Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hey all!

A quick reminder that on Saturday the 15th I'll be at the Alexandria Story Festival in Alexandria, VA with the supremely awesome Tiffany Trent! And Mary Amato, whom I have been assured is also awesome and I'm looking forward to meeting. We'll be on from 12:00-12:30 and there's also a great raffle. Fun for all ages!

And it seems we finally have a new official super-awesome title for Dark Metropolis! Only I don't have the 100% go-ahead to share it yet. But soon...more soon...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Will there be a third Magic Under Glass book?

Oh, dear, it's been a long time since I blogged. (Uh-oh, that earworm from earlier in the week is back..."It's been a long time, been a long time... Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time...") But better infrequent than never, I suppose.

By far, lately, the most common hits to my blog and website, and the fan mail I get, all revolves around one question (or rather, variants to this question):
--Will there be another Magic Under Glass book?
--Will there be a sequel to Between the Sea and Sky?
--What is Jaclyn Dolamore's next book?

So, let me address these questions so those of you looking on Google can find the answers.

Will there be another Magic Under Glass book?

Probably not, to be honest. My publisher asked me to wrap it up with Magic Under Stone and so I did. Yes, the ending is not entirely conclusive--but that is mostly because a conclusive ending didn't feel right to me. I know that Erris and Nimira probably have very exciting lives for their entire existence. They are, after all, going to come into a rather troubled kingdom. I didn't want to try and tie that all up with a bow. Apologies to those who like endings tied up very neatly. (Readers are very split on this regard anyway, I've found.)

The best way to keep a series going is to buy the books. I know this is frustrating, of course, because many of you who want more of the books DID buy the books, and of course you can't be singularly responsible for making the rest of the world buy the books either! I'm sure my editor would have loved more books about Erris and Nimira too.

It is possible that at some point another Erris and Nimira story will burn in my mind and I will have to write it. Maybe a novella or something. I could self-publish this myself. But it would take time away from projects that pay the bills, so it would really have to be a labor of love. I have a lot of stories I want to write for pure love and I'm not sure what the chances are I'll get to this one. But most likely I have many many years left on this planet, so...never say never.

Will there be a sequel to Between the Sea and Sky?

I get this question too, which just goes to show that some readers are never satisfied even if an ending is closer to happily ever after! I see Esmerine and Alan having a relatively calm, happy life. They will probably run the bookstore and see the rise of easier and easier printing methods and more and more literacy and books! It will be a grand time for them. I don't think they'll have any children because of the species conflict, but Swift will be a sort of apprentice and maybe eventual partner.

I do think frequently of a story about Alan's sister Karinda when she gets older, though. I might end up jotting that one down in my spare time and you may see it someday.

What is Jaclyn Dolamore's next book?

Why, if you didn't know, it is called Dark Metropolis, FOR NOW (title will probably change) and it's set in a lush, dark world of magic, art, and politics, nightclubs and decadence, based loosely on Weimar (1920s) Berlin. When Thea's best friend goes missing, she finds that not everyone who dies in the city stays dead... And yes, it is kind of a zombie novel, but you know I wouldn't write a zombie novel unless I could think of a reasonably fresh take on it! It comes out in Fall 2013. I know, this is forever from now, but I have little to do with publishing schedules!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Writing/revising thoughts gleaned from latest manuscript.

Every book I write is sort of a self-inflicted class on how to write a book. Every time i have new insights as to what I'm doing wrong and how to improve it. Sometimes I am just banging my head against a wall, but then when I have a new insight, it's such a magical moment, I feel like I can almost see a message appear above my head: "You've gained a level! Subtlety +1! Character Development +2!"

So here's a few things I've been learning lately.

First, here is a tip from my Twitter, a couple of people seemed to like it, so I'll mention it here too. For giving quick life to minor characters (you know, like "waiter" or "girl on street") keep some books of portrait photography in your library. While writing my Weimar Berlin-ish world I've been obsessed with the brilliant works of German photographer August Sander. He photographed people of all classes and professions. I couldn't afford the complete seven-volume set of his work but I bought a pretty decent collection and it's so great to just pull it off the shelf and immediately flip to bohemians or old farmers or whatever.

Thought #2:
Sometimes it isn't that you don't know the character well enough, it's that you've given them the wrong thing to do. I've been realizing with the Dark Metropolis sequel just how important it is to give characters scenarios in which their most interesting self can shine. In draft #1 I had theoretically interesting scenarios, but they weren't the right ones for some of the characters. My protagonist Thea is a slightly religious girl and she wants to turn to her religion for comfort but she is also questioning her faith. In the first draft, she met a character of a different religion and reacted judgmentally to him. This was true to her character, because right now she's freaking out as she deals with a lot of big thoughts. But it also made her seem narrow-minded and unappealing. I switched her circumstances around to where she was in a position of strife, trying to turn to religion for comfort and butting up against her new, shaken view of the world. Same character, same struggles, but this was a more likable, relatable position for her.

Thought #3:
If your cast has gotten too big all at once, find a way to break them up. At the end of Dark Metropolis I have a lot of people together at once. So as book 2 begins, they're still together, and...they were getting lost. It was like trying to meet characters at a really stressful cocktail party. I found a reason to break them all up again and the story got much better.

Thought #4:
Torture your characters in the book, to the point where even you might be a little uncomfortable. I have often heard advice to not be too nice to your characters, and don't be afraid to do bad things to them. I have always ignored it because I LOVE torturing my characters! Well...or so I thought. I realized I mostly torture them before the book even begins. They all have tragic pasts, and they are still dealing with the ramifications of their pasts, but I realize I rarely do anything shocking to them in the middles of books. Erris = already an automaton. Nimira = already in a low position. Alan = has a secret in his past that has been hindering his happiness. I have never made a huge game-changing tragic thing happen to a character in the middle of a book, although Magic Under Stone was a tad better. So. Gloves are off now, characters. Be warned.

Thought #5:
Characters that have been unloved are a classic of literature. I certainly wouldn't tell you to put away all your downtrodden orphans and whatnot. But I've found that unloved characters often give me a lot of trouble. I had this situation in Magic Under Stone when I wrote Ifra as having a loveless childhood, raised only to serve others as a jinn and accept his fate, but he actually showed up in my dreams and told me, noooo, he had actually been able to spend part of every year with a farm couple who treated him like a son. He drew strength from this throughout the book and it made him a lot less emo and angry and more strong and sympathetic. I realized I'm doing it again with Freddy in this book, and I want to go back and make his relationship with the man who raised him more nuanced. Good thing I still have a revision pass to go on book 1!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On not being famous.

I have a confession to make.

My name is Jaclyn Dolamore and I am not famous. I have never greeted a screaming hoard of fans at BEA. My email is manageable (or when it isn't, it sadly has nothing to do with being overwhelmed with adoration and inquiries from foreign publishers). I have a curious dream of being mentioned in PW Children's Bookshelf and this dream remains unfulfilled. I'm fairly sure my royalty statement for Magic Under Stone, when it comes, might just be a piece of paper with a big sad face on it.

The thing is--this could all change. By next year things could be different. I have a new book with a new publisher that I'm super excited about. The Magic Under Glass movie could actually be produced and be an indie sensation or something. My career, far from being dead, feels like it's only just beginning.

