Butterfly Garden BIG NEWS!!!

June 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm (Book to Movie, Butterfly Garden) (, , , , )

Is everyone ready? Are we all sitting comfortably?

Come and Sit

Today we got to announce some AMAZING NEWS about The Butterfly Garden: it’s been optioned for film by Anonymous Content and PalmStar Media!

Beverly is Very Excited

LOL

You can read the official announcement on Deadline , but I’ll pre-empt a few of the most common responses (and answer some other questions I’ve gotten in quantity) below.

OH MY GOD IT’S GOING TO BE A MOVIE!!!

MAYBE.

The option actually translates pretty literally: they’ve purchased the option to pursue development. It might move forward, it might not (because as strange an industry as publishing is, Hollywood is so much stranger) but Anonymous Content and PalmStar Media have the chance to play with it and see where it goes. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a HUGE step in an exciting direction.

CAN I SEND IN MY HEADSHOT/AUDITION TAPE/FIRSTBORN CHILD?

No, no, and um…NO.

If this moves forward, I will have zero input on casting. Excitement is amazing and wonderful, and I hope you are excited, because this is awesome! But I will have absolutely no influence on roles or actors or anything of that nature.

WHEN WILL IT BE OUT?

See answer the first–at least point, we can’t even be sure it’s going to move forward, so let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Wish Really Hard

WILL THE BOOK BE AVAILABLE IN [INSERT COUNTRY]?

If it doesn’t come up on Amazon or your favorite retail page, the rights may not have sold for that territory. Best bet? If you’re comfortable reading in English, Book Depository ships worldwide! You can also e-mail publishers in your country and express interest. My Contacts page has been updated with addresses for foreign rights queries. Hopefully my creepy darlings will continue to make their way into the wider world.

CAN I GET A SIGNED COPY OF THE BOOK?

YES! (If you live in the US; sorry)

My local Barnes & Noble has it in stock, and can take orders over the phone for signed copies to ship out from the store. Because the books will be leaving from the store, rather than the warehouse, there is a shipping charge, but the books are signed and, given the pertinent information and a day or two’s grace for my getting in there, can be personalized. The phone number is: 1-402-393-6223, and store hours are Sunday: 10am-7pm CT, Monday through Saturday, 9am-9pm CT.

WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND ON FACEBOOK?

I’m sorry, but no. I do have an author page (sidebar) and you are welcome to leave comments or questions or messages there–it makes my day when you do! But my personal facebook is just that, and it’s for the people I actually know. Being online, it can be difficult to separate out what’s professional from what’s personal, but for my own introverted sense of well-being, that is a line I have to maintain. You are more than welcome to follow me on Twitter or tumblr or my author facebook, and I’ve got my e-mail up on my Contacts as well, but my personal facebook stays separate.

WILL THERE BE A SEQUEL?

Ish?

There will be a companion novel out next year, entitled Roses of May, and while it’s not a direct sequel, we will be following our Butterflies and FBI team for a time. The bulk of the story shifts to a new case, a new story, but some things don’t leave us so easily. Is it surprising if Butterflies have a way of lingering?

 

One more thing.

THANK YOU!!!

For all your reviews, your conversations, emails, comments, tweets, your enthusiasm and the way you’re talking it up, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. You’re amazing. The response to this book has absolutely blown me away and I am so, so grateful.

ThorWink

More news as I learn it!

Cheers,

Dot

 

 

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Book Signing and B-Fest!

June 6, 2016 at 4:16 pm (A Wounded Name, Appearances) (, , , , , , )

That’s right! There’s going to be an in-person type thing!

 

So some of you may have seen on social media or in stores that every Barnes & Noble store is participating in the first ever B-Fest, a national teen book festival, and it’s happening THIS WEEKEND (June 10-12). There is a ton going on at every store and, in addition to the national events, there are author signings all over the place. It’s going to be a ton of fun!

