Sunday, March 25, 2012

Maybe a post about writing?

Hi! I put that title up there wondering what would happen if I just started to write about writing. It's been too long since I have, which is weird because I love to write about writing! But I don't know, the last few months I've been kind of hanging on to this blog by my fingernails, posting visual content that doesn't require a great deal of thinking because I use up my capacity for that doing the actual writing.

This morning I had a good writing session and tackled -- for the bajillionth time -- a particular Major Story Event that has made its way, in various drafts, from happening early in the book to now being part of the climax. I'm closing in on the ending. I can't *taste* it yet, but maybe I can smell it a little bit. There is a new tang in the air, and maybe that tang is just the tart savor of deadline, but I'm pretty sure it is the ending. I know the scent of deadlines by now, ha ha, and this is something else. I hope I know the scent of endings by now too :-) When the wind is just right ...

Really it would have been nice for everyone involved if I had finished this book some time ago, but that is not what happened. The thing that happened is what usually happens to me to some degree or other: I kept starting over. I would get, say, 30- or 40,000 words in and think it was YAY! and then I'd have a little break going to some event like BEA or book tour and get home and read it fresh and go: UN-YAY! YAY-retraction! I would see it wasn't quite right yet, and it's a horrible spiders-in-your-brain feeling. So I'd think about how to make it YAY! again and then I'd start from scratch -- only I never really start from scratch. I'll patchwork in a lot of stuff that I loved from previous drafts, but change a lot of things too. And I did this again and again, I'm sure I've written hundreds of thousands of words on this book all told and the craziest part of all is this:

For all that drastic rewriting, it has not changed in essentials. Every step of the way, it matched right up with my idea, my concept, my plot. Even the major beats -- the happenings of the story -- have remained the same. So: what changed? 


It's so impossible to explain this, but I was thrilled to read the exact same phenomenon on Kristin Cashore's blog in regards to Bitterblue, another much-rewritten book, due out in May. She said this: 

  • Even if you go into a book knowing your plot and your plot never changes from your plan, you still don't know what you're getting into.


So anyway, I kept at it until I got to feeling a [persistent] tingling sense of rightness instead of a spidery sense of not-quite-rightness and I did the scary thing of sending my lovely editor Alvina Ling (and also my lovely UK editor Kate Howard) a big chunk of unfinished manuscript. And then I waited in a state of near-hysteria to hear if they liked it because HELL. But they DID. A LOT. YAY! And I was finally able to stop rewriting the first third-to-half of the book and write THE REST. Which I am still doing.

I want to clarify that this has been pretty much the process on ALL of my books. The first third takes by far the longest. I rewrite and rewrite until the YAY! sticks, and then I finish with much more speed and efficiency and general good humor. Only when I've nailed the first big chunk of the book can I move forward. This is why, for me, fast first drafts don't work. 

[Obligatory reminder: this is just ME; many of my writing friends write brilliantly on the fast-first-draft model.]

The other day at one of my two writing cafes, I overheard one woman coaching another in writing, and she was pretty much saying you MUST: write to just get it out first, then fix it later. She was instructing her mentee or pupil or whatever as if this were a Universally Acknowledged Law of Writing. I did not butt in, but my mind sent psychic spasms through the air and maybe they felt them. I don't know. 


Scratch that. There is one:


That's it. All the rest is fluid and personal and crazy. Do what you must. You might not know what that is yet, so try stuff until something works. Regard any universal-law-proclaimers with one of the following three expressions:

I also want to give a shout-out to a writing idol of mine who gave me advice at a critical time last year. It was Patrick Rothfuss, and the advice was, paraphrasing: take the time you need to make the book as good as it can be. It seems like a no-brainer, no? But there's a lot of pressure to get books out in a timely manner, especially in a trilogy, especially if you have, ahem, left the reader in a place of agony (sorry!). But the other words of advice that Pat passed along were: 

It will be late once, but it'll suck forever

Ha ha! So true. And fortunately, my publishers and my agent share that view, and I've had a lot of support, and the book has come together and is still on track for Fall 2012 publication, and I am in a good place. YAY! 

Okay, that's all for now. I'm sorry that something a little bit more enlightening didn't escape from brain into the blog post. I hoped. But there it is. My brain is used up for the day. 

Wait. I think I'll add just one more thing. When I buckled down five or six or seven years ago (after years of dilly dallying and self-deception) and finally got serious about writing books (and FINISHING them), it would have made my blood run cold to imagine doing so much scrapping of chapters and rewriting from scratch. And it didn't happen overnight, but the honest truth is that now it is exciting to me. Why is it exciting to scrap chapters and start from scratch? Because of the shimmering possibility that is born when you do: that the next time it might be SO MUCH BETTER. I mean, it's awesome. And it's not like you're burning those other chapters. You lose nothing, you risk nothing. Do not be afraid to rewrite, to re-imagine entirely.

