Farewell, 2012

December 31, 2012 at 8:27 pm (General) (, , , , , )

2012 flew by so bizarrely for me that any attempt to do a true retrospective can’t but come off as stilting, but there were some things that happened this year that will always make this year stick out in my mind.

I learned a lot about myself as an author this year. I learned my habits, both good and bad, learned some of the things that do or do not work for me in a big way. I learned what it means for me to pace myself. I learned my limits- more importantly I learned which are hard limits and which I need to push.

I signed with an agent, someone who gets me. Someone who can look at a story so creepy even I can’t help but cringe and say she loves it- honestly. There are corners of my brain that are very dark and twisty, that produce scenes or even whole books that are so thoroughly, grotesquely creeptastic almost anyone would have me committed, and Sandy gives me full permission to take my characters and go play there. We can also, in the middle of an ongoing exchange about edits and cover ideas, have a conversation about David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King’s unambiguous bulge. Welcome to the professional world. I am incredibly, profoundly grateful for meeting and signing with Sandy. She’s honest with me about what works and what doesn’t, and even if I mention I’m thinking of pursuing an oddball idea, she justs says go for it, we’ll see how it turns out. She’s more than a champion for my work- she’s a champion for me, someone who can beautifully time something personal or something absurd.

I learned that all those worries and frets and neuroses don’t go away when you sign with an agent- they just graduate into something more complicated and challenging. Somehow when A Wounded Name, then Elsinore Drowning, was on submission, it occured to me that an agent isn’t simply tossing your work and your reputation out there to editors- an agent also stakes his or her own reputation on your work. An agent takes you on as a gamble, as the risk they’re putting forward into believing your work will sell. And they’re sending your work to people who may or may not want to gamble more money on you. I have a complicated relationship with money, and a decidedly odd perspective on numbers because of it, but as soon as the business comes into the art, the neuroses ratchet up.

I learned that being personable as an author is very, VERY different from being personable in retail. I am a shy, self-conscious, and socially awkward individual, I truly am. I’ve worked retail for more than eight years now, so I’ve learned how to appear not to be, but when you’re Bookseller or Cashier or some faceless position, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you do what you’re supposed to do and interact on an acceptably non-dysfunctional level, that’s about as much effort as you have to put into it. Do I put more effort in? Yes, because that’s how I was raised, and if I have to spend forty hours a week doing a job other than writing, I at least want to spend more time smiling than not. But, in a different arena, the difficulty can be much greater. On the phone with my day job, I’m answering questions with easy answers. Yes or no we have that, yes or no we can order that, this or that is the problem and yes or no we can fix it. It sometimes takes some ingenuity to answer a question (Um, I saw this book somewhere like five years ago, and it might have a red cover, or maybe black? Maybe there was dragon in the title? Or on the cover? Or maybe it was just in the story? Oh, and it was written by a dude. I think) but in the end, the answers are all right there, and nearly all of us can give the same answer to the majority of the questions.
As an intensely shy person, it’s a lot easier for me to be personable and put myself forward when I’m representing an established company. My work is less reflective of myself than it is of the company that trained me and employs me. When left to my own devices, or more importantly when left to adequately represent myself…it’s nerve-wracking. And when I’m nervous, I have this stupid little laugh, which just makes me more nervous. I’m constantly afraid of being tongue-tied, or just sounding like an idiot. I’m worried about giving the wrong answer, I’m worried about coming across as too forceful on some points, or too weak in others. I know that I can come off as a snob (and in some aspects, I am a snob, I can admit that at least) and it makes me paranoid about offending people. And it’s not just talking on the phone that’s so difficult.
Seriously.
I can be am awkward in emails. And that’s supposed to be the thing you can fall back on to NOT be awkward.
But this is all part of what being an author is. You have to reach out and communicate with people. You have to be able to represent yourself intelligently and well, you have to be able to carry on comfortable communication. I’m not sure I’m there yet. I become accustomed to people, and the worry decreases a little, but it takes a while, and there are so many new people to meet and speak with. We’ll call improving this one of my working goals of 2013.

I sold a book.

