more about their adventures and trials around the globe across decades, countries, wars.

Anyway, it was a fascinating book, I recommend it.

Now, some miscellaneous news, most of which I've posted around Twitter and Facebook, but I do like having everything on the blog at some point.

First, my fans are awesome! Reader Holly made me Erris and Nimira dolls! (She also made a doll of my character Alfred but you don't really know him yet.) I'm posting a photo she sent me of them but she mailed them to me so I have them now. They are really awesome in person with lots of little details. I also got my very first piece of paper fan mail, which was kind of a thrill. I'm kind of glad most fan mail comes through the internet nowadays since it's much easier to write back, but it's still kind of awesome to get a real letter once in awhile!

Also, the Kirkus review for Between the Sea and Sky popped up not long ago and they were kind: “She [Dolamore] displays plenty of imagination, especially in her setting, with its 19th-century-style clothing and quaint towns. The portraits of her two leads will convince readers, and several of her minor characters, such as ex-mermaid Belawyn and Alander’s father, stand out as quirky and individual. A simple but effective fantasy."

Kirkus is kind of famous for being harsh, but they liked Magic Under Glass too, so...I guess they're just lulling me into a sense of security...

Lastly, I found out Australian audiobook publisher Bolinda is doing an audiobook of Between the Sea and Sky. I've never had an audiobook before so this is kind of thrilling!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky Signing, Nov 12th, Casselberry, FL

Hey guys!!

So I've arranged for a book signing of Between the Sea and Sky for those of you who want signed and sketched-in copies of the book at the Books-A-Million in Casselberry on November 12th from 2-4. (Or was it 3-5? I think it's 2-4.) (Casselberry is on the north side of Orlando.) They will also have some Magic Under Glass paperbacks.

IMPORTANT: The events manager there is cautious about ordering too many books. It's a very nice store, but I don't think they have a lot of events there. Orlando isn't exactly the book release party capital of the nation anyway. So if you KNOW or THINK you might be coming and purchasing books, please let me know how many copies of Between the Sea and Sky or Magic Under Glass you would like so I can give her an estimate.

(Let us all pause a moment to mourn the death of Borders, as my local Borders was VERY supportive and that was the store I was always went to and the people I always talked to. So I'm feeling a bit lost this time around... The Orlando Barnes & Noble, I must say, was ALSO very lovely, but they proved to be kind of out-of-the-way for me and most people I know.)

Also, as many of you know, if all goes well I am planning to move to Maryland by the end of the year, so if any teacher/librarian folk out there in Florida are interested in booking me for an author event, you only have a few months before I will be quite a bit less cheap and available since I will no longer live here. Just an FYI in the chance that anyone was thinking about it and assuming I'd be around awhile.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's a new two-book deal!!

It posted in Publisher's Marketplace today so I guess I can finally talk about it!:

Jaclyn Dolamore's DARK METROPOLIS, about a city in which corruption and vice are rampant and disappearances warrant a shrug from the authorities: when a girl vanishes, her best friend must search the city's underground, only to find that here, people who die don't necessarily stay dead, to Catherine Onder at Disney-Hyperion, at auction, in a six-figure deal, in a two-book deal, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (World English).


This book has a bit of a fascinating story. I started it back in 2007, if I recall correctly. Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis happens to be one of my favorites, and I was pondering a story based on it where the workers are all revived from the dead. I wrote the first chapter and I thought the voice came out sounding both more sophisticated and tense than anything I'd written up to that point.

And frankly, I didn't feel ready to write it. I didn't know what it was really about yet, but I knew I couldn't do it justice.

Last October, my cat died. I nursed her through cancer until she had to be put down, and the last months of her life were traumatizing for me, but she remained the cat of my heart, a cat who always spent her nights melted against my stomach like a baby in an invisible womb, with her paw tucked inside my hand. I didn't write much in November once I turned in Magic Under Stone, and in December I had a talk with my agent and decided to work on a middle grade.

But that Metropolis-story kept poking at me all of a sudden. I realized it was kind of a book about death. And until Tacy died, I hadn't been close enough to it to write that book. Even though I was "supposed" to be writing a middle grade I started writing this instead.

About a week after THAT, my agent told me that her client Lisa Madigan had advanced pancreatic cancer. I knew she would die. That isn't something people really make it out of. Lisa wasn't a super-close friend, but she was close enough that we had exchanged quite a few emails, that I had a ceramic mermaid that was a gift from her hanging by my desk. A lot of people loved her, because she was generous and funny and just a wonderful part of the writing community.

She died while I was writing this book, and in a funny way I think she helped me write it (although, obviously, I'm sure that was not her intention...), and a part of me sort of wanted to write an awesome book that my agent would love and sell well to cheer her up because we all loved Lisa, not that a book is any replacement for a PERSON, but...anyway. I finished this book really fast. It was a cathartic thing to write. It was the first thing that really made me cry.

Although it is not really a sad book, I don't think. And it has a romance--two romances, in fact, one with a girl and a magical silver-haired boy and one with a girl with strange magic of her own and another girl. It has my usual love of describing food and fashion! It was tremendously fun to research, even though it is not quite the real Weimar Berlin, because the real Weimar Berlin sort of had nothing to do with the plot of Metropolis. Still, you wouldn't know that from all my particular Googling of what hat styles were in fashion in 1927, and 1920s political theater, and other things. I listed to a lot of the Threepenny Opera.

