Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Bad and the Good

I know I owe y'all a post about what the Writing Life actually looks like in reality (following up on an earlier post) but I'm going to bump that post to next week because there's something else that's been occupying my mind.

Yesterday I received some very sad news.  A friend of mine, YA author L.K. Madigan, passed away.  She'd written a very eloquent blog post about her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and still, I wasn't prepared for her to actually die.  I guess in my mind I'm not ready for my friends to die.  I'm too young.  She was too young.  She had so many exciting things in her life and then... it just seemed too fast.  So unfair.

And then, on the same day that I learned this news on Twitter (of all places) there was also something else going on.  Maureen Johnson woke up and decided to do something good for the world.  She tweeted about an organization a friend of hers works for called Shelterbox that essentially sends boxes of necessary supplies to people in need after disasters.  Each Shelterbox costs about $950 and she wanted to raise enough money to buy one Wednesday.  As an incentive, she pledged her last ARC of her forthcoming release, The Last Little Blue Envelope and pledged to make up the difference in donations to fund the one box.

Here's a link to her blog post about it.  Here's a link to her Twitter feed.

I knew that Twitter could be a force for good, but watching this expand over the course of a day was pretty extraordinary.  Other authors offered giveaways and donated money.  People spread the word.  And at the end of the day Maureen raised enough money to fund SIX ShelterBoxes.  Plus enough donations of schwag to hold another fundraising day today.

It was heartening, last evening, to watch my twitter feed: friends and colleagues expressing sorrow over Lisa's passing and joy in her life.  Others donating money so that those in need could find some relief.  It really made me understand that life can be so hard and so sad, and yet there's such a community of loving people always there.

I'm so grateful to feel a part of this community -- this group of people who, through large and small acts, accomplish great things.  Thanks for reminding me of all the awesome in the world on a day when I was reminded of the sad.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Dark and Hollow Places tour!

I'm so excited that I get to hit the road for the release of The Dark and Hollow Places (comes out March 22, 2011)!  I had such a blast last year meeting readers and fellow book lovers and hanging out and I'm thrilled to be doing it again!  Here are the preliminary details on the tour!!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Miami, FL

Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Chicago, IL
Naperville location:
123 West Jefferson
Naperville, IL 60540
Tel: 630-355-2665

Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 2:00 PM
Chicago, IL

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 1:00 PM
Cincinnati, OH
2692 Madison Road
Cincinnati OH 45208
(513) 396-8960

Monday, March 28, 2011 time TBA
Dayton, OH

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 time TBA
Salt Lake City, UT
1511 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 7:00 PM
West Jordan, UT
Barnes and Noble

Thursday, March 31, 2011 time TBA
Phoenix, AZ
6428 S McClintock Dr
Tempe, AZ 85283
Tel: 480-730-0205

Friday, April 1, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Phoenix, AZ
Barnes and Noble

Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 3:00 PM
Los Angeles, CA
Barnes and Noble, Glendale

Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 2:00 PM
San Diego/Los Angeles, CA
Barnes and Noble, Oceanside

Monday, April 4, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Los Angeles, CA

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Los Angeles, CA
8818 Sunset Blvd.
W. Hollywood CA, 90069
This is a joint signing with other awesome authors :)

April 6-10
Los Angeles, CA
Romantic Times Convention
I'll post details on my panels as we get closer

Saturday, April 9, 2011 all day
Los Angeles, CA
click image to make bigger so you can read all the fun details!

Monday, April 11, 2011 from 7:00-9:00 PM
Spartanburg, SC
Hub City Bookshop
I'm giving a writing workshop on how to put tension on every page, especially when it comes to writing YA. Space is limited -- click here for more information!

April 12 - April 15, 2011
Austin, TX
TLA (I don't have a schedule of events yet and don't know what will be open to the public but will post when I do)

April 15 - April 16, 2011
Austin Texas
Writer's League of Texas, YA A to Z Conference

Also, I do hope to set up a signing in Charlotte this spring... still working on the details!