But right now? You wouldn't know it. Things are pretty quiet around here. My Google Alerts usually just reports my own blog posts to me. Basically, no one is paying attention to me and it is a tiny bit scary, in a way, because I can see how quickly a career can die, three books passing into the mist, picked up occasionally by a child in the library, this moment largely unknown to me. Eventually it would just be an amusing story to tell future acquaintances: "Yeah, once I had some books out, even a movie deal. Check out the Spanish edition. Pretty wild, huh?"

This forgotten place can be a scary one for a writer. Even if, as in this case, I DO have other things lined up. I'd imagine it would be even worse if I didn't.

But I've often seen published authors tell the unpublished the following: "Enjoy this time while you're unpublished. Things will never be the same again."

It's true. They won't. And I found that nothing changed my writing like publication, and not necessarily for the better. I can't say I didn't have fun writing Between the Sea and Sky and Magic Under Stone, wasn't like the old days. Words did not fly from my fingers with joyous abandon. It was 1000 words a day, every day, under deadline, occasionally interrupted by a reworking of portions, and finally, a manuscript turned in on the day it was due. I often took breaks to Google-stalk myself. I watched my Goodreads ratings start out strong when a book was released and then drop and drop (apparently, the nicest reviewers are the quickest, and it's rather downhill from there). For me, the worst part was not nasty reviews. It was general apathy. It was the 3.52 overall rating for a book I loved a lot. It was the reviewers that were fairly nice but made a comment that hit a little too close to my own perceived weaknesses. It was the tormenting thoughts of "Maybe I am only a three and a half star writer." It was the circles in my mind of "Maybe if my tweets had just been funnier" or "Maybe if I was better at remembering book blogger's names..."

I tried to block out these feelings. I tried to block out the review websites too. But it trickles in. And sometimes it made me angry, even though there wasn't really anything specific to be angry at...except, perhaps, my own human folly, for wanting publication and validation so badly and then flailing when I actually got it. The innocence and sheer joy of writing in my teens and early twenties was gone and even with all the new joys publication brought (and I don't want to sound too mopey, there are MANY), a part of me was simply wrenched by the loss.

A funny thing has happened to me this year. I'm once again under contract and under deadline, but it feels different this time... It feels oddly free. I am just writing, not worrying about what my new editor will think of book 2. I'm not really worrying about what ANYONE thinks, at least, not much. I'm wondering if I'd be able to manage this if I was getting a lot of attention for my current books. Even positive attention has a definite effect. It's motivating, yes, but it's also distracting--like trying to write while having a buzz. There is no telling, now, if this feeling will remain after Dark Metropolis comes out. Maybe I've changed for good, by having gone through three books already and the whirlwind of highs and lows that comes along with them. But I know it's possible that I'll be distracted again. And I have a feeling that the more successful future books are, the more I will have to battle against this sense of distraction.

So, just like I would advise an unpublished writer, but with even more awareness of what I speak, I'm cherishing this time out of the spotlight. I'm reveling in the quiet and clutching my characters and worlds close, keeping them largely to myself and enjoying them immensely. I am grateful, in fact, for this time, for this chance to remember what writing means to me, and for me, and not for anyone else. I spent the week of BEA sitting quietly in my office, pounding out words, thrilled and excited by the way my new novel is clicking. Sometimes I forget for a moment, that this is what being a writer is really all about. Not reviews, appearances, fan mail, retreats, covers, foreign rights, movie deals, tweeting, blogging, Facebook fan pages, websites. None of that.

Just a girl.
Her computer.
And a story that makes her glad she is human, even though being human is hard, because humans can tell stories.

(Though next year's BEA, I hope to be there or be square. ^_~)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Between the Sea and Sky playlist

A little while ago someone asked if I had a playlist for Between the Sea and Sky!

So I made one at

I can't seem to get the player to appear embedded, sorry...

But of course, is limited, so I must tell you that if there is ONE SONG that sums up Between the Sea and Sky, it is Oka no Machi from the Whisper of the Heart soundtrack:

Other omissions include:
Atreju Meets Falkor--The Neverending Story Soundtrack
Flying High/End Title--The Secret of NIMH Soundtrack
Main Title--The Emma Soundtrack

I also had to make a few substitutions for I listened to a LOT of Italian mandolin music (yes, the same CD played in what was then my local pizza restaurant, I noticed...funiculi, funicula!) and they didn't have any of that available so I substituted a Sicilian tango... And the song from Laputa would be better as an orchestral instrumental.

But. It's something.

As you can see, I had a very soundtracky soundtrack for this book. And when it was done, I was dying to rock out. But I had to get to work on Magic Under Stone...I'll try to share a playlist for that one soon too!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All About Blurbs

So, in the past week or two I was asked to blurb THREE, literally, one a day for three days in a row, which made me feel like the most popular person in the universe (okay, not really, but it was flattering) and also made me think perhaps I should do a post on blurbs, because they are a part of publishing that, well, can still take me a bit off guard.

What is a blurb?
A blurb is, of course, those wonderful compliments that appear on many book jackets that say things like: "Swoony romance and a strong heroine, this novel has it all"--Famous Person

How do you get blurbs for your book?
Sometimes your editor or your agent will solicit blurbs for you. Other times, you will be asked to get blurbs yourself. With Magic Under Glass I had a little of both, but the blurb we got was one that I asked for, from the lovely Carrie Ryan. It is a terribly awkward position, to have to ask author friends and acquaintances you admire to take the time to read your book, but if you've chosen well, they will probably be delighted to have an early read and a chance to help you out, or deeply and genuinely sorry if they're too swamped or the book doesn't quite click for them.

How do agents/editors/authors decide who to ask for blurbs?
Usually people will ask you to blurb books that seem like a good fit--that are kind of like your book. I've been asked to blurb books that mostly either have a fairy tale bent of sorts, and/or a strong non-white protagonist...Zoe Marriott's Shadows on the Moon, for example, was a book I blurbed that had both. Shadows on the Moon was actually a book Zoe sent me in ARC form (we traded ARCs) and after I wrote a rave review on my blog she asked if I'd blurb it. I was happy to, since I only review things that are a strong 4-star or 5-star read for me, but it is a reminder for published authors that you shouldn't write flattering reviews of books just to be nice because you might end up being asked to blurb and you don't want to have to say, "Er...well...actually...I didn't like it THAT much" or endorse a book you don't really love.

There is also an author hierarchy of blurbs, of course. Editors don't want to launch a book they think will be "the next big thing" with a blurb on it from an author no one's even heard of. At this stage in my life it's unlikely I'd be asked to blurb anything purchased for hundreds of thousands of dollars with a marketing budget to match. I have been asked to blurb some books that have probably gotten more hype than mine, though. This happens. You just don't want HUGE disparity.

As a published author, when will I be asked to blurb something?
If you're a much-hyped debut author you may be asked to blurb someone else's book before yours is even out. But chances are it will come later. You don't have to be a bestseller or anything. But if you've never been asked to blurb anything, it doesn't mean you are an unpopular failure. Many of my requests for blurbs have come from being with a rather large, children's book oriented agency, so if you have a solo agent you might not get as many, I suspect.