It is tentatively scheduled to be a summer 2013 release, and I am SO very excited to be working with Hyperion and Catherine Onder, as I have heard wonderful things about both! I hope you will enjoy it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yes, I am an anime fan

Sometimes fans/bloggers/other writers will see me mention a Miyazaki movie or something and say, "Oh, you're an anime fan?"

Well, yes, I say. Haven't kept up with it much in recent years. But yes.

And in fact, I was thinking this week about how much Japanese storytelling has shaped my life. I became an anime fan in 1996, when I was 14, the same age as Sailor Moon, who happened to be on American TV that year. But really, it started before that, didn't it? It started with the Super Nintendo game Final Fantasy II. I knew it was Japanese but I didn't really think about it much at the time. After all, RPGs back then all played off of western fantasy conventions.

But even then I was starting to pick up bits of Japanese myth (kappas), visual storytelling culture (why does a bubble come out of a character's nose when an enemy casts a sleep spell on them??) and storytelling tropes in general (men with androgynous good looks? yes please). I was obsessed with Final Fantasy almost beyond any other obsession of my life. The amount of fan fic, fan art, and board games I concocted based on it...

When I first watched anime itself I thought it looked awfully weird, but then I quickly became so hooked I would watch anything I could get my hands on, even if it was episode 9-10 of something I'd never seen episodes 1-8, even if it was boring, even if it was unsubtitled. Anime was still a hot, rare commodity at that point, not as much so as it was for 80s anime fans, but still. I joined the Japanese Animation Club of Orlando, which showed an evening of anime once a month, one movie and several episodes of various ongoing series. Then you could check out a couple of videos from the library as well. This is where I first saw all the Ghibli movies, even ones most people still haven't seen like Only Yesterday and I Can Hear the Sea.

Oh, and the guy who gave me my application to join the club? I thought he was nice, although I didn't see him again for awhile because he had moved to West Palm Beach. That was 1997. Now Dade and I have been together for 12 years. Who knows where I'd have found a partner if not for anime...

My first job also happened to be in anime, although only for a few days. My sister and I worked a dealer's room booth for one of the vendors. I mostly handled the anime CD section because I could read enough Japanese to find CDs fairly quickly. We were paid in merchandise and worked about 10 hours with no lunch break. At one point the boss would send someone on a McDonalds run just before his employees started fainting. Good times. After the day was over, though, he would buy us all dinner at Kobe.

There comes a time in every anime fans life when they feel compelled to cosplay. This time also came for me too. First I concocted a half-assed Vampire Princess Miyu out of my karate gi, then I joined an actual cosplay group (with a mom in the group who sewed everything for us, SCORE) and it was Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi in her Suzaku no Miko costume, and then Black Rose Duelist Wakaba from Revolutionary Girl Utena before I finally just started wearing a dark blue school uniform to conventions.

Which, by this time, we were actually running ourselves. Dade and his friend Fred had organized Anime Festival Orlando, floating the first one on Fred's credit card, a wing and a prayer. People showed up and the convention still happens to this day, although we no longer have anything to do with it. I handled the merchandise table, where I could also make a few bucks selling sketches of people drawn like anime characters. At one point I drew 20 people in one hour.

The thing about being an anime fan that I find so fascinating in hindsight is that it isn't uncommon to just plain get drawn into Asian culture in general. For one thing, Japanese culture begins to feel like a part of your life in a way no other culture does except whatever you grew up with. I studied the language, I learned to use chopsticks, I started seeing not just a man in the moon but also a rabbit pounding mochi, I ATE mochi, I bought Japanese fashion magazines and made my own strange fashion combinations, I learned about Momotarou, kitsune and tanuki, and who Nobunaga Oda was... The list is endless.

Japanese entertainment also tends to draw a fair bit from Chinese history and myth, so that can also lead to a fascination with and knowledge of at least some aspects of Chinese culture, so you start to also know about trickster monkeys, Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei's oath in the peach garden, a variety of adorable little hats and shoes, and the sad, beautiful sound of an erhu. And my quest for anime stuff led me into Orlando's Vietnamese district, a part of town that we NEVER went to when I was a kid, but as teenagers we begged our mom to take us there all the time, which led to us getting acquainted with bowls of pho in Vietnamese restaurants with little shrines by the door, and spending time in Vietnamese markets, sometimes striking up conversations where we learned to use clever kitchen tools or how to decorate for the Lunar New Year.

I don't know if anime is like this for everyone. But it occurs to me that I ended up growing up with this other culture, one that I had no genetic claim to at all, one that changed everything about me--the foods in my pantry, the way I dress, the way I tell a story. I don't really have any deeply profound comments about this, but it strikes me as a good thing, a step toward a world that is more inclusive of different cultures and traditions, more open to new stories. I think that after I got into anime I became more open to everything...different foods, different music, different stories. I am grateful that I have both the western and eastern to draw from, a long history with each.

I've been thinking of this lately in particular, because after several years of running conventions and dealing with fans in a particularly...annoying way, at times, we were all burned out and stopped attending conventions, stopped dressing up, stopped, for the most part, even WATCHING anime. I never stopped reading manga, as I love that form of storytelling far too much, but I saw very few anime in my mid to late 20s. I actually felt kind of turned off from it. So many ornery cosplayers out there. So much bad anime. So many ornery cosplayers dressing up as characters from bad anime. I was tired of seeing white kids yelling "Chotto matte!" at their friends instead of "Wait up!" (come ONNNN), kids wearing Tri-Gun jackets at the local mall... I guess it's what everyone goes through when their niche interest goes mainstream, but it also felt kind of like I was just growing out of it, I guess.