Why am I posting about this? Well, partly because I think it’s going to be awesome, partly because I’ll be working some of the events as a bookseller, and partly because I’ll be holding a signing! So here’s a break-down of events.

FRIDAY JUNE 10: 7 pm B- IN THE KNOW

Think you know YA? Put yourself to the test with our Trivia Blast, created by Penguin Teen and Random House’s First in Line. One winner in each store will spend the next year receiving advance reader’s copies of the hottest new teen titles, plus there’s swag!

 

SATURDAY JUNE 11: 11 am B- FIRST

There are so many amazing titles coming out, and you can be among the first to see them! Get samplers and sneak peeks from some of your favorite authors, including a Maze Runner prequel from James Dashner, new stories from Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children (don’t forget the movie of the first book, out this year!), and others! Other exciting giveaways are in the works, and the publishers sent some pretty awesome stuff.

 

SATURDAY JUNE 11: 2pm B- PART OF THE FUN

Settle in for a great time, as we unload spelling showdown, story ball, games, and activities, with even more prizes. Guys, I’ve seen the author coloring book. It’s amazeballs.

 

SUNDAY JUNE 12: 2pm B- CREATIVE

Learn how to develop your story in a workshop created by Adaptive Studios and find out more about this awesome publisher and their dual-media projects.

And me!

I’ll be at the Crossroads Barnes & Noble in Omaha to lead the workshop on Sunday (among other things) and it’ll round out with a signing for A WOUNDED NAME. To address the question that may or may not come up: we’ve got THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN on order and hopefully it will be there as well, but the focus will be on A WOUNDED NAME because it’s actually the teen book. (Teen book, teen book fest…you know.) But if our timing from when the book hit the warehouse works out well, we’ll have both books there for those who are interested.

Authors are booked at locations all over the country–call your local Barnes & Noble or check them out on twitter, facebook, or instagram to find out who’s coming to the stores near you. You can also check out #BFESTBUZZ, @bnbuzz, or visit bn.com/b-fest.

While this is primarily intended for young adults, the adults young at heart are welcome to join in the fun. The weekend is a fantastic opportunity for fans to come together and celebrate all the awesomeness that is the teen book scene. Hope to see you there!

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Butterfly Garden Goodreads Giveaway!

May 7, 2016 at 9:18 pm (Butterfly Garden, Giveaway, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I told you I’d be back with more exciting news.

So, those of you familiar with Goodreads are probably aware that they have giveaways running at all times, and there is now one open for 20 print copies of THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN.

That’s right. 20 copies.

It is US only, but still. So far it’s pretty good odds. If you have a Goodreads account, or want to sign up for one (it’s free! and awesome!) you can enter to win here. The giveaway runs through the official release date of June 1st.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

(Different book; comparable body count)

ALSO.

The wunderbar team at Thomas & Mercer put together another video where you can watch me be all awesome self-conscious and proud of my book. This video gives you a look at all six of May’s Kindle First selections.

On a more serious note:

If you read THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN (or, really, ANY BOOK, mine or not) please take a few minutes to leave a review on some of the major sites. It could even be the exact same review copy/pasted across sites. It seems a silly thing, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t make your purchasing decisions off of what other people are saying, but it’s astonishing how much the reviews help. They don’t simply encourage (or dissuade) people who may be on the fence about reading a particular book.

The number of reviews on an item also influence the visibility of that item. The more reviews there are, the more that book, that author, gets seen.

Maybe it sounds silly, but it’s really huge, and can make a difference not just in that one book’s sales, but also in whether or not that author is able to sell more titles in the future.

The single best thing you can do if you want more books from an author is to talk about it. Leave a review. Leave reviews across multiple sites. Tell your friends, your family, your co-workers, the creepy guy at lunch who always asks you what you’re reading in a tone that says you’re supposed to be paying attention to him instead. (Hint: you’re not, but imagine the reaction if you start gushing about certain kinds of books. I’ve done this. It’s amazing.)

