Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour Tag

I was tagged for this writing process thing by the fabulous Gwenda Bond, author of Blackwood and The Woken Gods and the upcoming Girl on a Wire which I want to read because CIRCUS and THE BEST COVER. The idea is, you answer these four writing process question and then tag two more people to answer them.

However, as with so many of these kinds of things, I couldn't find anyone to tag who hasn't already done it...though admittedly I also didn't try that hard because I am SCRAMBLING to turn in a book that is late.

1.     What am I working on?

I am currently working on the sequel to Dark Metropolis, which of course, I can't talk about much at all because it is chock full of spoilers for Dark Metropolis. It deals with the aftermath of Dark Metropolis and the revolution. It's a very out-of-my-comfort-zone book for me, because it has lots of battles and politics...but also a love triangle-ish thing. I hate love triangles. I'm not sure how that happened. It's a weird book because I feel like it's happier than the first one even though in some ways the characters go through even WORSE stuff. Like, some of you are probably going to hate me for the stuff I do to these people.

When that is done I'm getting back to the "magical Mafia" book, which is an older manuscript I love to pieces but my agent was less keen on. I still love it, but after working with a pretty hard-core editor on Dark Metropolis I have definitely learned a lot that I can apply to the older work, so I'm rewriting it and trying to really notch it up a level. This book is really all about the characters, for me...Alfred Brynn Brawder, the blind heir to an illegal potions dealing dynasty, is my favorite character I've ever written, because on one hand he seems like this laidback, charming guy with some nerdy interests, but he's also very determined and capable of being pretty crafty. Alfred thinks he's a better person than he actually is...and there's a lot of inner conflict to that. I am also equally fond of Olivia because they have such great chemistry but she doesn't want to be in a dangerous business. Or does she? Mostly Olivia is just a normal girl who is vegetarian and outdoorsy-crafty and would probably spend a lot of time of Pinterest thinking about weird-cool things to knit and tasty stuff to bake, if she wasn't so busy getting wrapped up in an overarching storyline, but she also has a badass streak equal to Alfred's. Basically, unlike my other books which have been more external-plot-driven, this book is all about the relationships between characters and it is so fun to write so I hope this rewrite can bring it all together.

2.     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

If we're talking about the work I've already published (or is in the pipeline), definitely one thing that has defined my first five novels is that I start with a historical period first and do a LOT of research on the setting, and then I try to come up with a novel that suits that time and place, twisting real aspects of history into the story in new ways and adding a dash of fairy tale and myth.

I am trying to pull away from that a I've learned more about writing with every book, I'm trying to put more emphasis on character rather than setting in the future. Of course, the setting is a character in and of itself, but it probably shouldn't be the main character.

3.     Why do I write what I do?

At the core of all my stories is that feeling of being an outsider and trying to find one's place in the world. My characters (unlike me, but true to the way I sometimes feel inside) often have something that marks them visibly as different that they have to contend with. Like many artistic types, as a kid I often felt like a total weirdo and I never had a best friend stick. I also had anxiety issues. My stories and characters were like faithful friends and to this day, they help me to face what is dark and hard in life.

4.     How does your writing process work?

I think I'm pretty straightforward. I always have the next story or two percolating while I'm working on the current project, so when I'm done with one, I'm ready to jump into the next. Usually a lot of sketching and scribbling of notes is involved throughout the process. Even though I'm certainly glad the computer was invented for the actual typing of thousands of words, there's nothing like a pen and paper for brainstorming. I write in a linear fashion with an outline I usually deviate from frequently. And I love me some rewriting. I usually tear up every book and rewrite it almost completely, at least once, sometimes maaaaany times. I use playlists to keep me in the mood, though sometimes I also need quiet. I prefer to write at home and I have a wonderful, though very messy, little office that overlooks a rather low-key stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains. When I lived in Florida this was my dream! It helps my brain, somehow, to be able to stretch my view out when I'm stuck.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Washington, DC-area Dark Metropolis Launch/Signing Information!

I just hammered down the details for the Dark Metropolis launch party!

June 19th (Thursday)
7 pm
Hooray for Books!
Alexandria, VA

I will have more details on this soon but that's the BASICS, anyway. I hope to make it a fun event and to see some of you there!!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dark Metropolis Blog Tour!

The Dark Metropolis blog tour begins today! I've been writing sooo many guest posts and interviews, my goodness. I hope you'll all enjoy the Dark Metropolis blitz that is about to hit the YA-blogiverse! Thank you, Shane at Itching for Books!!!

Dark Metropolis Tour Schedule

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks because Japan taught me it's okay to wish I was David Bowie.

Currently the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag has been trending on Twitter for 24 hours! That is so cool! You can read more about what it means and how it got started here: We Need Diverse Books

(Love whoever included Magic Under Glass on that banner!)