But this year we started watching the original Gundam series, a classic older than I am, and I have to admit, I fell in love with it all over again. I always though Gundam was about giant robots in space, but it's really about war--capturing so well how war can seem utterly futile, destructive and horrible, yet inevitable, important and sometimes even necessary all at once. It's good stuff. Although it is also about giant robots in space. And I think that's one of the best things about anime--it can be so unabashedly commercial and yet so deeply profound, all at once.

And now? I really want some Vietnamese food. Damn.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dark, twisted, beautiful writing, and pushing my own boundaries.

Today I was pondering my next YA. I'm working on a middle grade now, so I'm just knocking around ideas for this in advance. I want it to be a companion for the last YA I wrote, which was the darkest, creepiest thing I have written to date. The hardest thing I've written, too. I realized that in a lot of scenes, I was shying back. I don't want to spoil you on that book, so let me tell you about a scene that was hard to write in Magic Under Glass.

(Stop reading now if you haven't READ Magic Under Glass and don't want to be spoiled!)

It was the scene where Nimira sees clockwork man Erris with his face appearing perfectly human but his skin removed, so all his clockwork innards are visible, and the villain is twisting his key, hurting him, and forcing him to speak in front of people who see him as somewhat of a monster.

I've had quite a few people say, "I loved Magic Under Glass! Especially that scene where..."

It's always that scene.

And I feel a certain relief and say, "I love that scene too." Because I DO. But it was hard to write. Not because I felt bad for Erris. Nope. Because I LOVE TORTURING HIM SO MUCH.

But I never really thought about that consciously. I just realized I shy back from a certain kind of scene. And today I had a revelation as to what that sort of scene is. I think it's a marriage of something positive--like love or bravery--with something disturbing.

In the Hunger Games, for example, I think part of the reason these books are such page turners is because Katniss's strength and bravery is paired with the brutal deaths of so many people all around her. It is so unflinching. But one of the very best examples of it, I think, is the Queen of Attolia. (So, more spoilers if you haven't read that.) In the beginning of the book, the Queen of Attolia cuts off the hand of the protagonist, Eugenides. This is unflinchingly described, too, and Gen has to deal with all the aftermath--pain, humiliation, having to learn to do things over again, never being able to do certain things... This is compelling enough but what really makes it memorable is that he then FALLS IN LOVE with the Queen of Attolia.

And as a reader, this is precisely what I want to happen. This exquisite combination of pain and love is a rush to read. As a reader, I adore it, even though for some reason I feel perhaps, a little ashamed. Why am I so delighted by such circumstances? In real life I wouldn't find it exciting at ALL if me or one of my friends had their hand cut off and then fell in love with the person who had done it! But as a reader, it also doesn't matter if I find strange, uncomfortable situations delicious. It isn't like the whole world is reading with me, measuring my heart rate. Nor do I think, "Goodness, this Megan Whalen Turner is certainly twisted!" It's not like the Queen of Attolia is some kind of crazy erotica novel or full of gratuitous violence.

As a writer, however, it feels different. It feels uncomfortable to be sharing with the world something that is deliciously painful. It feels like...well, I shouldn't enjoy it TOO much. If I do, I am probably going too far! ANYBODY could read this and go, "Goodness, this Jaclyn Dolamore is certainly twisted!"

With my last book, I kept pushing myself to go farther. To make things more horrible. To describe unpleasant sights and conflicted, shiver-inducing emotions in more depth. I sensed my discomfort but I pushed past it because I kept thinking, "The book will be more memorable for it." But it was...surprisingly hard, actually. I didn't really realize why until I was thinking about it just now. I also didn't quite realize until just now why that made the book more compelling. It was more of a subconscious thing.

So, huh.

I guess that Jaclyn Dolamore is a bit twisted. And people seem to like my writing better for it.

I was thinking today maybe this feeling in writing is kind of like the flavor "umami". The savory flavor that we didn't quite have a name for and didn't quite realize we needed...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In defense of true love forever in YA

I just want to make a brief vent about this.

It irks me when I see people complaining because all the true love forever in YA isn't realistic. It reminds me of the feeling I would get when I was in a group of girls complaining about how much men suck. Maybe the men they knew sucked. But I knew men, as a whole, did not suck. Maybe not everyone is ready, or should be ready, to enter into a committed relationship as a teenager, but that doesn't mean some people aren't.

I am not defending, mind you, that it is exactly WISE to become a vampire to be with your sexy vampire lover forever. BUT. It also isn't quite fair to say that teenagers can't and don't make wise relationship choices and find their future husband or wife at a young age. In fact, have noticed there is actually a fairly high proportion of stable long-standing relationships among YA writers. Maybe there's something to that! Maybe we write YA together-forever romance well because we've actually lived it.

