Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Books read in 2008

Books read in 2008:

Goodbye 2008!

Really, for a long time I've been looking forward to writing my farewell to 2008 post.  This has been such a fantastic year for me!  So many milestones with my debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  Plus I got engaged, got a new puppy, left my law job to write full time.  Honestly, I think that 2008 has been the chips. 

But unfortunately I have a head cold.  And a deadline.  And I have to tidy the house for potential game playing tonight.  So alas, I must beg for an extension on writing my 2008 wrap-up post!  I promise to get to it in January!

I will say one thing though... of the many things I'm proud of about 2008, one I'm most happy about is that I really did live in the moment during a lot of it.  I really enjoyed all the milestones and accomplishments and recognized how great things were going and how happy I've been.  I think that too often we don't step back and realize how great things are and I've been trying to smell the roses a lot more.

How were y'all's 2008?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reading more

So thanks for all the wonderful links and comments to my post (below) responding to the recent New Yorker article about the YA market. There have been some excellent posts around the blogosphere and I really enjoyed the discussion on all levels.

But there is something else it's made me think about as well. I think it's clear that YA novels can be just as deep, complicated, complex and challenging as adult novels. And I also think it's time that people stopped assuming that just because a book is classified as young adult that it's some-how lesser than. However, I felt like one of the comments that popped up a lot on various blogs was that sure there's a lot of great YA out there, but just like any other genre or section of the bookstore there's a lot of cr@p as well.

Here's the thing I'm coming to realize: I'm tired of placing ANY kind of judgment on books. Or rather, I'm tired of placing judgment on people based on what kind of books they read. Because you know what? We need all the readers we can get. And if people want to read what you might think of as cr@p, that's okay! At least they're reading! Reading ANYTHING is great!

And so even when I'm defending that YA can be just as complex and deep as adult books I'm also wondering what the point is -- who cares if it's deep or complex so long as it's being read? Yes, books that make you think and explore and question are wonderful, but I argue that almost any book can make you think and explore and question. Every book is a glimpse into another life, another world, another way to approach decisions. It's a way to expand what we know.

I guess I really started thinking about this the other day when I realized the number of people who will go to a movie versus the number of people who will buy and read a book. An announced print run of 100k or higher for a book is excellent and is usually reserved for the bigger books in a season. Now think about the number of people who have gone to the bigger movies this season! I'm guessing WAY more than 100k. Think of how many people watch any television program. We're talking millions in one night. Compared to other forms of entertainment, books aren't ranking that high. Even though these days a movie ticket is about the same price as a book (and the book usually lasts longer!)

Why aren't we reading more? Why are we so wrapped up in reading the "right kind of books" rather than any books?

I think there are a lot of barriers that we throw up making it harder to read and I'll save those for another post. But I do think that one of the things that we should be thinking about is how to make it easier to read more. Encouraging reading of any kind. Maybe taking the emphasis off judging what kind of books we pick up, we should just focus on the fact that at least we *are*picking up books.

PS: I might be blogging little more irregularly over the holidays as I travel home. Happy Holidays!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Revisioning and Ranting (on the YA/adult divide)

As anyone who has talked to me or seen my facebook updates recently knows, I'm in the process of revising my second book for Delacorte Press (which is a loose sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth and will be coming out Spring 2010).

Thankfully, with the help of this article in The New Yorker, I know what I was doing wrong with the first draft.  I was trying to be complicated.  I was trying to be challenging and have complex themes.  I wasn't stuffing it full of morals (hard to fit in a "no drinking and driving" message when there aren't cars and driving, but now I know I must find a way.)  It's a shame I'm just learning these things now because it's too late to fix all of this in FHT!

But honestly, the greatest relief came when I read this line:

Surely we demand of "adult" writers (or perhaps what I really mean is "great" writers) higher moral and philosophical stakes?

The relief comes in knowing that I can lower my expectations for myself and my book.  I'm not an adult writer, therefore I don't have to strive for higher stakes.  Whew!  Talk about a load off! 

Of course, my hope is that Mishan said "adult writers" and then realized that this was too narrow of a category and decided to broaden her description to mean "great writers."  However, I think this phrase can also be read to mean "adult writers = great writers."  Take your pick of interpretations (and notice that some prominent YA authors gave their own thoughts in the comments to the article).

What's interesting is that my friend Diana Peterfreund sent me the link to this article because this is something we've been discussing and is something that she's blogged about recently.  I'd mentioned to her that sometimes when I talk to people about my book I won't call it a YA but might call it a crossover instead.  I've seen way too many times that people will perk up when they find out I have a book coming out only to go "oh," and have their faces fall when I mention it's young adult.  Maybe they're expecting sparkleponies or something and don't understand what YA has become today.

Even my mom admitted feeling a little weird the first time she ventured into the YA section of the bookstore.  I told her to get over it since that's where my book would be (and trust me, come March 10 I have a feeling she'll be setting up a tent in the YA section and shoving FHT into every hand that passes by... actually, she'll prob just take over the loud speaker and say "My baby wrote a book!").  In fact, I think most of my family were a little taken aback when they read my book because I don't think they know what YA has become and so they didn't know what to expect.  

