Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest: J.A. Campbell and Summer Break Blues

Please welcome the brilliant and wonderful J.A. Campbell to the blog today. Her new release, Summer Break Blues, just came out and you should definitely pick up a copy ASAP! Read on and check out the vampire-y goodness :) 

Thank you all for joining me in celebrating the book release of my second young adult urban fantasy, Summer Break Blues. This is the sequel to Senior Year Bites and picks up a few months after it left off with Meg’s graduation from high school.

Vampires are dead… no one is reading them now… people have moved on. That’s what you hear from the industry “professionals.” HAHAHAHAAH I say. True Blood anyone? Vampire Diaries? Yep, we’ve moved on… into more vampires.

People have always had a fascination with vampires, from the myths in the Balkins about vampire pumpkins, to almost every other culture that has had some sort of blood drinking being. I don’t see that going away just because a few professionals say so. Humans have been fascinated by the concept for centuries. A few decades of “lots of vampire books,” certainly aren’t going to change that. To me it has just added fuel to the interest.

That being said, these days it seems like writing vampire fiction as a newbie makes you look like you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. Yep, that’s me… bandwagon girl… except I started writing vampire fiction back in, oh… 2000 I think. Way back when the Anita Blake series was one of my favorite reads and only a few of them were published. LKH and Kelley Armstrong certainly inspired me in my love of Urban Fantasy, before it was a booming genre, but I liked vampires before that too.

I think, just like any other popular genre, there is room for many more stories. Everyone has their own spin on things. Three of us at Decadent just published young adult urban fantasies with vampires, werewolves and all sorts of other supernatural creatures in them, and they are quite different. And Decadent obviously thought there was room for all of our stories. I agree.

What do you think? Are vampires dead? Or Undead as it were. Do we have room for more stories?

Meg managed to survive her senior year of high school as a vampire, and now she’s looking forward to a relaxing summer with her friends before trying to tackle college. Unfortunately, some unfinished business from the previous year rears its ugly head and Meg is forced to deal with the Sidhe who are distinctly unhappy that she killed one of their kind last winter. Then Ann’s parents vanish while they are on their annual summer vacation in Maine and it’s up to Meg and the rest of the gang to come to the rescue. Though she is still trying to figure out who, and what she has become, Meg and her friends feel they are up to the challenge. That is until things really start to fall apart.
Buy Links: 

Author Bio:
Julie writes fantasy novels. When she’s not out riding her horse, she can usually be found sitting in front of her computer with a cat on her lap and her dog at her side.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ranty-pants Time: Adults of the World, You're the Grown Ups

I know this is a blog for my young adult books, but I'm fairly certain a lot of parents read it too, so I hope the teens out there will forgive me for addressing the adults today. I think when I'm done, we can all agree it needs to be said, and said loudly.

Yesterday, while poking around Facebook, I came upon a post from someone that kind of set me off. You see, this guy's birthday (he's in his late 40s) happens to fall on Halloween. Cool, right? It totally is, unless you're his teenage kid and dear old dad decides to throw himself a birthday party on Halloween night. The teenager (who apparently doesn't live with his dad) decided he'd rather spend the night with his own friends and the guy was pissed. After all, it was his birthday and having his new wife and kids at his party was "the only thing he wanted."

Dude... grow up.

I'm sorry, but just no. So many, many shades of no. You are an adult and obviously no one has informed you that the world stopped revolving around you sometime about your tenth birthday. You see, when you hit the pre-teen years (sometimes earlier), you are no longer a cute precocious little thing everyone feels the need to pander to. That's about the time when reality strikes and you have to share the world with everyone else who lives in it.

The worst part is the dozen or so years of limbo in there where your brain says you're still the center of the universe but everyone else just laughs. It takes a while to come to terms with that, but in theory, it's supposed to happen around adulthood.

So now you're an adult and your birthday falls on a major holiday? Great. Go to the bar and try to get free beer out of the deal. Otherwise, don't expect everyone else to drop their plans to pay homage to you. Now, if you're known for throwing kick-ass parties of epic proportions, you might be able to get your friends to schedule you in because "Hey! Grown-up time!" But if you're looking for your kids (more specifically, your teenage kids) to say "Of course I'd rather spend time at your place with all of your friends on one of the few holidays that aren't more or less required family participation..." Good luck.

No, seriously. Good luck with that. If you have a fantastic relationship with your kids that you've nurtured since they were young, you might pull it off. Maybe. You have a better chance if you offer to include their friends so they aren't surrounded by "old people." (And don't trust that cousins or your friends' kids are going to be their friends. That's both arrogant and stupid. Get over it.) But your smarter move? That'd be to plan your party for a day other than your actual birthday/holiday. I know, I know, that's your day, but really, you can pretend you turn however old a day or two or even a week earlier or later. People will play along, I promise.

If you can't do that, you obviously don't remember what it was like to be a kid (other than that whole world-revolves-around-me crap). For kids, and especially teenagers, friends are their life. They have school (that tells them what to do and think), they have home (where parents tell them what to do and think), and maybe a job (where someone tells them what to do and think). The only place they just get to be is with their friends. That's important. That's how people learn and grow as human beings. (More than once, my friends saved my life in high school. Yes, they are that important.) Also, never assume you know what's going on in your teen's life. Odds are, you don't. There might be a break-up on the horizon or a friend contemplating suicide or the possibility of finally getting a chance with the girl/boy who will end up their partner for life.

There were comments from people saying the kid in question should have shown respect for his father by giving up the time with his friends blah blah blah. Personal opinion, in this instance the respect should have come from the adult and he should have talked to the kid about the fact that he wanted to do this party on a holiday. I'm pretty sure if said kid planned a date or party for say... Christmas or Thanksgiving, it wouldn't go over so well with the parents.

Adults need to learn to both grow up and get over the I'm-the-center-of-the-universe mentality while at the same time remembering what it was like to be young. You have to be an adult without being so old that you're out of touch. It's a sucky job, but it's what we take on when we become parents. It's kind of funny that for those first ten years or so when a parent allows their kid to be the center of the world, they are helping to build the kind of person the kid will become. Those next dozen or so years? That's when the kid becomes their own person. That's a battle parents fight at their own peril because every choice they make (or force on their kid) has consequences and shapes the landscape of their parent-child relationship when that kid becomes an adult and has children of their own.

So parents, please help your teen become their own person. Encourage them to make thoughtful choices, but don't condemn them when you disagree. Be the adult. Be the guide. And be wise enough to understand they might not always do what you want and that's okay because they aren't you. Also? If it turns out they were wrong and their choice bites them in the ass, be there to help them pick up the pieces. It might mean that next time they'll listen closer to you. And if they don't... it's still okay.