As a published author, is there a benefit for my career in blurbing a book?
Besides the obvious goodwill you build with the author you've blurbed, there certainly can be personal benefit in blurbing a book. Some readers might pick up your book because they saw your name on the cover of a book they liked. And perhaps most directly, if you love a book an editor has worked on and you write them a genuinely gushing email that "yes, I would LOVE to blurb this book, ohmigod, it is SO GOOD, I was up all night reading it, IS THERE A SEQUEL?", the next time your agent has a book of yours to shop, she might send it to that editor and that editor is likely to remember you fondly.

What do blurbs do?
I'm not really sure. I've been told that booksellers like them. I think there is a certainly undeniable subconscious psychological impact from seeing words of praise on a book's cover. As a kid, WHO was writing a blurb meant nothing to me. The content of the blurb didn't mean much either, unless it implied romance. When I was young, the YA genre as we know it didn't exist and it could actually be quite hard to find books that had romance in them but not sex scenes (which, to this day, make me laugh more than they turn me on 90% of the time). I spent hours, cumulatively, at the library scanning jacket flaps for books that looked romantic. Especially for boys in somewhat tortured circumstances. Teen me would have been soooo happy nowadays.

Do blurbs do anything for you?

How do you write a good blurb?
The first time I was asked to write a blurb I struggled mightily, because no one gives you instructions on a good blurb. There are no books or websites or Miss Snark for blurb writers, critiquing and analyzing what makes a blurb good. I will tell you that almost everything you write will sound stupid and about as familiar as the formula for a movie trailer. There are only so many ways you can say "this story made me cheer!" or "heartfelt/captivating/romantic/beautiful etc. and haunting/riveting/hilarious/smart etc., this story will stay with me long after the pages are shut" or whatever.

I still have no idea, really, what makes for a "good" blurb and how to write one. Ideas welcome!

That's all I can think of. If you have any other questions about blurbs, shoot!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Experiences Writing Five Books

Every book is different. Some books pour out. Some books sputter along painfully. Some need a little revision and some need a lot.

And sometimes, as the writer, I forgot just how agonizing the process was in the past. I am currently working on what will be my fifth published book--FIFTH! That number still shocks me. I am on my way to having a shelf of my works! But anyway. Like the previous four, the fifth comes with both hair-tearing moments, and good ones.

I've had no trouble getting words on the page, so that's a plus. But I struggled for a while with a serious case of this-sucks-and-I-don't-know-any-of-the-characters-itis (which just became the clunkiest word I have ever invented). Even though it is a SEQUEL, which means I SHOULD know the characters, only they seem to want to be different people than in the first book, which is making me look back at the first book like WHAT...did I have you right to begin with?

And so on.

Sometimes at events I'll be asked what the process of writing a book is like, and I've seen other authors answer the question as well, and some of them say, well, it's always difficult for the first 25k words and then the middle is better, or, the beginning is wonderful and shiny and then the middle is awful, or the whole thing is awful but you just do it anyway, or...whatever.

For me, it is always different.

Magic Under Glass: This was the second book I wrote, but the first I wrote while looking for an agent and having some real information about the industry. My first "professional" book, if you will. I wrote the first version quickly and joyfully. Then I had to go back and rewrite it twice. Each rewrite also came quickly, and just slightly less joyfully. The hard part was the in-between-rewrites times when I was thinking about why the book kept getting rejections and what it might possibly need, and not understanding.

Between the Sea and Sky: Second book. Written under huge stress of having sold first book. I loved the characters and the world they resided in. I lived in it, mentally, while writing. It was a lovely place. But when it came to writing the book? It was horrible. I wrote very slowly. I worked on that book for a whole year, and it isn't even a long book! I didn't have any fun until we got to revisions. I LOVED revising this book.

Magic Under Stone: Had a lot of trouble with the beginning. Getting back into the groove of the characters and trying to re-establish everything. This book clicked after I had a dream about Ifra that showed me who his character really was. Everything else fell into place around him, and I ended up mostly enjoying the writing for the second half. Revisions were very minimal.

Dark Metropolis: Another book written quickly, while dealing with a small string of deaths. This is the only book I've written from a place of catharsis and, frankly, some fear and despair. I wrote it as a way of dealing with those emotions, and I did enjoy writing it, except I was having an existential crisis the whole time. After it sold I kind of dreaded revisions because I'd gotten the emotions that drove the book out of my system and didn't really want to revisit them! But my editor wanted a sequel and forcing myself to come up with something helped me to expand the world in my mind beyond the emotions that drove the first book, and that has helped a lot.

Dark Metropolis sequel: I had huge problems with this book at first because, as I said, initially I didn't want to revisit the world. But now it's been starting to click and become exciting for me, and the other night I had a dream about one of the characters, which, for me, can be a HUGE piece of the writing puzzle (see Magic Under Stone!). Also this is the first time I've gotten to work on a sequel while still doing edits on the first book, which is kind of a cool thing! Working on one compliments the other, and vice versa.

So, if you are writing your first book or two and you think you know how it's going to roll now? Well, maybe not. But that's part of the fun.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Books like Magic Under Glass/Between the Sea and Sky/Magic Under Stone

I periodically get hits to my blog from people Googling "books like magic under glass", etc. Of course, I don't know what it is that these readers are looking to replicate...the style, the time period, girls who fall in love with robots, what? But I thought I'd recommend a list of some YA that I like that I also think my readers would probably like because some aspects remind me of my own work.

Faery Rebels (in the UK, Knife) by R. J. Anderson
The Hollow Kingdom trilogy by Clare Dunkle
Jessica Day George's books
Eva Ibbotson's YAs like A Countess Below Stairs
Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
A True and Faithful Narrative by Katherine Sturtevant

Are there any other books you've read and enjoyed that remind you of my books? Feel free to let me know in the comments. If I haven't read them I'll certainly add them to my list!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

10 Best Things About Orlando

I have now lived in Maryland for almost three months. And getting out of Orlando was such a huge endeavor that I dumped on it a lot, like a bad boyfriend I finally broke up with. I feel a little bad, so, now that I've had a little time away, I am giving you the ten best things about Orlando. I was tempted to do Florida as a state, and talk about Sarasota and St. Augustine and some of the good times I've had with my friend Amanda in West Palm Beach...

But NO. This is JUST Orlando.

1. The ViMi District.

Many people don't even realize Orlando has a bonafide concentrated ethnic neighborhood. You can easily find good Thai, Chinese, Japanese or Korean food there, but it is first and foremost a Vietnamese neighborhood. There are a number of great Asian markets where you can stock your pantry with sauces and always find reasonably priced avocados, but the best thing of all are the Vietnamese restaurants. They rocked my world and I miss them. My favorite was Lac Viet Bistro, where I always ordered grilled pork or chicken on vermicelli with some fresh basil and cilantro on the side. The scrumptiously marinated meat and light noodles come with raw slices of tomato and cucumber, mint, chopped peanuts and little bits of browned garlic, and you can top it with a generous pour of nuoc mam, the Vietnamese dressing that is a little sweet and a little fishy, and a lot better than that description makes it sound. The perfect compliment, to me, is a glass of sweet and fresh young coconut water.

Basically, every time ANYTHING good happened, even a six-figure book deal, and someone asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate, I always went for yet another $6 bowl of grilled pork on vermicelli noodles.

The ViMi District also happens to overlap with the gay district and the hipster part of Orlando, so you can also find vinyl and vintage clothes and wax nostalgic about the time you saw a Hedwig and the Angry Inch performance at Parliament House at the same time.