I SOLD A BOOK. But it wasn’t just me- it was also Sandy, it was also all those editors and editors’ assistants who read my work and gave responses, and it was the editor who said YES. I am incredibly grateful to be working with Andrew. He’s amazing. I think one of the biggest job requirements of being an editor- other than a skill for wrangling neurotic writers- is a boundless imagination, and Andrew takes a little boy’s unabashed pleasure in exploring all the possibilities of a manuscript. Reading the differences between the submission draft and what’s become more or less the final draft (minus pass pages, which haven’t happened yet) is astounding. And the thing is, I’m still very, very proud of the draft that went out on submission. BUT IT’S LIKE A MILLION TIMES BETTER NOW. That is an editor’s gift, something Andrew possess in abundance (in addition to a deep patience for my sending him questions that make me cringe with how I stupid I perceive them to be). In the course of this year, I went from someone desperately wanting to see my book on the shelf someday to someone who WILL see my book on the shelf someday. A finite day, in fact, sometime in the fall of 2013.

I have learned so much about the process of publishing, a journey that still fills me with shock and awe and wonder and a profound sense of gratitude.

And that may be one of the biggest things I’ve learned this year. Not that I was an ungrateful buttmunch before this year, but there are the things you’re grateful for, and there are the things that fill you with gratitude. There are these moments where suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, you’re just aware. I love that when I find really funny, REALLY inappropriate jokes about Hamlet, I have someone I can send them to- and who sends them to me in return. Really late on Christmas Eve, I woke up to find an email from an author I really admire both personally and professionally, whose debut novel filled me with a lingering love of words and rhythms, saying she wanted to blurb my book. I’ll release details when I can, but I spent the next…oh, two hours, at least, as Christmas Eve passed into Christmas morning, sprawled on bed and intermittently giggling with sheer euphoria. My emotions on Christmas Eve/early morning are complicated at the best of times (house fires born from Advent candles will do that to you) and this was astounding. I am constantly in awe of the Young Adult community, not just the readers but the authors as well. I grew up in theatre- even in the midst of close friendships, there’s always competition, because only one person can have That Role. The Young Adult writing community is so incredibly welcoming it’s almost terrifying. Even shy little people like me, that can really only handle making a few new friends at a time, has a place. You have a triumph and suddenly SO MANY PEOPLE are saying YAY. And meaning it. There’s no jealousy, no sense of displacement, no cliqueyness. It’s astonishing, and it’s wonderful.

I’ve mostly told my frequently revoked Adult License to go screw itself.
I may technically be an adult, but it’s bizarre how little significance that word has for anything. I live on my own, I pay my bills, I work for my living, and if I want to get something and have the funds I can, without any sort of explanation or justification. I still don’t feel like an adult. If I’m in the apartment, I am in my pajamas. I don’t wear them outside any more, except on laundry day, but seriously? There are stuffed animals on my bed. I still eat Lucky Charms. This Christmas I got a bathrobe with a penguin-head hood and it MADE MY DAY. And there are all these worries. I look at my bank account and worry, I look at my bills and worry, I think about putting gas in the car and wonder if there’s enough and I HATE IT. That worry? That endless stress about income and expense? That’s what I associate with being an adult. I had an apartment in college, had a job, had bills, but most of that was done with a greal deal of help, and the fact of being in classes, of having a set schedule and homework and teachers/professors in aspects of authority, that all contributed to this sense of isolationism, like the real world was still beyond the hedges somewhere. That feeling is, I think, what the basis of New Adult should be, but just as Young Adult started off in one area and grew, I think New Adult will as well.

I’ve learned that sometimes you can do your absolute best, do everything you should, and yet sometimes things just suck. Things just fall apart, or turn into a complete cock-up, and it’s not your fault.

I’ve learned, once again, that people can do senselessly horrible things.

I’ve learned, once again, that people can do senselessly wonderful things.

I’ve learned that Richard Armitage is really, really hot.

REALLY hot.

I’ve learned to let things go. To look at what’s before me, and what’s behind me, and say no, this isn’t going to work, or no, this isn’t the person I want to be. It’s not easy- I don’t suppose it’ll ever be easy- but I can let it go.