Not that there is anything at all wrong with having rocky relationships either, as a person, or in a book. Not at all! I just wish people wouldn't knock serious teen love as unrealistic. I got together with my boyfriend at 17 and I was VERY serious about the relationship. Very cautious, but very committed. Cautious, in fact, because I was committed. He was serious too. Of course, he was also 25 at the time. Scandal!! I'm sure to some outsiders I looked like a naive young thing and he seemed like an older dude looking for some hot young geek action, but believe me, it wasn't like that. We were very good friends with a lot of common interests, affection and respect for each other.

I'm sure if I wrote that as a novel everyone would say it was totally unreal, I should make the guy into a jerk and the whole thing into a cautionary tale of sorts, and have it end with the girl wising up and walking away.

The other reason, of course, for all the true love in YA, is that it's told from a teenage POV and even if the relationship would be doomed later, the MC isn't going to think that at the time. Of course, we could all end our books with the breakup instead of the happily ever after, but how much fun would that be? -_-;;

I think some of the source of this ire is actually how many bad, rushed, and even unhealthy true-love-forever relationships are in YA. But that isn't the fault of the basic premise. Just the execution.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Where I begin: A post on settings

A question that has popped up a few times is, "Do you start with plot or character?"

Really, the FIRST seed of a book is usually a premise that includes a hint of plot, character, and setting, such as, "A mermaid who likes to read falls for a winged boy."

But from there, I go to setting. Setting comes before plot or character for me, because everything else springs forth from it. From the moment a character is born, where they live makes a mark on them. Nimira grew up in a place that was warm and beautiful, with gardens and misty mountains, surrounded by female dancers who valued beauty and pride, who loved men but mostly lived in a separate sphere from them. From there, she went to a farm, a family unit where everyone was expected to pitch in because livelihood depended on the sweet potato crop, the health of the goats, and such. If she had STARTED in the farm, she would value family and community a lot more, probably. She'd be more of a team player, less proud perhaps, but any artistic side of her nature would either have to be carved out selfishly, or incorporated into the group life--singing while she worked, or in the evenings with her family. She'd have different skills, different tastes.

And that's just the two places she lived within her home country of Tiansher.

From there, of course, she came to the Victorian-flavored world of Lorinar, dragging her background with her. Magic Under Glass takes place mostly in Hollin Parry's manor house, and to Nimira it will always be seen through the lens of places she has already been, especially the royal palace of Tiansher. In Magic Under Stone she is once again needed for manual labor, stuck in a big house with a lot to do and few people who can do it, so she thinks back more upon her time at her uncle's farm.

Every character in Magic Under Glass comes from a different background, subtly influencing everything they are. Hollin Parry, an only child growing up in a wealthy but cold home, wishing for the exotic life of his traveling uncle. Annalie, another only child but a dearly loved and petted one. Her parents emigrated to Lorinar before she was born, so while she was fascinated by travel just as Hollin was, it was not an escape for her, but more of a curiosity about the "old world". Karstor Greinfern himself came to Lorinar as a teenager and has a different cultural mindset. Erris, of course, is a fairy whose youth was spent romping in the woods with a pack of siblings and dogs; being jovial comes easy to him but being serious and emotionally open does not. He probably rarely had any time with his parents, tutors or what have you where he was alone and encouraged to talk about worries or fears.

Even in a contemporary novel set in America, setting and background have a huge effect on people. Culture in America varies hugely. Even cookie cutter neighborhoods vary. And the ethnic background of your character will influence them too. My German branch of the family has certainly left a huge mark on me, from my taste for intellectual matters to my love of sour-tasting cabbage based cuisine. And I'm also conscious of where I diverge from my background. I've never loved hiking, but boy, don't tell that to my German relatives... -_-;;

Where is your work-in-progress set? Where are your MCs roots? And what is your favorite book for setting and background? I suspect my preoccupation with it may come from L. M. Montgomery. Emily and those Murrays!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Books I LOVED so far this year, part 2 of 2

In some ways, I feel a little silly about this one, because there is nothing especially profound or life-changing about it. But Kerstin Gier's RUBY RED is probably the most FUN I've had with a book in a while. For some odd reason I thought this translated-from-German time travel story would be more "epic romance" or dark in some way. I suppose the Germans gave us the Grimm Brothers, sturm und drang, and NOSFERATU, and on some sub-conscious level I expect them to be serious. Well, plus, I have quite a few relatives from Germany and as lovely as they are, "hilarious" isn't how I'd describe them.

This book was fun and funny. (It's not really HILARIOUS either, but, it is amusing.) It's actually set in England, and concerns Gwen, who comes from a family of time travelers. Only certain people time travel, and it is prophesied before their birth, so Gwen thinks she's just an ordinary girl while her cousin is expected to time travel, until she finds out that her mother lied about the day she was born, and she's actually the one. There is kind of a secret society built around the time travelers, and a number of mysterious figures that Gwen isn't sure if she can trust. She's sort of thrust into this web of plans without preparation, accompanied by fellow time traveler (and, OF COURSE, hot boy her age), Gideon.

This is just the beginning of the story, and I cannot WAIT for the next installment.