This is a subject that means a lot to me, and has meant more since Magic Under Glass came out and I have been thanked by girls who look a little (or a LOT) like Nimira for putting someone who looks like them in a novel. When I wrote Magic Under Glass, I wasn't even thinking of that, but as it turns out, it is a really cool thing to have happen. It makes up for a lot of the stressful parts of publishing. Seriously.

I am a white middle-class able-bodied mostly straight female. Growing up, did I see myself in books? Yes, in many ways I did. I identified with imaginative & proud writer-to-be Emily Byrd Starr, Betsy Ray and her supportive, loving, artsy family, and Anastasia Krupnik's intellectual household, among others. I read about heroines who looked like me and shared my interests and I saw families that reminded me of mine. The more those girls reminded me of myself, the more they meant to me, at that age. It's almost like Emily and Betsy held my hands as I grew up, making me feel less alone even when I didn't have any close friends. Seeing yourself in a book is such a gift from that writer to you.

However, there were other ways in which I didn't see myself in books.

For one thing, I was unschooled and I came from a very hippie/new age family. When I went to school for one year in 2nd grade, I realized that I didn't eat like everyone else, that new age beliefs were woven into my worldview, and oh yeah, I'd never been to school before and I thought it was really strange. Things that were part of my normal life, like my mom running an organic food co-op out of her garage or giving us homeopathics for health problems or singing along with "The Earth is Our Mother" with my mom's friends in a hot-rock sauna, turned out to be kiiiinda strange to other kids. Meanwhile I went to school without having any idea who New Kids on the Block were. ("Gasp!" went the girls on the bus.) Stuff like this made me feel weird ALL THE TIME, like I'd moved to 2nd grade from a foreign country.

But, we weren't just a stereotypical hippie family either. We ate junk food and liked a lot of pop culture things. I was really into fashion and comic books and video games and my favorite foods as a kid were cheeseburgers and baby back ribs. We were all complicated and different. But I saw a lot of hippie parents in books and thought, "That isn't right." They were always stereotypical and made fun of by the narration and often, the teenage MC. To say nothing of the occasional representation of homechoolers. I can think of one book that seemed to be mocking both homeschooling AND organic apples in one fell swoop.

Through my life, I also wrestled at times with gender identity and sexuality. As a kid I always identified with boy characters in stories. I wanted to BE the boy characters. At the time, it never occurred to me that maybe it's because the girl characters just weren't my type (complicated, wounded yet charming & dashing angst-muffin?). I thought maybe something was just wrong with me. Maybe I was a lesbian (which I understood to be a bad thing since no one talked about it at ALL) even though I wasn't attracted to girls. Then again, I started to realize I wasn't super attracted to anyone, certainly not the celebrities other girls went for, and when I finally did fall hard for a celebrity it was David Bowie wearing blue eyeshadow and lipstick singing "Life On Mars". I still didn't dream of kissing him, though, I just wanted to be him. Then a crush on a female friend snuck up on me and I realized that frankly, my partner is a guy, but it doesn't feel entirely accurate just to say I'm straight without disclaimers. I do have the privilege of not having to "come out" all the time. But on the inside, in my teens and early twenties, I wrestled with my inner feelings and wanting to be normal.

I didn't talk about this stuff to anyone with complete honesty for a long time. What showed me that it was okay was anime and manga and the fan community, because I learned that in Japan, there's a whole gamut of gender-bending and sexuality in Japanese entertainment that is presented as being SO normal that it even shows up in stuff for kids like Sailor Moon. This was then reflected at anime cons and throughout much of nerd/fan culture. But it came first from manga and anime from an eastern culture--which just goes to show on SEVERAL levels how important diversity is. We learn amazing things about ourselves when we listen to others.

So, look, when we talk about diversity we most often talk about the biggies of race, sexual orientation, disability. But it's also important to note that you can be, on the surface, a person who IS represented in books, and yet, beneath the surface, still feel alienated...until the right story(ies) comes along, one hopes. WE need diverse books. Absolutely. But also? I, on a deep and personal level, need diverse books.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Few Samples from My Photo Collection

You may not know that I collect old photos, though it probably won't surprise you either. I resell most of what I come across, but I keep them if "they look like a character" or "look like they have a story to tell". I might not know who the character is yet, but I still know 'em when I see 'em.

However, I did sell these girls and I'm regretting it. These are some very stylin' preteens. Sometimes I sell things before I decide I like them and then I'm like, drat.

Here are some other favorites:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to write for a living? Be frugal.

This is an adapted version of a long comment I made on a blog post by Robin LaFevers at Writer Unboxed. It was long enough that I thought, I should just make a blog post out of this.