2013 is going to be a strange year. My book is coming out in less time than it takes to carry a healthy baby. I’m going to be speaking at a local writer’s group meeting in February and doing a signing at BEA in May/June, and I’m terrified because this is so far out of my comfort zone but at the same time, this is what I signed up for. I have new projects lined up for next year, and a couple of them scare the bejeezus out of me- and I’m so excited for them I can hardly see straight, because that fear, that thrill of adrenaline, is what gives me the courage to tackle those exciting stories. I’ll have to make some decisions regarding priorities- which includes this blog and how I schedule/structure posts. Over the course of this year, I’ll be meeting authors I really admire, and holy hell, how am I going to be able to keep from fangirling all over them? Because yes, they’re artists whose work I adore, but they’re also (strange as it seems to say it) colleagues, but they’re colleagues who cheer each other on, and yes, flail about each other’s work in the best ways possible.
2013 is going to include a fair share of rejections, I’m sure, but hopefully there will also be a measure of acceptances, of the book I’m releasing and the books I hope to sell. So far my book is still this little baby held close to my heart where very few can touch it, but once galleys go out, it’s out of my hands. People will have the choice to read it, and they’ll love it/hate it/want to burn it as they choose. That’s terrifying, and the prospect feeds right into some of the worst of my neuroses.
Which is another goal for 2013: try to rein in some of the more neurotic tendencies unless they feed directly into being productive.

2012 has flown by in such a way that it almost feels unreal that it’s over in a few hours, but this has been a year of such change, of such personal growth, that I can say it’s been a very good year, a better year than I’ve had in a really long time.

And that, as does so much else, brings my mind circling back to that wondrous sense of gratitude.

And that, too, I’m grateful for.

Until next year~
Cheers!

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Half-Year Recap- Favorites So Far!

June 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

So we’re about halfway done with 2012 and there have been SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS come out already this year, with so many more good ones to come. I was looking over my Goodreads list (oh hai! I’m on Goodreads- you can friend me, if you like!) and some of them just stick out so much in my mind, and I thought I’d share with you my list of Favorites So Far.

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity, Code Name Verity, Code Name Verity

If you have not read this book yet, it is a problem. Remedy it. It’s funny and shattering and gorgeous and one of the most spectacular examples of distinctive voice, flawlessly researched, and utterly absorbing. This is a book that, once you open it, you CANNOT put down. This is one of those books that everyone needs to read. Elizabeth Wein is one of my new idols.

And speaking of shattering, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t reviewed this book for the simple reason that even now, five full months after reading it, I still can’t speak about it coherently. It’s rich and funny and tragic and glorious, heart-breaking and healing and one of the most beautifully, bizarrely hopeful books I’ve ever read. I laughed and cried in the same gulping breaths and it is SO HARD to tell people what this book is about. This is a book that doesn’t only change your life, it redefines it. If you read only one book this year (gah, what a terrifying thought!) make it this one.

Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probablity of Love at First Sight was a book that blew me away. It was completely out of my comfort zone in so many ways. It’s a contemp romance- not really my thing- and a very significant foundation of this story is parental divorce and remarriage- also not really my thing- and the combination of tense and perspective weirded me out the entire time. And I LOVED it. The characters were raw and real and wonderful, and it’s amazing how much can happen in twenty-four hours. It’s sweet and sad and silly and thought-provoking and doesn’t try to give everything easy answers. This was the book I was curious about but never expected to like, and to an extent that’s true. I didn’t like it- I loved it.

Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone was simply magical (and send congratulations her way- she just debuted at #8 on the NYT Bestsellers List!). It was rich and dark and atmospheric and a fantastic example of how strong you can make a setting without drowning in it. The world of the Grishas stepped outside of playing Russian and became something extraordinary, where the language was just alien enough that it melded with the familiar social heirarchies and human dramas that it became something both comfortable and exciting. It built just enough off of what we could recognize that it didn’t have to rely solely on those pieces anymore. It creates so many wonderful mysteries and opens up this huge world within a small space. This was not one to put down. In fact, I might have handed it to one of my co-workers and told her to buy it without actually telling her anything about it.

Want to laugh yourself into abdominal cramps? Then check out Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a look at what happens after the Happily Ever After for four princes who can’t quite manage to make the bards care about them. After all, the princesses are so much more interesting, and who wants to try to remember a prince’s name? Just call him Charming and be done with it. This book is a roaring adventure- and at least half of that roaring is laughter- full of dragons and giants and clever little sisters and boorish brothers and so much adventure. Do NOT read this while drinking or eating, or if you have liquids near your computer. Read it aloud, ogle the illustrations, and just enjoy this wonderful, fun-loving frolick.

