Monday Hangovers (Lots & Lots Of Things!)

I'm almost in sight of being caught up–except for finishing the new novel revision, but working on it. Unbelievable! Or, rather, in honor of The Princess Bride movie's recent anniversary: Inconceivable! So…if I owe you a response or a guest post or something like that it should show up in the next few days.

There are many links today, so let's get to it:

Memefied: The Next Big Thing?

Today I'm doing something I don't usually indulge in: a meme. Author of the super-fab debut novel Fair Coin and forthcoming follow-up Quantum Coin E.C. Myers tagged me to answer "Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing."

It's up to the taggee whether they want to talk about their current book, their next one, or what they're working on now. I figure everyone who reads this blog knows all about Blackwood by now and I'm not ready to talk yet about the secret book I'm currently revising, so I'm sharing a little bit about The Woken Gods. Right now, it's slated for release in July 2013 (ack! less than a year!).

Here goes. Be gentle. (And I'll be tagging some excellent authors at the end.)

What is the working title of your book?

The Woken Gods.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

There was a man with a suitcase full of them and it was the shiniest. I could tell you where he was, but then I’d have to kill you. Okay, not really. I’ve always loved mythology, but am sometimes frustrated by books where the gods feel too much like oversized humans. I also really love high stakes adventure, secret societies, family drama, libraries, and books where our world has experienced a major shift of some kind. Add into that mixture some of the concepts explored in Lewis Hyde’s brilliant nonfiction book Trickster Makes This World and the result is The Woken Gods.

What genre does your book fall under?

Urban fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I am so bad at this, because I actually don’t stay that current about who are the hot young actors and actresses these days and I don’t use reference pics of actors when I’m writing. But, off the top of my head, maybe Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries could play the protagonist, Kyra Locke, because I do adore Nina Dobrev.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Ten years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke, all around the world. Now, in a transformed Washington, D.C., that has become the meeting ground for a no-longer-secret society and a council made up of the seven tricksters who are the gods’ main emissaries to humanity, a 17-year-old girl must find a mysterious missing relic and navigate intrigue involving dangerous gods to save her father.

(Two sentences. I cheated. Sue me.)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About five months. But that’s a deceptive answer, because I’d previously written a couple of entire drafts I threw out before I finally managed to get the concept and story right. (At least, I hope they are.)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh, I am really, really bad at this, and it's such a fraught question. So I'm going to go with American Gods meets Raiders of the Lost Ark*, but with a teen girl at the center and everyone aware of the gods and the society’s existence.

*Not a book, but go with it.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I think I already answered this one in the part about where the idea came from. Next!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Did I mention there’s intrigue? And scary gods? And smart teenagers? And flying monsters, secret passages, and a ziggurat somewhere in D.C.?

Next up: Go read E.C.'s entry, and I'm tagging: a fabulous writer I met while at the Vermont MFA program Rachel Wilson (you're going to be hearing a LOT more about her and her debut Don't Touch!), and two of my fellow Strange Chemists, Sean Cummings (Poltergeeks! Out next week!) and A.E. Rought (Broken! Out in January!).

See y'all next week.

Tuesday Hangovers & Nattering & You Want Some Bookmarks?

We had a lovely weekend with the Small Beer Press contingent–Kelly, Gavin and Ursula–and Karen Joy Fowler in town for the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Topics discussed included: should we be the first to cosplay or start a tribute band based on The Casual Vacancy (related: I adore J.K. Rowling; she comes across as the smartest and classiest in every interview she does*), socialist credentials, and ice cream. It was LOVELY.

A few links of note:

Fabulous books I have read lately: Meljean Brook's Riveted (another excellent steampunk romance), Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken (gothic banter, ftw), and David Levithan's Every Day (just gorgeous).