2. Nature

Florida has a number of interesting habitats. Most of the year if the heat doesn't kill you, the mosquitos will, but when the north is stark and cold, Florida is lovely and green and indulgent. Flowers are blooming, the swamp looks like a dinosaur could come out of it (but you'll have to settle for an alligator, which, I'm sorry, always did scare the crap out of me), there are cypress trees so massive and ancient that if you could hollow one out it would be about the size of a Manhattan apartment, there are quiet places with gobs of birds. It can be really gorgeous and unusual. Florida also has some of the best sunsets.

(Though I still think northern nature is better, mostly because it has less mosquitos. =P)

3. Polonia

Polonia is a Polish restaurant that was around the corner from where I lived, in Longwood. It was really authentic and a-Polish-Grandma-made-it tasting (although it was not made by any actual Grandmas). At lunchtime they'd have killer sandwich specials, like, $6 for turkey, bacon and provolone with super delicious horseradish sauce on freshly baked challah with a cup of chicken and pickle soup. One time they had a salad with homemade goat cheese. So good. Another time the soup was the best butternut squash soup I've ever had. On a cold day I was partial to the wazanki, which was little dumplings with bits of bacon and kielbasa, cabbage and onion. If I was feeling rich, a bowl of their homemade apple sauce was REALLY GOOD poured over the wazanki.

4. Best Used Books and Bright Light Books

These two used bookstores were also very near where I lived. Best Used Books was the kind of junky bookstore that has a ZILLION things including weird magazines and you can find anything there. I found two volumes of L. M. Montgomery's diaries once for $2.50, and another time I found a magazine from the 1920s about party planning. Bright Light is the polished cousin. It is run by religious conservatives, which always made me feel a bit weird, but is slightly balanced by the fact that they employ young folk and play indie music. Also I can't deny that it is, perhaps, the most well-organized used bookstore I have ever seen, and they always had an amazing selection of non-fiction for research for very good prices, which I'm a sucker for. I think every area needs a very polished used bookstore and an "everything but the kitchen sink" used bookstore, we were lucky that we had them both near each other.

5. Thrift Stores

Thrift stores in Orlando were plentiful, mostly bad for finding furniture or home decor but good for finding clothes. Values Reborn in Longwood was consistently a great place to score cheap stuff. Sometimes you'd go in and it would be picked over but other days I'd find amazing stuff and they didn't get all Goodwill-prices on you. The best thrifting locale I have ever found, however, is still the Cocoa/Merritt Island area. There are many, many cheap thrifts in a concentrated area, and they always had something old and good in them, every time. I found two-tone spectator shoes, 60s coats with huge buttons, my favorite Western shirt, 60s dresses, Le Crueset, tumblers with drink recipes printed on the side, you name it; even a gorgeous 1960s Emilio Pucci tie one time that I wore until the silk started to disintegrate, probably from how often I fondled it lovingly while wearing it. There are also good places to eat around, which is a must for thrifting.

6. Winter Park

Winter Park is a fine old southern town, with Spanish moss and a train station that Amtrak still stops at and old houses, all the things such a town should have. It's also quite ritzy with a lot of stores I can't afford and mansions to goggle at, but that makes it a romantic place to wander on a nice evening. There is also a decent art museum with a nice Louis Comfort Tiffany collection, and the best public library around. I paid $120 a year to use that library instead of my county library. (Well, actually, not really INSTEAD, but ALONG WITH, I can't resist libraries.)

7. Jeremiah's Italian Ice

Many flavors of ice, which you could also get swirled with soft serve ice cream. Central Florida loves Jeremiah's, evidenced by the fact that they went from one store to like, four, in ten years or so. The best thing, in my opinion, was the horchata flavored ice swirled with chocolate ice cream. It was like $3 for a cup big enough to make you feel slightly ill.

8. Dechoes

Vintage and designer clothing store with two locations. The prices are very reasonable, the stock is good, and they also give you a pretty decent price if you sell them stuff. Sadly I only discovered Dechoes as I was leaving, but if I had known about it earlier I would have bought and sold a lot of stuff there.

9. Disney

Some locals hated Disney. I was not one of them. I love Disney World, especially Epcot, especially the World Showcase. Some of the best parts are the Mitsukoshi department store in Japan and the France movie and the smell of the rides, which stirs deep childhood memories, but there are many wonderful little bits. The downer about Disney is that it is expensive. I didn't really get to enjoy it until I bought us annual passes. Between the passes, the gas it took us to drive across the vast expanse of Orlando to get to the parks, and all the food and drinks we had to buy, it cost me easily over $1000 to enjoy Disney for a year. But, it was something I really wanted to do before I moved away, and I have no regrets.

10. Rock Springs

Central Florida has a lot of springs but this one was my favorite. Spring water is the same temperature year round, which means on a hot day, when you first get in you go "GaaaaHHHH" when it hits your sensitive bits, and then you get used to it and it is amazing. If you get in the water near where the spring feeds in, then you can have an exciting journey down the run, first getting scraped up on rocks, and then reaching a big swimmin' hole type area, and then ending by floating down a shady, low-key stretch, before walking back to your blanket for a much-needed sandwich. There are also a few magical secret spots where tinier springs burble out and you can sit with your feet in them, and sometimes you can find shark teeth, so I am told, although I never, ever did.

So there you have it. I probably forgot a few things, though not many, because Florida never suited me well. But you can't spend 30 years somewhere without missing a few things.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Magic Under Glass movie deal, Dark Metropolis update, and more!

Sooo I have some exciting news today! I had plans to like, draw pictures of Nimira and Erris sitting in a theater or wearing old-timey director's gear or peering out of dressing rooms or SOME kind of iconic movie imagery, but, well, I have been insanely busy and today I am actually HOME TO WRITE so I should probably actually do that, since I have deadlines and stuff. Sigh.

 But, here it is: MOVIE RIGHTS TO MAGIC UNDER GLASS SOLD! To Nostromo Pictures in Spain! (They make movies in English too. Here is an article about them, if you are curious:

 So what does this mean? It means that they have bought the rights to try and make the movie. This takes a lot of time and effort and people and money, and if you know anything about books being optioned for movies, you know that of all the books optioned for movies, few of the movies ever actually happen. But I like to look on the bright side and think that of all the books that are made into movies, they all had to be optioned first. And I am SO very excited that they read the book and had a vision for a movie!

This also shows that SERIOUSLY YOU NEVER KNOW what might happen with a book. Magic Under Glass has been out for 2 1/2 years and I never dreamed it would attract a movie option, much less in Spain, which is one of a small handful of countries it was published in. Pretty awesome. 

Anyway, I also must tell you that I talked to the good folks at Hyperion lately and we're all in agreement that Dark Metropolis (new title pending) would be better as a Fall 2013 book. Yes, I hate that I'll be going a year and a half without a book out again, but, it will really only be a short bump, and the book will be better for it. I can't wait to see this book's cover and new title and see it take shape!

I also got my royalty statement for Between the Sea and Sky and...apparently rights sold in complex Chinese? If any reader happens to spot a Chinese cover for the book at any point, please do let me know! Asia gets my vote for continent with the best covers, usually, because they still seem to prefer illustrations there...