*Note: A message from the person in question said the teen had a voice in when the party happened, so that is an issue within this other stuff. However, the point of the post remains the same with regard to dealing with teenagers as the adult parent. Sometimes being the grown up sucks. Sometimes being the teen sucks. Sometimes they suck together. Life's messed like that.*
Also, to those of you doing NaNoWriMo this month, I wish you words of awesomeness :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

First Thursday, Second Thursday... I Miss YA

The new schedule kind of threw me and I missed blogging last week. Not sure if I should just officially make it the second Thursday or what. But I do promise to blog once a month, on a Thursday. Promise-promise. Pinky-swear. All that.

The other me has been busy. Like crazy-busy. I've been working on book after book after book, but all of them have been for the adult market. And I really miss YA.

There are still some projects in the works and on submission, but writing of YA has been on hold because of the adult projects. As much as I love writing romance and stuff for an older market, there's this pull to the world of teenagers and first loves and beginnings. I want to write about things that are new, not just to me and the reader, but to the characters. New love, first kisses, new worlds.

So, I think I'm going to--in my questionable spare time--toy with that YA contemporary suspense I started a while ago. I think I need to. I need to believe in new beginnings again, and that's something I've only ever really felt with YA.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Temporary Changes

I've kind of been hinting at this for a while now, but I'm finally having to implement things. I am temporarily putting the blog on semi-hiatus. (How's that for non-committal?) Basically, things have gotten really busy for me and I can't commit to blogging every week here for the time being.


I'm not going to shut up completely. (Like you thought I could do that. Ha!)

This should have gone up last week but, life being as it is, I was a bit overwhelmed last week and it got pushed back. So... officially, I'm only going to be blogging here the first Thursday of the month. I might do it more often than that, but it'll be hit or miss. Additionally, if I have news, I will be sure to share.

I don't plan for this to be a permanent change, but for the time being it's a necessary one.

As for today, I'm off to get my hair done (finally!) and then I have to spend more time being adult-me. And then I have to be mom-me. Hopefully soon I'll get to be YA-me again.

In the meantime, I've been pondering Alice in Wonderland a lot lately and this video always reminds me of a darker version. We'll see if all those thoughts manage to converge into something. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meet Me in Chicago!

I am on the train to ChiCon (or getting ready to get on the train... or already in Chicago). Either way, it's ChiCon and I'll be there. If you'll be there too, find me...

Saturday 10:30-noon (in Wrigley): Why I Love My Editor panel
Saturday 7-7:30 (in Addams): Reading (definitely my adult urban fantasty Kiss of Death, possibly a bit of something else if there's time and dependent on the age of the audience, I might do Pretty Souls)
Sunday 5-6:30 (in Toronto): Literary Beers with Seleste deLaney (where I'll talk magic, urban fantasy, corsets, steampunk, sex, and romance--and there will be beer--since there's beer, I'm assuming this is a 21 and over event)

Otherwise, I'll be bopping around like my normal half-awake-half-crazy self. Feel free to stop me to say hi :) 

Friday, August 24, 2012

How Many of Me Do We Really Need?

Adult-me is on a blog tour this week and next for a book coming out on Tuesday, so I'm a little frazzled and completely forgot which day it was. Anyway, apologies for the tardiness of my post here.

Most of my readers are well aware that I write adult fiction (paranormal romance, urban fantasy, etc) under another name. When I first started in the business, I had these plans of keeping the two personae totally separate. That lasted about a day on Twitter before I accidentally tweeted something about my first adult release on my YA account. Then I said "Screw it" and removed the very thin veil of secrecy. My thought was that my names were different enough there wouldn't be any mistaking one for the other, so it was no big deal.

Considering the PRT books are on hold temporarily and my other YA projects are in various stages of submission, I haven't had a lot to talk about here or on Twitter. And I'm starting to wonder if separating my worlds so much was really my best plan. Don't get me wrong, I like having the two names to keep things very clearly separated, but I'm starting to think two Twitter accounts is... less than useful. I've had similar thoughts about two websites (though I think that is less likely to change in the long run) and two blogs in addition to group blogs (which may just mean I decrease my individual blogs to every other week).

I think I'm going to spend some time talking to my editors who work with both adult and YA and discuss the possibility of "merging" my accounts. (Essentially putting both author names on the account but a screen name that works for both.) I'm still not sure it's a good idea, but I feel like I'm neglecting people by not talking on the other account. Long story short, it's making me sad. I don't need more sad in my life.

Like many things I don't think this will be a quickly made decision, so bear with me while I ponder things. And in the meantime, if you wouldn't mind keeping your fingers crossed regarding some of those other projects, I'd be incredibly grateful.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

YA and Digital Publishing

There have been studies on teens and their book buying habits. A lot of them. And recent ones have shown both that teens are reluctant to get on the ereader train and that digital sales of YA fiction are skyrocketing. They cite sales of Twilight and Hunger Games and the like. The problem is that those books are selling no matter what format they're in.

Not unlike erotica and erotic romance, a lot of adult women are embarrassed to read YA in public. There is an "I shouldn't read this" attitude that makes reading on digital devices "safer." So, the best sellers are showing an uptick.

A key difference between the erotica/erotic romance digital sales and the YA digital sales is that the YA sales aren't shifting to digital first/digital only publishers. At least not in the same droves. The problem is YA sales are dependent on actual teen readers. They are the ones who give books the push they need to succeed--they're the ones who make a book popular enough that those adult readers hear the buzz.

What that means is those YA digital first/digital only publishers have a daunting task ahead of them. They're trying to sell books to people who don't shop in the same way as their adult readers. Teens don't go hunting for new stores to buy books from. Which means unless the publisher puts a lot of money and effort into promotion, they won't reach that target audience.

What's interesting to note is that there are the occasional self-pubbed YA titles that take off. Whether that's because the author really knows how to target their promotional efforts or they hit with the right book at the right time or they sold their soul... (This is not to say any of those success stories are undeserving, merely to point out that there seems to be a gap in knowledge from those successes to publishers being able to mimic them.)

So, what's the trick? How does one prod teens to go in search of books that aren't hitting the shelves of their local bookstore? Books that aren't the ones all their friends have already read?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Remembering When

One of the things that I think can make or break a YA author is how well they remember and connect with their own teenage years. It's one of the reasons a lot of people right out of college do really well with YA--their teen years aren't that far behind them and a lot of the adult stuff is either new or hasn't happened yet.

I did a rather angry post yesterday at the Evil League of Evil Writers about life experiences and how they affect authors. One point I made is that everyone's life is different; even when we experience the same things, we likely will change in different ways in the aftermath. "Adult" experiences ("real job," marriage, children, divorce, etc) tend to pull people further and further away from that connection to their youth--unless they actively fight against it.

The book I was reading last week is by an author I've read for years. Over the last few books, I've really started to question her "YA brain." She had her female characters doing things and behaving in such ways that it made them (for me) stupid and rather unlikeable. Everything from the way a breakup was handled to weight issues to not understanding how someone could be hurt by betrayal.

