Thursday, June 24, 2010

In which I feel stupid...

Way back when I signed with my wonderful agent, Jim McCarthy, he sent me a box of some of his other clients' books.  In that box was Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.  My editor also sent me a box of books and I arranged everything on new shelves and started reading my way through them.  My mother started to read more and more YA and when she realized just how many books I had, she started making visits to haul them away.  (Yes, I've turned my mother into a huge YA reader and it's totally awesome.)

Early on my mom carted away Vampire Academy and it lived at her house for a long while until she picked it up.  She devoured it, raced to the store and bought the entire series.  Every time she visited or we chatted on the phone, she asked when a new one would be coming out.

See, you'd think that would have been enough to prompt me to drop everything and pick these books up.  But I didn't for a whole host of boring reasons like revisions, writing, other books I had to read for whatever reason.

I even met Richelle in person and yes, I was embarrassed that here she's written this amazingly successful series (multiple series!) and we share an agent and I hadn't read her books!  I really like to be in the perfect mood for a book because I really really want to love every book I read.  And then a few weeks ago the perfect mood struck and I picked up Vampire Academy.

OH.  MY.  WORD!!!  I am SO STUPID for not having read these books earlier!!!  Seriously, they're amazing and I've been devouring them!  My mother never gave me Frostbite, the second book, and I had to race to the store to pick it up because I just couldn't wait.  I was up so early this morning reading the third that it was dark out (I don't do mornings well).

This world is just really wonderfully crafted and complex.  Richelle does a brilliant job of building the characters and the plots and raising the stakes and weaving it all together so tightly and compellingly.  There are layers and twists and depth -- these are books that have made me gasp, that have kept me up late and gotten me up early (anything that can get me awake at 5am has to be incredible).  And yes, these books have made me teary which is a massive feat all on its own.

They're also really well written.  As an author I really really love seeing how Richelle pulls it all off -- truly, I'm in awe of her mad skills.  And yes, I feel stupid for not reading them earlier but I'm super SUPER thrilled that I get to just devour them one right after the other without having to wait.

Thanks Richelle for writing such phenomenal books and I'm sorry I didn't read them earlier!  And everyone else out there who has been putting off picking up this fantastic series, I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Absolute Faith

I just read this blog post by Kristin Cashore.  One of the things I love about Kristin (other than her awesome books and that she graduated from Williams two years before I did, go Ephs!) is that she's so open and honest about her feelings about writing, including struggles and hurdles, on her blog.  Sometimes I wish I were more like her in that way -- there's such an honesty and vulnerability in the way she writes about the process of crafting a book and I love seeing how everything comes together in the end.

I think perhaps for me, I'm not someone who shares vulnerability easily, esp when I'm still not sure I'll be able to overcome whatever aspect of the process is making me feel vulnerable.  Which is a little ironic (and perhaps hypocritical) since one of the reasons I started this blog way back when was so that I and other people could hopefully one day read the process of writing and selling a book as it happened, without looking back through the lens of success.

In fact, one of my favorite posts is one in which I talk about questioning whether I'd ever actually reach my writing goals -- whether my full faith in myself and my dream of being a published author was misplaced.  I love reading that post now and knowing that it worked out (and I love reading JP's motivating response here).  And yet I don't write posts like that anymore and I'm not entirely certain why.

Perhaps part of it comes from a need to be a little more protective of myself.  At one point after The Forest of Hands and Teeth came out a professional reviewer actually combed through my blog archives and found instances of me doubting myself and used them as reasons my book failed or had holes.  That felt like a breach of trust to me -- I felt like I'd opened myself up and shared my fear and hesitation and suddenly it was turned back on me to prove why I somehow failed.  After that I just stopped really opening myself up online as much.

And I think that's a little unfair -- not to me because I still have people I can turn to with my thoughts and ruminations -- but to other people out there in this business trying to find their path.  Often I feel like authors start to put this "everything is easy" face on so that people don't prod at the vulnerabilities and somehow this makes people believe that it *is* always easy and then when it's not easy for them they think something is wrong with them.  

This is one reason I love Kristin Cashore's blog -- she shares it all and it makes me admire her so much for doing so.  In the blog post I mentioned above, she talks about the fears and anxieties that intensify as she comes to the end of a draft:
The other thing that happens is less welcome: the hopelessness sets in. I can see the book as a whole now, and every single day, I struggle with the voices that are telling me it's not going to work, it's going to fail. It isn't about anything. I'm not good enough to pull all the loose ends together. I'll get to the climax and realize that it's a dumb climax. It's a mess and revisions won't solve the problems.
And then she goes on to say that she's learned to remember that the voices don't control her.  Kristin writes:
You acknowledge the voices, but you write anyway. This faith is performative. I believe in this book.
As soon as I read this I thought "Yes! This!"  I'm often asked if I've learned anything from the books I've written and I tend to answer with the oft-repeated phrase that writing a book teaches you how to write *that* book and every book has its own new set of problems.  However, there is something I've learned: that I can do it.