And for some reason this reminds me of this super-silly day a few years ago. I was at a cafe with Jim and my best friend Alexandra, and the mood was high-dingbat-silliness, and somehow we started playing this game. The way it worked was this: we would take turns in the chair with back to the window, and we'd have to say -- blindly -- whether we would switch bodies with the next person to come along. I mean, I think we *had* to switch bodies at least once, it was a matter of blindly choosing who and then seeing who you got, and deciding whether to stick with them or chance swapping out for the NEXT person, who might be "better" or "worse." (This sounds kind of creepy now!) So, Alexandra just could NOT stick with someone, no matter WHO. She might get a bypasser who was gorgeous** and well-dressed and smiling and all-around a good prospect for a body swap, and she could not be content! She would roll the dice, so to speak, and go again. For some reason, this was the most hilarious thing EVER. It makes me wonder if she does the same thing with revising :-)

** On the subject of gorgeousness, a query: is it possible to overhear someone in a crowd say something like, "On my first modeling shoot, the photograph said blah blah blah" and NOT crane your head around to see what she looks like? This happened at the zoo yesterday, and I couldn't not look. Kind of makes me want to start all my sentences like that in public and see what kind of looks people give me! Or, you know, maybe not. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Clementine's Current Favorite Books

Honors for "favorite book" change constantly in Clementine-land, of course, but some stick around longer than others. These current faves are great because Jim and I don't get sick of them! First, Crafty Chloe by Kelly Di Pucchio (who also wrote the adorable Zombie In Love, currently a CCBA contender), and illustrated by Heather Ross. 

It's a great book about the virtues of making rather than buying gifts for people. It's funny and wonderful, and Clementine knows it by heart. The illustration above shows the horror-reaction of the snooty girl, London, on hearing that Chloe is going to make a gift for their friend's birthday. So cute. (I also love *SPOILER ALERT* that London comes around, Chloe isn't vindictive when she could be, and it's all-around sweet in a non-cloying way. Yay!

Here's C with a friend's daughter, Kestrel, age 9, reading Chloe at Powell's:

(Heart goes pitter-pat.)

Continuing with the wonderful theme of craftiness, Holly Hobbie's Fanny books. Holly Hobbie is a house favorite. We have all of her books, and Fanny is currently edging out Toot & Puddle (though Everything But the Horse is a fave too.) Like Chloe, Fanny is a crafty kid. When her mom refuses on principle to buy her a "Connie" (read: Barbie) doll, she makes her own doll, Annabelle. Like London, her friends aren't too keen on handmade, though *SPOILER ALERT* they come around too.

Here's Fanny sewing. Love it:

It's fun to find the Puddle toy in Fanny's room, and also she has Calico Critters! :-)

Here's the sequel, Fanny & Annabelle, in which Fanny writes and illustrates a book starring her doll.
Also wonderful.

Love love love. Holly Hobbie's art is sooooo gorgeous. Incidentally, her Toot & Puddle book Let It Snow is also about making versus buying gifts for loved ones.

I hope Clementine will love crafts!

Next, up ... TOTORO! My Neighbor Totoro, I'm sure you know it.

Clementine hasn't seen the movie, though she did see her first-ever movie last week and it was The Secret World of Arrietty, also by Hayao Miyazaki (which I had seen and knew it wasn't too scary for toddlers) and she loved it. So when she and Jim spotted this great hardbound Totoro picture book at the comic book store they snapped it up, and it's been instant love. One reading and she was spreading her arms and crying, "Mei, we're the wind!" Love. So thrilled to hear the Northwest Film Center is having a Miyazaki Festival in May and showing ALL his movies. Yay! 

Last up for today, Sketch Monsters, a graphic novel for kids by Portland writer Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Vinny Navarette. This we also picked up at the comic book store (hi Cosmic Monkey!) though I take credit for the find this time.

In Sketch Monsters, Mandy is a young girl who bottles up her feelings, and when she draws them all as monsters in her new sketchbook, they escape! There's a fear monster, a love monster, a silly monkey monster, a sad monster, a grumpy-nasty monster, and the Happster, shown below left drawing on the wall. Love the Happster. 

Clementine knows alarming portions of this one by heart as well. What would you not give for a toddler memory? It's uncanny what the kid remembers after one reading. Yow. 