So often I see writers hoping for an advance that will allow them to quit their job. But for most of us, big $ aren’t the reality. My goal has always been to make the life fit the writing. To depend on money as little as possible, even before I was published. 
So I’ve pretty much structured my life the opposite of the usual American way.
I avoided debt like the plague. Didn’t go to college. Didn’t even have a credit card until I had to build credit to buy a house. I learned to cook as soon as I moved out, I buy all my clothes (and a lot of other things, too) at thrift stores or auctions, I rarely take a vacation that doesn’t involve crashing on someone’s couch (though I also rock at Priceline’s Name Your Own Price hotel rooms), and I make heavy use of libraries instead of buying many books. When I was lucky enough to get a good advance, I put 20% down on a house of my own in a cheap county. Now my next dream goals are to pay off the mortgage and put solar panels on the roof. And plant fruit trees!
This means, of course, that I don’t go out a lot. I do love to travel and yes, it is hard sometimes to see other writers going to tons of book fairs and festivals and tours and research trips to England and France and Japan and wherever. I rarely shop for fun. I don't live in a hip place.
What I can tell you is that I'm 32 years old and I've never worked more than 30 hours a week in my life at anything besides writing. I own a home. I can live comfortably on a household income of $30,000 a year. (My partner's dad did help us financially when we were younger, so I do note, although I personally have never gotten money from my family, it is hard to do this without some support from someone.)
It’s not a lifestyle everyone would want, certainly it favors the introverted unless you have equally cheap friends, and it works better if you don’t have kids (although I pretty much learned how to live on the cheap from my mom, and I’ve picked up tips from self-sufficient/cheap mom blogs, so…I know cheap parenthood is possible, but not as cheap as, you know, having less people around). But I do think structuring your life around living cheap instead of around making as much money as possible would be a wise outlook for more young people, especially those of a creative bent. You only can be sure of living once, so what’s most important? If you want the creative life, keep that in mind from your first job onward.
This is actually always slightly scary advice to give, because often, if I just start to TELL someone about how I executed my life plan (usually it begins with some stranger asking where I went to college) they start to seem uncomfortable. "Well...that's great for you, but..." I've seen this look in people's eyes like, "PLEASE DO NOT SPEAK TO MY CHILD. SHE WANTS TO BE A WRITER AND I WANT HER TO GET A DEGREE IN BUSINESS." It is the American way to try to make as much money as possible and spend it on FLASHY THINGS and this attitude--this dream, even--is hard to avoid entirely even if you grew up a homeschooled hippie child as I did. (If I can't avoid it, no one can...) But I think it's worth considering looking at things the opposite way--not "How can I make money?" but "How can I not need money?" (Or similarly, "How can I make time?")

Friday, February 7, 2014

THE GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED...and I'll tally winners soon!!!

*runs around flailing*

Thanks, everyone!!

UPDATE: Mimi! You are the winner! I will be contacting you for your address!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

ARC Giveaway for Dark Metropolis!!!

I had such a blast at ALA Midwinter, and among other exciting things, I got to see a pile of Dark Metropolis ARCs at the Disney-Hyperion booth, and people picking them up! (I did manage to resist hovering near the stack until it was all gone. Tempting--but stalker-ish.)

Now it is time to give away an advanced reader copy and show the cover here at my blog for the first time! Those of you in the know will have already seen it a couple of weeks ago when it first started popping up. Confession: I was supposed to make this post a while ago but the email from my agent giving me the go-ahead never got to me. *shakes fist at stupid e-mail* So I'm just going to PRETEND this is new and exciting. Indulge me.

By the way, I could not be more in love with this cover and I think it's going to be really gorgeous on an actual finished copy.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.

Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Dark Metropolis releases June 17th, 2014.

Also, to answer a few questions that have been going around:
YES, it is a fantasy. It's not dystopian per se, though...I wouldn't want to live there!
YES, it is inspired by the 1920s (Europe between the wars, to be specific, Weimar Berlin, to be even more specific...and the story is very loosely based on Fritz Lang's 1927 silent film Metropolis).
YES, it has a lesbian POV character & romance (as well as girl meets mysterious silver-haired boy).
YES, it is a zombie book.

If a dark, decadent atmosphere with flappers and nightclubs, and romance and revolution and zombies sounds good to you, you might just enjoy it. I hope you will! And, as usual, the ARC will have a few of my character sketches peppered throughout.

How do I enter?

I'm not fancy. I just want people to know the book exists. You get one entry for a comment and one entry for each place you share the contest AND/OR spread the word about the book: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, your blog...adding it to Goodreads is good for an entry too (if you've already added it, blogged about it, or whatever, you can count that as an entry, just one entry per platform, please)...other social media places...(I can't keep up.) Just leave a comment letting me know where you shared it so I know how many entries you've earned.

The contest closes at midnight EST on Wednesday, February 5th. It is US only, because I am really broke right now and I can only ship media mail. I'm very sorry, I know how passionate you guys are about books all around the world. I hope to do an international contest at some point.