And maybe that's part of what's going on.  Maybe that's why you have Caitlin Flanagan saying "I hate YA novels; they bore me" in a review that says two paragraphs later "Twilight is fantastic."  I couldn't tell from the article what YA she's read recently.  Can she really say that The Hunger Games bored her?  Graceling?  Uglies?  The Book Thief?  Skin Hunger?  The House of the Scorpion?  Little Brother?  And if it's vampire romances she finds fantastic, what about the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead that's been hitting the NYT list?  

When someone says something so qualitative as "I hate YA novels; they bore me," I just have to wonder what YA novels they've been reading.  Because honestly, I think YA novels these days are the best they've ever been!  To me YA novels are incredibly complex and dynamic and daring.  I feel like I see YA authors take more risks than adult authors.  

I don't have as much of a problem with someone hating YA novels or calling YA books "facile" or "having uncomplicated themes and morals" or "boring" or merely "light and fun reads" and having lower moral and philosophical stakes if they'd actually read enough YA to form an opinion.  Of course, perhaps the people in the article *have* read tons of YA and legitimately feel that way and perhaps I should give them that benefit of the doubt.

And yet, I cannot honestly believe that anyone could read Hunger Games or Looking for Alaska or The House of the Scorpion or any other number of YA novels out today and think that YA is facile, uncomplicated, light and having low stakes.  Instead, I think most of the opinions expressed in that article are born out of ignorance, of hazy memories of what they read back in high school and what they *think* YA is like today based on a few ads for Gossip Girl on the CW. 

I feel as though some people feel the need to denigrate all of YA as somehow being "lesser than."  And yet at the same time, if you ask these same people to distinguish between YA and adult, they rarely can.  Just look at the abovementioned article to see how difficult it is for them to decide what makes something YA.  Take for example this distinction:  "I assume that anything branded 'young adult' needs... to be not too long or challenging"

Really?  Really?  Really?  I'm just agog at this one because at the very least you don't have to read any YA but just glance at a YA shelf or two to realize that length is not the dividing line between YA and adult.  Or remember that teens are reading Faulkner and Shakespeare (and Faulkner ranks up there in the challenging spectrum).

You know what divides YA and adult?  Which shelf someone decided to put it on.  And you know how they probably made that decision?  They put it on whichever shelf will help them sell more copies.  There are lots of books being published as YA today that would have been published as adult books 10 years ago because YA is doing well and sales have increased while adult sales have decreased.  

I wear my YA badge with pride.  But I also know that some people are going to write me and my book off the minute they hear it's YA.  I'm fine if they write me and FHT off, I'd just rather they do it after they've read my book rather than jumping to conclusions based on a marketing label or where it's shelved.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Favorite Barbie Memory

Apparently there's this ad going around asking people what their favorite Barbie memory is.  Naturally it got me thinking and my first thought was that I was allowed to watch WAY too many soap operas as a child.  My second thought is that it's no wonder I grew up to be a writer!

To be fair, my sisters and I only watched soaps during the summer and, as far as I can remember, we would sneak into the kitchen and watch them with the babysitter.  One of my sisters would have to correct me, I can only vaguely remember summers spent with Patch and Kayla.

So, it should surprise no one that some of my Barbie memories are a little... er... odd and complex.  Let's just say that I remember one time when Barbie and some Kens went camping (naturally in the Barbie dream motorhome which I think my mom still has down in her basement) and one of the Barbies was kidnapped and when she came back she had amnesia and was pregnant but no one knew who the father was.  

It probably never helped that one of our Barbies was the "kissing Barbie" where you could press a square in her back and she'd make kissy noises (when we needed a Barbie to move in on a married Ken, she was usually our go-to girl.)  Of course, she did lose most of her hair in some sort of tragic incident that probably also included amnesia...

Seriously, these were the stories we came up with.  And just to implicate her, my middle sister (older than I am) was totally involved in helping come up with these plot line.   

One year, as my Christmas present, my dad finished off the little attic under the eves to be my own private playroom.  It was a secret playroom that you could only get to through a secret door at the back of my closet (how cool is that!?).  And what was at the end of the room?  

It was a total Barbie paradise.  There was room for everyone, the Barbies without hair, their horses, the Kens, the Barbies with their ball gowns.  Oh... the ball gowns.  My mom would pick out the most exquisite gowns for them as Christmas presents.

So those are my Barbie memories off the top of my head.  I'm sure my sister remembers more of the juicy stuff.  Ah, good wholesome family fun :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Staying up all night with dragons

So sometimes I get into these moods where even though I have tons of books in my TBR pile, nothing feels quite right.  I start books, put them down, wander around the house staring at my shelves.  Sometimes I'll pick back up a book I'd started a while ago, sometimes I'll find a book that I'd forgotten about.  And recently, I've been in that kind of mood... nothing really fitting what I want to read.

One book that's been sitting in my TBR pile has been EON, DRAGONEYE REBORN, by Alison Goodman. I've heard great buzz about this book and have had the ARC for a while now.  I can't even explain my reticence in not having read it already.  Part of it is hesitance to jump into a bigger book when I have SO MANY books I want to read -- I'm not sure I want to spend the time on just one big book rather than a lot of smaller books.

