- This Saturday, Nov. 16, I’ll be at the Kentucky Book Fair and Christopher will also be there for all your dual-signing Supernormal Sleuthing Service needs.
- Then, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 6:30 p.m., I’ll be in conversation with Alix Harrow about her outrageously wonderful debut, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington. You can call the store ahead of time if you’re far away and want personalized books for holidays; they ship.
- Looking ahead, if you’re in the Detroit area or headed to ConFusion in January, I’ll be a special guest of Subterranean Press (work fam!), along with Seanan McGuire! The entire line-up is fab and it’s sure to be a great time, as always.
Hello, friends! If you’re in Southern California, I hope you’re planning to hit YALLWEST this weekend. Here’s my schedule:
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Panel
YALLWEST Festival 2019
Panel: DIY Storymakers: How to Actually Write a Comic, the DC Way
Panelists: Gwenda Bond, Marguerite Bennett, Melissa de la Cruz, Shannon Hale, Lauren Myracle, Danielle Paige
Moderator: Michele Wells
Location: Main Tent
Description: Creators + creative execs from DC Comics talk practical tips for sequential storytelling in comics + graphic novels. Teen creators, artists and writers are encouraged to share a favorite idea or to ask for help with what you’re stuck on.
And now for the fun surprise!
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Panel
YALLWEST Festival 2019
Panel: Mysterious Circumstances
Panelists: Gwenda Bond, Alexis Bass, Sara Farizan, Karen M. McManus, Gretchen McNeil, Matthew Modine, Lauren Oliver
Moderator: Peter Stone
Description: Suspense, mystery, & whodunits: How do these writers keep you guessing and turning the page?
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Signing
YALLWEST Festival 2019
Location: Comics area, booth 212
Details: Signing Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds with Matthew Modine
I’m obviously thrilled, delighted, and honored that Matthew is taking time out of his busy schedule to come tomorrow — don’t miss it!
It has been a wild month since I last wrote you guys — Suspicious Minds hit the New York Times’ bestseller list (!!!), I went to France to launch the book there (tres bien and I love everyone at Lumen, my publisher there), and now…Seattle! If you’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con, come see me? Here’s where I’ll be:
Thursday, March 14
PANEL: Story Unlimited: Using Non-Traditional Methods to Tell YOUR Story
Location: WSCC 603
Description: Do you have a story to tell, but struggle writing that traditional novel, comic, or screenplay? Modern media presents you with extraordinary new options to tell your tale and win an audience. Whether it’s a podcast, video series, webcomic, chat & text story, indie game, serialized mobile fiction, mystery subscription, or something completely new, your potential fans are waiting! And why limit yourself to just one platform? Fictitious podcast host, Adron Buske, talks with a panel of creators and industry professionals about the evolving world of multimedia entertainment – and how you can break in with your own stories.
Penguin Random House booth #2215
Friday, March 15
Penguin Random House booth #2215
*with Brenna Yovanoff (author of STRANGER THINGS YA novel RUNAWAY MAX)
PANEL: Why YA? Authors discuss Young Adult Fiction
Location: WSCC 603
Description: Hear authors Gwenda Bond (Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds), Rachel Caine (The Great Library series), Matte de la Pena (Superman: Dawnbreaker), and J. Patrick Black (Night City Burning) discuss the great potential and possible pitfalls of writing Young Adult fiction. What do their YA characters need to succeed? What do they avoid? What do they like most about stories that readers call YA? And what is the definition of YA anyways? Moderated by internationally bestselling fantasy author and YA reader Terry Brooks.
Speakers: Terry Brooks, Rachel Caine, Gwenda Bond, Matt de la Pena, J. Patrick Black
Writer’s Block Autographing Area Table 1 & 2
Saturday, March 16
PANEL: Stranger Things Publishing
Location: WSCC 611
Description: The story of Stranger Things continues in the official books and comics! Join Dark Horse editor Spencer Cushing and Del Rey Books editor Elizabeth Schaefer, along with author Gwenda Bond (Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds), writer Jody Houser (Stranger Things comics), and artist Ibrahim Moustafa (Stranger Things Free Comic Book Day comic) as they explore the further adventures of our favorite characters from Hawkins, IN.