And don't forget, Between the Sea and Sky is just $1.99 on Amazon through February 2nd!:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Between the Sea and Sky Kindle Daily Deal and ALA Midwinter!

Just wanted to let everyone know Between the Sea and Sky is a Kindle Daily Deal from now until February 2nd!

It's only $1.99! Yay!!

Currently I'm getting excited for ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, where I'll be wandering around with friends absorbing the bookish atmosphere. If any of my other friends, or fans, or all of the above, will be attending and you'd like to meet up, please let me know!

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Year in Review

I love year in review posts. They're interesting and honest. This was kind of a hard, lonely year for me and reading my friends' posts I'm realize how many of my friends also struggled through 2013. I didn't even really know. =(

One thing I try to live by is to be a protagonist in my own life. Protagonists, when given the choice between the safe but less-than-amazing path, and the risky path of their dreams, go with the latter. I tend to also do this--surprisingly enough, because in many ways I am a ridiculously sensible person. 2011 was the year Dark Metropolis was written and sold; 2012 was the year I bought my house. These were hard years in many years, but tinged with triumph!

2013 was kind of the year I sat with the ramifications of all of it. As the year opened, I was broke, thanks to various surprises that come along with moving into an old house. I hadn't had a book out in a year, and Dark Metropolis had been delayed a year. I spent the entire year either working myself half to death (some days it seriously felt like this, when I'd been spending the entire day in my computer chair)or being plastered with mental fatigue and doing nothing of worth (messing around on the internet doing...what exactly? I don't know...or watching bad TV). I worked two jobs in 2013. One of them, writing, was old hat, but very difficult. I was trying to write the Dark Metropolis sequel. I had a lot of trouble getting into the story. A lot of trouble figuring out what the story even WAS. The other job was new to me, selling antique/vintage stuff on Ebay. That job kept my financial situation from complete disaster and is actually fun too, BUT I had to figure it out quick and it occupied loads of time starting and structuring an entire business.

Basically that was the entire year. Being in debt because of the house, scrambling to make money in an immediate sense, and also trying to figure out how to write this book, with some Dark Metropolis editorial rounds thrown in as well.

I also felt deeply lonely. I can't say I've never felt that way before; in fact, it pops up pretty frequently since I was a wee thing. This was a new shade of it, was hit me that I had moved to an area of the country where I don't know a soul except the mountains and the trees and the flowers and the birds, who sang their siren song to lure me here in the first place. I thought I would be able to travel pretty frequently to DC or Baltimore and go to writing events and see friends, but since this has been a year of watching every single dime, that hasn't happened and I don't know when it will happen. I've also had a hard time keeping up with internet correspondence because of working so hard sitting at the computer all day. When work is done, the last thing I want to do is hang out on Twitter or write emails.

The last third of the year has been better. I actually got to a place with Dark Metropolis 2 where I LOVED what I was writing. I'm starting to find a time balance with my Ebay business too. Money is still a worry but things are not as dire as they were.

As I write this, I wonder why I bother to make this post. On one hand, I have no great news to impart about this year, and on the other hand, I have no great wisdom. The things I struggled with this year are things I've struggled with in the past--worrying about a contracted WIP, worrying about money, struggling to maintain friendships in a world that feels increasingly detached. Struggling with bouts of depression through which I can still function, but don't feel quite like myself, although I know exactly what I need--a day to relax, to get outside in the sunshine by day and curl up with a good book by night. I just don't feel like I have the luxury of time.

But I am going to make it anyway, because I think it's important to be honest, at least once a year, about how things are going. Some years are amazing. Other years are (to borrow a term Rachel Hawkins used, and Jessica Spotswood noted in her inspiring post (here) Learning Years. This, frankly, wasn't particularly either. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It felt like a year you would leave out if you were writing a fictional account of my life. Protagonist sells book, buys dream house, and then a couple years later, insert 2014 here, perhaps?

If there is one pattern I see, looking back, one thing I wish I could whisper in my ear all the time, it is to TRUST. I am more resilient and resourceful than I ever know at the time. When a book needs to be done, somehow not only is it done but I am actually HAPPY with it, no matter the throes of agony that occurred during the writing of it. (In a few years, believe me, I'll be struggling with another book and I will BARELY REMEMBER how difficult writing the Dark Metropolis sequel was. I will look back at old emails to friends and be like, "Wha? wasn't that hard. It wasn't as hard as THIS book is.") When I needed money I was somehow able to pull an entire business out of seemingly nowhere. It seems the curse of the imaginative soul that I am so good at imagining the future. Sometimes I imagine wild success; just as often I imagine wild failure. A part of me wishes I could just stop imagining at all, but...then where would we be? Even on my struggliest days of the 2013 when I had a deadline bearing down on me and bills to pay and worries heaped on my head, I always have good food and Dade makes me laugh and the kitties make me smile. And somehow, it all works out.