Here's the thing... I remember being a teenager pretty well. Everything is bigger then. The highs are higher, the lows lower, and someone's world is going to end pretty much every week. At least this was my high school experience.

But all of us "got it." There was no "you two broke up three months ago, you should be over it." There might be a nudge toward the cute guy behind door number three, but not "get over it" attitude. When someone (male or female) dumped their girlfriend/boyfriend in a horrible way... people reacted. Sure, their friends might've stood by them. (And even there, sometimes there's irritation and anger. For example, I broke up with a guy--after a couple days--because kissing him felt like kissing a relative. My friends who were friendly with him as well weren't exactly happy with me.) But the jiltee's friends? No. They would want the jilter's head on a platter with a side of fries, thank you very much.

And, the level of this anger is in direct correlation to how long the couple dated, how long one wanted to date the other. Those things matter, and most teenagers (especially most teenage girls) wouldn't brush them aside.

Adults do that.

And the minute teen characters (no matter how responsible they might be) start to act like adults in those instances, they lose credibility for me. And so does the author.

I know YA fiction is hot right now, and a lot of agents and editors are dying for some quality middle grade novels, but... if an author can't deeply connect with that part of their past, it shows. It's been showing with this particular author for the last three books... maybe even four. The result is that I'm torn with continuing to buy the books. I'm emotionally invested in one character, but I'm not sure my wallet cares enough to find out what happens to him in a world where teenagers seem to have forgotten how to be teenagers.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Apologies for the lack of blogging. I was away last week, and this week... I'm reading a YA that is making me really angry. I'm trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, but last time I did that with this author, I was horribly disappointed.

At the moment I'm debating a post about the book (without naming the book) to discuss the issue that's plaguing me. Honestly, it's the only thing YA-related that's on my mind at the moment, so there's no post this week either until I get my thoughts in line on the matter.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Bullies...

In my past life, I was a high school teacher. Prior to that I was... a summa cum laude graduate, marching band member, choir member, statistician for the wrestling team, treasurer of the drama club, mathlete, and science geek. And those were the good years. In my younger years, I was... less cool than that. (Actually, as odd as it sounds, my high school years were awesome. I truly believe it had a lot to do with the school I went to as it encouraged activity cross-overs.)

The point is between my years of nerdiness and my years teaching, I've seen more than my fair share of bullies. And I've heard about even more.

Lately there's been a lot of talk on the internet about bullies on review sites--specifically GoodReads. The thing is... I think the people using that word either never dealt with bullies or forgot what it was like.

When children are in school and being bullied, there are a few things that they tend to have in common...
- Bullies attack outsiders. They rarely target the jocks or the popular kids or the rich kids. They go after those who are different or who don't have a lot of friends.
- The bullies hide what they do from anyone who can do anything about it. They don't throw kids against lockers in front of teachers. They do it when anyone with authority isn't around. They don't taunt their targets aloud in class, they whisper when the teacher is helping another student.
- They can't be avoided. Bullies are in the same school, oftentimes in the same classes, as their targets. Those students can't just walk away or pretend they don't exist because they are always there.
- They follow their targets. Bullies will wait outside practices to torment students after school. They will send them messages online to follow them home. The abuse is doesn't stop when the target leaves school.
- The people who try to stand up to bullies are often targets themselves. Bullies attack where they see weakness. That means that the only hope for targets is strength in numbers--something that rarely happens.

None of this seems to be true of the instances of "reviewer-bullying." Reviewers are, by definition, critical--it's part of the job. When an author (or publisher or agent or publicist) chooses to send a book out for review, they are aware of the possibility that there will be both good and bad reactions to the work... just like they'll get from readers when the book hits shelves. This is part of the gig.

Are some people jerks--especially with the anonymity allowed by the internet? Yes. Is GoodReads home to a lot of them? Also yes. There are reasons authors are advised to avoid their reviews. It's because even the "good" ones can sting.

The bad ones? Those are brutal. The assholes? Even worse. I've seen some of the horrible stuff trolls have said about books by friends of mine. They are vicious and nasty.

But here's the difference... the author and any of their fans has the ability to walk away from those reviews and foul comments--and never see them again. The "reviewer-bullies" don't seem to be following authors home or sending them death threats. The worst they've done? Gone on Twitter and mentioned their experience with the book and/or author. Contrary to popular belief, Twitter is not high school (or even elementary or middle school)--it's too damn big a crowd for people to just follow. One person tweets a bad experience? Even if it's re-tweeted by a hundred people, it's still only hitting a small corner of the internet. And that assumes there are a hundred people who are going to believe it on face-value.

That's not bullying. It might not be nice, but it's not bullying.

Also? There are a shit-ton of fantastic people who review books and blog about them and use good reads. A negative review doesn't mean someone is not a great person. We're supposed to be adults here. We should know the difference.

On the other side of things, authors need to learn not to feed the potential for negative publicity. I've seen an instance of an author responding in the comments to a negative review by posting all their amazon reviews as evidence the reviewer was "wrong." I've seen where people associated with an author have blasted reviews and reviewers on GoodReads. I've seen authors trying to discredit reviewers (though I'm still a little confused on how you discredit someone's opinion unless you can prove it isn't actually their opinion, but...)

People can disagree without it being bullying. People can have opinions without it being bullying. People are allowed to dislike each other without it being bullying.

To put it another way, if I went out with a guy who mis-treated me, you can be sure I would let all my girlfriends know. That doesn't make me a bully to the guy who treated me poorly, it makes me a good friend to those other girls that I've warned away from him. Some of them might choose to go out with him anyway and might end up liking him, but I would never regret telling them about my bad experience.

Instead of beating up the people whose reviews you don't agree with, either walk away from them or write your own very positive review. Be proactive rather than reactive. And for the love of all that is good, don't choose to become an actual bully in retaliation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sex in YA... Again

I've talked about sex in YA before. As an author who writes both sexy adult stuff and YA, I see a definite difference in how I personally approach things. I don't believe in shying away from sex in young adult fiction, but I write it differently than I do in my adult work.

To illustrate this, I have a niece who is thirteen. I let her read any and all of my YA manuscripts, and I know she regularly reads published YA with sex in it. A while back, she asked if she could read one of my adult stories, and I said no. Even without finding out whether or not my sister would throw a fit, I was uncomfortable with her reading a specific scene in that story because I didn't feel my niece had the necessary experience to understand what was going on in the heroine's mind (and it was kind of... violent sex). Anyway, this isn't a slam on my niece. A lot of adult readers hate that scene--in my mind because they don't understand the character. That's okay, but I'm not going to willingly hand it over to an unprepared 13 year old.

Turns out, my sister would have indeed been upset. My niece and I were talking book recommendations over the weekend and I asked my sister if anything was "off-limits" as far as content. She basically said "sex", at which point I had to clarify that she meant descriptive sex as opposed to "knowing it happened without seeing it." (I think she'd prefer her daughter read only books about virginal heroines who have no intention of ever being anything else, but whatever...)