Things I loved about it:
--Big old-fashioned eccentric families. I LOVE them. This is why I love Nancy Mitford and CONFESSIONS OF THE SULLIVAN SISTERS. This book even has ancestors from previous times, so, tons of potential, but even in the present we have the intimidating grandmother, and the sort of loony but lovable aunt, and all sorts of semi-tropes that I nevertheless adore. And there are lots and lots of secrets that I want answers to.
--Gwen's friendship with her best friend Leslie. I am so TIRED of girls in paranormal books that are themselves serious and studious and gorgeous but they have a wacky boy-crazy best friend. Gwen and Leslie's friendship? I actually bought it. They are both sort of silly typical teenagers who love to watch movies. (They are not boy-crazy.) They have a lot in common. I don't know about you, but my best friends growing up and now were actually a lot like me. They weren't "wacky" in comparison to me. I like seeing this. Leslie already knows about Gwen's time traveling heritage and provides support when Gwen finds out she is actually the time traveler.
--"Fun" history. As a history buff I love the time traveling aspects, but I also love that this book doesn't take itself over-seriously. In some ways the tone actually reminded me of early Harry Potter books, with charm and humor to spare and memorable characters. Middle grade readers could appreciate it, but it certainly has plenty of hints at romance for older readers as well.

A good read for a lazy summer day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Books I LOVED this year so far, part 1 of 2

So, at some point earlier in the year, I was asked to blurb a book. My first reaction:

"WOW, YES! I would LOVE to blurb a book! I can't believe someone would value MY name recommending ANOTHER book! This is a rite of passage!"

Writers gets excited about these things! But then it occurred to me that I am a pretty picky reader. I feel bad to be so picky, but I am. I can ENJOY many books but ADORE few, and I don't want to put my name on a book about which I had misgivings. Still, I couldn't very well pass up the opportunity to blurb my first book.

The book in question was called A LONG LONG SLEEP and was described as a sort of sci-fi Sleeping Beauty tale. It arrived, and not wanting it to get lost in the dread TBR piles of doom, I started reading it as soon as it arrived...

...and didn't stop (except for life obligations like dinner) until that night when I was done.

"Holy guacamole," I thought. "They asked me to blurb THIS? This is the kind of book I want to clutch to my bosom and never let go, except that I also want to immediately lend it to everyone I know so they can share it with me." (In fact, I was going to give away an ARC with this review but I ended up lending it out to a string of people, sorry!) I seriously haven't taken a book to my heart so much since Graceling.

Part of that is definitely the boy situation. There is nothing that gets me so much as getting a crush on a book character, and I must say that alien boy Otto is there with Graceling's Po and Edward from A True and Faithful Narrative as far as book boy crushes. When he was first introduced I thought he was going to be sort of a brooding angst-muffin weirdo, but he actually turns out to be sweet and intelligent and his relationship with the main character is founded on intellect and heart rather than hotness. But I say "relationship" instead of "romance" because the boy situation is complicated:

Let me backtrack a bit. This is the story of Rose, whose parents own a huge corporation and who frequently put her in stasis, a sleeping tube basically, while they gallivant around being rich important people. Anyway, as it turns out, while she is in stasis a plague wipes out much of the population and she is forgotten in her tube for 60 or so years. She is discovered and awoken by a boy named Bren, and we also get flashbacks to the boy she left behind, Xavier. All these relationships are interesting and there is no formulaic love triangle situation. There is also a definite bittersweet note and no HEA, but it's not sad either. It's just the kind of ending I like: hopeful and thoughtful and a little complicated but not cliff-hanger-y.

Other things I like:
--Rose herself can be a little passive at times, particularly in the beginning, but she does grow throughout the book, and her initial passivity makes sense. Also, she is an artist and it doesn't feel tacked on, which I loved.
--It's futuristic and sci-fi, but not a dystopian, IMO. The dystopian part has basically already come and gone. Maybe post-post-apocalyptic or something.
--The Plasticine. So creepy! I love it!!
--The book knocks the whole GMO food thing in a couple of spots. I saw a review complaining about how the reasoning doesn't make sense scientifically, but frankly I find GMOs in real life disturbing, insufficiently researched, the company that is pushing them consistently evil, and the public very unaware and uninformed about them. What can I say, I'm an ethical foodie. So I like seeing it addressed fictionally.
--It's a page turner but also lovable. I frequently find that page turners tend to be gripping, stressful types of books for me, whereas books where I fall in love with the characters meander more, sometimes too much. Why this is, I'm not sure, but anyway, this book grabbed me both plot-wise and character-wise which is rare.

I've seen some complaining about the sci-fi aspects in general or the future-speak (which I usually don't like either, but in this book I was okay with it), so this will be a YMMV kind of book especially if you're coming into it as a sci-fi fan. But as a character story, I loved it SO SO much and everyone I know who's read it has agreed.

A Long Long Sleep comes out August 9th.

Now I finally just found a second book I'm in love with this year. I'll blog about that one soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Magic Under Stone just went up on Amazon!

Amazon is where many authors learn important things about their books, lol, and this is no exception. The release date is April 12, 2012!? That could be highly subject to change, but it's some proof that this book really is coming. It isn't an imaginary thing I wrote and sent into the publishing ether.

And how about that cover! Same model as Magic Under Glass (v. 2.0 )...I adore it. The book and the greenery both really capture the feel of book 2 I think.

And here is a description:

For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form in which his soul is trapped. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. When they learn that Valdana has mysteriously vanished, it’s not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands—and begins to study the sorcerer’s spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will bring danger—if not out-and-out war—as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent him from regaining the throne.

I can't add much to that yet because I still haven't done edits!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Winged people!