Speakers: Gwenda Bond, Elizabeth Schaefer, Spencer Cushing, Jody Houser, Ibrahim Moustafa
PANEL: Geek Geek Revolution
Location: WSCC 603
GEEK GEEK REVOLUTION is a no-holds-barred geek culture game show featuring five science fiction/fantasy authors competing for the chance to be TOP GEEK. In addition, the audience members will be asked to ‘write-in’ questions in hopes of stumping the authors and winning a prize pack of books. Hold onto your hats, nerf herders, this might get ugly.
Writer’s Block Autographing Area Table 1 & 2 (Level 6)
ECCC Live Stage – Booth #1239 (main show floor)
PANEL: (Super) Power Plays
Location: WSCC 603
Description: These fan-favorite writers discuss their work in the DC and Marvel universes. We are pleased to have Gwenda Bond (Lois Lane series), Matt de la Peña (Superman), and Margaret Stohl (Black Widow and Captain Marvel) here to discuss writing these iconic characters.
Speakers: Gwenda Bond, Matt de la Pena, Margaret Stohl, Margot Wood (moderator)
Writer’s Block Autographing Area Table 1 & 2 (Level 6)
Hello! Just a quick update with some links and things. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has signal-boosted, bought, or already read and reviewed Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds! You rock. For a launch day that started with beating off an attacker while on dog walks and having to ID the creep once they caught him, I have to say this has been a pretty great week.
I’m still getting a fair number of questions about where to pick up signed copies — Joseph-Beth Booksellers here in Lexington can hook you up, or you can preorder copies I’ll be doing for The Signed Page next month at Emerald City Comic-Con. Bonus: The Signed Page will ship internationally. You can find the book most everywhere it seems, and I’m hoping to stalk it properly in the wild here later this week. And I’m going to Paris for the launch there in a few weeks (screech)!
- The wonderful Erin Keane at Salon interviewed me about the book and we talked about girl gangs and research and all sorts of things;
- The Daily Mirror has a round-up of 13 Stranger Things learned in the prequel;
- Buzzfeed asked me to explain why Terry chose Jane as Eleven’s given name;
- Some reviews: Cinelinx; Culturess; The Unseen Library; and Caffeinated Reviewer (of the audiobook).
Also, Matthew Modine, aka Dr. Brenner himself, is wonderful:
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) February 8, 2019
— Adam Rackoff (@AdamRackoff) February 8, 2019
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) February 8, 2019
I was just about to walk over to Lexington Avenue NYC – and then – oh – Lexington Kentucky! Oops! https://t.co/3whrkV7pzu
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) February 11, 2019
Personally, I can’t wait to hear what the fans have to say. Enjoy the read! https://t.co/KldLd6lnta
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) February 12, 2019
More soon. In the meantime…be stranger.
Hello, friends and lovely strangers! It’s finally here, release day for my new book, Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds. An update not about new releases is coming soon, because I’m finally working hard on my book-in-progress again after being stalled and I have thoughts on why.
But today is not that day! Today I tell you that en route to the bookstore let night to help host trivia, we thought our hand-me-down rust-bucket money-pit car was going to die. Ah, the glamourous writing life! Anyway, newish car purchase on the horizon, so buy my book. This week if you can, because first week sales are important. Libraries are also your friend, if you can’t. And if you enjoy leave a review somewhere. Telling people is rad. Sharing is truly caring.
A reminder of the book and what it’s about PLUS a look at the wonderful exclusive poster in the B&N edition below!
A mysterious lab. A sinister scientist. A secret history. If you think you know the truth behind Eleven’s mother, prepare to have your mind turned Upside Down in this thrilling prequel to the hit show Stranger Things.