Also, while I have not been blogging HERE lately, I have been out and about the past few months. You still have time to : win a copy of Magic Under Stone with Misty at the Book Rat for Fairy Tale Fortnight. Also at the Book Rat, I talked about how Disney movies led me to love genies and a quest for genie lore, which culminated in Ifra the jinn in Magic Under Stone, while Misty did a fabulous Magic Under Stone review, and if you're not tired of Fairy Tale Fortnight yet, there is an interview with me at Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing.

I also did some DEEP THOUGHTS types of posts, one for Megan Crewe's The Ways We Struggle series here and one for Nova Ren Suma's Turning Points series here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Events! Contests! Et cetera!

Sorry for the lack of blogging! I turned in the first round of revisions for Dark Metropolis last week and now I've been trying to catch up on EVERYTHING. But I wanted to do a quick update.

The winner of Magic Under Stone here at the blog was Nicole Settle. Congrats, Nicole! I will have time to sketch in your copy this week and send it out to you.

Some of you have asked me why the release date for the Magic Under Stone ebook is still April when the hardcover got bumped up, and if the ebook will come out any earlier. The short answers to those questions are I DON'T KNOW and ERRR...I GUESS NOT. And there is no long answer. Sorry that I am not more informed! I am still feeling rather surprised that Magic Under Stone is actually out...!

I'll be participating in one of my favorite blog events again this April, Fairy Tale Fortnight!:

I started a Tumblr, J for Juvenilia, where I will be posting highlights from all my childhood notebooks. This is mostly just a way to keep myself accountable for getting all my old stories typed, organized, and loosely dated. But you may find it amusing, as well:

More EVENTS added to the sidebar! A friend of mine is hosting a party for Magic Under Stone at Balticon on May 26th. You need a Balticon membership to attend, but there is a lot of other stuff going on there related to YA and adult speculative fiction and publishing, so it could be a fun day. I'm also confirmed for the PAYA festival in West Chester, PA in August. And I'm working out an event in Alexandria, VA in May, more to come!

I also have a Magic Under Stone Goodreads giveaway going on. This one is US only but I hope to do an international one soon. Blogger does not seem to like the Goodreads widget, so just go here to enter:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Magic Under Stone releases TODAY!

So, a couple weeks ago a blogger was like, "Hey, it says on Amazon that Magic Under Stone comes out on February 28th. Is that true?" And I was like "WHAAAA!?" Because as far as I knew, it was April 10th.

Yep. It's true. They moved it up. It snuck into bookstores all stealth-like. Poor little book, no one's even reviewed it!

Well, a few people have. Emily at Red House Books says: "I didn't think it was possible but I loved Magic Under Stone even more!" She's also offering up a giveaway of your choice of any of my three books HERE, along with an interview about some books that evoke memories and associations for me.

I'm also giving away a copy of Magic Under Stone (at least, when they show up). It'll be signed and have a few sketches of the main characters peppered throughout. US only, this time, unfortunately, because I am still cash-strapped from the move, although I hope to open up a foreign giveaway later when belts are less tight. Just comment with your email address, that is all you have to do! If you want to mention it somewhere, you get an extra entry, but you know, I'm being casual about it. I'm in the middle of edits for Dark Metropolis and there's no time to get fancy.

Also, now is a good time to mention that I'll be doing more author events now that I live in Maryland. If you live in the mid-Atlantic or northeast, keep an eye on the "Events" sidebar. I've already got a few cooking, including a signing with Michelle Zink at Oblong Books in New York in April that should be a ton of fun!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Library Visits in West Palm Beach

I've moved to Maryland! No time to blog yet, but I wanted to belatedly stop in and tell you that if you're in the Palm Beach area, you have two chances to see me:

Wednesday, Feb 15th at 6:30 at Glades Road in Boca (561-482-4554 for more details), and Thursday, Feb 16th at 6:30 at Wellington (561-790-6070 for more details).

It should be a lot of fun!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Post in which I Dissect Revision in Excruciating Depth

Recently Maggie Stiefvater posted an absolutely wonderful blog post where she dissected the hell out a first draft chapter and a final draft chapter. It is a long post, but worth the read. Even thought I am a multi-published novelist myself I really get something out of these. It never hurts to be reminded how a good story is crafted, how many little details go into it.

And when I read it, I had two wishes. One wish was that I had the time to do a similar post. The second wish was that a bunch of other authors would do them too so I could print them all up and stash them with my favorite writing books.

So then, Maggie emailed me and a bunch of other authors and asked if we would indeed like to do posts like this. At that point, I was like, OKAY I WILL FIND THE TIME. When opportunity and desire collide, what else do you say, even if your house is a disaster area of half-packed boxes with no end in sight.

But then came a problem. What selection of first draft and last draft could I offer you that would be helpful?

I don't actually have the final draft of Magic Under Stone right now, because I did line edits and copyedits together, on paper, and mailed them off, without getting finished copies yet. So that's out.

Between the Sea and Sky was kind of odd, because I wrote one first draft, which I barely revised before sending to my editor because I polish as I go and I don't save all the polishings, (although still warning her that it was kinda rough and suffering from second book-itis), which I then almost complete rewrote in revisions, cutting out entire characters and plot points and replacing with new ones, and then did more light polishing on. So there are very few chapters I can really compare in a helpful way.

So that brings me back to Magic Under Glass. It was my first novel and I did a truck-load of major surgery-type editing passes on it before it was published.

I thought, then, perhaps, instead of comparing line edits for one chapter like Maggie did, I would show you how the first two pages of Magic Under Glass changed and changed and changed again, so you will get a sense of both global edits and line edits an author might make and what the reasoning is.

Apologies that this post is very long and not formatted in a cute way but I tried to make it so you didn't have to click around too much. My comments on the pages will be in bold.


Scarlet and green are the colors of my homeland; the colors out the window of the little house where I spent my first birthday and my fifteenth, and every birthday in-between. From the room I shared with my sisters, I could see the piercing red of Joy-Flowers blooming, and the rounded shapes of the Shai Mountains in the distance. I wanted to begin with a sense of what Nimira had left behind, and give the reader a visual of a place that was peaceful, and very different from the setting she's in now...with the serenity, perhaps, of a Chinese brush painting.

My sixteenth birthday was the first where I awoke to any other sight. Now you know how old she is and how long she's been away from home! Convenient!

No one even knew it was my birthday. I woke before the other girls and crossed the chill room to stare out the murky glass panes "chill room", "murky glass panes", ways of showing she is in somewhat distressed circumstances now. at the street below. The streets of Colsom Lake were already bustling with activity. Street urchins stood on the corner, urging passerby into impulse purchases of flowers and sticks of candy. A milkman was bringing his horse cart up one side of the lane, while a rag seller wandered door to door on the other. A faint, misty drizzle cast everything in shades of grey; mud puddled on the streets. Ah, the classic setting of the Victorian novel, you got your urchins, your rag sellers, your drizzle...I wanted to indicate to readers as quickly as possible what kind of place they're in, since Nimira herself is foreign. But perhaps it is a bit TOO commonplace.

I stepped away from the window with a sigh.

“You awake, Nim?” Saraki whispered from her tangle of sheets. Assara sprawled beside her, uncovered, still sound asleep.

“I’m walking around, aren’t I?” Nimira is snapped from her reverie, and...rather snappish for it.