As always, you can find details about my upcoming events here (yes, that's a backdated post but it's where my website points to so I can update it easily on the road).  If there are any changes to my tour schedule (which there likely will be as we're still early in the game) I'll be making them to THAT POST.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Writing Life Part 1: what I expected

I just returned from a panel up at Williams College with a few literary superstars: Jay McInerney and Gary Fisketjon.  It was amazing just listening to them -- their lives, how they got where they are, their wisdom.  Amazing!

The topic of the panel was "The Writing Life" and as I've settled in to work this morning I've been thinking about the first question we were asked: what is the writing life?  Our answers were generally broad, dealing with how we got to where we are, but there was also the question of "how/when do you write?"  Jay brought up that some people can write a book and then spend their life talking about that book rather than writing another.  His advice was to write every day -- that's what it comes down to: writing.

As I settled in to work today after so many disrupted weeks, I started to think about what that meant on a daily basis.  Over breakfast after the event I asked Jay if he still writes every day.  He said he still writes most days.  It made me think about my own schedule because I *don't* write every day even though I work every day.  I've learned that there's quite a gap between "writing" and "working" and this really highlighted for me the difference between what I expected my life as a full time writer to be like and the reality.

This is what I expected:

I'd wake up in the morning after a luxuriously restful sleep.  I'd yawn and stretch in my sun dappled room and perhaps spend a few moments pondering the day, thinking over what I've been writing and composing a few lines to get me going.  After rising from bed and donning a cute yet relaxed outfit (perhaps something yoga-ish) I'd make my way through my clean house and alight in my office where I'd answer a few emails before getting down to work: writing.

I'm a fast writer so I'd probably knock out a thousand words before wandering into the kitchen for breakfast.  Perhaps I'd make an organic fruit smoothie with fresh fruit from the farmer's market.  I'd think about my latest writing project and return to the office, finishing my word goal for the day before lunch-time.

Lunch would be something light -- a salad or soup, again made from ingredients purchased at the farmer's market (because I'd have time for such things).  Maybe I'd set something aside for dinner -- begin marinating something or start a stock.  If I didn't go to the gym in the morning, I'd head there now, taking advantage of the afternoon lull.

Upon returning home from the gym perhaps there'd be some business I'd have to take care of -- a few emails, a blog, updating the website.  Nothing too taxing and I might even finish all the work by 4:00 whereupon I'd lounge on the couch and read.  I'd have dinner ready for JP most night -- all fresh and tasty.

Some days I'd go to a movie, other days I'd make the rounds of various bookstores to sign stock.  I might even fit in a nap!

I'd write more than one book a year -- after all, I'd written my first published novel while also working a taxing job (some of it during a trial where I billed over 300 hours for a couple of months).  With all this newfound time I'd be a writing machine!

All would be neat and organized, all would be timely.  The house would be clean, my office would be tidy.  I'd have it all together and it would be wonderful.

It was a glorious dream.  And so very much not reality.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Two events: Charlotte, NC and Williamstown, MA

A quick post about two events:

The first is a panel on the Rise of the Young Adult Novel hosted by the Women's National Book Association in Charlotte, NC.  I know this is super late notice but it's being held tonight, Feb 15th, at 6:30 at the Quail Hollow Estates Clubhouse.  It looks like a great panel and I know the questions we'll be discussing are really thoughtful and interesting.  I can't wait!  More details are here.  Also, I think I'll be signing books afterward!

The second event is a panel discussion on "A Life Writing" to be held at Williams College on Thursday, February 17th.  The other panelists are Jay McInerney, whose novels are essentially the anthems of his generation, and Gary Fisketjon, editor-at-large at Knopt who has worked with Raymond Carver, Annie Dillard, Cormac McCarthy and others.

I heard about the other participants and my first thought was to sing, "One of these things is not like the rest of them" to myself.  Seriously, I'm pretty awestruck by Jay and Gary and will likely spend much of the panel just staring at them and hoping to bask in their brilliance.  I am so crazy honored to be speaking with them.