With the past few books I've written I've always come to the point when I look around me and think "I've broken it."  It's a feeling of utter helplessness -- it's over.  Done.  The book can't be fixed.  It is beyond repair.  In fact, on Christmas Eve I found myself sobbing to my husband, JP, on the phone while hiding in the guest bathroom at my sister's house because I could not fix the book I was working on and it was due.  I was frozen in panic.

He reminded me that I'd been there before.  That I always end up there with my books.  And he was right.  I'd felt that unbearable helplessness before and I'd found a way to work through it.  I'd figured out the character/plot/scene/hole and I'd fixed it and I had to have faith that I could do it again.  I just had to keep pushing -- keep writing.

This is exactly what I think Kristin was saying when she wrote "This is faith performative."  Not just faith performative, but absolute faith.  With no guarantee that I *could* fix the book, only the knowledge that I had in the past, I had to believe I could do it again.  I had to have faith and I have to continue having faith.

And just as Kristin sharing her process helped me understand my own, I hope sharing my process helps others.  Have faith in yourself and your writing, even the only thing you can hold on to is that faith.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Red Shoes, a guest post by Saundra Mitchell

Today I have a guest post from Edgar Award nominated author Saundra Mitchell.  I've gushed about her book, Shadowed Summer, many many times and it's out in paperback today (IndieboundBook DepositoryPowell'sAmazon)!  YAY!!  Saundra writes about how we became imprint buddies and honestly, it made me tear up a bit.  Saundra is not only a phenomenal writer (seriously, some of her prose makes me want to weep) but she's been a really fantastic friend and critique partner.  I feel very lucky to have met her!

Without further ado, Saundra Mitchell:

Out in Paperback Today!!!
When we're still aspiring, our main concern as writers is getting to the agent, and getting to that contract. As it should be- both of these goals require hard work to reach, and wishing and dreaming is only the fun part.

But what no one tells you is that after you get that agent, after you get that contract- it's a lonely place. You never realize how much time you spent researching and querying, until it's no longer your job to do
those things.

Sometimes, the authors you shared those hardships with can disappear. It's not intentional- you're just in different places, and the support they need, the support you need, diverge. And that's why you need an imprint buddy.

I met Carrie on the Absolute Write boards- and you know how I met her? I was scanning the "New Sales!" thread, and I noticed that she had recently sold to Delacorte Press. Hey! Me too! And- completely out of character for me- I sent this total stranger an e-mail that basically said, "HOMG WE ARE WITH THE SAME HOUSE YAY!"

She replied, "HOMG WE SO ARE YAY!"

And that's how we became Imprint Buddies. Her book was scheduled a month behind mine, so we always had someone to compare notes. If I got my copyedits two months after final revisions, she probably would, too. She got her marketing plan a few days before I did. There was so much to learn about being published, and we never had to wonder, "Is this just me?"

Having Carrie for my imprint buddy kept me sane before publication, and she still does- now a full year after my book came out in hardcover. A long while back, we discussed what we should wear if we did events. She was thinking about all black with red shoes, because the splash of red in the dark is an element in THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. And somehow, we agreed that we should both wear red shoes.

It was a silly conversation in the middle of a really chaotic time, but it stuck. Every time I do a signing, or a school visit, or an event- I never have to walk in alone. I've got my red shoes on, and my imprint buddy is with me.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

ConCarolinas this weekend!

Yay! It's time again for Con-Carolinas!!  Which this year is also DeepSouthCon and is being held at the Hilton University Place in Charlotte!  This is my local con that I've had a total blast going to the past few years and I'm super excited that this time I'm going to be on some of the panels!  Wahoo!  Here's my schedule:

Friday at 6:00 pm:  Book Launch!: Writer guests who have published in the past year share their newest creations.

Friday at 8:00 pmScary Monsters and Super Freaks: Creating monsters in your writing - and where have all the scary monsters gone?

Saturday at 2:00 pmThe Harry Effect: What Harry Potter did for young adult literature - and why so many distiguished authors are trying their hand at YA literature.

Saturday at 8:00 pmI Like the Dark: The appeal of dark fantasy and how to write it.

Sunday at 4:00 pmDon`t Be a Noob!: Common mistakes beginners make when starting in the writing business.

zombies in love
I'll also be around before and after my panels selling books if anyone is interested!  Of course, one of the highlights of ConCarolinas each year is the zombie walk (there's a zombie discussion on Saturday at 4 and the walk is at 6).

me after deadlines
As you can see from the pictures, I've been a very avid participant in all the zombie treats this con has to offer :)

Here's more information about registration and whatnot.  I've met some really amazing authors by attending this con and am so excited to be hanging out with them all again soon!  I hope to see y'all there!