Saraki sat up and yawned. “Is it time to get up yet? Has Tantan been in here? Wow, but I’m tired!” But Saraki is totally unfazed by Nimira's moods. She's an easygoing girl in every draft, although her appearance is always brief.

“Tantan hasn’t been in yet, but any moment now, I’m sure. It’s definitely morning.”

Saraki nudged Assara. “Get up, get up. It’s morning.”

I shook Feiji’s shoulder, and within moments all four of us were out of bed, sorting out clothes that we’d strewn across furniture the night before, exhausted from our last show. Now you're getting to know the nature of these girls' work, conveyed not with an infodump but with a sense of movement and setting--they're getting out of bed, their clothes are everywhere. We had no more engagements in Colsom Lake; today was a traveling day. We pulled on wide trousers of grey cotton and knee-length homespun tunics grown tattered over our months of travel, and drew our waists in with wide red sashes. When Tantan came in, we were braiding one another’s hair.

Tantan, we called her. Auntie. But she was not our real Aunt, nor could she ever be mistaken for it, with her round, red face and long, thin mouth. When she was displeased, which was most of the time, her eyes twitched, first one, and then the other. She walked like a particularly graceless fat person, although she wasn’t fat at all: slow and waddling. Her eyes twitched now, as she waddled into the room, and looked at all of us trying to tame long strands of black hair into braids.Tantan enters with this unlikable description. She was later cut, as you will see.

“Hurry up, girls,” Tantan said. “There’s been a change of plans. We won’t be stopping in Hammarue. We’re going straight to New Sweeling.”

“New Sweeling!” Saraki clapped her hands together and whirled her excited gaze around to encompass all of us, but I wondered why Tantan looked so grim. The end of page two is where we know something bad is afoot. But was that fast enough, I wondered?


There are few things worse than being shaken awake when you expect the privilege of sleeping in, but that is exactly how my sixteenth birthday began.This time the reverie of the Shai Mountains and Joy-Flowers has been discarded as being too slow and dreamy for the first page.

“Wake up, Nimira.” Tantan’s voice sliced through my dreams. “Get dressed.”

I opened my eyes. Next to me, Saraki stirred with a long, irritated groan. As usual, she had hogged all the blankets.

“What’s going on?” she murmured, without opening her eyes. Saraki still begins with an air of languid selfishness, hogging the blankets and not even bothering to open her eyes when she's ordered to get dressed.

I sat up, and now I saw Tantan waking Feiji and Assara in the other bed. None of us expected this; everyone began complaining at once.

“There’s been a change of plans,” Tantan said, throwing open the dingy curtains of our hotel room. “We’re leaving for New Sweeling.”

“This morning?” Feiji asked, squinting at the sunlight. “What about our show tonight?”

“Cancelled,” Tantan said. “I’ll be back in five minutes to see that you’re all dressed.” She left the room, slamming the door shut behind her. The description of Tantan has also been moved back a few pages. Now she's just a blur of opening curtains and orders. This draft is much more in-the-moment. Almost too much so. I was struggling at this point to strike the balance between action and description, information and info-dump.

We dragged ourselves out of bed, reaching for clothes that we’d strewn across furniture the night before, exhausted from our last show. My muscles ached, my head felt dull, and I shivered as my bare feet crossed the uneven wooden floorboards, even though it was summer.Description thrown in with Nimira's movement.

Feiji yawned. “Why do you suppose we’re in such a hurry?”

“Who cares?” Saraki replied. She thrust her arms through the sleeves of her tunic, then picked up her sash with a flourish. “New Sweeling!” she said, hugging the sash around her like a blanket. “Girls, don’t you know what this means?”

I already knew perfectly well what it meant to Saraki: the same thing she and Feiji hadn’t shut up about since the first day of our acquaintance. Men. To be specific, husbands. Nimira is telling you about Saraki, but in the process, she's also telling you about herself.

Sure enough. “Businessmen and sorcerers I made sure to throw in sorcerers to establish this was a fantasy before it became too late! and handsome, dashing actors!” Saraki said. “Just waiting to meet lovely foreign dancers like us. They say you can find anything in New Sweeling, and that includes the love of our lives, I’m sure of it.”

Feiji sighed, and then Saraki sighed, This version is also a bit more light-hearted than the last. and Assara, the youngest of our troupe, stared at them with eyes like saucers. I ignored them as I hunted for my slippers. I had more important matters to consider than the marriage prospects in New Sweeling.

Tantan tried to hide it, but I knew the audience for our shows was dwindling. Six months ago, we had packed the halls with ladies in plumed hats and gentlemen in tail-coats. Now we played shabbier venues for smaller crowds, and even then we often couldn’t fill them. Tantan had paid good money for each one of us. What would she do if we ceased to be profitable? This time at the end of page two, we not only know something has probably gone wrong by Tantan's behavior, but we also know what it might concern--their dance troupe is out of money, and these girls are basically slaves that need to make a profit...or what?


If I had been home, it would have been my wedding day. The day my village would welcome me into womanhood, with feasting and firecrackers. My sixteenth birthday. This was the first version I actually queried agents with. I combined a little of the first two the flippancy of the second draft is gone, but so is the dreaminess of the first. There is a brief indication of where Nimira came from, and now the new detail that she would have been married off at this age if she'd been home. Perhaps subtly implying a sense that romance will be in her future and it won't be at all what her old life would have given her. The day everything would have changed.Of course, today will also be the day everything will change. That's why I'm writing this book. =P

Instead, I woke to Tantan throwing open the curtains of our dingy hotel room. Tantan, we called her, Auntie. But she wasn’t our aunt at all. In draft two, Tantan gets no introduction, but I decided the reader needed a little more orientation from the start. There is also a touch of description sooner.

“Wake up, girls.” She shook my foot and then Saraki’s. “Get dressed, and quickly.”

Next to me, Saraki stirred with a groan. Lots of trimming has occurred. We don't really NEED a "long, irritated" groan. Most sleepy groans are not quick and chipper, after all. “What’s going on?” she murmured.

I sat up and saw Tantan jostling the shoulders of Feiji and Assara in the other bed.

Saraki swept her long hair back from her face. “What about our show tonight?”

“Cancelled,” Tantan said. “I’ll be back in five minutes to see that you’re all dressed.” She left the room, slamming the door behind her.

We dragged ourselves out of bed, reaching for clothes that we’d strewn across furniture the night before, exhausted from our last show. My muscles ached, my head felt dull, and I shivered despite the summer heat as my bare feet crossed the uneven wooden floorboards. More trimming--"even though it was summer" becomes "despite the summer heat".

Feiji yawned. “Why do you suppose we’re in such a hurry?”

“Who cares?” Saraki replied, thrusting her arms through the sleeves of her tunic, then picking up her sash with an excited Why I decided the flourish now had to become "excited", I don't know. flourish. “New Sweeling!” She hugged the sash around her like a blanket. “Girls, don’t you know what this means?”

I already knew perfectly well what it meant to Saraki: the same thing she and Feiji hadn’t shut up about since the first day of our acquaintance. Men. To be specific, husbands.

Sure enough. “Businessmen and sorcerers and handsome, dashing actors!” Saraki said. “Just waiting to meet lovely foreign dancers like us. They say you can find anything in New Sweeling, and that includes the love of our lives, I’m sure of it.”