Also up there on the list of very helpful things are: A) buying the book, if you can, and B) borrow the book from a friend or the library if you can’t buy it, followed by C) for the love of God, do not pirate the book. I get that it’s free (but so’s the library!) and easy (so’s the library!) and don’t involve human interaction (you can download e-books from the library online!), but piracy is a career-killer. If a book is stolen more than it’s purchased, that author is going to have a very hard time getting another contract.

Plus it’s, you know, illegal.

So if you love a book, hate a book, possess ambivalent opinions of a book, think a book makes a really fantastic coaster, talk about it. Please leave reviews, not just for me, but for all the books you read, just a few lines can help so much.

Just three more weeks to general release!

Cheers,

Dot

 

 

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Want to Read Butterfly Garden Early?

May 3, 2016 at 9:46 am (Butterfly Garden) (, , , )

Some of you can! If you have Amazon Prime or Kindle First in the US, UK, or Australia.

BUTTERFLY GARDEN was selected for the Kindle First program, so it is one of six titles offered a month ahead of publication date for anyone with subscriptions to Prime or First, AND it’s offered at a free or reduced rate. Depending on which program you’re in, you get it for free, or for just $1.99, which is a pretty awesome price for almost any ebook.

But for one you can’t otherwise read for another month?

It’s amazing!

So check it out! And if you do read it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon a/o Goodreads; you’d be surprised at how much they help authors, especially in the first weeks of a release.

Hope you enjoy, and if you don’t get to read it now? Don’t worry! June 1st is not that far away.

 

Oh, God. June 1st isn’t that far away.

 

*joking*

 

Cheers!

Dot

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Follow the Butterflies

April 30, 2016 at 9:24 pm (Butterfly Garden) (, , , )

We’re one month away from the release of THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN, and I don’t know about you guys, but I am really excited!

I have more announcements on the way, as we pull closer to June 1st, but for now…want to know a little more about the book?

Back in March, Thomas & Mercer invited me to film a video short describing my book in fifteen seconds. Have you ever tried to describe your favorite back in that short an amount of time? IT’S NOT EASY. Now try it with one you wrote*.

*Hint: IT’S EVEN HARDER.

BUT! Largely thanks to a wonderful filming team, the mission was successful! And now you can watch (and even watch me crack up with relief!)

So are you as excited as I am?

Come back around through the next few weeks for more news!

 

Cheers,

Dot

 

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A First Look at The Butterfly Garden

March 17, 2016 at 7:36 pm (Butterfly Garden) (, , , , )

I think I’ve finally reached the point where I can’t bring myself to apologize for radio silence anymore. It’s just kind of what it is. BUT! I have news!

 

On the heels of THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN, another book sold! Coming next year, the Butterflies will have a companion novel, following our favorite FBI team as an old case comes back to haunt them when a young woman starts looking into her sister’s murder. I am *extremely* excited about this one, provided I can ever figure out how to write it. Turns out, writing a book after the fact is a very, very different thing than writing it before the sale.

Also, THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN will be coming out in Germany! It’s in translation now, but it’s expected out later this year, and I will be good and give you all that information as soon as it becomes available. There’s some other exciting stuff in the works, so expect even more announcements in the nearish future! (I know, you’ll actually hear from me more than twice this year. Isn’t that crazy?)

And the best piece, at least for today, I HAVE A COVER! When we started looking at cover ideas, this was the first one, and I think we all latched onto it immediately as YES THIS IS IT WHO THE HELL WAS SACRIFICED TO THE COVER GODS TO ACHIEVE THIS MASTERY?! So, you know, we’re rather fond of it.

Hutchison-TheButterflyGarden-21825-CV-FT-V5

It’s simple, and striking, and ever so slightly ominous, and if that doesn’t entirely encapsulate the book, nothing does.

Drop a line below, tell me what you think!

Cheers!