But another reason was that when it comes down to it, I haven't really read a lot of straight up fantasy.  And EON seems like a straight up fantasy to me (I know that sounds crazy since most of my recent reading has been YA fantasy!!).  I've never read a book with dragons.  I wasn't sure if it was my cup of tea.  Even though a letter in the front of the ARC states clearly that lovers and loathers of fantasy will love this book.

I cracked it open, discussed the opening line or two with JP, still feeling very hesitant about the book... and promptly stayed up ALL NIGHT to read it.  For real, I read the last few pages as JP's alarm went off in the other room (I was banished to the living room cause of the light).  And let me tell you, this is a fantastic book to get lost in and boy did I lose all track of time and place... just read and read and read, falling deeply into the world, the words whizzing by on the page.

It's been a long time since I just utterly indulged and read a book in one sitting and it was glorious.  Clearly this is a book I loved and I do think the buzz is warranted.  It's a fantastic world that's easy to be in (I find some words are so complex I get lost) with rich details and fantastic and complex characters.  

When I pick up a book in a new sub-genre or type of world, I always wonder if some of my awe with the world is over conventions that everyone else who reads those types of books knows but me.  I remember being entranced at the creativity of the world in one book a few years back and explaining it to JP only to have him laugh and say that they were all well known tropes -- the author hadn't made any of it up at all.  

EON felt different to me, utterly whole and unique.  It's rooted in cultural aspects of China and Japan and in my mind while reading it I saw over and over again the pictures from JP's recent trip to China.  Maybe someone else will read it and say "bah, all tropes" but that didn't matter to me last night when I just lost myself in the book.

I can't wait to see what happens when EON, DRAGONEYE REBORN hits the shelves at the end of the month!  And I can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bottled Water - Going Greener

This will sound very very odd, I recognize that, but soon after I left law and was writing full time I started getting headaches in the afternoon.  It didn't take me long to realize what my problem was: I wasn't drinking enough water.  I tend to be the type of person who experiences dehydration headaches pretty easily and at work getting up to get water was always a good excuse to stretch my legs, rest my eyes, etc.  At home... well... I don't need so many excuses.  

Plus, there's no handy ice machine with the pellet-type-ice that I loved at work.  I never said I was entirely rational.  I just am not good about drinking water at home.  Usually I just leave a glass by the sink and chug a bunch of water every now and again.

Anyway, so I was at the store and realized that I could buy a whole cardboard pallet of bottled water for about the same price as a twelver of diet coke.  And we all know that I'm trying to cut back on the diet coke and yadda yadda yadda.  So I got it and was merrily chugging away on water when I saw a commercial showing a woman running on the treadmill.

"Thirty minutes on the treadmill" it said and I thought... hmm... I really should look into doing that one of these days.  And then, totally unexpectedly, it focused on the water bottle sitting on the treadmill and said "forever in the landfill."  

I looked at my new disposable Dasani.  At my whole pack of them and knew I couldn't do it anymore.  My new easy habit cut off at its knees.  The water in my town tastes great and even better, during the winter it comes out of the taps ice cold.  Plus we have filtered water in the door of our freezer AND a filter as part of our sink.  So really, I have no excuse not to use a refillable bottle.  

Apparently Americans tend to send 38 Billion water bottles to landfills each year -- that's a lot of oil in making the plastic and a lot of space in the landfills.  So I'm taking the pledge and going greener.  Less bottled water, less waste and hopefully fewer headaches :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

For whom the bell tolls

As most of y'all know, JP and I adopted our puppy, Jake, earlier in the year.  Though perhaps "puppy" isn't the right word for him anymore.  Since he's a rescue dog we have no idea how old he is, but we're figuring about a year.  Plus, at 75+ pounds... we sure hope he's nearing adulthood!

Even though Jake seems to have a bladder of steel, house-training him was tough.  Mostly because he didn't have to go out all that often but also because to let us know he needed to go out he'd just go sit by the door for about 15-30 seconds and if we didn't jump up he'd assume he had free reign to go anywhere in the house (he preferred carpets).  This was mostly an issue when JP or I lost track of him because we were brushing our teeth, or going to get a glass of water, or any number of tasks that would take you away from the dog for more than 30 seconds.

I remembered that a friend of mine who I worked with after college had trained her dog, Asa, to ring a bell when she needed to go outside.  And because Jake refused to whine, bark, or scratch at the door, this seemed like the perfect solution.  We tied a few bells to an old shoelace (recycle, reduce, reuse!) and hung it from the back door.  For at least a month, every time we took Jake outside we'd make him nudge or bat at the bell.  

He didn't seem to like it nor did he seem to get the point.
And then one day, I was sitting in the living room writing and I heard the tiniest little "dink" from the other room.  Hallelujah it was the bell!!  Jake had nudged the bell to tell me he had to go outside!!  I promptly shoved his furry butt outside (with lots of praise and encouragement) and called JP to celebrate.

Ever since that moment, things have been great.  Jake rings the bell to go out, we let him out, and he is officially house trained!  Bliss!

Until last night.  Sure, Jake rings the bell when he's bored and just wants to go play but he's a lazy dog so that doesn't happen too often.  But last night after we went to bed there was something outside he REALLY wanted to play with.  REALLY BADLY.  I think it was one of our irrigation pipes.  Because he kept ringing the bell over and over and over again.