A few Blackwood things, including free-to-a-good-home bookmarks:

  • Nova Ren Suma is running a big international giveaway where you can win a featured debut of your choice, including Blackwood.
  • A Fantastical Librarian review: "It turns out I was right to be excited, but I ended up loving the book for completely different reasons than I'd expected. For it wasn't the historical elements that drew me in or the theatrical aspects of the story; no, I got completely taken in by the story's female lead and titular character, Miranda Blackwood."
  • Serendipity Reviews review: "I was totally hooked throughout the book. I really love how the author has interpreted this piece of history. An excellent debut where the author has taken a true story and completely made it her own by adding elements of magic and paranormal activity."
  • Also, a little reminder that if you've recently read the book, you might be interested in my photoset from our Roanoke Island trip and/or my pinterest board for Blackwood.
  • We're almost a month out from release now (ack! hard to believe!). It's a complete thrill when people get in touch to say they enjoyed the book, so please do if you're so inclined, and tell a friend, your favorite teen, a review site of your choice, etc. It is all much appreciated. We live in a complicated bookish world, and the best way to sell books is still through word of mouth. Thanks for any of that you do, and for reading the book. I hope I get to write lots more of them.
  • AND, finally, I still have quite a lot of bookmarks, and it seems silly to keep them in the box behind my desk. If you're a librarian, teacher or bookseller (or similar) who'd like 50-100 (or some other number), get in touch. (And if you know same who you think would be interested, please pass this on to them.) They are lovely–this photo doesn't even really show how lovely (Christopher designed them); in reality they are glossy and beauteous and fine, fine bookmarks.

Bookmarks!

And now back to my previously scheduled cold and trying to catch up on All The Things.

Updated to add: I've seen some buzz about the part about unicorns in this New Yorker interview–it seems like a joke to me? Frankly, I find the need to comment on her make-up and the pop psychology moments and intellectual snarberry (snark meets snobbery) as far more worth getting mad over.

Dept. Of Nice Surprises On A Friday

Thanks to E.C. Myers for alerting me to this glow-inducing Blackwood shout-out from extraordinary writer and bookseller extraordinaire Kate Milford in the latest YA for Grownups column at the Atlantic. (Read her work, seriously.)

The list is "Teen Reads Better Than 'Fifty Shades' " (which, yes, some cheeky people have pointed out is probably most of them…), described thus:

"With a nod to the "sexy" books that got us started down this road—especially the Judy Blume canon, and especially Forever—this time, we offer up some contemporary books in which Y.A. authors are broaching adult-ish topics in ways that are not just sexy but also are just plain good writing, doing it, we dare say, better than the hyper-popular E.L. James.  "Some do have actual love scenes like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Shiver, and Graceling," explains Angulo Chen, "but others are all about the emotional connection of being in love for the first time and giving in to those feelings of passion for a really breathtaking kiss, or an old-fashioned snogging session." With the help of her and some of our favorite Y.A. experts, we came up with a few recent and upcoming teen books to consider post-Fifty Shades. We're calling them the steamies."

Or "swoonies," which is probably more applicable to Blackwood, since the romance is more of the emotional connection, awkward moments, and nerdy conversation variety. Still, it makes me so happy to have it included. Anyway, go check out the whole thing! Seriously fine company. Friday made.

Thursday Hangovers

A few hangovers for today, little magpie links here and yon:

  • A good piece at Time debunking the "Moonlighting curse" and fingers crossed that Castle pulls crossing the great relationship divide off and puts that fiction to bed. Ahem.
  • Clear Eyes, Full Shelves on the Bowker study about YA buying habits. This is a really smart take, and I'm glad to see someone discussing the actual findings (that we can see without the full report; the misleading headline on the initial story did no one any favors). Scott Westerfeld was the first to point out (that I saw) that the study found adults are 55% of buyers, but accounting for 28% of YA sales. So teens are still buying the most YA books. The just-as-notable part of the study to me is the contention that adults are the ones largely driving e-book sales in YA. This makes sense. I'd also be very curious if when the summary mentions the early adoption of devices among these adults as being similar to the numbers among mystery and romance readers whether a lot of the adults probably *are* those genre readers, picking up a YA title here or there on their e-reader. I see all of this as good news, personally.
  • "The Internet, Fan Culture, and Creators: A Blessing We Shouldn’t Turn Into a Curse."
  • Laura Miller digs into some new research on the differences in the brain when pleasure reading or being analytical. Good stuff.
  • The Brave Tart (congratulations to Stella on her book deal as well! you will want this cookbook, people) on the reality of art as job, speaking specifically to people who want to cook professionally but very applicable for lots of disciplines: "The critics themselves, in kitchen memoirs or reality shows, frame the issue in romantic language as if they can taste the passion, or lack thereof, in a chef’s work. The chefs too fall back on this trope, “well, I’m certainly not doing it for the money…” On and on we hear, you’ve gotta do what you love. Put your heart in it. Love what you do. But however much you love it, let’s be clear: this career will never love you back. It can’t. It’s not a person or a puppy, it’s a job."
  • I love it when Jeff Ford cuts through the b.s. Snippet: "Fiction writing isn't about getting up on your soap box and lecturing the world about the way things should be. Fiction writing is first and foremost about describing experience. If you want to relay a big idea to readers, write an essay. If you want to write fiction, concentrate on what happens next. The secret to writing effective fiction is not to exert more control as you might want to in driving a car, but instead to exert less control, to take your hands off the wheel and let the characters and their stories lead you." Read the whole thing.