Anyone who knows me knows I love faeries and faerie tales and faerie telling retellings. LOVE them. And Alethea Kontis’ Enchanted was everything I could have asked for. The sly references (and the sheer number of them!) to various stories was totally made of win, and the characters were unique and vibrant and richly flawed. It’s a world that, for all its magic and mystery, never quite steps apart from our own. It’s like walking down the street of your own town and suddenly discovering a wisp of wonder. It’s gorgeously written and it was physically painful to put down, with everything I love not just in a fairy tale but in a story.

What are some of your favorites so far of 2012?

Until next time~
Cheers!

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2012 Resolution Type Things

January 1, 2012 at 12:01 am (General) (, , )

Back when I was in elementary and middle school, my teachers used to do an activity on the first day back to classes. They’d pass out funky paper, fun pens, and they’d tell us to think long and hard about our resolutions for the new year. What did we want to see in the next year? What kind of things did we want to do, to achieve? How did we want to improve the next year? They gave us about two minutes to do that whole “think long and hard” thing, and I know most of them were probably hoping that “study more” would appear on the lists somewhere.

I hated it. Every time.

‘Cuz here’s the thing: if I want to work to improve myself, why should I wait until New Years’ to do it? It seemed pretty lazy. And then, of course, there’s the prevailing attitude that New Years’ Resolutions are things that are set up to fail. They’re the promises you make to fit in and feel better, the promises that tend to flow with the champagne, and then they bite the dust two weeks into January. I can’t even think of the last time someone I know has made a NYR with any sincerity, much less put any effort into fulfilling. I know I’ve personally been avoiding them like the plague ever since those silly assignments. I felt like a fake writing down stupid little goals that weren’t any different from what I was already doing (trying to get good grades, etc).

But.

As I’m getting older, I’m understanding the appeal the making goals for the coming year. It’s not a wish- not magically hoping that I’ll lose twenty pounds or become a princess or anything- it’s a decision. These are things that I’m deciding to do. It’s looking at what I’ve achieved in the previous year and using that as a guage for what I can reasonably expect to do in the next year. And then it’s adding a little something purely for the challenge, so I can continue to grow and expand, so that I can push myself in ways I otherwise might not.

In 2011, I:

-started this blog. I wrote out book reviews before but just kept them in a notebook or maybe posted one or two on facebook, but I’d never really thought about doing anything with them. Then I woke up one day and figured why the hell not? Customers at work always seemed interested in my opinions on books, why not see if others are too? And I’ve learned a ton by writing these entries. Reading books with an eye towards writing a review makes me look at it more closely, makes me figure out what I like or don’t like about it- and why. I have to be able to be specific, which means I’m recognizing patterns across YA writing as a whole, recognizing how certain authors both carry and vary style across different books and series. It also means that I’m learning how to apply that understanding to my own work.

-finished two first drafts. One of these will never, ever see the light of day. It is a trunk novel, and needs to always remain that way. I’m still glad I wrote it, I learned a lot from writing it, and I’ll be pillaging from it like crazy because it’s got a lot of good bones, it just doesn’t all belong together. As for the other, well, that leads to the next point.

-I edited one of those drafts, multiple times, and- completely unexpectedly- I fell in love with what resulted. Usually I adore my first drafts, I let them sit for a little bit so I can come back to it a little more neutral, and then it’s a coin toss for which of two things happen. 1: I’m too attached and can’t see where I can make changes, and then I get frustrated, and then I get angry, and then the prospect of sitting down to real editing becomes mentally- and almost physically- painful. Or 2: I start getting into the edits and I find a ton of things to change and then I get depressed because really, if I’m having to make this many changes that means I wrote a crap first draft that I was nonetheless very proud of. And I KNOW that first drafts are meant to be crap. They’re meant to be refined by edits and subsequent drafts. But knowing that and actually being able to process through that are very different things. But as I was doing these edits, I was able to make the changes I needed to make and still be absolutely in love with it.