And it was no longer the tiny little "dink" of before.  These were massive "HELLO, BELL RINGING HERE! I WANT TO GO OUT" very insistent rings.  Over and over again.  Honestly, there was nothing JP and I could do but laugh as we heard the bell crash against the door over and over again.  

Finally Jake gave up and came to bed.  This morning, he seems to have forgotten that there was any reason to do anything other than lounge around all day.  That's the Jake I know and love :)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Free books!

Who doesn't love books?! And with all the doom and gloom going around about the publishing industry these days, it's the perfect time to be buying even more books! Thankfully, the fantabulous Jennifer Hubbard is making that easy (and free for you!) by hosting a giveaway over at the 2009 Debutantes (a wonderful community of MG and YA authors all debuting in 2009).

Here's the link! The rules are in that post as well, including ways to get multiple entries!

So go comment and enjoy the gift of books this holiday season!!

Speaking of books, what's everyone reading these days?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sophomore Slump

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Steph (Reviewer X) asked me about the Sophomore Slump. I'd been blogging about writing Book 2 (the sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth) and she asked if I was worried about the Sophomore Slump. I promised to answer her and then promptly never did. So here, finally, are my thoughts on writing the sophomore book.

Of course, Book 2 isn't really my second book because I'd already written two books before The Forest of Hands and Teeth. So in reality, Book 2 is the fourth book I've ever finished writing (and trust me, there are literally hundreds of thousands of words of other book bits languishing on my computers).

Even so, one of the feelings I remember most clearly after selling a two-book deal and starting on the second is wondering whether the first was just a fluke. It's not that I didn't think I could write another saleable book, it's just that if felt like suddenly there was this assumption that I'd crossed some sort of threshold and that everything I'd written before FHT was unpublishable and everything after FHT therefore *should* be publishable.

But in my mind, I'd written two unpublishable books before, who's to say I wasn't going to write another one like that? I mean, if we're talking about batting averages (which we aren't and I don't understand batting averages anyway but hang with me here) I'd written two bad books and only one good book so the odds weren't really in my favor. I clung to the idea that with every book we write we grow and so I just kept telling myself that I'd grown as a writer.

When I finished writing FHT I felt like it was the best book I'd ever written. I didn't care what anyone else thought about it, I just knew that in my mind, it was my best. That's one of the reasons I spent so much time revising it because I felt like if I couldn't sell this book that I might not ever be able to sell any book. I had this fear that I couldn't do better.

And then, I read the first pass pages of FHT. It had been months since I'd thought much about FHT or read any of it. Of course I still loved the book, but suddenly I realized that maybe I could do better. That was an increadibly liberating feeling! It let me let go of FHT and move forward and put my all into Book 2.

There were twists and turns in writing Book 2 (which I'm sure I'll talk more about later) and when I was done I honestly had absolutely no idea if it was any good or not which was a little disconcerting. I knew how I felt about all my other drafts when writing "The End" (and yes, I do write "The End" on my drafts cause it makes it feel complete to me) but with this one... no clue. I sent it to a few beta readers and my agent and thankfully they gave me hearty thumbs up so I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Especially with a sequel, I think it's hard not to want to repeat what you think worked the first time. Some readers like to read books that are all similar and some hate that. Hopefully there will be people who love my second book more than my first and there will likely be people who don't.

Above all, when I was writing Book 2 I kept reminding myself that all I had to do was write a story and everything else would (hopefully) fall into place. Once I got a draft done, other people could help pull it into shape (thank goodness for beta readers, agents and editors!). So while there's definitely a lot of pressure involved in writing the sophomore book, I also feel like there's added support: you're not writing in a vaccuum, you're writing with the help of others.

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that we just have to try to write the best book we can every time. We can't do any more than that. And then we hold our breaths and wait for the revision letter :) Speaking of which... time for me to dive back into revisions!

What do y'all think about the Sophomore Slump?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Introducing The Warrior

Everyone calls it Turkey-Day, but really I think Thanksgiving should be called Pie-Day. My sister makes the best home-made apple pie (with this really cool peeler, corer, slicer thingy) and I love holidays at her house.

One of the things that was really fun about visiting my sister was hanging with her kids. The youngest (and the only girl) is at that perfect age where she walks around entertaining herself and smiles all the time and flirts and you just want to grab her and hold her. I think the funniest moment was when we were all at the table for the big Thanksgiving meal and my oldest nephew (6 years old) came up and whispered to my sister and I just barely overheard:

"Mom, can you get the Warrior away?"
It took us a minute to realize who he meant by the warrior. Here she is (this was taken the day before and not in her cute T-giving attire):

So now, in my mind, she will always be known as the Warrior. She will one day be sixteen and I will still call her the Warrior and she'll have no idea why. Remember my post on finding the perfect endearments? This is how they come to be -- some random event that sticks a name in your mind for forever.

It really was a fanstastic Thanksgiving with eating, reading, playing games, hanging out, sleeping, movies. I couldn't have asked for a better time! And I'm so thankful for so much in my life that I don't even know where to begin. I'd list them here but I'd be afraid of forgetting someone so just know that if you're reading this, I'm thankful for you :)

Thank you!