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A New Book! Meet BUTTERFLY GARDEN

June 30, 2015 at 11:36 am (Butterfly Garden, Writing) (, , , , )

After far too long of silence or really freaking depressing news, I finally have some wonderful to share!

ArmitageRight

…with the help of gifs, of course, because why not?

I HAVE ANOTHER BOOK COMING OUT!!!

There isn’t an official-type announcement, but I did get the go ahead to say that my next book, BUTTERFLY GARDEN, has sold to Alison Dasho at Thomas & Mercer, and should be meeting the world early-ish next year.

YESSSS

BUTTERFLY GARDEN is actually an adult book (I know, weird, right?), and to the end of my days I may never figure out just where this story came from. That is probably a good thing. As giddy as I am, I’m also incredibly nervous. Maybe because a second book creates very different expectations than a debut, maybe because it’s adult instead of YA, probably because it’s a much creepier part of my brain that I’m introducing to the world with this.

River Fear

How does your garden grow?

with pretty maids all in a row…

All houses have secrets, but some are darker than others. When the FBI discovers the macabre collection of a sociopath, they try to piece together a crime they never could have imagined, with the reluctant help of a survivor who knows the story is far more than simply ‘what happened’.

Getting the story out of her? Well, that’s a different matter, and it leads some to wonder just what her role in this twisted garden might have been.

It's Gonna Be Fun

It’s been a while since A WOUNDED NAME sold (three years and change?) and I’ll admit, I was starting to feel a little hopeless. No matter how much hope and determination and patience you have, you hit stretches where you start to feel….well…

Sadness

But the amazing Sandy Lu persevered, and voila! BUTTERFLY GARDEN! I cannot wait to share more with you about this scary brain-child. In the midst of all the crazy and frustrating still controlling the rest of my life, this news is a much-needed celebration and shot of joy to carry me onward.

So dance if you want to! I know I am!

Dancing Queen

Twirl

Hardly Breathing

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Book Review: The Apple Throne, by Tessa Gratton

June 4, 2015 at 12:28 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

There’s only one person in the whole world who remembers the famous prophet Astrid Glyn: The Berserker Soren Bearstar.

Ever since Astrid agreed to give up her life, her name, and her prophetic dreams to become Idun the Young, who protects the apples of immortality in a secret mountain orchard, she’s been forgotten by everyone. Everyone except Soren.

For the last two years, he’s faithfully visited her every three months. Then one day he doesn’t come. Though forbidden to leave the orchard, Astrid defies the gods to find Soren. But ancient creatures are moving beneath the country. Astrid’s quest might be the key they need to leave the shadows behind forever.

Not-quite-a-goddess, but no longer only a girl, Astrid finds herself in a situation here fate–and not just her own—lies in the balance. Is there a way to save herself and those she loves, or will this choice unravel the ancient magic holding the nine worlds together?

(from back of book)

The Apple Throne

This is the fourth and final installment in The United States of Asgard, following The Lost Sun, The Strange Maid, and the novella collection The Weight of Stars. In a United States where the new world was settled was settled by the Norse and their gods, berserkers form packs to serve Odin Allfather, the army looks to Thor Thunderer, and the seething dances of Freya’s prophets pluck the strings of fate for answers and possibilities. It is our world but not, familiar and known but woven through with new vitality.

I adored The Lost Sun. It’s where we meet Astrid and Soren, a famous prophetess and a berserker who would really like to NOT be a berserker, as they search for the god Baldur, who didn’t wake up from death quite where he was supposed to. It’s a fantastically rich world with strong, vibrant characters, and if you don’t come out of it with a puppy love crush on Soren, there might be something wrong with you. Despite fears to the contrary, because middle books usually bore me, The Strange Maid was EVEN BETTER. Signy Valborn, who’s been promised to the Allfather as a Valkyrie since she was a child, has a riddle to solve before she can take her place. I love Signy. Fierce, prickly, angry, unapologetic, half-mad Signy, who doesn’t care if she’s liked so long as she can serve, and whose heart’s desire may be the thing that destroys her. I was looking forward to the conclusion like woah.