What are your favorite kids books these days?

Monday, March 19, 2012

It was all just a dream

Another lazy post: some dreamlike images from Pinterest.
Don't they make you want to write stories?
Some killer potential book cover images here.

Happy day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gentlemen Send Phantoms -- the Foretold Anthology

Hey, did I tell you I wrote a story for an anthology that's coming out this year? It's my first anthology story, I'm super excited. If you've been reading my blog for a looong time, you might recognize the title, it's: "Gentlemen Send Phantoms," and it began life as a Sunday Scribbling several years ago, which is also how all the stories from Lips Touch started life, and some of the ideas that ended up eventually becoming Daughter of Smoke and Bone too. (I co-founded this writing prompt site along with blog friend Meg Genge, but at some point in Clementine's infancy, I became unable to manage the simple task of putting up a prompt every other week, and bowed out. Lame. I'm a huge believer in writing prompts. They have been sooo important to me, I love them, I love the way they are like a hand reaching into a mailbox and bringing out ... who knows what. Unexpected ideas. Exciting things from who-knows-where.)

But the story. It's a fanciful and sweet-natured story that takes place on St. Faith's Day, the evening when a girl might glimpse the phantom of the man she's going to marry and "know some of what life holds in its basket for her." The thing is, three friends are all hoping for a glimpse of the same phantom, the one belonging to Matty Blackgrace, and maybe one of them will get him, or none of them will, but sure there's one girl in particular we'll be rooting for. 

It was so lovely to take a little break from the novel last year and expand that scrap of a Sunday Scribbling into a full story. Like a little taste of sherbet. I'm already thinking I might write a short story after this book is finished (it's getting very close!) to kind of let my mind graze on some different grass for a bit. No idea what, just some little fanciful thing. 

But more on the anthology. I cannot WAIT to read the rest of the stories. It's called FORETOLD, and is edited by the lovely and talented Carrie Ryan, and features stories by all kinds of fabulous YA authors! Here is the gorgeous cover:

Cool freaking photo, no?

Here's Carrie holding it:

Shiny! YAY!

I believe it's out in September. I'll post more information by and by.

Also, GREAT NEWS! Daughter of Smoke and Bone won its first round in the School Library Journal Battle of the Books competition! YAY! It beat out this year's Newbery Medal winner, Dead End in Norvelt; the judge was brilliant YA author Sara Zarr, and she posted about her decision HERE. Thank you, Sara!

I totally love the graphic :-)

For the next round, Daughter goes up against Chime by Franny Billingsley, which you guys already know I loved. Sigh. Always so many good books to be in competition with :-)

Speaking of competition, if you haven't voted for Daughter for the Children's Choice Book Awards Teen Book of the Year, you still can! Please spread the word and VOTE HERE. Thank you so much!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

German Book Trailer

Hey! I never saw this. It just popped up on my google alerts, a cool book trailer from the German publisher of Daughter of Smoke & Bone:


And wait. What?? I just found this fan-made trailer on youtube and it is GORGEOUS. Look!

Wowza. Makes me want to do some shadow puppetry and animation myself. So good.

Thank you, Christine Dengel. That is wonderful!!!! :-)
Seriously, trailers are really hard to make. It's rare to see a good one, and this ROCKS.

(Also, nice choice of music.)

If you haven't seen the US and UK book trailers, they're gorgeous too. Check HERE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Greetings, Daughter of Smoke & Bone! Foreign editions!

Hey, guess what! Awesome thing: Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a finalist for the CCBA Teen Book of the Year! That's the Children's Choice Book Awards, and it's one of five finalists in the teen category, with voting for the winner open right HERE right NOW. Please vote! (I couldn't find any age parameters for voting listed on the site, and they let ME vote, so ...?)

Thank you!

And another awesome thing: foreign editions!

I love foreign editions. I love knowing my book is out in the world, and I love seeing the different designs and sensibilities. And over the last month or two, these wonderful parcels have begun to arrive at my door. Yay, parcels!

So, for fun, the beginning of the collection. Wheeeeeeee!





Loving this sticker they put on. 
It says: "the best series in the world"!




And there are some editions keeping the US cover art ...



Well, that's what I have so far. It's so exciting getting these in the mail!

I wonder which will come next ...

So fun. More to come. 

My US and UK publishers are currently in the process of designing the cover for Days of Blood & Starlight, as well as paperback covers for Daughter, so there's that excitement too. Yay!

Thank you!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saw John Carter. Loved it. What the hell, people?