And a few of me-and-Blackwood-related things, but first thanks to everybody for the lovely feedback on yesterday's post:

  • I'm over at Narratively Speaking (thanks for hosting!) describing a day in my writing life: "Get up, have breakfast, coffee. If a really good day, exert enough willpower to avoid looking at email or twitter until after morning writing session. If a less chipper one, check these things and hopefully not lose too much time to them, then start writing. Note: I always regret checking, and yet I still sometimes do it. Especially if there’s a chance of news. The flesh is weak." Go there for the rest.
  • Jen Robinson's Book Page review: "Blackwood is an excellent choice for anyone looking for paranormal YA, mystery, or just something a little bit different. Unlike a number of other recent YA titles, the romantic elements are fairly low-key. I think this makes Blackwood particularly boy-friendly, and also a good crossover title for adult readers. Recommended for anyone who has ever wondered "what if" (13 and up)." (*BEAMS* Happy-making.)
  • Feeling Fictional review: "Overall I have to say that Blackwood is a great debut and one that has me excited to see what Gwenda Bond will come up with next. If you're looking for a story that brings history to life and then puts a supernatural spin on it, a story that will keep you gripped and make you desperate to uncover the mystery then look no further." (Thank you!)

Sometimes You Need To Hear It

Last night we went out to Libba Bray's kick-off event for her tour in support of The Diviners (out now in all fine locations) at Joseph-Beth Booksellers (*blows kisses*). (Rest of schedule here, and definitely catch her if you can. I'll be at the final event in December at Oblong Books with Libba and Maureen Johnson, filling the riff-raff position.;-)

Every time I go to a book event, I'm reminded why I always vow to go to more. Not just because it's nice for the author if there are people there — though it is; I've been very lucky so far not to have a crickets event yet (I'm sure it will happen) and so grateful to every person there — but because there's often a moment when something that's said is just what I need to hear at any given moment as a writer.

I'm not and never will be making any claims at being some kind of expert on writing or anything just because I have now published a book. I still feel just as terrified (if not more so) and flummoxed and full of questions when I'm writing as I ever did. At one point last night someone asked a question, I think about advice for writers (but it might have been a different one) and Libba said read everything (YES, completely agree) and also, "Be brave." Paraphrasing, she talked about how a writer she admired said once that during the first draft we protect ourselves, and it's only in revision that we can go deeper, risk more. And that every book you write should change you, when you come out the other side.

Yes, yes, yes.

The book I'm revising, I see this all over it — the protecting myself in the first draft. Much of it comes from the fact that, as usual, I didn't know the character(s) well enough in the first draft to be true to them. For me, so much of the first draft is just beginning to figure out what the book is, and making many wrong turns along the way. This particular book, which I don't want to talk about too specifically yet (hopefully someday I'll be able too), is near and dear to my heart. It's a bit of a departure (first person, for one) and the main character is something of a daredevil. I've been kicking myself because while she was daring, even in the first draft, she was also not daring in places where she should be — that's a lot of what I'm working on in this revision. Because true daring? Requires vulnerability. Dropping shields, being open to injury, to falling, to failure… It requires caring enough to risk everything.

Just as being the kind of writer I want to be requires being brave enough to risk all that, too. Every time.

A reminder I needed to hear just when I needed to hear it.

Quick Update (Cover Story, Giveaway Tick-Tock, & Etc.!)