P.S. I just saw that Sharon (of Sharon Loves Books and Cats -- which is an awesome blog title) is giving away an ARC of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (link to contest). I really wish I had a few extras to give away here, but this is the next best thing! So if you're looking for an early read, head over to her site! Thanks Sharon!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Title Mojo

Gasp! I have been accused of stealing Ally Carter's title mojo! She of the I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU and CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY and DON'T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER COVER. I mean, this is an author who has commas in her titles! How cool is that to have a comma in your title? And what about the double meanings -- a book about spies and the word "cover" is in the title! Brilliant!

Now granted, I was accused of stealing said mojo a few weeks ago and was given a week to fess up or return it. Clearly, deadlines mean nothing to me, a hardened criminal. But after much pondering (and eating of pie) I've decided that, without admitting any guilt whatsoever, I might be willing to broker a trade. Title mojo for revision mojo. And if Ally will throw in a little "how to get out of PJ's in the morning" mojo then it will only sweeten the deal.

Yes, I know -- revision mojo is hard to quantify. But I've been reading Ally's blog for quite a while now and I know she's got the mojo. I've read her books -- more like devoured them -- and no one could write like her without some good mojo.

So there's my offer. If we have to duel it out in some exotic locale like Ireland... then so be it :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Terms of Endearment

I was chatting with a writer friend the other day and she needed a term of endearment for one of her characters to call another. You know, like "honey" or "baby" or "sweetheart." I knew these two characters and tried to think about what they would call each other and I realized just how much the terms of endearment can say about a couple!

This got me thinking. JP has several terms he uses with me (none of which I shall mention here :) and they're all names that have developed and changed over the course of our relationship. There are different names (endearing names) he calls me when I'm acting grouchy, when he's teasing, when we're on the phone and when I refuse to get up in the morning on a weekday (which are all variations on the same theme). These terms are somewhat born of our relationship, of the fact that we've spent five (FIVE!!) years together. To a certain extent, they're like a secret language between the two of us -- the quirks that make our relationship different from others.

And so coming up with terms of endearment for characters isn't as easy as saying "would he call her 'love' or 'baby' or 'snookums'?" You have to think about the course of their relationship, how they interact with each other on a daily basis. You have to understand where they come from.

For example, my mom and step-father call each other "mi amor" ("my love" in Spanish). They both grew up on banana plantations in Latin America -- it's their shared history (and what brought them together later in life) and so by using a Spanish endearment, they're paying tribute to that. That little detail can tell you a lot about their relationship.

Another example, I call one of my sisters "Yay." Her actual name is Jenny and there's this whole long convoluted story behind how I came up with that name (which is short for "yay-yay"). But still, I call her Yay or Yay-Yay -- it's a term I've used for decades. Go figure!

Trying to brainstorm with my friend, it was just so surprising to realize not only how hard it is to come up with a good term of endearment, but how much doing so can reflect on the characters' relationship and shared history. It really is a small detail that can tell you so much!

What do you think? Do you have a term of endearment that you use that shows something unique about your relationship?

Monday, November 17, 2008

How much longer?

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

There are some days when I wake up and March 10 feels like it's right around the corner. There are other days when it feels like forever away. Today is one of those when I'm kinda glad it feels like a hazy event off in the distance because I feel like there's so much I need to do between now and then. I'm not really sure *what* I need to do... just stuff.

But now, thanks to the fantabulous The Compulsive Reader, I shall know at all times how much longer the wait shall be! Behold:

If you ever wonder what I'm doing all day now that I'm writing full time, odds are likely I'm staring at this wonderful widget. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, The Compulsive Reader for making it!! You totally rock!!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

inter-office politics

As with any job, my new job has its own set of inter-office politics. My boss (aka, my cat Sam) gets cranky if I don't let him strut around my desk and my co-worker (aka, my dog Jake) likes to antagonize the boss. This has caused quite a few fights but so far they seem to be working things out. Usually with my boss retreating to his cubicle (aka, a shoebox) and glaring at everyone.

The mail-clerk/runner (aka, JP's cat) tends to steer clear of office politics. I thinks she's just shy and likes to work on her own time. She'll sometimes have lunch with the rest of us, but she's not the type to stop by in the afternoon for a chat. That's probably because she and the boss really don't get along (there are rumors that there have been late-night cuddling sessions between the two over the years, but as of yet no proof).

The other day I was working diligently when I heard a shuffle behind me, like the sound of paper settling. I looked around -- my boss was in his shoebox, my co-worker was sleeping (as usual) but I figured it was the mail-clerk/runner skulking about somewhere. Once or twice in the afternoon I heard the noise, but waived it off as the humm-drum of any busy office.

As I was working late that night, I heard it again. I turned back and scanned the office -- everyone else had gone for the day (slackers). And I thought, really, how much could paper shift and settle during the day? Then I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, a leaf twitched in the wreath on the door. Usually, the wreath is outside on the front door, but with the Halloween decorations up, I'd relocated it to my office. It twitched again with another shuffle.

I walked over to the door and peered closer. I could see little tiny feet curled around the leaf and then, out of nowhere, a little green head! No one had told me we were hiring an intern! I ran outside to the porch where JP was reading and quickly explained that because of the boss's rather blatant species-ism, we would have to re-think the lizard intern. Unfortunately, it took a lot of prodding and convincing, but eventually the little guy was let go. Hopefully he's found better (and safer) employment elsewhere.