The event starts with a reading by Jay McInerney at 7pm followed by the panel discussion at 8pm.  Both events will be held in Griffin Hall, room 3 and are free and open to the public.  If you want to learn more about it, here's a link.

Hope to see some of y'all there!!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Dedicating The Dead-Tossed Waves

Today marks the release of The Dead-Tossed Waves in paperback.  When I had to figure out who to dedicate The Forest of Hands and Teeth to it felt pretty obvious to me: my husband JP is the one who introduced me to zombies, who read every page of that book several times, who endured countless walks and conversations as I talked through the plot.  I felt like that book was as much his as mine.

When I got to the end of writing The Dead-Tossed Waves I also felt it was pretty obvious who I would dedicate the book to: my mother, Bobby, and my step-father, Doug.  This is a post about why. [There are  spoilers, sorry!  I'll mark the spot in the post later on where there are no spoilers.]

The dedication reads:
to Roberta Hatch
the light on the horizon that means home

to Douglas Keith Kidd
for loving her, and all of us, so much

and to love at first sight (and Chiquita bananas)
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is about Mary and her quest to determine how she wants to define her life.  Yes, there's a love triangle and I've talked before about how I think love triangles work -- each boy (in my case) represents a different part of the heroine and she must choose who SHE wants to be before she can choose which partner best compliments that part of her.

In the first book, I think it's pretty clear that while both Harry and Travis are totally viable options for Mary, she loves Travis.  He's the one who is willing to venture past the gates, to question their life in the village and to dream big.  Harry represents a more stable love and companionship.  Travis, to me, is a like a bright blazing conflagration while Harry is more of a steady burning ember.  They're both great men (or I hope they come across that way), but Travis is who fits with Mary best in The Forest of Hands and Teeth; he compliments her passion and drive.

The Dead-Tossed Waves picks up with the story quite a bit after the end of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and from a different point of view: Mary's daughter, Gabry.  At some point in the book, Mary leaves to go back to her village and when we meet her again she's standing with Harry and I hope it's pretty clear they've rekindled a relationship (or are in the process of doing so).  Mary says at one point that she doesn't need Harry to complete her anymore, just to be with her.  And she's pretty clear that it never would have worked out between them when they were young -- both of them had to grow up and have their own separate lives and become their own independent person before they could come back together again.

But she also acknowledges that they share such a deep past -- a deep bond that will always tie them together.  They grew up in the same village with the same friends and fears and questions.  This shared background created such a lasting foundation between them: they understood everything about each other because of that time.

[The spoiler free bits follow:]

I based this relationship on my mother and step-father who have an amazing love story.  Both of them grew up on banana plantations in Latin America.  I think my step-father, Doug, knew of my mother (she was one of four girls who caused all kinds of trouble, I think everyone pretty much knew them) but they don't remember meeting each other officially (though it's likely there were times when they were on the same banana boats from the plantations up to school in New Orleans).

They both grew up, got married, had kids, lived completely separate lives.  And then one year in the summer of 1995 they both attended the Chiquita Banana Reunion in New Orleans (yes, such a thing exists).  My mother was a smoker at the time (boo!) and was standing by an ashtray looking for a match when Doug offered her a light.  They started to talk.  Then they went to the party and started to dance.  They stayed up all night dancing.  Doug was supposed to leave the next day and cancelled his flight.  When he did eventually leave (on my Mom's birthday) he sent roses to her room.  As it turns out, he lived only a few hours from my mom and he came to visit that next weekend (and left her a love note in Spanish not realizing that I, who was the only daughter still living at home, spoke Spanish and found it first - haha!).

It was truly love at first sight for them.  They got married later that year (yes, it was their kids who said "wait a minute, perhaps slow things down a bit?") and I got a step-father and two older brothers (really, truly, awesome).  Mom and Doug spoke Spanish around the house.  He called her "Mi Amor," they danced.  They went back to the Chiquita Banana reunions every other year.  A large part of their bond was that shared history: they both understood what it was to grow up on those banana plantations.  He'd even lived in one of the houses my mom lived in as a kid.  They knew the same people, the same banana boats, the same language.