So I don't usually go on and on like this about a movie, you'd think I have a vested interest in John Carter or something, and I don't, but there was just something about the atmosphere of negativity leading up to this movie that pissed me off. It wasn't coming from people who had seen it. That was the thing. From what Jim had heard online from the comic book podcasts, what I had seen on Twitter from some people I think well of, it was promising. I like the trailer, the director, the writer, and the cast. And yet, there was this aura of savagery like a pit of sharks that couldn't wait to tear this movie apart.

Exhibit A, from Deadline Hollywood, the comments section to a post on the eve of release:

I am so looking forward to Nikki’s hatchet job on JOHN CARTER/DISNEY tomorrow. This is going to bomb so deliciously… don’t hold back Nikki! :) 
Comment by Alex — Thursday March 8, 2012 @ 5:08pm PST  REPLY TO THIS POST 
Hahaha, me too. I’m going to curl up in a warm blanket with a glass of wine to read it. 
Comment by Tammy — Thursday March 8, 2012 @ 8:40pm PST  REPLY TO THIS POST 

Really, people? That's how you spend your evenings, chortling over nasty reviews? Sad. On the same comment thread, thank goodness, there were a lot of comments that I could relate to, a la: wherefore the savage glee, monsters

Anyway, I planned to see the movie Friday but babysitting fell through so I just saw it tonight and I LOVED it. I want to see it again. It's a big movie with an epic scope, aliens, creatures, cool flying craft, consequences, characters I cared about (and didn't mind looking at), and it's got heart. If I tried, I could probably find some criticisms, but why try? Why not just enjoy? Why does everyone have to be a critic? I'm not saying "Everyone, I decree that you like everything," but first: 

--if you don't like something, why must you crusade to destroy it, twirling your villain mustache and laughing as the creative passions of others are stamped to dust? 

and more importantly ...

--I feel a little bit like the ability to enjoy has been eclipsed by this need to Be Better Than, to prove oneself Smarter Than, to show that one is NO FOOL WHO GOES AROUND JUST ENJOYING THINGS NO-SIREE-BOB NOT ME. Like, enjoying fun movies is for the hoi polloi. It reminds me a little bit of my 9-year-old-circa-1981 self giving someone a withering look regarding Dukes of Hazard and stating, in acid tones of condescension, "I watch Nero Wolfe." Thenk you very much

I'm not saying to settle for trash! (OR Dukes of Hazard!) I'm not saying love every jaded giant franchise big-budget action flick that comes along with tinny dialogue, no heart, gigantic fritter-away-all-narrative-tension climaxes, etc etc. I really feel like this is not that. And moreover, movies that are unapologetically that, do not get the kind of shit that John Carter has gotten. 

John Carter is the kind of movie I love. It is big and panoramic, it employs kick-ass concept artists (jobs for artists!) in the creation of a cool world with cool weapons and outfits and tattoos and cities and creatures. It's has a palpable emotional core. The burial scene choked me up. The stars had chemistry, and there's a lot of humor. In short, I loved it.

If you didn't like it, you disagree with me violently, fine. 

If you didn't go see it because of this attitude of doom, don't listen to those misery-mongers. Maybe you'll love it like I did. Give it a shot.

P.S. It's great for older kids/families. The violence is of the Indiana Jones variety, you know, there's body count but in a vague kind of bloodless way (except for the blue blood, ha!), and there's no sex. Just lots of pecs and midriffs :-)

**added next day: I have been "informed" on Twitter of something I have heard circulating regarding the desire to see John Carter fail, and it's that people "in the industry" have "good reason" to want it to fail because of Disney's business practices or something. Well, I have no idea what this means. It's possible that someone "in the industry" could explain it to me in a way that would make me go, "Ohhhh," but I very very VERY much doubt that whatever this Disney wrongdoing is (and if it is), it would make me root for fail. Because seriously, WTF? You know what that reminds me of? People who give a book 1 star on Amazon because the dealer shipped it badly, or who trash an author because of something the publisher did or was perceived to do. 

I understand, in weak private moments -- ahem -- how one might have a nasty inner twinge of schadenfreude or ill will; in my experience, when one is, ehh, molested by such unworthy feeling -- it is like a dark moth batting around your head, stinking and leaving soot stains -- it is because of jealousy, and is short-lived. Better nature prevails, and you keep it the eff to yourself. The end.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Eye Candy Breakfast: Random Cute!

Random cute from my Pinterest "CUTE" board:

Bears are so comical.

Below, this is totally a stick-up! What do you suppose their demands are?

Above, the friendliest face in the world;
below, the tiniest teddy bear :-)

Magical colorful room!

Have a "cute" weekend!

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