The funny thing is, I'm reading a YA right now that is very sexually charged. None of the characters have had sex in it yet, but it's a major topic and a plot driver and very much viewed with want. I'm kind of torn because while it's a very realistic portrayal of how a lot of teens think about sex, it's... a lot. And it got me thinking: where exactly is the line between "okay for YA" and "too much for primetime?"

And yes, that's pretty much how I view things. If it can be on network TV before 10pm, it's probably okay for YA. After 10 or on cable? Odds are it's too much.

But the written word is different. You don't see body parts, they're described. The want is described rather than being viewed through the actions of the actors. So, can you get away with more description, where the viewing equivalent would push it to cable? When does written sex push from PG-13 to R?

I'm really not sure. There's a scene snippet in a manuscript I have on sub right now that I feel is very borderline, and that's with it described through the filter of a character who doesn't want to see it and wants absolutely nothing to do with anything to do with sex. (That virginal heroine? Yeah, her. She's just surrounded by non-virgins.) Another manuscript I have out has a sex scene or two, but they are very fade-to-black in nature.

I'm sure the line is different for every reader, but I'm curious. Where do you draw yours?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cancer Sucks

Yesterday I got to spend an hour on the phone with my mom. This doesn't sound like such a bad thing... until I tell you that we spent the hour talking about cancer.

No. There is no emergency or reason for panic (at least with regard to me or mine--at the moment).

The thing is, cancer runs in my family pretty hard-core. And today I'm going in for the first step in the process of getting the genetic test done to see if I'm at greater risk for breast or ovarian cancer. That meant I had to fill out paperwork on my family history with regard to the disease.

Here's the deal. I know, in my heart, that at least one of the two tests will come back positive--likely both. I've known since I was a little girl that odds are, cancer's going to get me. It was never an "if," it's always been a "when."

But it's different to watch that piece of paper get filled up. It only goes as far out as grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins. Of my four grandparents... three had cancer (two died from it). One aunt had it (survived). Her daughter died from it--she was the same age I am right now. Closer to home, one of my sisters is a cancer survivor. (She was diagnosed when she was younger than I am now.) Of the other three, two have had lumps removed that were thankfully benign. My mother did too. Of the two that have been tested--both have the genetic markers. 

It's a vicious, vicious, scary-ass disease.

Why am I writing this post today? I'm not sure. Maybe because it's a topic that people don't talk about enough until it's already an issue, and then the conversations start with "I'm so sorry..." Maybe because I'm more nervous about the test than I thought I'd be. Or maybe it's just because it's late and this is what's on my mind. Maybe all of the above.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

When Life Hands You Lemons

Sorry about no post last week. No excuse. It just didn't happen.

There's a saying that says: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I saw a picture recently that said: Unless life gives you sugar and water too, your lemonade is going to suck.

It got me to thinking about a lot of things. As some of you know, there have been... issues (it's a nice, innocent, all-encompassing word) regarding the PRT. The short version is life gave me lemons. Since I don't expect life to hand everything to me, I went off in search of water and sugar. I found some--yay! But the lemonade still sucks.

Basically, what the story boils down to is this--the PRT is going to be on hold for longer than anticipated. Sadly, I can't afford the vodka necessary to make this lemonade rock.

On the other hand, I have this other bottle, and if I let it age for a while it'll make a killer party beverage. So, as much as you don't want to wait and I don't want to wait, that's the option at the moment. On a high note (because even when there's no vodka, I'm a look for the silver lining kind of girl), I'm hoping that when the time comes that I can release PRT 2, Perfectly Human, the rest of the series won't be far behind. As long as I can find the time in between other projects to write them, the remaining four books in the series will all be released within about a 12-24 month period of time.

Will there be other things from me in the meantime? I sure hope so! And I promise if and when I have news, I will let you know.

To that end though, I may step back a bit from blogging. Not quitting, but not stressing over content every week. So, it might be normal post, or a video, or a movie review, or some sort of character sketch. And I may miss a week here or there while everything else in life tries to settle.

But rest assured, I am NOT abandoning Elle and Cass. The PRT hasn't disappeared, it's just taking a break and licking its wounds. They will be back.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Writing Cliques

People gravitate towards others like them. Sometimes it's common interests, similar personalities, socioeconomic status, gender, race... all sorts of reasons for it. In high school, we call them cliques. Funny thing is, that doesn't stop on graduation day. And it is very common in the writerly world.

In some ways, this is not a bad thing. You want your crit partners, writing group, etc. to really mesh well so that critiques and brain-storming and the like are as productive as possible. But there's a point when an author steps from behind those closed doors and into the public eye that the responsibility shifts a bit.

There are a lot of examples of this with authors-behaving-badly and spouting off in such ways that it drives away their fans, but what about subtler things? In order to have a unifying base, let's talk Twitter. Many, many authors are on Twitter. Some have huge followings, some don't. Some follow back everyone (or anyone who talks to them) and some don't. I'm not going to make comments based on that since you don't have to follow someone to talk to them.

However, some authors don't seem to get that Twitter is about interaction (and I'm going to pick--anonymously--on some authors whose books I adore here). If all you're doing is shouting into the ether, you're doing it wrong. Most people who follow you on twitter also follow your blog/facebook/website/newsletter... they're already fans. So shouting is pointless.

What's more annoying though? When authors throw out questions or statements that invite discussion but only respond to those in their little circle (the writing clique I spoke of earlier). Twitter is not the school cafeteria where your conversation is just you and your little table of friends chatting, or at least it shouldn't be. People are on Twitter to interact, and if an author chooses to ignore their fans (I'll be generous here with the one I'm thinking of) 90% of the time when they say something that invites discussion, it will serve to alienate fans. Yes, I have unfollowed authors because I liked their work, but I was getting really sick of seeing how they ignored their fans. Other people I know have stopped reading their work entirely because of this.

I've noticed another disturbing trend with big(ger) authors. They will start a Twitter event, whether productivity or character driven, that encompasses more than just their books. They will invite others to join in... and then within that event, they only communicate with those in their clique. Especially when it's a productivity thing (writing sprints, 1k1hr, etc). Those who aren't published and don't get mad words every day are the ones who need the atta'boys far more than some other author with multiple NY contracts under their belt.

The thing is, Twitter offers authors a really great opportunity to mentor fledgeling writers without the mad time-commitment. It's a type of support that is hard to come by these days and is almost a guaranteed way to make those writers (who are invariably readers as well) become lifelong fans.

So... I don't get it.

Sure, I understand the occasional @mention getting lost in the feed, even when asking for responses. And I totally understand not being able to respond to everything all the time (some of those people have thousands and tens of thousands of followers). But to ignore the opportunity to interact with all those people all the time in favor of hanging with just your clique...