And I honestly believe that it took them growing up, moving into separate paths, having their own lives, and coming back together again later to find such love and compatibility.  My mother just wasn't the same woman when she met Doug as she was when she met my father.  If she and Doug had met earlier in life, I'm not sure they could have shared the same kind of love and companionship.  What they looked for in a partner changed over their lives and it really did seem like, at least from an outsider perspective, that they didn't need each other to complete the other one, they needed to just love each other and be companions.  Which they were.

Many of you may know that my step-father, Doug, passed away on December 22, 2010.  My mother sat by the bed, holding his hand.  I stood behind her, watching.  Before he was moved into hospice, when he was still upstairs in the ICU, we told one of the nurses how he and my mom met.  He smiled and chuckled (wishing he could cut in and tell the story right, I'm sure).  Really, that's the last time I saw him be aware of any of his surroundings.

He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in the summer of 2006 and in the spring of 2009 he ended treatment and we called in hospice.  Honestly, I thought I'd never see him get out of bed again.  But then we got our miracle two years.  He gained strength and weight.  He and my mom flew to Costa Rica for a two week bus tour to all their old haunts with their buddies from the Chiquita Banana Reunions.  He got to see his son, my brother, coach the winning state soccer champs.  His other son got married.  I got married, my sisters and brother had kids.  He was there for all of it (well, except for JP and I'd elopement, but he was there to congratulate us later).  Truly, it was a miracle two years.

So we knew it couldn't last, though we didn't know it would happen quite as quickly as it did.  But, like so many of that generation, he'd smoked for most of his life and in the end his lungs couldn't stand up against the COPD.

I knew when I was writing The Dead-Tossed Waves that Doug was terminally ill.  And I knew that I'd be dedicating the book to him and my mother because they shared a deep and lasting love and I'd used it as a model for Harry and Mary.  I didn't know when I finished writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth that this would be in Mary's future but when I looked at the way Mom and Doug held hands, the comfort they shared in talking about their childhoods, I knew that this is what would bring Mary comfort and joy later in her life.  She'd had her adventures (and boy did she have adventures) and she had a daughter she'd raised and loved fiercely but who had grown and would be leaving the nest.

I dedicated the book to my mother because The Dead-Tossed Waves is as much about Mary being a mother as it is about Gabry being a daughter.  And of course because it's from Gabry's POV she doesn't necessarily spend that much time thinking about her mom because that's what we do when we're young: we go off on our adventures.  But Gabry always knew that her mother was there -- the light on the horizon that meant home -- and would always be there.  I'm lucky to live my life the same way, knowing that my mother is always a phone call or a short drive away.  That she will accept me unconditionally with open arms.

I'm very lucky to have had Doug in my life as well.  He taught me patience, kindness, unconditional love and acceptance.  He was the man that knew everyone -- the produce stocker at Publix, the UPS man, he knew their stories and their dreams.  He listened and loved.  As my sister so perfectly said at his service, "Doug had the ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the room. And you were the BEST at what you did."

So I thank Chiquita Bananas for bringing them together.  Mom and Doug made me believe in love at first sight.  I miss him.  I'm glad I had the chance to hand him a copy of The Dead-Tossed Waves and thank him for being in my life.

Thanks to mom and Doug for letting me borrow their love for my book and thanks to all of you for letting me share it with you.


Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who came out to the live show last night and asked questions and showed support for The Dark and Hollow Places!  I'm really surprised at how nervous I became when reading.  I really thought I was finally at the point where I'm comfortable speaking and reading in public but (a) it's easier to do in person when you can gauge reactions and (b) this is really the first time I've read anything from The Dark and Hollow Places out loud and in the middle of it I began to realize that fact and it freaked me out a little.  So, thanks for all the kind words, tweets and emails!!  I appreciate it SO SO MUCH!

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Dead-Tossed Waves pre-release round-up plus how to get a DHP teaser...