And then Random House cancelled the series.

It happens sometimes, and it pretty much always sucks, but what we as readers tend to forget is that publishing is a business. Sometimes businesses make decisions that their consumers don’t like, but it protects their bottom line so we just have to deal with it. So, when Tessa said she was self-publishing the novellas and the conclusion, I was thrilled. Self-publishing to create a good product is not easy, quick, or cheap. There is a great deal more involved in the process than most people give credit for. What came out was a beautiful package, a well-crafted product, and an amazing conclusion.

If Soren’s journey was about accepting himself, and Signy’s about anchoring herself, then Astrid’s journey is about making herself. Massively oversimplified, of course, but still true. What she has been all her life is gone, lost by her choice to join the gods, and yet her godly identity is neither truly her nor truly godly. The prophet who once danced the webs of fate and plucked the strings to see possibilities is now outside the binds of fate altogether, able to influence but not to be seen. Her journey may start by looking for Soren, but along the way she finds a great deal of herself, finding the places Astrid and Idun intersect.

There is so much to love in this book, but I think one of my favorite elements may be the introduction of characters from the novellas. Amon Thorson is a bastard son of Thor trading items pretty comfortably on the wrong side of illegal. But then, when your step-mother is the goddess of marriage, your life starts out awkward and just goes downhill from there. Unless you’re Amon’s sister Gunn-Elin, who dedicates herself to her step-mother’s priesthood and finds purpose within the ossuary.

Then there’s Thor’s best hunter, Sune Rask, who has a complicated history with Amon, and there’s Signy. Signy with her abruptness and her consuming fury and sorry and complete lack of shame for any of it. You don’t have to have read the novellas to understand the new characters, but there’s definitely some virtue is doing so. As people previously unknown to Astrid, or known only through rumor or story, they help her define the changes in herself the way more familiar characters wouldn’t be able to.

 

If you love Norse mythology or alternate history, if you love journeys of discovery, if you love witty banter and irreverent bobble-heads, definitely check out this book. But, make sure you read the first two. The novellas add without detracting, but the histories of Soren, Astrid, and Signy are definite must-reads, not simply because they’re awesome but because they build directly into our understanding of how these people grow and change. These books will be on my re-read list again and again and again in the years to come.

 

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Audio Book Review: Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

April 28, 2015 at 8:20 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Audio books have not, traditionally, been kind to me. They’ve just never meshed with my particular manifestation of ADD. Sitting and just *listening* to something inevitably makes me drift away-it made lecture classes a unique breed of hell in college. Lately, though, I’ve discovered that I do pretty well listening to books I’ve already read and loved, as long as I’m doing something else at the same time, like cleaning/packing, driving, crafting, or leveling up in video games. This weekend, I listened to Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Beauty Queens

I reviewed the book a few years ago, when it first came out, and it’s absolutely hysterical and subversive and thought-provoking and fantastic. I loved it.

And now, having listened to the audio book, I might get down on my knees and worship it a little.

One of the unavoidable problems with audio books is that you HAVE to have a good narrator or actors (I do have a love of full cast audio, a la Tamora Pierce or Brian Jacques). A bad narrator can absolutely kill a good book, but it is extremely difficult to find people who can read consistently over long periods of time (weeks, in many cases, to get enough good takes to edit together), read clearly without over-doing it, AND do distinct voices for characters without shredding your ears. (Example: I recently listened to the first Harry Potter narrated by Jim Dale, and think he does an amazing job–except for Hermione, whose voice made me want to retch with every line) It’s a challenge, and there are many, many audio books that fail to meet this challenge sufficiently.

I am VERY happy to say that Beauty Queens is not one of those.