It’s the summer of 1969, and the shock of conflict reverberates through the youth of America, both at home and abroad. As a student at a quiet college campus in the heartland of Indiana, Terry Ives couldn’t be farther from the front lines of Vietnam or the incendiary protests in Washington.
But the world is changing, and Terry isn’t content to watch from the sidelines. When word gets around about an important government experiment in the small town of Hawkins, she signs on as a test subject for the project, code-named MKULTRA. Unmarked vans, a remote lab deep in the woods, mind-altering substances administered by tight-lipped researchers . . . and a mystery the young and restless Terry is determined to uncover.
But behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory—and the piercing gaze of its director, Dr. Martin Brenner—lurks a conspiracy greater than Terry could have ever imagined. To face it, she’ll need the help of her fellow test subjects, including one so mysterious the world doesn’t know she exists—a young girl with unexplainable superhuman powers and a number instead of a name: 008.
Amid the rising tensions of the new decade, Terry Ives and Martin Brenner have begun a different kind of war—one where the human mind is the battlefield.
This project was a dream and a treat and I’m extremely proud of the book. I hope you guys like it — and a couple of early reviews think it’ll work for people even if you’re not a fan of the show. Get it wherever fine books are sold.
Speaking of the B&N Exclusive Edition, it includes a pull-out double-sided mini-poster with the cover art and this gorgeous piece by artist Ben Harman commissioned just for this inspired by a scene from the novel.
You can also order signed and/or personalized copies via The Signed Page, which I’ll be meeting up with at Emerald City Comic-Con next month (come see me there and say hi!).
And, last but not least, if you’re in the Lexington area, please come out tonight to Joseph-Beth Booksellers for the launch event tonight at 7 p.m. It’ll be fun, but it’ll be more fun if you’re there! They will also take phone orders and ship books, if you want to get personalizations without delay.
I know, I know, I said blog every week, newsletter every month — but this felt like more of a letter topic than a blog topic, so I’m cheating and using it as both. I want to talk a little about mindfulness. Don’t worry. Remember I co-host a podcast about cults, so set aside any innate need to cringe at a word that is, by definition (truly), so sincere.
There’s been a piece circulating about burnout, tying it specifically to millennials, and yet every freelancer of any generation I know has nodded along to it saying it resonates with them too. In a time when we’re reminded constantly about the importance of balance and given endless hacks on how to achieve it and yet so few of us feel it on any kind of regular basis, of course we’re stressed out. So stressed out that when we’re in those rare moments when we might have achieved it (worked, been to the gym, done stuff with friends/family!), we probably start immediately worrying about when it will end and why we can’t make it last. I’ve been using the “a writer on the high wire of life” description for myself for more than a decade now, and only just realized that it’s a true and useful way of describing myself — I appreciate more the process of balancing while moving forward, that’s when I feel most content. Not when I’m trying to achieve some mysterious state known as “balance.” The process is just life, modern life especially, balancing this and that and the other and realizing how lucky I am to mostly get to choose what I’m walking the wire to get to at any given moment.
Anyway, the age-old segue, I managed to get Christopher to come with me to a coven meeting. I kid, it was a workshop on Living Mindfully being held by my friend Mandy at Sora Aerial Arts as part of a “kick the new year off right” series. He likes to say he placed first among men (he was the only guy there). I high-fived him.
I can suffer from a lack of mindfulness, sure, but often for me that manifests as *overthinking*. Too much thinking, not enough doing. Just enough thinking to get in my own way. But there’s also certainly a type of mindlessness being overcorrected, feeling the need to check the various services and read all the news without any particular goal in mind. Overthinking? Go be mindless for awhile. This is not a good solution, really. So I’m trying to do better on both scores, but it’s hard in a world (and profession, and with a mind) determined to encourage both tendencies.