Okay, people, tomorrow marks the release of The Dead-Tossed Waves paperback.  Cue confetti!!  Yay!!  Crazy how time flies!  In honor of the release I'll be reading the first couple of pages from The Dark and Hollow Places tonight during the live show from Branson, MO.  I don't know when during the hour I'll be reading but you can tune in here at 8:00 PM Eastern.  Also, just a note that I forgot to bring an ARC or a copy of the paperback with me so I'll be reading from the last draft I have so... there might be some changes between that and the final (just assume that the final is moar awesome).

In very VERY happy-making news, Jen Lancaster, one of my absolute favorite authors of adult books (crazy hilarious writer!) chose The Dead-Tossed Waves as one of her winter recommendations.  She wrote:
What I appreciate so much about Carrie's books is that even though her characters are tormented by external factors (e.g. being pursued by zombies while in pursuit of a safe zone), she still gives us a very real sense of what makes the characters unique and whole.  Their internal drama's often as profound as what's happening around them.
Thanks Jen!!  The whole list is here.

And also, thanks to the lovely internet I've already seen some pics of The Dead-Tossed Waves out and about!  Vania took this photo (thanks!!):

Speaking of pictures, Aimee Ferris, author of Will Work for Prom Dress, has put together an awesome website of various authors in their own prom photos.  Mine just went up the other day.  Here's the link.  And yes, I still do have that dress in my closet (well, my attic really) because I totally loved it!  I remember shopping for it with my mom and picking it out (I even wore it two years in a row).

Branson's been snowy, cold and totally awesome!  Don't forget to head to the chat tonight if you have any questions for me about books, writing, life, etc etc.  Can't wait to talk with y'all!!

Friday, February 04, 2011

And she's off...

Obligatory announcements first:

  1. The Dead-Tossed Waves paperback out in four days.  Be there.  And by "there" I mean you can purchase a copy from the following places: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound | Personalized Copy from my local indie, Park Road Books.
  2. SciFiNow had their third annual awards and the gave The Dead-Tossed Waves the "Potter Award for Adaptation Potential" saying, "Given the current zombie fever, and the taste for romance in the genre, we'd be amazed if Ryan hasn't had discussions with film studios.  Her first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, was practically built for film and the follow-up is cinematic too."  Thanks SciFiNow!  Also, yes, I have been in talks -- we sold the option in 2009 and they renewed it in 2010!
  3. SciFiNow also reviewed The Dead-Tossed Waves as a "must read now!" and said it "maintains the same bold characterizations as its predecessor," and "with great world building and cinematic form, this is a high quality novel."  This makes me very very happy!
  4. Thanks again, everyone, for indulging me as I play with QR codes.  I've pasted below the first paragraph of The Dark and Hollow Places (which, astute readers may notice on Tuesday, is slightly different from the one in the back of The Dead-Tossed Waves... these things change).
This city used to be something once.  I've seen pictures of the way it gleamed -- sun so bright off windows it could burn your eyes.  At night lights shouted from steel like catcalls, loud and lewd, while all day long white-gloved men rushed to open doors for women who tottered about on skyscraper heels.
So as it turns out, I've got a lot of traveling in my future.  Tomorrow I leave for a writing retreat in Branson, MO.  I hear there may be some live BlogTV where you can ask questions of the authors there but I don't know when it is or how it works (deadline brain means I haven't paid attention to much else, I'm just glad I actually remembered to buy my plane ticket!).  When I know anything I'll likely post it to my twitter feed.

Then when I get back I turn around and go to Williamsburg, VA with JP.  This is a tradition we started the first year we began dating and we've only missed one year!  I truly TRULY love this trip: we forget about the internet and work and modern day and just get to daydream and relax and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist.  In fact, JP proposed to me in Williamsburg three years ago!

A few days after that I'm heading up to my Alma Mater, Williams College, for a panel on jobs in the creative industry.  If any of you are in the area and want more info, just leave me a comment and I'll post it!  I'm pretty sure I've forgotten just how cold Massachusetts can be in February.