-I queried. Two different projects, actually, NOT AT THE SAME TIME. (That’s a very important distinction). About halfway through the year, I realized as I was looking at my rejections that the project I was querying probably needed some tweaks. I was getting some bites but not much in the way of feedback, which after a while I took to mean that it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t enough. It needed more-…something. I haven’t necessarily figured out what yet. But the number of rejections had gotten high enough that I decided to stop sending that one out, let it sit for a while, and then get back to it to see if I can ways to inject that elusive more into it. So I tackled that edited piece, drove myself crazy writing a query letter, discarding it, writing another one, discarding it, writing another one…I went through over a dozen drafts of a query letter before I finally produced one I was happy with. And I started querying. Again. But it meant I was still going. I wasn’t giving up. I was moving forward. And this time I saw the difference.

-I researched. I always research for my projects, but this next project has a massive amount of research needed for it, enough that even after six months I’m still a little scared of it. But I’ve been tackling it, and tackling it, keeping at it, and I’ve made a TON of progress. And it’s not just that I’m learning the details and timelines that are essential for getting very important things right, but the research is also educating me on my story. I’m learning exactly how my characters are fitting into the bigger picture, learning the events that change them in significant ways. Most importantly, I’m not half-assing it. I’m not skimming through things and calling it good enough, I’m not just looking up a date here or there. It’s hard work, at times frustrating, but I’m doing it, and the story will be much, much better for it.

-I didn’t break into my savings account. I’ve only had a savings account for a little over a year, and even that’s pretty astounding. I largely live paycheck to paycheck, even though I have no life and therefore spend very little outside of bills and books. Money is really tight for a LOT of people right now, and I happen to be one of them, but despite some close calls this year, I was able to make it through without breaking into that savings account. There’s not even that much in there, but it’s more than I’ve had in there before, and I’m trying to put that to a very specific purpose. I’m rather proud of myself that it’s all still there.

So, that’s 2011. And looking at all of that, looking at the year ahead, I’ve decided on a few things that I want to do. Are there mistier goals that would be really, REALLY nice to achieve? Absolutely! But these are purely the things I have control over. These are the things that I can directly influence and work towards. For lack of a better word, we can call them Resolutions.

In 2012, I will:

-finish this set of research. I can see over the stack of books now, so there’s actually hope. Rather than give up, rather than shave off books in the name of possibly finishing sooner, I will do all of my research, and I will not procrastinate. I will get it done.

-write two first drafts. Given the necessary balance of full time job, home responsibilities, blog, reading, and research, this seems like a fair goal for a year. More importantly, these will be the ones for which I’m doing all this research.

-edit at least one of those first drafts. The time it takes for me to let a book stew and then do the edits is usually about as long as it takes me to write the draft in the first place. These edits will be even more involved, as they’ll involve a LOT of fact-checking. But I WILL do it.

-maintain the blog. I have a way of giving up on things, or maybe just after a while getting a little bored with things, or maybe bowing under the pressure of a lot of different responsibilities, or maybe even just running into walls and finding difficulties in writing the posts. There are a lot of reasons to fall behind, and I am determined not to do it. For this, I’m counting on all of you to keep me accountable.

-keep querying. Keep learning, keep adapting and tweaking, keep sending. Basically just keep putting myself out there. I’d love to be able to say my resolution is to sign with an agent, but realistically I have no control over that. What I DO have control over is my decision to keep querying, to keep trying. Even through rejections or no-answers, the thing I can control is NOT GIVE UP.

-not break into the savings account except for the purpose for which it was actually started. The savings account was started as a moving fund- IF I can make sure that all the rest of the move is fiscally reasonable (as in, I won’t put every penny into the move and suddenly find myself drowning in debt once I get there). But, I’m not touching the money if it’s not for the move, and I will continue to put money into it each month.

2012 will likely be a lot like 2011. There’ll be ups and downs, surprises and let-downs. There’ll be the moments that make me want to cheer and the moments that make me want to scream. I’ll make friends and drift away from friends, I may lose people I love. I’ll both love and hate my job, for all its highs and lows. I don’t expect 2012 to be magical or astounding. I might hope that- I do hope that- but I don’t expect it.

Instead, I expect to meet the distinct goals I’ve set for myself.

And you? What goals have you set for yourself this new year? What are your resolutions?

More importantly, may you all have a bright and brilliant New Year, and thank you all for joining me here.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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