We did a meditation exercise — for just two minutes — at the beginning of the session, where we all lay back in a circle staring at the beams and rigging of the silks studio and then closing our eyes and focusing on the words Green Grass and then on the space between the words, as Mandy talked us through it. Later, when we talked about having trouble sleeping, I revealed that I’d spent the night before bed googling and reading endlessly only phone about how to increase deep sleep, prodded by my fitbit’s revelation I haven’t been getting much (and I quote, “I knew it was wrong, but it felt so right”). Sometime during the workshop, I realized that obviously we were just talking about being present. The word mindfulness is intimidating or perhaps goofy or perhaps serious, depending upon the day of the week or how much sleep you got last night, but being present is really all it means. Stopping to remember you are in this moment and you are doing this thing and appreciating that and letting it be, not letting the anxiety of what came before or what might come later overtake it. And this is a space I need to be in with my writing. I’ve been hovering a little outside my page when I’m working lately and it’s become harder as a result to make progress. DUH. This week I’ll work on being present at the page — walking on that high wire — and letting the rest of it go until after. Green Grass. Be in it, between the words, in a hidden pocket where presence and progress happens.
Whenever I’m thinking deeply about something, I have a tendency to seek out poems–which only makes sense, I suppose. There’s a particular kind of being present that a good poem demands. I ended up finding these two lovely, sharp poems from searching the word “mind” at Poets.org that add up to a nice pairing so I’m sharing them with you.
And now we’ve all been present experiencing the same poems together. Magic.
Other notable things this week:
– I checked out the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Central Library; if you’re local, make sure you go before it’s gone!
– I’ve been watching Dix Pour Cent, a delicious French show retitled Call My Agent! here. It’s subtitled, but absolutely addictive — about a French entertainment agency, and on Netflix.
– Books: I inhaled Christina Lauren’s My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Sam Maggs’ Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History is wonderful, and I’m j’adoring Jeff Ford’s latest novel, the odd and delightful Ahab’s Return.
I’ve also been working on spinning:
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Hey, hi! One of my goals this year is to newsletter monthly and blog weekly. The newsletter just went out, so this will be a shortish post. But the important thing is I’m here.
We’re a month out from the release of Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds. Preordering (or putting on hold at your library!) is caring.
What’s old is new, so I’m sharing a few links. These are a few pieces that resonated with me recently, plucked from my reading list tab and which are worth your time:
- You know that amazing nonfiction book, The Big Con? Well, it’s great. And now the also-great Sarah Weinman has a fascinating look at the author, David Maurer, and why the book’s still relevant.
- The classic Ricky Jay profile Mark Singer wrote for the New Yorker long ago, circulating widely again since the master magician’s death.
- Every Taffy Brodesser-Akner piece is essential reading, but her retrospective of Margot Kidder may be one of the most beautiful things you read this year. (I wrote about what Kidder’s Lois Lane meant to me for Salon shortly after her death.)
- Sara Benincasa made a reading list on witches. Need I say more?
As most of you know, I’ve been working on another dream gig this year — writing the first official Stranger Things tie-in novel, about Eleven’s mom, Terry Ives, and her intersection with Dr. Brenner’s MKUltra experiments. I’ve absolutely loved adding a chapter to this story and I hope that you guys will all love Terry and her friends too. The book releases in early February (preorder!), and Entertainment Weekly just revealed the title, cover, and the prologue, which details Dr. Brenner’s arrival in Hawkins.
Here’s the gorgeous 1980s horror-inspired cover (how about that tagline?) and you can go read the rest at EW!
p.s. Title ringing a bell, but not sure where it came from? Crank up some 1969 Elvis while you read.
I’m participating as a faculty member in a local program this year that involves matching writers up with mentors for nine months and other good things like that. I volunteered to give the first talk, on goal setting, and thought I’d put up a few excerpts here in case any of this is helpful.
Get to Know Your Process
What your process is: how you typically work best — speed (sprinter or daily plug-along), do deadlines help or hurt, with an outline or without, how much time do you need to bake an idea, how much time to get distance, everything everything. Do you write a mess and then fix it? Do you go slow and come out with something fairly polished? Do you struggle with procrastination? Is that actually part of your process? Music, museums, walks, naps. Whatever is part of your writing rhythm.