As you probably already know, there are a slew of excellent books coming out today–Libba Bray's The Diviners, Rae Carson's The Crown of Embers, and Malinda Lo's Adaptation (which I just praised in the most recent issue of Locus), to name three. I'll be snapping up copies and you should, too. And if you're local to Lexington, the one and only Libba Bray will be at Joseph-Beth tonight at 7 p.m. to kick off her book tour. We'll be there with bells on (well, not really, because that would be weird and possibly loud).

On the Blackwood front:

  • I did a Cover Story for the excellent Melissa Walker's blog, in which you can get a peek at a piece of the art brief and hear about the first draft of the cover.
  • Fantasy's Ink review: "I loved the dreary and sombre feel of the book, the plot had me from the beginning and it was a haunting take on the mystery of The Lost Colony." (Love the reviewing style at this blog–she breaks down and rates each major story element. Also, *beam.*)
  • Always Lost in Stories review: "I loved how the two main characters Miranda and Phillips had to get past their fears and how they grew and changed throughout the book, especially how they grew to trust each other and rely on each other. I love a story with a slow building romantic sideline to it, and this book fits in with that." (Yay!)
  • Bibliotropic review: "If you’re a fan of creative and geeky YA paranormal tales, this is definitely one to check out." (Note: Slightly spoilery. I'll be doing an interview to run here soon as well.)
  • The Eloquent Page review: "The story does have a nicely creepy X-Files-esque vibe that is present in the entire narrative, this sets a good tone. The pacing works and the final reveal fits snuggly within the confines of the rest of the story…. If you enjoy supernatural teen dramas liked Teen Wolf or The Vampire Diaries then I think that Blackwood may be the book for you."
  • I keep hearing (cough) good things about the audiobook, which is happy-making.
  • Finally, today's the last day to enter the giveaway at Nova Ren Suma's as part of her Fall Debut Series: Handmade, supercute duct tape rose swag pen, signed copy of Blackwood, and some bonus bookmarks. Open until 8 p.m. EST.

Weekend Update

This weekend was a catch-up weekend, coming off the first week without travel (or a book party) for a while.  The office got cleaned, I read the (brilliant) novel of an old friend in manuscript, mountains of laundry monsters were slain, and we went out for a little light bookstalking, as you do. (Honestly, restraint to have waited this long–only because things have been so busy was I able to.) So, instead of a true and proper update, I'm annotating the weekend's instagrams…

At the local Barnes and Noble:

 

At B&N

 

(Blur due to furtiveness, as for some reason I was a little nervous about being caught Photographing The Book–though I have found as a general rule that pretending something is forbidden always makes it more fun.)

And then at our largest local independent, the venerable and amazing Joseph-Beth Booksellers flagship store. You'll see one of the reasons I love them so (*waves to excellent, fabulous booksellers*):

 

At Joseph-Beth

 

(Why, yes, those are Blackwood bookmarks in the books along the back. ♥♥♥ I'll be doing an event there at 6 p.m. on October 30; can't wait. I love Lexington and its literary community.)

There are SO many fabulous books coming out this week, keep my little paperback debut in mind when you're at the bookstore if you haven't picked it up yet? *bats eyelashes*

Yesterday I finally got down to business on making my real and true revision plan for the secretish new book I'm working on. I have a full first draft, got lots of feedback on it months ago, and am now 15K into making it a presentable book. So, time to make a chart, which is how I spent the non-reading part of yesterday:

 

Drafting

 

And the result:

 

Final chart

 

Now I just have to follow it for the next monthish or so.

A couple of people have asked for some elaboration on this chart-making process, so I'll try to do that soon. Basically, it encapsulates the major plot developments and character arc. It's something I've only adopted this year (after first encountering at the Bat Cave retreat), but I really am finding it crucial at helping me feel less flail-y during revision. And you can repeat it however many times you need to. More on that to come, in case anyone else finds it useful.

And that's it for now, I do believe. I'm digging into the aforementioned revision this week, catching up on other things, juggling the usual, hoping for good news on a front or two, and there are several friends coming to town for events of various varieties, all by way of saying I may be relatively thin on the ground this week. 

In the meantime, there are three open Blackwood giveaways still going:

Enter and/or spread the word. And there'll be one more super prize pack giveaway with the *last t-shirt* coming up soon. Also, the audiobook is now up on the AudioGo site as well, both US and UK, and it's a little cheaper there at the moment than at Audible/Amazon.

It's back to work with me. Have a good week, everybody.