Yeah. Not a fan.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Age Matters

No, this is not a post about how old I am. I'm feeling pretty young lately, so we aren't going to go there. What I do want to talk about is those pesky age guidelines. You know the ones they have for movies or that they've started putting on non-adult books? Yeah, those.

First off, I'm not a fan of them as a hard and fast rule. As they said in Pirates of the Caribbean (PG-13 for those paying attention): "They're more like guidelines." Or at least they should be. "14 and up" should never be taken as "appropriate for everyone over 14" or "inappropriate for anyone under 14." It's really just a heads up that it has some content that the average 14 year-old will be equipped to handle whereas younger readers might not. Simple, right?

Apparently not.

For those of you who haven't seen The Avengers (also PG-13), there's an exchange that goes like this (from IMDB):
BRUCE BANNER: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him. 
THOR: Have a care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother. 
BLACK WIDOW:  He killed eighty people in two days. 
THOR: He's adopted. 

The delivery of the line is spot-on and, in the theater, the bit gets a lot of laughs. But apparently someone has started a petition against Marvel over the line. If you read the article linked, one parent said: 
(his daughter, who is adopted, was not old enough to discern the humor behind the line.)

“I almost laughed, too; the line is well played. But the laughter stuck in my throat when all of the joke’s implications crashed down on me. My daughter never got for a second that it was supposed to be a joke.

“‘Are people laughing because they think adopted kids are bad? Am I bad?’”

Now, I'm a really lenient parent as far as ratings go, but we'll get to that in a minute. The problem is, the movie is PG-13, which for those who have ever paid attention means "Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13." (From MPAA) That means, you take your younger kids at your own risk. You, as the parent, have decided it's okay for them to see. The production company, director, etc. is not responsible for your child. Now, maybe these parents who are up in arms have kids over 13 who were traumatized by that line, but again, the parent is responsible for knowing their child and what that kid can handle. 

As for my children, we don't shelter them from much, but I know exactly what buttons not to push with them. My son gets very upset over extremely realistic violence against children. Pretty much anything else goes for him. I try to avoid "disturbing images" because I can see those inducing nightmares, and I really just don't want to deal with that. My daughter... doesn't really seem disturbed by much of anything. I make a point of knowing my children and what they're sensitive to. Considering the violence (including brother-on-adopted-brother, man-on-woman, etc) included in the film, a line that took all of two seconds to utter should not be the area of most concern. If your child is not old enough to get the joke, and is not old enough to understand when you explain it, then your child is not old enough to be at a PG-13 film. My daughter is seven. She got the joke. I can't imagine how old the child in question is. 

The same goes for books. My son (10 1/2) is out-growing middle grade fiction, and we are very carefully dipping his toes into YA. It's a fine line of balancing his interests with the appropriateness of content, but we're walking the tightrope together. Hunger Games, yes. Twilight, no. While he enjoyed Zombie Tag, I won't let him read any of Hannah Moskowitz's other books yet. Will he, at some point, read something he's not ready for? Sure. It's called growing up. And we'll deal with it when it happens. In the meantime, I love the age recommendations on YA books. Do I always listen to them? No. But if it says "12 and up," I don't even question giving it to him. "14 and up," I'm more cautious. That's my job as a parent, and I thank the movie and publishing industry for making it easier on me. 

What are your thoughts? With ratings there, whose responsibility is it to police content before letting kids get their hands on it?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Throwback Thursday: Music Edition

It's kind of funny writing YA as an adult. Silly things that are different now than they were back in the day and all that. Music is another part that kills me. I write to "soundtracks," but the music is... not necessarily what a lot of teens listen to.

For example, the soundtrack to Pretty Souls contained not one, but two, remakes of songs from the 80s. "Wicked Game" and "Islands in the Stream." Both were very different from the originals, updated and all that, but remakes nonetheless.

And then there's Memory Keeper. For whatever strange reason, the band that most speaks to me with regard to that story is Bon Jovi. Yes, I know they are still around and still putting out music, but I've been listening to them since they had longer hair than I do.

I'm not sure if I listen to "throwback" songs and bands when I write YA just because I love them or if it goes deeper than that. If the music and singers from when I was a teenager help me to tap into the recesses of my memory to harness a younger me. All I know is the one time I tried to create a soundtrack with all "new" music, I couldn't write to it. I completely lost focus when listening.

So, I'll stick with old school since it seems to work for me. And just for fun, a little Bon Jovi for your listening pleasure.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Looking at Some New Options

Last week I talked about decision making. At the time I was weighing things, I only saw three options. I took a deep breath and looked at what the first step would cost me.

The answer? Too much. This is a fact that saddens me on many many levels.

However, it also made me look at things in a new way. Option 1 was completely off the table. Option 2 could be done with some modifications, but I didn't really like it. Option 3 was never really an option in my mind anyway.

So, what's a girl to do when faced with that?

Make some new damn options.

Nothing is definite yet, but I think I know where I'm going from here. There are going to be people who won't be happy about it. My hope is that they'll understand I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. I'm hoping that by next week I'll have actual news to share regarding the fate of my favorite supernatural crime-fighters. Right now, I need to make sure Option A isn't going to kill me down the line.

Thank you, everyone, for your patience. I appreciate it more than you know.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pulling Up My Big-Girl Panties

Sometimes this writing thing is hard. I don't want it to be. I mean, I like writing, I like revising, I like editing. I don't lurve blogging, but I don't hate it either. So why can't it be as simple as writing a book, editing the hell out of it and putting it out there. You know, so I can move on and write another book?

I've been giving a lot of thought to self-publishing lately. I know quite a few people who have or are doing it and they're happy. They seem to be doing well. But I follow some of them on Twitter and it feels like all they ever do is promo.

Promotion is the single most dreaded part of being an author for me. I hate going up to people and saying "buy my book" or even "this is my book and it got a really great review from ______." I suck at that stuff, and I have ever since I was little. When I was a girl scout I was lucky if I hit the 50 cookies badge every year. And those were GIRL SCOUT COOKIES. Those things practically sell themselves!

So, I look at self-publishing and as much as I think some of my books would do as well (even with my crappy sales skillset), I'm leery of branching out in that direction. But... that means sitting on things I'd like to see out in the world. It means trying to decide what to do with some of my work at all.

This is not a pity party. I have it better than a lot of writers out there. Between this me and the other me, I have quite a few stories out. I have publishers who I like working with and who like working with me. But not everyone publishes YA (sad sad fact of life), and not all publishers who do YA do it well. Plus, all my YA stuff is novel-length which means it takes more work than shorter pieces. So, I can't put everything out when I want to. And, right now I know it's making some people not happy with me.