Between the Sea and Sky has been getting a fair bit of attention from mermaid lovers in the YA community, which is AWESOME, I love mermaids and always have. My sister's 6th (I believe?) birthday party was mermaid themed and my mom made us a mermaid costume which I wore at the party and refused to take off even though you couldn't walk in it.

However, I feel a little bad for Alan and the winged folk in the book, because they just don't get the attention. There are very few books about winged people in general. I'm not talking about angels, just regular down-to-earth, if you will, people who have wings. Surely I'm not the only person who dreams of flying?

At first I thought it was because, scientifically, winged people just aren't very possible. But, mermaids? Yeah, they're no better and there are lots of mermaid books, especially this year. But there are a fair amount of mermaid myths. Maybe it's the combination of implausibility combined with relatively few myths that keep winged people off my shelf. =(

I'll admit, my interest in winged people was sparked in childhood when I was heartily obsessed with the Elfquest comics. There is a tribe of levitating mountain-dwelling elves in the story, who can fly for a short time but also ride giant birds for longer distances. One elf, Tyldak, really wanted to fly with his own wings so he got Winnowill, the villainous shape-shifter, to painfully shape his arms into wings. He wasn't the hottest looking elf around after that (for one thing, he couldn't really wear clothes around his bat-esque body so was reduced to wearing a little V-shaped fur thing--IN THE SNOW--why was he not freezing??) but he was still one of my favorite characters, especially since he was sort of an anti-hero which is always fun.

I was always eager to rip-off Elfquest around age 12, so I made a bat-winged race who also lived in a mountain. They could wear normal clothes for some reason. I didn't really explain. But the door was open for winged people of all kinds. Feathery wings, bat wings, winged sea fairies with green "fin wings", wings instead of arms, wings plus arms--lots of wings. Although for some reason, I kept sticking my winged people in cold mountains and fairly primitive societies, and the only winged character I really loved actually had crippled wings which he had amputated so he could live a human life. So despite my love of wings, it never quite clicked.

Another story I loved as a kid was Gwinna, by Barbara Helen Berger, which was sort of in the "meaty picture book" format. Gwinna started to grow wings from her back so her foster mother tried to bind her chest to stop them, but of course that doesn't work, and of course she learns to fly and...I don't know, stuff happens and the pictures are pretty. I guess I should reread it. But my young angst-loving self was mesmerized by the attempt to suppress her growing wings and the lovely pictures of a flying girl.

Of course, if there is one thing possibly more mesmerizing than a flying hot guy (er...I mean, person) it is a flying cat! I also loved the Catwings books by Ursula K. LeGuin as a kid. I mean, they are SO cute! I could DIE of how cute they are! I wish someone would make merchandise of this! I want a BAG and a THERMOS!

I actually didn't originally intend for Between the Sea and Sky to be about winged people at all. I always felt like poor mermen always got shafted in stories so I firmly intended to make the love interest a merman. But...oh, well. Shafted again. I had a minor character who was a semi ill-tempered winged man who was Esmerine's boss, and one day I was drawing him and I realized This is the man for her. Unlike the cold weather tribal winged folk of my childhood stories, I based the winged people in Between the Sea and Sky more on the astrological element of air--they're intellectuals and scholars, and they mostly stick to warmer climates. Physically, I tried to make them semi-scientific so they have "bat" wings rather than arms. They still need some magic to fly, but, well, less. And I tried to make them attractive! Bat-winged boys might be a little too weird for some readers, but on the other hand, if you've always WANTED a bat-winged boyfriend, well, right now I pretty much have the monopoly on that market... ;)

I do need to scan some better pictures of Alan!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

An ode to my agent on the anniversary of my first "YES"!

It took me three years (plus a week, if we want to get technical) to find an agent. I had given myself four before I'd told myself I better start pursuing another career path, even if I kept writing on the side. At the time, it felt like forever, but in hindsight, I'm glad, because Jennifer Laughran wasn't even an agent for much of those three years. Sometimes things take a while for a reason, clearly.

As soon as she started agenting, she moved to the top of my pile. I knew of her from the children's writer boards known as The Blue Boards. I found her a wee bit intimidating, but smart and hilarious and helpful, and I LOVED her taste in books, which is not easy to do with me. I'm a persnickety reader. And although she was new, which I suppose holds an element of risk, she was with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. A lot of my friends were repped by agents there. They sold a lot of books, almost all children's/YA, which has always been my passion. I'll admit I dreamed of being able to say I had an ABLA agent.

It actually took me two tries to get a yes from Jenn, but on July 2nd, 2008 (well, it was just after midnight, so technically, July 3rd, but she was in California at the time, so CLOSE ENOUGH), she emailed me about the full manuscript of Magic Under Glass that she loved it and wanted it. It had been one heck of a journey getting to that point, a road paved with glowing rejections and revision requests, friends getting agents and book deals, a lot of persistence and rewriting and an occasional pit stop in "Will it EVER be my turn!?" land.

Technically, it took another week to be official, because I had other fulls out, but I positively GLOWED my way through the family 4th of July party. I've never cared for summer but I have to admit it seems to be my magic season, career-wise. In a little over a month I'd have a book deal, and I was relatively mellow in comparison on that day because I still could hardly believe I had an agent!!