It’s narrated by Libba Bray–you don’t often find authors reading their own books outside of non-fiction–and she does an AMAZING job. Nearly every voice is distinct, and those that aren’t belong to characters who are, by design, not particularly distinct to begin with. Even heavily accented characters, like the very Miss Texas, or the British-inflected Indian Miss California, don’t lose clarity. The regional dialects are respected, and for the most part (MOST part) not made outlandish. When they are, it’s because that’s the joke. I think the only character voice I had any issue with was Adina (Miss New Hampshire) who had a bit of a flat affect that made it difficult to hear sometimes, but that flatness fit her character so well it was easy to forgive.

This is a rare example of an audio book that can actually give you a little more than the book itself. Part of that comes from fantastic sound effects, like background for the commercial breaks, little chimes for the forty-something footnotes (seriously, footnotes; only novel other than Good Omens where they fit so perfectly), and every single character that mentions a trademarked item gives a high-pitched, sing-song TM after the full product name. A larger part of it, though, comes from being as close to inside the author’s head as it’s possible to be. Here, in the very purposeful choices of delivery, we get unexpected depths to characters who already had the ability to surprise.

One of the strongest elements of that came out in Taylor Renee Crystal Hawkins (aka Miss Texas). She’s a huge personality, completely dedicated to the Miss Teen Dream pageant and a set of very stereotypically Texas ideals. She’s meant to be larger than life, and she absolutely is–but listening to her, rather than reading her, also gives more of an edge to what is, ultimately, a profoundly sympathetic and pitiable character. The performance of Taylor’s break with an already fragile reality is exquisitely performed. Tiara, Miss Mississippi, is still sweet and sincere and too stupid to breathe, but we hear more of that sweetness, and the uncertainty just beneath it. Her obliviousness, and her simple joys and the growth she makes as a character, all come through so much stronger with Libba Bray’s performance.

And then there’s Ladybird Hope. A veteran (dare I say dowager queen?) of the Miss Teen Dream Pageant, a sponsor of the pageant, a corporate superstar, and presidential hopeful, there was always something in her that came off strongly reminiscent of Sarah Palin in the book. Given that the voice was only in my head, it was easy to shrug off that resemblance as pure coincidence. With the audio book? It is definitely not a coincidence. There were many places in this book where I nearly hurt myself laughing, but it was a definite risk EVERY TIME we heard from Ladybird Hope. Really just THE definition of painfully funny.

Beauty Queens is a ridiculous, high-strung journey into the absurd, stretching the absolute limits of plausibility, but travels through genuine, thought-provoking regions of gender and femininity and what those concepts actually mean. It’s a phenomenal book that I love to push into people’s hands, either to start the conversation or continue the discussion, and the audio presentation not only lives up to that love, but quite possibly surpasses it. Even for those like me who love the book, I strongly recommend the audio for your rereading enjoyment. And many congratulations to Ms Bray for taking an already phenomenal book and leading it to make even more of an impact.

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2015: Looking Forward

January 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm (Personal Real Life) (, , , , )

In a weird kind of way, this is my first day of 2015. Whether it makes sense or not, my brain goes less by date than by clump- the new year doesn’t start until major events of the previous year have finished, even if it takes them a couple of extra days. So for me, today is the first day of a new year, because yesterday–with my mom’s memorial service–is still part of last year.

If that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, that’s perfectly okay. I am well aware I have a sideways way of looking at the world. It’s at least half the reason I write.

But it occurred to me, somewhere between eating cookies for breakfast and trying to decide if a migraine meant I could go to bed at five without feeling guilty, that I should probably take a look at the year ahead. In some ways, it feels like that’s ALL I’ve been doing, trying to plan, trying to guess, trying to be prepared without ever being able to pin anything down.

I guess I make it a little easier because I don’t do New Years Resolutions.

I am absolutely not out to insult or offend anyone who DOES do NYRs, I just personally find them a little silly. If I want to make a change, why should I wait until a set day to start it? Especially because there is this prevailing idea that NYRs inevitably fail, which puts a LOT of pressure on efforts. I’d rather see the need for the change or goal, start it, and do my damnedest to keep it going. So rather than set resolutions, or even goals really, I prefer to put down what I want in the next year.