What it isn’t: How you wish you wrote, how the person next to you writes, how insert famous dead author here writes. Perfect and easy.
The best goals come from an honest understanding of your process. It’s the most important thing in your toolkit. Learn it, make peace with it (forgive it and yourself for not being perfect), and be prepared for it to change over time and between projects. If your process is working for you, there’s no reason to try to change it. If your process isn’t working, then maybe one of your goals is trying some different approaches to figure out what will help you do your work.
Because at the end of the day, when it’s you and the page, learning to trust your process will save you.
What challenges get in the way of your writing? Family? Work? Jobs? General inertia? Health issues? Mental health issues? Beating yourself up about not writing more or well enough? p.s. Brains can be jerks! Most every writer I know feels guilty about not working more or that they are only producing crap, even when they’ve done a lot of good work.
Challenges are important to identify, because sometimes we have to adapt our processes to work around those things; it’s not ideal, but it’s possible. And it may majorly affect the kind of goals you can set. I was never an early riser, but I had a day job for 17 years and so I learned how to write first thing in the morning. I sacrificed most every weekend. I don’t necessarily recommend this approach, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Let go of any guilt you feel about treating your work as important.
Set yourself up to succeed, not fail. One of the reasons I wanted to talk about process first is to make the point that goals are so specific and that what works for you is the important part of setting them.
Some good rules of thumb:
Don’t set goals that are outside your own control. We will talk about dreams and career milestones later — those things that of course it’s perfectly cool to want, but which are almost completely out of our direct control. So, for example: getting an agent or selling a first book (these two things are not the same, by the way) — those are not goals within your control. What is in your control? Finishing a manuscript and polishing it then researching and querying agents.
Jealousy in small doses can be motivating, but taken to an extreme it’s a soul killer. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Cheer for your community, be genuinely happy for and excited about other people’s achievements. Other people’s success is not your failure. Period.
Jedi mind tricks and process hacks: Find the ones that work to trick your brain into cooperating. If you are someone with a lot of process challenges or a tendency to procrastinate, one way to approach goals so that you get the double encouragement of meeting and sometimes exceeding them (and retrain your brain that this is a reward!) is to set a minimum goal. Rather than saying: “I’m going to revise 30 pages in the next two weeks,” if that’s an extreme amount for you, say, “I’m going to revise at least 10 pages this week.” Or it can mean giving yourself permission not to write that day/week/whatever; you’ll be ten times more likely to do it. For me, because I’m a weirdo with a jerk brain, setting an extreme goal can often motivate me to push through to prove to myself I can do it. BUT.
Figuring out your limits is important. Limits are often framed in a negative way, as something we have to push to exceed. But unless the goal is burnout, it’s much healthier to respect them. It’s also a lot harder for most of us. These may change depending on what’s going on in your life too. There’s no right answer: can you write 500 words a day? Two thousand a week? What’s your cruising altitude?
Sometimes — most times — it takes longer to write anything than we want or estimate. We forgive our process, remember? Life can get in the way. Sometimes you may need to set aside a work for a month or three to be able to get a fresh enough perspective on it to revise it. (Sometimes that may not be possible.)
Where a lot of writers run into trouble is not with larger goals. We’re pretty good at saying, “I’m going to finish a novel and revise it by next May.” Where we run into trouble is in the smaller goals that actually get us to the big one. Sometimes getting to a polished revision means tossing out a hundred pages; if it’s the right thing for the story, it’s the right thing for the story. Your hard work is never wasted. The danger is in focusing on the destination instead of the process. Holy overwhelm, Batman!
Monthly, weekly, and maybe daily micro goals can help keep you on track. So…what is a micro goal? It can be so micro, friends. Or it can be bigger. But the bottomline is: This is where your process actually happens.
Examples of microgoals:
- Make an outline or revision plan.
- Make an outline or revision plan of a scene.
- Write 500 or whatever number of words a day. It will probably help if you give some thought to what these words will be — unless you’re a pantser and then just sit down and give yourself the time and internet break to write them.