There's stuff sitting on my hard drive right now that I need to make some decisions on. Self-pubbing is one option. There are others. All of them are a little scary. But eventually I have to do something because even letting them collect dust is me making a choice. It's just the chicken's choice. So, I'm pulling up my big girl panties (because one should never fight demons in any other kind of panties) and staring down my options. Hopefully it won't be as hard a decision as I'm worried it will be. But I want to thank each and every one of you who has been patient (and those of you who have been less so). You're the reasons I'm staring down my demons at all. You're the ones who make the fight worth it. So thanks.

Now where did I put my sword?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I'm a Grown-Up Now. Really.

There's a funny thing about parents (being one, having them...). When I was growing up--especially during my teen years--I couldn't wait to get out of the house and away from my parents. Then I went to college (Yay, adulthood!), only to find out that while they couldn't enforce a curfew anymore, my parents still had control over a lot of things.

It took me a lot of years before I came to realize a simple, disturbing truth.

Your parents are never out of your life.

There's a window where their influence is small-ish. It comes between college graduation and having children. During that window, it's rather easy to only deal with them when you want (and/or for special occasions. Note: the fewer siblings you have, the fewer special occasions there will be.)

But once you have kids, all bets are off. Not only will your parents likely want a relationship with their grandkids, but your kids will want one as well. And you--in your attempts to be the Best. Parent. EVER!--will want that for them too. So, you'll visit more. And you'll visit longer.

And suddenly, that nice bubble you had carved out to be parent-free will get smaller and smaller. At first, you won't notice, and you'll probably even appreciate it. (Hell, there are some parts you'll appreciate even when the tiny-bubble panic hits.) But then the dreaded moment comes when you do something for you--like get a tattoo--and there's no bubble left at all. That look your mother perfected when you were growing up? The one that lets you know in no uncertain terms that you have disappointed her? Yeah. She hasn't forgotten that one, and now that she has wrinkles it is even more extreme.

But you get over that because it's your life and you like your tattoo. And for a while you think you're building your bubble up again. Not a big one, just big enough to breathe.

And then one day, you're talking to her all happy about the fact that your kid is gobbling up The Hunger Games like it's the best thing ever (seriously, the little man is skipping TV to read), and she responds with something along the lines of "Oh really. And now the eleven year old is reading the same books as the nineteen year old." Uh... yes? But it smashes the bubble all over again and you question your fitness as a parent. (This one took less time to get over than the tattoo. I will ALWAYS encourage my kids to read books that challenge them and their views of the world.)

So, yeah. Unless you cut all ties with your family, your parents are going to be a major factor in your life forever. Even if they aren't physically around, they color the choices you make. So, dear readers, a few pieces of unsolicited advice from me to you. 1) Come to grips with your parents sooner rather than later. 2) Savor those years where you have the nice bubble going on. Use it to learn to love yourself so you can withstand the bubble-shrinking assault. 3)Try to be the kind of parent that respects your kids' bubbles from early on.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Knowing All the Answers

I had a funny conversation yesterday, but to understand it I need to explain what happened three days ago. So, I already mentioned requests from RT and getting those babies sent off. I mailed the last of them on Monday (YAY me!). Shortly after, I told my betas that I washed my hands of the manuscript for the time being. That I didn't want to talk about it, think about it... nothing. Honestly, I love that story, but it exhausts me. So I was looking forward to a nice little break while it was in someone else's hands.

After that, I went to work on another (adult) project. I'm tooling away at it for two days when WHAM! out of nowhere, one of my betas calls me and says, "So... what about STDs?"

At first I thought I'd misunderstood. Then I realized what she was asking. After first chewing her out for making me break my "I don't want to even think about that manuscript for a while" vow, I proceeded to answer her.

You see, there is a fair degree of promiscuity in the manuscript, so it is a fair question. (And not nearly as random as it sounds.) But, it isn't one that was addressed within the pages. For a minute, I wondered if I screwed up and should go back and revise (and resend with apologies). Then I reminded myself of one of my cardinal rules of writing. If it doesn't advance the story, don't include it. Explaining to the reader why they don't worry about STDs does nothing for the plot. Nothing. So it didn't belong on the page.

However, the conversation was a good reminder that, as the author, I need to know about all the stuff that didn't make the page. In this particular case, I did know and explained it to her. Sometimes though, you get hit with a question you didn't think about when writing and you look a little like this...

So, I try to make a habit of (especially when dealing with anything that could be considered controversial) asking myself the hard questions in advance. As for the others that pop up? Keep good notes. Because if you get asked once, you'll get asked again, and there's nothing worse than being an author who doesn't know their own story.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When to Let Go

I'm back home from RT and all the madness and revelry that accompanies that particular con. If you've never gone and like being in the midst of a big party, you really should try it some time. But, it's not all play and no work. In addition to the fun, I posted a couple weeks ago about all the panels and official things I was doing. I also pitched a couple projects to a couple people.

Good news: They liked them and want to see the manuscripts. YAY!
Bad news: I have to send out the manuscripts. (Uh....)

You see, I've never been good about letting go of my work. Like most authors, I worry that there's something I missed, something that could be better. To feed that madness, I started going through the first of the projects on Monday. I caught a couple typos, changed wording in a couple places, but nothing big, nothing that screamed "Oh my God! You can't send this!" Finally, last night, my crit partner informed me that since I didn't have anything specific I was looking to change, I should just send it. Stop poking and just hit send. So, I sucked it up, skipped ahead and re-read the last chapter to see if I could fit in the anatomy bits (turns out, not without it being awkward). Then I closed the file. (I re-opened it a few seconds later when I realized I needed to write a synopsis, but that's beside the point.)

What I'm getting at is the fact that I got to a point where I was holding onto it out of fear. Totally irrational, silly fear. There's no reason to hold on anymore. It's either good enough or it's not. Clearly, based on the read-through, I'm not seeing any big things to fix. So today, I'll tackle that synopsis and send it off into the world.

Then I'll dive into the other manuscript. This one I have a couple very specific tweaks I want to make, but then I'm pushing it out the door. Its synopsis is done, so it's just waiting on me to make those few spots shinier. Barring any non-writerly madness, it'll be out the door this weekend. The point of all this is there comes a time when you aren't shining the manuscript anymore--you're wearing away at the finish. That place is the line between sanity and madness with regard to submitting. Learning to tap dance on it is far better than sitting it out on either side.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm Not Here...

I'm at the Romantic Times Booklovers' Convention in Chicago right now, but I didn't want to leave the blog blank in my absence. So, I figured I'd leave a couple videos that helped inspire the piece I'm toying with right now. Have a fabulous week!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Find Me at RT

Twenty-four months ago, I attended my first Romantic Times Booklovers' Convention as an aspiring author. Now I have Pretty Souls as well as three short stories, three novellas, and one upcoming full-length novel under my other (adult-author) name tucked under my belt. Tuesday... I leave for my third RT Convention.

My how times have changed. The first year, no one knew who I was, but if you wanted to find me I was be-bopping everywhere. This year... I have a schedule and a pretty hectic one. These are not all the events I'll be attending, these are simply the places I've committed to being as and author.