1. MOVE
This is a pretty easy one, mainly because it’s happening no matter what. There’s just a lot involved in that, because I’m dealing with my stuff as well as my Mom’s stuff, and not knowing when exactly I’m going to be done with all of that makes it hard to make plans and set dates. But it does lead into

2. GET RID OF STUFF
I am a packrat. I keep things because I swear I’ll find another use for them someday, only someday never really comes along and I’m stuck hauling more and more around and never finding a place to put everything, which is the single biggest contribution aside from laziness to my being kind of a slob. It’s been in the back of my mind for months that next time I move, I am getting rid of things. Culling the bookshelves, taking a hard look at sentimental things, really whittling things down to immediately useful or extremely (and identifiably) sentimental.
I inherited the packrat tendency from my mother, absolutely without question, and now, trying to go through all of her things, I think I’m about to get a lot more ruthless in what I’m getting rid of in my own stuff. I will never be someone who travels lightly (BOOKS) but I’d like to let go of the things I’ve been holding onto for just too long.

3. GET A JOB
Aside from getting out there and applying, and making sure I put the best foot forward and all that, this isn’t something I really have control over. It is, however, a really really REALLY big desire for the year ahead. After a year of unemployment (not without its silver linings when it came to being available to my mom, but still) I would very much like to be gainfully employed again, hopefully doing something I love.

4. SELL A BOOK
Another thing I have absolutely no control over, but feeding into this is the fact that I need to write books before I can have any chance of selling them. Writing is not something that’s gone well this year, and most of that is stress and loss of focus. Normal stress, every-day stress, makes writing a relief. The monumental stresses I’ve been under this past year made me stumble, a LOT, and I have several half-finished, frustrating, curse-fostering projects to show for it. I also got a little too caught up in numbers this year. If I had a writing day that got less than seven thousand words, I got frustrated, I felt unproductive and disappointing and kind of a waste of space. Yes, I realize I was being too hard on myself, but I felt like when everything else was spinning or had spun out of my control, I should have been able to keep control of this one thing. It’s BS, of course. but that doesn’t change anything about how I felt then. I wanted the staggering numbers of stickers on my calendar, the rows of pretty numbers on my tracksheets, so I could feel like I was at least accomplishing SOMETHING.
So, along with pulling my focus back in, I also want to shift it a little. Rather than worry about word counts or defined productivity or how quickly I’m finishing a draft, I want to dwell on the story and characters, letting the project tell me when it’s had enough for the day–or when I’ve had enough for the day. I’ve been doing this with my current project, and it’s amazing how much it’s helped. Even though writing days have been few and relatively far between in the past few months, I was okay with myself if I only got one or two thousand words down in a day. As long as the words were honest, and didn’t feel forced, I was happy. And I learned that sometimes, despite knowing what happens next and maybe even knowing how to tell it, I just have to back away from a scene for a bit. I don’t know yet if that’s going to become universal or if it’s just this project–this one is intensely personal and emotionally difficult, so I don’t know. But I don’t feel like a quitter or a failure when I close the computer after seven hundred words because I need a few more days before I can write That Scene.
Numbers in publishing are really hard, and really painful, and it’s easy to lose yourself in them at the expense of your writing. How many books have I sold? How many rejections have I gotten? How many projects have I gotten out there? I added a lot of unnecessary stress to myself this year freaking out that I haven’t sold another book yet, terrified I’m going to be a blip on the shelves with one small easily overlooked book. I dwelled on that thought A LOT, far more than was healthy, and I know it’s because this is something I’ve wanted very badly for a very long time, so it had a lot of oomph behind it. I need to let that go. It will happen, or it won’t. The best (and the most) I can do is continue to write and craft and improve.
Here’s my sucker punch, though: I would really like to sell another book for my mom. I think that was one of my biggest whips through the year, this desperate desire to sell another book while my mom was still alive and lucid to know it, so she’d worry about me just a bit less, knowing I’d be a step closer to a career. I am someone whose beliefs mean that I believe my mom is still watching over me, still aware of my life and its successes and failures, its good times and bad times. My mom will know if it happens, and if (or when) it happens, she’ll celebrate with me, but it won’t be the same. I had really wanted her to KNOW, where I could see the relief on her face, that she didn’t have to be scared to leave me. It’s another thing I need to let go, but that one is harder.