- Write X number of words a week.
- Revise 10 pages a week.
- Rewrite a tough scene and get it where you want it to be.
- Read a book that will inform the craft of what you’re working on and jot down some notes.
- Finish 40 pages of a draft this month.
- Day off.
If you sit down on any given day and it is or feels impossible — set a new microgoal. What can you accomplish that day? Maybe it’s just 10 minutes to plan what scene you will write tomorrow when you don’t have a sick kid or an emergency or a hundred words. And, hey, if it’s a day when you can’t even manage that — then give yourself permission to come back to the page the next day anyway. You do not have to write every day! Your process, remember. Nowhere is it more important than in setting microgoals. This is where dreams and best intentions meet reality.
Knowing When to Move On – Rejection/Failure
The stories we tell ourselves about our lives and our writing matter. Don’t be afraid to celebrate even tiny victories. CELEBRATE every achievement.
While most of you will probably be focusing on one main project at a time, it’s important to remember that no one project is your entire writing life.
So let’s talk for a second about what happens when we fail to meet a goal or when we face rejection.
I prefer to think of these in the context of: Failure and rejection means you were brave enough to try. It means you can try again. It doesn’t mean anything about your long-term prospects or even necessarily anything about the prospects of a specific project. But if you’re in writing for the long haul, there will be times something doesn’t happen or come together. The only real success is in moving forward. Great failure? You write through it. Great success? You write through it.
You are the only person who can bring your voice and perspective to the page.
Also, changing a goal to match reality is not failing to meet it.
Dreams or Career Milestones/Professional Goals
There are some things that are career milestones or professional goals outside your control, but that may be on a list you keep:
- Getting an Agent
- Selling a Book
- Publishing Another Book
And then there are dreams.
This is where those fantasies about the front page of the New York Times Book Review come in.
I encourage you to embrace your big dreams, the things that seem impossible. There’s a retreat I go to some years where we set one-year goals, five-year goals, and then pie-in-the-sky dreams. We write them down and revisit them the next time we gather. It’s remarkable how owning your desire for something can help you achieve it. Just putting it out into the universe. So write these down — again, you don’t have to show these to anyone. For yourself. Dream big. The three things that might happen in your secret heart of hearts: the bestseller list, the movie adaptation starring your favorite actor, the IP you would love to do.
But know that most of those dreams are outside your direct control and that’s okay. The important thing is to have them, but not to get hung up on them. That can keep you from appreciating the real progress you make through your dedication and hard work. Every writer’s journey is a fingerprint, unique, and an iceberg, largely beneath the surface.
We have to have egos to create, but we can’t let them be in the driver’s seat or we get nowhere fast. The work is what it all comes back to.
But, always remember, the work is not all that we are.
Go forth and meet your goals. Then have cake.
Related post: 10 Reasons to Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper
Things elsewhere on the Internet edition!
- I wrote for Salon on a recent episode of Cult Faves all about the Satanic Temple and its late unpleasantness (don’t miss this week’s new episode on Thursday, when I finally unload all the great Anton LaVey anecdotes I’ve been squirreling away for weeks and then I promise No More Satan for awhile). Snippet:
When we think of organized Satanism — if we think of it — most of us probably mentally conjure the winged eyebrows of Anton LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan back in 1966. But the headline-maker of note where Satanists are concerned lately is The Satanic Temple, and it seems to be embroiled in a battle for its own soul.
My inbox has had some good Satanic tea following this.
- AND Carrie, Rachel and I wrote a big process post about how we collaborated on Dead Air for long-time favorite site The Book Smugglers.
Carrie Ryan: The three of us holed up in an apartment with our editors, several packs of post-it notes, sharpies, and a wall of windows. We started out with Gwenda’s basic story idea, and three days later we left with those windows covered with what turned into the book. It was truly a collaborative effort.
Go check it out and get caught up on the podcast and serial, if you haven’t. You can get a 10% discount code for the serial at the end of the podcast OR go to redeem at the Serial Box site and use DeadAirBond.