Tuesday (I will probably get in around 1:30. It might be a bit later as I have a doctor's appointment that morning--crappy scheduling choices FTW!)

  • 7PM-- Dinner with the Australian contingent (offsite) Thanks for the invite, ladies! You rock!

Wednesday (I don't think I can officially "check-in" until today, so sometime in the morning, I'll be grabbing registration stuff)

  • 2:15-3:15-- Writing Under Multiple Names (writer panel) in DaVinci A&B
  • 4:45-5:45-- Build-A-Hero Workshop (reader panel) in International D (Note: At least one cover model is supposed to be there to help out!)

Thursday (aka busy-ass day number 1--I'm also pitching in here somewhere)

  • Club RT (there is some confusion over what time, it may be 11:15 or it might be 1:30 or even 2:00--I'll update as soon as I see the official program)
  • 2:45-3:45--Steampunk Gaslamp Gathering (reader event) in O'Hare A, B, & C (Do NOT miss this one. There will be snacks and costumes and a fashion show. People who attended last year loved it. And... at least one cover model will be there as well.)
  • 4:00-6:00--Signing at the E-book expo (GunShyBadlands, and Pretty Souls will be available to buy through All Romance E-books. In addition, I'll have print copies of Pretty Souls to sell and sign.)

Friday (aka busy-ass day number 2)

  • 10:00-11:00--Plotters, Pantsers, Plotsers (writer panel) in LaGuardia
  • 11:15-11:45--Club RT appearance
  • Afternoon--Photo shoot with VLC Photography! (offsite)
  • 5:00-7:00--Carina Press author party (offsite)

Saturday (At this point... I'll sleep when I'm dead. Actually I may sleep in the morning :P)

  • 6:15-7:15-- Fan-Tastic Day Party (reader event) in Rosemont
  • 8:00-9:00-- Carina Press Cocktail Party (They are giving away an iPad 2--maybe 3?--at this event!)

In addition to all of that, places where I'll be to support friends and have fun (for at least part of the time) include:

  • Wednesday-- Ellora's Cave Step Up & Stomp Party (9-12) and the YA Midnight Slumber Party (11:45-1)
  • Thursday-- Clan McFae Faery Ball (8:30-12)
  • Friday-- Heather Graham's Night of the Stars Party (9-12)
  • Saturday-- Giant Book Fair (10:45-2), SOS Military Mixer (3:30-4:45), Candy & Spoons (5-6), Harlequin Dance Party (9-12)
Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Very Own Dystopia

I don't like talking too much on the blog about things I'm working on. You know... the books that might never see the light of day. I also don't really like getting political here. But the parallels between the book I've been querying and current events are making me twitchy.

You see, Memory Keeper was written over a year ago. It takes place in a world that has been ravaged by war, where people die between twenty and twenty-five, which makes reproducing early and often a necessity if there's any hope to keep the human race alive. So... bad stuff happens in the name of saving the world. Really bad stuff. Women (girls) become little more than broodmares, and when push comes to shove, after a certain age, it's far more important to save the baby than save the mother.

The thing is politicians are making me wonder if we are going to have a world like this before an apocalypse makes it "necessary." Things that are happening now:

There are more things. This is all over the news and the internet, and the hits keep coming.

But we don't live in a post-apocalyptic world where we're struggling to keep humanity alive--we live now. The idea that laws are being pushed that would essentially turn women into livestock is terrifying. What's next? Stonings? Burning at the stake? Scarlet letters? We are supposed to move forward with the times, not back. Women need to take a united stand for our rights, or soon enough the government could take them all away.

We're on a path to our very own dystopia. I hope we don't have to travel very far down that road before people stand up collectively and fight back. May we work together to stop this before ending it requires a revolution.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On John Carter, Marketing, and Dropping the Ball

Last weekend, the husband and I took the kids to see John Carter. With its huge budget and marketing costs, studio executives are expecting the movie to lose $200 million. (I won't get into the fact that the numbers don't add up but, yeah, it's looking like a big loss for Disney.) Now, granted, it's only been out a couple weeks, but with Hunger Games coming out this weekend, I don't think John Carter is going to have a long life at theaters.

Which is sad because it's not a bad movie. For an afternoon of popcorn and fun with the kids, you could do a lot worse. Yes, the acting could have been better (and they could have made Taylor Kitsch hit a dialect coach so he actually sounded southern), but it was fun. And FAR better than episodes 1-3 of Star Wars. (Sorry, I'm a fan of the series as a whole, but those three films almost destroyed my love for 4-6.)

What I want to know is...

What the hell was Disney thinking?

First, that budget... $250,000,000? There were no huge stars in John Carter, so unlike a lot of sci-fi adventure movies, the cast cost was minimal. Taylor Kitsch isn't a horrible actor, but even comparing it to the 2009 re-boot of Star Trek which had Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Eric Bana, and Leonard Nimoy. No, none of them individually was pulling down huge numbers at that time, but together? That's a big chunk of change. Like John Carter, it was a special effects heavy movie, but its budget was only $150 million. Why did they spend that much money on John Carter? Special effects rarely sell movie tickets.

Plus, John Carter had strikes against it going in.

  1. Timing. WHY would the studio put it out only two weeks before one of the most anticipated movies of the year? Honestly, Hunger Games doesn't even need much of a marketing budget. Love of that book and word of mouth will drive ticket sales. (Unless the movie sucks, in which case...) John Carter should have either been moved up a couple weeks or pushed back until the lull right before the summer blockbusters. (I'm pretty sure that's the reason Mirror, Mirror was pushed back from March 16 to March 30. It might not get a lot of screens, but at least it won't be shoved out by Hunger Games.)
  2. Marketing. Supposedly the studio spent $100 million on marketing. Other than seeing the preview a couple times at the movies, I hardly ever saw it. Not on TV, not anywhere, and I watch a lot of TV that would hit the target demographic. You know where else I didn't see much of anything about it? At Disney World--over New Year's. This is the biggest budget movie Disney probably has coming out this year and there was no push AT FREAKING DISNEY WORLD. WTFBBQ? Where is the Twitter push? Where is the facebook page? Where is the viral marketing that's so important these days? (I've heard more on Twitter about the Star Trek sequel than I have about John Carter.)
  3. Cast. Don't get me wrong, I like Taylor Kitsch just fine. He's easy on the eyes and not a bad actor. But John Carter didn't have any leads that by their name alone would draw a crowd. Look at Star Trek again. Hell, look at Hunger Games. With the budget John Carter had, there should have been a star *somewhere.* (The only names I recognized from the cast list were faces hidden behind CGI.)
  4. Story. Star Trek had the push of the original movies and the TV series. Hunger Games has a huge push from the books. But the books John Carter is based on are old (published in 1917). Most people (even sci-fi fans) have never heard of these books. That's problem number one. There's no push from a fan-base. Plus, the books are based on antiquated ideas about Mars. Truly, I was able to get past that to enjoy the film, but without some discussion of it beforehand by the people involved, it was more than a lot of people could swallow (especially those in the sci-fi world). 