5. READ 100 NEW BOOKS
Re-reading is my security blanket. I have favorites that I re-read time and time again (and am, in fact, in the middle of one of those trilogies now!), and my favorite comfy snuggly must have at slumber parties pillow is fanfic. They are my creature comforts, my de-stressors, my safe places. But I need to deal with stress better this year, and hopefully it won’t be nearly as overwhelming, so I would very much like to read a crapton of new books (okay, actually a hundred, which is far less than a crapton). And by new, I simply mean books I haven’t read before. Brand new releases, yes, but also the books that have been sitting patiently on my shelves waiting for me to get to them. Part of getting rid of stuff means culling books that I have to honestly admit I’ll never get to, or just don’t have an interest in getting to anymore, but there are so many books on my shelves already that I really WANT to read, and so many good ones coming out, that this is my goal. We’ll see how it goes.

6. BE OKAY WITH NOT BEING OKAY
This is the biggest one, and by far the hardest. I’ve talked before (I think I’ve talked before) about the fact that I have recurring clinical depression. It’s not chronic, for which I’m very grateful, but it’s something I have to always be aware of. I have to monitor my moods and my actions so that I can identify when I’m having trouble. Admitting that has never been a problem, for some reason. I never felt ashamed to say that I was struggling with an episode. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t have the perceived stigma of medication (because, with the full support and conversation of my mother and my psychiatrist, I felt that wasn’t the best path for me), or because I was dealing with it and anyone who had a problem with it could go screw themselves.
Grief and stress, though, are really powerful triggers to my depression cycles. I know this, and that’s one of the major reasons why I re-read without guilt, because it helps, but grief and stress have been unavoidable this past year, and they’ll be unavoidable this coming year. I’ve been extremely (probably unheathily) focused on being strong. Don’t break down and put extra burdens on Mom, on the family, on my friends, on the random people who ask for updates. For a while, I could go home and close the doors and just break down in private, but eventually that started to feel self-indulgent, and there were bigger more important things that needed my attention an energy (totally not true, by the way). I’m starting to realize that a large part of my focus on everything that needs to get done is because it keeps me too busy and too tired to feel everything else.
Because if I start to feel all that weight, that crushing loss and bewilderment and anger and fear and all those things that go hand in hand with illness and death, I’ll never get out from under it. (Also not true) If I stay busy, if I don’t have time even to think, much less feel, then the grief and stress can’t latch onto the depression and breed. And like I said, it’s absolutely not true. It’s not just something I know, it’s something I can feel. Right now, no matter how much sleep I do or not get, I’m the same degree of exhausted. For me, that’s one of my more obvious warning signs. It’s also one of the early ones.
Before this terrible year, I was okay with not being okay some days. The cycles happened, and I could accept that and take care of myself until the cycle had passed. I really, really need to get back to that. It’s important for me to remember (for everyone to remember) that depression is an illness, not an affectation. Some days are ALWAYS going to be worse than others, sometimes by triggers, sometimes simply by chemical imbalances. I need to let myself have those days to really take care of myself, before this becomes a much bigger, much more complicated problem.

So, not resolutions, really, and in some cases, not even really goals. I don’t know what 2015 is going to hold. Changes, yes, some of them really massive and exciting and painful, but I very much hope that what I can do, I will, and what I can’t, I can let go of.

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