After that it's home for a bit and then off on a family trip to Reno with my mom to visit my aunt.  I've been told this will be a Very Fun Trip.

AND THEN... The Dark and Hollow Places tour!  Wahoo!  I don't have all the details but here's what I know so far: I'll be heading to Cincinnati, Miami, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Chicago and then Los Angeles in conjunction with the RT Convention and Austin in conjunction with TLA and the Writer's League of Texas YA A to Z conference.  I can't wait!!

So yes, lots of travel which means... perhaps I should get packing!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

On finishing a draft

First, more announcements! Yay!
  1. Cassandra Clare, author extraordinaire of the Mortal Instruments series and the Infernal Devices trilogy, took part in a video for Barnes & Noble discussing some of her favorite books and The Dead-Tossed Waves made her list!  HUGE SQUEE!  You can watch the video here.  It's a pretty awesome and diverse list so I'm very thrilled and honored to get a shout out.
  2. Speaking of The Dead-Tossed Waves... the paperback comes out on Tuesday, Feb 8th. Eee, less than a week!  And I won't even be in town or anywhere near a bookstore!
  3. Speaking of Tuesday, in celebration of the paperback coming out, I think I'll post more excerpts for The Dark and Hollow Places (the first chapter of which is in the paperback of DTW).  Here's the first paragraph!

(In order to read the first paragraph of The Dark and Hollow Places above, download a QR code reader to your smart phone (I use the app i-nigma but I've read you can also direct your browser to and then point it at that QR code above).  I'll post the actual first paragraph in my next post :)

So yesterday afternoon ago I hit send on a draft of my new book to my agent and editor (can't share details yet, sorry!).  And for a while I just sort of sat there, trying to figure out what to do next.  I've done this before -- turned in first drafts -- and I'm sure I felt similarly then but even so, this sort of snuck up on me.  I think because I was prepared to spend all day working on the draft getting it in just before midnight so pressing send in the middle of the afternoon was unexpected.  I suddenly had no idea what to do with myself.

Mostly, I just never really spent a lot of time figuring out what came after checking off "turn in draft."

I've learned over the past few years that I tend to be a linear thinker when it comes to tasks: I prioritize a list and then I methodically move through one after another.  Which means that when the top of the list is "write book, deadline looming" it's hard for me to see past that to anything else (such as "answer email," or "update website" or "write short story" or "read").  The closer I get to the deadline, the more one-track my mind gets.  I feel guilty working on anything else even though it's almost impossible to spend all day every day just straight up writing.  And yet, everything else falls to the wayside.

At the beginning of the year I sat down and made a chart of all my deadlines (external and internal) and what I needed to do to meet them.  So I know that logically, next on my list is "write short story due imminently" and I'll move on to that soon.

But it's really sort of hard to describe the feeling of turning in a draft and what that does to your head.  I remember experiencing a similar feeling when I finished writing the first draft of The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  I'd spent months carrying this story around in my head, spending every free moment putting the pieces together and figuring out how it could work, what should come next, etc.  That book was always in my thoughts. 

And then I finished the draft and suddenly... I could let it go.  It was such a relief!  That's what it was like turning in that draft yesterday.  I've been carrying this book around in my head for so long, and now... it's out of my hands.  It will be back in my hands soon enough, I'm sure, but now my mind feels almost a little empty.  I don't know what to turn to when I'm taking a walk or staring into space.  It's a crazy kind of freedom!

So what did I end up doing?  I had some miscellaneous work that had to be done, and then I took a walk to a local burger place and sat and had a long lunch with my ereader and a beer.  I came home, talked to some friends, and looked at all the books on my shelf I've been wanting to read and haven't had the time for.  I picked a few of them up and put them back, almost giddy with the choices and unable to decide where to start.  I actually spent some time with my husband while I wasn't stressing about a deadline and when I went to bed I let my mind wander over the various other projects waiting for me.

And yes, already I'm thinking about revisions :)