Feiji sighed dreamily, and then Saraki echoed her. Assara, the youngest of our troupe, stared at them with eyes like saucers. I ignored them as I hunted for my slippers. I had more important matters to consider than the marriage prospects in New Sweeling.

Tantan tried to hide it, but I knew the audience for our shows was dwindling. A year or two ago, we had packed the halls with ladies in plumed hats and gentlemen in tailcoats. Now we played shabbier venues for smaller crowds, and even then we often couldn’t fill them. Tantan had paid good money for each one of us. What would she do if we ceased to be profitable?


If I had been home, this would be my wedding day. My sixteenth birthday. The day my village would welcome me into womanhood, with feasting and firecrackers. Instead, for the second time, I saw the value of my life in a handful of coins.After some feedback from agents and crit partners, I reworked the novel. I decided that the initial opening was still a little too slow, not enough of a hook. In the first-through-third drafts, Nimira is ultimately sold to be a maid in a rich woman's house. I decided that rather than bothering with the other girls in the troupe, who barely have a personality anyway, I'd just get her right to the turning point.

Tantan slipped the money in her purse and would not meet my eyes.This time, we get almost nothing of Tantan, except this heartless act of selling Nimira--although we know, since she won't meet her eyes, that she does feel guilty about it.

“Come along now, girl.” My new mistress’s voice was unyielding, with a highbred accent. She walked to the door without a backward glance, as if she had no doubt I would follow.

The day my father sold me to Tantan’s dance troupe had been bad enough, but to be thrust into serving some pampered lady of Lorinar— Look at me, Tantan!Our protagonist's hard-knock life in a nutshell.

Tantan kept her head bowed.

My new mistress said nothing, but the look she passed over her shoulder, a smooth mask with a hint of irritation, said it all. I trailed after her into a corridor, leaving Tantan behind, and with her, everything I knew.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked, leading me down a hall into the depths of the house. Distantly, I heard the kitchen door shut. Tantan was gone.I don't know if we really needed the final detail about Tantan, but I guess I was thinking that Nim would definitely be attuned to the final shutting of that door.

“Nimira,” I said.

“Nimira. Very good. Easy to pronounce. "Easy to pronounce"--a hint that she is a rich woman who has hired a foreign maid and mostly cares that her foreignness will not get in the way with difficult names or anything like that. I am Elsba Swanney, but that is Mistress Swanney to you. Now, I must acquaint you with some ground rules. All my staff awakens at five o’ clock, sharp. I expect you to keep your dress clean, and your face and hands. Never speak to guests, unless spoken to, or unless offering food or drink. Do not even think of stealing anything, for I am good friends with the Mighty Hollin Perris, the Ambassador of Magic, "Hollin Perris" was a considerably more comical and older villain than the young, troubled Hollin Parry in the final version. I threw a mention of him in early, again, to establish the fantasy aspect. and he has ways of finding things out. Do you understand me, girl?”

I nodded. Nim's emotions won't come out until Mrs. Swanney's instructions are all done. Her personality is still rather underdeveloped in this draft.

“Excellent. Now, this is the servants’ common room. If you’ll have a seat, I’ll call Ronna.” She pushed open the door of a small, poorly lit room with a handful of wooden chairs, a pile of mending in the corner, and a small framed print of a perfectly groomed maid mopping the floors with a smile on her face. More touches of almost-humor that were more common in this draft. I was trying for a "Howl's Moving Castle" sort of air. I didn’t sit down, but Mrs. Swanney was already leaving.

I paced on restless feet as a flurry of suppressed emotions came rushing back. In five years, I had almost convinced myself that coming to Lorinar with the dance troupe had been my choice, not my father’s. Dancing had always been my dream, so I had clung to some small delusion that I had control over my own life. Working as a rich woman’s slave had not fit into my childhood dreams anywhere. Now we get a brief look into Nimira's thoughts before Ronna shows up.


After sending out version 4 and collecting another slew of full requests that led to rejections, I realized I needed to write the book entirely again. Make it less comical, less of a Victorian farce, and give Nimira, and all the characters, considerably more personality and motivation. This misstep was my first attempt at this.

“Suck in your breath!” Saraki yanked on the corset strings. Saraki is back, but the personality-less Feiji and Assara never return.I gripped the banister of the stairs. The whalebone stays tightened about my already slender waist, pressing my breasts up like a shelf for the cheap jewelry around my neck.This opening is definitely the seediest. Corset strings and breasts right from the get-go.

How far my dignity had fallen these days. I hoped to make Nim sympathetic by letting the reader know how much she disliked the situation. But it was still too light-hearted and too cliche. Both the "new maid in a house" of the previous draft and the "girls tightening each others corsets" have a rather familiar ring, frankly.

Saraki tied the corset strings and handed me my dress. While the fabric might have been straight from home, the puffed sleeves and plunging neckline were in the Lorinar fashion. Only my sash was truly my own, and Saraki formed the traditional bow at my back.

I checked my reflection in the mirror, smoothing the rigid bodice, tugging at the knee-length skirt. I would never stop thinking how ridiculous I looked in these clothes, my legs encased in bright red stockings, my feet in toe-pinching slippers, my thick black hair in a pompadour instead of braids. Would Father still say I looked like Mother? The girl blinking back at me, with the circles under her dark eyes, cheeks drawn and sallow, didn’t look like any member of the Safei family to me. One of the biggest changes of this draft was that Nimira was no longer a slave who had been sold by her father and then Tantan, but the daughter of a dancer who comes to Lorinar of her own accord. Her mother, although dead, becomes a character in this draft, just like the final--Nimira's mother looms large in her memories as an influence, and she is always comparing her circumstances to her mother's life, which now seems far away.

I was only Nimira, lost and alone, where my family name meant nothing.Now we know Nimira's name and family is a matter of pride to her, suggesting she has come from something better than this.

Mr. Granden popped in the room. “Nimira? Are you quite ready? You’re almost up.” He eyed Saraki, who was polishing her tei-tan, a small stringed-instrument, with a cloth I never actually say, here, that Nimira is from another country, but I tried to slip in these details, like the tei-tan, to show it.. “And how is my little Saki tonight?”

She gave him a coy smile and rose without a word to go to the stage. Saki had no shame—I knew Granden gave her special favors as long as she pleased him. I would rather die than sell myself. Again--the seedy version!

Of course, every day I lived and breathed, I was vulnerable. Men could take what I wouldn’t give. Granden could. The fear of it had been with me so long that it had turned into something rock-hard inside me. I was always prepared to fight, and always aware that I might lose, any day now. The snappishness of Nim, way back in the early drafts, now has a reason. Nimira's deep desperate loneliness and desire for more meaningful relationships becomes a theme of the book, whereas in early versions she just sort of muddled through bad circumstances without having a deep yearning in her own heart. But this was too blatant.

I went rigid as Granden slipped his hands around my waist. “Tiny Nim,” he said, his waxed moustache tickling my ear. “My fingers almost meet about your waist.” His breath smelled of brandy.

“Because you spent more money on these costumes than you do on food.”

“You’re welcome to spend your wages on food.”

He knew very well I squirreled away every spare penny for a ticket home. He had promised me food and lodgings. He provided only bare sustenance.

“Kindly take your hands off me,” I said, staring at myself in the mirror. My mirror-self reassured me. Tiny but strong, she seemed to say.