Apparently, no one bothered to tell me that someone, somewhere decided that we desperately needed an intern! And I guess figuring that lizards were a no-go, they decided to hire a mouse that wandered in looking for temp work. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this until too late and my boss rather violently terminated him. I was the one who had to clean out his desk.

Hopefully, the higher-ups have learned their lessons and will not be making any new hires. And as JP pointed out, I'm VERY glad I'm not in middle management. Things can get vicious!

Audio, fall, and procrastination

I recently found out that Listening Library will be doing an audiobook version of The Forest of Hands and Teeth! I'm so excited -- I think it will be fun and strange to hear Mary's voice. I know a lot of authors can see their characters in their heads and can even pinpoint which actors and actresses they'd choose to play their characters if the book were ever made into a movie. For me, I'm never able to see them, but I can hear them. Maybe not exactly what their voice sounds like, but I can definitely hear the rhythm of their words and the way they speak. I really can't wait to hear what they come up with for Mary!!

Over the past week I've watched the trees outside my office burst into color and now they're fading. It's been one of those amazingly perfect fall weeks. The kind that forces you outside to stroll around kicking fallen leaves. I was even motivated to finally take down the Halloween decorations and clean up some of the flower beds in front of the house.

And of course the burst in gardening motivation was in NO way related to the fact that I recently received my revision letter from my wonderful editor. I'm just trying to enjoy this last gasp of fall before the world becomes too chilly to take advantage of the outside world :) Besides, I always get my best thinking done while I'm occupied with something else. In fact, it might be time to take the dog for a walk...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Book Video!

Hey Y'all!

Exciting news! The Forest of Hands and Teeth was one of three books used for the Teen Book Video Awards! This is a really cool program run by Kirkus and sponsored by Random House Children's Books where they send books out to film students and ask them to create a book trailer. I was so so excited to hear that TFHT was one of the books! When I was up in NYC at the RHCB offices I got to see a few of the finalists and it was just amazing to see different visions for the book -- it was like getting to see what it would be like as a movie!

So, without further ado, the book trailer for The Forest of Hands and Teeth created by Jessica Pilkes (the sound is low so you might want to turn up the volume!)

If that link doesn't work, you can also view the trailer here and here. Thanks Jessica for a fantastic trailer! I love it!!

In other news, I've started to settle into a routine a little more. I've got the office mostly set up (except we're in dire need of more bookcases which I think will just be our lot in life -- can never have enough bookcases!) Here's a pic of where things stand now:

You can see one of my co-workers outside the window. Jake enjoys jumping up on the bench outside and checking in (and yes, just over the big monitor you can see his "jaunty" curly tail -- it's a very ridiculous tail!). In the corner is the blow up of the FHT cover that was at the dinner in NYC -- the folks at RHCB sent it to me! How cool is that!? I get so excited every time I glance at it! Also, it might be hard to see in this photo, but shambling along the windowsill is a glow in the dark zombie army (care of Saundra Mitchell).

And then there's the boss man. I was out running errands yesterday and came home to this. Clearly the look on his face is "And where have you been young lady? I believe the work day is not yet over!"

Hopefully when I sneak out early this afternoon to meet up with Sarah Prineas (yay!!) the boss will be too busy napping to notice...

And yes, having an iPhone makes it SO much easier to take and send pics so you will continue to get lots and lots of co-worker pics :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Standing up against what you've always been told...

In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary (the protagonist) is told her entire life that her village is the only place left in the world. She grows up in this village surrounded by a fence and beyond the fence is the endless Forest filled with Unconsecrated. There is nothing else beyond the Forest, they are told.

Except Mary wonders if there is something more. But the question is, how do you stand up against what you've always known? Especially when really all you have to go on is faith?

When I was on the pre-pub tour, I had the chance to talk to a lot of students who'd read TFHT (which was just an amazing experience all around). One of the girls I spoke with (a senior with what I thought was incredible insight) mentioned her surprise that Mary just didn't charge into the Forest to see what/if there was anything else out there. I asked her, "if you've been told something your whole life, how do you know you can stand against it?"

We talked about the first women who said "I have a right to vote" when everyone else told them they didn't. We talked about slaves saying "I have a right to be free" when everyone told them they were nothing more than property. We talked about the Milgram Experiment and the lengths people will go to in order to obey authority. All of these people who were told a "truth" their entire lives but decided to question that truth and stand up against it.

To a certain extent, it was really cool to see a young woman so willing to say "I'd question authority if I thought it was wrong" and who found it hard to understand someone who might not. On the one hand, maybe that makes it hard to understand just how difficult it has been in the past for people to speak out, but on the other hand, I wonder if all those people who did speak out were hoping for a day when such action would be considered common. After all, that's what they were fighting for: for us to not second guess things like a woman's right to vote and the equality of all people.

As I mentioned, yesterday I worked for Election Protection. I was partnered with another lawyer in town -- a black man in his mid-40's who grew up in South Carolina. Thankfully, in our area there were no voting issues so we essentially spent 5 hours driving around to the polls, checking in, and chatting. Naturally, we talked about the election. At one point, he told me about how when he was a kid his mother would take him to stores to try on clothes and how that was a big deal. I think I looked at him with a "huh?" look on my face because he told me about how his older sisters had never been able to try on clothes as kids, and certainly hadn't tried on shoes.