Of course, every writer dreams of getting an agent who will sell their book. I was willing, at the time, to accept a semi-mediocre agent so I could get my book on editor's desks. I just didn't really know better, because people weren't very vocal about bad agent experiences. It wasn't until after I HAD an agent that I really got to hear horror stories, see friends struggle with agents who might sell a book but drop the ball in other ways--and subsequently, struggle with the question of exactly when is an agent not doing their job enough that one should actually part ways? I have thanked my lucky stars many times over that Jenn had been the first agent to fall in love with my writing, because my career path has had its share of bumps, to be sure, but Jenn knows when to send a Youtube video of kittens, and when to just tell me I'm awesome. She gives great revisions suggestions and uses the cutest stationary. She's fed me when I was starving in NYC and been the voice of reason when I've freaked out. Her other clients are a pleasure to know and a lot of them are my friends. I've never doubted that I landed in the right place.

Anyway, I'm not usually one for the public gushing, but three years feels like a milestone to me, because so many things in my career have happened in three-year or three-week increments. It feels like a "looking back" point now. And I am truly grateful for all the wonderful events of the last three years. This time three years ago, I was just working in a health food store and dreaming, dreaming of just the sort of email that would finally appear in my in-box that night...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Betsy the cat

I have three cats. Oskar thinks he is a dog or perhaps our toddler, Puru is pure teasing kitten, and Betsy? Well, we are convinced she is an alien. I drew a comic illustrating some of the weird things she does, although I think I've only halfway captured it.

I can't really draw her tortie markings so I also provided a picture of the genuine article.

Click on the comic for a larger image!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Musings on public speaking, flying, and fear

Last weekend I flew to Dallas for a library visit. As my friends know, I do not like flying. I especially do not like takeoffs. And I especially do not like turbulent takeoffs, which is what I experienced flying home from ALA last year, and at which point my dislike of flying turned into a full-on phobia.

On the way to Dallas I had a terrifically reassuring seatmate. I began to relax. On the way back, the pounding panic came back during takeoff, especially since I had to fly American and they don't have satellite radio, but it was a very smooth takeoff, and once we hit 10,000 feet, I relaxed quickly and stayed astoundingly relaxed. Sure, I still got a tension headache by the time I got off, but at one point the plane was rattling a bit, I could see a lightning storm up ahead, and yet I realized I was just enjoying the show. With the Buzzcocks blasting through my headphones, my mood was a mixture of "this is pretty!", "F*#@ you, fear" and "Bring it ON."

(Luckily, nothing much ever was brought, or I might have changed my tune.)

Meanwhile, between these two flights was my library visit. It was not my most successful visit ever because the audience didn't really know each other, they were mostly in that most-nervous-age-of-your-life, and they didn't laugh at many of my jokes or ask many questions. "How can you DO that?" or "I could never do that" were reactions I got from several people about the idea of library/school visits in general and shy audiences in particular.

And I don't really KNOW how I can do it. I can look at an empty room of chairs and think, "I can see how this would be intimidating" and then I can see those chairs half-filled with staring faces waiting for me to entertain them with chatter for the next hour and think, "Yes, this would be a problem for some people, I understand completely", and yet, I'm just not afraid. I've even gotten better at just forging ahead when I ask if there are any questions and no one says a word. Okay, nevermind! I'll give you random writing advice. Or read an excerpt from Between the Sea and Sky. Do you like it, audience? Can I tell? You are so quiet!! Eh, too bad, you're getting it anyway.

I still envy people who are particularly stellar public speakers, who are consistently hilarious and/or thought-provoking. I think I am humorous and informational but I wouldn't go as far as hilarious and thought-provoking. Sometimes I lose my train of thought. Sometimes I stammer. But my heart doesn't pound, not like takeoff on an airplane. I recover quickly.

When I was a wee kidlet I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. (Before I realized one would have to write one's own routine and not just repeat one of Steve Martin's.) I try to think of writer talks the same way. Good comedians are willing to humiliate themselves, and when things go rough, I just think of that.

But if I ever pee my pants on a turbulent plane, I'm not sure that'll work.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Contest Winners

Wow, it was really hard to pick top contenders for the Magic Under Glass embellished paperback. But I selected my three favorite reviews, and sez:

Mindy McGinnis!

She will receive an embellished Magic Under Glass paperback and a Between the Sea and Sky ARC.

Then, I numbered all the entries for to win a Magic Under Glass UK paperback and Between the Sea and Sky ARC and that winner is:

Jennifer Hopwood!

Congratulations to both of you and thank you so much for all the entries. I wish I could send you all ARCs, but I DO still have a stack to give away one way or another so stay tuned...

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Sorry I am late on announcing the contest winners. I have learned my lesson not to plan contests to end right before I go out of town for the weekend! I need to find a good spare moment to review the entries, so, early next week I promise!

In the meantime, don't forget to stop by and see me on Saturday if you're in the Dallas/Fort Worth area! Deets here:

It looks like the event IS open to everyone, not just teens as I previously stated. I'm so excited to see some Texan fans, so please come!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tasha Tudor and Shaping A Life

I reread The Private World of Tasha Tudor yesterday, a book that never fails to inspire me.

If you are not already aware of the awesomeness of Tasha Tudor, she was an illustrator and, well, what you might certainly call an eccentric. She believed she had lived before, in the 1830s, and still lived on a Vermont farm wearing 1830s dresses (some authentic), spinning wool, raising goats, cultivating a lovely garden, and doing all manner of artsy and folksy things...marionette shows, teas, dollhouses... She also had quite a collection of antique clothes and she believed in WEARING them to pieces, not packing them away. In the book there are pictures of young women and children sporting some of her Victorian clothing collection and lovely as they are, you can see a spot where the dress is disintegrating. I kind of love that.