His hands slid away, reluctantly. “If you please.” He chuckled. “Do you have a heart at all, Miss Nim?”

“No.” I turned from the mirror. “I have a show to do.”

Although Nim is more proactive here, I discarded it all as just being a little too heavy-handed, with Granden closer and grosser than he needed to be, and Nim both too composed and too hard-edged.


The audience didn’t understand a word I sang. They came for our legs. As the posters said, “Trouser Girls from the Exotic Land of Tassim!” We were billed just under the acrobats and the trained dogs.If you've read Magic Under Glass, this will finally start to sound familiar. This opening worked--it's snappy but it also establishes the situation well--Nim, the foreign dancing girl with a grim acceptance, and a slight touch of wit, about the whole thing.

While Saraki plucked the tei-tan, I paced about the stage, my slippers whispering the words "slippers whispering" actually sound rather like the sound of slippers swishing about a wooden floor! on the wooden floor. My hands curved and wove and paused, each gesture as familiar to me as the words I’d heard my mother sing in the cradle. “Gathering Flowers on My Sister’s Wedding Day” was one of the first dances I had ever learned, a reflection on family and what it means to say goodbye. I felt it was better to establish that Nim had an artistic soul, and cared about these dances, before I showed her getting all snappy with Granden and the other girls.

Before I even finished the last plaintive note, a few men began to whistle, and one shouted something I chose to ignore.More subtle seediness, now paired against Nimira's real feelings for her art. Boys on the balcony shelled chestnuts. Clusters of boarding house girls in tatty straw hats giggled to one another.Details: chestnuts, tatty straw hats. One of my favorite writing rules is to never be general when you can be specific.

My eyes leapt to a tall hat in the crowd. A gentleman. I locked upon a pair of dark eyes.This is one of those cases where writing is almost like being a director. The camera goes from the stage, to pan over the crowds, and then to focus on this single man.

He stood in the back, like he had just slipped in the door and wouldn’t stay long. Among all the dim faces that watched me, I kept my focus on him alone.

“The Dragon Maiden’s Revenge” was a favorite of mine, based on a myth of home, where I pantomimed a girl taking up her father’s sword to avenge his death. I hoped I looked very noble. Was he watching?I felt Nimira was a little too disdainful of love and romance in older drafts. This time we know she's not immune to noticing a man.

Yes. Looking right at me, in fact.

Fifteen years ago a railroad baron had married the most famous of trouser girls, Little Sadi, back when our song and dance had been the fashion, before they even called us “trouser girls”. Another thing about this later draft was, I'd begun to learn the importance of knowing where your characters and your world have been, and not just where they go. Nimira's mother, Hollin's father and uncle, the history of Trouser Girls...they pop up easily now because I'd taken the time to think about them, and give the story a sense of reality. Saraki was always dreaming of following in her footsteps. I scoffed when she spoke of it, but late at night I dreamed of things I scoffed at by the light of day.Still one of my favorite lines in the book...I do dream of things at night I scoff at by the light of day!

When I finished my song, the gentleman still lingered. The raucous crowd around him whooped, but he kept still, his eyes roving over our crude set: a painted village house on a piece of wood shorter than Saraki, and some dried flowers in mismatched vases.There is an unspoken hope quivering here--the dude is still here, ohmigod, he's looking at our craptacular set, I hope he doesn't walk out now, I'd better really pull this off...

Our last number, “The Fairest Blossom in a Maiden’s Heart”, had been my mother’s signature song. She had performed it at the King’s coronation, as a new bride of seventeen, just my age now. The song was an ode to a lover who had died, never to be forgotten, but I could never help but think of Mother. Her performance had always left the audience in tears, but no one would cry here, no matter how I poured out my heart. If her spirit still watched over me, I knew it must have been ashamed.

As I took my bow, with Saraki’s hand in mine, I sought one last glimpse at the gentleman stranger, but he had gone.And here is almost a touch of resignation--no one ever cares about the artistry of her dances, and this guy is like all the rest, isn't he...?

FINAL DRAFT (18 months and at least twenty documents after the first...)

The audience didn’t understand a word we sang. They came to see our legs. As the posters said, “Trouser Girls from the Exotic Land of Tassim!” We were billed just under the acrobats and the trained dogs.

Our voices joined in harmony My editor pointed out that Nimira is supposed to be a singer, and...she wasn't singing. while Saraki plucked the tei-tan and I pranced around the stage, my slippers whispering on the wooden floor. My hands curved and wove and paused, each gesture as familiar to me as the words I’d heard my mother sing while I was still in the cradle. I’d done six shows a week in this dank music hall since I’d stepped off the ship that carried me away from home three years ago. Much trimming of detail about the dances themselves--they are less important than the emotions involved.

Even before I finished the last plaintive note, a few men began to whistle, and one shouted something I chose to ignore. Boys on the balcony shelled chestnuts, occasionally tossing one onto the people below. Clusters of boarding house girls in tatty straw hats giggled.

Through it all, my gaze was drawn to a tall hat in the crowd, and the pair of dark eyes beneath it. A gentleman.

He stood in the back, his face still turned halfway to the door, like he had just slipped in for a glimpse and wouldn’t stay long. Among all the dim faces that watched me, I kept my focus on him alone.

Saraki let the applause wane, and then she began to shake her pick across the tei-tan’s strings, bringing forth a tense melody.

The program held no surprises. “The Dragon Maiden’s Revenge” had followed “Gathering Flowers for My Sister’s Wedding” in every show we’d done this year. Still, I hoped I looked very noble as I pantomimed taking up the sword of the fallen king of dragons. Was the gentleman—my gentleman—watching? When Nimira claims him as "her" gentleman, the stakes become ever so slightly higher--he's not just an intriguing guy in the audience. He's keeping her going, raising her hopes, even if it's all a fantasy for now.

Yes. Looking right at me, in fact.

Fifteen years ago a railroad baron had married the most famous of trouser girls, Little Sadi, back when our song and dance had been the fashion, before they even called us “trouser girls”. Saraki dreamed of following in her footsteps, charming some rich man into whisking her away. I scoffed when she spoke of it, but late at night I dreamed of things I scoffed at by the light of day.

When I finished my song, my gentleman still lingered. The raucous crowd around him whooped, but he kept still, his eyes roving over our crude set: a painted village house on a piece of wood shorter than Saraki, and some dried flowers in mismatched vases.

Our last number, “The Fairest Blossom in a Maiden’s Heart”, had been my mother’s signature song. She had performed it at the King’s coronation, as a new bride of seventeen, just my age now. The song was an ode to a lover who had died, never to be forgotten. I could never help but remember Mother, her haunting voice pitched high, her delicate gestures transforming her into the very embodiment of sorrow. Her performance had always left the audience in tears, but this audience was far from the one she had known, both in temperament and location. Toned down from "no one would cry here". If her spirit still watched over me, I knew it must be ashamed.

As I took my bow, with Saraki’s hand in mine, I sought one last glimpse of my gentleman, but he had gone.


As you can see, once I nailed it, it didn't change too much. This is often the case with me. Sometimes I can flail about with six entirely different versions of the same story, other times it just comes out right the first time and is merely tweaked. I hope this has been helpful as far as showing the thought process of why I felt each version might work as I wrote it, and then why it changed.