I asked him why not. He paused for a moment and told me it was because they couldn't try on clothes and not buy them. They couldn't leave the clothes in the dressing room because other people would refuse to wear them. It really was a moment that left me stunned.

Last night, just before Obama's speech, there was a shot of Jesse Jackson standing in the crowd crying. He was just standing there with tears flowing down his cheeks. I thought about his life, about what he has fought for his entire life, and what it must have been like to stand there in that moment. At the end of his speech, Obama talked about a woman who was 106 years old -- he talked about what she'd seen in her life and he wondered what his children would see in their lives.

It would never occur to me to even notice the color of someone's skin in the dressing room or to even wonder who'd tried on clothes before me. And yet, someone somewhere had been told "you're not allowed to try on clothes" because of the color of their skin and he or she did it anyway. Regardless of your politics and beliefs, we are where we are today because of people standing up against what they've always been told and fighting for equality and freedom. And hopefully we'll all be willing to continue to stand up for our beliefs and for our truths.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day Tomorrow!

Hey Y'all!

This isn't a partisan post, just a friendly reminder that tomorrow is election day and you all should go out and vote (if you haven't already)!! I love the feeling of voting -- of knowing that I've made my voice heard about our government and the world around us. There are a lot of rumors and he-said-she-said arguments out there and I'm a big fan of trying to look past all of that in order to find the facts. There are lots of great sites out there to check in order to get unbiased information about candidates -- one that I like is

If you do run into issues voting, there are a lot of partisan and non-partisan groups available to you. First, you should be able to talk to the people manning the polling station. If that doesn't work, it's likely that both campaigns will have people staffed at polling places and you can go to one of them. You can also call Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE and you'll be automatically directed to a non-partisan attorney who will help you out. If they can't help over the phone, they'll usually dispatch someone to the area to help directly. So if you're unable to vote for some reason, have questions about your registration, if the voting machines aren't working, if the polling place is closed when it shouldn't be or if there are other issues -- please consider calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

And according to Bracken, just for voting and wearing your "I voted" sticker you can get:

1. Kripy Kreme -- A free Red, White and Blue star-shaped doughnut
2. Starbucks -- A free coffee
3. Books-A-Million -- A free coffee
4. Ben and Jerry's -- Free scoop of ice cream
5. California Tortilla -- Free taco (DE, MD, DC, PA, VA, WV)

Happy voting everyone!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

There's trick or treating over on the Debs blog!! Go check it out!!

As you can imagine, I love this time of year! JP and I pull out the decorations -- Heckle and Jeckle our wisecracking bats. The ghost pirate. Marcus the carcus (he glows!). The bloody handprints, the lit up skeleton arms around tombstones (and of course we were growing that huge weed patch in the front flower bed for the ambiance of the graveyard look...). I've bought more candy than kids we could ever hope to expect. I have plans to clear a path through the swaths of mail blocking the front door and light a fire (not light the mail on fire, though that would certainly clean tings up a bit).

That it's Friday makes it even better -- JP will hopefully be home from work in time to help answer the door. We can stay up late watching Halloween appropriate movies. Plus, it's just a gorgeous day here! That perfect crisp fall weather than makes you want to breathe deep and full.

This weekend I have big plans to set up my home office (let's hope the motivation sustains me). If there's one thing I've realized over the past week, it's that I need to create some space specifically for work -- a place I can walk into and switch on the "I'm working" mindset. I'm also looking forward to organizing so much stuff that's scattered around the house... finding a spot to put business cards, chocolate bars, the huge blow up of my book cover (squee!).

And of course, with all the extra Halloween candy I expect to pretty much enjoy a lovely sugar high for the next few days... all hail Halloween (and zombies)!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

GalleyCat and NaNoWriMo

I was super excited to see The Forest of Hands and Teeth in GalleyCat! And I really loved the article - yay :) One of the things mentioned is that I started writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2006. Well... it's that time of year again! I've already signed up... have you??

In other news, Diana Peterfreund has posted the GORGEOUS cover of her YA Rampant. This is the book about killer unicorns that is coming out in the summer and I CAN'T WAIT! Diana also worked on this book during NaNo 2006 and in fact, that's around the time we started as critique partners since we were both branching out into fantasy YA. It's crazy to think that what we both started as NaNo projects in 2006 will be coming out in 2008!

So yes, NaNo is in the air...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Website is live!

YAY! My website is up!! I love love love it! What do y'all think?

So, a year ago, right after I'd sold The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I knew that I wanted to have a website and that I probably wouldn't have the time (or skills) to set it up myself. I started looking around at various sites to get a feel for different looks and designers. Usually, I would love a large chunk of a designer's portfolio, but there would be a few sites that I was more "meh" about. Until I started looking at Xuni's sites. Her designs are exactly what I always wanted: clean, clear, dynamic (without being overwhelming) and just gorgeous. I love the look of all of them!