Tasha says in the book, If I do have a philosophy, it is best expressed by Henry David Thoreau, "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Yes, it's a quote within a quote, I know that's a little weird.)

And yes, I've heard that Tasha Tudor could be prickly or that her quaintness was calculated and commercial or that her children were fighting over her estate after her death or whatever, but...well, that sort of thing is their business. What I love about people like Tasha Tudor and David Bowie and countless other artists of the ages, people who were artistic eccentrics first and successful people second, is the important reminder that one can't just sit around and wait for an amazing life to be handed over to one. No matter how poor a person is, how small their home, how limited their time, we still have the power to choose a direction to head toward. We can gather bits of our dreams, cultivate them and let them grow.

As I read the book, I saw things I desire and still don't a house of my own, in a state with seasons and history and fresh apples in the fall and cherries in the summer. But I also read about Tasha Tudor's Christmas tree, decorated with beautiful ornaments handed down from her great-grandmother, and I thought with a smile about my own collection of Christmas ornaments--shiny 1960s orbs from an estate sale in my neighborhood. A woman named Susan had died, and her taste was very like mine, and she had clearly traveled and had money. Her house was full of lovely things. I have several of them now. Sure, they aren't 19th century ornaments, but you can't buy them anymore (except on Ebay and such of course), and they have a history that I don't know but imagine I feel.

60s Christmas ornaments. Quirky shoes with a work uniform. Herbs grown on a stoop. An hour dedicated to writing or art or music. Fresh baked bread. Small things matter.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shadows on the Moon review

Today I am posting a rather overdue review of a lovely book, Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott.

Zoe and I are Twitter friends, and some months back, she proposed a swap. She'd send me a Shadows on the Moon ARC if I'd send her a Between the Sea and Sky ARC when I got them. Despite the expensive postage to England, it's still a sweet deal because we get to read one another's books early.

And this is a LOVELY book, kind of a Japanese-flavored Cinderella. Let me tell you some of the many things I loved about it!

--The prose. It's simple yet lyrical, the perfect fairy tale pitch, especially for a Japanese fairy tale. The prose kind of FELT like Japan, if that makes sense.

--Suzume. She's a strong heroine, tough but still feminine. She goes through a LOT and I really felt for her. Just when I thought she was in a slightly better position, the rug gets pulled out from under her again. One thing I thought was fascinating is that she using cutting to cope with all she's going through in the book. This isn't played up TOO much but I can't recall ever seeing this addressed in a historical fantasy. Or actually any historical OR fantasy. It's nice to see heroines with "issues" branching out of issue books, that's for sure.

--The world. It's not QUITE the Japan we know, more of a fairy tale Japan and a fairy tale court, and it is lovely. Dark-skinned foreigners come from another land as guests of the royal court, and although we never see this land, the culture and people feel well-realized too. The love interest is a part of the foreign party, which brings me to:

--Otieno. He could have had even more screen time in my opinion, but still, it was enough, and he made a compelling impression when he did show up. He came across as strong yet gentle and I feel like he had a real sense of presence. One of my pet peeves in a book is multiple description of hot abs or pouty lips as stand-in for character in a love interest (especially my personal boy preference is skinny rock abs and pouty lips won't get me, although I admit to being kind of a sucker for nicely described hands for some reason). There is none of this here. Yes, you'll see some physical attraction to Otieno but it's more than that.

Also, bonus points for dance, music, riches to rags to riches again which I always enjoy, and a transgender character.

If I have one quibble it's that the pacing does drag in a few spots, particularly around the end when the heroine is making certain choices for revenge and honor and you KNOW she's going to end up going a different route in the end. Although I think this made sense for her character I'll admit to getting a little impatient with her at that point. For god's sake, woman, OTIENO.

This is a wonderful read and I really think it will appeal to Magic Under Glass fans as it shares some themes. It releases in the UK in July (and you can always get UK books via The Book Depository although don't wait as I notice they tend to run out of them sometimes, grr) or, I believe, a little later in the US.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky bits and pieces

Between the Sea and Sky was at BEA! I know there are a decent amount of ARCs trickling out now, and reviews too. My critique partner Jessica Spotswood compared it to a "fantasy L. M. Montgomery" on Twitter the other day. I promise I won't spam you with review quotes, but, this is why you always hurry up and send your dear friends ARCs before anyone else, because they like you and they will probably like your new book, so that by the time the first bad review comes along, you have kind words to CLUTCH.

Anyway, I've done a few a Sea & Sky guest posts I wanted to point you to:

At Windowpane Memoirs I talked about the setting of Between the Sea and Sky.

She's also running a contest to win a copy, so check that out. You can also win a copy at my post here: It runs 'til June 7th and your odds right now are very good!

And I've got a Goodreads giveaway going on. The odds are not quite as good of course, but entering couldn't be easier!

And this post is already a month old, but I never mentioned it The Book Rat I talked about how I drew from fairy tales for world building mermaids, and how I developed the winged folk (who didn't have much in the way of myth to draw from).

Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat-y post, but my hands hurt and I have synopses to write, will have to do for now.