I really hope all the predictions are wrong and the movie ends up making money, but it started at a horrible disadvantage. And the studio didn't allow enough time for word-of-mouth to spread before the film would be shoved aside by others with more buzz. If John Carter fails, it's not because it's a horrible movie (which it really isn't). It's because Disney dropped the ball.

*Note: Star Trek and Hunger Games were chosen for comparison because they were the first films I thought of. However, last year's Thor also had a budget of $150 million and included stars (and minor stars) in Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Chris Hemsworth, and Natalie Portman as well as fairly equivalent levels of special effects with regards to Asgard and Jotunheim along with the Frost Giants themselves.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Time for Change

Publishing is a strange business. For a while, publishers will snap up a genre because it's hot. And then they get too many and they're done. This happened with vampires, and werewolves, and dystopians, and... You get the point.

Agents warn authors all the time not to chase trends, and I don't think most people doo. I think it's more an issue of the idea coming too late to catch the wave. Take one of my current WiPs. I'd had the first seeds of this idea germinating for over a decade (yes, it was a slow-starter) before the plot and characters finally came together. Once it did, I wrote the entire manuscript in a month. 

The only problem is that it's a genre that already had its trend time. (Like... right now. The saying that the when the books start coming out, it's too late for your manuscript? Yeah. That.) However, there are a lot of people who are still interested in the story. I just had to do something to make it stand out.

So... I took a good, hard look at the manuscript and said "What if?" (again--since that's how most stories start). Now, I didn't want to mess with the heart of the story because it still spoke to me. And... I loved the characters. But what I could change was the world-building, and the more I looked at it, the more I loved the idea of the changes. 

As soon as they were settled in my brain, I dove into the revisions. One of the ways I know something really works for me is how quickly and easily it comes together. Even more than the original version, this story--with its new societies--works for me. 

So how did I work around the "trend" issue? I mashed genres. This manuscript is the first in a trilogy, and conveniently enough, there are three very different societies in the world. Each of the installments will focus mainly on one of the three until all are covered, and I can't wait to start on the next one. I hope beyond hope to share these stories with you because I think it's a tale worth telling... and hopefully worth reading :) 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Die, Damn You, Die... Again

I'm in the midst of doing some revisions to a manuscript. On the one hand, I'm remembering just how much I love this story and how in the main character's head I was when writing (this is the book I drafted last year in 31 days). This was major in-the-zone writing and I love it. I think the revisions are making it better too. But... I hate re-killing characters I love.

An explanation first. Those 31 days last year? I spent most of them crying as I wrote this manuscript. It's a very emotional story for me and so many scenes tore me up to write. But I was a sobbing idiot on the days that I had to kill a couple characters. Yes, I know GRRM--if he were ever to read this--would be laughing at me right now, but I think I understand where the difference lies between his perspective and Rowling's. (

You see, I kill characters all the time in my adult stuff. I even kill characters I like a lot. And when I do it there, it doesn't really bother me. (The adult story that affected me the most remains unfinished because it was so depressing for me to write. Not tear-jerking, just depressing, and no one even died on the page--only in the past.) But when it comes to my young adult work, killing characters sucks something out of me.

When I'm working on adult stuff, the characters are like my friends. Yes, I'd be heartbroken if my friends died, but I know that I'd pick up the pieces and my life would go on. (Sorry to my friends, but it's true. If nothing else, I'd need to go on for my kids.) But as an adult writing YA, those characters are more like my kids than my friends. And if my kids died, my world would fall apart. Hell, even if my kids' friends died and I had to watch them crumble, it would kill me a little bit inside. So when I have to write the deaths of characters who are so real inside my head that they fell like my own children, it rips my heart out and stomps on it.

I'm at the part in revisions where people start dying. In this world, death is a really common thing, but not the type of death these characters face. I had to "re-kill" one of them today, but that was the easier death. The harder one? The one that really screws with my main character's world? That came a couple chapters later, and the closer I got to it, the less I wanted to work on the book. This death--and the aftermath of it--tear so many things apart that I couldn't stomach the idea of facing it so close on the heels of the last one.

But I have to do it.

So tomorrow, I'm going to pull up my big girl panties and destroy the lives of a group of kids who live inside my head. But tonight I couldn't. Tonight I decided to knit instead.

So, yes, GRRM fans, I guess I'm adorable too. But at the end of the day, I'm okay with that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Following Directions Is for Sissies

Today's post isn't really about writing. Well... it is in that I had to write something, but it was a letter, not a book. So hopefully you'll bear with me.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll see me talk about my kids (The Boy and Mini-Me) every so often. I freaking love my kids. Not just love them because they’re mine but because they crack me up with their awesomeness.

So, it’s parent-teacher conference time and I’m buried in work and RT is coming… and The Boy’s teacher sends homework for the parents. We’re supposed to write a letter to our kid for conferences. It got pushed to the side and forgotten. Until today. Because, you know, it’s due tomorrow. (Procrastination for the win!)

Last year when I had to do this, I had to read the letter to The Boy at conferences. It made his teacher cry (because I’m all eloquent and stuff). So I sit down and say, “All right, I can do this!” For a minute, I debated trying to go funny and do a rant on homework, but I didn’t think that would go over so well, so I did heartfelt again.

I talked about sharing a love of storytelling and what a great brother he is and how he makes me realize that he’s the kind of person I want to grow up to be.

It was a very honest and true letter. I printed it out… and realized there were instructions on what we were supposed to write about. You know, things like what we’re proud of them for (did that), how far they’ve come (meh), and what their goals should be for the rest of the year (are you kidding me?). At first when I saw the instructions, I’d debated re-doing the letter, but when I saw that last bit, I stuffed the one I’d written into the envelope and put it in his backpack to take to school.

You see, teachers are like editors for our kids. They’re the ones who have to point out all the stuff they do wrong. That’s their job (I know because I did it for a while)—they are supposed to make the kids “better.” My job as a parent isn’t to tell him he needs to work more on capitalization and punctuation. I’m supposed to tell him that he’s a shining star because he busts his butt every day. That he’s gone from being special ed, title one, autistic to being completely mainstreamed and gaining ground on his autism every day and applauding the fact that he reads like a fiend. My job is to tell him how freaking awesome he is.

I’m not his editor. Not about this. I have to harp on him about brushing his hair and his teeth cleaning his room. As far as what he’s done in school though? I get to be his biggest fan.

So I decided to screw the “rules.” Because when he’s beside himself frustrated because things don’t come easy to him like they do to the other kids, The Boy won’t care about me telling him about how important proper grammar is. But if we’re both really lucky, he’ll remember that I think he’s perfect.

That’s homework for parents that I can get behind.