I was thrilled beyond belief that she had space to take me on as a client! But I had a terrible time coming up with images of what I wanted. And then one day I was up in the mountains with JP's family and his brother had a fancy new camera. It was a misty, foggy fall morning and I asked if he'd be willing to take a few forest shots and he agreed! They were (and still are) perfect and those are the shots that Xuni used as the placeholder page (which I also LOVED). They're also the shots that make up a good chunk of the header for the site. So that makes my website even more special to me that my fiance's brother is the one who took the forest pictures!

Xuni has been a total dream to work with! She took my barest hint of ideas and turned them into an amazing site that is exactly what I wanted. At every step she's gone above and beyond and I can't thank, or recommend her, enough!!

So stop by, take a look, and tell me what you think! And if you have thoughts or FAQs, send them my way!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back from pre-pub tour

I got back on Friday from my pre-pub tour to NYC, Chicago, San Fran and Seattle and I'm still speechless. I've been trying all weekend to figure out how to encapsulate it all but to no avail. So it might take me a few blog posts to get through it all -- it was a busy and amazing week!

First, I have to thank Kelly and Jessica who put everything together -- they were on top of every detail at every step. And also a huge thanks to Elisabeth Irwin High School, Washington Irving High School, Jefferson Junior High School, Naperville Central, Santa Clara High School, The Girls' Middle School and the Shoreline Library for their hospitality and to all the students who took the time to meet with me -- it was a TOTAL blast! I also loved talking with all the booksellers, librarians, teachers and book lovers who took the time to have dinner and chat about my favorite topic - books!!

And a huge YAY that I got to meet my editor, Krista, and agent, Jim in person!! It was totally awesome! I only wish I'd had more time with them both!

I'll admit I was nervous going into the week. Even though I'd once taught some classes, I just wasn't sure what to expect. What if the students didn't ask questions? What if it was just endless silence as I stared at them and they stared at me? Thankfully, the ever fantastic fellow Delacorte Press debut author Saundra Mitchell designed a wrapper for some Hershey's bars for me and I went to the schools armed with chocolate. Turns out, chocolate is an excellent motivator :)

For real, talking to students was about the most fun I've had in ages. I think I may have gotten addicted to it! They asked amazing questions and had insights into the book that were just mind-boggling. I really really hope I get the chance to do more school and library events in the future! Here's a pic of me with students at Naperville Central in Chicago (and they have such a cool class!!).

I so wish I'd taken more pictures, but thankfully Kelly took a few shots of the table decorations in NYC. I told you -- the details were awesome!

More to come! Monday starts my first day at home as a full-time writer -- so exciting!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last day rambling

It's my last day of work! I feel like I have so much I want to blog about but at the same time, I feel a little scattered trying to finish up things at the day-job and prepare for the pre-pub tour. So please pardon the rambling :)

It's funny, I've known this day was coming for a while but it's still a little sad. I still don't really feel totally ready for it. I'm going to miss JP dropping me off for work in the mornings, I'm going to miss the view (the sunset is amazing). For the last year I've spent my days on the 46th floor looking out towards the mountains. I'm going to miss the zing of the high speed elevator, the quasi-free Uptown parking. I'm going to miss the people, meandering by offices to catch up, chatting with my secretary about her son and non-existent wedding plans. I'm going to miss the buzz of it all.

I remember when JP and I were talking about this possibility -- me quitting my day job to write full time. I remember him saying "you're going to miss your superwoman identity -- the woman who can work as a lawyer at one of the big firms in town and be an almost published author." He's right. And it was really interesting to think about how we define ourselves. I really do/did love being a lawyer and thinking of myself as one. But the reality is, I couldn't do both.

There's a part of me that finds it ironic that I'm still going to be paying off my student loans to Duke Law School even when I'm no longer practicing law. There's a small part of me that wonders "was it worth it to go to law school?" Unequivocally yes. Not only because I loved it and because I love talking and thinking about the law, but also because that's where I met JP.

And I wouldn't be where I am today without him. It's funny how life works out that way.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Quitin' my day job, Episode II

Just over a year ago I wrote a post about quitting my day job. At that time I was just moving from one firm to another (and moving from litigation to "wealth transfer" or trusts & estates).

This time I'm quitting my day job for real. Yep, I'm taking the plunge into being a full-time writer. I handed in my notice on Monday and my last day is a week from tomorrow. Then I leave for the pre-pub tour and when I come back... I'll officially be a full-time writer!

It's totally crazy! I alternate between thinking "is this for real?" and "OMG, what am I doing?!" And honestly, it still all feels so unexpected. But I had to face the reality that I just couldn't keep doing both jobs and giving both everything. Something had to give.

It's kind of ironic -- the law job I have now is my dream job. It's high end and challenging work at a fantastic firm. And only one thing really could make me want to leave it: lucking into my ultimate dream job of writing. It's also a little ironic that I started at this firm exactly a week before my fantastic agent offered me representation. Talk about a crazy year.

And I'm so thankful to JP who's supporting me 100%+ (though he has promised me that come hell or high water I will be out of the bed and starting my day by the time he leaves for work :) Also, I'm so used to having a hyper-structured day where every 6-minute increment is accounted for -- I think it's going to take some work to transition away from that and find a writing schedule that works (and if anyone has advice on this -- please share it!)

But hopefully having more time means I can blog more, I can finally get my website up, I can write more and read more. It's a total dream come true and I couldn't be more excited!!

Crazy how much can change in a year!!!